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2023 Credit Card Rewards wrap up

January 16th, 2024 at 05:56 pm

I make a lot of free money from credit card rewards for a little bit of work.  I have a lot of credit cards and we don't carry a balance and I do NOT recommend this for anyone who carries balances.  It's a nice bonus of tax free money if you are responsible enough.   This is dense post, but if you have questions ask.

Let's start with Costco rewards.  We have a executive membership which costs $120 a year.  We make 2% in rewards which this year appear to be $225.57 which means we spent $11,278.50 at costco this year.  Makes sense since we buy most groceries and all of our gas there since it's 1.5 miles from our house and pretty much the closest grocery store.   We also earned on our costco citi credit cards $282.73 and $136.08 in cash back for a total savings of $644.38 with a net of $524.38.  

Next up is simple cash back rewards.  We earned $288.82 with discover.  Typically I can redeem this for restaurant giftcards at a minimum 10% off so 1.1 redemption rate so $317.70 is the value of this cash back, but for simplicity I just used $288.82.  Discover I keep for the 5% rotating categories cash back and it's $0 annual fee.  We also have the Wells Fargo active 2% cash back card.  We earned $478.67 in 2% cash back and I typically apply it to the charges.  It is also a $0 annual fee credit card.  Finally we have the Chase Amazon CC also for $0 annual fee and 5% back at amazon.  We earned $211.40 for spending $4220 at amazon this year.  YIKES.  I had no idea my DH spent that much let alone me.  That does not include my mom's spending at amazon so I guess we netted $61.40 for our amazon prime annual fee.

Now we're getting to complicated rewards.  But we'll start with the easy Alaska Airlines CC.  We have two CC, one for each of us.  The annual fee is $95 and we mostly use it for the companion fare coupon.  The companion fare costs $150 in taxes and fees for a free ticket to travel together.  This year i used it on Hawaii at Christmas so the tickets were $1017 roundtrip.  So we ended up saving $867 x 2  (each credit card) minus the $95 annual fee x 2.  So we basically netted $772 in rewards per credit card.  That and of course free luggage when booking (never use this), and 3x miles for alaska airlines purchases.  While this card is barely use the companion fares for us is worth just having.  We've had it for about 10 years and I think it pays for itself annually.  This is the type of credit card reward where even if you don't really use the card if the benefit is greater than the annual fee it's worth it.  This year they have an interesting deal where you spend $10k on the card and get 4k in EQM bonus up to a maximum of 20k miles so I'm trying to earn that for DH and myself, i'm not sure I'll be able to make it.  I also used the miles to book our trip next summer.

We also got a chase marriott card.  It's annual fee is $95 and we got three free nights  up to 35k points for opening the credit card. Again I think the $95 fee worth 1 night in a hotel.  You also get silver elite and 15 nights a year as well as earning some points when you charge on the card.  Typically we use it when we happen to book marriott and I've found that we can find one brand of marriott usually where we want to stay.  We also earned 19,186 points for 2023 because they give 3x points on grocery stores and 16x points on marriott stays.  Typical redemption says it's worth 1 cent a point or $191.86 for cash value.

For the Chase rewards I have the Ink $95, Sapphire Preferred $95, and Freedom $0.  I earned 48,475, 11,769, and 94,313 points for 2023 respectively for the credit cards = 154,557 points.  That is worth $1545.57 if we use 1 cent per point which is the cash equivalent redemption.  However I used it for flights this summer to singapore so I got closer to 2 cents per mile.  With the sapphire preferred I get a $50 hotel credit once a year to help offset the annual fee.  My daily driver card is the chase freedom earning 1.5% back on everything because I can redeem it for 1.25 on travele on the Ultimate Rewards portal and typically get 2% or 2 cents per mile transferred.  So the redemption rate is closer to 3% or more.

Finally the big expensive cards are our American Express.  I had the gold this year to try out.  The annual fee is $250.  I get $200 in uber credit which I used and $60 in dining credit (I stupidly missed 6 months) which i spend by buying a $10 shake shack gift card monthly for free.  So $260 in free cash but the real earnings this year was the $75.99 in Amex Offers on the card which I redeemed for charging stuff like internet, or cell phone and getting statement credit.  So I earned $335.99 cash back on the card last year. I also negotiated a $125 credit towards the annual fee this year.

DH got the Amex Platinum Charles Schwab for an annual fee of $695.  But CS gave us a $200 credit for accounts with them.  He also got $200 hotel, $200 airline, $189 clear, $60 Amex Offers statement credit, $240 digitial credit (NYT, WSJ, Sirius), and $171.24 for Walmart+ (we use for paramount subscription) for a total cash back of $1260.24.  We also earned 123,607 point = $767 in statement credit according to Amex.  The net credit card reward is $765 for the year.  Not including the $100 statement credit for fine hotels bonus or free breakfast for 2 at the hotels.  So that's usually worth another $60, so we had a bonus $160.  I actually used it this weekend for my overnight and saved $160 bonus on top of the $200 hotel credit for 2024.

So wrap up is we spent $1490 in credit card fees, costco/amazon membership for 2023.  We earned back $5002.96 in cash rewards and 297,980 in points equivalent to $2979 in cash back.  So we netted $3512 in tax free money by just our spending on our credit cards alone.  

It also did not include the value of the points I used to purchase tickets.  Pretty good for just using credit cards and getting tax free bonus.

My recent stupid tax

January 12th, 2024 at 04:39 pm

I don't know if others every have doh! moments but I do occasionally.  I've had a lot of them lately.  The most recent one was that I bought 4 tickets awhile ago to the Lion King.  Thought the kids and DH would want to go.  They didn't want to it turns out and I am stuck with 4 tickets.  Things have come up and tickets you buy months in advance well when you have other activities don't seem so desirable like a week before.  It happens!

Anyway I start to panic. I am freaking out going wow I'm out $300.  And also I want to see the lion king, but that's just a bonus.  So I text a bunch of friends and everyone says no.  So I post it on Stubhub and ticpick.  Then it gets bought immediately on stubhub. I log in after 5 hours and realize all four tickets have sold.  Yay right?

Boo - nooo. During that time I had a friend respond they'll take two and i say yes.  They venmo me and I transfer the tickets.  But I forget to take down the ad at stubhub and ticpick.  Then I have another friend say yes she'll go WITH me.  So I'm like YAY! I get to go win win.

But I had forgotten to take down my ad which wouldn't have mattered since the tickets sold immediately anyway.  But still. I had panicked and listed the tickets even though I should have waited and let everyone I ask respond.  So then I had to pay fees to stubhub and ticpicks for listing the tickets but not selling them. Boo!!! 🤦‍♀️

I could have explained to my friends the situation, but I was embarrassed and didn't want to. So I decided it was my own personal stupid tax and I would suck it up and just live with it.  How much did it cost me? 

Well $40 for ticpicks to replace the tickets and $166.50 for stubhub.  So I guess like $206.50.  Now my goal is to raise money outside of normal means to pay for my stupidity.  

Life is like that sometimes.

Singapore & Thailand financial wrap up

January 11th, 2024 at 11:46 pm

So we went to Singapore and Thailand and had a lovely time.  I had fun posting only some of the photos.  The photos were better than I posted. But I guess I have to do a financial wrap up.

We flew to Singapore on Singapore Airlines connecting through LAX.  I used miles for me and both kids.  I bought a one way ticket for DH.  Miles on Alaska airlines for me and both kids were 47,500 each one way plus $54 cash.  Then I bought DH's ticket for $786.50.  So our miles were worth 1.66 cents/mile.   I also upgraded our seats for $150 or $50 for each of us for front of the cabin premium seats.  These seats allowed us to not have anyone sitting next to us so we had 3 seats for me and DK2, DH and DK1 also had 3 seats for the two of them.  So we were able to spread out and sleep better.  Worth every penny.

Then I used miles on United to return through SFO.  That flight was 58,100 miles and the cost of the tickets fees were $206 for 3 of us.  DH's ticket was $863 one way so the miles we got were 1.49 cents/mile.  Which wasn't as good but we also don't normally fly united, and we've been trying to burn the miles.  Then I got offered a deal for upgrading to premium economy for $450 per person or $1800 total.  It ended up going for thousands more in premium economy.  Premium economy on united dreamliner is like domestic first class seats.  It really helped with sleeping and the jet lag.  

Then our flights from singapore to thailand round trip was $544.74 including seat selection.  So in total we spent $4405 on 4 tickets round trip to Singapore with a detour into Thailand with premium economy and economy plus seats and of course miles.  It did wipe out a lot of my alaska miles and thankfully our united miles which we've been trying to use for years.  

Then when we got to Singapore we stayed at the JW marriott hotel for 5 nights because we booked with points.  Marriott has a deal where you book 4 nights with points you get the 5th night free.  Average cost there is $500/night if not more and the location is spectacular and the hotel as well.  We paid $328.49 in fees plus 199,000 marriott points so averaged around 40k points a night.  At 1 cent per mile it's $400/night and I think it cost much more than that.

Then we went to Krabi and stayed at Centara Resorts with a private pool.  For 3 nights we paid $735 including airport transfers.  Then for our last night in Singapore when we returned we stayed at the Marina Bay Sands.  I'm cringing to write this but we paid $844.59 for 1 night although it included breakfast at a super fancy buffet.  Was it worth it?  Yes.  I don't know if we'd do it again. I've never paid that much for a hotel for one night or airbnb.  But it's not just any hotel. I could have used points to cover the trip if I wanted, but i just decided to pay for it.  

What else did we spend?  Well gocity cards in singapore for $1166 for the four of us.  Did we get our money's worth?  Well adult tickets for everything we did would have cost around $714 adults and $398 for kids so yes we did.  Now universal I would have skipped but for the pass because we literally rode like 3 rides.  But it was fun and we had a fantastic time eating there and we always like eating the local food of amusement parks where we go. I did mention the best buffet i've ever had was disneyland hong kong right?  I mean asian fusion buffet with inexpensive labor means premium food and disney quality and hong kong is just world class dining to begin with just like singapore.  Also shows in these parts are often much nicer than you would think because they start working at a much more inexpensive cost and put on a bigger production.

We spent $380 on other entertainment like feeding rhinos, extra tickets to things not covered, tour in thailand (was $100 for the 4 of us!!!), etc.  We spent $859 on food, eating is cheap in asia especially Thailand.   And $545 on ubers in singapore/thailand other travel expenses.  

All in our trip for about 12 days cost us $9265. This is not a realistic budget though because many people would not have the miles to pay for tickets for 3 out of a family of 4.  Also most people would not be upgrading to better seats necessarily.  And many would not pay $844 for a hotel for 1 night.  So I think it could be done similarly if you didn't have miles and made some changes to the itinerary.

But overall right on target for what I was hoping to spend if not less than what I budgeted for disney.  That being said on our macchu picchu trip, I need to start a spreadsheet.  I have spreadsheets for all my trips to figure out the total cost.

Thailand - relaxation

January 8th, 2024 at 05:30 pm

So we were thinking of jumping to Bali from Singapore but we didn't have much time.  So instead we went to Thailand.  We decided we had done city with Singapore.  We also wanted to waste at most 2 hours on the flight and we didn't want to hit up a city.  So we flew into Krabi.  Most people go to Phuket or Ko Samui or Bangkok or Chang Mai.  We headed to Krabi, but we didn't stay there.  Instead we went further off the beaten path and went to Ao Nang.  Think small beach resort area without a ton of tourists comparatively. 

Initially I wanted to go even more secluded and stay at an alcove that you had to take a boat too.  But decided it was too difficult with the kids.  Good thing I didn't because getting off the long tail boat (we visited for the day) we saw people carrying their luggage on their heads through the water since the dock wasn't big enough.  But where we stay?  It was in "town".  And we got to walk around, swim, and rest.  Way better decision.  Ao Nang has according to google 7800 people.  I loved it.  

Our hotel room had a private pool (but it was too cold).  Some rooms opened to the pool. We had breakfast included everyday as well.

Our first night and walking at the beach right outside the hotel.  Ours was on the beach about 50 steps away from a different pool at the hotel.

The next day we booked a tour and went kayaking in the mangroves and feeding elephants.

Long Tail Boat ride

Beach just gorgeous

Then we flew back to Singapore to catch our flight home the next day.  This time we flew direct into SFO on United in premium economy.  Well worth the $425 upgrade.  But I also decided to splurge and we stayed at the Marina Bay Sands hotel.  It's pretty much the iconic cruise ship hotel in Singapore, featured in Crazy, Rich Asians at the end.  It has the infinity pool that's only guest accessible.  What did we do?  Stay the whole day in the pool from 3 pm check in after our flight till the evening. We even had food delivered.

View from the deck of the gardens by the bay.

View during the day

View at night

Then our lovely adventure had to end.  Did we have jet lag?  Surprisingly no.  We were great.  Mostly because our timing was excellent.  It was worth spending more to get the right times.  We used up pretty much all of our miles to fly united back at night and arrive at night.  It was a 18+ direct flight from LAX to Singapore and return was also 18+ hours direct Singapore to SFO.  This allowed us to nap on the flight there and coming back.  4

Going we arrived at 6 am and then stayed up so we got right on schedule (and it's easier going west).  Coming back while difficult arriving at 12 am midnight at home and going straight to bed and waking up at 10 am and forcing ourselves to stay up to 8 pm then back to bed and up at 7 am meant we were tired but not jet lagged like some people.

So going to Macchu Picchu this summer I did the same thing and booked flights I thought would minimize our jet lag going and coming.  I'm hopeful that it works.

I guess all that's left is to work on what it all costs in the next post.

Singapore Day 5

January 8th, 2024 at 04:57 pm

Since someone asked I decided to finish up photos and posting of the trip.  Our last full day in singapore we spent doing a Michelin Hawker Food tour included in our singapore Go City card for $80.  It was delicious and fun and we even got historical facts on the walking part as we ate and walked through a couple of hawker centers.  My favorite part of traveling is walking and hanging out and eating like a local.  When we were in singapore i used grab (like uber) to go places and rode the transit and ate at the hawker stalls or hole in the wall restaurants.  Some of the finest dining is in singapore, but we just couldn't get ourselves organized and honestly that interested over just exploring the city.  Here are some of the places we stopped at.

We interestingly ate there unknowingly while wandering on our own in the area the first day.  

We love curry puffs.

My DH ate here on the first day and it was great.  I wouldn't say everywhere took cards so cash was still needed.

Then we chilled in the pool and hotel room the rest of the day until that evening when we went to the Night Safari.  This was also included on our go city card I think if i had bought the package of the zoos and night safari it was like $100 SGD+.  It was pretty fun.  The nicest part about the go city card was going to places and not feeling guilty if it was only a few minutes or longer. 

Since you have to make a reservation for the night safari, I made a reservation to feed the rhinos.  One of the highlights of the trip.  The night safari is just a ride on this tram through a different zoo to see the animal at night, especially the nocturnal ones.

The next day we left for thailand.

 

2023 Wrap up - good year

January 3rd, 2024 at 05:35 am

So 2023 was an excellent year for us financially.  Our retirement accounts are down 3% from peak 1/3/2022.  Mostly I lost a bunch in my Roth IRA but we are nearly at the same amount.  Our retirement accounts went up 31.6%.

Our taxable went up 92.8%.  Our NW went up 49.9%.  We had a good year in the market.  We saved a lot. 

I mentioned in forum spending $15k deciding.  What ended up happening was DH got an unexpected bonus at work on December 15th and we saved the bulk of it.  It contributed to our savings.  But even without it, I'm looking at 12/1 net worth since I track monthly where we were at.

Retirement up 23.6%

Taxable up 9.1%

Debt down 2.2%

NW up 23.2%

December was a good month stock wise our retirement went up around 8%.  Then added in our unexpected savings and that jumped our net worth 25% for the month.

Also due to stock gains our 12/1/23 NW surpassed 1/1/2022 by 8%  So even without the bonus we are back to peak.  

Tickets to hawaii pricing for the year

December 31st, 2023 at 03:36 am

I usually never travel this much to hawaii.  So I was curious how the year stacked up.  I know from chatting with friends who always ask me LAL what's a good price and when should we go? I tell them end of April and late October is typically cheap and easy. Also January after MLK weekend is another cheap time to come to Hawaii.  January might even be better with hotel pricing and winter for many folks.

But what have you spent LAL and did you get a good deal?  I am about to do an end of year shakedown which normally I would cringe about spending so much but life is short.  And my DH said when I mentioned it, this is a short term spending because when will I be coming to hawaii so often?  Never again.  

Traveling on 12/19 and returning 1/1 we paid $2034 for 4 tickets.  We used two alaska airlines companion fares which on each purchased roundtrip ticket.  That means the $95 annual credit card fee for a $121 companion ticket (this is the fees) was used as a BOGO on $896 ticket for DH and me.  Pretty good ROI on $95 was $896.  Average cost of Xmas ticket?  $508 per person which for hawaii at christmas is a steal.  Miles run around 50k one way if you can land it.  Hawaii is very expensive always to visit at the holidays and I don't recommend it.

October 12 $179 one way

October 17 $179 one way

August 9 $115 one way per person (1 paid for 3 of us) = $345

August 15 $102 one way per person (I paid for 3 of us) = $306

June 23rd $323 one way per person (I paid for 3 of us) = $970, our flight was cancelled that day by Delta and I had to rebook in a emergency, I had bought tickets on delta for 17,500 miles one way per person Frown

July 6th $265 one way per person (I paid for 3 of us) = $795

May 3rd $269

May 7th $228

Feb 20th $347, i flew to hawaii via boston and hawaiian airlines direct with miles I believe 35k miles.

Total for year for me was $2515 for me out of pocket 6 round trip tickets = $419 average round trip ticket to hawaii.  Total spent? $5652 for a total of 6 LAL + 3 DK1 + 3 DK2 + 1 DH = 13 rountrip tickets for an average of $434 per roundtrip.  

So if I were a family looking to budget I would say $450 to be conservative from the West Coast as long as it's not Xmas holidays. 

I had my suspicion but if we backed out the Xmas tickets which I think blew everything out of the water, the spending on our airline tickets to hawaii wasn't bad.

Next up?  Maybe our total travel spending for the year.  All in I am going to guess we're close to the $20-25k/year I budget and use in our numbers.  

Small amounts to ESA and apple stock

December 24th, 2023 at 06:11 am

The year is ending and I just thought I'd post about college savings and how small savings adds up.  Maybe to inspire someone, maybe because it's the simplest accounts we have.  My DK1 turns 14 in January.  I think we started her Education Savings Account or Coverdell in May 2010.  But Coverdell IRA or ESA are capped at $2000 a year contribution limits.  But you can invest in anything.  What have we invested in?  VOO.   Yep that's it. BORING.  Nothing special.  DK2 was born in July 2012 and I think I did her as well maybe a few months later.  So I've been tracking it for awhile. I have to go back to see how it was but 10 years ago...Realize we've never contributed more than $2k/year.

1/1/2014   DK1 $11,239   DK2 $6369

1/1/2015           $12,251           $6831

1/1/2016           $14695            $9105

1/1/2017           $16,588            $10,277

1/1/2018           $22,205           $14,612

1/1/2019           $24,801            $17,605

1/1/2020           $36,702           $27,169

1/1/2021           $39,668          $29,251

1/1/2022            $51,869          $38,691

1/1/2023          $43,940            $33,366

12/1/2023       $54,540             $41,945

total contri      $26,000            $22,000

So small amounts invested once a year for many, many years leaves to a doubling in 12 years.  It's supposed to double every 7 years but i'll take it.

As for apple stock?  DK1 sometime in 2010, again I think summer 2010, we were visiting in SF and DH's uncle.  He decided after meeting DK1 he would gift her 2 shares of apple stock and asked us to never sell it.  At the time it was $300 a share so he gave her around $600.  We didn't reinvest the dividends though we should have. I think we let the cash ride.  What's the $600 gift worth now from July 2010?  $11,891.  She has 60 shares from all the splits, but since I started reinvesting dividends actually 61.425 shares. DH's uncle didn't give DK2 but I did matching shares for her in a taxable account.  Those two shares of apple are the only reason why we had taxable accounts for the kids since we didn't plan on having enough money past the $2k/year ESA.  

Well now the kids have around $45k each in a taxable account and they have nice and hefty college funds with the ESA being a big chunk of it.  Turns out small investing can make a big difference in someone's life. We weren't born into any sort of money or inheritance.  But wow, just a tiny amount can make a huge difference. 

Imagine if either of our parents had gifted us even $500 or $1000 per year per kid for college or anything else.  I'm hoping to do that for our kids. Maybe be in the situation where we could gift the maximum per year to them.  Investing in their taxable accounts might make a bigger difference by the time they are 30.

double dip credit card bonus

December 11th, 2023 at 08:03 pm

Oops.  This quarter Discover is giving 5% back in cash rewards for shopping at Amazon or Target.  I used it to buy $900 in gift cards over the December 2nd - 3rd weekend at Target.  Target was running at 10% off special once a year.  That was $45 in rewards.  I also bought $400 in Airbnb gift cards from Target that gave a $40 gift card back as well.  This also earned 5% for $20 more in rewards.

Then if you use the discover cash back rewards to buy resturant or other shopping gift cards you can add another 10-20% on top of the cash back value.  So $40 or $45 for a $50 gift card to Dave and Busters, Panera, etc.  I typically do this to stretch the cash back rewards.

I only use the discover card typically with the rotating 5% quarterly bonus rewards.  Typically it pays back nicely but it maxes out at $75 a quarter or $1500 in spending every 3 months.  If you don't have this check it out.

credit card annual fees

December 6th, 2023 at 06:54 am

Decided to add up my credit card fees annually.  I know it's a lot because we have a lot of cards.  How much?  $1420 for the year.  Yowsa. How'd it breakdown?

Alaska DH $95.00
Alaska LAL $95.00
Sapphire Preferred $95.00
Chase Ink $95.00
CS Amex Platinum $695.00
Amex Gold $250.00
Marriott Chase $95.00
   
Total $1,420.00

The alaska cards we get a companion fare and I used both already this year for $1000 tickets to hawaii.  So $95 for $1000 coupon.  Win.  Plus a free checked luggage when traveling.

Sapphire preferred gives a $50 hotel credit plus 1.5 points for travel booked through their website.  So $45 for the bonus 50% travel credit?  Keep.

Chase Ink - $95 is maybe a lot for an occasional use card. I mostly keep it to charge all my business expenses on it and keep it straight.  But it also gives better earnings in travel and business expenses.

Charles Schwab Amex Platinum with the $695 price tag.  This is for DH alone but we get $200 credit from Charles Schwab for having accounts with them. Annually these are the savings I use

$200 Hotel Credit 

$200 Airline Credit

$189 Clear

$100 saks

$240 digital credit - NYT, WSJ, Sirius, 

$180 walmart+ - use for free paramount plus

$200 Uber ($15/month plus $35 in december)

So $1509 in credits for the year means it's a keep.  I did drop the extra card which was an extra $175.  Still debating on that one.  I have $60 in pending american express offers statement credit so we'll see if it works.

Amex Gold I got when I downgraded my Amex Platinum and switched it to DH getting the amex platinum.  $250 is really steep and I'm not sure it's worth it.  

$120 year ($10 a month) Dining Credit

$200 Uber ($15/month plus $35 in december)

Even with the $320, I only kept it because when I tried to cancel they gave me $125 bonus to stay, so it became $125 annual fee. I also made $71 in Amex Offers with the gold card which helped offset the costs.

Finally the marriot chase card for $95.  This one I'm also not sure but disneysteve swears by it.  And $95 for 1 night in a hotel seemed like a no brainer to try it out.  Just got it and we'll see how it goes.

I've settled into a routine of credit cards.

I've been rolling in the bonuses this year with Amazon CC and Costco CC.  Those plus the points i've gotten on chase since my daily CC is Chase Freedom card where you get 1.5% back on everything and 3% on eating out.

What credit cards do you like?

Day 4 Singapore

September 18th, 2023 at 07:43 pm

Day 4 

Our fourth day in Singapore was super busy.  We were heading to Sentosa Island for Universal Studios Singapore.  But we started out by heading to the Mount Faber Cable Car ride to Sentosa Island. It's a neat view of the city and the man made island.  Cost $28 SGD and included on the Go City Card. 

We then did the Sky Helix  at the sentose cable car station cost $18 SGD and included on the Go City Card.  We also did the 4d ride cost $30 SGD included and the Luge  but not included with the go city card so we paid $88 total for 4 of us.  The luge is basically think a downhill non snow sled ride.  The kids had a great time.

Then we cable car to Resort World Universal Studios.  The cost? $80 SGD but included in the Go City.  We got there around 1 pm but had lunch first outside at their malaysian food court.  Again pricey since it's universal (cheap compared to North America) but expensive for the area.

What was Universal like?  It was pretty crowded but overall fun.  A super small park easily doable in 1 day.  We rode like 3 rides and enjoyed the singapore foods with a twist.  Just like Mcdonald's. 

We left around 5 pm riding the monorail back to Singapore island.  We had to use all forms of transit - cable car, monorail, bus, and uber that day!  Anyway we had dinner again this time at the Suntec Food Court and Monster Curry.  Running total for the day $138 + $357 SGD = $495 SGD.  

Would we have done so much without the card?  Probably not.  Mostly because we wouldn't have gone to Universal.  $80 for a pretty small park.  But included?  For sure.

Singapore Day 2 and 3

September 13th, 2023 at 10:33 pm

Day 2

We spent the day at the Singapore zoo and River Wonders.  Cost was $118 4 park hopper because there are 4 parks total Zoo, River Wonders, Birds of Paradise, and Night Safari (which we did another day).  Running total $216 SGD (since I bought it for $414 SGD) in activity entrance fees so far.  We took the train to the zoo which cost us around $16 public transit, but the uber home for $22, which was 60 minutes versus 30 minutes.  We spent $70 USD on lunch in the park.  Typical.  

That evening since we got back by around 4 pm we decided swim a bit and then go out for chili crab on the Boat Quay.  It was delicious but our most expensive meal all trip $162 USD.  

Day 3

We started off the day with a big bus tour at 9:30 am across the street from our hotel at Suntec Mall.  It is the double decker buses that run around most major cities with tons of cool facts and fun way to see a lot fast.  Also less walking for those with kids.  Cost $53 SGD. 

 

Then we took it to stop number 2 because we missed the floral fantasy at the Gardens at the Bay also included and saw more flowers (my DH and DK2 love gardening).  That was an extra $20 SGD also included in the Go City Card.  Then we hopped on a train and went to chinatown hawker stall and ate lunch probably $15 total for 4 of us. 

We had an early day and went back to the hotel and swam again.  But DH and I went across the street to the famous Raffles hotel and got 2 free singapore sling drinks $40 SGD on the Go city card.  They gave us 2 each for 2 adult and 2 kid passes.  The kids chilled in our bedroom.   Now I would never have paid for the singapore sling but it was super cool and fun and A LOT of people were waiting in line to drink it and eat peanuts.

We had dinner at a place on Clark Quay for Japanese Yakitori for $79.  And we did it early since we had called it an early afternoon.  Then since we were done with dinner by 7 pm, we hopped on a river boat tour included on the Go City card from the Clark Quay.  Cost $28. Running Total $357 so far.

 

Singapore Day 1

September 12th, 2023 at 12:57 am

Day 1

So we arrived in Singapore at 5 am and were fortunate the hotel let us use their shower facility at the pool to shower, change, and refresh.  Our location at the JW Marriott South Beach was excellent and it was a nice hotel.  You don't have to tip in Asia but honestly in places where they are used to guests they are expecting tip, just not as much as you would in North America.  Our hotel we stayed for free using Marriott points for 4 nights get 5th night for free.  You know our airline ticket story from another post.

After we showered we took a uber to chinatown, had an awesome breakfast (noodles and dumpling $10 for the 4 of us), then headed over to Gardens by the Bay.  This is a financial blog so we'll do some breakdowns along the way.  I paid $414 for an adult 5 day unlimited Go City Singapore card, the kids were $100 less or so.  The cloud and flower dome were included and the cost?  $53.   Those were the supertree grove and kids pretending to hold the tree.

We stayed until about 1 pm ate a light snack at McDonald's.  One of my favorite places to eat no matter what country we're in.  We love seeing the how McDonald's adapts to local culture.  We had a nasi lemak (fried chicken) burger and a chicken nugget happy meal for the kids.  Then we were off to our 2 pm Duck Tour reservation.  Duck tours are WWII boats adapated for tours that go in the city and water.  Cost $45 and you need a reservation.  The merlion photo was taken from the duck boat.

After that we headed back to the hotel to check in and rest until an early dinner across the street at the Suntec City mall.  We had dinner for the cost of $48 which included tax and tip for a family of 4.  Yes that was one of the more expensive meals we had out.  Anywhere we paid with a CC was more than the cash stalls we happened upon.

Traveling as a family of four

September 6th, 2023 at 07:13 am

We had a lovely trip to Singapore and Thailand at the end of August. I'll post some photos and notes in the next few days.  But I have to write a bit about my experience reading blogs about travel and traveling with kids.

I read a lot of posts about "saving" money while traveilng.  Mostly about transportation cost, using miles, hotels, etc.  Of course there are a bunch of bloggers writing about traveling with kids first class because of miles and getting free airline hotel comps or cruise comps.  They aren't exactly average joes looking for a deal.  Their job is blogging and ads and evaluating where they are going.  So it's not really easy to discern how expensive traveling with kids is or how easy or hard it really.  And of course there are a ton of bloggers who are single or couples doing it super cheap not constrained by school schedules and use to paying for a family of four.

So I just wanted to put it out there reality wise for all those blogs I read about food, transportation, etc.

1.  When you travel as a family of 4 or 5, sometimes it's cheaper to use a cab.  No public transit is not cheaper.  I can prove it with my uber rides versus paying $2 a person for a one way subway and having to walk.  We did use the subway/bus/walk because of the experience and fun.  But the truth is that with 4 people it's often more economical to use a grab.  I made a conscious decision not to buy a $5 transit pass card because I suspected that using ubers would be more efficient and I was right.

Also after a long day it's often times easier to go straight back and not waste an extra 30-60 minutes navigating a subway/walking/waiting with kids and maximize rest times.

2. Hotels often in Europe and Asia are built for 2. It's way more expensive and harder to find rooms accomodating families.  You can easily get 2 rooms but then you are sharing with one adult one kid.  The rooms are smaller and meant for couples.

3. Food stalls are awesome as a single or couple. It's somewhat painful to go eat at food courts with a family where you have to get your kids food, navigate a seat, get your food, and navigate trying to accomodate everything.

4. Kids need down time. Even older kids aren't as resilient as adults.  A lot of flexibility and change need to happen.

5. Carrying around a lot more and spending more. I already had a backpack on the entire time filled with sunscreen, 1 water bottle, napkins, tissues, hand sanitizer.  And I still spent more than those couples/singles with their one bottle. I bought from vending machines and 7-11 drinks because it's awful to carry around 4 drinks.  I learned that years ago.  1 bottle of water to refill in case of emergency and you buy everything else you need along the way.  Water/drinks are cheap compared to the effort of carrying it.

6. Food - i missed the michelin star food hawker stalls in singapore because trying to find it and wait in line impossible. I had fantastic food and we had a fabulous time, but as a family? You have to let go and go with the flow rather than making perfection happen.

7. Sometimes you just do the experience in front of you instead of what you planned.  There were all these itineraries of "travel" warriors for seeing everything.  Couldn't be done with my two kids ages 11 and 13.  They just couldn't hack those days.  Our itinerary was jammed packed for a family, but it still didn't come close to what bloggers write.

8.  I paid extra to sit up front in economy going and we lucked out to have no one sitting next to DH and DK1 grabbed and empty row.  Coming back I forked over $450 per person for economy plus on our mileage tickets and it was worth every penny.  

9.  Find a hotel with an amazing pool.  We had three crazy pools and it was incredible.  We needed downtime to just relax.

10.  When you land you pay a premium to eat either in the hotel as a family or nearby but often you are too exhausted to care where or what you eat.  Our most expensive meals were when we couldn't move.

I just had to post a few thoughts on traveling with kids.  I guess I found myself a bit cynical after reading a lot of blogs about itineraries and ideas.  But none really hit on traveling with kids.  

FWIW, it's awesome and fun to travel with our kids.  We always have a blast and our experiences if you've read my blog the photos have been good.  But for anyone who thinks it's what other bloggers write? Or try to experience or do it on the cheap?

It's not.  Even reading about people going to disney?  There are way to do it cheaper but cheap? Or to do it the way some single or couples do it?  with a family?  Impossible.  So cut yourself a break and enjoy the ride.

Further Flight Deals

July 31st, 2023 at 09:12 pm

So how good of a deal did I get?  Well last week I managed to book me and the two kids round trip tickets to hawaii for $655 total for 3 people.  That works out to $218 per person round trip.

Alaska airlines was having a 2 day sale for BOGO to and from Kona.  So the price of our one way ticket was $103 per person.  That is $309 for all three of us returning from Kona.  Then going the same thing happened except it was $347 for 3 of us or $115 per person.   I had already reduced our fare a couple weeks ago to $200 one way pers person so our total trip already was $1200 for the three of us.  Now I got it almost 50% off.

I sent it to my friends but some people can't get out of their own way.  Instead they kept their booked tickets and paid $600 per person to go to hawaii.  I get it.   Once you book your tickets the idea of sitting there and snagging a deal is hard to wrap your head around.

This is the reason why booking the main cabin tickets for $40 per person with seat selection is worth it. If you buy saver fares you have to pay $150 to make a change. Instead you can cancel your ticket and use the credit to buy the new cheaper tickets. Or if you are hesitant if you talk with the airlines or through chat you are able to get them to give you airline credit for the overage.  I currently have around $679 in alaska wallet credit to be used in the future.   

So sometimes it's worth checking airfare much like checking the pricing of a hotel room or car rental.

the mortgage interest rate effect

July 26th, 2023 at 04:31 am

Got back from a nice weekend visiting the BIL.  Spent way to much money but that's the way of it.  Guess we're eating in for a few weeks to work off the overspending of eating out every meal.  But the kids were glad to see him and his girlfriend and his cats.  Which after they went to a "cat cafe" we realized both my kids have cat allergies and now the chances of having a cat ever is negative zero.  DH has severe cat allergies and the kids kept begging asking him to take shots.  No way.  But now it's like laughable. I'm the only person not allergic and i am not interested in another pet.

That being said my BIL bought 2 years ago his condo in the midst of Covid.  2 bd/2ba he bought for $780k.  It's a nice place and I'm glad he bought something finally.  He has no kids and isn't married and bought it solo.  And I'm not sure if he's marrying the girlfriend (although she doesn't know this and a story for another day about not watching your money).  But last month he had a special HOA assessement of $10k for the roof repairs and $11k for a new HVAC unit.  So he was talking about how he's irritated with a condo and thinks SFH are better.  

Anyway he's always checked in with us for advice.  DH's parents aren't here and well they wouldn't be useful anyway not knowing how it works in the US taxes, buying, selling.  So we were just chit chatting and I pointed out that his interest rate is like 3.5%.  And he's paying like $4500 for his condo a month.  Sounds ridiculous but he was renting for $3500 for a 1 bd apartment so it's a wash.  He's got a bigger place for $1k more but that's close to what he's paying in principal.  So he's basically renting his place for $3500/month with interest, property taxes, HOA.  

But now the idea of moving to a SFH is tempting.  But at what cost?  The rate he could get would be 6.75% and it would be more expensive.  How much?  Well let's use $1.2M so a $900k mortgage for $5837 mortgage payment versus $2802 a month currently.  Is the SFH worth doubling his payments?  The answer to him was very obviously no.

So his GF was talking about having kids, needing a bigger place, moving, waiting until they can find something.  But not realizing that the reality is that it's a lot more expensive right now to move up.  That the low interest rate is a double edged sword that buying right now is not necessarily in favor of buying.  Right now renting a SFH might be the smarter move.

Right now many owners are golden handcuffed to their houses, not wanting to lose their interest rate.  I know I am.  I definitely would love to move and have considerered it a lot.  But we couldn't afford a $900k mortgage right now at current rates.  So we couldn't afford our current home.  That $5837 doesn't include property taxes and insurance.  

So we as well as my BIL are golden handcuffed to our house.  We couldn't rent anywhere as cheap as we are paying either.  When we moved in our rent was borderline with our mortgage.  But now renting is ~62.5% more expensive than when we moved in.  The house across the street is a rental and the owner moved like 3 houses down and we know them well. When we moved in it was renting for $4000 in 2017.  It's now renting for $6500 a month in 2023.  So our mortgage is less than both currently.  

So moving is out of the question.  We couldn't even rent a bigger place.  In times of high inflation this is probably a normal scenario.  Once you lock in your fixed costs with buying the longer you stay put the better deal it becomes.  A lot of people say renting is better and it can be. 

But where renters fail?  Do they actually save the difference between the rent and mortgage and invest it?  And what happens when rent surpasses mortgage payment over time?  Or do renters assume they will always be below market rent?

Have you noticed the mortgage rate affecting people's decisions? I find it interesting how much it impacts the decision of renting and buying.

caring for the caregiver

July 20th, 2023 at 07:59 am

My uncle was told today that the cancer spread to his chest, back, and lymph nodes.  Not surprising since when we were last there a couple weeks ago he had trouble getting up and moving.  When I saw him I thought to myself he's not going to last much longer.  Well the Dr said chemotherapy might help but unsure.  

My mom really wants to go in and just talk to him in person.  He called her and told her he was afraid.  Afraid of dying yet in pain.  My mom I know is very sad and afraid of being alone.  My dad is slipping away in a different manner.  His bad days outweigh his good.  He is getting more confused. 

My uncle is 74 and fully cognizant.  He understand what is happening.  When my uncle passes I'm sure my aunt whom he's been married to for 53 years will pass soon after.  She also is not well.  And my mom will be alone with my dad.  While my aunt and uncle haven't been physically helping my mom, they have been emotionally there for her these past months just listening and letting her vent or have something to do (cooking and dropping meals for them as she cooks solo).  Unfortunately they both are unable to cook anymore.  They've always been there for her from teaching her about her first checking/savings account.  To offering money so she could get divorced and not work a second job because I needed her.  To hand me down in clothing and baby goods (probably why I was a tomboy!)  

I know that she wants a few moments to sit and chat reminisce and just be.  Unfortunately my dad is not able to do that.  So she can drive by and drop food and go to the door for a minute while my dad sits in the car.  

I thought when I booked my tickets last month that going back a month later wouldn't be worth it.  I wasn't sure but I felt like I hadn't had enough time with my mom.   And now I know I was right.  She has tried a new caregiver, the last one got sick right before I came.  She managed to hire someone today and tried them out.  It didn't go well.  

But I am pushing for her not to stop.  To keep trying to have the person come and maybe my dad will accept and be used too.  The truth is she needs help now.  This is a short term thing.  Caring for the caregiver is sometimes just as important as the patient.  My mom thinks I'm coming to help with my dad.  Truth is that my dad is slowly slipping away unable to recognize even me.  He doesn't recognize the kids or their names.  But she needs us more than he does.

Hugs to all caregivers out there.  Realize that you are appreciated and that there are others hoping to help you.  Take it.

task rabbit...

July 10th, 2023 at 06:40 am

Wow.  I just read the most recent financial samurai post about FS's wife losing her passport.  She said it was full benefit, meaning she learned a lesson and turned it around.  That was good there were benefits to what she did.


But I guess what stood out to me in the whole post and I read Financial Samurai all the time, that she used task rabbit to hire someone to stand in line for her.  Yes she paid someone to stand in line for her $134 actually.

So why am i writing this? I guess because this post made it eminently clear the US for a 1st world country is quickly dividing into the haves and have nots.  Where labor is becoming very cheap and people are working these jobs like uber, door dash, that make other people's lives convienent. 

A friend said that people are working those jobs for second income, probably true.  But when did the US have such a income discrepancy that it makes it so easy to pay others for these types of jobs? I've always toyed with the idea of doing task rabbit. I'm curious if it really is profitable. 

I actually have a fedex driver client who tried uber but told me it wasn't worth his time.  He made too much as a fedex driver and would do better working overtime for them.  Totally true, I do his taxes.  He also said most people don't make very much doing uber, but those "professional" uber drivers (drive a prius, and work set hours) are more like cab drivers and know how to do it profitably. But they've mastered where and how to drive.

So is this the same with task rabbit?  Have we crossed into a more inequitable society where we can afford to pay for stuff because the income discrepancy is so high? I think it has and I've actually thought this for awhile now.

working for myself

July 8th, 2023 at 12:06 am

I work for myself now.  It's fun, interesting, and I really like it. I don't think I'll ever go back to working for a company.  It's harder in some ways and easier in others.  I'm fortunate to be married to a person who has a company job that provides benefits.  Would I be doing what I'm doing if I had to buy insurance?  Maybe yes still. I don't know.  But if I had to provide insurance, the question would be why is my husband not working for a company?  The answer being that he started his own consulting firm, then probably yes because if he did we did well enough to manage.  But otherwise he's more the corporate type.

Well thsi is my second year and first really full year working for myself.  Last year I did it but I wasn't sure if I was coming back to it. This time my answer to client is yes, spread the word. I am doing this.  I'm not saying I'll do it forever, but there is a pretty long horizon. I can see myself doing this another 10 years until the kids finish college and then reevaluating.  Maybe even sooner. I could be done by 2030 when my youngest leaves for college.

But in the right here, right now moment I have to look at my business income and expenses.  Currently I've made around ~$35k and I set aside already $22.5k for my 401k for the year.  I haven't contributed yet because I'm not sure if I want to do a Roth 401k or traditional 401k.  I've paid for my software, insurance. But I haven't paid my taxes yet or any other expenses.  I'm debating.  My taxes could be minimal if I do the traditional 401k.  Thus I'd have extra money to spend.  Or I might have to pay the current amount to taxes.  

How to balance spending and saving?  It's a question constantly posed on this board.  Right now I feel like I've basically worked to fund retirement, taxes, and I've contributed nothing to the household maintenance or fun spending.  But i'm unsure how much more I'm making this year.

Do I pay more bills with the remainder or send it to taxes later?

playing the points and miles game

June 15th, 2023 at 10:32 pm

So I guess I'm sort of becoming one of those points people.  I had to unfortunately cancel our WDW at the end of august but DH said he still wanted to do something.  Why?  Because he wanted to relax and he had been looking forward to something.  So I had to come up with something that seemed fun but not as strenous.

So interestingly I found a us tickets to singapore. I managed to use miles on Alaska to fly to singpore for me and the two kids at 47.5k miles each.  Then on the return I managed to use 58k miles on united for us to fly back.  The fees for all of this was $216.50.  We have layovers going through LAX and returning through SFO.  I paid $50 each = $150 for us to choose our seats going.  DH I bought his tickets same flights with seat selection for $1649.65 for a grand total of $2060 for 4 round trip tickets.  Then we are going for 4 days and three nights to Krabi, Thailand.  Roundtrip those tickets with seats for 4 were $544.74.  Our flights total was $2605.54.  

I tentatively have booked a hotel for one night before we leave, 3 nights in Krabi, and I'm waiting for a few more miles to seal the hotel we want in singapore for points mostly.  The krabi was $2318 for 3 nights, i'm not sure if we should spend that much.  It's a lot because we needed 2 rooms.  In asia it's very common to not be able to fit a family of 4 in 1 room. So you typically need to book two rooms.  The beds and rooms are small.  There are other cheaper hotels so I haven't decided yet if we are keeping this "resort" style hotel or downgrading.  I also booked our last night in Singapore somewhere fancy and that was $844.59.  That I think we are keeping.  That indulgence had been suggested to us and I really do want to stay there. 

So for hotels so far $3163.57 plus the points for the other 5 nights and $400 cash at a marriott.  What's left?  I was looking at GoCitycards, about $1000 USD for activities, $320 for upgraded singapore universal passes (only me and the kids).  DH will likely just walk around and not ride anything.  Amusement parks in Asia are different and very interesting.  The food is really fun and cool and so different.  Typically the parks are busy but not crazy like the US, probably because it's not a "thing" in asia.  But we like to see their take on amusement parks.

Then food in singapore and thailand? I plan on a couple of michelin restaurants but they are going to be the food stalls. I am not sure I feel like eating at a super fancy or expensive michelin place with the kids.  And typically in Asia we tend to just stop and eat whatever looks interesting.  And food is usually so good and so cheap.  

My goal had been under $5k.  If I cancel the krabi hotel and go to a really cheap hotel (I am out of points) I think we could do it.  But I'm not sure I want to do that.  I spent more than i was expecting on flights around $2500.  When I started pricing it out I thought I could do it for $1000. But DH flights and paying for seat selections ended up more than I thought.

But we'll see.  I'm sure people are curious how much bang for the buck I can get.  Personally I got a lot of bang I feel from my miles for 3 of our tickets.  And our hotel points I also got a lot of bang for the buck so far.

may was a bit crazy

June 1st, 2023 at 06:28 am

So I haven't posted in two months I realized looking. I also haven't been online much.  April was busy and I ended the month visiting my parents for the first weekend of May.  I got back on the 8th and then everything in the month went off the rails.

My DH got into a scooter accident which they called a motorcycle accident.  I was calling him around 6 pm one night to confirm he was picking up our second child.  Some random person answered (note if you keep calling like 6 times in a row anyone holding the phone can swipe and answer), and said "your husband was in an accident". I was like WTF.  Where are you? I immediately went to my location finder and couldn't see his dot.  But he was about a mile from home and when I got there he was on a stretcher, on a board, with a neck brace, unconscious being loaded into the ambulance.  Yes the cops let you through when you say that's your husband.

It took a long time in the ER with everything and he had a lot of injuries.  The EMTs, Dr, Cops, all told me he was seriously lucky to be wearing a helmet it saved his life.  He had a concussion, orbital bone fracture, cut on his head, broken ribs, internal bleeding (which did end up stopping without surgery fortunately), and tons of scrapes, cuts, and scratches.  Luckily he was wearing jeans and jacket although everything was torn up, cut off, and he had gone over the scooter and off and was unconscious when a random person found him and called 911.  No there were no cameras and the cops do think it was a hit and run.

He and I were very fortunate and thankful of everything.   He's recovering slowly and things have been crazy caring fo him, the kids, the dog.  I am very lucky my BIL flew in the next day to help me with the kids for the weekend and I had a lot of friend carpooling the kids.  

Though he's supposed to be not working my DH of course is already back at work.  He can't help himself. The Dr said to take off at least three weeks and it's been only 3 weeks.  Did he go back part time?  Nope.  I mean of course the neurologist said I guess asking you to work 20-25 hours is ridiculous when my DH admitted to working 80-90 hours on average before.

Personally I had a lot of my own work slide and just trying to be on top of paying bills and shopping and cooking and driving and everything has gotten away from me.  We ate out and had delivery for about 2 weeks. I returned the scooter within days of the accident i was so pissed.  My DH holds this against me but I couldn't help myself.

Honestly I'm just hoping to right my ship and get back on track with everything.  I cancelled our trip this summer to WDW.  Yeah he'll be healed but really he shouldn't be going on rides with a concussion healing still.  No idea how long it'll take.  He's been exahusted and sleeps immediately after dinner.  And I can tell it's taking a lot out of him to do anything.  

So here's hoping June is better. I am barely hanging on to remembering everything for the kids, him, and me.  I also got our dog neutered two weeks ago as well.  Usually it'd be harder but since our dog needed to be crated and not walked his usual 5 miles it's been really helpful to give me extra time.

And I finally got on with insurance and figured out we should be paying a max OOP of $1500.  Well guess this year we are really using our insurance.  We also turns out were fortunate we didn't get on a HDHP.

eating out is expensive

April 6th, 2023 at 06:27 am

Eating out is getting really, really expensive.  Before COVID I know we ate out a lot.  Probably mostly takeout and fast food being busy.  But I can say with a certainty we were eating out 6-7 times a week.  We typically ate out Friday nights, Saturday/Sunday Lunches, and then maybe Saturday dinner, then 1-2 dinner during the week.  This was not occassionally but with regularity.

Then Covid hit and we like everyone else went to zero/cold turkey.  It was like a special diet.  Not only did I not get to eat out but I also had to cook.   Of course I found my groove again and began cooking from scratch.  During the time pre-covid I pseudo cooked. I heated pre-made costo or trader joe's meals.  Something easy and fast and cheaper than takeout.  But definitely not from scratch.

But with covid, being home, going nowhere?  Cooking from scratch became more of a hobby.  Something to do out when I had so much time.  It also made eating at home more fun.  We were going months without eating out.  Definitely not eating in restaurants, maybe occasional pizza.  Then Covid began easing and we've been getting busier.  I'd say we definitely were going to start eating out more last year but then I noticed probably middle of last year that food prices were getting really expensive.  Some food places raised prices faster than others.

But really I would say in the last 6 months it's really hit home. I don't know why but I guess since school started I consciously have not eaten out.  We aren't afraid of covid, and our income hasn't changed but our perspective has.  Now I see my $100 eating out bill and think "geez i can do better."   And sometimes I can.  

Eating out is definitely a treat and something we savor more.  As a family we savor it and really think about what we want and what is a bit harder for me to make.  Covid brought back my cooking and DH's cooking skills.  Unfortunately i'm in a rut again making the same things over and over.  But the number of recipes has broaden.  My kids would agree.  

DH and I when we met agreed we should cook.  So he came up with this idea of 10 easy meals that we would learn to do fast and leave always on tap.  We did that, mastered it, and always cooked.  We brown bagged our lunches easily over 15 years together even with kids.  We always made a concerted effort to make lunches during the week.  But before covid we were "boring".  We ate a lot of the same meals over and over.

But now with food prices rising, I noticed I also cook a lot of the same things because I am shopping what's on sale and that sort of drives the menu.  Ground beef on sale?  Burgers, shepards pie, meatloaf, salisbury steak, indian curry, loco moco, bolognese.    Chicken is curries, fried, breaded, baked.  So it really depends on what is on.

But eating out?  Well we ate out tonight and it was okay.  Convienent and super close to home.  But maybe a 7 out of 10.  We went out to eat on Saturday since we went to see a movie, quick burgers by the theater.  That was better than tonight.  This weekend?  Right now no plans since we ate out this week and were invited over for Easter brunch to someone's house. Let's see if we can make it through the weekend.

I will admit I do buy still some costco instant fast meals like ravioli.  It really has been saving me recently with not cooking and being extra busy.  I bought costco lasagna and might make that this weekend.  

Have you cut back on eating out?  Prices?  Habit?  Not enjoying it?  What changed?  For us it really is noticing the prices.

SVB explained from a nobody

March 19th, 2023 at 10:52 pm

So yes it personally did affect our life and we got to see SVB up close and very personal.

We were very fortunate to get paid on Wednesday March 8th.  My DH's payroll is through rippling and they took the money out March 7th to pay his company.  So they had around $10m at SVB.  They also fortunately had a super smart accountant who put the rest of their money into treasuries.   So they used to be chase private clients but they found it hard when starting out because Chase saw a $6M deposit and held it for 90 days.  So how were they supposed to be paying payroll, bills, rent, etc when money given to them by VC wasn't liquid and the "bank" didn't want to release the funds?  It wasn't happening.  So a VC partner said "hey got to SVB, they understand start ups. They understand how money in millions comes in, they'll let run your start up and use your money."

So they moved a portion of their money to SVB and the rest the accountant suggested treasuries.  $10m was 25% of their money and about 8-12 months of burn.  That seemed very reasonable and it seemed secure.  I mean it was  in a savings/checking account earning pretty much NOTHING.  The CEO wasn't about to risk his company and he thought he was nervous about losing money and not making payroll. So solid "checking/savings" account and investment in "treasuries separate".  Good plan.

But then the week of March 6th the CEO, and yes this is first hand, my DH called me and we were away for the March 10th weekend and the CEO called us and as was trying to figure out how to access his treasury securities just in case.  He was told by the same VC investor (and probably others), that SVB was in precarious shape and he should get his money out.  He tried.  He put in 4 separate wire transfers trying to get his money out.  He got out around $2.5M of the $10M and justifiably was freaking out.

The $2.5M he told us was around 2-3 months of burn so we were fine.  The company could meet obligations and have time to cash in their treasuries and still be okay.  Yes they had lost about $7-8 million dollars but it wasn't the end of the world.  I mean it sucked royally that they had "lost" their investment through no fault of their own except believing money in a bank checking/savings account should be safe.  

So yeah I'm pissed.  I do think that the federal government should FORCE the SVB excecutives to give back their bonuses and salaries for 5 years and attempt to cover ALL depositors their deposits.  The company my DH started with 7 other guys in 2021.  I type on here, we're normal people.  We aren't multi-millionaires playing.  He sunk in his time and took a huge risk, and we truly believed that his company's money was safe and they thought they were doing the "right' thing.  They are growing the business to 60 people now in 2 years.  Isn't that what it's supposed to be be?  A small business growth?  That they will likely be revenue positive soon and have been growing like crazy.

They did everything right but you don't want to "bail out" these depositor who just thought that putting money in a checking/savings account would be safe?  Then why even put money in banks?  How do you want small businesses to run?  How do you expect people to start companies and be innovative without some sort of belief that the BANKS are inherently safe?

Where do you want them to put their $10m?  Where?  How should they have it to pay my husband and his employees?  How should they keep it liquid?  Does this mean that small businesses shouldn't be allowed to start or grow?  What if it were $1m and that covered the business for 1 year burn?  It should be in 4 banks to cover it by FDIC?

Or should there be some sort of faith/justification that putting it in a bank means it's safe?  What about people?  Guess this means if you have more than $250k personally you should not be leaving it anywhere near a bank.

That's the problem SVB is going to teach us.  That banks aren't to be trusted.  Well maybe really big banks only.  It's just a difficult thing to  wrap your head around.  That banks suck.  That putting your money into a bank and not "investing" it but seriously just putting it into a checking/savings account = risk seems nuts.  But is this the new norm?

Property Taxes and summer trip

February 20th, 2023 at 11:57 pm

Well I got to see how they raised our property taxes. I flipped out last summer when the assessed value of our home went up 75% in one year.  I had a conniption.  DH said someone posted on our Facebook Be Neighborly group from the city council and he said we would have no raise in property taxes.  Everyone's assessement was increased and this would mean we all have the same share of taxes so it wouldn't change.  Well that was a blatent lie.  Either way I am just annoyed at it.  It went from $11k to about $15k a year.  That is a hefty chunk of change.

We also decided to push back macchu picchu until summer 2024.  That meant we had no real plans for the summer.  So I began to think about what to do.  DH wanted to minimize his vacation days (he'll have used 1 by august, but he gets 15 a year), and gets a 4 day weekend labor day so 4 days going somewhere the last week of August.  I figured no more than a 6 hour flight.  That put us on the east coast at most.  So I picked florida and WDW.  I read that a lot of schools are back in session, the season is getting lower and while it's hot, it's not any worse than any other time in summer except it supposed to be less crowded.  We'll see what happens.  DH is fine with a 4 day vacation and the kids want to go but didn't want to miss school which was the option was to pull them out october again.

The only things now are deciding how visiting my parents for summer and christmas will play out.

reflecting on the past

February 7th, 2023 at 07:53 pm

On the post your wins thread it was a nice post by amastewa93 about how far she's come in 6 years!  I'm really impressed.  So I thought a lot as well and it's amazing how fast things can change on a dime.


I'm the mom of a teenager as of last month (DK1 turned 13!!!).  When I started blogging and I on this site I had no children.  I had been with my DH about 6 years and we were married a couple of years.  Those first few years were very, very lean.  We leaned on 0% CC, student loans, car loans, etc to make everything happen.  We rarely ate out or traveled.  I will also say the first few years  of having kids and going to one income it was super tight as well.  We were still paying off the 0% CC which was used to help buy us time to pay our student loans.  

But a decade has past and it's weird how comfortable we are.  Rich?  I guess by many standards but I don't feel it.  I don't feel that different than the young 20 something struggling to make ends meet.  But 20 years later I am.  My body is more tired and older.  The credit card now is paid in full and I don't blink at whipping it out. Instead of whipping out the calculator and figuring if I could afford something, now I pay for it and don't worry knowing we have buffer. 

I would use a calculator at a grocery store to stay on track.  We ate a lot of the same foods over and over.  When we met our "date" nights quickly devolved into a 3 item combo from Ranch 99 shared and a movie once a week.  I don't even know if DH remembers the fact we were so thrilled to not cook and eat leftovers once a week and a $5 - 3 item combo was a splurge.  $5 for a meal out was indulgent and to be shared.  We rarely drank because it wasn't in the budget.  Soda was bought only in 2L bottles and we recycled everything for extra money.  We dumpster dived everything and everything was second hand including our grill and smoker and dog.  

When we got our first dog we had no money and thankfully he was young and healthy.  By the time he needed care we were in a different position financially but in 2002 we were broke and living on a shoe string.  We used student loans to help sort our budget after all it was subsidized and free money.  We calculated DH would get a job in 6 months after graduating and we'd be able to pay it all back.  It didn't happen when he first graduated, we needed 0% CC for a few years rolling from one to another.  But by the time DK1 came along in 1/2010, in 6/2010 we paid off all our student loans and 0% CC.  It only took us 5 years after he finished his phd but he also went back and got an MBA and sunk us more into debt during those 5 years.

Our kids know we're frugal and they can tell I still struggle with spending.  I'm still careful.  My mom says "we never bought anything without a red sale tag or secondhand."  I grew up very, very poor.   And now it's ridiculous.  My kids still look at sale tags because I don't know how else to shop and goodwill/marketplace is still our friend.

But now I really can buy anything I want. I can walk into a store and not whip out the calculator. I can buy what I want to eat because I feel like it.  I can go out to eat because we want to.  It's a weird feeling sometimes.  The life I lead now is one I definitely aspired too.  My mom again always said "i want to walk into a store one day and not look at the price tag."  And she totally does now.  She doesn't care.  Everything is affordable.  Now the shirt doesn't have to be on sale or secondhand.  She also grocery shops and buys what she wants to eat instead of what's on sale.  She doesn't have the envelope of cash and calculator (my entire family used to do this).  My uncle said he'd stand in grocery store and calculate down to the last 10 cents what they could afford for groceries for the week and what they'd put back.  And now he has so much money coming in he can't spend it fast enough.  

Did you ever think you'd get here?  Did you ever think you'd live a life you dream about?  I joke now about what I would do if I won the lotto.  I'd hire a cook and a driver asap.  But life is pretty good and I'm grateful that I'm another year older and here to spend it with my family.

Happy Holidays and a long catch up

December 21st, 2022 at 07:08 pm

I just peeked and saw the last time I posted was beginning of November.  A lot has happened since then and I haven't been online much.  I've been exhausted with everything.

I went to see my parents over Veteran's day weekend.  My mom asked and I obliged.  Thankfully I went home because my dad ended up in the ER that Sunday before I left from being impacted and in terrible pain. I managed to carry him into a wheelchair and into the car and to the ER.  My mom couldn't have done it and they were in no way ready to have my dad be immobile.  That weekend I managed to get a wheelchair ramp ordered, hospital bed, and internet installed.  Fortunately my kids were off Friday for veterans day and they were all sick so they all stayed home and skipped all activities.  I ended up staying to wednesday but my DH was desperate for me to come back, he was struggling with work and the kids.  I depended on others to help me which is not how I usually do things.

Things have been a bit difficult since.  I've pushed my mom to hire help and she has someone occasionally.  She's exhausted and unwilling to consider someone to help at night.  But we returned again this past weekend and I'm watching my dad all day as my mom went to the dr.  He is pretty wheelchair bound and bedridden. And this past weekend before i got here Monday, again went to the hospital for the same thing.  

We are staying through the new year.  When I bought the tickets this summer I hemmed and hawed over the costs. If I returned before new years the ticket prices were substantially cheaper.  But with the way the new year's fall it is ridiculously expensive until about the 1/4 and the kids and DH go back to work and school.  So DH and DK1 are going back on 1/1 and DK2 and I are staying until 1/5.   I am glad we're staying.  Yes it's expensive but I told my friends i'm in the endgame.

I bought my tickets back for february without DH and the kids.  They'll be off for a few days and DH can work from home and not worry about school or activities.  The truth is that no matter what I pay now for tickets home or buying stuff this is short term.  I am doubtful my dad will be here next holidays but I'd love to be wrong.  

People hate suzy orman but she always tells called "people first then money."  I always agreed but until now I never really lived or felt it.  Now I feel like yes I need to be prudent, but at the same time I have spent my life being prudent. I have spent my life being frugal and watching every penny.  But now I need to stop saving at the rate I've always saved at and spend it so that I can enjoy and help my parents at this end stage. It's not forever and it's not something that is a continually money drain.  This is short term and something that will end.

I am grateful about our ability to cover these expenses.  But I've really come a long way to realizing that money isn't everything.  Saving and planning isn't everything. That sometimes goals fall the wayside and life happens because you can't control everything. I'm a planner, saver, and overal meticulous record keeper. I'm also naturally frugal.  But in the position i'm in I can't do it all.  And something has to give.  To me it's money.  I'll make more and if we have to work 2 months more then so be it.

Day of Joy

November 4th, 2022 at 07:26 pm

Today is a day of Joy and I have been blessed.  About a year ago my DH underwent genetic testing and was confirmed to have a specific mutation that he inherited from his mom, which lead to his retinitis pigmentosa.  This mutution is inherited in an autosomal dominant manner meaning that any child we had would have a 50% chance of inheriting it and having RP.  

When we had children 13+ years ago we had no idea what the mutation was and there was no way of knowing.  Testing was not advanced enough to genetically screen and find the mutation.  Fast forward to now and due to advances they knew where to look and last Christmas his diagnosis was confirmed.  He had been told since around age 12 when the dr was able to observe the RP phenotype.  

The fact we were told 13 years ago we would know around now, meant we've been waiting on pins and needles.  We've been waiting to see if any dr would be able to look into our kids eyes and tell us if they had it.  I know my DH has been worried, especially as he has aged and things have become more difficult for him.  The greatest fear and worry for a parent is the healthy and well being of your children.  

So a few months ago we were approved that insurance would test our kids for the mutuation.  We actually had been ready to pay out of pocket but the eye dr suggested we try insurance and she turned in the paperwork.  

It turns out both our kids are negative for the mutation.  They each had independently a 50/50 chance of having the mutation and being positive for RP.  So for DH to have two children not inheriting the mutation is amazing.  I had tears of joy when the dr called me.  

What a wonderful day.

I must be going crazy

November 3rd, 2022 at 07:34 pm

I swear I'm going crazy with how fast prices of groceries are going up.  I swear my CC bill, which I pay off every month is getting higher.  We really are making a super big conscious decision to eat out once week and cut back on take out.  So I've been cooking very consciously every meal even on weekends. 

But perspective for eating out this weekend Sunday dinner it was $160 for chinese takeout for 6.  That meals should not have been that much and we had some leftovers enough for 2 lunches (DH and I each).  The weekend before we paid $150 for brunch at a restaurant for the 4 of us.   We had 4 meals, each averaging around $21-23, 2 alcoholic and 2 non-alcoholic drinks, 6 deviled eggs appetizer (around $15) and that's it.  $150 for 4 of us tax and tip.  That was our meal out. Monday halloween I bought a papa murphy's cook yourself XL pepperoni sausage pizza thin crust 16" was $10 plus breadsticks $6.99 and it cost $18.17 for it and I ordered online and picked up from a cart without a tip.  That was one meal and we had no leftovers for the 4 of us and the kids were a bit hungry after trick or treating.

So the expense of eating out is out of control.  And that's what has lead to cooking all the time.  But groceries I can't get over how much I'm spending.  I can tell when I can't walk out of costco for less than $200.  Then adding on other stores makes it ridiculous. I pay $12 for 2 gallons of lactose free milk from costco.  Eggs at walmart are $9 for 60 and the cheapest.  Chickenthighs are $3/lb for blsl thighs and they still had bones and tons of fat.  And the fresh veggies?  Or my family loves mushrooms and it's $6+ a pound.  And they eat a lot of veggies each meal.  Brussell sprouts tonight are $3/lb and I bought a 2 lb bag.  Last night it was a bag of Bok Choy that was $8 at $3.99/lb for 2 pounds.  Add in the fresh fruits and I'm making the kids lunches everyday (it was free last year and I refused to make lunches).  They hate school lunches both of them, but occasionally when things are nuts in the morning they have to suffer with school lunches.  They pay $4.25 a school lunch and my DK say it's not enough food!  This I hear from other parents as well.  

I will admit we don't have to eat what we eat and I probably should scale back on what I buy.  But I feel like we already are not eating out so scaling back on groceries seems harder than not eating out.  I'm trying to be very conscientious and not waste any food and usually we are very good at this.  I repurpose all rice into fried rice, i make broth from chicken and beef bones and use that to make congee.  I make a lot of stuff from scratch including I've been making sourdough bread again.  

But the prices of food just seems to rise.  I can't get myself to garden I hate it.  I probably need to start though even in pots.  Have you noticed the food prices?

When you don't work outside the home...

October 20th, 2022 at 12:04 am

When you don't work outside the home it can be tough.  I say that because I've been there, done that.  It's a really tough thing.   How so?  The lack of respect and validation and feeling of self-worth can be hard to maintain.  I write this for two reasons. 

One a friend talked to me about how she felt being "only" a mom.  She had done her phd as well in biology and now she was "only a mom."  She feels like she needs to work to find herself outside of the kids.  I told her I totally get it.  That it's really hard to go from an important "job" to not having a job.  It's really hard still for me to be in a group of people and not work full time and have a "career".  I have a "job".  I like what I do.  But I still feel embarrassed at times.  I told her I do still feel judged.  I have definitely felt lesser at the company holiday party when people say "what do you do?"  And I hear "why don't you work?"  The answer now interestingly even though I started my own business is "I take care of my kids." 

I usually get a gasp and silence but i decided after I started my own business I no longer needed validation from anyone. I only needed my own self worth.  Maybe it was after 40 I give a rat's behind about anything. I now say random stuff like I could care less what my kids do as long as they are happy and productive.  I pulled them out of gifted programs because they weren't happy.  We turned down a choice school opportunity because I thought my kid would struggle making friends. 

Yes I say all those things now and I sometimes I mention working but often I say I don't work and I'm free.  It's still a bit weird that I don't use my phd, but at the same time it took a long time to figuer out I hated it.  I told my friend I achieved pretty much everything a parent could want.  Excellent test scores, grades, extracurriculars, and acceptance into every school I applied to. I got into every top program both in undergraduate and graduate school.  My resume read like someone who did everything right and yet I detoured and found my zen with my kids, new job, and life.  

But then again I am married to guy who also quit his 1st career and found his zen.  His resume also reads "accomplished everything parents want" then quit job, moved, changed careers and let wife not work and raise kids.  If we lived the way everyone else expected us to we'd be a "high power couple" climbing the ladder.  But instead we meander our way on 1 income, driving crappy cars, and working at jobs that are fufilling.  Maybe it's my husband's acceptance.

The second reason I wrote this?  This weekend he was trying to recruit someone to work for him.  The guy asked "how do you do it?  how do you have a family and do a start-up?"  DH "my wife does everything."  And the accceptance of it works.  At the same time we both committed to this short term insanity knowing that it was his dream to start a company (yes when I met him he wanted to do this no lie).  He wanted to make a mark and build his own company and he passed on one about 15 years ago and regretted it.  This time I said he had to do it, and we knew it was not going to be easy.  And now at the startup?  When anyone asks I just say I stay at home.  I am definitely not embarrassed because we wouldn't be doing this if he was pulling his weight at home.  I know my worth and contribution right now.

Maybe it's age.  But truth it is still really hard to be "non-working" spouse.  To be the partner who takes the step back and follows and supports.  But at the same time you have to look at yourself and say it's enough. That you know what you are truly worth and give yourself a pat on the back.  It's okay to be happy with a "lesser" role.  So to all my friends struggling with finding their place and being okay with it.  

You have value.  You are amazing and can do anything you want.  A career doesn't define it.  It's just money or a job.  The title means nothing.  Who you are is defined by whatever you want it to be.   And it's not "less". What you do is work.  And you do not have to work outside the home to have a job. (wish someone had told me that at 30!)

Has inflation changed your behavior?

October 10th, 2022 at 08:16 pm

Disneysteve asked this on the forum boards and I said yes.  But it's a bit of a layered question.  There are a lot of things that have changed.  Covid forced at least us to stay at home and be less busy, which was nice, but also forced us to cook a lot more.  Restaurants weren't open and even if they were, we weren't interested in leaving the house.

Over the past 2.5 years i will admit that we used to eat out, well do mostly takeout, 5-6x/week pre-covid.  We might sit down 1x/week pre-covid.  But eating out was a lot cheaper.  We could do it for $150-200/week for that many meals out.  The kids were smaller and we could share meals, the portions were larger, there was less service fees, etc.  But being less busy, less activities meant we also just had more time to cook and enjoy our meals at home.

Then it seems like life has been getting back to more normal.  The pace of life is much faster and there are more things going on.  So it would be so easy to slip back into at least picking up take out during the week like I used to.  2-3x/week I'd grab takeout.

But now I don't.  It's the expense.  It's shocking how expensive a meal from Chick-fil-A is now for our family of four.  Or burgers from a local place. It's insane how a pizza at a fancy place is $35 for large or even 2 pizzas from Papa Johns is $25.  A takeout from our local thai place for 3 dishes cost me $57 and the portions were enough for the 4 of us for 1 meal.  We had no leftovers.  So eating out 5-6x/week now there is no way to do it for $200/week. 

Even cooking every meal $200/week isn't a lot of money for the four of us from the grocery store.  The price of meat, veggies, fruit, milk has gone up a lot. I understand it's likely due to the fact that we have had long term inflation.  But I don't think I'm alone in looking at my DH's paycheck and thinking we did not get a 10% raise, our investments are down, and our medical/vision/dental/auto/home insurance premiums are up as well as a lot higher property taxes.

So our real purchasing power took a severe hit.  We already took a massive paycut with DH's job switch and I don't know how long this will go on for.  But to compensate we've really tightened up on eating and groceries.  This seems the new normal how expensive everything is.


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