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Archive for February, 2021

February Grocery spending and saving wrap up

February 28th, 2021 at 11:43 pm

Well I made it to March 1st.  How it happened I have no idea. Turns out I had a lot more food than I planned. In fact I am so inspired that we are going to continue eating out of the freezer before I go on a really big shopping trip.  I do need to shop a little bit for fruits and veggies and milk,  but I am going to stretch this out so I am forced to eat what's in my freezer.  Here's what happened.

2/18 - leftovers dumplings

2/19 - bolognese/puttanesa 

2/20 - beef wellington 

2/21 - pulled pork

2/22 - sandwiches and pulled pork left over dinner

2/23 - lemongrass salmon soup

2/24-Dumplings and fried rice

2/25 - penne vodka sauce

2/26 - leftovers

2/27 - Tacos - ate outside with neighbors and smoked 4 lbs of ground beef and made a taco bar.  We fed 6 adults and 5 kids.  We still had leftovers.  Not doing too bad.  We still have fried rice, penne vodka sauce, and taco meat.

2/28 - smoked the other pork shoulder from costco.

The new plan?  Everyone is suggesting a walmart run. So the nearest walmart is 15 miles and 25 minutes away.  I'm going to try it.  I'm also going to try regular grocery stores but looking at flyers for deals. I always shop for coke in flyers and I used to wait for chicken to go on sale.  Now the same thing.  I'm going to do a costco run and price out common items i buy and sort of keep a price book.  

We spent a grand total of $1056.29 for the month for groceries and $45.56 eating out for 1 costco hot dogs & fruit smoothies, kids had burgers 1x, and DH had 1 coffee out.   My goal for March 2021 is $950 or 90% of our February spending.  I also want to keep eating out to under $100.  I figure like dieting I should try small reductions until it hurts, which it hurt this month because of poor planning.

We still had a good month overall up $24k for the month.  Next month even better.   Fingers crossed. I'm debating adding in toiletries and non-perishables to my $950 budget at some point. I did not add in batteries and stuff to it.


Why do we have stuff?

February 26th, 2021 at 02:01 am

I feel like we have a lot of stuff.  We don't have a huge house so it seems like we have more stuff than we really need because of it.  I have friends who say "oh they don't have much stuff." But when I point out that having a 4000-5000 sq ft house you probably have more stuff than our 2000 sq foot house it's hard to argue.  Mostly I argue this point with my mom, who has aforementioned 4000 sq ft house and 600 sq ft condo.

So there they are with two homes packed literally to the gills.  Stuff is in every cloest, every cabinet, everywhere.  There is no dealing with the amount of stuff.  Patient saver got me thinking as she managed to get her hands on her mother's art.  The sentimental value is astronomical.  That being said will her own children value it the same?  Or will they only focus on maybe 1 piece?

I was thinking about what it means to have all this stuff.  My neighbor I walk with is an only child.  Her dad passed 3 years ago and her mom is in a facility since January 2019.  This year around September she went to her parent's home and rented a uhaul and drove to a storage facility everything she thought was important and valued.  Everything else she left.  The interesting part is she hasn't done anything in the past 2 years.  Her mom moved into a facility with 4 suitcases 2 years ago and they "pretended" that she was just trying it out and my neighbor would take her back to clean her house.  It never happened.  I can't help but think that might be me.  Avoiding the experience of actually cleaning the house but rather instead just waiting until the person passes even if they don't live in the house to go through things. 

So here's an interesting tibit to chew on 8.5 years ago my grandmother moved out of her apartment and into my aunt's home because she couldn't live alone anymore.  But my mom and aunts instead of cleaning the apartment and throwing stuff out literally packed everything in boxes and put it in my aunt's garage.  They promised that one day they would go through it with her.  8.5 years later they haven't unpacked most of it.  Instead she lives in a tiny with only a few things and everything that was SOO important to throw away they just shoved into a box and went on living.

I know that's what my neighbor has done as well.  I wonder is that the fate of my parents things?  For me probably not.  By the time I have to deal with it, my dad will for sure be passed and my mom at 69 well I don't know.  My dad is 90 and when he passes can she really deal with it? I doubt it.  Will I do the same thing? I don't know.

But how do you actually get rid of all the stuff?  And how do you let go enough to give things to people? I'd love a few of my grandmother's art pieces she made (at least 1) but no one wants to give anything might be valuable.  So instead it's hung onto. 

Ideally i think it'd be nice if parents would ask kids before they are forced to deal with it.  What to do?

The month so far

February 23rd, 2021 at 06:56 pm

So we are 23 days into the month and I'm determined to wait until next Monday March 1st to grocery shop again.  We've already spent this month $1056 on groceries.  UGH.  We have food we just have to eat it.  We have to eat what is in the pantry and freezer and then I can rejigger maybe what we have and rebalance and I'm not sure how we spent so much to not be shopping this last week.  But I did shop on 2/18 about $150 of mostly produce.

I'm thinking of trying the cook smart.  It meal plans for you and helps you with the meals. I also figured from annual Credit Card spends we spent around $13k last year on groceries. A lot less than I thought. I buy other things from costco so it inflates the spending.  But if I sit there and tease out the excel spreadsheet and take out tires, tv, 2 computers, vaccum cleaner, bidet, it then works out to something much more reasonable.  According to my credit cards we spent about $10k on eating out last year but looking again at it in detail a lot was spent in Jan-March, June (roadtrip), and December (hawaii).  So not as bad as I thought.  

Right now DH has started a new job.  I have no idea when we will get paid.  He basically got paid 2x last paycheck with all his vacation days.  So I left it in checking and we are paying all CC, etc and getting the shipped righted.

Right now we have $30k in stock account earmarked for EF, $40k EF, $60k in Ibonds.  I think we are okay.  I'm trying to carve down our spending so that we live on what he makes and instead save.

Last night Costco Shopping trip

February 18th, 2021 at 06:52 pm

I spent $145.14 at costco last night.  Here's what I bought and the prices.  I'm not sure if it's because of where we live but I also did a FM grocery store. No there is not any aldi, winco, grocery outlets where we live.  YMMV. I'm not sure if this is expensive for the area.  

Lactose free milk 9.99

ghee 18.99

guava juice 5.79

jacks salsa 6.49

1/2 Gallon Cream 7.39

ground beef (not organic) 26.65

carrots 6 lbs 4.79

bella mushrooms 4.99

K/S butter 6.99

BTB Chicken bullion 5.99

parmigiano 15.99

smoked cheese 10.62

bok choy 6.99

cucumbers 3 pack 6.49

broccoli 6.99  = $145.14

I then spent $28.27 at FM 

Canned Tomatos 1.29x 5

Pasta $1 x 2

Anchovies $1.99 x 2

Nutmeg $5.49

reese peanut butter $1.89 x 2 =$28.27

So this is for the next week but I think I'm still missing buns for the pulled pork we're making on sunday that will help us eat for the week and that should pretty much round out the month.  

I froze the butter and 5 lbs of the ground beef.  Menu plan for week

Tonight/thursday - Salmon (from freezer), making dumplings as well

Friday - bolognese (making it)

Saturday - (pizza) cousin providing

sunday - pulled pork (need buns for family)

Monday - leftover

Tuesday Tacos from ground beef

wednesday - salmon from freezer

Thursday - dumplings

Friday - Chicken

Sat - leftovers?

My goal is to not shop for the next week. I think we're good on fresh veggies and fruits. I have apples from last week and a couple of pears and 6 - 1/2 of milk so I should be able to avoid a costco trip until the 1st of march. 

2020 Spending

February 17th, 2021 at 09:56 pm

I'm embarrassed by our spending, but there is nothing to do but admit it.  We spend a lot of money.  I knew this after 2019.  It was bad then and it's still pretty ugly.  Our baseline budget is terrible because we have a large mortgage.  There is no way we can be that family or couple.  I guess I might as well write this today since DH is starting a new job today.  New job = new salary.  Lucky for us we're on savingadvice and can swing not getting paid.  But still our spending is ugly.  How ugly?  Let's go for a ride.

Personal Capital which is having problems with our credit card updates says we spent $22,847 on travel last year.  Totally possibly more. I wish they could tailor credit cards better and update it using algorithyms to learn how you classify things.  We spent $22804 on home improvement.  Probably more because a there was a big chunk of miscellanous general purchases.  We spent $15727 on Groceries, $6965 on pets, and $6021 on eating out.   We also spent $1773 on Fuel, $2927 gifts, $3986 on utilities, and $13048 on crap with $4000 on amazon.  A lot of amazon was for the shed building.  Either which way we spent a lot. 

This year our overall spending is down probably because I'm trying to be better.  But this month alone I've spent $863 on groceries and the month is only half done.  UGH.  But we've also spent $30 on hot dogs and drinks at costco for our only meal out.  So I guess it evens out.  More cooking = less eating out.  But I'm sitting here going how much more am i going to blow the rest of the month on groceries?  This year alone we've spent $3724 on our dog for 2 surgeries (joint flush and stitching up lesions).  What can I say?  It's not pretty.  Technically we've spent more on him than anything else.  Hopefully it'll ease up soon.

Right now with the new job and less money coming in we need to contemplate everything. 

the bar in the backyard - come and see

February 11th, 2021 at 05:46 am

Did I mention DH built his own office shed?  Did I ever post?  So he started it August 5th by cutting a tree down.  This is on top of working full time from home at a crazy job that is not in any sort of labor.  Yes he very handy compared to many.  He didn't think so until he did this.  I have to say I have no idea if this was going to work.  DH did this because when I told him the price like $30k of having it built he said "i can do it for less".  It still cost us probably $20k but it was 12 x 16 instead of 8 x 10, and much nicer than what priced out. I guess we're more mustachian than we thought.  I should have posted along he way.  I will dig up the costs later.

August 5th - cut down tree.  He rented a chainsaw.  I thought he'd cut his leg.

Poured piers with friend

This was the hardest step and also the most risk to make sure he calculated the piers correctly

Here's the floor

This was back Sept 3rd.  Lots of progress fast

November 6th Exterior and roof done before the winter set in

I have to go scare up an interior shot but he basically finished 12/20 and is still working on perfecting it because that's how he is.

He even joined a group on FB called pubs in backyard.   Yeah he built it to work but it's really a man cave.  I mean 65" tv, beverage fridge, kegerator and 35" and 30" monitors for work.  He's set to hide like a boss!

Reading old entries

February 9th, 2021 at 07:19 pm

Do you ever go back and read your old entries? I am surprised by how much has changed since 2014 when I started the blog here at SA.  7 years ago I was unhappy where we lived so we changed that.  We had been planning on staying and buying a different house.  Turns out we did buy a home instead of our townhouse.  But it's a completely different town and we paid a lot more than we had expected to at that time and got still a small house.  BUT I love it.  I love where we've been since 2015 so no regrets.  I'm happier now in the middle of winter than ever.

We didn't have that third kid because we ended up moving without jobs.  We ended up better financially surprisingly.  Here's an interesting take.

July 2014 NW $963k  /  January 2021 $2.3m (6.5 years later, so by rule of 72 it should have doubled...)

Retirement - $505,286  / $1.37m
Taxable Investment - $160,881  /  $710k
DD1 College - $12,118 / $85k ($42k ESA)
DD2 College - $6,758 / $75k ($32k ESA)
Cash - $64,540 / $45k - might be going up soon and debting investing more
Checking - $5k, one month float sameish

We definitely doubled our money.  The kids savings happened because we stashed quite a bit into their accounts.  But the ESA I started when they were born and am limited to $2k year.  DK 1 is 11 (2010) and DK 2 is 8 (2012).  So heavy liftying was done by the stock market.   Both net worth only account for home equity paydown not what I guess to be the homes are worth.

Here's a funny thing we are back to our old buget of $5k/month.  Seems like no matter how I try I have trouble getting away from that number.  We had it back when we were more frugal and we are back again.  I'm unsure how to save coming up.  I think i need about 3 month to figure out new income and budget.

Who'd have guessed our finances would change so much for the better in 7 years.  Have you looked back at all?

What would i do with retirement?

February 8th, 2021 at 06:30 pm

A lot of people on SA want to work to keep busy.  They are fiscally responsible and enjoy it.  But I'm the one planning on retiring early and want to be done.  My DH I can tell will not want to quit. But here is my perspective and take.

I don't know what the future holds and I believe the One More Year (OMY) syndrome could easily happen to myself and DH.  We could be easily able to retire in 10 years or less.  But will we? I don't know.  I mean postulating, running the excel spreadsheets, using firecalc it's all awesome and nerdy and fun to do. It's super fun to imagine not having to work. It's super fun to imagine being answerable to no one.  Having no debt.  Just able to live.

But when the reality hits will we pull the trigger?  Would we says "sure let's walk away from DH's cushy job earning $XXX" and we're cruising along?  Will we be just risk averse because our kids are in college?  I don't know how we will feel at that time.  I think you have to be standing at the precipice of retirement to make that call.  All the planning is great but if you aren't ready it's not going to happen.

Or what if you we are forced into early retirement because of your health?  Or if you just can't mentally take it anymore?  Or you are 50 and downsized and can't get another job?  Do you get something paying less you like less?  Get retrained? Or do you call it a day?

I think that you should make a plan but like all plans be willing to adapt it based on new information that arises.  What if we buy a newer more expensive home?  What if we decide we can't live where we live?  The what ifs.

For those of you retired, did you make a plan and stick with it?  Did it happen accordingly or did you change it on the fly? Or did your retirement plans change ahead of time and you know it?

What do you really need in retirement

February 4th, 2021 at 06:39 pm

We have a lot of people pondering retirement and what you really need?  The answer?  It's really self dependent.   You can say you need 33x your expenses.  Sounds good.  But here are some questions that influence that.  

1. How old are you when you retire?  

2. Will you take SS and when will you take it?

3. Do you have a pension?

4. Are you retiring early and need to pay for medical insurance?

5. Will you be retiring with a mortgage or without?

6. Do you plan on moving or will be tapping into your home equity?

These few questions alone influence what you need to retire.  I always point out my mom retired at 55 with $200k in her 401k and Roth IRA.  That's it.  Yep not much.  BUT she retired with a COLA pension, which she's not even sure what she makes but it's around $4k/month after withholdings.  Yes my mom doesn't know what she makes but that's a different argument.

They did not have a $1M in savings.  I believe my dad probably had $400k but he was already 75+ and drawing SS.  My parents had medical through the state so my mom at 65 got dual coverage but for years 55-65 she had BCBS from the state employer paid 100%.  My dad already had medicare so he was fully covered.

So there my parents are with $4k pension, $3k SS Dad, RMD of $1500/month, no medical expenses, 2 paid for homes and cars.  What savings did they need?  According to rule of thumb they should have at least $1m saved.  Truth?  NOT even close.

Their monthly haul was close to $8500/month after taxes withheld!  So I think $10k/month pretax not unreasonable or unlikely.  My parents were bringing in $120k/year without touching their savings and they were still earning income.  So the $200k is gravy.  They don't spend close to that a year and have kept on saving.

So the rules of thumb are a bit ridiculous. It also explains how so many people are able to retire without saving more than $100k in 401k.  They have pensions and ss which pay for the bullk of their needs.

Is that a reality for people who are 41 like me?  Nope.  DH and I have no pension.  We'd have to have $1.5M saved to generate the $60k/year my mom gets from a pension.  We might get SS and but then we have to save more in our IRA in order get more RMDs.

I think you have a lot to look at when you retire and a lot of consider individually.  Saying you need a $1m to retire is not realistic.  Maybe the truth is you've never earned a lot, never spent a lot, and have a pension.  So the reality is even $50k is enough to make it.

How did you learn to cook and Jan NW

February 3rd, 2021 at 07:14 pm

Since covid I'm sure as many others I have been cooking more.  I have to say my cooking skills in 1 year have greatly improved.  A lot of it stems from just cooking pretty much daily and often time 2x/day.  But with a new year and my DK1 turning 11 (I have a tween! WTH)  I realized that 11 years ago after first having my new baby I was an okay cook.  Let me explain.

When I left for college my mom was a terrible cook and still is.  Cooking was not a big thing in my family.  As I've mentioned my mom would cook a huge pot of spaghetti and we'd eat for the week.  Variety was not important in our family.  We often ate the same things over and over.  So I went to college not really knowing how to cook. I ate a lot of spam, canned tuna, and rice.  So to say my cooking skills were limited is an understatement. 

I met DH right after college and he was definitely a better cook than me.  Great?  No but for someone right out of college I would say a solid cook.  He could do eggs, steaks, pasta with tomato sauce and ground beef (this turned into our staple meal weekly since it was cheap).  For most of our 20s I would say we were so busy working that we barely cooked and ate a lot of the same food.  Our variety often came in the prepackaged meals from costco.  Sandwiches was our daily staple for work to save money.  A lot of what we did was to save money, but also we had no idea how to really cook.  We also ate out quite a bit being busy DINKS and more dispoable income than we probably knew what to do with.

Then we had our DK1 in 2010 and going out was tiring but we also went down to 1 income and I was looking to make money stretch more.  Our income was better than ever but we wanted a second kid and it was tiring to go out.  So I started to learn how to cook. 

I believe on this blog I asked was it cooking if i used prepackaged meals from costco or trader joes?  Most said yes. But they also agreed it was cheaper than going out to eat and better than just takeout fastfood or restaurants.  So I figured it still was better than eating out even though it was expensive.  But during this time I began to develop a few lazy meals.  DH and I decided we would learn say 10-15 meals and it would be in our rotation. We did this.  We began to cook more and learned to make about 10-15 recipes we always had on hand.  Solid recipes that were tasty and easy to make.  So from 2010-2019 we probably ate the same 20 meals and added one here and there if we found something easy.  I would say these years were my "development" years. It's where I learned to cook and just improve as a cook overall.  Nothing fancy but cutting became faster, baking stuff, experimenting a little.  Just overall more comfortable in the kitchen.

Then covid hit last year and we found ourselves unable to go out and while we could spend more on take out, I found myself wanting to lose weight and hesistant to go out.  So the cooking began.  I also had more time without all the kid activities and working as much to actually meal plan and experiement.  So this year I would say covid has really developed my cooking skills and I would say than I'm definitely in the upper 25% of people out there.  Before I would say I was at the 50% of cooking skill.  Not a fabulous cook but someone solid.

Now my family has a much broader range of foods I make with a wider rotation.  I also do more than just an entree, I have expanded into different appetizers, I do desserts, etc. Things I've done recently is I've done an amazing cheesecake.  I also this week made malaysian chicken satay (more moist than thai), making beef rendang tonight, and leftover beef stew meat I'll make guiness beef stew tomorrow.  I make a ton of different curries now from indian, thai, malaysian, japanese. I am working on stir fry noodle dishes next.  I also made homemade puttanesca and bolognese sauces last weekend for friends.  I think I've got the hang of sourdough bread.   I make cornbread in a cast iron skillet.  Last week was japanese lamb curry and lamb shish kebabs (both dishes i made from around 15 years ago and something I learned way before kids).  But I've improved it. 

Maybe it's the fact that recipes are everywhere.  Maybe it's the time but covid has been good for improving my cooking skills.  Now I find myself just looking over recipes and thinking I can do that and weirdly I have all the ingrediants on hand because I cook so much.  Since I cook so much I have a ton more spices, cream, stuff on hand to cook at any given time.

How did you learn to cook? Do you think you're a good cook and how did you improve? 

NW up $110k.  $1.371M retirement and $706k taxable.  Because DH is leaving his job we are trying to max out his 401k for the year and have contributed $13k thus far I think we should be able to max it out next paycheck.