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Archive for October, 2021

Meal planning

October 24th, 2021 at 07:21 pm

I hate to admit but I hate cooking.  I'm still getting the hang of cooking enough.  I mean my kids eat like adults so now I need to double meals more because I find I have to still cook daily (VERY annoying) versus once and eating for 2-3 days.  So my goal has always been to cook have enough leftovers for another meal.  Well now that's not happening and sure the costs suck but it sucks more to cook everyday.  We also NEVER have enough for a meal so we have to wait till the end of the week and do a leftover night so that there is enough food for everyone to eat a leftover and finish it! Lunches is scrounged because it's just me unless it's a weekend and we cook or get takeout

18 - leftovers
19 japanese curry
20 leftover japanese curry
21 lunch - leftovers, stuffed bell peppers
22 lunch - salad, family leftovers (eat from week)
23 lunch - hot dogs, dinner - roast pork from chinese market $46.27
24 lunch - leftovers, dinner - out with friends

I'm looking at hello fresh.  It looks like it would be cheaper than what we pay. But of course i can't tell.  I haven't ever done those meal plans and my friends say it costs $135 for 4 meals for 4 people.  But there are leftovers.  So the question is how much does a family of 4 doing hello fresh really spend?  Obviously there are going to be other costs so it's hard to estimate if these meal planning kits which have supposedly less waste are more economical than shopping. I don't know. 

Does anyone else do it?  How do you find it? Have you done a price comparison? Do you do it because it's easier and not more cost efficient.

Inflation is crazy

October 19th, 2021 at 08:38 pm

Inflation is crazy right now. You can just see it everywhere.  In my car mileage sheet the year started 1/7/21 with gas at $2.60/gallon. My recent fill up a week ago was $3.60/gallon.  38% increase in gas in 10 months. 

Eggs were $1.79 for an 18 count at target in July 2021 is not $2.49 for the same 18 count.  Sugar 4 lb white bag was $1.79 it's not $2.49.  Dark brown 2 lbs sugar was $1.59 it's $1.99.  Chicken breast and thighs boneless/skinless was $2/lb, but now I'm lucky to find $2.49/lb.  Stew meat was $5.49/lb and now it's $7.49/lb.   I also think the sizes of things like chips, cleaning stuff have all shrunk an oz or two not easily discernable but it's the same "price" but you get less.  

Definitely you get less eating out.  I mean 3 bowls of noodle cost us $55.  I think the same restaurant last year was maybe $45?  This is for takeout.  Then on Sunday I had a girl scout troop event of pizza, pumpking carving, etc outside.  And I ordered pizza with troop funds.  It was $153 for 4 pizzas delivered.  Yes it was not dominos/pizza hut and higher end.  BUT $40 a pizza?  Pizza is supposed to be a cheap meal for people.  We had 10 adults and 10 kids.  Let's say for our family of 4 we ordered one pizza for $40.  Okay I could have saved on tip $20 and delivery $5.  But it's pizza.  The pizza itself was like $33 plus tax.  A large pizza at dominos was $16.99 plus tax and delivery.  So I was looking at $100 at a cheaper pizza.  Yep dominos still would be $100 to feed a group?  Pizza is supposed to be cheap food to feed large groups.  Not expensive.

Last year I spent $1000 on groceries and we weren't eating out because of covid, and I felt we ate like kings.  Lobster, steak, high quality meats, veggies, etc.  I could buy what i wanted for the family for $1000 and it might include alcohol.  Now last month I spent $990 and I certainly was not buying as much meat, nor seafood, nor as much fresh veggies.  It's crazy.  

And certainly from last year I have noticed how expensive eating out has gotten.  I felt like before okay a meal out was $60-70 mostly ethnic food takeout.  But now it's more like $100 and that's takeout same restaurants and same meals but smaller portions and each dish is couple of bucks more.

Am I going nuts?  Is this going on everywhere?  Does anyone else feel this?  I swear it really started ramping up as the summer ended. I don't think I felt quite this way before.  And of course part of it might be that we are living on a new budget, but still I feel like 6 years ago when we lived on the same budget it wasn't so tight.  I shopped easily on $600/month groceries very similiarly to my last years $1000/month so there was some inflation and my 5 and 3 year old are now 9 and 11 and eating adult portions (sometimes more than us).  But  price per pound is substantially more.

I think my family's noticed that I am really not buying takeout and going out to eat is minimal.  Now one takeout meal is $100 that going out once a week is costing us $400/month. Before $400/month was like 2x/week eating out.  

With gas, clothes, food, everything seemingly more expensive the budget just feels tight.  Have you even felt any inflation?

Should you overbid on a house?

October 14th, 2021 at 05:29 pm

That's an interesting question.  Should you overbid on a house?  Probably not.  Does it matter if you do? I think it depends on your reason behind it.   First off sometimes people list homes lower than they know it's worth to get a bidding war.  So prices are not normally that low.  Second the price of homes also change especially in the spring when you see the prices escalating which will carry through the rest of the year.

The house we bought we went 30% above list price to win.  We paid $2500 more with an escalation clause than the next highest bidder.  So in theory we "overpaid" but only by $2500 because there was someone else interested in buying the house for $2500 less than we paid.  

Why did we do it?  We had a reasonable budget for buying a home.  But the market in 2017 was very hot and we had lost out on a few homes that we had been lukewarm about.  Finally when we saw this home we decided we were all in.  Mostly because the location was prime and exactly what we wanted.  It was the smallest house we had seen and needed the most work.  But the location was ideal and prime compared to the other homes we had bid on so we wanted it. 

Because of our budget and our observation from looking for houses for almost a year, we noticed that most homes were going in bidding wars.  Most people were going 20-30% or more over list price.  So we decided the smartest thing to do was not go to our limit but step down our "needs" in a home and bid on lower homes we were more likely to win.  This was probably the biggest factor in getting a home.  Managing our Needs versus Wants.  I find a lot of people have somewhat unrealistic expectations for what they can afford.  The dream house is only affordable the further out they move often times.  Rather than living smaller they move farther.

We did the opposite.  We scaled back our expectation of home size and quality and bought something much smaller and needing work as opposed to moving further.  I'm not sure it was the right decision for everyone but it was for us.  A lot of that stemmed from we had never lived bigger so we just didn't jump into a huge home.  

Even now the 2040 sq ft home feels tight and small.  But it's the biggest place we've ever had with kids or ever and we have an attached garage to boot.  So while it's not a dream home it's pretty lovely and nicer than what we had or grew up with.  I had a carport and DH had detached garages.  Our homes growing up were 1970s tract home 1200 sq ft 3bd/2ba ranch homes pretty identical.  This is substantially nicer than what we both had.  

The cost of buying even overbidding was a wash.  In 2017 the going rent on our place was around $3500-4000/month that's what the neighbors got for their rental.  It's now closer to $4500/month.  Our PITI with a fixed rate is $4800/month but that's likely to go up with property taxes going up.  Currently we are at $4100/month but it's an ARM mortgage and lower PT.  Why was it a wash?  Well our principal in 2017 was $1587 and interest/property taxes escrow was $2998.  So it came out to about the same as renting our place if not a little cheaper.  So overbidding on our place was still the better deal than renting. 

The calculus now?  $1400/month interest plus $1000 Property Taxes = $2400/month to rent our place.  Our principal payment is $1717/month enforced savings.  Also our location is the most resistant to price decreases because of proximity to things and we bought the smallest home in the nicer neighborhood.  All these things were factored into our decision.

I had no idea we would be "renting" our house for what we used to pay in rent $2400/month in 2015-2017.  I guess my point is that housing is a hedge against inflation. It's a great way to fix your costs if you can see yourself staying put. It's if you overbuy or aren't sure if you are staying that it becomes a huge risk.

money flowing out

October 5th, 2021 at 07:06 pm

It's interesting to see all the money flowing out right now and being very aware of it happening.  Looking at my budget and thinking gee, I really need to watch my spending.

1. Brakes for Subaru - $700 the front and rear need the brake and rotors done.  It's 5 year old car and 46k miles.  Apparently it's due.  I had it checked at the dealership and a mechanic and both said it's due. 

2. Clarinet for DK2 $770.  If it's not one thing with kids it's another.  As they get older there is more money out the door.  I've considered renting but $30/month adds up and within 2 years that will be the cost of the instrument.  Inflation is rampant.  I bought DK1 flute for $580 3 years ago and i believe it will last until 8-9th grade.  In which case I will be getting her a much nicer not beginner flute.

3. Furnace $15k but I'm going to apply next week for a credit card at 0% financing.  But that means we are paying $1k/month for the next 15 months and not saving that money.

4. Increased property tax bill.  The assessed value of our home went up $200k in 1 year.  Yay for that but boo because it means a much larger tax bill. I also suspect that it'll keep on going up rapidly for the next few years.

I'm so glad we paid off our cars last year and our only bill is our refinanced mortgage.  It does ease my mind so I'm a bit worried about the 0% credit card.