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Hacker Fare and $50 savings

December 12th, 2015 at 01:29 pm

I love getting deals on airline tickets. For a little effort you can maximize your savings. A friend of mine values tickets at 2 cents/mile to redeem or earn. Well Hawaii is always a trip to buy your ticket unless it's a holiday. The miles are usually outrageous and it's not worth using more than 25k miles on a ticket. Why?

Well I just got a roundtrip ticket from the West Coast for $379 each into Honolulu. We still probably have to pay more for an inter-island flight but that is a great price. Of course it was a hacker fare, ie we're going on one airline and coming back on another. And I have a huge headache after dealing with Hawaiian Airlines.

First off I bought tickets yesterday but you have 24 hours to cancel a reservation free so I always check and rebook until the last possible second. Yesterday I bought 3 roundtrip tickets each for $506 = $1518 total for me and two kids. Today I just spent $1107 round trip for the 3 of us! I saved us $411 or the price of an entire ticket. It's unlikely I'll get a better deal so I'm ready to rest on my laurels.

How'd I get a deal? Well we're going each for $210 one way for me and the kids. Then coming home we are paying $159 one way for each of us. The ticket coming home was $210 so the true cost of the airfare roundtrip is $420. However we had a $50 credit each on our tickets bringing the one way price to $159.

The headache? Using the $50 voucher each. Booking each return ticket individually is fine if you are an adult. But the website makes it impossible to book as a travel alone minor. UGGGH. I was on hold dealing with websuport and being transferred from department to department. It was so frustrating.

But in the end I saved $150 in vouchers and the ticket prices dropped from $506 to $420 so I saved $86/per person which is why I spent time working on our flights.

Hawaii here we come. Now if we got the cheapest mileage ticket at 25k each which equals 1.68 cent/mile. That's not bad, but typically for hawaii I will pay something ridiculous like 80k miles round trip for $1600 ticket so it's above 2 cents/mile which makes the mileage worth using.

I'm not an expert but a friend of mine is. He games the system and has done mileage runs for maximizing miles and getting platinum upgrades. So he usually evaluates my deal and tells me to buy or use miles. He said for the average person getting 2 cents/mile payout on your miles is phenomenal, while 1 cent/mile is average. Anything less it's worth holding the miles for emergencies.

I can't wait to go home with the kid. I also postponed buying our tickets to see if DH would get into his bootcamp which he did. That means he'll be too busy to miss us and we can afford the trip on our budget.

Buying Cheap stuff and car repairs

December 9th, 2015 at 09:04 am

I forgot to mention I bought the cookie scoop from Amazon and loved/hated it. I loved the size and ease but it broke on the first batch. So I called and returned it. I explained that I had thought it would be more durable and the reviews were 4 stars. I bought the 3 pack cookie scoop for $14 I think. After returning it I bought the 1 oxo cookie scoop for $12.95 instead (small) and love it. It worked fantastically. I usually look for deals and I usually honestly don't buy the most expensive thing. But I did have the large oxo cookie scoop and my DH said why did you buy cheap? Buy something that will last and you won't curse at. Sigh. I learned my lesson well. For the most part I will admit our cookware and utensil I tend to wait and hem and haw about spending it but love, love, love and use, use, use our stuff. I love my calphalon pots and pans and roasting dishes. I bought pyrex and corningware and use it all the time. I use my kitchenaid mixer quite a bit as well. And the Le Crueset dutch oven I wonder why I didn't buy it sooner. Most of my cookware is now over 10 years old and still is in great shape. I tell anyone getting married buy the good stuff it seriously lasts and you use it everyday or more than once a day.

Of course I have a lot of stuff I would love to replace like a small crockpot that I use A LOT. But 15 years in except for size it works like a champ. I have a 5 qt and would like a 7 or 8 qt. I make soups, curries, chicken, pork, tomato sauce, apple sauce, etc in it all the time. Of course my coffee pot which DH is still mulling over.

Plus we got another opinion on the car and the repairs were still $1800. Along with the suggestion that the alternator looks older and might go within 6 months. Ugh. We're still deciding what to do. Thoughts?

update the car and coffeemaker

December 8th, 2015 at 11:40 am

So the problem isn't with the struts with the car it's with the joints attaching to the car. Also the mechanic suggested that alternator will be going soon. The current estimate for the work without the alternator is $2000. Not sure what the alternator will cost in the future. The car is worth between $5000-$5500 if we do private party sale versus trade in. Trade in value is approximately $4800. We are taking it to another mechanic for a second estimate tomorrow. We aren't sure what to do about the car. Sink money in? The mechanic hedged to use about fixing it, I think because he suggested the alternator would be going within 6 months he predicted and I am assuming that he doesn't think doing the repairs then that repair in 6 months worth it. I guess that's very honest since we'd be using him to do both repairs. He didn't say so but I wonder if he's also thinking that we may have more repairs crop up?

What are our options? Buy a beater? Buy another used car? Try to make do with one? Buy/lease a new car. My DH isn't keen on being a one car family. I don't know what the best choice is. Sink in $2k and potentially I know more I'm going to guess $500 in 6 months or more? Should we? Only to dump it in 6-12 months? I hate cars. I wish life were simple and we could snap our fingers and the perfect car for the perfect price would appear.

For sake of comparison the car DH needs the subaru legacy with eyesight. Only available on the premium or limited models. It appears to be around $250/month leased with $2k down. This will probably be our perpetual car until he chooses to no longer drive. Unless someone else comes out with better technology. It has driver assisted driving, rear sensors, automatic steering, etc. My BIL bought the same car and loves it. He too is leasing for the same reason. Uggh.

I still haven't used or returned the coffeemaker. Partly because I can't decide and partly because I haven't had time to do the return with other things.

Black Friday shopping

December 1st, 2015 at 10:50 pm

e made a lot of purchases on black friday. Some planned and some unplanned. Something planned for months but still pricey was a new desktop computer. This is our third desktop computer in 15 years together. So I guess around every 7 year we replace our desktop computer. Previously my DH used to build our computers with parts as he had more time to look for deals. This time he did some online research and determined he'd buy a lenovo desktop which would provide a solid buy for a good price. He's said this since around June and told me he'd be looking for a deal around black friday. After we moved the computer for some reason has been overheating/shutting down and crashing. We knew it's been on it's last legs but he's been nursing it along. We got a lenovo desktop from Best Buy for $399. We also got a 24 inch monitor for DH from newegg. This was our big "planned" spending which makes me blanch over the spending but knowing that we've been planning it for almost 6 months makes it bearable.

DH also bought me a Kindle Fire for $35. We'll see how I like the OS compared to the android devices I normally use. He found an open box $5 case at best buy as well. For the kids we decided on $100 budget each ($50 from us and $50 from Santa) for Christmas. We bought DK1 a Razor scooter for $18 and Beadola for $10, Tricycle for $15 and Hello Kitty bus for $20 for DK2 from Santa. We're giving them PJ $10 each, ornaments $5, shopkins $3 and I'm stuck on other stuff. I wonder is it weird if I give them an electric toothbrush $5 each and lip gloss $5 (tsum tsum) for gifts? I am also thinking some lush bath balm $5 each and maybe air freshener night lights from bath and body works.

I find myself looking at cooler stuff the kids sort of "need" but not stuff I would usually buy like an electric tooth brush and super fancy lip gloss (it's minnie mouse). I also bought playdough but I need the tool set.

My parents are gifting the kids with calico critter doll houses $29 and $39 each. I'm still stuck on trying to figure out cool toys they'll enjoy for the long term. I also bought tonight a board game from Scholastic and a workbook. So I've gotten something they need (PJs), something they read, and something they want? I'm not sure since it keeps changes everytime we got to the store!

the car, cards, and coffeemaker conundrum

December 1st, 2015 at 09:16 am

So my DH's car probably needs to have new struts and shocks done. It is a 2006 Hyundai Sonota we bought used in 2012. It's been a great commuter car and it has not quite 80k miles. We bought it with 55k miles on it and single owner from a dealership for $10k out the door. When we moved cross country we considered selling it but because we were unsure what situation we might find ourselves in for work/commute we decided to keep the car. We decided that the devil we knew with our car was better than selling the car, and figuring out we needed a second car and rushing to buy another used car which we might not be as sure about. Also we weren't interested in spending another $10k and felt we might not get as reliable a car for say the $5k we could have gotten for it. As it turns out where we rented we got a house in a nice area for a good price because we have the second car. The issue now is do we repair the car and sink money into it when the plan is to dump it in 6 months? Or do we run it into the ground for 6 months and worry about dumping it later? Ugh cars are always like this at the end. The worry of dumping good money after bad.

The plan has always been when my DH gets a job he gets a new car. It will be a leased Subaru Legacy with safety features. Dues to circumstances this is the one of two cars he can drive. And it will be leased also due to circumstances that we will be leasing permanently his cars in the future. We need the safety features constantly updated and when and if the self driving car ever becomes available we will likely be one of the first people to try and lease one.

The card conundrum is that I do holiday cards. I love them and have done them for over a decade. My DH and I did them before kids. We always sent out photo cards and love to get them in return. We're up to around 100 people/cards. I cut my list by saying that people who didn't send me a card will not receive my card this year. Sticking to a list of 100 is a bit tough because I do cards to teachers with their gifts as well and having a large family. Previously I had about 10 of my mom's friends whom I had to send to because she asked and I had extra cards. Very few perhaps 2 ever sent back a card. Well this year I cut them because I needed the extra cards for our own friends. My mom got upset over the fact I cut people. Am I obligated to send cards to these people when they don't send me cards? Am I obligated to send them a gift if they give my mom a gift for my kids?

Finally I'll write about my black friday shopping in another post but I will say I bought a brand new programmable Black and Decker 12 cup coffeemaker for $9.72 from Walmart on Black Friday. The conundrum? I don't know if I should keep it. We have a coffee maker I bought on black friday 2000 also from walmart for probably $5. It survived the move and still works. For the most part we haven't used this particular coffee maker except for guests. DH used to only take 1 single serve senseo to go in his mug to work then drink coffee for free at work. He also only used the single serve on the weekend. I am not a coffee drinker so making a pot used to be a waste. However now that DH's home instead of single serve I'll make 2-4 cups for him to have throughout the day because it's cheaper. So the coffee maker is finally being used. He mentioned he'd like a programmable coffee maker and I grabbed this one on deal. But the truth is we don't really need it. When DH goes back to work he won't be using it as much. If it does give up the ghost maybe we'll be a much nicer fancier model? I'm just torn. Thoughts?

Starting to get excited

November 22nd, 2015 at 01:57 pm

It's weird this year. I feel like for the first time in my adult life we are getting into the feeling of the holidays. We delayed and are trying to order our holiday cards this weekend. We have it made but the website photobooks American isn't taking the groupon I bought. Ugh. So hopefully tomorrow we can have it ordered and we get it by the end of the 1st week of December. I worked on my holiday card mail merge and we should be good to go within a day to send out the cards. We are not religious but I'm very grateful for everything we have this year. And the opportunity to start our own traditions with the kids is amazing.

Today we bought Christmas lights and the turkey. We are getting started for Thanksgiving because we're hosting my in-laws and brother-in-law. My parents will be here for Christmas and then we'll spend New Years with the in-laws. For the first time we'll be in our home with a tree for the kids. I realized that I'm actually going to have to shop for gifts. Perhaps not expensive but the idea of wrapping and buying presents is very pleasant. We bought the kids a lego advent calendar and a mighty blocks advent calendar to start off the season.

I've planned on a dozen cookies each for the teachers, probably white chocolate cranberry cookies. So I've got 6 dozen cookies to make plus another 3 dozen for the school cookie drive.

As for the menu for thanksgiving I'm making cornbread stuffing, cranberry sauce, spinach artichoke dip, green beans, sweet potatoes, and potato salad.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. Hope everyone travels safe and enjoys their families I can't wait.

Blue Apron

November 1st, 2015 at 12:25 pm

Has anyone tried it? It's a company that sends you all the ingredients for a set number of meals and directions to teach you how to cook.

I know my neighbors have and they greatly enjoyed it. However it's not cheap in the grand scheme of things. It definitely broaden their horizons for cooking and eating. It also increased their cooking abilities. But they didn't necessarily start making those same dishes after they got it.

It is $59/week for 3 meals for 2 people or $9.99/serving. Or $69.99 for 2 meals for a family of 4 or $8.74/serving. The question is that this seems high compared to what you can make yourself.

But you are able to learn how to cook different dishes. It seems like a cost efficient way to test out new recipes without investing in buying lots of groceries. It also is a cheaper way to eat than eating out all the time and probably healthier.

Perhaps one day we'll try it but for now I think we'll have to pass as we're trying to stick to a much tighter grocery budget right now.

I forgot to add my meal plan for the week. Tonight Baked Ziti with leftovers for tomorrow. I also have extra sauce I am making for spaghetti next week. I am also roasting a butternut squash for a side for the next few days. Plus I have a kabocha pumpkin and sweet potatoes to cook for sides for a few days. Along with a bag of spinach and kale. I bought ground beef on friday and other meals for the week are teriyaki meatballs and an indian potato beef curry. I have to buy some potatoes so on the agenda is baked potato soup.

Why you should save for retirement now...

October 30th, 2015 at 09:29 am

I have a lot of friends who are putting off saving for retirement. Many put off retirement savings for a house. They are busy trying to squirrel away money for their first home. Then suddenly they get into the home and it's MUCH more expensive than they expected. They weren't used to saving for retirement. Then suddenly they are 30 or 32 and haven't saved a penny for retirement. Or they are saving for retirement but they want to focus on paying off the mortgage in 15 years. Or start saving for college.

Here's what happened for us. We started in our 20s. As soon as DH got a real job it was #1 priority. We determined before we bought a house that retirement savings maximum was a line item before we determined what we could afford. It just was something that we deemed necessary since we at the time only had $4k saved for me. DH didn't have any accounts being a foreigner and honestly until then I only had a Roth IRA but we were busy paying off car loans, student loans, and living as graduate students on income very close to the poverty line. So saving for retirement was a pipe dream for us. Something we knew we had to do and we felt we had to catch up.

Well we started saving and all money went to saving for retirement, building an EF, more student loans for an MBA, and the house just took a backseat. We made our payments and lived.

When we turned around we had saved over $550k for retirement in 10 years. Using a retirement calculator if we don't contribute a penny more and retire at 55, using a 7% return we'd have $1.8M for retirement. This nest egg will last us at a rate of $80k/year until age 82 not including a penny of Social Security. We currently spend including our rent $65k/year. This means our nest egg will last until 89 without social security and assuming we are still paying $2400/month in rent/mortgage. Our expenses are a lot lower if we are done with a house payment by 55 (not unreasonable). Right now we could easily live on $40k without a rent or mortgage and we've got enough cash to buy our current house without a mortgage. So our nest egg $550k would be $2.8M when we die if we lived off of $40k now and never saved another penny or used social security. Assuming we worked until 60 we'd start off with a nest egg of $2.6M and we'd die leaving behind $1.0M for our heirs.

So by saving from 26 to 36 we basically funded our retirement. If we choose not to save another penny I think with something from social security and a paid for home we'd have enough to retire early at 55 with and income more than we live on now. If we waited until 60 it'd be ridiculous.

So don't put saving for retirement on hold. I know how easy it is to justify that you have other savings like a home, car, etc. I think it's something you just have to get used and do it. Every penny we save now I know will be worth less than we had saved it 10 years ago. But doing this calculation, my plan is that we will continue saving the maximum 401k, Roth IRAs until we retire. And the goal is 100% income replacement and being financially independent by age 50. This is a stretch goal i think 55 is realistic.

What's middle class

October 29th, 2015 at 10:01 am

I don't know what is middle class it appears to be what you live like. Most people aren't sure either. Great discussion on the forum.

I think the house we're in is absolutely middle class, it has 3 bd, 2.5 ba and is 1800 sq ft with a 2 car attached garage on 5000 sq ft lot. It's in a preplanned neighborhood. Lots of young families are moving in school district. People have either 1 or 2 cars. They both work or a stay at home parents. It appears completely middle of the road.

Is it more than we had 40 years ago? In some ways yes. We have internet, cable tv, cell phones, etc. But in other ways I think the middle class also has less.

What ways? It is a fact that less people today are covered by pensions than 40 years ago, even 20 years ago. Very few people have free medical insurance for life from their jobs after retirement. I think only the military has it. Constantly articles are written about people having only $100k in 401k. Here's the truth that when people like my mom in her 60s retired at 55 with a pension for life she didn't need a 401k. She had one but she didn't have much nor did most people older than her. The majority of baby boomers had pensions and social security. I am curious what will happen to people when the scales start to tip and people retire without pension?

Second health insurance premiums have gone up exponentially. People are still tied to employers but many employers are trying to switch employees to high deductible premium plans and use health savings accounts. This usually costs more for the employees. The real hit? That 40 years ago most employers picked up the entire premium payment, versus today when employees are often foot at least a portion of the premium if not most.

Third, college costs have skyrocketed. Even cheaper alternatives like community college and state schools are difficult to afford working and going to school. In the 80s people could still "work" and make enough to afford tuition. Is it realistic now? No. Now even the cheapest schools are out of reach for people working and going to school full time. The irony is that having a degree no is more important than ever!

I think in many ways the middle class lives more luxurious lives than before. We have a more amenities that people didn't have because of technology. But I also think that the middle class was more cared for in retirement and prior by companies, government jobs, versus today a lot more emphasis is placed on the worker.

What do you think defines the middle class?