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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.

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.  

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?

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.

April YTD

May 1st, 2022 at 07:27 pm

Well retirement is down $140k and if it wasn't for our windfall I think we'd be substantially more. Probably in the ball park of $250k.  I have already had to talk to multiple friends and clients into staying invested and not being spooked.  And when asked I said I can see it dropping another 10-20%.

But what do you do?  Nothing. If it makes you nervous wrong asset allocation.  If you just leave it invested or invest more well then you know what type of person you are.  I am kicking myself for buying more amazon and google before their big drops. 

I invested all of our windfall.  A portion was put into a 10 month CD paying 1.1%.  That's to pay our taxes.  Then I dumped $150k into the 529s VOO this month.  Bad timing?  Probably and they will need it in 6 and 8 years.  But truthfully that's a long time to ride it out and I the only thing I could do is invest monthly.  But really just leaving it alone for the next 6 years.

Does it make sense to rebalance and put into more conservative investments?  Most people would but i am not.  Why?  Because here's the question someone asked me.  Will it matter what the balance is in 6 years?  Answer is NO.  I am paying for college no matter what so I might as well aggressively try to maximize our investment for college.  And what people don't realize is that you don't use all of it in 6 years, I will need it 6-9 years for one and 8-11 years.  So that's a long time to ride out the market.  Retirement is more iffy because we need to fill our buckets, but knows?

March 2-22 Wrap up

April 5th, 2022 at 06:27 pm

The market has rebounded nicely in these past few weeks  We are down 10% in retirement and 20% in our taxable.  But then again we also got our unexpected stock sale so we made some money.  Here is what we did with it.


35.74% to 529

5.71% to spending

9.52% to I bonds

48.05% to taxable savings

the 5.71% spending I just threw into our emergency fund.  I am going to use to it spend a little extra. I also will probably cut back on savings for the year since we basically saved 95% of our windfall and 66% of income for the year.  I'm thinking I do want to spend the 5% i earmarked and not just save it. 

Things I bought already tickets to hamilton, Jack white, red hot chili pepper concerts this summer/fall.  Tickets to Las Vegas for a weekend trip.  Tickets to Hawaii for summer.  I also would like to do a few more weekend trips probably SF and maybe an october trip to Disneyland.  Some of this we would have paid for and the rest will be covered by this spending.  That plus not saving more than $16k more this year for Roth IRA and ESA contributions. 

I'll still be doing $2k/year to each kid for college until age 18 just because but I don't think I need to be doing more than that anymore.  Our kids will have college 100% paid for now and extra for a house downpayment, wedding, or car.   The taxable accounts I started will be for something else.  We have 6 figures in each 529+ESA and they are 12 and 9 plus another $50k in taxables for them.  But I will no longer stress out about affording the future. 

Everything else is for us.  I know we aren't obligated to help our kids with college. I know that we are not obligated to gift them with a hand out after college.  But I've always aspired to be able to pay 100% for college and be able to provide a house downpayment, car, and maybe even wedding.  I always wished to have been so fortunate and a little envious of people whose parents were able to help them.  I understand DH and I families were not in the situation to help us and now if anything we are about to start paying for my grandmother financially.  But since we are in such a fortunate position I am thankful for everything and going to take advantage of it.

Spending, saving and more

July 1st, 2021 at 03:58 pm

Where do I start?  Well I guess our retirement is on track at $1.5M we breached the number, up $280k from the start of the year.  We completed our refi to $845k @ 2% for 7 years.  I saved June and July difference of $720 into Robinhood and have $1443.  I'm investing it into VIOO (small cap index).  It'll be an interesting experiment if I can significantly invest in VIOO and help offset the potential increase in rate.  Of couse that's using the assumption I keep the house that long or don't refi again.  We did with our numbers hit our FI before DH's 45 birthday so that's good.  And no we aren't going to do it though.  And interesting tidbit is we have saved since the beginning of 2021 $79476 and if we count last year's savings of $16k for Roth/ESA in january then we are at $95473 for the year. My end of year goal is $100k (so $6k or $22k).  That $22k seems like  a large stretch.  $78k is about 29% of our gross saved.   

Spending in June was pretty good.  $669.45 groceries, $435.92 eating out, $438.91 dog, $519.73 (current trip gas and alcohol), $245.93 Gas (went camping and clamming), $400.63 Utilities plus other categories $3668.  Not a terrible month.  I was budgeting aroudn $3600 so we are on track. 

I moved $9k to our brokerage today wiping out our sink fund.  So we have $8k property taxes and no sink funds.  Things I see in August are our auto insurance and kids activties we need to pay.  I would guess around $3k.  But we have $4k in our checking just sitting so I'm debating moving the next two paychecks $1000 each to sink or brokerage.  

I have to admit once things go to our brokerage they don't ever come out.  So it's basically gone like our retirement.  I think that's why I struggle with moving money to our brokerage accounts from our cash savings.


An update - it's been a busy 2 weeks of june

June 15th, 2021 at 05:50 pm

Where should I start?  Guess with the most interesting.  DH's company turned down the buyout.  They didn't want to go back and work for a Megacorp.  I was surprised but at the same time someone pointed out they left their soul-sucking jobs to do something they believe in. They made enough money already that making more money didn't seem the point.  I can't believe it.  I'm glad because my DH is happy and still moving forward.

Spending for May

Groceries $454
Eating out $473
Alcohol $242.50
Dog $831.59
Travel $1802 (paid for August VRBO)
Utilities $752
Kids Camps/activities $1502
Business LAL $2491

It was a very spendy month. So good thing we refinanced our mortgage last week June 10th. No payment until August 2021.  We are doing pretty well though with our spending otherwise.

EF $40k
Property Taxes $8k (done for 6 months ready for 11/1 Payment and insurance in August)
Sink $5000 (haven't had to touch yet)
Roth $2000 (already saved $10k this year moved it)
Robinhood $700 (my difference in refinance and old mortgage June $700 saved!)

I believe we managed to save $2k from last month and float all the extra charges without touching our sink funds which is what was part of the budget.  My goal is to pay our insurance without really touching the sink funds or property taxes in August (home $1200, auto $1000, umbrella $300) and then also still continue to save $700 7/1 and 8/1 and 9/1. I invested the $700 in small cap ETF Vanguard IWOO

Our networth was up in May by $3886/month.  The markets were down.  But we are up for the year $293469.  Also I did not move the needle on the value of our house.  It appraised by the bank lower for sure than what we could get and a lot higher than what we paid.  



Savings for the year

April 14th, 2021 at 05:30 pm

I was saving money to invest in our Roth IRA next January but decided I might as well dump it into our taxable account now.

So far this year we've saved $23k of DH's bonus in feb.  We just didn't sell the stock we got.  Technically it was $34k of gross but $23k after taxes.  Now I moved $10k into our taxable account.  Assumign we make around $240k and need to save 20% we need to save $48k.  That puts us I guess at $33k unless you count the Roth and ESA contributions of $16k I did in January. 

Either way I'm just going to keep on saving and figure it out along the way.  This budgeting is a lot hard than it looks.  I'm still thinking I need to save at least $16k by january because I prefer to do a lump sum investing.  Maybe save $16k and call it savings from this year?

So I started saving but lifestyle creep happened...

March 24th, 2021 at 06:29 am

It's hard to post your numbers on even a blog.  To post the failures and successes.  Even though we hide behind our screens there is still a feeling of awkwardness.  To have a feeling of embarrassement that you are spending so much.  Well at least to me.  It's probably why I hesitate to post certain things because I know I'm ridiculous.  But it's still way more than I would ever share IRL.

So anyway I started multiple "savings" accounts in Capital One.  Thought I'd give it a whirl.  I thought I'm going to do it. I'm going to try and save this year money.  Sounds ridiculous because we should be able to save.  But the truth is I don't know if we can.  We are going to struggle.  Living "austerely" to us when we haven't been on a spending "diet" or "budget" is hard.  We've gotten used to lifestyle inflation or creep.  It hasn't happened overnight.  It hasn't been drastic.  But it's happened.  How'd it happen?  Well our income went up and so did our lifestyle.  We hadn't changed some of our basic principals LBYM or pay yourself first.  But we "paid" ourselves first, maxed our 401k, maxed our Roth IRA, College, no bonuses for living but our income just went up and with it our lifestyle.  Last year I roughly calculated we saved 50% of our income.  But we had a lot of income.  We lived on about 25% of our income and 25% of our income went to taxes.  Sounds okay right?  Well now we're cutting back to that 25% and we need to save within it.  That's another post for another day. 

Anyway here's where we are and goals for 2021.  Who knew I'd have goals again so concrete?

Roth IRA/ESA $16k goal - $3k

Property Taxes  $12k goal - $1k ($6500 coming from bank) (4./30 and 11/1 due $5500, 8/30 Home insurance $1000)

Sink Funds $10k goal - $1k

That's all I got for now.  With an extra paycheck this month I'm planning on funding the property taxes and sink funds. I also have quite a bit of extra cash in our checking accounts so I'm going to try and move it into one of these savings accounts.  

Big picture goal is to save 20% of our income.  We have currently saved 20% this year of our income.  But 2022 we won't have a 401k to contribute just a Roth IRA and 2 ESA so $16k in tax deferred accounts.  That still leaves us short of that 20% salary goal, and I'm unsure if we can even hit that.  Though we've contributed to 2020 Roth IRA and ESAs, I'm trying to get the $16k cash for january 2022.  I'm also planning on shoveling into that savings account all exra money and seeing if I can get more after directly $1k and $800/monthly into Property taxes and Sink Funds.  This will be pretty tight to be honest.

Let's see what happens.  Next year DH's salary will be $180k flat.  20% is $36k.  $16k is earmarked to be saved.  $20k is what we need to save in order to hit 20%.  I guess that's another post about why I think it'll be hard.

No more escrow

March 20th, 2021 at 07:31 pm

At the beginning of March I decided I was going to try and get out of escrowing our property taxes and home insurance.  The bank (JPMC) approved.  When we got our mortgage in 2017 we were required to escrow in order to get a better rate.  We currently have a 30 year fixed (26 years in) for 2.875% on a jumbo mortgage.  I logged into chase today and see that we are getting a disburment for $6488!  That money is going to my property taxes and my home insurance is due in August 2020.  Our property taxes are $5353.56 x 2 with the first payment due April 30th, 2021 and the second November 1st, 2021.  The extra will go into savings for our home insurance which was $909.70 in August 2020.  It actually is enough to cover us for our home insurance and first half year payment.   So my thought is $1000/month needs to go into a savings account to pay our property taxes.  When I get the check in the mail I will deposit it and move the funds into the savings account in capitol one.

I'm setting up now multiple savings accounts so I can see if we can actually stick to a budget and start saving.  I am a bit nervous but it's worth trying.  In our last house we used to pay our own escrow. It wasn't hard, but we had a little bit more flexiblity with our payments.  In the beginning it was hard and we needed to really stretch.  Then again we grew into our house. 

Now the opposite has happened.  But we are still going to try and make it.

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?

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.

Thankful 2020

January 10th, 2021 at 11:30 pm

I am thankful that 2020 is over.  I am thankful that everyone I know is still alive and kicking and healthy.  I am happy that everyone I knew who got covid recovered and are doing better. I am just thankful that 2020 is over.  It was not an easy year but there is SO MUCH to be thankful.  I drank a big drink and cheered with DH. I am thankful I saw my parents. I am thankful they made it out alive. I am just glad everything so far knock on wood has been good.

Retirement up $252k (saved $78.5K)

Taxable up $278k (saved no idea) mostly because I moved money into different accounts and stocks.  I definitely saved money at least I can track saving $100k but maybe more.  

Paid off $33k between $12k car and $21k mortgage.  Cars drive better when paid off.  

We won't be saving much in 2021. I already put in our Roth IRA and kids $2k into ESA just today But I'm not sure how much more since DH is taking a large paycut. I am maxing out the 401k for the year in a couple of paychecks so we have to live off savings then getting paid the new amount so the next two months is a little sketchy.  I probably need a bit more cash for our EF.  We have 6 months TIPS and 4.5 months in EF.  I think I need 6 months in EF ( so a little more cash, then invest the rest).  I'm hoping to ride out 2021 without touching our savings.

November 2020 update

December 1st, 2020 at 10:18 pm

It's been a very good year for us.  Our retirement is up to $1.24m.  We have $680k in taxable accounts.   Our debt is down $29k.  Our nw went up $506k for the year.  Fingers crossed that we end up doing just as well next year.  

I also made a large payment to the IRS today and we paid off a bunch of credit cards because we've been building a shed and stuff.  Yuck. 

Q3 and September Wrap

October 6th, 2020 at 10:00 pm

Interesting year. We are up out networth by about $290k. We are down in debt so far by $26k for the year (paid off car loan which was $12k at start of 2020). We drive paid for cars as of this month. Refied our mortgage from 7/1 arm at 3% till 2024 to 27 year fixed at 2.875% for $900. Breakeven point is in 9 months. We plan on sticking it out for 3 years.

Our assets are up $265k for the year between saving and investments. I'm thinking we'll end the year up around $300k if everything goes right.

We ended up moving everything to Merrill Lynch and not going through with our refinance. Instead Chase gave us a too good to be true no cost refi so we stayed with them and they lowered and fixed our rate. But I moved our taxable account and 2 roth IRA to Merrill lynch and now I decided I might as well wait and earn $1000 per account for moving the money and leaving it there for 6 months. Then I'll go back to Ameritrade. I don't like the ML platform and I find it more cumbersome and less updated.

I'm waiting for prime day not necessarily to shop with amazon. But rather see what deals I can get.

things i am shopping for
1. Food processor - need 10 cup/4 cup it's broken and I'm borrowing a neighbors 10 cup
2. Breville Toaster oven - want for the right price
3. large crock pot - need, mine can't easily do a lot of the cooking i'm doing.
4. roomba - want for the right price

these are the things I'm looking for next week. I have no idea if they will be a good deal or maybe I wait until Black Friday. But I definitely need a bigger crockpot. I'm making yogurt now and it's too small for a gallon of milk my 5Qt pot. The food processor well I use it a ton and am borrowing one.

I was going to buy an instapot but a friend said they'd give me theirs since they never use it. Guess I'll get it soon enough!

Funny I never though I'd be the type of person to be waiting and really make a list and think carefully about what I needed. Usually I just don't buy it and if I really want it or it becomes extreme (like my broken dyson vaccuum cleaner) I just go buy it then and there. I needed a vaccuum cleaner and I wasn't going to wait. I went straight to costco and returned the broken one and bought a new one. I use it 2-3x/day and no way can I live without one. Somethings aren't worth trying to live without.

Stock Market Insanity

September 2nd, 2020 at 12:41 am

So the stock market insanity. I mean i can't explain it at all. Can you? I mean Singuy's explanation that we aren't in a real recession and people are parking money somewhere because Bonds and CDs are paying nothing makes sense. Everything I've read saying it's going up because the fed is inflating asset prices by printing more money. QE is real.

This stock market has skyrocketed our investments. Our retirement accounts are $1.15M today. Our taxable investments are up to around $650k. I don't know whether to hope or panic if we manage to pass $2M in cash assets this year.

But it seems surreal. Like all of this is due to a bubble. That the valuations of these stock assets aren't real. I'm not sure what is real. I do know that cash appears to be a bad place to be sitting so I've been dumping more and more money into the stock market.

Right now so many changes. I'll post more as we get close to March 2021 but DH is changing jobs. But how do we balance risk with reward?

What are you doing?

Decided to invest

August 15th, 2020 at 12:24 am

So I just dumped a ton of money into the stock market and gave up on waiting to buy investment property and moving. Was talked into it by a CFP that our 15 year time frame is ridiculous to be sitting so heavy in cash. So I pulled the trigger. I guess the market could crash but then at the same time he's right in that the market has 15 years.

I also started to reinvest more for the kids 529; $250/month into each account so $3000/year each and $2000 into ESA. This is my biggest accomplishment and the thing I'm most proud of. Saving for my kids college and taxable accounts. I looked at what I have and we have saved around $55-65k for each kiddo. Split between taxable and college savings about 60% college/40% taxable.

Ideally I want to preserve their 40% taxable for them for maybe a house and a head start in life. Imagine if I can get them to save into a Roth IRA in high school it would be amazing.

But right now I'm nervous. It's been a long time since we've had only 6 months of cash in EF. I am debating even dropping it lower. We have about 6 months in I bonds as well so it's not only cash.

How do most people handle it?

June 2020 Net Worth, Eating Out and Whole 30

July 10th, 2020 at 09:09 pm

The whole 30 is over but I'm mostly continuing it. I like it. I liked how it made me feel and I like how easy it is. I think it's helped a lot. Did it make me lose weight? 10 lbs or so in a month. But I think I can see long term weight loss and getting to a steady state by just making better choices. Since it's been a few days I've added back soy, peanut butter, butter, and corn. I'm going to stick to a modified whole 30 without sugar and processed foods and some dairy for cooking. I think that by eating this way I'll be able to lose more weight and maintain it. I do eat carbs. I eat sweet pototates and whole potatoes. I eat brown rice a little and a bit of whole wheat pasta. But the real change is being aware of all the junk food i was eating which was a lot and really all the alcohol i was drinking. I"m still off alcohol till 9/1 to see how much more weight i can lose. I don't know when I'll feel like I can drink again. Really the truth is it's that my eating becomes out of control while drinking. I keep eating cheese and crackers and picking. I drink a lot as well as we sit. I can sit for hours from say 5-9 pm and finish at least 3-4 glasses of wine which is a bottle of wine really. This translates into poor eating and too many calories.

Our Retirement is up
$129k LAL Roth
$360k DH Roth
$548k DH 401k

Taxable $500k+, debt paid down $15k since start of year. The year will be a good one. We're at $1.821M net worth and I guess we'll hit $2.1 by end of year if the stock market doesn't tank.

Spending last month was a bit strange. We spent $590 on eating out with $332.84 during our road trip, $258 otherwise. Not bad. Realizing I did not drink during the road trip.

Groceries we spent $994 on groceries. Which for us is a record. Since this does not include the $150 on alcohol I know DH spent on buying beer and wine to bring back to his cousin watching our dog and for himself. Wowza. Good job!

We had an awesome roadtrip. I think we beat the surge. Now the question is what is next? I have no idea but at least we got out before. I will admit we spent quite a bit on the "right" type of lodging but it was a pretty epic trip.

credit card rewards 2019

January 9th, 2020 at 07:04 pm

So I was trying to calculate all our CC rewards.

Discover $61.34 cash
Costco LAL $326.46
Costco DH $74.49
Chase Sapphire $300 Travel Cash Back
Chase Rewards $2115
Alaska $2550 (35000 * 5 + 30000 miles redeemed at a valuation of 1 cent per mile which is low. These were all redeemed at a higher cost. Plus the $500 on companion fare for card for hawaii ticket).

$5427 in rewards. It's actually higher because discover I use to get gift cards for restaurants and I regift them to people like teachers for starbucks. Hey $45 for $50 is a 5% extra cash back. I also get 2% on costco for executive membership that pays for $120 membership and then a bit more.

I normally do not redeem so much in flight miles and currently have used pretty much all our miles. We also have a bunch of bonvoy points from opening card which I need to use.

I think a more typical year is $3k in rewards. Not bad just for using a CC. Free money.

10 years of finances - thank you

January 3rd, 2020 at 11:26 pm

So I feel like I have grown a lot with many of the people on the board. My life has gotten significantly different and changed and I'm thrilled to have read about your lives as well. It's amazing to see people's lives and know that though we haven't meet I feel like I've been given a front row seats to important events in your lives. Anyone who reads this certainly has been given a front row seat to my life. Anyway thanks CCF. I have read about your girls since 2006ish and I cannot believe you have one ready to graduate college. It brings a tear to my eyes. Disneysteve I recall reading about the planning in his daughters baht mitzvah and now she's a young adult working. It's been quite a ride. Monkeymama had two small monkeys who are rather large now! I've read many of you getting married, moving, divorced, and joys and sadness. Thank you for sharing it with me.

Things have changed a lot for me. 10 years ago I was 8 months pregnant and eagerly awaiting the birth of my first child a girl. DK1 was born end of January but was due end of February. I was about to defend my thesis but had been mommy brained and lazy. I finished my thesis and defended in June of 2010 (yeah me!). Notice my biggest thrill this decade was becoming a mom? Anyway having a child changed my DH and I a lot. We lost 1 income and still haven't gone back to 2 full time incomes 10 years later. We added a second child in 2012, moved cross country, changed careers (both of us to entirely different fields), and didn't work or have income for an entire year! 8/2015-8/2016. OMG!!! If we had we'd likely be further ahead but we wouldn't be as happy as we are now. Something I tell people, we took a sabbatical in the the middle of our life rather than retiring a year early.

Finances 2010
LAL Roth IRA - $21,820
DH Roth IRA - $74,170
DH 401 - $100,378
Total - $196,398

Taxable Assets excluding home - $5k

DH has just finished his MBA which we cash flowed and he had NO LOANS. We spent $85k on this MBA. Our Net Worth was $201k. We took out a loan in 6/2010 to buy a subaru outback. And I think at that time we probably had $200k in home equity. We had maxed out the IRA and 401k since 2006 for $98,500 contributions and had $100k in gains.

Finances 2020
LAL IRA - $146,988 ($78k contributed)
DH IRA - $346,776 ($78k contibuted but some rolled over and paid taxes from old 401k)
DH 401k - $542,361 ($258,500 contributions from 2006)
Total - $1,036,129

Taxable accounts - ~$422k. So about $1.4m not counting home equity. So increase of $1.2M in net worth not counting home equity. Not bad for 9 years of savings and spending $100k that year for living. $60k living, $20k DH's course, and $20k for moving and expenses. It was crazy that we managed to break even 2015 and 2016 with investment income and savings from DH starting a new job.

2020 goal hit $600k in taxable accounts. I think in about 5 years we will hit $1m. I'm still on the fence with buying an investment property. Still looking.

Happy to read about everyone else! Have a wonderful 2020. I am soon celebrating DK1 10th birthday and I don't know where the time went. How can I be 40?

I certainly didn't expect my life to take these turns!

$4500 tax refund

March 25th, 2019 at 06:17 am

It's been a long time since we got a tax refund. It's a bit surreal. Anyway we got back $4500. I know it was an interest free loan to uncle sam but I thought we were going to be owing so it was surprised.

Now what to do with the money? I don't have a clue. Guess just pay our bills.

I know doing taxes a lot of people were surprised both ways. Some were shocked by how much they owed. Mostly because the IRS changed the withholding tables. So people who didn't change anything owe a lot unexpectedly. Then there were those expecting to owe and getting larger than expected refunds. People who normally owe so they kept on paying.

I think all these new tax laws changes shocked people.

poor and stuck

February 11th, 2019 at 02:51 am

So for about 3 months DH and I lived in a ghetto. I hate to use that word but I don't know how else to describe it. I found a rental online and had no idea about a new city. It was cheap and month to month, close to my work, took dogs, and we didn't have many choices. We hoped it would be short term and it was. It was pretty much our first and only time living in a city. Previously and since we never have and have made a conscious decision to live in suburbia and further out because we hate city living. I can't sleep, the noise, the closeness of people, I don't care to walk everywhere. It's not us. And while I grew up lower middle class it was more rural/small town. Never had I lived in a city like this.

But back then we were young and crazy. So we moved into a neighborhood we certainly stood out. The people were very nice. Our neighbors talked to us, more than one actually warned me to stop walking my cute white dog (bichon frise) alone even during the day. She said "you're that girl with the white dog. Everyone is talking about you. You should be over in that other neighborhood where you would fit in." This was probably true.

So I stopped walking the dog. One day across the street from us a dog was impaled on the spokes of the fence. Another time there was the home invasion, probably looking for drugs according to the landlord. It was not a safe place.

But what did I learn? Buses don't stop in poor neighborhoods. You have to jump out in front of them and wave but they just keep going. You stand under the sign and they aren't full but they keep going. There aren't many bus routes and they don't seem to run late, unlike richer/nicer neighborhoods. A lot of people are always waiting for the next bus that never shows up because it's breaking down. Funny how it's the buses to the poorer area that seem to break down more. There are less train/subway lines as well.

The gas station had a cashier behind bars and you had to prepay cash for gas. The gas was also ridiculously over priced at this small gas station versus going down the road to even the big 76 or chevron or shell in another town.

The local grocery store was still about a mile away from where we lived. The food was disgusting. It was like all the going to spoil meat, fruit, veggies from every other neighborhood had been sent there as a last stop before being thrown out. The store itself was also more run down and not as clean. It was constantly packed even though the food was more expensive than driving 15 minutes to another nicer neighborhood same chain store.

DH and I made an effort to only shop at costco 40 minutes away and grocery stores in the neighborhoods we were looking for a townhouse 20 minutes. We noticed a huge difference. But I mean realistically I wonder how many of our neighbors could afford to drive outside the neighborhood and get better food for less money? At the same time if they did they could fill up for less money since gas was about 30 cent more per gallon.

Because of this we definitely rushed a bit picking our next place than we might have. But it also 10 years later affected how we shopped for apartments. Instead of me picking a place again online, we drove into the city and rented a hotel room for 1 week. We drove around and saw all the places first. This time we decided we weren't going to take the same risk of picking a place we didn't like.

But this short experience made me realize that many people don't have the same opportunities. That people in a lot of these situations are stuck. The only thing they know are being poor. I can see an EF being helpful. But there are also these roadblocks that make it really difficult to get ahead. How do you know that driving means you can get cheaper gas and better food? That it might be cheaper to live further out in a nice neighborhood with better schools? But how to do you afford the car that won't break down and gas to get to your job? How do you know to get job in suburbia that is similar to what they have now.

But how do you change the system?

staying in poverty

February 9th, 2019 at 01:49 am

So I have to further explain to CCF how hard it is to get out of poverty. It really is when people are always telling you no and not helping you.

So my grandfather wanted to be a engineer. His dad said no way. No money and go get a job to help support the family. Lucky for him he was born number 9 out of 13 kids. He got to fin