Friday, February 5, 2016

A few frugal things

It's been awhile since I've done this, so I'll combine a few weeks worth of activities.

Frugal wins:

  1. I sold a Victoria's Secret gift card that I've had for at least a couple of years. I'll get a check for $30, after they receive it. 
  2. Listed a pair of boots on eBay.
  3. Redeemed more United miles for a $100 Amazon gift card. Normally, gift cards aren't a valuable redemption option for miles, but I can't find any flights on United for routes I normally fly. In fact, I have a $200 United credit that I'm not sure how I can use. So, in this case, the $100 of Amazon credit is a better option. 
  4. Went with a day camp today for the boys random school day off (cheaper than our nanny), and saved at least $22.
  5. Skipped cleaning lady today (she's on vacation), plan to clean the house myself, & saved $90. 

Frugal fail:
  1. The $14.99 prepared flatbread that M asked for when I was traveling. And forgot to use. It was moldy by the time I came home. I apparently can't let this one go. ;-) No, really, I just like to ensure that I remember both the things that went well, and learn from my mistakes. 

So, total savings = $227. Which isn't so bad, after factoring in my wins & losses. I didn't include the ebay item, as I'm not sure it will sell.

What about you? What are your frugal wins & fails for the last week?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Our 2016 vacation budget . . . where are we going?

We have lots of great plans (as always, we are travel lovers!) in 2016. We typically spend a big chunk of our travel budget visiting our family (in the Portland area), as well as an adult weekend away. Here's how we're planning to spend our travel budget in 2016, and our plans for each trip.

  • January - nothing. I did go to Tokyo, but let's not count that, shall we? I saw the airport, the hotel, the office, I did go for omakase, and then back to the hotel, & airport. Sigh. Work trips. Budget = nada. Or, the $14.99 for my wasted flat bread. However you want to look at it. ;-) 
  • February - the boys get a week off in February, so we take advantage of the long weekend & fly to my parents. We actually take the boys & their cousins to an indoor water park (Great Wolf Lodge ;-)) Then we have a joint birthday party for the kids at my parents house. It also happens to be my 40th birthday, but we're saving that for something a bit later in the year & will celebrate when we have more schedule flexibility. I paid for the flights & the hotel stay back in 2015. The total budget for flights for 4, a car rental for M to get to & fro while we're at the Lodge, and our half of the hotel = $1800. Remaining to pay for = $450.
  • March - Nothing scheduled.
  • April - I'm taking the boys to the beach for spring break. Not counting my time off (which, technically I could have cashed out when I left), the flights & expenses are actually right around the same price as a camp. Also, I changed the date of a girls weekend to bookend with this trip, and my parents will watch the boys for a few days while I'm having girl time at the beach house. Win/win! The total budget for the beach trip is flights for 3, a car rental for me to get to & from the beach house, and extraneous food = $1100. Remaining to pay for =$350.
  • May - Nada. 
  • June - I'm going to take the boys to my parents house for the big biking tournament, then leave them there while I potentially go sort out my work situation & finish up the last few things. Basically, I'd like to stay until my options vest on the 25th. So, I'll fly out, take them to my parents, fly back & then fly back again a week or so later to kick off our family beach trip that will last through the 4th of July. Haven't even started to price this out, but the total budget for this trip is flights for 5 (4 of us plus me one extra time), a car rental, & extraneous food = $2000. Would obviously love to shave this down a bit, so I'll have to keep my eye out for great deals on airfare.  Remaining to pay for = $2000.
  • July - It's my annual girls trip, although this year we're thinking of doing Napa rather than Las Vegas, and celebrating my 40th birthday, as well as my BFFs big day. M has given me $5,000 towards this, but there's zero chance I'll spend that much, even if we really "live it up". ;-) The $5,000 technically isn't part of the vacation budget, as M has a special fund he saves up for big events, gifts, etc. But, for visibility, let's include the more reasonable expectation of budget here. Total budget for this trip is the hotel, food, gas money & likely some sort of transportation during one of the days (as we'll be doing tastings & won't want to drive) - $1500. Remaining to pay for = $1500.
  • August - I'll be joining my family again for the Portland to Coast relay. Total budget for this trip is my part of gas money for the van, my flight, a little food, etc. You really don't get to eat much - I occasionally buy a hot dog & bag of chips out of someone's yard, but that's it. ;-) Total budget - $400. Remaining to pay for = $400. 
  • September - Nothing
  • October - it's our anniversary. Now that my parents are both retired (my dad is freelancing, so has a very flexible schedule), it should be easy for them to come to visit the boys. We just came up with this plan this week, so no budget has been planned for. But, I'll cover the cost of my parents flights. So, total budget for this trip = $2000, including flights for my parents, and whatever M & I decide to do. Remaining to pay for = $2000. 
  • November - We've been planning to take the kids to Hawaii for Thanksgiving, using mostly mileage & hotel points. However, the miles are insane this year. We've done it before with no problem, but now it looks like each ticket will cost 80,000 miles. Not a great way to spend our miles, and would also require a cash outlay. So, instead we may spread those miles around on other trips (Christmas, the summer trip, etc) & then funnel that cash savings into Hawaii flights. Still TBD, obviously. I also need to look into the hotel to see if using points are a viable option on that end as well. My original budget was meant to include a rental car and food, with the rest covered by points & miles, so budget = $1500. Remaining to pay for = $1500. This one needs some serious scrutiny, however, as I'm not sure this will happen in 2016. We may push out to spring break of 2017, given miles & points issues. 
  • December - we'll head to see my parents for Christmas, and then to the beach house. The budget includes flights for four at a premium time of year, & a rental car. Total budget = $1500. Remaining to pay for = $1500. 

Looking at it all in one place is a little nuts! 

Total budget for 2016 travel = $9800
Total left to pay for in 2016 = $7,700

Looking ahead to 2017, when I will (I presume) be making significantly less money, I'll likely cut out the February trip, and we won't go to Hawaii with the kids (it's currently an every other year thing, but will likely move to less frequently). I'd like to keep the remaining trips, but find ways to continue to reduce the costs, as spending time with my family is super important. 

And now you, how do you budget for your travel? What's on the itinerary for 2016? Are you already planning ahead for 2017?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

After the 40 week plan is done - what's next? Part 1

It's a question I've been asking myself a lot lately, given that it's starting to feel a lot more real. I've yet to make any announcements at work, but will likely give them much more than the standard 2 weeks notice. I'll probably give something like 8 weeks notice instead. I won't have an offer with a competitor, which is one reason people don't typically announce these things until the end. It avoids the whole being escorted out by security situation. ;-)

It's really, really difficult for me to picture what comes next, quite honestly. But, let me give it a try, thinking of some of the more immediate plans as well as some of the fuzzier, "in the future" thinking.

  • July - I plan to be really busy over the summer. We'll take the kids to the beach for the 4th of July & a week at the coast.
  • July - I'm going to Napa with my sister & best friend (replacement for our typical Las Vegas trip) to celebrate my 40th birthday, very belatedly. I need to find a camp for the boys, as M won't be able to take the time off of work to spend with the boys.
  • July - the boys also have a mandatory soccer camp, so that will be a nice, fun mini break. A preview of things to come.
  • August - the boys go back to school on August 15th, and start soccer the first week of August.
  • August - I'm going to do the Hood to Coast relay again with my family.
  • September - I expect this is where things will "settle down" a bit. Most of our main summer fun & trips will be over, the boys will be in school, & life will be finding my groove. Without work. 
  • October - I'm planning to start looking for some sort of flexible work, although I may wait until January or start earlier. Who knows what I'll be feeling like.

By the end of 2016, I need a pretty good sense of our actual, non-working me budget, as well as the potential income I think I can earn with a flexible job. That will give us an opportunity to plan for the future (house buying here, potentially selling our vacation house, etc). I feel like we're in a bit of planning limbo until we get a clearer picture of our new reality. That limbo definitely causes me to have anxiety, and I know makes M a bit twitchy as well. Not that we will need my income - that's what all of the savings is for. But, we are planners, and like to look much further out that next month or next year. That's challenging in the current situation.

As for the type of employment I'd like to do in the future, I can honestly say that I've spent hours upon hours thinking of this, and have come up with absolutely nothing. I know that I want to continue to work in some fashion, and my only real requirements are 1) that the role is flexible 2) I'm paid decently well, and 3) the people I work with aren't crazy. ;-) I'm guessing there are plenty of roles that might fit this criteria. At this point, it's like a black box. The minute I try to envision the future, without my current insane job, my mind shuts down & cannot get past the point of quitting this job. Maybe that's normal? To be so burned out that you can't even contemplate the type of work you'd enjoy as a next step? I hope so, because otherwise it's going to get pretty interesting when the time comes that I need/want to start looking. 

So, more to come for certain on the "what's next" part of my plan! 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

January Goals - Recap

January was your normal first month of the year. . . lots of motivation & excitement (on my end, if nowhere else ;-)) to kick off the new year with a strong start. A very last minute trip to Tokyo got added in, which derailed some of my plans a bit. But, here's how I did against my goals!


  • Stick to our budget - mostly on track, but our childcare budget is up due to paying for a camp in February ($478 for a week of camp, and we will still need our nanny that week, as camp ends at three. :-((
  • Reach out to new accountant - our old one retired :-(( - Done! 
  • Save $1,000 - yes! I saved $1,756 (in addition to my planned bonus savings). Not that I'm counting those dollars. ;-) Plus, the grand old $.58 of interest. 


  • Work on plans for the boys birthday parties in February - I've gotten the party invites sent out, and done a lose menu. 
  • Do a fun activity with the boys - Today is the day for the activity! We are going to see Star Wars, and Sam will have a friend sleepover after. That means both boys will have had a sleepover this month as well. 
  • Have a date night with M - I've got to get this planned. Maybe next weekend? I'm heading to Tokyo on Sunday, but could squeeze it in on Saturday.

Fitness (this needs to be a top priority in January, as well as the rest of the year):
  • Lose 3 pounds - I managed to lose 1.5 pounds for the month. Considering that I normally gain on business trips (I held steady this time), I'm pleased with my results. Not perfect, by any means, but a very positive step in the right direction. 
  • Eat 5 servings of fruits & vegetables, 28 of 31 days. I only got 3 & 4, respectively, yesterday & on New Year's Day, so this gives me one extra day of cushion.  - I decided to go for a rolling average, and got to 4.6 per day. I'm pleased, again, given the traveling. All of those flights & meals that I'm held captive to the choices during meals out were difficult, so I'm happy that I was so close to 5. I've definitely changed my eating habits to cut out unnecessary junk, and focus on healthy choices. 
  • Complete 8 stretching workouts (yoga or pilates) - I finished the month with 5 stretching workouts. 
  • Complete 10 strength workouts - I finished the month with 8 strength workouts.
  • Complete 850 minutes of cardio - I finished with 690 minutes of cardio.
  • Average 1450 calories/day - So close! I finished at 1485, which is a vast improvement over the previous six months. Woohoo!
  • Maximum of one late night/week - Definitely not a win, as I had two weeks with double late nights, plus a trip.
  • Organize travel schedule for the first half of the year - Yes, and in fact, I"m going to try to let Tokyo stand as my only international trip before I leave. 
  • Work from home at least one Friday this month - I did this twice last month, and it was great. Definitely going to try to repeat this.

  • Read a book - Yes, I've read six, in fact. :-) The one way that my international trip "helped" my goals.  
  • Try out my new adult coloring book :-) - Yes! I've enjoyed it, but the kids have also wanted to "help", so it's been less relaxing but a nice family project.  
  • Get together with a friend - I guess I can count my Star Wars movie time, but I was hoping for more of a girls fun hike or workout. I have at least been getting good chatting time with my friend at soccer games. 

All in all, not a bad way to kick off the year! How about you? How did your January goals go? Any big wins or things that you'll carry over to February? 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Goals for February

It's a short month, so I'll adjust accordingly. :-) It's also a big celebration month! My oldest is turning ten, and I'm *cough*, turning 40! :-) You'll see a bit of frivolous spending as a result. I'm also having surgery in February, so I've adjusted my workout goals down quite a bit.


  • Stick to our budget
  • Hand off all paperwork to our accountant
  • Save $1,500
  • Model out the potential to rent our vacation house
  • Fill out all licensing paperwork/get on waiting list for renting out our vacation house


  • Keep our February birthday trip in budget
  • Have a date night with M
  • Lock down the dates for the rest of the year (vacations, time off, etc). This includes M taking my dad & his buddies to LV for a milestone birthday, our family Hawaii trip, and a potential long weekend with M.

  • Lose 2 pounds (trying to be realistic, as I'll be on vacation for a few days)
  • Eat 5 servings of fruits & vegetables 
  • Complete 7 stretching workouts (yoga or pilates)
  • Complete 6 strength workouts
  • Complete 500 minutes of cardio
  • Average 1450 calories/day
  • Run 5 times. Start working on 5K build up.

  • Maximum of one late night/week
  • Work from home at least one Friday this month

  • Read four books
  • Color in my adult coloring book
  • Get together with a friend

And, that's it! How about you? What are you hoping to accomplish in February?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday Funday

I'm pretty tired this morning (my body clock is still not adjusted, which means I couldn't fall asleep on time last night.) I'm really struggling to wake up & be productive!

Here's what's on the schedule for today:

  1. Take the boys to soccer practice
  2. Run/walk during their practice
  3. Arm workout
  4. Yoga
  5. Make pizza dough for our dinner
  6. Bake bread
  7. Make taco meat for freezer
  8. About an hour or so of work stuff that's crept up over the weekend
  9. Work week plan with nanny & M
  10. Menu plan for the week
  11. Recap January goals
  12. Set February goals 
  13. Figure out a date with M
  14. Clean up work calendar (including setting workouts)
  15. Order remaining boys birthday presents

And, to just kick off #10, here goes!

  • Saturday - kebabs & rice (last night)
  • Sunday - homemade pizza. I'm thinking of chicken pesto pizza for the adults, and pepperoni for the kiddos.
  • Monday - eggplant & meatballs with pasta (leftover tortellini)
  • Tuesday - tacos
  • Wednesday - leftover kebabs & rice (I have a work dinner) 
  • Thursday - chicken taquitos (me) & tacos (kids) - M will be at a dinner
  • Friday - oven baked chicken risotto

What about you? What's on your menu this week? Any big goals or challenges to accomplish on the last day of the month? :-) 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

January budget wrap up

So happy that it's Saturday! I need to clean the house today, as well as get two boys to soccer games & get in some exercise. In super un-frugal news, I left M some prepared food while I traveled last week. One of which was a two-pack of flatbread from Costco that M asked for. I made a list of all possible dinner options, expecting that everything would be eaten. M didn't know that the flatbread had to be used or frozen pretty quickly. Anyway, I noticed it in the fridge when I got home yesterday & took it out to freeze & it was already moldy. So, $14.99 straight to the trash, which didn't please me in any way. ;-) Valuable lesson learned, as I could have made 4 homemade pizzas at that price!

It's the end of the first month of the year (woohoo, 2016!), so time to take stock of our first month's budget. Without further ado, here's how we did in January.

We were over our monthly budget by $850.

Yikes! That's no way to start off the year! So, what went wrong, you ask?

Areas where we were over:

  • Childcare, by $300. This is to register the boys for a camp in February (they have a week off of school). What's not reflected here is that the camp was actually $478, so I managed to keep the standard childcare costs (our nanny) quite a bit under budget ($178 less than predicted) by closely managing our schedules. The boys have a bunch of days off during the school year (another day in February, a day off in March, spring break in April, etc), so I still need to sort those costs out.
  • Entertainment, by $40. We typically spend nothing on entertainment, despite having a small monthly budget allocated for it. This month, we promised to take the kids to Star Wars, hence the overage. We should be back under by next month.
  • Groceries, by $100. The bane of my existence. I've come up with a few ways to cut this down. More to come. 
  • Alcohol, by $48. We stocked up on wine. 
  • Utilities, by $626. Wow! Not only is it our most expensive power month of the year (two houses), I also had to pay our yearly handy man fee for our vacation house. He keeps an eye on the house while we're not there. We should be back to under our budget. The utilities budget is a monthly average of our total spend, so I expect all other months in 2016 to be significantly under budget. 

We were also under budget in some areas:
  • Dining out, by $140. Woohoo! Both of the meals out were consumed when I was a) at a work dinner and b) traveling. Both times, M took the kids to a local favorite. We spent a total of $59 on dining out in January, which feels pretty great. 
  • Gas, by $127. I'll revisit our gas bill again, as it's likely too high given current fuel costs.
And, there you have it! We can definitely continue to trim things back, but I feel like we're starting to hit a frugal groove. Excited for the shortest month of the year up next. :-)

How did you do on your January spending?