Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sunday - wrapping up the week

I always use my Sundays to wrap up the week (tackling chores that remain) & to plan for the week ahead. Both of these things are critical for my sanity & our overall organization during the crazy work week.

I had a fabulous two hour hike in the sunshine with a friend yesterday, and the weather was gorgeous all day. I ran errands, and then hung out by the pool for a bit with the kiddos & M.

In what is surely the last possible appliance that can break at our house (I shouldn't jinx myself like this), both ovens went out last night while I was making dinner. And, by both, I feel compelled to add that this house has two incredibly tiny ovens stacked on each other, vs one normal sized oven. It took me two hours to finish the dinner, because I kept checking it, adjusting the settings, swapping to the lower oven, & finally . . . used the microwave convection oven. For those keeping track at home, since we've moved in, we had to spend $700 on repairs to the water connector to the washing machine (it wasn't a standard repair - went far back into the wall, and involved parts that were 20+ years old), and had to get a new dishwasher. Both the washing machine & the dishwasher also leaked on our brand new floors the first time we used them. The pool heater is also broken. And, now the oven. ;-) In our area, you are not allowed to do an inspection. The owner does an "inspection" when they list the house, and it's available to read, but you are not allowed to do your own. Technically, you could, but no offer would be accepted with any contingencies. So, you get what you get. M is very handy, so let's see where we come out with the oven. He thinks he's fixed it today & got up at 4:30 to work on it. But, I did notice that he planned dinner out on the grill for tonight. .. .

M took the boys to the early soccer game this morning (bless him!) so I can get things done. I have a bunch of paperwork-ish stuff I didn't finish yesterday, plus standard chores.

  1. Laundry
  2. Supervise Sam's packing for overnight science camp
  3. Science camp paperwork
  4. Send out family schedule for the week (I book things on my work calendar, M's calendar, etc)
  5. Coordinate schedule with nanny
  6. Sort out summer camp activities 
  7. Fix the printer
  8. Take Nick to soccer
  9. Drop Nick off at art class
  10. Pick up Sam at his fitness test (Boy Scouts)
  11. Find a picture of Nick for a class project
  12. Search the house for a couple of library books that went missing during the move. We currently owe $50. I'm not thrilled, but cannot imagine where they went. We also never found our Amazon remote. Such a mystery. We packed everything, and everything is now unpacked. Where could they be????
  13. Strength workout
  14. Yoga
  15. If the oven is back, make banana bread, and take a loaf over to the neighbors
  16. Call my parents
  17. Find a birthday sleepover date for both boys (delayed from the move) & get the invites out

Nothing is a huge work item, but it all just needs to get done! I'm also hoping for more relaxing pool time today. Even 20 minutes outside with a glass of wine & my book would be perfect! 

What about you? If you accomplish one thing today, what would you want it to be? Do you also have lots of "small" chores that constantly need to be ticked off? 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

A free Saturday

We have absolutely zero scheduled sports/boy activities today. What an unexpected treat! I need a catch up day, as I wasn't home last weekend.

I'm looking forward to getting some errands done today, as tomorrow I have to be at a soccer game at 7:15 am. Oh joy! ;-)

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

  1. Make a menu
  2. Meet a friend for an early hike, before it gets too hot. I love to combine social time with a workout. Plus, it's free! What could be better? 
  3. Go to Costco. I have a few returns, and need to get our groceries. I also have our rebate check to use.
  4. Call Comcast. Sigh. Comcast
  5. Take the boys to a bike shop to be measured
  6. Fill out a bunch of school paperwork for end of the year activities
  7. Make sure Sam packs for his overnight science camp
  8. Figure out an (extremely delayed) birthday sleepover date for Nick
  9. Return my running shoes to Nordstrom, & try to find a new pair. They make my feet go numb, which is never that fun.
  10. Yoga
  11. Take the boys to the library
  12. Make dinner
  13. Put away at least two "piles" in the house, from the move
  14. Laundry

And, menu plan for the week, just so I can check off #1!

  • Saturday - homemade pizza
  • Sunday - fish & rice
  • Monday - Chicken & pasta
  • Tuesday - Tacos
  • Wednesday - leftover pizza
  • Thursday - leftover fish & rice
  • Friday - taco quesadillas

The weather is supposed to be gorgeous, so maybe we'll eat outside again this evening. What about you? Do you have a full agenda for today? What are you hoping to accomplish?

Friday, April 28, 2017

Frugal Friday

It's been a quick week, with lots of work changes & meetings. I had an 8:00 pm meeting with Jakarta last night, and an 8:00 am meeting with London this morning. I'm pooped, & looking forward to a slightly quieter Friday (no one else is online on Fridays, starting by late morning). Hurrah for small victories!

What kind of frugal things have we done lately . . . ?

  1. Made dinner every night this week, even though I had two very unexpected late nights
  2. Line dried all clothes (minus underwear & socks), which saves the fabric, but also reduces power. We line dry on a large rack in our spare bedroom.
  3. Moved all outdoor lights to solar. While an initial one time cost, we live in an area that has a lot of sunlight, so this should reduce our ongoing outlay of batteries, etc, and provide us with inexpensive outdoor lighting
  4. Continue to maintain our pool without paying for help. M has studied up quite a bit, & most of the supplies are available at Costco.
  5. Speaking of Costco, we received our rebate check ($240, so $120 net savings over the cost of membership), and will use that purchase our groceries for the week.

Less frugal things for the week:
  1. I did pay to have someone clean the house. The week got away from me, and I was out of town last weekend.
  2. M made dinner on the spur of the moment 2x this week. He ended up swinging by Trader Joes to pick up a few things. He spent under $4, but both items were already in the cupboard. Still cheaper than takeout!

I'm considering buying reusable bags for lunches, etc. I want to reduce our use of ziplock baggies. Does anyone have recommendations? I'm looking for lunch packing options, as well as baggies I could use to store divided up meat in the freezer, etc.

Focusing on fitness

I'm a creature of habit, and typically create a schedule & then just go with it. Even when that schedule stops working. I've realized (through many failed attempts) that I actually need to adjust my schedule semi-regularly to make time to work out. Things change each season. Soccer practices & times adjust, new off hours meetings get added to my calendar in APAC, daylight savings wreaks havoc on my time zones (other countries don't follow, so it creates a bigger gap in meeting times), etc.

I need to do a better job of evaluating when things aren't working, and making adjustments. I spent some time on Sunday revamping my scheduling & coming up with options to allow for me to have time to: work out, get plenty of sleep, and make time to relax (relaxing could mean reading a book, yoga, a hot bath, time with friends. . .)

I have not been able to lose weight in 2017, (I typically gain through second half of each year, and spend the first half losing it all over again, in a terrible cycle). This is a real problem, & I need to make sure I'm prioritizing working out.

Getting up earlier isn't really an option, as I need a minimum of 8.5 (but, prefer 9) hours of sleep to stay healthy with my lupus & keep my symptoms in check.

What are the changes I'm making?

  1. Review my schedule on Sundays, & build out a specific workout plan. (I.e. run @ 6:45 on Monday, making sure I don't have any early EMEA meetings, etc).
  2. Come up with a "best possible" workout slot, but have other options for days that won't work. For me, the sweet spot is really 6:30-6:45 am as a start time. As I have more & more APAC meetings (evenings) & fewer EMEA meetings (morning), this should be helpful.
  3. Figure out what doesn't work for me, & work around it. I've been trying to get into the habit of hitting the work gym in the mornings, but that requires showering, lugging all of my gear, & the gym is packed at my desired time. I've decided that working out at home, but ensuring I have strength focused workouts (in addition to cardio) is the winner. I tried it out today, & it worked well.
All in all, I've had good success this week, and have found some options for building a regular workout schedule again. What about you? Do you evaluate your schedule & make adjustments on a regular basis, or are you a creature of habit? When do you work out & how do you fit it into your busy life? 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Things are happening!

I can't recall when I last gave an update on our Seattle rental property, but things are moving along quite well. We are officially listing our house on 5/10, and will have an open house that weekend!

We are doing some minor work to the inside (repairing a crack, touch up paint, etc) & some bigger cleanup on the outside. The total cost of the work is estimated to be around $3200. We will also be covering the cost of the mortgage & utilities until the house sells, as our tenants are out as of 5/1.

We don't have all of the final numbers in, but have been using a range to predict how much we will clear after realtors fees, taxes, etc. It's exciting to think about next steps, after we sell. The Seattle house market is very hot, so we are hoping to draw multiple buyers.

As for the money leftover after all of the fees & taxes our paid, we are thinking of the following:

  • $200,000 - boys college savings. We will then consider these as fully funded.
  • $800,000 (estimate) - we will spread this across a variety of assets (conservative to riskier) to continue to generate income. 

We debated back & forth putting some of the $800K into our mortgage in San Francisco, and then having our monthly payment rescaled back. We also debated the value of paying off our vacation house. At this point, we'd rather keep the money (relatively) liquid, at least in the short term.

Having this investment fund will ensure I can actually leave my job, and find something with no income requirements, that's much more flexible. We will draw down the investment fund each month to cover the gap between our expenses & income, but it will last well beyond when the boys are out of school. Unless something major happens, which is, as always in life, a possibility. It will also give M the option of leaving his job & finding something that doesn't pay as well, should an opportunity that he is very passionate about arise. We haven't given a ton of thought yet to our 10 year plan, but I think it's fair to say that we will not need a house nearly this big (or expensive) once the boys are out of school. That would drastically change our financial requirements. More to come on our 10 year plan! 

In other news, M started his new job yesterday! So happy to have that resolved. He received six job offers (four internal, two external) & accepted the one that he thought would be the best fit. Apparently, his skill set is highly in demand. ;-) 

We've worked really hard over the past 20 (and, 25 years for M) to build up a nest egg that will allow us the flexibility to leave our insanely demanding jobs. I don't think M will do it, but I am already feeling the relief that comes along with knowing that I have choices. 

What do you consider "financial independence", and when are you hoping to achieve it? If you are already there, please share your story!

Monday, April 24, 2017

A few frugal things & a menu plan

I had a fabulous long weekend with my sister & best friend, and am now trying to get back to reality. We spent the weekend on the Oregon coast, and had a very mellow time. We did a 10K run (it turned into just over 8 miles due to my questionable route planning ;-)), played games, drank wine, did some shopping, and really just hung out. It was fabulous! We had an absolutely gorgeous day on Friday, so it made the 10K really pleasant.

Here's what's on the menu for the week:

  • Sunday - kebabs & rice (M grilled for us)
  • Monday - Costco pizza (I see it lurking in the fridge. M & the boys must have picked this up while I was gone)
  • Tuesday - leftover kebabs & rice
  • Wednesday - tacos
  • Thursday - spaghetti & meatballs
  • Friday - oven baked chicken risotto

And, although it wasn't a super frugal weekend due to traveling, there were some frugal victories along the way.

  • Took an Uber pool to the airport. I've never done the pool option, but Uber was extremely expensive when I needed a ride. So, I saved $16 and my ride only cost $8. It added about 5 minutes to the ride, and was quick & easy.
  • Brought my own water bottle to refill at the airport on both sides.
  • We only bought one meal out on our trip. I paid, as the other girls had purchased breakfast, wine & dinner stuff to eat at the house.
  • I was able to find summer clothes for the boys at Costco, and got them pretty much everything they need for the next year or so (minus a pair of jeans) for $80. 
  • I also found replacement shoes for Nick, who has grown an entire full size in a few months. They were at the Nike outlet, and I paid under $20. 
  • I had to cancel my work London trip (unrelated to frugality - only related to work stuff), but that saves me money on nanny hours, as it's harder for us to keep the time in check when only one person is trying to cover all pickups. This will likely save around $50. 
  • I was looking for a few things at the outlets (I typically shop just when I'm with my friends, as I find it helpful to have a 2nd & 3rd opinion). I was able to buy a replacement black work cardigan, a black tank, and a dressier navy tshirt to go under cardigans. All of these are work options, & will replace things that are looking shabby. I wash everything, including my dressy clothes, but line dry. They do need to be replaced faster, but I also don't pay for dry cleaning. It's a tradeoff, I suppose. Everything was a fantastic price, & I used up an Under Armour store credit to get the boys a couple of shirts, as well as a Gap credit to get a tank top for myself.

That's it for me. I need to work through my long to do/catch up list for the week & get things done! Hope you all had a fabulous weekend. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A rainy Easter

Given our stormy weather today, I'm very happy we did our egg hunt on Friday with my parents. It's been raining since around 10 am, and shows no sign of letting up. I'd envisioned hiding the boys very small gift bags (containing a chocolate bar, gummy bunnies, & a bit of money to use for BMXing) outside, but I think I'll scratch that idea.

We took the boys to the BMX track last night, and Sam decided to join Nick in the race. They had a great time, and Sam beat Nick by quite a stretch. Given it was his first time, Nick was less than excited about this turn of events. ;-) It's hard to be the little brother, but these are good life lessons. Their buddy has been racing for about a year, and he took first place. Some of the kids their are absolutely incredible to watch. All of the other kids have full matching outfits, bikes, & helmets. We're not sure if the boys will stick with it, so Nick was wearing jeans & Sam was wearing track pants. They definitely stuck out a bit. ;-) We also have rented protective helmets & bikes. If they decide they enjoy it, they will be at least primarily responsible for saving up enough to cover the majority of the cost. Honestly I'd rather have them spend their money on something like this vs wasting it on video games or Pokemon cards.

It's the last day of spring break, and we are all feeling mellow & enjoying the last day of quiet. So far today, I've gone for a run, caught up on laundry, built the schedule/carpool/nanny schedule for the next two weeks, made 3 dozen muffins, cleaned the fridge, & caught up on some life "paperwork".

Next up, I need to pack for two separate trips - my girls trip to the beach, & my work trip to London. It turns out that M & the boys will be able to pick me up at the airport on Sunday, bring my "work bag", and take the other bag home. I'll then head to the larger airport (SFO) for my international flight. This will make packing much easier.

I'm off to make some tea, and get started on my packing. Looking forward to a nice, relaxing dinner with the boys & M before we get back to the routine of work & school. I do miss our large family Easter gatherings when I lived closer, but this is nice too. What about you? How do you spend Easter? 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A menu plan, & Saturday happenings

I'm taking my parents to the airport shortly, and then we will be back to just four again. We will miss all of the laughs, the tremendous help, & the exceptionally clean house! :-)

I typically start my Saturday by planning our menu, which then informs my shopping list for the week.

Menu plan:

  • Saturday - leftover chicken pasta florentine that my dad made earlier in the week
  • Sunday - M will grill beef kebabs & make Persian rice. Hopefully the weather will be nice enough to eat outside.
  • Monday - Oven baked chicken risotto
  • Tuesday - Leftover kebabs & rice
  • Wednesday - Leftover risotto
  • Thursday - I'm out of town. I'm guessing M & the boys will go out to dinner
  • Friday - I'm out of town. M & the boys will have pizza (freezer)

I'm actually out of town (for work) after my girls weekend, so I need to plan the menu for next week as well. I'm not quite there yet, so need to give that more thought. 

Here's what is on the agenda for today:

  1. Make a Costco list
  2. Go to Costco
  3. Produce stand
  4. Library
  5. Take my parents to the airport
  6. Mail tax payment
  7. Price out how much one of our cars is worth. Considering trading it in for an electrical car, if the price is right.
  8. Go for a run
  9. Take the boys to get passport photos taken. (We are considering a ski trip to Whistler next year, to see M's cousin who lives in Vancouver).
  10. Sort out plans for next week, including car pooling, work schedule, M's schedule & my travel plans
  11. Figure out boy scouts for next week
  12. Determine when Nick can use his free month of art classes, and add to the calendar.

That should do it! How about you? Are you in preparation mode for Easter, or up to something else this weekend? It's pretty great going into the weekend with an already clean house! 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Frugal Friday

We've had guests all week (my parents) & they stayed with us & hung out with the boys over spring break. Everyone has been having a great time!

Here's a small list of the frugal things I've managed this week:

  1. We didn't pay for a spring break camp (around $700), but instead had my parents here. We paid for their flights (~$300) & gave them $100 for kid activities (trampoline park, arcade, etc). 
  2. I didn't need the nanny, or cleaning lady this week because my parents are amazing.
  3. Planned to take an Uber to & from dinner (I took my mom out as a thank you, because she spent 30+ hours cleaning my house to get rid of all of the construction debris/dust) so we could enjoy wine. M offered to drive us there, saving $15. I tried to book an Uber home, but the app was not cooperating. I cancelled our ride, as M was able to pick us up. I did get charged a $5 cancellation fee, but that was still $15 less than what the Uber would have cost.
  4. My parents cooked for us all week, and now I have dinner leftovers in the freezer, plus protein balls & banana bread. Yum!
  5. Shuffled a bunch of furniture around in the new house, so I won't need to order a replacement night stand. Very excited, as they are extremely expensive in the line we have for the rest of the room.

That's about it for us. My parents are doing an Easter egg hunt with the kids this evening, and surprising them with a trip to Disneyland (in June). The boys will be thrilled. :-) I need to start packing for my girls trip/London trip. What about you? What frugal things have you done this week? 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I used up all of my plenti points

You may remember that I've been on a toiletry ban & had a goal to get through 6 months without spending anything on toiletries. I started the year with a stash of Rite Aid plenti points (close to $90) & was planning to get through June with that.

Unfortunately, I've been out of face lotion, and multiple substitutes were not working. With lupus, my skin requires a specific type of lotion, and lots of sunblock for my face. (I take a prescription that makes the sun even more powerful, & I'm already pretty fair & living in California).

I was also out of Advil PM, which I use when I'm traveling to try & get as much sleep as possible - despite jet lag.

I used the last of my plenti points today ($29.45), & then earned $10 more. I'm out of pocket $19.17, but only part of that was considered a toiletry. The Advil comes out of our health category for the year.

In the end, Rite Aid was having a BOGO50% off sale on my lotion, so I was able to get two containers for $34. Additionally, I also picked up a lip balm with sunblock, as my lips are also starting to get sun spots. Yikes.

I continue to inventory all of the rest of my toiletries, and everything is in reasonably good shape, quantity wise. I'm hoping to now make the $10 in plenti points last through June!

What about you? Do you track your toiletries (shampoo, soap, floss, toothpaste, lotion, makeup, etc) to ensure you have enough? How do you find the best buy on this category of items?

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sunday happenings

I got almost everything done on my to do list yesterday!

  1. Go for a run
  2. Make time for yoga
  3. Sort out my jewelry area
  4. Move a dresser out of my closet
  5. Order a new nightstand. (Our master bedroom is tiny, compared to previous houses, so we're doing a bunch of furniture shuffling.)
  6. Contact our realtor for our Seattle house on tenant move out date. Start getting work kicked off in the yard
  7. Fill out paperwork for Sam's overnight science camp
  8. Make a menu & Costco list
  9. Go to Costco & the produce stand
I didn't manage to squeeze in yoga time, but I've already done it today. We ended up hosting a sleepover, so plans changed a bit on the fly. I've also decided to hold on #5, as the rearranging of furniture gave us an option for a nightstand in our bedroom. It's not a match, and doesn't look as good as a match to the set. However, it's free! And, it's the nightstand that's much less visible when you enter the room. We'll keep it for now & determine later if we're bothered by it enough to replace it.

It's a much nicer day today (sunny & lovely), so I'll be getting in some fresh air in between taking people to soccer games. My parents return from Napa, and we are having an early Easter celebration. They head home next Saturday morning.

Here's what's on the list to accomplish today:
  1. Sort out the family vacation house schedule
  2. Send out an email to everyone who has requested a slot
  3. Finalize tax payment
  4. Yoga
  5. Go for a walk in the sun
  6. Review calendar for the week
  7. Send my parents the schedule for soccer practice
  8. Pick up bonus kid for soccer, take 3 kids to a game
  9. Make risotto for dinner
  10. Clean the waffle maker (the kids made waffles today)
  11. Investigate flight options for my London flight in a few weeks
  12. Verify rewards number is attached to London hotel reservation
Add in the laundry & dishes, and it looks like a pretty mellow day! What about you? What's on the agenda for today? Do you have any good spring-ish recipes? Looking for some inspiration!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The wind has finally stopped

Happy Saturday! It's been a very windy few days around here. One new thing I've learned about owning a pool. . . when it's windy, it's a must to sweep up regularly near the pool. Otherwise, every last leaf will be in the pool, and need to be cleaned out. Ah, pool life. :-)

It's spring break, which means no soccer today! The boys are actually subbing for another team tomorrow, but today is soccer free. We have no planned commitments, so I can get things done & organize our lives. My parents are in Napa, and will be back tomorrow. Here's what I'll be up to today.

  1. Go for a run
  2. Make time for yoga
  3. Sort out my jewelry area
  4. Move a dresser out of my closet
  5. Order a new nightstand. (Our master bedroom is tiny, compared to previous houses, so we're doing a bunch of furniture shuffling.)
  6. Contact our realtor for our Seattle house on tenant move out date. Start getting work kicked off in the yard
  7. Fill out paperwork for Sam's overnight science camp
  8. Make a menu & Costco list
  9. Go to Costco & the produce stand

Menu plan (my parents will be with us Sunday-Friday for dinner):

  • Saturday - leftover PF Chang's. There is so much leftover Chinese food from our dinner delivery on Thursday!
  • Sunday - M is grilling chicken, and will have that with rice
  • Monday - My mom has offered to cook. I think she mentioned enchiladas
  • Tuesday - Leftover chicken & rice
  • Wednesday - My mom has offered to cook
  • Thursday - Leftovers
  • Friday - I will probably make risotto
I have late meetings all week, as I'm interviewing for a new senior role in Asia. It would be a HUGE gift to fill that role - much less travel, and not managing a huge team of people myself in region, remotely. I'm taking advantage of my parents being in town to get as many of the late night interviews, meetings done while they are around.

What about you? What do you have on your agenda for today? 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Frugal Friday . . . or is it?

First, in great news, M got promoted at work. I'm sure many of you are scratching your heads wondering how it's possible to get promoted while you're looking for a job. Totally reasonable question. ;-) At our company, levels are person based, not role based. The two are obviously highly correlated, but you have to be performing at the next level for a minimum of 18 months to earn the promotion. This now means that M will be eligible for significantly more senior roles. He's pretty far along on two conversations & feels very optimistic about landing either/both of them.

So, we went out to a very nice dinner to celebrate. This is a very substantial difference in leadership & expectations, and is something M's been working on for multiple years. Super proud of him. The dinner was, shall we say, not frugal. ;-)

I'll break the list into two this week, for clarity.

Frugal wins:

  • Having my mom clean our house (we're talking, super deep cleaning after all of the flooring & ceiling drilling). She's spent a least 30 hours cleaning. This is totally her choice. She hates being bored, & has loved being able to help us out so much. It's also probably saved about $1000 of cleaning costs as a result.
  • Requesting a small refund on a few things that weren't delivered properly on a restaurant delivery yesterday. We will be getting back about $20.
  • M's promotion will mean a raise, qualifying for a bigger bonus pool, and additional stock grants!
  • M & I had my mom cover a bunch of child care that would have resulted in about $200 of nanny time &/or a sitter. I had a team dinner when M was in Seattle, we went out to celebrate the promotion, and my mom covered after school care a few days. 
  • We ordered delivery take out instead of going out last night, when my dad arrived. Obviously, the most frugal option would have been prepping my own meal, but due to work crunches, this was the next most frugal option.
  • It turns out our rental house is likely worth $200k more than we'd expected. I won't count our chickens before they are hatched, but this would be HUGE, if it is realized.

Frugal fails:

  • M & I had an expensive celebratory dinner out after his promotion announcement
  • We ordered a delivery dinner yesterday. I also over-ordered & we have way too many leftovers. It's fine, as they will be eaten & not go to waste, but I could have reduced our order by at least 1/3.
Trying to prepare myself for another week of visitors. Super excited to have my parents in town again next week, as they will be spending time with the boys over their spring break. I will give them spending money to entertain the kids, and I won't need the nanny. I'm also going to try to avoid any meals out, except one. I've promised to take my mom to dinner as a thank you for all of her efforts this week with the house.

What about you? Any big wins or fails on the frugal front this week?