Friday, February 28, 2020

Frugal Friday

It was a very intense week at work. I work in & manage a global team that does a lot of traveling. The Corona virus has certainly created a lot of uncertainty. Here are the frugal wins for the week.

Saving money on things we buy

  • Some of you may remember our LONG saga with Lowes & our doors. We placed the order in June. The last door was installed in February. This was not a complicated order, and the amount of effort, hassle & errors was truly stunning. They agreed to compensate us once the job was over. I have emailed them multiple times since the job ended & would not ignore the silence. They have agreed to discount the job & credit us back 10%. Which is $1500-1600. Can't remember exactly. It in no way covers the time & hassle, but I'm so happy we will move on & that we will be getting a small discount on the doors. 

Earning money

  • Sold an item on eBay & made $14. 

Avoiding spending

  • M bought me a nice bag for my birthday, as my other one is about to rip off at the handle. It was bigger than what I'd normally prefer, so I took it to the store to exchange for a smaller version. The difference was about $55. Even though I had the receipt, and he paid with a debit card, the store would only give me a merchandising voucher. I looked around & strongly considered buying something else. Instead, I came home, listed the voucher, & sold it for $48. Winner!
  • Ate at home all week, and packed snacks for the kids between soccer practice & games.
That's it from my side. How about you? Any frugal wins for the week?

Monday, February 24, 2020

Menu plan Monday

We came home to a very empty fridge on Friday night, so we're in the process of stocking up & making meals. As always, our goal is to prep & cook food on the weekends, as weekdays are too crazy. On weekdays, we have leftovers, or fill in items from the freezer.

Here's our plan for the week/what we've already eaten:

  • Friday - we were in transit at the Vancouver airport, so we all had sandwiches at Tim Hortons. Oh, and Timbits (donut holes). Yum!
  • Saturday - egg roll in a bowl over cauliflower rice. Served with eggrolls, for our carb loving teen.
  • Sunday - grilled chicken & rice
  • Monday - leftover egg roll (both kinds)
  • Tuesday - leftover chicken & rice, perhaps with the chicken served over salad
  • Wednesday - spaghetti & meatballs
  • Thursday - tbd, or carnitas/tacos from the freezer
What's on our menu for the week? 

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Frugalish Saturday

We got back from a fabulous ski trip last night, and are in the process of unpacking, laundry & getting ourselves ready for the week ahead. While I would never describe a ski vacation as "frugal", we did try to do a few things to limit the cost. Here's how we did:

  • Priced out the cost of renting skis vs bringing them. By limiting our other bags to just one carry on each (that was no small feat, with all of the ski gear), we were able to make each checked bag the ski/boots for each person. I have status on United, so the first bag for each person was free. The logistics of getting the skis from the car to the airport counter, multiple times was not for the faint of heart. We saved about $300 doing this. 
  • Stayed in a condo & bought groceries. We rented a condo, and also had an extra bed, so my parents were able to join for a few nights, which was so much fun. My nephew also came with my parents, & it was great to see him. We weren't able to spend much time with him this year due to trips with his dad, etc, so it was really great to get the time, and for him to hang out with the boys on the slopes for a few days. 
  • Made a menu. My mom brought frozen meals (lasagna, taco meat) & my nephew brought soup. We then bought just what we need to feed everyone. Given we had seven people for most of the meals, the menu was critical.
  • Packed a sandwich & snacks for lunch on the slopes. I ate a packed sandwich every day but the last one, and my nephew did as well. The other boys purchased lunches, but also had a sandwich, because... teen boys. ;-) I was very pleased that the food at Whistler was cheaper than Tahoe resorts - by about 20%. 
  • We apres skied at the condo. We had wine & beer, a small happy hour, & just relaxed & enjoyed after our time on the mountains. The boys made popcorn & then went off to the game room. It was perfect!
  • Priced out Uber vs parking our car at the airport. This was particularly important, given we'd have all of the skis & most Ubers can't take that much gear. In the end, it was cheaper to drive ourselves & park at the airport. 
  • Made the most out of our ski passes. We had season passes this year, and were able to ski four days at Whistler. The weather was incredible, and we feel so lucky that we were able to maximize our time. We were up in the morning & out the door when the first lift opened, and back around 3:30-4 the first three days. I bailed around 1:30 the fourth day, but only because I had some nagging knee pain from all of that skiing. 
We debated this trip long & hard, because the logistics of leaving the country, coordinating with seven people, bringing all of your gear, shuffling it around, etc is tricky. But, it was so worth it & we had the best time. And, a photo of the three boys, enjoying the slopes.

I'm off to do the rest of my chores. I hope you are having a wonderful Saturday!

Friday, February 14, 2020

Frugal Friday

It's been a crazy week, with school soccer tryouts, birthdays, work events, & high school orientation. I did buy Sam a sandwich between tryouts & orientation, but we've otherwise stuck to our eating plan, utilizing planned leftovers & other freezer items to smooth the way.

Here are the other frugal wins for the week.

Saving money on things we buy
  • Remembered to apply a $12 rebate to my Amazon account right before it expired

Earning money

  • Found a penny on the ground. Big money!
  • Earned $18.24 at Rakuten, and applied the money to our mortgage pay down. 
  • Listed three travel gift cards for sale. We purchased them to use on our anniversary trip, but it's likely we will attach our anniversary trip to a work trip on my end, cutting the flight costs in half. 

Avoiding spending:

  • I wasn't sure which bucket to put this in, but we finally received a refund from the DMV for our car tabs. They sent us two bills, three months apart. I wasn't paying attention, and paid a second time. Eventually, I realized that I'd already paid, and requested a refund. Dealing with the DMV can sometimes be an adventure, but they were actually pretty prompt in the refund. We now have $457 that would have disappeared into the ether without my calls. 
  • We also carpooled with a friend to a high school orientation night for Sam. Cannot believe we're talking about high school orientation!
How did you do? Any frugal wins to share?

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Enjoying the weekend

I was crazy productive last week at work. I think the combination of a few tricks I put in place from my retreat, being behind & having a big backlog of things to tackle, & then just being in the right mindset after my training gave me the edge to do a lot of hard things I've put off. That said, having hard conversations & dealing with challenges is emotionally really draining for me, so I've been sleeping a lot & not worrying about it.

 I missed my morning workouts a couple of days, while catching up on emails from my Asia team. In a few weeks, I'll have handed all of them off to a new manager, so that will free up 8 hours/week of meetings, plus emails. Hurrah!

I managed three runs last week, plus a walk at work, and have a hike scheduled for this morning. I didn't lift weights, so hoping to hit the gym with Nick this afternoon. We also have a futsal game & Sam has math tutoring.

I'm planning to try a new recipe (Picadillo), so will report back if it's any good. M made a Persian feast last night, and we had that with my favorite cupcakes & champagne, as an early birthday evening. The kids wrapped presents (one used paper that said "birthday boy" on it, so we all got a laugh out of it.) Casual, at home birthdays are my favorite kind, by far. The boys got me a plant, a book I've been wanting, a shower spray that I tried at the spa & definitely wanted more of, a purse, and a new hair product. That's actually way more than I'd normally get, but I think M got a few last minute ideas & got them all. I'm feeling very spoiled!

Yesterday morning & afternoon was all about the kids: running club, a birthday party, & two soccer scrimmages, so it was nice to get the time together in the evening. Now we're on to Sam's birthday & our ski trip next weekend. I need to get organized.

It looks like the sun might come out for my hike this morning, so I'm happy about that. Here's the to do list for the day:

  • Hike with friend
  • Make muffins
  • Put picadillo in the crockpot (new recipe, fingers crossed)
  • Get ski stuff packed & organized for Whistler. Determine how many bags we will take
  • Pack Sam's birthday gift
  • Get Nick's birthday gift wrapped
  • Get cash for boys birthdays (my sister Venmo'd me, so I need to put the cash in cards)
  • Have the boys call my parents
  • Iron out food prep for next weekend with my mom
  • Figure out a gift for our host (we're staying with M's cousin one night)
  • Plan for the week
  • Laundry (always. There is so much laundry at my house)
  • Print & schedule all training runs from training plan
I'm sure there's more, but that's it off the top of my head! Hope you have a fabulous Sunday!

Friday, February 7, 2020

Frugal Friday

Another week has flown by! Here's what we've been up to. We've done all of the basics (driven our electric car as our primary driver, charged for free at work, meals at home, eaten out of the freezer where possible, etc.)

Saving on things we buy:

  • I was able to purchase discounted lift tickets for my nephew during our Whistler trip, as I remembered there were season pass discounts. I saved 40% for my parents, who are covering his pass.
  • Filled out a reimbursement form for a medical expense, and received prompt payment.

Earning money:

  • I made $7 on an eBay sale (it was a hat I purchased for $5, and sold for $12.)
  • Found a dime on the ground
  • I took our spare change & used a Coinstar machine to turn it into an Amazon gift card that we will use for essentials. Mostly because change is annoying to have jingling around, but also because the money can offset future expenses, vs hanging around the house. 
  • Not so much earning, as prompt payback, but I use my personal credit card to get rewards on work spending (allowed at my company) & file expense reports as quickly as possible to ensure I'm not floating the money. 
  • Hasn't yet paid dividends, but I did adjust some of my eBay listings, in hope of drumming up renewed interest.

Avoiding spending:

  • I had to drive the boys home from a later soccer practice, and was scrambling to get dinner together. I unearthed pizza that we had delivered a long while back. Toasted it up in the oven & the boys loved it. Served it with a salad, plus leftover for the adults. 
That's it from my side. What about you? What have you been up to this week? Any frugal wins to share?

Monday, February 3, 2020

February goals & a menu plan for the week

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

  • Friday - we were very tempted to order out, as I had a late flight on Friday evening. We even priced out an Uber eats order. When I saw it would be $66 for not much food, I couldn't handle it, and whipped together a few freezer options. It wasn't the most cohesive meal, but it worked fine. 
  • Saturday - we tried a new keto friendly chicken pesto dish & it was very good. 
  • Sunday - Super Bowl food. Pizza, wings, chips & guac, etc. 
  • Monday - leftover chicken pesto
  • Tuesday - tacos, chips & guac
  • Wednesday - any other leftover Super Bowl food
  • Thursday - taco salads
  • Friday - TBD

And with that, our goals for February.

1) Financial

  • Stick to the budget
  • Stay on track & minimize spending while on our ski trip to Whistler
  • Pay down our mortgage to a new milestone
  • No clothing/shoes/jewelry purchases (this is limited to just me)
2) Family
  • Do one fun activity/month with the kids
  • Off the computer by 7:30 each evening
  • Have two dates with M
  • Schedule a call with M's family
  • Start practicing with Farsi flashcards
3) Fitness/health
  • Lose 3 lbs
  • Run 10 times, continue half marathon training
  • Track calories, eat 5 servings a day of produce. Aim for 1400 calories/day
  • Complete 1000 minutes of cardio, 10 strength & 5 stretching workouts
  • Meditate 10 times.

4) Personal
  • Get together with a friend
  • Investigate offline/non time sensitive volunteer opportunities
  • Journal 10 times
  • Adapt a more positive mindset (judge less)
  • Listen more often vs talking
  • Stop/greatly reduce swearing
  • Read one non-fiction book
  • At the retreat I went to, we discussed "disruptive experiments", which are small (or large) things you can try to break habits that aren't working well for you. Here are the three I'm going to try in February.
    • Compliment M once/day
    • Go through my work calendar & aim for 10% of all of my time to be spent on the coaching & development of other people, or myself
    • When faced with a hard task at work, I sometimes procrastinate my surfing the internet. Instead, take a quick walk outside, or do quiet deep breathing. Refocus on the task at hand, and ask myself why I'm procrastinating. Often, the task is so much easier once you just dive in. 
That's it for me! What about you? What do you have planned for February? 

Sunday, February 2, 2020

January goals recap

January was both a very long month (so dreary) & also went by quickly (two work trips). Here's how I did with my goals for the month.

1) Financial:

  • Stick to the budget - we actually did well! We were under on all categories, and snuck in with an under grocery month, despite the extra shopping day. 
  • Achieve the first mortgage paydown milestone - Yes! We are still on track to have 1/2 of the mortgage paid off by the end of the year. 
  • Track all clothing purchases. Known need - bra. Yes, I only purchased the bras. 

2) Family:
  • Do one fun activity with the kids - we skied several days. 
  • Off the computer by 7:30 each evening - mostly did this. 
  • Have two dates with M per month - we had one
  • Schedule a call with M's family - not yet. 
  • Learn 20 words of Farsi - No, but I ordered a book with flashcards. 

3) Fitness/health

  • Lose 3 lbs - I lost 3.8 lbs!
  • Run 10 times, start half marathon training - I ran 6 times. 
  • Track calories, eat five servings of produce/day. Aim for 1400 calories/day. - I was at 1529/day. The food at the work retreat last week was amazing, so that definitely pushed me up. 
  • Complete 1000 minutes of cardio, 10 strength & 5 stretching workouts. (910, 6 & 4, respectively)
  • Meditate 10 times. - I meditated 7 times. 
4) Personal/creative
  • Do something social at least once/month - I spent a day at the retreat with my friend. 
  • Volunteer - No. I still need to think of how to work this into my schedule
  • Journal 10 times - 12 times. 
  • Adapt a more positive mindset (judge less) - I'm more aware of this, and cutting down the snark when I'm being more thoughtful. Other times, it comes out without conscious thought, so I need to keep working on this. 
  • Listen more often vs talking - I'm trying to be more aware of this as well. I'm making an effort, but this is a very ingrained habit. I've probably made a 1-2% improvement, even with being so aware of it. Definitely a good focus area for me for 2020. 
  • Stop/greatly reduce swearing - I did really well the first three weeks of the month, and slipped back into old habits towards the end of the month. I will continue working on this. 
  • Read one non-fiction book - I finished one non-fiction book on the flight from Tokyo. I'm about half way through another book. 

Altogether, I'm pretty pleased with the progress, considering I had two business trips in a month. Those months are typically a disaster. I made focusing on m goals something I did at home, and when traveling. What about you? How did you do with your goals?

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Frugal Friday (or, Saturday)

I was out of town at a work training, and ended it by extending a night at a spa/retreat. It was, by no stretch of any imagination, frugal, but it was incredible. It involved a big wellness focus, meditation, yoga, & quiet team. It was so incredible that I'm thinking of how to build it into our travel plans for the future. It was exactly what I needed.

Saving on things we buy

  • I called the DMV to request a refund on a double payment that somehow happened. It was no fun dealing with the DMV, but it's $457, so definitely worth the pain. 
  • I bought 2 lbs of taco seasoned ground turkey & 1 lb of ground sausage for $.99/lb. 

Earning money

  • I took all of our change to a Coinstar machine, and redeemed it for an Amazon credit. I don't know that's earning money, but I'll take it. We need a new toilet part. So glamorous. 

Avoiding spending

  • I spent 2.5 hours on the phone with TurboTax this morning to get a handle on a state re-file. There was a software error, so I was entitled to audit protection for 2018 federal taxes. I needed to talk to them to understand how to file an amendment to state taxes. It saved approximately $500 in penalties by proactively refiling. A TON of money has been spent correcting this error ($20k), but it was money we would have owed last year, had the software correctly calculated our mortgage deduction. So, while it stings, I'm glad to have it wrapped up. 

What about you? How did you save money this week? 

Monday, January 27, 2020

Menu Plan Monday

I won't be around for most of the week, but I'm still trying to plan the menu & keep the boys from eating out.

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

Friday - no one felt great (colds), so we had a grab bag of things from the freezer
Saturday - chicken stir fry
Sunday - egg roll in a bowl
Monday - soup & sandwiches
Tuesday - leftover stir fry
Wednesday - leftover egg roll in a bowl
Thursday - spaghetti & meatballs
Friday - TBD, as I fly back that evening. Likely frozen pizza

What about you? Anything interesting on your menu plan this week? I'm hoping to make a chicken, pesto, artichoke dish next weekend. It was recommended by my sister, and would also use up chicken & pesto lingering in the freezer.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Using things up & other Sunday activities

I accomplished everything on my to do list from yesterday, although admittedly, my back is still really uncomfortable. I'll have to come up with other options for reducing the discomfort.

M & I spent quite a bit of time working on our plan for our Whistler ski trip. The logistics of the trip are a bit more than I'd expected at the time of booking, so we are working through our options to reduce cost but ensure we don't add to much complexity. More to come on this.

The boys went to running club, and I went for a three mile run, so that was all good. Exercise & sunshine are the most effective ways to beat jet lag, so I'm trying to get back on schedule.

Nick made chicken stir fry (that, he wouldn't eat) yesterday, and it was pretty good. He's taking a cooking class at school, so he has tried out a bunch of recipes. We were impressed with the flavor. I think it's hilarious that he will cook things that he won't even try to eat. He's still reasonably picky about food options. Unfortunately, it didn't yield any leftovers.

A week or so ago, I made a list of things I wanted to use up from the pantry. We've made a bit of progress. Details below.

  • Sushi rice (Sam bought for a school cooking project, so this is the remainder) Used for chicken stir fry
  • Multiple packs of sardines. These are M's, and he bought them when he first started doing Keto, but hasn't eaten many. No one else will eat them for sure, so I need to gently motivate
  • Several packages of Liptons onion seasoning. My parents bought it when they were here. I don't have any recipes that use this, so will need to come up with something
  • A huge jar of tahini. I need to make hummus, but will need other ideas, because there's no way we will eat that much hummus
  • A few jars of homemade pesto. I have a chicken recipe that uses pesto, so just need to make it
  • Pine nuts. Not sure what I'll do with these
  • 1/2 a bag of frozen springrolls. No one really loved them, but they need to be eaten
  • So, so, so many bags of frozen bananas. I've encouraged M to buy fewer each week, but that has gone unheeded. 
  • Mini pizzas. I'll make these for the kids for an upcoming lunch or dinner. - the kids have eaten two, but more remain
  • Mini naan breads. These will go nicely with the hummus. 
  • A package of gnocchi (meal kit).
  • A package of salami & sopressata 
  • 1 package of chicken noodle soup - Used up for lunch on Friday. 
  • 1 box of tomato pepper soup - Used last weekend, when no one was feeling very good. 

I've encouraged M to start eating the sardines. Let's see if we make any progress on those. M stocked up on freezer items last weekend, so we are back to absolutely stuffed freezers. I need to try & work through the giant bags of bananas, in order to create more space. Maybe a loaf of banana chocolate chip bread for the kiddos today!

And with that, here's my to do list for today:

  • Take Nick to indoor soccer
  • Go for a run. It's raining, so this may happen at the gym
  • Call my mom to discuss Whistler
  • Call back the car rental company about a ski rack
  • Wash all the sheets/make the beds
  • Make egg roll in a bowl
  • Write up my weekly summary for fitness (calories, workouts, etc.) 
  • Pack for Arizona
  • Order an international sim card from work
  • Make chocolate chip banana bread
That should keep me busy enough. What about you? What are you hoping to accomplish today?

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Saturday updates

I fell asleep (with my clothes on) Friday night around 7 pm, and then couldn't fall asleep at all last night. Jet lag really interferes with my routine & habits, but I'm hanging in there & hoping it's a problem that's quickly resolved this week. 

I leave for another trip on Tuesday (I never do back to back trips, so this is unusual). This trip is in Arizona, and domestic trips are even more unusual for me. Additionally, it's a training class that involves breaks for physical activity & down time, so I'm hoping it's manageable to have the two back to back. It is hard with the kids & M, so I'll try to make sure there is plenty of family time this weekend & next.

I can't believe January is almost over! I have no work trips in February (we are going to Whistler over ski break), and then a trip to London in March. Beyond that, I'm hoping to also avoid travel in April, as my entire team is flying to me that month. 

We have started to get graduation information (8th grade graduation) for Sam, as well as high school registration details. M handled the task of standing in line to drop off all of our registration information last week. He described it as "long and painful", but given he rarely handles this type of kid stuff, I'm sure it was a bit overwhelming. Sam & I will head to a class registration night mid-February, and he will select his electives for his freshman year. Honestly, it is both overwhelming & I can't believe he's going to be starting his freshman year soon. Craziness.

We are also locking our summer travel plans, and trying to get things pinned down for the rest of the year. It's our 15th anniversary in October, so we are hoping to attach personal travel to one of my work trips to Europe. Normally, I'm all about getting the dates secured, but I'll need to wait to closer to the trip to know when I can plan dates for London. It will need to be a bit more ad hoc than I'd prefer. More to come on that.

So, what am I up to today? Here's what's on the schedule:
  1. Take the kids to running club & go for a run myself
  2. Foam roll my back. My back is aching from all of the travel. It hurts to lay down, so I need to get this sorted.
  3. Laundry. It just piles up in my absence
  4. Make a Costco list
  5. Vacuum
  6. Clean the bathrooms
  7. Clean the kitchen
  8. Make a packing list for Tuesday
  9. Defrost chicken for tonight's meal (Nick is making stir fry)
  10. Menu plan for the rest of the week
That should do it. What about you? What are you up to this weekend?

Friday, January 24, 2020

Frugal Friday

It was my 15th trip to Tokyo this week. I actually can't believe I've been there so many times. It was a productive trip, and the international flights went as smoothly as possible. Here are the frugal wins for the week.

Saving money on things we buy

  • I bought flights to pick up the kids from Disneyland this summer (my parents are taking them), & went through Rakuten -> Raise to buy discounted Southwest gift cards. It was save me about $10 off the purchase price
  • Emailed customer service about a $2 reward that was used towards a freebie. The rewards program on the earning side is good at our local store, but their technical redemption side is terrible. I'd say I email about 2/3 of the time. They are always very friendly & resolve it quickly, but... also, the in store people can't help. Has to be an email to their IT team. 
  • I flew a partner airline from my preferred domestic airline, in an attempt to earn status this year. Having status means I accrue more miles, but also reduces costs if you need to change or cancel a flight.
  • I always make sure I stay at a hotel where I accrue points, which eventually saves us money when we redeem for free travel.

Earning money

  • I had a last minute ask for a friend of a friend to use our vacation house. We don't charge much, but no one was going to be there (unusual), so we were able to rent it out, making $150. It's more like $130 or so net utilities. 
  • I paid for the work hotel expense on my credit card, and will be reimbursed by work. I earn 3% in cash back from my credit card.

Avoiding spending:

  • I left the boys a gift card to a salad place, and ensured we had plenty of quick meal options for the week, which means no (additional) money was spent on dining out.

That's it from my side. How about you? What did you do to save money this week?