Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A financial evaluation of moving

As you've probably read from my previous couple of posts on this topic, we are trying to decide if we will move back to Seattle at the end of the school year, or stay in California. There are a variety of factors to understand, but I'm going to evaluate only the financial ones in this post, as they are the most clear & measurable.

If we move back to our house in Seattle, what changes financially? To build any sort of a model, I've made assumptions. I've tried to call them out, but it's not a perfect science - more of an approximate.

Total Budget Numbers:

If we stay in California (assuming we keep our housing price fixed at $5200/month, which, is super conservative & assumes we don't buy & continue to find places to rent) - monthly budget = $14,750. Our monthly budget includes all of our standard fixed monthly expenses + amortized yearly expenses like summer camps, gifts, travel, etc.

If we move back to Seattle, and use our currently earmarked "California house down payment fund" to pay off our HELOC (because, we don't need to buy another primary residence) - monthly budget =$8,820.  

What's driving the $5,930 difference between the two budgets?

  • Paying off our HELOC on our Seattle house frees up $1,000/month
  • Our primary residence expense reduced from $5,200/month (CA rent) to $3,000/month frees up $2,200/month. 
  • We stop paying for expenses on our Seattle house (now categorized as "primary residence expense"), as this is the gap not made up for by our current renters. This frees up $1,000/month. 
  • Because we will no longer need such a significant salary for me to save for a down payment aggressively, I plan to find a job where I can work around school hours. This saves $1,100/month in childcare, but does still include summer camps. 
  • It also includes a laundry list of other small savings, like less travel (closer to family), less frequent house cleaning (I'm assumed to be working a more flexible job), 

The numbers don't completely add up, because some things are more expensive in Seattle: gas (we drive more, to see my parents, visit our vacation house, ski, etc) 

You'll notice that I've only tried to estimate the cost/expense side here, and I've made no assumptions about income. That's because there are too many moving parts around the earning side. 1) we won't be paying state taxes 2) I won't be earning at the same level, which should reduce our federal taxes, and 3) we don't know how much M will be making until he actively starts searching for other jobs. 

The income side is definitely less predictable, but what we do know is that moving to Seattle reduces our required monthly income by a giant margin - nearly $6000. This provides a lot of options & flexibility for my work, schedule & our family life. If we chose to, we could also use the rest of our "California down payment savings" and either completely pay off our vacation house, or greatly reduce the mortgage principal. I think we'd lean more toward buying an investment/rental house, though with the cash flow. 

As you can see, there is a very compelling financial decision to be made for moving. The rest of the picture, of course, is that M & I both have stock through our employers that vest every month. Because of that, leaving at any time means we void all future vests, which is a staggering sum of money.

For me, money is a means to an end that will allow us more flexibility & a better lifestyle. I'm hoping that we can utilize the time we've spent in California renting & turn that saved down payment money into an opportunity for us to need less monthly income. I'm very excited about the possibilities, but again, there is more to this conversation than just money. More to come on how we're thinking about all of this!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Between a rock & a hard place

I'm so glad that M & I started talking more about our future plans, and seriously exploring the option of moving to Seattle. It's been a very complex discussion that's spanned *lots* of conversations. And, we are definitely not yet at a decision. It has, however, brought us closer & raised the fact that we rarely make time for these deeper conversations, and talk instead about transportation for the kids, and meals, and errands/chores. We need to make more time for the bigger conversations, and it's now a priority for us. It's important for our relationship, but it's also important to make sure we're not just cruising along on autopilot, but checking in on critical paths (work, family, location, kids - and, the serious topics of parenting, etc.)

So, what have we netted out with so far? Well, I've had a lot of time to think about the topic for myself, & I very much want to move back to Seattle. It was more of an idea when this first started, but things have come together in my mind & now there's very little question on where I stand on the issue. Here's the list of pros & cons that I've thought of so far (and, not in a prioritized format, but I do actually have a decision matrix with weighting attached. ;-))


  1. Close to family. My parents live a couple of hours away, and my sister lives about three hours away. My mom is also now retired, and has a much more flexible schedule for helping out. Not on the spur of the moment (no one is going to be showing up for dinner unexpectedly), but with planned time, for sure. M & I rarely get time away for a long weekend, and we really, really need more of this. 
  2. Cost of living, generally. This one is more nuanced, because you may argue that salaries are also lower, but in our experience, we had more disposable income in Seattle. Significantly more. 
  3. No state tax. Given our income levels, this is a big pro. 
  4. We are familiar with the area. M & I lived there around 15 years each, and the kids lived there for the first 5-6 years. 
  5. We have a house. It's 40% (from our original purchase price) paid for. It's now worth more, of course, but just looking at the mortgage. Context - we bought for $1M, it's worth about $1.5M. Staying in our school district in California will require us to buy a house at $2.5M or higher. There is nothing on the market below that price point. 
  6. We have friends & a network in the area.
  7. The job market, while not Silicon Valley, is good. 
  8. Close to our vacation house (3-4 hours), making it a place we can go for long weekends again.
  9. A less "intense" place - from the traffic, to the schools, to the general pressure of living in general. I find that I'm anxious often, and where we live now is a very "high stress" place. High stress jobs are the rule, rather than the exception. I find that parents are also very intense with their kids - in schools & sports. I believe in pushing your kids, but in moderation, and childhood is part fun & part work. I'm a bit in the minority here.


  1. The weather. Not going to lie, it will be a big adjustment for us. The boys are outside every day, for long periods of time. Also, my lupus has been in a great place since we moved. I think the weather has contributed (as well as other lifestyle changes I've made).
  2. Our house in Seattle is near a freeway. They did a bunch of work to make the sound better, but I haven't been inside of it & would need to vet this out. Sleep is a critical part of keeping my illness in check.
  3. By far the biggest one, hands down. M loves his job. We both have jobs that have vested stock, and for every year we stay, it gets harder to leave. But, money aside, he truly loves it & feels like it's his dream job. And, he's not ready to walk away from that job.

Where does this leave us? Still in conversation, as #3 on the cons is a huge factor for M. When it comes to timing, I think summer of 2017 is the perfect time for us to move. Our lease is up at our existing rental, our tenants lease is also up, and Sam is starting middle school. Sam is our child who will need more adjustment & time to make new friends. Nick will be going into 5th grade, and I think will do well making new friends. I worry that each year we wait will make it harder for Sam.

I can't work at my job much longer, so regardless of where we net at, I need an exit strategy. It's very challenging, because if I quit while we still live in California, it makes it that much harder for us to have stability with housing, etc & we really can't afford just to live on M's salary, unless it was for a short period of time. If we move to Seattle, we need significantly less money to make our budget work. (More on that in a separate post). 

That's the current update, but another post on the differences in our budget coming up shortly. Have you ever moved? How did you & your family approach the decision?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Weekly spending report (8/22-8/28)

It was a pretty typical week this week. Nothing super unusual, other than making a few purchases/withdrawals in advance of my big adventure relay next week. When you are planning to buy multiple meals at roadside stops, you need cash! :-) Here's what we spent:

Monday - no spend day
Tuesday - no spend day 
Wednesday - no spend day 
Thursday - 

  • $93.84 - bean bag for Nick's room, via Amazon
  • $1.59 - water bottle for Nick's soccer practice. He's usually really good about it, but forgot is water bottle. He's the one who gets migraines if he's dehydrated, so I sucked it up & bought one. 


  • $19 - soccer socks for the boys. More socks. These are the easier to put on kind, and hopefully will last, but with 10ish soccer events per week between the two of them. . . 
  • $140 - registered all four of us for the local school 5K. All of the entry fee goes to the boys elementary school.
  • $200 - cash for my adventure relay. Food, my portion of gas, etc. 
  • $23.25 - gift card for a birthday party + a card for my dad. I usually make all of our cards, but I was in charge of supplying a shared card for others this time. I splurged. ;-)
  • $21.93 - Trader Joes. Stocked up on a few items for "Asian dinner night". I'm hoping it will make at least 2-3 dinners + some thermos lunch options for the kids. 
  • $10.25 at the produce stand. This included - wheat lavosh bread, mini cucumber, radishes, and two giant heads of romaine lettuce. The lettuce is so big it typically lasts for a week's worth of salads

Saturday - 

  • $16.50 - a pair of jeans for Sam. He currently owns zero pair of pants. Growing too quickly!
  • $58.56 - a set of steak knives + car wash towels
  • $21.74 - BevMo. Not sure what was included, but triple sec?
  • $55.98 - Grand Marnier & vodka at Costco. It's cheaper than going out for cocktails, but you have to replenish the supply!
  • $121.27 - Costco for standard groceries
  • $28.26 - gas
  • $25 - Starbucks. I forgot to turn off the "auto reload" setting. (There was an offer a month or so ago to get a $10 gift card if you turned this on.) It's not a big deal, as I normally buy breakfast for everyone on Friday am before we leave for our relay, so this should work out okay.

Sunday - no spend day

Yikes! A total spend of $837.17. It really adds up quickly. And, this is why I do this exercise, because it's a constant reminder to stay on top of our spending. How about you? Did you track your spending for the week? How did you do? 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A short week ahead & progress

Well, not really, because weeks are always technically the same length, but I'm flying out on Thursday to Portland. From there, I'll be meeting my family & BFF for our adventure relay. Can't wait! It's most definitely always an adventure. Last year was insane wind & rain. This year, it's supposed to be 95. Yikes.

I'm spending today trying to get everything sorted for next week, including the nanny & carpool schedule, my work schedule, packing & some meal prep for the week ahead. Oh, & washing all of the sheets. Not my favorite task. ;-) So far today, I've picked up Sam from a sleepover, taken him + a carpooler to a soccer game. Watched/cheered at said game, scrambled everyone home for a quick lunch, and convinced M to handle game #2. I'm no fool!

After reading a great post by The Frugalwoods on their definition of frugality, I started to think about some of the changes I've made in our lives since I started this blog. And, whoa, have there been a lot. Although we are, by no stretch of the imagination, living a life of frugality, we are definitely more conscious spenders. Significantly more conscious.

I've changed the way I approach shopping for myself, the kids & our house. Hint, when you have to pack everything you own, it's a quick way to declutter & remind yourself that you don't NEED 1/2 of what you have. ;-)

Despite the boys doubling in size, age & metabolisms, I've kept our grocery budget pretty much the same. I've cut way, way back on eating out, and it's pretty much the exception, rather than the rule. Not counting when I travel, but M can only handle so much on those long trips.

I've stopped rewarding myself with "things". I do spend a signficant portion of our budget on traveling - to see family, and for our vacation house. And I'm comfortable with those tradeoffs.

I rarely spend on myself (haircuts, colors, pedicures, massages). And, I do miss the feel good of a massage for sure, but the rest? Don't really miss it.

We cut back on gifts, for ourselves & others. We choose to spend time together vs things, and don't miss it at all either.

I make almost all of our snacks. It's become our smallest grocery category. It's healthier, I like to bake, and it saves money!

Every time I purchase something, I ask myself if we need it, and I want to pack it in the next move. The answer is almost always no. ;-)

I stopped buying things just because they were on sale. Because, I eventually figured out that I needed a special shampoo (dry scalp due to the lupus) & I literally had 15 bottles of other shampoo lingering in the cupboard. Not to mention 30 bars of soap, which I will likely . . . you guessed it . .. have to move again. Keeping a spare of one thing in the cupboard? Totally fine. Overbuying because it's a "good deal"? No more.

We've saved, saved, saved. Seriously, the most ever. We've cut out on many previous activities, and while we've kept some, I am enjoying the relaxation on weekends. There is already soccer, homework, playdates & sleepovers. I find that to be exhausting & don't need more in my life.

I've been reading the early days of my blog, and I can't believe how much we've grown (financially, and in the case of the boys - literally) since 2011. So happy I have this journal to keep track of our progress.

What about you? What has been the biggest change since you've been blogging or reading frugal blogs? And. . . the kiddos are back. Time to tackle some stinky soccer laundry! 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Soccer, & a menu plan

Our week has been dominated by soccer practice, and the weekend with scrimmages. Ahhh, the beginnings of fall. :-)

I got quite a bit done today, but as usual, not everything:

  1. Yoga
  2. 4 mile workout
  3. Call my dad about gravel delivery at our vacation house
  4. Make banana muffins
  5. Take Nick to soccer
  6. Make a menu plan
  7. Make a Costco list
  8. Go to Costco
  9. Use up at least one pantry item
  10. Sort out our nanny days off (her sister is getting married)
  11. Arrange some details for our relay next weekend
  12. Card/gift for birthday party
  13. Card for my dad's birthday
  14. Water plants
  15. Take Sam to a birthday party/sleepover. 

So happy I opted for yoga, as my back feels *much* better. I also made Nutella brownies (pantry use up challenge - two giant tubs of Nutella) & they are amazing. Highly recommend.

Saturday - steak salad (finally using the lonely steak from the freezer!) with caprese on the side
Sunday - beef kebabs & rice
Monday - "Asian night" - per my son's request. Basically like Chinese takeout, but mostly from Trader Joe's. :-)
Tuesday - Tacos
Wednesday - tortellini salad with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes & grilled chicken
Thursday - I'll be out of town. Assuming M & the kids will go out
Friday - I'll be out of town. Pizza or something from the freezer
Saturday - ditto.

And, there you have it! Happy Saturday!! What is the one item you have in your pantry that you'd like to use up? And, what are your plans to use it?? :-)

Friday, August 19, 2016

Frugal Friday

Well, it's unintentionally been a more frugal week than expected, & it's also been a super crazy week filled with lots of late night meetings, soccer practice, & the first week of school. I'm so very happy it's Friday.

A few frugal things:

  1. Utilized leftovers (planned overs?) in all meals this week, and got very creative for dinner last night.
  2. Provided feedback about a damaged box (product was still intact, but spilled out) to Amazon & received a credit of $.98. Not much to write home about, but I'll take it. ;-)
  3. Used the boys new thermoses to pack hot lunches, vs buying a $3 (x2) school lunch. The thermoses will have paid for themselves by next week.
  4. Saved a bunch of elderly fruit for smoothies. Smoothies were the snack of choice before sports practice this week. I had 1/2 a scoop of protein powder (smoothie is split between 2 kids) to give them a little more nutrition.
  5. And, had planned to work from home most of the week in the late afternoon to help train our new nanny. Due to her schedule conflicts & being ill, she was only able to come over on Monday & Tuesday. Savings of $160, but I'm a little worried about the lack of predictability. It worked okay this week, as I had planned on being at home, but it can't be a regular occurrence.
And with that, here's what I'd like to accomplish today:

  • Yoga
  • 3 mile walk
  • Laundry
  • Go through my workout clothes & short sleeves shirts & declutter.
  • Dinner. Planning for grilled burgers (freezer) & a peach/mozzarella/basil salad on the side.
  • Take boys to soccer practice
  • Get cash for next weekend
  • Return library books
  • Buy a birthday gift for a party tomorrow
  • Wrap up a couple of work projects
  • Go to the produce stand
If I get all of that done, I'll be thrilled! What about you? Any frugal wins this week? 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Weekly Budget Recap (8/8-8/14/16)

This was a pretty unusual week for us - we dropped the boys off at camp last Sunday & it was just the adults for the rest of the week. As a result, you'll see we skipped grocery shopping last weekend, & picked up our supplies on Thursday. And, also lots of meals out. :-)

  • Monday 
    • $124 - to the DMV for car tags
    • $2.43 to Costco, using a $15 off promo code for a giant pack of toilet paper. ;-)
  • Tuesday  
    • $37.52 - dinner at a Greek restaurant. We went with two appetizers & no drinks.
  • Wednesday 
    • $37.58 - happy hour at a Vietnamese restaurant, included a beer for M & a cocktail for me. 
  • Thursday 
    • $62.20 - dinner at one of our favorite places. This was without wine (we brought our own
    • $125.00 - stocking up on groceries at Costco
    • $35.67 - gas
  • Friday - 
    • $9.58 - forgot to bring water for the kids when I picked them up at camp. Nick gets migraines when he gets dehydrated. Stopped at a convenience store, & they had a $10 minimum for credit & debit cards. The lady let me by with $9.58. We were in the middle of the wilderness, so shopping for an alternative wasn't an option. This is what happens when you don't plan ahead! ;-)
  • Saturday - 
    • $91.45 - Ikea for a rug for Nick's room, plus 6 new placemats (our current mats are bamboo & are hard to clean). We opted instead for 2 easy wipe kind for kid meals, and 4 washable cloth ones for family meals. Plus, two soap dispensers, and the rug. 
  • Sunday - 
    • $12.60 to pay off a lunch card fine & put $10 on Sam's lunch card
    • $16.24 - groceries at Amazon Fresh (delivery service.) I had a $25 offer, and if you spent $40, delivery was free. So, this was as close as I could come. I got: nitrate free/uncured bacon, 2 bags of edamame, squeezable Greek yogurt for kids lunches, fresh fruit popsicles to celebrate the end of summer, english muffins, 3 avocados, 6 giant Roma tomatoes, and 8 bags of frozen fruit. All for $16. I'll take it! What a deal. 
Total spent = $554.27. What about you? How did your weekly spending go?