Thursday, December 8, 2016

Christmas spending details

I always find it fascinating to hear about how others spend their Christmas budget (the nitty gritty details!), so I thought I'd share my budget, as well as the gifts we've purchased. I'm mostly done for the year, so this represents 95% of our Christmas plans.

Our overall Christmas budget for the year is $2,380. This may seem insanely high (it is!), but there's a lot included here:


  • $605 - Christmas gifts. We buy for a very limited number of adults, so this also includes our giving tree gifts, as well as Christmas cards.
  • $100 - Our contribution for the holiday festivities. We fly, so I am not able to bring food & wine, as I normally would contribute. Instead, I give my mom money to offset her costs. 
  • $25 - a nanny bonus. We've really struggled with our nanny this year. In previous years, we've gone to $500, so this is very reflective of our satisfaction with our nanny. :-(. I may go higher, should things improve. 
  • $150 - a car rental while we're at my parents house, but mostly for our trip to our vacation house while we're there. 
  • $200 - beach house expenses. There are always expenses associated with a trip to the vacation house. Pantry stock up, toilet paper, etc. 
  • $1300 - flights for four from San Francisco to Portland. 

The above was our initial budget. In the end, there are always tweaks based on how much I really spend, etc. We ended up using frequent flier miles for the flights, and paying just $44.80 for the taxes, for the tickets. The car rental, on the other hand, was over $100 more than expected. Lesson learned! 

Now that I'm mostly done with my shopping & preparations, I'm expecting to spend around $1350-$1400. The reason for this was the flights, of course, which absorbed some other areas of overage. I was able to donate more to various charities (food pantry, toy drive, etc) as well as pick up additional gifts for my disabled aunt. I purchased a few extra gift cards that my mom will hand out throughout the year. (Giving them to her all at once isn't a good option). 

So, what kind of gifts do we give for that budget? Well, let me break it down into a bit more specificity. Some of the non immediate family gifts are shared with my sister, so if the dollar values look strange, that is likely why. 

  • For my husband - this year, we agreed not to buy gifts. I did buy him $20 worth of local jam. He loves jam on his bread in the morning, and I'm not diligent enough to make my own. ;-) 
  • For my older nephew - I bought him a wifi booster, so he can do homework in his room with. I also got him a gift card. Total spent = $47.
  • For my younger nephew - I got him a gift card & a lego set. Total spent = $40.
  • For my aunt - I spent the most on her this year, as she is really struggling, and has very  little support system outside of my family. I got her $100 of gift cards, plus socks & a new mixer. Total spent = $132.
  • For Sam - he got an iPod (no gaming/texting, just the ability to listen to music), and a gift card for a trip to the movies. (A rare treat at our house). Total spent = $115. 
  • For Nick - he got a suitcase (his choice :-)), and a movies gift card. Total spent = $115.
  • For my dad - this is rare, we don't typically purchase for parents, but my sister found a great gift & asked if I would be interested in going in with her. It's a beer growler/chiller of some sort. Total spent = $25.
  • For my step grandfather - again, we normally don't buy for adults, but he is all alone in the world & now that my grandmother is gone, won't have anyone to purchase gifts for him. We bought him ingredients to make his favorite martini & a deck of cards. Total spent = $17.
  • For the daughters of my best friend - I got them scarves & gloves. I may add in a small gift card for each of them. Total spent = $32 (together)
  • Stocking gifts - The four kids in our family (my two + my sister's two) get stockings. Each family (my family, my sister's family & my parents) contribute two stocking items for each child. We try to keep the dollar value low, while still getting things people want. This is getting more challenging as the boys get older, so we may abandon this next year & opt for something else. For this year, I ended up with books, "tall socks - the cool Nike kind", and gift cards. Total spent = $76. 
That's it for us! As per our usual policy for the holiday, any money leftover in our holiday fund at the end of the year will be donated to a food pantry. It's a big incentive for me to save money! This year, i was also able to apply a few random gift cards & Amazon credits to my purchases, as well as find discounted gift cards, etc. Every dollar helps. What about you? I'd love to hear about your budget, as well as what kind of gifts you typically purchase. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

2016 Goal Check

It's almost the end of the year (23 days to achieve any goals you created for the year)! I thought it would be good to check in & see if there are any easy to wins to be had, or things I want to push myself hard to accomplish before the end of the year.

Here's how I'm doing do far, in this home stretch of the year. As a reminder, I obviously decided to delay my "leave work" plan, and am now working on several exit dates in 2017. This plan changed as we were working through options to move back to Washington, and I wanted as much flexibility as possible.

1) Financial - Save $160,000 for my "leaving work" nest egg ($100K to offset expenses, $45K for taxes, $15K for travel) - Yes!!! I'm currently at $217K. We are also relatively committed (M still has to find a job back in Seattle, come spring) to relocating back to Seattle. The timeline is a bit TBD, but the plan is coming together. We only had one budget for the year, but we are working on a similar strategy for 2017. 
  • Decide what to do with our Seattle house
  • Build/follow a 2016 "interim budget" (until I leave my job)
  • Build/follow a 2016 "post-job budget"


2) Family - Spend more time together as a family! - I think we've done a much better job on this. Not perfect, of course, but more quality time together. M & I have done one date night per month, but alas, not two. Lunches are harder. I'd say we've probably done 5 lunches together this year. 
  • Do a minimum of one fun activity/month with the kids
  • Be more present with the kids & M - play games, minimize computer time, exercise together, etc. 
  • Have two dates with M per month (one lunch, one evening) 


    3) Fitness/health - Lose 20 pounds, bringing my weight to 133. Yes, I've gained weight since last year. Stress, eating poorly & no exercise will do that to you. - You knew there was a big fail coming up, and this is it! :-) I'm currently at 153, so exactly where I started the year. I ran a 5K, have tracked my food & exercise, and I'm actually on track to do the 10,000 minutes of cardio (assuming I have a strong December). So, progress was made, but as I get older, I need to continue to ratchet my calories down, and increase my fitness. 
    • Run a 5K, 10K, 15K, & a half marathon, as a 40th birthday gift to myself. Not all in the same day. ;-) 
    • Track my food/exercise every day.
    • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day
    • Complete 10,000 minutes of cardio
    • Complete 100 strength workouts.
    • Complete 75 stretching workouts. 


    4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance. - Although I didn't leave my job, I've done a much better job at stress management (particularly over the last quarter), and have a revised plan for leaving work. 
    • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress (until I leave)
    • Leave my job in June.
    • Take the summer off
    • Find a new, flexible job in the fall.



      5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits. - I will end the year with close to 12 social events with friends (I think I missed one month), I definitely read more than 50 books, and I *started* (emphasis on started) to learn a new skill. I took a meditation class through work & found it fascinating. I haven't done a great job of making it a regular part of my routine, but I'd like to continue practicing. 
      • Learn a new skill. I'm thinking of learning a new language, but would be fine with anything: sewing, knitting, expanding my baking, etc.
      • Make time for my friends. Do something social at least once per month.
      • Read 50 books. 

      So, there you have it. A mix of wins, a big failure, and a modest improvement. You can see the biggest area of focus for 2017, in addition to our life adjustments (work, location, etc). How about you? Any goals you have in sight for the end of the year? 

      Tuesday, December 6, 2016

      2017 budget planning

      I'm working on our 2017 budget planning, and right now, it looks like I'll be creating two separate budgets. One for when I'm working, and the second for when I'm not working (at least in my current job).

      I'm in good shape with my "working" budget. I have a few areas where I want to continue to cut back. They are as follows:

      • Reduce our cleaning service to 1x/month, saving $125/month. 
      • Reduce our monthly childcare costs to $1,000/month, saving $100/month.
      • Reduce our toiletries budget (temporarily) to $0. I have almost $100 in plenti points, which should cover us for 6 months. That's my goal, at least. ;-) That will save $10/month
      • Reduce our entertainment budget to $20/month, saving us $5/month. Yes, the lavish entertainers that we clearly are! 

      This reduces our monthly budget by $240/month. Not a lot, but something to push us in the right direction. I also plan to acknowledge that our grocery budget is just not working at $550/month, and I'm going to set it at $625/month.

      Net/net, that should bring down our monthly budget by $165. I'm also working to cut back on our yearly budget categories (these are irregular expenses, such as travel, boys activities, etc).

      What about you? How are you doing with your 2017 budget planning? A big changes ahead for you & your family?

      Monday, December 5, 2016

      Weekly spending roundup (11/28-12/4/16)

      Lots of spending in anticipation of the holidays, and the beginning of the week covered part of our vacation. Spendy, spendy! I stocked up on gift cards that came with store rewards as well.

      Here goes!


      • Monday (11/28)
        • $20.20 - gas at Costco
        • $5.47 - gelato
        • 10.10 - shave ice (people preferred different snacks) :-)
        • $34.72 - two yoga classes (including tip & tax)
        • $150.67 - food/drinks at the hotel for the vacation
      • Tuesday (11/29)
        • $20.82 - chocolates to take back from Costco
        • $19.50 - food on plane
        • $20 - entertainment devices (movies, etc) on plane
        • $25 - mini golf for the boys before we headed to the airport
        • $41.62 - the boys wanted to spend their souvenir money on Adidas hoodies
        • $25.52 - picked up a new money clip for M that he's been looking for. His previous one went through the wash
        • $65.22 - Uber home from airport
      • Wednesday (11/30)
        • $7.29 - produce stand
        • $50 - gift cards at Rite Aid for Subway. These will be used for dining out, & generated rewards for future spending.
        • $74.95 - groceries at Costco
        • $38.02 - Christmas gifts to donate to the boys toy drive at school
        • $100 - gift cards for Christmas (rewards)
        • $200 - gift cards for future travel (generated rewards)
      • Thursday (12/1) - No spend day!
      • Friday (12/2) - No spend day!
      • Saturday (12/3)
        • $22.08 - birthday gift for my BFF. 
        • $149 - DMV renewal for one car
        • $4.25 - produce stand for tomatoes & mini cucumbers
        • $2.10 - candy for our advent house
        • $115.59 - another trip to Costco. This was mostly meat for the freezer
        • $36.29 - Christmas lights
        • $23.03 - more Christmas lights. I accidentally drove over some of the strands M was laying out to detangle. Oops. :-(
        • $20 - homemade jam from a neighbor. She makes the jam from local ingredients (mostly yards in our neighborhood), sells it & donates all of the money to a charity. She's awesome. M loves her jam, but it's pricey. This is his Christmas gift this year. :-)
        • $40 - birthday gift for nephew
        • $86 - Christmas gifts
      • Sunday (12/4)
        • $50 - gift cards for birthdays
        • $200 - travel gift cards
        • $215 - the boys have been earning money all year - allowances + rewards for grades + bonus chores. This will now be used by them to buy Christmas presents, donate to their school fund raiser, and save for college.
        • $27 - Target gift cards (they were 10% off yesterday) for Christmas
        • $54 - Target gift cards for future kid birthday presents
        • $8.49 - grapes, at Costco. 
      Total spent for the week = $1967.50. Lots of holiday shopping in there, as well as prepurchasing for things we will use later, due to gift card rewards. What about you? How is your weekly spending going? Any big wins? 

      Sunday, December 4, 2016

      November goals in review

      First up, the boys won yesterday (it's Sam's team, and Nick is playing up a division & helping them, as they are short players). This is great news, except it means another weekend of soccer. ;-) Next weekend will be the finals. . . Same location - 90 minutes from our house. Oh.my. I cheered like a good mom, but deep down. . . I was kind of hoping next weekend would not involve State Cup. C'est la vie. Way to go, boys!

      Here's how I did with my November goals.

      Finances:

      • Stick to our budget (including Hawaii trip budget) - Yes!
      • Put $100/each in the boys college funds - Yes!

      Family:
      • Have one date night with M (may be a date lunch in Hawaii) - Yes, we went for a drink/dessert in the evening in Hawaii.
      • Donate, sell or toss 50 items in the house. - eh,  I did get rid of stuff in my constant house cleaning mode, but I know I didn't get to 50, and I sold nothing. Plans for this month, though!
      • Try a new recipe that everyone (including my little guy) will eat. - I feel like I did this, but can't recall. I know I brought back a fiesta casserole that I haven't made for a few years, but don't feel like there were any big new hits. 
      • Get our plans sorted out for our Hawaii trip. - done!
      • Get the kids sorted with ski gear, so we can plan our holiday ski trips - done, except for goggles. I did find a ski jacket for Nick at Costco, so that's a win. 


      Fitness:
      • Drop into the 140s before my Hawaii trip - ha, no. 
      • Eat 5 servings of fruits & vegetables - I finished with 3.4, so progress, but I need to push this in December! 
      • Complete 5 stretching workouts (yoga or pilates) - Yes! 5 exactly :-) 
      • Complete 7 strength workouts - I had 11 strength workouts, so I crushed this one!
      • Complete 900 minutes of cardio. - Yikes, no. November was my second lowest cardio month of the year, clocking only 520 minutes. 
      • Average 1350 calories/day - I averaged 1587. Probably why I wasn't able to lose weight. ;-) 
      • Average 10,000 steps/day - I got in lots of steps in Hawaii, and was pretty close to the average - 9,670/day. 

      Work/Career:
      • Maximum of one late night/week - yes!
      • Work from home at least one Friday this month - yes!

      Personal/Creative:
      • Read four books - at least double this
      • Get together with one friend - no, & I miss this. I did call friends (twice, and phone calls are unusual. We normally text or email). 
      • Plan my next girls trip - no, we need to sort this out. 
      • Donate all fruit before it goes bad (from our trees in our yard) - yes, although someone stole our avocados. I'm shocked. We had about 15 on the tree before we left for Hawaii. Now every last one is gone, and their are a bunch of work shoe/boot prints under the trees. I'd blame the squirrels, but they leave a mess (discard avocadoes, nibbles on the tree, etc). I'm not thrilled. Second time this has happened. I'm assuming it's our yard service. Or, technically our land lord's yard service. I hope it's them, because otherwise someone has been in our fenced back yard, which is a much worse scenario. 
      • Do some personal baking - I made muffins before our Hawaii trip.
      • Find a way to volunteer! - well, no. I did manage a bunch of stuff on Friday, but it doesn't count for November! I did greatly increase my charitable contributions, as it was a fundraising month for the school, and my employer was matching gifts. 

      As you can see, it was a bit of a mixed month. That's it from my side. What about you? How was your November? Any big wins? Has anyone ever stolen something from your yard??

      Saturday, December 3, 2016

      December goals

      I really can't believe we're in the final month of the year! I love December. Actually, wait. Let me rephrase that. . . the first three weeks of the month are insane at work, so I love that last week when I can relax a bit more. We'll see if that's possible this month. I'm on call for the entire month - weekends, evenings, holidays, etc. Fingers crossed that it's nice & slow this December. ;-)

      Here are my goals for the month:

      Finances:

      • Stick to our budget (including our Christmas & December trip to OR/WA budget)
      • Put $200/each in the boys college funds

      Family:
      • Have one date night with M
      • Donate, sell or toss 50 items in the house.
      • Try a new recipe that everyone (including my little guy) will eat. 
      • Get our plans sorted out for our December trip
      • Find ski goggles for the kids, so we can ski in January


      Fitness:
      • Hit 150 & stay there through the end of the month
      • Eat 5 servings of fruits & vegetables 
      • Complete 5 stretching workouts (yoga or pilates)
      • Complete 7 strength workouts
      • Complete 900 minutes of cardio. 
      • Average 1450 calories/day
      • Average 10,000 steps/day

      Work/Career:
      • Maximum of one late night/week
      • Work from home at least one Friday this month
      • Stay calm & manage my stress well

      Personal/Creative:
      • Read four books
      • Get together with one friend
      • Take the boys to see Christmas lights
      • Make cardamom bread for the holidays
      • Find a way to volunteer!

      The boys have already left for their soccer tournament (on the road at 5:30 am. .. *shivers*), so I'm going to work out, clean the house, & get all of the Christmas decorations ready to go for this afternoon. I hope you all have a fabulous Saturday!! What's on your December goal list?

      Friday, December 2, 2016

      A few frugal things

      We were on vacation for part of the week, but here's our frugal roundup.


      • We cooked in our hotel room (and at home) for the majority of the week
      • M & I skipped mini golfing in Hawaii & instead took lots of pictures & enjoyed watching the kids golf.
      • We stuck to our budget in Hawaii (see previous post)
      • I cancelled our cleaning service, as we'd been out of town for a week, saving $125
      • We didn't use our nanny during our time off, saving over $200
      • We stuck (mostly) to our grocery list when we were back in town. I say mostly, because we bought two unplanned toys for the kids school toy drive (happy to contribute), & Sam talked me into buying his favorite taquitos, which were on sale at Costco last week. ;-)
      • We took advantage of a $20 Uber discount for our return trip (Oakland to our house, at the lovely 1 am)
      • I used a $20 Nordstrom note to buy a gift for a friend, and a Gap gift card (bought at a discount) to buy 2 Christmas gifts, as well as our white elephant (we're doing a stocking exchange this year for the adults)
      And, that's it for us! What about you? Any frugal wins for the week?

      Wednesday, November 30, 2016

      How to keep your vacation under budget

      We are back from an absolutely fabulous family vacation. The flight home last night was a little rough, as expected. We got into Oakland just after midnight, had to pick up our bags, and then take an Uber home. One kid made it to school on time, and the other was about 45 minutes late. Altogether, not too bad. I'm very happy that I changed the flights to come back a day earlier. Not only did it save $600 (not the ultimate goal), but it also gives me a chance to recover today & get everything sorted out - laundry, unpack, get groceries, etc.

      So, did we come in under budget? Yes, we did! We were over in some categories, but under in others.

      Here are my general tips, and then I'll share specific numbers:


      • Utilize travel points/credits/rewards for the hotel. This was the major savings for us. We've previously used an Starwood Amex for the majority of our spending. Two years worth of spending on the credit card (and, paying off each month, no interest charges) yielded five free nights in the particular hotel we wanted. We booked this 9 months in advance, as Thanksgiving is the peak season for this area. This saved approximately $3500-$4000. We didn't have enough points for the first night, so we paid out of pocket. 
      • Utilize travel points/credits/rewards for the airfare. Similar to the above, we tried to use mileage to book our airfare. However, that wasn't an option, even with 9 months of advanced planning. We instead used a companion fare (book one fare at full price, $99 for the second) that we had through our credit card. We also used my first class upgrade vouchers (status matching from business travel) for the flight there. This yielded us with free food, drinks & entertainment units on the flight to Hawaii, and was obviously a super comfortable experience. The companion fare saved $450.
      • Maximize your hotel and/or airline status, if you have it. Free bags are a good option to explore with airlines, as it allows you to bring more from home without a fee. In our case, the hotel status was limited, as the hotel we were at is a vacation ownership property. However, we did get a free continental breakfast for two every day. It was pretty small, but we used the yogurt & cereal for snacking & the bagels for sandwiches, etc. 
      • Plan a budget in advance! This is always a huge help. It gives us a good idea of how much to save, and what we can spend when we arrive.
      • Figure out transportation to & from the airport. We've previously parked at the airport, but given the length of stay, and the pricing on Ubers, it was cheaper to do that. Also, in this specific case, we were flying in & out of two different airports.
      • Bring things you'll need from home. This is a biggie if you plan to do any food preparation at all. We brought spices, pasta, snacks, refillable water bottles, etc. Food is also very expensive in Hawaii, so anything we could bring from home minimized our grocery budget.
      • Prioritize your spending. We have two kids who mostly just enjoy the pool, the beach, & the hot tub. They also like snorkeling from the beach in front of the hotel. We invested in snorkel sets at Costco on our first trip, so they've had three uses, and have more than paid for themselves. We also bring our own beach balls (one blew away - the winds were incredible one of the days!), and ordered them on Amazon vs buying at the hotel. They are 1/2 the price. We were lucky & had another couple give us their boogie board as they were leaving. We utilized that for entertainment (the boys favorite part) & then passed it along to another family when we were leaving.
      All in all, we had a truly amazing time. I also ended up with $2,000 in airline credits for future trips. The full airline saga can be found here, for those of you who missed it. ;-) 

      And, here are all of the details of our planned & actual budget for the trip. Obviously, not including alcohol was an oversight. ;-) We bought wine & beer at Costco. We cooked every meal ourselves, save for: one dinner out, a few desserts out, and Costco pizza on the way to the airport for the flight home. So, the groceries covered all breakfasts, lunches & dinners, with those exceptions. 


      Hawaii budgetBudgetActual
      Car rental313316.57
      Groceries150301.6
      Dining out400389.41
      One paid hotel night555.85555.85
      Activities35079.72
      Flights1660.031660.03
      Hotel taxes & resort fees275137.1
      Misc$500.0066.66
      Alcohol0104.7
      Uber088.9
      Total3740.883082.37

      That's it for us! Share your best travel savings tips!

      Saturday, November 26, 2016

      Expensive groceries & a menu plan

      I forget how expensive some groceries can be in Hawaii. Our budget was $250 for the week (all meals, minus one lunch & dinner out). We have spent just under $300. I do get two free continental breakfasts each day with my hotel status, which includes coffee, yogurt, and a bagel. We've been using those to fill in gaps & for snacks. Having a detailed shopping list & menu in advance of heading out meant we could bring spices & other non-perishables with us, to reduce our expenses.

      Here's what we're eating while we're on vacation:

      Wednesday (travel day):
      Breakfast at home (San Francisco)
      Lunch on the plane (free)
      Dinner: take & bake Costco pizza + salad

      Thursday (Thanksgiving!):
      Breakfast: Eggs, fruit & bagels
      Lunch: Leftover pepperoni pizza (kids) + fruit & vegetables. Adults had ham & cheese sandwiches
      Dinner: Wine, grilled burgers & salad
      Dessert: Pie (out)

      Friday:
      Breakfast: Eggs, fruit & bagels
      Lunch: Mac & cheese + dino nuggets (kids). Adults had ham & cheese sandwiches
      Dinner: Wine, leftover burgers, & pasta

      Saturday:
      Breakfast: Eggs, fruit & bagels
      Lunch: Lunch out
      Dinner: Grilled chicken & salad. And, wine. ;-)

      Sunday:
      Breakfast: Eggs, fruit & bagels
      Lunch: Grilled ham & cheese sandwiches, fruit & yogurt
      Dinner: Dinner out

      Monday:
      Breakfast: Eggs, fruit & bagels
      Lunch: Mac & cheese + dino nuggets (kids). Adults will have grilled chicken sandwiches.
      Dinner: Turn the grilled chicken & make pasta with it. Plus salad, and beer. We will probably be out of wine at that point. ;-)

      Tuesday (travel day):
      Breakfast: Eggs, fruit & bagels
      Lunch: make sandwiches, chips & fruit for the plane
      Dinner: if there are enough leftovers, otherwise, buy something at the airport.

      And, that's it for us! As you can see, we make easy meals when we travel. What about you? Do you bring your own food when you go on vacation with a kitchen?  

      Friday, November 25, 2016

      My Black Friday spending

      Has involved. . .

      • Yoga on the beach ($17! - I did bring my own DVD, but there's no room to really make it happen in our room. Also, the instructor was amazing, so I didn't mind much. It was also 75 minutes, and she pushed me super hard. In a yoga-ish way. ;-)
      • Two beers, a corn dog, and a burger while watching the Apple Cup football game. Go Huskies! :-) M & I each had a beer. Despite the fact that the kids had already had lunch in the room, they "needed" a second lunch. I suppose it's possible, given how much activity they've had each day. Swimming & fooling around the hotel grounds (football, soccer, etc) all day. 10 hours a day.
      • I bought a Christmas gift for Nick from Amazon for $14.99 (on sale on Black Friday), saving $4. It's a youth football with a tee & pump. Both boys are about to start flag football, so they'll love this. 
      • Lemon juice & garlic salt from the local store - $4
      And, that's it, folks. I'm enjoying a nice glass of wine (from Costco!) & we are going to have goat cheese crostini & barbecued chicken (& salad) for dinner. It's a nice mix of splurge & savings.

      A picture from our evening last night. We had dinner in the room (grilled burgers, of course) & then went out for pie. Some had pumpkin, one outlier had sorbet (Nick is not a pie fan) & Sam & I shared an amazing "hula pie". . . A perfect Thanksgiving.


      How was your Black Friday? Any great deals, or did you opt to stay home? 

      Thursday, November 24, 2016

      Happy Thanksgiving

      from one of my favorite places on earth. This was last night, as we walked around the hotel while the kids played soccer by the light of tiki torches. As you do. ;-)

      Here's hoping you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with all of those you hold near & dear.






      Tuesday, November 22, 2016

      Frugal wins & fails

      I wrote this post, but when I published it, it published yesterday's post again. Weird. The original post is now gone, so let's see if I can recreate it.

      Frugal wins over the past few weeks:

      • Called & reduced our auto insurance (got rid of rental car option, as we have a backup car). Savings of $12/month
      • Increased our homeowner's deductible, for a savings of $90/year.
      • Made brownies for Nick's end of season soccer party, vs buying treats.
      • Ate lunch at home vs eating at the soccer party (this was for me, I let Nick eat at the party with his buds ;-)). This meant I could buy a smaller pizza. I usually go for the bigger one & take leftovers home, but with our trip, this seemed like an opportunity for waste.
      • Converted hotel points into $50 of Amazon gift cards
      • Earned $25 Amazon gift card on Swagbucks, and cashed out for Christmas gifts.
      • Redeemed different hotel points into $250 of Target gift cards
      • Adjusted our Christmas gift plans (in coordination with my sister - we just buy gifts for our four boys, no adults in the exchanges), thus reducing the gifts by one Santa gift (they are past that age) & one stocking gift each. We are continuing to try & make Christmas more about time together than gifts. Instead of the Santa gift on Christmas Eve, we will go mountain biking & then come back for puzzle time. We will exchange the other gifts on Christmas Day.
      • Made a smaller grocery shop than usual, in advance of our Hawaii trip.
      • Packed a great deal of household items for our trip, to avoid having to buy things there. I get 4 free checked bags with my status, so this is free (other than the hassle of the bags :-)).
      • Called Alaska & negotiated an option to come home one day earlier. The intent of this was to make it easier for the boys to head back to school, and reduce their time out. Alaska has changed our flights so many times that they offered to waive the $1000 of increased fare, due to my airline status. Super grateful, as the boys can sleep in, I get a day to recover after the trip, and we were able to cancel one night of the hotel, plus car rental. Expected savings = $600. These were the flight days I originally wanted way back when I booked these in February, so I'm very excited to be able to rebook with this option.
      Frugal fail for the week:
      • M & I had a misunderstanding about dinner on Saturday night. As a result, we ended up ordering food delivery. We did have a $20 coupon code (Amazon is testing out a free - aka delivery charge is free - delivery service), but it was still pretty expensive. We opted for Thai, which gave us dinner 2x, for three people, and a lunch. 
      • I have had some food waste. Again, M & I buying produce without talking to each other about what we already have in the house. I had to compost 1/2 a bag of kale, some old brussels sprouts, and part of a squash.

      That's what's happening for us! What about you? Any big frugal wins to report? Or, frugal fails? :)


      Monday, November 21, 2016

      Weekly spending roundup (11/14-11/20/16)

      Another expensive week, but I'm expecting a refund of one night's hotel stay in Hawaii + reducing the rental car one night. That should drop the cost by $600. Details on that in my next frugal post. Woohoo!

      Note that I ran *a lot* of errands over the weekend, in anticipation of our trip!


      • Monday (11/14) - no spend day
      • Tuesday (11/15) no spend day
      • Wednesday (11/16)
        • $300 - donation to school science camp overnight trip
        • $506.51 - registration & uniform fees for flag football for two kids
        • $97.50 - registration for futsal
      • Thursday (11/17)
      • Friday (11/18)
      • Saturday (11/19)
        • $23.21 - pool ball for Hawaii
        • $58.22 - Christmas gifts for the kids. Four soccer balls, & origami paper. I had a $50 gift card to offset the cost for the rest. I bought nicer soccer balls this time around, as we're going through at least two a season. Hopefully these will last longer?
        • $50 - gift cards for my aunt. She's disabled & I know that she's struggled financially since my grandmother passed away. She works as a dishwasher, but her hours vary. I'm going to try & ramp up my gifting to her. 
        • $36 - a pedicure for Hawaii
        • $53.73 - a ski jacket for Nick, and socks for M
        • $15.99 - two giant rolls of foil (Costco)
        • $27.22 - Crocs for Sam
        • $19.23 - Rite Aid. This was Dryel, a small mouthwash for our trip, and something else that fails my memory.
        • $8.67 - Lucky, for a small container of olive oil (for Hawaii) + risotto
        • $.69 - Lucky, to use a $10 coupon. I stocked up on macaroni & cheese, this was the difference.
        • $4.42 - cucumbers & lavosh at the produce stand
        • $63.97 - groceries at Costco
        • $35.98 - wine at Costco
        • $32.72 - dinner delivery. Frugal fail. I'll include details in my frugal round up :-) 
      • Sunday (11/20)
        • $21.74 - two sports umbrellas for watching rainy soccer games
        • $19.17 - Round Table pizza (Nick's soccer pizza party)
        • $7.61 - In & Out - lunch for Sam & Michael
        • $18.98 - coffee & cucumbers from Costco

      Total spend = $1401.53. $900 of that to kid stuff (school field trip + futsal + flag football). What about you? How did you do with your weekly spending?