Friday, January 18, 2019

Frugal Friday

I was traveling Sunday-Friday, so spent zero out of pocket. M did take the kids to dinner (we had a gift card), but accidentally grabbed one that was supposed to be tossed & had a $0 balance. It was also an expensive grocery week because M is having a terrible allergic reaction (it's been going on for months) & his doctor has recommended a very specialized diet that required a large investment in groceries just for him this week.

Here are a few frugal things that we did over the past week!


  • Used a gift card to buy flowers for a friend. Her father passed away. I also made pumpkin bread & found a card in my stash. It felt good to be able to quickly pull that together & not be out much money, but still let her know I was thinking of her. 
  • Used Rite Aid credit to pick up a few essentials (toilet bowl cleaner, etc) & also found really cute gift card holders for Christmas, at 75% off. Picked up enough for next Christmas
  • Turned tomatoes (froze before we headed out of town) into tomato sauce for the freezer
  • M solved two home issues that turned out to be related. (Our pool was leaking water through the pump filter, which caused a short in an electrical unit.) This was going to be several thousand dollars for the pool issue alone, so I'm grateful I have a handy husband. I'm incredibly grateful that we discovered the issue, because the short could have started a fire. 
  • I made cranberry muffins for the kids to have as snacks, and used cream in place of some of the milk. It made them incredible (of course!), but I also used cream that was about to expire & go to waste. 
  • M used a coupon & a $10 reward for the dinner out with the kids.
I'm insanely jet lagged & hope to stock up on sleep over the weekend. That's how that works, right? ;-) What about you? Any frugal wins this week?

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Can I wisely use flight & work travel time

I usually totally veg out on a long work flight. I find it hard to focus. I also tend to go wildly off track on my eating & fitness on work trips, & allow myself indulgences that I wouldn't under normal circumstances. I think because I'm trying to "reward" myself for surviving the trip? Anyway, it's not useful, & leads to more work when I"m home, so I'm going to take a slightly different approach to my work trip this go round. I need to stay on track with my goals.


  • Work on either journaling or creative writing for at least 2 hours (1 hour/flight?)
  • Work on photobooks for minimum of 1 hour. Sometimes I'm awake & insanely jet lagged/tried, so maybe if I wake up early but am in no shape to really accomplish something, I can at least start deleting pictures.
  • Work out every day of my trip. I really need to stay on top of my running.
  • Meditate 2x.
  • Continue fasting in the morning. 
  • Avoid dairy
  • Keep my calories + fruit & vegetables in check
Before my flight leaves today, I want to go for a run. Other than that, all I have to do is finish the last minute packing, & I'm otherwise pretty much set. 

Here's what I accomplished from the list yesterday.


  1. Make muffins for M (we're out)
  2. Vacuum
  3. Clean the kitchen (a deeper clean than I do after I make dinner each day)
  4. Clean the bathrooms
  5. Figure out why our shower fixtures (the silver parts) have rusted? Clean as needed - I've figured it out, but ran out of time to deal with. 
  6. Laundry
  7. Finalize schedule for everyone & review with the kids, so they know what's happening each day (where to go, how to get to school, rides to soccer games, etc)
  8. Finish packing for Tokyo
  9. Menu plan for the week
  10. Shopping list
  11. Costco
  12. Produce stand
  13. Go for a run - my stomach wasn't feeling great, so I walked instead.
  14. Strength training workout - skipped altogether. 
  15. Defrost the ice tray in the freezer. The ice froze over & is now in a giant block. 
  16. Bake bacon & package for meals
  17. Wash sheets
  18. Make beds
  19. Take Christmas lights down
  20. Make a list of thank you notes for the boys to write, & ensure it gets done

Altogether, I think I did well with my projects for yesterday. Fingers crossed I can do a better job of staying focused on this work trip. What about you? Were you productive yesterday?

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Getting things done before I leave

I head to Tokyo tomorrow, am home Friday afternoon (jet lagged, for sure) & then leave for LA on Tuesday. I never plan back to back work trips, but the Tokyo trip is coordinated with 8 other people flying in from remote offices, all with their own country holidays to juggle. And, the LA trip is a training event for a leadership development class I've been in for a year. The date was not movable. So, two weeks of back to back travel. I have a lot to get done today before I leave, in order to set things up well for M & the kids.

Work travel is so much additional effort for me, M & there's an enormous amount of juggling with the kids. Thank goodness I have a nice group of friends who can help get the kids home from activities, because M's work schedule in the afternoons is significantly less flexible than mine.

Luckily, we have no commitments today, so I can get things done!

Here's what's on the list:

  1. Make muffins for M (we're out)
  2. Vacuum
  3. Clean the kitchen (a deeper clean than I do after I make dinner each day)
  4. Clean the bathrooms
  5. Figure out why our shower fixtures (the silver parts) have rusted? Clean as needed
  6. Laundry
  7. Finalize schedule for everyone & review with the kids, so they know what's happening each day (where to go, how to get to school, rides to soccer games, etc)
  8. Finish packing for Tokyo
  9. Menu plan for the week
  10. Shopping list
  11. Costco
  12. Produce stand
  13. Go for a run
  14. Strength training workout
  15. Defrost the ice tray in the freezer. The ice froze over & is now in a giant block. 
  16. Bake bacon & package for meals
  17. Wash sheets
  18. Make beds
  19. Take Christmas lights down
  20. Make a list of thank you notes for the boys to write, & ensure it gets done


Freezer progress:

  • Pumpkin puree -  I used to make a pumpkin, banana, chocolate chip bread. I gave one as a gift, and kept one for us
  • 3 frozen bananas - used in the bread mentioned above
  • cranberries - hoping to use today in muffins
  • 6 old Popsicles - discovered, half melted at the bottom of the freezer. tossed. 
Menu plan for the week:

  • Friday - homemade pizza
  • Saturday - tacos 
  • Sunday - leftover pizza
  • Monday - spaghetti & meatballs
  • Tuesday - the boys will likely eat out (with a gift card) 
  • Wednesday - leftover spaghetti & meatballs
  • Thursday - cheeseburgers
  • Friday - maybe homemade pizza again, as I'll just be coming home from Tokyo

That's it for me. What's on your to do list this weekend? And, any freezer items you are trying to use up?

Friday, January 11, 2019

Frugal Friday


This week's theme feels like it's "eating all of the leftovers". SO many leftovers! Here are a few frugal things we did this week:

  • Line dried our clothes. This is something we do regularly, for 90% of our clothing. We don't line dry our towels, as they get crunchy. We do this inside, year round.
  • Drove the electric car to work, & charged it for free
  • I met a friend for lunch, and we met at work (free lunch)
  • I started to read a book I received with a half marathon registration. It's one of my goals for January to read a couple of non-fiction books, so this is a good/free start
  • I booked flights for my parents to watch the kids over spring break. It's less expensive than a camp for two kids, and everyone prefers this. We'll give my parents money to spend on entertaining the kids, and it's a win/win. 
  • I used a discount code (which we received when I spoke to Alaska about our flight delay) & a credit I had on Alaska, spending zero out of pocket for my parents flights.
  • As noted above, all of the leftovers. M brought home a huge piece of salmon on Thursday, so while he, Sam & I ate it one night, I'm not a huge salmon fan. So, M has had it for four nights now. Sam has had his leftover General Tso's chicken, & I've made do with a variety of things: peanut butter & jelly (using up bread we bought for skiing sandwiches), etc.
  • I sold a $50 jacket I've worn twice on my local Facebook swap. It was at our vacation house, and it's been on my list of things to bring home & sell for over a year. Finally remember to do it! 
  • I'm also meeting a buyer for Nick's BMX bike today, which, when sold, will earn $200. Nick owes me most of that, and then the rest will go into his college account.

What about you? Any frugal wins for the week?

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

My sabbatical date is set

I'm so excited! I spoke to my manager yesterday, and she agreed to my dates. I'm planning on taking from ~May 15th to just after Labor Day off. (I'll adjust my exact end date when M & I finalize if we will take 1 or 2 days off to have a long weekend in April.)

My sabbatical requires me to use all existing vacation before beginning, so I'll use about three weeks of vacation, and then have a 90 day (unpaid) sabbatical. Although it's, unpaid, it's very much worth it to me. Here's why I'm excited about the timing:


  • From a work perspective, I will have the opportunity to train a new hire (a people manager on my team) to get up to speed. This means, everything should go more smoothly when I'm out.
  • I'll have time off from work with the kids (over the summer) & without the kids (last couple of weeks of May + the first week of June). Then the kids & I will have the summer together, & I'll have a few weeks to recover once they go back to school. 
  • I've never had a summer offer before! I started working when I was 15, so it's been. . . 28 years of working summers. What an exciting feeling! 
  • We won't have to pay for summer child care. We do have the kids registered for a sleepaway camp, and will keep that. Otherwise, we may do a few half day soccer camps here & there, if they are inexpensive. We will save the rest of the summer camp budget we had set for 2019.

So, what am I going to do with all of my time? I haven't completely finalized my plans, but here are some things I'm thinking about:

May:
  • My sister & BFF are coming to visit (and, we're running another half marathon) in May, right after my sabbatical starts. Perfect timing!
  • I'd like to use the next few weeks to get things done around the house. I'm thinking of the following:
    • A lot of deep cleaning. So. much. deep.cleaning. All of the things I never get to.
    • Organize all of our photos. Both digital & print. I'd like to scan all of the print photos, and make photo books from everything.
    • Do some journaling/writing.
    • Declutter our house
    • Relax!! 

June:
  • After the kids are out of school, I'll fly with them to my parents house for a mountain biking event. I'll attend, & then may go to  our vacation house while my parents have "Nana & Papa Camp" with the kids. It is, by far, my kids favorite summer camp. :-) 
  • While the kids are at "Nana & Papa Camp", I'm hoping to spend some time at our vacation house. Maybe a girls trip with my sister & BFF, if it works for their schedules.
  • I also would like to spend time at the vacation house decluttering & deep cleaning, because it needs it. We may need to arrange for a few appliance repairs or other house work there, and we are never at the house long enough to accomplish this.
July:
  • We will have a Fourth of July party/vacation at the house with family. Kite flying on the beach!
  • We'll head home after the 4th
  • The kids will go to sleepaway camp for 10 days, while M & I hopefully go somewhere for a long weekend
August:
  • We'll take it easy the first two weeks of August, getting the kids ready for back to school
  • The kids will go back mid-month & sports practice & schedules will begin again
  • Sam & I are signed up to do the relay at the end of the month, so we'll head to Portland for that
September:
  • I'll head back to work, if there are part time opportunities. Given how close it is to the end of the year, I may go back full time to earn my January bonus. Decisions, decisions. Then I can make a final plan in January. 
My overall goals of the sabbatical are to: recharge, relax, think about my long term future/career, get healthier (drop some weight), enjoy my time & flexibility, & spend as much time as possible with family & friends. 

How would you spend ~15ish weeks off, if you had the chance?

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Menu Plan Tuesday

I'm a little late with my menu plan for the week, but better late than never. M brought home an unexpected salmon on Thursday, so the menu plan has changed a bit.


  • Friday - we had chili, cheese bread & salad at the condo we rented while skiing. We brought the food from home. 
  • Saturday - we had plans to be home for dinner, but ended up eating while stranded in a snowstorm. So, unplanned dinner out.
  • Sunday - Sam cooked for us & we had California rolls, Asian chicken salad, General Tso's chicken, rice & tiramisu
  • Monday - leftover salmon & rice
  • Tuesday - Leftover General Tso's chicken
  • Wednesday - chicken fiesta skillet (I made this, then froze it after M brought home the salmon)
  • Thursday - spaghetti & meatballs, or chili
I also want to get back to the freezer challenge I was working through before the holidays. Here's what's on my freezer challenge list for the week:
  • 1 bag of rotisserie chicken
  • A huge bag of tomatoes (I froze before we headed out of town, so they wouldn't go to waste)
  • Frozen bananas
I'm hoping to make tomato sauce (which will then go back into the freezer) out of the romas, and then use the bananas to make muffins. Which, will also go back into the freezer. But, at least they will be in a form to be totally ready to eat? ;-) 

What about you? What's on the menu this week? Any new recipes you're trying out? Are you working on a freezer challenge?

Monday, January 7, 2019

Weekly spending roundup (12/31-1/6/19)


This was a very unusual spending week for us. We had a holiday (New Year's Eve), a travel day (New Year's Day), a two day ski trip - where we got stuck in a snowstorm, and Sam made a four course meal for his final cooking class project for school. Some of the ingredients were . . . hard to find & not cheap! We came up with a few substitutions, but the menu was reasonably fixed, so our options were limited. We normally only go to 2-3 stores, one time a week. So, this week represented an anomaly for us. I'm going to have to work really hard on our grocery bill for the rest of the month!

The menu:
-Appetizer - California rolls
-Salad - Thai Chicken Salad
-Main course - General Tso's Chicken w/rice
-Dessert - Tiramisu (I'm not sure how this made it's way into such an Asian menu, but they were allowed to select a dessert from a list)

  • Monday - 12/31 - No spend day! We made dinner at home, & found a bottle of champagne in the pantry. It was perfect!
  • Tuesday - 1/1
    • $5 at McDonald's for a 10 piece nugget & a burger. I did attempt to make food for our travel day, but Sam couldn't resist McDonald's when we stopped in for a bathroom break
    • $53.40 - at a restaurant at the airport for a salad, two beers & an order of fries. Our flight was delayed. . . best laid plans & all of that.
    • $24 of over priced snacks (will be turned into lunch snacks) - free, on a travel voucher
    • $493.37 - car rental for 11 days on our vacation
  • Wednesday - 1/2
    • $1.50 for 1 avocado for guacamole at the grocery store (on a gift card)
    • $1.48 for 2 discounted Christmas treats (Lifesavers & Hershey's Kisses) for the kids for skiing, at Rite Aid - (used Bonus Cash)
    • $14.92 at the produce stand. This included $9.99 for a 2lb container of tahini, for making hummus. That is the cheapest I've found tahini, so I was thrilled. Also included 2 bunches of radishes, a head of cauliflower, cilantro, & mini cucumber
    • $10.36 at Trader Joes. I bought a jarred bruschetta to try on crostini (trying to follow my no dairy plans & come up with alternatives to our standard meals/appetizers), mini ravioli for the kids to try, gnocchi, and. . . a box of mini dark chocolate mint cookies. Oops.
    • $146.87 at Costco for a full stock up on everything. Plus, M bought a splurge cut of sockeye salmon for $30, that definitely wasn't on the menu or shopping list. He loves salmon & it's healthy, but . . . pricey! 
  • Thursday - 1/3
    • $25.71 at the grocery store, to pick up supplies for chili, & a few sandwich ingredients for tomorrow. Pepperoni was on sale, so I also bought two packages. We use the pepperoni to make pizza. (on a gift card)
    • $6.09 - at the produce stand for a few items for the meal + green peppers for the dinner I'm making.
    • $11.27 at Trader Joes. We bought coffee to take to the condo tomorrow (we don't have ground coffee & don't have a grinder). We also needed coconut milk & rice vinegar for the recipe. We were out of rice vinegar, but do use it at the house, so at least that item is just not for this meal!
    • $25.12 BACK at the grocery store ($22.33 paid, the rest on the last of the gift card). My son finally had his shopping list ready, and we both realized he needed to purchase everything today (we'll be out of town Friday/Saturday), so he can cook all day on Sunday. We bought curry paste, whipping cream, chicken thighs, pickled ginger, sushi rice, & other random ingredients I can't remember. There will definitely be a need to use these items other in other recipes, so expect them to surface in a pantry challenge soon enough.
    • $15.79 - hand warmers for skiing
  • Friday - 1/4
    • $1.81 at Burger King, for a coffee for M at a bathroom stop on the road to Lake Tahoe
    • $430.99 - lift tickets x4 + a few hot meal items to go with our sandwiches
  • Saturday - 1/5
    • $498.76 - lift tickets x4 + two hot chocolates
    • $136.58 - unexpected dinner out, after freeway closure & snowstorm
  • Sunday - 1/6
    • $67.30 - soccer hoodies for the kids, as part of their school team uniforms
    • $11.98 - pool chemicals
    • $19.47 - a few more groceries at Costco
I was really impressed with the food Sam made. The tiramisu, in particular, was incredible. So, at least we have leftovers that will make their way into the rest of the week's menu. 

Total spent for the week = $1996. Shivers. That's a lot. What about you? Do you track your weekly spending? How did you do? Any unexpected expenses this week?

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The best laid plans

Alternative title - the time we got stuck in a huge snowstorm & they closed the freeway. . .

We had a fabulous time skiing on Friday (we got up at 5:00 am, and headed to Tahoe). We skied for most of the day, and then headed to the condo unit we had rented. We were pleasantly surprised. There was plenty of space, and while everything was quite dated, style-wise, it had everything we needed.

We made chili, cheese bread, & salad from things we brought from home. The kids & I got in the hot tub. M started to not feel well (cough, cold, fever, etc), so he stayed behind. We all went to bed early, with plans to ski on Saturday.

We woke up a bit late on Saturday (M is usually the "alarm" for our group), but overslept as he wasn't feeling well. We checked the forecast, and it appeared that snow would start around 3-4, so our plan was to get to the ski area, ski until 1:30 or so, load up & head out to avoid the snow. . . . ah, yes. So foolish.

The ski area was extremely crowded. We struggled to get everyone dressed, dropped off, tickets sorted, etc. The road leading to the ski area was super crowded. We were off to a late start. We skied for a bit, but it was pretty clear that M wasn't feeling well at all. It also got pretty windy & icy. I'm an okay skier in the best of conditions, and don't love skiing in the wind & ice. I grabbed a hot chocolate with Nick, and we sat by the fire while we waited for M & Sam to finish a run. Except, they got separated. There was confusion about where to meet. At this point, it started to lightly snow. It took another 30 minutes for us to find Sam, and then we had to wait in line for a gondola back to the car, schlep a ton of ski gear to the parking lot, undress the kids, load the skis & the gear. We were out of the resort by 2:00 pm. At this point, there's some snow on the ground, but all is well. Until we get on the freeway, and see that it's completely stopped. I don't know how many accidents were ahead of us, but we were trapped on the freeway not moving, while snow poured down. For the first time in my life, I got to pee on the side of the road with the kids. It was quite an adventure. ;-)

I was so grateful that I'd made sandwiches, and we could all eat those in the car. Of course, Sam ate mine (and his), so I made do with a few leftover snacks. The kids were exceptionally well behaved, but being trapped in the car wasn't much fun.

As the snow accumulated, and no cars could progress, it made a bad situation worse. Many cars were without chains (or 4 wheel drive) & started to get suck. They eventually closed the freeway. So, by 6, we were back to where we started (managed to get off the freeway) & we had dinner in Truckee. We had an unexpectedly expensive dinner (all of the closer/fast food restaurants were packed with other travelers) & then decided to check out the pass freeway again. It was open!

We made it home after eleven. At that point, M was incredibly sick. I can't drive in snow, so it was him or no one driving. It was very close to having to spend the night in Truckee, and all of the lower end hotels were full. We could only find one room, a few miles away, for close to $500. So, the expensive dinner was less of an issue than staying in a hotel.

Lessons? We did well having lots of blankets, snacks, water, & food in the car. We also had plenty of gas. We need a second phone charger, as mine died, and we struggled to get it recharged. Next time we will also allow even more time for car loading & kid corralling. I'd asked M if we should just head home when we woke up on Saturday morning, but he didn't want to disappoint the kids. Obviously, we would have missed all of the drama if we'd headed out in the morning.

Anyway, we are all back, safe & sound. M is crashed out & feeling terrible. I'm helping Sam prep his four course meal for his cooking class. (By that, I mean, answering questions about where baking utensils are, and ensuring kitchen safety. . . he's doing all of the actual cooking). I'll take Nick to indoor soccer soon, and I need to get in a workout today, even though I'm totally not feeling it!

What about you? Have you ever been stuck in a snow storm? 

Friday, January 4, 2019

Frugal Friday

It was in no way a frugal week, with a travel day, a holiday & prepping for a two day ski trip. But, we managed a few wins!


  • Food vouchers for delayed flight - Politely asked the customer service representative at Alaska for options when our flight home on Tuesday was delayed. And, delayed again, and again. We ended up with $48 in food vouchers (we could only use $24, as we were in the process of spending the second voucher when they called our flight & we sprinted back to the gate). Sadly, all of the non fast food places were closed, so we had to go to a newstand that sold drinks & snacks. I'd given up on using the voucher there, but they said they would it accept it. Spent $24 on snacks. Nothing healthy, as I'm sure you can imagine. Instead, these will go into my pile of fun snacks for ski trips. 
  • Price checking at a restaurant - We never take the kids to McDonalds, but stopped to use the bathroom on our drive from the Oregon coast to the airport. My older son hadn't felt well all day, and was finally hungry. He woke up from a long nap & was starving. He planned to order a 10 piece nugget for $5.95, and then we noticed that if you bought two items from the "2/$5" menu, it was actually cheaper than the 10 piece nugget. So, we ended up with a burger & a 10 piece nugget for $5. The pricing is crazy, but anyway. And, he must have been hungry, because he ate most of the nuggets (Nick helped with the rest) & the entire burger.
  • Coupon code for delayed flight - When I was chatting with the Alaska representative about food vouchers, he also offered me a discount code. It's sometimes $25/pp for delays like this, but he said he'd "add a bit more". I have no idea what that means, but I guess I'll find out in a few days when I get the email. Also, had we not talked to the representative, we would have gotten no food voucher & no credit. 
  • Packing dinner for the flight  - I packed dinner for all of us to eat at the airport, but we still ended up spending a bit. $5 on McDonalds, and then with the initial flight delay, we had a beer at the airport. We needed to drop off the car reasonably early (earlier than we needed to be at the airport) to avoid being charged for another day, so we dropped off & had extra time. Then, LOTS of extra time due to the flight delay. I'd describe this as a marginal win. M & I ate our sandwiches, everyone ate the snacks, & then we filled in with some airport purchases. It at least reduced the cost to have some food packed.
  • Reducing food waste - we brought the leftover fruit & vegetables (plus a few open bags of chips) with us from the vacation house. We had to dump some dairy, but for the most part, managed to use or take everything else with us. We used the stray bananas, pineapple & apples for breakfast this morning, as our house here was empty. 
  • Freebies & gift cards - I used Rite Aid bonus cash to pick up a few extra treats to put in my snack/travel/ski bag. We don't keep stuff like goldfish crackers, candy, chocolate pretzels, fruit snacks, etc around the house, but when they are really cheap, I buy a few & hide them until we need them for a trip or a special outing. I also remembered to use my store gift card for an avocado, so had no out of pocket expenses.
  • Garden - shockingly, we still had a tomato & quite a few jalapenos still in the garden, despite the recent frost. I used a jalapeno in a recipe in place of chiles, and will make jalapeno hummus soon. Yum.
What about you? Tell us about your frugal week!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

January Goals

I'm not going to lie, I have the most motivation to tackle goals in January, so I'm going to take advantage & try to tackle as much as I can while I'm feeling it. :-)

1) Financial:
  • Stick to the budget
  • Update our "pay off our house model" once our bonus & equity clears & we see how much we can pay off from that. 
  • Come up with a new way to reduce what we need/spend on an ongoing basis.
  • Make $300 in side hustle money
  • Track all unplanned money, and divert to saving goals

2) Family - Spend more time together as a family!
  • Go skiing with the kids
  • Be more present with the kids & M - play games, minimize computer time, exercise together, etc. 
  • Have two dates with M 

    3) Fitness/health - lose 15 pounds 
    • Eat 5 servings of fruit & vegetables/day
    • Run 8 times
    • 31 workouts 
    • 1450 or less average daily calories
    • Complete 1,000 minutes of cardio
    • Complete 12 strength workouts.
    • Complete 9 stretching workouts.
    • Complete 10 meditations

    4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
    • Work from home 2x
    • Meditate 12 times at work
    • Work out 6 times at lunch (this can be a casual walk or something else to break up my day)
    • Finalize sabbatical date, and dates for trips I'll take during my sabbatical
    • Stop using electronics by 7:30 each evening

      5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits.
      • One social thing (lunch with a friend, hike, etc)
      • Volunteer one time
      • Write/journal at least 4x, or for a total of 3 hours
      • Brainstorm ideas for homemade Christmas project
      • Work on photo books. Decide on tool, start uploading photos & begin with 2018 photo book. 
      • Read one non-fiction book, from the giant pile!

      Let's do this! What about you? What's on your list of goals for January? Do you find yourself more or less motivated the first month of the year? 

      Wednesday, January 2, 2019

      Budget changes for 2019

      While much of our budget for the second half of the year is up on the air (based on my decision to come back after my sabbatical, and if so, at part time capacity, etc), we are making a few planned budget changes for 2019.

      Budget categories that are increasing:

      • Alcohol, from $20/month to $50/month. Now that we are eating in so much more, and/or going out to eat at restaurants that allow you to bring your own wine, we're allocating a bit more for a nicer bottle or two of wine per month. This makes us feel like we still have an entertainment budget. 
      • Travel, from $7000/year to $8000/year. We *cough* did not spend anywhere close to $7000 on travel for 2018 (more like $15,600), so we're trying to be more reasonable for 2019. 
      • House, from $3950/year to $20,000 year. We spent nowhere near $3,950 in 2018 (over $67,000 due to various house projects - a/c & solar), so are trying to be more realistic in 2019, as we have other house projects to complete. 
      • Summer camps, from $1000/year to $5,000/year. Last year, I assumed I wouldn't be working over the summer, which turned out to be incorrect. We actually spent just under $8,000, so this is a reduction in actual spending from 2018. We're hoping the boys will need fewer camps in 2019. 


      Budget categories that are decreasing:

      • Childcare, from $800/month to $416/month. With the boys both playing school sports for a few months of the year, we don't need as much childcare. They simply ride their bikes home after practice is over, no driving required. I need to figure out our longer term nanny plan, as I've mostly been paying for days we don't need her service. Instead, I think a friend will use the nanny for the days we don't need (assuming all are okay with this plan) & then I'll just pay for the days we use, but the nanny will still be making approximately the same amount. Otherwise, we may need to move to more of an ad hoc model. The problem with that is that when I travel (I have three weeks of travel in Q1), M has a much less flexible afternoon schedule than I do, so things kind of fall apart. I also haven't locked a date for my sabbatical, but won't need help during that time period. So, long story short, I expect to spend less on childcare in 2019, and we are hoping to slowly move this to zero in 2020, as the boys will be old enough to be home alone & I should be working hours or a job with enough flexibility that I can cover the rest. 
      • Dining out, from $120/month to $100/month. We're okay with planned/intentional meals out for enjoyment or entertainment, but are trying not to eat out due to a lack of planning, laziness, or general lack of willpower. 
      • Utilities, from $450 to $340/month. We will be approaching our one year with solar, so should be able to have a consistently lower monthly utilities budget. Note that this covers two houses, although our expenses at our vacation house are pretty reasonable. 
      • Boys, from $6000/year to $5500/year. One of our kids is going to stop playing club soccer. While we expect him to pick up other activities, we don't expect them to be quite as expensive. 
      • Vacation house mortgage, from $1500/month to $0/month. Because it's paid off! Woohoo! To be clear, we will actually apply this $1500/month to our primary residence mortgage, but I consider that an optional payment (we can cancel at any time, if we need to), whereas the vacation house mortgage was not optional. 
      • Clothing, $900/year to $750/year. My goal is to keep my own clothing spending to $250, leaving $500 for the kids & M. I think this is realistic, but will depend on how much everyone grows, and at what rate, if Sam plays another sports & needs gear, etc. 


      Budget categories that are staying the same:

      • Toiletries, at $20/month
      • Gas, at $75/month
      • Groceries, at $625/month
      • Personal, at $500/year
      • Auto, at $1000/year. We're hoping to sell our third car, which would drastically reduce our carrying costs. But, our alternative car is a 1999, so may not have much life left. We're modeling out all of the options to see what makes the most sense. 
      • Out of pocket charity, at $1000/year. We are planning to increase our automatic paycheck deductions in 2019 by 10% each, which isn't accounted for here. These come out before we get paid, and we treat them like health insurance, taxes, 401k, etc & don't account for it in our after tax budget. Our company is increasing the yearly max, so we'd like to increase our donations at the same pace. 
      • Christmas, at $750/year
      • Health, at $500/year.
      • Gifts, at $750/year. 
      All told, we're hoping to shave off of $2500 from our monthly expenses ($1500 coming from the vacation mortgage) & the other $12,000/year coming from a random assortment of other cuts. It will be very tight, but we'd like to free up this $2,500/month to apply to our primary residence. We are working on an incredibly aggressive goal of paying off our primary mortgage by the time our youngest is out of high school (around seven more years). I'll share our 3, 5 & 7 year plans in the upcoming months. It's actually one of my 2019 goals to finalize these plans! :-) 

      What about you? What changes are you making to your budget for 2019? 

      Tuesday, January 1, 2019

      How did our net worth fare in 2018?

      I've been tracking our net worth pretty consistently over the past eight years or so. Each year brings a new excitement & changes. Certainly, the end of the year stock market instability brought some unwelcome changes to our retirement portfolio, but we are staying the course.

      Big changes this year: 

      • We paid off our vacation house mortgage
      • There was a modest increase in value of our vacation house
      • And also an increase in our primary residence
      • I also kept more in cash (well, high yield savings) than is recommended, mostly because I was concerned about the stock market, and also to give us more flexibility as I was making career changes
      We continued to fully maxing our 401Ks, and used extra money to pay down our vacation house mortgage vs investing, so it was bit of a combination this year. We also aren't including the kids college account savings here, although they have just over $100k combined for college.

      In summary, we grew our net worth by 9.3% since this time last year. While we were up in significant double digit growth earlier in the year, the recent market changes have made us happy we were able to eke out positive growth. As M is now 51, we will likely make a slight investment shift to a more conservative mix in the upcoming few years.

      Here's some net worth growth numbers from prior years as well:

      • We are up 16% since this time two years ago
      • And, up 88% since this time four years ago
      • Up 258% since this time six years ago
      • And, up 433% since I started tracking (9/1/2010)
      I'll do a more comprehensive net worth growth post soon, but I always check in on our net worth at the beginning of the year. How about you? Do you track your net worth? How did you do in 2018?

      December Goals - how did we do?

      It wasn't a great month for fitness, thanks to the car accident early in the month, and then getting a cold that has lasted almost two weeks. However, the rest of the categories look really good. I'm pleased with my progress this month!

      Financial:

      • Stay on track with our food budget, including both eating out & groceries. - We had an unexpected day without the kids, so we made the most of it & went to a brewery. That pushed us over a bit on the dining out. For groceries, December is always hard for us, as we're traveling, entertaining & buying food for both houses. We try not to waste, but there's always more spending. We were over on groceries by $150 this month. Luckily, we were under in other months, so we still managed to hit our grocery budget goal for 2018. 
      • Come up with one way to reduce what we need/spend on an ongoing basis - We didn't really have any major wins in this category in December. 
      • Earn another $100 in side hustle money. - Yes, I listed a bunch of stuff on eBay as it got closer to the holidays & made $121. I also helped Sam sell his bike, but that money went to pay for his new skateboard. We split the rest (1/2 into his college account, 1/2 for spending money for himself.) 
      • Continue our 2019 budget prep, including our plans to try & lower our mortgages, and potentially paying off our vacation house. - we paid off our vacation house, & finalized our 2019 budget. We're still in the process of iterations to our primary residence mortgage pay down plan, but that will need to wait until we figure out what we're doing with my job. 
      Family:

      • Have one family evening together: cooking dinner, board games, etc - We had a ton of opportunities for this over the holidays. Lots of board games, cooking together, puzzles, etc. 
      • Have a date night with my husband - two, actually! We ended up with a bonus date night early in the month when a friend took the kids to soccer, and then again right after Christmas when my parents offered to keep the boys for an extra two nights. 
      • Continue financial help as opportunities arise - I'll consider the blog of some help, but want to continue to spend time on this. Maybe I'll build & share a budget template for others to consider using, if helpful. I'll also continue to share challenges I'm working on, in case anyone else wants to join in. 
      • Take the kids to see Christmas lights - Yes! 
      • Help the kids sell their nice BMX bikes (they haven't been in a long time, and want scooters instead) - we sold one. We got two offers on Christmas Eve oddly, but weren't around to sell the second bike. We'll try again when we're back. 

      Fitness/health:
      • Get in 31 workouts in December - I only got in 17 workouts in December. I was sore from a car accident, and then got sick right before the holidays. 
      • Complete another full round of 21 Day Fix - Ditto above. I did 11/21. 
      • Eat 5.5 servings a day of fruit & veggies - Yikes. I've averaged 3/day in December. 
      • Don't gain weight - I wish I could say this were true, but I gained two pounds. :-( 

      Work:
      • Work from home 2 days - Yes, done. 
      • Work on my my "homework" from my coach - Yes, and we're done with our sessions. I need to do a recap for myself before I forget a few things we discussed. 

      Personal/creative:

      • Plan sabbatical! Start sketching out dates on the calendar - I haven't done much with this, although I did lock in all of my Q1 work travel. I need to get the sabbatical plans in motion. A good goal for January. 
      • Make my holiday bread - Yes!
      • Read 4 books - Yes, I think I read 8 books. 
      • Blog 6 times - I blogged 23 times in December!!
      • Declutter at least 20 items from our house on the coast - Yes! I threw a few things out of the pantry that needed to be tossed, got rid of three games, some clothes that don't fit/have holes, and will donate about 5 more items when we get home. 
      • Complete a freezer challenge, and get rid of 16 items from the freezer - Yes, and in fact was able to get rid of 32 items. I loved this challenge, and will do it again. 

      What about you? How did you do with your December goals? Any big wins?