Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Menu Plan . . . Tuesday

We've had a few great dinners over the long weekend (a spicy peanut kale chicken salad on Saturday, steak on Sunday, and burgers on Monday). Here's what's on the menu for the rest of the week!

Tuesday - Leftover steak, potentially on sandwiches
Wednesday - Burgers & tortellini
Thursday - Chicken & quinoa
Friday - risotto with whatever is leftover in the fridge
Saturday - grilled fish & a veggie side
Sunday - homemade pizza

And, we made homemade lemon drops yesterday - trying to use up all of those lemons on our tree. Yum! :-)

We'll keep it simple. What about you? Any new recipes on your menu for the week?

Monday, May 30, 2016

California babe

We've spent the majority of the weekend at a soccer tournament in the *very* hot city of Tracy. We tied one, lost one, and one won. We were one goal short of returning for the semi-finals today. I'm grateful we have the day to relax & unwind instead. :-)

In the meantime, this guy was chilling in Santa Cruz with his buds. His mom sent me this picture - one of my new, all time favorite pictures of Nick.

Apparently, he's having fun without us. ;-) Do I ever miss that child!

I've done some kitchen prep work, in between driving the 90 minutes each way to Tracy & suffering through double soccer games.

  • I baked cookies for one of the games, and for Nick's trip
  • I made cashew chicken salad for sandwiches
  • Tried my hand at homemade chicken broth for the first time, using the leftovers from a rotisserie chicken. Pretty easy!
  • Found an imitation recipe for one of my favorite restaurant's peanut kale salad, and made that
  • Shredded all of the cheese for the next few weeks (parmesan & cheddar). I shred & then freeze in smaller portions, so we can quickly grab & go during meal prep.
I still have a ton of things I'd like to get done today, of course. ;-)

  1. Yoga!
  2. Get in some sort of cardio - I think I'm hiking with a friend
  3. Drop off my clothes/pick up last week's clothes at work (to prep for biking)
  4. Figure out commute schedule for the week
  5. Coordinate carpool schedule
  6. Plan menu 
  7. Dig out refinance papers to locate our most recent lender
  8. Laundry
  9. Wash all sheets, blankets, & bedding
  10. Make blueberry muffins
  11. Make homemade taquitos for the freezer
  12. Make homemade French bread
  13. Finalize May spend/budget
  14. Clean my closet
  15. Read at least 1/2 of a book. Got to have something to look forward to. ;-)
What about you? How have you spent this long weekend (if you are in the US)?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Things I'm thankful for today

Inspired by another blogger (The Frugal Girl, who is always so upbeat), I thought I'd come up with my own list.

Here's what I'm grateful for this week:

  1. That I've been healthy enough to self commute (biking) over the past few weeks. When I was diagnosed with Lupus, I had no idea what the future held. Health is a gift, and it's too easy to forget that when you are feeling well. I love being active, and am so lucky & grateful that I still have these opportunities. 
  2. M's love & acceptance of my family. In fact, he's taking my dad & some of his buddies to Las Vegas for a "boys trip" in a few weeks. He's extremely patient & thoughtful, and it melts me. 
  3. School is almost out. Hurrah! No more homework, class projects, etc. I can't wait!
  4. Fun summer plans, including: time with my mom at the beach, time alone with the boys at the beach, a big family beach party over the 4th of July, a girls trip, an adventure race with the family, and a few days without the kids where M & I may get to have a little adult fun. :-) 
  5. Sam's soccer coach this season. He's amazing & patient & done an amazing job with the boys. Also, Nick's team didn't win a game all season, and he's so hopefully dressed up for each of Sam's games, thinking he might get to play. (They are only a year apart & in the same division/league/club, so subs happen regularly). Sam's coach let Nick play the last two games, so get got in some great game time & made a few big plays. Plus, got in a couple of wins. Winning isn't everything, but it can also help restore your confidence after a rough season. So grateful that Sam's coach was so thoughtful & kind to Nick all season. 
  6. Speaking of, soccer more generally. It's teaching the kids all kinds of great things with sportsmanship, and effort, and patience, and winning/losing. It's also teaching this  mom how to be patient with interesting refing & intense soccer parents, etc. There's a lesson there for everyone. I'm so grateful the boys have the opportunity to play with friends, stay fit, and have a strong long & passion for something that's so good for them. I may change my mind after the tournament this weekend. ;-) 

And, that's it! How about you? What are you grateful for today? 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Weekly spending wrap up (5/16-5/22) - it's a crazy one!

Another week is over, so I'll quickly recap where & how we spent our money for the week. Short story, one of our cheapest weeks ever! :-) I'll definitely take it.

  • Monday - No spend day
  • Tuesday - No spend day
  • Wednesday - No spend day
  • Thursday - Dinner at Sweet Tomatoes after a late practice - $32.61 
  • Friday - $31.60 for an Uber to the airport for M
  • Saturday - No spend day
  • Sunday
    • $9.75 - lunch at Costco
    • $65.26 - groceries at Costco
    • $5.26 - pectin & super cheap clearanced green salsa that I picked up at Lucky. I used the pectin to make freezer marmalade jam & will use the salsa for homemade taquitos. I put the meat, cheese & beans in the food processor, and you need a "liquid" to blend. Perfect find!
    • $6.38 - four jam jars

Total spent for the week = $150.86. I'd need to go back through all of my tracking, but I'm pretty confident this was either our cheapest, or one of our cheapest weeks. Woohoo! I'll take more like that. :-) What about you? Did you track your spending for the week? How did you  do? 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Meal planning

I'm trying to rally myself to put a menu together for the week, so here goes. ;-) I'd also like to get a chance to make freezer orange marmalade. I'm feeling guilty again about all of the unpicked fruit on our trees! I was going to make it this morning, but don't have enough pectin. I'll pick that up today & hopefully squeeze in a batch between other activities.

On to the menu!

  • Sunday - baked risotto with whatever scraps I can find in the fridge
  • Monday - tacos
  • Tuesday - Leftover risotto
  • Wednesday - chicken & pasta
  • Thursday - chicken quesadillas
  • Friday - pasta & meatballs
  • Saturday - not sure. We have a soccer tournament about an hour away, so will be dependent on what time we're done
  • Sunday - ditto above. Soccer, soccer, soccer ;)
It's cold & dreary today, and I'm off to the last official game of the season for Sam (not counting the tournament next weekend, of course. So.much.soccer). I have a to do list the size of my arm, so let's see what I can accomplish!

What about you? What's on your menu for the week?

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A few frugal things for the week

Happy Saturday, friends! I've been doing many kids things this weekend - volunteering at the boys school yesterday afternoon, carpooling to double soccer practices, a sleepover, and making breakfast for the hungry crew this morning. Homemade waffles & fruit. ;-)

I love recapping the frugal decisions I've made over the past week, because it reminds me that lots of small steps add up, and keeps me focused on continuing the good decisions. Even when I'm sometimes off track. Not that it ever happens, of course! :-)

Here are a few of the frugal wins I've had this week:

  • Posted three sets of hoodies on a local FB swap. Have people coming by for all three. If that comes through, I will make $30. And why do I have so many hoodies, you may ask? We went through a phase where Sam was losing a hoodie a week. In frustration, I stocked up. Shortly after, his responsibility increased. Several of the hoodies still have tags, but the rest are in excellent condition. 
  • Traded childcare & didn't need the nanny on Friday, saving me ~$60
  • Prepped for a late dinner vs buying pizza after practice yesterday, saving $30
  • I will pack lunches today, vs buying out, as we will be traveling between soccer games & won't have time for a lunch at home. 
  • Used a bunch of quickly turning fridge items to make the boys smoothies for an after school snack. 
  • Made myself lunch yesterday with random scraps from the fridge
  • Will clean the house this weekend, on my continued effort to reduce our cleaning lady spend
  • Purged the boys room yesterday (not frugal on its own, but found the hoodies) & our hall closet. I found a few items that M bought at Joann's to repair Nick's favorite animal. We ended up going with another solution, so I returned the items to Joann's yesterday. I didn't have a receipt, so turned my store credit into a set of 50 colorful card stock & envelopes. We don't buy regular cards, so make our own for every occasion. This got unnecessary stuff at of our house, and in return, we have something we will definitely use. 
  • I rode my bike to & from work 2 days, and one way another day, saving gas & burning calories!
  • Made homemade popcorn & chocolate chip muffins for snacks for the small people, rather than buying premade snacks. 

And, in frugal fails:

  • Went out to dinner with everyone on Thursday, after our late goalie practice
  • Bought an expensive yogurt no one liked. I had a coupon, it was a brand people had eaten in the past, but I got a different flavor. Had to turn it into smoothies, but wouldn't have spent the $2 I'd known they'd turn up their noses at the strawberry rhubarb. ;-) 

I'm off to go pack lunches, clean the house & get the laundry done. And to water my strawberry plants - I've been picking a handful a day & they are amazing! What frugal wins do you have for the week? 

Friday, May 20, 2016

It's Friday, and thinking ahead on housing

M & I have been working through our goals for the next 12 months, as our lease expires in August of 2017. Our current plan is to save another $100K for a down payment, and start looking for a house *to buy* in approximately one year. There are so many variables to this, but we think this is a reasonable scenario.

Cost increases & tentative plans:
Saving another $100K would give us enough of a down payment to put between 20-25% down. We are looking at a price range that will increase our housing payment (as compared to our existing rent) by the least amount possible, while keeping the boys in the same school district. The increase in P&I from our existing rent payment will likely be about $1,600. This doesn't include taxes. Property taxes are pretty scary here - we expect to need another $2,000/month for property taxes.

I have a pending question out to our accountant on how much this additional property tax & mortgage interest would change our income tax liability, so that will help us understand net out of pocket impact.

Where will the money for the down payment come from?
As context, M & I have each three sources of "income" - a monthly salary (fixed, well known amount), a yearly bonus (amount unknown, although can predict based on known inputs such as our personal work performance and previous bonus value), and monthly stock vests. For the stock, we have a known amount that we are already getting, and get increased vests once a year. The stock price, of course, is the unknown variable for stock. As a result, I sell my vests every month when they happen - M hangs on to his. He thinks of it as hedging by us each using a different strategy. ;-)

For the additional $100K, the plan is

  • To use my bonus to cover taxes, my 401K and 2017 travel. 
  • M will use M's bonus to cover his 401K contribution for the year, as well as the remaining travel budget. 
  • We will not plan to use our salaries to generate the $100K. We will save our salaries in our existing emergency fund. Mostly because our salaries are covering our existing expenses pretty well right now.  
  • This leaves us with our stock vests. Both of us expect to be able to clear another $50K each (conservative estimate, but again, stock is volatile) in the next year. This will be the source of the additional down payment $100K. 

What about the increase in housing & property tax?
We currently think we could absorb the increase in monthly housing ($1,600) with M's salary. It will be tight, and if our rental house in Seattle has any challenges (we lose our renter, major repairs, etc) things will be very tricky.

Once we are done saving for the down payment, we can free up some amount of our stock vests to put towards property taxes.

Where does this leave me with my job situation?
I'm currently planning on staying at least through June of 2017 to be able to get us through to the down payment savings we need for a house. However, if I can stick it out until January of 2018, we will be in an even better situation (this would include another annual bonus, plus 6 months of additional stock). Mostly because, assuming we buy in the price range we're currently thinking of, I'd need to cover all of our non-mortgage expenses while M covers the mortgage.

I would, of course, really like to hang on to our vacation house. The longer I can work at this income, the more likely it is that we can keep the house. Once things shake out with our mortgage, taxes, and income, it will be easier to understand if this is in the cards.

I do plan (and need to) continue to work, but hopefully not at a job as demanding as this one.

Planning, planning, planning! And with that, I'm off to wrap up a few projects & focus on the much more immediate planning of the weekend. What about you? What's on your agenda for the weekend?