Thursday, January 19, 2017

Ahhh, the chaos

I'm still here, but in the midst of the mad house closing scramble. It's been a very stressful few days - lots of paperwork & number crunching, and document signing. We are making good progress, but I haven't even thought about the actual move. My first goal is to prepare for signing & get all of our assets liquidated in time for closing. No small feat given the number of accounts & multitude of investments we are talking about.

But, I'm focusing on the positives. We close on the 8th, and my birthday is on the 10th. I've decided to take the 10th off, and have a glass of champagne while packing. Baby steps. :-)

I'll provide more of a financial update, but it's safe to say that things will be tighter than I'd prefer for at least a few months, until more of my stock vests. And, then we will sell our Seattle house & have a cushion again. Woohoo!

I'm also mentally creating a list of things we don't want to move & will either donate or sell in advance. The boys & I are going through their rooms this weekend for the sorting process: toss, donate, sell, keep/move. Should be a hoot!

In other news, we've spent no money of any kind, because, well, when you are plunking down a big bunch of money for a down payment, it makes you feel really uninterested in spending anything else. :-)

The to do list! As you can see, it's a mix of big & small tasks, but they all need to be completed.

  1. Sort out a nanny for next week. Mine had a family emergency (her grandmother passed away), so I need to either plan to work from home in the afternoons, or trade off a few days with M.
  2. Liquidate remaining assets before next week (x3). Have a call out to my broker on one that's particularly tricky.
  3. Provide paper trail of all money to the bank.
  4. Figure out moving date. (This is dependent on our landlord getting our house rented).
  5. Start packing
  6. Book exterminator for new house. (This is a thing before people move in, apparently. Wasn't required in Washington, so a new process for me). 
  7. Sort out work travel plans based on move date.
  8. Finish new cash flow model based on expenses. After 11+ years of marriage, M & I have finally come to terms with needing a combined cash flow, vs each covering specific expenses and managing independently. Should be a fun exercise to put it all together. Random trivia - my cash flow spreadsheet is 20+ years old. Why fix what's not broken. 
  9. Provide notice to tenants that we will not renew their rental contract.
  10. Book a camp for the kids in February, when we were supposed to be skiing. 

And, that's it for me! What's the #1 item on your to do list today?

Monday, January 16, 2017

We bought a house, and a menu plan

Because really, what would Monday be without a menu plan? :-) And yes, it happened!!! We went very uncomfortably above our asking price, and our offer was accepted! Now we're in the phase of, oh my goodness, this is actually happening. . . . It's not uncommon in our area to bid on 20+ houses, so we were skeptical until we received the final notice that our offer was accepted. We actually found out when we received an automated MLS query update, marking our house as "pending". Technology. ;-)

In other news, we haven't sold our stock market investments yet for our down payment. . . see above note about needing to bid on 20+ houses to get an approved offer. We know many people who looked for over a year, so it doesn't make sense to have a liquid portfolio for that period of time. And, fingers crossed that the market holds steady next week during the inauguration? We also had to agree to a 25 day closing, so things are moving VERY quickly. I spent today gathering paperwork, getting homeowners insurance, and getting the earnest money sorted out on a bank holiday. Of course it's a bank holiday in the US! :-) Wouldn't be a challenge if it was easy.

The market we are buying in is like nothing I've ever seen, and this is my 5th home purchase. . . Speaking of which, we are working to get out of our lease on our rental property & our landlord is fabulous. We're hopeful that we will only need to cover an additional month's rent. Given the inventory of the housing market & general competitiveness on housing, it's near impossible to predict when you will actually buy. So, being out an extra month's rent, while not ideal, is probably best case scenario.

I also think we will sell our Seattle house when our tenant's lease expires at the end of the school year. It's a great investment, and we'd love to hang onto it. But, things will be uncomfortably tight if we do. Lots of financial analysis ahead on that front. I did sell $45 worth of Facebook items, so just right on track for that deposit. ;-)

So, chaos. There you have it. :-) I'll have a bigger update on the financial chaos, our new budget, our mad scramble for a downpayment, etc. But, we're about to become homeowners again, and knowing the path forward (at least in the housing sense) is a huge, huge relief for all of us. The kids are thrilled to be able to stay in the same school district.

Yesterday was another super early soccer tournament, in the 32 degree weather. I got up at 5:00, and we were out of the house by 5:40. The game was much colder than anyone expected (including the weather forecasters). Sam was like a popsicle afterward. He's subbing for the premier league (one up from the league he plays in - top 30 teams in the state, so ridiculously intense), & was on the bench for half of the game. He typically doesn't sub out at his own level, and stays warm by playing for the full hour. I ended up needing to stop at Target for an undershirt for the second game. Didn't get above 40, and was crazy foggy all day. His team lost both games, and will be in sudden death next weekend. Mixed feelings on my side for what happens next. So done with the tournament season! :-) I did pack lunches, brought my Panera gift card, and kept things pretty in check yesterday, minus the unexpected clothes/gloves. Also, my Starbucks app failed a few times while I was in line & I didn't have my gift card on hand, so I ended up having to pay $7 cash for my hot tea & hot cocoa for Sam.

And, a glimpse at the fields at 7:30 am (and, 30 degrees). . . the boys couldn't see if anyone was further up the field to pass to. It was a classic. There was a lot of shouting & asking.


  • Friday - spaghetti & meatballs (tomato sauce is homemade, meatballs are from Costco)
  • Saturday - at a friend's house for dinner. I brought dessert - fresh lemon cake. It was fantastic.
  • Sunday  - M made kebabs & rice
  • Monday - I made a super delicious chicken & potato chowder, and served it with goat cheese crostini. 
  • Tuesday - leftover spaghetti & meatballs
  • Wednesday - leftovers kebabs & rice
  • Thursday - Leftover soup
  • Friday - Tacos or taco salad. TBD. 

And with that, what were you up to this weekend? How is the housing market where you are at? Is it a buyers market, or a sellers market? Our market is now over $1000/sq foot, which is just sheer madness. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Frugal Friday

Another whirlwind of a week! So happy it's Friday. In big news, we are making an offer on a house today. We'll see how that plays out. If we get it, expect lots of posts on the topic, and expect to see us hit a new (mandatory) level of frugality. :-)

Here are the frugal things we did this week:


  • No meals out. In fact, no meals out in 2017. We'll see how long I can keep that up for. ;-)
  • Utilized our weekend cooking to feed us all week long through creative use of leftovers. Froze a few leftover mini meatloaves & the rest of the lubia polo for future meals. 
  • A bizarre lunch of leftover stuffing & clam chowder for lunch today, with a fruit smoothie (using up leftover fruit & fresh orange juice from our yard oranges) for breakfast.
  • Line dryed all clothes. We continue to machine dry the towels.
  • Sold a pair of flats on eBay for $26. Haven't been paid yet, but hopefully today.
  • Spent no money this week, other than on the mandatory soccer uniforms for the kids. I did skip buying a bunch of things new that we already had (backpack, warm up jackets, etc). It's technically required, but there's no way I'm buying two more $50 backpacks. 
  • Made my own muffins last week for snacks this week, taking advantage of our free yard lemons.
I think that's pretty much it. How about you? Any frugal accomplishments this week?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Weekly spending roundup (1/2-1/8/17) & overly ambitious in the kitchen

I decided to tackle a variety of kitchen tasks yesterday, and the boys wanted to help. We thought it might be a good way to both continue their kitchen knowledge & skills, and entertain them on a very stormy day. It was both of those things, but I always forget how much effort it takes to teach someone vs doing it yourself. ;-)

I try to do all of our cooking on weekends, saving leftovers for quick weekday meals. If we don't have enough leftovers, we move to freezer meal options. Given our schedule, this is the only way to avoid either frozen pizza or meals out during the week. (We have those, just sparingly.)

I was also a bit overly ambitious with how much we could get done. Here's what we accomplished in a ~3 hour period.


  • Found gorgeous Roma tomatoes for $.49/pound at the produce stand, so decided to make fresh tomato sauce. This was unplanned. This turned out beautifully, and I worked on most of this. M came through at the end to taste test, & then season it. All of this went to the freezer for either pizza topping, or for pasta dinners. 
  • The wind storm dropped a bunch of lemons from our tree, and they'd been on the ground for a while & needed to be used up. We made fresh lemon muffins.
  • Juiced all of the remaining lemons for future meals/salads.
  • Made goat cheese crostini for our appetizer, as our dinner prep took longer than expected. Nick made the crostini entirely himself. I helped only through supervision & putting things into/taking out of the oven.
  • Homemade stuffing. Sam made this himself. He didn't enjoy the onion chopping. We made the Boudin stuffing recipe, and I thought it could have used more seasoning & some butter. The recipe called for zero butter, & I wish I would have added it. 
  • Meatloaf. Sam & Nick made this together - Nick grated the cheese & made the glaze. Sam assembled the meat ingredients & shaped the loaves. I highly recommend this recipe. I may add diced pickle to these next time, as we prefer a little pickle in our meat loaf. 
  • A huge fresh salad. Nick's knife skills are good enough that he can make this entirely on his own, complete with homemade dressing. 

Phew! I didn't get my workout in, but I was exhausted after all of that kitchen time. :-) Now we have a full menu of prepared meals for the week ahead (I'd also cooked on Friday & Saturday). 

In terms of our spending, here's our spending roundup for the week:

  • Monday (1/2):
    • $13.87 - eyeliner at Rite Aid. Stocking up. Should have used plenti points, but I didn't think through my transaction.
    • $1 - popcorn at the movies (the rest was paid for by gift cards)
    • $15.18 - Costco. Can't remember - M went back for two items they were out of on Saturday.
    • $28.95 - dishwasher tabs at Rite Aid. Stocking up to earn the $20 plenti offer.
    • $8.09 - slippers. On my shopping list for the year. 
    • -$13.02 - returned a jacket to Costco
  • Tuesday - no spend day
  • Wednesday - no spend day
  • Thursday - no spend day
  • Friday:
    • $175 - nanny for the week. We used our old nanny, who was home from college. Our current nanny was on vacation.
  • Saturday:
    • $7.32 at the produce stand for tomatoes, cucumbers, & radishes. 
    • $161.26 at Costco for our groceries for the week. Lots of fruit & vegetables.
    • $28.70 at Lucky. I bought 10 packs of coffee on clearance, risotto rice on sale x2, more yeast, and a box of $.57 tea on clearance. 
  • Sunday:
    • $2.28 - back to Lucky for the last 4 boxes of clearance coffee. I wanted to taste it before I bought more. It was great!
    • $4.71 - back to the produce stand for more tomatoes (decided to make the tomato sauce), lavash bread, & celery for our stuffing.
Total spent for the week = $433.34, with a big chunk of that going to child care. I'll take it! How about you? How was your spending for the first week of the year?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Getting things done Sunday & a big grocery find

A few of our sporting events were cancelled due to weather today, so we're left with early futsal practice (8:00 am) & Nick's futsal game. The weather has been very rainy and windy, so I'll cross my fingers that we don't lose power.

I ran a bunch of errands yesterday, & stumbled upon a huge grocery deal at our local Lucky (owned by Kroger, I believe). In their 90% off holiday section, they had Keurig holiday blends. So, I bought 10 boxes of 12 packs for just under $6 (total). 120 K cups for that price drops my standard cost per unit of $.25 to $.0475 per unit. WOW! I may go back & pick up any remaining boxes today. This, plus our remaining Keurig stock should get us through the next six months. I was also given a holiday gift of 2 packages of Columbian coffee (my coworker goes to Columbia over the holidays to visit family & brought me back a few large bags as a thank you for covering a few issues in his absence), so I'm hoping we can minimize our grocery spending in coffee greatly with this. Woohoo! And yes, we are also concerned about the environmental impact of the K cups. We typically buy only the compostable kind. Instead, these are recyclable, so we will need to rinse them after each use & make sure to recycle them. Still not perfect, I realize.

Okay, here's what's on my to do list for today:

  1. Go for a run. Should be interesting with the weather
  2. Take the boys to futsal practice
  3. Bake muffins for the freezer
  4. Take Nick to his futsal game
  5. Squeeze in a 21 day fix strength workout?
  6. Wash boys sheets
  7. Laundry
  8. Return a gift to Nordstrom
  9. Go through our schedule for the week, including new bonus soccer practices & skill sessions.
  10. Email nanny & M with schedule details
  11. Clean bathrooms
  12. Text our cleaning lady about cancelling our service. (M hasn't yet agreed to this. Negotiations in progress)
  13. Menu plan for the week
  14. Call my parents. My dad injured himself yesterday & is unable to get to urgent care due to a huge amount of snow & ice storm. They are waiting for the snow plow to get to them. They live WAY out in the country, so will be way down on the list of priorities.

And, here's our menu plan, including the tail end of the week. I have a bunch of late meetings this week, so will rely on leftovers or easy options from the freezer.

  • Friday - homemade pizza. The adults & one kid had "fridge scraps pizza", which included salami, one small piece of chicken, cheese, & onion. Other kid had a cheese pizza.
  • Saturday - Persian dish called lubia polo with yogurt sauce. 
  • Sunday - goat cheese crostini + mini meat loaves & homemade stuffing
  • Monday - clam chowder (Boudin, from Costco) + crostini
  • Tuesday - leftover lubia polo & yogurt sauce
  • Wednesday - leftover meatloaf & roasted brussels sprouts
  • Thursday - Baked chicken & pasta
  • Friday - Chicken potato soup (new recipe)
What about you? What are you up to today? What's on your menu for the week? How is the weather where you are?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

January goals - one week in

We have a crazy busy day tomorrow (one futsal game, two futsal practices - at the same time, at least, two flag football practices, and two flag football games). The calendar is magically clear today. Futsal is supposed to be on Saturdays, to spread out the love, but was adjusted due to a coach's conflict.

I like to check in on my goals, particularly in the earlier months/weeks, where I literally forget some of the goals I've set. ;-)

1) Financial - Figure out our housing situation, and get it all resolved (i.e. moved, job changes as needed) before school starts.  - I've started on our housing range. We contacted our renters, and they are unable to buy now. That puts us in a place of needing to re-evaluate our buying timeline & plans. I need to set up a meeting with our accountant & understand the best options for selling. I did inventory & track the stockpile of our toiletries. I'm still looking for the January "permanent" savings, but have some ideas!

  • Build our pricing range (it's not fixed, as there are a variety of contingencies, depending upon the sale of our Seattle house). 
  • Inventory & track various stockpiles, to reduce waste & minimize what we need to move.
  • Come up with one new way to reduce what we need on an ongoing basis. Examples I've kicked around: find an alternative to all of the ziplock bags/plastic wraps we use for kid lunches. Put a container in the shower to save water for the yard. Collect rain in buckets. Create a compost bucket for the kitchen, so it's easy to compost food scraps. All of these are meant to be permanent changes, so not focused on one time savings. 

2) Family - Spend more time together as a family! - We went to the movies, which was really fun. We also went on a family fun run on New Year's Day. M & I haven't had a date, but this is a good reminder to schedule something. And, we figured out our February trip & ended up canceling. We lost the flight value due to change fees, but it was a good tradeoff. We won't have to take the time off of work, but we will need to find a camp for the boys. More details to come, but I feel good that the bandaid was ripped off the decision. Given our tenuous housing situation, I need to stop being a planner & trying to book travel in advance. I like having everything sorted months in advance, but it's clear that isn't a good option given where we are right now.
  • Do a minimum of one fun activity/month with the kids. This can be family puzzle night, cooking dinner together, board games, going out somewhere, etc. 
  • 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) 
  • Figure out what to do with our February trip. We were originally going to spend 10 days in Seattle/Portland, getting the boys familiar with the area & skiing. Given our change in plans/unknown status, we may stay here instead. 

    3) Fitness/health - Lose 20 pounds, bringing my weight to 133. This may sound familiar, as it's also a carryover goal from last year! - I did have a glass of leftover champagne on New Year's Day, but have had none since. I ran 3 miles on 1/1, and I've had 4 days of eating a minimum of 5 servings of fruit & vegetables. I've also done 3 strength workouts, 2 stretching workouts, and 200 minutes of cardio. Trending behind on the cardio, but I'm okay with that, as I'm putting in the workouts. I've lost zero pounds, which is expected. The first few weeks of setting good habits are the hardest!
    • No alcohol in January!
    • Run 16 miles in January. 
    • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day
    • Complete 1,000 minutes of cardio
    • Complete 6 strength workouts.
    • Complete 6 stretching workouts. 

    4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance. - This is a work in progress, and going back to work after the holiday time off was no small feat. But I did work from home one day already. 
    • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress (until I leave)
    • Work from home 2x this month.

      5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits. - I've volunteered, but this is the limit of my accomplishments so far in this one. I removed the reading goals, as it's a regular part of my life. I've been reading in the evenings. 
      • Bake bread, and try a new recipe.
      • Do something social at least once per month.
      • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month.

      What about you? How are you doing on your January goals? 

      2016 Spending in Review

      Every year I do a look back at our budget categories & our actual expenses per category. It helps me determine which categories need adjustment, or further scrutiny. As a reminder, we budget in two different ways - monthly budget items, which are typical monthly expenses. The amount may vary slightly, but it exists monthly. Yearly budget items are those where we know we will spend the money in the year, but we may spend the entire yearly budget in one month (Christmas), or spread out in dribs & drabs throughout the year.

      Monthly expenses:
      Okay, so let's see how we did. We finished the year under our planned monthly spend, which is always a good position! This was mostly due to an adjustment of our Seattle mortgage (permanent renters, reduced costs) & refinancing our vacation house.

      We were also over in LOTS of monthly categories.
      -We've reduced the number of hours we're using for childcare, but are now including date night coverage. This also included summer camps, which were extremely expensive. As a result, and because it impacts how we plan our travel/vacation plans in 2017, I'll be creating a separate summer camp budget this year.
      -Also, that dining out number. . . is the result not of frequent small meals out, but a few blowout meals out. So, that will clearly need attention in 2017. We spent $1600 more in 2016 than 2015!! This is why I have a goal to find free/reduced date night options for at least a couple of date nights this year.
      -I cut our insurance by making policy modifications.
      -Lower gas prices allowed us to continue to save in this category.



      MonthlyBudgetActualOver/Under
      Category
      Childcare1650018060-1560
      Cleaning468015553125
      Dining Out18004522.9-2722.9
      Entertainment600365.95234.05
      Gas28801884.52995.48
      Groceries60008160.41-2160.41
      Insurance22531392.26860.74
      Rent6000062400-2400
      Liquor6001305.52-705.52
      Vac Mortg2760019168.518431.49
      Toiletries300335.56-35.56
      Seattle Mortg579001396043940
      Utilities54005357.5342.47
      186513138468.1648044.84

      Yearly expenses:
      Our core tax withholdings, health insurance, and charitable donations are not calculated here (taken away before we see the money). However, due to the overall mix of our compensation, we still typically owe given our stock options. That's listed below, in taxes. Health is a combination of things like race entry fees, the occasional massage for me, etc. Charity is above and beyond our fixed monthly budget that's automatically withheld.

      If you take out the taxes, we did pretty well on most of our categories. And, again, we've adjusted our withholdings drastically in 2016, so I'm hopeful this number will be much smaller. Eventually, one day, we will own a house as a primary residence & get to deduct some interest. Until then, we continue to pay $$$$$. 

      There were a few other outliers:
      -I decided to ramp up the boys college donations to $200/month, hence the overage.
      -The boys are clearly expensive, and had a ton of expensive activities. The majority of this was club soccer, but some of it included swimming lessons & flag football (they start in January, but the fees were due in December). 
      -We paid $3000 for a one time gift to my dad. M took my dad and a few of his buddies to Las Vegas for an all expenses paid blowout for his 65th birthday. M gets comps at the casino, so this was the overage & own't be repeated next year.
      -I've discussed the housing budget in more detail, but I clearly need to start tracking this more carefully. 
      -Travel. . . more than planned due to my 40th birthday, three unplanned soccer tournament hotel stays (we didn't expect to go this far - for either team!) & a few other unplanned trips. This year needs to be less, so I will be maximizing travel hacking (using points, hotel rewards, miles, & some airline credits).


      TotalsBudgetActualOver/Under
      Category
      Auto15001354.31145.69
      Boys (All)10002106.08-1106.08
      Boys Activities15005037.74-3537.74
      Boys College20002350-350
      Charity500678.92-178.92
      Christmas20001053.57946.43
      Clothing (All)20001965.9634.04
      Gifts10004009.63-3009.63
      Health600527.7672.24
      House15003604.7-2104.7
      Personal10001139.5-139.5
      Taxes500031721-26721
      Travel700011007.63-4007.63
      2660066556.8-39956.8
      I've written a full post about our planned 2017 budget, so I won't go over all of the numbers. All told, we came in $8,088 under budget, but that's hiding a lot of sloppiness in some of the actual categories. Now that we have clean accounting for our rental property, I expect that much more scrutiny will be required in 2017 to bring us in on target.

      That's it for 2016 spending! How about you? Did you track & review your spending? Were you on target, below or over? Tell us your tips & tricks, & plans for 2017.

      Friday, January 6, 2017

      Frugal Fridays

      I like to round up my frugal spending for the last week or so, and celebrate the wins. Here's what we accomplished:


      • Took the boys to the movies (with a friend), & paid with gift cards. This was their requested last holiday celebration before school went back on Tuesday. 
      • At the movies, brought water bottles & clearance candy as snacks
      • Used the remaining gift card to cover popcorn to share between the kids. Paid $1 out of pocket for 4 people at the movies, which is a huge savings.
      • I made all dinners at home, and stuck to our meal plan. Turned leftover steak & takeout white rice into fried rice for dinner one night. (My meal plan that I posted & created randomly excluded a day, so I was a meal short! :-))
      • Followed our normal frugal activities: line dried all laundry (except socks, towels, & underwear). Used cloth napkins for all meals.
      • I priced a ski trip on a day the boys have the day off of school. It turned out the lift tickets were insanely expensive. Given our housing situation, we're trying hard to limit our spending, so we opted not to do it.
      • Listed 3 items on a local Facebook swap.
      • Inventoried our toiletries
      • Ran a cost per unit comparison of many household items, and tracked the costs for future purchase.
      • Found some good deals at Rite Aid. I need to pick up a prescription today, so will go today to finish the offer & collect more plenti points. 
      • Planning to eat breakfast & lunch out of fridge scraps today.
      • Did no shopping this week. Worked, worked, worked. 

      That's my list for the week. How about you? Any frugal wins? I also want to get an item listed on Facebook, and go through the boys toys/books to get rid of things they no longer want or use. Anything worth selling will be listed on the local Facebook site. 

      Thursday, January 5, 2017

      December goal wrap up

      Other than my fitness, it was a pretty successful month! Here's how the December goals played out. It's clear that my fitness is an area in need of some serious attention.

      Finances:

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

      Family:
      • Have one date night with M - Yes! We did both a date night & a lunch.
      • Donate, sell or toss 50 items in the house. - I think I donated or tossed around 10 items. 
      • Try a new recipe that everyone (including my little guy) will eat. Yes! I made hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls. Not exactly gourmet, but it worked!
      • Get our plans sorted out for our December trip - Yes, done. 
      • Find ski goggles for the kids, so we can ski in January - Yes, done. 


      Fitness: 
      • Hit 150 & stay there through the end of the month - eh, no. I stayed even. 
      • Eat 5 servings of fruits & vegetables  - nope. Not even close, sadly. Too many chocolates & holiday treats. Not enough carrots!
      • Complete 5 stretching workouts (yoga or pilates) - I had 2 stretching workouts.
      • Complete 7 strength workouts - I finished with 5 strength workouts. 
      • Complete 900 minutes of cardio. - I finished with 510 minutes. It was in the low 30s & raining for much of our trip to Oregon. I typically put in a minimum of an hour a day on vacation, but was not as motivated with the freezing cold weather. 
      • Average 1450 calories/day - no way near this, sadly. I finished December with 1,820 calories/day.
      • Average 10,000 steps/day - I stopped tracking very effectively, but did have a few big step days to offset some of the other "lounge around the house & do puzzles" days. I'll assume I finished around an average of 8,000/day.

      Work/Career:
      • Maximum of one late night/week - yes
      • Work from home at least one Friday this month - yes
      • Stay calm & manage my stress well - relatively well, given the month & the general amount of craziness. 

      Personal/Creative:
      • Read four books - oh yes. Probably around 12? 
      • Get together with one friend - yes, we went for a hike on a lovely day. 
      • Take the boys to see Christmas lights - Yes!
      • Make cardamom bread for the holidays - Yes, and it turned out great. Victory, at last.
      • Find a way to volunteer! - Yes, I cleaned Nick's teacher's classroom before the break. It was nice & sort of therapeutic. Plus, I knew she would be staying late if I didn't help. It was nice to give back. I also volunteered once at the school running event. 

      How did you do with your December goals? Any big wins to report? 

      Wednesday, January 4, 2017

      2017 Net Worth Update

      I try to start off a new year with our financial house in order, understanding how our financial situation has evolved, and measure our progress on a yearly level. I tend to be focused on smaller numbers (monthly, weekly spending reports, etc), all of which are critical to the larger financial picture. However, it's also really helpful to understand our financial picture on a larger basis once a year.

      In exciting news, we broke the $1M mark for our retirement accounts in December! Because of M's age, he can now participate in the 401K catch up in 2017. We haven't yet decided if he will participate (we will both continue to max out the standard 401K amounts), as our cash flow situation remains unclear based on our housing/location.

      As for our other assets, we continue to pay down our liabilities (three mortgages across two properties) & stash cash for an eventual decision on location. This, combined with very high salaries & a continued effort to minimize our expenses, has allowed us to double our net worth over the past three years.

      Our net worth also benefited from a big rise in the stock market, and the continued real estate appreciation in Seattle.

      What about you? Do you track your net worth? How has your financial picture changed, year over year? 

      Tuesday, January 3, 2017

      Why you should make time to inventory your "stuff" and a toiletry inventory

      I've been working on taking stock of our pantry, toiletries, and my clothing. For me, this means understanding our existing stockpile, any pending needs, and anything we might be running out of soon.

      In 2017, I hope to reduce our budgets by keeping better track of our needs & what we already have at home. This, of course, helps me reduce overbuying, but also helps me search for good deals when I know we will be needing something soon. Given our pending move (either location will require a move, as we are currently renting), it's more important than ever that I don't unnecessarily stockpile. Who wants to move a bunch of stuff we won't need for a few years . . . or ever?

      I started with inventorying my toiletries. My goal for the first six months of 2017 is to not buy any toiletries, save for the credits I have on my plenti point account (Rite Aid). I have $79 available for toiletries during the first six months. I'll also look for opportunities to roll my points, to extend the savings.

      The first item I determined as a pending need (meaning, I have one item in service, but no backup) is my eyeliner. And yes, I realize "need" is probably a generous description of eyeliner for those of you who don't wear makeup. ;-) I went to Rite Aid yesterday to see if I could take advantage of a "spend $50, get $20 in points" offer, by price checking non-toiletry needs:

      • After looking at the Rite Aid ad, I did a cost per unit comparison of our dishwasher tablets. We are paying $.11 per tablet at Costco. Rite Aid was offering the tablets BOGO, so I was able to get them for $.10 per tablet (not including the plenti offer). Not a toiletry budget item.
      • I also had slippers on my list of clothing needs. I was able to find a very cute pair that matched my needs for under $10. (Didn't count towards the plenti offer). Not a toiletry budget item.
      • The eyeliner was also BOGO50. Unfortunately, because I'm not a pro, I didn't use my plenti points. I didn't want to deduct my precious toiletry points with the dishwasher tablet & slipper purchases, both of which came out of other categories. 
      So, I've already "violated" the toiletry challenge by using a credit card for a toiletry purchase. However, I'll track my eyeliner spend & move the goal post out by another month. Should have had another cup of coffee before I attempted a complicated purchase this morning. ;-)

      I am now $10 away from earning the $20 reward, so I will look at Rite Aid next week for other options.


      With all of that, here's my existing inventory of our toiletries. (I use a special shampoo, as it's expensive, but something I need due to an extreme dry scalp condition caused by lupus. Otherwise, we would all use the same stuff.)


      Toiletries inventory
      Item# on hand
      Bar soap14
      Hotel soaps9
      Qtips2boxes
      My deodorant2
      M's deodorant4
      Shaving cream4
      Kids shampoo4
      My shampoo1
      Face cloths2
      Sponges4
      Eye makeup remover3
      Face scrub1
      Razor replacements2
      Eyeliner3
      Mascara2
      BB2
      Night face cream1
      Face sunblock - SPF 701
      Lotion 2lots of travel + full size
      Mouthwash7
      Sonicare heads9
      Flossers1bag
      Dental floss5
      Toothpaste5


      As you can see, we're in good shape for pretty much everything. I will continue to track our toiletries and use my plenti points to lower our budget. Basically, use the plenti points as a true asset, vs randomly spending it. 

      I'll also be posting about our pantry stockpile, as well as household goods (ziplocks, laundry soap), as I've been trying to do an update of our cost per unit across every item. Expect a clothing update soon. This won't be a stockpile, so much as an inventory taking of existing items, as well as any known needs.

      What about you? Do you inventory any of your stockpiles, or track costs per unit? I was blown away to know that dishwasher tablets were $.10 (or, $.11, depending on the deal). Just knowing this will make me more conscientious of running the dishwasher when it's not completely fully. Share your stockpile tips!!

      Monday, January 2, 2017

      January Goals


      It's time to take my yearly goals, and break them down into more actionable monthly goals. Here's what I'm planning to accomplish in January!

      To kick off my fitness goals for the month, I'm going to give up alcohol in January! It will be a financial win, but I'm hoping it will jump start a bit of weight loss as well. I typically have 1-2 glasses of wine on weekends, but indulge more over the holidays.

      *No idea what happened to the original post. It disappeared while I was making the font bigger, so here it is again!*


      1) Financial - Figure out our housing situation, and get it all resolved (i.e. moved, job changes as needed) before school starts. 

      • Build our pricing range (it's not fixed, as there are a variety of contingencies, depending upon the sale of our Seattle house). 
      • Inventory & track various stockpiles, to reduce waste & minimize what we need to move.
      • Come up with one new way to reduce what we need on an ongoing basis. Examples I've kicked around: find an alternative to all of the ziplock bags/plastic wraps we use for kid lunches. Put a container in the shower to save water for the yard. Collect rain in buckets. Create a compost bucket for the kitchen, so it's easy to compost food scraps. All of these are meant to be permanent changes, so not focused on one time savings. 

      2) Family - Spend more time together as a family!
      • Do a minimum of one fun activity/month with the kids. This can be family puzzle night, cooking dinner together, board games, going out somewhere, etc. 
      • 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) 
      • Figure out what to do with our February trip. We were originally going to spend 10 days in Seattle/Portland, getting the boys familiar with the area & skiing. Given our change in plans/unknown status, we may stay here instead. 

        3) Fitness/health - Lose 20 pounds, bringing my weight to 133. This may sound familiar, as it's also a carryover goal from last year!
        • No alcohol in January!
        • Run 16 miles in January. 
        • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day
        • Complete 1,000 minutes of cardio
        • Complete 6 strength workouts.
        • Complete 6 stretching workouts. 

        4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
        • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress (until I leave)
        • Work from home 2x this month.

          5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits.
          • Bake bread, and try a new recipe.
          • Do something social at least once per month.
          • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month.

          That's it for me. What about you? What are you hoping to accomplish in January?

          Sunday, January 1, 2017

          Happy New Year, and 2016 Goals in Review

          We had a great & relaxing day yesterday. My youngest had a friend over, then we picked oranges & dropped them off for his family to avoid waste. We all went for a run. I made muffins, did all of the laundry, unpacked, M washed the car, and I ran all of our food related errands for the week.

          We had veggies & hummus for an appetizer last night with champagne, and then ordered PF Chang's delivery for a special splurge. Sam loved it! Nick made himself pasta & meatballs, because . . . he is a very picky eater. ;-)

          And, now we're off to kick off 2017 by doing a family fun run this morning! Here's a look at our goals.

          1) Financial - Save $160,000 for my "leaving work" nest egg ($100K to offset expenses, $45K for taxes, $15K for travel) - Yes!!! I crushed this. I'm at $230K. Our life plans area  bit more in flux, but just yesterday we emailed our tenants in our Seattle house to determine if they may be interested in buying the house from us. If so, that would free us up to buy a house here. Without selling that house, things will be insanely tight. I'm proud of the savings for 2016! By far the best we've ever done on this.
          • 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 6 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. 

            I finished the year with 9,750 cardio minutes, 72 strength workouts, and 35 stretching workouts. I averaged 3.5 fruits & veggies/a day, so this is definitely an area of focus!
            • 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. 

              It's not perfect (never is), but overall, I feel good about what we accomplished as a family. 2017 needs to be a year where I focus more on my fitness. I have a few tweaks to my goals, which I will post about, which will hopefully bring me closer to a healthier weight! More on that to come. How about you? How did you do with your 2016 goals?