Wednesday, November 22, 2017

2017 Goals Check In

I can't believe we're in the home stretch of 2017! And, wow. A lot has changed since I created our 2017 goals a year or so ago! With just over a month left, I wanted to check in on my progress:

1) Financial - Figure out our housing situation, and get it all resolved (i.e. moved, job changes as needed) before school starts. - Bought a house, moved, & sold our other house!
  • Decide what to do with our Seattle house. Contingent upon location.
  • Move!
  • Build/follow a 2017 "interim budget" (until I leave my job) & a 2017 "post-job budget", after.
  • Inventory & track our various stockpiles, so we reduce waste & minimize what we need to move.
  • Every month, come up with a 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 mostly accomplished this, but had weeks that were better than others. The date night thing didn't happen consistently, but M & I had two vacations together, so I'll consider that a huge win instead.
  • 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) 

    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! - Major fail on the weight side. 2018 is going to need an entirely different plan. I'm actually running 2 pounds over my weight from last year. Sigh. 
    • Make running a consistent part of my life. Build & follow a training plan.
    • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day
    • Complete 10,000 minutes of cardio
    • Complete 50 strength workouts.
    • Complete 50 stretching workouts. Make yoga a consistent part of my life. 

    4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance. - I've done an okay job with this. But, international travel just really eliminates any balance the week of, plus the next 5 or so days for me. That's a lot of time out of my life. 
    • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress (until I leave)
    • Determine an end date for my job.
    • Take time off from my job.

      5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits. - I've done okay with this one as well. No real new skill, but I did bake more, spend time with friends (hiking), & volunteered throughout the last school year. However, technology has replaced my old volunteer job ;-), so I need to find something new in 2018. 
      • 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.
      • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month.

      All in all, work & the move/house stuff dominated 2017, so it shouldn't be a big surprise that I did "okay" on the other goals. I'm hoping that 2018 will bring more house stability, enabling me to focus more on my health & solve my work situation.

      I'm working on my 2018 goals now, and like to create a few drafts & then edit them over time. What about you? How have you done on your 2017 goals? Are you already thinking of 2018? 

      Tuesday, November 21, 2017

      Evaluating our "personal" spending category for 2017

      As we prep for 2018, I review all of our spend for 2017 & look for categories where we're over, under, or right on target. Based on those numbers, I determine whether we need to buckle down in a specific category, or increase it, or whether we can cut it down in 2018.

      I'll post about a few of the categories as it gets closer to the end of the year.

      For our "personal" category, this is all hair cuts, pedicures, etc. In 2016, we spent $1139, and in 2017, we've spent (to date) $357. Woohoo! Another category where we're making great progress. :-) (There are categories where we blew our spending out of the water, so more to come on that side. The picture isn't so rosy on every category.)

      Here's what's happened with our personal category:

      • Pretty much nothing for the boys. They all got the same number of cuts.
      • I had zero hair cuts in 2017. I really, really want to learn to trim it myself, so I wait. :-)
      • I also had my hair colored zero times.
      • And, got zero pedicures, minus one that I bid on for the school auction. It was a nice social event with other moms, food, drinks, etc. Other than that, I'm doing it myself. 

      It feels really, really good to be able to in source (or skip) most of my personal expenditures. I do still need to figure out a hair cut solution for myself. I'm trying to build up to buying shears, watching videos to learn techniques, and starting off with something very tame with my own hair. Over time, I'd love to add in the boys as well, but I want to start slowly. Goal for 2018! :-) 

      What about you? How do you spend your money in this category? Have you learned to in source anything that you previously paid for? When I look back at my spending on pedicures, it was mostly a chance to get pampered & get out of the house with young kids. Now that the boys are older, it's just much easier to make time for myself. 

      Monday, November 20, 2017

      2017 Small Goal Check In

      The end of the year is nigh, so it's time to start checking in on my goals. For 2017, I have a long list of my "main goals", but I also came up with a list of smaller goals that I could more easily accomplish. Here's how I'm doing so far!

      • A toiletry challenge! I consider toiletries any of the following: makeup, anything dental related, any product you'd use in the shower and/or to clean your face. I currently have $75 of Rite Aid plenti points, and I'm hoping to make these last for at least six months. Even better if I can make them last for all of 2017 by "rolling" the points. This may be tricky, as rolling your points means generating new points off of purchases made with points. It would take just the right combination of point offers & needs for this to work well. I'll be doing an inventory of our toiletries in the next few weeks, so I can see where we stand & determine what I need to look out for on sale. I've already raided my gym makeup bag when I ran out of eyeliner, because it's the rare day that I work out in the morning before I've showered at home. Using up what I have in various bags (travel, gym) may be my first way to reduce spending.  - I used up my $75 Rite Aid rewards, and have then go on to spend $178 of my $300 budget for the year. That's huge for me! I've definitely cut WAY back on my toiletries spending (spend $335 in 2016, as a comparison.) I'm feeling good about this progress, and rarely stock up anymore. Instead, we've been working through our stockpile of things we already have. 
      • Tracking all of our clothing purchases. I did this with our groceries in 2016 & it was both fun (sometimes tedious), but also really helpful when it came to understanding patterns, areas to stock up on, and where to cut back. We have a reduced clothing budget this year, so I'm hoping this helps. - Our clothing & shoe budget for all of us for the year is $1600, and we're at $1648 for the year. So, pretty close to our budget. As context, we spent $1965 in 2016. And, for this year, $384 went to the boys soccer uniform + ski clothes, & $130 went to running shoes for me. Overall, I'm pleased with how we did, and think we can cut our budget slightly further in 2018. 
      • Every month, look for one permanent way to cut costs. It's totally fine (and, likely) that these will be small cuts that will add up over time. This may be finding a ziplock alternative for one of our common usages (school lunches), reducing our water needs by building rain storage, etc. - I've done okay with this. I bought ziplock alternatives, we bought solar outdoor lights, we've cut our paper towel usage quite a bit. But, I wasn't as consistent as I would like. I think this was a fun goal, & one i want to repeat. 
      • Come up with two date night suggestions that don't involve an expensive meal out. - M & I are planning to do two date nights that don't involve an expensive meal out. 1) we're going to have a spa day with a gift card I received as a gift. 2) We're going to go to a sporting event together. We've also done a good job of ensuring we bring wine for our dinners out (a couple of our local favorite places have no corkage fee), which has helped reduce costs even when we do go out. 
      • Maximize my travel hacking. I'm not sure what 2017 will involve for work travel, but there are lots of opportunities to use points & credits for their best value & by keeping track of all of our rewards, it helps to ensure I'm using them well. - I'm super excited about this, as I just posted more details in this post. So far this year, I've earned $603 in flight credits for price matching, a $150 customer care voucher, $730 in gift cards (redeemed from points/miles from work trips) & earned 269K in miles on our preferred airline. I'm going to set another goal in 2018, because I really liked this one & feel like the goal helped me best utilize all of my points. 
      • Make $100 selling things on Facebook. - Crushed this! I've made $2264 selling items on my local Facebook swap + eBay. Woohoo! Super happy about this. 

      All in all, I'm really happy with my progress on my "mini goals", and will definitely be repeating this exercise in 2018. What about you? did you have any mini goals for the year? How did they go? 

      Sunday, November 19, 2017

      It's Sunday, and the pantry clean out continues

      Today was the end of season soccer, so we wrapped up two games, and then I spent the rest of the day getting stuff done. I cleaned the kitchen, vacuumed, and cleaned the bathrooms. Party animal. ;-)

      After that, I made yeast rolls & white bean chili & then we went to a pool shop to pick up a replacement part for our pool filter, and then stopped by another grocery store to (finally) find a turkey breast for Thursday. 

      I've been making big progress on our pantry clean out as well! Here's the latest:
      • An enormous (25 oz) jar of green olives. Side note: what was I thinking? - Done! Made a giant batch of green olive tapenade, with basil from the garden. Kept some for the fridge, and froze the rest. 
      • 1/3 or so of a package of chocolate breakfast cereal. This is nothing we would allow the boys for breakfast, but I'm open to using it in something a little more snack like. One of our house guests brought this. - used, in a batch of granola bars!
      • The end of a bag of pretzel chips. Used these for these delicious granola bars. 
      • Two 1/2 used boxes of lasagna noodles - Used one 1/2 box, so down to the other half
      • A 1/2 bag of pine nuts. -  Made more homemade pesto. Down to 1/4 of a bag. Those pine nuts go a really long way!
      • Most of a container of almondsused all of it! In pilaf, plus almond butter. 
      • Most of a container of cashews . . . Done! Used to make lots of yummy cashew butter
      • A few bits & bobs of trail mix used, in a batch of granola bars!
      • Most of a large bag of sourdough stuffing. - haven't used it up, but planning to in Thanksgiving. 
      • The last of a bottle of green chile sauce (from the fridge) - used up in chicken fiesta rice!
      • An unopened jar of Nutella turns out this was expired (& had a funky taste), so unfortunately, it was tossed. I have no idea why M bought this way back in the day, but it will never make it on another grocery list, so I feel like we can avoid this type of waste moving forward. 

      I've also been using up other stuff that didn't make it onto the original list:
      • Remnants of a bag of trail mix - used in granola bars
      • White chocolate chips - used 1/2 in granola bars
      • Heath bar chips - haven't used yet
      • Walnut oil - used the last of a jar in my pesto recipe
      • Another jar of olives. Yikes.
      • 2 jars of green enchilada sauce - Used one in a white bean chili tonight. 
      Looking forward to a more relaxing week ahead, with no school! What about you? Any big plans for this holiday week? 

      Saturday, November 18, 2017

      Menu Plan + Saturday Stuff

      I'm thrilled it's Saturday. I have a couple of weeks left until my next work trip, so I'm trying to get as much holiday & "life" stuff prepped as possible before I head out. Not only will I be gone for a week, when I come back, I'm usually a zombie for a few days as well.

      Here's what's on the menu for the week:

      • Friday - hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls + roasted potatoes (kids choice!) :-)
      • Saturday - lubia polo (a Persian beef, rice & green bean dish)
      • Sunday - White chicken chili (new recipe) with homemade rolls
      • Monday - leftover lubia polo
      • Tuesday - calzones (made with Crescent rolls)
      • Wednesday - leftover chili 
      • Thurdsay - Thanksgiving! 
      • Friday - leftovers from Thanksgiving
      I shouldn't need to buy much (two cans of beans for the chicken chili), and I need to make sure I have green beans in the pantry as well. Fresh would be better, but I'm trying to do a pantry clean out. :-) 

      Other than that, here's what's on the agenda for today:

      • Go to the grocery store
      • And produce stand + Trader Joes for bananas
      • Soccer game for Sam
      • Soccer game - in the city :-(( - for Nick
      • Clean the kitchen
      • Clean the bathrooms
      • Laundry
      • Register the kids for winter soccer
      • Make lubia polo
      • Take Sam to his ortho appt
      • Go for a run
      That's a nice full, but not crazy day. What about you? What are you up to this weekend?

      Friday, November 17, 2017

      Frugal Friday

      This is definitely my crazy time at work, but I keep trying to stick with the good habits we've developed all year long. Here are the small things we've been doing this week to save money.
      • Brought food & drinks to soccer tournament this weekend. The boys each got a bagel at the planned "brunch" with the team, but they ate lunch that I packed, and M & I ordered nothing. Got out of there for $5, which is a huge win. 
      • Have been doing a great job of going through my pantry stores & using things up. 
      • Filled out a $50 rebate for our thermostat. We bought this a while ago, but I discovered the rebate while I was on the power site for other purposes.   (Turned out we didn't qualify, as we bought it a few weeks outside of the rebate window. Bummer, but happy I tried. Only took 5 minutes!)
      • Bought a flight for my trip to the beach with my mom & sister (my mom's birthday & Mother's Day gifts) & was able to use both a credit from a flight snafu + a price matching credit to get the flight for free. I also shopped earlier, and the flight was 1/2 of the normal price, which is how I was able to get it under the overall credit total. 
      • Realized I had a few points expiring on a hotel chain I never used. Not enough for an airline transfer or anything else. Was able to cash it in for a $10 Starbucks gift card. I'll take it!
      • I have orange juice on my Thanksgiving shopping list (cranberry sauce) & discovered a small bottle that Nick got at soccer practice & didn't drink. Tucked it away for next week, and marked one item off of the list. 
      • Made lots of pesto over the weekend with our basil. 
      • Ate every dinner at home!

      How about you? Any frugal wins to report?

      Thursday, November 16, 2017

      Maximizing travel rewards & hacks

      As a special request from a reader, I thought I'd share my top tips on maximizing travel rewards. There are actually a ton of resources & detailed blogs about this online, and I'm definitely not an expert, so take this as my own experience based on our travel needs.

      Here's some background:

      • I travel for work. All international travel. My preferred airline (well, not really, but based on flight schedules) is United. I have status on United, and typically take 6-8 international trips/year. I'll end this year with Platinum status, but normally just have Gold. Singapore really pushed me over the edge given distance. :-) 
      • United doesn't fly my normal personal travel route. (San Jose to Portland). This makes a big difference in how I use my United points.
      • We travel a lot for personal trips, mostly to see my family. Flights to Portland range from about $150 (bought way in advance, and at non-peak pricing, flexible days) to $400. 
      As a fun exercise, I went through & added up all of our personal travel for 2017 (including flights we bought for others). Here's how it nets out:

      • Trip to Hawaii - x2 tickets
      • Parents visit in August - x2 tickets
      • Aunt's wedding  - x4 tickets
      • Relay trip  - x1 ticket
      • Our family trip to the coast over the 4th of July - x4 tickets
      • Dropping the kids off at my parents house in June - x1 ticket (the kids tickets are factored into the 4th of July trip)
      • Parents visit in April - x2 tickets
      • Sister's trip to visit - x1 ticket
      • Trip to Las Vegas - x2 tickets

      Grand total of 19 round trip flights purchased. All but the Las Vegas flights were purchased via our preferred personal airline (Alaska Air). 

      Here's how we've maximized mileage & overall airline rewards:
      • Getting creative with my United miles. Unfortunately, United is not a partner with Alaska, nor will they allow me to transfer my miles to Alaska. I've had to go the roundabout way. Transfer from United -> Marriott -> Alaska. Not great from an overall point conversion rate, but it works & allows me to use miles for personal travel.
      • Price matching. Alaska has an amazing policy that allows you to price match at any time. Say you book a flight for $250, and the flight later drops to $225. All you need to do is verify your confirmation number on Alaska's flight, and they will automatically check to see if you have the current lowest rate. If not, they will deposit the difference in your "Alaska wallet", which you can then apply to a future flight. I tend to run all of my existing confirmation codes through the price matcher about once a week (Tuesdays or Thursdays have the lowest average price). Over the past year, I've earned $603.05 back in price matching funds. Some credits have been as low as $3, with the highest being $78.20! It's a lot of money, when you run the numbers.
      • Call when something goes wrong. For the most part, Alaska is amazing & I rarely have a reason to call them. However, when something changes in your schedule (more than 2 hour time switch, extensive delays, etc), they normally give you a customer care credit. When you book far in advance like I typically do, major flight schedule changes are most common. I always call & request a credit for this. The credit is multiplied by the number of guests in your party. So, if it's a $50 credit and you have 4 people, you get a total of $200 in credit for future travel.
      • Get the kids signed up for a frequent flier program. Both of our boys have their own accounts, and are most of the way to a free flight. Given we fly really short legs, this has taken nearly four years. But, it's better than nothing! M has his own account, of course. 
      • Consider your preferred airline credit card. Alaska has a Visa card, and when Costco got rid of their Amex alliance, we moved all of our primary spend to the Alaska card. Benefits: mileage for every dollar, a companion fare, and free checked bags. We utilize all of the benefits, and accrue mileage faster through our regular spend. 

      In terms of non-flight related savings, we don't book a lot of hotels. But, if I did, I would use some of my many hotel points accrued through work trips to offset the costs. As it turns out, this year our only hotel booking was in Hawaii, and we found a great deal at Costco. Given we have no hotel plans for 2018 either, I will likely transfer as many points as possible to Alaska to convert to mileage, and have redeemed the rest for gift cards for the holidays. I've redeemed points for $730 worth of gift cards so far. Woohoo!

      Our 2018 travel budget is $7,000, and I'd like to offset as much of the flight expenses as possible. Currently, we have 269K miles available, plus one companion fare. Given where we our right now, my goal is to get to 390K miles in 2018. 

      Happy to answer questions if you want more details about anything. Please share any tips you have about travel hacks as well. 

      Wednesday, November 15, 2017

      Can I cut 10% off our 2016 food spending?

      One area where I've really tried to focus in 2017 is our overall food spending. For us, this is the combination of dining out & groceries. We have pretty generous budgets across both categories, & I'm excited to report that, with the end pretty well in sight for 2017, I believe we can close 2017 with a 10% cut in food spending over 2016. This would be huge for us! I finally feel like all of my efforts are coming together.

      Here's how the numbers stack up:

      2016 Food Spending:
      $4,590 - dining out
      $8,160 - groceries
      $12,750 - total 2016 food spending

      2017 food spending to date:
      $3,314 - dining out
      $6,962 - groceries
      $10,276 - total to date

      I will still have food spending in 2017, and both Thanksgiving & Christmas will be bundled in there, which tends to be quite expensive. If I can get the remainder November spend down to $375, and keep December at $800, I can do it! I will have shaved $1300 (or, 10.2%) off our food budget from last year.

      I feel particularly happy that we've been able to reduce dining out by so much, while still keeping the grocery numbers in check. The dining out for 2017 also includes $191 of a work expense that I had to cover (coworker picked the restaurant, did the wrong currency conversion, and we were WAY over cap.) This made me especially sad, as I would have never selected anywhere that expensive, and while it was fun & an adventure, I'm uninterested in spending $191 on a work meal. The 2017 dining out also includes a $100 Starbucks gift card I bought, and I still have $60 left. For the $40, I bought my relay team breakfast one day, which was the majority of the spend.

      Here's how our 2017 food spend it looks from a monthly perspective:

      • January - $21 dining out, $706 groceries. - nothing major. Did a great job on dining out, and stocked up on groceries after being out of town at the end of December.
      • February - $232 dining out, $553 groceries - two birthdays
      • March - $445 dining out, $568 groceries - moving + a birthday
      • April - $504 dining out, $666 groceries - family in town
      • May - $450 dining out, $650 groceries - for whatever reason, just not a month where we did a good job keeping the dining out in check. No special occasions.  
      • June - $608 dining out, $831 groceries - we celebrated M's 50th birthday, & a promotion, hence the large chunk of dining out. For groceries, my parents were in town for almost two weeks. 
      • July - $220 dining out, $838 groceries - we had house guests for several weeks, including a week with four additional diners
      • August - $315 dining out, $637 groceries - family in town
      • September - $232 dining out, $627 groceries
      • October - $53 dining out, $437 in groceries
      • November - $228 dining out, $444 in groceries (to date). The dining out includes the $191 work dinner, as noted above. (Sad face)

      How did we do it?
      We cut slightly more off of our dining out budget vs our grocery budget, but the reductions are pretty even. Here's what we did differently this year.

      • We treated eating out as truly a special occasion, not something to do when we're out & about, and planned ahead for super busy week nights.
      • I packed meals whenever I though the impulse or need for a meal might strike. This particularly helped for soccer tournaments & weekends. 
      • We ate more of what we bought. Common sense, but I did a better job looking ahead & menu planning.
      • I also planned ahead when traveling, stocking up on easy things for M to make with the kids. 
      • I continue to make the most of our pantry & freezer. Paying attention to what we have &  planning meals accordingly.

      What about you? Have you made any changes to your expenses in 2017? Have you started to evaluate how you're doing against your yearly goals? Any big wins?

      Monday, November 13, 2017

      My Thanksgiving menu

      It's back to work today, after a long weekend (I took Friday off). I always feel so much more refreshed with that bonus day.

      I sat down with the kids & M this weekend, & we debated our Thanksgiving menu. As context, it will just be the four of us, and neither of the kids like the traditional menu items much. Also, I have one super picky eater. Here's what we've decided:

      Pomegranate martinis
      Sparkling cider

      Goat cheese crostini

      Kale salad with toasted nuts, feta cheese, & pomegranate seeds
      Mashed potatoes
      Homemade cranberry sauce
      A turkey breast (I've never made one, so wish me luck :-))
      Mini pigs in a blanket (ha, yes, so traditional)

      Pumpkin pie with ice cream

      We'll get up in the morning and do a 5K together (our local high school puts one on as a fundraiser), & then I'll get to work in the kitchen. It's usually a relaxing, fun day. Looking forward to spending time with my favorite people.

      What about you? Have you made your menu yet? What will you be making or serving on Thanksgiving? Any non-traditional items? :-)

      Sunday, November 12, 2017

      Menu plan + Sunday happenings

      I got up this morning & went on a 6.5 mile hike with a friend. It was an absolutely gorgeous fall day. So happy I got outside! It was a winning combination of fitness + social activity, and best of all, free. :-)

      I just wrapped up making pesto, and ended up with 6 small jam jars full. I'll keep one in the fridge, and the others in the freezer. I also clipped back most of the remaining basil, and will bring it to a friend at work. Waste not, want not. I also used the last of a jar of walnut oil in place of some of the olive oil, as I have had it lingering in the pantry for quite a while.

      I was hoping to make fresh cranberry muffins as a special surprise for M (they are his absolute favorites), but realized I was out of flour. How did this happen?! I'm usually pretty organized. Upon taking a closer look at the pantry, I discovered we were also low on: salt, garlic & bouillon cubes, and are out of peanut butter. I've been making my own almond & cashew butter, to reduce pantry supplies. M picked up our supplies as part of another errand, so we're now stocked again!

      I spent part of the day organizing our schedule for the week: making a menu, reviewing my work schedule against the kids activity calendar, coordinating the various carpools, and building a schedule for our nanny. A moderate investment of time on weekends saves me a bunch of pain the following week.

      Here's what's on the menu for the week ahead:
      Sunday - M is grilling kebabs & making Persian rice + a yogurt sauce
      Monday - we'll have leftover chicken rice pilaf
      Tuesday - Tacos with guacamole & chips
      Wednesday - leftover kebabs & rice
      Thursday - Eat anything left in the fridge :-) If that fails, we'll resort to some frozen soup & rolls
      Friday - the boys have been asking for hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls (they like to help make the dinner), so we'll have that, plus roasted potatoes.

      I don't list it, but we have a salad EVERY night for dinner. M is a bit of a salad fiend.

      And with that, I'm off to finish my muffins, and work through the rest of my chores for today. What about you? How are you spending your Sunday? Any new recipes to try out? 

      I made these granola bars & they were amazing. I must confess that I used the recipe as more of a base. I had no peanut butter, so I used cashew butter. I ran out of honey, so I used a bit of agave. I had no coconut oil, so I used olive oil. No chocolate chips, so used white chocolate chips, bought for $.10 on clearance way back. Subbed the dregs of a bag of trail mix for the peanuts. And, no pretzels, but I did have some stale remnants of a bag of pita chips from our Hawaii trip, so used these instead. Again, bears little resemblance to the original recipe, but I like that it's flexible. Also, I continue to eat down the pantry. Woohoo!

      Saturday, November 11, 2017

      Pantry challenge update + soccer Saturday

      I was up at 4:45 & out of the house by 6:00 in order to get to a soccer tournament on time. It was either that, or staying overnight at a local hotel. I'm not opposed to the expense of a hotel (even though, $160 is crazy), but no one in my family sleeps particularly well all in one room, in two beds. So, from a sleeping perspective, it's just better to get up early. And the money savings is a nice bonus!

      I managed to pack lunch, snacks & beverages last night & this morning, saving us everything but a small amount for "brunch" for the kids between games. Under $5. M & I ate sandwiches in the parking lot. We're very glam. ;-)

      I also packed my running stuff, and went for a quick run during warm ups for the first game, and went for a walk during warm ups for the second game.

      It was super foggy at the first game, as you can see. . .  We played the top team in our 64 team bracket this morning (lost, 1-4) & then beat a mid-range team this afternoon in a 2-0 shut out. Ahh, the joys of youth soccer.

      I also wanted to post an update on my pantry challenge, as I've made a bit of progress. 

      • An enormous (25 oz) jar of green olives. Side note: what was I thinking?
      • 1/3 or so of a package of chocolate breakfast cereal. This is nothing we would allow the boys for breakfast, but I'm open to using it in something a little more snack like. One of our house guests brought this. - used, in a batch of granola bars!
      • The end of a bag of pretzel chips. Used these for these delicious granola bars. 
      • Two 1/2 used boxes of lasagna noodles - Used one 1/2 box, so down to the other half
      • A 1/2 bag of pine nuts. -  Used some for homemade pesto, but only had enough basil to use a bit. 
      • Most of a container of almonds - used all of it! In pilaf, plus almond butter. 
      • Most of a container of cashews . . . ditto the almond butter. Used about half for cashew butter, to replace peanut butter. 
      • A few bits & bobs of trail mix used, in a batch of granola bars!
      • Most of a large bag of sourdough stuffing. - haven't used it up, but perhaps for Thanksgiving? 
      • The last of a bottle of green chile sauce (from the fridge) - used up in chicken fiesta rice!
      • An unopened jar of Nutella turns out this was expired (& had a funky taste), so unfortunately, it was tossed. I have no idea why M bought this way back in the day, but it will never make it on another grocery list, so I feel like we can avoid this type of waste moving forward. 

      I'm going on a hike with a friend tomorrow, and then plan to spend the rest of the day "getting things done." Making meals, prepping food, cleaning the fridge, etc. I have been using my freezer stash extensively since my last business trip, so I need to build things up before my next one.

      What about you? How do you plan to spend your Sunday? Any fun plans?

      Friday, November 10, 2017

      Frugal Friday

      It didn't feel like the most productive week, with some leftover jet lag, & M being out of town. But, we managed a few frugal wins:

      • No eating out. This is a pretty big win, as I normally would take the kids out to eat at least once when I'm on my own & we have crazy schedules. This week, I really worked hard to prep as much as possible, and it paid off.
      • Eating random leftovers for dinner. This also worked well. I didn't make any main meals this week (traveling Saturday, too tired on Sunday), so we made do with what we had on hand, vs using fresh ingredients. This helps to eat down our freezer stash, and makes sure nothing goes to waste.
      • Drove the electric car for all commuting & errands (including multiple carpools) & charged for free at work. 
      • Realized I was not managing my investments as well as I should be, and made a small tweak. Basically, one of my investments (a California muni, tax advantaged) charges a flat fee for every purchase. I didn't notice the first few times, and was just turning over my monthly stock equity sales into this, generating a fee each time. Now, instead I'll bundle & make the purchases less frequently. The double benefit is I've moved the waiting investments over to a high yield savings account in the interim. 
      • Worked on keeping the power low around the house, and we all bundled up with blankets & I drank hot tea to keep warm.  
      • Cashed in points & miles from my last trip for gift cards for Christmas. Given the length of the trip, it was a lot of points. The best option is always a direct use of the points/miles on the hotel or airline providing them. However, I have a few that don't line up with my personal travel options & are hard to convert, so I went the gift card route. I ended up with $380 in gift cards!
      That's it for us. We're off to a soccer tournament tomorrow, so I'll pack food (there is a planned brunch out for the kids, but the adults will have packed food, and the kids will also have packed lunches & snacks for after). We wanted to take the electric car, but it's pushing it a bit with the mileage, and the area we're going to doesn't have as many charges as we'd like to be comfortable. We'll check it out & determine if it's possible for next time, as we have plenty of games there. 

      What about you? Any frugal wins for the week?

      Wednesday, November 8, 2017

      Planning for 2018

      As one of my November goals, I'm working on our 2018 budget & travel plans. I haven't quite gotten my head around the travel plans, as so much of that will be dependent on my work schedule. Currently, our travel looks as follows (and, doesn't take into account any work trips for M).

      Travel planning for 2018:

      • January - I have a work trip to Tokyo. (Last one? Unclear, work plans TBD)
      • February - we're taking the kids skiing at Tahoe for a few days over ski week
      • March - nothing planned. If I have to squeeze in a final London trip, I'll do it in March
      • April - tentatively have a girls trip planned to Las Vegas. We have a free room booked at the Encore (my favorite), so assuming we can find cheap flights, this is a go.
      • May - potentially a girls trip to the beach (my mom + my sister) for Mother's Day. We've been discussing this for a year, but are open on dates. It's my mom's Mother's Day & birthday gifts for a few years, and her top request for any gift is time with her daughters. :-)
      • June - TBD. Will likely head to the Oregon coast for family time, near the 4th.
      • July - 4th of July at the beach, and potentially a girls trip tacked onto that.
      • August - Portland to Coast relay
      • September - nothing planned
      • October - nothing planned
      • November - nothing planned
      • December - Christmas with my family + the Oregon coast

      As usual, things get a little jammed for the first half, and settle down a bit the last few months of the year. We'll see if that holds.

      Financial planning for 2018:
      As for the financial planning, there are plenty of unknowns. The major one is my job, and when I plan to quit. Dates I'm currently considering are 3/25 & 6/25, but anything is possible. I'm waiting for equity details from my recent performance review, and a large equity grant could keep me there a bit longer. We also are working through house plans (updates) & any big budget items may require a slightly longer time horizon, depending on how we choose to fund. M & I plan to have a few "budget/planning" days over the upcoming months to lock in these plans & ensure we're aligned.

      The electric car purchase:
      I didn't make much mention of it, but we bought an electric car. I'm pretty excited about it. There is great infrastructure where we live to support this, and I get free charging at work, as does M. The car will be my primary car for everything, and we will sell our 2005 sedan to cover the base price of the electric car. We're leasing it (buying an electric car gives me pause, as batteries and such are unknown from a life time perspective, and the technology is changing so much in this space). We'll make some other minor budget changes to accommodate the $120/month leasing fee. Our reduction in gas will hopefully cover the majority of this. It's our first month with the electric car, so I'll report back once I have a better sense of overall cost/benefit.

      Other financial changes in 2018:
      • We're cutting out our cleaning service. The boys can continue to increase their chores on weekends, and if I'm not working and/or traveling less, this is definitely something we can (perhaps uncomfortably while I'm working) make happen. It's a pricey expense, so one I'm motivated to end. 
      • Healthcare coverage. Depending on when I leave my job, M will add us all to his insurance, and that increase will need to be factored in.
      • Gym membership (after I leave my job). I'm on the fence with this one. I live in California, so outdoor workouts can happen pretty much throughout the year. Especially as I'm a Seattle girl who isn't afraid of rain. ;-) But, once I quit my job, I feel like I might need the social connection & structure, and the local YMCA has a bunch of classes for not that much money. TBD.
      • I'll review all of our 2017 budget categories & adjust based on actual spend. Sometimes, actual spend doesn't quite align with planned spend. ;-) Who knew? 

      We're also spending quite a bit of time thinking about the kids out of the house future, which for us, is about 7.5 years away. It helps to break our planning into a few chunks:
      1. Kids in the house
      2. Kids out of the house - in college
      3. Kids out of college - on their own
      4. M hits 65
      5. I hit 65
      All of these milestones factor into our financial & lifestyle planning. Once the kids go to college, we can sell our current house & move somewhere much more affordable. We're in the research phase for that, but want to stay west coast. Current options we're considering are:
      • San Louis Obispo
      • Bend, Oregon
      • Vancouver, Washington (also known as where my sister lives!)
      • Hawaii is on the potential list, but travel costs make this hard, as is general COL. We'd likely do this part time, while retaining our Oregon house. 

      Ahhh, so much to think about & plan for! I love the planning & thinking that goes into life. It's one of my favorite things to ponder. What about you? What changes are you considering for 2018?