Friday, December 30, 2011

Menu Plan - wrapping up December

I need to put plans to "paper" & map out a menu for the next week or so. It helps me avoid the lazy convenience meals. :-) This will be a very simple menu week, as I get back into the groove.

  • Saturday (New Year's Eve!) - M's making a semi-elaborate Persian dinner, with beef kebabs, rice with potato "crust", cucumber yogurt dip, etc. I'm planning on making Warm Chocolate Souffle Cakes with Raspberry Sauce.
  • Sunday - Tilapia tacos
  • Monday - Leftover Persian dinner + barbecued corn
  • Tuesday - Spaghetti (from the freezer)
  • Wednesday - Leftover casserole from the freezer. . . contents unknown :-)
  • Thursday - Beef Tacos & black beans
  • Friday - Tortellini with barbecued chicken & goat cheese crostini
  • Saturday - Barbecued mahi mahi with mango salsa + barbecued corn
  • Sunday - Chicken Caesar salads
Are you back to menu plan? What's on you list for the week?

I'm back!

I took a couple of weeks off, & had a fabulous vacation. :-) Las Vegas with M on an adult only pre-Christmas trip, Christmas with the entire family, a trip to the beach, and skiing! We're planning on laying low over the next few days, & we all go back to our respective work & school on Tuesday.

I've been doing well on my goals & plan to have a complete 2011 write up, 2012 goals posted, as well as a budget summary. I'm behind! :-)

I need to get back into the groove with budgeting & menu planning. It's back to reality around here.

I made a super yummy dinner tonight (Chicken, Red Grape, & Pesto Pizza) after we got back from a family ski trip. Easy, & tasty. The kids stuck to a more traditional homemade pepperoni pizza.

More to come - hope the holidays have been relaxing and filled with wonderful family memories for you & yours.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The one with the plumber

We got a call yesterday from the city that we have a water leak outside of our home. I spent half of yesterday at home waiting for the plumber, and finally got an estimate. It will likely be around $2,000 to do the digging and fix the leak. Merry Christmas to me. I guess that's what the emergency fund is for, right?

In other financial news, we went six days without a Costco run, which is a new record for us. ;-) We really need to keep our spending under control for the rest of the month, so we can replenish our emergency fund.

And, given that December is half over, I thought I would provide a quick goal update. I think I'm doing well on 5/10 goals, so I need to focus on the remaining goals for the rest of the month.

  1. Lose 5 lbs - get weight back to 144 pounds. - I'm around 150. So, down from the first week of December, but definitely not where I'd hoped to be.
  2. Complete 500 minutes of cardio  - I'm at 350 minutes, so 70% of my goal. On track. I need to be ahead of my target for the first few weeks, because I know the last couple of weeks in the month will be challenging with holidays, traveling, & vacation.
  3. Complete 8 strength workouts - I've completed 5 workouts, so at 62% of my goal. I hope to get slightly ahead, for the same reason as above. The last two weeks of the month are going to be crazy town.
  4. Plan spring break trip - We are unable to find reasonably priced airfare to Hawaii for four. We're not willing to take flights that aren't direct (we're in Seattle, not Texas - we should be able to easily find direct flights!) within our price point. More to come on the plan for this.
  5. Plan mid-winter break trip - I think I have a solid plan for this, but need to review with the other players (my sister & husband). :-) Haven't made any progress on this in the last week or so.
  6. Bake Christmas cookies with the kids & take them to look at holiday lights. - We've done both, but the cookies were a disaster. Ended up getting a different gift for the teachers we were planning on giving the cookies to. Yeah for reducing the workload in December! :-) 
  7. Track all spending - On track for this.
  8. Monthly expenditures total less than $15,000, with the exception of using the bonus money to pay off the $35K 401K loan. - Slightly above the pace for this, but I did pay the $2000 on our refinance, which will hopefully be our highest non-mortgage spend of the month.
  9. Keep grocery bill to $600 - Way over - currently at $430. In semi-positive news, we'll be out of town for 1/2 of next week & not going through groceries. I'm hopeful that we can still end the month close to our target.
  10. Get together with two friends - Got together with friends on Sunday, and have plans to meet a second friend for coffee tomorrow. On track.
How are you doing with your December goals?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Today is a good day

M used part of his bonus to pay the bulk of his 401K loan off today! Sadly, the 401K loan balance is not at zero (it's currently at $797), because the payments for the rest of December have already been scheduled & backed out of his paycheck. I was hoping to be able to see the balance at zero just for my own peace of mind, but I suppose $797, with an understanding that the balance will be paid off by the end of the month will have to do. He paid off the remainder of the $49,500 loan.

SO excited! Paying off this 401K loan was one of our top goals for 2012. What a great day!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Menu Plan - rest of December

I'm doing something a bit different with this menu plan, and filling it out for the rest of December. The next few weeks are wild & crazy with trips and events, so I thought it would be easiest to look at the next few weeks when planning out my menu. Hopefully this will mean that I'll be organized with my grocery shopping, and won't have to run to the store four times/week. :-) As you can see, this is definitely a "light cooking" menu, heavy on the freezer foods.

I'll decide on a vegetable for next week based on freshness/availability when we're at the beach. Choices are usually more limited, so we'll go with what's fresh that day.

  • Monday (12/12) - Leftover baked shells with pesto & meat sauce + roasted Brussels sprouts.
  • Tuesday (12/13) - Asparagus & chicken carbonara
  • Wednesday (12/14) - Roasted butternut squash pasta (likely substituting chicken or chicken sausage for the bacon)
  • Thursday (12/15) - Leftover carbonara
  • Friday (12/16) - Clean out fridge day. Eat whatever is available, freeze any remaining leftovers.
  • Saturday (12/17) - Out of town at my nephew's birthday party. I'm in charge of a fruit tray, vegetable tray, & wine. :-)
  • Sunday (12/18) - On a mini trip with M! Eating out at fancy restaurants in Las Vegas.
  • Monday (12/19) On a mini trip with M! Still eating out. 
  • Tuesday (12/20) - Traveling home from our trip, & picking up our kids from my parents, so something easy & from the freezer.
  • Wednesday (12/21) - Chicken Caesar salads + whatever vegetable is available.
  • Thursday (12/22) - Green chicken enchiladas (from the freezer)
  • Friday (12/23) - Chicken taquitos from the freezer, or eating up anything still remaining in the fridge.
  • Saturday (12/24) - Christmas Eve with my parents. I'm bringing a sandwich tray + wine.
  • Sunday (12/25) - Christmas dinner with family. No clue what I'm bringing for this.
  • Monday (12/26) - At our beach house. Barbecued hamburgers & hot dogs + a vegetable.
  • Tuesday (12/27) - Barbecued chicken + goat cheese crostini + a vegetable.
  • Wednesday (12/28) - Leftover burgers + Trader Joe's mushroom turnovers.
  • Thursday (12/29) - Garlic chicken with orzo (using remaining barbecued chicken from Tuesday)
  • Friday (12/30) - Barbecued salmon + a vegetable
  • Saturday (12/31) - Homemade pizzas + some sort of a fun appetizer to ring in the new year.
What's on your menu for the next few weeks? How do you get through the holidays without eating out a lot? Any tips or tricks?

Weekly Spending Wrap Up (12/5-12/11/11)

Honestly, I was a little (okay, quite a bit) embarassed to write this one. Lots of places I could have made smarter spending choices. But, I'll be honest & just put it out there.
Here's what we spent for the week:

Monday (12/5):
  • M & I met for lunch, but used a gift card. OOP = $0
  • $9.78 - silk camisole at the Loft
  • $18.53 - Rite Aid. Facial cleansing wipes (x2) for my gym bag + eye brow pencil
  • $90 - cleaning for our vacation house. This was an error, & supposed to be $75, but I'll get a credit on our next cleaning.
Tuesday (12/6):
  • No spend day
Wednesday (12/7):
  • No spend day
Thursday (12/8):
  • $45.65 - shoes for my oldest, who managed to destroy his existing pair. The kids go through their shoes so quickly!
  • $128.74 - Costco for groceries. I've already reviewed the list & determined ways to cut back for next time. No more buying pre-shredded cheese. Our groceries our too high, & I can shred it myself & save the money. I'll continue to review our receipts to look for other ways to cut back.
Friday (12/9):
  • $48.73 - new jeans for me at American Eagle
  • $54.73 - a couple of new tops at Ann Taylor
  • $13.91 - 2 Christmas gifts at Gap. We were done with our shopping, but M wanted to pick up hats for our friend's daughters. :-)
  • $178.69 - Gap, clothes for me. 4 sweaters + a couple of tops + a pair of jeans.
  • $54.74 - dress for me at White House/Black Market.
  • $3.79 - Amazon for books for my Kindle for my next trip.
Saturday (12/10):
  • $1.15 - protein smoothie at the gym, OOP = $0. On a gift card.
  • $94.50 - haircuts for all four members of the family
  • $3.79 - cookies at Safeway for our holiday party last night
  • $109.45 - ski shop, for new ski boots for my oldest. I'll be consigning the pair that's too small, so I'll hopefully get $20 or so back.
  • $565 - swimming lessons for 3 months for two kids.
Sunday (12/11):
  • $4.04 - McDonald's. Bribe for my youngest child. We stood in line for 40 minutes (outside, in 35 degree weather) to see Santa yesterday. When we were 2 people from the front of the line, Santa took a one hour lunch break. I was not about to wait another hour, so I bribed my child with a Happy Meal. Best money I spent all week.
  • $1.15 - Protein smoothie at the gym. OOP = $0. On a gift card.
  • $12.50 - childcare at the gym. OOP = $0. On a gift card.
  • $85 - pizza for our holiday party. This was intentionally more than we needed, as we sent home pizza for a meal for our friends.
Total spent for the week = $1419.07

-Two no spend days
-Only went grocery shopping once! :-) Quite an improvement for us.

-I was overcharged for a cleaning service at our vacation house. I'm irritated, because I do our own laundry to save $15 (it's nearly impossible to get the house cleaned & ready to go while the kids are running around & we pack/load the car/ensure all lights are off, etc) so every other time we go, I have the bathrooms deep cleaned, etc. I'll get the money back in January, but it pushed my budget over.
-$565 for swimming lessons for two kids. It's for 3 months, and the instruction is amazing, but it's crazy expensive. I'm looking into cheaper options for my older son, who's ready for a more advanced program anyway.
-I opted to do take out for our holiday party this weekend. I could have prepared the food, but M was out skiing with our oldest child, & I was looking for convenience, rather than frugality.

-While I did need a few clothing items that were on my list (a new pair of jeans + a new sweater) & I can maybe count the new dress I bought (apparently I own only summer dresses, & we have an unexpected weekend trip where I'll need a dress), some of the other items were totally frivolous & just because I liked them. This time of year is *very* difficult for me with clothing shopping. The deals are great, I'm already at the mall for various gifts, & I try hard not to spend too much on clothing the rest of the year. I really didn't want to post this, but I figured it was best to confess. :-)

How did you do with your spending last week? Are you ever tempted to buy things for yourself at the holidays? :-)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Passing on the blog love

First up, thank you so much to Steady Plodding for the Liebster Award! :-) I so enjoy blogging & reading about how everyone handles their finances. Everyone has their own approach, but the tips, tricks, & encouragement make it such an enjoyable hobby. Love it!

"Liebster" is a German word meaning dear, sweet, kind, nice, good, beloved, lovely, kindly, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. What a gift to be awarded with such kindness!   As for the details...The Liebster is a way to show a little Blog Love to bloggers who currently have less than 200 followers.

The rules:
1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And most of all - have fun!

And in no particular order, here are my 5 Liebster Awards, with some information culled from their bios:
1) If I were a Wealthy Girl -
…This year I am going to provide more personal info in this section. I am a 30 year old young professional living in the midwest working for a Fortune 500 company in a supply chain managment position.  I have been with my company for 4 years and now I am looking at other options.  This year I started two businesses 1) a financial coaching company in March and 2) a sweet treat company in July. Both companies are debt free and very much in the start-up phase. When I am not working, I like to train for half-marathons, take dance classes, read, spend time with friends and family and go to the dollar theater. I am not married, but I do have BF. Our views on money clash all the time, mainly because he has big money dreams and not plans.

 2) Blonde on a Budget
Blonde on a Budget is a twenty-something's journey from being a maxed out, overindulging idiot to becoming a balanced and financially sound woman.

3) Getting Ahead
We are a family of 6 in Ohio. We are striving to live a healthy lifestyle. We want to make our small neighborhood plot as self sufficient as possible

4) $12 A Day
A mom-to-be who has an amazing (& hardcore!) Plan: Spend an average of $12 a day on food, household supplies, and gifts. The Goal: Freedom

5) My Journey to Eliminate Debt
I started this blog in 2007 with a goal of paying off my mortgage in five years. After a long absence, I am back to finish the journey to eliminate debt.

Go check out all of these inspiring bloggers!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December goal check - week one

Can you believe the first week of December is already gone? Holy smokes! This month is flying by. These are my goals for the month, as well as a little update on my progress.

  1. Lose 5 lbs - get weight back to 144 pounds. - Well, for whatever reason, my weight topped out at 152 over the weekend. I'm now slowly pulling it back from that, & I'm at 151.4. Obviously, a ton of work to do here.
  2. Complete 500 minutes of cardio  - I'm at 191 minutes, so 38% of my goal. On track. I need to be ahead of my target for the first few weeks, because I know the last couple of weeks in the month will be challenging with holidays, traveling, & vacation.
  3. Complete 8 strength workouts - I've completed 3 workouts, so at 37% of my goal. I hope to get slightly ahead, for the same reason as above. The last two weeks of the month are going to be crazy town.
  4. Plan spring break trip - We are unable to find reasonably priced airfare to Hawaii for four. We're not willing to take flights that aren't direct (we're in Seattle, not Texas - we should be able to easily find direct flights!) within our price point. More to come on the plan for this.
  5. Plan mid-winter break trip - I think I have a solid plan for this, but need to review with the other players (my sister & husband). :-)
  6. Bake Christmas cookies with the kids & take them to look at holiday lights. - We've done both, but the cookies were a disaster. Can't decide if we're going to try again, or skip it.
  7. Track all spending - On track for this.
  8. Monthly expenditures total less than $15,000, with the exception of using the bonus money to pay off the $35K 401K loan. - Slightly above the pace for this, but I did pay the $2000 on our refinance, which will hopefully be our highest non-mortgage spend of the month.
  9. Keep grocery bill to $600 - Roughly on track for this. At $160 for the month.
  10. Get together with two friends - Hmmm, I need to reschedule a lunch with a friend, & I'm supposed to be getting together with another friend this weekend. On track, overall.  
How are you doing with your December goals?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The one with the overdraft

I knew this would happen one day, & it finally did. Yesterday, we signed the refinance papers on our vacation house, and had to wire the closing funds to our lender. That went off without a hitch. However, Michael had to do the wiring as I had a meeting, & I had the funds in my savings account. I transferred the amount to our shared account & he wired from there. Of course, neither of us noticed that the wire fee has to come out of the account you're wiring from. Despite the instructions we gave to the teller. It was super fun this morning to wake up to the overdraft notice & a penalty. Good times.

Ah, well, lesson learned, I suppose. In other news, I'm so excited that we closed on the refinance! We locked in a great rate (3.75% on a 15 year mortgage) & the goal is actually to pay off the loan in five years. Fingers crossed. M also started the process of paying off his 401K loan, so that should be marked as "finished" in a week or so. Can't wait!

Goals for today:
  • Hit the gym. I'm finally able to run a bit, and can't wait to get back into it! I also need to work on my bat wings (aka arms) :-)
  • Continue to work on our grocery management system. (My fancy/silly name for starting to predict how much we use of each item, so that we buy on a regular schedule before we run out. End goal = grocery store 1x/week.)
  • Clean the fridge! For real, this time. ;-)
  • Plan our weekend. We're getting together with friends, the kids have various activities, and we might go skiing.
  • Eat well! Less than 1500 calories, and healthy choices.
  • Take a bubble bath!
What's on your list for today?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Weekly Spending Wrap Up (11/28-12/4/11)

Hope you all had a great weekend. Here's a recap of our weekly spending. I wrapped up all of my Christmas shopping, finished our holiday cards, & bought stamps. Yay!

I'm also not sure how I want to calculate the gift cards I purchased. Basically, our gym offers a one time a year offer - buy $500 in gift cards, get $100 free. Our gym has several restaurants, child care for our occasional date nights or when my husband is traveling, and also a salon/spa where I get pedicures, etc. The deal was fantastic, so I got two $500 gift cards. However, I'd prefer to track these per use, vs all at once. I'm trying to plan ahead & predict how much we spend, in total, for the year & buy that many gift cards. How do you track gift cards?
  • Monday (11/28)
    • $319.40 - Alaska Airlines. I bought a spur of the moment ticket to Las Vegas. :-) I'll be joining M there in a couple of weeks (he already had plans to attend an event) & my parents wanted to watch the kids. Win/win!
    • $51.29 - Costco for groceries
    • $9.71 - Chevron. Car wash.
  • Tuesday (11/29) - no spend day
  • Wednesday (11/30) - went shopping with a girlfriend to finish up Christmas. So spendy!
    • $16.41 - Costco, to get our Christmas cards printed
    • $36.37 - Nordstrom cafe. Took a friend to dinner for her birthday
    • $56.94 - Christmas gift (M's stocking)
    • $82.13 - Christmas gift (M's stocking)
    • $2.19 - Victoria's Secret. Used a $10 coupon & bought two lip glosses.
    • $13.49 - Gymboree. Couple of shirts for the kids. Unnecessary, because I ended up finding two shirts in their closets (I need 2 more in each size to take to the beach house) & might return these.
  • Thursday (12/1)
    • $4.09 - Christmas gift (M's stocking). Finally done!
    • $9.49 - Rite Aid for OTC medicine, recommended by my foot doctor.
    • $40.44 - Christmas gifts for the kids (for another family member). Will be getting reimbursed.
    • $3.47 - Bath & Body Works for bubble bath.
  • Friday (12/2)
    • $1.15 - Protein smoothie at the gym
    • $500 - gift cards at the gym.
  • Saturday (12/3)
    • $1975 - Refinance of our vacation house. We're moving to a 15 year loan with a better rate. Signing the papers this afternoon!
    • $132.82 - Costco for groceries.
    • $10.5 - stamps for Christmas cards
    • $33.25 - stamps for the house. We buy these once/year, and they tend to last for 12ish months.
    • $11.57 - Fred Meyer for groceries
  • Sunday (12/4)
    • $15.92 - back to Fred Meyer for groceries. Can you tell I wasn't very organized this week?
    • $51.98 - Fred Meyer for a gift (M's mother lives out of the country, and we send her an OTC eye drop that she can't buy where she lives)
    • $76.75 - new shoes for my youngest child
    • $135.32 - a new top, sweater, and a dress for me. The dress will definitely be going back. Top is still TBD.
    • $500 - in gift cards at the gym.
-I'm attempting to get our grocery spending more organized, and save us time by shopping once/week. However, I'm finding the inventory management side of this to be very challenging. I'm typically okay with recipe ingredients, but M & I cover different meals. He does the kids breakfasts + a bowl of fruit for each of them as an evening snack. I make adult breakfasts + pack lunches + plan dinners. We are always making assumptions about who's using which ingredients, and then we run out. :-) Solving this is one of my top goals for the week ahead. I'm tired of shopping multiple times/week!
-I'm finally done with all of the Christmas shopping! And, I stuck to my budget. First year ever! Basically, I assigned $710 to specific gifts, but used a budget of $1000, knowing that I would forget things or go over in certain categories. And, I came in at $969.93, so just under! I've actually spent more than that, as I buy gifts for other people (per their request) to give to the kids, but I'll be getting reimbursed. Yeah!!

-I'm super excited about my unplanned trip to Las Vegas - our opportunities to getaway without the kids are pretty rare, so I don't pass up a chance to do it. However, this wasn't in the budget for December, which is already an expensive month.
-The money for the refinance was allocated, but still painful to part with.

-Too much shopping for myself. This is something I've struggled with before. I'm already in the mall to do Christmas shopping, and the temptation is too much. Sales are great, I'm going to Las Vegas in a few weeks, & find it so easy to say "oh, this new top would look fabulous for the trip", etc, etc.

Total spend for the week = $4089.18! Holy smokes.
Questions for you: how do you efficiently plan what you'll need at the grocery store? How often do you shop? How do you predict what you'll run out of, and when? What went well for you this week? Challenges? 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Menu Plan (12/4-12/11)

Hope you are having a wonderful & relaxing Sunday! It's cold but sunny & beautiful in Seattle today.

Here's what's on the menu for the week:
If you are in need of an easy pizza recipe, this one is completely amazing. I skipped the onions, but kept everything else the same. It was better than delivery!

Sunday goals & a recap

Yesterday was a super productive day!

Here's a recap of my to do's
  • Soccer at 9:00 am for both kids Done. :-) They each scored two goals.
  • Finish wrapping all of my remaining gifts. Done! I do still need to find a gift for my grandmother to give to M (got that? ;-)) as she asked for help shopping. I'll have to wrap that once I decide what to get him.
  • Write/address all holiday cards. Done! Still missing a couple of addresses, but I've contacted those folks to ask for updated information.
  • Make sugar cookies with the kids. Done! Although, this was an accomplishment really only on "paper", as I tried the Martha Stewart sugar cookie recipe, and tried to use my push in cookie pan (you don't cut the dough with cookie cutters - instead you push it into a pan with shapes made in it). For whatever reason, that was a total failure. We made several batches, adjusted the cooking time, temperature, etc, but they didn't work out. I'll either need a different recipe to go with the pan, or switch to cutters. I was trying to make things easier, since I was baking with a four year old. :-) I'm thinking I'll try this recipe & follow this great blog write up. Too bad I didn't see this yesterday!
  • Laundry. Done. But, of course there's more today. Laundry is the task that's never truly done. ;-)  
  • Figure out dinner plan. . . We were originally thinking of taking the kids to a Parents Night Out, but it looks like we're staying in instead. Homemade pizzas? We made this amazing chicken pesto pizza recipe, & it was fantastic! I should be making my own crust, but we cheated & bought the Boboli pizza pack from Costco. The kids prefer cheese/pepperoni variations, so they had customized toppings & M & I had the chicken pesto. YUM! I skipped the green onions (I was out), but otherwise made it following the recipe. I diced up some chicken we had on hand, & it was easy & excellent.
  • Work out! Done! I did a 40 minute elliptical workout yesterday.
Moving on to today!

  1. Menu plan for the week
  2. Work out
  3. Laundry (again)
  4. Pack lunches for tomorrow
  5. Decide on/make dinner. I'm off track this week with the menu, & need a plan!
  6. Return a couple of things to the mall.
  7. Take oldest to swimming lessons.
  8. Clean out fridge! It's a disaster.
  9. Hit the store for a couple of ingredients for the week.
  10. Weekly spending write up.
  11. Make banana muffins for the freezer.
What's on your list for today or the week ahead?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Happy Saturday

Hello, all! I'm up bright & early this morning, because I needed to register my kids for their swimming lessons. Of course, after I got up at six am, they postponed the registration. That makes me super pleased. ;-) The company we use is very small, & I try to appreciate the fact that they have technical challenges getting everyone registered. To accommodate for the high demand, they open registration at 6:00 am on Saturdays (meaning they know fewer people will actually do it, so their server capacity can handle it.) It's bad enough that they force me to get up early enough on a weekend, but after I'm up - they can't bring their web site up & have to reschedule. I am a supporter of small business, but please get it together!

Oh well, now I'm off to an early start & can enjoy my coffee this morning.

Here's what's on my list for today!
  • Soccer at 9:00 am for both kids
  • Finish wrapping all of my remaining gifts
  • Write/address all holiday cards
  • Make sugar cookies with the kids
  • Laundry
  • Figure out dinner plan. . . We were originally thinking of taking the kids to a Parents Night Out, but it looks like we're staying in instead. Homemade pizzas?
  • Work out!

What are you hoping to accomplish today?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Net Worth Update - December 2011

My last net worth update can be found here.

I pull all of our numbers on the first of each month & calculate our net worth. (Note that I don't count our kids college accounts, as they are 529s, and for college tuition only. Maybe I should, but I consider the accounts part of their net worth, as we will not be using them? Also, M has one very high risk investment account that I don't track. It fluctuates WILDLY, and it makes me anxious to look at the numbers, so I don't even pay attention to it. :-))

Here's where we are as of December 1st:

$34,549 - M's 401K loan. (Down $1,187)
$1,043,612 - Property loans. (Down $1,953)

$860,000 - value of primary residence (No change)
$334,000 - value of vacation residence (No change)
$435,655 - retirement accounts (Up $4,822)
$157,325 - stock options via employer (on a vesting schedule & subject to forfeiture should either of us switch employers) (Down, $3,670, as one of my grants vested & we used the money to pay for the kids college funds).
$30,821 - liquid cash (Up $3,714)

Total net worth = $739, 641. Up $7,008 from November 1st, as you can see, through a combination of slightly increased value of our 401Ks, liquid cash, decrease in liabilities offsetting a small dip in our stock options.

Do you track your net worth? Have you found it to be a helpful tool in long(er) term planning & goals? I mostly find it motivating, but we lost *a ton* of money this year in our 401Ks, so it's hard to see the number when they're trending down. It's a dose of reality that sometimes I don't want to swallow. :-)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tentative 2012 Goals

I'm working on our 2012 goals (both family, financial, & personal) & have quite a few lofty aspirations. I may need to whittle the list down a bit. :-) I also need to review our updated income/bonus projections & determine if any of these need to be adjusted based on reality.

Family goals:
  • Take a family trip. We're planning on Hawaii over spring break.
  • Teach our youngest son to ski, and continue to help our oldest son improve his skills.
  • Set up will/trust/guardianship for the kids. This is getting carried over from 2011, because I don't see this happening in the next few weeks.
Personal goals:
  • Get promoted at work or find a new job
  • Start volunteer writing
  • Achieve/maintain my weight at 130
  • Run a 1/2 marathon
  • Complete 8500 minutes of cardio
  • Learn to bake bread

Financial goals:

  • Fund boys college accounts to 50% (currently at 40% each)
  • Pay down vacation mortgage to $200,000. This will mean paying off roughly $107,500 of the principal this year. Still crunching the numbers to see if we can do this.
  • Pay off M's 401K loan. (We may get this done this month in 2011, but it takes a long time to get the paperwork to clear. Funds, however, are ready to go for this.)
  • Pay down HELOC to under $100K This will mean paying off roughly $80,000 of principal in 2012. Still crunching numbers to see if we can do this.
  • Consider/research/investigate rental property
Are you working on your goals for 2012? What are you hoping to accomplish in the year ahead?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November Financial Wrap Up

I feel like I'm finally getting a better handle on our money, and how to adjust it monthly to cover variances. Tracking our spending has been *incredibly* eye opening, and we've now completed our third month of budget tracking.

First up, a summary.
  • Our regular income for November was $14,088
  • Stock awards that I was granted years ago finally vested, and totaled  $6,862.65 (this is a "bonus" from my employer, based on performance)
  • M received an $80,000 (after-tax) bonus
Total income for the month was $100,950. Obviously, this was an odd month & our standard income is usually the $14K number.

Total spend for the month was $16,021.12. This is approximately $3,647.12 over our intended spend for the month. That said, $1956 of that overspending was intentional, and we used some of the stock award money to fulfill our 2011 goal of balancing out our kids college funds. (Our older son's fund was substantially higher than our younger son's GET account, due to a huge rise in tuition costs.) The accounts are now even, and both funded at 40% completion (tuition credits only). That leaves $1,691.12 that we overspent & didn't intend to. . . Oops.

The rest of the stock vest will be used to cover closing costs next week, as we're refinancing our vacation mortgage from a 30 year to a 15 year, at a better rate.

The planned spending for the $80,000 bonus is as follows:
  • $35K to M's 401K loan payoff. (We took this loan out a year or so ago to buy down our own primary mortgage to get us under a jumbo loan and greatly reduce our payments.)
  • $5K for a spring break trip to Hawaii. I'm still working to see if I can fly four of us to Hawaii for a reasonable amount.
  • $5K to the boys college accounts.
  • $35K to our savings account, earmarked for a replacement for M's car when the time comes.
Back to our regular budget. . .

We spent less than planned on the following categories:
  • Gas. Budget was $600 (I bumped it up from $500, as we drove to our vacation house 2x this month) & we spent $493.71
  • Utilities for vacation house. This is likely because we weren't there in October using power/heat/water, so November's bills were lower.
  • Gifts (excludes Christmas). I was able to use gift cards and a store credit to purchase the two birthday gifts that I needed.
  • Travel. I budgeted $50 for parking when I had my girls trip with my mother & sister, but parking turned out to be free.
  • Primary mortgage. I think I must have just made a typo in the number of what we typically pay, because I know we paid our full payments, but it's $50 less than I was expected. I'm guessing this is my own math error. ;-)
We spent as planned in the following categories:
  • Boys lessons. No bills were due this month, as most of their activities/lessons are paid quarterly. I was able to predict this (through the magic of budgeting & tracking!)
  • Personal. I budgeted and spent the amount expected on the tip for my free massage & M got his hair cut as planned.
  • Charity. Our donations were scheduled via our standard payroll deductions. I did pick up a few angel tree items, but those were purchased with a gift card, so not out of our income.
  • Insurance. Our car insurance remained the same.
We spent more than planned in the following categories:
  • Groceries. AGAIN. Grrrr. I'm definitely a work in progress on this one. The good news? I spent less than last month! :-) $687.95, and my budget was $600.
  • Dining out. I knew this month would be expensive for dining out, but didn't predict appropriately. In addition, M & I ate out for lunch a few times as mini-dates, even though the bulk of our eating out budget was used up by other things. This included: lunch, dinner, drinks, & breakfast on my girls trip. I'll be getting back $95 from my sister for her portion, so recalculated base on how much I spent . . . budget was $300 & we spent $490.25
  • Primary residence utilities. I was double billed by our garbage company, so I should be under next month. Budget was $700 & we spent $736.70
  • Boys clothes. I took advantage of a few Black Friday deals, to stock our vacation house with clothes and pajamas in the next size up. They will need shoes next month, but should be good to go for clothing. Budget was $0, and we spent $251.23
  • My clothes. I had to buy a few items this month (trouser socks, a pair of flats) in the ongoing saga of finding appropriate footwear. I have a broken bone in my foot & can't wear the vast majority of shoes that I own. Budget was $50 & I spent $131.14.
  • Child care. I was almost correct with my predictions on this one, but ended up taking the boys to our gym one Saturday to get in a work out when M was out of town. My gift to myself. :-) Budget was $1710, and we spent $1718.
  • Health. N had the unexpected dental work, which set us back $195.58. Budget was $0.
  • Cars. M's car needed a few things (standard repairs), but I foolishly forgot that November is the month I have to renew my registration. Budget was $200, and we spent $258.20
  • Boys (misc). M has a bad habit of picking up toys/gifts for the kids when he's out of town. Budget was $0, and we spent $51.96
  • Liquor. I'm actually kind of embarrassed to put this out there, but what's a little shame among friends? ;-) Budget was $40, and we spent $211.57. I had to replace two items in our standard stock, which was the bulk of this. We did not actually consume this much alcohol, & I feel compelled to point out that we typically have 1-2 glasses of wine or drinks on weekends, and that's it. We did bring wine to a few holiday events as well.
  • Boys college funds. As noted, I had zero budgeted for this, but decided to complete our 2011 goal & add $1956 to my younger son's account.
  • Cleaning. We pay weekly, and November had more Wednesdays than a typical month. Budget was $346, and we spent $400.
  • Christmas. I picked up our Christmas cards yesterday, & came in under budget. All that's left are a few stocking items for M, the treat I will plan for N's preschool class, & postage for the cards. Yeah! Overall, I'm under budget for this. However, the way I created the budget, I divided the total into October, November, & December. I will not need the December funds, so while October is over, I'm under for the holiday as a whole. Clear as mud, right? ;-) I spent $872.28, but will be getting $323 back from others, making my total spend $549.28. My budget for the month was $350.
  • Vacation mortgage. I made a small extra principal payment, and our insurance has gone up, so our escrow/total payment is higher each month. Budget was $1950, total spent was $1973.54. We are actually mid-way through refinancing this to a 15 year mortgage, so I 'll be completely re-doing the numbers again for December.

Wow, if you made it all the way through that, you deserve a prize! How did you fare in November? Any big wins, or areas that you'll focus on in December?

November Goal Wrap Up

This month absolutely flew by! Here's what I accomplished (or, didn't) for the month. Overall, out of 17 goals, I successfully completed 8 of them, mostly/somewhat completed 5 of them, and totally blew it on the remaining 4.

Here are my goals for November:

  1. Complete 500 minutes of cardio. Yes! I completed this & am currently at 505 minutes. I will still try to sneak in a workout today or tomorrow.
  2. Lose 5 lbs. Starting at 146. Major fail. Post Thanksgiving, my weight is up to 148.4, which means instead of losing weight, I gained 2.4 lbs. :-( 
  3. Sell 2 items (or more!) on Craig's List. Eh, we opted to keep our TV, so we didn't sell anything.
  4. Decorate house for Christmas. Mostly done. The inside is decorated, and tree is up, but it rained all day on Sunday - so we still need to do the lights.
  5. Finish Christmas shopping. 95% done, and plan to finish everything today (last day of the month)! :-)
  6. Clean pantry. Done.
  7. Clean both fridges. No, didn't get either cleaned (by that I mean I didn't scrub the shelves.)
  8. Complete 8 strength training workouts. I completed 5/8 workouts, so didn't make it.
  9. Complete guardianship/will/trust for kids. Failure. :-(
  10. Research life insurance. Failure.
  11. Create a list of all shared accounts (between myself & M) to store in safety deposit box. Well, we opened up a safe deposit box, but the list of accounts is incomplete. Semi-done.
  12. Plan ski week with my sister, nephews, and our kids. Mostly done - need to finalize the details.
  13. Decide on winter activities for boys. Done. Both will play soccer, swim & in January we'll move on to skiing. Cut out chess & music ideas, as we don't want the kids to be super busy.
  14. Track all spending. Done.
  15. Reduce monthly expenses by $200. We cut $800 off the amount we spent last month. Yeah!
  16. Get together with two friends. Done! Meeting the second friend for a birthday dinner tonight.
  17. Decide on/register for benefits at work. There are a bunch of changes to our health care plans, so I need to figure out which is best for us. - Done! I registered both of us, so this is all taken care of.

How is your December looking? What's on your list of goals for the month?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Goals for December

Wow, did November ever fly by?! It's time for me to set my December goals, & being realistic with myself about what I can accomplish in a month filled with holidays, vacations, & family fun.

Psssssssssh, whatever! I'm always too ambitious about my goals. :-)

  1. Lose 5 lbs - get weight back to 144 pounds.
  2. Complete 500 minutes of cardio
  3. Complete 8 strength workouts
  4. Plan spring break trip
  5. Plan mid-winter break trip
  6. Bake Christmas cookies with the kids & take them to look at holiday lights.
  7. Track all spending
  8. Monthly expenditures total less than $15,000, with the exception of using the bonus money to pay off the $35K 401K loan.
  9. Keep grocery bill to $600
  10. Get together with two friends
What about you? What's on your list of must do's for December?

Tales from the grocery store

M went to Costco yesterday, & here's what we ended up with. I swear, we go ALL the time, but we're always out of some type of produce. If we buy too much at once, it goes bad.

  • $3.99 - minced garlic
  • $3.79 - whole wheat English muffins
  • $3.29x2 - honeydew
  • $2.99 - pineapple
  • $5.29 - pears. Unfortunately, M missed the unused bag we had in our downstairs fridge, so we'll be eating *a lot* of pears this week. :-)
  • $5.99 - clementines
  • $5.49 - two dozen bagels
  • $9.79 - almonds. M's snack of choice.
  • $1.39 - bananas
  • $5.99 - torta rolls for weekend sandwiches
Total spent = $51.29

How about you? Any great grocery store runs, or are you paring down the list this week, post-Thanksgiving?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Weekly Spending (11/21-11/27) & big bonus news

It was an expensive week! Here's what we spent. N had his dental surgery on Tuesday, and I had to pick up a few soft foods for him. It was also Black Friday, so I picked up a few things that we needed that were a great price.

  • Monday - No spend day
  • Tuesday
    • Costco - $124.80 on groceries
    • $1.67 on a box of popsicles (recommended by the dentist to help N feel when the numbing agent wore off)
    • $13.92 - Panera for lunch out with N. He was a complete trooper during his surgery, so we went out for a soft lunch (aka macaroni & cheese/yogurt)
    • $16.41 - I bought myself a new sweater at Loft.
    • $22.43 - bribery gift for N for his awesome behavior during the surgery. He didn't even cry!
    • $162.50 - dentist
  • Wednesday:
    • $60 - lunch with M
    • $8 - tip for free car wash/vacuum
    • $100 - we purchased a $100 gift card to one of our favorite restaurants, as they were having a promotion where you received an extra $25. We met for drinks & used some of the $100 on Wednesday, but will keep the rest for another occasion.
  • Thursday:
    • $15 on various snacks for the kids. I packed lunches & snacks, but during various potty stops on the way to Thanksgiving, we bought things. Our Thanksgiving meal is at 2:00, which is a hard time for kids. It's way past lunch, so we had to feed them ahead of time, and the adults don't do dinner - one big meal. I'll have to remember to pack the kids several extra things next time.
  • Friday:
    • $180.71 - clothes for the kids for the vacation house. They now have pajamas, pants, gloves, hats, etc. We should be all set for the next year or so.
    • $25 - gift certificate for Bath & Body Works. (I get gas rebates on gift cards & we need soap & candles for the house).
    • $100 - Christmas gift
    • $5 - Starbucks for breakfast.
    • $61.72 - groceries
    • $39.99 - shearling boots for me (Costco). Not sure if I'm keeping them or not.
    • $192.45 - Costco household items. This includes: Sonicare toothbrushes for me/N, a headset splitter for the car for the kids, trash bags, & light bulbs.
    • $9.99 - Christmas wrapping paper at Costco.
  • Saturday:
    • $34.93 - gas
  • Sunday:
    • $1.15 - protein smoothie at the gym
    • $24 - used the childcare at the gym to get in a workout.
Total spent for the week = $1074.87.

And, in big, huge, amazing news - M just found out that he is receiving a huge bonus this year! Last year, due to a bunch of reorganizations at work, he lost out on his commission for the year, which is typically 65% or so of his salary. While we budget based on our his base salary + mine, he's received his bonus every year he's worked, so it was a very unpleasant surprise. We spend the bonus on extras, fun stuff, house projects, traveling, etc, so we trimmed to a much more basic budget when that happened.

Anyway, M received an $80,000 after tax bonus this week, so to say we're excited would be a colossal understatement. We're not sure where all of it's going, but here's the tentative plan

  • $35,000 - M's 401K loan payoff. Paying this off means our only debt will once again be our mortgages, which will make me very happy.
  • $5,000 - family trip to Hawaii over spring break
  • $5,000 - boys college fund
  • $35,000 - savings for new car. We know we'll be replacing a car soon, as M's is over 10 years old, so we want to be prepared.
How would you spend $80,000? Any input for us?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Weekly Menu Plan

Here's what's on the menu for the upcoming week! I swear that the Italian Baked Chicken & Pastina has been on the menu for a month, but it's our backup freezer meal & I keep thinking we're going to get to it. Maybe this week. :-)

·         Sunday –  Oven Baked Chicken Risotto
·         Monday – Italian Baked Chicken and Pastina
·         Tuesday – Leftover baked chicken risotto
·         Wednesday – I'm taking a friend to dinner for her birthday. The boys will fend for themselves.
·         Thursday –  M will be out of town, I'm thinking of having chef salad.
·         Friday – Herbed chicken parmesan
·         Saturday – 12/3 - Tacos
·         Sunday – 12/4 – Chicken, red grape, & pesto pizza + cheese pizza for the kids.
What's on your menu for the week? Are you making creative leftovers from Thanksgiving? We were guests at my aunt's house, so we are turkey-less.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Weekly Spending - (11/14-11/20)

Pretty average week, with the exception of the childcare I used at the gym on Saturday/Sunday. It's expensive & a treat, so I only splurge when I'm on my own with the kids for more than three days. Sometimes a girl just needs a quick sanity check. :-)

I'll have a more detailed financial update in the next day or so (good news!), so for now, I'll just break it down by the day. I ate out more than normal last week (bad), used a coupon for a free massage (best freebie ever!), & spent even more money stocking our liquor cabinet, despite being over budget. I have no self-control, because we're going to the beach house again on Thursday night & want the fixings for cosmopolitans. I do feel a little guilty for going so wildly over the liquor budget.

  • Monday:
    • $149.04 - Costco (all groceries)
    • $57.07 - Gas
  • Tuesday
    • $25 - Hair cut for M
    • $44 - oil change for M's car
  • Wednesday
    • $1.15 protein smoothie at the gym
  • Thursday
    • $9.40 - lunch/cookie at work
    • $62.90 - cointreau & tequila at the liquor store.
  • Friday
    • No spend day
  • Saturday
    • $19.25 at Trader Joes. Picked up some easy appetizers for our vacation next week, plus a few trail mixes for car trips.
    • $35.11 at Toys R Us (on a gift card). Gifts for homeless kids via a charity at my work.
    • $42.25 at Fred Meyer. Groceries - about $22 was for the beverages we're supplying for my son's Harvest party on Monday. The rest went for our contributions to Thanksgiving dinner at a relative's house.
    • $4.59 at Fred Meyer for Pokemon cards. My grandmother sends each of the boys $2 to spend, & $10 to save once a month. They pooled their $2 and shared a pack of Pokemon cards.
    • $14 - I booked an hour worth of child care at the gym, so I could eke out a quick workout. I normally don't do this, but with M out of town, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed & needed a bit of a break. Best money I spent all weekend!
    • $46 - dinner at the gym. Should have skipped this & went home, but I was worn out after the workout.
  • Sunday
    • $11.62 - box of protein powder.
    • $25 - tip for free massage
    • $35 - childcare during massage/workout.
Total spend for the week = $581.38

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Weekly Menu

I'm working on the menu plan a little early this week, as I need to plan ahead to get everything done. :-) Do you ever have those week?

  • Saturday - I'm planning to grab a salad at the gym. I have fewer leftovers in the freezer than I anticipated, and need a guaranteed healthy dinner since I had a quesadilla for lunch. ;-)
  • Sunday - trying a new chili recipe, plus biscuits & salad. My oldest child (S), loves chili, so this is his request.
  • Monday - Chicken pastina (freezer) - moved from last week & Greek salad.
  • Tuesday - Leftover chili, biscuits, & salad.
  • Wednesday - Leftover chicken pastina + Greek salad
  • Thursday - Thanksgiving at my aunt's house. We're bringing a variation of this salad, but with pears instead of apples. And wine, of course. :-)
  • Friday - We'll be at the beach, & since I inventoried our freezer there (yeah me!) I know exactly what we need to use up. We'll be making Sauteed Tilapia with Honey Scallion Dressing.
  • Saturday - Baked salmon, rice, and a vegetable of some sort.
  • Sunday - Beef manicotti (freezer) + salad.

If we actually make it through the pastina & manicotti, my freezer stash will be greatly depleted, which is part of my plan to work through our stash & move on to new dishes. Here's hoping!

What's on your menu plan for the week? Do you plan to have lots of Thanksgiving leftovers? We usually don't end up with much, since we are at a relative's house, but I plan to enjoy my favorites (green beans - not the casserole!, my dad's famous mushroom stuffing, & mashed potatoes). . . YUM!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Baby teeth

I took my four year old to the dentist yesterday, because he's been complaining about one of his teeth hurting. He's not the best brusher, & despite efforts from our end, I looked & saw a dark spot on his tooth, scheduled the dentist appointment, & expected a filling yesterday. Not quite. It turns out he's broken 1/2 of his back tooth off & because there was no enamel, he has a huge cavity that extends into the nerve. He has to have a crown (not enough tooth left to support a filling) and a root canal (baby version is called a pulpotomy) to get it taken care of. We're scheduled for Tuesday morning, & I'm super nervous! They will be giving him something to relax him, but warned me that he would likely be very swollen & in pain for several days. Just in time for Thanksgiving.

My poor baby! I haven't the foggiest idea how much our dental plan will cover, but I'm guessing this will be a pricey procedure. Fingers crossed that it goes well & he's not in pain/nervous/and that I survive the stress of it all. :-)

Yesterday was not a great day from a stress, financial, or health point of view. I was running late all day, bought lunch (and a cookie!) at the work cafeteria, picked up Wendy's after swimming practice (M is out of town & I'm juggling a million things), & my stomach & wallet are regretting the spontaneous purchases. Better choices for today!

Have you/your kids ever had to have serious dental work done? The most I've ever had was a filling, so I'm nervous for next week!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Your Grocery Bill Is Getting Higher

Did anyone happen to see this article about how the price of groceries is going up? I don't think this is terribly shocking information to anyone who regularly tracks their grocery spending, but I did find some of the specifics and forecasts interesting.

For example, food is projected to rise 4-5% this year, and another 2-3% next year. . .
Can I just say YIKES to a potential 8% rise in food costs over the next year? Holy smokes - that's a huge dent in any budget. And, it looks like beef (up 10% from last September) & produce have been impacted the most: "Fresh fruits and vegetables costs 7.6 percent more in September than a year earlier, while processed produce prices were up by 4 percent over that same period."

How will you adjust your grocery budget for 2012? Will you cut things out? Bake more snacks/breads at home? Cut down on produce or meat consumption?

I've been working on our 2012 budget, so this question is at the top of my mind. We don't buy too many snacks (Pirates Booty, Zbars for the kids before sports practices, the occasional bag of trail mix from Trader Joes, etc), but I will likely consider baking our own bread (learning how to successfully bake bread is going to be on my 2012 goal list after an utter failure in 2011 :-)). I've also started to cut out Crystal Light, both because I know it's artificial & not good for you, and because it's expensive. We've cut way down on our waste this year, so I need to keep that going & look for other creative ways to shave 10% percent off our bill in order to keep the dollar figure about the same as prices rise. . .

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tales from the Grocery Store

M went to Costco yesterday, & everything we bought was food. Here's what we ended up with. Total spent = $149.04.

Dairy - $23:
  • $8.49 - Sliced cheddar cheese (used to make the kids' lunches)
  • $4.69x2 - Organic eggs. We typically go through 4 eggs/breakfast, and I additionally use them for baking.
  • $5.13 - Milk. The kids' primary beverage. They don't drink juice, so we only have water or milk for drink choices in the house.
Meat - $35.09:
  • $17.21 - package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. We use these to barbecue in giant batches & use for quick meal preparation.
  • $17.88 - package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Same purpose as above.
Snacks - $6.99:
  • $6.99 - Pirate's Booty. Kids' lunches or snacks.
Produce $50.98-
  • $8.49 - grapes. Snacks
  • $3.49 - romaine lettuce. Salads with dinner.
  • $3.99x2 - 3 pack of cucumbers. Salad with dinner, and my kids' absolute favorite snack - with a light sprinkle of salt.
  • $4.39 - broccoli. Salads.
  • $4.99 - roma tomatoes. Salads & on the occasion sandwich/burger. I love tomatoes.
  • $1.39x2 - bananas. Breakfast.
  • $6.99 - clementines. Snacks.
  • $5.29 - pears. Breakfast/lunches/snacks.
  • $3.29x2 - honeydew. Breakfast.
Random/Misc - $32.98:
  • $22.99 - Olive oil, used in cooking.
  • $9.99 - gingerbread house. Putting it together with the kids this weekend. :-)
Percentage breakdown by category (rounded):
  • 34% - Produce
  • 23% - Meat
  • 22% - Random/Misc
  • 15% - Dairy
  • 4% - Snacks
Overall, I'm pretty happy with the category breakout. It seems we always need at least one stock up/random item, and I am always pleased to see produce as our top category. We buy meat fairly sporadically, but do typically eat it with all of our dinners.

Do you track your grocery spending? By category?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Menu Plan, and a picture

Yes, a picture! I plan to remain anonymous (as much as possible) given the amount of financial detail I provide, but loved this picture from our weekend. Those are our two boys on a hike on the Oregon coast this weekend. It's so green that it's like a postcard!

With that, here's what's on the menu for the week. I'm still trying to work through our freezer stash, so you'll see quite a few freezer meals on the list. M will also be out of town for a few days, so I tend to eat single-serving leftovers and throw together meals to keep the costs down those days.

I forgot to defrost our manicotti this morning, so asked M to do it while I was at work. He didn't know which casserole dish was the manicotti, so tonight's dinner will be a surprise! I know which three casseroles I have frozen, but I haven't a clue which he set out for tonight. :-)

  • Monday: Frozen surprise. :-) Will either be: beef manicottifiesta chicken, or chicken pastina
  • Tuesday: Cashew crusted mahi mahi with spinach risotto (freezer)
  • Wednesday: Leftover "surprise" casserole
  • Thursday: M's famous hamburgers (freezer) + corn
  • Friday: M out of town. I'll be eating some pizza rescued from the freezer + salad
  • Saturday: M out of town. I'll be eating baked ziti (freezer) + edamame.
  • Sunday: I feel like soup. I may make chili or potato soup. M's not a huge fan, so I'll probably make some mahi mahi to go with his portion. Plus biscuits?
Baking: I'll probably bake homemade granola bars (kids lunches) + fresh cranberry muffins to stock the freezer.

What's on your menu for the week? I'm still looking for an excellent chili recipe, so if you have one, please share!

Check out Organizing Junkie roundup of menu plans, if you need inspiration!

Weekly Spending Wrap Up

Here's how the week went. We're on vacation at the beach this week (left Wednesday night, back on Saturday night). Our vacation house is in Oregon (a sales tax free state), so we buy a lot of household items, kids clothes, wine, etc when we can find it & it's in the budget. Sales tax where we live is close to 10%, so it's a substantial savings.

And, I think I finished up 95% of my Christmas shopping! My sister will be getting a gift (from the two of us) for my grandmother's husband & I still need to find a few stocking items for the hardest person to shop for - M. :-) I'll also be getting reimbursed for several (most of) the gifts I bought this weekend. Between my mom & sister, I'll be getting $293 back, which isn't taken into account below.

I ran a ton of errands today, & you can definitely tell by my numbers. :-) I went super far over my liquor budget for the month (originally $60), but found my favorite nicer wine for 40% off on a whim when I walked into Safeway (Kroger) today. Score. I'll rejigger the budget a bit to accommodate. I also had zero budgeted for the boys clothes this month, but discovered they've outgrown all of their underwear & socks that I keep at our vacation house. I do my absolute best not to drag a bunch of clothes back & forth to make it easy to pack/unpack, so I replaced those. I still need to get them some additional pants (in a bigger size) to store at our vacation house, but may look for those on Black Friday if I choose to venture out for an hour or so. Kids clothes are sometimes a huge score on Black Friday.
  • Monday - No spend day
  • Tuesday:
    • $101.37 - Costco for groceries
  • Wednesday - No spend day
  • Thursday -
    • $3.50 for two carousel rides
    • $4.99 for one stocking stuffer my husband discovered at the local toy store
    • $9.99 at Fred Meyer for Pokemon cards for the kids (little splurge since they were so good during our drive.) A bribe. :-)
    • $.81 at Fred Meyer for groceries (radishes & an onion)
    • $40.95 at Costco for groceries
    • $39.98 on rain boots for the kids. Their old boots were too small/ripped out of the back.
    • $46.97 on a few household items (olive oil mister, replacement kitchen utensils, etc)
    • $65.94 on wine. This was more than I was budgeting ($40 for the month), but M reminded me that the stock this wine infrequently and we don't want to run out for the holidays. ;-)
  • Friday:
    • $2.92 - Fred Meyer for groceries (I underestimated our tomato usage, & we were out of lime juice. A critical cosmopolitan component. :-))
    • $118 for Christmas gifts. (Digital picture frames for the Grandmothers). My sister will reimburse me for 1/2.
  • Saturday
    • No spend day
  • Sunday
    • $2.52 on a couple of groceries at Safeway due to a last-minute change in dinner plans (a potato, a fruit roll to keep my errand-accompanying child happy, and a pomegranate because I've been craving them!)
    • $82.73 on wine at Safeway.
    • $3.48 on a few groceries at Fred Meyer (frozen mini waffles for a quick breakfast when M is out of town next weekend, and asparagus)
    • $30.54 at Fred Meyer for new underwear/socks for the kids.
    • $31 at Fred Meyer for a birthday gift for my nephew
    • $23.38 at Fred Meyer for a couple of stocking presents for my nephews
    • $283.64 at Toys R Us to finish up some Christmas shopping.
Summary of the spending:
Groceries = $152.05. On track.
Kids (clothes, entertainment, etc) = $84.01. Over. Clothing purchases were unexpected.
Liquor = $148.67. Over. Way over. Need to find the money in another category.
Gifts = $31. Under on this, and should be done with gift purchases (this is non-Christmas)
Christmas = $430.51. I need to recalculate based on how much I spent towards my own budget vs buying for others (i.e. getting gifts for my mom/sister to give to my kids - they reimburse me).
House = $46.97. Over by a few dollars.

Did you track your spending this week? How did you do? Any surprises?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Quick update

Just a quick note that we are having a fabulous long weekend. We're at the Oregon Coast, & have seen all possible weather - in true coast style. :-) It was 63 and sunny yesterday. We rode bikes, hiked a bit & played outside. We ended the evening with margaritas on the deck (with jackets - it cooled off very quickly!) & a gorgeous sunset.

It started off as a nice day today & we rode our bikes several times around town & to a local park. Around 2:00, the rain and wind started & now it's a full storm. I'm enjoying a cup of hot tea while the kids play outside with their new rain boots & umbrellas. It's about the small stuff. :-)

We've been playing a lot of games, coloring, and playing with farm animals. Life is good. And, we've been doing pretty well on the budget - no meals out, and pretty under control for the rest of our spending. A more detailed post coming soon!

Enjoy your long weekend! What are your plans?

Monday, November 7, 2011

November Goal Update

November is about 1/4 over, so I thought it would be good (read, I need to kick myself into gear!) & see how I'm faring so far.

Here are my November goals:

  1. Complete 500 minutes of cardio. I've completed 150 minutes, so I'm on track with this.
  2. Lose 5 lbs. Starting at 146. <insert sad face> I've gained weight. Need to focus on this.
  3. Sell 2 items (or more!) on Craig's List. So far, no traction on this. We do have our old TV listed.
  4. Decorate house for Christmas. We'll do this the last week of November
  5. Finish Christmas shopping. I'm about 2/3 of the way done. Yeah!
  6. Clean pantry. I've made small steps, but haven't done a full clean. 
  7. Clean both fridges. Nope. Need to get this on my To Do lists. 
  8. Complete 8 strength training workouts. I've done 1/8, which is not good.
  9. Complete guardianship/will/trust for kids. Nope 
  10. Research life insurance. Nope.
  11. Create a list of all shared accounts (between myself & M) to store in safety deposit box. Nope
  12. Plan ski week with my sister, nephews, and our kids. Nope
  13. Decide on winter activities for boys. Yes! This is done. :-)
  14. Track all spending. So far, so good.
  15. Reduce monthly expenses by $200. I've been doing a much better job predicting our monthly expenses & juggling things proactively, so hopefully we'll have a net savings this month. 
  16. Get together with two friends. I've gotten together with one friend, so 1/2 way there. :-)
  17. Decide on/register for benefits at work. There are a bunch of changes to our health care plans, so I need to figure out which is best for us.  Not yet.
Yikes. Not doing that great - I'm mostly concerned with my weight. Given that we're heading into the holidays and over indulgences all around, I need to get to the gym regularly & keep my eating on track.

How are you doing with your November goals? Any big wins so far? :-)

Weekly Spending Update

Here's what I spent during the week. My mom, sister & I spent all day Saturday together, stayed overnight in a hotel, ate lunch, dinner, & breakfast out, as well as went shopping during the day. Although the weekend was expensive, I stayed within my planned budget! It was my mom's birthday. I was super excited to see that our parking was free, which I hadn't expected. Yeah!
  • Monday
    • $19.05 - Trader Joe's (groceries)
    • $7.43 - Fred Meyer (groceries)
    • $52.68 - Gas
    • ++$45 for a Craig's List sale.
  • Tuesday
    • No spend day!
  • Wednesday
    • $47.18 - Costco (groceries)
    • $227.25 - Costco (Christmas gifts)
    • $43.68 - Costco (Christmas gifts)
    • $52.24 - Dining out. Took a friend to dinner since I'll miss her baby shower.
  • Thursday
    • $1.15 - protein smoothie at the gym
    • $35.60 - Costco (Christmas gift)
    • $26.78 - Amazon (Christmas gift)
    • $123.75 - Car registration/tab renewal
    • $14.75 - new air filter for the car
    • $57.99 - spark plugs for the car
    • $16.24 - Ebay (Christmas gift)
  • Friday
    • ++$6,862 - stock options from work. I typically only get these in September, but my vesting delayed during my maternity leave so this is my last round of October vesting.
    • Coffees (Me + M) at the local coffee shop this am. On a gift card.
    • $15.89 - Costco (meatballs - forgotten in the earlier Costco stop this week)
  • Saturday
    • $25.54 - Bath & Body Works. Stocked up on hand soap, and also got a freebie body wash that will be included in a Christmas gift
    • $105.34 - Ruths Chris (lunch). Will be split with my sister
    • $4.37 - Hallmark. Birthday card for my grandmother
    • $54.74 - Aerosoles. Comfortable brown flats. I have a broken bone in my foot & own basically all heels, which are unwearable at the moment. My budget for clothing this month was $50, so I was so close. :-)
    • $143.74 - Dinner. Will be split with my sister.
    • $20.43 - After dinner drinks. Will be split with my sister
    • $24 - M & the kids went out to dinner.
    • $5 - Sephora. Lipstick brush. On a gift card.
  • Sunday
    • $17 - coffee/breakfast this morning. Will be split with my sister.
    • $7.10 - Fred Meyer for a few groceries (lime juice + a bunch of clearanced ZBars that the kids eat before swimming practice)
    • $20 - Fred Meyer for socks for me. Officially now over my clothing budget. By socks. Drat. So boring, but essential.
    • $15.66 - Fred Meyer for a new pizza pan. This was less than I budgeted.
    • $2.19 - Fred Meyer for balloons for my youngest son, who was shopping with me. Total impulse purchase.
    • $16 - Fred Meyer for a Christmas gift.

Total spend for the week = $1152.77
Total spend for the week (after my reimbursement from my sister) = $1052.77
Total for the week (after I add in my stock vest) = +++$5809.23

How did you do with your weekly spending?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Menu Plan

Here's what's on the menu for the week ahead! We'll be heading to our vacation house for a long weekend, so we try & do extremely easy, few ingredient recipes. Just a note that we typically have a salad with every meal. I'm also still trying to work through my freezer stash, so you'll see more freezer meals than normal for the next month or so.

  • Sunday - Cashew crusted mahi mahi + roasted Brussels sprouts
  • Monday - Baked ziti (from the freezer)
  • Tuesday - Fiesta chicken (bumped two weeks in a row!)
  • Wednesday - Leftovers (whatever is left to clean out the fridge)
  • Thursday - At the beach! M's famous hamburgers + a vegetable. Asparagus?
  • Friday - Baked salmon, rice, & the family favorite crostini.
  • Saturday - I cannot remember what's in the freezer at the beach house, so need to inventory that & use up whatever fish I have.
  • Sunday - Leftover Fiesta Chicken
What's on your menu for the week? I love reading menu plans & looking for recipes.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Christmas Budget & Plan

I love reading about how everyone spends their Christmas budgets, and writing an actual plan makes me feel more accountable, so here goes! :-)

I keep a fairly detailed Excel spreadsheet, with the following tabs:
  • Gifts. This is where I track what I've purchased so far, and each person we buy for has their own row in Excel. Once I'm done purchasing gifts for someone, I highlight that row so I can quickly tell who I still need to shop for.
  • $ Transfer. This is where I track if I owe anyone money, or someone owes me money. For example, my sister & I regularly pick up items for each other (she usually knows best what her own kids will like, and vice versa). I also usually help my mom shop for my kids, etc. We both track everything & as we near Christmas, we add it up, double-check our numbers & even things out.
  • Budget. This is where I track how much I've spent. I have several columns per person - the initial budget, how much I really spent, and whether I was under/over.
  • Lists. I track any ideas for people here.
  • Notes. I use this section to detail any notes for the following year. For example, last year I reminded myself not to shop on Black Friday, because I primarily shopped for myself, thus wiping out any savings on my Christmas budget. :-)
Okay, now that you know how I track each item (I'm an Excel geek, I'll confess), I'll break things down a bit more. Here are the line items on our Christmas budget:

  • M - $100
  • S (our oldest son) - $100
  • N (our youngest son) - $100
  • C1 (nephew) - $30
  • C2 (nephew) - $30
  • Grandmother - $25
  • Grandmother's husband - $20
  • Aunt - $25
  • Best friend's child - $25
  • Best friend's other child - $25
  • Baking - $25
  • School (teachers, etc. I donate to the PTA fund that covers my Kindergartner's class, so this will be just for my preschooler's teachers) - $50
  • Christmas cards (my husband's family lives abroad, and sending gifts is cost prohibitive due to weight. Instead, we do a family photo session, and use the pictures for Christmas cards & to send prints to his family) - $100
  • Team at work (I manage a small team & pick up things like a coffee gift card for my staff) - $20
  • M - $25
  • S - $25
  • N - $15
  • Nephew1 - $15
  • Nephew2 - $15
Total estimated budget of everything above = $760. I like to create a slush fund in case we go over, I've forgotten any expenses, etc, so my actual budget is $1000. I try to stick to the $760 (and approximate amounts for each person), but then have a little flexibility if something comes up. I budget $333 for October, November, & December, but I try to be done by the end of November, so I may actually spend $333 in October & $650 or so in November, with hopefully no spending in December. (Fingers crossed).

Progress so far:
So far I've spent $435, and I'm approximately $50 over my budget. I have finished shopping for the following:
  • M (husband)
  • S (oldest child)
  • N (youngest child)
  • N's stocking
  • S's stocking
  • Nephew1
  • Friend's child1
I'm over the $50 because I bought more books than expected for my kids, but I'm okay with that as long as I keep it under $1000 total!

How is your Christmas shopping going? Are you on track? On budget? A last minute shopper?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tales from the grocery store

I generally try to recap what we purchase each week, because I always find it fascinating to see what you folks purchase. I will try & start taking pictures, but I keep forgetting!

M made a Costco run a few days ago, & here's what we ended up with. M spotted a few items that we've been looking for as Christmas gifts, so he picked them up. I also shop for my mom's Christmas gift for the boys, so we will be getting reimbursed for some of it. I'm irritated with myself, because I didn't notice that we had an unopened container of Roma tomatoes in our downstairs fridge. We didn't need the package M bought today, so waste of $4.99. We will definitely be eating a lot of tomatoes this week! Luckily, every one in the family is a tomato fan. ;-)

  • Tomatoes - $4.99
  • Cucumber (3 pack) - $3.79
  • Bananas (x2) - $2.78
  • Plums - $5.99
  • Pineapple - $2.99
  • Gala apples - $5.99
  • Pears - $5.29
  • Honeydew melon - $3.29
  • Milk - $4.29
  • Organic eggs - $4.69
Christmas gifts:
  • Lego Black Pearl Pirate ship - $79.99 (this will be my younger son's "big gift" from Santa)
  • Casio Keyboard - $79.99 (this will be my older son's "big gift" from Santa)
  • Lego Alien Ship - $49.99 (this will likely be my mom's gift for one of the boys)
  • Erector set - $43.68 (this will likely be my mom's gift for one of the boys)
All told, we spent $318.11, with $47.18 spent on groceries & $270.93 on Christmas gifts. In excellent news, I'm done shopping for both of the kids & my husband!

Christmas shopping
For my older son, we got him: several games, a few books, a kids chess set, & his keyboard. For his stocking, we got him a few other books and a toy. For my younger soon, he'll be getting: games, a couple of drawing kits, the lego set, and for his stocking: a few books & a toy. I feel like it's the right balance of fun stuff, practical items (they LOVE books & games), and the right amount of presents for a 4 & 5 year old. (Keep in mind they get plenty of gifts from other family members.)

I also figured out what to get my husband (a running jacket + a watch for running). Practical, but fun little splurges. And, I know he's been coveting this particular Under Armour running jacket, so I found both items online for a great deal & ordered them. Yeah!

Goals for today:
I did work out for 60 minutes yesterday, which made me feel amazing. I also ate well (1500 calories and lots of healthy food choices). The mini daily goals really helped, so here's what's on my list for today.

  • Call about an appeal on our tax assessment
  • Schedule an appointment for a (free!) massage
  • 60 minutes of cardio today
  • Arms strength training
  • Clean the fridge
  • Finish another development project at work
  • Hopefully receive the final numbers for our refinance and closing for our vacation house
  • 1500 calories or less!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Net worth update

I pull all of our numbers on the first of each month & calculate our net worth. (Note that I don't count our kids college accounts, as they are 529s, and for college tuition only. Maybe I should, but I consider the accounts part of their net worth, as we will not be using them? Also, M has one very high risk investment account that I don't track. It fluctuates WILDLY, and it makes me anxious to look at the numbers, so I don't even pay attention to it. :-))

Here's where we are as of November 1st:

$35,736 - M's 401K loan
$1,045,568 - Property loans (primary & vacation)

$860,000 - value of primary residence
$334,000 - value of vacation residence
$431,833 - retirement accounts
$160,995 - stock options via employer (on a vesting schedule & subject to forfeiture should either of us switch employers)
$27,107 - liquid cash

Total net worth = $732,632

And, with that, I'll throw out my goals for today. I'm struggling a bit on the weight loss part, and need to rein it in. Especially because I'll be eating out a lot this weekend.

Goals for today:
1) Complete a development project for work. Can't wait to get this off my plate!
2) 60 minutes of cardio
3) 15 minutes of arms/strength training
4) Not get stressed over our crazy night, because it's our last Thursday of soccer practice & swimming lessons!
5) No unnecessary spending.
6) 1500 calories (or less) of healthy choices today!

What are you hoping to accomplish today? Do you set daily goals? (I do, when I'm struggling. :-)) Do you calculate your net worth and/or find it helpful?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Goals for November

Wow, I can't believe there are only two months left in the year!

Here are my goals for November:

  1. Complete 500 minutes of cardio
  2. Lose 5 lbs. Starting at 146
  3. Sell 2 items (or more!) on Craig's List
  4. Decorate house for Christmas
  5. Finish Christmas shopping
  6. Clean pantry
  7. Clean both fridges
  8. Complete 8 strength training workouts
  9. Complete guardianship/will/trust for kids
  10. Research life insurance
  11. Create a list of all shared accounts (between myself & M) to store in safety deposit box
  12. Plan ski week with my sister, nephews, and our kids
  13. Decide on winter activities for boys
  14. Track all spending
  15. Reduce monthly expenses by $200
  16. Get together with two friends
  17. Decide on/register for benefits at work. There are a bunch of changes to our health care plans, so I need to figure out which is best for us.
Have you thought of your goals for November? What are you most hoping to accomplish? :-)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

October Financial Wrap Up

First off, I'm nervous posting this. I realize we're in a different financial situation than many other personal finance bloggers (we make more/and spend more) & I am a little anxious posting our budget and income. My goals in posting are to keep myself on track, share how we allocate our money, and get feedback from all of you savvy folks.

Okay, with that said, here goes. :-)

You'll note that our expenses were higher than our income this month. While not typical, we do have months where we go over. We have standard income (the same every month) that I use for our regular expenses. We also have non-standard income that we use for things like: travel, the boys college funds, savings, and months where we're over our budget. The non-standard income generally comes in the form of bonuses (I get this 1x/year in September, M is eligible for a bonus 4x/year + stock awards from our employers.) We save this non-standard income for various specific line-items (college funds, travel, house repairs) & the also keep a more general savings slush fund for unexpected expenses.

Tracking our expenses has been extremely helpful! This is our first month of tracking everything (before I only tracked "variable" expenses) & we're going to be making a lot of adjustments going forward as a result.

Income: $14,088. (Typical monthly income from our employers. M also won $700 at a casino that we used to offset some of our anniversary trip. That $700 isn't included in our income number).

Total Spent - $16,859.24

Where did all of that money go? I've listed out all of our expenses, grouped by budget item & also where we're over. As noted, we had some extra money leftover from September (that's when I receive my bonus & stock awards) that I used to: make extra payments on our vacation house, & fund the boys college accounts). We typically have charitable contributions taken out of our paychecks automatically, but I made several extra donations this month, which is why it has no budget allocation.

Fall 2011 Budget
Dining Out
Boys Lessons
Vacation Utilities
Primary Utilities
Boys Clothes
Adult Clothes
Child Care
Boys (Misc)
Primary Mortg
Boys College
Vacation Mortg

  • I was able to pay an extra $361 towards our vacation mortgage, & have now paid off 7.25% of the overall loan. Yeah!
  • I put close to $1000 in college accounts for the kids ($978, to be exact.) :-)
  • We were under on gas for the first time in A LONG time.
  • I returned a few clothing items that I bought in September. It's kind of a highlight, but I overspent that budget item in September, so not sure that it's a net budget win. :-)
  • We're over on groceries. Again. This month included a bunch of random grocery purchases: the treats that I made for a Halloween party we're more than $25! It was my own foolish mistake that made this happen. I was also in charge of soccer snacks for two separate games, made meals for several families that are struggling, and brought a few meals to family get togethers.
  • It's our first time to separate alcohol from grocery spending, and the goal is to understand where the money is really going. We typically stock up on wine when Costco carries it, as they don't carry it regularly.
  • Boys lessons - this wildly varies month to month depending on when we have to sign them up for a new session. We are thinking of cutting this back a bit, as it feels crazy high!
  • Gifts. Wow. I will be getting reimbursed for $300 of one gift, but we had a ton of events to buy for in October. We'll see how this category stacks up month after month & whether our budget needs to be adjusted and/or our spending needs to be trimmed.
  • Travel. I'll be getting reimbursed about $250 in this category, as I booked a room that my sister & I are sharing. The rest was our anniversary trip. We had a great time, but it was extremely pricey for one night, & we likely won't be doing something like that again. We'll either do a 3 day weekend & spend a bit more but go somewhere, or just do a fancy dinner at home.
  • Personal. I had several appointments fall in the month of October, and the rest is actually my personal training expense from September - the billing cycle if funky. (I've canceled my training going forward).
  • House. We're over on the house because we had to have our oven repaired. It was leaking gas!
So, that's where we netted out for October. I'd love your input - is the way I'm tracking income confusing? Do you want to see our irregular income included? Anything else that I can add so this makes sense? Questions? How did your October go?