Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Weekly Spending Report

This was not a great week for our spending, and I need to focus on keeping things on track for the rest of the month.

  • Monday (5/20) - $58.58 on gas
  • Tuesday (5/21) - No spend day
  • Wednesday (5/22) - No spend day
  • Thursday (5/23) -
    • $63.65 - Costco for groceries
    • $16.49 at Panera (1/2 of us, the kids couldn't agree on what they wanted, the Chipotle was also next door.
    • $16.38 - Chipotle 
    • $28.28 - gas
  • Friday (5/24):
    • $60.09 - 3 pair of jeans for Nick (he has zero without holes in them right now) + underwear for the kids
    • $62.61 at Fred Meyer - mostly on household stuff.
    • $49.99 at Fred Meyer for a new barbecue cover
    • $385.50 at Costco. $100 for a case of wine, $200ish on household stuff, and $85 on groceries.
    • $60.23 - gas
    • $731.60 - we're pulling up the carpet in our beach house (because carpet, and sand don't go particularly well together) & installing a laminate. We're starting with just one section, but hope to do the rest of the house over the next few years.
  • Saturday (5/25) -
    • $4 for swim trunks for Sam
    • $161.92 at Home Depot for yard stuff
    • $31.31 for Copper River Salmon
  • Sunday (5/26):
    • $13.03 - Lunch & ice cream for the kiddos at the Tillamook Cheese Factory
    • $31.68 - Gas
Total spend = $1775.34. Holy cow! That is A LOT more than we had budgeted, so I'll have to get creative in June to bring our spending back in check.

How about you? How did you do last week? Did the holiday weekend cause overspending, or were you in check?

The 15 Plan

I'm focusing on short term wins right now, and pushing hard to look & feel my best in four weeks when M & I take our vacation. We also need to save money, and get our spending back in check. I thought it might be fun to focus on the next four weeks until vacation with the following mini goals.

  1. Complete 15 strength workouts
  2. Complete 15 stretching workouts (yoga or pilates)
  3. 15 no spend days
  4. Pursue 15 job leads.
  5. Find and list 15 more eBay items. Off the top of my head, ones I have available are:
    • Lululemon hoodie
    • Jcrew shorts
    • Tiffany necklace (x2)
    • Kate Spade messenger bag
  6. Donate/sell/trash 15 items/day, focused on a total of 420 items. Both vacation house & primary house.
I think that will work for now. I really need the extra kick in the pants to keep me going! :-)

How about you? Are you focused more on short term or long term goals right now?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Menu Plan Monday

We had a great, fun, & tiring weekend. Lots of long walks, games with the kiddos, and fooling around at the beach.

My mom & the boys, with a crab Sam found. :-)

We also spent too much. We save our household item shopping (cleaning supplies, etc) for trips to Oregon, as they don't have a sales tax. My favorite wine, which Costco only carries in the summer, was also available, so I bought a case. Yikes! We ended up leaving early on Thursday to try and avoid the crowds on the road (it didn't work), so we grabbed dinner on the road. And, M's all time favorite food is Copper River salmon, so we picked up a package on Saturday - $30. That fed three adults 2 dinners, and there's a bit left.

Anyway, *really* need to get the spending back under control, and plan an inexpensive rest of the week.

Here's what's on the menu plan for the rest of the week:
  • Tuesday - homemade spaghetti & meatballs for me & the kids (from the freezer) & leftover salmon for M.
  • Wednesday - Oven baked chicken risotto
  • Thursday - Chicken pasta casserole (freezer)
  • Friday - Leftovers
  • Saturday - Tacos
  • Sunday - Homemade pizza

We got home late last night, so I spent today unpacking, doing laundry, baking bread, making popcorn for snacks, and making homemade protein bars. Oh, & I also went to the gym. Now I'm exhausted! :-)

How was your weekend? Did you stay on budget?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Weekly Spending Report

I'm trying to get back into the habit of reporting our weekly spending, as it really helps me keep things in check.

I did very well early in the week, knowing that I would be spending more than usual on my grandmother's 80th birthday weekend. I managed to get four no spend days!

 Here's how I did last week (5/13 - 5/19). Total spend = $296.17. I'd love to get this down to a weekly average of $250.
·         Monday – no spend day!

·         Tuesday – no spend day!

·         Wednesday – no spend day!

·         Thursday – no spend day!

·         Friday:

o   Costco (groceries) - $112.39

o   Parking (met a friend for lunch) - $2. She graciously paid for my lunch.

o   Home Depot - $7.07 (each boy chose a plant for the garden – cucumber & watermelon)

·         Saturday – spent the weekend with my grandmother, mom, & sister to celebrate my grandmother’s 80th birthday & Mother’s Day. Spendy, but worth it.

o   Ross - $61.79, for a ton of stuff. Couple of new pair of jeans, three cardigans for work, a pair of new flats for the office, and a cute dress.

o   My part of the weekend food was $80 (we divided three ways between my mom, sister & I) for two lunches, one dinner, and a bottle of wine/appetizer before dinner.

·         Sunday:

o   OshKosh - $21.98. Bought Nick a new outfit for Disneyland (total splurge) & two pair of pajamas for Sam.

o   $10.94 – M bought the kids a set of “Magic” cards to play with over the weekend.
Are you tracking your weekly spends? How did you do last week?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Menu Plan Monday

Can't believe it's Monday already! I had a fantastic weekend celebrating my grandmother's 80th birthday. We hit the wine bar, shopped a bit, and enjoyed our time together. :-)

One of my grandmother's favorite memories is going shopping with us when we were little girls, and trying on fancy Easter/party dresses. She begged us to make her laugh & try on some "fun" dresses at Ross, so she could be entertained. Please note that these are NOT something we would ever wear in real life, but who can resist their grandmother on her 80th birthday? ;-) I think my sister takes the cake in this one - she looks like something from Disney On Ice. ;-)

Now that the weekend is over, back to reality! I did end up spending some of my yearly shopping budget at Ross (a discount store, for those of you not in the US). I ended up with white jeans, which I've wanted forever but never pulled the trigger on. Excuse the terrible self-portrait, but I took a picture to prove to my sister that I was actually wearing them. With a new navy cardigan, also from Ross. :-) I'm still on track for my measly $300 yearly budget, but need to keep a close eye on my spending for the next few months.

On to menu planning for the week! We're going to be at the beach house over the long weekend, so fingers crossed the weather is nice enough for barbecuing:

Monday (M out of town) - we'll have leftover burgers
Tuesday (M out of town) - breakfast for dinner
Wednesday - chicken risotto (carried over from last week)
Thursday - leftovers. Something fast, as we're leaving for the beach in the evening.
Friday - at the beach. Barbecued chicken.
Saturday - at the beach. Barbecued salmon or crab cakes, depending on what's available.
Sunday - at the beach. Leftovers
Monday - Homemade pizza

What are you making this week? How was your weekend?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Grocery shopping round up

Today was a crazy but productive day. I met a friend for lunch - she also has lupus & has dealt with pretty much all of the complications, but is now feeling great. It was so nice to have someone to talk to and get advice from.

I went on a long walk, picked the boys up at school (on foot - they loved it. I typically pick them up in the car on the way home from work), made dinner, threw the ingredients for flaxseed bread in the bread maker, and made homemade Zbars for the weekend.

M managed to make it to Costco today, and here's what we ended up with:

  • Milk - $5.15
  • Greek yogurt - $6.99 (we buy the plain flavor, and mix it with pureed strawberries for the kids)
  • Eggs - $3.99x2
  • Hot dogs - $9.99. We haven't bought these in months, but purchased them for a barbecue.
  • Mustard - $6.99
  • Almond butter - $6.79
  • Tomato plants (3 of them) - $11.99
  • Tortillas - $4.99
  • Grape tomatoes - $4.99
  • Carrots - $5.49
  • Broccoli - $4.49
  • Bananas - $1.39x2
  • Pears - $5.99
  • Honeydew - $3.99
  • Pineapple - $2.99
  • Cucumber - $3.29
  • Lettuce - $3.39
  • Apples - $6.99
  • Strawberries - $5.99
Overall, we spent 18% on dairy, 9% on meat, 24% on pantry/misc, 4% on bread, and 45% on produce. I'm pretty pleased with the break out - we used to spend much more on bread, but my bread maker has definitely helped offset that cost.

Heading to the beach tomorrow with my mom, sister, & grandmother to celebrate her 80th birthday. Should be fun!

What are your plans for the weekend? Do you track your grocery spending by category? I make a continued effort to especially pay attention to our misc/snack category, and look for cheaper & healthier alternatives from home.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May goals - yes, a little late

I'm late to the party this month, but half way through the month is better than not at all, right? :-)

I wasn't sure what the month would bring, so I tried not to overextend myself. Here is what I'm hoping to get accomplished for the rest of the month.

  1. Make an appointment with an eye doctor. (This is a requirement before I've been on my medication for more than a month, due to side effects.)
  2. Get together with at least two friends. I can feel myself "closing off" a bit as I deal with stress, and I need my friends now, more than ever.
  3. Work my network. I have 15 years of experience, and a lot of fantastic contacts. My best chance of landing a flexible role that pays well is through my network.
  4. Find one budget category to cut this month.
  5. Decide on next ten items for eBay, and take all photos.
  6. Figure out what to do with the odds & ends in my freezer, & then actually do something with it. I'm looking at you:
    1. carrots (already pureed). Maybe muffins?
    2. bits & pieces of homemade bread. Bread crumbs or just for the ducks? :-)
    3. A small chunk of ham. Lentil soup?
    4. Mango. Smoothies or mango sorbet
  7. Complete 800 minutes of cardio, 15 strength workouts, & 5 stretching workouts.
  8. Plan vacation in June with M.
  9. Plan/make reservations for girls trip in July.
  10. Celebrate my grandmother's 80th birthday, and Mother's Day with my mom this weekend, and stay calm. Keep the budget under control.
  11. Have 8 No Spend Days.

I think that will do it! How are you doing with your May goals?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Revising our plans

With my official diagnosis, I’ve spent some time figuring out what I think it will take to reduce my stress. My career, while awesome and fabulous in many ways, is not conducive to minimizing my stress. I’ve devoted my entire working career to the industry and my employer, so it’s extremely nerve wracking to consider leaving and doing something else. That said, I’m committed to doing everything I can to get and stay healthy. Managing my stress minimize the risk of flare ups, and thus potential impact to my organs.

M & I have kicked around a ton of different options, but where we’ve tentatively landed (for now) is to investigate the following changes:

·         Me working full-time (same employer) through the end of September.

·         Moving to a part-time role (some sort of flexible role) at the end of September, maybe with a small break in between. Four to six weeks, as I really focus on relaxing and getting myself healthy.

·         We’d like to have a minimum of $30,000 saved in our emergency fund, if I quit my job. Currently, I’m with the large/stable employer, and M is with a small company. While things are fine now, there are no guarantees, and if he moves into the primary breadwinner role, we need a much bigger safety net with owning two houses.

·         If at all possible, we’d like to try to keep our vacation house. It’s important to me right now, and I’m trying to minimize the amount of changes that I feel are “forced on me” by this diagnosis. That doesn’t mean we will keep it at all costs, we both understand that there’s a good chance we’ll need to sell, but with the right part-time role, I’d like to at least give it a shot.

·         Cut childcare. We’re currently paying over $1,000/month for after care. We use it for a very short period of time each day (2:30-4, & then 12-4 on early dismissal days). If I get the right part-time role, I should be able to meet the kids at the bus stop each day, eliminating the need for this expense.

·         Eliminating additional expenses. Fortunately, we’ve done a great job of driving down our monthly expenses, but it’s a bit of a mixed blessing, as there aren’t a lot of obvious cuts to make – we can continue to cut gifts, dining out, groceries, and the cleaning lady will definitely go. I’d also like to research our insurance, as it seems super high to me. We’ve considered selling our car & buying a less expensive option, so that’s another option.

·         We’re assuming that my employment shift will mean pretty drastically lower taxes (as we won’t phase out of most deductions), which would eliminate a large expense. We will, however, run any numbers before we make further assumptions.
Are you adjusting your financial plans this year?

Monday, May 13, 2013

2013 is 1/3 over - how is your budget looking?

The end of April marked the first third of 2013, so I thought it was time to check our progress against our 2013 budget. We made a ton of changes this year in an attempt to lower our spending and aggressively pay down our mortgages. Now that I know I have to modify my life to reduce my stress, we’re actively considering a variety of work scenarios for me, which means that we need to ensure we’re sticking to our budget and looking for additional ways to cut back.

 All up, our finances are on track from an aggregate perspective. However, many of the small category failures are “hidden”, given that we refinanced our mortgages and saved quite a bit of money on our biggest expenses. My revised budget takes this mortgage savings into account, so we need to bring all of our smaller categories back into line. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to hit our target across all budget line items in 2013, but we need to give it every effort.

Let’s start with the good news first! J

Areas where we are under our projected total for the year, with 33% of the year elapsed.

·         Primary residence utilities – way under – at 15% of the yearly budget. We’ve made quite a few cuts to our various expenses to get this in check. Reduced cell phone expenses, cut our cable substantially, worked hard to corral our water & power usage (with admittedly mixed results J).

·         Childcare – at 27% of the yearly budget. This is because my original budget didn’t take into account my Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account – I have $5,000 deducted from my paycheck each year, and get reimbursed when I spend the money. Most of it is now gone (childcare is expensive!), but I used that money to offset much of our childcare spending for the first few months.

·         Health – at 21%. I don’t expect this to continue, given recent events. But, I won’t be paying for anymore race registrations, so I guess there’s that.

·         Primary residence mortgage – 9%. As I mentioned, this is due to both the refinance lowering our expenses, as well as skipping a month as part of the refinance timing.

·         House cleaning – at 26%. So happy to see that our efforts are paying off! We’ve been really disciplined about trying to lower this to every other week as often as possible. We’re going to cut this entirely in September, so we’re slowly cutting back.

·         Christmas. We’re at 0%, for obvious reasons. Haven’t started making any holiday purchases, so I’m not sure that we get any credit for this one. ;-)

·         Vacation house mortgage – at 18%. Same as our primary residence – we refinanced.

·         Skiing – 0%. We purchased our ski passes way back in October of last year, so this expense is still upcoming for next year.

·         M’s clothes – 0%. He’s spent nothing so far. J

Areas where we’re close to being on track:

·         Groceries – at 38%. I’m pretty impressed with us! I set a very aggressive goal, so while we’re not entirely there, we’ve made huge strides. J

·         Kids lessons/sports/activities – at 38%. It’s hard to budget, as the activity fees are due at random times, but I feel like this is close enough!

·         Gas – 41%. We’re over due to skiing, and the summer will bring lots of driving to the beach, but we’re consciously trying to cut back. Still work to do here, though.

·         Vacation house utilities – 42%. Not surprised that it’s a little high –we paid our yearly fee for someone to watch our house in January. I expect us to actually finish under budget when the end of the year rolls around. We cut cable & internet, so this should end up being pretty low.

·         Gifts – 49%. Almost all of our primary gift giving events are now over (or, will be by the end of May), but this still needs further trimming. My grandmother’s 80th birthday, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, my birthday. . . We have Father’s Day & my husband’s birthday coming up, as well as smaller gift giving events (kids parties, etc).

·         Boys (misc) – at 44%. This is all of our spending on the kids that’s not covered under another line item. So, if we take them to the movies, or bowling, or buy them a book, it’s all in here. Super impressed that we’re even close, because we’ve previously really struggled to keep this in check. We’re clearly getting better. J

·         Liquor – at 45%. Well, I can’t drink much (or at all) with my new medicine, so even the occasional glass of wine doesn’t look like it’s going to happen too often. We also committed to drinking everything we had on hand before we bought new wine, so we’ve been doing well.

·         Insurance – 33%. We’re exactly on track, I guess. No surprise there. I still think we pay a ridiculous sum for this, hoping we can secure a better rate.

Areas where we’re WAY OFF:

·         Dining out – 71%. Not terribly surprised, even though it feels like we’re being relatively disciplined. This is still a huge cut over previous years, but I know we’re slowly trickling money. We’ve cut back on meals out as a family to the very rare treat, but I do take the boys for frozen yogurt, and buy them snacks when we’re out more often than I’d like. Our budget is $100/month, which goes very quickly.

·         Kids clothes – 125%. L Oh my. The shoes! The shoes kill us! Our budget was $275 for the year, and their karate uniforms were $80 alone. The rest was spent on shoes, and replacing ripped jeans. We go through *a lot* of jeans.

·         My clothes – 76%. This is actually not correct, but I pulled the numbers through end of April, & just returned a few things in May that aren’t reflected. Wish I hadn’t pulled the trigger on new running shoes, but c’est la vie. So far for the year, I’ve purchase: a pair of running shoes, a new bathing suit, and a dress. All purchases were planned, & I don’t really see the need for anything else, so I think I’m in good shape.

·         Travel – we had nothing allocated, & we’ve spent around $1,000. All of this is covered, as I’ve made more than this by selling things on eBay.

·         Personal – 56%. Well, I think *I’ve* stayed on track relatively well (personal covers haircuts for everyone in the family, plus the occasional pedicure for me), but the boys sure get a lot of hair cuts. J

·         House – 323%!!!! Our budget was $1150, and we spent over $2500 on our new door. It was an absolutely must have (the wood was rotting, and leaking into the house), but it destroyed our budget. Perhaps we need a second fund, as this budget item was meant to cover things like household supplies, etc, not really repairs.

·         Dry cleaning – 110%. Well, not really, but I forgot to create a line item for this one, so we’ve spent $110 so far. My husband wears a lot of suits, so this isn’t an optional expense.

·         Car – 109%. We had to pay for new brakes & a big service appointment. All in one month. The rest of the expenses have been within budget. We’ll see if we need to raise this next year.

·         Boys college – 70%. The majority of our spending on this comes at their birthdays (February & March), as that is when we add the most money to their accounts as gifts. This is a flexible amount. If we have extra money, we put it towards this. If we don’t, we skip it.

·         Boys birthdays – 118%. We estimated $275 and spent about $325. Considering that our plan had to change day of for Sam’s birthday (skiing –we got rained out), I’m pleased that we kept so close to our original budget.

·         Taxes – 244%. Yeah, ick. We’ve both updated our withholdings, although now that we’ve done that, my employment situation may make that a (mostly) moot point. ;-)

Biggest areas that I’m focusing on, as I think have the most potential to end the year on track, or I still feel like we have the most work to do: gifts, dining out, groceries, boys, personal, and house.

 What about you? How are you doing on your 2013 budget, with just over 1/3 of the year elapsed?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Official diagnosis & plans

The doctor confirmed what I already knew - I have lupus. SLE, which is the systemic, autoimmune disease kind.

I was pretty mentally prepared for the diagnosis, but that didn't make today any easier. I'm going to be starting on the gentlest form of medicine as a three month trial. Based on my symptoms at that point, I'll either stay on that or move to the next type of medicine. They all have risks, of course, but the one I'll be taking initially is the safest. I'm also looking into an anti-inflammatory diet, which was recommended to me. It's very similar to how I eat now, with some additional tweaks.

There are a lot of changes to consider in the next few months. I cancelled my big 12 person, 200 mile relay this summer, which just about broke my heart this afternoon. Running this last year was an incredible, amazing experience.

The irony that I ran my first half marathon last year, on Mother's Day, is not lost on me. This year, I'll be getting a massage and hanging with my fun boys. Maybe partaking in a family bike ride, depending on the weather. And Sharon, for a Persian feast, my husband will make traditional kebabs, rice that has a potato "crust", and a yogurt sauce similar to tzatiki, as well as skewered tomatoes. You stack the beef on the rice, add a tomato & squish the juices, serve with the yogurt sauce. It's amazing. :-)

Last year - a bucket list item. My first half marathon!

I thought there were many more in my future, but I'm happy that I at least experienced the satisfaction and thrill of crossing the finish line.

Things I wish I would have done before this week:
  • Run a marathon. Again, bucket list, never made it happen.
  • Complete a triathlon. Registered and trained for one a decade ago, but it was scheduled for the weekend after 9/11 and was cancelled. Never tried again.
  • Purchased portable life insurance. Yes, this is something I mentioned many times as something I needed to do on my blog. And, I didn't do it. Now I'm stuck with life insurance through my employer. Should I want to/need to leave, I'm out of luck. I'm very, very disappointed with myself for not following through and getting things in order.
  • Had a third child? I don't know how I feel about this one, but I wish the option was still open. Nothing like someone telling you that you can't/shouldn't do something for it to really appeal. ;-)
I'm now in the "moving forward" phase, where I'm going to think through my life and everything that I spend my time and energy on. Things that are not of high value are getting cut. My time and energy is precious, & I want to have enough energy to do the things I enjoy and be a great mom and wife.

I'm not sure what's going to happen with my job. I know that right now, my workload is not sustainable. I also know that my health insurance is amazing, I've been with the company for 15 years, & I've devoted a heck of a lot of my life and passion there. It's not the kind of place where you can scale and moderate - you're either all in giving 100%, or you're not. It's INCREDIBLY competitive, and I've always been a star performer. I don't quite know how to rationalize that now.

I'm also thinking of starting a healthy living blog for people with lupus - from diagnosis, medicine, food, exercise, etc. I've been looking for similar blogs & can't find anything, so maybe others would find it helpful. We'll see if it makes the "energy level" cut. :-)

Thanks for all of the positive thoughts over the past week.

Things on my to do list this week:
  1. Get more up-to-speed on my health care plan at work. I haven't needed it much, so time to get nitty gritty on my coverage.
  2. Make an appointment with an eye doctor. It's required for taking the medicine I'm starting, as there is a small risk of going blind. Oh boy.
  3. Re-adjust all of our summer plans based on some updates to the schedule.
  4. Re-run our financial numbers for a variety of employment scenarios.
  5. Find some good, low-impact workouts. I've been walking so far, which has been awesome.
What's on your to do list this week? Do you have portable (i.e. not through your employer) life insurance? If not, what are you waiting for?! Go out there & get some! :-)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Menu Plan Monday

This week is already feeling long, but I'm going to dive right in! :-)

  • Monday - Spinach salad, lentil soup, & homemade dinner rolls
  • Tuesday - Chicken taco bake (freezer - need to clear this one out)
  • Wednesday - A variant of this spinach artichoke pasta, only with fresh mozzarella, fresh spinach,& adding chicken. So yeah, pretty much nothing like it. ;-)
  • Thursday - Leftover chicken taco bake
  • Friday - Marsala chicken and mushroom casserole
  • Saturday - homemade pizza (moved from last weekend). Maybe barbecued chicken.
  • Sunday - Mother's Day! M is making me a Persian feast, & I'm assuming there will be cupcakes . . . ahhhh, cupcakes!
Here's what else I'm hoping to make this week:

What's on your menu this week?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Curve balls

I received a copy of my blood results yesterday, & they confirm what I've suspected for the past few weeks. I will see a rheumatologist on Wednesday for the official news, but I tested positive for both ANA (indicating an autoimmune disease) and Anti-DSNA, which appears to be very specific for lupus.

It's certainly shaken my world, to say the least. What seemed like the flu, has turned into a six week long ordeal ending in me receiving news that is already changing my life. I'm doing my best to come to terms with what my new life will look like, and embracing all of the changes that I need to make to stay healthy. More sleep, less stress, likely no distance running. . . So, pretty much a shake up of everything I'm currently doing. ;-)

I'm lucky to have a sunny & relaxing weekend with my boys, & I'm feeling the best I've felt since everything began. M is in Vancouver at his cousin's 50th birthday party, so I'm doing my best to take it easy & relax with my little guys.

We've already had a pretty fabulous day. .. lunch at a local burger joint, some beach volleyball, & playing in the sand.

The weather is supposed to be gorgeous for the next few days, so I plan to enjoy it!

What are you up to this weekend?