Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Goals, In Review!

2015 is gone in a flash! Here's how we did with our goals for 2015

  • Financial
    • Meet with a financial advisor - No, we decided to skip this & continue to funnel our money into known investments. We struggle with finding the right option, as M prefers to handle his own investments. 
    • Save $50,000 towards a downpayment for a house in California - We changed this & decided to save for my "leaving work" fund. We're well over the $50K goal now. 
    • Put $10,000 in the boys college accounts - we stopped funding the boys college accounts due to an issue with our 529s. We're getting a full payout that we will roll over into another plan. Net/net, it's a good thing. 
    • Pay $55,000 towards our mortgage principal(s) - we changed our goals to focus on saving cash, but still managed to pay $34,700 towards our mortgage principals. 
    • Save for our 2015 travel budget in advance - yes! Done. I accomplished this, and have also saved for 2016 as well. 
    • Stick to our budget - For the most part, yes! We actually came in well under budget, if you exclude the 2014 tax bill. We were $20K under our budget for the year, which is a great savings, given that childcare & rent both increased.
    • Re-plan our yearly budget categories - Yes! I have a big plan for 2016. :-) 
  • Family
    • Look for more opportunities to have fun with the family. - We've done a pretty good job with this, but my work continues to make this a challenge. 
    • Be more present with the kids. - This is getting better, but ditto above. 
    • Come up with a five year plan that minimizes my need to work in my career (open to other work options). - Oh, yes! And, it's not even going to take 5 years! I have about 25 weeks left of my plan. 
  • Fitness/health
    • Lose 10 pounds, bringing my weight to 135. If this goal sounds similar to last year's, that's because it is. I managed to lose 8 lbs, and then gained it back during the second half of the year. Sigh. - Oh, lord no. So, so far off track. My goal is to lose two pounds between now and the end of the year, which will still put me 5 pounds UP from last year. 
    • Run another half marathon. - Nope. I joined a running club & hoped to get in shape for a half in October, but a business trip & my work schedule (and let's be honest, a lack of motivation) kept me from succeeding. I definitely will be adding this back to my 2016 goals!
    • Track my food/exercise every day. - Yes, completed!
    • Complete 10,000 minutes of cardio - Yes, completed!
    • Complete 100 strength workouts. - Yes, completed 131.
    • Complete 75 stretching workouts. -  Nope. I completed 17.
  • Work/career
    • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress. - I've done a moderate job at this - mostly because I know I won't be around forever. 
    • Reduce my hours. - No, major fail.
  • Giving back
    • Figure out a way to volunteer. I'd like to volunteer at the boy's school, as it's important for me to be connected. But, the hours are terrible. I need to be a bit more creative about options. - Yes, I've done this a few times. Not super consistently, but given my schedule, it was a very good start, and more than I did last year!
    • Increase our charitable giving by 25% - definitely, yes. We've increased our charitable giving by 30%. 
  • House
    • Declutter each room in the house - yes! Achieved this way back in the spring. 
    • Clean out the garage - we got half way done, & I don't expect to finish by the end of the year. 
  • Personal/creative
    • Have one date night with M per month - we managed each month, with the exception of November. But, giving myself a pass, as we did a vacation together in October. 
    • Learn a new skill. I'm thinking of learning a new language, but would be fine with anything: sewing, knitting, expanding my baking, etc. - No. Again, I didn't even attempt this one. 
    • Make time for my friends! Do something social at least once per month. - I didn't hit my goal of once/month, but definitely every other month. 
    • Read 50 books.  - I've definitely achieved this. Particularly when I travel, I get an "opportunity" to sit & read for hours. I'd guesstimate that I'll finish with 60 books read. 

    And, there you have it! Some wins, some neutral achievements, and some major gaps. As I like to say, if you are achieving all of your goals easily each year, you may not be setting challenging enough targets. ;-) How about you? How did you do with your 2015 goals?

Happy New Year's Eve

We got back from Oregon last night, and I'm planning out my day & waiting for the kids to wake up. They are awfully tired after all of that family/cousin time. :-)

I'm looking forward to a nice, relaxing day at the house today. I have a few posts coming with more on my 2016 goals, a look back at 2015, and an assessment of my 2015 goals, so all of that's coming as well. But first, here's what's on the agenda!

  • Menu plan, & figure out what we're doing for dinner tonight
  • Make a few freezer dinners
  • Clean the fridge
  • Go for a run
  • Yoga! My back is killing me
  • Unpack
  • Laundry
  • Wash all sheets
  • Make all beds
  • Library! I have some overdue books
  • Pay bills
  • Update my budget
  • Work on my 2016 goals
  • 2015 goals
I think that's it! Stay safe & enjoy New Year's Eve!!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Hello from the very mellow Oregon coast

We've had an absolutely fabulous & relaxing vacation so far. Christmas was wonderful (our flights getting here were *very* delayed, but Alaska Airlines has done a solid job of trying to apologize (meal vouchers, $75/per person off on our next flight, etc). Mechanical errors, so glad they went for safety rather than speed.

I'm so happy that we've streamlined the holidays. Everything was fantastic & it was all about spending time together. Next year, if we get motivated, we may add a White Elephant sock exchange in. Because, no matter how ugly or to your taste socks are, you can wear them & no one will see them! :-)

The boys got to go biking with my dad (first two days without rain in 4 weeks! What luck :-)), we played charades, and now we are relaxing at the coast.

My parents are arriving today, for celebration, part two. It usually involves stormy days, puzzles, wine, and long walks on the beach, bundled beyond recognition. I have some photos of the beach yesterday & it was stunning, but. . . the internet connection here isn't very powerful. ;-) My sister & my nephews arrive tomorrow, and the four cousins will be reunited! The boys haven't seen each other since July, so they are pretty excited.

This is what the holidays are all about!!! Spending time with these two crazy boys, and I haven't had to work at all. . . *bliss*

Hope everyone is having a safe, relaxing & wonderful time with family & friends!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2016 Goal Planning

I've streamlined my goals quite a bit for 2016. Instead of having a giant laundry  list of goals, I now have 5 core goals, with some details on how I'm going to achieve them. It feels like a much more manageable list, and I'm hoping will allow me to focus on the things I truly want to accomplish!

1) Financial - Save $160,000 for my "leaving work" nest egg ($100K to offset expenses, $45K for taxes, $15K for travel)
  • Decide what to do with our Seattle house
  • Build/follow a 2016 "interim budget" (until I leave my job)
  • Build/follow a 2016 "post-job budget"

2) Family - Spend more time together as a family!
  • Do a minimum of one fun activity/month with the kids
  • Be more present with the kids & M - play games, minimize computer time, exercise together, etc. 
  • Have two dates with M per month (one lunch, one evening) 

    3) Fitness/health - Lose 20 pounds, bringing my weight to 133. Yes, I've gained weight since last year. Stress, eating poorly & no exercise will do that to you.
    • Run a 5K, 10K, 15K, & a half marathon, as a 40th birthday gift to myself. Not all in the same day. ;-) 
    • Track my food/exercise every day.
    • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day
    • Complete 10,000 minutes of cardio
    • Complete 100 strength workouts.
    • Complete 75 stretching workouts. 

    4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
    • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress (until I leave)
    • Leave my job in June.
    • Take the summer off
    • Find a new, flexible job in the fall.

      5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits.
      • Learn a new skill. I'm thinking of learning a new language, but would be fine with anything: sewing, knitting, expanding my baking, etc.
      • Make time for my friends. Do something social at least once per month.
      • Read 50 books. 

        What about you? What are your goals for 2016? I may make some small tweaks, but this is what I'm aiming for "next year"! :-) 

          Tuesday, December 22, 2015

          Home Stretch for the Holidays

          And no, not my personal holiday situation. I love the holidays & get all of my planning & organizing, decorating, shopping done early. Work is the real challenge - an ongoing drama/stress-fest in Q4, and this year has been no exception. I've worked every day, night & weekend & I'm exhausted. I also have a terrible cold. This Q4 was another reminder that I *never* want to do this again. I'd promised to try & take the kids to a couple of holiday activities over the weekend, and to take Sam to his soccer game. I had to bail on all of it, and Sam cried, making me feel like an absolute shit mother.

          But, starting tomorrow, I'm on vacation for a week (a peer is on call. He could technically call me if the issue is severe & he doesn't know how to handle it. He's a rock star & should be capable of solving 90% of all potential issues.) So, fingers crossed that I get a full, uninterrupted week without work. That would be absolute bliss!

          We head to Portland tomorrow to go visit the family for a few days, and then we're off to the Oregon coast, to our vacation house. Can't wait! SO excited for both family time, as well as general lounging & relaxing at the beach. Yeah!!

          I find it so hard to relax when I have to be "constantly on". I never know when I'll get the email or phone call that something is broken. It's really hard to relax & enjoy the season, my family, the weekends, etc.

          I also broke a toe last week, so that's still hurting & causing me some issues. But, no excuses - I need to get some exercise ASAP. My weight is trending towards "red alert" phase - way past my comfort zone, and into the "all of my clothes are too tight" point. ;-) Happy holidays, indeed!

          I may not be posting much, as I hope to be off of my computer as much as humanly possible. So, happy holidays to all of you in advance! Wishing you a relaxing & enjoyable time with family & friends.

          And, we always wear ugly sweaters!

          Tuesday, December 15, 2015

          Weekly spending roundup (12/7-12/13) - hint: we spent a ton!

          Last week's spending stressed me out! Although I knew (most of it) would be coming, it still made me queasy to make all of the payments. Also, it required me to pull from savings, which I was hoping to avoid. I was pretty realistic that I would need to, as all of our regular/yearly spending categories (i.e. Christmas, traveling, boys activities) come from savings vs our day-to-day account, but it still hurt to pull the money from our account:

          • Monday, 12/7:
            • $14.03, postage for Christmas gifts
            • $100, charitable donation at work
            • $150 - reimbursement to my sister for Christmas gifts she's purchased
            • $35 - league fee for son's indoor soccer
            • $48.70 - gas
            • $379.04 - escrow shortfall for our vacation house. Need to figure out which expense has gone up, but expect it's taxes
          • Tuesday, 12/8 - No spend day
          • Wednesday, 12/9 - No spend day
          • Thursday, 12/10
            • $765.60 - plane tickets for spring break trip (Oregon coast)
            • $500 - nanny + small nanny holiday bonus
          • Friday, 12/11
            • $149 - DMV, car tags
          • Saturday, 12/12
            • $88 - sitter for date night. Long story, but we had to go with old nanny (vs local babysitter), & she charges $22/hour. :-( Ended up doing something free, to offset the cost
            • 109.78 - Costco, weekly groceries
          • Sunday, 12/13
            • $500 - deposits for spring soccer, for two kids
            • $156 - fee for indoor soccer (separate from league fee)
            • $6.47 - produce stand
            • $25.96 - toiletries at Rite Aid
          Total spent = $3017.88. Seeing it all added up is a little traumatizing, but good for getting me on track. How about you? Did you stay on track for the week?

          Sunday, December 13, 2015

          Menu Plan Sunday + What's Happening Today

          We fly out on Wednesday for our holiday festivities, so doing a bit of a longer menu plan this week.

          • Sunday (12/13): Ravioli & kebabs (freezer)
          • Monday (12/14): Homemade macaroni & cheese & grilled chicken (freezer)
          • Tuesday (12/15): Team dinner. M & the kids having leftover pizza.
          • Wednesday (12/16): Adults - eggplant & pasta. Kids - meatballs & pasta.
          • Thursday (12/17): Chicken & rice
          • Friday (12/18): Risotto with roasted brussels sprouts
          • Saturday (12/19): May go out while looking at Christmas lights. If not, Persian feast (rice, kebabs, yogurt, etc)
          • Sunday (12/20): homemade pizza
          • Monday (12/21):
          • Tuesday (12/22):
          • Wednesday (12/23): out with my family
          • Thursday (12/24): pajama pizza party for Christmas Eve!
          • Friday (12/25): Beer tasting & appetizer party
          • Saturday (12/26): Leftovers from our vacation house freezer. It will be a mystery until we arrive. ;-) Likely spaghetti & meatballs
          • Sunday (12/27): Ditto above!
          • Monday (12/28): Family is reconvening at my house with my nephews. Haven't decided on a menu yet, but we'll likely grill something (burgers, fish, etc) with pasta, salad, etc.
          • Tuesday (12/29): Pizza, salad, karaoke party before we head back.
          • Wednesday (12/30): Traveling. Likely Chipotle on our way home from the airport.
          • Thursday (12/31): Steak, some sort of potatoes, asparagus, & ice cream.

          It's going to be a crazy fun few weeks! I'm getting excited for the holidays & time with family. :-)

          Here's what's on my list for today as well:
          1. Run
          2. Yoga
          3. Squats
          4. Wash all rugs
          5. Wash all sheets
          6. Coordinate plans for next week when our nanny is out of town. Lots of emails to send.
          7. Work on 2016 budget.
          8. Check/card for cleaning lady
          9. Mail DMV tags
          10. Update December budget 
          11. If everyone behaves & cooperates, taking the kids to the arcade this afternoon (got bumped from Thanksgiving weekend)
          12. Sam has a friend coming over
          13. Late indoor soccer game (Sam)
          14. Glaze bread for Christmas
          15. Clean fridge/freezer

          I love weekends. :-) How about you? What's on your list for today?

          Saturday, December 12, 2015

          Happy Saturday!

          It's a lovely day here in Northern California. Looking forward to getting ready for the holidays! Here's what I have on my to do list for today:

          1. Yoga
          2. Bake special family cardamom bread recipe for Christmas (and freeze)
          3. Use remaining candied fruit for a quick bread recipe
          4. 60 minutes of cardio
          5. Return books to library. Check out new books.
          6. Finish reading, "I Don't Know How She Does It". Hitting VERY close to home! Loving it.
          7. Start packing list for holiday trip.
          8. Call parents
          9. Work on plan for next week when nanny is on vacation.
          10. Date night with M!!!!! SO excited. :-)
          That's pretty much it for today. It should be a nice, relaxing weekend. Sad that I'm missing my nephew's birthday - a fantastic party at my parents house, with all of my favorite people. But, we'll be visiting in just a few weeks.

          Hope you are having a nice, productive weekend!

          Friday, December 11, 2015

          Frugal things I did to save money this week + a few frugal fails

          Tracking my frugal activities always motivates me to look for additional opportunities to save!

          First up, frugal wins:
          1. Used a first time purchase offer for Amazon Now, and saved $20 off of a $50 order. I used the order to stock up on exciting pantry staples like toilet paper, tea bags, & diced tomatoes - all items that we were running low on & I would have purchased anyway. I managed to get the order down to $50.79, to minimize overage on the offer. Although a few of these items were $.05-$.25 higher, so total savings is estimated to be $15 (conservative estimate, given price variances). Here's what was ordered:
            • Protein powder (had a hard time finding the preferred brand/flavor anywhere else)
            • 3 boxes of tea, total of 60 tea bags
            • 2 containers of kids shampoo
            • 2 cans of diced tomatoes
            • 32 rolls of double toilet paper
          2. Realized that I hadn't spent all of the money in my dependent care FSA account, and submitted all outstanding claims for a savings of (or, loss of reimbursement) - $349.23.
          3. Made dinners all week, as is the usual, and got creative with the menu planning to avoid food waste.
          4. Used an Amazon Pantry credit to try out the service, combined with free shipping. I felt like it was still relatively expensive compared to say, Costco. But, saved $5.99 on credit.

          In non-frugal choices, or altogether frugal fails:
          1. Despite my strong confidence that I updated my address on a Christmas order I placed, Crate & Barrel still sent the package to our old house. Our property management agent offered to mail it to me (great!), and it cost $23!!! The shipping was free from C&B originally, & the total value of the gift was the same price as the postage. Stupid tax, clearly. ;-) 
          2. I also bought myself a few of the Gap Fit shirts (I have two, and currently wear them every weekend - perfect for a workout, running errands, etc) with my Gap Cash. Total spent in a splurge on myself = $40

          That's it for me! How about you? Any big frugal wins or fails this week? In other news, so happy it's Friday!!!! I desperately need a weekend - crazy long week at work.

          Tuesday, December 8, 2015

          Preparing for the holidays, work bonus, & no rain

          I chose this title because I posted almost the identical one a year ago - "Preparing for the holidays, work bonus, & the rain." All apply this year, but there is no rain. Which is sad, because of the drought!

          On the holiday preparations, here's where things stand:

          1. Finish all shopping - complete!!!
          2. Mail all packages - complete!!!
          3. Work on holiday cards - not started, not sure if we're going to send them out this year
          4. Bake special family bread recipe - not started, scheduled for the weekend
          5. Menu plan with my mom & sister for the holidays - mostly complete
          6. Plan events/menu for our time at the vacation house with the family - rough draft
          7. Finish all wrapping - almost all there. Still waiting for a few packages to arrive

          So, that's how we're doing! As with my long-stranding tradition, I took all under budget holiday money & applied it to a charitable donation - a food bank this year, as my employer was offering a 4x match. Win/Win!

          On the work bonus & raise, the numbers are in! I got a 12% raise this year (same as last year, but mostly due to my promotion). That will take effect on my next paycheck. And, I got a $58.6K bonus - a $10K increase over last year. The company actually restructured our total compensation, and did away with another bonus that I received last year, so it's slightly less in total money. But, I was aware of the change, so no surprises there. 

          I'm very excited to have the numbers in, so I can continue modifying my 40 week plan! Here's how I plan to allocate my bonus:

          • $16,000 - max out 401K (I'll already have contributed a bit with previous paychecks)
          • $18,700 - taxes
          • $23,700 - straight to the 40 week savings fund!

          And, no rain. :-) Maybe this post will send Mother Nature into overdrive! In my old Seattle area, it's raining plenty - flooding, in fact.

          How are your holiday preparations coming along? 

          Monday, December 7, 2015

          Weekly spending roundup (11/30-12/6)

          Here's how we spent our money this week:

          • Monday - No spend day
          • Tuesday
            • $34.83 - had some groceries delivered on Amazon Now, trying out there new subscription service with a special offer.
            • $511.50 - nanny
            • $477.42 - Christmas gifts
          • Wednesday - No spend day
          • Thursday - No spend day
          • Friday - No spend day
          • Saturday
            • $7.22 - produce stand
            • $3.90 - pretzel at the mall (not for me)
            • $5.64 - In & Out (again, not for me). Crazy weekend & we didn't plan well
            • $84.93 - Costco, groceries
            • $24.52 - Costco, toiletries (dishwasher tabs)
          • Sunday
            • $32.56 - Christmas gifts at the Gap
            • $22.80 - jeans for quickly growing son at the Gap
            • $111.49 - some workout/weekend wear for me, plus jeans. Jeans may go back. The Gap fitness line is my weekend wardrobe staple, but still haven't decided on the jeans
            • $-19.99 - Costco, returned a Christmas gift
            • $-10.61- returned long johns to Costco, as they didn't fit
          Total spent = $1286.21

          These last few weeks of the year tend to be high, but I can definitely find more ways to cut back (clothes for me, snacks/meals out, etc!)

          How about you? Do you track your daily spending? How is it going as we approach the holidays?

          Sunday, December 6, 2015

          Menu Plan for the Week

          I'm going to try moving this to Sundays (although, Menu Plan Sunday really doesn't have the same ring to it ;-)), as I'm usually prepping for the week ahead on Sundays. Here's what we're planning to eat this week:

          • Sunday - Homemade pizza
          • Monday - Leftover pepper & prosciutto risotto (adults), leftover tacos (kids)
          • Tuesday - Leftover pizza
          • Wednesday - Spaghetti & meatballs
          • Thursday - Chicken & pesto pasta
          • Friday - Leftovers (whatever is in the fridge)
          • Saturday - Homemade taquitos, chips, guacamole
          I'm about to go for a hike with a friend, so I should get ready! What about you? What's on your menu for the week?

          Wednesday, December 2, 2015

          Weekly Spending Roundup (11/23-11/29)

          I can feel the allure of holiday offers everywhere. *must* rein in the spending! I love the accountability of posting our weekly spending, so here goes!

          • Monday - $23.77 - Rite Aid. Nick woke up in the morning with a fever, and we were magically out of Children's Tylenol. Hate it when that happens. I stocked up, to ensure we wouldn't be running low again soon.
          • Tuesday - $18.08 - Amazon, Christmas gifts
          • Wednesday - $67.48 - Costco, last  minute Thanksgiving items
          • Thursday:
            • $3.25 - produce stand, salad mix that I forgot for Thanksgiving dinner
            • $1.08 - no idea, at Rite Aid. Listed under "toiletries" category.
            • $45 - Rite Aid, gift cards for Christmas
            • $92.7 - Gap, Christmas gifts
            • $23 - Gap, classic black dress for myself. I ordered online, so may return unless it's a perfect fit for work.
            • $40 - Crate & Barrel, Christmas gifts
            • $13.90 - Crate & Barrel, new cloth napkins to add to our stash. 
          • Friday:
            • $121.23 - Dollar, car rental for our trip over the holidays
            • $50 - Rite Aid, gift cards for Christmas
            • -$162.13 - return of a gift at Costco
            • $56.85 - a gift at Costco
            • $6.07 - Lucky, groceries
          • Saturday -
            • $252 - DMV, new car tags
            • $48.20 - smog check
            • $124.99 - Costco, groceries
          • Sunday - 
            • $50 - Rite Aid, gift cards for Christmas
            • $5.82 - produce stand
          Total spend = $881.29. I'm 90% done with all of my holiday spending, so next week needs to be significantly lower!

          Tuesday, December 1, 2015

          In a bit of a motivational lull

          Does that ever happen to you?

          I have 189 days left in my "40 week plan" (but, who's counting ;-)), I don't know yet how much my annual bonus & raise will be, which will allow me to put some final tweaks on my savings goal. My 40 week plan feels real, but still far away. I'm battling the desire to take advantage of "great offers" for the holidays, but am trying to rein myself in, reminding myself that we don't need the majority of things "on offer", and I'd rather save the money & feel confident with my big plan.

          The great stretch of the unknown is feeling a bit intimidating at the moment.

          I do know one area of my life that could use some time & attention, while I'm letting the financial details get sorted out . . . my fitness! I've been hovering at the same weight for months, yo-yoing between five pounds, not really eating as well as I should be, and definitely not getting as much exercise as I need!

          So, while all of my other goals still apply to December, I'd love to kick start some fitness mojo right now! Here are my goals:

          • No dessert at work, or at home in December. Only for special events (Christmas, etc)
          • 1400 calories/day (on average) for the month. This one will be tricky, given a few big holidays!
          • One morning workout/week during the work week. If I can cobble these together with weekend workouts & some other opportunistic workout, I should be able to hit my targets. 

          What about you? How do you break out of a funk when you are in the throes of it? How do you reinvigorate & inspire yourself, & find the motivation to complete your goals?

          Monday, November 30, 2015

          Menu Plan - what's cooking?

          We managed to make our way through the majority of the Thanksgiving leftovers (hurrah), so the fridge is starting to look a bit more normal again, which I like. I get anxious when it's packed & start to worry about waste. Meanwhile, M loves it when the fridge is packed wall to wall, so we have mini debates about this every week. First world problems. :-)
          • Monday - A bit of a smorgasbord. We will all have grilled chicken and salad, but the side dishes will vary (quesadillas, leftover mac & cheese, homemade bread, etc)
          • Tuesday - Taco Tuesday, + guacamole & chips
          • Wednesday - Spaghetti & meatballs
          • Thursday - Pesto pasta & chicken
          • Friday - Risotto with some sort of mix in + sautéed brussels sprouts
          • Saturday - Homemade pizza
          • Sunday - Rice pilaf with burgers

          What about you? What are you making for dinner this week? I need to make homemade taquitos for the freezer, so I can have a few more "ready to go" meals for late nights. 

          November goals - how did I do?

          I was ambitious in November, and had one last work trip to Brazil. Thankfully, I have only a personal trip (Christmas with the family) in December. I feel very lucky not to have any more business trips, especially this time of the year!

          1. Complete 1000 minutes of cardio - 900 minutes. Well off my target, but higher than February, March, April, July, & September. (Looking at the bright side. ;-)
          2. Complete 10 strength workouts - 10, right on the money!
          3. Complete 4 stretching workouts - 2, and I got that second one today. Yikes. 
          4. Lose 3 pounds - I lost 1.5 pounds, so at least some progress was made!
          1. Stick to our November budget - Yes, but have to add the caveat that our nanny forgot to bring her time sheet, so I didn't pay her as planned on Friday. Not sure where the hours netted out for her, but we will likely finish right *at* or slightly over, once she's paid. 
          2. Finish our 2016 budget planning - I'm almost there!
          3. Continue working on my "40 week project!" - Yes! Still working on this.
          4. Re-evaluate our budget by working backward from "must haves" & see what our minimum income would be. (Advice from some of you a few posts back). - I haven't done this yet, as I'm hoping to wait until I get my new salary the first week of December. I've carried this goal over to next month. 
          1. Draft version of 2016 family calendar & vacations - I have the first half of the year figured out. Summer is a little hazier. 
          2. Finish all holiday shopping! - I have one gift left to buy.
          1. Continue to accept no more than one late night's worth of meetings/week - I've done this, and it's been *lovely*.
          2. Eat lunch away from my desk 3x/week or more - I've kept to about 2x/week.
          3. Book my workouts on my calendar, & *stick with them*!! - No, I keep booking them, but rarely stick to them. 
          1. Get together for a minimum of one social event with a friend - I spent a lot of time with a friend when I went to a soccer tournament, so I'll count this as a social event. 
          2. Volunteer at the boys school. - Not in November
          3. One date night with M - Didn't happen. We thought of doing it this past Saturday, but M wasn't feeling well, so it wouldn't have been much fun. 
          4. Plan & have a fun & special Thanksgiving/surrounding time off with the kids, despite having to work. - Yes! We had a nice, relaxing long weekend. 

          And, that's it for me! How about you? How did you do with your November goals?

          Sunday, November 29, 2015

          December Goals

          I'm a few days early, but an improvement over my normal, posting one week late plan. ;-)

          We've had a great, relaxing weekend. We'll close it off this evening by a local festival of lights, which the kids are very excited about. I'm hoping to go for a run shortly (when it warms up) & put the tree up. Other than that, it should be a very mellow day - I'm hoping to read my new library book. Woohoo! :-)

          Here are my goals for December! If they look familiar, that's because they are *very* similar to my November goals. (Updated to add a few things that I forgot).

          1. Complete 1000 minutes of cardio
          2. Complete 10 strength workouts
          3. Complete 4 stretching workouts
          4. Lose 2 pounds
          1. Stick to our December budget
          2. Finish our 2016 budget planning
          3. Continue working on my "40 week project!"
          4. Re-evaluate our budget by working backward from "must haves" & see what our minimum income would be. (Advice from some of you a few posts back).
          5. Get a notary signature & mail off our 529 paperwork, to remove the money from our Washington plan.
          6. Start a new Utah 529.
          1. Draft version of 2016 family calendar & vacations
          2. Finish all holiday shopping!
          3. Plan a December menu, including when we're at our vacation house
          1. Continue to accept no more than one late night's worth of meetings/week
          2. Eat lunch away from my desk 2x/week or more
          3. Book my workouts on my calendar, & *stick with them*!!
          4. Figure out backup nanny option, while my nanny is out of town. 
          1. Get together for a minimum of one social event with a friend
          2. Volunteer at the boys school.
          3. One date night with M
          4. Plan at least one fun holiday outing with the kids. Likely a drive to a neighboring town to see the lights, wearing pajamas. We always stop for hot chocolate as well.

          That's it for me, how about you? Are you looking forward to December?

          Saturday, November 28, 2015

          Getting things done - I love a long weekend

          I love the opportunity to get to all of the things that I normally don't have time for! Half of the house isn't feeling great, so there's been a lot of tea, soup, and snuggling up around here. :-)

          But, we still have two days left of the weekend - woohoo! Here's what I'm hoping to accomplish today:

          1. Yoga
          2. 60 minutes of cardio (a run?)
          3. Library
          4. Get out our Christmas decorations
          5. Wash all sheets
          6. Make my December goals
          7. Pick & juice all muffins (or, lemons? ;-))
          8. Figure out plan for next week
          9. Email nanny with childcare details
          10. Build a menu
          11. Help Nick with an ancestor report due on Monday (by help, I don't do the work, but I do ensure it gets done! :-) Distraction is a real problem for an 8 year old boy. ;-))
          12. Use up many, many, many bananas that I defrosted. Make banana muffins & banana chocolate chip version for kids lunches
          13. Make homemade taquitos for the freezer
          14. Finish my book! 

          If I get all of that done, I will be feeling pretty great. How about you? How are you enjoying the long weekend? 

          Friday, November 27, 2015

          Black Friday

          I did end up doing a bit of shopping, as I made a trip to Rite Aid yesterday to pick up a few gift cards & other items we needed, netting me $50 in points to spend. If I can use the points on more gift cards, I will do that & finish off my shopping.

          I haven't done any shopping today, and have done the following instead:

          • Cleaned the house! Including, scrubbing the walls & baseboards, taking our bed apart so I could dust between the mattress and frame. There was *a lot* of dust in there. 
          • Used some past their due date tomatoes & fresh basil (maybe the last, as we've had frost the past few days) to whip together some tomato sauce, which we'll put in the freezer for homemade pizza topping, a basic sauce for meatballs, etc.
          I'm also going to help the boys make a gingerbread house, and get to a few other activities before I take the boys to a free soccer clinic, taught by their soccer club director. Feeling great - the fridge is full of yummy leftovers, we've all had a very relaxing few days & we still have two more days! Love the long weekend.

          I'm also planning on making butternut squash soup with goat cheese crostini for dinner. Yum!

          Hope you are all enjoying your long weekend with your family!

          Thursday, November 26, 2015

          Our first Thanksgiving at home, ever

          It dawned on me this morning that we've never had a Thanksgiving dinner at our home with the kids before. We were in Hawaii last year (bliss!), went to a cousin's house the year before, and spent all previous Thanksgivings with my family, at a traditional family gathering.

          This year is the beginning of a new tradition, and it's pretty great. I do miss seeing everyone at the family gathering, and we're tentatively planning to be in Hawaii next year for Thanksgiving, but it's nice to establish our own memories.

          Neither of the kids like turkey, so we went a slightly non-traditional route for our menu. :-)

          Happy hour:

          • Homemade pomegranate martinis (M's are the absolute best)
          • Pink sparkling lemonade 
          • Goat cheese crostini


          • Candied nut, feta, & pomegranate spring mix salad, with balsamic dressing (I made the candied nuts & balsamic dressing this morning & it looks great!)
          • Rotisserie chicken from Costco (yes, I know, such a gourmet ;-)). To be fair, I'm on call, and wasn't sure what my work schedule would be like. I did a bunch of stuff this morning, but could have handled roasting my own chicken. But, now we have this one. We'll slice it & heat it in the oven.
          • M's garlic mashed potatoes. YUM.
          • Green beans with almonds & parmesan
          • Homemade macaroni & cheese
          • Stuffing
          • And, pumpkin pie (from Costco)) with ice cream & whipping cream

          I've never made stuffing before, so looking forward to it. It smelled really good once I got it assembled. We'll see how it tastes after I bake it.

          We also did a 5K today, & I managed to run the entire thing, despite not having run much lately. Sam ran a 23:01, which is really, really fast. I was impressed & wish he could teach me a few things. ;-)

          Other than that, we're going to enjoy a nice feast (and start the happy hour soon!) & then play some games with the kids. Couldn't be better! I'm grateful for my family & the fantastic & blessed life we lead.

          Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

          Wednesday, November 25, 2015

          Frugal Things I Did to Save Money This Week

          This is actually a compilation of a few weeks worth of frugal activities!
          • Received a check for $5.40 from Ebates, from online shopping. I deposited it straight into my savings account, so total savings = $5.40
          • I often sign up for American Express offers (we use the credit card for points), even if I'm not sure if I'll use them. I remember signing up for the small business promotion, but I thought it was a pretty limited set of stores, and only on one day. I used my Amex as usual at our local produce stand, where I spent $11.29 on our normal purchases (Persian cucumbers, wheat lavosh bread, two bundles of kale, a bag of potatoes for Thanksgiving, and a small bunch of radishes). I got an email from Amex that the purchase qualified for the small business promotion, and I would automatically get a $10 credit, making my weekly produce stand shop *very* cheap! The gentleman unloading apples while we were in line also gave the kids each an apple, so it was a huge win all around. :-) Total savings = $10.
          • Redeemed more United miles for $200 worth of Amazon gift cards. Total savings = $200.
          • Used another American Express offer for $15 off of a $60 Amazon purchase. Total savings = $15. 
          • Earned a $1,000 bonus at work! So, while not exactly a frugal thing I did, it was a bonus for a giant project that I delivered. I'll be using that money to offset my Christmas spending. Total savings = ~$600 (estimate after pesky taxes). :-) 

          Total savings = $830.40

          I need all of the extra savings I can get as we move into the holidays! I'm doing my best to be frugal, but there are lots of extra expenses this time of year. How about you? Do you track your frugal activities? Any big wins this week?

          Monday, November 23, 2015

          Weekly spending wrap up (11/16-11/22/15)

          I was out of town for most of the week, but I more than made up for it when I was back home. ;-) Here's what we spent:

          • Monday:
            • $21.33 - three new water bottles on Amazon. I swear that we previously had 20+ water bottles (free from camps, birthday parties, etc), but they've all slowly disappeared. I finally broke down & ordered three new ones, so we can ensure that we are not buying plastic water bottles when out. 
            • $11.56 - two bike parts on Amazon for Nick's bike. Something about the shifter? Don't know. M has already replaced the part & the bike is running like new.
            • $38.06 - goalie jersey (with his number on it) for Nick. Christmas present.
            • $1.99 - Amazon. I assume M watched a movie while I was gone. 
          • Tuesday
            • $26.07 - dinner for the boys at Sweet Tomatoes
          • Wednesday
            • $1.99 - Amazon, ditto above on the movie watching.
            • $15.16 - two pair of Havianas (Rio Olympics themed) for the kids -souvenir from Brazil

            • Thursday - No spend day
            • Friday 
              • $10 - end of the season gift for soccer coach
            • Saturday
              • $39.98 - two birthday gifts (kids parties) at Costco. The boys each get $15 to spend on friend gifts, so Nick owes me $10 for these. I think it's benefitted them to have the budget - they decide what they want to buy friends, and then make up the difference.
              • $328.77 - Christmas gifts for M. More than I had budgeted, but I'm under budget in all of my other categories. This was: a new winter coat, blue label whiskey, and new socks. 
              • $117.21 - Costco, groceries
              • $34.96 - four bottles of wine at Costco
              • $7.46 - two bottles of kids shampoo at Rite Aid
              • $6.35 - produce stand. Two bunches of kale, radishes, three pounds of mini cucumber
              • $22.29 - Trader Joes - picking up stuff for Thanksgiving
            • Sunday
              • $70 - Christmas gifts at Rite Aid (gift cards), taking advantage of a gift card promotion
              • $70 - birthday gifts for my boys (stocking up) at Rite Aid, with the gift card promo.
              • $20 - lunch money for Sam
              • $10.84 - three glass Pyrex measuring cups
              • $66.50 - more groceries from Costco. M does not like it when I buy a select number of fruit/vegetables. He always goes back & buys more. ;-) 
            Total spent for the week = $920.52. Holy smokes!! That's a lot of spending! Much of that was on Christmas, but I still don't like to see so much money disappearing at once. 

            How about you? Are you tracking your weekly spending? How's it going this time of year? Are you spending more or less than expected? 

            Sunday, November 22, 2015

            Back from Brazil & enjoying the weekend

            It was a long week (lots of travel, and connections & red eye flights), but I'm back! In exciting news, my taxi ran out of gas on the way to the airport, and I pushed it two and a half blocks while the cab driver steered. Ahhh, the memories. ;-) Would not recommend risking breaking down in the area we were in, as the crime rate was high. The good news is, I survived! :-)

            We had five hours of soccer yesterday, and Nick is officially done for the season. Sam has a last game today, and Nick has a birthday party. On top of that, I'm catching up on laundry, holiday shopping, & getting ready for Thanksgiving!

            I managed to sneak in a run yesterday, and went for a walk today. A headache prevented me from running again.

            And, now that I'm back, I need to get organized! Here's our menu plan for the week. I'm actually going to also to try to remember what we really ate, and post that as a recap. I'll start next week!

            • Saturday - Risotto with sausage & butternut squash. This was *amazing*. 
            • Sunday - Beef kebabs, rice & greek yogurt. 
            • Monday - Leftover risotto for the adults, & leftover tacos for the kiddos. 
            • Tuesday - Leftover kebabs & rice
            • Wednesday - Something fast from the freezer. Likely, chicken & pasta
            • Thursday - we're having goat cheese crostini & pomegranate martinis (sparkling lemonade), and then roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing & pumpkin pie. A feast!
            • Friday - Crostini & butternut squash soup
            • Saturday - Thanksgiving leftovers
            • Sunday - Homemade pizza

            How about you? Are you ready for the holidays? Still feeling the jetlag, but SO happy to be home!!

            Monday, November 16, 2015

            Weekly spending wrap up (11/9-11/15/15)

            Tracking our weekly spending helps me stay on track of our daily expenses! It's very eye opening to go back to my tracker & remember what we decided to spend our hard earned money on. I was feeling sick on Tuesday, so I bought some groceries to make soup, etc. It's unusual for me to be home during the week & spending money.

            • Monday - 11/9 - No spend day
            • Tuesday - 11/10
              • $10 - groupon for Starbucks gift card ($5 bonus gift card)
              • $5.37 - bought shelled edamame. One of my favorite snacks at Trader Joes
              • $25.46 - soup fixings & found a few hard to find holiday baking items, plus picked up pasta that was on sale
              • $7.38 - Rite Aid, lip balm with sunblock & shampoo
            • Wednesday - 11/11
              • $110 - sports camp. School was closed on Veteran's Day, and M & I both had to work. It's very $$$ for us to have to cover these days off. :-(
            • Thursday - 11/12 - No spend day
            • Friday - 11/13
              • $300 - Great Wolf Lodge gift cards (for our stay in February). They had a promotional offer, so I earned $60 in bonus gift cards by purchasing these
              • $10 - Target, for a birthday gift
              • $38.88 - gas
              • $90 - cleaning lady
              • $660 - nanny. This was for 2.5 weeks.
              • $22.07 - Costco for a couple of last minute dinner items. Not well planned
            • Saturday - 11/14
              • $58.67 - gas for other car
              • $65.37 - Costco. Well, this trip was smaller than normal, as I'd already picked up groceries earlier in the week. Also, splurged & bought a gingerbread house for the kids. We'll decorate it the weekend of Thanksgiving.
              • $11.29 - produce stand (although, I received a $10 Amex credit, so the net spend was $1.29). 
            • Sunday - 11/15 - No spend day

            Total spent for the week = $1404.49

            The childcare accounted for 55% of the spending this week. There aren't many options to cut that back, although I'm trying to keep a better eye on my work schedule, to consolidate meetings, etc. We pay the nanny by the hour ($22/hour, if you can believe that - the going rate here!!!), so even getting home a half hour early makes a big difference.]

            That's it for us. What about you? Do you track your weekly spending? How did you do this week? My goal for this week was to be at $350. If I minus out the camps & nanny (not optional) & the prepayment on the travel, I came close, but still too $$. I also normally don't count the cleaning lady in here, but I'm going to start, as that's truly an optional expense that I can cut. I'm going to shoot for $350 again this week! We'll see how the boys do without me. :-) 

            Sunday, November 15, 2015

            The start of the last trip this year

            I'm heading to the airport in a few hours to kick off my last (fingers crossed) international trip of the year. We spent the day yesterday just puttering around the house & getting things done. I went for a run, got the groceries (a special treat for M, who usually has this chore ;-)), went to the produce stand, did yoga, and made a yummy dinner - shrimp & asparagus pesto gnocchi. It was delicious!

            My goals for this trip are:

            • A successful presentation at a conference. I'm not a lover of public speaking. I need to give myself a few practice runs on the plane
            • Healthy eating! This is so hard when I travel. 
            • Working out two times during my trip. Again, the jet lag & general exhaustion makes this difficult.
            • As much sleep as possible! Another challenge. 
            • To stay calm, relax & enjoy the experience - even if I'm not excited about it generally.

            I rarely spend money on work trips, although I may pick up Havianas, if they are a particularly good deal. I'll also test out my new Global Entry card on my return through the US. Let's hope it works well.

            Enjoy the week, everyone!!

            Saturday, November 14, 2015

            Frugal Things I've Done This Week

            I find putting these posts together to be very motivating! Here are a few frugal things I've done this week:

            • Meal planned, despite not being home all weekend. I got scrappy & threw together some things from the freezer, to avoid eating out. Estimating one meal out, total savings = $35
            • Cashed in a bunch of loose change I found around the house, & converted it to an Amazon gift card, to help offset holiday spending. Total savings = $20.09
            • Cancelled our nanny one day this week, as I was able to work my schedule out & not need her. Total savings = $88
            • Cancelled our cleaning lady the day after Thanksgiving & New Year's Day, as I have those days off & can clean myself. Total savings = $180
            • Found a Groupon for a $15 Starbucks gift card for $10. I also used Ebates to purchase the Groupon, which saved another $.60. I don't go to Starbucks often (mostly while traveling, etc), but it's nice to have as a backup. :-) Total savings = $5.60
            • Pre-purchased a few Great Wolf Lodge gift cards (we're going for the boys birthdays in the winter) in order to earn $60 in bonus gift cards. Total savings = $60

            Total savings = $388.69

            What about you? Do you track your frugal activities for the week? Any big wins lately? 

            Friday, November 13, 2015

            So, what will I do with all of that freedom? Post 40 Week Plans

            One thing I've asked myself (quite a bit) & others have asked me, is what do I plan to do after I leave my current job? What are my goals? What am I looking forward to? Because, let's be honest, not many people willingly leave a job that's well compensated, and that they are reasonably good at. My reasons for leaving are clear, but what do I plan to do after June? I'm still giving it some thought, but here's my initial set of ideas (and, not in priority order):

            1. Take the summer off. This is a short term plan, but I know myself well enough to know that if I don't plan to take a block of time off, I'll immediately pressure myself to start looking for something else. I need this time to relax, destress, spend time with the kids, and think more about what I'd like to do.
            2. Spend more time with the kids. And M. This goes without saying, but my current schedule doesn't allow for this. My kids have never had a week of summer vacation (or, even a few days, for that matter) where we just chill at home, going to the park, meeting up with friends, etc. Last year they asked for a week without camps, and I couldn't make it happen, schedule wise. This year, they may be begging to go to a few camps. ;-) 
            3. Rush less. Every day is a mad scramble. A mad, mad scramble, in a week of mad scrambles that comprises a month of craziness. I feel like I'm constantly hurrying everyone - myself, and the kids. In fact, it's something they comment on. It would be very, very nice to rush just a little less. I understand that having two kids & activities means there will also be somewhat of a rush to get out the door, but less would be great. :-)
            4. Stress less. Work is the last thing I think about before I go to bed, and the first thing I think about when I get up. It's consuming & occupies virtually all of my brain space. And, it goes without saying that's stressful. I get called on weekends, evenings, holidays. You name it, I've worked from there. A professional soccer game with the kids? Yep, worked for 2.5 hours. Christmas Eve with my family? Yes, worked from my parents laundry room for hours. My birthday? Yes. When I was supposed to be on vacation? Until 2:00 am recently, on a bug? Yes. Yes. Yes. 48 hours straight after traveling? You bet. It would be amazing just to reduce the enormous burden of knowing that, at any time, I'll have to drop everything & work. Losing the "always on" feeling would be incredible.
            5. Support M's career more. Up until the past five months or so, my career has been more demanding. We've made many, many tradeoffs to support that, and M's career needs the same boost. It's impossible to devote that kind of time to both careers, so this will give us the flexibility to spend time allowing him to work late, go in early, etc.
            6. Be more flexible. I've never had a job that's less flexible than this. In my industry, flexibility is one of the hallmarks of the crazy schedules. Sure you work a lot, but you also get the flexibility to (mostly) set your own schedule. Not really the case when you're managing a team in three time zones. 
            7. Enjoy the holidays. I'm on call, always, at the holidays. And, I'm not just referring to Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, New Year's. . . I'm talking about Memorial Day, Fourth of July, etc. Any time other people have time off, that's when our schedule is the busiest. I can't imagine what it will be like to not dread pending holidays, when everyone else is looking forward to them. I can join in!! :-)
            8. Manage my own life. This sounds strange, but I really have no time to myself. I know this is the case for many people, but my work schedule demands 80% of the waking hours, and as soon as I come home, it's a mad dash for homework, dinner prep, laundry, and bed time. The possibility of creating my own schedule (around the rough parameters of the kids schedule, as well as M's work schedule) is freeing in ways I can't describe. 
            9. Work out more. My health & fitness have taken a huge back seat to my career & our schedule. I want to run regularly, join a gym or yoga studio, and take care of myself. 
            10. Volunteer. At the boys school, but also more generally. I used to be a Big Sister, and while that's a time commitment that I think could be challenging to swing with our life, I do want to find a way to give back.
            11. Work for myself. This may be short term, but I'd like to explore the option to freelance, and see if I can cobble together enough money to make it work. I'm pretty motivated & have some in demand skills, so I'd really like to put this to the test. I'd love the freedom to take on jobs that fit my life and schedule.
            12. Spend more time with friends and family. My mom is retiring at the end of this school year, and it would be great to have the flexibility to spend more time with my family. Every trip is currently benchmarked by when I need to be back in the office. Spending time with friends falls to the bottom of my to do list at the moment.
            13. Write. I used to write for myself quite a bit, and loved it. To say that all of my creative juices are gone would be an understatement right now. I don't have any expectations of writing the next great novel, but it would be nice to have the time and energy to do something creative again.
            14. Learn something new. Take a class, learn a language, learn a new sport or hobby. Push the boundaries of what I'm comfortable with.
            15. Say yes more often. We ruthlessly prioritize everything we do, to manage the basics. It would be really fantastic to say yes to more opportunities that come our way. To help the teacher in the classroom at the last minute. To meet a friend for lunch who happens to be in town. To get away for a night, to go see my sister. Saying no always starts to feel very negative - I'd love the freedom to be able to say yes more often than we currently do, because eventually, people stop asking . . . 

            I realize this list isn't terribly precise, like many of my other goal lists. I think that's kind of the magic of it. Until I get there and experience some of these things, I'm not quite sure what doors it will open for me. But, I want to be willing to open some of them and get out of my current, very precise, scripted & scheduled way that I live. I'll always be a planner and a goal setter, but I also like trying new things and taking risks. I've had to put away some of that in order to stay afloat in our current lives.

            What do you think? Have you made a transition like this? Any input or guidance to share? 

            Thursday, November 12, 2015

            I'm officially 25% of the way to my 40 week goal!

            I am thrilled that I'm 25% of the way there (date wise) to my 40 week goal! As of today, I have 30 weeks left to save, save, save, which will allow me to take time off at the end of the school year. I've pegged my exit date as the boys last day of school. I have a few option vests that may require me to extend by a week or so, but in my mind, I'm going with that date. :-) I need a target!!

            So, how am I doing with my goal? Well, there's a lot to think about, and I've shared my plan with my immediate family members. It's been super helpful to have people to talk to, and they've been a voice of reason as I've raised concerns or fears over this huge change. I also find that it "feels" more real when you are able to talk to other people about such a big life change.

            On the financial side, here's where things stand:

            Savings Goal by June 8th:

            • $45,000 saved for 2015 taxes & tax related expenses (not related to 40 week goal, but obviously something I need to have cash available for. We did revise our withholdings significantly this year to adjust, but I like to be conservative.)
            • $15,000 saved for 2016 travel fund, to ensure we can still take a few planned trips, & enjoy our summer together. Particularly because I will have more time & flexibility to travel! :-) 
            • $100,000 for the actual savings fund. This fund will be used to cover the gap between our expenses and M's income. I hope to find something flexible & freelance, so that I can add to the total savings fund, and not draw from it very often. The current amount would allow us to go for about 2.5 years without any substantial impact to our lifestyle, assuming no extreme expenditures outside of our planned budget.
            • Fully fund my 401K for 2016
            Total planned savings = $160,000 (not counting the 401K as savings, but required money just the same)

            And, our current savings (what's earmarked for the above categories), stands at $101,000, although I'm a little worried about having to pull some out to cover holiday expenses, etc. I'll be very curious to see where things stand at the end of the year. So, we're approximately 63% of the way there. 

            What other incoming money will I be allocating towards this savings?

            • Upcoming stock vests
            • My 2015 bonus (paid in January)
            • Any raises will be added to the pool
            • Any other money I can scrappily find
            I'm getting excited! It's starting to feel real!!!!

            Tuesday, November 10, 2015

            Weekly spending wrap up (11/2-11/8/15)

            This was an expensive week, with two out of town soccer tournaments, in two different cities, both requiring overnight hotel stays, separate meals out, etc. The tournament only happens once per year (but, two kids :-)), luckily!

            Here's what we spent last week:

            • Monday, 11/2 - No spend day
            • Tuesday, 11/3 - $53.37 - gas
            • Wednesday, 11/4 - No spend day
            • Thursday, 11/5 - No spend day
            • Friday, 11/6 - $318 - camp over Thanksgiving break for the kids (3 days, school is out but I have to work)
            • Saturday, 11/7:
              • $5 - tournament parking
              • $93.50 - M's hotel 
              • $133.75 - My hotel (different cities, not that we generally don't like each other & don't want to share a room :)) 
              • $18.12 - Chipotle 
              • $8.85 - Starbucks 
              • $10.78 - pizza
            • Sunday, 11/8:
              • $5 - tournament parking
              • $86.40 - tournament souvenir (hoodies). We rarely buy the kids souvenirs, but this one was important to them. 
              • $56.31 - lunch out. This was actually for four people, as my friend paid for lunch on Saturday, & I covered Sunday. 
              • $156.13 - M stopped & picked up groceries on his way home, thank goodness. He bought the basics - milk, eggs, fresh fruit, vegetables, bread, chicken & ground beef.
            Total spend for the week = $945.21. Ouch! My goal is to be below $350 this week!! How about you? Do you track your spending? 

            Monday, November 9, 2015

            Menu Plan Monday - the Mad Scramble Edition

            This weekend was State Cup soccer tournaments for both boys (two cities, two hotel stays, two very long weekends), and I left the house at 6:50 on Saturday morning, and got home just before 8:00 pm yesterday. To say that no planning went into this week would be an understatement. Michael had a similar schedule, as we each took a boy to a tournament in different, far flung towns. 

            The tournaments were very fun (particularly for the kids ;-)), but I feel like I need a real weekend to catch up!

            We normally do all of our meal prep on the weekends, & I go into the week with a very full fridge. Other than leftover pizza, it's slim pickings at our house, so I'll need to get creative. :-) 

            Here's what I'm thinking of serving this week:
            • Monday - Spaghetti & meatballs, with garlic bread. It's a cool, rainy day here.
            • Tuesday - Leftover pizza 
            • Wednesday - Chicken quesadillas, with guacamole
            • Thursday - Baked tilapia & pasta for the adults, baked chicken & pasta for the kids
            • Friday - Clean up any remaining leftovers, or maybe sandwich night? ;-) 
            • Saturday - I'm thinking of butternut squash soup & goat cheese crostini
            • Sunday - on my way to Brazil. I'll leave something for M to make for the kids.

            That will have to work. 

            And, for fun, a few highlights & lowlights from the weekend. (Highlights & lowlights are a recurring dinner time conversation at our house - everyone participates. :-))

            • Saturday was gorgeous, and both boys had two wins for the day & kicked off their tournaments feeling like heroes. :-) 
            • I got a chance to spend time with a friend on all of the long car rides (we carpooled)
            • I spent time with my little guy, and he's hilarious. 
            • M got a chance to bond with Sam, as well
            • Both boys had opportunities to learn about good sportsmanship, and to think about mental toughness, as it applies to life & sports. Can't always be on the winning team. ;-)
            • I'm secretly grateful that neither team qualified for finals next weekend. Another hotel stay, another full weekend.
            • Most of the parents on the teams are amazing, great sports, & all around fun to be around. One father is an absolute bully. To his kids, and particularly his wife. He makes me cringe to be around him. The way he treats her borders on verbally abusive. It's so difficult to hear.
            • One of the teams we were playing on Saturday walked off the field, as the ref was trying to keep the game safe. She kept asking the coach to control the level of fouling. He told her to "F off", and forfeited the game during the second half. We were winning 4-0, but to have to explain the egregious bad sportsmanship on all sides (the parents were absolutely awful, the kids, the coaches) . . .it was no fun. The kids are eight years old. This is not professional soccer. The goal is to have a fun, safe, and fair match. Not everyone approached it from that angle.
            • It was a monsoon on Sunday. Freezing & extremely wet. The poor kids were shivering while they were playing, particularly Nick, who was in at goalie. 
            It was actually really fun & interesting to see how each kid approached the losses on Sunday. Nick took all of the blame (he's the goalie), and was so frustrated with himself. Sam took no responsibility, even though he missed a PK. Those are the kinds of moments where you really get a chance to see who they are, and you get to help parent & coach them to work through adversity & challenges. I feel like team sports are a fantastic introduction to some of the challenges they will face later in life.

            Happy Monday, all! And, what's the worst sportsmanship you've ever seen in youth sports?

            Friday, November 6, 2015

            Frugal things I've done this week

            Not all weeks are as frugal as I'd like, but this week I've had a few successes. . .

            • I found a camp for the boys for 3 days over Thanksgiving. It's cheaper than my nanny, far less expensive than the only other camp I could find, should be a hit, and provides coverage from 9-2 while I have to work.  Money saved = over $250.
            • I called for the camp price yesterday ($159/kid) & when I went to register, the price showed as $200/kid. I called & found out that my city membership was mapped to the wrong town & I wasn't getting a resident discount. The person on the phone was able to enter the correct address, thus earning me the discount. Money saved = $82. (Although, I should note I've booked multiple camps here, and this is the first time I've ever been quoted a price and had something to compare with, so my guess is that I've missed out on the discount on all previous purchases. :-()
            • I converted a bunch of United miles (accrued from all of those fun international trips) into $300 of Amazon gift cards, for my Christmas shopping. Normally, it's always best to use airline miles for flights, but United doesn't have great travel routes for my domestic (personal) travel, & I don't have any current personal international flights planned. So, Christmas money it is! Money saved = $300

            So, a nice chunk of money saved this week - $632. Woohoo!!! 

            I'm very, very happy it's Friday. I'm taking Nick to a soccer tournament in Sacramento, and M is headed in the opposite direction for Sam's tournament. Both require overnight hotel stays. Oh boy. :-) Here's hoping it's a great soccer weekend! 

            How about you? Any fun weekend plans? Did you save any money this week? 

            Thursday, November 5, 2015

            Switching the boys college accounts

            When we were in Washington, it made sense to have the boys college money parked in the Washington GET program, which is a guaranteed tuition plan. However, that particular plan has had some challenges recently due to a college affordability act. Basically, the Washington plan never accounted for tuition going down. Given that it has, many of the accounts are underwater & customers are requesting refunds.

            We are in a slightly unique situation, as we heavily prebought credits when the boys were infants. Tuition credit at that time was around $70, if I remember correctly. We also have bought credits as high as $170, but the majority was purchased at the initial threshhold. Current tuition credit stands at $117 per unit.

            Washington is extending the offer for anyone to remove their entire account without fees or penalties for the next few months. I'm investigating the tax implications of this, although we plan to immediately move the money into the Utah 529 plan. All told, I expect to receive around $45K. Our investment was $22.5K. So, we've made money, but may have done better in another plan. Either way, I'm not comfortable with the current challenges in the Washington based plan, and prefer to move to an investment based account.

            I do have a call out to the accountant to ensure I understand potential tax liability. All of this has reminded me that we need to put a revised plan in place around college savings. Somehow, the boys are halfway there, & we need to accelerate our investments. Time isn't on our side as it was in the infant days! The estimators I've seen show that we should have $60K/per kid by the time they are ten. We obviously are very short of that.

            So, more to come, and a robust plan is needed on our side. How have you saved for your kids colleges, if that's an option you are pursuing? College planning is definitely on our radar for 2016 goals, especially in light of my revised career plans. We also plan to work with the kids to do some savings of their own. :-) 

            Wednesday, November 4, 2015

            Weekly spending roundup (10/26-11/1/15)

            Tracking our weekly spending gives me more visibility into how we're doing, and (sometimes) keeps me on track. :-) As a general rule, we mostly spend on weekends, as we have time to run errands.

            Here's where the money went last week:

            • Monday - No spend day
            • Tuesday - $36.59 - Dinner at Sweet Tomatoes, after late soccer practice. Need to break this habit!
            • Wednesday - No spend day
            • Thursday - No spend day
            • Friday - $24.73 - pumpkins & Halloween candy
            • Saturday:
              • $85.50 - Turkey Trot registration for the family. Money goes to a local high school, and gives us something fun & fit to do on Thanksgiving!
              • $249.12 - groceries at Costco
              • $55.99 - whiskey :-) On special offer at Costco. Who could resist? 
              • $28.51 - two new small pans at Costco. My parents *may* have damaged ours when they were here, so we replaced them. M is convinced that's what happened. ;-)  
            • Sunday:
              • $25 - hair cuts for M & Nick
              • $35.75 - smog check for one of the cars
              • $22.57 - groceries that M ran out of time to pick up on Saturday. Mostly baking supplies that we are out of (cinnamon, flour, brown sugar, chocolate chips, etc)
              • $8.36 - produce stand
              • $11.95 - Smart & Final for a container to hold our rice
            Total spent = $583.20. Not too shabby, but definitely areas for improvement! The dinner out was a totally unnecessary splurge (I had a late meeting, & the kids were at a late practice). Not sure how I can get home in time to get dinner made, but need to sort something out. 

            How about you? Do you track your spending? Is it helpful to evaluate your spending on a weekly basis? 

            Tuesday, November 3, 2015

            How are we doing with our net worth?

            Although I don't post about it as much as I used to, I still track our net worth every month. Included in our liabilities are our mortgages on two homes (vacation & rental house in Seattle). On the assets side, we have: savings accounts, investment accounts, & retirement accounts. I still don't include our employer stock options until they are vested, as anything can happen with those, specifically mine, as I'll be walking away from an enormous amount of stock when I leave the company.

            It's been a slow few months, including last month when our net worth was up, but by the smallest amount I've ever measured (around $2,000). This was due to a decline in the market in our 401Ks. We've now recovered this month, and things are looking good again.

            Here's where we stand:
            Our net worth is up 38% from a year ago, which is exciting progress. The majority of our net worth continues to be in our 401Ks, contributing 42% of  our net worth and our properties, with our savings adding just a small sliver to those numbers.

            A visual breakout:

            As you can see, we're not keen on having a lot of money in our savings account. We prefer all of the money to be working for us (retirement account, heavily invested in the stock market) or invested in the real estate market. Our savings account is actually growing, as a result of my plan to stockpile savings before I leave my job.  

            And, that's it for our net worth update. Do you track your net worth? How is your net worth faring? 

            Monday, November 2, 2015

            Menu Plan Monday

            Here's what's on the menu at our house this week:

            • Sunday - M made loobia polo, which is a Persian dish with rice, ground beef, & green beans. Not his recipe, but a close approximation
            • Monday - leftover homemade pizza
            • Tuesday - tacos with guacamole. The avocado tree is finally about to produce ripe fruit again, & I can't stop buying avocado at the produce stand. Woohoo!
            • Wednesday - leftover loobia polo
            • Thursday - burritos made from leftover taco fixings
            • Friday - oven baked chicken risotto
            • Saturday - out. The boys have an overnight soccer tournament

            And, that's it for us! What's on the menu for you this week? Any fun new recipes to try? 

            Sunday, November 1, 2015

            Happy November! Let's set some goals!

            It's the start of a fresh, shiny new month, so let's get some goals going! October went better than I'd expected, so hoping for similar results for November.

            1. Complete 1000 minutes of cardio
            2. Complete 10 strength workouts
            3. Complete 4 stretching workouts
            4. Lose 3 pounds
            1. Stick to our November budget
            2. Finish our 2016 budget planning
            3. Continue working on my "40 week project!"
            4. Re-evaluate our budget by working backward from "must haves" & see what our minimum income would be. (Advice from some of you a few posts back).
            1. Draft version of 2016 family calendar & vacations
            2. Finish all holiday shopping!
            1. Continue to accept no more than one late night's worth of meetings/week
            2. Eat lunch away from my desk 3x/week or more
            3. Book my workouts on my calendar, & *stick with them*!!
            1. Get together for a minimum of one social event with a friend
            2. Volunteer at the boys school.
            3. One date night with M
            4. Plan & have a fun & special Thanksgiving/surrounding time off with the kids, despite having to work.
            I think that will do it! How about you? What are you hoping to accomplish this month?