Monday, February 23, 2015

Greetings from Tokyo!

I'm in Tokyo won't be posting much. I have a few goals I'd still like to accomplish this week:

  1. Stay relaxed. I'm not a big international traveler, and this is a very stressful week of really challenging meetings.
  2. Get as much rest as possible. Last time I came home, I was really ill. 
  3. Eat well, & get some exercise!
  4. Enjoy the trip as much as I can. See the three above. ;-)
  5. Use any downtime to clean up my budget & get some personal finances coordinated.
  6. Avoid spending any personal money, save for a small souvenir for the kids. This should be easy.
  7. Figure out our tax plan. This could be an entirely separate post (and will be), but we just heard back from the accountant, and we owe. . . a LOT. We need to both figure out where to come up with the money, as well as make major changes to our withholdings for the year.
  8. Finalize our travel budget for the year. I need to attend a memorial service, and I'm reworking a planned trip that will result in more flights, but is the best thing for the kids. All of this means I need to completely re-look at our 2015 travel budget & make some tradeoffs.

That's all for now, and here's the view from my hotel room!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A bittersweet weekend

We spent last weekend with my family, celebrating the boys birthdays. We went to an indoor water park with my sister & her boys, and had a fantastic time with all of the kiddos.

We also found out that my grandmother was in the hospital, and while the weekend was extremely painful for all of us, I'm so glad that I could be there for my mother. We took turns staying with my grandmother, comforting my mother, and staying with her husband as he made very difficult decisions. Although the weekend was nothing like I could have imagined, it was important that I was able to support my family & also to say goodbye to my grandmother, who passed away while I was in the air on Monday, flying home.

I feel so lucky that I had three of my grandparents with me until just a few years ago - my boys know all of them, and I had such a special bond with them growing up. It's hard to say goodbye to that era where you actually have grandparents, and my grandmother's passing reminds me of the difficult years that lay ahead with my own parents. My mom also has a special needs sister, so we're all very concerned about her future without my grandmother in the picture - both from a financial standpoint, as well as the logistics of getting groceries each week, spending time with her, etc.

There's a lot more here, but that's all I can muster up to write for the moment.

Take the time to hug everyone you love! I got the chance to spend time with my grandmother at Christmas, and will always be so grateful that I dragged myself away from the work drama on Christmas Eve to give her hugs, and chat with her.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Yearly Budget Spending - 10% of the way there

I've never used yearly budget categories before, so I'm still experimenting with ways to track & report. I figure that a checkin every 10% of the year might work. Either way, I figure there will be peaks & valleys, as many of the yearly categories are spiky (travel, for example).

Okay, so my total budget for the yearly categories is $46,250. As you can see, we've spent just over $4,100, with the majority of that being the boys college fund. In fact, given tuition pricing, we'll probably hold at that amount for the year. However, we have quite a bit of expensive travel stuff to book for the summer, so I'm expecting a giant jump in travel as I book flights, etc. With 10% of the year elapsed, we've spent about 9% of your yearly budget, so we're trending just under our planned spending. Again, I don't anticipate that we'll close the year far under budget (this budget was mean to be pretty accurate & I used last year's numbers to calculate), but I haven't started buying any of our summer air fares yet.

TotalsBudgetActualPercent SpentPercent Year Elapsed
Boys (All)100034.583.46%10.96%
Boys Activities400000.00%10.96%
Boys College2500240896.32%10.96%
Clothing (All)2000481.1424.06%10.96%

I'll also have to watch the categories where we're trending way up. The majority of the clothing spend was for the boys soccer uniforms. I do have a few things I bought for myself that I'll be returning. On the gifts side, M & I went out for dinner for my birthday (and he bought me tulips), so that plus the boys birthdays is listed in that spending category. I'll really have to keep my eye on health (no more races!)

What about you? Do you track your yearly spending? How often do you assess your spending against your budget? 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Weekly Spending (2/2-2/8/15)

Tracking our weekly expenses really helps me stay on track. Last week was crazy - lots of unplanned eating out, which is pretty unusual for us. I blame the boys insane schedules. Here's what we spent last week! I feel like this was a very spendy week, and the summary reminds me of my old ways. I know it's just an usually spendy week (with more of the same next week when we travel), so I need to keep looking for ways to trim back!

  • Monday:
    • I was home sick, so I picked up soup for lunch. $8.13 at Panera
    • $9.01 at the produce stand
  • Tuesday - 
    • $36. Pedicure
    • $80. Paid for my last month of fitness classes. They no longer work for my schedule, so I needed to cancel.
  • Wednesday - 
    • No spend day
  • Thursday - 
    • No spend day
  • Friday - 
    • $121.50 - a new battery for the car
    • $2.97 - Papa Johns. (This was the remaining amount after a Groupon)
  • Saturday - 
    • $14.94 - lunch at Veggie Grill for three of us. I had a free birthday entree that covered my cost.
    • $80.43 - Costco, groceries
    • $55.77 - drinks out for my birthday
    • $68.75 - waxing appointment ;-)
    • $12.93 - a gift for me (M made this charge)
    • $254.72 - dinner out for my birthday. Obviously, a huge splurge! We'll be going back again, but to the bar area of the restaurant for appetizers & drinks in the future. The food was amazing!
  • Sunday - 
    • $15.99 - Lucky, groceries
    • $4.61 - produce stand
    • $1.03 - baking soda at Rite Aid. Will get reimbursed via Savings Star

Total spent = $766.78. What about you? Do you track your spending? 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Menu Plan Monday

It's a short week for us this week, as we'll be out of town. This is probably our most boring menu ever! :-) Here's what we'll be eating:

  • Monday - Tacos & homemade guacamole
  • Tuesday - out to dinner for my birthday!
  • Wednesday - Leftover tacos & guacamole
  • Thursday - grab something before the airport. I'm thinking Pizza My Heart - the kiddos favorite!
  • Friday - eating at the indoor water park with my sister. Pizza. Maybe no airport pizza on Thursday, in that case.
  • Saturday - eating at my parents house. I think my dad is making lasagna. Yum.
  • Sunday - party for the kids birthday. Pizza. No joke. I think I'm seeing a pattern here! 
  • Monday - flying back from Portland. Whatever we do for dinner, I can promise you, it won't be PIZZA! :-)
What's on your menu this week? I swear, we normally do pizza like twice/month. It's not a regular thing to have it multiple times in a week. ;-) Are you also pizza lovers? The boys could eat it every day & not grow tired of it. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Lovely Sunday

The weather is terrible (I'm really not used to three days of downpours anymore ;-)), but it's been a nice, relatively relaxing Sunday. The boys have had a crazy whirlwind of activities over the past few weekends: 8 sports practices, four games, and two different team picture events in a week. I'm exhausted!

I learned a very valuable lesson about scheduling multiple sports per season per kid. Basically, I'll never do it again! :-)

M & I did get to do a date night last night (early birthday dinner for me, and Valentine's day combo) & it was such a fun & fabulous night. Amazing fun, great drinks, fun company . . . :-) Loved it! We really need to start doing date nights every three weeks, instead of once a month. I have a lot of work traveling coming up, so I feel guilty having evenings just with M when I'm already missing out on kid time. But, dates are so important for a healthy marriage.

I'm looking forward to a short week - we leave for Portland on Thursday evening, and will be spending a few days with my family. We're taking the boys to an indoor water park resort for their birthdays with my nephews (yes, my sister & I spend Valentine's Day together at an indoor water park with our four boys. . . so romantic!). Then my parents are throwing the boys a family birthday party, and we're flying back. I get to see a few people we haven't seen in 18 months -  so excited!

I went for a walk (in the rain - I'm so Seattle :-)), did yoga, made cookies, took four boys to soccer practice, started packing for the weekend, and did an enormous mound of laundry. I'm making blackened tilapia and rice for dinner (yum!) and pairing it with my favorite wine. M got me six bottles of my favorite "fancy" wine. He knows me very well.

That's about all that's happening here! The boys are growing like weeds, and eating so much I just can't believe it. Maybe it's all of those sports. ;-)

Hope you are all having a great weekend!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Weekly spending report - 1/26-2/1/15

Another week, more spending! :-) Here's what we spent last week:

  • Monday - no spend day
  • Tuesday - no spend day
  • Wednesday - no spend day
  • Thursday - no spend day 
  • Friday - 
    • $115.59 - Amazon for birthday gifts for the boys. I'll get back $100 of this from my mom.
    • $495 for the nanny
    • $1376 - boys college accounts. We've now completed our planned 2015 contributions!
    • $71.60 - new running pants & top for me. New jeans for the oldest kiddo. I'll see if I like the workout stuff. I loathe the mall these days, but about half the stuff doesn't work out & goes back.
  • Saturday - 
    • $9.62 - Trader Joes for more soccer snacks. We somehow ended up with all of our soccer/basketball snack bringing rotations in the past few weeks. We should be off the hook now. :-)
    • $33.85 - Gas
    • $5.49 - groceries. A friend asked if we could keep their son for dinner, due to a travel snafu. It wasn't a problem, but we were having cheeseburgers for dinner (already prepped) & their son keeps kosher. So, off to the store to pick up veggie burgers & fries for his meal.
    • $11.01 - Rite Aid for cleaning supplies. Our cleaning lady was out of town. She brings all of her own supplies, and we didn't replace ours that we had to toss during our move.  I suppose the $11 is cheaper than what we pay the cleaning lady, so it was a net win! ;-)
    • $156.09 - Costco, groceries
    • $28.27 - Costco, beer for the big game
    • $53.91 - insurance for M during his car racing experience (his Christmas gift). I reminded him multiple times to bring his insurance card, but . . . well, he forgot. Sigh
  • Sunday
    • $47.96 - Gap Kids. Everyone has grown out of everything! Both boys have put on 10 pounds & grown substantially taller, so we're in the position of replacing pajamas, pants, etc. 
    • $25.21 - Trader Joes - snacks for the big game. To be fair, I always make my own appetizers, but I felt horrible on Sunday (fevers, chills, etc) & just wasn't up to it. I bought pre-made appetizers for everyone. 
Total spend for the week = $2429!!! The two big outliers were the college savings and the nanny. Excluding those two, we spent $558 - a much more normal number. :-)

Okay, how about you? How did you do on your weekly spending? 

Monday, February 2, 2015

January spending recap

Alright, here's the January spending recap. High level summary - our planned spending for the month was $15,550 (includes our mortgage on our rental property), but we actually spent $16,750. Where were we over? I ended up booking a summer camp last week (I know - summer camp?!!) because the boys friends all planned for & registered for a camp that's hard to get into. Cost of the camp? $1240. Without the camp, we would have been right on the money. Here's the breakdown of what went well, and what didn't go as well. I'm also only tracking monthly expenses in the monthly report, but I need to figure out how to report on yearly spending categories. Maybe those make sense quarterly instead?


  • $30 under. We spent less than expected on cleaning, as our cleaning lady went on vacation. We had nothing to do with this, but we did clean the house, & are considering cutting the cleaning lady back. The boys could use more responsibility week over week. ;-) 
  • $50 under. We spent nothing on liquor - we were well stocked going into the month. 
  • $25 under. Toiletries - we spent nothing. Woohoo! This was a challenge, but I stuck to it by taking an inventory & reminding myself that we really didn't need anything in January.
  • $640 under. Seattle house mortgage. M pays this bill (we both cover separate expenses), so when I dug in, the average that I was using in 2014 was based on the assumption that we would make additional principal payments on this house. In reality, our goal is now to hoard that remaining cash so we can figure out our future housing situation in California. 


  • $1130 over. Childcare. We actually had less in planned expenses with our nanny, but the summer camp cost outweighed that. 
  • $34 over. Dining out. M & I ended up not being able to get into a restaurant as planned, and the only option was a more expensive place. 
  • $27 over. Entertainment. I took the boys to the movies, and ended up not being able to use a Groupon during our planned days off. What a ripoff of a Groupon! (vent over)
  • $122 over. Groceries. We took team snacks four times this month to various events, and we seemed to be out of everything in the freezer. We really, really need to keep this a bit more in check.
  • $150 over. Overpayment on our vacation house mortgage
  • $540 over. I forgot that our yearly maintenance service was due in January. It's factored into our monthly average, but doesn't account for a one month spike. Also, it was colder in January than it's been since we've moved to California, so we used more power to heat the house. As a result, our utilities were up significantly.

All that said, it was a huge earning month for us. We had our regular checks, our income from our Seattle house (still not net cash flow positive, but not ready to sell - we think we're close in the next year or so, and now is not the right time to sell that house), I received a holiday bonus due to some unexpected working over Christmas, Christmas Eve, New Years, New Year's Eve, and all manners of days inbetween. I also received my yearly bonus. I primarily used my yearly bonus to max out my 401K. After all deductions, our income for January was $50,400. This is an abnormal month for us, of course, and all money is now put into the right accounts for safekeeping. ;-) 

Questions for you. . .how did you do on January spending? Any plans to improve/reduce? If you have both monthly & yearly categories, how do you track the yearly categories regularly? 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

January Goals - Recap

It's that time again! Time to set new goals for the month, and check to see how the previous month went. More on the February goals shortly. :-)


  • Set up meeting with financial planner - Hmmm, kind of? We have someone selected, but now are thinking about going with a hybrid solution on a referral from a coworker. We will get something sorted soon!
  • Max out 2015 401K with bonus money - Yes!! Done. :-) 
  • Figure out boys college accounts (potentially the Utah 529 plan) - I've put the 2015 contributions in, and we need to investigate switching for 2016 & beyond. Waiting for guidance from the financial planner.
  • Stick to our budget - Mostly? A more detailed post on this is coming!
  • Fund our yearly budget categories with remaining bonus money - Yes, all of the money is saved, and put away for either taxes, or yearly bonus stuff. Should know more about the taxes soon.
  • Start gathering stuff for our accountant - Yes! I have a big inventory/matrix, and a few missing documents that I'm tracking down. 
  • Plan two fun family outings - Yes! We did the movies a couple of times. We wanted to ski, but the weather has been way too warm for skiing. 
  • Figure out February week off. Looking at skiing. - This is planned!
  • Get my youngest to try two new foods. - Yes! He has a tracker that he's using, and I think he's tried six new foods in January. Which, is huge for him. I don't think he's liked any of it, but so excited that he's finally trying new things. :-) 

  • Lose 2 pounds - Let's see. I did actually almost lose it in the first few weeks. I had a very difficult week when our team was in town & I had three dinners out & no chances to work out. I did end up losing one pound, and feel like I'm in much better shape than I was at the end of the year. I can tell the difference in the way my jeans are starting to fit. :-) 
  • Track my food/exercise - Yes!
  • Run 20 miles - Yes - 35 miles!
  • Complete 700 minutes of cardio - I wasn't tracking this very carefully earlier in the month, but I finished at 665 minutes. Bummer, because one more workout would have done the trick!
  • Complete 8 strength workouts & 8 stretching workouts - Well, thanks to my pushups challenge, I completed 20 strength workouts, but only one stretching workout. Must work on a better balance in February. (Literally & figuratively :-))

  • Better consolidate my evening meetings - I've definitely been making progress. I have some new people on my team, and some folks have switched managers, so still need to add all of those meetings to my calendar. It's a work in progress for sure!
  • Find 2 days/week that I can work out during the day - Yes! I'm so happy that I made it a priority, and it's now on my calendar for Monday & Wednesday mornings. 

Giving back
  • Look into volunteering at the school once in January - I didn't actually volunteer in January, but I did find a flexible volunteering option at the boys school, and signed up for monthly slots on the calendar. I also found out that my employer gives me 20 hours off/year for volunteering, and reimburses the volunteering agency $10/hour for my time. I'm VERY excited about getting to spend time at the boys school, doing something good/giving back, and that I get non-vacation hours to spend on it!! 
  • Set up charitable contribution increase - Done!
  • Sort through our three hall closets (aka, where junk goes to die). Declutter, organize, etc. - Yes!!! I did way more than this & cleaned out a bunch of junk. Woohoo! I also managed to find three items to sell on eBay & made $255, plus sold some old skis for $75. 
  • Plan/book date night with M - Yes!
  • Do something social with a friend. Maybe a hike. - I had a bunch of social work stuff this month, which doesn't count as "friend time", but took up a bunch of my personal time. 
  • Read 5 books. - I think I read 4, but I honestly lost track. 
  • Try a new recipe (with a focus on something that my youngest will actually eat) - I did make a great tilapia recipe (and roasted carrots), but my youngest ended up at a sleepover, so he didn't try them. But, recipes were tried. :-) 

Okay, that's it! I feel really pretty good about January. How about you? How was your month?

For the rest of the day, I have big plans to: run, do yoga, complete my strength challenges, make muffins, watch the Superbowl, & potentially returning/exchanging a workout top. Wild & crazy first day of February! :-) What are you up to today?