Monday, February 29, 2016

How we spent our grocery budget - February edition

First up, we overspent in our grocery budget. M & I really don't see eye to eye on this one. In order to keep the peace in my marriage, I'm going to consider upping our grocery budget & finding another category to cut. And, it's hard to argue with someone who just wants to make sure the house is constantly stocked with fresh fruit & veggies. ;-)

Speaking of different shopping styles, I like to see an empty fridge at the end of the week. I like to get creative with the last few items in the fridge. On the other hand, it totally freaks M out and he'll immediately go to Costco & replenish all of the supplies. Or, if we forget to put one type of fruit on the shopping list (but, we have 7 others in the fridge), he'll go to Costco. I don't have the time or patience for that, but c'est la vie.

And now, onto our grocery spending for February! Our budget was $550, and we spent $679. Ouch! This compares to $652 in January.

For a category breakdown, here's what we bought (numbers don't add up exactly to 100%, because of rounding. And, laziness.):

  • Dairy: We spent 16.5% of our budget on dairy. Up 3% from last month. This mostly includes: eggs, milk, and cheese. We go through a lot of cheese. I also had to restock our butter this month.
  • Fruit: 27% of our budget was spent on fruit. Who knew?! I thought it was the veggies that were killing us, so it's great to know that it's the cost of fruit. Hopefully this will go down as the the growing season in California really heats up. This is up significantly from last month - 19%. Not sure why that is. I'll have to go back through some of the specifics.
  • Grains: 7% of our budget was spent on grains, which is about what I'd expect. Although, up 2% from last month. I need to figure out a better sandwich bread solution. I have no problem baking loaves of bread, but we use a pannini maker for pretty much every sandwich, and a sliced sandwich bread doesn't hold up very well to the heat. We've been buying ciabatta rolls at Costco, and they are very pricey. M also brought premade breadsticks for a Super Bowl party, which added to this category. 
  • Meat/Fish: We spent 19% of our grocery budget on meat/fish this month - down 2% from last month. This was spent on: ground beef, meatballs, & chicken.
  • Vegetables: 16% of our grocery budget was spent on vegetables this month, which is down a whopping 6% from last month. I realized we were spending about $10/week on cucumber, so I cut this down, and found some cheaper kale options. I believe some of the prices are also dropping, as spring is arriving early here.
  • Snacks: 6% was spent on snacks, which included stocking up on tortilla chips, pretzel chips, crackers after my surgery, etc. This is up 2% from last month.
  • Pantry: 9% on pantry this month, so almost even with last month. This month the outliers were spices, garbanzo beans (for hummus making) & olives.
  • Prepared Food: We spent 0% on prepared food (obviously, not entirely true, but for anything that doesn't fall under one of the buckets above). Last month, this included things like the infamous flat bread pizza, frozen pizza, etc. I didn't travel this month, so that helps. ;-) Last month we spent a whopping 7% of our budget on prepared food, so it was good to cut this back. 

To be totally honest, my first grocery shop in February was actually made on January 31st, and I rolled it over thinking we'd have one less shop in February to even it out. Wrong! 

And, that's how we spent our money in February! I love tracking our spending by category, because it makes it so much easier to understand where/how to make tradeoffs. How about you? Do you track your grocery spend by category? Are you staying within budget, unlike me?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The road to recovery

I'm starting to feel almost human again. As long as I'm not too active, I'm not in much pain. The trouble starts when I try to bend down to unload the dryer, dishwasher, make dinner, etc. Of course, it's not as though your life changes after surgery & you magically don't need to do any chores. ;-) M has been amazing & helped out as much as he possibly can, but he also works crazy hours & is making up for taking Tuesday off for my surgery.

I'm feeling very lucky that we have our nanny this week, as she's been able to do the majority of the heavy lifting with the boys in the afternoon, as well as the driving, which I can't do until I stop taking pain medicine. Speaking of the pain medicine, it's made me crave sweets unlike any craving I've ever had before. Specifically, shortbread! It's amazing. I've been having dreams about dessert. Apparently, it's not terribly uncommon. I suppose there are worse things to dream about. :-)

I've read three books & slept a lot. My goals for today are to follow up on some personal correspondence (sending emails isn't exactly a taxing physical project) & to rest for the weekend, when I know I have to be back in business..

I forgot to make a meal plan, so I've been winging it so far. Tonight we'll have beef tacos with chips & guacamole. Sam is having a buddy over for a belated birthday sleepover, and he's requested calzones. Normally I'd make my own dough, but I think I'll buy crescent rolls or pizza dough at the store instead. Laziness for the win!

In frugal news, I haven't spent any money this week. It's hard to spend anything when you are sleeping. ;-)

Hope you are all having a great Tuesday!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

No more babies

With my lupus diagnosis, it's been very difficult to find a safe & effective method of birth control. (Almost all options are off the table for me, and those that are left are not very effective). Given that we're done having babies, and that having a baby/getting pregnant would be a big health risk with my disease, we decided to take permanent measures. Yesterday I had both of my tubes removed. Doing this ensures a zero percentage chance of future pregnancy, and also reduces my risk of some types of cancer that I'm at an elevated risk for.

The surgery was yesterday at noon, and I'm almost feeling human again. The worst part is the no water for 12 hours leading up to the surgery! I drink a lot of water throughout the day, so my body was not loving that rule. I also threw up a few times immediately after surgery, so I hung around in recovery until they were sure that I was feeling better.

I took one of the big pain pills (narcotics) yesterday evening, & am hoping to move to the high dose of ibuprofen instead. I hate the way I feel on narcotics.

That's pretty much it for me. I did send M to the store yesterday for some "sick food." Sad that I didn't think of it & stock up ahead, but you can't think of everything. He got two kinds of soup, crackers, jello & juice. I was starving & asked for the chicken noodle soup. He made it, I took two bites, and had to go lay back down. ;-)

I sure do miss having squeezy babies, but the phase we're in right now is pretty great too. (Minus the surgery. ;-)) So, here's a throwback of the earlier days!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Weekly spending roundup - 2/15-2/21

We were traveling on Monday, so you'll see some miscellaneous travel charges, in addition to our normal weekly spend.

Monday - 2/15

  • $9.93 - Target at the airport for cold medicine & kleenex for Sam. Used a gift card, so total out of pocket was $0.
  • $20.80 - Chipotle for lunch before our flight
  • $69.99 - car rental
  • $17.96 - Uber from the airport home
  • $51.09 - Chevron, gas

Tuesday - 2/16

  • $3.99 - M missed dinner due to a late meeting, & ate at the Costco food court after picking up groceries. ;-)
  • $77.95 - Costco, groceries
  • $19.75 - Costco, laundry soap. We didn't need any, and Costco is usually not the cheapest anyway, but M saw that it was on sale & picked it up.
  • $10 - school lunch money
  • $16 - field trip

Wednesday - 2/17 - no spend day
Thursday - 2/18 - no spend day

  • $90 for the cleaning lady. I got it down to just one time this month! She really isn't doing a better job than what I can accomplish in a couple of hours on a weekend, so it's time to find another option or go it alone. 

Friday - 2/19

  • $5 - Rite Aid, for two bags of Lifesaver, spearmint flavor. I have one after dinner sometimes to stop myself from eating dessert or snacking. 

Saturday - 2/20

  • $75 - rental application to get our names on the wait list for our vacation house. Not sure if we'll take advantage, but the wait list can be up to 7 months long, so we want to have all options available.
  • $91.76 - Costco, for groceries. All of the basics.
  • $6.20 - lunch at a kebab place, after using a $20 gift card
  • $30 - combined dinner/pizza party after Nick's last game & our donation to the coach's end of season gift

Sunday - 2/21
  • $26.07 - Costco, soil for our planters. 
  • $10.22 - produce stand for lavosh bread, two bunches of radishes, and apparently, over $7 worth of Persian cucumber. They are very expensive these days - $2.99/pound!
  • $46.46 - Costco for more groceries. M has a real Costco addiction, as you can see. ;-) 
  • -$125.63 - returned a few birthday items that were gifts & didn't fit. 

Total spent for the week = $542.60. Not as low as my $350 spend a few weeks ago, but all in all, pretty decent. I need to do a better job of minimizing grocery trips (M is a man on a mission with the produce), but other than that, things were pretty reasonable. 

What about you? How did you do with your spending last week?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

What did we eat this week?

I like to read what other people read during the week, so I'll share our meals as well. Unfortunately, I don't have any exciting pictures. But, here goes. ;-)

Breakfast - at my parents house. We had a spicy egg dish & fruit.
Lunch - We ate out on the way to the airport. I didn't get anything (too full from breakfast), but everyone else had Chipotle.
Dinner - I threw together a frozen pizza as soon as we walked through the door after our flight.

Breakfast - adults at work. Kids had eggs, fruit & toast.
Lunch - adults at work. Kids had sandwiches/packed lunches.
Dinner - spaghetti & meatballs. Adults had it with pesto sauce (from the basil that still lingers from 2 years ago. Trying to get rid of it so I can plant more basil this spring!) And salad. We have salad with every dinner. It's huge & includes: lettuce/kale, tomatoes, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, mini peppers - topped with lemon & olive oil.

Breakfast - adults at work. Kids had eggs, fruit & toast.
Lunch - adults at work. Kids had sandwiches/packed lunches.
Dinner - Beef tacos on flour tortilla shells, & salad.

Breakfast - adults at work. Kids had eggs, fruit & toast.
Lunch - adults at work. Kids had sandwiches/packed lunches.
Dinner - leftover spaghetti & meatballs. M had it again with pesto. I had it with fresh tomatoes & parmesan. And salad.

Breakfast - M was at work, I worked from home & had a banana protein smoothie. Kids had eggs, fruit & toast.
Lunch - M was at work, I worked from home. I made a classic grilled cheese (using up leftover shredded cheese) & apple panini. Kids had sandwiches/packed lunches.
Dinner - I made blackened tilapia with edamame, and had a single serving of tortellini for M. The kids had taco quesadillas, using up the last of the taco meat. And, salad

Breakfast - I had an egg on toast with fruit. Kids had eggs, fruit & toast. M skipped breakfast & went on a run.
Lunch - We were out dealing with a car service, so we used a work gift card to try out a restaurant near the dealership. Lunch for 4 was $6.20, after the gift cards.
Dinner - Nick & I had a pizza party to attend for his soccer. Sam is still sick, so he & M stayed behind & had Costco pizza from the freezer

Breakfast - We all had eggs on toast with fruit.
Lunch - I was starving after a 2 hour hike with a friend, so I had a leftover piece of pizza & cashews. Everyone had fridge leftovers. Kids - taco quesadillas. M - fish tacos using up leftover tilapia from Friday's dinner
Dinner - Persian "feast" - ground beef kebabs, rice, grilled tomatoes, & yogurt sauce. Plus salad. And, wine for the adults.

And, aside from that, I went on a glorious 2 hour hike with a friend in the sunshine, returned a few birthday items, ran to the produce stand, baked some bread, and generally relaxed. It was a super nice, relaxing day!

What about you? What did you eat this week?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Weekends go too quickly here

Weekends go too quickly around these parts. I'm thinking you would all say the same thing. Somehow, the weekends never magically extend to give me time to check off all of my to do list. ;-)

Here's what's happening around here this weekend. We have one sick boy. Sam has been sick for about a week, and now has a terrible cough. Poor guy is really struggling, and is sad that he missed his last indoor soccer game today. Hopefully he'll be better by Monday.

I went for a run/walk this morning (trying to build up to a 5K again by a trip in April) & it was cool & gorgeous this morning. Perfect running temperature. I also went to Costco, returned a gift that didn't fit, and purchased our groceries. We were out of coffee beans, meatballs (I opted to buy more vs making :-)) & the boys favorite quick weekend lunch (nuggets) were on sale. Other than that, I stuck to the basics, although we did need garbanzo beans (hummus) & Pam cooking spray. Total spent for that was $91.76, with the big outliers being the coffee beans, meatballs & nuggets.

We dropped off our car for a service, and decided to have lunch out. Lunch out is a pretty rare thing for us, unless we're traveling. We have a variety of gift cards through work that are a "use them or lose them" thing over the next few weeks. One was for a Mediterranean restaurant near the dealership, so we tried it out. Lunch for four ended up being $6.20 (after the gift card), and the food was really good. Not quite as good as our favorite Greek restaurant in Seattle, but delicious. I had a chicken schwarma wrap, and everyone else has gyros.

I'm off in a bit to take Nick to his final soccer game, and to a pizza party after the game. M & Sam will stay home to rest & probably heat up a pizza from the freezer.

I also need to return some books to the library (I swear, there are always books waiting to be returned around here), and I *finally* got all of our tax documents gathered up & downloaded. I'm going to try & scan them all in tomorrow while Nick is at soccer & get everything shipped off to the accountant. That would be a huge win!

Lastly, I filled out & mailed our vacation house rental application & check for the licensing application. Who knows what our plan will be in the next year, but this expands our options, once approved.

And, that's it! I hope to have a glass of wine at maybe watch a movie with M tonight. If that's not too much to ask. ;-) What about you? What are you looking forward to today? Did you accomplish anything off of your February goals?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Five things Friday

Taking after Carla, I'm going with the ever popular Five Things Friday. So, without further ado, here goes!

  1. I've been pondering which foods are cheaper to buy vs make. We've eliminated a ton of processed/pre-made food from our diet, but I struggle with Costco meatballs. They are relatively inexpensive, and the kids adore them. It's one of the only proteins that everyone will eat without complaint. Has anyone done a cost comparison? Or, have a great, kid-friendly meatball recipe to recommend?
  2.  I've been in a bit of a funk the past few days. I went on a long walk this morning before work, and it helped SO MUCH. Why do I forget that exercise is such a great mental & physical boost?
  3. The kids went to basketball camp this week (school is closed) & I really wish we'd decided to go skiing instead. It wouldn't have worked with our other trip & work, but it would have been great. I haven't been skiing in three years, & miss it so much!
  4. I'm making this blackened tilapia recipe tonight. I'm excited. I'd forgotten about it until I checked the cupboard & realized I had a bit of the tilapia rub left over. And, three lonely tilapia filets in the freezer. Cleaning both out with a great dinner. Win/win. Oh, and wine. ;-) M will have his with a single serving of tortellini that's somehow in the freezer. I'll have mine with edamame. The kids are having taco quesadillas, to clean out some leftover taco meat in the fridge. 
  5. I *need* to get the taxes wrapped up this weekend & ready for handing off to the accountant. It's really stressing me out not to know how much we owe, and I'm concerned, given last year's drama. I increased our withholdings substantially, but it will ultimately come down to our income, which deductions we can no longer use, and the balance of income split between equity vs income, etc. 

And with that, I'll leave you with a picture from three years ago (yesterday). My first mom/boy solo ski trip. There was only one minor incident with ski patrol. . . Nick couldn't read yet, and took the wrong turn when making his way down the mountain. Ahhh, the good old days! ;-)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

February Goals Mid-Month Check In

I'm not quite ready for February to be more than half over, as evidenced by my goals. ;-) It's been a rough month so far for my productivity.


  • Stick to our budget - yes, we're on track, although we're over on dining out by $15. We'll pull the money from another budget to cover. 
  • Hand off all paperwork to our accountant - nope, and it's making me anxious. I'm 80% done collecting documents. I need to get the last few stragglers & get everything uploaded to our accountant. 
  • Save $1,500 - Yes! I've saved $2,500 so far. 
  • Model out the potential to rent our vacation house - Yes, although the numbers had a very high range. 
  • Fill out all licensing paperwork/get on waiting list for renting out our vacation house - I'm done, just need to get them mailed in with my check. 


  • Keep our February birthday trip in budget - Definitely in budget. We did well!
  • Have a date night with M - No, I need to get something set up for next weekend. 
  • Lock down the dates for the rest of the year (vacations, time off, etc). This includes M taking my dad & his buddies to LV for a milestone birthday, our family Hawaii trip, and a potential long weekend with M. - I've got one of three now locked in. 

  • Lose 2 pounds (trying to be realistic, as I'll be on vacation for a few days) - My weight is steady, which is good given my birthday & a trip. Still hoping to lose those two pounds!
  • Eat 5 servings of fruits & vegetables - I'm just under a daily average of 4, so I need to boost this up. 
  • Complete 7 stretching workouts (yoga or pilates) - I've done zero stretching workouts. :-( 
  • Complete 6 strength workouts - And, one strength workout. 
  • Complete 500 minutes of cardio - I've completed 255 minutes of cardio, so close to on track. 
  • Average 1450 calories/day - My average is 1604. I'm hoping that my surgery will help me get back in the lower calories. ;-) 
  • Run 5 times. Start working on 5K build up. - I haven't run once, & I NEED to start it up again! For my weight, sanity, and cardio endurance. 

  • Maximum of one late night/week - Yes! Finally!
  • Work from home at least one Friday this month - Yes, I've worked from home once, and hope to get in one more this month. 

  • Read four books - I've read 3 so far. 
  • Color in my adult coloring book - Not yet, but maybe next week when I'm home. 
  • Get together with a friend - I saw my best friend & sister last weekend, & we carved out girl time to go on a nice hike. 

That's it for me. How is your February going? Any course corrections necessary to achieve your monthly goals? 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A few frugal things

I love remembering all of my frugal activities over the past week. Particularly during weeks that were spendy. It's nice to remind myself that there are always a lot of small opportunities for making frugal decisions. So, here are a few of them from the last week or so:

  • We brought snacks & water with us to the airport. Approximate savings = $12
  • We brought our own wine to dinner for my birthday. Approximate savings = $25
  • I earned a $5 Swagbucks gift card, and redeemed it using a birthday offer for 55 bonus swagbucks.
  • We ordered gift cards online for our hotel way back when they had a holiday offer, and received extra "bonus bucks". We redeemed them for an activity that the kids would be taking part in. Savings = $50
  • We compared prices for airport parking vs Uber, and saved $31.
  • We'd planned to take the kids bowling yesterday, as our flight wasn't until 4:20. (I'll not make it for that late in the day again, as it's hard to get everything sorted out & makes the next work day very rough!). However, neither kid was feeling great, so we let them watch a movie & relax at the airport & killed a few hours there. Approximate savings = $30.
  • I booked an "early bird" massage for my birthday (starting at 9:00 am), for a $50 discount. I would have never gotten a massage that expensive without the discount, so I'm not really considering it a savings. But, I did get a more valuable treatment, so win! :-) 

And, there you have it! Approximate savings for the past week or so = $153! How about you? Did you have a frugal week? Any big wins?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

I'm back, & weekly spending roundup - 2/8-2/14

We had a fantastic time with my family over the past few days! I got to see my best friend, my sister, my nephews, parents, & other assorted relatives. The boys played, rode bikes, and had a blast at the water park.

It was a much more expensive week than normal, as it involved my birthday, a trip, and our celebration for Sam's 10th birthday.

Here's what we spent:

  • 2/8 (Monday) - No spend day
  • 2/9 (Tuesday) - No spend day
  • 2/10 (Wednesday):
    • Out to dinner for my birthday - $155.41 (We even brought our own wine. Spendy!)
    • Two weeks of after school childcare to our nanny - $418 
  • 2/11 (Thursday):
    • Spa day for me. $312. Obviously, a once a decade splurge. It was glorious, btw. :-)
    • Dinner at the airport (I brought snacks & a refillable water bottle to keep costs down) - $35.76
  • 2/12 (Friday)
    • We had breakfast at my sister's house before we left, and lunch at Quizno's. My sister paid, as I paid for the hotel deposit back in 2015. (We do the math at the end, & split the bill after all of the expenses).
    • We had the following snacks at a water park (shared 6 ways): one order of fries, one soft pretzel, and one beer (only shared 2 ways. We don't let the kids drink beer!) - $7
    • We had pizza for dinner, brought our own wine, snacks, & treats for the kids. We used gift card bonuses purchased before the holidays to offset the kids activity in the evening (a Magic Quest/scavenger hunt & time at the arcade :0)) - $20
  • 2/13 (Saturday)
    • Breakfast buffet + Starbucks ($20)
    • Lunch at Wendy's - $12.28
    • Dinner - at my parents. Free. ;-)
    • Uber to airport (husband) - $22.51
  • 2/14 (Sunday)
    • Birthday party for both boys. I paid for the wine & beer for the adults. $60
    • Rest of the day - food from my parents house. 
    • Bike ride with the fam. Free. :-) 
Total spent last week = $1062.96. Not that bad, given everything that we did over the past few days & the double milestones! 

How was your week? Did you track your spending? 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The 40 week plan, part 2

In the first post about this, I talked about the more immediate things that will be happening. Now I'll move on to the much more challenging topic - what kind of long-term changes will we be making as a result of this plan? It's a bit of a domino effect, actually.

What happens when we move from two big incomes, to one?
It's a pretty giant & stressful topic, as going from a large second income to no second income (immediately) and a reduced second income (mid-long term) is a big lifestyle adjustment. Before I was diagnosed with lupus, I had zero plans or desires to move away from a 100%, hard core career. I'm the person that went right back to work after having both kids, and really never thought seriously about quitting my job.

But, life throws you some pretty substantial curve balls. I don't know what would have happened or how I would have felt without the lupus diagnosis, but I suspect that I would have eventually burned out . . . it would have just taken longer to reach where I'm at now.

To tie it all together, when we moved from Seattle, we had a weekend to find housing. And, we found a pretty incredible area with a very strong school & a great community feel. However, it's insanely expensive. We were reasonably confident that we'd eventually be able to buy, given both of our jobs. However, our neighborhood's property value has drastically outperformed the market (and, this is the Bay Area market, which is crazy high even on its own) since we moved. And, I'm not planning on making the same amount of money. Our lease expires in August of 2017, and our landlords don't have the option to extend - their parents plan to move in. There are no reasonable rental properties in our neighborhood that allow us to stay in the same school district.

We've evaluated all possible options - selling our Seattle house, our vacation house, living extremely frugally, living in a 2 bedroom condo. . . and, no matter how we run the numbers, we just can't make them work. A two bedroom condo in our neighborhood is in the $1.3M range, btw, and only one has gone on the market in the last year.

Either way, we are facing a move out of our current school district when our lease expires. Which, is not a good scenario to have when you have two school aged kids who've already faced (and, not terribly enjoyed) one move.

As a result of this change, we built a decision matrix, and considered all of the following

  • Moving to the Oregon coast. The cost of living is insanely cheap (we could pay off our house, keep our Seattle house as an investment, & find one low paying job & be in good shape). However, the schools aren't what we have in mind & it's really small town. I'm pretty comfortable with the small town way of life, but it would be a BIG adjustment for M. ;-) 
  • Moving to the Portland/Vancouver area. It's closer to my sister/family, but creates other logistical challenges (no existing work network, better job opportunities in Seattle, etc).
  • Buying a condo in our current area. A two bedroom condo. While we have a giant, gorgeous house that's half way to paid for in Seattle. Which, is just really pretty crazy. And, said condo would be a minimum of $1.3M, not counting HOA fees. 
  • Moving to a lower cost of living area that's still within a decent driving distance to M's work. Except, the price of living difference isn't that much (i.e. a house will be around $1.9M vs $2.5M in our neighborhood) - still out of our range. And, it would still require the kids to switch schools.
  • Moving to a lower cost of living area that's a long drive to M's work (90 minutes+ each way). In that case, we could get the price down to a more reasonable $1.2M, but the quality of life for M would be pretty terrible. And, again, the kids would need to switch schools.
  • Moving back to our house in Seattle. M would find a new job (so, the burden of transition would definitely be on him). The kids would transfer back to their previous schools. We'd be close to our families, but not *super* close. ;-) 

After running the matrix & evaluating multiple scenarios, there was a clear winner.

And, we've decided on this:
If nothing else changes (i.e. the housing market, M's job, my work situation, some fundamentally major shift of our stock portfolio, etc), we will move back to our Seattle house at the end of the next school year. We'll begin planning around January of 2017, talk to the kids, etc to give ourselves plenty of time to find jobs, set up the move, work through transition details, etc.

Our lease in our current house ends at the end of August 2017, and our renters will be out of our Seattle house at almost exactly the same time. It's kind of perfect.

Moving isn't easy
Especially when you have kids in school. The reason we landed on moving *back* to Seattle, vs finding somewhere even cheaper, etc is that moving back to our old neighborhood will be easier for the kids than starting over somewhere brand new. And, it will also be easier for us. We have a job network, a friend network, and, let's not forget - we have an actual house already. :-)

Our top choice would be to stay in our existing neighborhood. It was really, really difficult to come to the conclusion that we can't make it work. I'm going to be honest, I have a lot of guilt about the fact that my decision is triggering other life decisions for our family. But, I also believe that this is what's best for everyone in the long term.

That's all for now on the big life changes side of my 40 week plan. I'll keep you all posted on our future/potential move, as we still have a lot of thinking to do on the topic!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Assume you'll spend nothing

I've read frugal blogs for years, and love the variety of approaches people bring to their frugal lives. Some people make do with an incredibly tiny salary & still manage to live richly. Others look for bargains, stock up. Some people rarely shop at all. There are people who make a fortune, spend high in some categories, but then eat rice & beans every day. It's truly fascinating to see the variety of approaches.

I love that we can all have a unique spin on things that serves our budget, family needs, priorities, wants, etc. None of us need to approach this whole spend/save dance from the same angle. And, this is absolutely not a judgment on any of those approaches, because as long as they are working for the people writing them, they are on the right path!

But, there have been a few posts recently which have fundamentally altered the way I think about budgeting, & even more importantly, our lives. The concept is - assume you'll spend nothing. Go into every day assuming you'll spend no money. Of course, this doesn't apply to bills (you should certainly pay those :-). This is referring to anything you get to choose.

I used to live each day looking for ways to save money - bargains, coupons, deals, etc. But I've come to realize that I wasn't doing myself much of a favor.

  • Because it's really easy for me to get caught up in bargain hunting & convince myself that if I buy this Groupon for bowling, I'm saving money on future entertainment. Except, I was only successful in redeeming the Groupons about half the time before they expired. 
  • When I'd find an amazing deal on a black top at the Gap (knowing that I love to wear black tops), only to come home & notice that I had five similar shirts.
  • Or, when I decluttered my bathroom cabinet & actually had to clear stuff to the garage because I had too much of everything. Too much shampoo, soap, face wash, etc. It's great to buy things when they are inexpensive, but in my case, I bought too much. It will take years to get through what I bought. And, I can think of a lot of better ways to spend my money than hedging on the price of toiletries. ;-) 
  • My son loses jackets like you just wouldn't believe. So, I went to the Gap outlet & bought six inexpensive hoodies, because we were forever replacing them. Would you believe that, two years later, five of them (now passed down to his brother), remain? Do we really need five hoodies? In this case, as with many others, the stocking up was a waste of money.
  • Do I really need everything I have? This is perhaps a broader challenge than the "spend nothing", because I have much fewer objections to spending on experiences. When I look around our house & see our "things", it's clear that I could get rid of half & we'd all still have what we need to lead a happy life. 
  • I could give 100 more examples like this, but I won't. Basically, the older I get, the happier I am to live with fewer belongings & focus on experiences with my family. 
When you wake up assuming that you'll spend no money, it removes all of the decision making. It starts from an assumption that you don't need to make any of those decisions. It also helps you see your own consumerism a bit more clearly. And yes, I will absolutely spend money. But, I try to make the dollars I spend go to things that we will truly use right away - food. I'm also challenging myself as to whether we need all of the things that marketers sell. Do we need 25 types of cleaning supplies, 15 beauty supplies, 10 dental hygiene supplies, etc, etc? I'm pretty sure that we could do without almost every marketing gimmicky item sold to us and live well. 

I've read about these concepts in various ways on lots of blogs, but it finally sunk in. And, it's been pretty amazing. I feel differently about my finances & feel more in control. When spending happens, it's because I chose it. Not because it was some inevitable life force.

Have you ever had a revelation like this? Has it changed your spending? What's your personal spending philosophy? 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Plans for a few big celebrations - a combination of frugal & splurge

In the next few days, we have a couple of great milestones. Sam turns ten! (I truly, truly can't believe it's been ten years). And, I turn 40! I feel so lucky - I'm extremely happy & blessed, & life is absolutely fabulous.

How do we celebrate in our family? We used to let each of the boys have the big "class party" thing, that was a total Must (cough, keeping up with the Jones) when we lived in Seattle. Each party would run about $500.

Spending on what matters:

Since we moved to California, the boys have just one wish for their birthdays - they want to celebrate & have a "family" party. So, Nick's birthday is the month after Sam's, and we combine them. It's definitely not cheap, but here's what we end up doing:

We fly to Portland on Thursday & crash with my sister. We wake up on Friday & spend Friday afternoon, evening & Saturday morning at an indoor water park with my nephews. This was another fun tradition we had to give up when we moved. It's around $300 for this part of the trip, including food, the hotel, etc.

On Saturday, we stay with my parents & hang out. My dad takes the boys biking, and we usually just spend a lot of time drinking wine & talking. It's lovely.

On Sunday, the boys will have a big "family" party, which they are thrilled about. My mom makes a cake, everyone brings an appetizer, and my sister & mom make soup. It's a family tradition. :-) I pay for the beer, wine, and also give my sister "extra", as she ends up bringing a lot to help out my mom. She's an amazing rock star, and I can't imagine my  life without her! We fly back on Monday (we have the day off for President's Day, and the boys don't have school).

So, the cost of the full trip is typically about $1,800 (majority of it spent on air fare & hotel). As you can see before we moved, we were spending a minimum of $1000 on birthday parties that no one remembers. We also don't need to use our nanny on Thursday, Friday, or Monday, which saves about $150. It's not a huge difference in price to visit the family instead of having big giant class parties, and it's something we all appreciate much more.

What about the lady who is getting really old (aka, me?) :-)

And, for my 40th? I'm working on the actual day, and then going to dinner with my three favorite boys. The only real "frugal" choice we'll make is to bring our own wine (no corkage fee) & we'll use a work gift card for a free ice cream afterward. I am taking Thursday off & spending the day alone, before I pick up the kids & head to the airport. .. I'm getting a fabulous massage! It will not be frugal. But, I've been skipping my budgeted hair cut & pedicure in order to offset the cost, so it shouldn't be too impactful.

As for gifts, I got the boys a set of colored pencils, colored markers & a gift card each. I bought the gift cards before the holidays when their was a Rite Aid deal, and the pencils/markers were from Amazon. They will also get to have a friend "sleepover" in a few weeks. I'll get a Papa John's pizza (free work coupon) & I'll make popcorn & brownies. It will cost next to nothing.

I'm really looking forward to the time with my family. My mom has had pneumonia for the last three weeks and been really sick, so it will be nice to see her & spend time taking care of her.

What about you? How do you celebrate milestones in your family?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Spending recap, 2/1-2/7

I've missed a few weeks on my spending recap & I've missed it! So, I'm back. :-) Here's how we spent our money over the last week:

  • Monday, 2/1
    • Costco - $105.46. Normal assortment of weekly groceries.
    • Library - $2.75. Fines. This makes me not happy, but one of the kids checked something out that I didn't know about. It took weeks of searching before I found the lost item. In the nanny's car. ;-)
    • $1.99 - lavosh bread at Trader Joes
    • Amazon - $31.69. Birthday gifts for the boys. I'll be getting reimbursed.
    • School field trip - $24
  • Tuesday, 2/2
  • Wednesday, 2/3
  • Thursday, 2/4
  • Friday, 2/5
    • School fundraising shirts - $32
    • Produce stand - $4.58. Mini cucumber. . . aka, Nick's favorite food.
  • Saturday, 2/6
    • Lucky - $2.37. Valentine's for Sam to hand out at school. I actually got a 2lb bag of pasta, a Valentine's day card for my husband, and Sam's Valentine's, because I rolled over some points. My only spend was the $2.37 leftover. 
    • Costco - $145.88. Most of this is groceries, but $13.58 on bulbs for the yard, which comes out of the House category. 
  • Sunday, 2/7
    • Rite Aid - $1.55. Bandages for Nick's knee. Soccer injury. ;-) Reedemed plenti points to cover the rest. 
    • Produce stand - $4.43. Lavosh bread, radishes, lettuce.
Total spent = $356.70. Woohoo! I'm loving that. How about you? How did you do with your weekly spending? We technically were lower, but I couldn't handle another grocery spend in January, so I moved it to 2/1, for budgeting purposes. :-) 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Spending our yearly budget

We have two different budgets - our yearly budget, which includes irregular expenses such as: travel, house, auto, etc. We also have monthly budgets, for more regular expenses - groceries, gas, childcare, etc.

According to the math, the year is ~10% over, so I thought I'd check in on our spending so far. Things are looking good! The boys have had several field trips that we've paid for (Boys - All category). I also bought tshirts for their annual walkathon that benefits their school. I think I'm getting reimbursed for the total in the Gifts category, as I purchased birthday gifts for the kids from my mom.

The Travel spend is a ticket for M from here to Portland, for next weekend. He normally doesn't join for the water park trip/boys birthday parties, but given that we're also celebrating my birthday this year, he decided to attend last minute.

The House category is three purchases: bulbs for the yard, a new scale (needed ;-)), and a phone case. As for Personal, that includes three hair cuts (M, & both kids).

And, on Clothing, I returned a few gifts, and then made several purchases on my 2016 shopping list. These include - black work flats, nude work flats, comfortable dark wash jeans. I liked the $19.99 Calvin Klein jeans from Costco so much that I picked up another pair to leave at our vacation house. I only have one pair there, and the knees are almost ripped out.

Overall, I'd say we're well on track. But, of course, they are irregular expenses, which means it's difficult to know when any spending will be taking place. I do know that we plan to put the full $2K in the boys college accounts as soon as we get our refund from the state of Washington's 529 plan. We'll immediately roll over to Utah's plan.

TotalsBudgetActualPercent SpentPercent Year Elapsed
Boys (All)100080.188.02%10.41%
Boys Activities150000.00%10.41%
Boys College200000.00%10.41%
Clothing (All)200013.170.66%10.41%

How about you? Do you break your monthly & yearly spending out? How do you track the more irregular expenses? 

Are you excited about the Super Bowl? I'm not particularly passionate about the game this year, but we will be going to a cousin's house to watch the game together. I'm making a homemade hummus & veggie tray. Trying to stay on track with my health while still celebrating. :-) 

Wishing you a happy & productive Sunday!!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Getting things done in the sunshine

First up, the weather is gorgeous today! We've had a slew of overcast & rainy days this winter, so it's a welcome treat to have the sun back out. It should be 67 today, and 73 in time for the Super Bowl tomorrow. Woohoo! Glorious.

Today looks a lot like most of my Saturdays, but here's my list!

  1. Pick up Nick this morning (he slept over at a friend's house)
  2. Take Sam to a soccer game
  3. Costco
  4. Grocery store to use up a $5 freebie
  5. Plan the menu for the week  (now below)
  6. Yoga
  7. 60 minutes of cardio (outside!)
  8. Strength workout video
  9. Call a vacation rental company about our beach house
  10. Make a decision on our Hawaii vacation
  11. Download all documents from old laptop
  12. Fill out accounting paperwork
  13. Fill out paperwork for our rental license
  14. Laundry
  15. Pack for our trip next weekend
  16. Paint my nails. I haven't given myself a pedicure in probably 10 years. But, it's winter & I don't want to pay for one. I am going to be wearing flip flops next weekend (indoor water park), so I won't want to scare anyone.

Menu Plan:

  • Saturday - Grilled chicken & a side. Haven't decided on that yet. Either rice or pasta.
  • Sunday -  Super Bowl. Likely appetizers at M's cousin's house. 
  • Monday - Grilled chicken & tortellini
  • Tuesday - Leftovers. Or, if no leftovers, tacos with guacamole
  • Wednesday - out to dinner for my birthday
  • Thursday - flying to Portland. Will grab something at the airport
  • Friday - with my sister & her boys at Great Wolf Lodge. I believe we'll order pizza
  • Saturday - at my parents house 
  • Sunday -  Boys birthday party at my parents house
  • Monday - flying back home, so probably pizza from the freezer or Chipotle, depending on if we have a car

What about you? What are you up to this weekend? Is the weather lovely at your house as well?

Friday, February 5, 2016

A few frugal things

It's been awhile since I've done this, so I'll combine a few weeks worth of activities.

Frugal wins:

  1. I sold a Victoria's Secret gift card that I've had for at least a couple of years. I'll get a check for $30, after they receive it. 
  2. Listed a pair of boots on eBay.
  3. Redeemed more United miles for a $100 Amazon gift card. Normally, gift cards aren't a valuable redemption option for miles, but I can't find any flights on United for routes I normally fly. In fact, I have a $200 United credit that I'm not sure how I can use. So, in this case, the $100 of Amazon credit is a better option. 
  4. Went with a day camp today for the boys random school day off (cheaper than our nanny), and saved at least $22.
  5. Skipped cleaning lady today (she's on vacation), plan to clean the house myself, & saved $90. 

Frugal fail:
  1. The $14.99 prepared flatbread that M asked for when I was traveling. And forgot to use. It was moldy by the time I came home. I apparently can't let this one go. ;-) No, really, I just like to ensure that I remember both the things that went well, and learn from my mistakes. 

So, total savings = $227. Which isn't so bad, after factoring in my wins & losses. I didn't include the ebay item, as I'm not sure it will sell.

What about you? What are your frugal wins & fails for the last week?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Our 2016 vacation budget . . . where are we going?

We have lots of great plans (as always, we are travel lovers!) in 2016. We typically spend a big chunk of our travel budget visiting our family (in the Portland area), as well as an adult weekend away. Here's how we're planning to spend our travel budget in 2016, and our plans for each trip.

  • January - nothing. I did go to Tokyo, but let's not count that, shall we? I saw the airport, the hotel, the office, I did go for omakase, and then back to the hotel, & airport. Sigh. Work trips. Budget = nada. Or, the $14.99 for my wasted flat bread. However you want to look at it. ;-) 
  • February - the boys get a week off in February, so we take advantage of the long weekend & fly to my parents. We actually take the boys & their cousins to an indoor water park (Great Wolf Lodge ;-)) Then we have a joint birthday party for the kids at my parents house. It also happens to be my 40th birthday, but we're saving that for something a bit later in the year & will celebrate when we have more schedule flexibility. I paid for the flights & the hotel stay back in 2015. The total budget for flights for 4, a car rental for M to get to & fro while we're at the Lodge, and our half of the hotel = $1800. Remaining to pay for = $450.
  • March - Nothing scheduled.
  • April - I'm taking the boys to the beach for spring break. Not counting my time off (which, technically I could have cashed out when I left), the flights & expenses are actually right around the same price as a camp. Also, I changed the date of a girls weekend to bookend with this trip, and my parents will watch the boys for a few days while I'm having girl time at the beach house. Win/win! The total budget for the beach trip is flights for 3, a car rental for me to get to & from the beach house, and extraneous food = $1100. Remaining to pay for =$350.
  • May - Nada. 
  • June - I'm going to take the boys to my parents house for the big biking tournament, then leave them there while I potentially go sort out my work situation & finish up the last few things. Basically, I'd like to stay until my options vest on the 25th. So, I'll fly out, take them to my parents, fly back & then fly back again a week or so later to kick off our family beach trip that will last through the 4th of July. Haven't even started to price this out, but the total budget for this trip is flights for 5 (4 of us plus me one extra time), a car rental, & extraneous food = $2000. Would obviously love to shave this down a bit, so I'll have to keep my eye out for great deals on airfare.  Remaining to pay for = $2000.
  • July - It's my annual girls trip, although this year we're thinking of doing Napa rather than Las Vegas, and celebrating my 40th birthday, as well as my BFFs big day. M has given me $5,000 towards this, but there's zero chance I'll spend that much, even if we really "live it up". ;-) The $5,000 technically isn't part of the vacation budget, as M has a special fund he saves up for big events, gifts, etc. But, for visibility, let's include the more reasonable expectation of budget here. Total budget for this trip is the hotel, food, gas money & likely some sort of transportation during one of the days (as we'll be doing tastings & won't want to drive) - $1500. Remaining to pay for = $1500.
  • August - I'll be joining my family again for the Portland to Coast relay. Total budget for this trip is my part of gas money for the van, my flight, a little food, etc. You really don't get to eat much - I occasionally buy a hot dog & bag of chips out of someone's yard, but that's it. ;-) Total budget - $400. Remaining to pay for = $400. 
  • September - Nothing
  • October - it's our anniversary. Now that my parents are both retired (my dad is freelancing, so has a very flexible schedule), it should be easy for them to come to visit the boys. We just came up with this plan this week, so no budget has been planned for. But, I'll cover the cost of my parents flights. So, total budget for this trip = $2000, including flights for my parents, and whatever M & I decide to do. Remaining to pay for = $2000. 
  • November - We've been planning to take the kids to Hawaii for Thanksgiving, using mostly mileage & hotel points. However, the miles are insane this year. We've done it before with no problem, but now it looks like each ticket will cost 80,000 miles. Not a great way to spend our miles, and would also require a cash outlay. So, instead we may spread those miles around on other trips (Christmas, the summer trip, etc) & then funnel that cash savings into Hawaii flights. Still TBD, obviously. I also need to look into the hotel to see if using points are a viable option on that end as well. My original budget was meant to include a rental car and food, with the rest covered by points & miles, so budget = $1500. Remaining to pay for = $1500. This one needs some serious scrutiny, however, as I'm not sure this will happen in 2016. We may push out to spring break of 2017, given miles & points issues. 
  • December - we'll head to see my parents for Christmas, and then to the beach house. The budget includes flights for four at a premium time of year, & a rental car. Total budget = $1500. Remaining to pay for = $1500. 

Looking at it all in one place is a little nuts! 

Total budget for 2016 travel = $9800
Total left to pay for in 2016 = $7,700

Looking ahead to 2017, when I will (I presume) be making significantly less money, I'll likely cut out the February trip, and we won't go to Hawaii with the kids (it's currently an every other year thing, but will likely move to less frequently). I'd like to keep the remaining trips, but find ways to continue to reduce the costs, as spending time with my family is super important. 

And now you, how do you budget for your travel? What's on the itinerary for 2016? Are you already planning ahead for 2017?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

After the 40 week plan is done - what's next? Part 1

It's a question I've been asking myself a lot lately, given that it's starting to feel a lot more real. I've yet to make any announcements at work, but will likely give them much more than the standard 2 weeks notice. I'll probably give something like 8 weeks notice instead. I won't have an offer with a competitor, which is one reason people don't typically announce these things until the end. It avoids the whole being escorted out by security situation. ;-)

It's really, really difficult for me to picture what comes next, quite honestly. But, let me give it a try, thinking of some of the more immediate plans as well as some of the fuzzier, "in the future" thinking.

  • July - I plan to be really busy over the summer. We'll take the kids to the beach for the 4th of July & a week at the coast.
  • July - I'm going to Napa with my sister & best friend (replacement for our typical Las Vegas trip) to celebrate my 40th birthday, very belatedly. I need to find a camp for the boys, as M won't be able to take the time off of work to spend with the boys.
  • July - the boys also have a mandatory soccer camp, so that will be a nice, fun mini break. A preview of things to come.
  • August - the boys go back to school on August 15th, and start soccer the first week of August.
  • August - I'm going to do the Hood to Coast relay again with my family.
  • September - I expect this is where things will "settle down" a bit. Most of our main summer fun & trips will be over, the boys will be in school, & life will be finding my groove. Without work. 
  • October - I'm planning to start looking for some sort of flexible work, although I may wait until January or start earlier. Who knows what I'll be feeling like.

By the end of 2016, I need a pretty good sense of our actual, non-working me budget, as well as the potential income I think I can earn with a flexible job. That will give us an opportunity to plan for the future (house buying here, potentially selling our vacation house, etc). I feel like we're in a bit of planning limbo until we get a clearer picture of our new reality. That limbo definitely causes me to have anxiety, and I know makes M a bit twitchy as well. Not that we will need my income - that's what all of the savings is for. But, we are planners, and like to look much further out that next month or next year. That's challenging in the current situation.

As for the type of employment I'd like to do in the future, I can honestly say that I've spent hours upon hours thinking of this, and have come up with absolutely nothing. I know that I want to continue to work in some fashion, and my only real requirements are 1) that the role is flexible 2) I'm paid decently well, and 3) the people I work with aren't crazy. ;-) I'm guessing there are plenty of roles that might fit this criteria. At this point, it's like a black box. The minute I try to envision the future, without my current insane job, my mind shuts down & cannot get past the point of quitting this job. Maybe that's normal? To be so burned out that you can't even contemplate the type of work you'd enjoy as a next step? I hope so, because otherwise it's going to get pretty interesting when the time comes that I need/want to start looking. 

So, more to come for certain on the "what's next" part of my plan! 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

January Goals - Recap

January was your normal first month of the year. . . lots of motivation & excitement (on my end, if nowhere else ;-)) to kick off the new year with a strong start. A very last minute trip to Tokyo got added in, which derailed some of my plans a bit. But, here's how I did against my goals!


  • Stick to our budget - mostly on track, but our childcare budget is up due to paying for a camp in February ($478 for a week of camp, and we will still need our nanny that week, as camp ends at three. :-((
  • Reach out to new accountant - our old one retired :-(( - Done! 
  • Save $1,000 - yes! I saved $1,756 (in addition to my planned bonus savings). Not that I'm counting those dollars. ;-) Plus, the grand old $.58 of interest. 


  • Work on plans for the boys birthday parties in February - I've gotten the party invites sent out, and done a lose menu. 
  • Do a fun activity with the boys - Today is the day for the activity! We are going to see Star Wars, and Sam will have a friend sleepover after. That means both boys will have had a sleepover this month as well. 
  • Have a date night with M - I've got to get this planned. Maybe next weekend? I'm heading to Tokyo on Sunday, but could squeeze it in on Saturday.

Fitness (this needs to be a top priority in January, as well as the rest of the year):
  • Lose 3 pounds - I managed to lose 1.5 pounds for the month. Considering that I normally gain on business trips (I held steady this time), I'm pleased with my results. Not perfect, by any means, but a very positive step in the right direction. 
  • Eat 5 servings of fruits & vegetables, 28 of 31 days. I only got 3 & 4, respectively, yesterday & on New Year's Day, so this gives me one extra day of cushion.  - I decided to go for a rolling average, and got to 4.6 per day. I'm pleased, again, given the traveling. All of those flights & meals that I'm held captive to the choices during meals out were difficult, so I'm happy that I was so close to 5. I've definitely changed my eating habits to cut out unnecessary junk, and focus on healthy choices. 
  • Complete 8 stretching workouts (yoga or pilates) - I finished the month with 5 stretching workouts. 
  • Complete 10 strength workouts - I finished the month with 8 strength workouts.
  • Complete 850 minutes of cardio - I finished with 690 minutes of cardio.
  • Average 1450 calories/day - So close! I finished at 1485, which is a vast improvement over the previous six months. Woohoo!
  • Maximum of one late night/week - Definitely not a win, as I had two weeks with double late nights, plus a trip.
  • Organize travel schedule for the first half of the year - Yes, and in fact, I"m going to try to let Tokyo stand as my only international trip before I leave. 
  • Work from home at least one Friday this month - I did this twice last month, and it was great. Definitely going to try to repeat this.

  • Read a book - Yes, I've read six, in fact. :-) The one way that my international trip "helped" my goals.  
  • Try out my new adult coloring book :-) - Yes! I've enjoyed it, but the kids have also wanted to "help", so it's been less relaxing but a nice family project.  
  • Get together with a friend - I guess I can count my Star Wars movie time, but I was hoping for more of a girls fun hike or workout. I have at least been getting good chatting time with my friend at soccer games. 

All in all, not a bad way to kick off the year! How about you? How did your January goals go? Any big wins or things that you'll carry over to February? 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Goals for February

It's a short month, so I'll adjust accordingly. :-) It's also a big celebration month! My oldest is turning ten, and I'm *cough*, turning 40! :-) You'll see a bit of frivolous spending as a result. I'm also having surgery in February, so I've adjusted my workout goals down quite a bit.


  • Stick to our budget
  • Hand off all paperwork to our accountant
  • Save $1,500
  • Model out the potential to rent our vacation house
  • Fill out all licensing paperwork/get on waiting list for renting out our vacation house


  • Keep our February birthday trip in budget
  • Have a date night with M
  • Lock down the dates for the rest of the year (vacations, time off, etc). This includes M taking my dad & his buddies to LV for a milestone birthday, our family Hawaii trip, and a potential long weekend with M.

  • Lose 2 pounds (trying to be realistic, as I'll be on vacation for a few days)
  • Eat 5 servings of fruits & vegetables 
  • Complete 7 stretching workouts (yoga or pilates)
  • Complete 6 strength workouts
  • Complete 500 minutes of cardio
  • Average 1450 calories/day
  • Run 5 times. Start working on 5K build up.

  • Maximum of one late night/week
  • Work from home at least one Friday this month

  • Read four books
  • Color in my adult coloring book
  • Get together with a friend

And, that's it! How about you? What are you hoping to accomplish in February?