Wednesday, November 30, 2016

How to keep your vacation under budget

We are back from an absolutely fabulous family vacation. The flight home last night was a little rough, as expected. We got into Oakland just after midnight, had to pick up our bags, and then take an Uber home. One kid made it to school on time, and the other was about 45 minutes late. Altogether, not too bad. I'm very happy that I changed the flights to come back a day earlier. Not only did it save $600 (not the ultimate goal), but it also gives me a chance to recover today & get everything sorted out - laundry, unpack, get groceries, etc.

So, did we come in under budget? Yes, we did! We were over in some categories, but under in others.

Here are my general tips, and then I'll share specific numbers:

  • Utilize travel points/credits/rewards for the hotel. This was the major savings for us. We've previously used an Starwood Amex for the majority of our spending. Two years worth of spending on the credit card (and, paying off each month, no interest charges) yielded five free nights in the particular hotel we wanted. We booked this 9 months in advance, as Thanksgiving is the peak season for this area. This saved approximately $3500-$4000. We didn't have enough points for the first night, so we paid out of pocket. 
  • Utilize travel points/credits/rewards for the airfare. Similar to the above, we tried to use mileage to book our airfare. However, that wasn't an option, even with 9 months of advanced planning. We instead used a companion fare (book one fare at full price, $99 for the second) that we had through our credit card. We also used my first class upgrade vouchers (status matching from business travel) for the flight there. This yielded us with free food, drinks & entertainment units on the flight to Hawaii, and was obviously a super comfortable experience. The companion fare saved $450.
  • Maximize your hotel and/or airline status, if you have it. Free bags are a good option to explore with airlines, as it allows you to bring more from home without a fee. In our case, the hotel status was limited, as the hotel we were at is a vacation ownership property. However, we did get a free continental breakfast for two every day. It was pretty small, but we used the yogurt & cereal for snacking & the bagels for sandwiches, etc. 
  • Plan a budget in advance! This is always a huge help. It gives us a good idea of how much to save, and what we can spend when we arrive.
  • Figure out transportation to & from the airport. We've previously parked at the airport, but given the length of stay, and the pricing on Ubers, it was cheaper to do that. Also, in this specific case, we were flying in & out of two different airports.
  • Bring things you'll need from home. This is a biggie if you plan to do any food preparation at all. We brought spices, pasta, snacks, refillable water bottles, etc. Food is also very expensive in Hawaii, so anything we could bring from home minimized our grocery budget.
  • Prioritize your spending. We have two kids who mostly just enjoy the pool, the beach, & the hot tub. They also like snorkeling from the beach in front of the hotel. We invested in snorkel sets at Costco on our first trip, so they've had three uses, and have more than paid for themselves. We also bring our own beach balls (one blew away - the winds were incredible one of the days!), and ordered them on Amazon vs buying at the hotel. They are 1/2 the price. We were lucky & had another couple give us their boogie board as they were leaving. We utilized that for entertainment (the boys favorite part) & then passed it along to another family when we were leaving.
All in all, we had a truly amazing time. I also ended up with $2,000 in airline credits for future trips. The full airline saga can be found here, for those of you who missed it. ;-) 

And, here are all of the details of our planned & actual budget for the trip. Obviously, not including alcohol was an oversight. ;-) We bought wine & beer at Costco. We cooked every meal ourselves, save for: one dinner out, a few desserts out, and Costco pizza on the way to the airport for the flight home. So, the groceries covered all breakfasts, lunches & dinners, with those exceptions. 

Hawaii budgetBudgetActual
Car rental313316.57
Dining out400389.41
One paid hotel night555.85555.85
Hotel taxes & resort fees275137.1

That's it for us! Share your best travel savings tips!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Expensive groceries & a menu plan

I forget how expensive some groceries can be in Hawaii. Our budget was $250 for the week (all meals, minus one lunch & dinner out). We have spent just under $300. I do get two free continental breakfasts each day with my hotel status, which includes coffee, yogurt, and a bagel. We've been using those to fill in gaps & for snacks. Having a detailed shopping list & menu in advance of heading out meant we could bring spices & other non-perishables with us, to reduce our expenses.

Here's what we're eating while we're on vacation:

Wednesday (travel day):
Breakfast at home (San Francisco)
Lunch on the plane (free)
Dinner: take & bake Costco pizza + salad

Thursday (Thanksgiving!):
Breakfast: Eggs, fruit & bagels
Lunch: Leftover pepperoni pizza (kids) + fruit & vegetables. Adults had ham & cheese sandwiches
Dinner: Wine, grilled burgers & salad
Dessert: Pie (out)

Breakfast: Eggs, fruit & bagels
Lunch: Mac & cheese + dino nuggets (kids). Adults had ham & cheese sandwiches
Dinner: Wine, leftover burgers, & pasta

Breakfast: Eggs, fruit & bagels
Lunch: Lunch out
Dinner: Grilled chicken & salad. And, wine. ;-)

Breakfast: Eggs, fruit & bagels
Lunch: Grilled ham & cheese sandwiches, fruit & yogurt
Dinner: Dinner out

Breakfast: Eggs, fruit & bagels
Lunch: Mac & cheese + dino nuggets (kids). Adults will have grilled chicken sandwiches.
Dinner: Turn the grilled chicken & make pasta with it. Plus salad, and beer. We will probably be out of wine at that point. ;-)

Tuesday (travel day):
Breakfast: Eggs, fruit & bagels
Lunch: make sandwiches, chips & fruit for the plane
Dinner: if there are enough leftovers, otherwise, buy something at the airport.

And, that's it for us! As you can see, we make easy meals when we travel. What about you? Do you bring your own food when you go on vacation with a kitchen?  

Friday, November 25, 2016

My Black Friday spending

Has involved. . .

  • Yoga on the beach ($17! - I did bring my own DVD, but there's no room to really make it happen in our room. Also, the instructor was amazing, so I didn't mind much. It was also 75 minutes, and she pushed me super hard. In a yoga-ish way. ;-)
  • Two beers, a corn dog, and a burger while watching the Apple Cup football game. Go Huskies! :-) M & I each had a beer. Despite the fact that the kids had already had lunch in the room, they "needed" a second lunch. I suppose it's possible, given how much activity they've had each day. Swimming & fooling around the hotel grounds (football, soccer, etc) all day. 10 hours a day.
  • I bought a Christmas gift for Nick from Amazon for $14.99 (on sale on Black Friday), saving $4. It's a youth football with a tee & pump. Both boys are about to start flag football, so they'll love this. 
  • Lemon juice & garlic salt from the local store - $4
And, that's it, folks. I'm enjoying a nice glass of wine (from Costco!) & we are going to have goat cheese crostini & barbecued chicken (& salad) for dinner. It's a nice mix of splurge & savings.

A picture from our evening last night. We had dinner in the room (grilled burgers, of course) & then went out for pie. Some had pumpkin, one outlier had sorbet (Nick is not a pie fan) & Sam & I shared an amazing "hula pie". . . A perfect Thanksgiving.

How was your Black Friday? Any great deals, or did you opt to stay home? 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

from one of my favorite places on earth. This was last night, as we walked around the hotel while the kids played soccer by the light of tiki torches. As you do. ;-)

Here's hoping you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with all of those you hold near & dear.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Frugal wins & fails

I wrote this post, but when I published it, it published yesterday's post again. Weird. The original post is now gone, so let's see if I can recreate it.

Frugal wins over the past few weeks:

  • Called & reduced our auto insurance (got rid of rental car option, as we have a backup car). Savings of $12/month
  • Increased our homeowner's deductible, for a savings of $90/year.
  • Made brownies for Nick's end of season soccer party, vs buying treats.
  • Ate lunch at home vs eating at the soccer party (this was for me, I let Nick eat at the party with his buds ;-)). This meant I could buy a smaller pizza. I usually go for the bigger one & take leftovers home, but with our trip, this seemed like an opportunity for waste.
  • Converted hotel points into $50 of Amazon gift cards
  • Earned $25 Amazon gift card on Swagbucks, and cashed out for Christmas gifts.
  • Redeemed different hotel points into $250 of Target gift cards
  • Adjusted our Christmas gift plans (in coordination with my sister - we just buy gifts for our four boys, no adults in the exchanges), thus reducing the gifts by one Santa gift (they are past that age) & one stocking gift each. We are continuing to try & make Christmas more about time together than gifts. Instead of the Santa gift on Christmas Eve, we will go mountain biking & then come back for puzzle time. We will exchange the other gifts on Christmas Day.
  • Made a smaller grocery shop than usual, in advance of our Hawaii trip.
  • Packed a great deal of household items for our trip, to avoid having to buy things there. I get 4 free checked bags with my status, so this is free (other than the hassle of the bags :-)).
  • Called Alaska & negotiated an option to come home one day earlier. The intent of this was to make it easier for the boys to head back to school, and reduce their time out. Alaska has changed our flights so many times that they offered to waive the $1000 of increased fare, due to my airline status. Super grateful, as the boys can sleep in, I get a day to recover after the trip, and we were able to cancel one night of the hotel, plus car rental. Expected savings = $600. These were the flight days I originally wanted way back when I booked these in February, so I'm very excited to be able to rebook with this option.
Frugal fail for the week:
  • M & I had a misunderstanding about dinner on Saturday night. As a result, we ended up ordering food delivery. We did have a $20 coupon code (Amazon is testing out a free - aka delivery charge is free - delivery service), but it was still pretty expensive. We opted for Thai, which gave us dinner 2x, for three people, and a lunch. 
  • I have had some food waste. Again, M & I buying produce without talking to each other about what we already have in the house. I had to compost 1/2 a bag of kale, some old brussels sprouts, and part of a squash.

That's what's happening for us! What about you? Any big frugal wins to report? Or, frugal fails? :)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Weekly spending roundup (11/14-11/20/16)

Another expensive week, but I'm expecting a refund of one night's hotel stay in Hawaii + reducing the rental car one night. That should drop the cost by $600. Details on that in my next frugal post. Woohoo!

Note that I ran *a lot* of errands over the weekend, in anticipation of our trip!

  • Monday (11/14) - no spend day
  • Tuesday (11/15) no spend day
  • Wednesday (11/16)
    • $300 - donation to school science camp overnight trip
    • $506.51 - registration & uniform fees for flag football for two kids
    • $97.50 - registration for futsal
  • Thursday (11/17)
  • Friday (11/18)
  • Saturday (11/19)
    • $23.21 - pool ball for Hawaii
    • $58.22 - Christmas gifts for the kids. Four soccer balls, & origami paper. I had a $50 gift card to offset the cost for the rest. I bought nicer soccer balls this time around, as we're going through at least two a season. Hopefully these will last longer?
    • $50 - gift cards for my aunt. She's disabled & I know that she's struggled financially since my grandmother passed away. She works as a dishwasher, but her hours vary. I'm going to try & ramp up my gifting to her. 
    • $36 - a pedicure for Hawaii
    • $53.73 - a ski jacket for Nick, and socks for M
    • $15.99 - two giant rolls of foil (Costco)
    • $27.22 - Crocs for Sam
    • $19.23 - Rite Aid. This was Dryel, a small mouthwash for our trip, and something else that fails my memory.
    • $8.67 - Lucky, for a small container of olive oil (for Hawaii) + risotto
    • $.69 - Lucky, to use a $10 coupon. I stocked up on macaroni & cheese, this was the difference.
    • $4.42 - cucumbers & lavosh at the produce stand
    • $63.97 - groceries at Costco
    • $35.98 - wine at Costco
    • $32.72 - dinner delivery. Frugal fail. I'll include details in my frugal round up :-) 
  • Sunday (11/20)
    • $21.74 - two sports umbrellas for watching rainy soccer games
    • $19.17 - Round Table pizza (Nick's soccer pizza party)
    • $7.61 - In & Out - lunch for Sam & Michael
    • $18.98 - coffee & cucumbers from Costco

Total spend = $1401.53. $900 of that to kid stuff (school field trip + futsal + flag football). What about you? How did you do with your weekly spending? 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Safe spaces

This post contains no politics. This is a safe space for all, regardless of your political persuasion. ;-) 

Thanks for all of the great feedback on my last post. You made all of the difference. I've been blogging for five years, and love the community. I love the learning. I love reading about how all of you juggle your finances, and your families, and your priorities. I'm unwilling to give that up because a few people (one, really, because the troll accounts mostly link back to one person & a warning to the troll that it was pretty easy to figure out who was involved) have said hateful things. Really, really hateful & nasty things about my two kids. For you, troll, I will send positive thoughts your way that you receive the help & support from your family & friends that you so very clearly need.

Instead, I'll continue on my path of posting about my life, our budget, recipes & menu plans, and the family. You may notice that I've turned on comment approval & have removed all of my photos. I'll likely be back with photos, but none of the kids. Oh, and that's a real Hawaii picture from our 10th anniversary trip last year. It's the view from outside Mama's Fish House, in Maui. So stunning. What an amazing place.

And, for the trolls. . . your comments will get no airtime here. I won't publish them. But, for every nasty comment, I will do one act of kindness in my own life. My way of offsetting the negativity and turning around the ugliness. :-)

All other comments are always welcome. Thanks for so much support - this is an amazing group!

Back to my regularly scheduled life.

  • Today included soccer (in the rain), for Nick's final game. A 2-1 victory, with my mini player putting in the last goal of the season. Heart melt, despite the fact that it was 55 & pouring buckets. And, a pizza party to celebrate the end of the season.
  • I'm packing & getting everything ready for Hawaii in three days!!!
  • I'm also cleaning the fridge, running every errand imaginable, and starting my Christmas shopping
  • And laundry. So, so much laundry. 
That's all for me. Wishing everyone a lovely Sunday! 

Monday, November 14, 2016

All done with blogging

I make no money on this blog. I keep it because I enjoy tracking my finances & goals & love connecting with other people & learning from everyone. I have enjoyed the learning from this financial community SO much.

But, I'm done dealing with people who will spew hate. What kind of coward does that when I have a post up about my kids? I can't keep up with the comment deleting, and I'm done trying.

So, this happened this weekend

Photos removed, because people are assholes & want to troll about the election in a post about my kids.

Nick's soccer team took second place in their division for northern California's state soccer cup. He was pretty excited. ;-)

The amazing part is that his team had a terrible season in the spring (lost every game), so the fact that they made it to the state cup, and then went on to the finals a season later, was pretty incredible. Lots of life lessons about perseverance, and giving 100%. Nick is the team captain, and learned a lot about leadership this season. Soccer is a giant time (and financial) commitment, but I'm so happy the boys are getting this opportunity.

It wasn't all sunshine & roses. Sam's team had a really hard go at state cup. They too fought back against some very tough competition on Saturday night (with Nick playing as well), and watching the team come back from a big loss to tie things up made me so happy. Again, a reminder to never give up. It was a little emotional to watch a gorgeous sunset & watch both of the boys come out & play with their best effort, despite the earlier challenges in the game. So proud of them.

And, it was an unusual spending week, of course, with the hotel stay & everything else. Here's how it went down.

  • Monday - no spend day
  • Tuesday - no spend day
  • Wednesday - no spend day
  • Thursday:
    • $1500 - charitable donations
    • $40 - class gift for one child
    • $40 - class gift for another child
    • $275 - nanny 
  • Friday
    • $95 - camp (school was closed in honor of Veteran's Day)
    • $145.51 - Costco
  • Saturday
    • $105.77 - dinner out after soccer
    • $47.95 - gas
  • Sunday
    • $163.08 - hotel for soccer weekend
    • $44.82 - lunch at Panera for 4 (leftovers served as dinner on the car ride home)
    • $30 - coach & team manager gift for soccer
    • $7.98 - picking up cucumber at Costco 
    • -$19.98 - returned two ski items I purchased at Costco, but discovered we had at home
    • -$19.05 - returned the foil I bought at Costco, as they are running it on sale this week 
Total spend for the week = $2456.08. Removing the charitable gifts, and you get a more reasonable (but still super expensive!) $956.08. Soccer hotel weekends are now complete. :-) 

What about you? How did you do this weekend?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Frugal Friday

It's been a long week, and I've been dealing with TMJ as a result of some lupus inflammation. That means lots of soup for dinner, and smoothies for other meals, as I try to get the inflammation to go down.

It hasn't exactly been a banner frugal week, but here's what we've been up to:

  1. Cashed in hotel points (for a hotel chain that's very niche & hard to use except for work - otherwise, a free hotel stay is almost always the most valuable option) for a $50 Amazon gift card for the holidays
  2. Finally earned a Nordstrom $20 credit (I have their credit card. Never shop there & never use it, but have kept it around for credit score purposes). We have a few bills set on autopay, and they finally generated enough for a store credit. I've put this aside for Christmas as well.
  3. Packed the kids lunches all week, and made all meals at home.
  4. Continued to use oranges from our tree to make homemade smoothies. Particularly helpful this week with my limited food choices.
  5. Signed up for my benefits through my employer, and bumped up my HSA contributions.
And, that's it for me! What frugal things have you been up to this week? 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Dusting things off

The past few days have been very challenging. Challenging to think through myself, challenging to explain to my kids, and challenging to stay motivated to rally behind a country that voted someone into office who has behaved in a way that, had I done so, would have been (fairly) fired at my office. Should I have seen my children behave that way, I would have punished them greatly & questioned myself as a parent. Someone who has vocalized a perspective and cultural values that I find deeply unsettling. As a woman. As a mother raising minority children. As a friend & lover of equal rights for everyone in this country, including those who do not look like me, share my gender, my faith or my sexual orientation.

So, I'm left asking myself about next steps, and how we heal. We are all sick of this election cycle, and now it's over. Thank God for that. We are all entitled to our voices, and votes.

I will do more to stand up for the values I care about. I will donate more money &, more importantly, more of my time to these issues. And, I will continue to try & better understand the voices that I'm currently not hearing in my life. Because, there are good people on all sides of these issues.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

What should we spend on groceries in 2017?

I've been reviewing our grocery spending for 2016 (still WAY over budget) & trying to determine where to set the budget for 2017. Because grocery spending is such a black box for me, I've tried to track our spending all year (mostly successful - a few receipts were lost while I was traveling :0)), and now have a better sense of where our money is going.

We are averaging $657/month on groceries. Over $100 more than our planned monthly budget. Yikes!!!

So, how are we spending that food budget, you may be wondering? I'm glad you asked. ;-)

  • Fruit & vegetables - 45%, with fruit taking up 10% more than vegetables
  • Meat - 20%
  • Dairy - 15%
  • Pantry - 9%
  • Grains - 7% 
  • Snacks - 3%
  • Prepared foods - 1%
I have no idea what a standard, per category grocery budget looks like. But, what stands out to me is the dairy spending, and the pantry. The pantry spending is more easily understandable, as it includes coffee! Olive oil, hummus ingredients (including tahini & garbanzo beans), spices, etc make up the rest. Not stuff you buy often, but the ingredients can be pricey. 

For dairy, we spend a minimum of $11/week (eggs & milk). Cheese & yogurt bumps up the category on other weeks, but I think I can do better next year in this one. 

We rarely have food waste, and we're happy with the amount of fresh produce we have on hand. I think I will move our budget spending for 2017 to $625/month and look for opportunities to do a bit more price watching. It will give me a good stretch goal, but won't make me crazy & fits within our existing meal planning & purchase habits.

What about you? What's your grocery budget like for a month? How do you spend your $$, on a per category basis? Do you plan to raise or lower it for 2017?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Weekly spending roundup - 10/31-11/6/16

This week had M at a soccer tournament with Nick in Sacramento (involving a hotel stay & meals out), as well as a plethora of standard expenses, and registration for two camps over the holidays. Here's what we spent!

  • Monday - (10/31)
    • $20 on my son's lunch money account. He's allowed to buy 1x/month, but somehow I get the feeling a few random purchases are sneaking on here. ;-)
  • Tuesday - (11/1) - no spend day
  • Wednesday - (11/2)  - no spend day
  • Thursday - (11/3)  - no spend day
  • Friday - (11/4)
    • $570 - camp for the boys for four days over winter break
    • $396 - camp for the boys for two days over Thanksgiving break
    • $9.47 - Trader Joes, supplies for sandwiches for M to take to the soccer tournament. 
    • $14.99 - the library lost a book that I turned in, and after a few investigations & not finding it, I had to pay. Considering this part of my library tax. ;-)
    • $2.99 - let the kids rent Karate Kid off of Amazon as a reward
  • Saturday - (11/5)
    • $84.92 - ski stuff (base layers for the kids & me, gloves for both kids & one ski jacket). I did go home & come through the old ski stuff, and it looks like we have right sized base layers for the kids, so two items will go back. Yeah for frugal organization! 
    • $15.99 - two giant rolls of foil at Costco. I see they will be on sale next week, so I will probably take these back & then rebuy at the lower price.
    • $9 - tooth fairy $, plus a few dollars to my son who helped me out with a great deal of "above & beyond" cleaning this weekend. 
    • $2.38 - snack sized baggies at Lucky
    • $149.23 - hotel stay for Nick & M
    • $7.61 - treated Sam to lunch out at In & Out
    • $125.81 - groceries at Costco
    • $4.99 - ham for lunches at Lucky. Forgot to pick it up at Costco, and refused to make a second trip. Costco on the weekends is chaos!
    • $9.33 - the produce stand. Bought extra tomatoes & made fresh tomato sauce (freezer), mini cucumbers, big cucumbers for salad, lavosh bread & radishes
    • $17.26 - lunch out for Nick/M at the tournament
    • $30.87 - dinner out for Nick/M at the tournament
    • $52.97 - gas
    • -$2.66 - Amex rebate for the gas purchase
    • $3.99 - Amazon movie rental
  • Sunday - 
    • $40 - ski bibs for two kids
    • $50 - gift for my mom's birthday
    • $5.07 - back to Lucky. Yes, this is by far the most I've gone to the grocery store/food shopping in a long time. I blame bad planning. 
    • $51.84 - state cup jersey for Nick
Total spent = $1672.32. Phew! A very expensive week, particularly the child care for November/December when school is out. What about you? How did you do with your weekly spending? 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Pumpkins, pumpkins, & more pumpkins

Sam & I cut up our Halloween pumpkins (uncarved) yesterday, took out the seeds (cleaned, boiled & left to dry overnight). We are currently toasting the seeds with a little butter & salt.

We also roasted the pumpkins. Let me just say that I need a bigger roasting pan. It took 4 batches, at 90 minutes each. We have about 20 cups of pumpkin puree in the fridge!

We have a soccer game today, and I have a bunch of house chores (sheets, rugs, laundry, cooking, baking) as well as a few work tasks, planning our schedule for the week.

One of the main ways I stay on track during the craziness is to have a menu plan, so here goes! Oh, and we have a salad with every meal. It's so routine, I don't even list it. M doesn't consider it dinner unless there's a salad. :-)

  • Sunday - pumpkin soup + goat cheese crostini 
  • Monday - leftover chicken/almond rice pilaf
  • Tuesday - leftover soup + roasted chicken on the side
  • Wednesday - fiesta casserole (using up leftover salsa from when my parents were here)
  • Thursday - baked chicken & pesto pasta
  • Friday - leftover fiesta casserole
  • Saturday - out. At a soccer tournament.
  • Sunday - coming home late from a soccer tournament. Pizza from the freezer when we get home

What about you? What's on the menu for the week? Any good pumpkin puree recipes to recommend? 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

A quiet Saturday

Finally! They actually happen! :-) Well, to be honest, M took Nick to Sacramento for an overnight soccer tournament. Sam was supposed to have a game today & tomorrow, but his game for today got cancelled. Leaving the two of us with no scheduled activities. Bliss! Here's what we've been up to & what's on the list:

  1. 45 minute walk (am)
  2. Yoga
  3. Make a Costco list
  4. Costco
  5. Produce stand
  6. Lucky
  7. Make pasta sauce (from super cheap produce stand tomatoes - $.39/pound!)
  8. Cut up Halloween pumpkins & clean them - Sam loved this chore! :-) 
  9. Roast pumpkins
  10. Bake pumpkin seeds
  11. Vaccum 
  12. Dust
  13. Clean bathrooms
  14. Clean the kitchen
  15. Make cranberry muffins
  16. Pack food/snacks for M & Nick
  17. Pack for Nick
  18. Make a birthday card for my mom
  19. And, a birthday card for my step grandfather
  20. Pick persimmons
  21. Go on a second walk with Sam
  22. Play games! :-)
  23. Make dinner
  24. Email our nanny with all of our holiday plans/dates
  25. Check in with Sam's teacher (via email)

We've had a really nice day, found a bunch of ski stuff we needed at Costco, and Sam asked for lunch out at In & Out. We had lunch for $7 for the two of us, so I'll call it a win.

We are also going to watch Karate Kid, have leftover ice cream (we never keep treats at our house, but this is leftover from my parents visit), and play games this evening.

What are you up to this Saturday? How do you spend an unscheduled day? I LOVE getting things done, & taking time to work in the house/kitchen, as I normally can't squeeze in too much between activities.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Frugal Friday

It's been a hectic week, with my parents visiting, trips to the airport, etc. It was a most decidedly "unfrugal" week last week, with a hotel stay, etc. Here's what I'm doing to make this week more frugal.

  1. No eating out. (Technically, I went out to lunch with my parents on Monday, but my dad paid)
  2. I repurposed or froze all of the leftovers, and haven't cooked a complete meal from scratch yet this week. Which has been lovely.
  3. I used oranges from our tree, combined with frozen scrap fruit, to make a smoothie for breakfast this morning.
  4. I turned overly ripe bananas into banana muffins for the boys this weekend.
  5. I'm packing food & snacks for M & Nick to take with them at the overnight soccer tournament. The trip will involve a one night hotel stay, and meals with the team. But, I'll send snacks, drinks, etc to keep costs down as much as possible.
  6. I'll return the library books on time today, to avoid a fine! I really need to get better about this.
  7. Speaking of the library, I'll get more books today (rather than buying), as I'm in desperate need of new reading material.
  8. We haven't turned on the heat yet. The house is at 65 today, so we're just at the point where I'm tempted. I'm bundled up for now, but may cave soon.
  9. Picked the last cucumber off of the plant in the yard, and grabbed a bonus lemon off of the ground. I'll need to turn the lemon into something. Maybe lemon bread?
  10. I've been working through our Hawaii trip plans, making a list of everything to bring from home, as well as our shopping list, exploring my platinum benefits, etc. We need to stay on budget for the trip.

That's it from my side! What about you? What frugal things have you been up to this week?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

November goals

November promises to be a crazy month. We will be staying in hotels for two soccer tournaments (two weekends in a row) & heading to Hawaii for a week over Thanksgiving. I can already feel the budget groaning! :-)


  • Stick to our budget (including Hawaii trip budget)
  • Put $100/each in the boys college funds

  • Have one date night with M (may be a date lunch in Hawaii)
  • Donate, sell or toss 50 items in the house.
  • Try a new recipe that everyone (including my little guy) will eat. 
  • Get our plans sorted out for our Hawaii trip.
  • Get the kids sorted with ski gear, so we can plan our holiday ski trips

  • Drop into the 140s before my Hawaii trip
  • Eat 5 servings of fruits & vegetables 
  • Complete 5 stretching workouts (yoga or pilates)
  • Complete 7 strength workouts
  • Complete 900 minutes of cardio. 
  • Average 1350 calories/day
  • Average 10,000 steps/day

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

  • Read four books
  • Get together with one friend
  • Plan my next girls trip
  • Donate all fruit before it goes bad (from our trees in our yard)
  • Do some personal baking
  • Find a way to volunteer!

What about you? What do you want to complete in November? Any big goals? 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

October goals - how did I do?

We had so much going on this month. Really, more than usual. Not sure how that's possible. It wasn't a banner month for making time for my health, or saving money, that's for sure. :-) Here's what we accomplished.


  • Stick to our budget - oh my, no. It was a very expensive month for eating out & groceries, with lots of traveling for soccer, family in town, an impromptu weekend together, etc. 
  • Save $2,500, in addition to our stock vests. - Nope. I did save all of the stock vest money, but had to transfer money I'd saved earlier in the month to cover the credit card bill. We'll see where we net out on final numbers, but I'd be thrilled if we were even. 
  • Put $100/each in the boys college funds - Yes. 

  • Have one date night with M - Better than that - we did a long weekend. It was so, so fabulous. 
  • Donate, sell or toss 50 items in the house. - Yes, the clean out continues. 
  • Clean the garage! - Nope. I don't know that I'll get this to happen until we are ready to move. 
  • Plan one family fun night, potentially a movie, popcorn, game night. - Yes, we ended up going to dinner, ice cream, and on a Pokemon walk for our anniversary. With the kiddos. :-) 
  • Try a new recipe that everyone (including my little guy) will eat. - No. I did try new recipes that my other son will eat, so that's awesome progress. We did clam chowder in bread bowls, as well as butternut squash soup. 
  • Find a new nanny. MUST DO. - Ack. I go back & forth as to whether this is a useful exercise, given my plans to leave. Need to give this more thought. 
  • Get our plans sorted out for our Hawaii trip. - No progress. I have this weekend carved out to try & make this happen. 

  • Lose 2 pounds.  - Ha. No. I think I gained a pound. 
  • Eat 5 servings of fruits & vegetables - My average was 3.35. Definitely room for improvement!
  • Complete 5 stretching workouts (yoga or pilates) - Yikes. Only 1!
  • Complete 7 strength workouts - I did manage 5 strength workouts. 
  • Complete 900 minutes of cardio. - Close - I finished with 800. 
  • Average 1350 calories/day - 1475, with the last few days of the month really pushing up the average. 

  • Maximum of one late night/week - I had one fail on this, but pretty much kept it together.
  • Work from home at least one Friday this month - Yes, at least one. Maybe two?

  • Read four books - I read 8 books
  • Get together with one friend - Semi-pass - I met up with a friend for trick or treating (with the kids) & we walked & chatted for an hour 
  • Plan my next girls trip - Nope. I got caught up with soccer weekends & planning a getaway with my husband. Worth it! Next month. :-) 

How about you? How did you do with your October goals? 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A fabulous weekend, spending too much & a menu plan

M & I had a great anniversary trip. We enjoyed our time together (just uninterrupted conversation time is priceless!) & ended up going to Lake Tahoe. It was gorgeous! The weather was hit or miss, but it was nice enough to drive around on Saturday.

We also spent so much money between dinners out (we took my parents out on Thursday), our own meals, lots of gas, etc. We need to crack down on the spending, as we are also going to Hawaii in under a month for Thanksgiving.

It was also lovely to spend time with my parents. They were a tremendous help with the the kids, the house, etc. We had a lot of laughs & they are flying home today. They'll be missed!

And, on to the menu planning, since that's one of the best ways for me to reduce meals out:

  • Monday - it was Halloween, so we needed something quick & easy. We went for soup, bread & salad.
  • Tuesday - chicken enchiladas (my amazing dad left some for us that he made)
  • Wednesday - leftover soup
  • Thursday - finish up any other leftovers
  • Friday - homemade risotto
  • Saturday - M will be with Nick at a soccer tournament in Sacramento & they will eat out. Sam & I will have pizza from the freezer
  • Sunday - M will still be at soccer with Nick. Sam & I will have tortellini & chicken

That's it for me. I hope you all had a fabulous Halloween & weekend.