Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Goals, In Review!

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

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

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

Happy New Year's Eve

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

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

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

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Hello from the very mellow Oregon coast

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2016 Goal Planning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          Tuesday, December 22, 2015

          Home Stretch for the Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

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

          And, we always wear ugly sweaters!

          Tuesday, December 15, 2015

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

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

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

          Sunday, December 13, 2015

          Menu Plan Sunday + What's Happening Today

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

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

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

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

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

          Saturday, December 12, 2015

          Happy Saturday!

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

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

          Hope you are having a nice, productive weekend!

          Friday, December 11, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

          Tuesday, December 8, 2015

          Preparing for the holidays, work bonus, & no rain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          How are your holiday preparations coming along? 

          Monday, December 7, 2015

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

          Here's how we spent our money this week:

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

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

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

          Sunday, December 6, 2015

          Menu Plan for the Week

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

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

          Wednesday, December 2, 2015

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

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

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

          Tuesday, December 1, 2015

          In a bit of a motivational lull

          Does that ever happen to you?

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

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

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

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

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

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