Monday, March 28, 2016

Weekly spending recap, 3/21-3/27

It was a much more under control spending week, although there were a few outliers. I decided to shorten my spring break trip, as I'd be flying in from Seoul the night before. Hitting the beach with two kids & no one else to help with that kind of jet lag didn't seem like a good idea. I also was able to add a couple of days in Tokyo at the end of the trip, which will hopefully eliminating another standalone trip to APAC later in the year. It did mean that I had to book the boys in spring break camp, and pay for the change fees for our flights. (I get to change for free, as I have status on the airline). I won't have to rent a car for the trip, so that will save some. Also, I'm saving three vacation days, and won't be spending any vacation money Saturday-Wednesday. I'll still be having my girls trip with my sister & BFF, and flying the boys to see my parents. I could have skipped that part (as I already have childcare with the camp), but everyone was super excited, and I didn't want the boys to have another boring spring break. . .

Monday - no spend day
Tuesday -
  • $478 - spring break camp for the boys
  • $259 - change my spring break tickets

Wednesday - no spend day
Thursday - no spend day
Friday - super late soccer practices, so we went out $38.84 at Sweet Tomatoes
Saturday -

  • $5.50 - windshield wiper
  • $22.14 - new glasses for the kitchen
  • $10.74 - Trader Joes, stocking up on edamame
  • $130.80 - groceries at Costco
  • $51.78 - wine at Costco
Sunday - $70, one hour of swimming lessons for both boys

Total spend = $1066.80, most of which was for the spring break adjustments. And, that's it! How about your? How was your week? We avoided going to breakfast on Sunday, or buying anything special for breakfast, but did splash out & buy a nice wine & filet mignon for dinner.

March grocery budget recap - how did we spend our money?

Because I'm kind of a weirdo, and love data, I've been tracking our category of grocery spending since the beginning of the year. Some interesting trends are starting to emerge. . . You can also check out our February grocery recap here, and our January grocery recap here.

Total spent = $538.98. . . oh, that's right! I was UNDER BUDGET! By, wait for it, a little over $10!!! Now, that's a huge success!!

And, in case you were wondering why this adds up to slightly more than 100%, lazy rounding.

  • Dairy - 15% of the spending. This included organic eggs, milk, cheddar cheese, feta, gouda, & parmesan cheese. Still eating a lot of cheese around here.
  • Fruit - 27% of the spending. Up 8% since last month. As all of the seasonal fruit starts to make its way into the stores, M has been buying more than ever. . . ;-)
  • Grains - 13%, super high, due to needing to restock our 25 lb bag of rice
  • Meat/fish - 15.5% of the spending. A reduction over last month, and we still splurged & bought filet mignon for Easter dinner.
  • Vegetables - 22% of the spending. Exactly the same as last month.
  • Snacks - 2%, and this included a few class wide snacks for Nick's project. 
  • Pantry - 6%, for cashews & pistachios. Trying to have healthy options for after school for the kiddos.
  • Prepared foods - 0% (I'm sure some of our food that we put in other categories would be considered prepared food, but this is how we calculate). No frozen pizzas, already prepared meals, etc.

Things that stand out at me, after three months of data. . . I'm shocked by our dairy spending. I never would have guessed it to be that high, before I started tracking. I need to get on top of the grains, because if I can find a hearty enough bread for panini sandwiches, I can ditch about $25/month of sandwich bread. Or, find a cheaper alternative? Would need to be from a store I already shop at, as I'm not adding another stop on my weekend list.

I'm thrilled that our snacks & prepared food spending is so low! I guess the good news is that we're eating more whole foods, and making our own meals - all of which are good things.

What about you? Do you track, and any interesting things you've noticed about your grocery spend? 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Sunday, menu plan, & a confession

Happy Easter, for those of you who celebrate. It's a gorgeous day here in California. We got up this morning & had breakfast, and then the boys found a few eggs hidden in the yard. We don't do candy, so they had a few coins or a dollar bill in them. Other than they, they each received a book, a bag of Easter gummy bunnies, and a package of Pokemon cards. They were pretty excited. ;-)

We went for a family run/bike ride this morning, and we'll head out to swimming lessons in a bit. Nick is not excited about swimming again, for whatever reason. He's very nervous about the water, so fingers crossed all goes well.

We're splurging a bit on dinner tonight, and opening up one of our nicer bottles of wine. Given that we haven't been able to go out to dinner in about 4 months due a babysitter challenge, we've been trying to make the most of our time together on the weekends.

Here's our menu for the week. As always, keeping things simple on busy weekdays, so you won't find much variety or exciting choices on our menu. ;-)

  • Saturday - We had risotto, using up remaining chicken
  • Sunday - Easter dinner of steak, salad & potentially bread on the side
  • Monday - Leftover risotto
  • Tuesday - Tacos
  • Wednesday - Spaghetti & meatballs
  • Thursday - Rocky chicken & pasta (or leftovers)
  • Friday - Shrimp & pasta

And, on to my confession. Despite my best efforts (or, not, as it would appear), I've lost exactly zero pounds since January 1st. I know that turning 40 has had some impact, but I'm also just not consistently keeping my calories low enough, or working out often/hard enough. Something has to change. I've gained 15 pounds since I started this job. Travel, stress, and an abundance of delicious (free) food, plus a lack of time to exercise, means it's a big challenge. But, I'm now in the "overweight" category, and really unhappy with my physical appearance. 

It's time to dust myself off, stop making excuses, and really get focused. The biggest changes I see that need to happen are as follows:

  • I can get in a morning workout 3x/week during the work week, and then Saturdays & Sundays. My body really requires that level of exercise to be fit. And, I must make running happen again - it's the best way for me to consistently lose. I'm already working out on almost every Saturday & Sunday, so this is mostly a weekday morning change. Right now, I'm averaging about one morning/week.
  • Lunch. Before starting this job, I always packed a lunch. I only had the options of the food I brought, and knew exactly what was in it. Although I have given up treats at work, it's still not enough. I need to make smaller lunch choices, and eliminate a few of my regular snacks.
  • After work. I get home & I'm starving before I make dinner. I often eat a bunch of healthy carbs, & then have no calories left over for a healthy dinner. Or, I go over my calories. Neither is good. No junky snacks after work - hummus & veggies are a good option for me.
  • Generally, lower my calories into the 1400 calorie/day range I've been trying for. Consistently. I'm 40 now. Time to cut back, because what I used to do to lose weight is no longer working. 

And, there you have it. Losing weight, getting back in shape & being fit are my big goals for the upcoming months!

How about you? Any success on the health & fitness front? I may go back to blogging more about fitness (I used to have a running blog, but stopped after I wasn't running consistently.) I may turn it into a more general fitness blog & link to it here. We shall see!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Weekly spending recap 3/14-3/20, and TGIF!

So super happy it's Friday. It's been a very long work week. So, so long. I'm in the home stretch, and hope to catch up on my real life this weekend. ;-)

We had a couple of very spendy weeks, and it always helps me to be accountable if I detail all of our spending, no matter how ugly. So, here goes. Nick found a bike on the side of the road with a "free" sign, so he is currently rebuilding the bike with M as a father/son project. It's hilarious & adorable.

Monday, 3/14 - no spend day
Tuesday, 3/15 - no spend day
Wednesday, 3/16 - no spend day
Thursday, 3/17 - Out to dinner for Nick's 9th birthday! $69.74 at his favorite Greek restaurant
Friday, 3/18 - no spend day
Saturday, 3/19

  • $35.06 - gas
  • $117.84 - groceries, at Costco
  • $24.89 - M surprised me with a delicious bottle of Chardonnay. We haven't been on a date in months, so he was trying to make our evening happy hour at home special. Still a savings over a sitter & restaurant meal
  • $1.04 - rust remover for the bike at Home Depot. (Price after using a gift card for the rest)
  • $8.57 - a birthday gift for Nick
  • $37.16 - new bike helmet for Sam, as his cracked
  • $36 - house stuff at Costco. Batteries & ziplock bags, or something. M lost the receipt. ;-)

Sunday, 3/20

  • $1410 - soccer fees for spring season, for both kids
  • $53.77 - bought 6x soccer snacks (three times per season, for two kids) from Costco, plus 80 bottles of water for our emergency supplies. I had a special promotional offer, and hate remembering to pick up healthy snacks for post soccer game snacks, when I'm in charge of team snacks.
  • $70.20 - Easter gifts for the boys. They are each getting a package of gummy bunnies, two books, and a Pokemon set. 

Total spent for the week = $1864.27. Not crazy, given that $1410 was for soccer. Always opportunities to cut things back, though. :-)

And with that, let the weekend begin!!!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Weekly spending recap 3/7-3/13, and menu plan

I've spent the majority of my day doing laundry today, as I found out that one of the boys who attended Nick's birthday sleepover on Friday night had lice. It was not intentional, as the mom only discovered it on Saturday, after they'd left our house. But, oh, the amount of work required! We've had lice before & it was incredibly difficult to get rid of.

So, I've washed all of the bedding, blankets, stuffed animals, jackets, and am sealing the bike helmets that were shared while the kids were riding skateboards. 

Just the kind of project I was looking for on a relaxing Sunday. ;-) 

I made mahi mahi fish tacos last night for the adults, and the kids had regular ground beef tacos. Here's the menu for the rest of the week:
  • Sunday - bbq burgers & tortelllini
  • Monday - Pasta & meatballs
  • Tuesday - Tacos
  • Wednesday - Leftover burgers
  • Thursday - Chicken pesto pasta
  • Friday - Homemade risotto or rice pilaf

And, here's our spending roundup for a week back. I'm behind on my posting & budgeting, as you can see! It was a very, very expensive week, as I booked the majority of our travel plans for the rest of the year.

Monday (3/7) - $14.71. Sewing supplies for Nick's teddy bear, that he's had since he was born. Teddy's head is about to detach from his body, so he needs some sewing TLC. ;-)

Tuesday (3/8) - No spend day

Wednesday (3/9)

  • $476.40 - flights for my parents to spend time with the boys in place of a summer camp. This is much cheaper than camp for two, and my parents are thrilled.
  • $1230.60 - flights for me + the boys for our summer trip. We will buy M's trip once his schedule is finalized.
  • $325.20 - I'm leaving the boys with my parents for a week & flying back & forth before our vacation, so this is my extra flight.
  • $152.20 - super, super cheap flight for my Hood to Coast trip. I booked it because the deal was so great, even though I won't be flying for 5 months.
  • $15 - monthly gift to my Aunt. She is disabled & used to get quite a bit of help from my grandmother, who is now deceased. Every month I help out, but also give her a little spending money that she uses for a meal out. Her "fun" money.

Thursday (3/10) - No spend day

Friday (3/11) - No spend day
Saturday (3/12)

  • Library fines - $35.75. *cringe*. Nick lost three books somewhere. No one knows where. We searched the entire house. I think he may have accidentally put them in a donation pile. He had to pay for this out of his own money, but still. What a giant waste.
  • Target - $6. Soccer snacks (goldfish crackers)
  • $3.99 - sandwich at Costco for Sam, while he & M were shopping.
  • $123.12 - groceries at Costco
  • $378.67 - wine. A case of my favorite wine, in fact. A huge splurge, but one that will last all year.
  • $11.96 - groceries at Trader Joes
  • $5.79 - produce stand
  • $12 - two basic tshirts for me at Target, to replace a couple that are no longer suitable for public.
  • $15.18 - a birthday gift for a kids party
  • $1660.03 - flights for 4 to Hawaii (Thanksgiving trip)
  • $1111.70 - two nights hotel in Hawaii (the rest covered by points)
  • $44.80 - tax on frequent flier tickets, but this is for 4 tickets to Portland for Christmas
Sunday (3/13)

  • $16.91 - Target. Soap rack for kitchen after our old one broke.
  • $100 - reloaded our Amazon gift card to get $100 credit. We will use to repair the free bike we found on the side of the road. ;-)
  • $80 - for a $100 Southwest Airlines gift card. M flies Southwest on a few of his trips, and this will offset part of the cost.
  • $19.69 - birthday gift for Nick at Sports Authority. A new Giants hat.
  • $15 - hair cut for M

Total spent = $5854.70. Holy smokes!!! No wonder I'm so twitchy about money right now. The travel will come out of our yearly budget, but it's a lot to leave the budget all at once.

And, that's it. I need to finish this week's spending, wrap up my laundry, and get some additional chores done. Looking forward to a nice, quiet evening at home.

How about you? Do you track your weekly spending? How are you doing with your goals?

Friday, March 18, 2016

A few frugal things and catching up

I feel like I'm always saying this, but it's been a busy two weeks. I had a bunch of team offsite activities last week (meetings all day + evening events), and a few events this week as well. That means I'm both behind on my day to day work, and also behind on life more generally! I have been finding time for work outs, and trying to maintain my healthier eating. So far, no progress on the scale, but normally weeks like these throw me way off track.

I haven't been terribly frugal lately, but here are a few things I've managed to accomplish. Alaska Airlines is my primary airline for personal flights, and they've recently started guaranteeing pricing. Meaning, if you buy in December & the price drops in February, you can quickly go online & request a credit. The credit can be used for future travel.

  • I was able to get a $39 credit on my trip to Portland in August for Hood to Coast
  • And, an $84 credit on my parents trip (I paid for the trip) in August when they are watching the boys as an alternative to summer camp
  • I also accidentally checked my sister's flight (her itinerary was in my inbox) & noticed that her flight to come to visit me was cheaper, so I requested a credit for her & saved her $90. 
  • I used a $150 United credit for a work trip, so I will get reimbursed for that. Yes, a work trip. Heading back to Seoul. Not jazzed, but c'est la vie.
  • Bought a $100 Southwest gift card for $80, to offset a trip my husband is taking. 
  • Found my absolute favorite "nice" wine at Costco. They have never carried it before, and the wine person said they had one pallet & don't expect to receive any more. The wine retails for around $45/bottle, and it was at Costco for $29. We bought a case. This is not the wine we drink on normal weekends, but is a special occasion wine, and appropriate for nicer hostess gifts, etc. It should last us between 12-18 months. 
  • I was also able to use frequent flier miles for our trip to visit family in December, saving about $1200.
  • And, I used hotel points to cover most of our trip to Hawaii, saving about $2500.
Not a bad few weeks, although the opportunities presented themselves because I was in high planning/booking travel mode to get us sorted out for the rest of the year. As I'll cover in another post, the actual spend on travel was very high. But, budgeted as part of our yearly travel budget. I just happened to book it all at once.

What about you? Any big frugal wins lately?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Reducing our Hawaii trip costs

We debated quite extensively if we wanted to stick to our plan of taking the kids to Hawaii for Thanksgiving. We actually made a long list of places everyone in the family wants to visit - it was quite hilarious to see some of the nominations. Nick desperately wants to go to a dude ranch in Montana, for example. ;-) In the end, we decided that by flexing the dates a bit and having the boys miss a couple of days of school, we could make it work. That said, it's really fun to have a list of places we all want to go - we will definitely be opting for some weekend trips in the next few years.

Our original goal was to pay for the entire trip with points (airline & hotel). It quickly became clear when planning that it wouldn't work that way, and we'd be paying a huge premium for using our desired days.

Here's what we ended up doing:

  • After a bit of research, the most optimal winner would be to leave the day before Thanksgiving (11/23) & return 11/30. This would mean only a few missed days of school, but would make the tail end of the trip non-peak days for both the flights & the hotel.
  • I spent time on the phone with Starwood (my hotel points are through them, via our credit card) & was able to use points for 5 of the 7 nights. The agent actually suggested the best way to redeem the points to maximize both the cash outlay & points required. This required about five years worth of points. Can't remember exactly, but that's my estimate. 
  • We will pay cash for the remaining two nights, totaling $1111.70. Yes, it's crazy. This is for a one bedroom villa (i.e. a condo that has a separated room for our sleeping vs the kids). We could have gone for the studio one bedroom, but it doesn't have any separation between sleeping rooms, and we all find it tough to sleep in that scenario. The two days we are paying cash for also include breakfast for free, so that will save a bit & be a nice splurge. 
  • We will make (almost) all of our meals. Last time we went out on Thanksgiving, and while it was fun, it was also around $200, which is the cost of the majority of our groceries for the week. This time I think we will barbecue a turkey breast & make some fun sides.  
  • As for the airfare, we didn't have enough points to pay outright for all four of the tickets, so we explored other options. We ended up using a companion fare ticket ($99 + tax) for one of the tickets, and paying for the others with cash. However, because we were paying with cash, we were also able to use my free first class upgrades. I have six, so we will all be in first class on the way back, and two people are guaranteed first class on the way there. I'm also on the standby upgrade list, but it looks unlikely. So, we also won't need to buy food/drinks for the flight home, and it should be a relaxing return to reality.
  • We also used the airline points to pay for our tickets at Christmas, saving about $1200. This will help to offset the Hawaii flights. Total for the Hawaii flights = $1760.

Total spent so far for 7 nights in a one bedroom villa, and (mostly) first class flights = $2870. We still need to book the rental car, and of course will have to pay for food (the difference between our normal grocery bill & the vacation food), as well as any meals out and activities. The goal is to limit the remaining expenses to $1200, which should be totally doable.

And, that's it! I love planning our trips! One of the deciding factors on taking this flight now vs later is that I have premium air status that will be ending at the end of the year. This means I have the first class upgrades, get 8 free checked bags for our party, etc. We will also fly home from Christmas on the very last day of 2016, for the same reason. Thinking ahead. ;-)

What about you? Talk to me about how you use reward points on airlines & hotels!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Busy with planning, a few frugal wins, and a menu plan

First up, the weather here has been very, very rainy. Quite a change from all of that sunshine we've been used to, and a good reminder that moving back to the northwest would be a big adjustment for all of us. :-)

I went to two soccer scrimmages yesterday, went for a run (I'm up to about 80% running vs walking), read a book, made risotto for dinner, and took Nick to Target to buy a birthday gift for a friend. It was a pretty mellow day. I'm pleased with my running progress, but I need to keep it up! I want to be able to run 3 miles consistently in the next four weeks. Once you can run 3 miles, it's easy to build your base & starting adding distance. Getting to the three miles is always my hardest part.

We also planned our Hawaii vacation that we've been talking about since last year. ;-) I just discovered that Alaska Airlines (best option for most of our flights) offers a credit if the price goes lower on any booked trips. I booked pretty much everything for the rest of the year, and will keep an eye on prices to see if they go any lower.

We got our first estimate back on our taxes, and we owe about $32K to the IRS. I adjusted our withholdings last year, and we are getting a small refund back on our state taxes. My adjustments worked perfectly on the state taxes, but once again, our options continue to be a challenge for estimating/withholding at the right level. We paid $40K last year, so my extra withholdings did minimize the pain somewhat. I saved $40K, so at least I'll able to add a bit more to our travel fund. Which, is infinitely more enjoyable than paying the government. ;-)

Here are a few frugal wins from the past week or so:

  • Got a $50 off camp offer in the mail - the week after I'd booked the same camp. Emailed, and they applied the $50 discount.
  • Sold an ebay item. It took the buyer 10 days to pay for it (??), but it's paid for now for $19.31. I have to ship this.
  • I menu planned, even when I didn't feel like it last week.
  • I was able to use a companion fare to book one of the flights to Hawaii, and use 4 of my free first class upgrades.
  • I was able to use hotel points to pay for 5 of our 7 nights in Hawaii. 

As always, building a menu plan helps me stay on track & avoid going out to eat, so here goes!

Menu Plan:

Saturday - I made chicken risotto with freezer from the chicken, & the very last remnants of goat cheese from the holidays that was about to go into the garbage. Plus a red onion. It was delicious.
Sunday - kebabs & rice
Monday - leftover risotto
Tuesday - pasta & meatballs
Wednesday - late day, in the city. Leftover kebabs & rice
Thursday - late meeting, eat quickly/early. Tacos.
Friday - Nick's sleepover. Pizza

What else is on the agenda for today?

  1. Working out - cardio & strength of some sort
  2. Yoga
  3. Plan the week (including four separate soccer carpools), my work schedule, M's work schedule, and making sure I get in some workouts.
  4. Email our nanny with details for the week
  5. Pick up Sam from a sleepover
  6. Corral oldest child into writing a book report
  7. Wash all sheets/make beds
  8. Laundry
  9. Clean bathrooms
  10. Have the boys call my parents
  11. Find a new babysitter. (Not nanny - this is a sitter for evening activities). Ours is fine, but never available. M & I have had one date since October, and we'd like more. ;-) 
  12. Take Nick to a birthday party
  13. Work. I was at an offsite last week, so I have a few pending work things to get done.
  14. Figure out plans for Nick's birthday next week.

And, that's it! What about you? Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Weekly spending roundup - 2/29/-3/6/16

As you can see, the week I book summer camps is one of the most expensive of the year! In fact, I still need one more week of camp, but it's significantly cheaper to fly both of my parents here for the week. I still need to sort out that week. Also, because I  assumed I wouldn't need much camp coverage this summer (40 week plan), I didn't put money in my FSA, which would have helped to offset the cost. That was a huge mistake. :-(
  • 2/29 (Monday) - $363, for our nanny. Great to see this at such a low amount. We've done a good job of managing our schedule to reduce costs as much as possible. When you're paying $22/hour, ever 15 minute chunk adds up!
  • 3/1 (Tuesday)
    • +11.23 - reimbursement for a prescription
    • $75. Credit card fee for our travel rewards card. I put this in the travel budget category, as we have the card to offset travel costs. Any upfront fees need to be accounted for similarly. 
    • $80. A hair cut for me. I try to limit these to 3x/year. I went much shorter this time around, as I was tried of always pulling my hair back. 
    • $810. One week of summer camp for the boys, including early drop off/late pick up. Necessary with our work schedules.
    • $1410. One week of sleepaway camp for the boys.
    • $1112.80. Another week of camp.
    • $4.18 - produce stand. Cucumbers.
  • 3/2 (Wednesday)
    • $709.80 - another week of summer camp
    • $1328 - and, another week of camp.
  • 3/3 (Thursday)
    • $31.96 - dinner out. I obviously didn't have my meals sorted properly this week, and really needed a cooking break on Thursday. This is unusual for us.
  • 3/4 (Friday) - No spend day
  • 3/5 (Saturday)
    • $22.19 - a gift for my sister.
    • $8.35 - lunch out for the three of us
    • $4 - ice cream to celebrate the end of indoor soccer
  • 3/6 (Sunday)
    • $4, airport parking. Picking M up after his trip. Way cheaper than an Uber.
    • $106.50 - Costco, weekly groceries.
    • $29.96 - 4 bottles of inexpensive wine
    • $5.15 - produce stand for radishes, lavosh bread & kale
    • $47.71 - gas

Total spent = $6141.37. Sweet mercy! Obvious outliers = 5 weeks of childcare/camp. And, that's it, and clearly all I can handle typing out, as it's so painful. ;-) What about you? Did you track your weekly spend? How are you doing? 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Changes to the 40 week plan

It seems to be the week to report major life changes in the blog-sphere! :-)

If you've been following along since the beginning of this project (way back in September), you'll know that I've been really motivated to make substantial life & career changes. These changes are because my work doesn't allow for much/any work life balance, requires a lot of personal sacrifice (weekend/evening work) & international travel, and isn't a good fit for our current lifestyle. At the same time, M's career has grown & is much more demanding than it's ever been.

All of that said, M & I are still very much in process of figuring out our next move (both literally & figuratively). We have about 18 months left on our rent here, and after that, we know that it will be next to impossible to find another house to rent within our school district.

As much as I'd love to stick to my original end date at work of June 8th, it's just not realistic at this point. I really, really need to understand our next step with regard to housing, mortgage payments, budget, etc before I'm comfortable leaving such a high paying job. I am a woman who needs a plan! :-)

The stress of making one decision (my job) without fully understanding our next step with regard to housing has  been keeping me up at night. For example, if I worked another 6 months & was able to save $50K towards our down payment, what if that's the difference between buying a house in or near our desired school district? The wrinkle with my job is that I get a substantial yearly bonus that I could apply to a down payment, and monthly stock vests that we'd also apply. If I have a range in mind of how much money we need in a down payment to create a reasonable mortgage payment, I can do the math to back into that & then come up with a realistic end date.

Until we have a pretty firm plan on housing, I don't feel it's in our best interest as a family for me to leave my job. When I make this change, I need to be confident that I'll be able to understand the financial impact on our family, and we're not there yet.

So, what's next? M & I are going to be actively looking at houses & areas near us, as well as spending much more time in conversations about: selling our house in Bellevue, our house at the beach, etc & determining what we can save for a down payment to hopefully create a reasonable mortgage in this area.

Last week, when I had time to myself to sit & think quietly (perhaps originally fueled by some pain management ;-)), I realized that I absolutely have to push back on my job & see if I can make something workable here before I go. Can I reduce my travel? Hours? Work from home every Friday consistently? Until I have those hard conversations with my manager, I don't feel that I've done what I need to do to evaluate my options.

I, surprisingly, feel really, really good about my decision. I don't think I understood how much anxiety I had about leaving my job before the housing decision was settled until I actually took that off the table. Knowing that the decision is mine, and that I'm going to create changes in my role makes me feel much better. I don't feel trapped - I know that this is a decision with a lot of thought and planning, and it's best for the family. Once we have a plan ironed out, I'll again be back with either 1) my job has changed for the better & is manageable or 2) another exit timeline. Either one is in the cards at this point.

It's hard to be moving completely down a path & need to change course along the way, but such is life, I suppose. I'd say the biggest challenge for me since we've moved to California has been my anxiety about our plan with housing. It's a really, really big wild card that influences all of our other decisions. It's helpful to set that as the first problem to solve, with my work being one of the influencers on that decision.

And, that's my update on the 40 week plan! Thoughts or advice? 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Menu plan, freebies, & more

It's been an unusual week & next week will be more of the same. M was out of town this weekend, the boys have no school tomorrow, and M has a work trip mid week. So, my menu & plans reflect that. Of course, I have a global team offsite all week, so I have commitments of my own. Should be quite the juggling act. ;-)

First things first. Here's my menu plan for the week:
Sunday - homemade risotto. Need to use up peppers, & leftover goat cheese
Monday - Pasta casserole (freezer) with chicken, rotini, tomato sauce & cheese. Trying to get the freezer cleaned out.
Tuesday - M out of town. Leftover risotto.
Wednesday - M out of town. Leftover pasta casserole.
Thursday - M may not be home in time for dinner, so leftovers or breakfast tortillas
Friday - Date night! Although, our sitter isn't available until a little later, so we may actually eat first & head out for a glass of wine instead of a full dinner. More frugal & healthier. We shall see.
Saturday - weather dependent, grilled burgers & veggies
Sunday - Homemade pizza

I don't need anything special for the menu, just our regular items at Costco this week. Here's our shopping list: Milk, sandwich bread, bananas, pineapple, oranges, apples, carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, chicken & . . . wine. ;-)

On to freebies. 
Yesterday was quite the day for freebies. Here's what we wrangled up.

  • Free Sargento cheese bites. My grocery store was offering them as part of their rewards card. I made zero additional purchases at the store. These were on sale for $3.69

  • A free Redbox movie rental. We've never used Redbox before, but Sam's teacher gave him a gift card/code for his holiday gift. Sam is feeling all "mature" now that he's ten, so I told him he could go for something other than an animated movie, if he wanted. He still opted for "Minions". We watched the movie with our dessert last night, in celebration of indoor soccer season ending. I believe the going rate is $1.99 for a free movie rental.
  • At work, we have a bunch of $10 offer codes at restaurants that were expiring. We took full advantage. For lunch, I used one $10 offer for Nick & Sam's lunch at a Mexican place. We ended up with an ENORMOUS burrito for Sam, a cheese quesadilla & rice, plus a bunch of chips for Nick. Total out of pocket was $5.19, $10 saved. 
  • Same offer, different restaurant (they are one time use), I got myself tortilla soup & chicken tacos. It was absolutely pouring, so soup sounded right. It also came with two packages of tortilla chips. Total out of pocket was $3.16, $10 saved.
  • And, to celebrate the end of soccer season yesterday, even though it was *pouring* huge buckets & windy, I picked up super fancy homemade ice cream with one of the $10 offers. Total out of pocket was $4, $10 saved.
So, all together, we had $35.68 of freebies yesterday. Super unusual, and fun. 

Other than that, we went to an outdoor soccer game in the rain (Nick), and Sam's last indoor soccer game, watched our movie, went to Target to use the boys birthday gift cards, and I read two books. It was a great day.

Original to do list. 

  1. Work out. I'm thinking a walk & maybe a strength workout. I don't think my abs are ready for yoga or pilates yet. - I did strength only. 
  2. Two soccer scrimmages (may be canceled due to rain) - Yes
  3. If the scrimmages are canceled, Sam has an indoor soccer game to attend - Yes
  4. Wrap some birthday gifts - Yes
  5. Itemize the garage freezer. I've made progress cleaning out some random items, and need to make a new inventory. - Yes, and I itemized/inventoried the inside freezer as well!
  6. Library, for new books as well as some returns. - Done
  7. I'd like to get the boys to account for all of their current spending money & start showing them how the college investment account works. We'll create a mandatory savings for their personal money, as my parents did for me. I think I had to save 25% of my "income"? - We got this set up, and the boys put in 25% of their existing money before they were allowed to shop for "treats" at Target. 
  8. Laundry. It just never stops. ;-) - Yes, but more always remains. 
  9. Clean the boys room. (I'll help them clean). - They did a decent, but not fantastic job of this.
  10. Figure out a menu for the week - Not until this morning, but complete now.

Here's what I need to accomplish today. 

  1. Take advantage of the brief morning without rain & go to the elementary school with the boys. I'll walk on the track - they will play soccer or wall ball.
  2. Costco. We are actually out of quite a few things.
  3. Sam has a birthday party to attend.
  4. Produce stand
  5. Return movie rental
  6. Work out office schedule for the week
  7. Email nanny
  8. Organize soccer carpool
  9. Yoga? My one stitch is bothering me post-surgery, so we shall see.
  10. Plan out my workouts for the week. Need to get much better about this.
  11. Have the boys call my parents.
  12. More laundry. 
  13. Determine if I have other stuff to list on eBay
  14. Maybe bake some lemon bread or muffins. I may just relax & read. ;-) 

That's it! Happy Sunday to all of you. What are your plans for today?

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A gray Saturday

The weather is cloudy & rainy here, but my morning is off to a good start. The boys college refund checks came through, & I finally made it to the bank yesterday to deposit the money. The money cleared my account this morning, & I transferred it to their new Utah college plans. Woohoo! I had 60 days to avoid tax penalty, so I didn't want to cut it too close.

Although this has been a bit of a pain, I got very lucky with my original 529 investments. My investments yielded just over a 7% year over year return. Some years were better than others, but that was the average. The money is now all transferred into my desired account & I can mark something off of my March to do list. Progress!

I managed to do a 25 minute elliptical workout yesterday, which demonstrated that I'm slowly but surely (emphasis on slowly ;-)) coming back from my surgery. I also had a good conversation with my manager about working from home every Friday. She was very supportive. It was the right moment for such a conversation, as we've had some turnover on the team.

Here's what we're hoping to do today:

  1. Work out. I'm thinking a walk & maybe a strength workout. I don't think my abs are ready for yoga or pilates yet.
  2. Two soccer scrimmages (may be canceled due to rain)
  3. If the scrimmages are canceled, Sam has an indoor soccer game to attend
  4. Wrap some birthday gifts
  5. Itemize the garage freezer. I've made progress cleaning out some random items, and need to make a new inventory.
  6. Library, for new books as well as some returns.
  7. I'd like to get the boys to account for all of their current spending money & start showing them how the college investment account works. We'll create a mandatory savings for their personal money, as my parents did for me. I think I had to save 25% of my "income"? 
  8. Laundry. It just never stops. ;-)
  9. Clean the boys room. (I'll help them clean).
  10. Figure out a menu for the week

All in all, should be a nice, relaxing day. What do you have planned for today? 

Friday, March 4, 2016

February Budget Wrap Up

We track our finances in a variety of ways, but I always find it helpful to do a total look back on the month as a whole. Here's what we spent & how we did against our budget.

We were under our monthly budget by $315. Woohoo!

A strong showing after coming in over budget in January. There were still areas we were over & under - they netted out well. Here are some specifics. (Some small number discrepancies due to rounding).

Areas where we were over:

  • Groceries, by $130. I'm likely just going to increase the budget, because I don't think we've EVER come in under budget, and it's a source of dispute in my house. ;-) 
  • Utilities, by $159. Actually, I counted that I paid the power bill last month, but actually forgot to hit "send" on the bill pay, so this month I had to pay it for real. 
  • Dining out, by $22.16. Given that it was a double birthday month, and we were traveling, this is better than expected. 

We were also under budget in some areas:
  • Childcare, by $419. Mostly because we were out of town for a few days, and I've been continuing to keep a close eye on my schedule & work hours.
  • Cleaning, by $90. I canceled a cleaning & did the work myself.
  • Gas, by $38.68. I'll revisit our gas bill again, as it's likely too high given current fuel costs.
  • Insurance, by $5.41. Need to update the amount, as my budget is slightly too high.
  • Alcohol, by $40. We spent $0 on alcohol. That probably means a wine stock up next month. ;-) 
  • Toiletries, by $10. We spent $0, and I've been focusing on buying absolutely nothing in this category. 
This is one of those rare months where we were actually under budget, & I'm feeling pretty great about it. I want to continue practicing this frugality, because next month involves paying for SUMMER CAMP. I've already spent over $6,000. I don't know what to say, other than that summer camp is a giant, expensive, crazy beast. 

How did you do on your February spending? 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

March goals

We get 31 days to accomplish our March goals, so it's time for me to get busy! I have a long list of things I'd like to get done this month. I have a few posts coming on some updates to my 40 week plan, so stay tuned for those as well!


  • Stick to our budget
  • Pay our taxes. Awaiting final total from the accountant.
  • Save $1,500
  • Explore nearby communities (at least two) as we continue to think about buying a house.
  • Meet with a realtor.
  • Update my 40 week plan. (A full post is needed here).
  • Deal with boys 529s. I've received the refund/cash out & have limited time to move to a new plan without tax penalty.

  • Have a date night with M
  • Lock down the dates for the rest of the year (vacations, time off, etc). This includes our family Hawaii trip, and a potential long weekend with M.
  • Book rental car for April trip.
  • Book all summer camps.
  • Book summer flights.

  • Lose 4 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 800 minutes of cardio
  • Average 1450 calories/day
  • Run 5 times. Start working on 5K build up -  including kicking off Couch to 5K.

  • Maximum of one late night/week
  • Work from home at least three Fridays this month
  • Have work conversation on what it will take for me to potentially stay. (Need to clear this up in my own mind first).

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

And, that's it! What about you? What goals do you have in mind for March?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

February Goals Check In

We got a bonus day out of February this month, so how did it go? As a recap, we had two birthdays (mine & Sam's), a trip to Portland, and my surgery in February. We didn't, however, have any international travel for me. Woop! :-) And, it was a rough fitness month.


  • Stick to our budget - yes! We were over in some categories & under in others, but we came in at $315 under our total February budget.
  • Hand off all paperwork to our accountant - Yes! Still waiting for the verdict on how much we owe. Shivers.
  • Save $1,500 - Yes! I saved $3,500!! Woohoo!
  • 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 - Mailed!


  • Keep our February birthday trip in budget - Definitely in budget. We did well!
  • Have a date night with M - No. My regular sitter is never available. I need to find some additional options.
  • 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 was only able to lock in the Las Vegas trip. We're still on the fence about Hawaii & the long weekend date.

  • 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. I'm still waiting to see how everything adjusts, post-surgery.
  • Eat 5 servings of fruits & vegetables - I finished the month at 3.5, which is good, but not great. I had about a week there (post-surgery), where digestive issues prohibited a high intake of produce. ;-) 
  • Complete 7 stretching workouts (yoga or pilates) - It was not a great month for working out. Zero stretching workouts were completed!
  • Complete 6 strength workouts - And, one strength workout. 
  • Complete 500 minutes of cardio - I completed 430 minutes, which isn't too shabby given that I was unable to do anything for a week. 
  • Average 1450 calories/day - I netted out with 1470 - which is great!!
  • Run 5 times. Start working on 5K build up. -I ran twice, and plan to get started again with a Couch to 5K plan in a week or so, after my stomach feels better.

  • Maximum of one late night/week - Yes! Finally! Although, there's already a lot on the calendar fo next week.
  • Work from home at least one Friday this month - Yes, I worked from home 3x in February on Fridays, and it was great!

  • Read four books - I've read at least 10 books - all of that down time after surgery. ;-) 
  • Color in my adult coloring book - Nope 
  • Get together with a friend - I saw my best friend & sister last weekend, & we carved out girl time to go on a nice hike, plus I got in a two hour hike with another friend! 

And, that rounds out my month. All in all, it went about how I expected it. I need to make big things happen in March!! How about you? How did you do with your February goals? 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Weekly Spending Roundup - 2/22 -2/28

It was a relatively normal week this week, other than my surgery. I wasn't at work Tuesday-Friday, so there were a few expenses related to that.

Here's what we spent this week!

Monday - 

  • Hair cut for Sam - $13 (technically occurred on Sunday, but I  missed this in my last write up, as the credit card transaction hadn't posted yet).
  • Oil change & a few other small things on our car - $90.46 (ditto above. Took place on the weekend & missed the charge).

Tuesday - 

    • Gas - $41.75
    • Grocery store - $17.47. Post surgery stuff like: soup, crackers, juice, etc.
    • Prescriptions - $11.23. Likely will be reimbursed from my FSA for this.
    Wednesday - No spend day
    Thursday - 

    • Grocery store - $3.49. We ran out of eggs.
    • Ebates check +$21.81
    • Donation towards power bill at vacation house from a family member who stayed +$5
    • Reimbursed for purchases made for the boys parties using Amazon gift cards +$84.31

    Friday - 

    • Costco groceries - $118.62
    • Mailed a gift & ebay sale - $16.39
    • Reimbursement from my sister for hotel stay +$150
    • Reimbursement from my parents for a gift I picked up +$31.69
    • eBay sale +$22.52

    Saturday - 

    • Hotel stay for 40th birthday (belated) trip in July. The hotel is very small & only has a few rooms that will meet our needs, so went ahead & booked - $598.50
    • Gas - $34.06

    Sunday - 

    • Produce stand - $7.44
    • Costco - $38.45 (more produce)
    • Parts for Nick's bike - $6.08
    • Soil from Costco - $17.38

    Due to all of the reimbursements/side hustles, I was able to keep the spending to $698.99, which is almost entirely the hotel deposit! 

    What about you? How did you do with your spending? Have you been making/tracking your side hustle?