Friday, June 24, 2016

Taking advantage of the free wifi

at the airport, on my way to Portland. From there, I'll meet up with my mom & the boys & we will head to the beach house. I can't wait! Love that place. The forecast is calling for 70 & no rain on Saturday, and 72 & no rain on Sunday. Perfect!! We don't have wifi at our vacation house, so it should be moderately "screen free".

An influx of family members will be joining us on & off, and I'm really excited to spend time with the family. I also feel very lucky that I actually enjoy it, rather than considering it a burden.

In frugal news:

  • I ate leftovers out of a sack at the airport vs buying something
  • Used an Uber credit to offset $5 of my $20 ride
  • Brought the remaining produce from the fridge in my carryon, and we will use that for breakfast in the morning
  • Bought a Starbucks iced tea using a free gift card vs buying a water (I forgot my water bottle!)
I may have a glass of free wine on my flight. We shall see. 

It's been a crazy week, and now I'm on vacation for 10 days. . . bliss. 

And, view from the offsite I attended last week. A little chilly on the beach, but stunning.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

We finished our refinance!

I'm very excited, mostly because all of the work associated with this project is now over. ;-) For those of you not as familiar with the daily ins & outs of our lives, we refinanced our vacation house mortgage from a 15 year to a 30 year.

It's unusual to celebrate extending the life of a loan on a financial blog (and, adding one percentage point of interest), but bear with me a bit. Reducing the monthly payment by $1,000/month frees up our cash flow for a house payment in California, while still (hopefully) allowing us to keep our vacation home. Both are goals, so I'm happy we took the plunge.

The refi itself was relatively pain free (we used a broker we've gone through before) & he was very organized & efficient. But, there's just a bunch of paper work & details & phone calls. Given my travel & life schedule, it wasn't exactly a fun way to spend time, but it's now over. *sigh of relief*

In other fun news, I was in Monterey for a work event over the past few days, and saw one of the most breathtaking sunsets of my life.

The boys are with my parents this week, so I'm squeezing in as much work, fitness & adult time (M & I have a date tonight!) & then will pick up the boys to spend time on the Oregon coast. Looking very forward to some vacation time.

Any memorable sunsets for the rest of you? If so, when & where!

Friday, June 17, 2016

A few frugal things

Let me start off by saying that this hasn't been a very frugal few weeks. We have M's birthday, my mom's retirement party, Father's Day, and a vacation coming up. M & I will also be childless for a few days here & there, so you should expect to see more meals out as we take advantage of child care free date nights!

I have managed a few things here & there:

  1. Used another $15 off a $30 purchase offer from our local delivery service, through my Amex. I bought dishwasher tabs, soccer snacks for next season & a birthday gift for a party we're attending.
  2. Biking to/from work, 2.5 times this week. (we have out of the norm camp drop offs & pickups, so my schedule is definitely "off", and I can expect that to continue for the rest of the summer. No immediate savings, but minor long term savings on car wear & tear/gas + the double benefit of getting in a cardio workout & saving the environment a little pollution.
  3. Packing snacks for upcoming flights today, to avoid airport purchases.
  4. Made cupcakes for M's birthday vs buying something. 
  5. Went to Trader Joe's for a last minute basil purchase, and discovered the big plants vs the pre-cut packaging. The plants were $1 more than the packages, so obvious win. My basil plant has already grown about a foot in a week. Looking forward to lots of fresh basil until the first frost!
  6. Taking advantage of some comp time (if I don't take it, track it & think of it, it just disappears into the ether - it's not a part of my regular vacation) from weekend traveling & will take a half day tomorrow to pick up the kids. Their camp ends at noon, so by using the comp time, I get bonus time with the kiddos & won't need the nanny. Money saved = $88+.
  7. Made a menu & shopping list for the upcoming weeks, to ensure we don't overbuy groceries & will use what we already have, reduce meals out, etc.
  8. Arranged for carpools to & from camp this week, as it's not close to our house. We drove a few times, our nanny drove, and we also shared rides with a few parents. Saving on gas money.
  9. Sold a batch of Xbox games on eBay, making $20. I sold another game, but the buyer bailed after winning. I hate that. 
  10. Conned M into giving us a ride (at the heart of rush hour, both ways) to the airport, saving a minimum of $50 on an Uber. 
And, that's it! What about you? What frugal things have you done over the past few weeks? 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Next few weeks of menus

We have a crazy few weeks coming up, so it always makes me feel better to have a plan for which days we will be eating at home, out, on vacation, etc. It also helps to inform how many (and which) groceries we buy.

Here's my plan & tentative menu. Items that require grocery ingredients are highlighted. As you can see, we shouldn't need much over the next few weeks & the majority of my shopping will be done on the Oregon coast.

  • Thursday 6/16 - tacos (meat from freezer) + chips & guacamole
  • Friday 6/17 - flying to Portland (me + boys). Dinner at the airport. M will eat leftover rice & kebabs.
  • Saturday 6/18 - Dinner with my parents at my mom's surprise retirement party 
  • Sunday 6/19 - Father's Day! M & I will be sans kids, so we are going out to dinner. Woohoo!
  • Monday 6/20 - I'll be at a team offsite - dinner included. M will likely eat at work
  • Tuesday 6/21 - I'll be coming home late from the team offsite, so I'll defrost something from the freezer. Either burgers or pizza
  • Wednesday 6/22 - date night! The kids will still be with my parents, so we will squeeze in one additional date. I may cook, or we'll go out for an inexpensive happy hour. 
  • Thursday 6/23 - M is flying to Las Vegas to meet up with my dad & his buddies. I'll defrost something from the freezer, so no groceries will be needed. I'll also freeze any remaining produce, as we will be on vacation!
  • Friday 6/24 - Flying to Portland to meet up with my mom & the boys, and heading to the coast. I'll probably bring a sandwich from work
  • Saturday 6/25 - At the beach. I'm thinking pasta & meatballs
  • Sunday 6/26 -  Homemade risotto, using chicken from the freezer
  • Monday 6/27 - Freezer & pantry clean out. I'll inventory all of the items when we get there, and determine what's available for meals. We're pretty scrappy. ;-) 
  • Tuesday 6/28 - Ditto above, although if we're all out, I'll likely make tacos. A family favorite.
  • Wednesday 6/29 - Curry chicken salad + tomato basil soup
  • Thursday 6/30 - M arrives at the beach, late. I'll eat leftovers with the kids.
  • Friday 7/1 - Grilled fish & rice
  • Saturday 7/2 - Pizza with the entire family (my sister, her kids, & my parents will join up with us)
  • Sunday 7/3  - Crab cakes & caprese (adults). Kids will have hot dogs
  • Monday - 4th of July! - Grilled burgers, pasta salad & corn
  • Tuesday - 7/5 - Flying back. Will rustle up something from the freezer

How do you menu and grocery plan for crazy weeks? Any tips or tricks to share? 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Weekly spending recap (6/6-6/12)

I haven't done one in a few weeks, but always find it really helpful to track my daily spending & see where the money is coming & going. In the spirit of disclosure, I was traveling Sunday-Friday, so had zero personal expenses on my side. :-)

  • Monday - No spend day
  • Tuesday
    • $26.50 - dinner out for the boys. Celebrating the last day of school
  • Wednesday No spend day
  • Thursday No spend day
  • Friday
    • $94.03 - Target - camp supplies for the boys & a birthday gift.
    • $3 - parking 
  • Saturday
    • $3.87 - Costco, toilet paper. This was the balance remaining after a $15 promotional credit
    • $95 - birthday gift for M. A very fancy bottle of Scotch
    • $40.99 - coffee pods
    • $85.25 - Costco, groceries
    • $28.87 - Costco, Grand Marnier, for mixed drinks
  • Sunday
    • $2.11 - Costco, paper towels. Balance remaining after another $15 promotional credit
    • $40 - boys swimming lessons
    • $11.24 - mailing envelopes & radish seeds (x2)
    • $7.33 - produce stand for mini cucumber, the largest bag of kale I've ever seen, radishes, and green onions
    • $9.60 - Gatorade. I don't usually allow the boys to have Gatorade for soccer games & practices, but they are in a camp this week that is 6 hours/day of soccer. I'm thinking the Gatorade will be a very welcome addition to the water
    • $3.58 - ice cream after swimming lessons
    • $16.51 - more groceries at Costco. We thought they would have Copper River salmon, but alas, no. We opted for other dinner ingredients
    • $34.22 - wine stock up 
Total spent last week = $502.10. Not the best, but not the craziest either. We enter a few weeks of heavy spending between: my mom's retirement party, Father's Day (M + my dad), M's birthday, and family vacations! It's going to get crazy, so I'll need to keep all of my other expenses in check. How about you? Do you track your weekly spending? How did you do last week? 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Menu Plan Monday

One of my top tasks for the week is always planning a menu. It helps to avoid last minute scrambles & unplanned meals out. The craziness of summer has begun, so menu planning is more important than ever. Here's what we have scheduled.

Saturday (recap) - rice & persian kebabs on the grill
Sunday (recap) - Copper River salmon & rice (super pricey, early birthday gift for M) + early birthday cupcakes. Vanilla with lemon frosting & fresh berries on top.
Monday - leftover chicken risotto
Tuesday - leftover rice & kebabs
Wednesday - M's birthday. Dinner out with the kids.
Thursday - tacos, chips & guacamole
Friday - flying to Portland for my Mom's retirement party + a huge mountain biking event & leaving the kids with my parents
Saturday - dinner at my parents
Sunday - celebrating Father's Day with M in Monterey. Dinner out

And, that's all, folks. What about you? What's on your menu for the week?

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sleepy Sunday

I'm back from Seoul. Very jet lagged, but back. I arrived on Friday afternoon, and was so happy to land in SFO. :-) I was able to upgrade to business class on the return flight (I have to fly economy on all of my international flights) & it was such an unexpected treat!

I had some fun with the boys, splashing in the fountains & celebrating the end of the school year. One is not particularly interested in having his picture taken these days. :-)

I've got a lot on my plate for today, and am still feeling the effects of jet lag, but I need to be productive. Here's what's on my list for today:

  1. Run. Seriously. I was able to do almost nothing in Seoul, so I'm not feeling good about my fitness.
  2. Make a menu
  3. Work out schedule for next week, including carpool for the boys
  4. Take Sam to a birthday party
  5. Take boys to swimming lessons
  6. Make a list for next weekend's trip. I'm flying to Portland for my mom's retirement party & to drop the boys off with my parents for a week
  7. Plan a night at a hotel on Sunday with M for Father's Day.
  8. Book a dinner reservation for Sunday
  9. Go through all nanny applications
  10. Package two eBay sales
  11. Yoga
  12. Make/decorate cupcakes for M's birthday
  13. Fill out all of the cards for upcoming activities (Father's Day - my dad & M, M's birthday, my mom's retirement)
  14. Get cash for next weekend
  15. Update work calendar & determine biking/running schedule
  16. Continue cleaning out the boys rooms. They brought home all of their "end of the school year paraphernalia" when I was out of town, and it's now all over the house. I normally don't allow much/any of that to enter our doors. ;-) 

I've had a few frugal wins this week as well:

  • Sold two items on eBay. One only sold for $2.25, but the other sold for $20.50. Woohoo!
  • Used two $15 offers for Shopping Express (local delivery service in the area) that had been lingering in my inbox, unnoticed, for a delivery of paper towels & toilet paper from Costco. It had no minimum, so I got both for just under $6. Huge win! Saved $30 total. No delivery fee.
Happy Sunday, all! What is on your list to accomplish today?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Goals for June

I'm off to Seoul shortly, and need to give myself some goals for June so I can stay on track!


  • Stick to our budget
  • Finish refinancing our vacation house, moving to a 30 year loan to free up more cash flow for a California house
  • Save $2,000, in addition to our stock vests
  • Put $50/each in the boys college funds

  • Have two date nights with M
  • Plan something special for Father's Day
  • Make multiple trips to donate items 
  • Clean the garage!

  • Lose 2 pounds
  • Eat 5 servings of fruits & vegetables 
  • Complete 5 stretching workouts (yoga or pilates)
  • Complete 7 strength workouts
  • Complete 800 minutes of cardio
  • Average 1350 calories/day
  • Start training for my adventure relay, with 12 pace walks

  • Maximum of one late night/week
  • Work from home at least three Fridays this month
  • Explore other work options at my existing company

  • Read four books
  • Get together with a friend

Saturday, June 4, 2016

May goals - how did we do?

It's now or never for posting the results of my May goals. As it is, I've nearly forgotten what happened last month. ;-)


  • Stick to our budget - We were over by $1200. Mostly due to childcare. There were three pay periods for our nanny in May, plus I had to pay $150 for a soccer camp. The childcare overage was $985. The rest were small budget busters across a variety of other categories. 
  • Save $1,500, in addition to our stock vests -Yes, I saved $2,000.  
  • Put $500/each in the boys college funds - Done! 

  • Have a date night with M - Done! 
  • Decide if M & I are going on a mini vacation. If so, book. For real this time. ;-) - Decided. We opted to do a bunch of date nights when the kids are at camps/with my parents, and save our money for next year. 
  • Book M's flights to the beach for the 4th of July - Done!
  • Plan/take a vacation over the long Memorial Day break - it turns out that we have to go to a soccer tournament on that weekend, so no mini break, unfortunately. We'll reschedule for another time. Money was saved, and we will find another time to go. 

  • Lose 4 pounds (trying to be realistic, as I'll be on vacation for a few days) - I lost 1 & 1/2 a pound in May, and my clothes are starting to fit a lot better. Woohoo!
  • Eat 5 servings of fruits & vegetables - Finished with 4.19 servings/day, so trending in the right direction! I'll take it!
  • Complete 5 stretching workouts (yoga or pilates) - Finished the month with 6! 
  • Complete 7 strength workouts - Right on the money, with 7
  • Complete 800 minutes of cardio - Crushing it with all of that biking!! 1350 minutes. Significantly more than any month in the past couple of years
  • Average 1350 calories/day - Finished with a daily average of 1465. My cardio hopefully offset some of this, but I need to continue to monitor this. 
  • Follow a training plan, find a race, and run 10 times. - With the biking, had less time (and energy) for running, but I did run 6 times,  and registered for a half marathon

  • Maximum of one late night/week - had one week with two nights, but cut my attendance in both meetings to 30 minutes each. 
  • Work from home at least three Fridays this month -  Managed to get two this month. 

  • Read four books - yes!
  • Get together with a friend - yes! Went with a friend to see a documentary about kids & screen time. It was fascinating. And, scary. And also got in a 2.5 hour hike with the same friend

Altogether, it was a pretty great month. My sights for June are focused on continuing to declutter & organize our house, in advance of our move next year. What about you? How did you do with your May goals? 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Frugal Friday

In this case, it's probably more like "Unfrugal Friday". :-)

It's been a very expensive week, particularly around the car side of the budget! Here's what's been happening around our parts, but I'll start with the positives:

Frugal wins for the week:

  1. Biked to work one day (crazy schedule prevented more) to reduce commute costs
  2. Plan to come home early today to save on nanny costs
  3. Did lots of cooking over the weekend that led to planned leftovers this week
  4. We decided to refinance our vacation house from a 15 year loan to a 30 year loan. Although this is not a normal path to saving money (both because we've extended the life of the loan, and because we will get a slightly higher interest rate), it's a good decision for us. It reduces the monthly outflow required for this loan, freeing up more cash for a house in California. Due to our outstanding credit, we're getting a very good rate. 
  5. I used an Amazon gift card (converted from air miles from work travel) to buy a couple of gifts for M's birthday. 
  6. Not frugal in the truest sense, but I'm very aware of the fact that we will be moving in a year, and I'm actively going through the house & finding items to donate, recycle, sell, etc. We had movers (covered by the relocation) when we moved to California, but when our lease expires, we will be self moving. Need to make it as easy as possible!
And, the less frugal things:
  1. While I was traveling, a bill from the DMV was misplaced, and the renewal for M's motorcycle did not get submitted. Not only did I have to pay the original amount, they tacked on a very steep $65 fine. Wow. Very sad to pay this.
  2. We also did the 40,000 mileage tune up (or, whatever mileage that is) for my primary car, to the tune of $521.35. 
  3. M was in a car accident recently (in the middle of a three car pile up) & we had our car fixed. I know you're wondering why we're responsible for any of the expense, given we were the middle car. We've followed up with the insurance agency for more details, but nonetheless, had to pay the deductible - $1500. 
  4. Our dishwasher is broken, and our landlord is on vacation. It's been a super crazy busy week, and we did contact a repair person (at the request of our landlord) to get  it fixed. They were unable to fix the problem. I'm not pleased, as it's been almost a week, and it's 90 degrees here. Washing dishes in the heat is no fun. I lazily opted to go out last night, rather than cook. 
  5. The soccer tournament was originally planned to be included in our league fees (our team parent made a mistake, however) & I had to pay $90 for the tournament unexpectedly. 
And, that's pretty much it. It's enough, I think. ;-) I'm heading to Seoul on Sunday, for my 4th international trip of the year. Not feeling that great about it, as usual. I'm determined to enjoy tomorrow with the kids, and not get annoyed & bothered by the upcoming travel. Let's see how I do!