Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Weekly spending report (8/22-8/28)

It was a week with a lot of unusual expenses, as I was out of town with my own unusual travel expenses, and M was left with the kids. That typically means more expenses generally, and definitely more eating out. ;-) Here's the damage.

  • Monday - 8/22 - Gas, $21.85
  • Tuesday - 8/23 - No spend day
  • Wednesday - 8/24 - No spend day
  • Thursday - 8/25:
    • Uber - $9.51 (using 50% off promocode) for ride to airport. Awesome deal.
    • Salad for lunch at airport - $9.73
    • Upgraded to first class - free! :-) 
    • Sweet Tomatoes - $26.50 (M & the kids)
  • Friday - 8/26 - Subway for myself & BFF (I was supposed to buy ice & water for our cooler & forgot my credit card, so treated to lunch instead) - $11.25
  • Saturday - 8/27:
    • Hair cuts for all of the boys - $27
    • Home Depot, car glass cleaner - $3.85
    • Hoodie at Costco for M - $21.74
    • Three pair of new shoes for the kids (one is soccer cleats) - $143.47 :-(
    • Gelato for our family party after the relay - $9.78
    • Costco - groceries - $138.85
  • Sunday - 8/28:
    • In & Out for M + 3 kids (bonus soccer carpooler) - $11.96
    • Gas - $46.27 
    • Lunch out with my sister (my treat for being the captain of our relay team and spending endless hours organizing everything) - $41.35
    • Upgraded to first class again - free! :-) So happy & lucky, given I was so sore. It was a huge treat!
    • +$140 cash that I brought back from my relay

    Total spent for the week = $383.04, so about what I was expecting (minus the shoes) this week. How about you? How did your spending go for the week? 

    Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    Menu Plan Tuesday

    I'm way behind this week, as I got home from Portland late on Sunday & went straight to bed. That's what two nights without sleep will do to you. ;-)

    Monday - pasta & meatballs
    Tuesday - out, at a dinner to support the local schools.
    Wednesday - Asian night. Potstickers, samosas, rice & veggies. Mostly from Trader Joes
    Thursday - Chicken pesto pasta
    Friday - Oven baked risotto, with whatever mix ins linger in the freezer
    Saturday - I've been craving a sausage rice pilaf dish, as it approaches fall. So, maybe that with homemade french bread?
    Sunday - Grilled fish or chicken

    I also need to comb through the fridge & freezer to see what's left after M & the boys were left to their own devices for four days. :-)

    What about you? What's on the menu for the week?

    Monday, August 29, 2016

    Another crazy adventure completed

    It was a great (sleepless) weekend at Portland to Coast. My family (parents, sister, two uncles, aunt, two cousins, my 14 year old nephew) + my BFF & a couple of other family friends all participate. It's a huge walking/running relay & is an absolutely epic adventure.

    My first leg on Friday was just around 90 degrees (7 miles) & it was 55 & raining on Saturday for my 8 miler. I somehow managed to bring in both legs just at pace time, which I'm thrilled with, given my modest amount of training. ;-)

    In fab news, our team came in 2nd place in our division, and 35th overall (out of 400 teams). I'm so impressed with our group! But, performance is secondary to the fun & the adventure of our crew. We had a great time, as usual.

    I got home late last night, and went straight to bed. My plans for today after work include:

    1. Sorting out the budget
    2. Stretching!
    3. Making a menu plan
    4. Figuring out our schedule for the rest of the week

    Hope you all had a great weekend!

    Wednesday, August 24, 2016

    A financial evaluation of moving

    As you've probably read from my previous couple of posts on this topic, we are trying to decide if we will move back to Seattle at the end of the school year, or stay in California. There are a variety of factors to understand, but I'm going to evaluate only the financial ones in this post, as they are the most clear & measurable.

    If we move back to our house in Seattle, what changes financially? To build any sort of a model, I've made assumptions. I've tried to call them out, but it's not a perfect science - more of an approximate.

    Total Budget Numbers:

    If we stay in California (assuming we keep our housing price fixed at $5200/month, which, is super conservative & assumes we don't buy & continue to find places to rent) - monthly budget = $14,750. Our monthly budget includes all of our standard fixed monthly expenses + amortized yearly expenses like summer camps, gifts, travel, etc.

    If we move back to Seattle, and use our currently earmarked "California house down payment fund" to pay off our HELOC (because, we don't need to buy another primary residence) - monthly budget =$8,820.  

    What's driving the $5,930 difference between the two budgets?

    • Paying off our HELOC on our Seattle house frees up $1,000/month
    • Our primary residence expense reduced from $5,200/month (CA rent) to $3,000/month frees up $2,200/month. 
    • We stop paying for expenses on our Seattle house (now categorized as "primary residence expense"), as this is the gap not made up for by our current renters. This frees up $1,000/month. 
    • Because we will no longer need such a significant salary for me to save for a down payment aggressively, I plan to find a job where I can work around school hours. This saves $1,100/month in childcare, but does still include summer camps. 
    • It also includes a laundry list of other small savings, like less travel (closer to family), less frequent house cleaning (I'm assumed to be working a more flexible job), 

    The numbers don't completely add up, because some things are more expensive in Seattle: gas (we drive more, to see my parents, visit our vacation house, ski, etc) 

    You'll notice that I've only tried to estimate the cost/expense side here, and I've made no assumptions about income. That's because there are too many moving parts around the earning side. 1) we won't be paying state taxes 2) I won't be earning at the same level, which should reduce our federal taxes, and 3) we don't know how much M will be making until he actively starts searching for other jobs. 

    The income side is definitely less predictable, but what we do know is that moving to Seattle reduces our required monthly income by a giant margin - nearly $6000. This provides a lot of options & flexibility for my work, schedule & our family life. If we chose to, we could also use the rest of our "California down payment savings" and either completely pay off our vacation house, or greatly reduce the mortgage principal. I think we'd lean more toward buying an investment/rental house, though with the cash flow. 

    As you can see, there is a very compelling financial decision to be made for moving. The rest of the picture, of course, is that M & I both have stock through our employers that vest every month. Because of that, leaving at any time means we void all future vests, which is a staggering sum of money.

    For me, money is a means to an end that will allow us more flexibility & a better lifestyle. I'm hoping that we can utilize the time we've spent in California renting & turn that saved down payment money into an opportunity for us to need less monthly income. I'm very excited about the possibilities, but again, there is more to this conversation than just money. More to come on how we're thinking about all of this!

    Tuesday, August 23, 2016

    Between a rock & a hard place

    I'm so glad that M & I started talking more about our future plans, and seriously exploring the option of moving to Seattle. It's been a very complex discussion that's spanned *lots* of conversations. And, we are definitely not yet at a decision. It has, however, brought us closer & raised the fact that we rarely make time for these deeper conversations, and talk instead about transportation for the kids, and meals, and errands/chores. We need to make more time for the bigger conversations, and it's now a priority for us. It's important for our relationship, but it's also important to make sure we're not just cruising along on autopilot, but checking in on critical paths (work, family, location, kids - and, the serious topics of parenting, etc.)

    So, what have we netted out with so far? Well, I've had a lot of time to think about the topic for myself, & I very much want to move back to Seattle. It was more of an idea when this first started, but things have come together in my mind & now there's very little question on where I stand on the issue. Here's the list of pros & cons that I've thought of so far (and, not in a prioritized format, but I do actually have a decision matrix with weighting attached. ;-))


    1. Close to family. My parents live a couple of hours away, and my sister lives about three hours away. My mom is also now retired, and has a much more flexible schedule for helping out. Not on the spur of the moment (no one is going to be showing up for dinner unexpectedly), but with planned time, for sure. M & I rarely get time away for a long weekend, and we really, really need more of this. 
    2. Cost of living, generally. This one is more nuanced, because you may argue that salaries are also lower, but in our experience, we had more disposable income in Seattle. Significantly more. 
    3. No state tax. Given our income levels, this is a big pro. 
    4. We are familiar with the area. M & I lived there around 15 years each, and the kids lived there for the first 5-6 years. 
    5. We have a house. It's 40% (from our original purchase price) paid for. It's now worth more, of course, but just looking at the mortgage. Context - we bought for $1M, it's worth about $1.5M. Staying in our school district in California will require us to buy a house at $2.5M or higher. There is nothing on the market below that price point. 
    6. We have friends & a network in the area.
    7. The job market, while not Silicon Valley, is good. 
    8. Close to our vacation house (3-4 hours), making it a place we can go for long weekends again.
    9. A less "intense" place - from the traffic, to the schools, to the general pressure of living in general. I find that I'm anxious often, and where we live now is a very "high stress" place. High stress jobs are the rule, rather than the exception. I find that parents are also very intense with their kids - in schools & sports. I believe in pushing your kids, but in moderation, and childhood is part fun & part work. I'm a bit in the minority here.


    1. The weather. Not going to lie, it will be a big adjustment for us. The boys are outside every day, for long periods of time. Also, my lupus has been in a great place since we moved. I think the weather has contributed (as well as other lifestyle changes I've made).
    2. Our house in Seattle is near a freeway. They did a bunch of work to make the sound better, but I haven't been inside of it & would need to vet this out. Sleep is a critical part of keeping my illness in check.
    3. By far the biggest one, hands down. M loves his job. We both have jobs that have vested stock, and for every year we stay, it gets harder to leave. But, money aside, he truly loves it & feels like it's his dream job. And, he's not ready to walk away from that job.

    Where does this leave us? Still in conversation, as #3 on the cons is a huge factor for M. When it comes to timing, I think summer of 2017 is the perfect time for us to move. Our lease is up at our existing rental, our tenants lease is also up, and Sam is starting middle school. Sam is our child who will need more adjustment & time to make new friends. Nick will be going into 5th grade, and I think will do well making new friends. I worry that each year we wait will make it harder for Sam.

    I can't work at my job much longer, so regardless of where we net at, I need an exit strategy. It's very challenging, because if I quit while we still live in California, it makes it that much harder for us to have stability with housing, etc & we really can't afford just to live on M's salary, unless it was for a short period of time. If we move to Seattle, we need significantly less money to make our budget work. (More on that in a separate post). 

    That's the current update, but another post on the differences in our budget coming up shortly. Have you ever moved? How did you & your family approach the decision?

    Monday, August 22, 2016

    Weekly spending report (8/15-8/21)

    It was a pretty typical week this week. Nothing super unusual, other than making a few purchases/withdrawals in advance of my big adventure relay next week. When you are planning to buy multiple meals at roadside stops, you need cash! :-) Here's what we spent:

    Monday - no spend day
    Tuesday - no spend day 
    Wednesday - no spend day 
    Thursday - 

    • $93.84 - bean bag for Nick's room, via Amazon
    • $1.59 - water bottle for Nick's soccer practice. He's usually really good about it, but forgot is water bottle. He's the one who gets migraines if he's dehydrated, so I sucked it up & bought one. 


    • $19 - soccer socks for the boys. More socks. These are the easier to put on kind, and hopefully will last, but with 10ish soccer events per week between the two of them. . . 
    • $140 - registered all four of us for the local school 5K. All of the entry fee goes to the boys elementary school.
    • $200 - cash for my adventure relay. Food, my portion of gas, etc. 
    • $23.25 - gift card for a birthday party + a card for my dad. I usually make all of our cards, but I was in charge of supplying a shared card for others this time. I splurged. ;-)
    • $21.93 - Trader Joes. Stocked up on a few items for "Asian dinner night". I'm hoping it will make at least 2-3 dinners + some thermos lunch options for the kids. 
    • $10.25 at the produce stand. This included - wheat lavosh bread, mini cucumber, radishes, and two giant heads of romaine lettuce. The lettuce is so big it typically lasts for a week's worth of salads

    Saturday - 

    • $16.50 - a pair of jeans for Sam. He currently owns zero pair of pants. Growing too quickly!
    • $58.56 - a set of steak knives + car wash towels
    • $21.74 - BevMo. Not sure what was included, but triple sec?
    • $55.98 - Grand Marnier & vodka at Costco. It's cheaper than going out for cocktails, but you have to replenish the supply!
    • $121.27 - Costco for standard groceries
    • $28.26 - gas
    • $25 - Starbucks. I forgot to turn off the "auto reload" setting. (There was an offer a month or so ago to get a $10 gift card if you turned this on.) It's not a big deal, as I normally buy breakfast for everyone on Friday am before we leave for our relay, so this should work out okay.

    Sunday - no spend day

    Yikes! A total spend of $837.17. It really adds up quickly. And, this is why I do this exercise, because it's a constant reminder to stay on top of our spending. How about you? Did you track your spending for the week? How did you do? 

    Sunday, August 21, 2016

    A short week ahead & progress

    Well, not really, because weeks are always technically the same length, but I'm flying out on Thursday to Portland. From there, I'll be meeting my family & BFF for our adventure relay. Can't wait! It's most definitely always an adventure. Last year was insane wind & rain. This year, it's supposed to be 95. Yikes.

    I'm spending today trying to get everything sorted for next week, including the nanny & carpool schedule, my work schedule, packing & some meal prep for the week ahead. Oh, & washing all of the sheets. Not my favorite task. ;-) So far today, I've picked up Sam from a sleepover, taken him + a carpooler to a soccer game. Watched/cheered at said game, scrambled everyone home for a quick lunch, and convinced M to handle game #2. I'm no fool!

    After reading a great post by The Frugalwoods on their definition of frugality, I started to think about some of the changes I've made in our lives since I started this blog. And, whoa, have there been a lot. Although we are, by no stretch of the imagination, living a life of frugality, we are definitely more conscious spenders. Significantly more conscious.

    I've changed the way I approach shopping for myself, the kids & our house. Hint, when you have to pack everything you own, it's a quick way to declutter & remind yourself that you don't NEED 1/2 of what you have. ;-)

    Despite the boys doubling in size, age & metabolisms, I've kept our grocery budget pretty much the same. I've cut way, way back on eating out, and it's pretty much the exception, rather than the rule. Not counting when I travel, but M can only handle so much on those long trips.

    I've stopped rewarding myself with "things". I do spend a signficant portion of our budget on traveling - to see family, and for our vacation house. And I'm comfortable with those tradeoffs.

    I rarely spend on myself (haircuts, colors, pedicures, massages). And, I do miss the feel good of a massage for sure, but the rest? Don't really miss it.

    We cut back on gifts, for ourselves & others. We choose to spend time together vs things, and don't miss it at all either.

    I make almost all of our snacks. It's become our smallest grocery category. It's healthier, I like to bake, and it saves money!

    Every time I purchase something, I ask myself if we need it, and I want to pack it in the next move. The answer is almost always no. ;-)

    I stopped buying things just because they were on sale. Because, I eventually figured out that I needed a special shampoo (dry scalp due to the lupus) & I literally had 15 bottles of other shampoo lingering in the cupboard. Not to mention 30 bars of soap, which I will likely . . . you guessed it . .. have to move again. Keeping a spare of one thing in the cupboard? Totally fine. Overbuying because it's a "good deal"? No more.

    We've saved, saved, saved. Seriously, the most ever. We've cut out on many previous activities, and while we've kept some, I am enjoying the relaxation on weekends. There is already soccer, homework, playdates & sleepovers. I find that to be exhausting & don't need more in my life.

    I've been reading the early days of my blog, and I can't believe how much we've grown (financially, and in the case of the boys - literally) since 2011. So happy I have this journal to keep track of our progress.

    What about you? What has been the biggest change since you've been blogging or reading frugal blogs? And. . . the kiddos are back. Time to tackle some stinky soccer laundry! 

    Saturday, August 20, 2016

    Soccer, & a menu plan

    Our week has been dominated by soccer practice, and the weekend with scrimmages. Ahhh, the beginnings of fall. :-)

    I got quite a bit done today, but as usual, not everything:

    1. Yoga
    2. 4 mile workout
    3. Call my dad about gravel delivery at our vacation house
    4. Make banana muffins
    5. Take Nick to soccer
    6. Make a menu plan
    7. Make a Costco list
    8. Go to Costco
    9. Use up at least one pantry item
    10. Sort out our nanny days off (her sister is getting married)
    11. Arrange some details for our relay next weekend
    12. Card/gift for birthday party
    13. Card for my dad's birthday
    14. Water plants
    15. Take Sam to a birthday party/sleepover. 

    So happy I opted for yoga, as my back feels *much* better. I also made Nutella brownies (pantry use up challenge - two giant tubs of Nutella) & they are amazing. Highly recommend.

    Saturday - steak salad (finally using the lonely steak from the freezer!) with caprese on the side
    Sunday - beef kebabs & rice
    Monday - "Asian night" - per my son's request. Basically like Chinese takeout, but mostly from Trader Joe's. :-)
    Tuesday - Tacos
    Wednesday - tortellini salad with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes & grilled chicken
    Thursday - I'll be out of town. Assuming M & the kids will go out
    Friday - I'll be out of town. Pizza or something from the freezer
    Saturday - ditto.

    And, there you have it! Happy Saturday!! What is the one item you have in your pantry that you'd like to use up? And, what are your plans to use it?? :-)

    Friday, August 19, 2016

    Frugal Friday

    Well, it's unintentionally been a more frugal week than expected, & it's also been a super crazy week filled with lots of late night meetings, soccer practice, & the first week of school. I'm so very happy it's Friday.

    A few frugal things:

    1. Utilized leftovers (planned overs?) in all meals this week, and got very creative for dinner last night.
    2. Provided feedback about a damaged box (product was still intact, but spilled out) to Amazon & received a credit of $.98. Not much to write home about, but I'll take it. ;-)
    3. Used the boys new thermoses to pack hot lunches, vs buying a $3 (x2) school lunch. The thermoses will have paid for themselves by next week.
    4. Saved a bunch of elderly fruit for smoothies. Smoothies were the snack of choice before sports practice this week. I had 1/2 a scoop of protein powder (smoothie is split between 2 kids) to give them a little more nutrition.
    5. And, had planned to work from home most of the week in the late afternoon to help train our new nanny. Due to her schedule conflicts & being ill, she was only able to come over on Monday & Tuesday. Savings of $160, but I'm a little worried about the lack of predictability. It worked okay this week, as I had planned on being at home, but it can't be a regular occurrence.
    And with that, here's what I'd like to accomplish today:

    • Yoga
    • 3 mile walk
    • Laundry
    • Go through my workout clothes & short sleeves shirts & declutter.
    • Dinner. Planning for grilled burgers (freezer) & a peach/mozzarella/basil salad on the side.
    • Take boys to soccer practice
    • Get cash for next weekend
    • Return library books
    • Buy a birthday gift for a party tomorrow
    • Wrap up a couple of work projects
    • Go to the produce stand
    If I get all of that done, I'll be thrilled! What about you? Any frugal wins this week? 

    Monday, August 15, 2016

    Weekly Budget Recap (8/8-8/14/16)

    This was a pretty unusual week for us - we dropped the boys off at camp last Sunday & it was just the adults for the rest of the week. As a result, you'll see we skipped grocery shopping last weekend, & picked up our supplies on Thursday. And, also lots of meals out. :-)

    • Monday 
      • $124 - to the DMV for car tags
      • $2.43 to Costco, using a $15 off promo code for a giant pack of toilet paper. ;-)
    • Tuesday  
      • $37.52 - dinner at a Greek restaurant. We went with two appetizers & no drinks.
    • Wednesday 
      • $37.58 - happy hour at a Vietnamese restaurant, included a beer for M & a cocktail for me. 
    • Thursday 
      • $62.20 - dinner at one of our favorite places. This was without wine (we brought our own
      • $125.00 - stocking up on groceries at Costco
      • $35.67 - gas
    • Friday - 
      • $9.58 - forgot to bring water for the kids when I picked them up at camp. Nick gets migraines when he gets dehydrated. Stopped at a convenience store, & they had a $10 minimum for credit & debit cards. The lady let me by with $9.58. We were in the middle of the wilderness, so shopping for an alternative wasn't an option. This is what happens when you don't plan ahead! ;-)
    • Saturday - 
      • $91.45 - Ikea for a rug for Nick's room, plus 6 new placemats (our current mats are bamboo & are hard to clean). We opted instead for 2 easy wipe kind for kid meals, and 4 washable cloth ones for family meals. Plus, two soap dispensers, and the rug. 
    • Sunday - 
      • $12.60 to pay off a lunch card fine & put $10 on Sam's lunch card
      • $16.24 - groceries at Amazon Fresh (delivery service.) I had a $25 offer, and if you spent $40, delivery was free. So, this was as close as I could come. I got: nitrate free/uncured bacon, 2 bags of edamame, squeezable Greek yogurt for kids lunches, fresh fruit popsicles to celebrate the end of summer, english muffins, 3 avocados, 6 giant Roma tomatoes, and 8 bags of frozen fruit. All for $16. I'll take it! What a deal. 
    Total spent = $554.27. What about you? How did your weekly spending go?

    Sunday, August 14, 2016

    Planning for the week ahead

    Sunday is my day to take stock, plan my work schedule (overlayed with the kids schedule), plan meals, & get as much done as possible before the craziness begins again. Next week will be an adjustment, as we are back to school, homework, a new nanny, and soccer practice 5x/week (boys practice on different days).

    It helps me feel on top of it to create a menu plan for the week, so here's what I'm planning to make. As you can see, I'm a big believer in cook once, eat twice. :-) Not everyone in my family loves leftovers, but they'll get by. ;-)

    Sunday - mahi mahi tacos (M, using the lonely mahi mahi that's been in the freezer awaiting a plan), and ground beef tacos for the rest of us. Also plan to make homemade chips using corn tortillas no one really liked, guacamole (using my cheap grocery delivery avocadoes & tomatoes I scored from Amazon yesterday)
    Monday - leftover chicken risotto
    Tuesday - Enchiladas (freezer) with leftover chips, guac & salsa
    Wednesday - leftover chicken fried rice & edamame
    Thursday - pasta with chicken & pesto
    Friday - pizza & salad (pizza from the freezer)
    Saturday - dinner at a friend's house. I'm planning on bringing a caprese salad & lemon bread
    Sunday - Not sure, but M might grill. Hopefully kebabs & rice. Yum!

    I managed to get my 8 miler in today, & I'm feeling pretty beat. But, I'd like to also:

    1. Make hummus
    2. Pack lunches (supervise the kids packing their own)
    3. Use up some applesauce
    4. Make the homemade tortilla chips
    5. Figure out my workout schedule for the week
    6. Start my packing list for my adventure relay
    7. Yoga. May be too tired for this
    8. Oh, and read my book in the shade, on my lounge chair. Because, what's life without a little fun? ;-)
    And on to you - what are you up to today?

    Saturday, August 13, 2016

    It doesn't always go how you expect, & a day in the frugal life

    But, sometimes, that's okay. I had grand plans for a 4 miler, but got roped into a trip to Ikea to buy a rug (his choice) for a 9 year old who rocked his state test exams. The 10 year old did even better, into the gifted range across all criteria, but he hasn't decided on what he wants.

    And, a quick look at our day:

    • 6:30, up and at 'em. This was a "late start" because it was the weekend. Made espresso out of our 10+ year old espresso machine. (Costco, a fortune 10+ years ago, has more than paid for itself)
    • 7:00 am, M made breakfast for everyone - eggs, toast & fruit. Coffee for the adults (milk for me)
    • 8-8:30 - got everybody sorted, dressed, and in the car to soccer scrimmages
    • 8:45-11:00 - soccer, on the field, with water bottles, sunblock & snacks packed from home. Try out scrimmages, so more intense than usual. Boys coated in bargain sunblock. 
    • 11:15 - home for lunch. Would have been easy to stop & grab something on our way in, but rummaged through the freezer & found "veggie" corn dogs that I purchased for a quick lunch when my parents were here but didn't use. Threw that together with leftover mac & cheese for the kids. I reheated a homemade taquito (freezer) for myself & served with peaches, carrots & cucumber.
    • 12:00 - made muffins for M's breakfast. His favorite, and when we got married, I promised to keep him stocked in muffins. we ran out, which we rarely do, so I remedied that this weekend. Homemade cranberry muffins.
      12:45 - emptied dishwasher
    • 1:00 - washed sleeping bags from summer camp vs dry cleaning, or having cleaned. Set first set out to dry in the sunshine.
    • 2:00 - next set of sleeping bags/pillows in the sunshine, plus shoes & inserts from boys shoes. The amount of debris from summer camp  . . . ! It's like an entire forest came home with them!
    • 3:00 - impromptu trip to Ikea as a reward for the state test that Nick crushed. He got a rug (his room has hardwood floors & his 10+ year old rug got tossed after many attempts at cleaning this year.) Plus, a few inexpensive but washable place mats & soap dispensers. Total = less than $100. Sam hasn't decided yet what he wants, but is leaning towards money in his college account. Smart boy. 
    • 4:00 - homemade lemon drops made from lemon tree. Although, clearly not frugal as we are now out of vodka. ;-)
    • 4:30. Juiced all of the lemons, watered the plants, picked the strawberries & tomatoes.
    • 5:00. Start dinner. Face down leftover rice & oldish tomatoes. Decide on fried rice with chicken, carrots (obviously) & egg, plus edamame & salad. Youngest joins me in the kitchen to make himself pasta & salad for the family. Kids set table.  
    • 5:30 - dinner prep, more laundry, dishwasher. Go through all of boys clothes & shoes. Weed out everything that doesn't fit.
    • 6:00. Massive, giant donation pile for all of the clothes that don't fit. Magically, ten year old now has feet big enough to wear M's socks. No other socks will do. Adult only. When did this happen? 
    • 7:30 - dinner, followed by surprise offer from Amazon shopping (groceries). $25 off of a grocery offer, with free shipping on a $40 offer. So, bought: smoothie ingredients for the freezer (berries, peaches, etc), edamame, fancy/"healthy" bacon, English muffins, tomatoes, & avocados. More than I'd pay at Costco or the like, but for $15, I'll take it!
    • 8:00+ - too tired for anything other than budgeting, bill paying & collapsing on the sofa. Vetted a meal delivery service with a $30 offer (you know, the kind with recipes, all of the ingredients, etc) & still couldn't make the math add up. Passed on that. Almost bed time! 
    School starts on Monday & the fun begins again. How about you? How was your Saturday? 

    Friday, August 12, 2016

    Decisions, decisions & the end of summer

    The boys officially go back to school on Monday. I can't believe it's here already! We are walking to the school in a few hours to see their assigned teachers & classmates, which is always an adventure. :-)

    I picked up two very dirty, exhausted & hungry boys at outdoor adventure camp today. They had a blast. They've been going for three years now, and describe it as the highlight of their summer.

    We've had a mostly frugal few weeks. Here are the frugal highlights:

    • Didn't buy groceries last week. The kids were out of town, and we were pretty well stocked. That saves about $125-150.
    • Earned a $1000 bonus for being in the top interviewers at my company. A dubious honor, as interviewing is a giant time commitment, but what can you do? I'm on a very fast growing team.
    • Called Alaska Airlines to complain about the numerous flight changes for our upcoming holiday trips. For our Hawaii flight, we now have to fly out of an entirely different airport, and the return flight is awful. Got $500 in credit vouchers for future flights, and upgraded to first class on the return for the inconvenience. We will have a super expensive Uber (probably double what we were expecting to pay) given the further out airport, but it's still a big win. 
    • Ate out four times with Michael while the boys were out of town. (No need to pay a sitter!) And, made reasonable choices. Brought wine 2x, skipped alcohol once, made drinks at home one night, ordered happy hour, etc. It was about the same as our grocery bill would have been, so I'll call that a win.
    And, on to the decisions. . . so, I've been thinking a lot about my goals, values & how I want to spend my time as I pass the next few years. We've also been trying to plot out our next steps. A lot will happen in the upcoming year - our lease expires, which really forces our hand with the housing issue. Our tenant's lease expires, so ditto. Our eldest starts middle school. And, here I am, still in a job that requires 8+ weeks of international travel a year, lots of evening & weekend work, too many holidays to count, and all of the stress I could imagine. It pays well, of course. Otherwise, no one would do it. :-) But, it's a job that I want to leave, but feel trapped to continue due to the cost of housing here. 

    We've been actively saving A LOT of money for a down payment on a house in our area. As I've vented many times, it's a minimum of a $2.5M starting price point for the market. Switching areas requires the boys to switch schools. And, the lowest we can get is probably $1.9M for a 1500, 2/3 bedroom in need of work. So, it feels hard to sign off on the boys switching schools without at least revisiting our decision to stay in California. With the boys out of town, we've had lots of time for adult conversations (yay!) & ran some numbers. 

    If we took our down payment savings (and, this includes the savings we will be doing from now until school is out in June), we could actually pay off our vacation house and our second mortgage. That, combined with the reduction in our monthly housing expenses (not including a house here, just our rent), would cut our monthly budget by more than $5K. Which, would free me up to be able to take a more flexible job & not be bound to such a crazy demanding life for all of us. 

    Of course, there are obvious downsides to consider. 
    -Moving the kids. They both talk about moving back all the time, but their friends have moved on, they'd have to re-establish new relationships, they clearly remember things differently than they were, and I think they'd have a hard time with the weather. But, my parents & family are all within a couple of hours drive.
    -The weather. The vitamin D has actually helped with my lupus & my health has been well in check. Plus, of course, it's hard to be active when it rains a lot.
    -Michael's job. He loves it, and he couldn't do it remotely. But, there is a branch of our company in Seattle. But, he'd have to switch roles & teams. And, there's no guarantees. He may not be able to find anything & would have to find a new company, which would require him to forfeit quite a bit of stock.

    You'll likely see me start to more seriously explore all of these options & potential decisions as it gets closer!

    Friday, August 5, 2016

    August goals

    I'm late to the party again this month (a recurring theme, it feels like), but I always like to get the goals set for myself. It really does help with my motivation. :-)


    • Stick to our budget
    • Save $1,500, in addition to our stock vests. This will be tight this month, as we are back to having a nanny.
    • Put $100/each in the boys college funds

    • Have one date night with M
    • Donate, sell or toss 50 items in the house.
    • Clean the garage!
    • Train nanny. Mostly hired. ;-) 

    • Lose 2 pounds. 
    • Eat 5 servings of fruits & vegetables 
    • Complete 5 stretching workouts (yoga or pilates)
    • Complete 7 strength workouts
    • Complete 1200 minutes of cardio. It's a big month with my adventure relay 
    • Average 1350 calories/day
    • Successfully finish my relay!

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

    • Read four books
    • Get together with one friend

    That's it for me. What about you? What's on your list of goals for August?

    Wednesday, August 3, 2016

    July budget recap - how did we do?

    Another month draws to a close! July included a family vacation (on the Oregon coast) and my belated 40th birthday trip (girls trip to Napa), as well as two unusual social events - the Adele & Barenaked Ladies concerts. Some of our categories that rarely get any use (cough, entertainment) finally got a workout!

    All told, we were under by $6,198. An unusual but great budgeting month! Here's how it breaks down:

    Categories where we were over:

    • Entertainment - this included Ubers to & from the concert, as well as a visit for M & the boys to a water park. Over by $117.
    • Groceries - including stocking up for my parents visit, as well as food for our vacation, hosting a big family event at our house, etc. Over by $318. This means we spent $868 on groceries in July. *shudder*
    • Liquor - Over by $220. Our budget is only $40, so that should tell you something. This included stocking up on ingredients to make lemon drops, craft beer for my dad during their visit, as well as wine for my Mom, and also some champagne I brought back from Napa. 
    • Toileteries - Over by $64. This was mostly stocking up on sunblock & my super heavy duty sunblock face cream. The California summer sun is serious business. 
    Categories where we spent as expected:
    • Insurance, rent, our investment property mortgage

    Categories where we spent less than budgeted:
    • Childcare, by $1381. Not only did we have a few refunds come through for after care at camps, but we also had a nanny for only a week during the month. Plus two sitters (concert, and a work event). 
    • Cleaning, by $20. We skipped a cleaning while we were out of town, but had our vacation house cleaned. The cleaning fee is less, hence the difference.
    • Dining out, by $22. Super impressed, given the crazy month!
    • Gas, by $10. :-)
    • Our vacation house mortgage - we got a refund due to the prepayments for our refinance, and didn't pay the mortgage this month for the same reason. We were under by $5442. :-) Obviously, a one time victory.
    • Utilities, by $40.
    And, there you have it! Adios, July & here's hoping for a great August. How about you? How did your budgeting month go? Any big wins?

    Monday, August 1, 2016

    A few frugal things

    This week went by in such a blur, I'm not sure I can remember all of the frugal things, but here we go! :-)

    1. My Sonicare toothbrush (the base, not the head) stopped working. It's about 10 years old, so I was prepared to buy a new one. M took the entire thing apart & somehow brought it back to life. He brought out tools I've never even seen before. ;-)
    2. I returned a gift I'd bought M that he didn't want, and a couple of dresses I'd ordered for my Napa trip.
    3. I've researched & planned inexpensive activities for my parents to do this week with the kids.
    4. I made all meals, with the exception of Friday. I got caught up in a review with our VP, and we went to Sweet Tomatoes for dinner. So, semi frugal fail.
    5. I used a $10 Amazon gift card for signing up for a free Audible trial to buy Sam a thermos for school. This will give us two, so both boys can bring hot lunches from home.
    6. I bought groceries & beer/wine for my parent's visit, so we can hopefully (mostly) stay home. M is gearing up to grill a bunch  of chicken tonight, with wine.
    7. Planning to take advantage of my flexible schedule this week (my parents!) & bike to & from work.
    8. I won an upgrade to Starwood Platinum through work. Will use for our Hawaii trip coming up.
    9. I took Uber to & from the (free) Adele concert. Not as frugal as driving, although I'd planned to have wine, so much safer. Also, avoided all of the headache of parking, closed streets, etc. Remembered I had an Uber code, and saved $20 between the trip to & from the arena. 
    10. I've been using our garden sweet yellow grape tomatoes in salads.
    11. Scored an excellent deal on Persian cucumber at the produce stand, and stocked up. They are the perfect size for pickling, so I may need to go back for more!

    And, that's it. How about you? How is your week going? Hope everyone is kicking off a frugal August!