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!


  1. Moving is a big decision, and hard with kids, but . . . kids adapt better than you think. If the parents are positive, and stay positive the move will most likely be positive for the kids too. They pick up on our worries very quickly, so if we're unhappy or nervous about a move, they soon will be too. I guess I'm not saying not to worry about your kids, but IMO they will be adapt and be fine no matter what you decide to do. (I'm speaking from years of experience as a navy wife and mom whose son had attended 9 different schools by the time he graduated from high school. He did fine, and still stays in contact with friends he made everywhere we lived).

    1. I keep telling myself that, but I do worry. Particularly about my eldest, who has a bit harder time adapting to the new friend thing. My youngest will cry the first few days, and have 4 new friends by the end of the week. Different styles.

      But, you are absolutely correct. The decision needs to work for our family, and the kids will adapt to whatever happens.

  2. No advice here but remember your health-mental and physical has to be a huge part of the decision. Your family needs you healthy before friends, vacations, and second homes.From what you said,that makes the decision more difficult.

    1. Such a tough decision, but you are absolutely right. Both have some health advantages (here, the weather, Seattle, definitely more stress management & a more relaxed lifestyle plus more help from family, particularly now that my mom is retired.)

      The crazy part is, we can actually afford a pretty great lifestyle (vacations, our beach house, me getting to have a job with more flexibility, etc) if we move back.

      Painfully, you will probably have to read more about this, as I use the blog to work through all of my own thinking, pros & cons, etc. Thanks for your comments - it's so helpful to have someone else raising questions, clarifying, etc.

  3. None of these are easy choices. As for the kids, they are at an age where they will probably do well no matter where they end up. If you wait too long that may not be the case. Your health is a big thing, but as I have a similar disease I understand the weather issue. When we moved from Alberta to Vancouver Island my health got so much better. We have wet winters and yet I still enjoy good health. Good luck with your choices, some times it is nice just to be able to think clearly for a few days.

    1. Totally correct. I'm hopeful that my health will be greatly improved with a reduction in stress that will offset the lack of sunshine