Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January Goals Recap

It's been quite a month. I really wasn't expecting that we'd buy a house in January!

1) Financial - Figure out our housing situation, and get it all resolved (i.e. moved, job changes as needed) before school starts. 

  • Build our pricing range (it's not fixed, as there are a variety of contingencies, depending upon the sale of our Seattle house).  - Well, we obviously sorted this! 
  • Inventory & track various stockpiles, to reduce waste & minimize what we need to move. - Have made a ton of progress on this one! There is always more to do, but I've been consistently focused on this in January.
  • Come up with one new way to reduce what we need on an ongoing basis. Examples I've kicked around: find an alternative to all of the ziplock bags/plastic wraps we use for kid lunches. Put a container in the shower to save water for the yard. Collect rain in buckets. Create a compost bucket for the kitchen, so it's easy to compost food scraps. All of these are meant to be permanent changes, so not focused on one time savings. - Yes! We have been cleaning the windows with newspaper instead of paper towels. Had no idea you could do that. I've also done a better job of minimizing ziplock bags (M still uses them for the parts of the lunch that he preps). And, I'm going to try & get groceries via walking at least 1x/month vs driving. I already managed that in January.

2) Family - Spend more time together as a family!
  • Do a minimum of one fun activity/month with the kids. This can be family puzzle night, cooking dinner together, board games, going out somewhere, etc. - Yes, we've made dinner together & tried to all attend sporting events (for the kids) together, etc.
  • Be more present with the kids & M - play games, minimize computer time, exercise together, etc. - The last week hasn't been great for this, as I've been caught up in the news cycle. Otherwise, I've done well. 
  • Have two dates with M per month (one lunch, one evening) - We have spent more time together than in a long time, with all of the planning & plotting for the house purchase. But, no dates. We have a free date night planned in February. 
  • Figure out what to do with our February trip. We were originally going to spend 10 days in Seattle/Portland, getting the boys familiar with the area & skiing. Given our change in plans/unknown status, we may stay here instead. - Cancelled our trip, enrolled the boys in camp, & buying a house instead. :-) 
    3) Fitness/health - Lose 20 pounds, bringing my weight to 133. This may sound familiar, as it's also a carryover goal from last year!
    • No alcohol in January! - I've reduced (and, I only have wine on weekends), but I broke my ban after a particularly challenging week. 
    • Run 16 miles in January. - I ran 4 miles in January, so still some work to do here. ;-) 
    • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day - Yes (when averaged out)!
    • Complete 1,000 minutes of cardio - 705 minutes, which I'm happy with, given our crazy house buying stress & paperwork.
    • Complete 6 strength workouts. - Yes! 8 strength workouts were completed.
    • Complete 6 stretching workouts. - But, only 3 stretching workouts. 

    4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
    • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress (until I leave) - I've done okay with this.
    • Work from home 2x this month. - Yes! I worked from home 4 times this month.

      5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits.
      • Bake bread, and try a new recipe. - Yes! I made dinner rolls & orange bread, plus tried a complex Persian dish. All turned out well.
      • Do something social at least once per month. - Yes - I met up with a friend from Seattle for dinner, and carpooled with a friend to a soccer tournament, so we got in lots of chatting time.
      • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month. - Yes, I got in at least one volunteering time (maybe 2?) at the school. 

      All told, I'm really impressed with what I accomplished this month, in addition to getting all of the housing stuff sorted. We also gave our tenants notice that we weren't renewing their lease in our Seattle house, which is a huge weight off of our chest. Now we just need our landlord to find new renters for our current San Francisco house. Fingers crossed!

      On to February. I'm excited about all of the big changes this month. What about you? How did you do with your January goals?

      Saturday, January 28, 2017

      Staying focused & positive - Saturday

      Yesterday was a rough day (no details, because the impact to my family, & my perspective on this topic is sure to bring out the trolls). I read lots of the news at arms length because it doesn't directly impact your day-to-day life. And then, it does. . . I found it really hard to focus on positive things, & not get caught up in a swirl of frustration, anger, & depression. So, no more of that today.

      M is with Sam at a soccer tournament (ha, I know - so many trips, so many brackets, so much tournament), so Nick & I are on our own. If they lose their first game, they will be home by lunch. If they win, it will be a long day with a second game.

      Nick & I are going to sweep the floors (we really know how to party), make dinner rolls - back by special request because they were such a huge hit last week, get some exercise, work on a book report, and go to the produce stand. I'll also carve out some time for reading.

      I've also been working on the menu plan for the week, so here's what I'm planning:

      • Saturday - kebabs (from the freezer) + au gratin potatoes, to use up the last of a bag of potatoes. And, salad, of course. 
      • Sunday - Either homemade pizza/calzone, or oven baked chicken risotto
      • Monday - chicken tortilla soup with the last of the homemade guacamole, and tortilla chips
      • Tuesday - ham & potato soup with homemade rolls
      • Wednesday - leftover risotto or calzone
      • Thursday - leftover soup
      • Friday - Asian cuisine night (from the freezer). We have pot stickers, buns, edamame, & orange chicken

      And, gratuitous cute puppy picture to lighten the mood today.

      Tell me one thing you are looking forward to this weekend!

      Friday, January 27, 2017

      Frugal Friday

      Things are looking good for our house closing. We won't have all of the final details until Monday, when we are able to sell our company stock, but generally, things look promising.

       It's a longish list of frugality this go round! A collection of basics & a few other "keeping my eye on things & making sure charges are expected" wins.

      • Using a lipstick brush to get out the last of my favorite lip stick/sunblock
      • Used our yard tree lemons & oranges for salad dressing & smoothies, respectively
      • Made granola bars using a bunch of leftover nuts/trail mix/& other various freebies lurking in the cupboards. 
      • We got a late start on running our errands on Saturday, and the boys were starving as a result. (Poor planning for the win.) I bought them lunch at Costco ($5.40), but M & I waited patiently until we got home to eat. This is not quite true. I wasn't at all patient - I was starving, but still held out. 
      • While not intentional (and, it caused quite a challenge juggling my work), my nanny is out of town, so I'll pay nothing in child care this week.
      • Speaking of childcare, I registered the boys for a camp today (school is out for a teacher learning day). The camp didn't have enough enrollment, so they had to cancel. I saved around $60 & will take a comp day that I earned over the holidays. I still need to do one meeting, but will use the rest of the day getting things done (cleaning the house) & hanging out with the boys.
      • I also had to register the boys for camp over the February break. Camp is really expensive ($325/kid). The web site said it was $300 if I registered before February 1, but I noticed that I was charged the full $325/each. I emailed & promptly received a credit & a thanks for pointing out the error. Savings of $50, just for paying attention.
      • We still haven't eaten out as a family this month. It was so tempting last night when we had to be out of the house for a showing. I prepped everything in advance, then left the house to walk/run on the track with Nick. As soon as the prospective tenants left, we hustled back in for dinner. Tacos & homemade guacamole. Yum. :-) 
      • I've arranged a carpool for soccer practices (which, will hopefully end this week). Not only does it save over an hour of drive time for both parties, it also means Nick gets more homework time. Sam is the only one still practicing right now, as his team is still in a state cup tournament.
      Michael & Sam have more soccer this weekend, so I will pack them snacks, lunch & drinks, as well as a couple of gift cards that we have. If the team does a lunch, I'm sure Sam will want to go to Panera for the lunch with everyone. Luckily, I still have about half of a $50 gift card. 

      That's all for me. What frugal things have you been up to this week?

      Monday, January 23, 2017

      Weekly spending recap (1/16-1/22/17)

      We've been trying to keep the optional expenses as low as possible, as we have some big upcoming bills with the new house. Here's what we spent this week. Monday was a work holiday, so a bit of our weekend spending bled into Monday.

      We did end up making two purchases for the new house. I can imagine that this is only the beginning of that spending. . .

      • Monday - 1/16
        • $11.57 - tomatoes, lavash bread, lettuce & mini cucumbers at the produce stand
        • $2.98 - the boys rented a movie on Amazon
        • $30 - the boys got hair cuts
      • Tuesday - 1/17
      • Wednesday - 1/18
      • Thursday - 1/19
        • $280 - Nanny 
      • Friday - 1/20
      • Saturday - 1/21
        • $5.40 - the kids had lunch at Costco. M & I waited until we got home. 
        • $124.67 - groceries for the week. Included a three pack of deli meat (sandwiches), a brick of cheddar cheese, 2 packages of rolls as we keep running out through the week, a 6 pack of avocado, and all of our normal produce & dairy.
        • -$70.50 - since it seems unlikely we will ski this season with the move, I returned one of the ski helmets we purchased, as well as a top that I bought right before Christmas & didn't need. 
      • Sunday - 1/22
        • $2.49 - breadcrumbs. I thought I had some in the freezer from odds & ends of bread, but nope.
        • $9.26 - produce stand: radishes, lettuce, tomatoes, mini cucumber.
        • $44.97 - three fruit trees for the new house (pear, pomegranate, & plum). Can't wait to plant them! Now is the right time of the year. I know it will be quite some time before we see fruit, so I want to get them in as soon as possible.
        • $216.99 - bar stools for the house (found ones that matched what we needed at Costco)

      We also had an appraisal on the house ($1185), a credit report fee ($22.60) & a year's homeowners insurance policy ($1515). I won't count that in the above, as I only count non home/auto spending. I don't count fixed bills like utilities, mortgage payments, etc. However, those big outlays were why we are so focused on keeping our expenses in check!

      Total spent = $657.83

      What about you? Did you track your spending for the week? How did you do? 

      Sunday, January 22, 2017

      This is what you can get for under $10

      at the produce stand, in winter, in California.

      • 8 giant roma tomatoes (.79/lb) - $2.50
      • 2 bunches of radishes (.59/each) - $1.58
      • 1 enormous head of Romaine lettuce - $1.29
      • Just under 3 pounds of Persian cucumber ($1.49/lb) - $4.29
      Grand total = $9.26. The place we go is jammed with people, boxes, fruit, flies, & the prices are fabulous. You can find some great deals in there, but have to keep your eye on the freshness of each item. It's a primarily local shop, but does have more exotic fruit from other places (papaya, mango, pineapple, etc from Hawaii).

      Do you have a year round produce stand year you? What's currently available? At our house, the cucumber will be gone in a few days. They are Nick's favorite snack. The radishes, tomatoes & lettuce will supplement existing salad ingredients (broccoli, carrots, cauliflower & English cucumber). 

      Sports Sunday

      Today is crammed with sporting events for the kids. We have: two futsal practices, a futsal game, two flag football practices, & two flag football games. Chaos, but at least everyone will be tired by the time they come home. :-)

      The rain continues here, although it's supposed to clear up by the end of the week. Hurrah! The kids definitely get squirrely when they miss recess & outdoor PE.

      I had a big cooking session yesterday afternoon. I knew that it would be my only chance to prep food for the week. I made:

      •  homemade rolls - amazing - the kids were drooling when they came out of the oven
      • Granola bars - the taste was good, but they were crumbly, regardless of how long I chilled them, so I had to turn most of it into granola
      • Peanut butter cookies - I have an (almost) 11 year old who is going through a major growth spurt. I can barely keep him fed. The majority of his snacks are healthy, but he has room for treats. Unlike me. ;-) I don't think I've ever made peanut butter cookies before (too tempting), but these were easy & fabulous.
      • A double batch of chicken pastina - one was for dinner last night, and one went into the freezer for another meal. This is an old favorite & is delicious.
      We also made huge progress on one of the kid's rooms. We probably tossed 50 things (recycled, as lots of school paperwork - he's a clutter bug) & donated another 25 items. I love feeling like we're making progress & reducing things we need to move!

      Here's what else I'd like to get done today:
      1. Yoga
      2. A run or walk (may replace with a cardio workout DVD if the rain doesn't let up)
      3. Wash all bedding
      4. Laundry
      5. Build schedule for the week
      6. Arrange soccer carpool
      7. Pick up moving boxes
      8. Go to the produce stand
      9. Return books to the library
      10. Finish going through both kids rooms.
      11. Try a new Persian recipe (cutlet) for dinner. M's mom bakes these vs fry, which is what I'll try. Fingers crossed!
      What about you? Have you made any good new recipes? What's one thing you'd like to accomplish today?

      Saturday, January 21, 2017

      One goal marked off, and a menu plan

      I posted at the end of December that I wanted to tackle a few smaller goals (in addition to my larger yearly goals).

      One of the goals was to sell $100 on my Facebook group (or eBay), & I've already passed that. I'm at $111, and am expecting a few more sales over the weekend. There's decluttering, and then . . there's decluttering before you pack. One is much more intense than the other, for me at least. :-)

      So far, I've sold the following:

      • A pair of flats on eBay
      • A kids ski jacket 
      • A model volcano set
      • An electric circuit set
      • My shampoo stockpile
      • Two of M's old jackets
      • And an electric keyboard
      I'm hoping to clear out the rest of the stuff this weekend. Today is a chore day. The boys have sports & activities tomorrow, so I really need to focus on getting things done. Here's my to do list:

      • Work out
      • Help the boys start organizing their rooms into: trash, donate, keep
      • Sell the rest of my Facebook stuff
      • Make muffins (and, maybe granola bars)
      • Go to Costco
      • And the produce stand
      • Go to the library
      • Pay an in person bill

      I made homemade pizzas last night, using a few freezer ingredients: naan bread, a cheese foccacia splurge thing Michael bought at Costco a while back & I've been trying to determine how to use it, and homemade tomato sauce. Combined with salami, cheese & fresh tomatoes, it was fabulous. Here's what we'll be eating the rest of the week:

      Sunday - oven baked chicken risotto
      Monday - leftover pastina bake 
      Tuesday - Soup from the freezer. And, maybe homemade bread. I have to work from home in the afternoon, so if I have time, I'll put this in the bread maker between conference calls.
      Wednesday - leftover risotto
      Thursday - lubia polo (freezer) & the rest of the cucumber yogurt sauce lurking in the fridge
      Friday - Tacos, with chips & guacamole
      Saturday - kale chicken salad + tomato soup
      Sunday - homemade calzones

      What about you? What are you hoping to accomplish today? What's on the menu plan for the week? Any new recipes to recommend? 

      Friday, January 20, 2017

      Frugal Friday

      This is a tale of two very different paths this week: extremely world class non-frugal, and very frugal. The non-frugal relates to buying a house in the bay area. I'll just leave that, because when you are paying $1000/sq foot, frugality doesn't really come into play.

      But, knowing that we are buying said house has driven us to lots of new frugality! :-) Silver lining, people! Here's what we've been up to:

      • We've bought nothing during the week. Nada. Too busy documenting every place we've ever lived in the last 15 years for our lender. ;-) 
      • I sold a bunch of stuff on my local Facebook site:
        • two coats for $20
        • An electric keyboard/stand for $30
        • Part of my shampoo stash for $5 (I had to switch to a specific shampoo due to some dry scalp complications from lupus). So, I'm never going to use the other shampoo & have a few extra bottles for guests. I don't want to move things we don't need.
        • Sold two gift cards we don't need for $60
      • Ate dinner at home every day, re-using leftovers from the weekend.
      • I'm working from home today, so I made a fruit smoothie with free oranges from our tree, and leftover fruit. I'll have leftover soup for lunch.
      • Cancelled a music service that M has had forever & rarely uses. I just noticed it on a bill recently.
      • Called to track down 85,000 missing hotel points that got lost in a transfer between two accounts
      • Maxed out my 401K for the year. And, in hindsight, really really wish I hadn't done that with my bonus, as we could use the cash now. But, it was too late to change it once it went through. Life lessons. ;-) 
      What about you? What were your frugal wins for the week?

      Thursday, January 19, 2017

      Ahhh, the chaos

      I'm still here, but in the midst of the mad house closing scramble. It's been a very stressful few days - lots of paperwork & number crunching, and document signing. We are making good progress, but I haven't even thought about the actual move. My first goal is to prepare for signing & get all of our assets liquidated in time for closing. No small feat given the number of accounts & multitude of investments we are talking about.

      But, I'm focusing on the positives. We close on the 8th, and my birthday is on the 10th. I've decided to take the 10th off, and have a glass of champagne while packing. Baby steps. :-)

      I'll provide more of a financial update, but it's safe to say that things will be tighter than I'd prefer for at least a few months, until more of my stock vests. And, then we will sell our Seattle house & have a cushion again. Woohoo!

      I'm also mentally creating a list of things we don't want to move & will either donate or sell in advance. The boys & I are going through their rooms this weekend for the sorting process: toss, donate, sell, keep/move. Should be a hoot!

      In other news, we've spent no money of any kind, because, well, when you are plunking down a big bunch of money for a down payment, it makes you feel really uninterested in spending anything else. :-)

      The to do list! As you can see, it's a mix of big & small tasks, but they all need to be completed.

      1. Sort out a nanny for next week. Mine had a family emergency (her grandmother passed away), so I need to either plan to work from home in the afternoons, or trade off a few days with M.
      2. Liquidate remaining assets before next week (x3). Have a call out to my broker on one that's particularly tricky.
      3. Provide paper trail of all money to the bank.
      4. Figure out moving date. (This is dependent on our landlord getting our house rented).
      5. Start packing
      6. Book exterminator for new house. (This is a thing before people move in, apparently. Wasn't required in Washington, so a new process for me). 
      7. Sort out work travel plans based on move date.
      8. Finish new cash flow model based on expenses. After 11+ years of marriage, M & I have finally come to terms with needing a combined cash flow, vs each covering specific expenses and managing independently. Should be a fun exercise to put it all together. Random trivia - my cash flow spreadsheet is 20+ years old. Why fix what's not broken. 
      9. Provide notice to tenants that we will not renew their rental contract.
      10. Book a camp for the kids in February, when we were supposed to be skiing. 

      And, that's it for me! What's the #1 item on your to do list today?

      Monday, January 16, 2017

      We bought a house, and a menu plan

      Because really, what would Monday be without a menu plan? :-) And yes, it happened!!! We went very uncomfortably above our asking price, and our offer was accepted! Now we're in the phase of, oh my goodness, this is actually happening. . . . It's not uncommon in our area to bid on 20+ houses, so we were skeptical until we received the final notice that our offer was accepted. We actually found out when we received an automated MLS query update, marking our house as "pending". Technology. ;-)

      In other news, we haven't sold our stock market investments yet for our down payment. . . see above note about needing to bid on 20+ houses to get an approved offer. We know many people who looked for over a year, so it doesn't make sense to have a liquid portfolio for that period of time. And, fingers crossed that the market holds steady next week during the inauguration? We also had to agree to a 25 day closing, so things are moving VERY quickly. I spent today gathering paperwork, getting homeowners insurance, and getting the earnest money sorted out on a bank holiday. Of course it's a bank holiday in the US! :-) Wouldn't be a challenge if it was easy.

      The market we are buying in is like nothing I've ever seen, and this is my 5th home purchase. . . Speaking of which, we are working to get out of our lease on our rental property & our landlord is fabulous. We're hopeful that we will only need to cover an additional month's rent. Given the inventory of the housing market & general competitiveness on housing, it's near impossible to predict when you will actually buy. So, being out an extra month's rent, while not ideal, is probably best case scenario.

      I also think we will sell our Seattle house when our tenant's lease expires at the end of the school year. It's a great investment, and we'd love to hang onto it. But, things will be uncomfortably tight if we do. Lots of financial analysis ahead on that front. I did sell $45 worth of Facebook items, so just right on track for that deposit. ;-)

      So, chaos. There you have it. :-) I'll have a bigger update on the financial chaos, our new budget, our mad scramble for a downpayment, etc. But, we're about to become homeowners again, and knowing the path forward (at least in the housing sense) is a huge, huge relief for all of us. The kids are thrilled to be able to stay in the same school district.

      Yesterday was another super early soccer tournament, in the 32 degree weather. I got up at 5:00, and we were out of the house by 5:40. The game was much colder than anyone expected (including the weather forecasters). Sam was like a popsicle afterward. He's subbing for the premier league (one up from the league he plays in - top 30 teams in the state, so ridiculously intense), & was on the bench for half of the game. He typically doesn't sub out at his own level, and stays warm by playing for the full hour. I ended up needing to stop at Target for an undershirt for the second game. Didn't get above 40, and was crazy foggy all day. His team lost both games, and will be in sudden death next weekend. Mixed feelings on my side for what happens next. So done with the tournament season! :-) I did pack lunches, brought my Panera gift card, and kept things pretty in check yesterday, minus the unexpected clothes/gloves. Also, my Starbucks app failed a few times while I was in line & I didn't have my gift card on hand, so I ended up having to pay $7 cash for my hot tea & hot cocoa for Sam.

      And, a glimpse at the fields at 7:30 am (and, 30 degrees). . . the boys couldn't see if anyone was further up the field to pass to. It was a classic. There was a lot of shouting & asking.

      • Friday - spaghetti & meatballs (tomato sauce is homemade, meatballs are from Costco)
      • Saturday - at a friend's house for dinner. I brought dessert - fresh lemon cake. It was fantastic.
      • Sunday  - M made kebabs & rice
      • Monday - I made a super delicious chicken & potato chowder, and served it with goat cheese crostini. 
      • Tuesday - leftover spaghetti & meatballs
      • Wednesday - leftovers kebabs & rice
      • Thursday - Leftover soup
      • Friday - Tacos or taco salad. TBD. 

      And with that, what were you up to this weekend? How is the housing market where you are at? Is it a buyers market, or a sellers market? Our market is now over $1000/sq foot, which is just sheer madness. 

      Friday, January 13, 2017

      Frugal Friday

      Another whirlwind of a week! So happy it's Friday. In big news, we are making an offer on a house today. We'll see how that plays out. If we get it, expect lots of posts on the topic, and expect to see us hit a new (mandatory) level of frugality. :-)

      Here are the frugal things we did this week:

      • No meals out. In fact, no meals out in 2017. We'll see how long I can keep that up for. ;-)
      • Utilized our weekend cooking to feed us all week long through creative use of leftovers. Froze a few leftover mini meatloaves & the rest of the lubia polo for future meals. 
      • A bizarre lunch of leftover stuffing & clam chowder for lunch today, with a fruit smoothie (using up leftover fruit & fresh orange juice from our yard oranges) for breakfast.
      • Line dryed all clothes. We continue to machine dry the towels.
      • Sold a pair of flats on eBay for $26. Haven't been paid yet, but hopefully today.
      • Spent no money this week, other than on the mandatory soccer uniforms for the kids. I did skip buying a bunch of things new that we already had (backpack, warm up jackets, etc). It's technically required, but there's no way I'm buying two more $50 backpacks. 
      • Made my own muffins last week for snacks this week, taking advantage of our free yard lemons.
      I think that's pretty much it. How about you? Any frugal accomplishments this week?

      Monday, January 9, 2017

      Weekly spending roundup (1/2-1/8/17) & overly ambitious in the kitchen

      I decided to tackle a variety of kitchen tasks yesterday, and the boys wanted to help. We thought it might be a good way to both continue their kitchen knowledge & skills, and entertain them on a very stormy day. It was both of those things, but I always forget how much effort it takes to teach someone vs doing it yourself. ;-)

      I try to do all of our cooking on weekends, saving leftovers for quick weekday meals. If we don't have enough leftovers, we move to freezer meal options. Given our schedule, this is the only way to avoid either frozen pizza or meals out during the week. (We have those, just sparingly.)

      I was also a bit overly ambitious with how much we could get done. Here's what we accomplished in a ~3 hour period.

      • Found gorgeous Roma tomatoes for $.49/pound at the produce stand, so decided to make fresh tomato sauce. This was unplanned. This turned out beautifully, and I worked on most of this. M came through at the end to taste test, & then season it. All of this went to the freezer for either pizza topping, or for pasta dinners. 
      • The wind storm dropped a bunch of lemons from our tree, and they'd been on the ground for a while & needed to be used up. We made fresh lemon muffins.
      • Juiced all of the remaining lemons for future meals/salads.
      • Made goat cheese crostini for our appetizer, as our dinner prep took longer than expected. Nick made the crostini entirely himself. I helped only through supervision & putting things into/taking out of the oven.
      • Homemade stuffing. Sam made this himself. He didn't enjoy the onion chopping. We made the Boudin stuffing recipe, and I thought it could have used more seasoning & some butter. The recipe called for zero butter, & I wish I would have added it. 
      • Meatloaf. Sam & Nick made this together - Nick grated the cheese & made the glaze. Sam assembled the meat ingredients & shaped the loaves. I highly recommend this recipe. I may add diced pickle to these next time, as we prefer a little pickle in our meat loaf. 
      • A huge fresh salad. Nick's knife skills are good enough that he can make this entirely on his own, complete with homemade dressing. 

      Phew! I didn't get my workout in, but I was exhausted after all of that kitchen time. :-) Now we have a full menu of prepared meals for the week ahead (I'd also cooked on Friday & Saturday). 

      In terms of our spending, here's our spending roundup for the week:

      • Monday (1/2):
        • $13.87 - eyeliner at Rite Aid. Stocking up. Should have used plenti points, but I didn't think through my transaction.
        • $1 - popcorn at the movies (the rest was paid for by gift cards)
        • $15.18 - Costco. Can't remember - M went back for two items they were out of on Saturday.
        • $28.95 - dishwasher tabs at Rite Aid. Stocking up to earn the $20 plenti offer.
        • $8.09 - slippers. On my shopping list for the year. 
        • -$13.02 - returned a jacket to Costco
      • Tuesday - no spend day
      • Wednesday - no spend day
      • Thursday - no spend day
      • Friday:
        • $175 - nanny for the week. We used our old nanny, who was home from college. Our current nanny was on vacation.
      • Saturday:
        • $7.32 at the produce stand for tomatoes, cucumbers, & radishes. 
        • $161.26 at Costco for our groceries for the week. Lots of fruit & vegetables.
        • $28.70 at Lucky. I bought 10 packs of coffee on clearance, risotto rice on sale x2, more yeast, and a box of $.57 tea on clearance. 
      • Sunday:
        • $2.28 - back to Lucky for the last 4 boxes of clearance coffee. I wanted to taste it before I bought more. It was great!
        • $4.71 - back to the produce stand for more tomatoes (decided to make the tomato sauce), lavash bread, & celery for our stuffing.
      Total spent for the week = $433.34, with a big chunk of that going to child care. I'll take it! How about you? How was your spending for the first week of the year?

      Sunday, January 8, 2017

      Getting things done Sunday & a big grocery find

      A few of our sporting events were cancelled due to weather today, so we're left with early futsal practice (8:00 am) & Nick's futsal game. The weather has been very rainy and windy, so I'll cross my fingers that we don't lose power.

      I ran a bunch of errands yesterday, & stumbled upon a huge grocery deal at our local Lucky (owned by Kroger, I believe). In their 90% off holiday section, they had Keurig holiday blends. So, I bought 10 boxes of 12 packs for just under $6 (total). 120 K cups for that price drops my standard cost per unit of $.25 to $.0475 per unit. WOW! I may go back & pick up any remaining boxes today. This, plus our remaining Keurig stock should get us through the next six months. I was also given a holiday gift of 2 packages of Columbian coffee (my coworker goes to Columbia over the holidays to visit family & brought me back a few large bags as a thank you for covering a few issues in his absence), so I'm hoping we can minimize our grocery spending in coffee greatly with this. Woohoo! And yes, we are also concerned about the environmental impact of the K cups. We typically buy only the compostable kind. Instead, these are recyclable, so we will need to rinse them after each use & make sure to recycle them. Still not perfect, I realize.

      Okay, here's what's on my to do list for today:

      1. Go for a run. Should be interesting with the weather
      2. Take the boys to futsal practice
      3. Bake muffins for the freezer
      4. Take Nick to his futsal game
      5. Squeeze in a 21 day fix strength workout?
      6. Wash boys sheets
      7. Laundry
      8. Return a gift to Nordstrom
      9. Go through our schedule for the week, including new bonus soccer practices & skill sessions.
      10. Email nanny & M with schedule details
      11. Clean bathrooms
      12. Text our cleaning lady about cancelling our service. (M hasn't yet agreed to this. Negotiations in progress)
      13. Menu plan for the week
      14. Call my parents. My dad injured himself yesterday & is unable to get to urgent care due to a huge amount of snow & ice storm. They are waiting for the snow plow to get to them. They live WAY out in the country, so will be way down on the list of priorities.

      And, here's our menu plan, including the tail end of the week. I have a bunch of late meetings this week, so will rely on leftovers or easy options from the freezer.

      • Friday - homemade pizza. The adults & one kid had "fridge scraps pizza", which included salami, one small piece of chicken, cheese, & onion. Other kid had a cheese pizza.
      • Saturday - Persian dish called lubia polo with yogurt sauce. 
      • Sunday - goat cheese crostini + mini meat loaves & homemade stuffing
      • Monday - clam chowder (Boudin, from Costco) + crostini
      • Tuesday - leftover lubia polo & yogurt sauce
      • Wednesday - leftover meatloaf & roasted brussels sprouts
      • Thursday - Baked chicken & pasta
      • Friday - Chicken potato soup (new recipe)
      What about you? What are you up to today? What's on your menu for the week? How is the weather where you are?

      Saturday, January 7, 2017

      January goals - one week in

      We have a crazy busy day tomorrow (one futsal game, two futsal practices - at the same time, at least, two flag football practices, and two flag football games). The calendar is magically clear today. Futsal is supposed to be on Saturdays, to spread out the love, but was adjusted due to a coach's conflict.

      I like to check in on my goals, particularly in the earlier months/weeks, where I literally forget some of the goals I've set. ;-)

      1) Financial - Figure out our housing situation, and get it all resolved (i.e. moved, job changes as needed) before school starts.  - I've started on our housing range. We contacted our renters, and they are unable to buy now. That puts us in a place of needing to re-evaluate our buying timeline & plans. I need to set up a meeting with our accountant & understand the best options for selling. I did inventory & track the stockpile of our toiletries. I'm still looking for the January "permanent" savings, but have some ideas!

      • Build our pricing range (it's not fixed, as there are a variety of contingencies, depending upon the sale of our Seattle house). 
      • Inventory & track various stockpiles, to reduce waste & minimize what we need to move.
      • Come up with one new way to reduce what we need on an ongoing basis. Examples I've kicked around: find an alternative to all of the ziplock bags/plastic wraps we use for kid lunches. Put a container in the shower to save water for the yard. Collect rain in buckets. Create a compost bucket for the kitchen, so it's easy to compost food scraps. All of these are meant to be permanent changes, so not focused on one time savings. 

      2) Family - Spend more time together as a family! - We went to the movies, which was really fun. We also went on a family fun run on New Year's Day. M & I haven't had a date, but this is a good reminder to schedule something. And, we figured out our February trip & ended up canceling. We lost the flight value due to change fees, but it was a good tradeoff. We won't have to take the time off of work, but we will need to find a camp for the boys. More details to come, but I feel good that the bandaid was ripped off the decision. Given our tenuous housing situation, I need to stop being a planner & trying to book travel in advance. I like having everything sorted months in advance, but it's clear that isn't a good option given where we are right now.
      • Do a minimum of one fun activity/month with the kids. This can be family puzzle night, cooking dinner together, board games, going out somewhere, etc. 
      • Be more present with the kids & M - play games, minimize computer time, exercise together, etc.
      • Have two dates with M per month (one lunch, one evening) 
      • Figure out what to do with our February trip. We were originally going to spend 10 days in Seattle/Portland, getting the boys familiar with the area & skiing. Given our change in plans/unknown status, we may stay here instead. 

        3) Fitness/health - Lose 20 pounds, bringing my weight to 133. This may sound familiar, as it's also a carryover goal from last year! - I did have a glass of leftover champagne on New Year's Day, but have had none since. I ran 3 miles on 1/1, and I've had 4 days of eating a minimum of 5 servings of fruit & vegetables. I've also done 3 strength workouts, 2 stretching workouts, and 200 minutes of cardio. Trending behind on the cardio, but I'm okay with that, as I'm putting in the workouts. I've lost zero pounds, which is expected. The first few weeks of setting good habits are the hardest!
        • No alcohol in January!
        • Run 16 miles in January. 
        • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day
        • Complete 1,000 minutes of cardio
        • Complete 6 strength workouts.
        • Complete 6 stretching workouts. 

        4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance. - This is a work in progress, and going back to work after the holiday time off was no small feat. But I did work from home one day already. 
        • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress (until I leave)
        • Work from home 2x this month.

          5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits. - I've volunteered, but this is the limit of my accomplishments so far in this one. I removed the reading goals, as it's a regular part of my life. I've been reading in the evenings. 
          • Bake bread, and try a new recipe.
          • Do something social at least once per month.
          • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month.

          What about you? How are you doing on your January goals? 

          2016 Spending in Review

          Every year I do a look back at our budget categories & our actual expenses per category. It helps me determine which categories need adjustment, or further scrutiny. As a reminder, we budget in two different ways - monthly budget items, which are typical monthly expenses. The amount may vary slightly, but it exists monthly. Yearly budget items are those where we know we will spend the money in the year, but we may spend the entire yearly budget in one month (Christmas), or spread out in dribs & drabs throughout the year.

          Monthly expenses:
          Okay, so let's see how we did. We finished the year under our planned monthly spend, which is always a good position! This was mostly due to an adjustment of our Seattle mortgage (permanent renters, reduced costs) & refinancing our vacation house.

          We were also over in LOTS of monthly categories.
          -We've reduced the number of hours we're using for childcare, but are now including date night coverage. This also included summer camps, which were extremely expensive. As a result, and because it impacts how we plan our travel/vacation plans in 2017, I'll be creating a separate summer camp budget this year.
          -Also, that dining out number. . . is the result not of frequent small meals out, but a few blowout meals out. So, that will clearly need attention in 2017. We spent $1600 more in 2016 than 2015!! This is why I have a goal to find free/reduced date night options for at least a couple of date nights this year.
          -I cut our insurance by making policy modifications.
          -Lower gas prices allowed us to continue to save in this category.

          Dining Out18004522.9-2722.9
          Vac Mortg2760019168.518431.49
          Seattle Mortg579001396043940

          Yearly expenses:
          Our core tax withholdings, health insurance, and charitable donations are not calculated here (taken away before we see the money). However, due to the overall mix of our compensation, we still typically owe given our stock options. That's listed below, in taxes. Health is a combination of things like race entry fees, the occasional massage for me, etc. Charity is above and beyond our fixed monthly budget that's automatically withheld.

          If you take out the taxes, we did pretty well on most of our categories. And, again, we've adjusted our withholdings drastically in 2016, so I'm hopeful this number will be much smaller. Eventually, one day, we will own a house as a primary residence & get to deduct some interest. Until then, we continue to pay $$$$$. 

          There were a few other outliers:
          -I decided to ramp up the boys college donations to $200/month, hence the overage.
          -The boys are clearly expensive, and had a ton of expensive activities. The majority of this was club soccer, but some of it included swimming lessons & flag football (they start in January, but the fees were due in December). 
          -We paid $3000 for a one time gift to my dad. M took my dad and a few of his buddies to Las Vegas for an all expenses paid blowout for his 65th birthday. M gets comps at the casino, so this was the overage & own't be repeated next year.
          -I've discussed the housing budget in more detail, but I clearly need to start tracking this more carefully. 
          -Travel. . . more than planned due to my 40th birthday, three unplanned soccer tournament hotel stays (we didn't expect to go this far - for either team!) & a few other unplanned trips. This year needs to be less, so I will be maximizing travel hacking (using points, hotel rewards, miles, & some airline credits).

          Boys (All)10002106.08-1106.08
          Boys Activities15005037.74-3537.74
          Boys College20002350-350
          Clothing (All)20001965.9634.04
          I've written a full post about our planned 2017 budget, so I won't go over all of the numbers. All told, we came in $8,088 under budget, but that's hiding a lot of sloppiness in some of the actual categories. Now that we have clean accounting for our rental property, I expect that much more scrutiny will be required in 2017 to bring us in on target.

          That's it for 2016 spending! How about you? Did you track & review your spending? Were you on target, below or over? Tell us your tips & tricks, & plans for 2017.

          Friday, January 6, 2017

          Frugal Fridays

          I like to round up my frugal spending for the last week or so, and celebrate the wins. Here's what we accomplished:

          • Took the boys to the movies (with a friend), & paid with gift cards. This was their requested last holiday celebration before school went back on Tuesday. 
          • At the movies, brought water bottles & clearance candy as snacks
          • Used the remaining gift card to cover popcorn to share between the kids. Paid $1 out of pocket for 4 people at the movies, which is a huge savings.
          • I made all dinners at home, and stuck to our meal plan. Turned leftover steak & takeout white rice into fried rice for dinner one night. (My meal plan that I posted & created randomly excluded a day, so I was a meal short! :-))
          • Followed our normal frugal activities: line dried all laundry (except socks, towels, & underwear). Used cloth napkins for all meals.
          • I priced a ski trip on a day the boys have the day off of school. It turned out the lift tickets were insanely expensive. Given our housing situation, we're trying hard to limit our spending, so we opted not to do it.
          • Listed 3 items on a local Facebook swap.
          • Inventoried our toiletries
          • Ran a cost per unit comparison of many household items, and tracked the costs for future purchase.
          • Found some good deals at Rite Aid. I need to pick up a prescription today, so will go today to finish the offer & collect more plenti points. 
          • Planning to eat breakfast & lunch out of fridge scraps today.
          • Did no shopping this week. Worked, worked, worked. 

          That's my list for the week. How about you? Any frugal wins? I also want to get an item listed on Facebook, and go through the boys toys/books to get rid of things they no longer want or use. Anything worth selling will be listed on the local Facebook site. 

          Thursday, January 5, 2017

          December goal wrap up

          Other than my fitness, it was a pretty successful month! Here's how the December goals played out. It's clear that my fitness is an area in need of some serious attention.


          • Stick to our budget (including our Christmas & December trip to OR/WA budget) - yes to both
          • Put $200/each in the boys college funds - yes

          • Have one date night with M - Yes! We did both a date night & a lunch.
          • Donate, sell or toss 50 items in the house. - I think I donated or tossed around 10 items. 
          • Try a new recipe that everyone (including my little guy) will eat. Yes! I made hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls. Not exactly gourmet, but it worked!
          • Get our plans sorted out for our December trip - Yes, done. 
          • Find ski goggles for the kids, so we can ski in January - Yes, done. 

          • Hit 150 & stay there through the end of the month - eh, no. I stayed even. 
          • Eat 5 servings of fruits & vegetables  - nope. Not even close, sadly. Too many chocolates & holiday treats. Not enough carrots!
          • Complete 5 stretching workouts (yoga or pilates) - I had 2 stretching workouts.
          • Complete 7 strength workouts - I finished with 5 strength workouts. 
          • Complete 900 minutes of cardio. - I finished with 510 minutes. It was in the low 30s & raining for much of our trip to Oregon. I typically put in a minimum of an hour a day on vacation, but was not as motivated with the freezing cold weather. 
          • Average 1450 calories/day - no way near this, sadly. I finished December with 1,820 calories/day.
          • Average 10,000 steps/day - I stopped tracking very effectively, but did have a few big step days to offset some of the other "lounge around the house & do puzzles" days. I'll assume I finished around an average of 8,000/day.

          • Maximum of one late night/week - yes
          • Work from home at least one Friday this month - yes
          • Stay calm & manage my stress well - relatively well, given the month & the general amount of craziness. 

          • Read four books - oh yes. Probably around 12? 
          • Get together with one friend - yes, we went for a hike on a lovely day. 
          • Take the boys to see Christmas lights - Yes!
          • Make cardamom bread for the holidays - Yes, and it turned out great. Victory, at last.
          • Find a way to volunteer! - Yes, I cleaned Nick's teacher's classroom before the break. It was nice & sort of therapeutic. Plus, I knew she would be staying late if I didn't help. It was nice to give back. I also volunteered once at the school running event. 

          How did you do with your December goals? Any big wins to report? 

          Wednesday, January 4, 2017

          2017 Net Worth Update

          I try to start off a new year with our financial house in order, understanding how our financial situation has evolved, and measure our progress on a yearly level. I tend to be focused on smaller numbers (monthly, weekly spending reports, etc), all of which are critical to the larger financial picture. However, it's also really helpful to understand our financial picture on a larger basis once a year.

          In exciting news, we broke the $1M mark for our retirement accounts in December! Because of M's age, he can now participate in the 401K catch up in 2017. We haven't yet decided if he will participate (we will both continue to max out the standard 401K amounts), as our cash flow situation remains unclear based on our housing/location.

          As for our other assets, we continue to pay down our liabilities (three mortgages across two properties) & stash cash for an eventual decision on location. This, combined with very high salaries & a continued effort to minimize our expenses, has allowed us to double our net worth over the past three years.

          Our net worth also benefited from a big rise in the stock market, and the continued real estate appreciation in Seattle.

          What about you? Do you track your net worth? How has your financial picture changed, year over year? 

          Tuesday, January 3, 2017

          Why you should make time to inventory your "stuff" and a toiletry inventory

          I've been working on taking stock of our pantry, toiletries, and my clothing. For me, this means understanding our existing stockpile, any pending needs, and anything we might be running out of soon.

          In 2017, I hope to reduce our budgets by keeping better track of our needs & what we already have at home. This, of course, helps me reduce overbuying, but also helps me search for good deals when I know we will be needing something soon. Given our pending move (either location will require a move, as we are currently renting), it's more important than ever that I don't unnecessarily stockpile. Who wants to move a bunch of stuff we won't need for a few years . . . or ever?

          I started with inventorying my toiletries. My goal for the first six months of 2017 is to not buy any toiletries, save for the credits I have on my plenti point account (Rite Aid). I have $79 available for toiletries during the first six months. I'll also look for opportunities to roll my points, to extend the savings.

          The first item I determined as a pending need (meaning, I have one item in service, but no backup) is my eyeliner. And yes, I realize "need" is probably a generous description of eyeliner for those of you who don't wear makeup. ;-) I went to Rite Aid yesterday to see if I could take advantage of a "spend $50, get $20 in points" offer, by price checking non-toiletry needs:

          • After looking at the Rite Aid ad, I did a cost per unit comparison of our dishwasher tablets. We are paying $.11 per tablet at Costco. Rite Aid was offering the tablets BOGO, so I was able to get them for $.10 per tablet (not including the plenti offer). Not a toiletry budget item.
          • I also had slippers on my list of clothing needs. I was able to find a very cute pair that matched my needs for under $10. (Didn't count towards the plenti offer). Not a toiletry budget item.
          • The eyeliner was also BOGO50. Unfortunately, because I'm not a pro, I didn't use my plenti points. I didn't want to deduct my precious toiletry points with the dishwasher tablet & slipper purchases, both of which came out of other categories. 
          So, I've already "violated" the toiletry challenge by using a credit card for a toiletry purchase. However, I'll track my eyeliner spend & move the goal post out by another month. Should have had another cup of coffee before I attempted a complicated purchase this morning. ;-)

          I am now $10 away from earning the $20 reward, so I will look at Rite Aid next week for other options.

          With all of that, here's my existing inventory of our toiletries. (I use a special shampoo, as it's expensive, but something I need due to an extreme dry scalp condition caused by lupus. Otherwise, we would all use the same stuff.)

          Toiletries inventory
          Item# on hand
          Bar soap14
          Hotel soaps9
          My deodorant2
          M's deodorant4
          Shaving cream4
          Kids shampoo4
          My shampoo1
          Face cloths2
          Eye makeup remover3
          Face scrub1
          Razor replacements2
          Night face cream1
          Face sunblock - SPF 701
          Lotion 2lots of travel + full size
          Sonicare heads9
          Dental floss5

          As you can see, we're in good shape for pretty much everything. I will continue to track our toiletries and use my plenti points to lower our budget. Basically, use the plenti points as a true asset, vs randomly spending it. 

          I'll also be posting about our pantry stockpile, as well as household goods (ziplocks, laundry soap), as I've been trying to do an update of our cost per unit across every item. Expect a clothing update soon. This won't be a stockpile, so much as an inventory taking of existing items, as well as any known needs.

          What about you? Do you inventory any of your stockpiles, or track costs per unit? I was blown away to know that dishwasher tablets were $.10 (or, $.11, depending on the deal). Just knowing this will make me more conscientious of running the dishwasher when it's not completely fully. Share your stockpile tips!!