Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sunday - wrapping up the week

I always use my Sundays to wrap up the week (tackling chores that remain) & to plan for the week ahead. Both of these things are critical for my sanity & our overall organization during the crazy work week.

I had a fabulous two hour hike in the sunshine with a friend yesterday, and the weather was gorgeous all day. I ran errands, and then hung out by the pool for a bit with the kiddos & M.

In what is surely the last possible appliance that can break at our house (I shouldn't jinx myself like this), both ovens went out last night while I was making dinner. And, by both, I feel compelled to add that this house has two incredibly tiny ovens stacked on each other, vs one normal sized oven. It took me two hours to finish the dinner, because I kept checking it, adjusting the settings, swapping to the lower oven, & finally . . . used the microwave convection oven. For those keeping track at home, since we've moved in, we had to spend $700 on repairs to the water connector to the washing machine (it wasn't a standard repair - went far back into the wall, and involved parts that were 20+ years old), and had to get a new dishwasher. Both the washing machine & the dishwasher also leaked on our brand new floors the first time we used them. The pool heater is also broken. And, now the oven. ;-) In our area, you are not allowed to do an inspection. The owner does an "inspection" when they list the house, and it's available to read, but you are not allowed to do your own. Technically, you could, but no offer would be accepted with any contingencies. So, you get what you get. M is very handy, so let's see where we come out with the oven. He thinks he's fixed it today & got up at 4:30 to work on it. But, I did notice that he planned dinner out on the grill for tonight. .. .

M took the boys to the early soccer game this morning (bless him!) so I can get things done. I have a bunch of paperwork-ish stuff I didn't finish yesterday, plus standard chores.

  1. Laundry
  2. Supervise Sam's packing for overnight science camp
  3. Science camp paperwork
  4. Send out family schedule for the week (I book things on my work calendar, M's calendar, etc)
  5. Coordinate schedule with nanny
  6. Sort out summer camp activities 
  7. Fix the printer
  8. Take Nick to soccer
  9. Drop Nick off at art class
  10. Pick up Sam at his fitness test (Boy Scouts)
  11. Find a picture of Nick for a class project
  12. Search the house for a couple of library books that went missing during the move. We currently owe $50. I'm not thrilled, but cannot imagine where they went. We also never found our Amazon remote. Such a mystery. We packed everything, and everything is now unpacked. Where could they be????
  13. Strength workout
  14. Yoga
  15. If the oven is back, make banana bread, and take a loaf over to the neighbors
  16. Call my parents
  17. Find a birthday sleepover date for both boys (delayed from the move) & get the invites out

Nothing is a huge work item, but it all just needs to get done! I'm also hoping for more relaxing pool time today. Even 20 minutes outside with a glass of wine & my book would be perfect! 

What about you? If you accomplish one thing today, what would you want it to be? Do you also have lots of "small" chores that constantly need to be ticked off? 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

A free Saturday

We have absolutely zero scheduled sports/boy activities today. What an unexpected treat! I need a catch up day, as I wasn't home last weekend.

I'm looking forward to getting some errands done today, as tomorrow I have to be at a soccer game at 7:15 am. Oh joy! ;-)

Here's what's on the list for today:

  1. Make a menu
  2. Meet a friend for an early hike, before it gets too hot. I love to combine social time with a workout. Plus, it's free! What could be better? 
  3. Go to Costco. I have a few returns, and need to get our groceries. I also have our rebate check to use.
  4. Call Comcast. Sigh. Comcast
  5. Take the boys to a bike shop to be measured
  6. Fill out a bunch of school paperwork for end of the year activities
  7. Make sure Sam packs for his overnight science camp
  8. Figure out an (extremely delayed) birthday sleepover date for Nick
  9. Return my running shoes to Nordstrom, & try to find a new pair. They make my feet go numb, which is never that fun.
  10. Yoga
  11. Take the boys to the library
  12. Make dinner
  13. Put away at least two "piles" in the house, from the move
  14. Laundry

And, menu plan for the week, just so I can check off #1!

  • Saturday - homemade pizza
  • Sunday - fish & rice
  • Monday - Chicken & pasta
  • Tuesday - Tacos
  • Wednesday - leftover pizza
  • Thursday - leftover fish & rice
  • Friday - taco quesadillas

The weather is supposed to be gorgeous, so maybe we'll eat outside again this evening. What about you? Do you have a full agenda for today? What are you hoping to accomplish?

Friday, April 28, 2017

Frugal Friday

It's been a quick week, with lots of work changes & meetings. I had an 8:00 pm meeting with Jakarta last night, and an 8:00 am meeting with London this morning. I'm pooped, & looking forward to a slightly quieter Friday (no one else is online on Fridays, starting by late morning). Hurrah for small victories!

What kind of frugal things have we done lately . . . ?

  1. Made dinner every night this week, even though I had two very unexpected late nights
  2. Line dried all clothes (minus underwear & socks), which saves the fabric, but also reduces power. We line dry on a large rack in our spare bedroom.
  3. Moved all outdoor lights to solar. While an initial one time cost, we live in an area that has a lot of sunlight, so this should reduce our ongoing outlay of batteries, etc, and provide us with inexpensive outdoor lighting
  4. Continue to maintain our pool without paying for help. M has studied up quite a bit, & most of the supplies are available at Costco.
  5. Speaking of Costco, we received our rebate check ($240, so $120 net savings over the cost of membership), and will use that purchase our groceries for the week.

Less frugal things for the week:
  1. I did pay to have someone clean the house. The week got away from me, and I was out of town last weekend.
  2. M made dinner on the spur of the moment 2x this week. He ended up swinging by Trader Joes to pick up a few things. He spent under $4, but both items were already in the cupboard. Still cheaper than takeout!

I'm considering buying reusable bags for lunches, etc. I want to reduce our use of ziplock baggies. Does anyone have recommendations? I'm looking for lunch packing options, as well as baggies I could use to store divided up meat in the freezer, etc.

Focusing on fitness

I'm a creature of habit, and typically create a schedule & then just go with it. Even when that schedule stops working. I've realized (through many failed attempts) that I actually need to adjust my schedule semi-regularly to make time to work out. Things change each season. Soccer practices & times adjust, new off hours meetings get added to my calendar in APAC, daylight savings wreaks havoc on my time zones (other countries don't follow, so it creates a bigger gap in meeting times), etc.

I need to do a better job of evaluating when things aren't working, and making adjustments. I spent some time on Sunday revamping my scheduling & coming up with options to allow for me to have time to: work out, get plenty of sleep, and make time to relax (relaxing could mean reading a book, yoga, a hot bath, time with friends. . .)

I have not been able to lose weight in 2017, (I typically gain through second half of each year, and spend the first half losing it all over again, in a terrible cycle). This is a real problem, & I need to make sure I'm prioritizing working out.

Getting up earlier isn't really an option, as I need a minimum of 8.5 (but, prefer 9) hours of sleep to stay healthy with my lupus & keep my symptoms in check.

What are the changes I'm making?

  1. Review my schedule on Sundays, & build out a specific workout plan. (I.e. run @ 6:45 on Monday, making sure I don't have any early EMEA meetings, etc).
  2. Come up with a "best possible" workout slot, but have other options for days that won't work. For me, the sweet spot is really 6:30-6:45 am as a start time. As I have more & more APAC meetings (evenings) & fewer EMEA meetings (morning), this should be helpful.
  3. Figure out what doesn't work for me, & work around it. I've been trying to get into the habit of hitting the work gym in the mornings, but that requires showering, lugging all of my gear, & the gym is packed at my desired time. I've decided that working out at home, but ensuring I have strength focused workouts (in addition to cardio) is the winner. I tried it out today, & it worked well.
All in all, I've had good success this week, and have found some options for building a regular workout schedule again. What about you? Do you evaluate your schedule & make adjustments on a regular basis, or are you a creature of habit? When do you work out & how do you fit it into your busy life? 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Things are happening!

I can't recall when I last gave an update on our Seattle rental property, but things are moving along quite well. We are officially listing our house on 5/10, and will have an open house that weekend!

We are doing some minor work to the inside (repairing a crack, touch up paint, etc) & some bigger cleanup on the outside. The total cost of the work is estimated to be around $3200. We will also be covering the cost of the mortgage & utilities until the house sells, as our tenants are out as of 5/1.

We don't have all of the final numbers in, but have been using a range to predict how much we will clear after realtors fees, taxes, etc. It's exciting to think about next steps, after we sell. The Seattle house market is very hot, so we are hoping to draw multiple buyers.

As for the money leftover after all of the fees & taxes our paid, we are thinking of the following:

  • $200,000 - boys college savings. We will then consider these as fully funded.
  • $800,000 (estimate) - we will spread this across a variety of assets (conservative to riskier) to continue to generate income. 

We debated back & forth putting some of the $800K into our mortgage in San Francisco, and then having our monthly payment rescaled back. We also debated the value of paying off our vacation house. At this point, we'd rather keep the money (relatively) liquid, at least in the short term.

Having this investment fund will ensure I can actually leave my job, and find something with no income requirements, that's much more flexible. We will draw down the investment fund each month to cover the gap between our expenses & income, but it will last well beyond when the boys are out of school. Unless something major happens, which is, as always in life, a possibility. It will also give M the option of leaving his job & finding something that doesn't pay as well, should an opportunity that he is very passionate about arise. We haven't given a ton of thought yet to our 10 year plan, but I think it's fair to say that we will not need a house nearly this big (or expensive) once the boys are out of school. That would drastically change our financial requirements. More to come on our 10 year plan! 

In other news, M started his new job yesterday! So happy to have that resolved. He received six job offers (four internal, two external) & accepted the one that he thought would be the best fit. Apparently, his skill set is highly in demand. ;-) 

We've worked really hard over the past 20 (and, 25 years for M) to build up a nest egg that will allow us the flexibility to leave our insanely demanding jobs. I don't think M will do it, but I am already feeling the relief that comes along with knowing that I have choices. 

What do you consider "financial independence", and when are you hoping to achieve it? If you are already there, please share your story!

Monday, April 24, 2017

A few frugal things & a menu plan

I had a fabulous long weekend with my sister & best friend, and am now trying to get back to reality. We spent the weekend on the Oregon coast, and had a very mellow time. We did a 10K run (it turned into just over 8 miles due to my questionable route planning ;-)), played games, drank wine, did some shopping, and really just hung out. It was fabulous! We had an absolutely gorgeous day on Friday, so it made the 10K really pleasant.

Here's what's on the menu for the week:

  • Sunday - kebabs & rice (M grilled for us)
  • Monday - Costco pizza (I see it lurking in the fridge. M & the boys must have picked this up while I was gone)
  • Tuesday - leftover kebabs & rice
  • Wednesday - tacos
  • Thursday - spaghetti & meatballs
  • Friday - oven baked chicken risotto

And, although it wasn't a super frugal weekend due to traveling, there were some frugal victories along the way.

  • Took an Uber pool to the airport. I've never done the pool option, but Uber was extremely expensive when I needed a ride. So, I saved $16 and my ride only cost $8. It added about 5 minutes to the ride, and was quick & easy.
  • Brought my own water bottle to refill at the airport on both sides.
  • We only bought one meal out on our trip. I paid, as the other girls had purchased breakfast, wine & dinner stuff to eat at the house.
  • I was able to find summer clothes for the boys at Costco, and got them pretty much everything they need for the next year or so (minus a pair of jeans) for $80. 
  • I also found replacement shoes for Nick, who has grown an entire full size in a few months. They were at the Nike outlet, and I paid under $20. 
  • I had to cancel my work London trip (unrelated to frugality - only related to work stuff), but that saves me money on nanny hours, as it's harder for us to keep the time in check when only one person is trying to cover all pickups. This will likely save around $50. 
  • I was looking for a few things at the outlets (I typically shop just when I'm with my friends, as I find it helpful to have a 2nd & 3rd opinion). I was able to buy a replacement black work cardigan, a black tank, and a dressier navy tshirt to go under cardigans. All of these are work options, & will replace things that are looking shabby. I wash everything, including my dressy clothes, but line dry. They do need to be replaced faster, but I also don't pay for dry cleaning. It's a tradeoff, I suppose. Everything was a fantastic price, & I used up an Under Armour store credit to get the boys a couple of shirts, as well as a Gap credit to get a tank top for myself.

That's it for me. I need to work through my long to do/catch up list for the week & get things done! Hope you all had a fabulous weekend. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A rainy Easter

Given our stormy weather today, I'm very happy we did our egg hunt on Friday with my parents. It's been raining since around 10 am, and shows no sign of letting up. I'd envisioned hiding the boys very small gift bags (containing a chocolate bar, gummy bunnies, & a bit of money to use for BMXing) outside, but I think I'll scratch that idea.

We took the boys to the BMX track last night, and Sam decided to join Nick in the race. They had a great time, and Sam beat Nick by quite a stretch. Given it was his first time, Nick was less than excited about this turn of events. ;-) It's hard to be the little brother, but these are good life lessons. Their buddy has been racing for about a year, and he took first place. Some of the kids their are absolutely incredible to watch. All of the other kids have full matching outfits, bikes, & helmets. We're not sure if the boys will stick with it, so Nick was wearing jeans & Sam was wearing track pants. They definitely stuck out a bit. ;-) We also have rented protective helmets & bikes. If they decide they enjoy it, they will be at least primarily responsible for saving up enough to cover the majority of the cost. Honestly I'd rather have them spend their money on something like this vs wasting it on video games or Pokemon cards.

It's the last day of spring break, and we are all feeling mellow & enjoying the last day of quiet. So far today, I've gone for a run, caught up on laundry, built the schedule/carpool/nanny schedule for the next two weeks, made 3 dozen muffins, cleaned the fridge, & caught up on some life "paperwork".

Next up, I need to pack for two separate trips - my girls trip to the beach, & my work trip to London. It turns out that M & the boys will be able to pick me up at the airport on Sunday, bring my "work bag", and take the other bag home. I'll then head to the larger airport (SFO) for my international flight. This will make packing much easier.

I'm off to make some tea, and get started on my packing. Looking forward to a nice, relaxing dinner with the boys & M before we get back to the routine of work & school. I do miss our large family Easter gatherings when I lived closer, but this is nice too. What about you? How do you spend Easter? 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A menu plan, & Saturday happenings

I'm taking my parents to the airport shortly, and then we will be back to just four again. We will miss all of the laughs, the tremendous help, & the exceptionally clean house! :-)

I typically start my Saturday by planning our menu, which then informs my shopping list for the week.

Menu plan:

  • Saturday - leftover chicken pasta florentine that my dad made earlier in the week
  • Sunday - M will grill beef kebabs & make Persian rice. Hopefully the weather will be nice enough to eat outside.
  • Monday - Oven baked chicken risotto
  • Tuesday - Leftover kebabs & rice
  • Wednesday - Leftover risotto
  • Thursday - I'm out of town. I'm guessing M & the boys will go out to dinner
  • Friday - I'm out of town. M & the boys will have pizza (freezer)

I'm actually out of town (for work) after my girls weekend, so I need to plan the menu for next week as well. I'm not quite there yet, so need to give that more thought. 

Here's what is on the agenda for today:

  1. Make a Costco list
  2. Go to Costco
  3. Produce stand
  4. Library
  5. Take my parents to the airport
  6. Mail tax payment
  7. Price out how much one of our cars is worth. Considering trading it in for an electrical car, if the price is right.
  8. Go for a run
  9. Take the boys to get passport photos taken. (We are considering a ski trip to Whistler next year, to see M's cousin who lives in Vancouver).
  10. Sort out plans for next week, including car pooling, work schedule, M's schedule & my travel plans
  11. Figure out boy scouts for next week
  12. Determine when Nick can use his free month of art classes, and add to the calendar.

That should do it! How about you? Are you in preparation mode for Easter, or up to something else this weekend? It's pretty great going into the weekend with an already clean house! 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Frugal Friday

We've had guests all week (my parents) & they stayed with us & hung out with the boys over spring break. Everyone has been having a great time!

Here's a small list of the frugal things I've managed this week:

  1. We didn't pay for a spring break camp (around $700), but instead had my parents here. We paid for their flights (~$300) & gave them $100 for kid activities (trampoline park, arcade, etc). 
  2. I didn't need the nanny, or cleaning lady this week because my parents are amazing.
  3. Planned to take an Uber to & from dinner (I took my mom out as a thank you, because she spent 30+ hours cleaning my house to get rid of all of the construction debris/dust) so we could enjoy wine. M offered to drive us there, saving $15. I tried to book an Uber home, but the app was not cooperating. I cancelled our ride, as M was able to pick us up. I did get charged a $5 cancellation fee, but that was still $15 less than what the Uber would have cost.
  4. My parents cooked for us all week, and now I have dinner leftovers in the freezer, plus protein balls & banana bread. Yum!
  5. Shuffled a bunch of furniture around in the new house, so I won't need to order a replacement night stand. Very excited, as they are extremely expensive in the line we have for the rest of the room.

That's about it for us. My parents are doing an Easter egg hunt with the kids this evening, and surprising them with a trip to Disneyland (in June). The boys will be thrilled. :-) I need to start packing for my girls trip/London trip. What about you? What frugal things have you done this week? 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I used up all of my plenti points

You may remember that I've been on a toiletry ban & had a goal to get through 6 months without spending anything on toiletries. I started the year with a stash of Rite Aid plenti points (close to $90) & was planning to get through June with that.

Unfortunately, I've been out of face lotion, and multiple substitutes were not working. With lupus, my skin requires a specific type of lotion, and lots of sunblock for my face. (I take a prescription that makes the sun even more powerful, & I'm already pretty fair & living in California).

I was also out of Advil PM, which I use when I'm traveling to try & get as much sleep as possible - despite jet lag.

I used the last of my plenti points today ($29.45), & then earned $10 more. I'm out of pocket $19.17, but only part of that was considered a toiletry. The Advil comes out of our health category for the year.

In the end, Rite Aid was having a BOGO50% off sale on my lotion, so I was able to get two containers for $34. Additionally, I also picked up a lip balm with sunblock, as my lips are also starting to get sun spots. Yikes.

I continue to inventory all of the rest of my toiletries, and everything is in reasonably good shape, quantity wise. I'm hoping to now make the $10 in plenti points last through June!

What about you? Do you track your toiletries (shampoo, soap, floss, toothpaste, lotion, makeup, etc) to ensure you have enough? How do you find the best buy on this category of items?

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sunday happenings

I got almost everything done on my to do list yesterday!

  1. Go for a run
  2. Make time for yoga
  3. Sort out my jewelry area
  4. Move a dresser out of my closet
  5. Order a new nightstand. (Our master bedroom is tiny, compared to previous houses, so we're doing a bunch of furniture shuffling.)
  6. Contact our realtor for our Seattle house on tenant move out date. Start getting work kicked off in the yard
  7. Fill out paperwork for Sam's overnight science camp
  8. Make a menu & Costco list
  9. Go to Costco & the produce stand
I didn't manage to squeeze in yoga time, but I've already done it today. We ended up hosting a sleepover, so plans changed a bit on the fly. I've also decided to hold on #5, as the rearranging of furniture gave us an option for a nightstand in our bedroom. It's not a match, and doesn't look as good as a match to the set. However, it's free! And, it's the nightstand that's much less visible when you enter the room. We'll keep it for now & determine later if we're bothered by it enough to replace it.

It's a much nicer day today (sunny & lovely), so I'll be getting in some fresh air in between taking people to soccer games. My parents return from Napa, and we are having an early Easter celebration. They head home next Saturday morning.

Here's what's on the list to accomplish today:
  1. Sort out the family vacation house schedule
  2. Send out an email to everyone who has requested a slot
  3. Finalize tax payment
  4. Yoga
  5. Go for a walk in the sun
  6. Review calendar for the week
  7. Send my parents the schedule for soccer practice
  8. Pick up bonus kid for soccer, take 3 kids to a game
  9. Make risotto for dinner
  10. Clean the waffle maker (the kids made waffles today)
  11. Investigate flight options for my London flight in a few weeks
  12. Verify rewards number is attached to London hotel reservation
Add in the laundry & dishes, and it looks like a pretty mellow day! What about you? What's on the agenda for today? Do you have any good spring-ish recipes? Looking for some inspiration!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The wind has finally stopped

Happy Saturday! It's been a very windy few days around here. One new thing I've learned about owning a pool. . . when it's windy, it's a must to sweep up regularly near the pool. Otherwise, every last leaf will be in the pool, and need to be cleaned out. Ah, pool life. :-)

It's spring break, which means no soccer today! The boys are actually subbing for another team tomorrow, but today is soccer free. We have no planned commitments, so I can get things done & organize our lives. My parents are in Napa, and will be back tomorrow. Here's what I'll be up to today.

  1. Go for a run
  2. Make time for yoga
  3. Sort out my jewelry area
  4. Move a dresser out of my closet
  5. Order a new nightstand. (Our master bedroom is tiny, compared to previous houses, so we're doing a bunch of furniture shuffling.)
  6. Contact our realtor for our Seattle house on tenant move out date. Start getting work kicked off in the yard
  7. Fill out paperwork for Sam's overnight science camp
  8. Make a menu & Costco list
  9. Go to Costco & the produce stand

Menu plan (my parents will be with us Sunday-Friday for dinner):

  • Saturday - leftover PF Chang's. There is so much leftover Chinese food from our dinner delivery on Thursday!
  • Sunday - M is grilling chicken, and will have that with rice
  • Monday - My mom has offered to cook. I think she mentioned enchiladas
  • Tuesday - Leftover chicken & rice
  • Wednesday - My mom has offered to cook
  • Thursday - Leftovers
  • Friday - I will probably make risotto
I have late meetings all week, as I'm interviewing for a new senior role in Asia. It would be a HUGE gift to fill that role - much less travel, and not managing a huge team of people myself in region, remotely. I'm taking advantage of my parents being in town to get as many of the late night interviews, meetings done while they are around.

What about you? What do you have on your agenda for today? 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Frugal Friday . . . or is it?

First, in great news, M got promoted at work. I'm sure many of you are scratching your heads wondering how it's possible to get promoted while you're looking for a job. Totally reasonable question. ;-) At our company, levels are person based, not role based. The two are obviously highly correlated, but you have to be performing at the next level for a minimum of 18 months to earn the promotion. This now means that M will be eligible for significantly more senior roles. He's pretty far along on two conversations & feels very optimistic about landing either/both of them.

So, we went out to a very nice dinner to celebrate. This is a very substantial difference in leadership & expectations, and is something M's been working on for multiple years. Super proud of him. The dinner was, shall we say, not frugal. ;-)

I'll break the list into two this week, for clarity.

Frugal wins:

  • Having my mom clean our house (we're talking, super deep cleaning after all of the flooring & ceiling drilling). She's spent a least 30 hours cleaning. This is totally her choice. She hates being bored, & has loved being able to help us out so much. It's also probably saved about $1000 of cleaning costs as a result.
  • Requesting a small refund on a few things that weren't delivered properly on a restaurant delivery yesterday. We will be getting back about $20.
  • M's promotion will mean a raise, qualifying for a bigger bonus pool, and additional stock grants!
  • M & I had my mom cover a bunch of child care that would have resulted in about $200 of nanny time &/or a sitter. I had a team dinner when M was in Seattle, we went out to celebrate the promotion, and my mom covered after school care a few days. 
  • We ordered delivery take out instead of going out last night, when my dad arrived. Obviously, the most frugal option would have been prepping my own meal, but due to work crunches, this was the next most frugal option.
  • It turns out our rental house is likely worth $200k more than we'd expected. I won't count our chickens before they are hatched, but this would be HUGE, if it is realized.

Frugal fails:

  • M & I had an expensive celebratory dinner out after his promotion announcement
  • We ordered a delivery dinner yesterday. I also over-ordered & we have way too many leftovers. It's fine, as they will be eaten & not go to waste, but I could have reduced our order by at least 1/3.
Trying to prepare myself for another week of visitors. Super excited to have my parents in town again next week, as they will be spending time with the boys over their spring break. I will give them spending money to entertain the kids, and I won't need the nanny. I'm also going to try to avoid any meals out, except one. I've promised to take my mom to dinner as a thank you for all of her efforts this week with the house.

What about you? Any big wins or fails on the frugal front this week? 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

One quarter complete, checking in on the 2017 clothing budget

Given that we are through the first quarter of the year, I thought it would be helpful to check in on my 2017 shopping budget & see what I'd purchased.

I wrote a post back in December on what I planned to buy.

Here's the original list:

  • A minimum of 4 pair of kids shoes. More if they need new soccer cleats, & I don't have the correct size from my sister. Her kids play single season soccer, and don't wear them out as much as my kids do. As a result, I have about 4 pair of bigger season cleats at the ready. Expected cost = $150
  • Slippers for me. Our house has no carpeting, & I've really missed slippers during this cold snap. Of course, as soon as I buy them, it will get warm again, & I'll wonder why I have them. ;-) Expected cost = $10 
  • Running shoes for me. Expected cost = $75 
  • Running shoes for M. Expected cost = $75
  • Replacement workout outfits (M + me). We wear things a lot, and although we hand dry, we typically have to replace 1-2 items each/year (sports bras, running shorts, etc). Expected cost = $150
  • Kids clothing, miscellaneous. I've not bought the kids much of anything, as they have lots of sports shorts (the only thing they will really wear), dry fit tshirts, etc. They each have one pair of jeans, a couple of pair of pajamas (mostly for trips to Oregon) & a couple of jackets. However, I'll add $200 just in case.
  • Socks, all. With the working out & kids feet growing, we tend to need to replace socks with some frequency. Expected cost = $40
  • Shoe repairs, me. I need to have my Frye boots reheeled. Expected cost = $25
  • Random things for M. He's a bit less diligent in his clothing purchases, and tends to pick things up at Costco that strike his fancy. I'll just build that into the budget, and be happily surprised if it doesn't happen this year. :-) Expected cost = $250

So, what have we bought so far this year? Here's the list:

  • Slippers (me) - $8.09
  • Running shoes (me) - $130.15 
  • Running socks (me) - $21.68
  • Slip on sneakers (me) - $14
  • No show socks (me) - $11.98
  • Boys soccer uniforms (home & away, so two per kid) - $306.72
  • Base layer & gloves (Sam, at a super chilly soccer match) - $20.02
I also returned a few things purchased at the tail end of 2016:
  • A workout jacket - $13.02
  • Ski stuff (opted not to ski this year, with the move) - $61.79

All told, we've spent $437.83 out of our intended budget of $750. The boys soccer uniforms are the biggest portion of the spend, and reflect almost half of our yearly budget. They weren't anticipated, but should now be good for at least three more seasons. I think we can make this budget, if we stick very tightly to the rest of our categories. 

What about you? How much are you planning to spend on clothing in 2017 for your family? How are you doing so far?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Small goal progress - update #2

Given that we weren't sure what 2017 would hold at the beginning of the year, I decided to create a series of smaller goals to help me stay focused. (You can also see my first update on the small goals here.)

We ended up tackling some huge projects in 2017, but I still like the idea of having smaller goals, to fill in the gaps as we work to tackle the big ones. :-)

Here's what I came up with at the beginning of the year.

  • A toiletry challenge! I consider toiletries any of the following: makeup, anything dental related, any product you'd use in the shower and/or to clean your face. I currently have $75 of Rite Aid plenti points, and I'm hoping to make these last for at least six months. Even better if I can make them last for all of 2017 by "rolling" the points. This may be tricky, as rolling your points means generating new points off of purchases made with points. It would take just the right combination of point offers & needs for this to work well. I'll be doing an inventory of our toiletries in the next few weeks, so I can see where we stand & determine what I need to look out for on sale. I've already raided my gym makeup bag when I ran out of eyeliner, because it's the rare day that I work out in the morning before I've showered at home. Using up what I have in various bags (travel, gym) may be my first way to reduce spending. - I'm still doing well with this! I have $34.95 left, and no immediate needs. In fact, I used my plenti points to buy the boys Valentine's Day cards, and Nick also bought a pack of Magic cards for himself & gave me $10 cash for the points. The only thing I really need at this point is more face lotion. I ran out, and I've been using sunblock as my only face lotion. I prefer a thinner lotion against my skin, with the sunblock over it. If I see a good deal at Rite Aid on my preferred brand (Olay), I will likely pick some up. 
  • Tracking all of our clothing purchases. I did this with our groceries in 2016 & it was both fun (sometimes tedious), but also really helpful when it came to understanding patterns, areas to stock up on, and where to cut back. We have a reduced clothing budget this year, so I'm hoping this helps. - Yes, and I just wrote a post on this. We're doing great with our shopping. The boys soccer uniforms threw us for a bit of a loop, but other than that, things are right on track & we are only buying critical needs. So far, we've spent $437 out of the intended budget of $750. 
  • Every month, look for one permanent way to cut costs. It's totally fine (and, likely) that these will be small cuts that will add up over time. This may be finding a ziplock alternative for one of our common usages (school lunches), reducing our water needs by building rain storage, etc. 
    • January - I used (free) newspaper to clean our mirrors. I had no idea about this trick, but it's awesome!
    • February - yes, I replaced two errand trips with walking/biking, and continued that back & forth to the new house. I need to get back to replacing the errands with walking. Our new house is a bit further. 
    • March - n/a - we missed this month, as we were moving. That said, I did find entirely free moving & packing materials, so I'll count this as my one frugal move, even though it's not permanent. Mostly because I'm hoping not to move again until the boys are out of college! :-)
  • Come up with two date night suggestions that don't involve an expensive meal out. - I managed one of these. M & I utilized a free Valentine's Day sitter option, and made dinner at home while checking out paint options for the new house. We still need to figure out the second option. 
  • Maximize my travel hacking. I'm not sure what 2017 will involve for work travel, but there are lots of opportunities to use points & credits for their best value & by keeping track of all of our rewards, it helps to ensure I'm using them well.  - I was able to use my flight credits to save $1500 (I gave my parents $500 as a thank you, as they are taking our kids to Disneyland & covered all of the flights using their miles). As a result, I've kept our flight costs way down this year. I've also been keeping an eye on price changes, and filing requests for lower fares. I still have two flights to book for the remainder of the year, as well as a hotel for our adult Hawaii trip. Other than that, I think we're good! I'm saving lots of hotel points & airline points for future adventures. 
    • We've spent $1091.12 so far this year for all of our travel through the end of 2017. This includes flights to the beach for the summer, flights for the holidays to Portland, flights for myself & M to Hawaii, and a flight for me for a girls trip coming up in April.
    • We have the following points/miles for future travel. I track these like cash, as they are an important asset to track & measure when booking travel. It's not always best to use points - sometimes it's best to use a combination of points & cash, pay cash & save the points for a better deal, etc:
      • 52,000 points at Starwood
      • 81,000 points for Alaska Airlines (our preferred airline)
      • 80,000 points (split among M & the kids) for Alaska Airlines
      • 17,000 points on United (work travel, so sometimes use this to upgrade to business)
      • 197,000 points for the Marriott. Will likely turn this into a Hawaii trip with the kids in 2018
  • Make $100 selling things on Facebook. - I crushed this goal by selling a few necklaces (Tiffany - they apparently hold their value extremely well). I also sold a variety of smaller items, but none of them were worth much. Lots of $10 & $15 at a time. I've made a total of $880 so far this year, and would like to now get to $1000. 

What about you? Did you have any small goals you were tracking in 2017? How are you doing against the goals you set out to achieve? 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Pantry update - use it up!

Way back in October, I posted about using up things lingering in my pantry, fridge & freezer. It feels like I'm way overdue for another update. Here's how that's going.

  • Lemons - sadly, we've moved out of our house with the lemon tree, and I miss it SO Much! I think I have five lemons left. But, from a use it up perspective, we're all clear here. 
  • Two unopened tubs of Nutella - 3/4 gone. No additional progress since TSA confiscated a tub I was bringing to my mom. Had no idea it was a "liquid". 
  • Poppy seeds - (lemon poppy seed muffins) - done
  • 1/2 a bag of quinoa - gone! Used the remainder for spicy quinoa chicken tacos. 
  • two tubs of pesto unearthed from the freezer, from many, many batches ago - one gone, one slotted to go into pesto risotto soon - gone! We need to plant more basil. 
  • 2/3 a bag of chia seeds - gone. Used these in smoothies, yogurt, granola, etc. 
  • 1/4 bag of Craisins - used these in granola. 
  • An enormous quantity of baking chocolate, repurposed from random bars & gifts - all gone. Used these in granola, cookies, etc. 
  • 2/3 bag of cashew pieces (so, better for baking/cooking vs snacking, as not entire cashews) - no progress. - used up in granola!
  • A bag of dried pinto beans (I need to cook these & freeze them for tacos). -By far the worst experiment. Used all of them, but apparently didn't get the cooking right, because they were a stomach killer & I had to toss them.  
  • 8 individual packs of almonds & trail mix - used in granola!
  • 3 individual servings of honey peanut butter - used in granola!
  • 1 1/2 boxes of orzo - gone. Used in one of my favorite rice pilaf dishes. 
  • 3/4 a large box of stuffing - I've made another batch of stuffing, but no one really loves it, and it just . . . lingers there. 

Wow! Look at all of that progress! Moving definitely helped me whittle down the pantry, fridge & freezer. I'm in much more of a "restock" phase vs use it up these days. 

What about you? Do you have pantry, fridge or freezer items you are trying to use up?

Monday, April 3, 2017

April goals

It's time to set bright & sparkly new goals for the month!

1) Financial - 
  • Start forecasting & modeling our plans for selling our rental house
  • Pay our taxes. Yay. ;-)
  • Adjust our budget as needed, now that we've had a month in the house.
  • Build a list & budget for all remaining house projects
  • Find one alternative cost cutting option
  • Sell another $100 of items on either eBay or my local Facebook swap site. 
  • Finalize our decluttering & organizing in the new house
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. 
  • 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) 
  • Continue researching plans for an adult trip in October

    3) Fitness/health - Lose 3 pounds in April
    • Run 20 miles in April
    • Run a 10K
    • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day
    • Complete 1000 minutes of cardio
    • Complete 6 strength workouts.
    • Complete 6 stretching workouts. 

    4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
    • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress 
    • Work from home 2x this month.

      5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits.
      • Try a new recipe
      • Do something social at least once per month.
      • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month.

      What about you? What's on your list of goals for April? Anything big or small that you very much wish to accomplish this month?

      Sunday, April 2, 2017

      Menu planning & bike racing

      Yesterday was a super fun day. We left the house bright & early for the school walkathon & auction/fundraiser. It's a huge event, with all parents participating. The money raised helps support the majority of expenses for the year, including two extra teachers to keep class sizes down, field trips, etc. I don't know a single family who doesn't contribute in some way. People run the carnival games, bake cakes for the cake walks, donate items for the silent auction, sponsor the kids running laps, bid on auction items, line up corporate sponsors, clean up the school after the big event, etc. It's so inspiring to see everyone pull together. It's a blind auction, and though I bid on a bunch of stuff, I have no idea how much I actually "won". All of the money goes to the school, so at least it's for a good cause? :-)

      After the walkathon, the kids got in the pool (it was 82!) & then Nick had his first league soccer game. They lost in a very close 3-4 match, but it was a fun (& hot) game to watch.

      We didn't get home from soccer until 6, so I threw together naan pizzas & salads, and then Nick's friend & his family stopped by to see the house & take Nick with them for a sleepover. He'll be hanging out with his buddy & then going bike racing this afternoon. And, because you can't really see his face very well. .. here is a picture of him last week, trying bike racing for the first time. (Picture for a limited time due to trolls with no life.) He's on the left.

      My mom arrives today - super excited! I haven't seen her since the holidays, so we are all looking forward to having Nana around. :-) It's also a strange dinner week, with multiple meals not involving everyone. My dad arrives on Thursday as well.

      Menu plan:

      Saturday - naan pizzas
      Sunday - beef kebabs & rice
      Monday - M is traveling for work, so the rest of us will have tacos
      Tuesday - I have a team dinner - everyone else with have leftovers
      Wednesday - out to dinner with my mom. M will make pasta & chicken for himself + the kids
      Thursday - PF Chang's delivery (Sam's favorite), as I will be getting home late from picking up my dad at the airport
      Friday - homemade risotto
      Saturday - leftovers
      Sunday - chicken kebabs & rice

      When I got home from work on Friday, I looked around & we'd pretty much eaten everything that was originally planned as a leftover. I had no obvious ingredients lingering around for dinner, and no freezer meals. We ate through all of our freezer meals between my international trip & the packing/moving.

      So, I quickly defrosted part of a rotisserie chicken (leftover from date night last weekend), made the very last of a bag of quinoa lingering in the pantry & added lime juice & a bunch of spices, unearthed the last of the tortillas from the freezer, and used the last of the cheese to make . . . chicken quinoa tacos. I also had to go to the grocery store to get cake stuff for the school fund raiser, and I picked up an avocado to slice on top (of the tacos :)). It was actually delicious! Necessity being the mother of all invention & all. M really liked it, and & I can see us having this again.

      And, on to today's list. Here's what we're up to!

      1. Wash all sheets/remake beds
      2. Take Sam to soccer
      3. Go for a run, or do yoga. I now have a yoga area set up & have rearranged the furniture, so yoga is looking likely.
      4. Pick up my mom from the airport
      5. Go for a walk with my mom to show her how to get around the new neighborhood
      6. Make a to do list & schedule for my mom
      7. Buy any meal plan ingredients for things my mom needs. I'm hoping she'll make some freezer meals, muffins, breads, etc. 
      8. Sit back & enjoy the sunshine & the pool with my mom & a glass of wine this evening. :-)
      What about you? What's the most creative meal you've made lately? And, what are you most looking forward to today? For me, it's definitely #8! :-) 

      Saturday, April 1, 2017

      March goals - how did I do?

      March was the "month of moving", so definitely not our standard month. There was a lot packed into those 31 days!

      1) Financial - 
      • Declutter, pack & move! - we did it!!!! We didn't declutter the garage as much as I would have liked, but given the compressed time frame & my trip, I'll take it. 
      • Get our San Francisco house rented (we are limited on what we can do, other than keeping the house clean & ready, and making it available for showings.) - We found a renter, they signed a contract, and then bailed. Our landlord did get to keep a deposit, so we are now out of our lease. 
      • Build a brand new budget for our lives, with our new costs & expenses - mostly done. 
      • Find one alternative cost cutting option (so far, in January I started using newspapers to clean mirrors, in February I utilized my bike to run errands, so let's see what March will hold!) - I didn't really accomplish anything in this vein in March. 
      • Sell another $100 of items on either eBay or my local Facebook swap site. - I stopped selling stuff & ended up donating as it got closer to the move. 
      • Unpack & organize the new house - we are 75% of the way there. The rest of the stuff requires things like: drawers/shelving in the closets, etc. None of the closets have a single shelf, and the kids rooms are very small. We need to sort out the storage situation in their rooms before we can finish unpacking/organizing. 
      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. - well, not sure how fun it was, but we all moved & packed together. ;-) 
      • Be more present with the kids & M - play games, minimize computer time, exercise together, etc. - we had almost no time for anything other than the move. 
      • Have two dates with M per month (one lunch, one evening)  - I had a dinner date with M last weekend, & it was fabulous!
      • Figure out adjusted travel plans for 2017 - done!

        3) Fitness/health - Lose 3 pounds in March - I stayed the same. I did gain 2 lbs on my business trip, but have since lost them. Sigh.
        • Run 12 miles in March - Yes! 12 miles exactly!!! 
        • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day - I averaged 3/day. Not as good as I would have wanted, but still remembering to make this a priority.
        • Complete 1000 minutes of cardio - I finished the month with 960 minutes, which makes me happy given the move chaos. 
        • Complete 6 strength workouts. - Only two strength workouts
        • Complete 6 stretching workouts. - and zero stretching workouts. I don't have a yoga area set up at the house yet, and this is a problem. 
        • Work out at least once on my business trip - yes! I did work out one time at the gym, and have several days with 20,000 steps. 

        4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
        • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress  - considering I was once again covering for another leave, I'm feeling pretty good about my work life balance. 
        • Work from home 2x this month. - yes, I managed twice. 
        • Find a new job - we are reorganizing our larger team at work, and I've designed a role that is significantly better for what I'm looking for. It will require hiring, which is always time consuming, but the ultimate role should be a much better match for what I want to do, and my time management. 

          5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits.
          • Try a new recipe - I don't think so. I didn't cook much this month at all. 
          • Do something social at least once per month. - I can't think of anything social that I did, either. 
          • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month. - I was supposed to volunteer yesterday, but a work meeting was moved & clashed with my volunteering event at the school, unfortunately. I am signed up to host/sponsor a party for our school auction, so that's been happening & being planned for May. 

          All told, I'm extremely happy with the progress I made in March, considering the factors. I also had a nine day business trip that ate up three weekend days, so feeling good that I accomplished so much in a limited portion of time. What about you? How did you do with your March goals? Any big wins to report?