Friday, July 28, 2017

Frugal Friday

I love July, but it's been utter madness. Lots of house guests, multiple trips, and work chaos. We keep trying to eke out various frugality in the midst of the crazy.

  1. Made all meals at home, with our full house of guests (this included three dinners, three lunches, and four breakfasts). 
  2. Our house guests extended their stay by a couple of nights, saving them the cost of a hotel & gas. Not necessarily frugal for us, but lovely to be able to help them out. 
  3. Generally kept our entertaining in check, with a trip to explore the city, and a trip to the beach at Santa Cruz
  4. Received a dinner of pizza as a thank you gift from our guests
  5. Received a $20 gift card as a thank you for staying at our vacation house from my aunt & uncle.
  6. Made a last minute dash to the library to pick up books for our upcoming trips, to save on purchasing anything.
  7. Priced out the difference between an Uber for 5 people vs parking at the airport. (The Uber is still cheaper).

Looking forward to a more relaxing week next week! And, I'll be back at the end of the weekend with the results of the Dunkin Donuts giveaway. :-) 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Frugal Friday + Dunkin Donuts Gift Card Giveaway

July continues to be a month of absolute craziness. I was in Sonoma wine tasting with friends this week, and used the condo accommodations I won at the school auction. It was a lot of fun, but the timing was challenging, wedged in right after my other vacation, my trip to Tokyo, and M's upcoming 50th birthday hurrah in Las Vegas. But, life is short (and the condo was only available for these particular dates).

Here are my frugal Friday wins for the week. (Note, it wasn't a particularly frugal week on whole, with eating out, wine, Ubers to wineries, etc.)

  1. Sold our TV stand through our local Facebook group for $30. Finally! I've had this listed for several months.
  2. Filled out some sort of tiny property tax exemption that every homeowner occupant (vs homeowners who rent out) qualify for in my county. It's a very, very small amount of the overall total, but should save around $80 annually. I'll take it!
  3. Stayed at a condo that I won in the school auction (sunk costs), & used that for our girls trip this year.
  4. The condo had a kitchen, so we brought breakfast stuff, to avoid eating at least one meal out.
  5. I have friends arriving this afternoon (her daughter is touring colleges in the area), & despite my overall schedule craziness & strong desire to order delivery, I'll be making dinner this evening. :-) I'm making a family favorite of tacos, chips with guacamole, & margaritas for the adults.
  6. Used our previous high school aged babysitter (she's now home from college for the summer) for after care this week, as camp ends at 3 pm each day. It was about $100 cheaper to have her pick up the kids & allow them to relax & swim at the house, etc vs having two kids in the hourly camp after care.
And, with that, on to the giveaway! I have a $10 Dunkin Donut gift card, and no local store near me. (I had to cash out expiring hotel points, and refused to let them just expire. The gift card was the only item I had enough points to purchase.) So, please leave me a comment between now & next Friday with one frugal thing you did this week, and I'll enter you into the drawing! The drawing will end at 5:00 pm PST next Friday (7/28), and I'll draw a comment randomly & email you if you are the winner. Please make sure you are logged in when you comment, so I can send you an email to get your contact info & send the gift card out through physical mail. 

We sign papers to sell our Seattle house this afternoon! So excited to be making progress in the right direction. Home stretch, friends! 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Frugal Friday

Well, it was a very frugal week, as I was traveling for work & spent zero on myself. M & Nick, who were the only people home last week, appeared to keep the spending in check as well.

My return flight home was supposed to arrive in San Francisco around 9 am yesterday. Instead, I sat on the plane in Tokyo for 7 hours waiting for a mechanical fix. It was incredibly hot in Tokyo, and the plane had to have the power shut down throughout the wait. This means it was. .. insanely hot on board. I'm so happy the delay (if it had to happen) was on my return vs outbound flight. My outbound flight was miserable in other ways, as I still had the flu.

Overall, the trip was very successful from a work perspective, and Tokyo is a lovely city. The weather in July, however, is not my favorite. VERY hot & humid. It was a relief to step out into the cooler weather in San Francisco last night.

M surprised me with champagne by the pool, and we watched Nick swim & entertain us after my Uber arrived at home. We finished up the night with dinner out (using a meal pass + a gift card), & then a trip to Costco to get our supplies for the week.

I pick up my sister & BFF this afternoon, so I'm very excited about that. It's girls trip time! We will spend a few days here, and then head to Sonoma. We'll be taking advantage of the 2 night condo stay I won in our school auction, so the room is "free" (i.e prepaid given auction winning).

Here are the frugal choices made over the past week:

  1. I took an Uber to the airport on Saturday, and used my gift card. I'll get reimbursed from my employer, turning the gift card into cash, basically.
  2. I spent $0 on myself on my work trip.
  3. Used a gift card (and free meal pass) for dinner last night with M & Nick.
  4. Provided feedback to United on my compensation for my return flight. Given I was flying business, I expect to receive miles, and prefer that over credit. We shall see.
  5. Purchased dinner ingredients so we can cook this weekend while we have guests. We'll be going out for dinner while we're in Sonoma, so I think we'll enjoy having dinners here with our new patio table vs going out.
  6. Buying breakfast & happy hour items to bring to the condo, to reduce costs.
  7. Opted for the buy back option on our Audi SUV. (There is pending litigation, and a settlement offer for our car.) We've absolutely loved this car, but opted for the buyback. We will receive about $46K back. Part of that is the buyback value of the car ($35K, I believe), & the rest is the penalty fee from Volkswagen. We will get buy as long as possible with our other two cars (they are both 12+ years old), and when one of those dies, we will likely buy an electric car as our replacement.
That's it on our side. I have a ton of work to catch up on today, and then need to get everything sorted at home before my few days off early next week. TGIF! I hope you've all had frugal & fabulous weeks as well.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Frugal Friday

Well, vacation is over & the chaos of life is back. ;-) Although we really enjoyed our vacation, we did try to make frugal choices where possible. Here are a few of our frugal wins for the past week:

  • I got up super early on our last day (not by design, but took advantage of it, as I was already up) & did all of the laundry/sheets before we left. This saves $15 from our cleaning service.
  • Packed up all remaining groceries (there was so little - we did a great job planning) & sent the extras with my sister/mom, & used the final bits & bobs for our remaining few meals.
  • Packed lunch to eat in the car on the way to the airport.
  • Brought home the last few items that would travel (a couple of apples, kiwi, a cucumber, and pears)
  • Gave feedback to the rental car company that the "overdue service" light was on for the entire trip, and got a credit for one day's worth of rental - $34. 
  • Avoided eating out on our vacation, with a few very small exceptions. Had lunch at the Costco food court while buying our groceries ($11), and M & I each had a beer at the airport for $12 total. 
  • We came home to an empty house, and I heated up a frozen pizza while M went to the store. It was tempting to pick something up, but we made it work.
  • Took an Uber back to M's office, which was about half the price as it would have been to our house. This was less about frugality, as M left a bit early last week & was in the office, but ended up being a cost saver. 

That's it from our end. What about you? Any frugal wins to report? 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Our last day at the beach

We've had the absolute best time, but all good things must come to an end. The only real snafu on this vacation was that my youngest nephew & my oldest got the stomach flu in the middle of the night last night. It was no fun, and most of the adults were up & down, helping with clean up, locating medicine, etc.

Other than that, it was the best family vacation (with my parents/sister's family) that we've ever had. The boys all got along, the weather was perfect, and we got a lot of house projects done as well. We ran out of time to do some touch up painting & exterior window maintenance, so my sister & mom will make a trip back to take care of that. This vacation has been so relaxing, with minimal work (my job), and lots of time to spend time together.

As for today, I'm exhausted due to not sleeping last night. I'm just relaxing around the house, getting bags packed, doing laundry & dishes & taking care of Sam. He seems to be feeling a bit better, which is great news, as tomorrow involves a 2+ hour drive from the coast, plus a flight.

I have a bit of a pit in my stomach at the thought of what I need to accomplish tomorrow & Friday. It's going to be a bit of whirlwind. I need to:

  • Pack for my trip to Tokyo (Saturday)
  • Create a schedule (including finding a ride to camp for Nick on Monday)
  • Iron on all Boy Scouts patches for Sam's uniform
  • Help Sam get packed for camp
  • Bring Sam/his gear to a bag check in the evening on Friday
  • I have someone coming by for our TV stand (finally)!
  • Prep food for Nick/M to eat while I'm gone
  • Catch up on email/work on Friday
  • Post a nanny ad. . . ahh, the ongoing super fun times continue. :-)
  • Clean the house 
That's about it from me. I hope you all had a fabulous long weekend (for those of you in the US!). 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Goals for July

July is a crazy month with multiple trips & vacations. Super excited for the personal trips, less so for the work trip to Japan. Here's what I'm hoping to accomplish in July.

1) Financial - 
  • Wrap up all last minute projects for the Seattle house sale. 
  • Finalize our budget list for our (new) house
  • Finalize family budget for post rental house sale
  • Find one alternative cost cutting option
  • Keep July grocery spending to a minimum, and use as much as possible on our family vacation/avoid waste.
  • Sell another $100 of items on either eBay or my local Facebook swap site. 
  • More decluttering & organizing in our new house (would like to get the boys closet shelving installed, so they can put away/organize all of their games & toys)
  • Stay on budget for all our July events.
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.
  • Enjoy an adult only vacation with M, to celebrate his milestone birthday. 

    Fitness/health - Lose 4 pounds in June
    • 30 miles of pace training for my relay
    • Stay focused on my fitness, despite all of the many trips
    • 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.
    • Brainstorm how I would spend my time if I wasn't working. Really think creatively about what this would mean, what the challenges would be, etc.

      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 are you hoping to accomplish in July? Any big goals for the month??

      Sunday, July 2, 2017

      Feeding 10 people on vacation

      We're about to start the extended portion of our family vacation (adding my parents, plus my sister, her boyfriend & my two nephews), & I'm looking forward to our family time. It's not cheap to feed 10 people, even with menu planning, Especially when four of the "attendees" are growing boys (10, 11, 12, & 15). :-)

      If we lived locally, I'd feel comfortable asking everyone to chip in & divide the grocery list in thirds. However, my parents just returned from taking our kids to Disneyland, and have them for another two weeks this summer, and my sister hosts all of the parties & is extremely generous with her hostessing. So, I like to buy all of the main ingredients for this trip, and the other two families bring smaller things.

      I was curious to understand the per meal breakout of our trip. And, we are definitely not trying to make this the most minimal budget. As you can see. ;-) We're having things like crab cakes (local crab!), smoked salmon, grilled burgers & corn, and we start every meal with a huge happy hour/appetizer spread. (Note: this only includes food, but not the alcohol).

      We'll be hosting a total of 12 meals (four days), for 10 people, so a total of 120 individual meals. Our costs were $350 (approximately), and our family has been eating all of our meals at home for the past three days as well.

      Total meals:

      • 36 - our family, pre big family celebration. (3 days x 4 people x 3 meals a day)
      • 120 - extended family party (4 days x 10 people x 3 meals a day)
      156 total meals prepared

      Total cost is just under $2.25/meal. Some meals (breakfast) is obviously cheaper than other meals (crab cakes). I've never tracked our hosting quite like this, but may start & this will give us a good benchmark. As I noted, the four boys eat quite a bit. My kids, in particular, eat around 10 servings a day of fruit & vegetables (I wish I could say the same), which drives up the cost quite a bit, but is a cost we're happy to pay.

      I'll also track if we leave anything behind (freezer) &/or take anything back with us. 

      As for the beach, the tiny speck in the back is my eldest son, trying to control his kite on a breezy day at the beach. The boys are in love with kite flying, and we've been to the beach every day. 

      What about you? Do you track your cost per meal when hosting guests? Do you have a goal in mind? 

      June goals - how did I do?

      Another month draws to a close! Let's check in & see how things went in June.

      1) Financial - 
      • Meet with realtor to discuss/adjust pricing & get our Seattle house sold! - We are under contract! Again!
      • Finalize our budget list for our (new) house - We are in pretty good shape, but need to wrap up a few details, now that we have a number for our house sale. 
      • Finalize family budget for post rental house sale - We are in pretty good shape, but need to wrap up a few details, now that we have a number for our house sale. 
      • Find one alternative cost cutting option - We've been consistently bringing our own water bottles when we travel, as well as using our re-usable ziplocks when possible. 
      • Avoid buying groceries while the kids are with my parents (this should be easy, as we always have plenty in the fridge) & keep grocery spending in check when I'm with the kids at the beach - We did well, for the most part. Before we left, we bought coffee, salmon (for M to eat while I was gone), & frozen pizza for the freezer that was on sale. Once we were at the beach, we did fine with our shopping, but have recently purchased groceries for our family trip (feeding 10 people, 3 meals a day for 4 days is not cheap). If we use up most things, I'll consider it a win!
      • Sell another $100 of items on either eBay or my local Facebook swap site. - Crushed this, and sold $511 on my local Facebook site + eBay. Used the cash to fund shopping for our vacation, spending money, and some donation/gifts that I needed to cash flow. 
      • More decluttering & organizing in our new house (would like to get the boys closet shelving installed, so they can put away/organize all of their games & toys) - We didn't get to the closets. However, I went through all of our games, toys & boys clothes at our beach house & have a huge donation pile. So, considering this a win!
      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. - We've had a great time with the boys, particularly on vacation. Lots of family time. 
      • Be more present with the kids & M - play games, minimize computer time, exercise together, etc. - We've had a great family month in June. 
      • Have three dates with M  - the kids are out of town for a few days, so this should be doable! - Yes! We had three date nights, and it was, as expected, fabulous. :-) 
      • Finalize M's birthday & Father's Day - check!
      • Figure out what to do for my dad for Father's Day - check!

        3) Fitness/health - Lose 4 pounds in June
        • Run 25 miles in June - I changed my fitness routine in June, & loved it. I focused on strength training, not running, to see if it would make a difference in my overall body shape & strength & really enjoyed it. I did fall off of the wagon a bit on vacation, as expected. 
        • Start training for my relay - yes! Have done two training walks.
        • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day - ended the month with 4.25
        • Complete 1000 minutes of cardio - Finished with 840 minutes. 
        • Complete 6 strength workouts. - My highest month ever, with 16 strength workouts!
        • Complete 6 stretching workouts. - Finished with 5 stretching workouts, which is my highest monthly total for the year. 

        4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
        • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress  - having a vacation towards the end of the month to look forward to really helped. 
        • Work from home 2x this month. -  Yes, I think I managed three times this month. 
        • Brainstorm how I would spend my time if I wasn't working. Really think creatively about what this would mean, what the challenges would be, etc. - this is on my list for July!

          5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits.
          • Try a new recipe - I don't think I've tried any new recipes for the month. 
          • Do something social at least once per month. - I spent lots of time with my family, and my bestie, so counting this!
          • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month. - Yes, squeezed in time for volunteering at the last school event. 

          Overall, I'm super pleased with the month and my progress. What about you? How was your June? Any big wins for the month?

          Saturday, July 1, 2017

          Buyers bailed, and sometimes things happen for a reason

          So, we were on the beach flying kites with the kids on Thursday evening when we got an update from the realtor that the buyers bailed after the inspection. Now, many requests later, there were no asks to pay for any repairs, and/or discount the house based on some sort of mysterious inspection finding. They simply wanted to exercise their opportunity to bail because they had another offer accepted for a house in another neighborhood at a lower price point. . . My realtor was very concerned about these buyers (and, their realtor), & it appears that was all for good reason.

          However, in the camp of "things happen for a reason", our realtor also advised us that another couple was interested in the house & disappointed when we moved to pending status. She reached back out to their agent, and they submitted an offer within a few hours. The offer was exactly what we had agreed with the previous buyers! We negotiated with them in one round, and closed for $25K higher than we had the day before. ;-) And, a shorter closing & inspection window. All good things for us. Our realtor also knows the agent's buyer, and their financing person, and is very confident in this deal.

          What.a.whirlwind. I was pretty stressed out on Thursday evening, but tried to keep perspective, and look how things turned out. In ironic news, we received the bid for our air conditioning in our San Francisco house, and it's $37k. For those of you wondering how that's possible (as am I), it's actually not really an air conditioning bid. It's all of the work required to get us ready for an air conditioner, and then the actual unit. We knew when we bought the house that things like the electrical panel would need to be fully redone, but we weren't aware that the duct work wasn't up to code (it was at the time of building, but where we live has very strict energy compliance rules). This requires all new duct work, floor vents, and of course, a new heat pump.

          Before M & I went to sleep on Thursday, we agreed that if the buyers accepted our $25K higher offer, we'd put all of that money (because, hey, the day before we were happy without it), to upgrading San Francisco house. We'll cash flow the rest. It will increase the value of the house, and we'll likely recoup about half of the actual investment in reduced power bills over the time of ownership.

          What about you? Any examples of things happening for a reason? M & I also realized that we were able to buy both our Seattle house & our San Francisco houses when previous buyers bailed, so we've been on the good luck side of that as well.