Sunday, December 31, 2017

How did I do with my 2017 goals?

It's been a crazy year! As you can see, we had a few huge wins, and then there were other areas (cough: weight loss) that took a back seat to my other priorities.

1) Financial - Figure out our housing situation, and get it all resolved (i.e. moved, job changes as needed) before school starts. - Bought a house, moved, & sold our other house!
  • Decide what to do with our Seattle house. Contingent upon location.  - SOLD!
  • Move! - DONE!
  • Build/follow a 2017 "interim budget" (until I leave my job) & a 2017 "post-job budget", after. - Not applicable, given I stayed.
  • Inventory & track our various stockpiles, so we reduce waste & minimize what we need to move. - Done, and greatly reduced what we needed to move. 
  • Every month, come up with a new way to reduce what we need on an ongoing basis. - I did okay on this one. Bought reusable ziplocks, tried to reduce driving errands, etc. We still have more work we can do here. 
2) Family - Spend more time together as a family! - We mostly accomplished this, but had weeks that were better than others. The date night thing didn't happen consistently, but M & I had two vacations together, so I'll consider that a huge win instead.
  • 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 do a better job with this in the winter, when it's darker outside. 
  • Be more present with the kids & M - play games, minimize computer time, exercise together, etc. - We did pretty well. 
  • Have two dates with M per month (one lunch, one evening)  - nope, but we did have two vacations, which more than equals out!

    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! - Major fail on the weight side. 2018 is going to need an entirely different plan. I'm actually running 2 pounds over my weight from last year. Sigh. 
    • Make running a consistent part of my life. Build & follow a training plan. - No. 
    • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day - averaged closer to 3, which is a fail. 
    • Complete 10,000 minutes of cardio - I'm currently at 10,160 for the year, and plan to get in a walk today. 
    • Complete 50 strength workouts. - finished with 86. Crushed this earlier in the year, and then got off track. Had I stuck with that focus on HIIT workouts, I think I would have sorted most of my overall weight loss.
    • Complete 50 stretching workouts. Make yoga a consistent part of my life. - finished with 36, so still need to work on this. 

    4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance. - I've done an okay job with this. But, international travel just really eliminates any balance the week of, plus the next 5 or so days for me. That's a lot of time out of my life. 
    • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress (until I leave) - did okay. Focused on working from home on Fridays, and trying to reduce my hours. 
    • Determine an end date for my job. - Yes, but the date got shifted to 2018.
    • Take time off from my job. - Nope. Delayed as we bought a house.

      5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits. - I've done okay with this one as well. No real new skill, but I did bake more, spend time with friends (hiking), & volunteered throughout the last school year. However, technology has replaced my old volunteer job ;-), so I need to find something new in 2018. 
      • Learn a new skill. I'm thinking of learning a new language, but would be fine with anything: sewing, knitting, expanding my baking, etc.- I'd like to make yogurt!
      • Make time for my friends. Do something social at least once per month. - I love this goal, and want to continue it in 2018. 
      • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month.

      All in all, work & the move/house stuff dominated 2017, so it shouldn't be a big surprise that I did "okay" on the other goals. I'm hoping that 2018 will bring more house stability, enabling me to focus more on my health & solve my work situation.

      I love setting goals, measuring progress, & this time of year in general! I had a bunch of posts planned, but have bronchitis & haven't been feeling great. Here's hoping 2018 brings all of us the time & ability to focus on achieving our most ambitious goals!

      Wednesday, December 27, 2017

      A few pictures from one of my favorite places

      Sam & I have had a terrible cold/bronchitis for about a week now. It was really bad on Christmas, & I spent a few hours napping in bed. Not exactly the way I'd want to spend the holidays, but so grateful to have a wonderful family that jumps in & helps out with the kids.

      Other than being sick, it's been a wonderful holiday. Relaxing, no family drama, and time together. We were feeling well enough to take the kids to fly kites on the beach yesterday.

      The Oregon coast is a magical place.

      Before the kite flying, we went to town to get groceries & stock up for the week. We also bought Sam a new pair of shoes at the Nike outlet. We ended up with 3 pair of shoes for $60, so feeling good that everyone now has shoes that fit properly.

      Favorite Christmas gift this year . . . the pogo stick received by Nick. He's obsessed. :-)

      And, menu for the week:

      • Monday (12/25) - we had appetizers, soup, salad, etc
      • Tuesday (12/26) - used leftover shrimp for a shrimp pasta dish
      • Wednesday (12/27) - kebabs (freezer) + roasted potatoes
      • Thursday (12/28) - my parents will be here. We'll use leftover charcuterie meat & cheese for a homemade risotto + salad
      • Friday (12/29) - we will have a big crowd, so M will make homemade chicken strips, & stuff them in a bread. You then thinly slice & serve with salad + appetizers. 
      • Saturday - (12/30) - leftovers
      • Sunday (12/31) - New Year's Eve - we'll be making steak & potatoes. Serving with champagne. :-) 
      • Monday (1/1) -  heading home. We'll eat something out of the freezer.
      Wishing you all a healthy, peaceful, & relaxing new year! 

      Friday, December 22, 2017

      Frugal Friday + Bonus Plans

      Another week is almost done! We leave tomorrow for the holidays, & while I'm on call four of the days, I'm hopeful nothing will crop up at work. *fingers crossed*

      Here are a few frugal things for the week

      • Bought a $20 Uber gift card for $9.50 using a promo offer from Uber + a Raise discount. Also logged through eBates, so hoping for a small additional discount. We'll use our Uber credit for trips to & from the airport this holiday.
      • Called Alaska about a 2+ hour flight change for a flight I'm taking in March. Tried to get a flight that better matched my original itinerary, but nothing was available. Ended up with a $75 credit for a future flight for a 5 minute phone call. Their customer service is top notch! Even better, after rejigging a few plans, I think the flight change will actually be even better than my original flight.
      • Made all dinners at home
      • Maximized our child care options this week, while the kids were off of school. M took a day off, I took a day off, we did one day of camp, etc. 
      • On M's day with the kids, he took them to the science museum in San Francisco. We used a company discount, so he was able to get in for free, and the kids tickers were 10% off. 

      It's also that time of the year where I get my annual bonus, & make a plan for the total (paid out in January). This year will be a bit boring, given my upcoming change in employment, but here's what I'm thinking:

      • Max out my 401K - $18,500
      • Donate - $7,500. This is in addition to our standard monthly charitable deductions. We have a few special projects in mind. 
      • Travel - $7,000 for the year
      • The rest - save for our 2018 yearly expenses
      And, that's it! Looking forward to wrapping up work & getting in some family time. What about you? any frugal wins for the week? 

      Thursday, December 21, 2017

      2018 Goals

      As I do every year, I'm setting a variety of goals that I'll reflect on & tackle over the course of the year. And, the "Big Goals" for 2018 are called out in appropriately bigger font. :-)

      I like the five buckets I use, as they keep me reasonably in balance. As with everything in life, there are seasons where I spend more time on what bucket vs the other.

      1) Financial:
      • Build/follow a 2018 "interim budget" (until I leave my job) & a 2018 "post-job budget", after.
      • Save another $125K before I quit
      • Every month, come up with a new way to reduce what we need/spend on an ongoing basis.
      • Model out a 3, 5 & 10 year financial plan

      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) 

        3) Fitness/health - Lose 20 pounds, bringing my weight to 135. 
        • Make running a consistent part of my life. Build & follow a training plan, & run a half marathon.
        • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day
        • Get back to more actively tracking my calories, at least until I start to see a consistent weight drop
        • Complete 10,000 minutes of cardio
        • Complete 100 strength workouts.
        • Complete 75 stretching workouts. Make yoga a consistent part of my life. 

        4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
        • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress (until I leave)
        • Determine an end date for my job. Tentatively scheduled for end of June. And then, quit my job. Really. Do. This. 

          5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits.
          • Learn how to cut my own hair
          • Learn how to make yogurt
          • Make time for my friends. Do something social at least once per month.
          • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month.
          • Complete a Dream Bio (stolen from Frugalwoods)

          That's it for me. I'm SUPER excited for 2018. It's going to be a great year. I'm going to carve out time for my Dream Bio in early January, to set the stage for the year ahead. What about you? What are your goals for 2018? 

          Wednesday, December 20, 2017

          Gift card inventory

          I try to take stock of my gift cards every quarter or so, to ensure we're making the most of our assets. Most of the gift cards were purchased as special promotional items, but a few were acquired as gifts. Here's what we have, going into 2018. As a result, I'll lower our budgets accordingly to account for these prepaid assets.

          Dining out: (especially useful when I'm traveling, & M is on his own with the kids)

          • Sweet Tomatoes - $251 in gift cards
          • Sweet Tomatoes - 6 meal passes, valued around $60
          • Subway - $25
          • Starbucks - $70

          Grocery stores:

          • Safeway - $15
          • Lucky - $30


          • Gap - $110
          • Nike - $50 (will be using in a week or so to buy Sam a new pair of shoes at the Nike outlet. He has outgrown his shoes, & has holes in them). 


          • Spa near my house - $500 
          • Another spa - $15

          • Two movie passes - valued at $20
          • AMC movie gift cards - $30
          • Lowe's - $50

          • Visa gift card - $50

          Based on starting the year with the above assets, I'll be reducing our 2018 budget as follows:
          • Dining out - by $420, so our new monthly amount is $85/month.
          • Groceries - by $60, so I could get a round number. Our new monthly amount is $620/month
          • Clothing - by $100, bringing us to $900 (for the 4 of us) for the year. This will be TIGHT, with new shoes for the kids. 
          • Personal - the majority of the personal budget goes towards the boys/M's haircuts, as I wouldn't spend $500 at a spa. ;-) As such, I left the $500/year budget.
          • Entertainment - our budget is $100 for the year, so I'll leave the $50ish of gift cards in there. It will be tight as is. 
          • House - reduced by $50. So, yearly amount is $3,950. 
          I'm going to leave the Visa gift card as unassigned, but will probably use it for a gift or a donation.

          What about you? Do you track your gift cards? What do you currently have on hand, and how do you plan to spend them in 2018? Do you review ahead of your 2018 budget setting, and adjust accordingly?

          Tuesday, December 19, 2017

          Three Big Goals in 2018

          While I'll still be creating a full set of 2018 goals, I'm going to really be focusing on a small set of goals as a top priority for the year. Many of our bigger projects have been solved, including deciding on the following:

          • Location - Seattle or San Francisco
          • Housing - buy or keep renting
          • Rental property - sell or keep 
          which leaves us with a few big challenges that need more time and attention. I could spin this & say that I've knocked out a bunch of other goals (factually correct), but I remain disappointed that I couldn't multi task & at least tick off #1 and #3 over the past few years. But. . . what fun would a year be without some very challenging goals that I've tried & failed to accomplish previously?! :-) 

          Without further ado, my three big goals in 2018 are:

          1. Lose 20 lbs. I'll include details on the "how" of this within my longer list of goals, as it will include smaller action items. But, I've had this one on my to do list, and have made very little progress since I started my current job, with all of the international traveling. 
          2. Quit my job. Again, this requires a full plan, with lots of savings, etc. But, I'm ready emotionally & financially. (Fingers crossed that both of those hold up).
          3. Run a half marathon. Aside from #1, I enjoyed running so much when I was doing it consistently, and I really miss it in my life. Of course, you don't wake up & run a half marathon, so I'll have a full plan for this one as well.
          When I look at these three holistically, it's pretty clear that my job is the big point of interference to both #1 and #3, as well as my overall stress level. It will be interesting how solving #2 will impact the other two. 

          What about you? If you had to list just a few (less than a handful of goals) for 2018, what would they be?

          Monday, December 18, 2017

          Travel Freebies in 2017 - a year in review

          Thanks to CheapChick at Living Rich on the Cheap for the inspiration to put this together. I did a better job this year in maximizing my travel rewards, and really staying on top of expiration dates, looking for point multiplying offers, etc. The majority of my freebies are from international business travel. Here's what I've accrued this year:

          • Flight price matching via Alaska Airlines - $603.05 in Alaska credits. Details in the post I wrote, here. 
          • Redeemed travel points (hotel & air miles) for $905 in gift cards. (Mostly Amazon)
          • Earned a free night at the Marriott - worth about $250
          • Have a companion fare to use on Alaska Air (this is from our credit card) - worth around $150
          • Earned 24,000 Southwest miles by converting hotel points - estimating this to be worth around $300
          • I've earned 110,000 Alaska Air miles by converting hotel points - worth around $1000
          • Earned two round trip United (domestic) first class upgrades - not sure I will use these. United doesn't fly on our normal domestic travels, and these can't be used for international upgrades.
          • And, a $40 visa credit for a recent Marriott stay

          All told, this has yielded a total value of $3,248.05 in 2017. (I didn't include Alaska miles earned through standard monthly use of our credit card, or the United upgrades, as I'm not sure if we will use them.) This is obviously well worth my time to track & manage, but will mostly dry up once I stop traveling internationally. For now, I'll maximize it while I have the chance.

          I didn't track my other freebies (grocery store or Rite Aid bonuses), and the travel ones are easy to look up via account activity. Maybe I'll track all of them in 2018. What about you? Have you tracked your "freebies" for the year? How are you doing? For us, these travel rewards help us greatly increase our travel budget for the year!

          Sunday, December 17, 2017

          Menu plan + final happenings before Christmas

          It's the last weekend before Christmas, and we are pretty much ready! I started my packing (trying to see how many bags we need to bring to Portland), & finished my cardamom bread. Yum! I bought fresh yeast again, and opted for two bigger loaves this year. My glaze wasn't quite as thick/white as I would have liked, but the bread baked up beautifully. For the first time ever, my pickiest eater asked for some. This is huge progress.

          M tried out an experimental new recipe last night. We were supposed to be on a date night, but both kids felt sick, and I'd only had a few hours of sleep, so we opted to stay at home, split a nice bottle of wine, and have a family night instead. It was perfect! We worked on a puzzle, looked at Christmas lights, watched a holiday movie with a bowl of popcorn, & had a fabulous dinner. The experimental recipe involved making your own breaded chicken (cut into pieces), then stuffed into a hollowed out baguette, wrapped with mozzarella. Then brush the baguette with butter, garlic & fresh parsley & bake. It was heavenly. You can also serve the remainder of the breaded chicken with marinara dipping sauce. He's trying out a different version tonight with homemade meatballs subbing for the chicken. YUM!

          Here's the menu for the week:

          • Friday - I made chicken risotto with goat cheese
          • Saturday - previously described "chicken stuffed baguette", as I'll now call it
          • Sunday - meatball stuffed baguette. . . stromboli, maybe? Probably similar to that, minus a homemade pastry as the base
          • Monday - chicken pesto pasta
          • Tuesday - leftover chicken baguette
          • Wednesday - leftover meatball baguette
          • Thursday - Eat any remaining leftovers. If that fails, I'll defrost a chicken pilaf from the freezer
          • Friday - clear out the fridge/freezer. If nothing remains, I'll whip up spaghetti & meatballs
          • Saturday - we fly to Portland & will be eating out with my family after our flight

          And, here's what's on the agenda for today:

          1. Wash all of the sheets
          2. Clean the house 
          3. Laundry
          4. Make a packing list
          5. Get some exercise. I want to go for a run, but still have a bit of a burn on the top of my foot from my straightener incident. May opt for one of my strength workouts, which can be done without shoes in a pinch
          6. Take holiday gift over to neighbor
          7. Pick up M's lost coat at other neighbor's house
          8. Take the boys & friends out to frozen yogurt. (This is one of their pre-Christmas gifts - they wanted to treat friends to frozen yogurt). The weather is a bit chilly, & we'd originally planned on the movies, but one friend had a conflict. 
          Should be a pretty fun & mellow day. I'm also hoping that, maybe, possibly I'll get a chance to read my book. A girl can dream! What about you? What's on the agenda for today? 

          December goals

          Better late than never! I'm pretty sure this is the latest I've been with monthly goals, but still going for it!

          1) Financial - 
          • Finalize our 2018 travel plans (2nd half of the year)
          • Find one alternative cost cutting option
          • Sell another $100 of items on either eBay or my local Facebook swap site. If nothing sells, donate & get rid of the clutter.
          • Get our gas bill down to $100 for the month. (Renting a car in Portland over the holidays, so won't be able to use the electric car.)
          • Get all of our 2018 budgets in order
          2) Family - Spend more time together as a family!
          • Have a family game night. 
          • Take the boys to see Christmas lights
          • Watch a Christmas movie & have popcorn
          • More decluttering & organizing 
          3) Fitness/health - gain zero pounds in December
          • 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.
          • Plan a spa day. I have a gift card from work that I received over a year ago. Find a day I can make this happen, & take the day off, & relax!
          • 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 using my new crockpot
            • Do something social 
            • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month.
            • Find one good deed per day. Can be tiny or big.

            What about you? How are you doing with your goals for December? 

            Friday, December 15, 2017

            Frugal Friday

            Another long week - almost complete! I'm working from home today, so I'll enjoy the more relaxing day.

            Here are some of the frugal things we've been up to:

            1. Redeemed miles from my recent business flights for $175 in Amazon gift cards
            2. Discovered a hotel promotion before my last trip, and registered for it before I left. Earned a free night to use between now & June. M & I are discussing are options for a little getaway, perhaps. 
            3. Charged our electric car exclusively at work (for free)
            4. Made dinner every night this week. (I had a work dinner last night, but didn't pay. ;-))
            5. Brought home leftover risotto from dinner last night. Good for my waistline not to eat the entire thing, but will also provide lunch today.
            6. Passed on taking an Uber to the work dinner, even though I really wanted to avoid traffic & parking. Saved at least $60, but it was a giant PITA on the way there.
            7. Sam's soccer bag has been found! (It was lost last weekend - another kid from a different team picked it up by accident). This is a $65 bag that's part of his uniform (name on it, special bag that holds a soccer ball, etc). We do have to drive about 20 minutes to pick it up tomorrow, but so happy we don't have to order another one!
            What about you? Any frugal wins this week?

            Tuesday, December 12, 2017

            Thanks to the "old me"

            for being organized, and prepping freezer meals. My typical schedule is to cook on Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays, and then we eat leftovers during the week. My flight schedule, combined with a holiday party at the neighbors on Saturday meant no cooking two of the three days. As such, I've been tapping my freezer meals to get by.

            On Friday, we had a Persian rice, been & beef dish that needed just a salad + yogurt sauce to accompany it. For today, I defrosted a potato soup, and made crescent rolls. Even my son said, "these don't taste like homemade" :-), but they did the trick for a quick & easy meal.

            It gets really creative later in the week, but with a combination of freezer meals, and a few "ready to eat" freezer options, we should be able to skate by until Friday.

            Now, if only the "old me" would have also worked out more frequently, so I could be entering 2018 15 lbs lighter! :-)

            Would love to hear from you. What's your tried & true easiest quick dinner option?

            Sunday, December 10, 2017

            An updated menu plan + errands

            I was up *almost* at a normal time this morning, and took the kids to futsal (indoor soccer) practice, & then hit up Costco, Rite Aid & the produce stand. I walked on the track with another mom while the kids were at practice, so I can check off my workout. I would have liked to run, but I have a large burn on my foot. (Hotel room in Seoul had zero counter space, so my hair straightener slipped off the sink & landed on my foot. OUCH!)

            I wasn't as capable as I'd hoped with the meal planning this week (I normally cook on Friday, Saturday & Sunday, & then we eat leftovers during the work week). So, some modifications are required:

            Friday - 12/8 (back from trip) - I will cobble together a chicken risotto Nope, defrosted a Persian rice & bean dish, and had that instead. 
            Saturday - 12/9 - M & I are going to a holiday party at our neighbor's house. I'll make quesadillas for the kids. Yes although the party didn't have dinner, as I'd heard from another neighbor. Should have checked! We went to bed pretty hungry, but probably better for the waistline. 
            Sunday - 12/10 - Sam has his end of the season soccer party, so the kids will eat there. I'll make chicken pesto pasta for the adults The boys have opted to do another soccer event this afternoon, so skipping this. I'm thrilled, because it's one less meal out, and at a place I don't really care for. Instead, M is making kebabs & rice, with a yogurt sauce. 
            Monday - 12/11 - leftover chicken risotto I'll make chicken pesto pasta, as I didn't make the risotto
            Tuesday - 12/12 - Soup (freezer) + rolls - Yes, still the plan
            Wednesday - 12/13 - pasta & meatballs - Leftover kebabs & rice
            Thursday - 12/14 - I have a work team dinner. M + the boys will have tacos - The boys will have pasta & meatballs -
            Friday - 12/15 - Chicken pilaf - still the plan!

            That's pretty much it for me. Here's hoping I get some of my energy back. I managed to clean the house yesterday, & catch up on most of the laundry. We're in the home stretch before the end of the year - the boys are out of school after this week!

            What about you? What's on your menu this week? Any big holiday activities on the horizon?

            Saturday, December 9, 2017

            I'm back

            And, oh so jet lagged. I'm also incredibly happy to be home.



            As you can see, I don't get out much. Just the airport -> hotel -> office -> hotel -> airport. 

            I am so very happy to be home! Now I just need to get over the epic jet lag. Always, so much jet lag. My last business trip of 2017 is now complete. Woohoo!

            Friday, December 1, 2017

            Frugal Friday

            It's been the normal crazy week, but there have been some frugal victories. Here's what we have this week:
            • Made turkey broth out of leftover Thanksgiving carcass
            • Ate turkey leftovers all week (turkey enchiladas + turkey chowder)
            • Found a great gift card deal at the grocery store, earning a $20 store gift card. Free groceries! The gift cards were for things we need in the next 6 weeks, so money we would have spent anyway
            • Organized my freezer, so I can now see what we have, and not overbuy/waste food
            • Sold a bike Sam had outgrown for $50
            • Paid to have a dining room chairs re-upholstered vs buying new. Maybe some cost savings, but happy we kept them out of the landfill. They are 20+ years old, and very high quality. Happy to have them back, & they look great.
            • Sold two more items on eBay
            • Sent for the rebate of a pool pump. Even though we had a functioning pool pump, it was a very old school/non-energy efficient version. We bought a newer one that should pay for itself in a year, through reduced energy costs. Plus, there was a rebate of $100 through our power company ending shortly.
            • Ate all meals at home (or, for free at work). Another week of zero dining out!
            • Finished my Christmas shopping, and stuck to my budget.
            That's it for us. I'm off to Tokyo tomorrow morning, so while I'll be spending no money, I need to make sure the boys have ample quick meal options. What about you? Any frugal wins for the week?