Monday, December 30, 2019

Travel hacking - 2019 results

I've been trying to do a better job of tracking my travel hacking results, so I used a spreadsheet this year. Here are the results of our 2019 travel hacking. Note that the United rewards I earn are from work travel...

  • Paid for flights from my parents, to come & watch the kids over spring break. Used $100 discount code for a delayed flight, plus a credit. Amount saved - $329.72
  • Used remaining wallet credit for a flight to Hawaii in June. Amount saved - $55.86
  • I paid for my sister's flight to Hawaii for a girls trip. I used a companion fare. Amount saved - $550.20
  • I used a discount due to another flight delay for Christmas flights. Amount saved - $100
  • I also used a wallet credit from a changed flight, for our Christmas flights. Amount saved - $332.40
  • Used miles for my parents to come hang out with the kids, when we had an unexpected trip to Hawaii for M's work trip. Amount saved - $548.20
  • Used United miles for trip to Whistler x4 -  $3,000 

Total saved from travel hacking = $4,916.38

I'm happy with the results. The Whistler trip gave us a big boost. I'll also add that I haven't been using miles to book flights for myself, because I'm trying to achieve status on my preferred local airline, and flights booked with miles aren't eligible. Instead, I'm using miles for when my parents visits, vs my own flights. I'm hoping to cross over into the $5k mark in 2020!

What about you? Do you track travel hacking? How much did you earn in 2019?

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Frugal Friday/Sunday

I'm late getting up my frugal Friday post, but better late than never. Here are the frugal wins for the week:

Saving on things we buy

  • We stumbled on a huge sale on ski clothes, so we picked up a few things we needed. We were also able to get hiking shoes for both kids (they need for a camp they are attending, and Sam is going to a school field trip at Yosemite). They were 1/3 of the price I'd been expecting to pay. 
  • I also used a $5 Uber reward (mostly earned from work travel) towards our trip to the airport on Saturday
Earning money

  • I found a quarter on the ground, but that's pretty much all I can think of. 

Avoiding spending

  • Packed sandwiches for lunch on the flight to Portland. No matter how much I pack, it's never enough for the kids. ;-) They each ended up getting a piece of pizzas. The adults managed to avoid purchased food.
  • We've also avoided most eating out while on vacation. However, both kids had a "snack" at Costco (hot dog/pizza), even after eating lunch before we went. They are teen boys. *shrug*

We've had an absolutely fabulous time with my parents, my sister, etc. Tomorrow we'll head to Portland to briefly meet up with my nephews before we fly home. It's been such a lovely trip. What about you? Any frugal wins for the week?

Monday, December 23, 2019

Beach frisbee

The weather has been so perfect that there was no wind for kite flying. Unusual for December on the Oregon coast. Instead, we made do with the frisbee. The weather was nice enough that the kids were wearing just tshirts.

On to make happy hour for my ravenous teen boys! Enjoy your day.

Relaxing at the beach

I love this place. We had an easy flight to Portland on Saturday, then drove to the coast. We stopped at Costco & stocked up on groceries. We try to make all of our meals even though we are on vacation, because we have a kitchen to cook in. That said, we need more than a normal shopping week at home, because we have nothing in the fridge when we arrive. Still cheaper than eating out.

I went for a run to the beach yesterday. So beautiful & peaceful.

For today, we'll be getting ready for tomorrow (driving to my parents for Christmas). Nick is baking a cake, & we're packing. I'll also get a few chores done, & hopefully get back to the beach for kite flying. Perfect.

Hope you are all having a fabulous & relaxing week.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Frugal Friday

It was the last week of work before we take off for the holidays, & I'm more than ready for a vacation. Here are our frugal wins for the week:

Saving on things we buy:

  • Used $5 in Walgreens rewards (earned by having my FitBit connected to their Balance Rewards) to buy an item the kids needed
  • Used all of my Rite Aid rewards (I let them expire last year due to forgetting & travel schedule in December). Purchased a couple of face items for the kids (we're in the hormone phase!) + a travel face lotion for myself. I used the last of mine on my trip to London, so want to restock while it's top of mind.
  • Used grocery store rewards to buy an item Nick needed for a baking project. I'm encouraging his love of baking, but he does sometimes need random ingredients. I try to use the credits, so it doesn't actually hit our grocery budget, but keeps him going.

Earning money:

  • I made a few dollars selling clothes on ThredUp. Barely anything, but junk out of the house & money in. 

Avoiding spending:

  • Used part of the gift card Nick won in a soccer raffle to buy: futsal cleats (his old ones are too small), goalie gloves (same as the cleats) & a new soccer ball. He is thrilled, as I'd told him he needed to wear sneakers to futsal. It's allowed, but the cleats have slightly better grip. Given the gift card, it all worked out well. The store was also having a 20% off the entire inventory sale, which meant we bought all three for about half of the value of the gift card. 
  • The kids wanted hummus to go with some naan dippers I had in the freezer. I'm all about cleaning out the freezer these days, so I whipped up some hummus & they are enjoying the snack between soccer games. I just need to remember to use it all up before we leave for the coast. 
  • Used four free meal passes for a local restaurant. We earned these when stocking up on gift cards. So, about $35 or so for dinner, free. 
  • Eating up lots of leftovers & food in the fridge/freezer to avoid waste, before we take off for vacation.
In non-frugal news, we paid our nanny 4.5 hours of time to watch the kids while we were both at holiday dinners. It was a lot, but we know we made the right tradeoff for work, and my younger son doesn't love being home alone at night yet. We also haven't been needing our nanny for standard weekly stuff, so we took the opportunity to pay her (one night was a typical week's worth of spending) & added a bonus for the holidays. It was a good choice, but pricey.

What about you? Any frugal wins to report?

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Menu planning, bonus, raise & other financial stuff.

It's that time of the year when I get my annual raise, bonus & stock awards. For this year, I received a raise earlier, due to my promotion, so this cycle was just about bonus & stock.

I feel very lucky, as my leadership team values my work, & has the flexibility to demonstrate that. This year I'll be receiving a 42% bonus, which is the highest percentage I've received to date. That said, the dollar value will be lower this year, as I took unpaid time off, which reduces the amount of bonus eligible days I have through the year. I also received a sizable stock award - I'm now about $5k short of having my stock match my salary, which is really crazy. As you get more senior in the company I work for, the salaries don't rise by much, but the stock grows as a bigger component of our overall pay.

What does all of this mean? First, I'll just say how much I appreciate the company & my managers. I know I work hard, but I also feel really blessed to work somewhere that rewards that effort.

My plans for the bonus & equity include the following:

  • Max out my 401k in January, when my bonus is paid out. My company allows us to forward load the 401k, through our bonuses, which is a great option.
  • All of the rest of the money from my bonus, & all of my monthly stock will go into our mortgage. As mentioned, one of our big goals for 2020 is to get our mortgage down to half of the amount we initially borrowed in 2017. Both of these components will help us get there.

While these are not sexy ways to use either the bonus or the stock, it will get us to our financial goals sooner, which is ALWAYS sexy. :-) As for the raise (6.3%), we opted to cover the cost of the gym we joined, and increase our tax withholdings. I know, again, such exciting options! :-) 

And, for the really exciting stuff, on to the menu plan for the week. I'm going to be honest & describe this as a "minimal effort" dinner plan week. Why? I'm jet lagged, tired, the kids have soccer all weekend, & M is out of town. As you might remember, I typically meal prep on Friday, Saturday & Sunday, & we eat leftovers for the rest of the week. Friday was totally out of the question, we went to In & Out after soccer last night, & that just leaves tonight. I'm flipping my perspective to consider this a "eat things out of the freezer" week. Win!

  • Saturday - In & Out (blush)
  • Sunday - chicken sausages (freezer) & ravioli
  • Monday - broccoli cheddar soup & chicken sausage
  • Tuesday - M & I have work dinners, so the kids will have burgers with the sitter
  • Wednesday - leftover soup & sausage
  • Thursday - eat any remaining leftovers. If none remaining, tacos.
  • Friday - pizza (freezer) or leftovers
  • Saturday - head to the beach, so I need to make a separate menu plan for the rest of December, as we will be traveling, skiing, etc. 
Now it's time to move on to all of my many chores for the day, plus multiple soccer games. Last tournament of the year! Hurrah! What is on your menu plan this week? Are you in a scramble mode like me, or a bit more organized?

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Frugal Saturday

I was traveling all week, and got home yesterday afternoon. I'm still pretty jet lagged, but now M is out of town, and the kids have a soccer tournament. Here's what we've been up to lately:

Saving on things we buy:

  • I was able to buy two new pair of high quality ski socks for $14, which is about 1/2 what we would normally pay. I combined sales with a lingering gift card. And, remembered to go through Rakuten & add my rewards account. I earned another $5 gift card for the purchase.
  • I finally received a full reimbursement for Sam's bike that was damaged in the accident. I'm very happy to be able to put that money back in savings, as we had covered the full cost on our own. 
  • I was able to buy the kids the ski base layers they need for $6.99 (both top & bottom), which is a good deal.

Earning money:

  • I donated $20 for the boys soccer club scholarships, and won a $250 gift card to a local soccer shop. Nick needs new futsal cleats, and we'll use the rest to offset the cost of a new uniform, when the time comes. Winner, winner

Avoiding spending:

  • Knowing the boys would be getting home late from a game on Saturday, I prepped their dinners before I left for the airport. They were tempted to stop on the way home to pick up food, but that temptation was avoided by already prepped dinner. 
That was it from our side. What about you? Any frugal wins to report? 

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Financial priorities for 2020 & beyond

Each year we spend quite a bit of time thinking about our financial priorities, and ensuring our budget & yearly/monthly goals line up with those priorities. It's easier in some years than others, that's for sure!

Here's where we've landed with our financial priorities for 2020.

  • Pay off half of our mortgage. This will be a big stretch, as we've only been in the house since February of 2017. And, we're in the Bay Area, so real estate is. . . $$$$$$$$$$$$
  • Continue to max tax advantaged accounts. This includes our HSAs, as well as our 401Ks. We have also started doing a back door Roth, and will likely continue in 2020.
  • Set aside money for a few home projects. While our house is in need of a substantial remodel, we prefer to have half of the mortgage paid off first, and then save cash for house upgrades. We do still want to make progress in 2020 on the houses (primary residence & vacation home). Here are the current projects we've greenlit for getting bids & timing:
    •  Add trim to our house. This has been missing since we moved in, as we were waiting for new doors. Which, the doors were a giant saga of their own, so time to get the trim done.
    • Update our yard to make it easier to maintain & drought resistant. Our yard is an eye sore, and no amount of our time & effort will help. The previous owners paid an exorbitant fee to a yard service, and had a huge water bill. We're not interested in either, so would rather make an upfront investment to make the house easier to maintain. We would also like to turn our covered front area into a small patio/outdoor living space.
    • Paint our vacation house. The house is near the ocean, so a certain level of maintenance is required to keep things from rotting.
  • Buy a new (to us) electric car, when our lease expires. We've loved having an electric car, and have had no issues with maintenance. The range on our current car is ~300 miles on a full charge, and we can charge for free at work. We can also use the carpool lane, which is quite an advantage, given the traffic. 
  • Save for the kids college. We've been on the fence for a while about how much money we want to devote to the kids college accounts. We want to be somewhere between motivating for the kids to work hard & get good grades, while starting them off on the best financial foot. A few things have happened recently that increased our desire to save more in this area. Sam's recent diagnosis made it clear that grades will be a struggle, even with a significant amount of effort. There has also been a rise in teen pressure & suicide in our area, as it relates to grades, scholarships & parental expectations. We want our kids to be the absolute best they can be, but we also want them to know we will help support them with college. We will encourage them to shop around, choose the school that best fits their learning style, and California offers a variety of reasonably priced options that we will encourage them to pursue. This isn't a carte blanche offer for them to have four years of an Ivy paid on our dime. In all things with parenting, balance and reason. :-) 
  • Save for future financial flexibility. This is last on the list intentionally this year. In previous years, I was working hard to save for my glorious sabbatical, and for the flexibility to quit my job, should I decide I want to upon my return. The sabbatical really did help me reset my own stress levels, and find more balance. It's not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. But, things are better. Way better. And, I've been promoted, so I'm also being paid more than before. What does this mean? I'm feeling a bit better about my current situation and the tradeoffs of working in order to achieve some of the above goals. Working a few extra years in a very lucrative job gives us a lot of flexibility in the future. I'm at my peak earning years right now. While I haven't given myself a definitive timeline on next steps, I'm hoping to have the financial flexibility to cover all of our expenses without my salary in a couple of years or so. It seems realistic, and reasonable from a work life balance perspective. Anything can change, of course. That's just where my head is at right now. 
What about you? I'd love to hear how you plan for the future (financially or otherwise) & how you update your priorities as things change in your life. 

Saturday, December 7, 2019

2020 Budget Changes

It's that time of year when we review how things went with our budget, and plan ahead for the upcoming year. As usual, there are changes afoot!

Here are the changes we're making in 2020:

  • Childcare. The cost of childcare will be dropping pretty dramatically. Our nanny has accepted another job starting in January, as our schedule was too erratic & unpredictable. The kids no longer need a nanny, just someone to help them get to & from activities. Moving forward, both kids will have soccer practice at a later time slot, so we should be able to drive with carpools. Their school sports still often have early games, so we'll need to plan for that. I can typically work this out with my schedule, so that just leaves weeks when I'm traveling. Net/net, we're expecting our monthly childcare to drop by $340/month. We did leave a small cushion in for times when we need help & can find an ad hoc person to help out. Savings for the year = $4080
  • Gym. We haven't belonged to a gym since we moved from Seattle. I do have access to a gym at work, but it's not convenient on weekends, holidays & the class schedule is incredibly limited. The kids would also like to have access to a gym, so we found a good deal at the local YMCA. We actually will save the cost of two months of membership, given the YMCA operates one of the summer camps the boys attend. Increase for the year = $1260
  • Auto. Our electric car lease will end in October. We ended up with a lease because we weren't sure if there would be major strides in the battery life technology, and how we would enjoy driving an electric car. We love the electric car, and plan to buy a used one when our lease expires. Increase for the year = $30,000 - an estimate for now. 
For the most part, the remaining budget categories all remain similar. We are doing our best to hold to our current grocery budget, but there are weeks when feeding two teenage boys gets very expensive! :-) We switched to a Costco rewards visa, and will be getting a sizable reward at the end of the year. We will funnel that money back into the grocery budget, in order to help stretch things further. 

What didn't work this year, financially? Well, I pre-bought discounted gift cards, which worked really well for the most part - when I was about to make a purchase. For example, right before we bought a piece of furniture, or a flight, or embarked on a large house projects. We were able to shave between 2-6% off of the purchase in almost real time. What is harder is pre-buying gift cards for some future state of savings. I am finding them too difficult to track, and the money could be put to better uses if we don't need the gift card in the immediate term. Moving forward, I'll be pulling back on this spending, because I want to ensure we're getting the max value out of any expense we're pre paying. 

What about you? Any budget changes? Anything that's working particularly well (or, not) for you? Have you decided on changes for 2020?

Friday, December 6, 2019

Frugal Friday

It's been a crazy week as I try to wrap up as much work as possible, and get ready for next week's trip to London. Here are a few frugal wins:

Saving on things we buy

  • Used flight credit for a trip to the beach I'm taking in April. My sister & BFF & I are going to run a half marathon. The flight credit covered the full cost, so no out of pocket spending for the flight. 
  • Figured out how to avoid a shipping charge for a gift that didn't meet the spend minimum, saving me from having to mail it myself. 

Earning money

  • Earned enough to cash out a $10 Amazon reward on Bing
  • Sold a jacket on eBay. I'd bought it for Sam this summer for an event, and by the time we noticed it was huge on him, it was out of the return window. I sold it for more than I paid for it, which means I've covered the eBay fees, and pretty much break even. Hurrah!
  • I also added a few other things to eBay. Fingers crossed.

Avoiding spending

  • We have been eating A TON of leftovers. Primarily because we had so many, but also to avoid food waste & the cost of eating out. Double win!
  • Returned a bunch of things I'd ordered, but didn't need. Going through the effort of returning was a good reminder to not frivolously buy for wants vs needs.

And, in Frugal Fails, we didn't get our DMV renewal notice until well after the deadline. I don't know if it was delivered to a neighbor, & they eventually dropped it off at our house, or something else. Nonetheless, we had to pay a $70 penalty for being late, and no amount of explaining helped the situation.

What about you? Any frugal wins to report?

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Thinking ahead to 2020 goals

For as long as I've been blogging, I start thinking about my goals for the year ahead in December, & often earlier. I like having plenty of time to consider what I'd like to accomplish, what worked well in previous years, the big areas I need to stretch or grow in, etc.

For a fun spin through years past, here are all of the yearly goal posts:

And with that, on to 2020 goals! My macro goals remain largely the same. I want to make progress on our financial goals, lose weight & stay healthy, spend quality time as a family, & improve myself. It's good to see I'm consistent year over year. :-)

Here are the goals I'm thinking about for 2020:

1) Financial

  • Stick to our budget (more details in upcoming posts about budget changes we've made for 2020)
  • Pay off 1/2 of our mortgage. We bought in February of 2017. Our goal is to hit the half way point by June, 2020.
  • Spend $500 or less on clothing for myself
2) Family

  • One fun activity/month with the kids
  • Off the computer by 7:30 each evening
  • Two dates with M per month.
3) Fitness/health

  • Lose 15 lbs. Stop gaining & regaining. Slow & steady is fine, but keep it consistent.
  • Run 100 times. Run a half marathon in under 2:25.
  • Track calories, average 1400 cals/day
  • Complete 12,000 minutes of cardio, 100 strength & 50 stretching workouts
  • Meditate 100 times
4) Personal/creative

  • Make time for my friends. Do something social at least once per month.
  • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month
  • Write & journal regularly
  • Adapt a more positive mindset (judge less)
  • Listen more often (vs talking)
  • Stop/greatly reduce swearing (I don't swear ever in front of most people. I have a friend/colleague who is a terrible curser, and it's rubbed off of on me.)

What about you? Have you started thinking about your 2020 goals? 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Goals for December

And with that, the last month of the year is upon us! I can't believe it. Here goes for December goals:

1) Financial 

  • Stick to the budget
  • Make $150 in side hustle
  • Sell three items
  • Use 8 freezer items
  • Use 5 irregular pantry/fridge items
  • Finalize our 2020 budget

2) Family - spend more time together as a family

  • Do one fun activity with the kids
  • Off the computer by 7:45 each evening
  • Have two dates with M
  • Continue with Sam's plan
  • Deep clean the entire house
  • Finish door project, and budget/plan for trim
3) Fitness/health
  • Run 10 times
  • Track calories - 1400/day
  • Work out 30 times
  • Meditate 10 times

4) Personal/creative
  • Do two social things
  • Volunteer 1x
  • Journal 15 times
  • Read one non-fiction book
  • Set 2020 goals

What about you? What are you hoping to accomplish in December? Have you set goals for the month?

Monday, December 2, 2019

November Goal Recap

November whizzed by, and we had a pretty great month. M &I took a trip to Hawaii, and then we all enjoyed our time together over the boys school break. Here's how we did for the month.

1) Financial:

  • Stick to the budget. - Definitely not. We were way over on groceries, eating out & we pre-purchased gift cards for place we will use throughout the year. 
  • Finalize tax update - sent back to the IRS, received a confirmation that they have our response. We will now wait for them. 
  • Come up with a new way to reduce what we need/spend on an ongoing basis - can't think of anything special we did this month. 
  • Make $300 in side hustle. - Killed it, made $632
  • Sell five items - sold 6 items
  • Use up five freezer items - Yes! Used up pizza dough, 3 packages of ground beef, & the rest of a package of tortillas
  • Use up 5 irregular pantry/fridge items - can't think of anything specific
  • Revisit our 2020 budget - mostly there. 

2) Family - spend more time together as a family

  • Do one fun activity/month with the kids. - The boys & I have been going to the gym a lot together
  • Off the computer by 7:45 each evening - I need to get back to this
  • Have two dates with M - we had a fabulous vacation in Hawaii
  • Continue with Sam's plan - yes
  • Deep clean the entire house - it got a pretty thorough cleaning in late October, but on hold until the rest of the doors are installed
  • Finish door project & budget/plan for trim - doors are coming at the end of the month
  • Finalize February ski week plans - done
  • Get the boys passports - applications sent off
  • Get Sam's paperwork for school trip finished - done
  • Finish 1/2 of my Christmas shopping/planning - done
  • Figure out plan for boys for Thanksgiving break - done

3) Fitness/health
  • Run 8 times - I ran 2x. I had stitches in my leg from a minor procedure, which impacted my working out in November
  • Track calories (1400/day) - I was at 1640, and definitely feel sluggish post-holidays
  • Work out 30 times - managed 26
  • Meditate 10 times - I only managed 1x

4) Personal/creative
  • Do two social things - working out with friends & dinner out with my mom
  • Volunteer a minimum of 1x - nope, but we did select gifts off of the giving tree, and spent some time shopping for & putting that together. I also have been working a lot on a community project, so I'm counting this as a win
  • Jounral 15 times - 4/15
  • Read one non-fiction book - nope

All told, it was a great month for family stuff, but less of a good month with working out & the budget. On to December! How did you do with your November goals?

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Long weekends are the best

The extra bonus days feel so luxurious! I'm actually on call for work today, but fingers crossed nothing goes wrong. 

To answer a question in the comments of my Frugal Friday post, here's the recipe I've used before for homemade vanilla extract. Enjoy!

We're planning to get the Christmas decorations down from the attic, and kick off the holiday season. I also want to check out a yoga class at our new gym, to see how that is. Here's the full list for today:

  1. Get decorations from the attic, put everything out.
  2. Because we'll be in the attic, we will also pull down the ski boots & make sure everything still fits
  3. Inventory the boys ski clothes
  4. Yoga class
  5. I'm hoping to bake my cardamom bread
  6. Pick up a birthday gift for Sam's friend. He's attending a party tomorrow
  7. Vacuum
  8. Clean the kitchen
  9. Clean the bathrooms
  10. Plan work & family schedule for next week
  11. Make bolognese spaghetti sauce. We'll eat Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner, but this will get us ahead on our meal prep for the work week. 
  12. I need to try on an outfit for the holiday party I'll need to attend in London (for work), to ensure I have something that works.
That's about it. What about you? What are you up to this Saturday? Anyone else decorating or baking?

Menu planning

I'm working on our menu plan for the week, and making my shopping list. We'll add in a lighter meal (soup) to balance out the richness of our Thanksgiving feast.

  • Friday - butternut squash soup, baguette & cheese
  • Saturday - Thanksgiving leftovers + prep ahead bolognese sauce
  • Sunday - homemade pizza
  • Monday - bolognese sauce + spaghetti/zoodles
  • Tuesday - soup, baguette & cheese
  • Wednesday - leftover pizza
  • Thursday - bolognese sauce + spaghetti/zoodles

What about you? What are you planning to serve this week?

Friday, November 29, 2019

Frugal Friday

I can't believe it's already Friday. Here's what we've been up to.

Saving on things we buy:

  • Used $9 in grocery store rewards to buy things we needed for Thanksgiving. I also took advantage of the triple points timing, and the inexpensive sales - celery for $.49 a bunch & eggs for $1.50 for 18 (best price I've seen around here this year). I also found two marked down packages of ground beef ($.99/lb). It's not as lean as we usually buy, but I'll drain it well when we use it. 
  • I also stocked up on microwave popcorn (snack size, the kids favorite) at Rite Aid. For $.70 for a three pack, it's an easy after school snack that the kids can make themselves.
  • I also bought two Nike gift cards, earning $16 in rewards. Both boys need new shoes, so we will try to take advantage of the tax free holiday sales at the Nike outlet in Oregon & get them each new shoes. 
  • Costco was offering Delta gift cards for 10% off. We also earn a reward on all Costco purchases. M flies on Delta frequently, so we bought the $1500 maximum. 
  • Chased down $30 of missing grocery store rewards from an offer. I'd say this happens at least 50% of the time with the offers they run. At least I'm always aware & paying attention, & know the email process quite well. ;-) 
  • We also had quite a haul at Rite Aid, getting gift cards with a bonus, and tons of other Black Friday deals.

Earning money:

  • Sold a pair of jeans on eBay, making just under $10. Nothing to get too excited about, but junk out, money in. Win!
  • Sold a dice set on eBay, making another $10.
  • Sold two outdoor cushions on our local neighborhood swap, earning $8. Again, nothing exciting, but these have been taking up a lot of space in a closet, so happy to see them go. 
  • I listed two new items on eBay. I haven't posted anything since I went back to work, but I figure now is the time to get stuff posted!

Avoiding spending:

  • I'd added vanilla extract to the shopping list, as my mom used the last of the homemade stuff while she was here. M picked it up at Costco, and I was blown away by the cost ($29.99). It prompted me to check around in my pantry. I found beans & vodka, so I made my own. My mom bought a small size to use until the homemade variety has fully steeped. 
What about you? What frugal wins have you had this week?

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving

We are getting ready for our family turkey trot 5k. I'm always the slowest, but will be slower than usual, due to the stitches in my leg. Looking forward to getting those removed!

It's been a wild year, and we are so grateful for the health of our family. The situation with Sam's bike accident reminded us how everything can change in a moment, and we feel so very lucky.

As for the rest of the day, we will be cooking, the boys will be walking the neighbor's dog, and we'll be relaxing as a family. Board games & a puzzle might be in our future as well.

What about you? Are you ready for Thanksgiving? Looking forward to anything in particular? We're trying a pumpkin cake this year (no one is a pumpkin pie fan), so looking forward to trying that. And, the martinis. And the mashed potatoes. Really, all of the food. ;-)

Happy Thanksgiving to all of the US readers, & happy Thursday to everyone else! Wishing you & your family all of the best.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Menu planning & other Sunday actvities

We attempted to get (almost) all of our groceries yesterday, but we still have a few things we'll need to pick up on Wednesday (drat), so they will be fresh.

It was a nice day yesterday, with no soccer commitments. I got our passport photo applications completed for the kids, listed a couple of items on eBay, and caught up on bills & budgeting. I also made a more detailed menu plan for the week. I took the kids to the gym, and then we finished up by making homemade pepperoni pizzas. Yum!

Friday - we had leftover lasagna & salad
Saturday - cauliflower crust pepperoni pizza (adults) + naan pepperoni pizzas
Sunday - I'm making cauliflower/potato/chicken curry
Monday - tacos, pico de gallo & guacamole. I've made the pico, & need to make the guac.
Tuesday - leftover curry
Wednesday - leftover curry or tacos, depending on what's available
Thursday - we're having an nontraditional meal of steak, mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts & green beans. I will miss the stuffing, but no one will eat it, so c'est la vie.
Friday - TBD

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

  1. Plan out work/kid schedule for the week. 
  2. Vacuum
  3. Laundry
  4. Take the kids to the Y
  5. Have Sam meet up with dog walker (he's lined up a dog walking job for next week)
  6. Both boys to study & review math
  7. Costco (we are missing a couple of items from yesterday)
  8. 2020 travel plans
  9. Journal
  10. Make curry for dinner

What about you? How are you planning to spend your Sunday?

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Saturday happenings

We joined a gym! I'm super excited, as I love workout classes, & want the flexibility to work out on weekends. I have access to a gym, but it's at the office & not close to our house. There are also no workout classes. So, this is big news. While I try to balance saving vs spending, I decided to use part of my raise for the gym, and a slight wardrobe upgrade. Nothing serious, but I would like to dial up my clothing a bit. I've been in a bit of a rut, and it shows. So, I've ordered some things online, & hope I'll end up liking at least a few pieces.

Nick & I went to the gym to get our membership cards last night. We got in a quick workout, but I needed to take it pretty easy, as I have stitches from having a mole removed. It was a very unpleasant process, and was deemed as pre-melanoma, so the doctor had to go quite deep to remove all of the margins. Tuesday & Wednesday were quite painful. I'm starting to feel better, but even walking on the treadmill (slowly) bothered me a bit yesterday.

Here's what's on the agenda for this lovely Saturday, ahead of an entire week off of school for the kids:
  1. Decide whether the boys need new passport photos (we took them a while ago, and are just now getting around to the passport applications)
  2. Fill out passport applications
  3. Make grocery list & menu
  4. Help Sam organize his work for the week ahead (catching up on school work)
  5. Laundry
  6. Buy ingredients for the holiday bread I bake
  7. Come up with a holiday plan for all of the items I need to purchase (decided on ideas for the kids, etc)
  8. Buy holiday giving tree gifs
  9. Return books to the library
  10. Decide on dinner. I'm leaning towards naan pizzas (kids) + cauliflower crust pizza (adults). This will use up several items lingering in the fridge. Particularly if we top with the pepperoni M impulse purchased. ;-)
What about you? What's happening at your house this Saturday?

Friday, November 22, 2019

Frugal Friday

We had a fabulous time on our vacation in Hawaii, & are now back in the swing of reality again. Here are a few frugal wins for the last week:

Saving on things we buy:

  • We bought some snacks & drinks for our hotel room at Target (used a gift card for the majority of the spending) & purchased reusable silverware & plates. They were cheaper than disposable, and we can bring them on other trips. 
  • I couldn't take my parents to the airport on Tuesday due to a conflict, so I booked them an Uber, using a gift card purchased at a discount. 
  • There were a few snafus on the flight home, so Southwest refunded me $25 of my ticket (the Early Bird Check In portion of my flight). 

Earning money:

  • I sold a piece of jewelry on eBay & made $300. It was one of my last big ticket items from all of my listings from this summer, so it's nice to have it finally sold.
  • I found $.26 in Hawaii by the pool. ;-) 
  • $156.72 earned in credit card rewards this cycle. Higher than normal, as we ate out on vacation & earn rewards at a higher rate for dining out. We are at $1671 YTD for our earnings.

Avoiding spending:

  • We've been eating things my parents prepped for us before they left (they are awesome) & avoiding eating out. We did plenty of that on vacation.

In non-frugal news, I've been unable to get anyone from the insurance company (insurance for the driver who hit Sam) to call me back. We are still out of pocket for the medical expenses + replacement bike. I am incredibly unimpressed with the lack of customer service & response time. It's been weeks. 

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

Friday, November 15, 2019

Frugal Friday

This is the "my parents are in town" edition. We've been having a lovely time. Here are a few frugal wins:

Saving on things we buy:

  • Used a discounted gift card to buy my mom an iced tea while we were running errands
  • Used a grocery store reward towards items we needed for dinners

Earning money:

  • Sold an item on eBay. It was only worth $5, but it's out of the house, & I used a recycled Amazon mailing envelope to ship it. Double win.
  • Because of my parents flight cancellation, they both earned a $150 flight credit for future travel. I used miles for their original flights, so this was a win. My parents are planning to take our kids to Disneyland, so I told them to keep the credits for that trip. 

Avoiding spending:

  • I took my mom out for her birthday, & we thought about Ubering there & back, but my husband graciously drove us & then picked us up again.
  • I made dinner on their first night, and we had a big taco feast with guacamole, empanadas, & ground beef tacos. Yum!
  • My parents flight was cancelled, & they were put on another airline. Their revised flight came in to SFO. We considered having them take an Uber (it's a 90 minute drive in traffic to pick them up, and we weren't sure we could make it happen). We realized M had the electric car, and could therefore carpool. My parents waited a bit at the airport, but we saved the cost of an Uber (likely around $75)
  • Packed a lunch for our flight to Hawaii 
  • Brought our own wine & snacks for our trip

What about you? Any frugal wins this week?

Friday, November 8, 2019

Frugal Friday

It was a pretty typical week for us. It's an extra paycheck month, so I was able to put a large chunk into each of the kids college funds & also make a mortgage payment. I love those months. It feels good, particularly after all of our large expenses.

Saving on things we buy

  • I found ground beef chubs (1 lb) marked down to $.25 at the grocery store. I bought 4 lbs, and also showed another shopper the great deal. I wanted to clear the shelf, but held myself back. :-)
  • I used $5 in grocery store rewards to buy things we needed for dinner, paying just $.99 for four pounds of ground beef + pepperoni. 
  • Used 110,000 United miles to book flights for four to Whistler for the boys February ski trip. We're very excited! I've been saving my United miles for years, so it was great to have a fun way to use them. I was out of pocket about $300 after using the miles (taxes & fees, plus I had to buy about $100 of miles to round up to the full ticket price). I saved about $3,000 by using miles & was able to book while I still have Gold United status, to get premium economy for free. 
  • I stocked up on nearly a year's worth of gift cards for a restaurant the boys like to go to when I travel. It's inexpensive, and there are days when M just can't get dinner together and handle kid pickups & homework. As a result, we ended up with 5 meal vouchers that we can use between now & April.

Earning money

  • I didn't earn any money, but I did sell an item for my sister on eBay, and sent her the money right away.

Avoiding spending

  • I didn't plan well, and was starving when I was grocery shopping over the weekend. I was very tempted to use Starbucks credit to buy a salad. Instead, I came home & cobbled together a lunch out of various fridge leftovers. My carnitas/feta/egg combo was totally fine, although not what I was craving.

What about you? Any frugal wins for the week?

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

November Goals

I have a bunch of family planning to do in November, so I need to get going on my goals. I also need to focus more on relaxing (minimal news consumption, more meditating & journaling, reducing evening electronics.)

Here are my October goals:

1) Financial

  • Stick to the budget
  • Finalize tax update
  • Come up with a new way to reduce what we need/spend on an ongoing basis
  • Make $300 in side hustle
  • Sell five items
  • Use up 5 freezer items
  • Use up 5 irregular pantry/fridge
  • Revise our 2020 budget
2) Family - spend more time together
  • Do one fun activity/month with the kids
  • Off the computer by 7:45 each evening
  • Two dates with M
  • Continue with Sam's plan at school/with doctors.
  • Deep clean the entire house
  • Finish door project & budget/plan for trim
  • Finalize February ski week plans
  • Get the boys passports
  • Get Sam's paperwork for major school trip finished
  • Finish at least 1/2 of my Christmas shopping/planning
  • Figure out plan for boys for Thanksgiving break
3) Fitness/health - lose 4 lbs
  • Run 8 times
  • Track calories (1400/day) & eat 5 servings of fruit & veggies/day
  • Work out 30 times
  • Meditate 10 times
4) Personal/creative
  • Do two social things
  • Volunteer a minimum of 1x
  • Journal 15 times
  • Read one non-fiction book
What about you? What are your goals for November?

Monday, November 4, 2019

October goal recap

The month is over, and a lot happened. Here's how I did on my October goals.

1) Financial:

  • Stick to the budget. - This was a super expensive month, with many yearly expenses coming due. We paid 1/2 of our property tax for our primary residence, as well as property tax & yearly  homeowners for our vacation house. We also bought Sam a new bike (hope to be reimbursed by the drivers insurance for at least some of the cost). The new bike doesn't fit on our bike rack, so we had to also get a new bike rack. We are going to Hawaii unexpectedly (M's work won a trip, and I was able to find inexpensive flights, so we'll go in a few weeks). Suffice it to say, we were not at our budget. 
  • Come up with a way to reduce what we need/spend on an ongoing basis. Nothing here. 
  • Make $100 in side hustle - I made $460. Woohoo! 
  • Sell five items: I actually sold four (3 for me, one for my sister). 
  • Use up 5 freezer items from our house - yes!
    • 2 bags of burger patties
    • 1 package of spicy sausage
    • 1 bag of grilled chicken
    • 1 container of pizza dough
  • Use up 5 irregular pantry/fridge items - yes
    • Pistachios for nut butter
    • Sunflower seeds (on salads)
    • Finished 2 1/2 empty juice jugs
    • Used a small sunflower butter container in protein balls
    • Finished a container of tomato soup (gifted), that had been in the pantry for a while
  • Build plan for moving to part time - nope. I was promoted, and my agreement was to give it a bit of time after the promotion before I decide what I want next. The promotion gives me a ton of flexibility should I decide I want to switch companies, or if I want to have another "major career" job. At this point, that seems unlikely, but I now have a lot of options. 
2) Family - spend more time together as a family
  • Do one fun activity/month with the kids - I can't swear that we made this happen as a family, but for most of September & October, I was getting out for nightly walks with one kid at a time, which was awesome. Now it's too dark. 
  • Off the computer by 7:45 each evening. - The current news & politics is really unhealthy for me to read before bed, and I've had a few late nights with work. I always regret that, because I can't sleep. 
  • Have two date nights with M - Yes! We had one earlier in October, and one unexpected date on Halloween. 
  • Continue with Sam's plan, meet with school, attend various appointments. - Yes, this happened & we continue to work with his school & doctor on his plan. 
  • Deep clean the entire house. - No We are still waiting for three remaining doors. 
  • Finish door project, and budget/plan for trim. - Oh, what a saga. It's been six months & we are still waiting for three doors. Lowes has been an absolute disaster to work with. 
3) Fitness/health - lose 4 lbs.
  • Run 6 times - I didn't run at all
  • Track calories (1400/day) & 5 servings of fruit & veggies/day - Yes to the fruit & veggies, but my calories were 1591/day, which is why I made no progress in October. 
  • Work out 30 times - YES! I did 31 workouts!
  • Meditate 10 times - 0 meditations. My app subscription had a problem, and it took me some time to sort it out. I'm back & ready for November.

4) Personal/creative.
  • Do two social things - I drove with friends to Yosemite, which was quite fun & lots of good chit chat. I also joined a workout group, which is pretty social. 
  • Volunteer - Still no good options that have worked with my schedule
  • Journal 15 times - I journaled 7 times. 
  • Read a non-fiction book - nope

All in all, it was a month with two business trips & a lot of chaos (perf season at work, my promotion, Sam getting hit by a car)... I'm not surprised to see the sea of red. :-) Lots of areas of improvement for November. What about you? How did you do with your October goals?

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Menu planning, & other Sunday things

Today is a day where I had the opportunity to sleep in, but sadly have been up since 3, as my back was hurting. I struggle with my lower back really hurting me when I sleep at night. My body needs more sleep, so hopefully I will get a chance to nap and get to bed early tonight.

I got a few chores done around the house yesterday, went for a run (so hard, after time off) & took the kids to a soccer game. They tied the best team in our league, unexpectedly, so it was a great game to watch.

I'm also doing menu planning, as my parents arrive on Friday. Here's what's on our menu for the upcoming week or so:

  • Friday - we had fridge leftovers. It was thrilling ;-)
  • Saturday - M made steak & brussel sprouts. We bought a pack at Costco, and the kids ate so much steak that M & I had to share one. Wow. Guess they are really teens now!
  • Sunday - I'm making pizza. We have a cauliflower crust for the adults, and Nick made pizza dough for the boys.
  • Monday - it was supposed to be leftover steak, but that ship has sailed. ;-) We will be having sausages/hot dogs with soup. The boys will have a carb of some kind with that. 
  • Tuesday - leftover pizza
  • Wednesday - spaghetti (zoodles) & meatballs
  • Thursday - oven baked chicken & cauliflower rice
  • Friday - my parents arrive, so we will have tacos, guacamole, empanadas & chips
  • Saturday - my mom & I are going to dinner to celebrate her birthday. M will make grilled chicken & serve it with gnocchi I bought at Costco last week.
  • Sunday - M will make kebabs & rice
I have a ton of paperwork/planning kind of chores for today. Here's what's in store:

  1. Work out
  2. Yoga. I'm hoping it will help my back
  3. Plan Thanksgiving menu
  4. Clean house
  5. Laundry
  6. Take Sam to soccer game
  7. Have boys review all homework
  8. Find Sam's health form for field trip
  9. Review work calendar, make updates
  10. Email nanny with schedule for the week
  11. Draft plan of ski week trip
  12. Call & book hotel for January work trip
  13. Finalize Hawaii trip plan
  14. Clean the spare room for my parents visit
  15. Wrap gifts & make a card for my mom
That's it for us. What about you? What's on your agenda for today?

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Frugal Friday, on Saturday

It was a very busy week, with finalizing performance reviews at work, and many, many meetings. Last week I had more than 35 hours of meetings. Getting actual work done was shoe horned in between, and personally, I'm terrible at context switching like that. My work is hard enough that I need time to think, process & reflect, which isn't possible in the 30 minutes available between meetings. This week appears to be a lighter week, hurrah.

As a result, I'm behind. Here are a few frugal wins we had.

Saving on things we buy

  • I was able to use drug store rewards to pick up a few things we needed to bring to a kid soccer party
  • I used Walgreens rewards that were about to expire to buy two body washes. 

Earning money

  • I sold a necklace on eBay & a few items on ThredUp
  • I was promoted at work, which meant a 6.3% raise, additional qualifications for a bigger bonus, and additional stock in upcoming months/years. This was a big career milestone, so it was nice to be recognized for the effort.

Avoiding spending

  • M replaced the brakes on one of our vehicles. We saved a few thousand dollars after factoring in the parts

In splurge news, both of the kids had Halloween parties to attend, so M & I were left to our own devices on Halloween for the first time in 15+ years. We sat at a restaurant, had martinis & shared a couple of entrees & laughed. It was fabulous. Work is crazy & stressful for both of us, so taking the time out is so important. The place we went is never cheap, but is close & high quality, so we mostly end up there.

We also are at a turning point with our nanny. She needs more hours, & our needs are so very sporadic due to ever changing kids sports & activities schedules. I completely understand her need for more consistent hours (and, more than double what we need), but she will likely find a new job soon. It will be fine most weeks, as our hours are very limited now. But, when I'm traveling, things will get really hair. I need to give more thought to that.

And with that, I'm off to try & get in a run. I haven't run in a month & I've missed it! Hope you all have a fabulous Saturday!

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Menu planning & other boring things

Sam is largely recovered from the accident. I'm still. . . struggling. We have heard from the witnesses how close it was, and I'm having a hard time moving on & have been super emotional. I went to bed at 7:30 last night & slept until 6, so I also have needed more rest & recovery. My plan is to take it easy this weekend, & hope to be feeling better next week.

Doing mundane things like planning the menu, cleaning the fridge & taking the boys to soccer is useful. It's distracting, but not stressful. Nick's team had a good game this morning, with a 4-2 win. The field was wet, so there was a lot of slipping & sliding.

We had some food waste while I was out of town (drat, I try to ensure everything is ready for the freezer), but nothing big. I really need to prep & cook some meals for the week, and make a Costco list, so here goes:

Friday - M & I had a cauliflower riced "Stuffing" from Trader Joes that was really good, but needed some doctoring to spice it up. We served that with grilled chicken (freezer). The  kids had leftover pizza. I couldn't handle meal prep on Thursday, and Sam got to choose the meal. Deliver pizza is not cheap, but the kids are enjoying the leftovers.
Saturday -tomato soup & breaded chicken w/caprese salad
Sunday - salmon & grilled chicken sausages, w/brussels sprouts
Monday - carnitas (freezer)
Tuesday - leftover salmon & grilled chicken sausages
Wednesday - leftover carnitas
Thursday - eat up remaining leftovers, or backup meal of spaghetti & meatballs/zoodles
Friday -  homemade pizza

That's it on our side. What are you making for dinner this week? Looking for inspiration!

Friday, October 25, 2019

So very grateful

I was at Yosemite yesterday at a work event when I got a text from M that Sam had been hit by a car on his way to school. A driver ran a red light & hit him in the crosswalk, while he was on his bike. Luckily, the driver hit on the front of his bike, & he fell & has bumps & scrapes. It was inches/seconds away from him being under the truck.

I have a lot of other feelings/emotions, particularly about how the driver behaved (attempted to leave the scene, repeatedly screamed at Sam, called him (and the other witnesses) a liar, tried to get Sam to talk to her insurance company to admit fault, etc), but instead I will focus on the witness who spent 90 minutes of his morning with Sam, shielding him from this person, getting a hold of my husband, calling the police, and being Sam's advocate. He also followed up yesterday to check on him. Super, super grateful that we had someone to help us out.

All of the feelings. So incredibly grateful that Sam is okay. 

Saturday, October 19, 2019

It definitely feels like fall

It's much chillier during the day, and in the evening, and you actually need a jacket to be out in the evenings. Although I love the spring & slightly warmer weather, this is nice too.

What are we up to this weekend? Well, quite a bit on the list, as usual. We had contractors in our house working on a door installation, so there's a lot of cleaning up to do, after that.

  1. Take the boys to two soccer games
  2. Vacuum
  3. Dust
  4. Clean bathrooms
  5. Clean kitchen
  6. Make menu
  7. Plan for next week - work
  8. Plan for next week - nanny
  9. Carpools for next week
  10. Pack for work trip
  11. Pick up the house (boys)
  12. Pay property taxes
  13. Pay insurance
  14. Work on audit (a story for another day, but the IRS changed the tax law on mortgage deduction limits after we filed our taxes, and while we filled out the correct information with Turbo Tax, the software wasn't updated yet with the correct info. We found out when the IRS notified us. We need to refile both state & federal taxes, as well as pay $$$$$. It was a very special treat when we found out about this "surprise."
  15. Decide on dinner. Nick will likely be at a sleepover, & is a very picky eater. I will likely either make something fun with Sam (chicken pad thai), or order takeout, depending on the rest of the day. Sam & I had a very rough day (story for another time) yesterday, so this would be fun.
It's going to be a super full day. What about you? What's happening this weekend?

Friday, October 18, 2019

Frugal Friday

It was a relatively quiet & standard frugal week. No major wins on our side.

Saving on things we buy

  • Used a $1 rebate at the grocery store
  • Used Rite Aid rewards to pick up some personal care items we needed - saved about $9. I also earned another $2 in rewards for the purchase.
  • Bought $100 Netflix gift card, which generated a $20 Rite Aid reward. Netflix is definitely a splurge, but we don't have cable & it's our streaming option. We decided to keep this for the year, and will apply the gift card to our account, thus avoiding getting billed. So, saving 20% off the subscription cost.
  • Made my own coleslaw mix, using two large cabbages I bought at the produce stand for $5
  • Chased Lowe's for compensation/discount on our ongoing door fiasco. I'm in touch with a supervisor, so we'll see where we end up. 

Earning money

  • Earned a final $3 on my online consumer focus group.

Avoiding spending

  • I cooked two big meals on Sunday, to give us this option in order to reduce desire to eat out. Because we had a few crazy/late nights, this helped a lot. 

How did you do? Any big wins to share?

Monday, October 14, 2019

Menu plan Monday

It's Monday, and that means planning our menu so we don't end up eating out, eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (okay, maybe just me), or getting takeout. Here's what we have planned this week:

Friday - boys had pizza, we had burgers (freezer) & coleslaw
Saturday - date night!
Sunday  - egg roll in a bowl
Monday - chicken curry (make ahead on Sunday) over cauliflower rice
Tuesday - leftover egg roll in a bowl
Wednesday - leftover curry
Thursday - Finish off the leftovers, or zoodles & meatballs if we run out
Friday - TBD, but something easy as we have an appointment for the boys after school

That's it for us. What's your plan this week? Anyone trying new recipes? I'm updating my curry recipe to try & make it more low carb friendly - swapping potatoes for cauliflower. I'll report back.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

And, it's Saturday

I was supposed to be on a girls trip this weekend, but due to a variety of work dramas, that just didn't happen. I'm very disappointed, because spending time with my sister & friend is always awesome. But, I'm determined to make the most of the weekend anyway.

Here's what's on the agenda:

  • Work. I actually have some work to do this weekend, & got a bunch of it done this morning, which is a relief. 
  • Work out. My plan is to go for a walk at soccer warm ups.
  • Soccer. We have three games. They are back to back, with Sam playing in the 1st & 3rd & Nick playing in the 1st & 2nd. They are both playing for their own teams, plus one age group up. I need to sort out a lunch plan, because we will be at the field from 10 am to 3:30 or so. 
  • Date night! M & I are actually have a date. It serendipitously worked out so well, and we definitely need the time together. I'm really looking forward to it.
  • Menu plan
  • Grocery shopping. M will likely do this while I am at soccer
  • House cleaning. Split between today & tomorrow.
I think that's it for us. What about you? What do you hope to get done today? 

Friday, October 11, 2019

Frugal Friday

It was a tiring week, with the jet lag. But, there were a few frugal wins along the way. Here's what we've been up to this week.

Saving on things we buy

  • I bought $300 of Uber credit at our local grocery store, earning $60 in store credits. I use Uber for mostly work trips to the airport (each trip is around $50/per segment) & get reimbursed for work.
  • Emailed the grocery store (above) because $30 of the credits didn't correctly apply. Got that fixed & applied back to my card. Honestly, you have to be so on top of these things. I did provide feedback that a 50% success rate on the promotion wasn't exactly inspiring, and they apologized. Hopefully they'll fix whatever is broken for future promos.

Earning money

  • Sold an item on eBay
  • Completed another task in my consumer focus group. I can cash out every $15. I have earned a total of $45 (cashed out) & another $3 towards the next cash out.

Avoiding purchasing/spending

  • We got home from soccer at 8 pm on Saturday night & were very tempted to stop at In & Out. Luckily, I'd done all of the dinner prep ahead, so we came home & quickly got food on the table for everyone 
  • Nick & I walked to the produce stand to get groceries vs driving, saving on wear & tear on the car or gas purchase
  • Ate all planned meals at home, no dining out. 
In frugal fails, I did have to toss some pizza of unknown origin from the fridge, as my husband tends to forget to use all of the leftovers when I'm traveling. I hate food waste, but I'm sure we'll all survive just fine.

What about you? What frugal wins did you have this week? 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

October Goals

I'm late to getting these set up, and also had a business trip in October, and a work trip to Yosemite for "team bonding", so plenty going on.

Here's what I'm hoping to accomplish in October.

1) Financial

  • Stick to the budget
  • Come up with a new way to reduce what we need/spend on an ongoing basis
  • Make $100 in side hustle
  • Sell five items
  • Use up 5 freezer items
  • Use up 5 pantry items
  • Build plan for moving to part time role. 
2) Family - spend more time together
  • One fun activity/month with the kids
  • Off the computer by 7:45 each evening
  • Two date nights with M
  • Continue with Sam's plan, meet with school. Various appointments.
  • Deep clean the entire house.
  • Finish door project, budget/plan for trim.
3) Fitness/health. Lose 4 lbs.
  • Run six times.
  • Track calories (1400/day) & 5 servings of fruit & veggies
  • Work out 30 times
  • Meditate 10 times. 
4) Personal/creative
  • Do two social things
  • Volunteer
  • Journal 15 times
  • Read one non-fiction book
What about you? What are you hoping to accomplish in October? 

Monday, October 7, 2019

Menu plan Monday

I'm still getting back in the swing of things, post jet lag. Everything is harder without sleep. I've been trying to catch up, but my body is not completely on board with the changes in sleeping times.

Menu planning at least ensures that we have dinners to eat during the week, without eating out. Here's what's on the menu for the week ahead:

Friday - we had lasagna from the freezer. Not exactly gourmet, but my flight landed at 1 pm, and I was in bed just after 7 pm. It worked.

Saturday - taco salads/tacos, with homemade pico de gallo

Sunday - carnitas salads, and more pico de gallo

Monday - leftover lasagna

Tuesday - taco salads/tacos

Wednesday - carnitas salads

Thursday - spaghetti & meatballs/zoodles & meatballs

What about you? What's on your menu for the week?

Sunday, October 6, 2019

September Goals Check In

September was a bit of a whirlwind, with going back to work, a trip to Boulder, the start of a trip to Tokyo, and we had guests, a soccer tournament & plenty of other fun stuff.

Here's how I did on my goals for the month.

1) Financial:

  • Stick to the budget. - Lots of irregular expenses, but we did okay outside of that. I'm going with green, as I also worked an extra week, which helped. 
  • Come up with a new way to reduce what we need/spend on an ongoing basis - Our refi! It will definitely save us a ton of monthly on an ongoing basis. 
  • Make $500 in side hustle. - I made $64. It was more, but I deducted the eBay fees from last month. I also stopped listing items on eBay as I was getting busy with work. 
  • Sell ten items. - I sold five items. 
  • Use up 10 freezer items from our house - I used up 5 items
  • Use up 5 irregular pantry items - I used stale macadamia nuts to mix with peanut butter in homemade protein balls. 
  • Get back to work & in the swing of two working parents - We survived? 
  • Complete on business trip - yes
  • Build plan for moving to part time role - not yet
  • Finish our refi - yes!
  • Move refi money back to higher yield account - yes!

2) Family - spend more time together as a family

  • Do one fun activity/month with the kids - does a weekend of soccer tournaments count? 
  • Off the computer by 7:45 each evening - mostly
  • Have two dates with M - had dinner & drinks one night at the house while the boys were at a tournament
  • Continue with Sam's plan, meet with the school, kick of next round of tutoring. - have been making progress. M is currently the tutor, and we have an appointment at school in mid October. 
  • Deep clean the entire house. - on hold until doors are installed. 
  • Finish remaining projects at the beach house (fridge repair, fire pit, Costco compensation) - all are complete!
  • Finalize house projects & budget/schedule for work. Drapes, second round of doors, budget & plan for trim. - We finished the drapes, and have a date for door install. We haven't started the trim plan. 
3) Fitness/health
  • Run 12 times - running wasn't in the cards this month. I ran 2x. 
  • Track calories at 1400/day & 5 servings of fruit & veggies - I was at 1578/day, but did hit my fruit & veggie target. 
  • Work out 30 times - I worked out 33 times.
  • Meditate 10 times.  - I meditated 5 times. 

4) Personal/creative

  • Do two social things - Went to a friend's party & had family/friends over for dinner
  • Volunteer a minimum of 1x - I found a good way to donate to a cause that I couldn't volunteer for, so considering it a win.
  • Journal 15 times. - 15 times exactly.
  • Read one non-fiction book. - Nope

What about you? How did you do with you September goals? Any big wins for the month? 

Friday, October 4, 2019

Frugal Friday

I'm not sure how frugal the week was, as I was traveling. It appears that the boys ate out a couple of times, but everything was reasonably inexpensive. I spent zero dollars out of pocket myself.

There were only three frugal wins that I can think of:

1) Used my Citi visa for my hotel stay, and will earn travel rewards. I will get my expense report filed quickly, once the credit card clears my account. I need the exact conversion amount between JPYs and dollars.
2) I called Costco about our fridge repair & the ongoing saga of our leaky fridge. The fridge appears to be fixed, although it took three months to get it solved. Costco originally offered me $100. I immediately asked for a supervisor, and we agreed on $400, plus a separate claim for the wall damage.
3) I sold a book on Ebay

I'm so happy that dealing with it's over!

I have a ton to get done this weekend (house cleaning, soccer, meal prep, etc), so hoping the jet lag isn't too bad. I landed this afternoon, after a pleasant business class return flight home. It really does make such a difference to be able to stretch out a bit on the return flight.

What about you? Any frugal wins for the week?

Monday, September 23, 2019

Menu plan Monday

With the chaos of being back at work, and a hectic week ahead, menu planning helps me ensure we're ready to go & don't default to takeout or eating out.

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

  • Friday - M & I had carnitas salad with wine, after we dropped the boys off at an event. The boys had cheeseburgers.
  • Saturday - I made guacamole & pico de gallo to go with tacos. (Taco meat from the freezer)
  • Sunday - M is grilling a big batch of chicken. We will eat some tonight & freeze the rest.
  • Monday - leftover tacos/carnitas
  • Tuesday - leftover chicken & rice
  • Wednesday - I have a late night, so M will make spaghetti & meatballs (frozen)
  • Thursday - any remaining leftovers, or salmon
  • Friday - pizza (keto friendly for the adults)
  • Saturday - M is making my favorite - beef kebabs & rice. We'll have friends in town
  • Sunday - I'm heading to Tokyo, so the boys will likely eat leftovers, and I'll be eating at the airport
What about you? Anything new on the menu for the week?

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Sunday happenings

I was out of the house for quite a bit yesterday (two soccer games & running errands), so today I'm focused on getting things done around the house. It was a winning weekend, with 2-1 wins for both games. We have house guests coming on Thursday, & I head to Tokyo on Sunday, so I need to maximize my time today to prep.

Yesterday I made delicious pico de gallo & guacamole, which we had with tacos (meat already prepped from the freezer). I love that I can pull out a prepped taco meat dinner, and then take my dinner prep time to make sides that take the dinner to the next level.

Here's what's on my to do list for today:

  1. Sheets
  2. Laundry
  3. Vacuum
  4. Clean the kitchen
  5. Make protein bars
  6. Carpool x3
  7. Work schedule
  8. Nanny schedule
  9. Family wipe board (this is how we track everything happening in a week)
  10. Menu planning
  11. Work out
  12. Start packing for Tokyo
  13. Clean bathrooms
  14. Have the boys call my parents
  15. Cancel hotel reservation for November
  16. Clean & prep the spare room for guests
What about you? What's on your to do list for today?

Friday, September 20, 2019

Frugal Friday

It was a really busy week, with me back to work. I also had multiple meetings with Asia, which means late nights. It wasn't the most enjoyable week, as I'm dealing with some conflict between team members. But, it's Friday! That's all I can say about it.

Here are a few frugal wins for the week.

Saving on things we buy

  • Used the $6 grocery store reward (that I had on another Frugal Friday, as the store didn't properly credit me when I redeemed it, and I had to track it down). Bought ingredients for Nick's cooking experiments. He's been making smoothies & pizza bread as part of his cooking class. I'm trying not to cringe at his recipes & instead let him experiment in the kitchen. I want him to enjoy baking/cooking as much as possible. 
  • Our refi is final approved! We signed on Tuesday. Saving on a "thing" we buy, just our house. ;-) 

Earning money

  • Continued to participate in consumer focus group. Not enough to cash out yet, but hopefully in the next few weeks
  • I discovered that the extra insurance I purchased for my stolen item was from eBay vs the post office (this is next to impossible to find out) & I happened upon a search that yielded the right help answer in eBay. They make it really difficult to find this. I received a $190 refund by filling out a quick form & already have the money back in Paypal. Now, keep in mind the item was lost & I made no money on the transaction, but now at least I will not have paid out of pocket when I refunded the buyer. Phew!
  • Found $.01 on the ground at work. I know, I know. We're going to be able to buy a coffee soon with all of this spare cash. ;-) 
  • Sold another item on eBay. 

Avoiding purchasing/spending

  • Bought a Starbucks gift card for $87 ($100 value) & will get a small discount via Rakuten. I use Starbucks while traveling & get reimbursed for work expenses. 
  • Made my own pesto, hummus & pico de gallo last weekend, vs store purchases
  • Planned ahead & figured out lunch options vs eating out between soccer games
  • Hosted at our house vs going out with M's cousins on Sunday

What about you? Any frugal wins for the week?

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The refi is finished!

Yesterday morning, M & I signed all of our refinance papers on our mortgage before work. I'm so happy that all of the work is complete & I can mark it off of our list.

For the financial side, finishing the refi lowers our payment by $1657/month, giving us a significant amount of flexibility. We also dropped our interest rate by almost a full point, and paid zero costs or fees with the refinance.

We opted for a 7/1 ARM vs a traditional 30 year mortgage, and made quite a bit of progress of paying down the principal in the 2.5 years we've owned the house. As a result, we were able to get a loan for $217k less than the loan we had when we bought a few years ago. This also helped to lower the monthly payments.

In reality, the seven year time horizon on the arm is great for us, as Nick graduates from high school in seven years. Our plan is to have the house either paid off (optimistic, but stretch goal) or have firm plans in place to relocate to a less expensive house at that point. Either way, paying 1 point less on our currently large balance vs the balance we'll owe in seven years makes sense.

Our goal is to continue to make the same payments each month, regardless of the lower required payments. That will set us up for success in getting the house paid off or paid to a very low amount by the end of seven years. We're excited about the flexibility we have in the payments (should we need to pay less for a few months due to an emergency, we certainly can) & the ability to put more towards the principal in standard months.

Have you recently refinanced your house? Any good success stories?

Monday, September 16, 2019

Does it ever feel like Monday

Today, particularly, it feels so much like a Monday with my return to work & the office. We had M's cousins over last night, which was fantastic, but went later than normal on a "weekday". I also have a pile of dishes to attend to. 

We had a great time last night. M & I tag teamed on dinner (I made a caprese salad, green salad, & handled easy appetizers - bread, hummus & veggies). M made salmon & rice. Nick made the kids pasta, and made the pesto a few days before. Our guests brought an amazing chocolate cake. We had lots of laughs, and the kids play Magic together, which was super cute.

We ended up accomplishing everything on our to do list for the weekend, minus the hanging of the drape, so considering it a pretty big win. I'm off to hustle to get ready for work, and to get a mammogram this morning. Always a treat. ;-) 

Hope you all have a fantastic Monday!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

A new recipe, and to do list updates

I was productive yesterday, and got quite a few things done. But, as always, plenty remains for today. ;-)

We are hosting M's cousin's family for dinner tonight, and there are quite a few food sensitivities. We opted to host vs eat out due to the food sensitivities, as well as cost. We are having two different entrees (salmon for the adults, & a pasta bar for the kids). Hosting 8 people isn't cheap, but will certainly be less than eating out. 

In the kitchen yesterday, I made: 
  • Hummus
  • Pesto (actually, Nick made a batch for us, and a batch to share with our sweet neighbor across the street)
  • Pico de gallo
  • Tortilla chips (from tortillas, baked in the oven). SO good.
  • Warm taco slaw - highly recommend this recipe. We loved it!
Soccer ended up with one tie and a loss, so fingers crossed for a win for the third game today. :-) 

Here's what's still on the to do list:

  • Workout - x2 - One to go, finished one yesterday.
  • Pack gym bag for next week - still need to do this. 
  • Put together nanny schedule - Done
  • Finalize 3 carpools  - I'm done with my part, but waiting for a couple of families to finish signing up
  • Prep carnitas - need to do this. M got back from Costco too late for me to handle this before leaving for soccer yesterday.
  • Make coleslaw mix & make taco slaw for dinner - done
  • Take Nick to a morning game, and then both boys to the afternoon game - done
  • Vacuum - opted to wait to clean, as I had a bunch of cooking to do
  • Clean the kitchen - opted to wait to clean, as I had a bunch of cooking to do
  • Dust - must happen today
  • Bathroom - must happen today
  • Review eBay listings & adjust as needed - done
  • Hang new drapes (this is a maybe, depending on M's availability) - maybe today
  • Costco, the grocery store, Trader Joes & the produce stand - done
  • Have the boys call my parents
  • Take Nick to soccer (about 30 minutes away). Will use warm up for my workout
  • M to take Sam to meet a friend for skating
  • Guests over for dinner

I think that will be everything! What about you? What are you hoping to accomplish today?

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Menu plan and weekend things

I'm still getting back into the groove of life after spending Monday-Thursday in Boulder for work. Boulder was lovely, but it's hard to be away from the kids & routine. I always come back to a ton of chores & catch up, despite M's best effort.

We both have very busy weeks next week, as it's my first week in the office & I have three late APAC meetings. It's also perf season at work, so both of us have an amplified work load. The kids also have plenty of activities (cross country meet, two volleyball games & soccer practice), which requires lots of carpooling & schedule coordination.

I know next week will be particularly challenging for me (my first week of fully being in the office, commuting, etc), so by planning my menu ahead of time, hopefully I can at least answer the question of "what's for dinner tonight".

Menu for the week ahead:

Friday - I made spaghetti sauce out of a very discounted lb of Italian seasoned turkey. I combined it with onions & mini peppers, added a small container of homemade tomato sauce & then filled it out with a marinara sauce we had in the pantry. The adults had the sauce with zoodles. The kids had it with regular pasta.
Saturday - taco slaw (and, make ahead crockpot carnitas for the week)
Sunday - salmon, bread & caprese salad (adults). Kids will be having a pasta bar. We're having M's cousins/kids over for dinner.
Monday - carnitas
Tuesday - salmon & caprese salad
Wednesday - leftover taco slaw
Thursday - carnitas salad

What will you be up to this weekend? The kids have three soccer games (one for Sam, three for Nick, but they will attend Sam's together). We are also hosting M's family tomorrow night for dinner. It should be a nice weekend, but plenty to do.

Here's what I'm hoping to accomplish this weekend:

  • Workout - x2
  • Pack gym bag for next week
  • Put together nanny schedule 
  • Finalize 3 carpools 
  • Prep carnitas
  • Make coleslaw mix & make taco slaw for dinner
  • Take Nick to a morning game, and then both boys to the afternoon game
  • Vacuum
  • Clean the kitchen
  • Dust
  • Bathroom
  • Review eBay listings & adjust as needed
  • Hang new drapes (this is a maybe, depending on M's availability)
  • Costco, the grocery store, Trader Joes & the produce stand
What about you? Any good recipes on the menu this week? Anything you are trying to accomplish?

Friday, September 13, 2019

Frugal Friday

I was in Boulder for training for the week, so I didn't spend any personal money. Here are a few wins we had.

Saving on things we buy:

  • I went through Swagbucks & found the least expensive used book option for a book Nick needed

Earning money:

  • Earned another $15 for the focus group I'm in. 
  • Sold another item on eBay
  • Used cash back credit card for work trip & filled out prompt reimbursement. I'll get a small amount back for using my credit card. 

Avoiding purchasing/spending:

  • Avoided eating out last weekend, despite the kids begging for In & Out after soccer.
  • Made my own protein bars, vs buying something. 

What about you? Any frugal wins this week?

Monday, September 9, 2019

Weekly Spending

I don't do this regularly, but thought it might be interesting to share my weekly spending - both for you, and for me to be more aware of our spending. I won't track fixed bills (mortgage, utilities, etc) but food, travel, etc.


  • It was a 3 day weekend in the US, so the kids were out of school. Nick was asked to go bowling with a friend. They've paid a few times & accepted no money, so I sent him with $20 to buy treats to share for everyone. He also made them cookies. - $20


  • My parents are going to stay with us for a week in November. M & I are thinking of taking a long weekend, and the boys are out of school. I paid for their flights using frequent flier miles, and the tax was $22.40. -  $22.40
  • We have a cell phone holder for the car that allows you to see the navigation while driving. I have really liked it, and often take the kids to activities where I need navigation. It broke, & our repairs failed, so we ordered a new one. Amazon, - $18.99.

Wednesday - no spend day. We were all working, & the kids had after school activities to keep them busy.

Thursday - no spend day. We were all working, & the kids had after school activities to keep them busy.

Friday - no spend day. We carpooled for soccer practice, and then had dinner & a cocktail at home. M & I sat on the patio while the kids played together. It was a nice way to close out the work week.

Saturday -

  • $8.42 - ingredients for pico de gallo + 2 bunches of radishes, green onions & a large head of cauliflower at the produce stand.
  • Costco, groceries for the week - $84.36
  • Costco gas - $42.92
  • M & Nick got haircuts - $20
  • Medicine at Rite Aid - $.16 (I guess insurance covers the rest, which is fantastic)
  • A book for Nick's Spanish class (I used swagbucks + ordered a used copy) - $6.99

Sunday -
  • $4.35 - produce stand again, because I used too many tomatoes in the pico de gallo, & M also wanted more limes. 12 limes + 3 lbs of tomatoes.
  • Gave Nick $20, as a friend invited him to a rock climbing session. That was the fee + he had to buy a chalk bag? No idea. They were going to go out for lunch, but I convinced them to come home instead & I whipped together a quick lunch for him before soccer.
  • Trader Joes for yogurt for a chicken marinade - $3.99
Total spend for the week = $252.58. Overall, I feel good about the week. We had several no spend days, spent zero on eating out, and mostly stuck to essentials. How about you? Did you track your spending for the week? How did you do?

Friday, September 6, 2019

Frugal Friday (the time I got a paycheck, but it was for $0)

The back to work addition of Frugal Fridays. Here's how we did!

Saving on things we buy:

  • Found 3 lbs of marked down ground turkey for $.99/lb. I try to mix it in with a pound of ground beef when doubling recipes. 
  • Picked up a package of 10 KCups (try to avoid, but my parents like them when they visit) for free on the Friday Freebie at my grocery store. 

Earning money:

  • Sold three items on eBay, and went through my listings & made adjustments to try & get more sold
  • Continued completing tasks for the focus group I'm apart of. I'm close to another $15 payout
  • Tracked down $6 of missing rewards from my grocery account. I noticed that when I redeemed an award, it deducted $7 instead of $1. I debated on the energy of emailing customer service, but sucked it up & emailed them. They are crediting my account. 
  • Filed an appeal with USPS for my insurance claim. They paid me for 1/3 of the item's value, despite having proof of the value & showing all of the details about the claim. Sigh.
  • Contacted HR at work to get my HSA adjusted post leave to ensure I hit the yearly maximum. It doesn't allow me to do it in the tool, and doesn't automatically correct, so required some tracking to make it happen. Done!

Avoiding purchasing/spending:

  • Received a replacement Jansport backpack, when mine started to disintegrate. I was hopeful they could repair it, but since they couldn't, they mailed me a new one for free. It's a $45 backpack, & I hope to keep it forever!
  • I had a crazy day yesterday (gym before work, 9-5 meeting, back home to make dinner for everyone, M to pick up Nick at volleyball, then I left & picked up Sam's soccer carpool). It allowed very little time for anything, and I strongly considered picking up leftovers. Instead, I hustled home after my meeting, made a salad & prepped the leftovers, fed myself & then left again. It wasn't my favorite day, but if I'm back to work & earning money, I don't want to waste it on meals out due to scheduling.

In the spirit of sharing, we've had some food waste this week, which always makes me sad. The adjustment of being back to work for lunches has meant that I need to rejigger food portions of leftovers. Hopefully I can rectify this for next week & get back on track.

In "earning money" news, it was definitely hard to go back to work. I checked out my paycheck so I could at least use that as motivation. I did, in fact, get a paycheck, but it was for $0. I didn't know that they would "catch up" all of my contributions that were paused while I was out on leave, so the catch up of things like long term disability, after tax 401k contributions, plus my additional tax withholdings (I do  percentage + an additional flat amount in every paycheck for both state & federal), etc meant that my deductions sucked up my entire check. And, I think that even with a full paycheck next cycle, my paycheck will be pretty small. Ah, well. At least I added to my 401K & HSA this month, right? :-)