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!