Thursday, December 31, 2020

Budget changes for 2021

Happy New Year's Eve, everyone! I hope you stay safe & healthy with your families. It's my favorite time of the year, as we are about to turn over a new calendar page (metaphorically, at least) & start fresh. I make the time to review our previous budget & adjust accordingly, based on our priorities, life changes & general adjustments from the previous year. 

Clearly, all of our planning in 2020 meant very little, but we will try again in 2021. :-) Here are our planned budget changes by category in 2021. We will continue to both work from home until at least September of 2021 (for which we are super grateful), the kids return to school is unclear, and travel is questionable. Based on that, here are our changes to our budget categories in the upcoming year. And, changes refer to planned spend in 2020, not what we actually spent. That was an entirely different situation, given COVID. 

Areas we will cut/expect to be lower in 2021:

  • Gym - we will keep our gym membership on pause for the indefinite future, which will save money in 2021. TBD whether we will re-activate it during the year. We bought an elliptical & protective floor mat for the cost of a few months of gym membership.
  • Auto - unclear if we'll buy a car. We'd love another electric car, but if the world remains shut down & we aren't driving much, we won't need one. 
  • Auto insurance - our cost is down, due to significantly less driving. 

Areas we expect to be the same in 2021:

  • Christmas - no changes planned for next year, so I'll keep our existing budget. 
  • Gas - we will keep this as is. Despite not driving much at all in 2020, we were primarily budgeting before with having an electric car. We're still driving less in total, but each trip with a gas car. 
  • Entertainment - we will keep this as is as well. Our entertainment budget is pretty low (Netflix, etc) & we will retain the same services we have & don't expect to add any services or go anywhere for entertainment in 2021. 
  • Dining out - I'm going to keep this flat, as I'm hoping we'll be able to do a few splurge date nights by next summer. A girl can dream of an outdoor, socially distanced date, right? 
  • Summer camps - the boys want to do two summer camps next summer (if possible). Both are pretty pricey, but we will budget under the assumption they happen. That will keep summer camps as flat from our 2020 planned (not actual due to COVID) budget. 
  • Kids - we're expecting to spend the same (or less) than usual in 2021. We pivoted to some online tutoring & tennis (vs in person stuff), & while we spend less in 2020, we're hoping 2021 leads to more things opening back up. 

Areas we expect to be higher in 2021:

  • Utilities - we will budget for a $150/month increase, but unclear if that will be enough given how much more often we are at home in the year. 
  • Alcohol - I bought M a membership at a local winery, so I'll adjust the budget to accommodate. 
  • Groceries - given the changes (no free breakfast, lunch, snacks & drinks throughout the day for the adults) & other cost of groceries during COVID, our previous budget is just not attainable for the way we like to eat. I'll raise this by $250/month, & work on options to get us to this mark. 
  • Home projects - we didn't budget much for this in 2020 (but then, hello COVID & kitchen remodel) & it's unclear if we'll tackle a bathroom/bedroom remodel in 2021, leveraging our ability to work remotely & stay at the vacation house (at least me + the kids) during part of the summer. If so, I'll need to increase this budget to accommodate. 
  • Travel - it's hard to predict what will happen with travel in 2021, but our current plans are to take my parents to Hawaii in June for a combination of my dad's 70th birthday & my parents 50th anniversary. Taking 6 people to Hawaii will be pricey, so we'll budget accordingly. Other than that, we will likely spend time at our vacation house twice (summer & Christmas). If things really clear up with COVID & the vaccines, it would be great to get away with M. If not, maybe a long weekend to Napa. TBD. All told, the Hawaii trip will likely eat up the majority of our 2021 travel budget, so I'll add a bit extra in case travel opens up again for a trip with M. 

What about you? How are you planning to adjust your 2021 budget? Any major changes that will lead to increases or decreases? 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

2020 Fitness Goals Recap

I'm looking back at how I did across all of my goals for 2020. Overall, it was a positive year for my health & fitness, for which I'm very grateful. COVID, WFH, fewer kids activities & no international travel means that I was able to be much more consistent with my workouts than I've ever been before. Ever. So, here's how that all went.  (Full list of all of my 2020 goals.)

Working out truly helped me stay happy & healthy during a very challenging year. I feel so grateful that I have the energy to work out & leverage that to tackle life, even when things are difficult. I worked out 404 times in 2020 (many days with double workouts).


  • Lose 15 lbs. - I lost 9.7 lbs, which I feel really good about. I didn't do myself any favors over the holidays, and lost a bit of ground, but a few days of clean eating should take care of this. 
  • Run 100 times, and a half marathon under 2:25. - Well, there are no half marathons on the horizon, and distance running wasn't really my jam in 2020. But, I did run 102 times in 2020!
  • Track calories, average 1400 calories/day. - I did well tracking my calories, less well on the 1400/day. I don't think that's a reasonable target given my activity level & will likely bump this to 1550 in 2021. If I can hit this target, I can slowly & steadily continue to lose the last 10 lbs or so. 
  • Complete 12,000 minutes of cardio, 100 strength & 50 stretching workouts - 16,565 cardio minutes, 48 strength & 38 stretching workouts. I was all cardio & need more balance in 2021. 
  • Meditate 100 times -  I meditated 110 times, and this was critical for my mental health & well being in 2020. 
So, that's how I did with my fitness goals in 2020. What about you? How did you do with your health & fitness goals for the year? How did COVID change your goals? 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2020 Saving Goal Recap

Can you believe we're almost off of the wild roller coaster ride that is 2020? As the year draws to a close, I thought it would be useful to take a look at where we saved our money this year. I have the spend/expenses side covered elsewhere, but here's a look at how we saved our money.  For purposes of this post, I'm considering mortgage pay down above & beyond our standard monthly payment to be "savings", although it's clearly an expense. It builds equity & net worth, & was an intentional spend. 

We feel incredibly blessed that we were able to retain our employment during this time, and work from home safely. We know not everyone is in this position, and want to make the most of our assets & spend & live responsibly. 

Here's how we did in 2020:

  • Retirement. We fully maxed out both of our 401ks, including the additional amount as M is over 50. I also for the first time started a backdoor Roth savings (offered by my employer), at 5% of my salary. 
  • College savings. This wasn't a priority for the year, as the boys college accounts are in pretty good shape. In California, the option to attend a 2 year college & then transfer to a 4 year college is quite affordable. That's changed the landscape of our college saving plans a bit. But, we saved $5k this year, putting birthday & Christmas gifts into their account, plus they earned a bit & we require them to put a percentage of their earnings into their college savings.
  • Health savings. We put in $7,100 this year, and didn't use much. We will both need to get some medical needs taken care of in 2021, but so far are spending much less than we are savings. We have a high deductible health care plan through our work.
  • Other savings. Definitely not a priority in 2020. In fact, we moved money out of our savings to cover our remodel (it was originally intended to be used to pay down our mortgage). It was intentional, but our savings is lower in 2020 than 2019. Don't worry, we still have a very healthy emergency fund. 
  • Mortgage pay down. This was our top priority for 2020 & we paid down ~1/4 of our gross income into our mortgage (that's after our standard monthly payments). So, a pretty significant amount. We bought our house in 2017, and our goal is to be to the half way point on the mortgage in 2021. So far, real estate prices in the bay area near us have held steady/risen, but that could change given more flexibility in WFH due to COVID & tech companies adapting their policies. We are 78% of the way to the half way mark, as it stands right now. 
What are your current financial priorities? How did you do in 2020?

Monday, December 28, 2020

2020 Financial Goals Recap

I'm working through the four groups of my  2020 goals . Here's how I did on my financial goals.

1) Financial

  • Stick to our budget (more details in upcoming posts about budget changes we've made for 2020) - on the whole, we were well under budget for most categories this year. But, COVID threw us plenty of curve balls & opportunities. (Details below.) I'm giving us a pass, based on where we netted out as a whole. As in previous years, we spent well under what we made, made lots of progress on our mortgage & retirement goals, & increased spending in intentional ways (mostly.) 
  • Pay off 1/2 of our mortgage. We bought in February of 2017. Our goal is to hit the half way point by September, 2020. - COVID changed this as well, because we felt nervous about dumping a bunch of cash into our house vs savings for the first six months of the year. So, that was the first change. After things settled down, we decided to take advantage of being home during the day to get some housing projects done. We put a bunch into the house. We still could have achieved this, but are in the process of refinancing our mortgage & prefer to wait until that closes to make the final large payment. However, we paid 3x over our expected principal payments, so feeling really good about where we landed in 2020 with this. 
  • Spend $500 or less on clothing for myself - I spent $617.87 on clothing, and wrote a post on this. Although I was over my goal, I feel good about the spending, based on the need to replace 2x pair of running shoes. It was an intentional and thoughtful investment in my health, during a lot of working out in 2020. 

So, how did we do with our budget categories?
  • Travel - under, with also another $3500 or so of travel credits, due to cancellation. I'm sure we'll make up for this in 2021!
  • Utilities - we went from all four of us being out of the house & a lot during the weekend, to being home almost always. As a result, we spent more. We also had to increase our routers, add different phone coverage for the kids (they need specific apps to use during the school day) & we were generally just home using more power & water. 
  • Groceries - so, so far over. A few key reasons. The adults previously ate breakfast, lunch, snacks & drinks throughout the day (for free) at work. That was saving us a lot of money. COVID also pushed us to change our shopping habits. We largely stopped looking for deals, bought what was in stock (even when it was more expensive), stopped shopping at the very inexpensive local produce stand (no social distancing options) & added in a bunch of fun/frivolous/entertaining options to keep us going during our time together. 
  • Dining Out - our dining out budget is not super big ($200/month) but we exceeded this for the year. I was initially surprised, but here's how that played out. We did pretty pricey takeout a few times, in a bid to support one of our favorite local restaurant. M & I had three socially distant date nights (no longer allowed, but over the summer when we could eat outside) & took my sister to dinner. All those added up to just over our budget. We were close. 
  • Home Projects - we used our time at home to manage contractors & supervise projects to do home projects, both big & small. We did a full kitchen remodel, rebuilt our outdoor sheds (pool shed, required garbage cover, & sheds that sit between our house & neighbors, as an auxiliary space.They were 30+ years over, & really needed an update. As with all home projects, we were over budget. ;-) 
  • Gym, summer camps - the kids fit in a couple of socially distant summer camps, and we had a couple of months at they gym, but these were both big cost savings due to COVID. 
  • Auto - we talked about buying a car, but didn't do that this year due to not driving much. So, saved a big chunk here.
  • Auto insurance - likewise, we are both driving so little that our insurance rates dropped. 
  • Christmas - we're well under, and used travel credits for the flights. In the end, we'll drive & bank even those credits. And, we won't be renting a car. 
  • Entertainment - we were under. Our budget is pretty small, but there was nowhere to go & spend this in 2020! 
  • Gas - we spent less on gas than expected, but will likely hit this about even with our drive over the holidays
  • Alcohol - we spent more in 2020 ;-) 
What about you? How did you do with your 2020 financial goal & budget? 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

2020 Personal Goals Recap

I divide my goals into various categories, to help me remember my highest priority buckets. Let's review the personal/creative bucket & see how I did for the year. (Keep in mind that all goals were set for the year ahead of COVID, so adaptations were made along the way). 

Here's a look at all of my 2020 goals, if you're curious. Here's how I did with my personal goals. 


  • Make time for my friends. Do something social at least once per month - this largely evolved into weekly virtual happy hours, although I did get out for some socially distanced walks & hikes this year, & that was also lovely. We all stayed safe, but stayed in touch. I'm not sure I could have survived the year without my friends & family. 
  • Volunteer at least once per month - yes! Major progress made on this goal in 2020. I signed up to be a consultant on a literacy based non-profit in 2020, and have already spent more time on this activity than my volunteering for all of 2019. I'm enjoying it, and feeling great about my contribution. Without COVID, I'm not sure I could have signed up for this in my previous world of commuting, international travel, etc. So, I'll appreciate the blessing that came out of the year. 
  • Write & journal regularly - yes! I've journaled almost every day, and have 69 pages of thoughts & three things I'm grateful for (each day). Making the list of things I'm grateful for, particularly during this year, has been truly critical to keeping a healthy mental attitude during a difficult time.
  • Adapt a more positive mindset (judge less) - I did reasonably well, considering the year we had. The gratitude journaling really, really helped. 
  • Listen more often (vs talking) - I have a lot of work still to do there, but improvements are being made. 
  • Stop/greatly reduce swearing - I've also made progress here. The election & a few parts of the pandemic were a challenge, but I'm definitely better about this than I was in 2019. 
And, I also started later in the year thinking of kind deeds for others, and incorporating that into my daily life. I started it as a challenge with 100 days ahead of the election, but enjoyed it so much that I've kept it up. While it's not daily, it's actually a task I add to my to do list, just like others. Not because it's a chore, but because seeing it on there motivates me to get creative & figure out how I can help others in a small way on a daily basis. I've LOVED this & will for sure be adding this to the goals in 2021.

So, that's how I did on my personal goals in 2020. How about you? Any wins to share? Anything you're adding back to the list to tackle for 2021?

Saturday, December 26, 2020

2020 Family Goals Recap

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday, despite it likely being different due to COVID.

Oh, 2020, I had no idea what you had in store for us, when I set my 2020 goals . One of my core goals was to spend more time together as a family. I think, after 9+ months of quarantine together, we can easily describe that as "mission accomplished"! :-) We've never spent this much time together. Normally we'd all be quite busy with us working, me traveling for work, the kids at school, kids at activities, etc. And, while we always made time for family time, it was more limited than what we've had together. We will remember this year forever, for many reasons. 

We played tennis together, went on runs, made meals (SO many meals, that I convinced Nick to help me in the kitchen for much of the pandemic), got into various shows (The Queen's Gambit, Bones, etc) & spent a lot of time together. We carved pumpkins, walked on the beach, flew kites, read books, played chess & rummy...I know the kids miss their friends & activities terribly, but there were bonuses to all of that family time. M & I absolutely missed being able to go on regular dates, or even just being home alone while the kids were out doing their own activities. As the pandemic raged on for months, we did get reasonably creative. 

Let's see how we did with our family goals for 2020:


  • One fun activity per month with the kids - oh yes. Tennis, family walks, runs, movie nights. We were limited on our options outside of the house, but also went skiing in January & February, before COVID became a thing. 
  • Off the computer by 7:30 each evening - I did reasonably well at this, but now have to read books on my laptop, as we don't have access to the library at the moment. So, I adapted this goal to be "off the computer (minus reading)" & did well. 
  • Two dates with M per month - we were much more hit & miss on this, both because it was hard to go anywhere, & the kids were around a lot. But, we got creative. We squeezed in a few outdoor dining options over the summer, my parents had the kids a few times, & we made it work. Thank goodness for my parents helping us out. The kids enjoy it so much, as do my parents, & we get a chance to talk & connect without the kids. It's a lovely respite for all. 
  • Schedule monthly video calls with M's family, who is unable to visit - time zones make this challenging, but I did get connected on WhatsApp to my mother in law, and have been sending her videos & photos of the kids, which she loves. We also did do a video call, and it was lovely to see my in laws. Interestingly, my family decided to stay better connected during COVID, and we now use Marco Polo to record videos for each other, almost daily. I also have a group with my sister & BFF, and we've never been better connected on a weekly basis. We've missed the girls trips, but the video chats have been a life saver in an otherwise challenging year. 
  • Learn 20 new words of Farsi, so I can better communicate with M's family - I did start off strong with practicing, but found this really challenging as Duolingo & other sites don't offer Farsi. Instead, I pivoted to Spanish practice in Duolingo & learned something like 300 new words in 2020. So, language progress is being made - just not where I was expecting it. 

What about you? Did you have family goals for 2020? How did you do with your goals? Any thoughts on goals you might want to set for 2021?

Friday, December 25, 2020

Frugal Friday

Merry Christmas, to those of you who celebrate! Happy holidays for those of you taking time off to spend with your families, or who are missing your family celebrations during this wild, wild year.

I'm not sure this has been the most frugal week, with stocking up the beach house with groceries & supplies & then getting here & discovering the dryer was out. But, we've had a few frugal wins to report. 

Saving on things we buy

  • We did really well on stops on our way to the beach. We made the best time (limited traffic due to COVID), & spent under $7 on lunch for all of us (Costco, to get gas & then grabbed food that we ate in the car). I used a Starbucks gift card for breakfast (we'd been on the road close to 5 hours by that point) & then we spend a few dollars on fresh ffuit for the kids. Altogether, we spent less than $20 out of pocket on two meals for the car. I picked up snacks at the store earlier in the week. Super cheap road trip food!

Earning money

  • I finally sold a pair of outgrown ski boots the day before we left, and made $45 with a contactless pickup. Glad someone will be able to use them, and that they are out of my closet! :-) 

Avoiding spending

  • Our artificial tree is 15+ years old, and the lights needed to be replaced. We took the time to remove all of the lights this year (quite a project!) & next year will add our own. It saves the tree from the landfill, and allows us to add lights we already have, vs replacing the full tree. 
  • I'm in charge of bringing champagne for mimosas for our Christmas morning brunch. I found multiple bottles of champagne at our vacation house of the preferred brand, so we will bring those. I like getting them out of the house here (people tend to leave but not use up, as they aren't sure who things belong to) & it saves money. Win/win. 
  • I needed to wrap up my craft gift while we were at the beach, and unearthed Christmas wrapping paper that we must have bought years ago. Awesome! No need to buy more. 
  • I've filed an insurance claim (pass insurance) for our ski passes we purchased this year. We'd normally never have purchased passes for just a few days & instead just bought day of as it got closer, but the passes were required due to the mandatory reservations for COVID. Unfortunately, we aren't allowed to go for New Years due to quarantine orders. That is a protected part of the pass insurance. The insurance company has been inundated with claims, but I'll keep on top of it. 
  • Rescued Amazon packages for a few things we ordered here, and will take them home with us for future eBay sales. 
For others
  • Used all of that time in the car to loom four hats for the homeless. It really helped the time go by quickly (or, slightly quicker perhaps - it's a 12 hour drive after all) & made me feel a bit productive. 
  • Finished up a project for my volunteer job, and logged my hours so they will receive a financial match from my employer
  • Not me, but the kids volunteered at a trail construction project with my dad. Trails typically require quite a bit of maintenance by volunteers to stay in safe condition (particularly if you live somewhere that gets rainy/muddy), so the volunteers help them stay clear for others. They do this a few times a year, and my dad does it at least monthly. Trail maintenance is a good socially distanced COVID activity. 

And, a few photos from our trip:

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

2021 Goals

I love the idea of setting goals, & like the categories I've settled on in previous years. A few things are carryovers from 2020, which is fine given the unpredictability of the year. 

Here's what I have planned for my 2021 goals:


  • Stick to our budget
  • Pay down our mortgage to the half way point. We would have achieved this last year, but decided to invest in remodeling projects, while we were home as needed for the contractors.
  • Spend $250 or less on clothing for myself (note: does not including running shoes)
  • Take my parents to Maui for my dad's belated 70th birthday & in lieu of a 50th wedding anniversary for my parents. It will be a big splurge, which we are fine with, but want to save appropriately & spend wisely just the same. 
  • Consider remodeling our bedroom area, leveraging WFH flexibility as needed to spend time at the beach house during some of the core disruption. Build a budget, prioritize, etc. 
  • Increase charitable giving by adding a "$1K kind deeds fund". We have the majority of our charitable donations handled automatically through payroll deduction, but I really enjoyed having a flexible budget to spend throughout the year on fun/kind deeds for others. 


  • Plan one fun activity/month with the kids
  • Off the computer (minus reading) by 7:30 each evening
  • Have two dates with M per month, make time for the dates & regular time together, even during COVID
  • Schedule quarterly calls with M's family & fill in with videos monthly 


  • Lose 10 lbs
  • Run 100 times
  • Track calories, eat a balanced diet
  • Complete 15,000 minutes of cardio, 100 strength & 50 stretching workouts
  • Meditate 100 times
  • Deal with food allergy/stomach issues. Due to COVID, I've put this off but really need to get in for some appointments & understand what's making me so miserable. 


  • Practice Farsi & Spanish
  • Do something social with friends at least once/month
  • Invest time in my volunteer job
  • Write & journal regularly
  • Improve myself (judge less, listen more, stop swearing)
  • Get crafty
  • Make kind deeds a regular part of my daily life

That's it for me. What about you? What are you hoping to accomplish in 2021? Any big goals you're hoping to accomplish?

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Menu planning & other things

We rarely go out to eat when we are at the beach... there are few available options, we prefer to stay in & have a great space for cooking, & it's of course much cheaper. COVID means we will definitely not be going out to eat, even though we are on vacation. 

We are trying to have slightly nicer (and easier) options this week, while the boys are with my parents, to make it feel more like a fun date. 

Here's what's on the menu:

  • Friday - we ate leftovers from the fridge (pizza, carnitas, meatballs & a charcuterie tray delivery that I received from work)
  • Saturday - We arrived at the beach & I pulled out the items I packed in the cooler for a quick dinner. Ravioli & sausages/hot dogs. I also brought a bagged salad for convenience. Dinner was ready in 15 minutes, which was so fantastic while we were unpacking. 
  • Sunday - M & I had coconut crusted shrimp with spicy chili sauce as an appetizer & bacon wrapped chicken for dinner, with a salad. Both were fabulous & purchased from Costco (also, Keto friendly). I'd highly recommend both & we will be buying them again if they are available at our local Costco. This is not a sponsored post. ;-) 
  • Monday - M is making steak & I'm making "Thanksgiving green beans". They are my favorite of the Thanksgiving sides. Basically, you dry toast sliced almonds, then make green beans as usual. Fully drain, add the toasted almonds & grated parmesan cheese, add salt & pepper. Easy, fabulous & a lovely low carb side.
  • Tuesday - We're having salmon with sauteed brussel sprouts
  • Wednesday - Steak & beans, with salad
  • Thursday - Christmas Eve! We're making prime rib sliders with fresh horseradish, some sort of potatoes, & salad. Appetizers will be chicken wings, taquitos, & a veggie tray
  • Friday - Christmas. We have a big brunch after gift opening, and then have a lighter dinner. We'll have a few varieties of soups, homemade rolls, salads, & then pumpkin cheesecake for dessert
  • Saturday - my parents will keep the kids for another night, so we'll likely have any of the leftovers from earlier in the week, or the bacon wrapped chicken again (came with 6)
  • Sunday - tbd whether we will have the kids & my parents at the house. I need to iron out details. If it's just us, salmon & salad
  • Monday - we'll have my parents & the kids back for sure, so likely take & bake pizzas, appetizers & salad. 
That's it from our side. What about you? What are you planning on the menu for this week? Any fun Christmas menus to share? 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Social distancing, elk & high wind warnings

 It's not hard to socially distance at the beach right now (or, ever, at this beach). 

We also saw the local herd of elk:

Yesterday we met my parents, dropped off the boys for what's being called, "Nana & Papa Holiday Camp", and stocked up on groceries & supplies. It was a big shopping trip, as we purchased items for our contribution to Christmas Eve, bought groceries for the largely empty beach house, picked up some clothes for the kids, toiletries for the house, etc. Phew. 

We also took a walk on the beach, watched a couple of movies, and had dinner: coconut shrimp with bacon wrapped chicken. Delicious! Perfect "date night" at home. Meanwhile, last time I checked in, the boys were playing the guitar with my dad, and relaxing at my parents house. 

Here's what I need to do today:
  • Work out (indoors, if the high wind warning keeps up)
  • Budget
  • Menu plan
  • Organize the garage
  • Work on my craft project
  • Take a bath (we don't have a proper bath at our other house, so this is such a pleasure)
  • Choose one of my deep cleaning projects from the list that always seems to appear while we're here

What about you? Are you ready for the holidays? Are you working this week, or getting ready for the end of the year?

Sunday, December 20, 2020

We made it to the coast, microwave fires & other Sunday happenings

 We had the fastest drive to the coast, and it would have been easier had I-5 not been closed due to an accident. We re-routed a bit to come in from another direction & that added about 30 minutes to the trip. All told, we planned our stops well, minimized exposure as much as possible, and had as little interaction as possible with other people. 

In total, we made only two stops on the entire trip, which is our personal best for sure! 

I had everything ready to make dinner (from the cooler) & while I made dinner, the boys unpacked the car in the middle of a huge rain storm with a high wind alert. They were... wet after that. Welcome back to the northwest!

We did have one mishap last night, with Nick making popcorn in the microwave. He's used to our microwave at home, so things did not turn out well. By the time we got to the microwave, smoke was pouring out & the popcorn was burned beyond recognition. Because of the sideways rain, opening the screens and windows wasn't an option. The smell in the house is still crazy strong. When the rain lightens up, we will get the windows open with fans & pick up some candles, so we can comfortably be in the house again with no smell. Ah, that smell. Whew.

We are meeting up with my parents today to drop off the kids, and need to do some grocery shopping. Here's what we have planned for today:

  • Work out. Likely a workout DVD for me, given the weather
  • Figure out how to get rid of the smoke
  • Sign up for weekly COVID test service (option from my work, but it's been very challenging to get onto the web site due to demand)
  • Review our freezer & pantry options
  • Make a menu
  • Look in the supply closet & see what we need (toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, soap, etc). 
  • Buy groceries
  • Finish unpacking (my original pass through was pretty quick & dirty, after the drive)
  • Snuggle up with M for our first night alone (let's call it a date, even though going somewhere is off the table. Being at home is great too) since June. I'm sure we will watch a movie & make a dinner the kids wouldn't like. He's asked for shrimp, as that's the one thing Sam doesn't like. 
That's it from our side. What about you? What are you up to today? Any magic tips for getting rid of that popcorn smell?

Friday, December 18, 2020

Frugal Friday

 It was a really busy work week, but I did manage a few wins:

Saving on things we buy

  • I noticed that I was a bit short on a Rite Aid rewards offer on my last purchase (spend $1.60 more on Listerine & earn $6 in rewards). I didn't go for the cheapest qualifying offer, but instead picked up a $5 item that I'll need in the next few months. Spent $2 (rewards for the rest) & earned another $6 in rewards. And, have an item I know we'll use tucked away for later.
  • Used the $6 in rewards another day to pick up a few last holiday items we needed (Sam needed a Christmas card for his girlfriend, & I picked up one for M. I usually make my own, but saw an adorable card & couldn't resist.)
  • Bought Alaska Airlines gift cards on Costco. They are ~10% off, plus we receive another 3% off with our membership. They have no expiration dates/blackout dates & this is our preferred airline given travel destinations. We're hoping to eventually travel again! :-) 

Earning money

  • I received my compensation update from my employer, including my salary, bonus & stock. My salary is ~ 1/3 of my overall compensation, but I still consider that to be the most predictable part of our income & budget largely on that. I'm coming up with a plan for my raise for next year, to give thought to where we want to spend it. Likely the kids college accounts. 
  • While I've now shut down eBay sales for the holidays (due to traveling to Oregon), I did sell that last of my two crystal glasses, so I'm glad to get those out of the house & mailed off to someone who can enjoy them.
  • And, I had two broken items in the mail recently, and they were properly packed & insured. It took some work to get the shipping insurance request to the post office, but they turned the claims around quickly & I received my money back, which is great. 

Avoiding spending

  • Considered going into Trader Joes when I was at Rite Aid (they are in the same complex), but reminded myself that we didn't "need" anything, & I'd have to wait in line in the rain. Didn't go in, which means I spent $0  dollars on Trader Joes purchases. :-) 
  • Cancelled our flights & rental car for holiday trip. We will drive instead. It's about a $1100 savings, after factoring in gas & food. We didn't make the adjustment due to cost (it's 24 hours of driving, so eats into the vacation time quite a bit), but to keep everyone as safe as possible due to COVID. 

For others
  • Made a hat for the homeless charity
  • Nick earned $20 on a bike repair, and used the money to sponsor the construction of a kids bike park
  • Met with my mentee at work
  • Sent off my contribution to my disabled aunt's health care costs. We've helped out for years, and it allows my aunt to have a little flexibility in her budget for other things. Also helped my mom with some of the organization/computer work for her support of my aunt. 
  • I helped out with a project at my volunteer job & submitted my hours for a company match
That's all from our side. What about you? Any frugal wins to report this week? 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Saturday Happenings

 It's been a bit of a dark & dreary weather day, but I've wrestled myself off the couch to get a few things done.

The goal to do list:

  • Laundry
  • Drop off bike
  • Make pickled jalapenos
  • Finish knit hat
  • Paint ornaments
  • Work out
  • Work on packing list
  • Grocery list
  • Two returns
  • Menu plan
This is largely a "use it up" menu plan, as we head out of town on Saturday. Here's what's on the menu this week:

Friday - chicken tikka masala
Saturday - chicken fettucine alfredo
Sunday - tacos & enchilada rice
Monday - spaghetti & meatballs
Tuesday - carnitas
Wednesday - any remaining leftovers
Thursday - keto chili
Friday - finish up anything still in the fridge. If we've eaten it all, pizza
Saturday - on the road

That's it from our side. I'm hoping to finish the laundry, paint the ornaments, & watch a Christmas movie tonight! What about you? What are your plans for the day?

Friday, December 11, 2020

Frugal Friday

  It's that time of the year, with lots of offers available everywhere. The goal, of course, is to only use the ones that actually save you money vs taking advantage of all of them. It can be a slippery slope for sure. Here are a few frugal wins for the week.

Saving on things we buy

  • Bought toiletries we needed at Rite Aid, using $33 of bonus rewards & earning $21 in new bonus rewards. 
  • Clicked through Rakuten to save a small amount, while making holiday purchases
  • Noticed that my credit card was offering additional savings on Alaska Airlines, and opted to pay with that card to save $6 when buying a future flight. (Always dreaming of a post-COVID day when I can travel again!)
  • I had a promotional credit on a grocery delivery service, so thought I'd give it a try. It was not a great experience (they delivered food at 11 pm, and the delivery window ended way before that). I asked to cancel when I saw that it was going to miss the window & I'd be in bed (perishables), but they delivered it anyway. Their customer service when I asked for a refund of the spoiled items was awesome & they gave me an additional credit to encourage me to try the service again, which I decided to use. I'm still not feeling great, so thought a batch of three free dinners (think a dinner kit) for Nick to make would be a good option. All together, we received three dinners (servings 3-4) for $3 out of pocket after all of the credits were applied. What a deal!
  • Received a Shutterfly offer for a "free" calendar at the grocery store. I don't usually make calendars, but I decided 2020 was the year that needed one, commemorating all of the wild times, like quarantine self hair cuts & other fun. Spent $7 on shipping, but otherwise was free & will be a great Christmas gift for M's work space.
  • Used a $15 off eBay coupon that I received from transitioning over to their other billing system. Sidenote: not a fan, & it's less convenient than the previous Paypal set up. But, used that to pick up my favorite type of lip balm with SPF, that's reasonably expensive. I was able to buy 4 tubes for $3, after the coupon. 
  • Received another Rite Aid offer, and had to pick up a few items (curbside pickup) at Michael's, which is in the same parking lot. Bought $45 of items for $13, using rewards and a $10/off $40 purchase coupon. 
  • A big win - we're financing our mortgage for both a lower rate & better terms. Win/win!

Earning money

  • My eBay sales have picked up a bit. Here's what I sold this week:
    • A pair of new motorcycle boots I discovered in the shed when we were cleaning out over the remodel
    • A book, although in non-frugal news, I somehow checked "free shipping". So, all in all, I think I lost $.40 on this transaction. ;-) 
    • A makeup sample
    • Two sets of gift card holders I found from Papyrus, when I was cleaning out my stationery box
  • I uploaded my Fetch receipts, as well as the one I found on the ground. The one on the ground had two bonus points offers, so I was able to rack up a few extra points. I don't buy many name brands, so this is always a win.

Avoiding spending

  • I've been feeling pretty run down, and was craving soup on Saturday. I was all set to pick up Panera chicken soup for lunch, but remembered we had chicken & dumplings in the freezer. Lunch for free, and I cleared something out of the freezer. Double win. 
  • One of M's "gifts" this year is my parents taking the kids a few days early for the holidays. They are thrilled, the kids are beyond thrilled, & M & I will finally have some alone time without the four of us all in the house. I adore my children beyond words, but miss adult time to catch up, talk about the future, & just laugh together. I've arranged the details with my parents, and wrapped up a card for M explaining the gift. (We open gifts between our own family before we head out of town, so timing will be perfect.)
For others

  • I'm continuing to volunteer at my non-profit side job, and set the company up to now be eligible to get matched for my volunteer hours. My company does a $10/hour match for every hour I volunteer, up to a cap. I'll get some in before the EOY, and should easily be able to max out the hours in 2021. 
  • Organized my stationery area while I was pulling out Christmas wrapping supplies. Found 25+ cards & envelopes, gift card holders, a package of treat bags, kids party invitations & thank yous, etc. Gave them away on the local buy nothing group.
  • Worked on a scarf I'm crocheting for a homeless donation. 
  • Bought more supplies so Nick can keep looming his hats he's making & donating. 
What about you? Any frugal wins to share?

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

How I spent my clothing budget in 2020

I set a goal in 2020 to spend less than $500 on clothing for myself for the year. I looked back over my spending, and totaled it up for the year. In total, I spent $617.87. In reflection, I'm pretty satisfied with what I purchased. 

Here are my purchases for the year:

  • Target - $33.44, 4 new bras
  • Amazon - $17.50, a new sports bra
  • Costco - $9.99 - 2 more sports bras
  • Thinx - $42.07 - underwear
  • Amazon - $135.08 - running shoes
  • Costco - $13 - running tights
  • Gap - $27.50 - jeans
  • Gap - $10 - short sleeved black tshirt, for layering
  • Banana Republic - $25.99 - blue plaid shirt
  • Amazon - $283.30 - 2 more pair of the same running shoes (more on this below)
  • Costco - $20 - slippers

This year was largely about working out & basics.

How I feel about each purchase:
  • Target bras - no regrets. I buy inexpensive bras, so they need to be replaced with some regularity. (Every other year or so.) 
  • Amazon & Costco sports bras - 3 new ones in total, and I recycled my old ones, many of which were 10+ years old. 
  • Thinx - experimenting with a more sustainable option. Don't love them, but will likely be useful during certain times.
  • Amazon - running shoes. I had to replace both of my previous running shoes at the same time, which is unusual, but a reflection of a great workout year in 2020! I always keep a spare. I bought the same pair one size down for indoor workouts. When I run, my foot expands & I need a larger size
  • Costco tights - I don't love these. They are fine, but will be more around the house tights vs running tights. Good news, I have plenty of use for this in 2020. ;-)
  • Gap jeans & short sleeved black shirt - comfortable basics for working from home
  • Banana Republic blue plaid shirt - I have a really, really boring work from home wardrobe & just bought this. I like it. It's a basic, and will allow me to add a bit of color to my meetings. 
  • Costco slippers - These were a luxurious, work from home splurge & I have no regrets. They are so lovely on a chilly day, and provide more support, given I'm at home all day, every day. 
All told, I feel good about my budget, the way I spent the money & my focus ensured I wasn't out randomly buying things. Although, honestly, not going anywhere also eliminated any shopping with friends scenarios. ;-) 

What about you? Did you buy any basics or luxuries to improve your current COVID life? 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

2021 Goals - what do you have planned?

 I'm in the midst of reviewing my goals for 2020, considering my progress & determining what I want to set as goals for 2021. I'm planning to keep the same categories: financial, family, fitness, self/creative. I like the buckets & the mental reminder to try & achieve balance across all four buckets.

I'm looking for inspiration in 2021...what do you all have planned as goals? Ideas & input welcome!

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Negative COVID test

 I've been feeling under the weather since Thursday, and since the kids are still participating in socially distanced activities, I wanted to make sure I wasn't putting anyone else at risk. Yesterday evening I had a video doctor call, & he recommended a test today. I went through a drive through (you don't get out of your car) at an urgent clinic, & was in & out in ~20 minutes. It was extremely efficient. The nasal swab was really no fun (particularly as I'm congested & having some sinus pressure), but nothing too bad. I received the results this afternoon, & am negative for COVID! I was reasonably convinced I didn't have it, but wanted to feel really confident, particularly heading into the holidays, where we will see my parents.

What else has happened today? Not much, really. I've puttered around the house, done the laundry, the dishes, picked some green tomatoes, & helped Sam with an art project (high school art for a kid, done at home, when you're not very crafty, is the opposite of a good time.) 

Nick is making dinner tonight (a chicken parmesan dish, I believe), I made salad for the first time in a few days, with my slight uptick in energy.

I'm also working on finalizing our 2020 budget numbers (preview - we spent a lot more on groceries & utilities, but A LOT less on travel). ;-) 

I'm also thinking of our goals for 2021 & thinking of a fresh new year! Always one of my favorite times, despite this year looking different than normal.

What about you? What are you up to today?

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Saturday happenings

 I've felt a bit under the weather the past few days, so have gotten little done & it's definitely starting to show. I'm going to take it reasonably easy again today, but tackle a few projects along the way.

I also really need to work through our freezer stash of meals. We are out of food storage containers, because we have all of them in in the freezer. Extra meals is a great problem to have, so I will weave them into our menu.

Here's what I'm going to get up today:

  • Menu plan
  • Shopping list
  • Assemble the desk we bought (M will do most). We bought a third standing desk. We've moved into another tier of restrictions, and it doesn't appear anyone is going back to school or work anytime soon. M & I both have back issues that are aggravated by sitting all day. One of the kiddos prefer to mix it up & stand & sit. We're putting the desk in our bedroom. I'm not thrilled by this turn of events, but we need another work area with a sealed door, so each of the bedrooms will be used as an "office/school" now during the day. Previously, M or I were out in the open space, & it's just too distracting. 
  • Make cardamom bread. 
  • Figure out plan for our trip to the beach
  • Clean out the fridge
  • Pay a few bills
  • Start packing list for holiday trip
  • Go for a walk, nice & easy
  • I've sold three things on eBay over the past day, so package those & get them ready for the post office.
  • Watch a Christmas movie this evening with the kids
And, for the menu plan. Here's what we've got on deck:
  • Friday - Nick made enchiladas. It was supposedly a 2 serving dinner, but 3 of us ate it, and there are still two enchiladas in the fridge. Nick cooks a lot, but refuses to eat most food. ;-) He had a grilled cheese. I keep thinking he will come around, what with doing all of the prep. So far, nope. 
  • Saturday - chicken tacos
  • Sunday - big mac sloppy joes (freezer)
  • Monday - parmesan chicken
  • Tuesday - bolognese sauce (freezer) with ravioli
  • Wednesday - carnitas (freezer)
  • Thursday - any remaining leftovers
  • Friday - tbd, but likely chicken alfredo
What about you? What's on the menu this week? Any festive activities happening today? 

Friday, December 4, 2020

Frugal Friday


Saving on things we buy:

  • Picked up a Friday Freebie drink at the store
  • Bought a larger enchilada sauce than I needed (it was cheaper than the small one) & froze the rest for a second meal
  • Took advantage of a few Black Friday deals:
    • Buy 1, get 2 free granola bars
    • Inexpensive nuts (we go through a lot of nuts, due to M's keto diet)
    • Got a gift card off of my nephew's wish list, and earned $10 in Rite Aid Rewards
  • A neighbor gave me an expiring flight reward that she couldn't use, saving me $120 on a flight. I offered to pay, but she wouldn't accept any money.

Earning money

  • Continued to list things on eBay & made a few sales:
    • Sold a kids shirt that was outgrown (from the vacation house). Still selling things I listed this summer. Sometimes it takes a while, but it's nice to sell a few things. Junk out, money in.
    • Shin guard sleeves (soccer) x2
    • A set of espresso cups/saucers that we don't use
  • Sold the car mats for our electric car we no longer have. Made $20

Avoiding spending:

  • I find that this time of year involves lots of creative leftover usage, and we've been doing well incorporating small bits & bobs into our meals. A few examples: I made a stuffed acorn squash dish that called for farro cooked in apple cider. I substituted rice for farro & used the remainder of a flat sparkling cider (kids Thanksgiving drink) to cook the rice. It added a nice flavor. I've been using cranberry sauce on almost everything, we've eaten Thanksgiving sides for lunch, & I was able to incorporate kale & leftover goat cheese spread (both from Thanksgiving items) into the stuffed squash mix. There have been a few wins like that, which always makes me feel good about making the most of what we have. 
  • Ate all meals at home

For others:

  • Spent an hour tracking down a refund my parents were due & hadn't received. Saved them $500, so well worth the time. My dad wears hearing aids, so these types of calls are challenging for him.
  • Packaged up two large shopping bags for neighbor girls who came by collecting food donations for the local shelter. My son (same age as them) was helping me gather items, & the amount of shyness on all sides was hilarious between the kids. :-) 
  • Shared pumpkin pie & cranberry muffins with our neighbor
  • Made a food bank donation, as a thank you to another neighbor, who wouldn't accept money for the flight credit. She's very active with a local food bank, so I made a donation as a thank you for the credit.
  • Gave away a brand new "Elf on a Shelf" that I found in our Christmas decorations. 
  • Continued volunteer work

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

December goals

 Can you believe it's already time for December goals? 2020, what a year! Without further ado, here's what I'd like to accomplish in the last month of 2020.

1) Financial

  • Stick to the budget, & lower our grocery budget (an ongoing struggle during COVID)
  • Pay down our mortgage to the next milestone
  • No clothing/shoes purchase for me
  • Make $500 in side hustle
  • Finish refi. We found a fantastic rate for our house, & locked in both a lower rate & better terms. We currently have an ARM, and had planned to pay off the house ahead of the ARM resetting, but this gives us more flexibility (15 year rate), in the event it's needed.
2) Family
  • Choose a few festive family activities - seeing Christmas lights, decorating the tree, wrapping gifts, working on puzzles, etc
  • Off the computer by 7:30 each evening (not counting reading)
  • Have a weekly half hour alone with M
  • Two hours of practicing Spanish or Farsi
  • Compliment M every day
  • Complete one project I normally wouldn't get to per day (taking advantage of work from home)
3) Fitness/health
  • Lose 1 lb
  • Work out & track calories every day
  • Complete 1400 minutes of cardio, 10 strength & 5 stretching workouts
  • Meditate 20 times
  • Run 15 times
4) Personal/creative
  • Do something social 2x
  • Work on volunteer job
  • Journal 25 times
  • Improve myself
    • Judge less
    • Listen more often
    • Reduce/eliminate swearing
    • One kind deed/day
  • Read one non-fiction book

And, that's it for December. What about you? What are you hoping to accomplish this month?