Saturday, December 30, 2023

2024 Budget

 Every year, I look at our spend from the year before, evaluate what might be changing, and try to adjust our budget categories to better reflect planned spend for the future year.

2024 is going to be a year of big changes, with Sam going off to college. A few changes as a result of this:

  • We still stop saving in his 529 account
  • We will pay for his 2024 college expenses from his 529 account
  • We'd like to save the remainder of his college expenses (for the full four years) in 2024, if possible. This will allow us to focus on Nick's college expenses in 2025+.
  • Sam will have fewer expenses (minus college), such as club soccer, other sports, college prep fees, etc. 
As a result, we'll be lowering our category for the boys spending. 2024 will be the first year we pull from the 529, so we are expecting that to cover all of Sam's college expenses for the year. 

  • We are tentatively planning for another large international trip, to see M's family, if at all possible. We will also treat this as Sam's graduation trip, and add on a few days somewhere with just the four of us, if we can swing it. 
  • We will be heading to Whistler in February, for our last family "ski week" trip. We will take Nick somewhere in 2025, if it works out, but ski week often conflicts with soccer playoffs, and as a senior, he will not be likely to have the time off. 
  • We expect to have several college tour costs, as well as the trips back & forth for Sam. 
  • M & I would like to do at least one trip together, with potentially a long weekend as well.
  • I'm taking my mom & sister to Napa for a half marathon in March. I'm using hotel points to cover about 1/2 of the stay. 
Most of our remaining categories are expected to remain the same (this is only the spend side of the equation - our savings goals are separate), although I would like to do better with our clothing spend in 2024. The teens needed quite a few new things, but there was also some extraneous stuff, with our trip to Dubai, and my trip to France. We can cut this back in 2024. 

What about you? How are you thinking about your budget categories for 2024? 

Friday, December 29, 2023

Frugal Friday

 It's been a pretty quiet week on the frugal front, but here are a few small wins. 

Saving on things we buy

  • We won a few gift cards during some of our family games over the holidays, so I uploaded those to the various apps, to ensure we don't lose/misplace them before we spend them. 
  • Used a $4 CVS coupon that was expiring to purchase a package of on sale pistachios. I paid $.66 out of pocket.  

Earning money

  • Nothing to report

Avoiding spending

  • We used a lounge access credit at the airport in Portland at a small restaurant (they don't have an actual lounge). After we finished lunch, the waiter let us know we still had a large credit, so we got some protein bars for the road. 
  • M & I were both upgraded to first class on the short flight home, so we pre-selected our free meal options & treated that as our dinner, which we enjoyed with a free cocktail. 
  • Used the Amex gift card for a lunch out, while M & I were on our mini getaway ahead of the holidays. 
  • Picked up a few things we were out of (flour, sriracha, & oat milk) & used the Amex card to cover the cost. 

Eating what we have

  • Defrosted soup to have for lunch one day with a pear I found in the back of the fridge, ate a protein bar from the pantry for breakfast & added a bit of summer sausage (Xmas prize gift) to add some additional protein. This was before we made it to the grocery store, after our trip. 
  • I officially have no bananas in my freezer, and am trying to keep it that way. Made a batch of banana muffins with the overly ripe bananas that weren't eaten before our trip. 

For others

  • Made a last minute food bank donation, to round out our contributions for the year, as they were having a 4x match. 
What about you? Any wins to share?

Thursday, December 28, 2023

2023 Budget Recap

I always track & review our spending at the end of the year, to bring awareness to what we're spending, make adjustments & go deeper into categories we are surprised by. 

Similar to previous years, our spend is dominated by our top four categories. All in all, this makes sense, as we try hard to spend aligned with our values, track our spending, & minimize spend for things we don't think we need. That said, we are in an expensive season!

Reminder: we paid off our house, so that's why you don't see a mortgage as one of our top spend categories! This is also capturing only our post paycheck spending (e.g. doesn't count for pre paycheck tax deductions, 401k savings, charity & the like.) It's probably a bit confusing, but since that money is automatically removed, we pretend like it doesn't exist. Our paychecks (as well as bonus & stock compensation) are what's left over to spend. 

Top four spend categories include:

  • Taxes. This includes federal, state, & very, very expensive property taxes. This is our #1 budget category, & double the size of our next biggest category. A few thoughts. Our property taxes are not changeable while we live in this house. Our income taxes are highly variable due to our compensation plan at work. This makes it near impossible to have the right amount deducted throughout the year.
  • Travel. This was a year with LOTS of travel spending. No regrets. :-) Second biggest budget category.
  • Boys. This was our biggest increase in year on year spending. We had: SAT prep, Sam's executive functioning tutoring (ramped up at the end of last year), college counseling, college application fees, club soccer & tennis, school sports, other random miscellany. We expect this line item to drop quite a bit in 2024, as Sam is done with college counseling, SAT prep, & club sports. We will be paying for his first year of college out of his 529 account. 
  • Boys college investment accounts. We intentionally maxed these out, to prep for the years ahead.
All told, the top four categories constitute 74% of our total spend for the year. 

The rest of our categories looked pretty much as expected. We spent less on food (groceries & dining out), but more on clothing (all of us got new stuff ahead of Dubai, the teens have grown a lot & now have very specific clothing requests, etc). Clothing is a category we'll keep a tighter eye on in 2024. 

On the savings side, we met/exceeded our savings goals across all of our categories (retirement, boys college, investment accounts) & increased our net worth by 10%, despite a rather sizable drop in our house value (according to Zillow). 

While there are plenty of areas we can do better in & want to focus on in 2024, I feel good about our financial progress in 2023 (helped greatly by me continuing to work beyond what I'd planned)!

How about you? Have you tracked your spending for 2023? Any surprises, areas that went well, or areas you plan to trim in 2024? 

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Menu Plan for the Week

 It's a bit of a haphazard week, with not a lot of scratch cooking after the holidays. But, here's what we're planning to have for dinners.

  • Tuesday - we ate our free flight meal, and then went to bed when we got home, so that was easy
  • Wednesday - grilled chicken (freezer) + spring rolls
  • Thursday - salmon & salad
  • Friday - date night?
  • Saturday - burgers (freezer) over salad
  • Sunday (NYE) - charcuterie tray, and steak + roasted squash & green beans

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

2023 Goals - How Did We Do?

 It's that time of year, where I look back & evaluate how I did with my goals. Altogether, I'm pretty pleased with how 2023 played out. It wasn't at all like what I expected, and I'm still happy with the decisions, the progress, the fun, & how we dealt with challenges. 


  • Stick to our budget - we did "okay" with this. Some wins, some losses, but generally achieved our savings goals & things worked out well financially. 
  • Monthly freezer/pantry challenges - I had a few good months, but wasn't consistent. I was able to keep our grocery bill under budget, which was my ultimate goal, along with reducing food waste.
  • Plan & execute "leave work" budget - plan was ready, didn't leave.
  • Figure out college funding plans - mostly there. Waiting to see where Sam ends up & total cost.
  • Earn $1500 side hustle - $1875
  • Use up travel credits & status wisely - Yes, lots of wins:
    • Redeemed a free hotel night for our Colorado college tour
    • Used Southwest gift cards & credits for the Colorado tour
    • Used Marriott points for December stay
    • Used United upgrades for: flights to Newark + Dubai, flight to London, & received a few gift cards from coworkers as thank yous for sharing upgrades. 
    • Used a club lounge award on December Tokyo trip, and greatly enjoyed the perks. 
  • Save $24k in boys college accounts - we saved $29,000.
  • Save $100k before I leave work. We ended the year at $270k added, given I stayed longer. We are planning to cash flow about 2/3 of college (rest from college accounts), so this money is now ear marked for those expenses. 


  • Plan one fun activity per month with the kids - we had several ski trips, college tours, a few fun dinners out, a trip to Dubai, family wedding & parties, etc.
  • Help the boys with "life" stuff (license, college, SATs, etc) - huge progress on this. Everyone has their license, Sam has finished the college application process & gotten into some schools, and they've both taken the SATs. 
  • Have two dates with M per month - yes, plus a trip to Las Vegas & Hawaii together
  • Schedule quarterly calls with M's family - we did two calls, and our trip to Dubai

  • Lose 15 lbs - I lost 7 lbs before France, but gained back 3 lbs, thanks to a very inconsistent schedule in Q4.
  • Track calories, eat a balanced diet - I did pretty well for 75% or so of the year
  • Close rings 330 days - I switched watches & no longer have this tracking, but I'd say I worked out 90% of days in 2023.
  • Make the most of my fitness options - consistently used my Orange Theory membership
  • Stay on top of my health - yes!
  • Do something social with friends once per month - lots of fun walks, hikes, a pickle ball game, workouts, & coffee meet ups, a very adventurous relay, plus the fabulous trip to France.
  • Invest time in my volunteer roles - not nearly as much as I wanted
  • Experiment with fun activities, that may take a more active role when I'm done with work - I honestly made minimal progress on this.
  • Continue to make kind deeds a regular part of my life - as always, this is a work in progress, but including these in my weekly wrap up really helps remind me.
  • Enjoy the first few months of not working - Ha, no. 
That's a wrap! How did you do with your 2023 goals? Any wins to share? 

Friday, December 22, 2023

Frugal Friday

It's been a pretty nice week, with more schedule flexibility (lots of people are already on vacation) & a quieter week in general. We're leaving today for Portland, where my parents will pick up the boys for two days of "Nana and Papa camp", and we will have a few nights together, as our Christmas gift to each other. 

Saving on things we buy

  • I typically use plain greeting cards for all occasions, but wanted Christmas cards for a few gifts I was sending. After pricey the wild cost of individual cards (the kind that hold money or a gift card - I'm gifting to a lot of teens!), I opted to go for a six pack. There was also a coupon in the aisle for buy two cards, save $3. I wasn't sure it would work, because I was buying a multipack, but happily, it did. I bought six cards for $3. Perfect. 
  • I used expiring CVS & Rite Aid rewards to buy four boxes of tea, and a pricey hair product for $3.21 out of pocket. I'm hoping the hair product helps to tame my frizz (I'm trying to embrace my natural curls vs straightening my hair). 
  • Priced out cheapest airport transportation option. In this case, given trip length & we will have four people + bags, and parking at the airport is cheapest. We will save about $20 vs taking a ride share.
Earning money

  • Just our regular W2 jobs this week. Nothing exciting to report here. 

Avoiding spending

  • M & I planned an "at home" date on Friday, and enjoyed a glass of wine while we made dinner together, and caught up & laughed. Of course, two teens randomly joined us at various points of the evening, despite saying they wouldn't be home for dinner. It was great, because Nick came home first, asked me to make him chicken, which I did. He got out of the shower & didn't have time for dinner, at which point Sam rolled in, looked at the set table & food & said, "oh great, you made me dinner." 😂 Indeed. Anyway, date night at home vs out. 
  • Used the Amex gift card for an appetizer & drinks ahead of a friend's holiday party. 
  • The boys opened their gifts from us (M & I don't exchange gifts) & we hung on to all of the gift bags (some of them have been around for years!) & kept the tissue paper as well. The tissue paper will likely make its way to becoming eBay packaging. If it's in good enough shape, it will be used in another gift bag. 
  • Used the infamous Amex card to pick up $40 worth of groceries at Trader Joes. It's largely snacky special event food that I have tucked away for NYE. Speaking of the Amex gift card, it has $150 left, so it's quickly drawing to a close, unfortunately! We've gotten a lot of mileage out of it this year. 

Eating what we have:

  • I've had some creative lunches, using up things in the fridge. Of note was the leftover soup with a hamburger bun as a side, and the quesadilla with a diced chicken patty inside. 
  • I also ate leftover sliced fruit that I found on the counter, when coming home from a workout class. It turns out Nick forgot about a tennis lesson (he does private & group lessons, as part of a non-profit he volunteers for), & ran out of the house without finishing. 
  • Somehow, a bag of pancake mix made it into the pantry (don't know where it came from), so I made the boys pancakes as a Sunday treat. With chocolate chips, because of course. They were delicious.
  • Used the last of my overripe bananas in the freezer (we've finally broken the trend!) & made muffins. My freezer is currently officially banana free, which is quite unusual. 
  • Similarly, we still have tons of cranberries in our freezer, so I made a double batch of cranberry muffins. 
  • Made the last of three chicken filets (freezer), and had those for lunches with the teens, & defrosted chicken stew for another quick lunch. 
  • I set aside three items to give away on BN that we won't eat before the expiration day. One was a multi pack of ramen from Trader Joes that we didn't like (and, we love most of their stuff), and a large bottle of unopened ketchup  & mustard.  

For others:

  • Helped out a neighbor with some packages she wanted picked up
  • Gave a (secret) gift to another neighbor, who is in need
What about you? Any wins to share?

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

2023 - a year in review

 Not particularly financially focused. It's been a wild ride this year! 

  • There were six international trips. Four work trips (3 Tokyo, 1 London), two personal trips (France for my sister's 50th, and our trip to Dubai to see M's family). 
  • On the subject of travel, there was also a lot of domestic travel. M & I went to Hawaii & Las Vegas, we went skiing a few times (Tahoe), we visited my parents 3x, attended a family wedding in Eastern Washington, went on a college tour in Colorado, and we are heading back to spend a few days over the holidays in Portland. 
  • Nick got his driver's license. Our time spent chauffeuring people to errands, practice, work, volunteering, friends, parties, etc is basically zero at this point. What a game changer.
  • Sam finished the college application process, and has gotten into multiple schools. We're now in a waiting game to hear from the rest, and see where we land with overall preference, majors, location, & cost. 
  • I finished the Hood to Coast relay, as per my 2023 goals, and that was an adventure, particularly given that I (unknowingly) had COVID!
  • I gave notice at work, found out that my role would be substantially changed (for the better), & opted to stay. Of course, my role is changing again (drastically), but I won't have details for at least a few months. It's possible that this second round of changes could result in a layoff or an undesirable role. More to come, always, on this front. 
  • M took my nephew to Las Vegas for his 21st birthday, joined by my dad, uncle & my sister's party. All attendees report that it was an epic time. 
  • M & I had the most fabulous & restful trip to Hawaii. As always, the time together is priceless. 
  • Lake Tahoe got a ton of snow last year, and we spent New Years shoveling snow & skiing. So much snow shoveling!
  • The girls trip to France was a huge highlight. We explored Paris & the south of France together, explored vineyards & just generally had a ton of laughs. 
  • Dubai was such a great experience, to get time with M's family & I'm so happy we made it happen. Sometimes the cost is just worth it, and this is the case. M's mom getting to see the boys for the first time in 12 years, me getting to meet M's sister & niece for the first time ever... no regrets!
  • Nick made the varsity soccer team & JV tennis team, and has been playing & enjoying the experience. 
  • Sam wrapped up his soccer experience, after 12 years of playing on various clubs. He's thinking of playing intramural soccer in college, so we'll see what comes next. 
  • Both boys had summer jobs and were gainfully employed at a sports camp. They loved it and enjoyed the freedom and flexibility of spending money. 
It was an absolute whirlwind of a year, and I'm grateful for the health of my parents & family, that we got time to see M's family, that the boys are doing well, and we continue to stay happily married. That's more than enough! We feel very lucky for this adventure, and are doing what we can to soak in our time together with the boys. 

What about you? How was 2023 in your world? 

Monday, December 18, 2023

Menu Plan Monday

It's a very, very rainy Monday here! We need the rain, so I will embrace it. :-) Here's what's on our menu plan this week.  

  • Friday - this was originally planned to be an at home date night, as neither teen was going to be home. Everyone ended up being home at some point, and people rotated through the table. We had wings & salad.
  • Saturday - M & I went to a friend's holiday party. The boys had taquitos (Sam) & Nick went to Chipotle. 
  • Sunday - M grilled chicken (in the rain) & made rice. 
  • Monday - tacos
  • Tuesday - leftover grilled chicken & rice
  • Wednesday - leftover tacos
  • Thursday - any remaining leftovers, or chicken pesto pasta (freezer)
  • Friday - we are flying to Portland, and the boys will be with my parents. M & I have reservations at a steak house near the hotel. 
What about you? What's on your menu this week?

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Sunday things

I didn't manage to sweep yesterday, and I'm pretty sad about it, as it's raining today & making a mess with the leaves. However, we need the rain, so I'll take it, regardless! Wish I'd made the time to sweep yesterday, though!

We went to my friend's holiday party last night, and it was so much fun. I met a bunch of people I've heard about through my friend, the food was delicious, and there was lots of laughs. It was a really nice group of people, and just the right size to facilitate conversation.

Tomorrow is the beginning of finals week, although Sam is already done with 3 of 5 finals. Nick still has 5 remaining. Lots of studying occurring at our house this weekend!

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

  1. Go for a run (switched to inside, thanks to the rain)
  2. Package up shoes for recycling, as M is going to the one place nearby that recycles athletic shoes
  3. Laundry
  4. Register for workout classes for the next few weeks
  5. Help Sam with college tasks
  6. Review homework/assignments with both teens
  7. Start packing for trip
  8. Make muffins 
  9. Work on training plan (running) for the next few weeks
  10. Package up two returns
What about you? What are you up to today?

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Saturday Happenings

It's been a week at work! Super grateful the week is wrapped up. I don't want to jinx myself, but I expect next week to be a much quieter week, which will be an absolute gift vs today.

Here's what we're up to today:

  • Workout class this morning
  • Sweep leaves. An endless amount of leaves!
  • Laundry
  • Wrap few remaining gifts
  • Finalize 2024 goals
  • Nick has tennis volunteering
  • Help Sam with a few outstanding college tasks
  • Holiday party at friends house
  • Budget
That's it. What are you up to today? Hope you all have a fabulous day!

Friday, December 15, 2023

Frugal Friday

 I'm largely recovered from jet lag, and getting back into the groove. That said, I didn't do my normal weekend meal planning, prep & organization last week, so it was a wild week! Here are a few frugal wins. 

Saving on things we buy

  • Used a $10 off a $50 purchase at the grocery store, and paid for the purchase using the Amex gift card. 
  • I haven't replaced my underwear in 15+ years, and it was more than time. Ordered and tried one pair & really liked the cut/fit, so used a $25 off a $75 purchase coupon, as well as a buy 3 pair/get 5 free at Victoria's Secret. I was also able to get a few sports bras to round out the purchase. All told, I got 8 pair of underwear & three sports bras for $77, which was a great deal. 

Earning money

  • Sold a watch & a shirt on eBay, making about $65. 
  • Gave away the last of my travel upgrades to a coworker, and they gave me a gift card as a thank you. 

Avoiding spending

  • In a frugal fail, I had to be at the office by 7:30 3x this week. It was not great with my jet lag. As a treat for one of the days, I picked up Starbucks on the way. My "avoiding spending" win is that I was incredibly tempted to do the same another day, but managed to avoid it. 

Eating what we have

  • Ate my leftovers + part of Sam's leftovers for a weekend lunch
  • My neighbor ended up with the wrong Chipotle order, so she gave me her burrito. It wasn't what I normally order, but I removed the tortilla to make a "burrito bowl", added sour cream & salsa, & it was delicious. 
  • DS17 forgot his "to go" breakfast on a late morning, so rather than tossing it (not my preferred breakfast), I ate it instead. I saved 1/2 for lunch, because I don't need as much food as a teen boy!
  • Ate orzo from the freezer for dinner, x2 (served it as a side dish with chicken)
  • Made coconut shrimp (freezer) with samosas (freezer) & salad (not freezer ;-)
  • Had multiple configurations of leftovers for dinners

For others:

  • Bought four gift cards for teacher appreciation week (our PTSA has a raffle basket that you can donate to).
  • Gave away a few of the boys nicer jackets (now outgrown) on Buy Nothing, as well as a pair of ski pants. 
What about you? Any wins to share?

Monday, December 11, 2023

Menu Plan Monday

 Jet lag & not feeling well is a pretty yuck combination, but here we are. I'm trying to rest up & feel better, and get my energy level back. As a result, it hasn't exactly been a stellar few days of cooking.

  • Friday - Nick had a soccer game, Sam was out with a friend, so it was just me + M. I made salmon for M, and and the rest of the Greek food from Thursday night.
  • Saturday - spaghetti & meatballs + garlic bread
  • Sunday - At a friend's house for a holiday event.
  • Monday - chicken pesto pasta (freezer)
  • Tuesday - tacos (freezer)
  • Wednesday - leftover spaghetti & meatballs
  • Thursday - chicken patty sandwiches
  • Friday - coconut shrimp & gyozos + salad
What about you? What's on your menu this week? 

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Sunday Things

 I didn't end up going to my workout class again yesterday, and slept until 8 this morning! I hope I'm on the road to recovery. We ended up having a lovely dinner with the boys, and followed our December tradition of randomly opening one gift, and having a glass of sparkling cider while listening to Christmas music. The boys opened their gifts from each other & we had some laughs. You really have to embrace this time together, as your kids get older! Nick got Sam cologne (a top choice for teen boys) & Sam gave Nick a limited edition Maclaren shirt I found while I was in Japan. Everyone was pleased. Nick is very, very picky, so seeing him wearing the shirt today confirmed that it was a good score. ;-) 

I went on a 2 mile (slow) run today, dusted off my training plan for the rest of my half training, and freaked out a little, as I'm so far behind. Since September, I've had: two trips to Tokyo, a trip to London, trip to France, and Hawaii. Lots of fun vacation time, and three international work trips, totaling more than three weeks of work travel. Jet lag is not my friend & doesn't exactly pave the way for consistent running, so I must get back into the swing of things. 

I also made my cardamom bread for Christmas today. I'll glaze it and then put it into the freezer until we leave. I made a bonus loaf, as we won't get to see my nephews this year due to spending the holidays in Arizona with their dad. We are all really bummed to miss them. We are going to see my older nephew, when we head to Arizona in January for a college tour, so grateful we will catch one of them!

I cleaned the house today, which was in pretty dire shape after my trip. It's not perfect, but it's looking a lot better for sure!

Nick had calculus tutoring, tennis volunteering & Sam met up with friends. I'm off to do an easy dinner. We were originally going to meet up with friends for pizza & a Christmas lights bike tour in a cool neighborhood near us, but neither M nor I are feeling good, so we want to recover a bit more. Easy dinner will likely be orzo (freezer) + coconut shrimp. Nick is not a fan of shrimp in any form, so I'll make chicken for him.

Hope you all had a lovely & productive day!

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Saturday Happenings

 I'm still struggling with jet lag & a cold, so fingers crossed I'm back to normal soon. I skipped a workout class yesterday & didn't cancel in time, so if I'm willing to forego the late cancellation fee, you know I'm not feeling good! 

Here's what today holds:

  • Workout class - although, I'm going to take it very easy today
  • Finish the rest of the Christmas wrapping
  • Book a few appointments
  • Do some returns
  • Clean the fridge
  • Laundry
  • Review homework with both teens
  • Come up with a menu plan & shopping list
  • Sweep leaves
What about you? What's on your to do list today?

Friday, December 8, 2023

Not really a Frugal Friday

I'm back from my longest ever business trip! It ended up being super useful, and a great experience, but so incredibly long. I flew back yesterday morning, and since I don't sleep on flights, that meant that yesterday was a real "phone it in" type of day. I ordered Panera for lunch (delivery), and had Nick pick up Greek food on his way home from soccer practice. The only "frugal wins" I can add are that I used a gift card for Panera, and a $2 off coupon code for the Greek food. 

I did buy a few things while in Japan. Uniqlo was quite cheap, as the Japanese Yen is currently down against the dollar. I was able to pick up a few Christmas gifts for the boys. 

I also submitted all of my personal expenses for my trip yesterday, which means I'll get the money back very quickly. Hurrah for that.

Today is going to be an interesting day. I was planning to attend a morning workout class (I was apparently very optimistic when I booked this), but I don't feel good. I've been fighting a cold for the last 10 days or so, and plan to maybe just go for a walk instead. I have a BUNCH of work to do, so I need to get that done & then the house looks like a tornado has been through it, I need to finish putting clothes away, do laundry, wash some bedding & wrap some Christmas gifts. No rest for the wicked!

What about you? Did you have a frugal week? Share your wins, as mine were very sparse!

Saturday, December 2, 2023

December Goals

Here we are, already at the last month of the year! As always, plenty going on to keep us busy this month. I'm on a long international work trip, we head to my parents house ahead of Christmas, and then we're doing a family ski trip to close out the year. 

Keeping all of that in mind, here's what's on my goal list of December:


  • Use up three "hard to use" freezer or pantry items
  • Tally up our savings from travel perks, rewards, etc & our financial plans
  • Set 2024 budget
  • Close out 2023 budget
  • Make $100 in side hustle
  • Finish all Christmas and ski plans
  • One fun activity with each teen
  • Date night with M
  • Have two meetings with each teen
  • Help Nick with his college prep
  • Deep clean one item/area of the house


  • Run 40 miles
  • Follow the No S diet
  • Maintain diet & fitness plans during work trip
  • Complete 10 strength training workouts
  • Lose 2 lbs
  • Work in the yard 2x
  • 5 days of Farsi practice
  • Do something social with friends
  • Give away 20 items on Buy Nothing
  • Successful Christmas baking (cardamom bread). Let's hope for a great rise this year!
What about you? What's on your goal list for the year?

Friday, December 1, 2023

Frugal Friday

 I've been in Japan for most of the week, so this isn't the standard list, but a random array of frugal things we've done lately. 

Saving on things we buy

  • I used CVS rewards to pick up a few small gifts for the teens, as well as some snacks & mouthwash. I spent $30 & earned another $8 back. 
  • Used my Amex gift card to buy baking items we needed for Christmas. I also redeemed some iBotta offers, saving another $5 or so. 
Earning money:
  • Listed a bunch of stuff on eBay
  • Finally received $1,000 from my bank for a savings offer I completed. Now that's done, I will transfer my savings back to a higher yield account. 
  • Earned a small bonus at work for a project I've been delivering this year. 
Avoiding spending:
  • I used hotel points to book a two night stay for myself & M (our holiday gift to each other), when we fly to Portland. We stay for a couple of nights while the teens enjoy my parents, and then we all meet up on Christmas Eve. I saved around $500 vs paying out of pocket for the two nights. 
  • I've been grinding my teeth at night, which is causing near constant headaches during the day. I remembered I have a very old (20+ years) Invisalign retainer, and using that has reduced my headaches tremendously. I was going to buy a retainer to prevent grinding from the dentist, so this was a huge win. 
  • M & I went on a date, & used our Amex gift card to cover the full cost. I will miss this when it's used up!
  • Used Rite Aid rewards to pick up a couple of pizzas for a teen lunch. 

What about you? Any wins to share?

Thursday, November 30, 2023

November Goals Recap

 November was another wild month, with not one, but two international work trips! London, followed by Tokyo two weeks later. Do NOT recommend!


  • Stick to our budget - nope. We were out of a bunch of stuff, I bought a few things on seasonal sales, and Nick had some really, really intense nose bleeds which resulted in us having to replace some stuff (house things, like bedding & a rug, and soccer stuff). None of which was cheap. Poor guy! 
  • Use three "hard to use" freezer or pantry items - We used up one (a bag of cranberries.) Luckily, seasonality was on our side for this one ;-) 
  • Work on college funding plans - yes!


  • One fun activity with each teen - Sam & I watched a movie together, I took Nick out after his last club game, and out to dinner after his varsity game. 
  • Have two meetings with each teen - endless discussions with Sam about college, and Nick & I have also spent quite a bit of time discussing things as well
  • Help Nick with his list of potential colleges/tours - yes, lots of discussions happening here
  • Finalize Thanksgiving & ski plans - we had a great Thanksgiving, and are waiting to hear back about a less expensive ski option in December. 
  • Work on plans for Sam's senior trip - we are on pause until we hear back from M's mom on whether she can meet us somewhere.
  • Deep clean one item/area in the house - I went through my dresser & coat closet, decluttered & gave a lot away!


  • Start new training plan for Napa Half - I've been a bit hit or miss, but had a great week last week. Now I just need to keep that up when I'm traveling.
  • Run 40 miles - I ran 35 miles this month. 
  • Follow the No S diet - I've been pretty hit or miss on this.
  • Maintain my diet & fitness plans during my work trip - I did "okay" with this. I worked out, but not great/intense workouts, and my eating was also "meh". 
  • Complete 10 strength training workouts - 10 exactly!
  • Lose 2 lbs - yes
  • Clean up the garden - Lots of leaf collecting!
  • Start learning Farsi - I had a few days of lessons
  • Do something social with friends - met a friend for a workout + coffee, and another friend for a hike + coffee, and played pickle ball with another friend. 
  • Give away 20 items on Buy Nothing - I definitely exceeded this, with 50+ items. 
  • Try one new recipe - I made a chicken pesto pasta dish that was pretty good
What about you? How did you do with your November goals?

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

2024 Goals - It's All About the Money....

Not really, of course, as I do have other goals, but having Sam start college in 2024 (with Nick just behind him in 2025) is definitely bringing our budget to the forefront of our goals! You'll notice a heavier weighting on financial goals this year, as we tighten things up a bit, and ensure we're ready for the upcoming college years.

Here's what I'm thinking about, in terms of goals for 2024.


  • Max both boys 529s - $34,000
  • Max our 401ks (standard contribution for me + M's catch up contribution) - $53,500
  • Save the remainder of Sam's college expenses. This is a huge stretch goal, and is dependent upon a variety of things, but I'd like to wrap up his savings, so we can move on to finishing out Nick's college expenses. By having the savings even a year or so in advance, it reduces the need for us to cash flow as much, and gives me more work flexibility. 
  • Earn $3,000 in side hustle
  • Set monthly pantry or freezer challenges


  • Help Sam transition to college
  • Get Nick through the college application process + SATs & AP tests for both boys
  • Optimize our points, perks, miles, etc, to keep travel costs in check while enjoying travel
  • Plan one fun activity per month with both boys, until Sam leaves for college


  • Stretch 2x/week
  • Lose weight (135 by Sam's graduation)
  • Run 2 half marathons + Hood to Coast
  • Continue to strength train regularly
  • Follow the No S diet


  • Get together with friends 1x/month
  • Practice Farsi 100 times
  • Declutter 500 items from the house (can include papers, etc) 

What about you? What goals do you have for 2024?

Monday, November 27, 2023

Menu Plan Monday

 Well, not really, because I leave tomorrow for a very extended trip to Tokyo. But, here's an abbreviated menu plan.

  • Friday - Date night with M. We shared a salad & a French dip, which was fabulous. 
  • Saturday - ground beef tacos/taco salads
  • Sunday - grilled chicken & rice
  • Monday - leftover tacos
Tomorrow, I'll be eaten airplane food, and I've requested the chicken. Let's hope it's not too terrible, although it's always hit or miss due to the way they have to heat it during the flight. Sometimes cold, sometimes really, really overheated. 

What about you? What's on your menu this week?

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Sunday Things

I'm a little sad the long weekend is almost over, but plan to make the most of my day. I got up & went to a workout class this morning, and booked our car rental for our January college tour, so there's two things off of the to do list. 

I was reasonably productive yesterday, and organized my schedule in Japan, created a schedule for M with the kids activities, and spent a few hours in the yard. So many leaves raked! The yard waste bin is now full, which is always a sign I was busy. :-) 

As for today, here's what's on the list:

  • Finish packing for Tokyo
  • Run to CVS & Rite Aid, to use rewards & pick up cold medicine
  • Have Nick try on M's suit, to see if he can wear it for winter formal, or if we need another option
  • Find 20 things to give away on BN, recycle, etc.
  • Have a homework check in with both boys
  • Laundry
  • Work on 2024 goals
  • Rest, because I feel like I'm coming down with the same cold the boys have, and not feeling well on a flight is the worst kind of misery
What about you? What's on your to do list today? 

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Saturday Happenings

The long weekend is going too quickly, and I need to make the most of it! 

Nick & I picked up a few things he needed at Target yesterday, and I was surprised that it wasn't too busy (this was around 2:30), which made things nice. M & I also had a lovely evening, and the boys went to a game together. 

As for today, here's what I'm up to:

  1. Workout class
  2. Plan menu for the week
  3. Pack for upcoming trip. I'm taking my longest ever work trip (includes an over the weekend stay) & I'm dreading it so much. I'll be missing a ton of family time, including three of Nick's soccer games, and I just am not in the mind set for it. It also involves a variety of dress up work meetings, and that plus the duration is going to make packing a huge challenge. We'll see where I net out with it. 
  4. Laundry
  5. Pick up the house
  6. Find ten more items to list on BN
  7. Clean out paperwork tray
  8. Catch up on bills
  9. Sweep the back patio 
  10. Make tacos for dinner
That's it on our side. What about you? What are you up to today?

Friday, November 24, 2023

Black Friday

We had such a lovely day yesterday. We all ran in a local turkey trot. Sam was sick, so he was a bit slower than usual, but Nick finished in the top 20 of the race. It always makes me giggle, because the last time he ran a timed run was last year's turkey trot. He was also wearing non running shoes, and his only goal was to beat M. M beat out everyone else in the 50+ division, so he was feeling great about that. I was about 30 seconds slower than last year, but there were a few points where I got stuck behind some slower folks, and it was hard to safely get past. Otherwise, I'd say I was on pace from last year. Always a win.

M grilled delicious steak, and we had mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans (we serve ours with parmesan & toasted almonds), roasted squash, & cranberry sauce. While we were finishing the meal prep, M & I had pomegranate martinis (delicious!) & the teens had sparkling cider. I also made goat cheese crostini, which is a family favorite. This year, I tried a new method, where I left some plain, added very thinly sliced cucumber on top of some, and then drizzled cranberry sauce across the last third. Those were my favorite! The savory plus sweet combination was fabulous.

We don't have a ton of leftovers, but I most certainly had green beans, stuffing & mashed potatoes (with cranberry sauce) for lunch. We make those things almost only ever on Thanksgiving, so they are a nice treat.

M had pumpkin pie (one slice of a Costco pie - that's how much he eats, so I'm not sure why he buys such a big pie!), & the boys & I had cookies. I gave away the rest of the Costco pie on Buy Nothing today, to a neighbor who didn't have leftovers. Glad to avoid waste.

As for today, I went to a hard workout class (much needed, after yesterday), picked up a few discounted gift cards for things we need (Home Depot, Lyft, etc) & bought a few Christmas gifts. 

The boys helped me assemble our artificial tree, and put out our decorations (we limit all of the Christmas decorations - minus outdoor lights) to one plastic tub. That includes our mantle decorations + the tree ornaments & skirt. It comes together pretty quickly. I also wrapped all of the boys gifts. I have a few other gifts that I'll pack in our suitcase for our trip to my parents house at Christmas. 

I took Nick to Target for a few things he needed, did multiple loads of laundry, and also found another 8 things to give away on Buy Nothing. Hurrah! I love getting stuff out of the house.

Finally, M & I are going on a date tonight (dinner). It's always lovely to get the time together.

Hope you've all been having a great week!

Frugal Friday

 It's that time of the year, where there are plenty of "deals". I try & stay focused on buying the things we need for gifts, will use regularly, etc. 

Saving on things we buy

  • I signed up for a Hyatt card, as I've been doing a lot of traveling. I noticed that the points weren't correctly applied to my account, so I spent an hour on the phone, while they discovered that my credit card wasn't tied to the correct account. All fixed now, and I now have two free nights, as well as all of the missing points. We will likely use the free nights when doing college tours. 
  • Took Nick to Chick Fil A, after an evening school soccer game. I avoided getting anything for myself, and used points to get him a free milkshake, dropping the cost for his dinner to under $10. 
  • I used our Amex gift card for a grocery store run. I picked up the Friday freebie (some sort of chip like snack), earned $1.50 through iBotta & various Fetch points. I also bought two Chipotle gift cards (Christmas gifts for the teens) & earned a $20 grocery store gift card. 
  • Went to CVS to use up my $5 award. Nick came with me, as he had a few toiletry items he wanted to pick up. I noticed they had $50 Door Dash gift cards, generating a $10/each reward. I picked up two, as we sparingly use Door Dash, but maybe 2-3x/year, in a pinch after a travel day, etc. I also had a 20% off credit card offer that I saved (maximum $8 off), so all told, I spent $122 ($100 for Door Dash) & earned back $33 between the various rewards. 
  • Bought two Christmas gifts, and used $50 of Nordstrom rewards. 

Earning money

  • I have business class flight upgrades that are expiring, so I've been offering them up to coworkers. I've gotten a bunch of gift cards as thank yous (I don't ask, but people offer them if the upgrade clears, which is very cool). $640 in gift cards earned, and I only have 10 points left that may expire, which is much better than the original 280. 
  • A neighbor needed help moving a bunch of stuff, so Sam went down & helped her & earned $60.
  • I listed a bunch of stuff on eBay, that's been sitting in my eBay pile forever, & already sold an item for $150. 

Avoiding spending

  • I used Starbucks credit (earned from that delayed flight to London) to pick up brunch after a workout class. I also opted into an offer that was available, and earned bonus points. I like the double dip of free money generating additional stars that I can redeem for a drink or something on another occasion.
  • Used a free Hyatt night to cover the cost of a hotel for an upcoming college tour. 
  • Used Hyatt points for two nights for a girls trip, after our half marathon in March. We typically do experiences for birthdays, Mother's Day, etc, so my sister, mom & I are running a half marathon together in Napa, and then will spend a few days relaxing afterward. 

Eating what we have

  • Froze grapes & pineapple guava before they had to be tossed. We have been using them in smoothies.
  • Made myself a quick meal of leftover chicken fajita rice, ahead of Nick's soccer game. I bought him dinner after soccer (9 pm), but saved money myself by eating at home ahead of time. 
  • Used up some very old potatoes & carrots in a chicken stew
  • Frugal fail: didn't check the date of pulled pork M bought at Costco, and it expired before we used it. Drat. We were in a time pinch ahead of a soccer game, so I was able to pull some Trader Joes orange chicken out of the freezer & made that plus cauliflower "fried rice". I added two eggs to the fried rice, to increase the flavor, and because Sam brought a friend over for dinner, and we needed a bit more food. Of course, I later found out that said friend doesn't eat eggs. Oops! 

For others

  • Carpooled to soccer games
What about you? Any wins to share?

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Thanksgiving Eve

I don't think Thanksgiving Eve is really a thing, but it is indeed the day before (US) Thanksgiving. I'm working today, and keeping an eye on a few fires that are burning, some escalations, and a major program we are trying to launch today. I'm also attempting to prep for Monday, where I have an absolute ton of stuff to do & 14 meetings, because I leave for Tokyo on Tuesday, and will then be unavailable for west coast time zone meetings for the majority of my loooooong trip. 

We went to see Nick's 2nd varsity game last night, and he played really well. The other team was aggressive, shall we say, which is Nick's favorite kind of game. He had an assist on the game winning goal, so he was pretty pleased. We got home late, and then he was hungry, so I stayed up to make him a smoothie & do a few chores before bed.

I went to Orange Theory this morning (it's a light meeting week, as most people are out of the office, hurrah!), which was super hard & a great workout. 

I've been giving away a ton of stuff on Buy Nothing. It feels so great to get stuff out of the house! I've probably gotten 40 items out of the house in the last week or so. That always feels great. I listed a few things on eBay, and mailed one of the sales yesterday. Again, wins for getting stuff out of the house!

I've done some Christmas shopping, helped Sam find a few gifts for his girlfriend (he's going with a basket of cuddly/warm items, such as slippers, socks, a blanket, etc.). I picked up gift cards for our family's saran wrap game, and mailed those out to my mom (she's the saran ball maker, and we all contribute gift cards). 

As for the rest of the day, once I finish work, I'll be:

  • Picking up the race packets for our turkey trot 
  • Swinging into the store to get sparkling cider for happy hour tomorrow
  • Searching for my watch charger, which has gone missing
  • Laundry
  • Cleaning the fridge
  • Making dinner
If I get really motivated, I'll review some upcoming travel plans with M, and plan out the weekend ahead. I love a long weekend!

What about you? What are you up to today?

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Approach to the holidays this year

Our holidays have remained the same over the past few years, and we really enjoy our traditions. We typically fly to Portland a few nights early, and my parents meet us at the airport and pick up the teens for an early version of "Nana & Papa Camp - holiday edition". M & I have two nights in a cute location nearby & that's our gift to each other. It's so lovely & relaxing. My sister lives close by, so I'm also hoping we can meet up for a workout on one of the days I'm in town. 

From there, we all head to my parents house (Christmas Eve) & relax & have fun, helping with meal prep. M usually makes prime rib + some sides. We don't exchange gifts, but we do play the Saran wrap game, which is always a lot of fun. Everyone contributes a few gift cards, which makes everything easy. 

When we get home from Christmas, we will head to Lake Tahoe & ski for a few days over New Years - one of Nick's favorite parts of the holidays. 

For Sam in particular this year, his gift list is primarily about things he needs for college: a backpack, a rain jacket (neither of the boys own one) & a winter jacket (also doesn't own this - his thickest "jacket" is a hoodie). We have such moderate weather, but given his current college locations, he will definitely need other jacket options. He also wants cologne, because he's a teen boy. ;-)

Nick's list is similar, although he did ask for 23 & Me, because he's fascinated by it. He has a hoodie, cologne, & pajamas on his list. 

I've wrapped up quite a bit of shopping already, and am looking forward to getting basically everything done before I leave for an extra long trip to Tokyo on Tuesday. 

What about you? Have you evolved your holidays over the past few years? Any fun new (or old) traditions to recommend?

Monday, November 20, 2023

Menu Plan Monday

 I'm very excited about Thanksgiving food, as it's one of my favorites. We sub steak in for the turkey, as we are not big turkey fans here. Otherwise, the rest of the meal is pretty traditional. 

  • Friday - it was Nick's first varsity soccer game, and Sam went to dinner with friends. I had leftover chicken fajita rice, and after an incredibly wet game, took Nick to Chick Fil A, where he got a milkshake & chicken tenders. As you do, teen boy.
  • Saturday - chicken stew with bread & salad
  • Sunday - one pot chicken pesto pasta
  • Monday - pulled pork sandwiches
  • Tuesday - leftover chicken stew (late night soccer game)
  • Wednesday - leftover chicken pesto pasta
  • Thursday - Thanksgiving! We are having steak, roasted squash, green beans, stuffing, mashed potatoes & pumpkin pie
  • Friday - Leftover Thanksgiving side, with some sort of protein added in 
What about you? What's on your menu for the week?

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Sunday things

It's finally stopped raining, so I'm hoping to go for a run this morning. I haven't run outside in a while, so I need to take advantage while I can.

Both of the teens have colds, so hoping not to come down with that before I have to leave for Japan in a week or so. Sam was unexpectedly home, so we ate dinner together, and then he offered to watch a movie with me. If you have/have had teens, you know to embrace these moments. We watched Pitch Perfect, and both enjoyed it. 

I made a delicious stew last night, and would recommend it. It would be even better with a bit of cream added, but I didn't have any. 

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

  • Run
  • Go to CVS, to take advantage of a gift card sale (needed for a gift) & a credit card cash back offer
  • List a bunch of stuff on eBay
  • Clean up old eBay listings
  • I did list a bunch of stuff on BN yesterday (and, cleaned the coat closet!), but discovered a few more bags of items that I need to list.
  • Make a chicken pesto pasta dish
  • Time permitting, make cranberry muffins
  • Nick has tutoring at 1
  • Laundry
What about you? What are you up to today? Hope your Sunday is fabulous!

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Saturday Happenings

 It's a very, very wet Saturday here. We always need the rain, so that's a win. I watched Nick's first varsity soccer match yesterday, and we were both soaked. Varsity plays at 7 pm, so we have a lot of "late" nights this season. I'm a total early bird, and usually in bed reading by 9. :-) Nick did get to start (several players are ineligible for another week or so, as they are still playing club soccer), which was exciting for his first outing. They played well, but lost 2-3. 

After that, I took him to Chick Fil A, where I managed to avoid eating anything myself. He had only had breakfast, so powered down a milkshake & 12 piece chicken. Ahhh, to be a teen boy! 

In college updates, Sam got in to one of his top three schools (in Washington), and is thrilled. It's also where my 18 year old nephew goes to school, and is a train ride from my parents house. I think he's unlikely to get a scholarship to this school, so we are estimating cost based on the full tuition. We are still waiting to hear on his top choice school, but that is very much a reach, so we shall see. We are likely still to do the tour of the school where he got the scholarship, so we can at least vet that out as well. I made travel plans for January to tour, as that's when he has an upcoming three day weekend, when students will be in session.

What else is happening today:

  • Meeting a friend for either a hike or brunch. We always do a hike, but the weather is terrible, and our schedules are very, very difficult to coordinate. If it rains, we'll do brunch. If that happens, I'll run on the treadmill, to get in a workout.
  • Go to the store & CVS. I have a few expiring CVS coupons I'd like to use, and I want to pick up a few things at the store that are inexpensive for Thanksgiving.
  • Laundry
  • List 10 items on eBay
  • Clean up old eBay listings, donate a bunch of stuff
  • Clean out my hall closet
  • List 10 items on BN
  • Finalize Thanksgiving menu
  • Make a menu plan for the week
  • Get Christmas ideas for the boys
  • Plan the schedule for next week
  • Make a soup. Haven't figured out which recipe I want to use, but soup sounds amazing. 
What about you? What are you up to today?

Friday, November 17, 2023

Frugal Friday

 It's been a whirlwind of a week, but we are here again! It feels like we have some giant/expensive options ahead (college), so sometimes feels a little crazy to look for deals on ground beef & the like, but as many other bloggers have been mentioning, making good choices on a daily basis adds up, even when it doesn't feel like it. 

Saving on things we buy

  • Used the Amex gift card at the store to pick up a few things I needed for a recipe. While I was there, picked up the Friday freebie, which was a sparkling water. That only lasted a few minutes at the house. I also bought ground beef for $1.99.
  • I picked up a few Christmas gifts for Nick, and took advantage of a credit card offer (10% cash back), a retailer sale, and Rakuten. The items were also on sale. 

Earning money

  • Sam found out he earned a four year scholarship at one of the schools he applied to. If he ends up going there, it will be worth about $50k, so definitely a big win if it works out. I've built a tracker mapping all of the various school costs & "discounts". Some schools, for example, participate in a tuition exchange for out of state students from California, others have scholarships, etc. It's a huge range in cost, so the spreadsheet will help us make a final determination. In addition to other non-financial factors, of course. 
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum, made $45 in cash back via Rakuten.
  • Similarly, bundled all of my Sephora purchases (I'm a lotion & mascara only girl, typically from the drug store, but have also reached an age where I wanted a better face lotion. Let's see if it helps :) to take advantage of a cash back offer from my credit card, saving $13. 
  • Washed Sam's club soccer uniform, and will get $30 back from our club, as part of the turn in program. I'm thrilled to see the uniforms not go to waste. Our old club didn't have a program, and I tried to get them to start one, but there was no interest. Super happy these excellent condition uniforms will get more wear. 

Avoiding spending

  • Sam is not playing spring club soccer this year (first time in 11 years), so I filled out the correct form by the deadline, to ensure we saved on the club fees. We'll be saving $1150. While money wasn't a factor (he wants to have time to do college prep, AP test studying, etc), it will be nice to be able to apply those funds to all of our upcoming college expenses. 

Eating what we have

  • Nothing particularly exciting this week. We ate what was on the meal plan, kept food waste to a minimum, and I finally took the last of the Halloween candy to work, so I'd stop eating it. ;-) 

For others

  • Noticed there was a peer match available during our giving campaign for the local food bank, so I made an additional donation, outside of my yearly plan. It was a 3x match, due to an employer match as well, so felt really good about maximizing that donation. 
  • Donated to the school soccer team, and filled out the match via work as well. 
  • Gave a friend a ride to/from work, when she needed a lift. 
  • Gave away two pair of excellent condition teen jeans on BN. These are hard to find, so I'm thrilled when I can match them with someone who needs them. 
What about you? Any wins to share?

Monday, November 13, 2023

Menu Plan Monday

 I'm back to standard menu planning, and attempting to get into the groove at home. 

  • Friday - I believe M & the kids had burgers, but I sat groggily at the table post my flight & had nothing. Everyone teased me, as my comments indicated that I was beyond tired & made minimal sense. :-)  
  • Saturday - One pan Mexican chicken and rice
  • Sunday - Korean beef rice bowls
  • Monday - pulled pork sliders + salad
  • Tuesday - leftover Mexican chicken & rice
  • Wednesday - leftover Korean beef rice bowls
  • Thursday - leftover sliders
  • Friday - TBD, based on who happens to be home for dinner. Likely pizza.

What's on your menu for the week? Any good recipes to share? 

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Sunday Things

 I did make it to my workout class yesterday (I was really not excited about it), and it gave me a lot of energy. I guess past me knew what she was doing, booking that class. ;-) I have another class this morning, so hopefully it will also help, as I've been up since four.

I went to Nick's soccer yesterday afternoon, and then Sam had a bonus final game. It was at 8 pm, an hour away, so I knew I wouldn't be able to stay awake for it. Instead, Nick went to see Sam's last game, and ended up playing as well, as they needed extra players. Glad Sam's final hurrah was a fun event for both brothers. 

Sam found out he got an academic scholarship at one of the schools he's been accepted to, so we're now looking to try & book a tour at that college - likely in January. It's a few hours from where my nephew works, so if possible, it would be fun to also see him. M will likely take Nick skiing, as it's a three day weekend for the boys.

I have a giant list of things to do today, unsurprisingly.

  • Workout class
  • Help Sam with another essay a college asked for, as a follow up. 
  • Nick has calculus tutoring
  • Mail birthday cards for my mom (the boys were supposed to do this last week, as her birthday is tomorrow)
  • Laundry
  • Make Korean Beef Bowls for dinner. M will make rice, because his rice is outstanding.
  • Do a homework review with both boys
  • Build my 2024 Christmas tracker (spreadsheet where I track gifts, ideas & budget)
  • Fill out missing property claim forms. I found about $50 in my name, but no idea where I'll find proof of identity for an address 20 years ago.
  • Dice/freeze pineapple guava, gifted from a neighbor
  • Schedule for the week
That's it from my side. What about you? What are you up to today?

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Saturday Happenings

 First off, all of the jet lag. I didn't sleep at all on the flight home (not unusual), got home around 5:45 & then hung out with everyone until around 6:45, where I went to bed. My goal was to sleep 12 hours, if at all possible. I slept until 2 am, which was non ideal. ;-) I dozed on & off & was officially up at 6, because my back was killing me. 

I'm woefully behind my preparations for the week, and my standard planning. Aside from the fact that I woke up this morning to a work crisis, and needed to resolve that for the first hour. What a special treat that was. 

Flight home was uneventful. I watched all three Pitch Perfect movies, along with the most recent James Bond movie. Read a bit, worked, & then we landed. They've added a new immigration option in SFO (may be available elsewhere in the US), where you just walk over to a camera & it scans your face. If you have Global Entry, you are immediately admitted. The same was available in the UK. This was a huge game changer, and saved at least 45 minutes when entering the UK, and probably 10 minutes when entering the US, as even the Global Entry line often has quite a queue.

I'm truly exhausted today, so hopefully I'll "wake up" a bit, and then get a few things done. Here's what's on the list.

  • Work out class. I didn't work out nearly at the intensity or duration I liked in London (jet lag, meeting timing, etc), so I need it. Despite really not feeling like it.
  • Attend Nick's soccer game.
  • Help Sam with some college application follow ups. Decide on tours.
  • Review homework with both boys.
  • Unpack
  • Laundry
  • Make a menu plan
  • Make a shopping list, M will likely go to Costco, I'll go to the local shop + Trader Joes
  • Work on my schedule for next week, which promises to be crazy, as I'm behind in all aspects of l ife
What about you? What are you up to today?

Friday, November 10, 2023

Frugal Friday


Saving on things we buy

  • I used a business class upgrade (free, from my travel status) & it cleared for the return London flight. My work cap covered business just one way. Business on the return flight makes a huge difference in resting. (I usually can't sleep, but business class allows you to fully recline.) 
  • My flight out on Sunday was quite late (oh, what a treat!), and I had lounge access thanks to my business class flight. United offered meal vouchers, but I didn't need any more food. Instead, I did a bit of internet research, and you can use those vouchers almost anywhere. (Not just at the airport.) To make things easier, I added them to my Starbucks app. $60 isn't exactly worth hanging out at the airport all day, but it's better than wasting them. 

Earning money

  • Earned a $1,000 bonus at work, which was a nice surprise. Senior folks don't often get ad hoc bonuses, so it was unusual. 

Avoiding spending

  • Let Nick use my Amex gift card to pick up snacks he wanted at Trader Joes. In case you are wondering what a 16 year old might like there, he chose: three packages of mini cucumbers, chocolate milk, & some sort of ciabatta buns. :)
  • When we realized neither teen would be home for dinner on Saturday, used the same Amex gift card to pay for a date night. We had such a great time, and bonus points for it being unexpected. M was planning to grill burgers, so he shifted those to Sunday night. 
  • I spent $0 out of pocket on my work trip. 

Eating what we have

  • Honestly, I can't remember on Friday. On Saturday, we ate out (with a gift card) & I was traveling the rest of the week. I'm unsure what M & the teens ate. 

For others

  • We are doing a donation event at work, so I made my payroll donation & clicked through to receive the match.
What about you? Any wins to share?

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Sunday Things

 It's a travel day, so that's looming over me, but I want to maximize my free time as much as possible. 

M & I had an unexpected evening with no one home for dinner (with teens, on the weekend, that is quite often the case). We opted to go out for dinner, and had such a fabulous time. That time to catch up & chat is really priceless, particularly as we are in such a busy season of life.

For a mixed bag of reasons, yesterday was a little emotional for me. Sam's last soccer game (they won, 3-0), Nick's SATs (reminding me that college is also looming for him) & Sam got his first college acceptance. Really driving home that he will be gone next year. All of the milestones! We've felt so lucky having two kids so close in age (well, once we got past ages 2-3, I don't recommend the sleep deprivation of those early days.) It also means that we will have back to back college departures. I've obviously known this was coming for a while, but it sometimes feels more real, like yesterday. 

On to today. I don't know that I can muster up enough energy to clean the house, and may either do a super fast clean up to get us through until next week, or see if the cleaning lady we used to use is available while I'm gone. It's an option I give myself when I'm traveling for work. 

Other goals for today:

  • Workout class
  • Have everyone write birthday cards for my mom, so we can get those sent out.
  • Write up fitness summary & share out. My mom, sister & I are doing a half marathon together, & I'm kicking off our training plan.
  • Finish last minute packing
  • Wrap up some work
  • Finish the budgeting tasks that didn't get done yesterday
  • Review the schedule for the week with the boys
  • Nick has calculus tutoring, and I need to remember to pay the tutor before I take off
  • Getting a ride to the airport around 2 pm
What about you? What are you up to today? For those of you who are empty nesters, were there any particular milestones that hit you harder than others? 

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Saturday Happenings

Today feels a lot like Sunday, as I'm leaving for SFO tomorrow around 2 pm for my flight to London. We have a busy day at our house, and plenty to do as usual. I need to be extra productive, given tomorrow's schedule.

  • Nick is taking the SATs, and needs to be up soon. I'll make sure he has all of his required items, as sleepy teens are not the most reliable.
  • Sam also needs to be up early, as he has an early soccer game. Small chance he will have another game next weekend. Otherwise, this will be the last soccer game I ever watch of Sam's. I'm a little emotional. :-) It's been eleven years of lots & lots & LOTS of soccer. I will miss it. 
  • Run before Sam's game.
  • Finish packing
  • Follow up with Sam's tutor.
  • Help Sam with college application stuff. All applications are submitted, but there is a lot of chasing: missing SAT scores, missing transcripts, creating logins with various schools, etc. Multiple systems are involved in getting everything sent, and despite us having done everything by all of the proper deadlines, the systems don't always work seamlessly. 
  • Catch up on bill paying, as I'm out next week.
  • Laundry, my constant companion.
  • Clean the fridge.
  • Nick has tennis volunteering.
  • Review upcoming assignments with both boys.
  • Get back to a couple of friends about upcoming plans.
  • Schedule workout classes through the rest of November.
That's it for me. What about you? What's happening at your house this weekend?

Friday, November 3, 2023

Frugal Friday

I really don't feel like we're being all that frugal these weeks (paying for SAT scores to be sent, & college applications & feeding two teen boys ;-)), but it's nice to remind myself of the small wins we do have.

Saving on things we buy

  • We have an Alaska Air credit card, and they were having a cash back offer for in flight purchases (meals, snacks, etc). We were planning to pre-order food for our flight to Hawaii, so I made sure to save the credit card offer, and confirmed that we received our cash back. It saved $5. 
  • Uploaded our receipts to Fetch. This is a slow process, as we rarely buy the special items, but it only takes a few seconds to submit the receipts. 
  • We get a small reimbursement for personal development at work. This can include lessons, foreign language classes, learning a new skill, etc. I submitted my pickleball lessons from our most recent vacation, and should get a bit back on that. I submit my gym membership each month, and get about $40 back, which is a nice offset to the cost. 
  • Picked up more of Nick's juice for smoothies, which had a new iBotta offer, saving $3.25. I used our Amex gift card to get our groceries, which included ingredients for guacamole, chicken broth, oat milk, & the juice. 
  • Combined a 20% credit card cash back offer with a 25% coupon I received to place a clothing order. I was surprised to see that both worked. I don't know if I'll like the two jackets I ordered, but if I do, they will be at near half off, particularly as I also ordered via Rakuten, to save another 2%. 

Earning money

  • Nothing this week

Avoiding spending

  • I'm staying at a hotel in London that is more expensive than allowed in our work system. (It has a gym, room service, but more walking distance to the office during a week that there are expected to be several protests near my office, which could otherwise disrupt transit). I have to pay out of pocket for the difference between our allowed amount, & this hotel's total. I'm not sure how this hotel dropped off the list, as it's always been where I've stayed. Regardless, using my own hotel points to offset the difference, thus saving myself the need to reimburse the company any actual cash for the overage. 

Eating what we have

  • The goal of the past few weeks has really been "avoiding takeout" vs trying to be super frugal about food costs overall. We're in a very busy season with everyone, so I'm working on not letting perfect be the enemy of good, or whatever that phrase is. 
  • I made gyros (meat from Costco, which is good in a pinch) for dinner, and served with feta leftover from a chicken shawarma recipe. Also used mini cucumbers & tomatoes. I thought we had tzatziki sauce, but my parents must have finished it all off when they were visiting. They were a little dry, but otherwise delicious. We enjoy the Trader Joes naan bread, and the boys like to make grilled cheese sandwiches out of the leftovers. 
  • I also pulled taco meat out of the freezer, and we had that for two dinners as well. 

For others

  • Dropped off banana bread for our elderly across the street neighbor
  • Gave away a bunch of stuff on Buy Nothing
What about you? Any wins to share?

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

November Goals

 Another month is here! I have one international work trip to London to work around, and have factored in accordingly. Here are my goals for the month!


  • Stick to our budget
  • Use three "hard to use" freezer or pantry items
  • Work on college funding plans

  • One fun activity with each teen
  • Have two meetings with each teen
  • Help Nick with his list of potential college/tours
  • Finish remaining college applications
  • Finalize Thanksgiving & ski plans
  • Work on plans for Sam's senior trip
  • Deep clean one item/area in the house
  • Start new training plan for Napa Half
  • Run 40 miles
  • Follow the No S diet
  • Maintain my diet & fitness plans during my work trip
  • Complete 10 strength training workouts
  • Lose 2 lbs
  • Clean up the garden
  • Start learning Farsi
  • Do something social with friends
  • Give away 20 items on Buy Nothing
  • Try a new recipe

What about you? Do you have any goals for November?

Monday, October 30, 2023

October Goals Recap

 October was another whirlwind month! Let's see how I did with my goals.


  • Stick to our budget. - nope, college application fees, SAT prep & some other tutoring killed the budget.
  • Use three "hard to use" freezer or pantry items - yes! All of the chicken sausages & hot dogs were used up, as well as some hoagie buns that were on the verge of needing to be tossed out of the freezer.
  • Stick to our travel budget in Hawaii - yes
  • One fun activity with each teen - not me, but my parents did lots of fun stuff while they were in town. I'm so grateful for their help, and how they are so engaged as grandparents! Volleyball matches, football games, Ross shopping, dinner out. They are awesome!
  • Have two meetings with each teen - so many discussions! All about colleges, for both boys. 
  • Help Sam with college applications - WOOHOO! So much progress was made. Only two applications remain. This was a huge, huge, huge work item for the month. I'm so happy we made this much progress. 
  • Finalize Hawaii plans - absolutely!
  • Have a fabulous trip to Hawaii with M - it was one of our favorite trips ever. 
  • Plan a menu for the month - yep. I'm sticking with it loosely, as my parents ate a few things, left a few other things, etc. I'm also trying to reduce waste. 
  • Deep clean one item/area in the house - nope. I forgot all about this. 
  • Run 30 miles - I ran 24 miles
  • Follow the No S diet, entirely when not traveling. And, loosely when traveling. - eh, very loosely on both sides. 
  • Complete 10 strength training workouts - I completed 11 
  • Attend a pickle ball clinic - yes! I enjoyed it so much I went to two clinics. 
  • Clean up the garden - I've done quite a bit of yard work, getting rid of leaves, dead heading all of the flowers, etc. 
  • Start learning Farsi - I started, but have practiced pretty minimally. 
  • Do something social with friends - my parents were here this month, & I was in France for part of the time, so giving myself a pass. Plenty of social moments. 
  • Give away 20 items on Buy Nothing - yes
  • Try a new recipe - no, I forgot about this one as well. 
Overall, I'm pretty pleased with my progress. I set the bar reasonably low, but was able to achieve most of my goals, which makes me happy. What about you? How did you do with your goals for October?

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Sunday Things

 Yesterday's workout class really tired me out (this week is part of an "extreme" workout challenge), so I was not super energetic for the rest of the day. ;-)

I made cheater gyros for dinner (meat from Costco), so it was mainly just assembling sides. Nick isn't a huge fan of this gyro meat (although, randomly Greek food is his favorite, he doesn't like the flavor of this particular one), so he had a naan grilled cheese instead, with all of the sides. 

Sam & I worked on college applications for hours & we have submitted the first half of the applications!!! Woohoo!! It was a pretty big milestone, and he's been working on some of the essays since this summer. What a relief. The ones that remain either have very separate essay requirements, or you can't submit via the Common App. I also spent a small fortune on application fees, but I was happy to be at the phase where we were actually paying & submitting. 

As for today, here's what I'm up to:

  • Another workout class (and, one tomorrow, and then I'll be finished with the challenge)
  • Help Sam with college applications, which will take a minimum of 2-3 hours
  • Prep crockpot carnitas
  • Pick up chicken broth, which I noticed we're out of & need for my recipe
  • Laundry
  • Talk to the kids/M about plans for Thanksgiving, Christmas & Sam's graduation trip. 
  • Clean the house (always a treat)
  • Sweep outside
What about you? What are you up to today? 

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Saturday Happenings

Happy Saturday! We are definitely still getting back into the swing of things, post a fabulous vacation to Hawaii (big island, near Kona). It was an incredible vacation, and we had an amazing time. 

It was the most gorgeous place we've ever been. Stunning views around every corner. We hiked in a lava tube, explored the crater floor (Volcanoes National Park), hung out by the pool (first picture), had fabulous dinners, played pickle ball, & I took lots of yoga classes by the beach. (Third picture is the view from yoga). When we have the time together, I'm always reminded of how important it is to get the time to connect. It was fabulous!

We are deeply back into reality, with college applications, work & the like. Here's what we're up to today:

  • I'm heading to a workout class soon
  • M is taking Sam to a soccer game in the city
  • I need to clean the house
  • Work in the yard
  • Update our menu
  • Laundry
  • Do some budget catch up
  • Sam & I have a three hour block for college applications
If I get all of that done, I'll be thrilled. What about you? What are you up to today?

Friday, October 27, 2023

Frugal Friday

A double week, as we were out of town last Friday.  

Saving on things we buy

  • Bought a few things we needed at the grocery store, and uploaded my receipt to iBotta. I stocked up on the juice Nick prefers for smoothies, as it was on sale & had an iBotta offer. Saved $3.65 via iBotta. Paid for everything with Amex gift card. 

Earning money

  • Gave another coworker an international upgrade for two, and received another gift card as a thank you. 

Avoiding spending

  • Returned a jacket I bought for Paris, and didn't end up needing, as the weather was much warmer than expected. 
  • We got upgraded to a nicer room at the hotel we stayed at. 

Eating what we have

  • I defrosted a container of butternut squash soup, and M had this with leftover chicken one night. One more container out of the freezer!
  • We made lots of progress eating freezer items, with Nick having one of the hoagie buns with a hot dog (both from the freezer). Sam & I finished off the chicken sausages.
  • Sam invited a friend over for a late lunch one day, and I threw together cheese quesadillas, chicken tenders, two pears & a bowl of strawberries. Other than two chicken tenders, they ate everything.
  • Sam's eating habits can be a bit erratic, as he takes a medicine that makes him not very hungry during the day. His appetite comes back late into the evening, so he often rummages the fridge, and/or makes himself something late at night. As a result, he's been cleaning out leftovers, so we've been avoiding food waste on that front. 
  • M grilled kebabs & rice when my parents were here, and we had that for dinner our first night.
  • For the second night my parents were here, we had grilled burgers, and avoided takeout. 
  • My parents & the boys ate the banana bread I made for breakfast/snacks, so there is more room in the freezer now.
  • I cobbled together a very easy dinner last night, as it's been busy returning to "real life", post vacation. 

For others

  • Made a donation, & submitted the form to get it matched by my employer.
  • Similarly, added my volunteer hours from the soccer club to my work hours, which then get matched at $10/hr by my employer.
  • Added one of M's friends to an upgrade list for two of his flights, in an attempt to not waste my international upgrades before they expire. 
What about you? Any wins to share?

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Travel credit + gift card inventory

 I realized that we are sitting on a ton of travel credit, gift cards, vouchers, etc. I was worried about losing them, letting them expire, etc, so I spent some time organizing everything in my spreadsheet, and once I added up the total, I was shocked by how much we had. 

How did we get so much? We've had a few trips where we've canceled/change the date/switched to another airline, so those result in travel credit. This adds up quickly when you have multiple passengers. We also have vouchers for delayed/canceled flights. And, M has been picking up Alaska & Southwest gift cards, when they are available at Costco. 

All told, we have $7,400 of gift cards/vouchers! That's pretty crazy. $3068 is for Southwest, $2837 for Alaska, and we also have a large Amex rewards card that we were given, and have $1260 on that. The rest are just small amounts for Starbucks, Chipotle, Subway, etc. Now that we've added it up, it will be much easier for me to remember to use it all, and I've gone through & organized the Southwest ones (we have a bunch of small credits, and you need codes for each one), so they should be quick to use up & track. 

While I was working on that, I decided to update our tracker for our airline & hotel rewards programs for all four of us, and apply a value ratio (you can find these online) to see how much we have across each program. It's good to track, because the value of these tend to decline over time (e.g. flights take more miles to book, they increase redemption amounts needed for hotel rooms, etc) & found that we have close to $12k in value there. I was also very surprised by this. I tend to not book using rewards, as trips where you use miles or points don't accrue status, and in the last couple of years, I've been focused more on ensuring I was maximizing status offers from work, not on the redemption side. This was a good reminder to start using those up. The boys also have a decent amount of miles, which will be helpful for trips home from college, etc, assuming they aren't close by. 

I feel much more organized, now having everything tracked in a spreadsheet & at the ready when we are working on our 2024 travel plans. This should also help us maximize our reward & redemption, and minimize our spending. 

Do you track things like this? Are you typically surprised by the value? 

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Sunday things

It was a full day today! I had a bad dream last night (I do not recommend the news before bed), so I was up bright & early. 

I spent the majority of the day with Sam, working on college applications. But, I got a few other things done during the day:

  • Orange Theory workout class
  • Made two loaves of banana bread (one with chocolate chips, one without), to use up a bunch of overripe bananas. Dropped off 1/2 a loaf of banana bread to our neighbor's house. She's an elderly woman, so doesn't like too much of any one thing, so 1/2 a loaf is perfect for her. 
  • Two loads of laundry (or, loaves, as I originally posted) ;-) 
  • Multiple hours of yard work. Our internet went out, so we had a forced break on college applications. I was able to dead head a bunch of plants, sweep, & pull weeds. I filled our entire yard bin, which is quite large! 
  • Cleaned the bathrooms & kitchen. 
  • Ordered new sports shoes for Nick: tennis & soccer. Both of his existing shoes have sizable holes, as he plays for many hours.
  • Made my schedule for next week + a workout plan
  • Priced out Thanksgiving travel (so expensive!)
That's it from my side. What were you up to today? Hope you had a lovely & productive day. 

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Saturday Happenings

 Yesterday was an intense day. Lots & lots of drama & uncertainty at work, combined with very stressful current events. It was the boys school homecoming game (they separate the dance from the game) & provided extra security & police presence due to the current situation & some threats received. We had quite a debate as to whether the teens should attend, but in the end, Nick opted to go & Sam opted to come home. We had a very lively dinner discussion & he was a pleasure to chat with.

I was really stressed out yesterday, so opted to do two hours of yard work before I made dinner. It helped so much. It was a visible improvement, physical work, & got me out of my head thinking about things well outside of my control. The weather was also gorgeous. We don't have yard service, and do a cleaning service very irregularly (occasionally when I travel), so there's always plenty to do around the house. 

We tried out two Trader Joes risottos last night - one was the standard asparagus version, and for M I made the cauliflower rice risotto with butternut squash. It was nice to have both options. I served them with garlic butter shrimp as the protein. Sam eats almost everything, other than shrimp, blue cheese & mushrooms, so he had a hot dog on the side, which didn't really go with the theme, but served as a protein. 

As for today, here's what I'm going to be up to:

  • Attend a workout class
  • Help Sam with the Common App (college applications)
  • Laundry
  • Pack for Hawaii
  • Make banana bread
  • Vacuum
  • Both boys have soccer games
  • Clean bathrooms
  • Work in the yard
  • Organize the freezer 
What about you? What are you up to today? What's your go to distraction activity when you are stressed?