Friday, May 31, 2024

Frugal Friday

 It wasn't the most frugal week, as we had two meals out over the long weekend (a day trip + a date night), both of which were fantastic. But, pricey! Otherwise, here are our frugal wins:

Saving on things we buy

  • Bought Home Depot gift cards at the grocery store, earning $45 in store rewards.
  • M & I had a bit of a miscommunication, where he asked if he should pick up discounted Southwest gift cards at Costco (they were $430 for a $500 gift card). I said, let's get 2 x 500 gift cards, but he read it as $2500 worth (5 gift cards). We will definitely use them & they don't expire, but I wasn't expecting to spend $2150 on Southwest cards this week. ;) 
  • I needed to pick up a few items at the grocery for the tennis banquet (I'm making chocolate chip cookies & I was out of both chocolate chips & brown sugar), as well as drinks for the event. I loaded a $20 grocery store reward on my account. I bought: a family sized package of pretzels (both boys requested more snacks), two containers of ice cream bars (for the upcoming family visit + boys having friends over in the pool), brown sugar, chocolate chips & six packages of sparkling water (most for the banquet). I earned $4 via Fetch, $.60 via iBotta & spent $20.43. I also had a $1.50 coupon for the ice cream. I earned another $.25 in grocery store rewards, and finally got an instant winner ticket, good for a six pack of soda. I will pick that up to have on hand, as my mom likes Diet Pepsi. 
  • I used CVS rewards to pick up wrapping paper for graduation, as we apparently only had Christmas paper. We tend to use gift bags for birthdays. I bought a large container of pistachios ($14) + the wrapping paper ($6.99 - when did wrapping paper get so expensive?!) & spent $11.50 out of pocket. I earned $.50 back from iBotta & another $1 from my credit card rebate offer. 

Earning money

  • Sold a couple of things on eBay & made $50

Avoiding spending

  • I looked at a few cute dress options for graduation, but reminded myself that I have more than enough in my closet. 

Eating what we have

  • M & I brought home leftovers from our date night, and Sam ate that for lunch one day.
  • We've continued to eat what's being grown in the garden (mint, basil, garlic scapes, lettuce)
  • I was able to use up the last of a container of fresh mozzarella I bought at 1/2 price, by making one of our favorite summer salads: peaches (or, nectarines), fresh mozzarella & basil. I also used basil from the garden. We season ours with olive oil, salt & pepper. If you like, you can add balsamic, but I prefer it without. It's absolutely fantastic. 
  • Was feeling particularly hungry after a hard workout this week, so I dug out a frozen leftover meal (pasta with chicken in a peanut sauce). It was great & very filling with a banana. I was feeling virtuous, as I looked up delivery options, but reminded myself how unnecessary that was & how we'd already eaten out 2x over the weekend. 
  • As always, I was unsure who would be home for dinner, so we made a few dining swaps from our menu & I defrosted an Asian beef rice dish for dinner on Tuesday night. (M had salmon). Sam & I had the rice dish & Nick was (unsurprisingly) not home. He made toast for dinner when he got back. It was nice to get a larger container out of the freezer. 

For others

  • Made a tennis donation, returned shopping carts & I did a bit more work for my college counseling volunteering project. 
What about you? Any wins to share?

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Goals for June

How are we to June already? May whizzed by, but June is looking to be even busier. We have a lot of exciting events on the calendar: Sam's graduation, Sam's graduation party + my uncle's 70th birthday/bike trip to Bend, M & I are doing a long weekend in Las Vegas for his birthday, and both boys start working. There's plenty on the schedule!

Here are my goals for the month:


  • Create revised 2024 budget, & estimate taxes owed from severance. Create separate tax CD.
  • Earn $300 in side hustle
  • Monthly pantry/freezer challenge: use up fish sticks, & the rest of a bag of cranberries
  • Work on plan for spending United credits
  • Help Sam with college roommate assignments
  • Spend a week with Nick on college prep
  • Enjoy all of our June fun: Sam's graduation, time with my parents, Sam's party & our long weekend in Las Vegas
  • Finalize the rest of our summer plans
  • Plan one fun activity with the boys


  • 10 stretching workouts
  • Lose 3 lbs
  • 12 strength training workouts
  • Follow the No S diet
  • Run 70 miles (including beginning training plan for August relay)
  • Get together with friends
  • Practice Farsi 20 times
  • Declutter 100 items from the house
  • Meditate 20 times
  • Continue exploring various jobs
  • Start college counseling volunteer role

What about you? What are you hoping to accomplish in June?

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

The long weekend recap

Overall, it was a fantastic weekend. I can say that it definitely makes life easier when you don't have to go back to work on Tuesday, with all of that work having built up while you were out. 

A few things we did:

  • The boys went to prom on Saturday! I loved seeing them in their suits (Sam in M's suit & shoes, Nick in the new suit I bought him, as he's too skinny for M's clothes) & getting pictures. It was a wild day, as they had very different plans (one was eating out ahead of prom, one after, one had to leave by 2, one was leaving at 6), so we had everyone get ready & take photos, and then they could each set their own schedule for leaving. I worried about the boys driving home late, so I was up from 11-1, but everyone got home safely & had a great time.
  • M & I went on a day trip to Santa Rosa on Sunday, and found a great restaurant. We had a wine flight, some little shared plates, & I had dessert. Eating dessert for lunch, or really, ever is pretty rare for me, but I couldn't resist the warm flour chocolate cake with peanut butter mousse & vanilla ice cream. Decadent & fabulous.
  • Nick worked at a soccer tournament for most of Sunday, earning money. And, volunteered for his tennis program. He's completed more than 150 hours of tennis volunteering this year & does an absolutely incredible amount for the program. He's so busy.
  • Sam was home for dinner & we chatted about prom & his evening with friends, and why girls wear uncomfortable high heeled shoes. ;-) 
  • Everyone did chores yesterday, while I tried a 90 minute workout class (vs my normal 60 minutes). It was definitely hard! After that, both boys washed their cars, there was a bit of corn hole, the teens went on a search for Pokemon together, I packaged up a couple of eBay sales & listed some things on FB market place.
  • M grilled hot dogs & I made the mozzarella, peach & basil salad that we love. We chatted & caught up. Nick called my dad, which is his usual Sunday activity. They are very close. Everyone checked in on homework, Nick met up with a group to work on a shared project. And studied for the SATs. Sam checked in on potential college roommate assignments. 
  • I did a lot of laundry!
All told, we feel so blessed whenever we have time with the teens. We are trying to soak it in, as we know it's coming quickly to an end. 

What were you up to this weekend?

Monday, May 27, 2024

Menu Plan Monday

 It's the home stretch of the wild times at school, with senior finals, senior awards, & the tennis banquet. Next week is graduation!

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

  • Friday - wings & pot stickers
  • Saturday - tacos
  • Sunday - grilled chicken salads
  • Monday - hot dogs & mozzarella/nectarine/basil salad
  • Tuesday - leftover tacos
  • Wednesday - leftover hot dogs
  • Thursday - eating at the tennis banquet
  • Friday - pizza? I'd love to try one of the grilled pizza recipes, but let's be honest, this week is probably not the week for that.
What about you? What's on your menu plan for the week?

Friday, May 24, 2024

Frugal Friday


Saving on things we buy

  • The local grocery store was having a few good weekend sales (mac & cheese, which Nick makes himself if he's on his own for dinner between sporting events, BOGO various items, etc). I combined that with a $10 off a $50 purchase, and bought: 5 packages of sparkling Bubly water (the boys current obsession), 2 containers of raspberries, 6 lbs of pork loin, 6 packages of mac & cheese, Advil, two packages of sliced cheese, the Friday freebie (a sparkling water, ironically) & radishes. There standard prices aren't very good, but I felt like $52 was a reasonable price, particularly given the Advil & the meat. I earned another $.60 back on iBotta, and $2.50 in game pieces that I can redeem next time I'm there. 
  • Used Too Good To Go to pick up a $5.99 surprise bag at a local bakery. I ended up with two enormous loaves (maybe 2x a standard loaf) of bread - one sourdough & one wheat, as well as 10 huge Dutch Crunch sandwich rolls. It was definitely a bargain, and we will try it out again. 
  • Signed up for a Care Pass at CVS. You pay $5/month & get a $10/month reward, as well as a few other discounts. I signed up, as my credit card had a $10 off a Care Pass purchase reward, if you paid for the year upfront. I go to CVS reasonably regularly, so I'll check it out this year & see what I think. There was also a small discount for paying for the full year (total = $52.38). All told, it's $120 in credit, for $42.38 (the $52, minus the $10 credit card rebate). So far, I went & bought a bunch of cards I needed for upcoming events (graduation, Father's Day, etc) using my first $10 credit, and earned another $5 credit for a Hallmark reward. Additionally, iBotta had a reward on the full purchase price of your CVS transaction, so I earned another $.73 from that. 
  • I bought ground beef for $1.99/lb. They only had a couple of packages left, so I bought the largest one they had, and came home & divided the meat for the freezer. 

Earning money

  • Sold lights we weren't using on Facebook marketplace, and earned $65. The buyer was thrilled, and we got four large lights (three new in boxes, one used) out of the house. 
  • Sold a Pokemon card on eBay, and earned $75. 
  • I received my severance today, which was a significant amount of money. While I didn't enjoy the process of the layoff, it was a generous severance & I feel lucky to have gotten this much. I'm putting all of it in CDs, for the boys college, as well as to figure out how to use the rest. 

Avoiding spending

  • Picked up new books for upcoming college students on Buy Nothing, which will make a great graduation gift for some of Sam's friends, with cash tucked in. 

Eating what we have

  • I've continued to eat lots of leftovers for lunches, which works well.
  • Both of the teens have eaten lots of sandwiches, with the Too Good To Go bread.
  • I defrosted cranberries from the freezer (on my May "use it up" goals list) to make cranberry muffins. 
  • We've been eating lots of garden produce in our salads: basil, chives, mint & lettuce. 
  • Managed to use up two bags of salad before it went bad, even though the last salad required fishing out some questionable pieces. I'm working hard on food waste, so I went through the effort. 

For others

  • Finished my volunteer training for my college counselor role, and got fingerprinted for the same. 
  • Helped my aunt with another billing challenge.
What about you? Any wins to share?

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

What am I up to Wednesday?

 I've been running errands for the first half of the week, and still have a few things to accomplish. But, my list is shrinking, which is nice to see. 

I've also been eating lunch by the pool, which is always so fabulous on a sunny day. Photo of my view during lunch.

Without further ado, here's my plan for the day:

  • Workout class
  • Daily chores (journal, meditate, Farsi lesson)
  • Yard work
  • List 2 items on Ebay
  • List a few more things on Buy Nothing
  • Get fingerprinted (volunteer opportunity)
  • Clean the kitchen & bathrooms
  • Vacuum
  • Wipe down the fridge
  • Figure out our plan for the long weekend

That's it from my side. What about you? Any fun plans for the long weekend?

Monday, May 20, 2024

Menu Plan Monday

 We are deep into graduation prep season, with lots of corresponding activities! So, this won't be the most exciting menu plan, but it will get us fed. 

  • Friday - gyro salads
  • Saturday - caprese salad + creamy garlic chicken
  • Sunday - burgers & potato salad
  • Monday - slow cooker carnitas (turned into carnitas tacos)
  • Tuesday - caprese salad + leftover creamy garlic chicken
  • Wednesday - leftover burgers & potato salad
  • Thursday - leftover carnitas 
  • Friday - likely just me + M, so wings & potstickers 
What about you? What's on the menu for the week?

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Saturday Happenings

It's been a full week, with lots of senior graduation activities. I'm so happy I have this time off of work, to enjoy this season of life. 

I finished my club soccer senior night volunteer project (hurrah!) & am ever so grateful that responsibility is off of my plate. Last night, I volunteered to assemble gift bags for the senior graduation party. In a few hours, a friend is coming over & we are making senior posters, for graduation. Looking at all of the photos of Sam over the years makes me emotional.

Nick is currently in Sacramento with the tennis team, as they've made it to the state semi-finals. He's having a great time, and is low down on the roster, but got to play yesterday. He was quite excited. 

I've made a bunch of progress on the yard work, and have been steadily working on increasing my running miles for the month. I'm at 41 miles so far.

I think I'm going to make crockpot carnitas for dinner tonight, which I haven't made in a long time. We usually turn the carnitas into tacos from there, and I also enjoy having it over salads.

I'm also straightening the house, & getting things organized, as my parents are visiting for Sam's graduation in a few weeks.

Okay, on to today. Here's what's on my list:

  • Poster assembly with friend
  • Laundry
  • Make carnitas
  • Work in the yard
  • Go for a run
  • Daily chores (Farsi lesson, meditate, journal)
  • Play pickle ball with M
I think that's pretty much it! What about you? What's your plan for today? 

Friday, May 17, 2024

Frugal Friday

 As I mentioned last week, I jot down my wins along the way during the week, so it's always nice to see a reasonable list of activities come together, even when it feels like I haven't really done much!

Saving on things we buy

  • Earned $1.25 on store rewards (they are like scratch tickets) from the items I picked up for the impromptu pool party. In the parking lot, someone had left their cart. When I went to return it, I noticed two more scratch tickets, so those had another $.75 on them. 
  • Finally used the last of an old Safeway gift card (it had a whopping $.93 on it), so happy to get that out of my purse. I picked up sour cream & bread for sandwiches & to go with fajitas. 
  • Speaking of grocery store rewards, you can turn them in (they are physical cards) the next time you're in the store. They are in denominations of $.25, $.50, $1, etc. I try to save time & hand a big stack over to the cashier when there is no one behind me. Today, a cashier mentioned that you only get "credit" for one of each denomination. That was the first time that's ever been mentioned, but does explain why my points are lower than expected. I sent an email to customer service to ask about it, and they credited my account $5, which feels like a fair trade. 
  • After getting my MRI results, I was advised to take a different type of OTC medicine, so I bought a bunch of options at CVS (desperation for sure). I did upload a few CVS coupons first, saving $4.50, and then noticed iBotta had a $6 back offer, so saved a bit more there. 
  • I don't deserve much credit for this, as I always go through my credit card offers, and save any that I think I might use. I had saved one for the pizza place, so earned $6 back for our unexpected pizza party last Friday. 

Earning money

  • I mentioned a month or so ago that I submitted the last two personal expenses before I left work (we have a small budget for personal development - lessons & the like) & I submitted my pickle ball class & my last month of fitness membership. I received a deposit for $101 (my after tax amount) so I'm pretty pleased. 
  • Sold a patio set we weren't using (bought during COVID, to be able to see neighbors on our front porch) for $120. 
  • My iBotta offer above pushed me over the minimum withdrawal amount, so I was able to earn a $21.80 cash withdrawal. 

Avoiding spending

  • Not currently, but I'm planning out our meals for the week my parents are here (Sam's graduation), and while we will eat out a few times, we are also going to make dinners most nights. Less about cost, and more about logistics, but dinner for six is pricey regardless. We can't do a graduation dinner out (timing of Nick's finals & Sam's graduation event + grad night party), so we're doing a festive lunch out. Fingers crossed I can get the timing to work out!
  • Went through our decorations closet, and found the graduation items I picked up on Buy Nothing last summer (a large banner, helium graduation balloons & regular balloons). Given it will just be the four of us + my parents at the house on graduation, this will make sure the house still looks festive! I will keep the large banner for another year, and then pass it on. 
  • I bought Nick a fundraiser pizza at senior night, but didn't want the calories mostly, so I ate an early dinner before I left, & brought a protein bar in case I was still hungry. 

Eating what we have

  • M & I did not partake in the impromptu pool party pizza (it ran out), so I made us a quick dinner of salad, leftover chicken shawarma (M) & leftover chicken flautas (me)
  • I remembered to use the last of a package of sliced cheese & turkey when I made sandwiches for lunch.
  • Made enough grilled chicken (M) for two dinners, plus an additional serving for the freezer. Did the same with the chicken fajitas. This helps us reduce waste (especially for sides & condiments, like sour cream, cilantro, etc) & cuts back on the temptation to order takeout. 
  • Made lots of late lunches & early dinners/snacks to accommodate Nick's sports schedule. This helps him avoid eating out. He can rarely eat with us these days, due to school tennis practice (they are still going, due to making it to the playoffs) & club soccer, plus tennis volunteering & lessons.
For others

  • I recently signed up for a program that helps teens that don't have support for the college application process. You mentor them for a year, and help them navigate how to apply, writing essays, etc. I'm very excited, as I can't imagine going through this as a teen if you, for example, have a parent who doesn't speak English, or just has never gone through the application process before & doesn't have the time to help. Given the experience I have with Sam, and the process Nick & I are kicking off, I'm not an expert, but definitely have skills that can help out. Applying to college can be a very inequitable process, so I'm pretty excited to help even that out a bit. 
  • Picked up some supplies I need for senior night, as a donation to the (non-profit) soccer club, and also purchased three packages of soda for the fundraiser they are running that night. 
  • Volunteered for another four hours to run the concession stand at senior night, and my work on that is now done! Hurrah. 
What about you? Any wins to share?

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Mid month goal check in

I meant to post these weekly, but ... life! It's not quite mid-month, but here's how I'm doing on my May goals anyway.


  • Sort out cash flow & remaining 2024 budget, post severance numbers - I now have my severance numbers, and our cash flow looks to be sorted out for 2024. Given my severance was bigger than expected, I will likely put the additional money in a CD, for a future bathroom remodel. 
  • Earn $300 in side hustle - $137.87
  • Pantry/freezer challenge: use up fish sticks, pureed bananas & the rest of a bag of cranberries - I used some of the fish sticks, but that's all so far. 
  • Figure out how to maximize expiring travel rewards - I made good progress with one of the United credits (expiring soonest) & have a few ideas about the remaining larger credit. 
  • Get Sam registered for orientation & finalize housing contract - done & done!
  • Help Nick with college tasks & finalize work back schedule - we have been focused on other stuff so far this month, so not yet. 
  • AP test prep (both) & SAT prep (Nick) - all AP tests are done, & SAT for May is complete!
  • Have a great & on budget trip to Sedona with my mom - Yes!
  • Finalize the rest of our summer plans - mostly done
  • Plan one fun activity with the boys - I'm thinking of something over Memorial Day weekend


  • 10 stretching workouts - 1/10
  • Lose 3 lbs - 1/3 lost
  • 12 strength training workouts - 7/12
  • Follow the No S diet - It always takes me a few days to get back on track after a trip, but otherwise doing well
  • Run 70 miles - 27/70 
  • Get together with friends - met a friend for a very early hike, and another friend for a workout & coffee
  • Practice Farsi 20 times - 11/20
  • Declutter 100 items from the house - 49/100
  • Meditate daily - mostly on track, minus a few days with traveling
  • Continue exploring various jobs - I'm working on some training for a volunteer role I'm pretty excited about!
  • Finish soccer volunteering project - will be done on Thursday!
  • Read blog on building a life without work - haven't read this yet

What about you? How are you doing on your May goals? 

Monday, May 13, 2024

Menu Plan Monday


Apparently, we have a lot of chicken on the menu this week. ;-) It's another super busy week ahead!

  • Friday - orange chicken & fried rice. I cheat & use the Trader Joes veggie fried rice, and add eggs & additional edamame, to make it bulkier
  • Saturday - chicken fajitas
  • Sunday - grilled chicken & rice + champagne & cookies for Mother's Day
  • Monday - leftover fajitas
  • Tuesday - leftover grilled chicken & rice
  • Wednesday - Asian beef/rice dish (freezer)
  • Thursday - either at senior night for soccer club, or in Sacramento with Nick for tennis playoffs
  • Friday - TBD, based on whether we're coming home from Sacramento
What about you? What's on your menu this week? 

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Saturday happenings & Careless Whisper

Picture me yesterday, around 4:00, reading my book by the pool & waiting for M to go home so we can start our weekend. Nick called, and asked if he could have a pool party (starting in 10 minutes) for 20 teens, to celebrate them winning their tennis regionals match & that they are on their way to state. I gave it about a second of thought, and agreed. Not working right now puts me in a place where this is easy to say yes to.

I swept up the back patio, skimmed the pool, put the umbrellas up (it was hot yesterday!) & picked up the house a bit. Sure enough, 15 minutes later, the back patio was filling up with teens. I ordered delivery pizza (never listen to Nick that three large pizzas will be enough -should have done four), and when M got home, I ran out to grab popsicles, soda, ice & chips. There was absolutely zero frugality involved. We spent about $150 on the impromptu event, and ... I'm considering it my Mother's Day gift to myself. It was SO much fun to see the teens all laughing, throwing the seniors in the pool, playing pool golf, jumping off of the giant rock, tossing the football, & my favorite... all signing along to various songs on Nick's playlist. I was very surprised by the eclectic mix of singers: everything from Drake to Abba to Frank Sinatra. When they started singing Careless Whisper, M & I were nearly crying from laughing. 

It was such an unexpectedly fun afternoon/evening, and I love the flexibility to say yes to things. The kids were all super polite, helped to clean up, and the backyard actually looks totally fine in the light of day. I did need to order a new pool football, as ours didn't survive the fun. ;-) 

What else am I up to today? I'm tired this morning, as I foolishly stayed up late last night reading. You'd think I'd learn not to do that, but sometimes, I just can't help it. 

  • Run 4 miles, before it gets too hot
  • Get Nick up for calculus tutoring
  • Make a shopping list
  • Go to the store
  • Pick up M from the tire shop (Nick's car needs new tires)
  • Have the teens try on M's dress shirts, to find something appropriate for prom
  • Work in the yard
  • Pick up a couple of BN items
  • Remind the boys (it will take multiple reminders for sure) to take the mandatory sexual harassment & concussion training for their work
  • Laundry. Particularly all of the pool towels
What about you? What are you up to today? 

Friday, May 10, 2024

Frugal Friday

 As we push towards the last few weeks of school, there's plenty happening around our house! And, Tess asked a question last week about how I track my frugal activities. As soon as one week ends, I start a new Frugal Friday blog post, and just drop things in each day and/or whenever things come to me. I definitely wouldn't remember if I tried to write it all at one time. 

Saving on things we buy

  • Made a run to the grocery store after I got back from my trip. I picked up gift cards & earned $30 of rewards for future groceries. I also earned a $1.50 reward for an item I purchased, picked up the Friday Freebie (pasta) & earned a $2 Catalina. I uploaded my receipts to Fetch as well. I guess it all adds up!

Earning money

  • Helped the teens with their tax forms (job applications), so they can earn money this summer. 
  • Filled out the form to get $100 reimbursed from our soccer club fee, as part of my volunteer hours. 
  • Sold an outgrown teen hoodie on eBay. 

Avoiding spending

  • I was tempted to pick up lunch for the teens one day, but there's been plenty of eating out, between Sedona & my lazy takeout on Thursday. It was easy enough to come home & make sandwiches for everyone. 
  • I also wanted to order one more of my favorite workout shirts, but they were sold out in my size, so I suppose I avoided spending that way. 
  • Sam needs to go to OSU for orientation in July. Serendipitously, I have an origins unknown United travel voucher expiring in August. I booked my ticket to use up more of the United voucher. I used some of the boys travel credits from Turkey to cover their flights. While we really want to do another international trip to see M's family, we don't want to be sitting on these large credits with an expiration, as there are so many moving parts to making that kind of a trip come together. We'd rather use the credits for upcoming travel, and pay out of pocket for the international trip when it does happen. Anyway, for the July orientation, we used up $600 of the boys Turkey credits, and $500 of my unknown origin United voucher. 
  • Similarly, M & I are planning to swap out our late June birthday adventure trip from a nearby hotel here, and swap to a weekend in Las Vegas. The room will be free, but I used gift cards to cover the flights, using up $818 of Southwest cards. 
  • Made a bunch of other elaborate travel swaps that I posted about here, using up more of the United credits before the expire, and getting instead $880 in Alaska credit that is much more flexible, easier for us to use, and can be used for our preferred airport. 

Eating what we have

  • Heated up leftover Greek food, and had that as my lunch for two days. 
  • Made sure to cut up the fresh fruit that we have, and serve that to the teens, so it doesn't go to waste. Our rough agreement is that I make breakfast if I'm home & you ask, and I make lunch if you are busy doing other things (studying, just quickly home between activities, etc). I made dinner every night for everyone who is around. Lately, everyone is studying so much that there are many more lunches prepped by me, which is fine.
  • Sam ate the last of the fried rice I made on Friday. I started with the Trader Joes veggie fried rice, and added a package of edamame, as well as three eggs that I scrambled. That really helps to bulk out the rice, and since Sam loves it as a leftover, it's an easy win. 
  • I finished the chicken leftovers from Friday, and had that for an easy dinner & lunch on Sunday. 
  • Defrosted taco meat for a quick & easy dinner.
  • Used garlic scapes, mint, basil & red lettuce from the garden for M's salads. 
  • I've been eating a lot of sandwiches, as well as leftover proteins (from dinner) over salads for lunch. 

For others:

  • Returned shopping carts
  • Helped a woman at the store figure out how to download a coupon via her app.
  • Continued working on my volunteer project for the soccer club.
And, a frugal fail. I was supposed to meet a friend one day this week for a hike at 6 am, which would still give me time to attend my regular workout class at 9:30. She actually made a typo in her text, and we met at 7 am instead, which wasn't enough time to get to my class. I paid a $14 late cancel fee, which I try really, really hard to avoid. But, time together was fabulous, so I'll treat it more as though we went out for breakfast, which $14 would be a reasonable price to pay for that. ;-) 

What about you? Any wins to share?

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

The great travel shuffle

This didn't start out as a financial optimization, but ended up being quite advantageous, so thought I'd share. 

I just received the boys summer camp work schedule, and Sam is slated to work the day we fly out for his graduation party in June. We'd booked flights for myself & M using miles, and credits for the boys flights (they are staying longer) on Alaska. I needed a later flight departure, and Alaska didn't have any workable options out of San Jose. The San Jose airport is about 20 minutes from our house, and the SFO airport is easily double that, and much harder to navigate. Transportation options are also quite a bit more, so we fly out of SJC whenever possible.

I did, however, have that United credit that's been hanging over me, expiring in August & it just so happens that United has a flight that leaves later & works well for our schedule that day. I didn't want to pay out of pocket, and tickets can only use one type of credit, so I ended up booking the following:

  • A one way ticket on United for myself, using my lingering & expiring credit. I'm flying first class & still not using it all, but the vast majority of it won't be wasted, which makes me happy. Out of pocket = $0.
  • A one way ticket for M & the teens on the same flight, using a different credit with a later expiration. They are not in first class, as we want to save as much of that credit as possible & have more time to use it. I did, however, put them on the upgrade list using Plus Points, so maybe they will get upgraded. Out of pocket = $0.
  • I then canceled the outbound portion of our flights for all four of us. M & I  had bought our flights using  miles, so I ended up getting a credit of 60,000 miles back to my account. 
  • I also canceled the boys outbound portion of the flights, getting a $475 Alaska credit, which will be much easier to use & has an expiration of March, 2025. We go to Portland plenty, and the credit is much more flexible & can be used by any of us. (Unlike some of the United credits which can only be used by me.) Alaska also flies in & out of SJC, which will also make life easier, particularly if the teens are traveling on their own. 
  • I rebooked the flights for myself & M for Sunday, and they were more expensive (mileage wise), so I paid 40,000 miles for those, but no out of pocket. I booked us flying back into SJC, to save on ride share costs (and, time). 
  • I then remembered that I'd purchased a very expensive flight to Portland in August for the relay I'm participating in. Because of the 20,000 miles I had returned as part of all of the above shuffle, I had enough miles to cover that trip. I canceled the paid version & swapped to a mileage flight. I received a second credit for $406 that I can use by April of 2025, and also is flexible & can be used for any of us.
So, all told, I prevented the majority of the United credit from expiring, used up some of our harder to use United credits for M & the boys, and now have $880 or so in my Alaska wallet with a longer expiration & that can be used for any of us, including getting Sam to & from college over holidays. 

It took some creativity (and, ride shares to SFO for the outbound will cost about $40 more than going to SJC), but I'm pleased with the swaps! Keeping our travel costs in check & making the most of our travel credits has been a priority for 2024, and will continue to be important in the upcoming months, with lots of travel for Sam on the horizon.

What about you? Any creative travel wins to share? 

Monday, May 6, 2024

Menu Plan Monday

It's always hard to get back into the groove, post-vacation, but here we are! Creating a menu plan always makes life easier during the busy weeks ahead. We have lots of senior activities happening, school tennis wrapping up, club soccer, volunteering & lots of other projects at the moment. So, you'll see more convenience meals over the upcoming month or so.

  • Friday - orange chicken & rice
  • Saturday - spaghetti, meatballs & garlic bread
  • Sunday - risotto & grilled chicken
  • Monday - tacos
  • Tuesday - chicken shawarma
  • Wednesday - leftover tacos
  • Thursday - leftover chicken shawarma
  • Friday - wings & pot stickers
What about you? What's on your menu this week?

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Sunday Happenings

I was pretty productive yesterday, although I also took a nap! This is unheard of for me, both because I'm typically unable to nap & it's just not something I try to do. The last time I napped was either when I had COVID, or coming back from an international work trip. Anyway, wow, a Saturday nap!

The boys were largely around the house, studying for upcoming AP tests, and Nick took the SATs in the morning. I had to be up bright & early to get him up & make breakfast, & I'm still catching up from Sedona. I shared a bed with my mom, and she's not a great sleeper, so neither of us slept as much as we would have liked on our trip.

I cleaned the house, worked on my soccer volunteer project, got some calendaring tasks done, helped Nick with his summer job work permit, and went to a workout class.

As for today, here's my plan:

  • Sweep the back patio. Yesterday was really rainy & windy, so I need to get some leaves & other debris swept up before they make their way into the pool.
  • Clean the fridge
  • Vacuum
  • Laundry
  • Nick's soccer game
  • Pick up M at the airport
  • Workout class
  • List at least 1 item on eBay
  • Farsi lesson
  • Journal
  • Meditate
What about you? What's on your list for the day? Anyone have any fun plans?

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Sedona budget recap

My mom & I had a fabulous trip to Sedona. It originally came about as I had Hyatt free night awards that needed to be used up before they expired. I researched a few options, and have always wanted to go out Sedona. It was a perfect pre-Mother's Day gift for my mom, and a great experience all around. I loved Sedona & definitely want to go back.

I set a budget of $1500 for the trip, and here's what I spent:

  • Flights - $80. I used Southwest points & gift cards for the rest
  • Hotel - $0. I used Hyatt free night awards for all four nights
  • Car rental - $190.37
  • Parking at a hiking location - $5
  • Gas for the rental car - $45.45
  • Food = $339.84
  • Parking at our local airport, as M & I did a car swap (he was flying out the same day I was landing) - $18
Total spent = $678.66. (Note that my mom also picked up a couple of meals.)

We tried to keep the cost really in check, and I think we did well. One of the meals was much more expensive than we would have wanted, and it was our least favorite. But, what can you do. Our morning coffees were also a splurge, but we skipped breakfast, shared a burrito bowl at Chipotle for another inexpensive lunch, had leftovers one day, and picked up sandwiches at Safeway another day. All in all, it was a really reasonably priced trip, particularly thanks to the free hotel & inexpensive flights.

If you ever get a chance to go to Sedona, highly recommend!

Friday, May 3, 2024

Frugal Friday

I was with my mom for most of the week, and we were taking advantage of the free hotel I was able to book for four nights. 

Saving on things we buy

  • I used a $2 Catalina coupon at the store, and downloaded a digital coupon for my purchase. I picked up 6 pounds of apples, a bagged salad & four packages of pasta for $17, which was a decent deal, I suppose. I also earned $2 in grocery store rewards from some sort of instant win promotion the store is running. 
  • Went to the store to pick up two Friday freebies, one of which was a box of chamomile tea (I typically have this every evening in the fall/winter, so it will definitely be used) & the other was the Gatorade zero hydration tablets. Nick or I will use these. I also earned another $.75 in store rewards. 
  • I picked up a few other things at the store, and earned $6 in Fetch points, and another $3.75 in grocery store rewards. 
  • For meals on our trip, we've tried to keep things pretty reasonable. For lunches, one day we split a Chipotle burrito bowl, another day we picked up sandwiches at Safeway, and the last full day we ate some meat, cheese & crackers we brought with us. 
  • My mom also brought two bottles of wine in her bag, which allowed us to relax on our patio ahead of dinners out, and save some money that way as well.
  • M & I had overlapping flights, so he parked the car at the airport & I took the spare key when I left for my trip. I picked up the car shortly after he left, when my flight arrived. Altogether, a few minutes of planning saved us about $40 between a couple of ride shares, minus the parking. 

Earning money

  • I received my severance offer (not payout, as I think that can take upwards of six weeks) from my employer, and it was much more generous than expected.

Avoiding spending

  • Neither my mom or I eat breakfast, but we've been walking to a coffee shop each morning & getting coffee ahead of our hikes. 

Eating what we have

  • Ate lots & lots of leftovers ahead of my trip. Sam ate everything I didn't eat, so the fridge was basically empty before M's trip to the store. 
  • Because of the lack of leftovers, I really scrounged for a lunch one day, and used two heels of bread, the last can of tuna from the pantry & made a tuna melt. It was great. 
  • Sam mentioned he'd be home for dinner one night on the weekend, so I thought it would be a good time to try & use up some of those lingering fish sticks no one seems to want. I made those + spring rolls (also from the freezer) & then of course, his plans changed. Leaving just me with the fish sticks. Karma, I suppose. ;-) 

For others

  • Helped hikers avoid a snafu we had, which was a looped trail that finished in one parking lot, but not the other two. As a result, our hike was *MUCH* longer than expected, but we finished & were just about out of water when we got to the car. I always pack twice as much as we need. 
What about you? Any wins to share?

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Goals for May

 I'm guessing that May through June will be an adventure, with many end of school activities, as well as Sam's graduation! Can't believe we're here.

Other than my Sedona trip, I will be home for the rest of May, so I've factored that in accordingly.


  • Sort out cash flow & remaining 2024 budget, post severance numbers
  • Earn $300 in side hustle
  • Monthly pantry/freezer challenge: use up fish sticks, pureed bananas & the rest of a bag of cranberries
  • Figure out how to maximize expiring travel rewards
  • Get Sam registered for orientation, & finalize housing contract
  • Help Nick with college tasks & finalize work back schedule
  • AP test prep (both) & SAT prep (Nick)
  • Have a great & on budget trip to Sedona with my mom
  • Finalize the rest of our summer plans
  • Plan one fun activity with the boys
  • 10 stretching workouts
  • Lose 3 lbs
  • 12 strength training workouts
  • Follow the No S diet
  • Run 70 miles
  • Get together with friends
  • Practice Farsi 20 times
  • Declutter 100 items
  • Meditate daily
  • Continue exploring various jobs
  • Finish soccer volunteering project

That's it for me. What about you? Any goals to share for May, so we can cheer you on?