December 6, 2017

Holiday gifts in 2017 and wish list

While we stopped buying Christmas presents in our little family, preferring to spend money on stocks to build our Someday Retirement portfolio and enjoying our fake Christmas tree, this year was an exception.

We hit Black Friday sales pretty hard. Online only, but it still counts.

We won’t cover the obligatory family gifts ($250) because they’re obligatory and we shop from wish lists anyway so little thought is required, except for a quick note to say that I’m apparently mellowing on this front. I don’t LIKE it and still think it should be eliminated because we’re also required to spend money on travel every Christmas due to where we live, but my heart is less crabby about it these days.

This must mean that my 2015 wish list has a check mark by Wish #3 – to be a Better Me. There are long held ill feelings that are finally starting to affect me less, and not being grouchy about the Christmas gifting tradition even though I strongly oppose it is a good sign. Oh AND I started liking guacamole! I’m allowed to stay a Californian! I do still want to be doing something more personally meaningful and btw lucrative, but that’s a longer term project. There’s still room for improvement, and that’s ok.

I gave us the (physical) gifts of …

Cast iron! Our last two nonstick fry pans have been A-W-F-U-L and I refused to replace that last one for a few months because dammit, they should last longer than a couple of years! In a nod to Katy at The Non Consumer Advocate who extolled the virtues of cast iron, we located a 12-inch Lodge cast iron pan (with scrub brush and grippy handle thing because we are both idiots who WILL grab hot cast iron with bare hands). This should, once we read up on how to properly take care of it, last us decades!
Total: $30, and we stop ruining the environment with crappy nonstick pans

Power on the go! My 3.5 year old charging pack is on its last legs, barely taking a charge, so loathe though I am to replace it already, replace it we did. I resisted the urge to go for the super-powered 26900 mAh pack at twice the price, and picked up the more economical and compact 10000 mAh pack which is still more than I was getting before.
Total: $26

Data storage! This is where we splurged – I went for the 8 TB drive for long term digital storage. I’ll keep our 120 GB hard drives as backups to the backup for critical information in case this drive ever fails. It would be heartbreaking if we lost all our financial and photographic files.
Total: $164

Nice holiday photo cards. I almost got away with cheap Walgreens photo cards, using a T-Mobile affiliated code for 75% off, but unlike their photo prints, their standard photo card prints are unbelievably bad. I briefly debated taking them because I loved the simple design and $15 for 40 cards was under budget but they looked awful and even I hesitated to send them out. These may be PiC’s passion, I didn’t think I cared about their quality, but $15 on crappy product is a waste of $15. Instead I combined sales and promos at Shutterfly to get nice cards that neither of us will be embarrassed to sign.
Total, $50

and the financial gifts of …

Points! Chase thought they could dangle a 100,000 Ultimate Rewards point promo for closing a mortgage with them, and then fail to credit us? Oh no no no, you do not know who you’re dealing with, foolish bankers.

It took 4 emails, 7 phone calls, 3 inquiries, and 6 months to run them to ground, but those delicious points are in my account for future travel.¬† We’re going to be traveling with points and miles most for a few years while we recover from the mortgage.

Savings! The very second those points arrived in our account, having been held hostage for an additional two months, I laid out our ten step plan to liberate our cash from Chase. The cash was wired (free courtesy of our temporary status as Chase Private Clients) to our savings account, there to earn 1.25% APY until our next stock purchases are selected.

Investing (but on hold)! The market being what it is, I’m hesitant to commit to any particular stock right now but we’ll pick something in the next several weeks.

More savings (a second recast)! I speculated that our money would be tied up through December or January but the second those UR points landed, an email was launched to Chase to start the next recast approval process. I’m crossing my fingers that it’s approved Very Quickly.

Last, a little wish list

There’s still a handful of things I want but can or must wait for: a working Kindle, a trip to Japan, another trip to Australia, yet another trip to Italy, also to Hawaii and New Zealand… a second dog. Fleece and flannel pajamas (one of each and with pockets, dangit!). But none of these make it onto the Christmas list for this year.

My focus is putting together an office that isn’t a children’s sized maze of boxes and puzzle pieces, so more organizational pieces like shelving and some good baskets or containers are needed. Room enough for an actual library or a piano remains a far fetched desire. ūüôā

I’d still love to get Seamus that Costco bear, or something that size. It would blow his mind!

PiC is a simple man. He likes basic clothes like shirts without JB-torn holes in them, and tools I usually find with deals and coupons, so he’s set.

JuggerBaby has so much already, there’s nothing ze needs other than our love and attention. Lots and lots and lots of attention. It almost makes me wish we could have had a second child after zir 2nd birthday to play zir Boon Companion. The age difference would have been perfect, zir favorite cousin is around that age. It’s close enough to adore and engage with and ze adores small children. But now it feels like even if we could manage another pregnancy (physically, or the very real monetary costs for help), the age gap would be too big. Ze wants a companion to actively play with now, not a baby to care for like ze enjoyed earlier. This is all speculation, anyway. Our plates are full right now.

:: Is there anything on your wish list? Did you find or get any spectacular gifts yet?

December 19, 2016

Holiday gifts in 2016

2016 holidays: What we'd like to give and what we are givingI’m not big on Christmas gifts like I used to be. I used to overcompensate for loneliness and being poor by trying to give as many gifts as I could, wrapped and tied up with a nice bow.

These days, I have as healthy and happy a family life here in the Bay Area as I could hope for, and supportive friends all over.

I still love giving gifts but only when they’re truly meaningful, usually practical, and serve a purpose in the lives of the recipients rather than taking up room, gathering dust, or being regifted because who needs a fourth coffeemaker in their kitchen? I know some people have go-to gifts they give everyone for simplicity’s sake – I give books, for example, but can it please not be a huge, clunky, appliance that only one person in the family can actually use?

At this point in life, my money wants to go toward retirement investing, building our real estate empire, and helping people and animals.

Fantasy gifts: if money and space were no object

$290: Seamus would get the 93-inch plush bear from Costco. Currently on sale for $260. It’s a tossup whether he would sleep on it or tear it apart. Probably both.

$70: JuggerBaby would get this magnetic tiles set. But ze would have to donate or pass along at least three other toys.

$290: I would get this Kindle Oasis. Just kidding, I don’t need all that flash. I’d get the Paperwhite for a third of the price. (But the Oasis is so LIGHT.)

$5000: PiC would get that super fancy bike he admires from afar and we’d get a sitter twice a month so he could go on super long rides on the weekend.

$2000: We have five favorite daycare full time teachers, and five part time teachers or support staff, who have been amazing with JuggerBaby. They’re warm, caring, attentive, all things that make it possible for us to leave zir and work on the weekdays. We’d love to be able to give them each a substantial thanks.

$5000: There are several charities I’d like to support with more than just a small bit of cash.

Reality gifts: because money does matter

$250: Family gifts. I think all but $50 of this is frivolous and we should skip doing it altogether but we have yet to convince the family of this so here it is. The remaining $50 goes towards clothing for the kids so I don’t mind that, since we all pool the clothes we use and pass them along.

At least $100 of that $250 will be gift cards that I purchased at a 4% discount, using GiftCardGranny. The second $100 will mostly be covered by a gift card we received, and the last $50 was covered by gift cards that I earned through Swagbucks and the Carter’s Rewards from last year’s gift purchases. Most of these gifts won’t cost much out of pocket at all, I’ll just have to wrap them.

$75 + $100: The daycare organizes gifts for the center by way of contributions from parents, requesting $60-75 per child, per family. They pool it, then split it across all the teachers and staff at the center. We give the $75, which works out to about a dollar per person, but we’re also going to give some small token of appreciation to our favorites. A card, and perhaps a small gift card? I’m not sure yet but we have about a day to figure this out.

Making new traditions

While I work towards a gift-free holiday season, PiC and I splurged on our own Christmas tree for our home. We went with an artificial tree, to my inner sadness because I miss the smell of a fresh new tree, but the deal was good enough for what we were looking for. We found it at Target, originally $67, marked down to $42 which was covered with a gift card. Add a couple strings of lights and a few ornaments, and voila, 4 weeks of wintery, Christmassy cheer in our living room.

It feels very splurgey, we don’t typically spend money on decor, but it’s a long term happiness thing.

:: What are your favorite winter holiday traditions?¬†Do you typically exchange holiday gifts? What’s your perfect gift to give or receive?

December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Happy Friday to everyone and Merry Christmas to all who celebrate! 

We were looking forward to a quiet season but it hasn’t been the smoothest of holidays. We all got sick, got better, and got sick again. All my devices have gone kaput so something will have to be replaced before I find myself in the Stone Ages communicating by pictographs and signs. Someone rammed our car full of passengers and left me irritably coughing with hopefully-not-cracked ribs. The car is very likely to¬†be written off as a total loss which gets our goats because it’s a really good used car, and we just bought new tires and replaced the windshield. We don’t WANT another car, we like this one!¬†Then Christmas Day plans went awry but at this point, who really cares? I just want to hunker down under a pile of blankets and stop coughing.

But we’re all still here and no one is seriously injured or ill. Seamus is thrilled to be meeting cats. The cats, not so much. But he perseveres.

LB is¬†upbeat to the point where friends wonder, “is ze always this cheerful?” (Assuming¬†a full stomach, yes.) What a change from several months ago when it was, “is ze always this angry?” (Yes) Ze is loving this winter¬†and first¬†Christmas and we didn’t need any presents to achieve Maximum Happiness.

We’re grateful all over again that we’ve made it through another year, and one full of change and growth, and come out the other end having learned a lesson or two about communicating and boundaries. Relationships are hard work, no doubt about that, but if you’re doing it right, there should be that feeling that it’s paid off with each cycle of lessons. There’s no yardstick to measure a successful relationship except whether or not you’re having new discussions / arguments / lessons that you’re learning from and moving on, I think.

And on that almost philosophical thought, I hope everyone is staying warm (or cool if you’re on the East Coast), happy, healthy, wealthy, and wise!

December 1, 2015

My Christmas wish list

Friend: What do you want for Christmas, Revanche?
Revanche: THE WORLD.

Not Friend: What do you want for Christmas, Revanche?
Revanche: None of your business, go away.

Blog readers: What do you want for Christmas, Revanche?
Well, funny you should ask! Here, have a seat next to me and I’ll tell you. (No, I know you didn’t ask but I’m going to pretend you did. A polite fiction never hurt anyone, right?)

Real answer #1: Be simple. Be kind. Be considerate.

“Fresh towels!” I hear echo from the bathroom. Laundry is my thing but it’s awfully nice to be appreciated, isn’t it?Centering our lives around appreciating the simple things, contrary to what our very consumeristic acquaintances say, brings them into sharper focus and stops our tendency to inflate our lifestyles. The less complex our lives, the more energy we can give to the things that really matter.

“Clean your plate, there are starving children in [insert location here]” is a common joke. But it’s true! And a lack of appreciation for our own abundance, the insistence on more more more, makes it awfully easy to forget that we can do good in the world.

My resolution: I already give half my annual personal spending allowance to charitable causes. From now on, I’m going to look for ways to expand that, even if I don’t have my huge charitable foundation & empire yet.

Real Answer #2: Of course I still love things

Like books. Boy do I love books. But I don’t have a lot of room so I’m reconsidering my approach of always getting a physical book first and maybe splurging on an ebook later.Another argument for e-books? I only have to protect my device from the drooling crawling creeper that is my child. We have daily races to the bookshelf as ze scampers on all fours, cackling wildly at the prospect that this time ze might get a grubby finger on my books. I shudder for the day ze wins that race. For both of us.

Gosh darn it, I sure do like my geeky gear. Cheeky grammar / literature wear? YES please. Library socks? Yes and yes. You say The Count of Monte Cristo, I see Doctor Who’s The Silence. And what child doesn’t need a cute evolution shirt? Or their very own Hungry Caterpillar?

But instead of succumbing to my baser desires to buy, I went through my closet and reorganized it all. To my shame, I realize that when you put together my casual gear and my professional wear (that gets not so much wear these days), that closet is jampacked full, thus grossly violating my policy that half of my closet space should just be space. Ooops. No gear for me, then.

I will, however, observe our new Christmas tradition: buying dividend stocks and building our portfolio!

Real Answer #3: Be a better me

I like myself quite well, most days. Professionally, I set high standards and I’ve learned to be forgiving as well. Personally, I make solid efforts to be a good spouse/partner, parent, dog-parent, and friend. I still have room to grow. Preferably existentially and less out so I can fit into more than one pair of pants. *lookin’ at you, belly*

Time and time again, I have to body check myself out of my comfort zone. If I leave room for thinking, there’s room for doubt. But I like it here, it’s cozy! It’s got books, and internet, and and and ….! that unworthy part of me whines.¬† And it’s limiting.

Some limits are real, though even I forget they are, sometimes. 

Some limits are temporary and are as much about respecting the now as being a growing period.

Others don’t have to be at all. If I can get over my aversion to guacamole (side benefit: not being escorted to the CA/NV border because my existence offends nature), I can do other strange and horrific things in the name of self improvement.

This year, I started small.  I did some interviews. One is still to be shared, and by actual voice, I mean my voice that I hear in my head. The other, in actual audio, was this podcast with Jessica. I started #1GoodMoneyThing which was featured on Rockstar Finance. I kept our Tiny Human alive.

What will next year bring?

Travel: our first vacation with a squirmy wormy baby, my first FinCon (sans squirmy wormy, unless I am persuaded otherwise), seeing friends up and down the West Coast.

More important work: I’ve been struggling with feeling static, with being only moderately productive. With more childcare comes more hours freed back up to do meaningful and/or professional work.

The writing project is coming back to the front burner and so is the quest to find or create my next step. It’s weird that I know what I’m good at when I’m being good at it but struggle to quantify it for discussions like if I’m awesome at X, then I should hang my shingle out as Y.

Want to help me fill in the blanks?

What are you looking forward to this holiday and next year?

February 2, 2015

Taking a pass: Valentine’s Day

The Frugalwoods beat me to this topic. ūüôā

I was on Twitter bragging on PiC, as usual, the other weekend.

This time it was because he made me breakfast in bed. No reason. The night before, he’d asked if I wanted to put in my breakfast order, and in response to my “You must be joking” face, he wrote up an awesome “room service menu”.¬† He not only promptly fulfilled that breakfast order in the morning, he went to run errands so I could rest and then came home bearing the gifts of cinnamon rolls from a specialty grocery that Linda had just recommended on Twitter that very morning. Note: I’d just mentioned that it’d be nice to look out for them. That wasn’t a coded hint.

After I shared this, she jokingly said if we were on reality TV, I’d be the target for some good old fashioned catfighting.

Naturally I had to escalate the bragging and point out he’s not just this awesome to me but also to my good friends. He’s great about taking care of them as if they were his friends first when they’re visiting and as Exhibit A, called in SingleMa to attest to his awesome… only that backfired as she confessed to liking him better than she likes me. HARUMPH! He’s not even ON Twitter and Twitter is always on his side. Oh, to be so charmed.

[I’d say charming but I can’t characterize him as such since there’s some connotation in my head of that being a conscious effort or an intentional thing that is cultivated and the very charm of his wonderfulness is his consideration of others is sincere and instinctive and not at all calculated.]

But it warms my cold shriveled heart enough that I can almost forgive the fact that they’re always siding with or defending him on Twitter when I jokingly fight with him.

What’s my point? Other than the fact that I highly appreciate my fantastic spouse?

Valentine’s Day is coming up and, as usual, it will be observed in my traditionally avoid-it-entirely manner.

For one thing, it’s a Hallmark holiday. For another, wasting money on an overpriced meal out, flowers, and unnecessary gifts do not spell out L-O-V-E.

Forcing the fake romance is a surefire tactic to irritate the crap out of me:
First, by making me get dressed and leave the house. I choose to be a hermit for a reason.
Second, wasting time trying to park in the city because that’s always an exercise in not lobbing Molotov cocktails at horrible drivers. Mentally of course…. Just mentally…
Third, wasting money! Oooh the sin of wasting money! Money that could be buying me more comic books or another set of stocks.
Fourth, you can’t buy a healthy relationship. There’s nothing broken in a relationship that a Valentine’s dinner will fix. Just like marriage isn’t a bandaid for a relationship with commitment problems, Valentine’s Day isn’t the secular version of rogue Catholics selling indulgences. This doesn’t solve anything.

When everything is well, when you’ve put in the hard work to build a healthy relationship, there’s nothing a dozen dozen roses can say that a single one wouldn’t say just as eloquently.

I’ve said before, the truest path to my heart is not through opening the wallet, but through the little things that say you’re in this, together and wholeheartedly, whether that’s in a semi-crappy hotel room or safe and snug at home.

This time last year, we were a different and smaller family, soon to find out we were going to become parents to a wee human.

This time many years ago, we had just discovered each other, embarking on the start of a long road hand in hand.

This time many years hence, I hope we’ll be enjoying the fruits of our labor, with pride in our accomplishments: a happy healthy family, reflecting on meaningful careers, secure in our finances.

What is your Valentine’s (or anti-Valentine’s) wish and tradition?

December 24, 2014

On the Eve of Christmas


Merry Christmas Eve!

This might have been more appropriate for a Thanksgiving post, but a little reflection before Christmas isn’t a bad thing.

So Lauren’s Identity Capital stirred the embers of this thought I’d been having.

It hasn’t been an easy year.

Hell, this decade. We’ve had grief piled upon grief, year after year. Stress and stressors are constant, if not consistent, and things aren’t perfect by any stretch.

I still want my body back. It probably won’t ever happen but reality doesn’t stop the yearning.

My 20s, starting in my teens really, were RIDICULOUS. Seemingly only memorable for the slow dissolution of our family, while I forced my career to grow like a hothouse bloom in a desperate bid to save them, all at the expense of my health and wellbeing. There are whole chunks of years I hardly remember because all I did was work + school + work.

There was a move, there was a marriage (and a wedding), and parent loss. Travel, abroad and domestic. Two huge job changes.

Bringing home our “first born”, Doggle. Celebrating our first year with him. Having Thanksgiving with him.

Bringing home Seamus.

Then losing Doggle.

The impending Little Bean.

The family relationships continuing to be crap – it’s not as bad as it’s been but only because it’s been pretty DAMN bad before.

Figuring out how to manage money with a co-pilot. Figuring out how to blog about combined/family money.

Life revolved around money (mostly not having it). Not having it was the fire under my butt to do better. Having it was a watershed moment, and purchased a sense of stability, and security that I haven’t felt since I was too young to worry about the family. (I was around 8, coming home from the library with a stack of books as tall as I, and playing with our first dog, that I last remember not worrying about anything, much less making ends meet.)

For all those years in between, “happiness” didn’t occur to me. Who worries about that when you’re not sure how you’re going to get from one broke month to the next? Or if you’re properly braced for the next emergency?

This year, it’s sunk that we are happy. Part of that’s being low maintenance. Give me a donut and I’m happy for the day. Give PiC an hour to himself, and he’s happy for¬†the day. Clearly, our bar is set pretty low and that’s how we want it.

But more importantly, for the first time, despite all the uncertainty surrounding pregnancy, childbirth, adding a human to the family, not knowing what the heck I’m doing next, despite all the stuff that would normally set me on the starting blocks, ready to bolt somewhere – anywhere – I think I’m also feeling contentment.

Happiness is that thing that’s thrown around all the time. It’s the thing to be pursued. It brings the highs to offset the lows. We’re even Constitutionally Entitled to pursuing it.¬† But happiness feels to me to be an extrinsic thing, so easily influenced by the external things like jobs, weather, family, friends. And once you get it, you almost have to start over and find it again.

Meanwhile, the mellower version, contentment, doesn’t get the good PR that happiness does and it should!

Whether you celebrate Christmas secularly or religiously, or not at all, I wish you all joy, contentment and warm fuzzies

December 11, 2013

All I want for Christmas is a great stock portfolio

PiC was relatively unimpressed when I announced that our Christmas presents this year were going to be Costco stock.

“… I like Costco….”

Yup. So do most people I know. ¬†Fun fact: Costco apparently ed to keep offering mainland prices when they opened up their Hawaii stores. This was from a Hawaii-based friend. We’ve shopped there and while I won’t say all the prices are still on par with mainland prices, they’re pretty close. For a place that easily charges 3-5x more for basics than the mainland, that’s not bad.¬†

I’ve been on the hunt for an addition to my tiny portfolio, so I started thinking over the businesses that I’ve tracked over the years, as well as the businesses we frequent. If we’re consistently willing to spend money at a business that has a strong foundation and cash flow, it makes sense to consider them as a stock holding after some research.

I’m looking for stocks with dividends this round and Costco (COST) fits that bill. Their fundamentals looked tolerably good, though the ratios are on the lower side compared to some other stocks that are flying high.¬† I will admit that my working knowledge of the market is pretty rusty after spending enough years sitting on stocks and not doing a lot of research. It makes Evan’s Investment Club an attractive idea; you’d think this was like riding a bike but apparently I was never that good at riding bikes/stock picking!

I decided the number of stocks I wanted (based on how much cash I had on hand, honestly), the price I’d be willing to pay and set a GTC (good til canceled) stop order at that price.

My portfolio is currently at TradeKing (referral link gets you and me $50) which has been great for my style: simple, low-cost at $4.95 per trade, easy to navigate and good information resources. I buy and hold, reinvest dividends, and balance growth and income stocks.

::Update: I’m now the proud owner of COST. PiC remains slightly indifferent.¬† ūüôā


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