July 10, 2017

Net Worth & Life Report: June 2017

Money and Life Report: June 2017

On Money

Income

Our normal income comes from two full time day jobs.

We experiment with earning money on the side, including minimal cash flow that we don’t touch from an investment property and investing in dividend stocks.

Some side income comes from Swagbucks, selling clothes on Poshmark which is hit or miss, and Achievemint (my introduction to it). Any purchases you make going through my Amazon links keep these blog lights on.

The long term goal is to replace our day job income before my health declines and prevents me from working.

***   ***   ***

Chase bonus money: Our checking account bonuses came in! +$500! And I FINALLY got our coupon for the mortgage rebate so that’s been submitted. Now I’m just impatiently waiting for my $150 from the savings account and $595 to come in.

Poshmark sale! Woot! I sold a nice wallet I have no use for. It was a lovely gift but I don’t tend to change wallets often, just the bags they go in, so after seven years of it sitting idle, it was time to part ways.

Cell phone credit: A short chat with T-Mobile about our terrible cell phone reception this month resulted in a $30 credit.

Yes, this is all small change in comparison to our home-related spending but I’ve always paid attention to my pennies AND dollars and it does all add up.

A raise for you, and a raise for me! PiC’s company and mine apparently put their heads together to let the first half of the year go out with a bang – we both got raises which was great news in light of our increased expenses. Best of all, mine was just enough to hit a Major Milestone in salary! This was HUGE. We celebrated with a high-five, two bags of rawhides for Seamus the Ever-patient Pup, and a $71 pair of sneakers to replace my 12 year old shoes that are absolutely killing my feet, knees, and hips.

Spending

Our normal spending includes the living expenses for two households so this update ignores those ordinary living expenses. When buying anything online, I always check Mr. Rebates and Ebates for cashback.

A hemorrhaging of money

Obviously we’re not trying to spend every penny we make between now and the time we sell our current residence, but the sheer amount of work that has to be done means we’re carrying the costs of two households for a few months. The spreadsheets have been worked double time to make sure we won’t get in debt but things are going to be TIGHT.

Slippery slope spending

Frustratingly, there’s also a sense of “just add it to the bill” cropping up with all the money that we’re already spending. I don’t especially want to battle that feeling as well, in order to keep other non-house spending in check! Send help! I need the new shoes, that I’ll concede. But I also feel like I “need” to send various people gifts for happy life events and that one’s hard to fight back without feeling like Scrooge.

Stupid tax

At the worst possible time, I overlooked the fact that we didn’t get our car registration renewals in the mail and the first I was reminded of it was when they sent the late notices with $142 in late fees at the end of May. ARGH. I spent 40 minutes at the DMV to plead my case and they reduced the late fees by half. I’m still grumpy but better than nothing.

#GivingCards and Charitable Giving

I don’t believe in tooting our horn for every donation we make. The point of giving isn’t to brag, it’s to help someone in need. The exception is when the cause is sound and could use help. I’m delighted to be taking part in the Rockstar Forums’ giving project where they send out a $20 gift card each month to forum participants who sign up.

June Giving Card! We were working a ton this month and were running errands like madpeople.

In the middle of that, I heard that a friend of a friend’s unreliable car had given out one more time and they weren’t sure how they were going to pay for the replacement. I remember being there. I remember being a little kid, sitting in the backseat, while my parents struggled to make ends meet, not knowing that we had to eke out another twenty thousand miles on that car because there just wasn’t enough extra room in the budget to save enough for a new-to-us old car that year, or the year after.

Our expenses are sky high right now so I couldn’t double it this month but I’ve got a line item in our budget for next year when things even out to send a bit of money to the Giving Card program next year.

Saving and investing

We max out a 401(k) and IRA every year. We normally save 20% of cash of our net salaries but that’s on hold while we get ourselves sorted out.

Rebuilding the emergency fund

The down payment depleted our liquid assets and they’ll stay depleted until we sell our current place. It’s going to take months before that happens. I’m not making any assumptions on the kind of … wait, no, I’m making LOTS of projections based on a range of possible sale prices that we might reasonably expect, but I’m not banking on any one of them as a certain outcome. The only thing I’m absolutely counting on is that the first thing this sale money goes to after paying our broker, and the loans, is to refill our emergency fund so I can sleep at night.

Links from this month

On Health

My steps this month: 102,367 steps or 46 miles.

Viral load. If I can go two (or even three!) monthly updates without having to mention a cold, or a flu, or both, I’d be EVER so grateful! This is not that day, though.

On Life

July is FULL FULL FULL. It’s the Month of San Diego Comic Con, of course, the whole month tends to revolve around that. We’ll take a day to see family and friends but mostly this is the Time of the Geek. YAY!

Wedding bells! We have a wedding to attend! The gift has been sent. Our accommodations are booked with points, thankfully saving our embattled pocketbook. We just have to pay for food and gas to drive to the Secret Location. Seamus can come with us, so we won’t have to pay for dogsitting. Now I just have to panic about what we’re all wearing. I don’t know how formal this thing is and it’s going to be the middle of summer in Hotter than Heck California. What on earth will be appropriate and not lead to a literal meltdown? Stay tuned!

:: How was your June? What do you have planned for July and the heat waves?

Read past monthly updates here!

July 5, 2017

The fun we had: Spring 2017

What I watched

Man to Man

A Netflix exclusive described as: “Disguised as a bodyguard, a special agent must complete his national secret tasks while pandering to the whims of his ill-tempered world star.”

I really didn’t know what it expect but in my flu-weakened state, I was willing to give almost anything diverting a try to distract from my aches, fever and chills, and swollen throat. The fact that it was entirely in Korean with subtitles was a bonus for once – it forced me to stop working and actually rest. It started out as a light silly comedic take on a spy story, the actors’ expressiveness, or lack thereof, tickling my funny bone every few minutes but the plot thickened and the characters started to develop surprisingly quickly. Quite quickly, actors I’d taken for one-turn guests had become characters with a bit of depth and interest.

It’s fascinating to see the peeks into Korean culture, both as its portrayed on the screen (chicken and beer!) and also in how the actors act. It’s so different from American acting in subtle ways. It plays to the ridiculous, it uses shades of overacting, and yet employs so much stillness to convey thoughts, reactions, and meaning. These may be unique to this particular Korean genre, rather than Korean acting, but it’s effective and I love watching it.

Kano

I’d never heard of this movie before, we happened across it totally randomly. A story set in the time when Taiwan was still occupied by the Japanese, it’s a baseball movie but also a redemption movie, and a love story, and an interesting perspective on the Japanese occupation where the war wasn’t the focus.

Rogue One

(Rogue One! Rogue One! Rogue One!)

I’m allowed to write about this now, right? I’ve got to be among the last people to see it.

In case you haven’t, and you care about spoilers, skip this review.

Rogue One evoked all KINDS of emotions – start to finish.

I got to know the Star Wars trilogy backwards – as a kid, I discovered it through the lens of the Stackpole X-wing novels, years after the original films. I remember the moment I took them off the shelf, in the back corner, second shelf from the bottom, sitting on the ground with my back up against the last shelf just exulting that my dinky little middle school library had these books in hardcover and read them over and over.

K-2SO is vying with BB8 as my favorite droid, colored by hearing Alan Tudyk’s voice, I adore cute but I also adore unfiltered truth and sarcasm.

The friendship between Chirrut and Baze, the connection between Jyn and the man who saved her, and then later abandoned her. The realization that her father, so long out of touch with her, had in fact always loved her and had truly fulfilled his promise that everything he did would be for her sake. There were some minor bits of confusion, namely the flashback scenes, and Jyn’s mother, and their escape plan.

What I Read

Barnaby Rudge: a tale of the Riots of ‘eighty, Charles Dickens

This was a great cure for my insomnia most nights. I have to read to get to sleep, this helps regardless of the countervailing effects of staring at a screen at night. Picking a Dickensian tale only further ensures that I’ll soon be nodding off. Which isn’t a great recommendation for the book, I realize. As an engaging presentation of large-scale mob violence, however, it did the job. Though it half put me to sleep part of the time, I also kept coming back to it to see how the story would play out.

The Life of Pi, Yann Martel

I thought everyone who saw this movie or read the book loved it. I was enthralled from beginning to the near-end, it was mostly well written and hard for me to put down. But. That’s because it was a terrible story and I was desperately trying to get to a decent ending. It darn sure guarantees you won’t get me out on a deep sea boat for at least ten years. It’ll take that long to get the bad taste out of my brain. The problem was that the last chapters were just depressing. I could get behind the fantastical plot while they were animals, though the orphaning was a horrible thing that kept hovering in the back of my mind.

The real / not real discussion truly  annoyed me as well, it felt like a novice writing device that happens in tv sometimes.  “And it was all a dream”, ugh.

Summary: I wish someone had told me it was not a story about a happy kid, and a happy tiger, being friends forever. I wish it’d occurred to me to ask someone what it was about and for all the spoilers.

World War 1 Soldier Stories: The Untold Soldier Stories on the Battlefields of WWI

This was so poorly written I couldn’t finish a single chapter. It felt like I was grading high school, maybe, essays on history – except my high school classmates were talented writers so maybe kick that down to junior high level.

I’m still sharing it because it counts and I really wanted to like it, but I just couldn’t.

Witches Abroad: A Novel of Discworld, Terry Pratchett

Granny Weatherwax vs fairy godmothers. I thought I’d read this one before but the ending was completely new to me so clearly my memory is hazy, one way or another. I can never get enough of Discworld, and always leave off with one book wanting more. Is there a good cheap way to fill out my meager collection?

Wives of War, Soraya Lane

A look at the World War II from the perspective of the many women who supported the war effort, nearly on the front lines in some cases, and how drastically it affected their lives. The writing was solid, and the characters’ stories were compelling enough to keep me reeled in for a long while.

Planned summer reading: As much Terry Pratchett as I can get my hands on and maybe a few biographies. I need funny to settle my brain at night, not drama, mystery, or anything with actual suspense.

What I ate

Life’s short, have dessert first! Brownie bites. These were so good that I made them twice – unheard of! And I didn’t share even one with JuggerBaby. It was for zir own good, really. If I had given JB a brownie, then would have wanted milk, then another brownie, and another one. And then we’d be forced to watch zir turn into a monster like a Gremlin fed after midnight. It was for the good of all humankind that I didn’t share.

Slow cooker + garlic + pork = perfection! This recipe feeds our family of three (humans-only in this calculation) for about a week: tacos, burritos, served with rice and veggies, in pasta, etc. I like it so much I’m recommending it again! The base protein on sale only cost $7, so I’m calling it an excellent deal.

:: Do you have any favorite easy recipes to share? Do you have any funny book recommendations? 

June 5, 2017

Net Worth & Life Report: May 2017

Money and Life Report: May 2017

On Money

Income

Our normal income comes from two full time day jobs.

We experiment with earning money on the side, including minimal cash flow that we don’t touch from an investment property and investing in dividend stocks.

Some side income comes from Swagbucks, selling clothes on Poshmark which is hit or miss, and Achievemint (my introduction to it). Any purchases you make going through my Amazon links keep these blog lights on.

The long term goal is to replace our day job income before my health declines and prevents me from working.

***   ***   ***

Rental income

The rental has been pretty quiet and that’s exactly how I like it. I was only breaking even for the past two years.

I had been waiting to change property managers for mid-year so that my reserves would be healthy enough that the $150 change fee wouldn’t be a problem.

With an increase in the rent, and a lull in repairs, that should be ok to do any time now, plus – bonus – I’ve now got a wee nest egg for rental related emergencies. I’ll need to price out a new roof and water heater to set a baseline for that emergency fund. Around $12,000 would be a good number and that’s going to many months of rent before we have it.

Spending

Our normal spending includes the living expenses for two households so this update ignores those ordinary living expenses. When buying anything online, I always check Mr. Rebates and Ebates for cashback.

***   ***   ***

Half of Christmas shopping done!

Stacking bonuses FTW! Take a $50 off $100 purchase GapCash, add $50 in discounted gift cards, plus a summer sale. Result: I paid $60 for a full stash of Christmas gifts for all four kids. An average of $15 per kid, and 1-2 outfits per kid, is pretty good when bought new. That’s more than I’d pay for JuggerBaby who lives almost entirely in hand me downs but I don’t feel right giving out cheapish used clothing as a Christmas gift for some reason.

Earnest deposit deposited

Once your offer is accepted, it’s time to bid bye-bye to your money. Time to write a check with five figures, bye-bye 3% earnest deposit. Yay….

Down payment prep

I’ve held a lot more money in cash than seemed rational over the past few years. Though there was no concrete reason to suspect we’d need to access it quickly, my instinct told me to hang onto it even after firmly resolving that it was being moved into stocks last year. Originally I chalked it up to election jitters but now I see it was a good call, gut.

It’s time to break the piggy bank which is just as painful electronically as it was when I had to pull the plug on my real porcelain piggy bank. Breaking CDs, transferring funds, and preparing to send a truckload of money via wire transfer – that all leaves me on edge.

Saving and investing

We max out a 401(k) and IRA every year and save 20% of cash of our net salaries.

***   ***   ***

Fundrise!

Now that we’re committed to a contract, I REALLY can’t spend our money on investments, but I’m still doing my research. I’m really hoping that my preferred fund options at Fundrise stay open until we have cash again. My original plan was to add a rental property to our holdings every two years but the deals haven’t been good enough to justify buying. This is a good alternate for the real estate side of our portfolio.

Balancing the portfolio

I’ve finally organized my current stock portfolio by the type of industry so that it’s going to be more balanced. Who knew that I owned too many companies of the “Cyclical Consumer Goods & Services” variety? I tend to go with buying what I know and love as a consumer, that’s why that happened.

Going forward, I may be adding a favorite airline or some energy stocks. What companies do you love?

Adios, TradeKing, hello, Ally

My portfolio at TradeKing was transferred to Ally this month and I’m rather enjoying having it in the same place as our long term savings.  The transition was seamless for me, so I’m feeling charitable about the changes so far and they should still have cheap trades, but we’ll see how I like it goin forward. I do wish this meant that I could transfer money in and out instantly like any other Ally between-accounts transfer.

Links from this month

On Health

My steps this month: 106,276, 48 miles

All hail Alka-Seltzer Plus Severe Cough, Mucus and Congestion!

I normally take all generic medications but the tail end of April left me with the worst sore throat, congestion, and hacking cough. And me with my humidifier packed away out of reach. Nothing was helping, until Crystal showed up and picked out this packet of savior pills. Within half a day I was starting to feel human again, and in two days, I was 80% back to normal. Just magical. I’ll be looking for these on sale ASAP.

On Life

Stress monster rampages

All the house stuff is making me a bit batty. So much paperwork, so much back and forth with the lender, so much time. It only gets worse from here so I’m taking so many deep yoga breaths before I spontaneously combust.

Mother’s Day

It wasn’t terrible this year. At least I didn’t feel terrible and grief stricken and empty like I have every year before. I’m still not up to spending it in the company of people who still have their moms, but alone (with my little family) was good.

PiC ran out extra early to get me my two favorite donuts and an adorable tiny potted plant which hasn’t died yet. After I slept in a little, we had a doggy play date during which we walked way too much and I was exhausted afterward. But it was satisfying in that small warm way when you do just the things that make you happy and nothing else.

Sugar high

As a general rule, I don’t buy pastry treats for myself anymore. Not because I’m a virtuous eater, though. Quite the opposite. I don’t buy them because once I start, I can’t stop. The bakery across the street is so good it had me craving their pastries like an actual addict, plotting how to get my next fix and hiding the evidence so PiC and JuggerBaby wouldn’t know I’d been indulging. That’s a totally unnecessary deception, except it avoids having to share so it was time to cut back. I hate to admit I’ve got a problem but this was A Problem.

As a special treat after a particularly hard day of house stuff, PiC picked up a small box of goodies for me, not thinking about the double batch of brownies I’d made three days earlier. This was also right before Mother’s Day so we had sugary treats coming out of our ears for a couple of weeks. I’m still detoxing.

The world is disappointing

Or should I say our government representatives are disappointing? Because that’s what I mean. I wonder how anyone, and especially small business PF bloggers, without a massive safety net will manage if this AHCA bill becomes law – what I’ve read of it manages to put anyone with a preexisting condition at risk of losing access to health care one way or another.

The CBO report confirmed the worries that this is going to put many of my chronic illness entrepreneur friends in a horrible position where none of their medications that they need to live are affordable. Heck, some of the provisions may adversely affect those of us who have employer insurance. I shudder to think we couldn’t, as a nation, go five minutes of helping the vulnerable among us before ripping that support away.

:: How was your May? Do you plan or purchase any Christmas gifts throughout the year?

Read past monthly updates here!

May 4, 2017

Net Worth & Life Report: April 2017

Money and Life Report: April 2017

On Money

Income

Our normal income comes from two full time day jobs.

We experiment with earning money on the side, including minimal cash flow that we don’t touch from an investment property and investing in dividend stocks. Some of our side income comes from Swagbucks, selling clothes on Poshmark which is hit or miss, and Achievemint (my introduction to it). Any purchases you make going through my Amazon links keep these blog lights on.

The goal is to replace our day job income before my health declines prevents me from working.

***

I conserve cash for savings by earning money for gift cards to the stores we frequent: Amazon, Target, PetSmart, or buying discounted gift cards to make each dollar go further. Every spending dollar that I earn or buy at a discount means one more dollar of our day job income is saved and invested.

***

This month I kept a VERY close eye on our incoming cash flow, quickly diverting all irregular cash flow from our FSA reimbursements and any gift money into a savings account. This is a little bit of a psychological thing, and an accounting assist, so that I can easily identify income that’s normally earmarked for spending. I keep the usual cash separate from the irregular income which is tucked away to be used when unusual expenses crop up. We know they’re coming, in the form of a down payment and closing costs at the very least, so I’m doing my best to pad our landing when we jump down into that rabbit hole.

Spending

Our normal spending includes the living expenses for two households so this update ignores those ordinary living expenses. When buying anything online, I always check Mr. Rebates and Ebates first for cashback.

Thanks to Dad’s major rent increase, we’ve had some serious conversations, one of which is the need for him to start taking on more of his own expenses because we will no longer have wiggle room in our budget to cover his rent and overdue utilities once the new home situation comes into effect.

One of those conversations led to the realization that my extended family still believes that a nice house means you’re doing well, that if you own a house, you’re well off. By old country standards, back in the day, that might have been true, but that just doesn’t work here and today. When I see a big house, I just see a huge pile of debt until the place is paid off. They see: must be wealthy, life must be cushy and smooth.

This major misconception is why I don’t share my financial information, history, or plans with them – there’s a strong sense of duty-obligation that runs through the community even today. If we seem to be relatively comfortable, the expectation that we would continually fund those who aren’t as well off, like keep enabling Dad no matter how much of our future is compromised, is strong. This system only works when the entire community helps and helps alike, but the imbalances are far too great the way it’s worked out now. We’re already the first port of call when someone needs help, but while I’m all for helping people who need a hand, I’m not willing to keep making the situation worse in the long term as has happened with my own family.

Meanwhile back at the farm, we’re tightening our belts and pulling together all our pennies in anticipation of a large down payment. We’re examining every spending choice rigorously and deciding how to make do without, or pay for it creatively. This also means I’m spending an unhealthy amount of time staring at our expenses spreadsheet! It makes me feel better. A little bit.

Saving and investing

We max out a 401(k) and IRA every year and save 20% of cash of our net salaries.

Our stock portfolio is with TradeKing – I’m a low maintenance investor so they suit me perfectly with low-cost trades. They’ve got two good offers right now: New accounts opened with a $500 minimum deposit get $500 in free trade commission and new accounts opened with a $5000 minimum deposit get $1000 in free trade commission!

Some savings accounts are untouchable, like our saved income from the rental. That money is being set aside because over the next several years, I’ll be paying for maintenance like paint, carpet, a water heater, and possibly a new roof. This also means that, like our net worth, when those expenses come down the pipeline, our savings will appear to drop like a rock off a cliff.

Finding savings where I can: I went through another semi-annoying process with cost comparing life insurance policies through a broker and found a comparable policy from Transamerica for less than $700, saving about $240 annually over my policy with Allstate. I did ask Allstate if they would price match but that was not an option. The process was a pain, and the broker’s agents when we got to the approval stage were aggravatingly naggy, but that’s over with for now.

Disability insurance is up next. This isn’t savings in the sense of keeping money in our pocket. Rather, it’s part of a well-rounded financial plan that takes into account that accidents happen. And some accidents can make it impossible for you to work anymore, whether in your chosen field or any other one. I’ve started the quote process with a company to see what they can provide, and if I like their work I’ll have them quote for PiC too. I’ll let you know what I think of them.

Our net worth: increased 2% from last month, and 9% from January.

Our investments went up this month, and we earned some minor dividends. We also received a couple unexpected cash infusions, and our tax returns, all of which were banked in anticipation of housing costs. Can you tell that I’m bracing really hard for home-impact? I am!

Moments

  • A contractor advised me not to go buy a brand new BMW as soon as an offer on a house is accepted lest we lose financing. People do that?! (I’m told yes. Good grief.)
  • A contractor suggested “You could wire the house with Nest, cameras on 3 sides, hook in your fire alarm to the same system, too.” Me: DOES NO ONE REMEMBER BSG?

Links from this month

On Health

Working out

My steps this month: 124,696, or 56.11 miles (at 2,222 steps per mile).

My resolve to aim for a higher monthly average slumped a bit this month thanks to attack of the virus. I was hit with several days of a sore throat, which has always presaged a massive cold or flu. I managed to exercise some brain cells and went to bed “early” each night instead of working the third shift past midnight. Darn if it didn’t work pretty well at keeping me from getting worse than a little congestion, minor cough, and a swollen throat for the first two weeks. Practically a walk in the park compared to my illness last year!

Of course, later, it landed on me like a ton of bricks but that’s a story for next month.

On Life

Oh Seamus. This poor guy just can’t catch a break. Thanks to Linda‘s suggestion, we’ve swapped out his salmon oil for tinned sardines, and he seems to be doing pretty well on it. It’s been several weeks since his last serious breakout, he’s only had a minor episode since the sardines diet started and that resolved itself in a couple of days. But he scratched up his eye again, we have no idea how, and that required another two weeks of medications and veterinary visits. Sigh. This month we’ve racked up $410 in vet bills, less than my previous recollection of $530, but still annihilating the savings I just found with a cheaper life insurance policy. And he’s due back in May for another routine check.

I’m also contemplating putting him on a raw diet to see if that gets him all the way home on the allergy front. It’s never been an option because we have very little space and cost is a concern, neither of which has necessarily changed, but I’m still pondering how it might be possible and how we might experiment with it. I already do nearly all of our logistical household planning and adding one more special diet might be what tips my system into chaos.

On the home (hunting) front. We’re talking to a lot of workpeople right now: general contractors, roofers, all the people we might need when the time comes, since it’s become clear that any house we can afford will require a lot of work. It’s both disheartening how much this work costs, especially since it’s not an option for me to do the work myself – imagine me with my knees that refuse to bed climbing on the roof to check a chimney!

We’re making progress but it sure feels like I can’t breath freely for a while. Of course that means I should be doing much more deep yoga breathing and not less.

:: How was your April? How long did you save for a down payment if you chose to buy a home? Am I the only one who guards against hackers and Cylons by refusing to upgrade to the highest of tech?

Read past monthly updates here!

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich.*

April 10, 2017

Net Worth & Life Report: March 2017

Money and Life Report: March 2017

On Money

Income

Our normal income is two full time day job salaries. We experiment with earning money on the side, including minimal cash flow that we don’t touch from an investment property. The goal is to replace our day job income before my health gives out and prevents me from working. Any purchases you make going through my Amazon links keep these blog lights on.

As a general rule, I don’t factor bonuses into our budget or projected income because they’re not guaranteed, but if we get any, they land in March. PiC’s company is more forthcoming with the compensation than mine is, so his is many times larger than mine. That would make me extra grumpy with a side of spicy if I thought about it too long. Remember, there are also very important non-monetary reasons to choose jobs!

We direct most of the bonus into the 401(k) so that’s filled up with a large deposit really early in the year. We won’t keep much cash but it gives us a tiny increase in take-home pay since the amount remaining needed to invest is vastly reduced.

Philosophically, when paychecks hit our checking accounts and fill them up nice and plump, and I breathe a sigh of relief, I know our spending is out of whack. Which I already knew. This is going to be an expensive year and that’s causing quite a bit of stress.

Swagbucks: I use this daily and my big earners tend to be surveys.

Poshmark: This is a passive earner. This month, 2 items sold for a total of $4.10. Selling small things gets problematic because of the cost of shipping. You don’t get much out of the sale and they’re paying a whole lot for a small item.

Achievemint: March: earned 331 points.

Blog income: I will occasionally accept a paid post. This defrays the costs of running the site: hosting, domain name, and FinCon any year I decide to go and learn something new. This tab comes to about $2000 a year, give or take, and has been coming out of pocket most years. That figure doesn’t begin to touch on the time it takes for me to run the blog of course. They’re posted under Nom de plume, and categorized under “side money”, and definitely don’t replace my usual writing. These are all ways to keep them from being annoying and I hope they stay not-annoying.

Spending

Our normal spending includes the living expenses for two households so this update ignores those ordinary living expenses. When buying anything online, I always check Mr.Rebates and Ebates for cashback.

My January dental chickens finally came home to roost. As usual, the amount the dentist billed was well over the allowed contractual amount, so after I had the Delta Dental claim in hand, I compared that to my statement from the dentist. A 2 minute phone call took the extra $110 off that bill. I wonder how many people don’t realize this happens, and keep paying over and above their contracted amount?

Meanwhile, I’m eyeballing over $4000 in expenses racked up on PiC’s Chase Sapphire Reserve with a frown. That’s not due until April – thanks card float!  Nearly $3000 of that was one enormous expected expense – our property tax. I decided that the $61 fee to charge it on a card was worth it. We were spending that $2900 anyway, and this gets us 75% of the way to qualifying for that huge spending bonus. The math works out.

We’ve “splurged” on Global Entry for all three of us. The splurge is on JuggerBaby who can’t come through on one of our Global Entry passes, ze has to have zir own. That’s at least a little absurd but our two applications were free ($200) so the other $100 for zir to come along made more sense than not. We’re not going to travel internationally without zir, so there’s no point in having, but not being able to use, the timesaver.

It should please me, but it does not, that my $145 in survey money was exactly to the penny the cost of our monthly Subscribe & Save delivery. I was going to give myself $10 in new book money! Instead, we are awash in diapers for JuggerBaby, and pill pockets, healing cream, and dog food for Seamus. FINE.

#GivingCards and Charitable Giving

I don’t believe in tooting our horn for every donation we make. The point of giving isn’t to brag, it’s to help someone in need. The exception is when the cause is sound and could use help. I’m delighted to be taking part in the Rockstar Forums’ giving project where they send out a $20 gift card each month to forum participants who sign up.

My February card arrived late in the month, so I didn’t get to decide what to do with it until March. There was a theme to last month’s #GivingCard, but I overlooked that in my zeal to donate to meals for disaster relief. Plus there were the #1GoodMoneyThing babies. I don’t really have coworkers that it would be appropriate to give a card like this to, but there’s an awesome young teacher at the daycare who works really hard at taking care of the kids and making up engaging age-appropriate activities, all paid for out of her own pocket.

We really admire how patient she is with the kids even amid total chaos, and how much she puts of herself into her work, and felt she was the perfect candidate for a surprise thank you and good job card. She was so surprised, I don’t think she tends to get just a candid “thanks for all you do” during her daily work.

Saving and investing

We max out a 401(k) and IRA every year and save 20% of cash of our net salaries. I cherish our savings rate right now because it’s going to go away as soon as we find a place. :silent sobs:

Our stock portfolio is with TradeKing – I’m a low maintenance investor so they suit me perfectly with low-cost trades. They’ve got two good offers right now: New accounts opened with a $500 minimum deposit get $500 in free trade commission and new accounts opened with a $5000 minimum deposit get $1000 in free trade commission!

Our net worth: increased 2% from last month, and 6% from January.

Links from this month

On Health

Working out

March (127,274 steps): about 57.28 miles.

In addition to trying to aim for a higher steps average this month, despite another cold, I’ve been adding short jogs to our afternoon walks. Not every day, but at least 2-3 days a week, to get my heart rate up.

On Life

Sleepover!

I was never ever allowed to sleep away at friends’ homes growing up, and while that seemed like it’d be a scarring and traumatic abstention from normal teenage life, I came through it with a fairly pragmatic acceptance of the reasons behind it. What stayed with me, though, was the sense of fun of having guests stay overnight with us – we could eat whatever we wanted (that we cooked), stay up as late as we liked (or til we nodded off), and the fun would still be there in the morning. We had three sleepovers this month – old friends all, with and without kids of varying ages! While it was more work, it was so much fun. We balance being frugal and doing takeaway because my energy to cook is inversely proportionate to the number of people I spend time with, and so many tasty treats make their way home from the local bakery because what kind of hosts would we be if we didn’t share our local delicacies? (Confession: it’s also because I have an addiction and I’m not sorry.)

JuggerBaby adores the company of visiting adults and kids alike, and incorporates the names of recent guests in zir good night songs for days afterward. It stretches the fun out that much longer.

Ze gets to bunk with us when guests sleep over, and ze takes a proprietary interest in the lucky people who use zir room. It’s good for zir to learn about sharing space, and being a touch less possessive, though it’s hard on us hearing “MAMA. DADA. MAMA. DADA. HI!” at 6 am sharp.

I may or may not exile zir to my office once we have enough room for me to have an office.

On getting sick and common sense

With several weekends of hosting family on the board, I Definitely Absolutely Totally could not afford to catch JuggerBaby’s cold. If you’ve been following along for more than two months, you’ll know how this story goes.

Of course I caught JuggerBaby’s cold.

Not wanting to welcome guests into the House of Plague, when it was clear the germ bullet hit me right in the throat, I gave up and took a few days off. “Off,” as in, I only worked for an hour or two a day, and laid down and did nothing useful the rest of the time. Putting on a pot of soup to simmer all day doesn’t count.

That’s right. I legitimately rested. The last time I actually had more than 3 hours of solid rest where I wasn’t actually just working laying down, or fretting, or taking care of the household was in the Great Flu of 1997. I remember because I lost 10 pounds and I wasn’t aware it was possible to lose that much weight and not disappear into the ether.

And I’m almost positive that even though the symptoms didn’t subside for several more days, that initial rest right at the onset made all the difference in how severe they didn’t get. Now, do you suppose someone could remind me of this the next time I play host body to the plague? It would really help!

Booking travel

This rightly belongs in spending but it’s also a big life thing – we booked an international trip for family reasons (so, not vacation). This trip is for just over a week and it’s a big deal for us, especially with JuggerBaby being at an ALL SQUIRREL stage of life. Hence, Global Entry. I estimated that this trip would cost us $4,000.

So far, the total is coming right up to $3,000 for all booked expenses, which is offset by $600 in Chase Sapphire Reserve travel credits. Because it’s a family visit, and an odd one at that, we won’t have much in the way of incidental costs, so that’s a minor relief. If we manage this under $3,000, you’re going to hear me hootin’ and hollerin’. If we survive flying with JuggerBaby, you will also hear that hootin’ and hollerin’ but it’ll likely be a lot more quietly.

Of course you’ll hear all about the preparation and the trip itself when the time comes.

On the home (hunting) front

We’ve submitted an offer, with a pretty awesome letter, that was promptly rejected because a much higher bid was accepted instead. I’m not too surprised, nor too disappointed, because I was comfortable with the size of our offer given the expected extensive repairs. We’re willing, and eager even, to do our own renovations since the taste of the homeowners in this region has proven to trend toward non-functional and horrifying ugly. Who renovates a kitchen and refuses to put in an oven??  ANYWAY.

Naturally I saved the copy of my awesome letter to be tweaked for the next eleventeen offers we’ll likely have to make before we land our fish home.

An interesting exercise: remember the worst flu you ever had. Imagine that’s how you feel every day, and choose your home based on that level of energy and need for accessibility. That’s one of the major requirements guiding our search – it must be accessible so we can age in place.

:: How was your March? What’s your dream home? Did you dodge this round of colds and flus?

Read past monthly updates here!

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich.*

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