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.*

May 1, 2017

Reaping Dividends: April 2017 report

Reaping Dividends: April 2017

My brokerage is TradeKing, I’ve been very happy with their low fees and service. They’re offering a promotion through my referral link 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.

  • Given my apathy towards the trajectory of my full time job (flattish for now) and the trajectory of my salary (also flattish), I’ve decided to carry on with investing in dividend stocks. It’ll be useful for early income replacement if I were to voluntarily retire, but also in case my health drops precipitously. There’s no guarantee I’ll stay healthy enough to work for as long as I want to work.
  • The $15,000 that I was holding finally went into two more stocks in January – both have already paid out their dividends as well.

Year to Date Dividends: $518.20, Fees: $9.90, Net: $508.20

Income Replacement

For perspective, I like to think of the dividends investing project in terms of how much of our income it can replace, or how much of our fixed expenses it can cover.

At a whopping $508.30, this year’s dividends can pay 50% of one mortgage payment. Over the past 6 years, I’ve made a total of $1,940.80. It’s all been reinvested, I haven’t taken any dividends out of the portfolio and won’t for some years yet.

Income projection. If nothing changes, we’ll see about $1500 in dividend income this year.

:: How did your portfolio do this quarter? Would you try to replace income this way, or do you have another preference?

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.

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.*

March 29, 2017

The fun we had: Winter 2017

What fun we had in Winter 2017

The past three months haven’t been exactly rife with fun and jollity, between spending January in and out of court, February dealing with meetings and paperwork, and March, well, March has been more paperwork. But we still had a few bits of downtime. More and more, I see the importance of having some fun to balance out all the work, not just collapsing when I run out of steam and calling it a day.

My prescription for a more fulfilled life: more belly rubs for Seamus, more ticklewars with JuggerBaby, more reading time, more relaxing with PiC. This is some of it.

What I watched

City in the Sky: Airbus 380

Everything I didn’t necessarily want to know about airports and the building of the Airbus. Flying was a bit of a mystery to me, and not having had anxiety about the mechanics about it, I was satisfied to leave it that way for the nonce.

But we couldn’t get PBS to cough up any of the Masterpiece shows we wanted to see, not without paying a premium, and so PiC got to pick his free show instead.

It was actually a good documentary. I just didn’t necessarily want to know that a single misplaced rivet could mean a plane is torn apart mid-flight. I wasn’t worried but NOW I am!

Happy Feet

I was expecting something cute with penguins. But it also felt vaguely racist and we both came away from it with these faces: -__-

Babe

That’ll do, pig.” Now, Babe, that’s a movie that’s really held up over the years. I’ve been quoting it for as long as I can remember.

What I Read

Guards! Guards!

I’ve been in a mood for Pratchett more and more, lately. I need the humor to break off the spiral of negativity that suffuses our days with the political atmosphere and not being sure how it’ll affect my career in the next few years.

Ms. Marvel

I’ll read anything G. Willow Wilson writes and this is absolutely no exception. Her version of Ms. Marvel, a Muslim Pakistani girl named Kamala Khan, is wonderful and I can relate to her version of the 1st generation immigrant’s kid’s experience, even though I’m neither Muslim nor Pakistani. The parental concerns, the preservation of culture worries, they’re the same. And a kid taking on way too much, that’s a familiar story too. The difference is that Kamala is occasionally smart enough to ask for help, I wasn’t.

The View from the Cheap Seats

I’d been saving this book for a special read, and managed to bury it under the pile of packing things. Luckily, I uncovered it when most of the book shelf was packed away and have been curling up with it for a little while each night.

They’re a collection of Neil Gaiman’s speeches and talks and forewords, random things he’s shared over the years that weren’t published in books or comics or made into film. It’s nice to read them and catch glimpses of his thoughts in the past.

What I ate 

I’ve had a vague hankering to try my hand at making St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage dinner for ages. This was the first year I actually made it a point to do recipe research more than a week ahead, and pick up the ingredients on the actual week of. We haven’t a drop of Irish in either of us, but I just like trying new-to-us traditional foods. 

Since I was more confused after the recipe research than is usual for that stage of cooking, I hied me to the local (fancy) butcher to get meat that was definitely going to be good and they sent me home with a fine corned beef, a bag of spices they premixed, and instructions on how to prepare it. 

Verdict: Wow but I underestimated the level of saltiness we’d be facing! But it now makes sense why all the sides are plain and boiled. PiC enjoyed it, JuggerBaby was indifferent. Ze tried everything with a bit of a shrug and neither loved nor hated it. Ze was also singularly unimpressed by the fantastic tiny red potatoes I’d splurged on. Some days it makes me wonder why I try. 

Oh, because it’s entertaining, that’s why! It was a fun experiment and we’ll probably do it again.

What was your entertainment of choice this quarter? What should we put in our queue for movie night?

March 6, 2017

Net Worth & Life Report: February 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.

Achievemint: I signed up on January 18th (sign up here and get a 250 point bonus!) but the app pulled data from Apple Health and retroactively rewarded me for activity done before I signed up for my account. Whee!! So I got credit for part of December and the full month of January. PiC pointed out a weird thing: he earned 7 points for running 6 miles. I earned 6 points for walking 2900 steps.

My guess was the app learns what your norm is and sets that as the baseline so that it’s not giving someone who usually runs 5-10 miles a week a vast number of points while giving people like me a quarter of a point per month. But it turns out these differentials were pulling from different apps so I am totally confused.

December: walked 47362 steps, earned 123 points.
January: walked 98,480 steps, earned 256 points.
February: walked 112,705 steps, earned 293 points.

Swagbucks: I use this daily and used to rack up near 100 points a day but earning has slowed down. My favorite hands-off earning method, NCrave, has turned into a hands-on activity, forcing you to keep your mouse on the page in order for the countdown to continue. Boo! My big earners now are surveys.

Poshmark: Sales remain slow so this stays on the backburner. It’s active, but I don’t spend a ton of time on it. 4 items sold for a total of $22.50.

Dividend income: Our stock portfolio has paid $168 to date. Such baby beans! A disappointing first quarter, I’ll tell you what.

Spending

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

Personal spending: $106. We FINALLY submitted JuggerBaby’s passport application. We might travel internationally this year, and I hope that that’s all we need it for.

Projected spending: Our loan was pre-approved for the vasty sum of $800k, quadrupling our monthly mortgage commitment. Eeep!!! I have a plan to cut that in half after we sell our primary residence, but it’s still ugly.

Saving and investing

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

We’re going to have to cut waaaayyyy back on our saving rate when the new place comes into play. Do Not Like!

#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 January card arrived the day after tornados pummeled New Orleans. The Louisiana area keeps getting pounded with horrible destructive weather, hurting and killing people, destroying homes and generally making a wreck of the place. While I thought I had this earmarked for something else, my heart said that there’s no better way to spend this $20 than to provide 60 hot meals for the people of New Orleans. Better yet, we were able to get a match on the donation so our $20 #GivingCard + $20 #1GoodMoneyThing made a $40 baby, and therefore 120 hot meals!

My February card just arrived so I haven’t decided yet where it should go, but I have a couple thoughts.

Net worth: weird

Our net worth is up 10.1% since last month but this is just a snapshot of the moment.

We’re going to have a lot of ups and downs over the next several months. We’ve got a temporary loan for the down payment which will be repaid when all the dust settles. That has artificially inflated our cash account, and then you’ll see all of that and more disappear when we make an offer that’s accepted. I was going to skip this section entirely but then decided that if I’m going on this roller coaster, you’re coming with me. The more the merrier!

Total assets and asset allocation in March 2017

Links from this month

On Health

Working out: My average activity level was higher this month which was easier to figure out now that I have the Achievemint app pulling data out of the Health app. Yay apps! I wish I could just download directly out of the Health app but this works too. Assuming that 10000 steps is about 4.5 miles, since my stride is at best medium length, I’d say I’m at 2,222 steps per mile.

January (98,480 steps): about 44 miles.

Not only have I been not sick for at least several days consecutively, Seamus and I took advantage of a rare clear bright and sunny day to go for a jog. That was pretty awesome.

February (112,705 steps): about 50.72 miles.

On Life

Date night!: We paid a sitter to watch JuggerBaby for the first time ($75!) because a friend was having a Major Birthday. It was fun to see all the adult friends without kids clamoring for our attention, but I’m not in a hurry to a large gathering like that again for another … oh, a year at least.

I very much preferred what I think of as our actual first date night. After getting a fractious JB settled in bed for the night, we hung out tucked up under a cozy comforter, reading our little social media feeds. Then I found Babe, and nudged PiC into looking at the cute puppies with me. We ended up watching the whole movie together. When’s the last time we saw a whole movie, together? It was a splurge, as far as the time spent late into the night, and getting up the next morning was painful but it was cozy and enjoyable.

On maybe not common sense, and phone maintenance: PiC’s been jogging along with his low key iPhone, getting increasingly frustrated with the loss of functionality as it got harder and harder for his charger to make a connection. He kept jamming it in there and making it work but I suspected we were going to face another phone purchase well before plan.
Usually I’m the family IT and tech troubleshooter but I just had no time to give it more than annoyed thoughts at the end of the day. Then things became dire when the memory filled up but I couldn’t do a massive clear off like usual, my desktop just wouldn’t recognize his phone.

He finally sat down with it, all set to be MacGyver, and felt like a right fool when it turned out the plug couldn’t connect because it was physically blocked by a gob of fluff, dust, and fur!

His phone hacked up a furball and they’ve been getting on swimmingly since. Free and easy – just the way I like all my tech solutions.

:: How was your February?

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich and Super Saving Tips*

This website and its content are copyright of A Gai Shan Life  | © A Gai Shan Life 2017. All rights reserved.

Site design by 801red