June 5, 2017

Swagbucks: Father’s Day

I’m afraid my relationship with my own father is too contentious for me to want to do anything special with him, but for PiC, the super Dad, I will want to do a little something special.

Swagbucks is currently offering double cash back or more at a number of stores for Father’s Day, starting now through Father’s Day on Sunday, June 18th.

As a bonus, if you sign up through me a spend at least $25 shopping online through Swagbucks, you’ll get a 200 SB bonus.

Here’s a handy tutorial if you’d like to join Swagbucks and earn. I track my earnings here.

June 1, 2017

Just a little (link) love: hedgehog boat edition


Sometimes, I give really good advice about negotiating!

A commencement speech you didn’t know we needed with a bonus song

But “graduating into a terrible world” is a wonderfuller speech

Three ways to make decisions when you’re not sure about them.

This version of separate bank accounts is a horrifying way to conduct family money

How did Houston lose track of $39M?? And Houston isn’t the only city that’s got these problems, either.

Chinese Rights Activists are jailed in secret

Amazing profile of Missy Elliott

How Houston has become the most diverse place in America

This is a gross thing that Orb is doing and I’d have a hat, sunglasses, and other disguisey things for all of us pronto:

“These cameras are used to track and identify the behaviours of everyone who walks by — you’ll find no signs up to explain this. Children are also included in their profiling, which I discovered based on a conversation I’ve had with Orb on the phone…. Ultimately, Orb are already profiling hundreds of thousands of Dubliners ever month, in great detail, without our permission, and then they selling this data to advertisers.”

Hedgehog boat

Swagbucks: June sign-up bonus

This month, if you sign up using my link and earn 300 total SB before 7/1/17, you get a 300 SB bonus.

If you spend at least $25 in Shop and receive your shop credit before 8/1/2017, you get an additional 200 SB bonus. That deadline means it’s better if you shop early in the month than later since some credits take a few weeks to credit.

Usually I point you to Mr. Rebates or Ebates for good cashback, and it’s always worth checking them first in case they have double or more cashbank. With the extra bonuses, this might net you more money back.

Here’s a handy tutorial if you’d like to join Swagbucks and earn. I track my earnings here.

May 31, 2017

Travel with toddler: going international! (Part 2)

Know what happened? We survived our trip!

It was a weird trip for me, not having prebooked every single item with my own hands, but that’s how some of these trips go. It’s been a while but I made myself just go with the flow as much as I could, and work on self preservation instead.

The flight there

It wasn’t as bad as it could have been. It definitely could have gone better. We enjoyed a relatively easy boarding, except for that rush to get a tag for our stroller that we had to gate-check, but ze was pretty happy to run down the plane aisles to our seat and get buckled in like a pro flyer.

It was a very long haul from there. Food was fun, airplane food trays are great, and so is knocking liquids off my tray like a grouchy cat. We did lots of stickers on windows and climbing over Mt Parents, and cleaning up spills.

JuggerBaby only had a few mini, thankfully brief, meltdowns. Ze hates being touched or cuddled when trying to settle down for sleep, though, preferring to fling zir arms wide open and flop like a half stunned fish out of water, singing like an alley cat for about 20 minutes before passing out cold. Good luck doing that on a plane seat!

We offered laps to lay on but Angry Cat was Angry. We spent 5 of the 8 “sleep” hours with PiC providing a bookend on the aisle seat and me being a human barrier on the edges of all three seats so ze could sort of flop safely in the remaining trough of the seats. Pretty awful, pretty much. I didn’t get a wink and ze maybe got four hours of naps pieced together.

The flight back

Peaches and cream, how I craved sleep on this trip! We kept waking up at 2 am, 4 am, 5 am.

You know what’s great? Baby safe melatonin! JuggerBaby had a bad cough while we were gone, and one of the things we discovered was that Zarbee’s also makes a nighttime version of their cough syrup. I timed it poorly, giving it to zir half an hour before the food was served so ze conked out without eating dinner. Whoops. That bought us a solid blissful six hours of non-wrangling time.

What we packed

Everything in ziplock bags as a cheap alternative to buying packing cubes. I can squash a lot of clothes in my pseudo cubes and they’re reused endlessly.


2 hard containers that are the perfect size to hand off to JuggerBaby to clutch, and refillable with the magic that is raisins. We’re not insane, we go nowhere without a pound of raisins. Everything else goes in disposable ziplock bags.


JuggerBaby still licks everything and thinks cleaning up / packing / unpacking is awesome fun. Therefore everything we pack is geared around that.

We avoid small bite size things that ze will just eat: paper clips, erasers, bottle caps. Instead I packed three ziplock bags o’ fun.

Bag 1: a deck of cards, a bag of hair bows, crayons and paper, watercolor play pad.
Bag 2: legos, 3 colorful strings of beads, 5 sheets of bubble wrap rolled into a zipper pouch, disposable stickers hoarded from every illicitly-baby free trip to Trader Joe’s.
Bag 3: reusable stickers, window clings, a notepad and pen.

We rotate bags: one is checked for the ride home, one per parental carry on.

Make use of your surroundings

Never underestimate the wonders of the seat back reading material. At 13-15 months, they were weapons to be brandished dangerously, or flapped to make floppy fan noises to the pure delight of a giggler. At 2 years plus, they’re great for spontaneous “what do you see” games. We went through a 22 page transit magazine in another language twice, spotting pictures. Still no idea what the magazine was about, but that was 20 solid minutes and now I know JuggerBaby has no idea what a pineapple actually looks like.


I missed his face excessively. I also missed our previous dogsitter excessively. It’s good to have a back up but as nice as these folks were, they’re just not the Original Best sitter. OB would send updates and pictures without reminders, and paid very close attention to his medical needs. She would even catch him licking when he was starting a flare up and take care of it before it got worse. She’s even bathed him and done his laundry when we’ve been on long trips.

The back up sitters fed him and medicated him, as far as I can tell, but his bedding was grubby, I had to keep reminding them to send me updates, it was just … not right.

:: What’s your favorite international destination? Would you go with or without family (chosen or blood)? 

May 30, 2017

On the home(buying) front: the commitment and numbers

Househunt2017: Under contract! We’re under contract!

We submitted what felt like our millionth (it wasn’t) offer. As usual, once that was in, I filed away all our emails on that address and moved on with life: checking any new MLS listings, checking our financials, taking the kids for a walk.

At 2 pm the next day, our realtor called. Our offer was accepted with no more than a minor change to the closing date! Holy crap.

I explored my feelings like I was checking for a hole in a tooth – is that regret? Panic? Buyer’s remorse? A little of everything? It’s still a bit unclear but it’s not excitement that’s for darn sure. That has a place later in the timeline when we actually get to move in but that’s months away. Many months. And many dollars.

We debated the new date – a change from Wednesday to Friday. Our agent doesn’t like closing on a Friday but it was also only a two day difference which would make a rent back a total pain in the pertuckus. I prefer fewer complications in an already thoroughly complex transaction, please. We agreed, and braced ourselves for the appraisal.

We’d taken the chance with the appraisal – we’d chosen not to take the contingency. No offers with any contingencies had even been considered even when our offer price was competitive. On this one, we accepted that if the property assessed at a lower value than our offer, we’d be both highly annoyed and have to pony up the extra cash because our lender would only cover 20% of the appraised value.

I did the calculations to confirm that we could bear that extra cost if we had to. It’s a good thing we did, too, because it did appraise lower than the sale price. Curses. It wasn’t by a heartbreaking amount, we had discussed the possibility and accepted it, and we had budgeted for it, but it still bothers me to think about it. You know what bothers me most? Having to input a lower value on the appraisal line than the total paid value when I adjust our monthly numbers! Nerd.

It’s not the house of our dreams

That doesn’t matter because that house doesn’t exist for anything less than $3M! Which means it might as well not exist at all. We have champagne tastes, sometimes.

We live in humdrum reality! What we get is a major fixer-upper that we can (hahaha …. have to) renovate to suit our needs, of modest size, in a quiet neighborhood. It’s near conveniences like groceries and banks, it’s a single story, with a smallish backyard where I can do some gardening and Seamus can do some serious sunbathing.

It also comes with fungal infestations, termites, appliances that haven’t worked since 1976, windows that haven’t opened since the Reagan administration, and bathtubs that have been leaking since Timberlake was a Mouseketeer. That’s just what we can see on visual inspection. I can’t wait to see what happens when we rip up carpets designed expressly for the psychedelic age.

What I’m getting at is that what we saved upfront on loan costs, we’re spending on repairs and then some. At least we’ll be living with things that we picked, but I could have lived with a strangers’ bad taste for a while to save money, y’know?

I’m already slowly losing my mind

Aside from the money part ….

Supplying 16 more rounds of paperwork to the lender, seriously, didn’t we already go through this at the beginning? Why are we going through all of the statements again?
Getting recommendations, vetting vendors, scheduling walk-throughs with the general contractor, with the architect, with the inspector, with the other contractor, taking time away from work but still getting all my work done on time.
Updating the Spreadsheet to End All Spreadsheets with our projected income, expenses, down payment, closing costs, estimated labor & materials costs;
Mapping out all expenditures against the calendar to see when we’ll run out of money, and set the upper limit for our remodeling budget!

PiC knows I want nothing to do with picking colors for tiles or handles for cabinets. I don’t care about appliance finishes so long as they work well, quietly, and don’t create extra work for me. He cares so he’s on that mission, as well as making all the phone calls because I hate talking to people during my workday.

I head up all the financials ferreting out every possible saving and promotion I can find for things we already have to do. There’s a new checking account bonus at Chase that we’ll snag, plus they’re running a promotion for $595 cash back if you set up automatic mortgage payments with them. I’ll have to keep the account open for 6 months, which is fine and worth the nearly $800 we’ll reap for going out of our way with a new account for half a year.

We discuss our decisions and process together, but mostly leave the other to their set of jobs. It’s a good sign that our partnership hasn’t frayed under the strain of another full time job demanding our attentions while still trying to do full justice to our day jobs and parenting.


I keep getting distracted! I’m supposed to be answering emails from the lender, and leaving our money the hell alone until we close.

Our dividends portfolio needs beefing up so I hop into researching the stocks that I wanted. It doesn’t help that TradeKing has become part of Ally. Every time I go to stare obsessively at our savings, I stare at our portfolio. But no: none of that cash can buy stocks, it’s already earmarked for renovations.

Then that reminds me I researched a new real estate investment: Fundrise. This was a really interesting prospect and we should put … oh. STOP, I can’t invest in an eREIT right now, renovations!

I need to book cheap travel for important family and friend life events for the year so obviously that means I should maximize the travel booking rewards by grabbing a new credit card for … oh. No, I can’t open a new credit card right now, we haven’t closed yet.

It’s not that I don’t have plenty to do, it’s that having the clock ticking down til escrow makes me feel like I’m in limbo and I hate limbo. I need to be doing things.

Except right now, doing money things is exactly what I can’t do because it’ll disturb the Escrow Equilibrium. I hate  being told I can’t do whatever I want with my money.


45 days until I can Gollum all over our money again. FINE.

What I am allowed to do is earn money and watch over our budget really carefully. We’re making decisions on what renovations to hire out ($$$) and what we can DIY (not that much for health and sanity reasons).

We’ll need every extra penny in case renovations go long, go over budget, or we need to carry our current mortgage a little longer than projected. PiC has had a nice streak of cash earning from his Craigslist sales, and I keep tucking every little (and big) bit away. Reimbursements from the FSA account, sales, blog income, it’s all being stashed.

That’s plenty to do along with keeping the day job ticking along.

:: How do you occupy yourself when you’re not allowed to mess with your money?

Disease Called Debt

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