April 12, 2017

Swagbucks: Spring Discover

To celebrate Spring springing, Swagbucks is offering increased SB on Discover offers. They’ve got over 100 Deals, good through April 16th.

We already did the Puzzle Buzz offer: Get 2 Free highlights Activity & Coloring Books + Stickers and earn 750 SB

The puzzles are a little above JB’s ability right now, but the stickers aren’t! Ze has been loving them.

Take a look, they may have a great deal on something you were already planning to buy.

As a special bonus, if you sign up through my links this month and earn 300 SB before May 1st, you’ll get a bonus $3 (300 SB) added to your account at the beginning of next month.

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

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.*

April 7, 2017

Finally Friday: easy balsamic-honey chicken recipe

I’ve been crap at putting recipes down these days, life has been keeping me running and adding another post in the week is oddly much more difficult that I expected.

This is a quick one that I threw together.

Ingredients

Small head of broccoli
Half a pound of green beans
3 chicken thighs, bone-in

Glaze
Half a cup of blush wine dressing
1 tablespoon of honey
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

Directions

Saute the cut up green beans and broccoli on medium heat for about five minutes in the dutch oven. Remove the vegetables, then saute the chicken in a little oil on medium heat until cooked nearly through. Remove the chicken, and cook the glaze ingredients for a few minutes until it reduces to a thicker sauce. Place the chicken back in the glaze for few minutes, on low heat, and cook through. Add the vegetables back to the pot, and toss to coat with the glaze.

Serve with rice of your choice – we went with brown.

Afterthoughts

I made few mistakes with this one – I put the vegetables back in the pot with the chicken at the same time, not thinking about the time it would take to cook the chicken through, so they were softer than I liked. Of course, it then turned out that JuggerBaby likes zir vegetables unadulterated by such plebian things as sauces so they were roundly rejected.

Also, three small bone-in thighs just aren’t enough for our family, even supplemented with a huge pile of vegetables and brown rice, so next time I’d double the chicken but this makes plenty of sauce to go around even if I do that.

How to Make Money before Going to College

College is an unforgettable time in any young person’s life, and while you leave with a qualification and clarity on your career, you are also likely to leave with a hefty student loan that you need to pay off. Knowing that you are going to take on such a large debt before you even start working can be daunting, but it also gives you ample time to save as much money as possible to cover your costs. Here’s how to get money before you go to college so that you don’t graduate with tons of debt.

Become a Tutor

If you are considering college, then chances are you are doing well enough academically to teach and tutor younger students. Running after-hours classes at your school library or even your house is a great way to make extra money, plus it is an impressive addition to your college application form. If you aren’t sure how to get started, then look for a tutoring service in your area, and apply to become a part of their tutoring team.  All that practice might even help you with your SATs.

Invest Early

Most children receive an allowance or money as birthday or holiday gifts. The standard response is to rush out and buy that toy or spend it on a new outfit. But investing any amount of money over a long enough timeframe will reap rewards.

If you start saving in your freshman year, you can earn significant returns that can help cover basic costs or can be reinvested to earn compound interest. Even though this calls for you to have money to invest in the first place, it is a smart way to grow your wealth before going to college.

Hold a College Clear Out Sale

Going to college represents a significant milestone as children move on to become adults. This means that it’s time to leave the comforts and clutter of home behind, and start fresh.

Leaving high school is the ideal time to clear out your bedroom and sell all the stuff that you don’t need anymore. From sports equipment and textbooks to old clothes and collectibles, holding a garage sale is a great way to clear out and make some much-needed money.

Skip Spring Break

You will need to make sacrifices to make money before you go to college, and one ritual that you can skip if you’re looking to save is spring break.

While this rite of passage may be tempting, it is also very expensive. Travel, food, and accommodation add up. If you’re serious about saving and making money for college, skip this party and use the break to earn money doing any jobs that you can. There will be plenty of parties in college and it’s best not to not have money when they come around.

Ask for Help

A lot of high school children ask their parents for new phones, cars, or lavish birthday parties. The easiest way to make money before you go to college is to ask for it. Set up an account when you’re in high school and encourage your family to make deposits for your birthday, or over the holidays.  You will be surprised at people’s generosity, and if you start early this little investment could go a long way when you finally need it.

Do What It Takes

Whether you take work on Fiverr, work at your parents’ shop or sell artwork on the corner, the essential point is that being committed to making money before college will pay off. Play to your strengths and push people to help you – they will respond because you’re helping yourself.

April 6, 2017

Just a little (link) love: squeaky squeaky edition

LinkLove

CAREER + MONEY THINGS

All the unsettled business in life right now has me feeling Cait’s feelings.

Derek’s dishwasher analogy is particularly poignant in light of our househunting. And he’s right, of course. I once faced that 3 day pile of dishes and I nearly cried.  🙂

The housing crisis in New Zealand is causing a direct threat to the health of children growing up in overcrowded conditions.

Tonya on brutal self honesty

Maggie at Northern Expenditure is working on an awesome research project, help her out by taking her survey!

HAPPY THINGS

Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix … brought about the general adoption of the lean, modern look.

THINKING THINGS

Did you ever wonder why dental care is separate from medical care? I sure did.

Dependence on crowdfunding: the sad reality of health care today. And this may have shifted drastically by the time this link love is shared, we just don’t know.

…When I told my father’s friend that I could be happy now, all of that was thrust into the light. If I could be happy at a size 26, then anyone’s happiness might be more complex than the size of their clothing…

This birth experience told by the non-birth mother in a same sex partnership is horrifying. How awful to constantly have to justify your presence at such a critical time.

Squeaky, squeaky

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

Site design by 801red