Friday, January 19, 2018

I broke my slow cooker...

It was a Sunday morning, the family was already full from breakfast, and I had a skillet of homemade green chili enchilada sauce simmering on the stove, and a pressure cooker full of chicken breasts cooking on the counter.

I had an ambitious Sunday planned for myself. A double batch of Chicken Enchilada Soup for the freezer, cooked chicken for lunches for the week, and a goal to get it all done before church started.

We have "late" church this year. Since we are Latter Day Saints (AKA Mormons), we alternate church meeting times with other wards each year so no one gets stuck with a bad slot forever. Last year we had 9:00 a.m. church, so this year we have 1:00 p.m. church.

Since I won't have afternoon naps to meal prep and get things done, I need to make the most of my mornings.

I popped the chicken seal on the pressure cooker to vent the steam and turned off the heat on the skillet of the worlds best green chili enchilada sauce. 

I walked over to our wire rack to grab my 7 quart slow cooker when i dropped it on the floor, shattering the inside container...

It wasn't even on a high shelf...

After a few minutes spent sweeping and mourning the loss of my slow cooker, we hit amazon to brain storm how we were going to fix dinner, still make our soup (since I had all the ingredients prepped), and do it from an economical stand point since we hadn't planned to buy a slow cooker this month. We checked amazon and were reminded that my slow cooker about $32 on Amazon... but that wouldn't get to us today, even if we purchased it again.

We have a smaller electronic pressure cooker that we were gifted from my mom, and since acquiring that, I have been using my slow cooker less and less since the pressure cooker is faster and doesn't heat up our house as much as the slow cooker does. I used to just use it to cook my dried beans, but last year we expanded and have used it for several different dishes.

So, I knew I could get half the soup into the pressure cooker and use the "slow cooker" setting. I just wasn't sure how much soup would fit in the pot since it's not 7 quarts like my slow cooker.

Instead of doubling the recipe like I normally do, I made a single batch, which meant I had extra enchilada sauce and chicken... so after verifying hubs liked the sauce all on its own, I just mixed the two together. We had impromptu green chili chicken tacos for Sunday dinner and I got about 9 containers of chicken enchilada soup for the freezer.

 and it was a VERY tasty accident.

As for replacing the slow cooker, I think we are going to wait and see if we can just live without it. I've been able to use the pressure cooker for a lot more and one less appliance in the kitchen would be nice, so we are going to give it a whirl.

What we do know, is chicken green chili tacos are sooooo happening again.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Family droning!

For Christmas, Hubs was gifted his first ever drone... and it's a hobby that's not going away anytime soon. He now has a total of three, and we use them a few times a week, if not each night.

He even drones on his lunch breaks at work!

We scored a small mini drone for $10, picked up a quad copter for $25 at Aldi of all places... and got him a low quality video drone for $35...

At these price points if he crashes, it's not the end of the world and were able to find spare batteries and parts.

Hubs is actually getting pretty good. I'm useless. I just watch and I'm happy for it because we drone as a family... the whole family in fact!

Roxy hasn't acted like this in years... It's so fun to see her act like a puppy again.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The 5 Minute rule

I know the posts on the blog have been a lot of "check-in posts and updates" on our progress as we re-set a new year, and i'm glad to change the tone today.

After we got back from our family vacation in December (we went to visit family out in Utah), Hubs and I decided to make some changes to our daily routine, and our after work lives have been all the better for it, so I thought i'd share with you about our new "5-minute rule".

It's pretty simple, but its profoundly made us appreciate one another all the more.

If it takes only 5-Minutes to do, do it now... don't push it off till the end of the night, or the next day.

I know, earth shattering right?

Let me give you a real world example, from oh, say 5 minutes ago when I started typing this on the dinning room table. Before the 5-minute rule, after breakfast i'd dump the dishes in the sink and wait for little man to wake up to get dressed for daycare because he typically gets up anywhere between 5-25 minutes after hubs leaves for work. I'd make breakfast, pack our lunches, and if I was lucky, score 15 minutes of "me time" before I had to go in and wake him up.

At the end of the day, i'd come home, empty our lunch containers in the sink and play with little dude until hubs got home, then start in on dinner (or if dinner was more "involved" - stick some music or TV on and get started). I'd do a heavy sign and be slightly frustrated at the dishes in the sink, but I managed to cook dinner. Afterwards, I'd dump more dishes in the sink and box up leftovers. The result of our procrastination on the dishes front would result in about 30+ minutes of cleaning. Now my husband washes the dishes every night... (He's amazing)... but because we didn't rinse things off after using them, we doubled his work load...
A clean computer desk!

Which also meant.... we doubled his frustrations.... which meant there were nights where he just tossed in the towel and said, eh, i'll do them tomorrow and then we start the next day with a sink full of dirty dishes... which makes it harder to rinse things off... and when they would get washed or rinsed for the dishwasher, everything wouldn't fit because we had backed everything up and we have a much smaller dishwasher than we did at our old place...

Needless to say, hubs would pile the rinsed dishes on the counter  -- waiting for space in the dishwasher and we lived in a never ending cycle of dishes on the counter.

Enter the 5 minute rule...
So instead of dropping dishes in the sink from breakfast we take the less than 5 minutes to rinse and plop them in the dishwasher. Instead of coming home from work with a toddler to manage and the loom of dinner to get on the table... i'm starting with a clean kitchen, which makes it easy to take the 2 minutes to put our lunch containers aware and in the dishwasher.

With empty sinks, I can often rinse out and quickly hand wash something and use it again during the same meal prep, making for less dishes for hubs to do post dinner, which guarantees they get washed after dinner. Afterwards, if the dishwasher is mostly full, i'll just run it so I can empty it in the morning before work...

Other ways the 5-minute rule helps...

  • Takes less than 5 minutes to tidy the living room at night and put the toys away... we are happier when we don't trip over things...
  • Hubs keeps the computer desk clean now, cause it takes less than 5 minutes to clear it... less clutter makes me happy.
  • Laundry, it get cycled whenever the machine is quiet on Friday night or Saturday, cause it takes less than 5 minutes... 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Yearly Emergency Fund Review

Each year we take a look at our emergency fund and how long it would last us if we were to loose our jobs... because that's what an emergency fund is for! Each year we have some variable line items in our bare-bones budget that change in price (Insurance is a big one), so it's good to check in each year. Our goal is to have 6 months worth of expenses saved to help handle whatever the world throws our way.

As a reminder, an emergency fund should be used for unplanned events. That doesn't mean the holidays or traveling. These are things you should plan in advance for... I mean we all know that birthdays, anniversaries and holidays come at the same time every year. Set up a slush fund and tuck some funds away to cover those types of events throughout the year. A true emergency fund, on the other hand is designed to sit there. That way if an honest to goodness emergency comes your way (job loss, accident, etc.) you have the funds you need to get through it.

Emergency funds should also remain liquid and not be invested. You shouldn't worry about taking a loss, or selling shares to access these types of dollars. Keep it liquid and easy to obtain if you needed to get a hold of the money ASAP -- but outside your regular checking account so its not easy to dip into. We keep our emergency fund in a savings account that's linked to our primary checking account so we can transfer money and funds if needed, but we also can't just swipe a debit card or cut a check to access the funds in an instant. We would need to log into the account and set up a transfer first.

Our Emergency fund currently has $16,865.70 in it and this is our bare bones budget: (toddler would be pulled from daycare asap).

Both Unemployed
Mortgage and Prop Tax $ 972.00
HOA $ 350.00
Gasoline $ 250.00
little dude $ 50.00
Non food items $ 50.00
Insurance $ 180.00
Utility Bills $ 160.00
Groceries $ 333.00
Cell phone $ 50.00
Car Reg $ 25.00
Health INS - Covered CA $ 707.00
$ 3,127.00
Current Levels would last5.39 months
Need $1,896.306.0 months

We also have $2,000 padding in our checking accounts, so i'm not too worried about adding more to this account this year with all the renovations we have planned (also because if I lost my job, my substantial PTO would need to be paid out). 

I'm also not sure about listing Health Insurance... We wouldn't use cobra because it's too expensive, but if we both lost our jobs, i'm not sure i'd decide to drop almost the amount of our mortgage on insurance... especially since it's no longer illegal...

and we would apply for unemployment which would bring in additional cash reserves.

More than likely, only one of us would be unemployed at the same time. Luckily, we plan all of our expenses based around my base salary... so if hubs quit or lost his job, we could cash flow our expenses for the year without hitting our emergency fund at all. He would apply for Unemployment and job hunt while watching little man.

Hubs Unemployed
Mortgage $ 972.00
HOA $ 350.00
Gasoline $ 250.00
little dude $ 50.00
Non food items $ 50.00
Insurance $ 173.00
Utility Bills $ 160.00
Groceries $ 333.00
Cell phone $ 50.00
Gifts / Christmas $ 100.00
Car Reg $ 25.00
Fast Offerings $ 20.00
Car Replacement $ 100.00
Tithe $ 440.00
$ 3,073.00
My Checks $ 3,228.00
Fun Money / Dates $ 155.00
2 extra checks a year re-build savings
Stay at home dad covers daycare/preschool
Where it becomes interesting, is if I were to loose my job. I would have approximately 300-400 hours of PTO that would be paid out, which would inflate our emergency fund $7500- $10,000 before taxes... I make it a habit to keep a health stock of paid time off in case we A) decide to grow our family.... and B) to inflate my pension when I retire since I have a formula with 1 year final compensation... but that isn't factored below...

We would also probably see if we could get insurance through his work for less than covered California... or consider forgoing it as I mentioned above... But depending on when in the year I loose my job, we would/could qualify for health insurance subsidies based just on his income... which would make it only $3 a month if our income for the year is expected to be $40k or less....

I'd also apply for unemployment and job hunt while I watched little dude at home. Additionally we would also halt retirement contributions, which would inflate his take home pay more then is listed below (which is his current take home pay)....

IF I'm Unemployed
Mortgage $ 972.00
HOA $ 350.00
Gasoline $ 250.00
Little Dude $ 50.00
Non food items $ 50.00
Insurance $ 173.00
Utility Bills $ 160.00
Groceries $ 333.00
Cell phone $ 50.00
Health INS - Covered CA $ 707.00
Tithe $ 216.00
$ 3,311.00
Hub's Checks $ 1,610.00
Short each month $ (1,701.00)
Emergency fund lasts9.9 months
I love our emergency fund and it let's me sleep well at night knowing we have been responsible and have taken the steps necessary to take care of our family.  It took us a while to get it to this current funding point... but looking back, i'm so glad we took the steps to save. If you don't have an emergency fund set up, start today. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

January Mortgage Update

Mortgage Balance: $158,369.08

January Payment:
$764.00 (+$208 property taxes / $350 HOA)

Principal paid: $235.32
Interest paid: $528.68

Total interest paid on the new loan: $3,717.08

Estimated Value: $325,000*
*Until the improvements are finished, we are keeping the value at our purchasing price unless the market makes a drastic change.

Getting The Keys

If your just catching along with our house buying and selling story, you'll want to check out the re-cap post on our 1 bedroom condo.

Our starting profit from the sale of our condo was $181,691.35. From there, we purchased a 2 bedroom condo in the same complex. Our very extensive down payment came from the profits we rolled over from the sale of our first place.
  • Down payment: $164,000 (100% profit from our first sale)
  • Inspection: $300
  • Admin/Origination charges: $899
  • Processing Fees: $495
  • Appraisal: $410
  • Flood Cert: $11
  • County taxes: $46.78
  • Endorsement Fee: $25
  • Recording Grant Deed: $9
  • Recording Trust Deed: $57
  • Notary Fee: $175
  • Messenger fee" $25
  • Archiving fee: $80
  • E-Document fee: $100
  • Escrow fee: $798
  • Lenders title insurance: $357
  • Sub escrow Fee: $37.50
  • Recording fees: $150
  • Home Owners Insurance: $400
  • Prepaid Interest $140.24
  • HOA Dues (June) $93.33
  • HOA Dues (July) $350
  • HOA Processing Fee: $50
  • Lender Credits +$6.40
  • Seller Credits +$1,200
Money spend to move: $167,834.96.... Remaining Profit from original sale: $13,856.40
We got the keys and the same day we moved in, we also started to remodel. (Yup, after the boxes were out of the u-haul, we ripped out our master bedroom closet the same day as it was broken and jenky as all get out!)... Here's what we have spent so far on the remodel. 

Washer/Dryer, fridge, delivery, install $ 2,037.61
Dryer hoses $ 17.26
Stove, microwave, delivery, install $ 982.82
Stove plug $ 32.31
Reverse Osmosis System $ 233.53
Stove Outlet Labor $ 40.00
Tv Mount - Living Room $ 135.00
USPS change $ 1.00
Bathroom shower rod, curtain, hooks, tub fixtures $ 234.47
Windows / Slider door deposit $ 690.03
Portable wire racks (3) $ 118.22
Living Room Rug $ 163.00
3 Ceiling Fans $ 382.52
Laundry Hose Connector $ 7.52
Paint Samples, Keys, Impact Driver Accessories $ 56.34
Tools to remove nails from Cement and boards $ 27.95
Tile Samples $ 4.14
Electrical Parts $ 1,213.23
Electrical Labor $ 1,850.00
Ikea Bathroom + Toy Chest $ 1,266.78
Paint Prep supplies and ceiling paint $ 214.28
Drywall Costs $ 1,380.00
Heater Repairs $ 1,146.94
Painting Supplies $ 340.62
Home Depot Supplies (Bathroom install) $ 127.08
Tub resurface $ 500.00
Home Depot Supplies (Bathroom shower) $ 53.16
Home Depot Supplies $ 68.49
Home Depot Return $ (170.75)
Paint, Door Measure $ 124.72
Home depot Vents and Spray paint $ 54.07
Window coverings / Curtains/Rods $ 320.42
Windows / Sliders /Final $ 6,210.27
paver stones, 2 plants, plastic sheeting $ 130.25
Home depot $ 5.90
Profit/Loss $ (5,410.02)

As of now, we are currently in the hole $5,410.02

And that's only just the beginning... While I've read that its good to live in a space and use it for a year before making massive improvements... we bought a long term rental and some things in this place just shouldn't wait to be fixed for safety... and also function. (Like the fact that the bathroom "vanity" was actually a kitchen cabinet, which made it very difficult for hubs who is 6 foot 5 to actually get to the toilet...)

Monday, January 8, 2018

2018 Financial Goals

It's a new year and a good time to check in on our finances and set some goals. Reviewing where you are, where you have been, and where you want to go can make living a leaner lifestyle a little easier to manage.

We all live frugally for a reason. It may be to pay down debt, save money for a large purchase such as a car or a down payment on a home... or it could be for something greater, like reducing your expenses to allow a career change, to become a stay at home parent, or to just afford daycare and a growing family.

Whatever your reason for building a budget and sticking to it, goals can help you keep your eye on the prize and help you make priorities with any windfalls that may come your way. The finish line might be hundreds of thousands of dollars and many years down the road... and it may seem unattainable on the grand scale... but tackling things on a yearly basis and setting annual benchmarks can break it down and make it more manageable.

There's also something satisfying about achieving a goal, no matter how small.  Over time, achieving smaller goals can help keep your focus on the large picture. I mean come on, we could all use some  "wins" in the motivation column.

So with that, it's time to take a look at where we've been and where we want to go.

Goals for 2018

  1. Be more purposefully with our spending - The less time I spend in stores, the more money stays in our bank account, so for 2018, I want to be more purposeful in how we part with our income. I want to make sure hubs and I ask the question, "what line item is this coming out of..." before we make a purchase, instead of me making it work afterwards or declaring a "no more spending" decree mid month. By doing this it will make sure we are communicating together and not just impulsing our way through stores.
  2. Track our finances with more detail - I used to keep track of everything we spent with more detail then I currently do (More than just categories, but itemized categories)... and  I want to go back to actually knowing what our "discretionary" purchases are at the end of the year instead of marking them "walmart" "target" and "amazon" followed by a bunch of question marks because i'm too lazy to itemize receipts... Sure I know what the purchases were that month, but by December, I couldn't tell you if they were computer items, legos, house supplies, etc.  
  3. Replenish our savings accounts- in an effort to make sure our home improvement fund stayed for home improvement, we ended up dipping into a lot of our savings accounts to cover car repairs, and take care of hubs dental bills towards the end of last year. Normally we just cash flow a lot of things and don't touch the savings accounts, but since we don't know what a lot of our pending projects will cost, we have been uber conservative and have been doing projects one at a time.. so towards the end of the year, we used our slush fund to cover expenses and pulled items out of their extended savings account. 
    1. Roxy Fund - We keep $1k in a savings account as a pet emergency fund... We almost have this back up, but need to add $37.76 to the account. Hoping this will happen by the end of January.
    2. Medical Fund - We normally keep $1k in an account to cover co-pays, and expenses we can't cash flow if we have a tight budget month... we emptied it completely last year...
    3. Vacation Fund - We keep $1500 in an account in case we need to unexpectedly travel and it also allows for us to do at least one trip out to Utah to visit family each year.  We need to add $628.51 to get it back to its normal since we didn't cash flow our trip to Utah this year. 
  4. Clean up some savings accounts - I have a lot of savings accounts, and i'm going to begin merging a few to make it a little easier on myself. I'm going to keep just one account for automobiles. I currently have 3 (one for car registration and smog... another for car repairs.... and another for our future replacement cars...) Only problem is I keep raiding the new car fund when the repair fund comes up dry, and its just annoying. Simplifying the accounts down to one will make it a bit cleaner for me to organize... which reminds me that I also need to change my car registration with the DMV....
  5. Finish the rest of the home improvement projects.
    1. I need to paint our ceiling and sand it
    2. I need to paint our living room / kitchen / dinning room area.
    3. I need to get the rest of our bedroom closet purchased, built and assembled...
    4. We need to replace interior and exterior doors
    5. Then I need to paint doors and trims....
    6. We need to put in new flooring
    7. Then I need to install baseboards.
    8. After that, we can purchase the built ins for the living room... assemble and install them...  and then
    9. Finally unpack the rest of the boxes in the house.
  6. Maintain at least 15% of our income going towards retirement. I think we are about 15-17 percent depending on matches at the moment, but i'll run some numbers after we get a couple of paychecks for January and adjust as needed. 
  7. Spend less money on stuff (outside of the reno) then we did last year.  At least with the categories we can control...

Friday, January 5, 2018

I left free money on the table...

A couple years back, my work "amended" our benefits package and I was going to get more money to help cover medical premiums. I think it was around $150 or so dollars. At the same time, they also offered to do $150 matching program to 457 accounts.

The day it was announced, I went over to our HR department, got the form and started putting money into my 457 account to ensure I got the match, because "you never leave free money on the table." 

I instantly saw that if I were patient and didn't "take" the raise in an increase on my check, I could double my gain in the long run by opening a 457 and putting $150 into the account to get an additional $150 match from my company.  Essentially I took a $150 "compensation raise" and made it $300 by deciding those dollars would go to retirement.

I still remember my HR rep looking at me as a 20-something and telling me I was one of the smarter employees in the building. She had spent the entire morning trying to explain to some of my older peers how if they could delay gratification and "save" their raise, they could double their gain.


I start off with that story, because earlier in the week, I realized I left "free" money on the table during open enrollment. 

*****face palm ******

It's been a few years since I have had "left over" benefit money since little dudes arrival (I've been paying out of pocket for some time now), but before our open enrollment window we voted to pay an additional 1.5% into our pensions in exchange for an increase in benefit compensation that would cover the increase and make it so I wouldn't be paying out of pocket for insurance this year (if we didn't vote in the raise to our pensions, we didn't get the benefit money and then everyone would have been paying much more than they were before)... 

I thought I had researched all of our available options to make the most of our decisions during open enrollment... because if we have any leftover funds, we only get 50% of the cash value added to our paychecks... but I missed an option. 

Yesterday I got an email from payroll showing me how they would display the cafe cash on my check and when chatting with a fellow co-worker I found out that I could have opened an HSA account and used the additional funds for daycare expenses... which would have allowed me to keep the full amount and still break even for the most part.

Essentially i'm loosing $8.48 a paycheck to the 50% cash out deduction...  or just over $200 a year... 

So i'll be researching opening an HSA for next year's open enrollment... and hope I have extra benefit money to drop into it next year. Lesson learned.