Tuesday, March 24, 2015

This week's meal plan and a new approach to cooking

Sunday - homemade mac & cheese, asparagus
Monday - red lentil thai chili
Tuesday - broccoli cheese soup
Wednesday - crockpot lasagna
Thursday - salsa chicken
Friday - tortilla soup
Saturday - chicken tikka masala

I've been so busy I can hardly keep my head on straight. Pickle has weekly therapy sessions again, and with the warmer weather we've been doing things like library storytime as well. It's a lot more complicated to get two kids out of the house and inevitably there's an unexpected last minute diaper change or nursing session that gets in the way. I go to bed utterly exhausted, even though Baby Bear is only waking up once or twice to eat at night now. It does make the days go by quickly, but I will be glad for a little breathing room.

One of the reasons I want some more calm time in my life is for my new project: cooking through my cookbooks. I have an entire cabinet of cookbooks, many from my days in publishing, and after the last time a Pinterest recipe failed me, I decided to stop finding recipes online and start looking through my printed books. They have the benefit of test cooks, after all! So I'm going through my cookbooks one by one and marking all recipes that I'd like to try. If we like it, it gets copied into my own personal recipe file and once I've tried all the recipes that look good to me in a given cookbook, that book will get sold or donated and out of my life. So - we're trying better recipes AND I'm freeing up space in my kitchen for something else. Yay!

So far, most of the recipes have been keepers, and the ones that haven't been great haven't been as bad as the ones I've found online. We're still eating a lot of Costco prepared soup and frozen pizzas, but I feel like I'm bouncing back to "on top of things" a lot faster after the second kid than I did with the first.

Cleaning, on the other hand.....

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Preparation Fail

During my third trimester I got bit by the nesting bug as many pregnant women do. On the one hand, it was great - there are parts of my house that got cleaned that will probably never be cleaned again!

On the other hand, I had some pretty big frugality fails. I made a number of freezer-to-crockpot meals and baked goods that just....weren't good. It was a combination of factors: with the baked goods, I double-bagged them before freezing but one loaf still got nasty freezer burn after both bags somehow ripped. And the crockpot meals were pretty unilaterally awful. I only used recipes that I had previously made in the crockpot, but the freezing part of it just didn't work. I had made nine meals plus the components of three more, and so far three of them were completely inedible (the taste was so bad I think we would have actually gotten sick from eating them), two of them were just okay, three more were not as good as fresh, and the remaining three are hiding out in the deep freeze, most likely to be abandoned as lost causes.

UGH.

What a waste of time and money. I remember feeling so accomplished about getting those bags frozen and put away, standing on my huge pregnant feet for so long, but knowing that my future self would be appreciative. Instead, my future self was disappointed and kind of grossed out.

I am done with freezer cooking, that's for sure. The only thing I've ever successfully done was breakfast burritos and I've tried enough recipes enough times that I think I'm good with giving up. C'est la vie - but at least we'll be eating better from now on. :/

Saving a dollar vs. getting a dollar

We needed a few things from the store the other day - milk and a couple other non-grocery things - so we decided to head to Target, all four of us. Where we are, the milk at Target is a bit more expensive than the milk at the grocery store - and it's also more expensive than the milk at the gas station a few blocks from our house. We buy two gallons at a time and the savings of getting it somewhere other than Target is about $1.

We had to pass the gas station and the grocery store in order to get to Target. We debated the value of convenience - was it worth a dollar to make an extra stop for one of us to run in and get cheaper milk? It certainly isn't worth it at the grocery store - the milk is as far from the front door as it can get, and the lines on the weekends are long. And the person in the car with the kids would probably have to drive in circles in the parking lot to avoid wailing from the backseat. The gas station would probably have been less than a two minute interaction to save that dollar - and two minutes to save $1 is equivalent to earning more than $30 per hour, so that seems like it makes it very worth it.

For some reason the extra stop to save just $1 was a stumbling block in my mind. We'd be walking right by the milk at Target anyway, surely that convenience was worth $1.

But then I switched the question up in my head - would I stop at the gas station if I would actually be handed a dollar with the milk? In the end, it winds up being the exact same exchange, but the idea of stopping to GET a dollar instead of to SAVE a dollar made it a whole lot more palatable to me. I'm going to try to do this kind of thinking in other areas where it could potentially save me money - to think of exchanging convenience as GETTING money (a la working) instead of SAVING money (a la boring).

[In the end, it turns out that Target's milk prices have dropped since I last updated my price book, and now milk costs the same at all three places. I was a little disappointed at not "getting" my dollar, even though I ended up spending the least amount I could on milk AND saved two minutes.]

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Defining luxury

I really liked the recent New York Times Motherlode blog post, A Stay-at-Home Parent is Not a 'Luxury'. I have sometimes been irritated when I've been told this about our life, but haven't been able to put into words exactly why it bothers me, and the author does a pretty good job summing it up.

To some extent, of course, my staying home IS a luxury - there are many families where two incomes are required simply to provide for basic needs. But in comparison to most middle class families, it's simply a matter of priorities. We don't go on nice vacations. We don't have game systems or cable. Our kids don't do things like music or tumbling classes or immersion preschools. Why are those things not considered luxuries?

My staying home means less income, and it also means less spending on things that are just for fun. We live comfortably, for sure, but I don't feel as free to spend (especially on myself) as I did when we had two incomes, and we weigh our large purchases a lot more carefully than we did in the past. If my staying home is a luxury, it's because we gave up other luxuries that are more often considered necessities - cable and takeout and enrichment classes and weekends away. It's all relative.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Women's Money Week 2015: FMLA pays how much?!

It comes as a pretty rude surprise to a lot of people that even if they qualify for FMLA, it's not what they think it is.

FMLA itself is unpaid. Meaning, no paychecks. Meaning, no retirement contributions and no PTO accruing. Meaning also, your employer is not required to pay your non-salary benefits. If they provide health insurance, for example, they are required to keep up the policy but they are not required to pay for it. So, you might get a bill for your portion of the premiums during the twelve weeks that you are also not earning any money. Yes, this is legal. (Most employers simply deduct the amount owed from your paychecks after you return to work - but if  you don't return, you might have to write them a check!).

FMLA is a maximum twelve weeks of leave, which sounds like three months - but if you look at a calendar, it winds up being quite a bit less than three months, at least in the life of a baby. It also means that you're going back to work right around the time your baby stops being a potato and starts being a real person with smiles and coos and everything. During that twelve weeks, you have to recover from giving birth, figure out how to function on the least amount of sleep you've ever gotten in your life, "get your body back" (grrrr), learn how to take care of a baby, and find a daycare, if you weren't ahead of the game and taking care of that while you were still pregnant. And all those late third-trimester nesting urges are well and truly gone, so just forget about organizing the guest room closet and finishing your novel while you're off work.

Sometimes, women get disability pay while they are on maternity leave, but this is an insurance policy, not anything to do with their actual pay from their employer. Disability often works like this: you get 60% of your salary for six weeks (vaginal birth) or eight weeks (c-section), but for the first week of your leave you have to use vacation days or unpaid leave (so you really are getting only five or seven weeks of 60% of your paycheck). Also, that disability pay is taxable - but they won't withhold the taxes on it, so you'll have to pay them at tax time the next year. Luckily your precious new tax deduction will probably even things out, but it still makes doing your taxes kind of a headache, and is not the kind of thing you remember when you are sleep deprived.

Regardless, you've got about two and a half months where you're either getting nothing or about half of what you used to get coming in. How do you manage financially?

In our case, we had already been basing our living expenses off of Peanut's income, and using mine to supplement things like retirement and emergency savings. Dropping down to actually living on one income was scary but showed us that we could in fact manage with me not working if it came down to it (as it ultimately did).

This is my best suggestion for family planning: if you are a two-income household, learn to live on one income (ideally the lowest, but realistically whomever's is least likely to disappear). Use that second income to pay off all consumer debt and build up an emergency fund. Being prepared to lose that second income (even temporarily) makes it a lot less painful.

Another tip: keep an eye on your bank account while you're on leave! Someone in HR forgot to notify payroll that I was on unpaid leave, so I kept getting paid - and it took several weeks for me to notice it. I let them know and had to repay it, and they had to send corrected information to the IRS and my retirement account holder, and ultimately it was fine but something I really didn't need to be dealing with.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Women's Money Week 2015: Not Qualifying for FMLA

It might be Women's Money Week, but paternity leave affects women too. FMLA covers family leave for men AND women, but few men take full advantage of it, even when they qualify. There's a lot to be said about the sexism exposed by punishing employees who take all the leave they are qualified to take when they have a child (or are caring for a sick spouse, or other things that FMLA covers), but that's not something I'm taking on today.

Today I'm going to talk about what happens if you aren't covered by FMLA.

Peanut's employer is very small - there have been about a dozen employees during the four years he's been there. Their size means they aren't required to offer FMLA to their employees - so basically, Peanut was legally out of luck when it came to job-protected leave when our children were born.

Luckily, the fact that it's a small, close-knit company has some other benefits. In his case, employees are trusted regarding their PTO - there's no formal record keeping involved for vacation or sick days, and the owner of the company trusts his employees to be at work when they can be. Peanut wanted to be at home for a little while when both of our children were born, and he was able to do that without it counting against his regular days off. With Pickle, I seem to remember that he was home for two full weeks and then took a day off each week for the next eight weeks to help me take her and her 25 pounds of medical equipment to our various appointments. With Baby Bear, he took a few days off right at birth (two maybe?) and then stayed home for two weeks (which happened to fall during the holidays), and has also taken a few random days off here and there to help me out since then.

We're lucky that this small company is family-friendly and that he was able to take this time without repercussion or even using up vacation days. There aren't a lot of families among his coworkers yet, so I like to think that we are blazing a trail of expectations regarding a man's time off at the birth of his child as well. Peanut had an honest conversation with his boss about what would work best for our family, and that has served everyone well in our situation. If your employer doesn't offer FMLA, try asking for leave anyway - they may not be legally required to provide it, but they might be willing to do so anyway.

If you're the parent giving birth, you really do need to take some time off. Even a vaginal birth requires recovery time, and if you breastfeed, you'll be unbelievably sleep deprived for at least four weeks, more likely six. And if you're the parent who didn't give birth, you should still take some time off if you can. Caring for an infant is mindnumbing work, but there are also beautiful moments of building a family during this time, and I'm glad that Peanut was able to be there for it.

(Now, that said, I will be honest: two weeks was the right amount of time for both of us to be home full time. Beyond that, people start getting stir-crazy and irritating to each other. Even when they love each other dearly.)

Next up: FMLA is unpaid - how does that work?!



Monday, March 2, 2015

Women's Money Week 2015: My Parental Leave

Welcome to Women's Money Week 2015! This year's topic is Parental Leave, which is something I have some strong opinions on.

I was working when I became pregnant with my first child. We tried to time the pregnancy so that I would qualify for FMLA leave, and we planned for me to go back to work. As a quick refresher, FMLA provides 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for qualifying employees (you have to be employed full-time at your job for at least one year, and there are other criteria which you can find here - as you can see, it's very easy not to qualify for leave). My employer was required to offer FMLA leave, and I did qualify once I'd been there for a year. There is no additional state mandated leave where I live. I also had a disability policy that provided 60% of my salary for 6-8 weeks following giving birth.

Pickle was born unexpectedly 25 weeks into my pregnancy - 15 weeks before her due date. If you do the math on that, you can see that I didn't even have enough maternity leave to make it to what should have been her birthday before I had to go back to work. I had to take some leave right after she was born - I was recovering from a c-section and had a baby in the hospital, after all, and the disability benefit only applies immediately following birth. So I opted to take the maximum time off that I could to get the most disability pay, which was eight weeks. Leaving me with just four weeks banked to take when my daughter eventually came home from the hospital - not just a newborn, but a medically fragile newborn with multiple doctor's appointments each week. Not only will most daycares not take infants under six weeks of age, but we didn't think we could find one that could handle a baby on oxygen and a feeding tube - AND we were under strict orders from her pulmonologist to keep her away from other kids for a year anyway. We couldn't afford a nanny.

I quickly realized that this was impossible. So I tried to quit my job.

My wonderful employer offered me something that I didn't even think to ask for - six additional months of unpaid leave, beginning whenever Pickle came home from the hospital. Six months seemed like enough time to get her health stabilized, get us through cold and flu season, and get used to having a baby around.

As it turns out, Pickle's health did not improve enough for me to go back to work when that six months was up. She had surgery the week before I was supposed to go back to work, and her day to day care still requires more skill than I am comfortable handing off to someone who's not as invested as her parent is. I was very sad to give notice at my job, especially given their generosity to me. They didn't have to keep my job on ice for as long as they did, and it probably created some big headaches for them. It's the kind of thing that doesn't happen very often in America, I suspect, where mostly we hear about people being unfairly denied leave, or not having the criteria thoroughly explained to them in order to make informed decisions about their family planning. I felt valued by my employer, and when I'm ready to go back to work, they'll be among my first inquiries - and you can probably guess how loyal I'll feel to them if I were to work for them again.

Up next, something else that happened in our family: what if you don't qualify for FMLA?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

This Week's Meal Plan and a Round-Up

This week's meal plan:

Sunday - baked potato pancakes, sweet chili glazed salmon
Monday - Mexican quinoa
Tuesday - slow cooker lasagna from The Can't Cook Book
Wednesday - Chicken tortilla soup (Costco!)
Thursday - Minstrone soup (Costco!), Red Lobster cheddar biscuits
Friday - BLTs

Check out my pinterest board Sous Chef for links to the recipes.

Financial Round-Up

* We filed our taxes today. We're getting a hefty refund back - it looks like Peanut's withholding never changed after Pickle's birth even though he's pretty sure he filed the paperwork. And now with our second little tax deduction, well - we're getting a big deposit pretty soon from both federal and state. We'll use it to fully fund Roth IRAs for us both, and make sure the paperwork gets filed this time.

* We're pretty sure the error was at Peanut's company because they also messed up his Simple IRA pretty bad this year - the payroll company took the money out of his paycheck but didn't deposit it into his IRA more often than not. His boss caught the error and it has been corrected, but now we actually have to check each month that his contribution has been made.

* We also get a property tax refund separate from income taxes. I wish there was a way that we could keep this money in our accounts rather than giving an interest-free loan to the state, but it looks like that's not possible.

* We bought a new washing machine a few weeks ago and have had to have three service calls on it already. A part was bad when it was installed, and since that part was replaced, about half the loads get unbalanced and create an unholy racket throughout the house. I'm waiting to hear from the main office of the store we bought it from tomorrow - I'm hoping they will just replace it instead of setting up another repair call. I think it's a lemon.

* I got a Target Red Card a few months ago to save 5% on all our diapers (cloth diapering is sort of a pipe dream right now). Their online interface is the worst I've ever seen, and the amounts of the purchases don't match what I put into my spreadsheet. I'm going to start saving all my receipts and ask their customer service if they can print off old versions of the receipts that don't match. Something's fishy and it's driving me nuts. Is it worth it to save 5%? I'm not sure.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

The financial implications of a third child

I have zero business thinking about having a third child at this point in my life, but you wouldn't believe how soon people started asking me if we were done or not. (Let's put it this way: I hadn't left the hospital yet.)

It's easy to be all, ha, ha, whatever about it, but I came to the startling realization that the jump from one kid to two kids is VASTLY different from the jump from two to three, at least in terms of finances.

Bigger house
Our three-bedroom could technically house more kids without complaining too much, but not for long, I don't think. The bedrooms are small and not conducive for sharing between more than two kids, and I don't like the idea of being on a different floor from tiny children. Also: one bathroom. (Okay, 1.5 - still one bathtub/shower.) As it is, the four of us sleep in four different rooms in order to maximize the amount of sleep everyone is getting, and I don't know how that would work with a fifth person. Who'd be sleeping in the kitchen?

Bigger car
Non-negotiable, we'd need to buy a larger car. Ours can fit two car seats safely but not three, and not two car seats and a person in the backseat. And Peanut's Jeep - well, there will be no kids riding in that thing until they're old enough to drive it. Minivan city. (Plus higher gas prices...would insurance be lower or higher on a mom-mobile?)

Replacing instead of reusing
Baby Bear is currently using Pickle's old bucket seat, but this hypothetical third child might need his or her own new car seats due to the expiration dates on the plastic parts. I have bought three car seats already; it pains me to think of buying more. (We have a portable infant seat and two convertibles - because we already know that Pickle will still be small enough to need one by the time Baby Bear outgrows the bucket.)

Insurance
When updating our beneficiaries, I thought about whether we needed to up our life insurance policies as well, but figured that they are generous enough to be split between two kids in the unlikely event that something happened to both Peanut and I. (Pickle may disagree if it ever occurs to her that she would have been the sole recipient until just a few weeks ago....). But add a third kid to the mix and we'd definitely need to rethink that.

College tuition, weddings, etc.
I can't even bear to think of it.

While we wouldn't make the decision to have another child based on finances alone, the question "can we afford it?" would have to be very carefully looked at. I don't think it's something we even thought about when we decided to have a second.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

That Good Old HDHP

We've had a high deductible health plan since 2012, but in a way this is the first year that we're really experiencing what it's like. Since Pickle was born, she has been classified as disabled by the state, and receives medical assistance as a secondary insurance. They cover any bills that our primary insurance doesn't cover, which is only the deductible ($3,300) and 20% cost sharing up to an additional $3,300. Most years, we really only have her medical expenses, so we haven't had to spend much on medical care despite having a high deductible health plan. (I should also note that we pay no premiums, as those are covered entirely by Peanut's employer.)

This year, that's different - Baby Bear and I have both had doctor visits, and I had a lovely trip to urgent care for food poisoning and mastitis last week. We'll have to pay for all of that out of pocket - I remember being kind of slumped against the check-in desk wondering rather bitterly what this fantastic evening was going to cost me. It was an inane thing to be thinking about, because a) I really, really needed antibiotics and b) it'll all even out in the long run - I essentially got two pregnancies and deliveries for free, so it's probably time I started paying some bills!

It's going to hurt opening those bills when they show up, but I'm trying to remind myself that this plan is actually a good thing - we already know the maximum amount that our out-of-pocket medical expenses can be for the year and I know that they will actually be less than that (since Pickle has had an appointment as well, and has more scheduled for the early part of the year, and those will be covered by MA but will count towards our deductible and out of pocket). It's nice that it's a known entity, so that we can save up in anticipation (and use a health savings plan to get some tax savings on that money as well). In the grand scheme of things, $6,600 a year for the excellent level of medical care we've received is an absolute bargain.




Tuesday, February 17, 2015

This week's meal plan

I'm trying to get back on the meal planning wagon. I fell off of it with aplomb after Baby Bear made his appearance, but I've been getting back into the swing of things, and there's nothing like accountability to help keep me on track.

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday - Mac & cheese, steamed broccoli
Monday - Mexican quinoa
Tuesday - crockpot chicken pot pie soup and biscuits
Wednesday - salmon and baked potatoes
Thursday - crockpot salsa chicken, rice & beans
Friday - BLTs
Saturday - fried rice


Friday, February 13, 2015

Have baby, fall off radar

Random updates from my neck of the woods and random stuff that I've been reading online and off:

* Two growing babies. Two kids is a lot of work, y'all. I can't wait until things have settled down a little bit. I feel like my to-do list is groundhog's day - everything that I accomplish has to be repeated in an hour (change diaper, wash dishes, feed baby, repeat!). But everyone's happy and generally healthy and that's wonderful. 

* What postpartum moms really need: SUPPORT and UNDERSTANDING. It is insane that we think someone should have her body back within six weeks. It is insane that we think she should have her body back in six MONTHS, given that it was ravaged by pregnancy for close to ten months. It's crazy that we think women should be able to do it all in the months after giving birth, and then provide them next to no support to do it. My mom said she noticed that while pregnant, people would hold doors, carry groceries, and do anything else they could for her - but would let the door slam shut in her face once she was holding the infant in her arms instead of in her belly. I found it to be true as well. What a weird society we live in. 

* The IRS recently concluded that breastfeeding supplies are deductible as medical expenses! This applies to things like breast pumps not covered by insurance, pump parts, milk storage bags and the like (I hope lanolin is included, because that stuff is expensive!). They can be included in expenses submitted for reimbursement under FSAs or HSAs or deducted directly off of taxes if more than 7.5% of the taxpayer's income goes to medical expenses. Great news!

* Holy cow, I love this post so much. First of all, the use of the word "perspectacles", which I am totally stealing for every day use. But second, what happens when the author takes a look at her "outdated" kitchen using her perspectacles, and the amazing things she sees. I'm trying to use it as a reminder for so many of the things in my life that don't look like they came out of a magazine. Which is, well, everything, but especially lately our well-loved-and-lived-on couch - I see the spit-up stains and the ink marks and cringe, but I'm trying to remember not only that I have a super comfortable couch that's big enough to house a bunch of people, but each stain on it is a memory of something from someone I love - the worn mark on the arm is from the hundreds of pizzas Peanut made next to it in our New York apartment, this pen mark is from my miracle toddler, those claw marks from my cat, that spit up bubble from my son. It's not fancy - it's even ugly - but it tells a story. I'll try to focus on the story until a time when it makes sense to replace the couch. (Which will be well after my kids stop puking and drawing on random surfaces, sigh.)

* Just discovered the store Tuesday Morning. I got some really cute gifts for upcoming preschooler birthdays for super cheap. I didn't have a chance to look at what else they had, but I'll go back. It's kind of like the non-clothing departments of a very curated Marshalls or TJ Maxx, I guess, with a little bit of World Market thrown in. 

* It's Feeding Tube Awareness Week again. Feeding tubes are out there among us, be aware! I didn't have time to do a whole dedicated post about it this time, but Pickle is still 100% dependent on her g-tube so feeding tubes are still a very major part of my life. We're going to start some more intensive therapy with her to see if it helps things move along, since it seems that the medical reasons that required the tube are resolved and what we have left is simply a toddler who's never had to eat by mouth...so she doesn't. 

* Excellent parenting book: Parenting in the Present Moment: How to Stay Focused on What Really Matters. The cover alone describes how I feel during 90% of my day. 

* I should be sleeping. But I know the baby will wake up the minute I close my eyes...

Monday, February 2, 2015

Washing our dollars

It seems like it's one big thing each year with our house. The furnace, the basement - this time it's the washing machine. I had noticed a few loads over the last few weeks were still pretty soaked when I pulled them out, so I made sure I wasn't filling the washer too full. Then the next time it happened, I mentioned it to Peanut who took a look and determined that the drum isn't rotating consistently - sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes it does but not fast enough. He looked up some info online and took the washer apart to see if it was something that we could fix. After ruling out two inexpensive problems, he figured that it is most likely the clutch and brake assembly, which is a more expensive fix - and one that it is commonly recommended be skipped in favor of replacing that machine.

Eh, bummer. We probably could have had a repairman take a look at it to double check but with a toddler and a newborn, I do a load of laundry a day and three a day on weekends, so I didn't feel like we had the luxury of time to futz around with waiting on appointments. Also, the machine is an older one and not very water efficient. So we got a recommendation for an appliance supplier and went and picked out our new machine yesterday, and it will be installed tomorrow. We didn't buy a new dryer because our old one works just fine.

Our total cost was around $600 including delivery/installation and removal of the old machine. The new one is a high efficiency machine that can be programmed to do multiple steps (soak, wash, extra rinse) which saves me running up and down stairs with a toddler trying to follow me. We skipped the version that can sync to our smartphones, because, um, who needs that?

As we discussed what we wanted to do about replacing the washer, it occurred to me that our discussion was quite a bit larger than just the machine itself. Since appliances are generally sold with the house, but not incorporated into the sale price, it made sense to consider how much longer we plan to live in this house. (We've been here three years.) If we're planning on staying for a long, long time, it makes sense to splurge on a machine that I'll get a lot of use out of. But if we were planning to sell in a year or so, it might make more sense to buy a more basic model (and possibly a matching dryer, too, as potential buyers might be weirded out by a fancy washer/boring dryer combo).

Now, we have no intention of moving anytime soon, and as long as we are a family of four we should fit nicely into this house for a long time. Still, it made sense that the possibility of moving should influence our decision. I'd say the model we got is mid-range - it's programmable and high efficiency and quite a bit fancier than what I currently have, but definitely not close to the most expensive option in the store. I think I'll get plenty of good use out of this machine, and while it's not a purchase I wanted to make this weekend, I'm once again glad for our savings, which meant that this isn't more than a speed bump in my week (although I am NOT looking forward to catching up on four days worth of laundry tomorrow!).

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

2014 Spending Recap

Previous Years: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013


2014 2013 Percent change
alcohol $0.00 $20.00 100%
baby $0.00 $1,034.70 100%
blog $37.62 $40.13 6%
business $64.48 $72.55 11%
car jeep $662.58 $1,975.94 66%
car mazda $3,065.02 $2,289.22 -34%
cat $344.20 $483.94 28%
Cell phones $1,345.62 $1,229.93 -9%
charity $150.00 $167.00 10%
clothing $1,137.07 $387.92 -193%
dental $1,188.15 $1,892.95 37%
electric $1,392.48 $966.52 -44%
electronics $468.37 $297.73 -57%
Entertainment $929.21 $509.33 -82%
food - groceries $5,273.68 $3,413.48 -54%
food - other $2,719.13 $2,881.59 5%
gardening $21.95 $50.91 57%
gas $913.73 $787.37 -16%
gifts $527.63 $580.99 9%
Helicopter/Robot $189.35 $473.36 60%
house $16,761.92 $23,248.78 28%
household $2,893.55 $1,235.06 -134%
Hygiene $380.30 $367.02 -4%
insurance $560.00 $560.00 0%
internet $906.84 $797.50 -14%
medical $254.20 $178.94 -42%
sewing/quilting $6.99 $107.73 93%
therapy $0.00 $204.80 100%
transportation $350.00 $350.00 0%
travel $1,627.26 $0.00 -100%
Water & Trash $1,047.04 $812.34 -29%
yoga $40.00 $160.00 75%
Grand Total $45,258.37 $47,577.73


We had around 1,100 transactions in 2014. This is not exactly accurate - in order to correctly categorize purchases, we have to break up some transactions into separate line items. So a single trip to Costco for toilet paper, food items, and socks winds up getting three lines in the spreadsheet: one for household, one for groceries and one for clothing. Nonetheless, it's interesting thing to think about how often we make decisions that involve money coming in or coming out. 

It's interesting to see where the biggest spending differences are - we spent less on hobbies but a lot more on clothes (thanks, pregnancy), exactly the same on bus fare and insurance, more on groceries and nothing on therapy or alcohol. Now that we've paid off all debt but the mortgage, we're focused on putting away money for retirement and saving money on everyday spending where we can. We live a comfortable life as a family of four on one income, thanks to the groundwork we set years ago. For the first time, though, it seems like our financial picture isn't going to change dramatically for a long time. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

2015 New Year's Resolutions

Each year, I make the same number of resolutions as the last number of the year. So this year, I am making five resolutions.

1. Less yelling. I would like to make this one "no yelling" but I also want to have a chance to succeed. :) The truth is, staying home with a toddler was challenging enough and now I'm adding a newborn to the mix. I don't want to be a yelling mom, especially given that Pickle is so not a bad kid - she's just a normal two year old and while that can be annoying at times, she doesn't deserve to be yelled at for it. I tend to yell when frustrated, and I want to curb this tendency while my kids are young enough to not remember that it ever happened.

2. Get stronger. Spending nine months taking it easy was tough on my body, as if pregnancy and a c-section weren't enough. I couldn't even push Pickle in a stroller two blocks to the park (doctor's orders!) so now everything feels like a challenge. When I'm cleared to resume exercise, I'd like to actually make a point to do it - I don't care so much about weight loss or appearance, but I want to feel strong again and I want to lose some of the pain I'm feeling from compensating for weaker abdominal muscles. I think something like a short daily yoga routine, plus 100 push-ups or 200 sit-ups, or even just dropping down and doing something active when I have a few minutes while both kids are napping or occupied. 

3. Treasure the moment.  At the end of 2015, I will have a preschooler and a toddler - no babies. And since Baby Bear is probably our last child, I'd like to really appreciate the moments that I have home with them. Being a stay at home mom (or any parent, really) is full of frustration and boredom, but there are such beautiful moments as well. I want to try to pay attention to those and treasure them instead of rushing through to the next thing on my to-do list.

4. Max out retirement. Peanut and I have been trying really hard to max out Roth IRAs for  both of us each year, even though I'm not working, to minimize the long-term effect my unemployment will have for our family. This means making some sacrifices and doing some planning, and I am committed to doing it for 2015 again.

5. Bring in some side income. I contribute to our family in lots of ways, but I like to bring in some cash, too - especially for "extras" like trips. Last year I did some freelancing, which might not be possible this year, but I'll be on the lookout for survey and focus group opportunities, chances to sell baby items, and other ways to bring home some bacon.