Thursday, October 30, 2014

Three Thing Thursday

Thing the First: I love this article over at A Practical Wedding and the series that sounds like it's going to develop from it. It's a bird's eye view of how one couple's merged finances have shifted over the years and why. I love seeing how other people run their lives!

Thing the Second: Sometimes I get bogged down in all the things I could be doing as a SAHM, and this post from The Frugal Girl about things she doesn't do was very inspiring to me. When I worked full time, I had to make concessions about what to spend my time on, and the same is true now that I'm staying home. The reality is, there is no award for Most Frugal or Most Resourceful or whatever, and it's important to focus on the things that you can and will stick with long term. Me, I don't do much freezer cooking, and I don't bake my own bread or make my own yogurt or laundry detergent, and I cloth diaper only about half the time. But I spend a ton of time with my kid and I read a couple books a week and I am learning to be a better cook, and frankly, I'm pretty happy with where my life is.

Thing the Third: This post from A Gai Shan Life was a good reminder that I am not really prepared for a disaster. We've got insurance to cover a lot of things, and we don't live in a high natural-disaster prone area, but I could do a little bit more to make sure that we have enough water per person and food that could be prepared without cooking for all of us. Mainly our disaster plan is really Get Out of Dodge, which works well in situations like a furnace going out but not so much for things like a tornado or earthquake where travel might be difficult. Something to think about.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Petty cash?

Here's a question for the readers:

I planned to make chili this week. As I was chopping up the peppers, I noticed that while they looked fine from the outside, they looked kind of iffy on the inside, with black spots (but no fuzz, which I've sometimes seen before). They smelled okay. I actually looked online to see if they were okay to eat, and then Pickle woke up from her nap and then we were running late and next thing you know I've tossed everything in the crockpot and gone on my merry way. Thank you, baby brain, for forgetting to remind me to taste one of the pepper pieces before tossing them in with all the other food.

Because of course, those peppers were not okay. The entire pot of chili tasted like rotten vegetables and was a complete waste.

My question: is it appropriate to ask for a refund on the peppers at this point, given that I have no evidence of their non-freshness? They were about $.79 each, so it's not like it's a ton of money - about $2.50. However, I'm also out three cans of beans, one of tomatoes, and a few cents worth of various spices and other ingredients, but I feel like I can only ask for the money back for the bad peppers, and it would mitigate the total damage. This would also alert my grocery store to the fact that their produce is not the quality that I'm used to getting from there. I think I still have the receipt somewhere.

Under these circumstances, would you ask for a refund on the peppers during your next shopping trip?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

September Spending


business (3.89)
car mazda (53.11)
cat (16.39)
Cell phones (100.00)
charity (10.00)
clothing (132.61)
dental (142.40)
electric (128.49)
Entertainment (24.60)
food - groceries (439.27)
food - other (204.87)
gas (21.77)
gifts (73.01)
Helicopter/Robot (8.98)
house (1401.71)
household (365.92)
Hygiene (81.42)
internet (75.57)
medical (12.00)
transportation (50.00)
Water & Trash (76.46)

Things of Note: 
In almost every category, we really spent less in September than we did in August. I'm not entirely sure how to explain it - it wasn't a conscious thing, but I guess it's just one of those things that happen, a vagary of the market. 

One thing I did notice is that we have bought clothing every single month this year. That seems outrageous to me! It's not quite as bad as it seems, I think - one month it's stuff for Pickle and the new baby at a consignment sale, another month it's maternity stuff for me or replacing socks that are (*cringe*) five years old, another month it's stuff for Peanut, so it's not like we're all stocking up all the time. Also, I think at some point diapers were being categorized as clothing, which makes sense for cloth (I think?) but maybe less so for disposables. 

This is the one problem I have with our tracking system - we both participate, so sometimes we categorize the same thing differently (or heck, sometimes the same person categorizes a purchase differently from one time to the next) or there's no good way to categorize it but it's not worth adding a new category in the middle of the year (like separating out baby boy's purchases from Pickle's). Ultimately, this data is of no interest to anyone but ourselves so it's fine, but every year when we look back it's like "WTF were we thinking there?!" for some small percentage of the information. This has helped us refine our spreadsheet year after year, so the data is getting better, but it also means that it's very hard to do true apples to apples comparisons. 

At any rate, September was a good month for us, despite the unpleasantness of the stock market. How'd it go for you?

September Recap/October Goals

September Goals
1. Move savings account, close old one. Done! The money is moved and earning interest in the new account, and the old one is just hanging out (it stays open for 60 days automatically, so I am just waiting to verify that it closed). 

2. Lower grocery spending. Success! We spent nearly $100 less on groceries this month, and it didn't translate into the eating out category (we spent nearly $150 less there!). I, uh, am not totally sure how I accomplished that, but I'm happy it happened. In an upcoming post, I'll detail how I'm changing my grocery strategy in the next couple of months. 

3. Get some nesting done without spending $$$. Success, although I've also thrown money at some of my to-do list items as well. Peanut built my bathroom cabinet, which I am really happy about (it cost about half what it would have cost new, and although it's not fancy or anything, it certainly gets the job done). I bought fabric at half-off to make crib sheets and we donated a bunch of stuff to thrift stores. I like clearing things out to make way for new stuff - I keep reminding myself not to go through my clothes, because I would end up getting rid of all my non-maternity stuff, and it's entirely possible that most of it will fit me again....someday. Even though it doesn't feel like it while I am approximately the size of Shamu. 

October Goals
1. Take a look at retirement savings.  Peanut and I have been maxing out Roths whenever possible for a long time now (we skipped a few years in order to completely pay off our student loans), and whenever there was an employer match, we contributed at least that much to a 401(k). We're doing okay, I think, for our ages, but we have never sat down and actually looked at what we think we might need to save for retirement - we have no goal in mind, besides "as much as we can". And this is fine - we're not going to change our savings strategy right now, mainly because there's no additional money we can funnel towards retirement with only one of us working. But it might impact when I decide to go back to work, so it's something I'd like to think about. 

2. Finish my big nesting projects. While I've technically got two handfuls of weeks left in this pregnancy, I feel pressed for time. Frankly, I'm shocked that I'm still pregnant because I was really expecting another micropreemie, and now I'm starting to think that I might make it all the way to full term, which is awesome, except that it's a busy time of year! Some of the things I want to take care of sooner than later are Christmas shopping and personal projects - not baby-related stuff so much as stuff that I will probably not get back to for months. 

Christmas shopping won't be too difficult - we stopped exchanging gifts with the adults in our families a few years ago, so it's just an infant niece and a teenage nephew that I'm shopping for (and the nephew is getting a Minecraft quilt, which I've already started). And we agreed to do a white elephant gift exchange with my husband's family, so that will be one adult to buy for (which reminds me that I need to have my MIL have people draw names early!). Oh, and I guess we'll probably get Pickle something to open - she started to get the concept of gifts at her birthday party last month, and while we won't be going overboard on her, I saw a cute pretend kitchen set at a thrift store the other day that I think she would love. 

3. Take time to enjoy it. We have no idea if this is our last baby, although we're leaning towards yes. What I do know is that these are the last few weeks that my amazing daughter will be an only child, and I'm trying to remind myself that these are literally the last moments during which she will be my baby. I'm taking advantage of the fact that she will still let me rock her fully to sleep and I have the time to do so during the day. I'm trying not to make her wait when she wants my attention - she'll be getting plenty of that soon enough. I'm trying to be happy to read the same book six times in a row because it makes her so happy. And I'm trying to enjoy the kicks and squirms of the baby that's about to join our home, as this is the last time that I will be able to protect him from everything and provide for his every need by the act of merely breathing. 

I never expected that motherhood would make me so sentimental, but it's really a magical time. It's so easy to lose that in the frustrations of a toddler having a tantrum or the discomforts of pregnancy, but my life has so much meaning that it didn't have before, and I love it. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Three Thing Thursday....er, Friday

Thing the First: I have talked before about being a maximizer vs being a satisficer, but I didn't really have a good link to an explanation of what that means (or at least, if I did, I can't find it in any post now). But this week the Wall Street Journal did a bang-up job of explaining the concept and how it affects happiness - and why it always seems like your partner makes decisions the opposite way.

Thing the Second: Peanut and I found this website really interesting: income percentile calculator. It shows where you rank (according to 2010 US Census data) in income, by region, by education, and a couple more indicators. Obviously we are far from the 1% but it drove home to me how well-off we truly are.

Thing the Third: If your winter heat source uses natural gas, this article might be of interest to you. We live in a region where fracking is a big political hot button, so with all the talk of that and natural gas pipelines, I didn't realize that there's actually a natural gas shortage in the country, which drives prices higher. We have a new, more efficient furnace, but I'm not sure that will be enough to keep us from noticing an increase in prices, especially with a newborn at home and a cold winter predicted.