Monday, December 26, 2016

Car Update

I bought a different car.  My old car was not totaled out by the inaurance company bit I was offered a very good deal by the bodyshop.  They offered me $5000.  I thought the most I would have gotten would be $3500-4000 so I sold it.

After car shopping for a couple weeks, I bought a 2015 Dodge Durango.  I wanted an SUV with all wheel drive and third row seating.  I'm looking forward not to getting stuck this winter.

We paid cash for the new car.  I wasn't planning on buying a new vehicle so soon but life happens.  I had the car fund, plus selling my car, and I pulled the rest from various accounts.  I feel very poor now and don't want to spend any money.  It feels good to pay for this car in cash but also nerve-wracking to spend that much in one sweep.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Hit A Deer

I hit a deer as I was driving home from work on Friday.  Thankfully, I do have comprehensive coverage on my car.  I really have no idea on how much my car is worth so it might be totaled.  I turned the insurance claim in right away and brought it to the bodyshop this morning for an estimate.  My coworker has an extra car they don't use so I'm going to be borrowing that.

My deductible is $500 so I know that I'm out that.  I was not planning on getting a new car so soon.

Everything feels in limbo now.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Selling High

As the market hit abother all time high today, I took the opportunity to sell a few stocks I have made money on.  I sold Target after owning it for only a little over 2 months.  I owned about $3000 in shares.  I made over $400 on it.  I would buy Target again but I think that it has rode the wave of a high market.  I also sold Coach.  I've owned that for over a year and a half.  I owned about $3000 of that stock.  I totally bought it on a whim but its done very well.  I sold for a profit of slightly over $500.  J also sold New York Mortgage Trust.  It is a high dividend stock.  I only had a little over $400 but I made almost $100 on it.  Mortgage rates are increasing and I thought it would be a good time to unload it.

I captured about $1000 in gains today and I have $6700 sitting in my investment account waiting for the next opportunity.

Anybody else selling when the market is high?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Payday

Today is our payday and a commission check for me.  The commission check is the largest that I have ever received.  I'm grateful and thankful that last month is over.

This is what I plan to do with it:
Pay annual home insurance premium
Put $7000 into our house fund
Put $2000 into the kids' 529 plans--I opened these a couple months ago
Put $8000 aside for stocks--since the market is at an all time high, I will likely wait to buy
Buy a new Christmas tree--I would like a large 8-9 foot tree to fit our house

With this paycheck, I maxed out my 401k and saved $50,000 year to date.  Woohoo!

To top off this election season, my husband no longer wants to spend Thanksgiving with his family.  His mom keeps going on and on via Facebook about the election.  All the talk about a Revolution is a trigger for his PTSD.  People keep talking about Syrians not being let in this country.  When Y was in Iraq, he traveled with a colonel and they were targeted by Syrians.  There was a roadside bomb that took out the Humvee right in front of them that was meant for them.  Y has no desire to hang out with his family over Thanksgiving in large part due to their comments and I don't really blame him.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Post Election

These last two days have been phenomonal.  For the first time in a long time, I'm hopeful for our country.  I am certain that our country will be great again.  Every time my coworker walks by my office, we do a little dance.

I got off work and voted on Tuesday. I went home and turned on the TV. I eagerly awaited the polls closing.  I watched as Florida became very close but still wasn't called.  Then as I watched Virginia become a very close race, I had a realization that this might not be a gimme for Hillary.  With amazement, I watched as Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin all went for Trump.  I watched the biased media freak out and wonder how this could happen.

This is how I think it happened.  The biased media always tells us how we should be.  We should be for every woman's right to choose an abortion, even in the third trimester, when abortion offends me greatly.  We should be welcoming for Syrians coming into our country when we have an issue with radical Islam.  We should welcome men dressed as women into locker rooms with our daughters.  We should welcome all illegals into our country when we do have a system in place for them to go through the hoops to become citizens.

Hillary thinks the people who like Trump are deplorable.  She hob-knobs with celebrities.  She panders to black people with comments about hot sauce.  I was labeled as a white, uneducated to be a supporter of Trump.  I just got sick of it and needed to make sure I voted. I wanted my voice heard even though I was certain it wouldn't make a difference.

Thankfully, enough people thought like me and now we have a change from establishment politics.  The irony is not lost on me about the protesters.  Obama was elected twice and Republicans did not protest either time.  The liberals thought they had it in the bag and don't take losing well.  

I'm so thankful to be an American this week.

Monday, October 3, 2016

October Goals

I love October.  I love pumpkins, crisp mornings, harvesting the last of my garden and Halloween among everything else in October.  We cleaned out the last squash and pumpkins from our garden today.  Lil G and I also dug more potatoes today.  Punk and G painted their first pumpkin.  I roasted pumpkin seeds for the first time this year.  We had a nice fall day.

For October goals:
1.  Buy $7000 of stocks
2.  Deposit $1000 in the 529 plans I opened last month
3.  Deposit $1000 into house savings
4.  Track all spending

 It will be a challenging month but I'm up for it.  On top of this, this might be my best production month ever professionally.

What do you love about October?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Tentative Game Plan

Y and I have been talking lately about some goals for the future.  I put think that I would like to change positions in about three years.  My current position pays very well.  It is high intensity most of the time.  It is sales and execution.  I'm very good at it but it comes at a price.  I would like to change to a lower stress role but at the same time I know I will miss the money and power that I have with my current position.  Obviously, you can tell that I'm leaning toward leaving but have mixed emotions.

Anyway on the financial front, I want to have my ducks in a row.  Y and I have talked about attempting to pay off our mortgage.  We currently owe about $191,000.  It will be a stretch to pay it off in 3 years.

One of the reasons we want to do this is to reduce our monthly required cash flow.  However, the bigger reason we want to is because we don't like owing anybody.  We want to own our stuff, not the bank.

The analytical part of knows that it makes more sense to save and invest our money.  Our mortgage is at 3.375%.  I'm sure we could beat that in the market.

I'm not really sure what to do.  Maybe we will save the money and pay it off later.  I'm torn on what to do.  I do know that I want to have options so we need to either save or pay down.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Savings Update

I'm rocking my savings goals for the year.  My big fat goal was to save $50,000 this year.  It didn't look like I would make it the first six months of the year but things are perking up.  This month we saved $9523, bringing the total for the year to $37,559.  This quarter has been fantastic financially, not so much for work life balance.

In July, I put new goals that helped motivate me to save.

  1. Increase saving to $10,000--check
  2. Y's Roth $5500--money is saved.  I just need to make sure we are under the income limit before actually putting it in the account but it's set aside
  3. My Roth IRA--money is saved as of today
  4.  Save $10,000 to finish basement--$3000 saved so far
  5. Save $10,000 to buy stocks--$3000 saved as of today.  I'm thinking I will buy either Walmart or Target, not sure which.  
The elephant in the room is that I've been stressed this quarter to get to this point.  I was talking to my best friend and she pushed me to ask for more professional support.  The next day I asked one of my bosses for more hours with an assistant.  She readily concurred and told me to ask for whatever need.  

I like my job but I don't like the stress.  Is it possible to be challenged, make a lot of money and have very little stress?  If so, at what job?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Car Fund Goal

One of my goals for the year of as to save $6000 in my car fund.  As of this week, we've met that goal.  I made a large deposit when I received my work expense reimbursement.  The account now sits at $6057.  I need to keep saving because I'm going to need a new car sooner than later and I would like to be done with financing.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

To College Save or Not

Thus far, I haven't saved any money for my kids' college education.  I have not because I don't want to save in a 529 plan and then my kids not go to college.  This is a real fear of mine.  Oh yeah, Y doesn't want to pay for college but I do.  He thinks that kids who are handed college don't try or focus as hard.  I paid my own way through college and graduated in 4 years.  I have no idea what I would have done if I would have had help or any parental pressure.

I have thought about starting a 529 plan for my kids.  If neither one goes to college, we would have to pay income tax on the gain which would not be a big deal because we would pay that on a regular investment.  We would also have to pay a 10% penalty.  This is the biggest risk.

Would you start saving for college if you were me?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Pulled the Trigger

I pulled the trigger today and hired a house cleaner.  It's actually a friend of mine.  I knew that she cleaned a commercial building but I asked her this week if she cleans houses also.  She said she does and offered to give me a reference.  I talked it over with Y and we decided to go for it.  I'm paying her $20 per hour cash.  I don't know how long it will take her so we will see.  She will come over every other week.  I'm so excited.  It does feel odd that somebody will be in my space and cleaning but I look forward to coming home to a spotless house tomorrow.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Menu Plan

My kids are starting to request specific menu items which I love.  Punk requested my mashed potatoes with gravy.  She specified that I must make the gravy.  Today Lil G requested I makes "doodles" when I was talking about what to make so I will make noodles this week.

Monday--beef stroganoff
Tuesday--pork ribs in the crock pot with corn on the cob and rice
Wednesday--mini meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy with salad
Thursday--leftovers
Friday--BLT's with tomatoes from our garden with side

We had a very busy week last week with Bible School every evening for Punk.  I had a work event on Wednesday and Y had a work picnic on Thursday.  We went camping this weeknd with friends.  It was so fun but another tiring weekend.

We are doing awesome with our savings goals. I will do another post about that.

Have a great week!!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Happy July Is Over

This month has been a very hard month for me.  I have had so much stress at work and it was so bad that I did not want to cope with it which makes it worse.  I could not be happier that one of my favorite months is put to rest.  It was a good month financially but at a cost I didn't want to give.

We have a fun day planned today.  I'm just hanging out with the kids now.  We're going to a rodeo later so that will be fun.

I'm starting a pantry/freezer challenge.  I'm not going to be focused on eating down the big freezer with all the beef and pork but everything else needs to be eaten.  I hate having old food and I've found that doing a challenge and eating everything is the only way to make sure nothing is old.  My garden is in full swing also so its easy to supplement the pantry and freezer with fresh produce.  I even just got a text from a friend that they have sweet corn ready so we'll be eating plenty of that this month also.

Here is my tentative meal plan .
Today--jumbo shells with ricotta, spinach, ground beef and marinara
Sunday--homemade beef and veggie pot pie
Monday-- veggie and rice stir fry
Tuesday--salmon with pasta and veggie salad
Wednesday--eat out with a work event
Thursday--chili
Friday--?? Leftovers maybe

OK, I type all of this up and then I remember that Punk want to go to vacation Bible school this week which goes from 6-8 Monday thru Thursday.  Hmm...  How am I going to swing that?  Pack a cold dinner and eat at the park between the time I get her and the time I drop her off?  We live too far out of town to pick her up, go home and drive back in time for VBS.  This is life :)

Anybody with me for a pantry challenge in August?


Friday, July 15, 2016

Savings Goals

I have a huge savings goal this year of saving $50,000 but I feel like I'm floundering.  I'm struggling to find motivation and direction.  I talked to Y about it last night and we came up with a new plan to break down our savings goals.  These are the new categories we will be focusing on.

  1. Bring EF up to $10,000, currently at $7000
  2. Save $5500 for Y's Roth 
  3. Save $5500 for my Roth
  4. Save $10,000 for finishing the basement
  5. Save $10,000 to buy dividend stocks

Y is excited that we're putting money away to finish the basement and I'm excited to have some smaller goals that I can focus on.  

Today is our payday so when I get all the bills figured out, I will do some saving!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

2016 Midpoint Checkup

I'm anxiously awaiting 2 more retirement account totals so I can't actually tally that up yet but I know where we're at with the rest.

1.  Non retirement account dividends sit at $564.74 for the year so far.  My goal was $2000 in dividends for the year so I'm way off.  I don't know if I will meet this goal and  okay with that.
2.  I've contributed just over $9100 to my 401k so I'm on track to max it out.  I will have a couple larger paychecks coming up so I should be squared away on this one.
3.  This far, we've saved $14,260.  This brings me way short of saving $50,000 this year and I'm okay with that.  I'm having better work life balance this year and am making less as a result.  I will work on ramping this up in the next couple months.

Overall, I'm happy with where we're at.  I would like to beef up savings bit I always want to do that.  How is your year going?

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Menu recap

This week did not go as planned but we are eating down the freezer.   This is what we actually had:

Monday -- chicken pasta dish from freezer
Tuesday -- vegetation lasagna, Y left work early and had dinner ready when we got home
Wednesday -- eating out, Punk and I went to Valley fair so we ate out on the way back, super fun and her first rollercoaster at age 6!!
Thursday -- Subway and then we went shopping for fireworks
Friday -- frozen pizza.  We had a fireworks party and a friend came over for dinner.  The party was a huge success.  We had 4 families over. We did a ton of kiddie fireworks.  I had ice cream sandwiches and Popsicles as treats.

We're heading to the lake today for a couple days.  It should be fun.  Work has been super busy lately so I need to relax and unwind.  Have a great weekend!!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Weekly Menu Plan

I'm on a mission to clean out our upstairs freezer, the one attached to our fridge.  I don't think we've eaten it completely down for over a year.  I hate old food in the freezer so I need to menu plan to use it all.

Monday--spaghetti with garlic bread
Tuesday--chicken and veggie stir fry with rice
Wednesday--chicken fingers with pasta salad and veggies
Thursday--beef stroganoff
Friday--homemade pizza

We are having a little get together on Friday night to light off fireworks so I will make something for the kiddos to snack on.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Busy Summer

We are having a great summer so far.  Last weekend we went on a camping/kayak trip.  Y's best friend and his family came with us.  We tented it in a remote camp site.  The bathroom was an outhouse and we forgot toilet paper.  Thank goodness for baby wipes!  We dropped the kayaks and one canoe upstream about 7 miles and kayaked back to camp.  It took us about 4 hours on the river.  Our kids loved it and it was the prefect day for it.  We roasted smores that night and stayed up late around the fire.  I've decided that my kids don't have a bedtime when we camp anymore.  They sleep when they're tired.  That way I don't have to deal with crying kids.  The next day we kayaked down river for about an hour and Y picked us up.  Some of my friends told me that I'm crazy to go on a kayak camping trip with little kids but that seems to be easier than taking them to the grocery store.

My garden is coming in like crazy.  The veggies are growing and so are the weeds.  So far I've eaten spinach, green onions and radishes.  Lots more coming up!!

Money is fine.  Not great but not terrible.  Overall, I'm just kind is sick of money.  I want to focus on other things this summer than money.  I'm sure that I will visit my monetary goals at the end of this month but I needed a bit of a break.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

5 Years Ago

I started my current job 5 years ago today.  I was so excited to start it but I was most excited to be leaving my previous job behind.  I hated it so much that I was depressed.  I hated my manager and hated the actual job.  My manager wanted me to meet with him daily about my sales goals and progress.  The office culture was one of backstabbing and petty meanness.  One time I made the coffee wrong and the result was an all office email complaining about the lack of competency about whomever made the coffee wrong.  I had a long commute for the last six months of working there and I often dreaded the entire day the entire way to work.  Sometimes I would leave work at lunch and drive around and cry.  It drained me and bled into my entire life.

I needed a fresh beginning desperately and I was thrilled to be given the chance at my current job.  With the exception of the one annoying coworker that I wrote about, the culture where I work is very positive.  We are encouraged to volunteer up to 40 hours a year and get paid for our volunteer hours.  I've left work many times to volunteer at a community function and it is encouraged.  My current position also afforded us many financial advantages.  I made six figures my first full year.  We were able to save and build our house.  When I took maternity leave with Lil G, I took off 11 weeks.  I only received one phone call to renew my license if I was coming back.  I was never called about anything work related because they wanted me to focus on my baby.  When I brought him into work, my coworkers were so excited and showered us with gifts and heartfelt good wishes.

The con about my current job is that it is very challenging and can be stressful.  I've come to realize that I need the challenge.  I don't like the stress but I recognize that it comes with the territory.  This past year has actually been the east stressful so I'm hoping it continues this way.

5 years later I'm grateful for my current job but I still vividly remember the frustration of job hunting and the depression caused by hating my job.  If my current job ever gets like that, I would quit in a heartbeat.  Life is too short to be depressed over work.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Professional Advice Needed

I need advice on dealing with a coworker.  Let me preface:  I like 98-99% of the people I meet.  There is always something I find that I like in people.  I do not like this coworker.  He tries to pretend like he's my boss or at least above me.  He's condescending and likes others to know that he's above them.  He looks down on blue collar workers, a fact that I tend to take personally.  He tries to set up meetings with me because he wants me to know that he's in control.

Not only is he not my boss, he doesn't even work in the same department that I do.  We do work at the same location and are expected to work together periodically on different things.  I am very good at my job and he is not but could be in the future.  I don't have respect for how he works because he wants everyone else to do the hard work and he wants to step in to take credit.

I don't expect that I will ever like him.  However, I can work well with people that I don't like if I respect them.  I tend to respect others that are good at their jobs and try their best.  If they're not good at their jobs, I at least expect a friendly attitude in the workplace.

How does one deal with this type of personality?  I look at this with an attitude that I need personal growth to deal with him.  But how?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Daycare for the Summer

Lil Punk will be going back to daycare for the summer.  Our monthly daycare bill will go from to $850 to $1100.  I'm not looking forward to the increase but it's still our best option.  My neighbor has 3 kids and she hires another neighbor high schooler to watch her kids.  She talked to me about having my kids watched by the same girl.  I opted not to pursue that as I would rather have my kids in a daycare.  It might be cheaper but not by much.  Their daycare brings her to T-ball and swimming.  They also go to the zoo, movies, and park regularly.

I'm debating about having Punk in gymnastics this summer.  It's twice a week for 75 minutes for June and/or July.  Each monthly session is $92.  She just advanced to the intermediate class and I'm worried about her losing her skills over the summer.  I am looking forward to a break from activities though.

I love summer and am so happy that it's right around the corner!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Gardening

This spring we planted six sweet cherry bushes.  So far, they're doing well.  They are quite small so I'm hoping they have good growth this year.  I also planted goji berries in pots.  With planting those, I checked off a goal for this year to plant two berry plants.  I also planted a new apple tree to replace the one the deer killed.  They love the sweet little leaves on the apple trees.  We have at least one deer living in our yard/woods.  We've seen it here since it was a yearling.

I have about half my garden planted.  I'm planning on going to the local greenhouse this weekend.  This is what's on my list:  regular sweet peppers, mini sweet cherry peppers, ground cherries, cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, some sort of beefsteak tomatoes, kohlrabi, cabbage, celery, basil, leeks, and several types of hot peppers.  I might have missed some items.  I realized a few years back that I must have a detailed list prior to going to the greenhouse.

We actually went last weekend to get strawberry plants.  I planted 25 plants last year in a raised bed and only 2 of them survived the winter.  I ordered those online last year so I'm hoping the new local ones fare better.  My kids picked out a few flowers, too.  I always let them buy flowers because my grandma always had flowers for us kids.

I've also contemplated planting either a pear or plum tree.  We have wild plum trews here and they do phenomenally well here.  I would like a plum tree with larger plums.  I will have to research what will donwell here.  Lil Punk loves pears so a pear tree would be perfect for her.

Does anybody else have planting fever?


Friday, May 13, 2016

Friday!!!

Today is Friday and both our paydays!  It's not a good month for my income but I haven't changed our automatic savings so things are tight.  It is looking like the next few months should be better so I increased my 401k contributions up to 22%.  I want to max out my 401k sooner than later.  Y has also been getting a bit of overtime which helps out.

We will save $900 this month.  $500 to our stock account and $400 for a new to me car.  I don't plan to buy the car soon but I will need to at some point.  With this paycheck, I will have $4000 in that account.  Another goal that I need to focus on is increasing the annual dividends from our retail stocks.  My goal was to have $2000 and I'm quite a bit below that now.

Other than the money, things are good here.  I planted about half my garden last weekend.  Lil Punk and I completed her first ever 5k.  We did a walk/run combo and we came in 6th place.  It was a fundraiser for MDA and I think everybody there was there to raise money and not to run.  I'm proud of her her for doing that.  She's only 6.  Lil G ran about half of it with Y and tuckered out.

Happy Friday!

Monday, May 2, 2016

To New Car or Not??

Every day as I pull into work I park next to my coworker's shiny Infinity SUV and I'm reminded of how nice it would be to drive a new to me car.  I would love to have a newer, reliable car with four wheel drive for our snowy winters.  I'm putting away $400 monthly in anticipation of my next car.  I could easily trade my savings for a car payment.

If I could squash my practical side, I could easily make this happen.  However, I want to pay cash for my next vehicle.  I detest owing money.  I loathe getting paid only to watch my paycheck slip away to creditors.  Vehicles are the worst way to spend money as they depreciate rapidly.  With the law of diminishing returns, I think my happiness would only go up for a month at the very most.

I won't buy a new vehicle any time soon but I still daydream about it now and then.

Friday, April 29, 2016

April 2016 Savings

We saved $1400 this month.  $500 to our regular mutual fund account, $500 for Twitter stock that I purchased yesterday and $400 to my new car fund.  My income is down quite a bit for the year and that is reflecting in our savings.  I couldn't resist buying Twitter at a steal this week.  I would like to think that I'm a dividend investor but really I just like getting a deal.  I bought about $3300 in US Steel stock last fall and it's now up over 90% so I've made over $3000 on just that one stock.  I'm kind of addicted to deals like that.

Truthfully, saving is much harder than paying off debt.  I do think that I'm a good saver and I still think that.  I think its basically that there is never really an end to saving.  You can meet your goal but there is always something more.  My motivation ebbs and flows with respect to saving.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

First Garden Pics of the Year

We planted garlic last year from from bulbs that we had grown.  All 14 bulbs came up and are doing really well.
We have asparagus peaking through also.  I spent a couple hours weeding the asparagus patch.


We also planted 6 sugar sweet cherry bushes today.  I hope they make it because they are really little.  They are hardy to zone 2 so I'm hopeful.  I will probably still mulch around them but they need to make it to the fall before that's even an issue.

The only veggie I've planted so far in the garden is potatoes but I have not seen anything poke through yet.  It's been pretty cold so I'm hoping this week that I see a few green buds come up.  I planted seed potatoes from last year's crop but I also bought some in the store.  I need a backup plan in case the homegrown ones don't come up.

I still haven't ordered my seeds.  I need to do that because I can't find some of the cucumber and pumpkins that I like to plant in the stores around here.  I just need to take the time to figure out what to order.

Anybody else gardening?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

March Numbers

March was a good month.  I went on a shopping trip to Minneapolis with two of my sisters.  I got a ton of cute spring clothes, shoes and jewelry.  I've definitely gotten picky about what clothes I like.  I spent around $400 but I should be good for summer now.  We've had a ton of kids activities this month, skating finale, swimming lessons and gymnastics.  I also bought two tickets to Garth Brooks with our friends for $280 total.  We never go to concerts but I love Garth and the first concert I ever went to was him.

Regarding savings, I maxed out my Roth for 2015 this month.  That along with our other savings this month totalled $5900.  Our savings year to date is $8200 which puts us behind of where we should be.  To meet our $50,000 goal, we should be at $12,500.  However, it's not looking like I will achieve that lofty goal.  My income is down quite a bit from last year but we're only done with the first quarter.

Another goal for the year was to make $2000 I'm dividends on our stock account.  I made $143.97 in March bringing the annual total to $281.94 thus far.  With this pace, I won't even hit $1200.  I haven't bought any stocks yet this year because I've been focused on my Roth.

The other number that is always important to me is our grocery spending.  We spent $590 this month, squeaking under our $600 monthly goal.  I didn't add up all the other categories but they all looked pretty in line with our regular spending.  I've been keeping our grocery trips to once a week. I need to go that often to keep our fresh produce stocked but it gets way more expensive if we go more than that.

I'm thinking of doing a mini personal grocery challenge.  I just need to do a bit of planning.

I'm also hoping that April is a good month.  Bring on Spring!!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Garden is Started!!

The kids and I planted a long row of potatoes today.  We used the potatoes from last year that were hanging out in our basement.  We've had a very warm spring so I think we should be okay by planting this early.  I will still buy other potatoes to plant at a later date but I was eager to get those in the ground.

I do wish we lived in an area with a longer growing season.  I just love gardening!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tuesday update

Today is our payday and I moved $3200 into my Roth for 2015.  I want to max it out this month and I might take money out of our savings to just be done with it.

My income has been reduced quite a bit from last year.  Working on commission can be a roller coast ride sometimes.  I'm hoping my income goes up but I'm also enjoying the relaxing pace at work.  A part of me wishes that I was content with making less money because I probably would have less stress.

I'm going out of town on Thursday and Friday this week.  My sister and I are meeting in Minneapolis for a couple days.  We will have so much fun shopping and going out.

Lil Punk is sick today so I'm home with her.  We're just chilling watching Paw Patrol now.  It's actually a pretty good cartoon.  Does anybody else have a Paw Patrol fan in their house?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

10 Random Facts About Me

I'm copying Sharon at Midlife Musings for this one.

1. My major in college was history, completely unrelated to the sales field I'm in now.
2.  For a long time my favorite car was a Mitsubishi 3000GT.  I wanted one so bad!!
3.  Growing up, I showed in 4-H.  The animals I showed were cattle, horses, cats and rabbits.
4.  My first concert was Garth Brooks, still love his music.
5.  I first vacation was a month after high school graduation when I went to Dallas to visit my sister and I loved it!
6.  I love Texas.  They think big and I just love the culture.
7.  I just recently started eating 12 grain bread.  It's the only non-white bread that I will eat.
8.  I view both of my maternity leaves as the most relaxing and zen time.  I loved having a newborn.
9.   I strive for a zen life.  I only like chaos if it's created--like we have a party or something.
10.  I am the league manager for Fantasy Football at my work and I also do the brackets for March Madness.  I do not like to lose!!!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Credit Card Churning

We've opened two cards in the last couple months to prepare for our free vacation.  I opened up a Citi Hilton card for 40,000 bonus points after spending $1000. I already spent the $1000 on propane and dental work for Y.  I was kind of annoyed that they increased the bonus to 75,000 miles after I opened it.  I called and they won't change it.

Y opened up a Barclay's card for a 40,000 bonus after spending $3000 in 3 months.  I already put our auto insurance for six months on it.  We will spend enough in the next three months to easily get the bonus.  This card will actually replace our US Bank Travel credit card that I've have for about 5 years.  It offers double points all the time.  The redemption system is also way better for our needs.  You book your travel and then use the points to take care of the charge.  Using it this way, this is the only card that I've found where you can book with discount airlines like Allegiant.  This is very important to us because Allegiant is the only airline to fly out of the small airport near us with direct flights to Vegas, Phoenix, Orlando, Tampa, LA and a few other destinations.

It makes me a little sad to be getting rid of our US Bank card because we've booked some vacations with it.  Our family went to Florida and our flights and hotel were covered.  We also paid for our flights to Mexico with this card.  I have about 28,000 points left on it.  I will likely save the points and book a few hotels for when we do go on vacation.  It will be closed after that because it does have an annual fee.  The points are 1 point per dollar with double points for phone charges, groceries and gas.  It just doesn't compare to the Barclayscard.

I'm also debating getting the Marriott credit card.  After I opened the Hilton one, my credit score is still 822 so I'm good there.  Y's is 792 so lower but still very good.  Or maybe I should have him open the Marriott one and I will open the Barclay's one at a later time.

What is your preferred credit card and why?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Savings Update

In January we saved $1400 and in February, we saved $900.  The total of $2300 is $47,700 shy of our $50,000 goal.  I hope to save the remainder for my Roth IRA for 2015 this month, $5000 remaining.  It seems like I've been saving for these Roth's for so long and I'm eager to buy more stocks in our retail account.  We have a lot of savings left to go if we're going to meet our goal this year.

We've done very well with groceries the past 2 months.  Last month we were below $500.  I've been doing my best to go shopping no more than once per week.  When we go more often than that, it tends to be more expensive.  I've also been menu planning which helps.

This is our menu for this week:
Tonight:  pork chops with leftover veggie pasta salad
Tuesday:  pizza, I'm doing happy hour with my friend so Y and the kids are on their own
Wednesday:  spaghetti with veggies
Thursday:  BLT's with veggies
Friday:  shredded pork tacos

We've been hanging out with our neighbors more often and that tends to be a frugal get together.  We have been doing dinner or BBQ's at each other's houses.  The only money we spent all weekend was for groceries.  This is a slow time of year for me at work so I need to be extra careful on what we spend.  My kids have outgrown all of their clothes though.  They both need entirely new summer wardrobes.

Happy Monday!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Juggling

Today is our payday and I thankfully paid all if our bills.  It has felt lately like I've been juggling bills.  I opened a Hilton Citi card and charged the required $1000 on there to get the bonus.  While I like the travel rewards, I think its hard to keep track of more than one credit card with our daily spending. I do have other credit cards that occasionally have a charge on them like Kohls and Target.  I cancelled a Home Depot card for Y this week as we never shop there.  I also cancelled an Express card for me.  We just don't need those little store cards out there that have zero value.

I'm also waiting on several reimbursements right now.  From my work, I expect a reimbursement of $1150.  $830 should be coming from daycare flex and $540 from medical flex.  I'm waiting on receipts for all three to finalize the reimbursements.  I want to put about $1500 from the reimbursements to my Roth IRA.

Happy Monday!!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Vacation Planning

I said that I wanted to have my next trip funded with rewards.  I'm still in the early stages of completing this but my strategy so far has been to get a rough game plan for our next vacation.  This is what we've come up with.  We will likely go to Arizona but we've also tossed around the idea of Florida again.  It will be a family trip.  We will need to rent a car that will be big enough for us to be comfortable.

For Arizona, we would have a direct flight to Phoenix.  We refuse to do another layover with the kids and that severely limits our options.  I think we would stay in Phoenix for a couple days, preferably at a hotel with a pool or water park.  Then we would drive to the Grand Canyon and spend a night in the park.  Y wants to see Hoover Dam so we would likely head over there toward evening.  We would spend a night there, do a tour and head back to the Phoenix area.  It's a bit of driving but not all at once.  Also, I'm always the driver on vacation and I love it.

We need this for free then:  round trip airfare for 4, rental vehicle, 5-6 nights in different hotels.  I think I can do this because I have time and credit on my side.

Suggestions?  Please tell me what you think.  Have you been to this area before?  Any other must do activities?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Busy Saturday

I am up bright and early on a Saturday morning with the kiddos.  Punk has gymnastics later this morning.  It's been so nice here that I will try to run outside during the hour that she's there.  I certainly will not be running for a solid hour but it will feel good to stretch my legs.  It feels like spring here this week.

The local grocery store has had awesome deals last week and this week.  We stocked up last week and I need to do the same today.  Assuming that the deals aren't the same next week, I'm planning to skip next week's grocery shop.  I usually go weekly but if I can go less often, it does save money.  I have menu planned for two weeks but may need to pick up fresh produce and milk.

I was sorting through some old financial documents earlier this week.  I came across a budget from 2009 before we had kids.  Our grocery budget was $300 and I stayed within it!  Granted we lived in a larger city with much cheaper groceries but still.  It has doubled for us.  Kids are expensive to feed.

Does anybody have any good tips for getting marked down food from Walmart?  There is never anything on the weekends.  I stopped to pick up fresh produce there this week and they had marked down hummus and pesto.  Do they usually mark down during the week?  Any particular day?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

2015 Taxes Filed

I finished our 2015 taxes today. We are getting back $2460 for federal and $265 from state.  Y and I have talked about what we will do and come to an agreement.  We will split $2000. He is free to do what he wants with his but he knows that I'm against him buying reloading equipment for safety reasons.

I had to think really hard about what I want to do with mine.  Usually if I want clothes or shoes, they come out of our regular budget.  The one splurge that I would like is to hire a designer to finish my house.  I want to hire a main wall painted.  I also need a little help finishing off the design.  I'm naturally a minimalist but its a fine line to decorate as a minimalist.  I don't do knick knacky things and I don't want my walls to look cluttered.  I'm going to enlist my friend to paint and we will see where to go from there.  A friend of mine told me about an online design service.


Monday, February 15, 2016

Valentine's Recap

We had an absolutely lovely Valentine's Day.  Y let me sleep in and when I woke up, he gave me a Valentine's basket.  He had small chocolate gifts for the kiddos.  I cleaned out his pick-up as a gift to him.  We took the kids to a movie in the afternoon, Kung Fu Panda 3.  The movie was really good. Lil G made roaring sounds at the screen during the fight scenes and yelled Panda Bear at one point.  I took Punk to figure skating last evening.  When we came home, Y had prepared seafood pasta with spicy marinara and scallops.  It was so good!

We have a dilemma in our house.  Y wants to split our tax return and essentially spend it on whatever we want.  It would be about $1000 apiece.  I don't want to so that as I think its a waste of money.  He wants a new gun and ammunition reloading equipment.  He thinks that overall we save too much money and need to live for today.  He is sick of me being cheap and wants to spend without answering to me.  We rarely disagree about money but are definitely not in agreement about this one.  What do you think?  Do I need to lighten up?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Impatiently Waiting

I'm impatiently waiting for 2 forms from dividends to finish my taxes.  I've been checking every day.  The last day it can arrive is February 15.  I still haven't fully funded my Roth IRA so that is high in the priority list, along with finishing our basement.

This is a long weekend for Y and myself.  I'm debating sending the kids to daycare and having some adult time on Monday--maybe a belated Valentine's lunch.  I asked Punk if she wanted to go or stay home and she said she wanted to do both.  I guess its a good thing that they like their daycare.

We don't do anything romantic for Valentine's.  I will make a nice dinner for the whole family.  I can't tell my kids they would be getting a babysitter on the day meant for loved ones.  I will get my kids little treats, maybe books for each of them.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Earned Income Credit

For the purposes of this blog post, I will assume that everyone knows what Earned Income Credit is. If you don't, go look it up and come back.

Earned income credit is the biggest money waste of taxpayer's dollars ever.  I see people blowing their giant refund checks of $5000+ in Walmart on big screen TV's, game systems, cell phones and other expensive electronics.  Some people might save theirs or pay bills but a majority blow their refund in a matter of days.  One only has to go into Walmart and set foot in the electronics section to see poor people with a boatload of kids buying willy nilly while their kids stand there without hats, boots, gloves and haven't had a haircut for who knows how long.

Here are ways that I think the money could be much better spent than giving it back to poor people to blow:

Expand eligibility for WIC--currently the cutoff age is 5 for children, expand it to age 12 and include fresh fruits and vegetables

Expand daycare assistance so those that want to work can do so

Expand preschool programs on a federal level.  Some states have them but not all and it's proven that these programs targeted to the poor do set up children for later academic success

Provide training and/or education for single moms--they do this in prison, why not elsewhere?  Train women to cut hair, become a machinist, cook, any skill that makes more money

It really irks me to see my tax dollars get blown by somebody who received a refund because of the ridiculous Earned Income Credit.  If they use it to better their life, then so be it but I don't think most do.  Do you have another good way federal dollars could be spent to actually help the poor?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

January Spending

We had an expensive month with our vacation but we did not overspend in areas that we usually do.
Vacation $707.16. This was our spending money and money for parking, transportation to our hotel, all airport spending.
Groceries 526.45. Yay!!! This is low, even with 5 weekends.  We still bought food for our house when we were gone as the kids and MIL were here.
Gas 234.70
Misc. 186.20. New screen for my phone prior to vacation and a few other misc items
Alcohol 169.53 beer for us plus a few bottles of wine for MIL as thank you for watching the kids
Medical 160.29 misc items from December, should be medical flex moving forward
Activities 127 skating for Lil Punk and gymnastics for Punk, I'm going to do a parent tot gymnastics class with G starting next week.  Oh boy!
Household 90.41
School lunch 100 I just pay whenever the balance is low, should be good for a couple months
Clothing 94.98 new swimsuit for vacation and winter coat for Lil G
Toiletries 97.07 razors, makeup, expensive month for this
Cat 20
Eating out 6.90 we are actually going to consciously up this as we want Lil G to behave better in restaurants and work on overall dining manners.  He's 2 so it's hard.
Savings $1400. Woohoo!  Only 48,600 to go!  Lol

I thought it was a good month. I had toyed with the idea of doing a no spend February but I'm not going to.  I leave tomorrow for a short 3 day business trip and I will be doing some shopping.  In my town, we have Walmart and JCPenney so when I can go shopping, I usually do.  I want to go to the J.Crew outlet store.  I'm looking for a spring coat, belt and maybe jeans.  I will also buy Punk leggings there if they have kids stuff.  I'm sure I will also be buying drinks for myself and the support people who help me earn my paycheck.

How was you January?  Are you doing the be spend February?

Friday, January 29, 2016

Taxes

I'm such a nerd that I actually get excited about doing our taxes.  This year I'm using freetaxusa.com so my federal return should be free.  I will mail in my state because I don't want to pay to file them.  I've used TurboTax before but this other one seems just as easy to use and is free.

I'm still waiting on two investment statements but I calculated that we're getting back about $2000.  Yay!!!  We saved a lot of taxes by maxing out my 401k.  Now I just need to work on Y and max out his 457.

We are in the process of finishing our basement so I might make a deal with Y about the refund.  He can use half the refund for that and I will put the other half in my Roth. We already maxed out his Roth and mine is slow going.

Does anybody else get excited to do their taxes?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Stressful Day

Today is a stressful day at work.  Aargh!  Most days I like my job but sometimes I don't, like today.  I like the challenge of it but I would also like to have an easy job.  But I've had easy jobs before and I was bored.  I also really like making money.

Maybe I should be a food critic.  I would love to check out new restaurants and write a review.  I would probably feel bad if I gave a bad review though and ruined a company's business.

What is your ideal/dream job?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Vacation Update

We came back this past week from Playa del Carmen, Mexico.  We had a good time relaxing by the pools and beach, checking out the local town, doing activities and eating too much delicious food.  I didn't get sick at all.  The resort was very nice.  The drinks were good.  I was able to spend my days relaxing and reading a couple books.  BUT I missed my kids like crazy and wish that they would have been there with me.  It was a very international crowd at the resort and lots if other families had their kids there.  I will vacation with my kids next time.

I have actually already started tentatively planning our next vacation.  I want to be able to use credit cards and reward programs to pay for it.  I love vacationing but I like paying nothing for it.  Lol!  We shall see if it is possible.

Meanwhile, I'm relaxing after vacation this weekend.  I have already had one nap today and I see the rest of day being equally relaxing.  We had a travel nightmare on the way back that prevented us from getting back at a reasonable time on Tuesday and I went to work on Wednesday with about 4 hours of sleep. It made for a long remainder of the week.

So happy to be back and I hope all my friends on the East are ok.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Tuesday Update

We are leaving next week for Mexico and I have a bad case of anxiety about leaving my kids.  My MIL is taking them and will be staying at our house when Punk has school.  I am so worried about leaving them.  At this point, if I could cancel the airfare and get my money back, I would do it.  I know Punk and G will be in good hands but I just worry about them. It's so hard to leave them even though I know we are ready for our first ever kid free vacation since having Punk.

In the last two weeks, we bought half a beef and half a pig.  For the pig, we got 99 pounds (hanging weight so I think we actually get 60% of it).  The meat was $148.50 and 83 for processing.  We ended up with about 60 pounds and paid about  $3.86 a pound.  The pork was the best I've ever had.  For the beef, it was 405 pounds hanging weight which probably netted us about 243 pounds of meat.  The meet was $900 and the processing was $238.  That works out to about $4.68 a pound for locally grown hormone free beef.

I'm stealing a page from The Hawaii Planner and trying my best to eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies every day.  I'm terrible about making sure my kids eat well and then I will eat whatever.  For instance, they will get fruit as a bedtime snack.  After they go to bed, I will grab chips for a snack for myself.  I want to lose 5 pounds which I attribute to my taking birth control.  I've stepped up my workouts and need to focus on my eating, especially because I will be in a bathing suit next week.  Yikes!!!

For Mexico, does anybody have any advice on what to bring?  My coworker told me to bring Imodium in case we get sick.  Anything else that is a must have?  We've never been there so any advice would be helpful.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

December 2015 Dividends

This is a recap of dividends received and new stocks purchased for December.
CAPCX      60.76
BCICX        43.81
COH           22.88
HAL           13.31
BP              33.89
X                  9.65
COP           25.35
Total.        209.35

For purchases, I bought $300 of NYMT which has a crazy dividend yield of 17%.  It's a bit risky but I'm comfortable with that.  I also added $500 into our mutual funds.

One of my goals for 2016 is to earn $2000 in dividends in our taxable investments so I will be keeping track of it.  I like dividend stocks but I'm also willing to buy non-dividend stocks.  I knew that X (US Steel) didn't have the best dividends when I bought it but I'm hoping that the stock price increases.  I will really need to add to my account to get to the $2000 mark but I like a good challenge.

Friday, January 1, 2016

2016 Goals

Financial:

  1. Max out my Roth IRA for 2015, $5500
  2. Max out my 401k, $18,000
  3. Make $2000 in dividends from my brokerage investments, not including any retirement funds
  4. Save $50,000 total in 2016, not including automatic contributions for retirement
  5. Increase retirement to $210,000
  6. Max out Roth IRA's for Y and myself for 2016
  7. Pay $1110 to mortgage every month
  8. Increase car fund to $6000
Personal:

  1. Plant an apple tree
  2. Plant 2 other berry trees/shrubs
  3. Finish basement or patio
  4. Run a 5k 3 times
  5. Plan vacation for 2017
  6. Stay smoke free
  7. Do more activities with the kids

Happy New Year!!