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Progress on goals, more AS income, etc.

January 19th, 2018 at 11:12 am

I successfully completed my two other weekly tasks of no phone/computer after work Wednesday (the only exception was I watched a bit of a show on my phone when I couldn't get to sleep that night) and no social media at work on Thursday.

I also read about 1/3 of a book on novel-writing. AS and I went in on a deal from Writer's Digest where we got like 10 books (some physical some e-book) for $65 or so. I picked up one at random and ended up getting really into it. Some good advice so far! I've also been writing character arc descriptions for my novel-finishing class assignment, but it's more complicated than I first thought (writing them is making me question some bigger structural issues about my book), so I don't know if I'll complete the assignment. But I've got a few days (the next assignment posts Monday), so maybe I'll have a breakthrough this weekend. At least I'm working and thinking and trying to be creative; that's really the point of this anyway. Smile

We didn't come under budget on groceries this week, but we're doing pretty well on shared spending money, so I ordered a couple more emergency preparedness items anyway: a butane-fueled burner and canisters of butane. Came to a little over $50. Next week I think I'll try to get a plastic bin and some of the water/groceries. This weekend I want to go down to the basement and see if I can clear out some space for storing our supplies.

AS got another payment, and our kitchen reno savings are now above $20K! She also accepted a quick-turn assignment that is her highest-paying to date (even higher than an entire semester of teaching): $7,000! Her first-quarter earnings look like they might hit $25K, which is crazy unprecedented. Her record quarter is a bit over $23K, and that was for a fourth quarter, which is 4 months long (Sep-Dec) vs. the 3 months (Jan-Mar) of the first quarter.

I don't know what this will mean for her annual salary. I do know her fourth quarter will be lower if she accepts a second teaching position, as she's considering, so maybe it'll end up that her earnings are front-loaded, sort of the opposite of what usually happens. I know I can't get used to this level of pay, but it is exciting!

As for vacations, we've pretty much decided not to attempt the UK this year, since we're saving so hard for the kitchen. We're contemplating a couple of other warm-weather holidays, such as tacking on a week at a Virginia beach location after my niece's wedding in August, or accompanying AS to Incline Village for her college residency in July if she decides to do that again. So we'll see. I haven't decided what my solo trip will be. I'm kind of waiting to see what shows my fave band books for the year and where; right now they don't have anything scheduled much past the current bunch of St. Paul shows that I've been going to. AS is vaguely considering a writer's retreat for her solo trip but that's not a solid decision as of yet. NT has his planned for March; he just needs to actually book it. I might want to tack some time onto one of my Memphis business trips this year and see if the family can join me down there; it's a neat city, plus AA really wants to see the MLK museum. So that's another possibility.

Progress on goals, healthy habits, savings, etc.

January 17th, 2018 at 08:39 am

Over the weekend we received a few of the emergency supplies I ordered. I need to put in batteries, figure out how to use them and where to put them, etc. For now they're just in a box in the dining room. I'll try to keep the grocery budget low so I can get a few more this week.

I joined a live chat for my novel-finishing class and it made me consider some of my characters and how I could make them more interesting. I'm also going through my novel, getting reacquainted, reviewing AS's feedback and doing a light copyedit as I go. I've done 87 of 299 pages. (It started at about 306 pages, so it's also shrinking as I cut unnecessary copy.)

Yesterday my task was no drinking. Warm ginger juice and sleepytime tea again; it might be a new rut for now, but at least it's a healthy rut. Smile Tonight my task is no phone/computer time after work and Thursday will be no social media at work.

I finally yesterday had a day where I did all four of my healthy habits that served me so well last year: morning strength-training exercises, no breakfast, at least 10K steps, no night snacks. I'd weighed in over 135, the highest I'd been in a while, and decided enough's enough; I have to stop making excuses and get back to what worked. Today I weighed in at 133.2, so hopefully I'm on the path back to getting under 130.

Our UK rental income hit that bank account, and AS got a nice freelance payment, so I put some money in savings. US$562 went into UK savings, which is our emergency fund; $300 went toward kitchen reno savings, and I've just started saving up for vacations, so $300 went into a vacation fund. NT is already starting to plan his next solo trip (Colorado in March) so I need to start putting money aside.

We're now at:
$9,562.50 EF
$19,900 reno fund
$300 vacay fund

Our EF goal is $10K, so we're really close! Our kitchen reno goal is $30K, so we've got a ways to go on that. Our total savings are at $29,762.50.

Other random happenings in the past few days:
- I moved a bunch of books and bookcases and taped off the baseboard so NT could finish painting my book nook. It was a dark dull green and then it was half and half (he started a few months ago but ran out of paint); now it's all a nice cream color. It's still a bit haphazard up there -- the furniture is mismatched, I have some boxes of papers I need to clear out, and the books aren't all organized -- but it looks way better. It's so low on my priorities list for home improvement, but this paint job makes it feel nicer. We chose paint colors for the bedroom, so that room will get a little lift next weekend. It's another space that needs a lot of work, but this is a quick way to make it a little better, since it'll likely be a year or more before we prioritize it.

- I went to see my fave band for the third time this month on Monday. Two more shows that I already have tickets to! I've had friends say they were going to the past ones and every single person flaked except AS. She can't go to the next one, but I have about five friends who say they're going, so hopefully at least one of them won't flake and I'll have someone to hang out with. If not, I'm going anyway. Smile

- AS and I ordered new glasses. It came to about $525 each. Yikes! I would have thought it was crazy if PatientSaver hadn't said hers were $400. Mine is covered by flex spending, but now I only have about $70 of flex left for the year, so copays and any other expenses will pretty much need to be out of pocket. Here's hoping for a healthy year! But I think I made a good choice with glasses that will give me a new look. And I changed my hair style when I got my hair cut Saturday. I can't wait to get the glasses so I can start 2018 with a somewhat new look. Smile

- AS now has nearly $18K worked or booked for the first quarter! As a reference point, she made about $13K in Q1 2017 and less than $6K in Q1 2016. Her previous high first quarter was $19.5K in 2015 (kind of a fluke). Since we're only midway through the first month, it's hard to imagine her not breaking that record. But she does have to be very careful about accepting things for the next three months because her time is almost all booked up, so it won't be a TON more, I don't think.

Hmm, I think that's all. 2018 is off to a brisk, but good, start for us!

Progress on goals

January 12th, 2018 at 09:40 pm

I know my posts are very repetitive; when trying to establish habits it's kind of mind-numbing to track! Smile

Thursday my task was no phone or computer time once I left work. I did succeed for the most part. I woke up and had about an hour of insomnia at 3 a.m., so at 4 I started watching a show on my phone and managed to get back to sleep after half an hour. I didn't want to, but I also didn't want to lose any more sleep, so I feel OK about that.

Yesterday I refined my emergency preparedness shopping list a bit, and after we did our weekly grocery shopping today (so I could see how much money we had left in the budget), I ordered the first few items for our kit. I used $69 of surplus grocery money and $40 of shared spending to buy:
- 2 first-aid kits (a larger home one and a small one for our "bug out bag")
- 2 flashlights
- 1 combo knife/whistle/firestarter
- 1 crank radio/flashlight/charger
- 10 foil mylar emergency blankets
- 75 "stormproof" matches and a waterproof container

I also looked into first aid/CPR classes in the area and found some Red Cross ones. AS and NT expressed interest in taking them too. We're thinking about taking a health day off work and taking one together; it runs from 9am to 3:30pm. I'm waiting to hear about business travel in February, and once I know what the days are, I'll see about taking a different day off and scheduling the Red Cross class. They're $80-$120 per person depending on level of detail and whether they include pediatric first aid, so we'll probably go with the higher-end ones that include pediatric. (There are free classes through other organizations but all are either filled up for the foreseeable or they're not geographically convenient for us.)

As for my novel writing class, I finished the "query hook" (brief teaser description of my novel) and gave feedback to quite a few fellow students on theirs. I went through a checklist and mentally answered the questions to make sure I didn't have any doubts about the message, purpose, what's special, etc. Now I'm going to start just going through re-reading my novel, making any easy changes that occur to me as I read, and deciding which of AS's edits to take. I'll start that a bit tonight and try to finish during my three-day weekend (I have Monday off for MLK Day).

Oh, and a couple bits of incremental progress on other goals: NT reached out to a designer to see if she'd consult with us on our kitchen redesign. And we pretty much decided we wouldn't go for a UK trip this year; we might tack a week at a beach or resort onto my niece's wedding in August. No firm plans other than that, but it's a bit of decision-making progress at least.

Progress on goals: social media, novel class, drinking, etc.

January 10th, 2018 at 10:24 pm

I've had a pretty good couple days in terms of my goals. I wrote the "query hook" blurb for my novel class and gave some classmates feedback on theirs. I at least opened my manuscript and figured out what version I'd be working from. (Turns out AS did edit about a quarter of it, so I'll use that version and review her changes.)

Yesterday was a no-social-media-at-work day, and I succeeded at that. It actually was pretty easy, so much so that occasionally I'd have a moment where I feared I'd clicked one of the sites automatically. But I never did.

Today was a no-drinking day. I liked the warm ginger drink and sleepytime tea last time, so I had those again.

Tomorrow is no phone or computer after work, so I've been kind of getting it out of my system today. Smile But I do feel like I've been spending less time on social sites, at least, so maybe these random days away are helping me be less addicted to them.

I finished the UK taxes for another year. The next tax year finishes in early April. I would absolutely love to list and sell the UK flat before then so we'd only have one more year of taxes, but I don't think we'll be able to do that. Still, I've got a note on the calendar to check in with the management company in February to see if the housing market is any better.

I seem to have restarted some of my good habits, namely my A.M. strength training exercises. And AS and I have walked to work three days this week, though we're getting another cold snap that may thwart our walks. But NT is interested in subscribing to Gilad workouts on Amazon, so that could be another way to get in shape on these really cold days. He's almost over his cold, so hopefully soon we'll do that.

I've had the same hairstyle for a couple years now, but I've had a sudden urge to get bangs. Our regular haircut day is this Saturday, so I might as well take the plunge. I also need new glasses. So I've been looking for good frames and trying to picture them with bangs. I hope I find a cute style and cute glasses. It would be nice to have a new look, though I do like the one I've been sporting. It's just getting a tiny bit old.

I got my eyes tested last year but never got around to buying glasses (so many other expenses kept coming up). So I probably need a new test and prescription. For some reason I hate getting my eyes tested, but I know I need a new prescription; I actually can't read up close with my current glasses, and I can no longer compensate for seeing farsighted. (I think I have astigmatism now in addition to being nearsighted in one eye and farsighted in the other. I'm trying to remember what the last doc said; I think it was that I needed progressive lenses?)

I got a free lunch today; my mentor/boss took me and my other boss out on a whim. I was kind of hoping there would be raise/promotion talk, but it was just a friendly get-together. Still enjoyed it though!

This weekend NT and I aim to get the walls of my book nook painted. He already painted some of the walls but there are a few with bookcases full of books against them. So I just need to help him take all those books out, move the cases, and tape off the edges. It's really not much painting once we get that done. It'll be nice to have it all one color, even if it's still not all that decorated. (I've just got random free/cheap furniture in there.)

I also want to continue my emergency preparedness planning this weekend and read through my novel, applying AS's edits and seeing how it hangs together. (Since I combined two years' NaNoWriMo into one, I've never read it all together to see if it flows OK.)

I guess that's all my news for now!

Progress on goals: emergency preparedness, guitar, novel

January 8th, 2018 at 02:34 pm

I spent several hours yesterday researching emergency preparedness and came up with a pretty comprehensive shopping list, which I'll purchase incrementally when we have spare money in the budget. I started looking at written plans and what documents we need to include in our kit, but I'll need to work on that some more.

I also need to do location-specific research on what disasters I should prep for and how. And I want to look for CPR and general preparedness classes I can take locally, hopefully for cheap or free.

I finished signing up for guitar lessons; I'll be going every Tuesday in February. They'll set me up with a loaner guitar to take home and practice with, which is great because it'll give me a chance to try it out and see if it's really something I want to continue before I commit to buying one myself.

I can pay for these lessons with my spending money, but if I wanted to continue, it would be more than my spending money can handle, so I'll need to chat with the family about it.

My online novel-finishing class officially opened today. I took a survey the teach posted and read and responded to messages on the class forum. This week I want to reread the novel I'm going to work on, because I haven't touched it in a while. I'll also complete the first two assignments: writing a short "query" blurb about the novel and answering a list of questions about the novel.

Other random happenings: NT was able to download the tax software to his computer, so I'll try to work on UK taxes this week.

And I got a notice that my ordinarysavers.com domain will be expiring soon. I need to decide whether I'm going to keep it active. I paid $100 for hosting last year and don't think I published a single new post, so I'd need to think about whether I really have enough new stuff to say about personal finance to make it worth my while. Especially with possible guitar classes eating up funds. Is there a way to archive a site so I don't lose the posts I did do, but don't have to pay to host it anymore? I wonder...

Progress on two more goals: less screen time, learning guitar

January 6th, 2018 at 02:29 pm

Last night I was successful in not using my phone or computer at all after work. Well, I did play music on my phone on the way home from work, but that was it. There were times I felt tempted but it wasn't too bad.

I didn't even take my phone to bed, which I usually do so I can watch a show on mute until I fall asleep. Luckily I didn't have trouble falling asleep and didn't wake up in the middle of the night like I do sometimes.

Today's task was to sign up for guitar lessons for February. I filled out an online request form and the store will get in touch with me, apparently. So I'm not quite signed up and won't check off that task, but at least I did what I could on it.

I also started NT's UK taxes (ugh), but couldn't get the software to download on my work computer (which is the main computer I use at home too). So I'll have to get NT to try and download it onto his. At least I gathered all the mortgage and rent info to plug into the software once we get it up and running. This just has to be done by the end of the month.

We're having a quiet day at home. We'd arranged play dates for both kids with friends, but one got sick and the other flaked. I don't want the kids to grow up, but one benefit will be when they can handle their own social life! There's so much work on our end to get them together with their friends. I was lucky when I was a kid and had friends on my same block.

Tomorrow's task toward a goal is to start researching emergency preparedness. I'm looking forward to it!

First step on another goal (less drinking) and other trivia

January 4th, 2018 at 09:04 pm

Today was the night I designated to not have any alcohol. I had a warm (nonalcoholic) ginger drink and a cup of sleepytime tea instead. I've developed a cold, so I didn't feel up to trying any other relaxation techniques, but I will try some on other nights.

The goal tomorrow is no phone or computer time after work. So once my work day is done, no more checking or using either device for the rest of the night.

We'll see how I feel about that, but so far, rotating my bad habits so I can have some but not all of them seems to be a good way to dip my toe into reducing/omitting them.

My goals this weekend are to book guitar lessons for February and start researching emergency preparedness. (I also hope to get the UK taxes done; they just need doing before the end of the month so we don't get fined.) We also have some activities for the kids planned, so it will be a brisk weekend! And poor Anitra has been trying to get the cigarette smell out of our basement since her mom left, and NT has a couple of meetings or other activities.

The good news side of things:

AS's mom's visit is over! It was challenging in many ways but it could've been a lot worse.

We're a little in the hole on shared spending but only because we had to reorder the kids' beds and request a refund, which hasn't come through. If it had, we'd actually be in the positive by about $500. Pretty amazing considering the holidays and everything.

AS's business has started with a rush of offers, and she's already worked or booked nearly $14,000 of jobs for the next couple months! As a reference point, her first quarter of last year grossed less than $13,000. And we're only 4 days into the quarter! I don't know if it will all get paid in the first three months, but I'm positive she'll book other work in the first quarter as well, so I think it's going to be a big 'un.

She also connected me with one guy she works for (who I actually connected her with initially, when he used to work at my company a couple years ago and used AS as a freelance writer). He's going to need a lot of freelance help and I figured I should pitch in a little extra to try and build up the kitchen reno savings, since my entire paycheck goes to bills, groceries, spending money, retirement etc. So we'll see how that is; if I can juggle it with my regular job without feeling burnt out, it would be awesome to have another income stream. If not, I can always bow out after the first assignment if it proves to be too much.

I think that's all for now; my sleepytime tea plus my cold has got me all dazed so I may be forgetting something.

First step on a 2018 goal: social media at work

January 4th, 2018 at 08:15 am

I think one mistake I (and probably many other people) make with New Year's goals is try to go 100 MPH on the first day of the year, then get burnt out and/or so intimidated or overhwhelmed that I don't do some of the things.

So this year, I very deliberately plotted out my January with lots of little incremental tasks on my calendar.

Yesterday my task was not to do social media at work. Even though I left early and worked from home part of the day, I succeeded even at home. From when I got on the bus toward work until signing off at 5:30pm, I stayed off Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, SavingAdvice, and for good measure I'm throwing in Yahoo email, Google news and my budgeting spreadsheets, because those are all big time sucks. The only things I allowed myself to look at were Google calendar and Slack (which my household has started using to communicate and plan). And I let myself briefly go into one spreadsheet to help AS with a specific task.

Today, obviously, I'm letting myself back on at work. Smile But that's the point of these incremental goals. In February I'll go up to two days per week for each of these tasks.

Today my task is not to have any alcohol.

I'm also trying to be gradual but persistent about adding back in healthy habits that fell off over the past couple months of 2017. Although not part of my 2018 goals, I want to restore them because they served me so well last year. So I've restarted my weekday morning strength exercises (4 days in a row this week) and skipping breakfast most days (3 days but then I did have a little breakfast today).

I still haven't gotten back into the walking 10K steps habit--I'm going to try for that once temps get back in the teens and 20s, which should hopefully start this weekend.

And I haven't gotten back into not snacking at night; there are still so many snacks in the house from the holidays. As they start to get eaten down, I'll try not to bring more snacks into the house, and gradually I hope to get rid of the night-snacking habit.

Baby steps!

January 2018 debt payments

January 2nd, 2018 at 10:52 pm

All our mortgage payments hit:
US: $711 to principal
UK1: $178
UK2: $37
UK3: $40

All told, that's $966 toward debt.

Current debt amounts:
US Mortgage $391,136
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $33,393
UK Mortgage 2 $7,039
UK Mortgage 3 $7,413
___
TOTAL DEBT $447,981

Happy New Year! My 2018 goals

December 31st, 2017 at 11:01 pm

So here are my goals for 2018. As I've mentioned before, I tried to identify why some of last year's didn't work out, and apply what I learned to creating this year's. The main parameters:
1. It has to be something I'm genuinely interested in doing.
2. It can't depend on anyone else to get done; it has to be something I can control. (Exceptions are the net worth and retirement goals.)
3. There have to be concrete steps to the goal, ways to measure results, or some combination of the two.
4. Preferably, many of the goals will be about slowly creating and building up a habit. I'm interested in behaviors that will continue to benefit me, not just one-off achievements.

So here are my goals, along with the first step if applicable. I've also added reminders to my Google Calendar to prompt me to keep making progress on them, and assess them to see what the next step should be.

Creative - get a novel publishing-ready. Step 1 (Jan): online class (already enrolled)

Creative - learn guitar. Step 1 (Feb): private lessons @TwinTown (borrow guitar).

Health - limit drinking on everyday nights. Step 1: 1 day a week of 0-1 glasses.

Health - limit screen time outside of work. Step 1: 1 night a week of no computer/phone use after work.

Health - Try relaxation/destress tactics on nondrinking/no-screen-time days--tea? Meditation? Reading?

Pragmatic - emergency preparedness. Step 1 (Jan): research on cdc.gov, ready.gov & dps.mn.gov. Make a kit, make a plan, get informed. First aid training, e.g. CPR.

Work/professional development: Look for class on Agile; see if work will pay for it.

Work/professional development: Start to limit social/personal internet to bathrooms/breakrooms. Step 1 (Jan): Limit it for one day per week.

Financial: Retirement assets to $475K. Net worth to $650K. Bump NT's 401(k) up 2%.

Financial: Kids' savings up to at least $1K per year of age. (SL: $6,000. AA: $8,000.)

Home: Full kitchen renovation. See what other improvements we can save up for after that.

Vacations: UK or warm weather family trip. Solo trips for adults. Weekend at lake. Niece's wedding in Va. in August.

2017: A look back

December 31st, 2017 at 04:05 pm

Whew, what a year. Besides my goals, my family and I did TON of traveling:
- I had 4(?) business trips to Memphis, 3 overnight and one for 3 days
- I took a solo trip to NYC for 4 days
- AS and I went to Wisconsin for 3 days
- We all went to a lake up north for 5 days
- We all went to Va. for a week
- NT went to Chicago overnight
- NT went to England for 10 days
- AS went to NYC for 4 days
- AS went to Va. for 2 weeks to take care of her mom
- AS went to Nevada for 4 days for work

I think that's it, anyway. Like I said, whew! This was the first time we tried taking solo trips for the adults (except required business trips) since we were married, and it's been really positive to indulge some of our individual interests. That said, I still love family trips, but I think we'll continue this solo-trip idea in 2018!

I felt like I developed a lot of healthy habits over the year but I also started drinking more, starting in mid- to late 2016 with the stressful election and continuing with the constant stressful stream of bad news out there. But I know that's not going to end any time soon, so I can't just self-medicate until it's over. Reducing the drinking will be one of my 2018 goals. I also have been glued to my phone the same amount of time, due to the same factors. Another of my goals will be to consciously unplug a little at a time, hopefully increasing over the course of the year.

I got way back into music over this year, mainly one band, but it also reawakened my love of older favorites and made me start listening a bit to new acts as well. I'm going to continue seeking out my favorite band and new acts, because it gave me a lot of joy. I'm even going to try guitar lessons and see if I like making music as much as I like listening to it!

I really feel like I acquitted myself well at work and gained a lot of visibility and respect with both co-workers and clients. That said, it didn't translate to any material gains or title change, so I'm really hoping this is the year for that. I'm getting much more involved in our huge client's annual report this year, which is a high-visibility project, and another client from that same company has been asking for some really creative stuff including videos that will hopefully get me even more attention. So I feel optimistic and determined to keep upping my profile, but what I really want is more money and a higher title.

The rest of my family is doing incredibly well too. NT got a new role at work at the end of this year that he's excited about, and he's been selling his hats and now T-shirts at lots of shows, which has a double benefit because he also has gotten to see a lot more live music. He hasn't made a ton of profit but it's at least a fun and challenging self-funded hobby.

AS had her lowest income in three years (only by a couple grand, so not much lower), but it was after she quit accepting jobs from my company for a while because they were really bad about paying. They've gotten better and she's agreed to work for us again, so this next year looks really promising. Anyway, what she made this year was totally sufficient, so anything she makes above that will just be icing on the cake. She also added another college where she teaches editing; she thinks there's an opportunity to package some of the things she teaches at her publishing and editing classes into one-off seminars and/or speaking engagements. I think that would be a really smart way to repurpose the great material she's worked so hard to develop for her classes. Even though the teaching doesn't pay too much by the hour, it's a really prestigious and challenging part of her work.

SL started kindergarten and absolutely loves it. She reads at probably a 2nd grade level, while our 2nd grader AA reads probably more at a 3rd grade level. Both have gotten more into art and AA joined the school choir. SL might be a mathematical genius, as well. She definitely has a grasp of time, dates, addition/subtraction, and geography that's well beyond where I was in kindergarten. This will be our last full year at our daycare, which is very sad, but I can tell our kids are really growing up fast, so it makes sense. AA will probably do something else for the summer but we'll have SL go there one more summer. When school starts again in fall 2018, we might use the school's after-school program for both, or see what the YMCA near their school offers. So August 2018 might be the end of our time at the daycare. Sniff! I never dreamed we'd find a place that we'd gladly keep our kids at forever. But we'll keep in touch with them; they're like family at this point.

Our extended family has hung in there this year; AS's mom having open heart surgery was scary, but she seems to be recovering for the most part. It's still up in the air as to whether she'll move to Minneapolis (more on that in a later post in a few days, probably). My mom and dad are doing pretty well, about where they were last year. One niece got married and another got engaged! NT's gran and dad are both having health issues but it doesn't seem to be too serious. His gran's boyfriend passed away, which was sad, but she seems to be hanging in there.

Living with our downstairs neighbors is still going well, though a few things are frustrating here and there. First, that they wouldn't consider turning the basement into an accessory dwelling unit for our other friend; even though they've only used it as a guest room about three times in the three years we've lived here. And the fact that the one who's a lawyer still hasn't given me a rough draft of the agreement to purchase their share of the home. I feel like I'm being fairly generous letting them veto the ADU idea even though they don't have any ownership and pay below-market rent for their unit. I'm not even sure it will work out, although I hope it will, but I need to get the agreement in front of a lawyer before I know for sure. I hate to have them draw this out forever and then maybe it doesn't work out and they're stuck deciding whether they just want to rent from us indefinitely or get their own place. They asked about getting a permanent bed for the basement and I told them not until we get the purchase agreement worked out, so hopefully that will spur some movement. I also don't intend to sign anything until I'm satisfied that back-tax issues have been cleared up, because I'm not tying myself financially to someone who may face future issues with the IRS. But all that said, we get along really well and work well together on various things, and we usually have dinner together twice a week. Plus we get free babysitting from time to time, and cat sitting! And we just love them like family, so even with the frustrations, it's an incredibly rewarding living arrangement.

I'm sure there's more to write about, but those are the highlights of the year as I'm thinking back on it right now. I hope everyone had an overall good 2017 and will have a wonderful 2018 too!

2017 goals review

December 31st, 2017 at 11:02 am

It was a mixed-bag year in terms of hitting my goals, but overall I'm happy.

Successes:
- Get assets above a million
Result: $1,030,555

- Get debt below $450K
Result: $448,947

- Get retirement above $350K
Result: $390,774

- Try about one new recipe per week (at least 50)
Result: I stopped counting somewhere around 54 new recipes but I tried at least a few more since then, so I bet I'm over 60.

Mixed:

- Attempt refi on US duplex if it appears home values are strong enough to give us 80% LTV
Result: I worked quite hard looking into it but it wasn't feasible.

- Increase 401(k)/SEP contributions up to 10% for NT, 10.5% for me and 11% for AS. (We started with NT at 8% with match, me at 9.5% with match, and AS at 10%)
Result: AS now putting 11% aside, CJ 10.5%, but we didn't increase NT's contributions.

- Continue home renovations
Result:
Did upstairs bathroom (complete redo)
Didn't get insulation for whole house
Saved up as much as we could for kitchen (complete redo) (currently saved $19,450)

- Re-establish nearly daily walking and no breakfast/snacks habits; get weight below 130
Result: I was really good with my habits until November, when I fell off both the walking and eating habits somewhat. I got my weight below 130 in early August and bounced above and below that mark until mid-November, when I bounced above and stayed there. I'm currently at 131.2. But considering I started the year at 137.4, I'm not too displeased with that result!

- Self-publish two novels (already written, need editing) and write at least one more
Result: Wrote one more novel, and did some work on editing another, but did not self-publish. I got stalled out waiting for AS to review one of them and she never got around to it.

Failures:

- Get net worth to $600K
Result: $581,608

- Declutter/reduce stuff, beginning with boxes of paper
Result: total failure. I was going to go through a few boxes today but my book nook where they're stored is a disaster area due to putting in new beds for the kids and bringing some of their old stuff out to my area. Just too chaotic so I'm not going to attempt it.

- Take a more active role in garden/yard maintenance
Result: total failure. At least I learned that I'm not at all interested in this area, so that's something.

2017 year-end retirement goal progress

December 29th, 2017 at 06:02 pm

Goal: $492,077 by 2019

As a reminder, this is just an incremental goal along the way to 8x income by retirement. This mini-goal aims to get us to a milestone by the time I turn 45 and AS turns 40.

The milestone (which changes whenever our salaries change) is to get me to 3x my current salary, which is now $68,291, so $204,873; NT to 3x his, which is now $62,100, so $186,300; and AS to 2x hers, which in 2017 was $50,452, so $100,904). AS's 2017 salary went down from $51,785, so the goal is a little smaller for now.

Current balance: $390,774

November 2017 balance: $379,984

Progress: $10,790

We had a big month! If every month were like this we'd reach our goal. Will I reach it during the false optimism of greedy traders post-tax reform, before the reality of trickle-down economics stalls our economy? Only time will tell.

Compared with end of 2016:
2016 $297,419
Change $93,355
I mean, that's pretty astonishing. We averaged a gain of $7780 per month.

To reach the interim goal by the end of our birthday month (March) in 2019, that's 15 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $101,303 -- $6,754 per month -- to reach it.

I'll also have a 2018 mini-goal which I'll post with all my 2018 goals soon.

News and notes

December 20th, 2017 at 07:47 am

It's my last day of work until next year! Well, I might have to do little bits of work from home, but nothing like last year when I worked 2-3 hours per day during my vacation, even on Xmas Eve.

I have to admit I'm flagging. But part of it is that there are no big deadlines or huge projects that need to be done. But there are lots of smaller ways I could get myself set up nicely for next year, so hopefully I'll get some work done today.

We hired a carshare and took the kids to see Santa for the first time last night. We didn't buy the photos (minimum $25) and they didn't let you take your own photos. But it was more about the experience. Plus everyone got to choose what they wanted for dinner, and walk around the festively decorated mall, which we hardly ever do. The kids had a great time.

One of my mothers-in-law (AS's mom) gets in today from Va. and is staying for two weeks in our basement. It could turn out very nice or very unpleasant but will probably end up somewhere in between. I'm just not worrying about it and will focus on trying to help AS not stress out about anything.

We didn't want to overdo it on gifts for her since she'll be lugging it back home, so we got her a $100 Walmart gift certificate, a sleep mask, a photo calendar, and more photos of the kids including school pictures. Oh and we might regift a little basket of nice candy that NT got from work.

We're still expecting some packages and I'm hoping they all get here before Xmas. 10 books and 3 gifts, I believe. But the kids have a lot of presents already, so it'll be fine if they come late. We had to buy the kids' presents for 3 sets of grandparents, an aunt, ourselves and Santa, so even with only a few gifts from each person, it really added up.

My dad's check came, and NT's parents and sister also sent some money. I allocated it mostly as planned. I bought some gifts for the kids in each person's name, set aside $175 each for the kids to go into their mutual funds, put some toward new furniture for the kids' rooms, and gave each adult $200 fun money. Added to the $150 each adult got from NT's bonus, it's a nice chunk of change!!

I almost immediately spent $130 of mine to buy 7 tickets to my favorite band's shows in January. They're playing every Monday in St. Paul, and I'm taking advantage because they spend a lot of time on the road touring other parts of the U.S., Europe and Australia these days.

I bought 2 tickets to one show I'll be bringing AS's mom to, 2 tickets to another that AS will definitely accompany me to, and 1 ticket each to the other three shows. I have friends lined up to go to almost all of them, so I don't think I'll attend any alone, but I will if I have to! I can buy more tickets if NT or AS decide they want to come to any of the other nights with me, but it's not NT's style at all, and AS has been to a lot of their shows with me this past year so she's kind of overdosed on them. She likes them but isn't a superfan like me.

I also spent $80 to enroll in an online class called "Finish your novel." It starts in January and is one of my 2018 goals. I'm planning to buy myself some music lessons for 2018 but haven't done it yet. I'll do a full goals post closer to the end of the year. (Or maybe later today, if I have some more down time at work!)

Very interesting article

December 18th, 2017 at 09:19 pm

I found this article about signing a prenup to be so interesting. I relate to how the woman is feeling from how I was in my 20s and 30s, but I very much relate to the man, who's in his 40s as I am. It's a scary thing to have assets and be around someone you love who doesn't understand how to accumulate or protect assets. I am so so so glad my partners and I came into our relationship at about the same level of cluelessness and similar amounts of debt (though NT had more assets). I would have a hard time entering into a marriage in my 40s with someone like this woman who doesn't care about money and squanders it.

Inventory of habits

December 18th, 2017 at 09:01 am

NT's bonus came, and it was $250 more than last year! We did everything I laid out in my last post except we sent $2250 to renovation savings instead of $2000.

I've been thinking a lot about my 2018 goals and what could help me achieve them. One thing I kept going back to is that things that become habit by being gradually added to my routine tend to stick. In fact, I have several things I don't feel like need to be goals anymore because they're pretty much ingrained into my life. Now THAT is an achievement because it's making things stick.

My habits aren't all 100%; for instance, during vacations or the winter holidays, I let myself go on snacking and exercising. Not all the way gone, but I have many more cheat days than during the rest of the year. But they are things I can maintain in my everyday routine.

So I made an audit of all the good habits I've added to my life over the past year or so. Then I added some of the habits I've added since I started my journey to financial freedom, because even though I take them for granted now, they were once struggles for me. It felt important to recognize how comfortable my good habits can feel once they're truly part of my routine.

Then I did an audit of my bad habits. I wanted to see how many of them could be cleared up by my 2018 goals. I actually think my goals could help me at least cut back on some of these bad routines or habits, if not eliminate them entirely.

I'll get to my New Year goals in another post, but here are my habit audits:

Good habits already set:

- Intermittent fasting (no breakfast/no night snacks)
- Walking approx 10K steps per day (incl 3 mi to work most days)
- AM strength training
- NaNoWriMo every year
- Capsule wardrobe 2x year (fall/winter & spring/summer)
- Personal finance (keeping a budget, setting goals, blogging)
- Grocery & menu planning, including CSA every year; cooking nearly every meal at home, taking leftovers for lunch vs eating out
- Daily flossing
- Consistently use Google Calendar & work calendar to keep on top of schedule

Bad habits:
- Too much screen time (esp social media)
- Not enough book reading
- Too much alcohol
- Need screen to get to sleep most nights (watch show on phone)
- Biting/picking at nails, lips, fingers, etc.
- Don't pick up after myself enough at home; don't help out much with indoor/outdoor chores
- Desk & email boxes get cluttered
- Don't play with the kids enough
- Lose focus at work sometimes; have some unproductive days
- Grooming: could shower more often, dress professionally more often, wear makeup more often
- Don't brush teeth second time before bed

I don't expect to turn into a perfect person overnight, but I'm really hoping that some of my 2018 goals will help create new good habits, or decrease some of these bad ones!

NT's bonus is coming! Planning how to use it + Xmas money

December 14th, 2017 at 07:12 pm

NT got his letter about this year's bonus, and it's even a little bigger than last year! $7500, more than the $7K we got in 2016.

It will hit tomorrow, so I don't know how much we'll net, but last year we netted about $4500, so I'm hoping for a bit more than that. But I'll start there to be safe.

We talked about it a bit tonight, and I think this is how it'll go:
- $500 to our daycare providers (this will be our last full year with them so we want to give them a really nice bonus)
- $1000 to help pay for Ikea loft beds, mattresses and desks for the kids, to make a bit better use of their small rooms. We may make some other improvements, but we'll cashflow them from AS's checks (and plus my parents are sending us money instead of gifts for Xmas).
- $200 to buy $250 worth of gift cards from our favorite pizza place
- $150 each fun money for the adults, so $450
- $350 to help offset the cost of hosting AS's mom for two weeks
- $2000 (plus whatever more we net) to kitchen reno savings

So that's pretty good!

My dad called yesterday to let me know he was sending money instead of gifts this year. Good for him! The man is 86 and mom is 83, so it's about time they took it easier. Smile

I wasn't listening too close to my dad but I think he said he was sending $600 for the kids and $600 for the adults, so $300 each for the kids and $200 each for the adults. I already bought about $50 worth of gifts in their name for the kids, leaving $250 per kid. I think I'll put $100 each toward sprucing up their rooms, and $150 each into savings.

The adults can have theirs as fun money. We're always scraping the bottom of our fun money these days, so we'll all welcome it! Especially NT, who has a big deficit because of his hat and T-shirt business, and me, because I've got FIVE shows I want to go to in January, plus some classes/lessons I want to take in January/February.

More on that soon ... still finalizing my 2018 goals, but I'm pretty excited about them.

Preliminary thoughts about 2018 goals

December 6th, 2017 at 06:29 pm

The year is winding down quickly, and I definitely won't be hitting all my goals. Though I'm fairly happy about the number I did hit, it makes me want to go into 2018 with clear eyes about what works and what doesn't in terms of goalmaking.

One thing I've noticed is it has to be something that genuinely interests me so I have a motivation to do it. I work hard enough with the full-time job plus cooking and kids, so the last thing I want is extras that just feel like chores with no pleasure attached. I fell short of the decluttering and gardening goals because I just wasn't interested. (I am going to try and achieve some decluttering yet this month, but obviously the gardening ship has sailed. Smile ) By contrast, I was very interested in the bathroom renovation and saving up for the kitchen reno. Even the failed refinance I put a lot of work into because I was very motivated to try and lower our monthly payment.

Another thing my goals need to be is not dependent on other people or forces beyond my control. For instance, I couldn't refi the duplex because I wasn't confident we had enough home value to have a 80% LTV. And my self-publishing goals depended on AS critiquing my manuscripts, so when she got super busy those languished. I also fell short of the net worth goal because I slashed our home value estimates, another force beyond my control. I do like having a desired net worth to hit, though, because it motivates me to track. So I'll probably set a similar goal this year. But other than market fluctuation stuff, I'm going to try and have my goals be things that only need ME to get them done, not luck or other people.

Another reason I would fall short is not having definite next steps or defined steps to get to a goal. So I think this is a second reason that fuzzier goals like "get into gardening" or "declutter" or even "self-publish" fell by the wayside. On the other hand, I know exactly what I need to do to write a novel (do an outline and participate in NaNoWriMo) and raise retirement (raise 401(k) every time we get a raise) and do renos (save money, decide what we want to do, get an estimate, schedule the contractor). So those goals were more successful.

With those parameters in mind I hope to come up with some really good goals that are fun AND achievable, but stretch me out of my comfort zone a bit. I'm excited!

December 2017 debt payments

December 5th, 2017 at 08:44 pm

I keep not getting around to my usual entry about debt payments! Let's see if I can actually finish this. All our payments hit for December:

US mortgage: $709 to principal
UK1: $180
UK2: $39
UK3: $40

All told, that's $968 of debt gone.

Current debt:
US Mortgage $391,847
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $33,571
UK Mortgage 2 $7,076
UK Mortgage 3 $7,453
___
TOTAL DEBT $448,947

Finished writing my novel! (One more 2017 goal down)

November 30th, 2017 at 09:09 am

I finished up my NaNoWriMo challenge on Nov. 27 this year (Monday). After being pretty behind on my word count most of the month, I had a couple of marathon days and cranked out the 50,000 needed to reach this goal.

I don't know if I'll ever return to this novel and attempt to revise it. It's pretty bad. I know what mistakes I made during the planning stages and the (especially) poor writing was a result of not having the scenes worked out in advance, so often I was just riffing and making up details as I went along. This leads to issues with continuity, pacing, and much more.

But at least I wrote it! Since I did not fulfill my other goal of self-publishing some previous novels (and probably won't reach that goal by the end of the year), it's nice to have ONE creative win to report.

November 2017 retirement goal progress

November 30th, 2017 at 09:04 am

Goal: $494,743 by 2019

As a reminder, this is just an incremental goal along the way to 8x income by retirement. This mini-goal aims to get us to a milestone by the time I turn 45 and AS turns 40.

The milestone (which changes whenever our salaries change) is to get me to 3x my current salary, which is now $68,291, so $204,873; NT to 3x his, which is now $62,100, so $186,300; and AS to 2x hers, which in 2016 was $51,785, so $103,570).

(AS's goal may revise downward for 2018 because it looks like she'll make a little less this year. But we're thinking 2018 will be a bigger income year for her, so it may go up again the following reset for 2019.)

Current balance: $379,984

October 2017 balance: $372,435

Progress: $7,549

We had a big month! If every month were like this we'd reach our goal.

To reach the interim goal by the end of our birthday month (March) in 2019, that's 16 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $114,759 -- $7,172 per month -- to reach it.

I'm suspicious of all the market gains, so I feel like we're going to see a fall soon. I guess it'll depend on timing as to whether we'll recover in time to get close to our interim goal. Only time will tell.

The deficit is gone! (at least temporarily)

November 25th, 2017 at 12:00 pm

AS got two freelance checks in the mail, totaling $2200. After taxes, retirement and reno savings, I was able to apply about $930 to the deficit, soo...it's gone! We actually have $170 in shared spending, the first time we've been in the black since maybe mid-June?

We have a big date night today (we hired a babysitter, which makes dates much more expensive than when we can get one of our friends to watch the kids for free). And I know there are some other expenses coming up (like me getting a proper pair of snowboots that are good for long walks, before the snow and ice hits this year, another date night for our anniversary next weekend, and I still need to get my niece a wedding gift and/or send her a check).

But, I also know AS is getting at least one more good check yet this month, possibly more. So even if the deficit comes back temporarily, I'm thinking income will outpace spending, hopefully even through Christmas and AS's mom's 2-week visit.

Hooray!!!

Deficit under a thousand!

November 22nd, 2017 at 12:16 pm

AS got a few payments this week, and our deficit is now at about $800! She's expecting many more payments before the end of the year, hopefully some of which will come before the end of November. It feels like we're close to the finish line!

We went about $300 over budget on groceries this past week, so without that we'd be even closer to paying it off! We had a potluck to buy ingredients for, plus we bought extra alcohol for both that and the Thanksgiving holiday, plus of course Thanksgiving meal items and some special snacks and foods for the long weekend. Yeah, we were very indulgent, but considering we probably saved $500-$700 from our grocery budget over the past few months, I don't feel too bad about it.

NT spot bonus brings deficit under $1500! Plus new meal tried, etc.

November 15th, 2017 at 01:07 pm

NT got some good news that because his company did $1M+ of business six of the months so far this year, they were giving everyone a $600 bonus. We netted $543 and even after sending a third of that to reno savings, it brought our deficit under $1500, to about $1312!

The fact they did well enough for this small bonus really bodes well for NT getting a bigger bonus at the end of the year. I hope so and I hope our deficit is gone by then so we can put a big chunk of it toward the kitchen reno savings!

My paycheck went down a small amount ($1.80) due to an increase in bus pass pricing. It will be reduced again in January because of health insurance premium increases (I haven't looked at the new pricing in detail but need to soon). I sure hope my sad little attempts to get a raise/promotion pay off at some point!

I made an uber-simple meal last week, and it was such a big hit with the kids that AA requested it again this week! It was cooked rice mixed with a little salsa and cilantro, spread in a baking dish, topped with a mixture of black and pinto beans, which was then topped with a mixture of shredded cheddar and mozzarella and put under a broiler for about 5-10 minutes. I served it with avocado pico de gallo, chopped fresh cilantro and onion, and hot sauce. Everybody loved it! We had a semi-unexpected dinner guest who's originally from Mexico so I was embarrassed by this really basic Mexican-esque dish, but he had two helpings and said he really liked it. Whew!

Deficit under $2K! Plus new meals, possible life changes, etc.

November 9th, 2017 at 12:32 pm

Hi friends! It feels like it's been a long time, but I guess I posted at the beginning of the month. I have lots of things to catch you up on.

First off, AS got two payments today and our shared spending deficit (at least temporarily) is under $2K -- it's at about $1958! I say temporarily because we have a date night tomorrow, and I was going to use the gift cards from my work's step challenge, but they haven't arrived yet. Plus we need a few winter gear items now that the weather's cold. I did an inventory and we're in good shape except I need a new pair of snow boots and SL needs a second pair of snowpants, and both kids need several pairs of spare mittens since they tend to leave them at school and daycare a lot (or lose them on the bus or playground).

But when the gift cards do come in, I can use those for groceries and take some money from the grocery budget to reduce the deficit again. Also, AS is raking in the money, or at least booking lots of lucrative work, but hasn't received a lot of the money for the work she's done. So a couple of those bigger paychecks could all but wipe out the deficit!

I tried some new meals and finally used the last of the squash from our CSA! This is our first year using it all up, not giving it away or letting it go bad, so I'm really proud of myself for that.

We tried a sausage-stuffed butternut squash: basically roasting and scooping out the squash, mashing it with diced browned vegan sausage, herbs/spices, garlic & onions, and stuffing it back in the shell. Then topped with cheese and baked it. I served it with pasta aglio olio on the side (pasta with olive oil and garlic). Overall it was a very garlicky meal, but I liked how the sausage flavors counteracted the sweetness of the squash.

Then I did a creamy pumpkin-acorn squash soup with the last acorn squash and a small pumpkin the CSA had sent us. The "cream" was cashews, soaked overnight and then blended with water. We topped it with toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitos) and dollops of vegan sour cream. On the side, we had veggie buffalo wings and buttered multigrain toast points. It was really good! I had the last of it today for lunch. I'm glad to see the last of the winter squash but I do feel like I found some good uses for it that I'll refer back to next year when I'm in the same situation. Smile

Anyway, life changes: Really it's just one big possible adjustment. AS's mom is now talking very seriously (it seems) about moving to Minneapolis sooner vs. later. Her reasons are nebulous but it seems like the big thing is she's getting older, she doesn't have a good safety net in Va. (in terms of money OR family) and it's scary for her. She thinks her apartment was broken into recently, and last year she was mugged, and this year she had open heart surgery. She also may be having memory/comprehension issues, although it's hard to tell if they're being caused by the medicines she's on or if it's a sign of the onset of a more serious issue.

I'm trying not to freak out. I like my orderly (though already too busy) life, and AS's mom is like the opposite of organized and punctual. I like slowly building a more secure financial future for us, and AS's mom has caused several hiccups in our financial progress over the years.

But AS is, for all intents and purposes, an only child, and her mom is divorced. AS's aunt is the only close living relative, and she's got her own problems (and friction with the mom, if you remember from the heart-surgery drama days). So it's inevitable that AS will take a larger and larger caretaker role, and better for us all if she doesn't have to travel out of state frequently to do so, or try to manage healthcare and other concerns via phone, as she's been doing for the past few days.

We're hoping that it won't cost us too much financially (at least in the early days). AS's mom has military benefits via the ex. Retirement communities in our neighborhood are actually renting for cheaper than the mom's current apartment. So hopefully she'd actually have a little less tight of a budget with less of her money going to rent. Of course we'll probably have to pay her moving expenses.

This being AS's mom, none of this is written in stone. She's coming to stay in our basement for two weeks around Xmas, so that may move her a little closer to a decision one way or the other.

So I'm nervous, reluctant to face this new chapter, but realizing that AS needs to take care of her mom and I need to support that in whatever form it takes. Stay tuned for more news one way or the other, I guess.

October 2017 retirement goal progress

November 2nd, 2017 at 07:55 am

Goal: $494,743 by 2019

As a reminder, this is just an incremental goal along the way to 8x income by retirement. This mini-goal aims to get us to a milestone by the time I turn 45 and AS turns 40.

The milestone (which changes whenever our salaries change) is to get me to 3x my current salary, which is now $68,291, so $204,873; NT to 3x his, which is now $62,100, so $186,300; and AS to 2x hers, which in 2016 was $51,785, so $103,570)

Current balance: $372,435

September 2017 balance: $358,790

Progress: $13,645

We had another huge month, even a little more than last month! This puts us more on track to reach our goals.

To reach the bigger interim goal by the end of our birthday month (March) in 2019, that's 17 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $122,308 -- $7,195 per month -- to reach it.

I'm suspicious of all the market gains, so I feel like we're going to see a fall soon. I guess it'll depend on timing as to whether we'll recover in time to get close to our interim goal. Only time will tell.

November debt payments, new higher mortgage payment, but hit another goal!

November 2nd, 2017 at 07:46 am

All our mortgage payments hit:
US: $707 to principal
UK1: $183
UK2: $39
UK3: $40

All told that's $969 to principal.

Our escrow reassessment happened in late October, and our new monthly U.S. mortgage payment is $3138.77. That's $67 higher than it already was. Part of it is an increase in our property insurance rate for the year, and part is that we apparently have another escrow shortage (maybe due to said increase) so are paying $144 per month to make that up.

I got myself into this mortgage payment, but I naively didn't think we'd be paying $390 per month for property insurance (yes I've shopped around), $257 mortgage insurance for the life of the loan, and $144 per month escrow shortage. We're paying about $500-$600 more than I had hoped when we got the house, and it does hurt the old budget. Not a ton I can do about it right now. If our neighbors wanted to finalize the agreement to buy their portion of the house, I could ask them to pay 2/5ths of the mortgage, which would be about $1250 vs. the $1100 they pay now. ($1250 is also closer to what the rent would be on their space if we were regular landlords.) But they're both in job transition situations right now and I don't want to bring it up until they're in a more stable place.

Anyway, our current debt is now:
US Mortgage $392,556
Loan from friends $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $33,751
UK Mortgage 2 $7,115
UK Mortgage 3 $7,493
---
TOTAL DEBT $449,915

So the good news is, our total debt is under $450K, which was one of my 2017 goals!

New meals, lots of spending and fun

October 23rd, 2017 at 08:26 am

We're working really hard to eat through the CSA squash and root vegetables, not give it away or let it spoil like we do most years. Even though we only came in $4 under budget on the groceries this week, even that would have been amazing before we started being Team Eat-it-all.

The bonus is that I'm trying all sorts of new dishes, because I usually don't cook with all the squash we get! So Friday I made spaghetti squash casserole. We cooked the squash, scooped it out and mixed with vegetarian ground beef substitute, canned tomatoes, sauteed garlic/onion/bell pepper, and some herbs and spices. Baked it for a while, then added Italian cheese on top and baked some more. I served it with garlic bread.

The kids didn't like it but it was a big hit with AS, which was a huge surprise because she's the most skeptical of squash (of the adults at least). So I'd make this again next year when we get more spaghetti squash from the CSA!

Then last night I made spinach-stuffed acorn squash and turnip-potato mash, both new dishes. I served them with turkey-style tofu. The flavors of the acorn squash were rather plain; next time I'd spice that up a bit. But again, AS (who doesn't really like mashed potatoes) loved the mashed turnips and potatoes! She'd been REALLY skeptical when I told her I was making that, but then she ended up having seconds. AA, who loves mashed potatoes, didn't care for these. But I'm wondering if I just changed the ratio so it was more potato than turnip, if maybe I could please both AA and AS next time. Certainly worth trying! Anyway, the meal really could have used some gravy, but other than that it was very good.

This was a spendy but very fun weekend. I went out Friday to the Chuck Berry tribute show. I was disappointed at the low turnout (because it'd be great if this became a regular event) but the acts were great. The tickets were free but NT and I had several drinks, and we got a Lyft home afterward. Then Saturday NT and I took AA to her second-ever play, based on the Goosebumps TV show. She adored it! I'd already paid for the tickets but we had to rent a carshare because the show was in St. Paul, and I bought her a drink and snack after the play. Meanwhile, since we were going to St. Paul anyway, AS took SL to the Children's Museum, which is an awesome place but tickets and snacks added up.

That night AS and I met up with some friends for another music show. Not really our thing but we were glad we'd tried it. So tickets, drinks there, and she and I had one more drink at another bar. By then it was too late to get public transportation so we got a Lyft home.

So, some of this came out of shared spending and some out of our personal spending. All spending categories are now running a deficit, but it was worth it for such a fun weekend! Shared spending deficit is at about $2800, but AS is expecting several payments before the end of the month, so I'm feeling good about our chances of getting it under $2000, even with my sister coming to visit this weekend. We have a ton of things to do so I know we're going to end up doing takeout or restaurants for every meal. That's OK. It doesn't look like it right now, but the deficit is on its way down as soon as AS gets a few of the bigger checks she's expecting.

New meal and won another prize!

October 20th, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Last night I tried a new meal: tofu, bell pepper and napa cabbage stir fry over rice. I also added some carrots since we have so many. It was tasty but not very exciting--nothing to write home about. I can't see doing it again when we have many other Asian recipes we like much better. But I think that takes us to 54!

On Wednesday, I was going to a nightclub's site to buy tickets to a Friday show, and I saw they were offering a chance for 2 free tickets if you liked their Facebook page and shared the post to your news feed. I thought what the heck, I can always buy my tickets the following day if I don't win. But I did! It was about a $40 value (tickets are $15 each but fees are ridiculous). Which is good because my personal spending money has had a small but persistent deficit for most of the year, due to my increased interest in seeing live music.

Anyway, it's a Chuck Berry tribute night and I'm very excited. I love 50s rock-n-roll!

Our shared spending deficit is up a little, to about $2700, due to a date night and purchasing swim classes for the kids. But AS has lots of expected payments coming in, so I'm confident that will go back down soon.

She has decided to do work for my company again since they seem to have the payment glitch somewhat fixed, so I got to hire her to work on a project for me! Even though she's done lots of work for my company, this is the first time we'll work directly together. I'm happy because we communicate really well and it'll be much easier than working with an unknown freelancer. Plus the money's good. Smile

New meal and won the pedometer challenge!

October 18th, 2017 at 10:49 am

A couple nights ago I tried what I believe is our 53rd new meal this year!

We had a red kuri squash from the CSA and I read you could eat the skin, so I used a Rachael Ray recipe and braised it without peeling (just seeded and cut into pieces) on the stovetop with a little garlic, oil, salt and pepper. Indeed, the skin was totally edible and a nice flavor. I also made a dirty rice with veggie broth, veggie ground beef, onion and garlic, oil and margarine. Really tasty! I served with some storebought vegan sausages.

I pushed really hard to get more steps last week and topped 100,000, which is probably a lifetime personal best for me, except maybe on a long hike with my dad in middle school. I didn't think it would be enough to be the weekly top stepper since someone had gotten 180K the first week, but it was! For the first time in the years my office has been doing it, I got the weekly prize, a $100 gift card. If I keep up at least 10K steps a day for the rest of the challenge I'll also get a $25 gift card for completing.

I should get the gift cards near the end of the month, which is perfect because we have a parents' night out in mid-November when the kids sleep over at daycare. This will go a long way toward defraying the cost of our date!


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