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2019 Spending Estimate

May 16, 2019

I’m back to tracking spending!

I have been wanting to pick up budgeting again, but we’ve not done budgeting in a very long time. My goal isn’t to set limits on any particular category or even total spending.  Rather, I want to really understand where our money is going and how much we spend each year.  With the addition of a baby, I’m sure things look different than the past, but I didn’t know really how they would look.  So, budgeting isn’t the goal, but tracking spending is.

With that in mind, I started looking for an app or service that could help, with the following features:

  • No linking to bank accounts required. This is less because of security concerns and more because these interfaces always seemed buggy.
  • Ability to manually enter transactions on-the-go, from my phone
  • An annual view of the our spending: actual spending for past months and projected spending for future months, both for current month. This is important, as monthly budgets don’t really make sense for how I run and think about our finances
  • Free!  Or maybe a small one-time fee.

I didn’t quickly find anything that met my desires, especially compared to my old system.  It is an excel file with a list of transactions pulled into a pivot table, then some basic formulas to do a forecast/actual page.  The only thing it lacked was an easy way to enter transactions on-the-go with my phone. I figured out how to do that with a Google Sheets form, so I’m back in business!  (I do have to copy and paste info from Google Sheets into Excel.)

I was inspired enough to go back and do my best guess at categorizing all of our past spending in 2019 so far, using our credit card history.  There are surely holes, such as what precisely we bought Costco for each trip (I just said it was groceries) and some cash transactions.  Still, it is a reasonable estimate.

I’m excited about this!  Our current projected spending is the highest yet, with our house leading the list, followed by child care.  This is no surprise.  It is nice to observe how the recast of the mortgage and elimination of the student loan had the intended effect on our yearly spend.  It is also interesting to note that the smallish purchases to accomodate the newest member of the family really add up.  It also reminded me I need to send in some receipts for pump parts to my flex spending account for reimbursement!

I’m happy to have this insight again.

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Worst Lyft Ride Ever

May 10, 2019

This is apropos of nothing.  I was cleaning out my draft folder and thought this interaction was too bizarre and concerning not to share.

As I often do, I ordered a Lyft for a ride to BART as I headed off on a work trip.  The driver was an ultra creep.

Driver: This is a great area! Is that your house I picked you up from?
Me: “Yes.”  After answering and hearing his reaction, I realize it would have been easier to just lie about this.
Driver: “Yours? Or your parents’ house?”
Me:  “Mine.”
Driver: “Really, it is yours???”
Me: “Yes. Mine and my husbands.”  Again, I could have lied, but at least have established that I don’t live alone.
Driver:  :::Laughs knowingly ::  “Oh yes, your husband’s house!  Hahaha, yes, that makes sense!”
Me: “It’s mine and my husbands, yes.”  Totally annoyed at the implication.
Driver:  Makes a weird joke about how of course it is more mine than my husband’s, because I wear the belt in the relationship.  (Yes, belt.)
Driver:  Hahaha, but don’t tell him I said that!  I know how loyal women can be to their husbands.”
Me: “… ”  WTF??!?!

We then talk about tacos and what type of food I ate in the Midwest, which seemed to be a better direction for the conversation. Eventually, in response to a question, I tell him I’m flying across the country to the other coast.

Driver: “Wow, you have a long trip ahead of you!  You better sleep on that plane ride!”
Me:  “Yes, I’ll probably try.” I have no intention of sleeping on the plane ride, but this seems like an easy answer.
Driver: “haha, yeah! You can be like, ‘Bill Cosby, I need some drugs!!!’  Haha!
Driver:  “Bill Cosby is funny.
Driver:  “He is so old!”
Me: “… ”  WTF??!?!   Did he just make a Bill Cosby date rape joke?!?

Driver: “So, does your husband get jealous when you go out of town for work?”
Me: “Um… no.”
Driver:  “Haha, I would get totally jealous if it were me!  I’d be like, you need to quit your job and stay home!!!”
Me: “… ”  WTF??!?!

Is this real life?!?!  I was never so happy to get out of a taxi and onto BART.  I don’t know what I would have done if it was a longer trip.

Spring Money and Work Updates

May 8, 2019

My personal finance blog has withered to just monthly updates on how we are doing in parenthood!

Behind the scenes, money is still a focus, although a lot of it is on autopilot at the moment.

Money

  • We did our taxes! We owed a modest amount – about $1,000 net between federal and state. I have to go back to my tax estimate spreadsheet and figure out where it is out of sync, because I was hoping for a small refund.  It could be my calculations, or I underestimated our annual income.  Maternity leave clouded the income issue.  The baby was a nice $2k credit, despite showing up late in the year, but I already counted that.
  • In doing our taxes, we noted we fell off the donation wagon, and donated less in 2018 compared to 2017. Giving to charity is not something I was brought up with as a value, but I’m trying to normalize it and make it a regular part of our annual financial plan.  I’ll remedy this in 2019.  (This had some impact on my tax estimate being off, I’m sure.)
  • Our Net Worth is climbing nicely again, already up 9% for the year.   I’m amazed by the snowballing effect of our asset growth – but know that the hot market won’t continue like this indefinitely.
  • T asked whether market growth outweighs our contributions. In 2018, the market took a nose dive at the end of the year, so contributions greatly outweighed the growth.  So far in 2019, growth has outpaced our contributions by 1.5x, despite the front loading of investments.
  • I decided to forgo tagging along to T’s summer conference this year, despite looking forward to it for years.  It is in Paris!  I have been there once, and really loved it. I have some good reasons for skipping, but I’m still a bit sad about it.  This will save us about $2k, considering my plane ticket and extra money that we’d spend.  (Money wasn’t the driver behind the decision.)  We may try to plan a trip to France in the fall, but I’m not sure if I want to push for that.
  • I’m starting to sell some baby items we no longer need and don’t want to store.  I’ve had mixed success so far, but did manage to sell the bassinet with infant insert for what I paid for them.  Yay!

Work

  • I’m struggling with whole parenting + work thing. I have it pretty easy, with a flexible-ish job, almost zero commute, and normal hours… yet I still struggle. At the moment, is mostly a matter of focus/motivation, rather than time.  Stopping pumping at work should improve things, but I’m not ready to give up nursing entirely.  We’ll see how it plays out.
  • We’re eagerly awaiting the outcome of two likely projects that may or may not be starting soon.  I’d have a role on either of them, which would be a welcome change. My current project is really cool, but there are many reasons that it would be a reasonable time to move on to something else.  If something else existed.
  • Pending the outcome of these projects, my manager is going to advocate with me for a title change promotion, which comes with a raise of an unknown amount. I’m actually pretty happy with my current salary, but it seems prudent.
  • In the last year or two, we’ve had new leadership at work.  They have been doing a great job of providing a slight bit more structure. This is welcome (by me) since this is the least structured place I’ve ever worked. One of the new leaders is a woman who has repeatedly given me some good advice on navigating the system we are in. Much of the advice has suggested that I avoid trying  to do other people’s job for them just because they suck at it (worded more diplomatically).

Overall, things are generally good.  The money stuff is quite good, the work stuff is currently manageable and there is hope for something a little better in the very near future.

Parenthood: 6 Months

April 27, 2019

Routines & Sleep

This hasn’t changed a lot in the past month.  She can be awake 2-3 hours at a time, naps 3-4 times a day (usually 3) and we try to get bedtime to happen around 7 or 7:30.  In the last month, she had been waking up a bit more during the night – usually twice, but sometimes once, sometimes thrice.  She has been often wanting to wake up for the day at 5 or 6 am, which isn’t great timing for our morning schedule, but we make it work. We put her down awake for naps. She usually doesn’t cry, but if she does, we try to rock or bounce her to soothe her.

For nights, we very recently moved her from the bedside bassinet into the crib in her room.  With the extra space, she started rolling to sleep on her stomach, and seems to sleep better overall – but it is still a new transition and we’ve had good and bad nights.  Her nursery is quieter and darker in the mornings, and it may help with the early wakings.  I really truly miss having her inches away from me in the night, but it seems like this is resulting in better sleep for her.  She still often nurses to sleep, but sometimes she doesn’t seem to want to, and I put her down awake, and she drifts to sleep on her own.

Childcare

I super love our childcare arrangement!  The nanny share is going great. We are really comfortable leaving her with the nanny and other child each day,  confident she is well cared for. It makes it easier to be at work. She has gotten a couple colds, which I suspect is from frequent outings to the park, library, and music class.  I guess this is a mild preview of the year-of-sickness that I hear comes with daycare.

I’m disappointed that our share most likely can’t continue beyond the fall, and am dreading the transition. I know she’ll be just fine in daycare, but I love the care and attention she gets with the nanny share, and I don’t like taking away the nanny. On the other hand, assuming we go through with the daycare transition, we’ll have secured a spot for her until she is ready for kindergarten in a several years. We also will explore the idea of a new nanny share, but it feels nice to know that we have an option of daycare nailed down.

Eating

She’s still primarily breastfed, and I’m still eating  limited dairy, which agrees with her. I avoid milk (replaced with almond/cashew milk) and anything with significant amounts of cheese/cream. She seems to be fine if I eat things with butter or baked with milk or small amounts of cheese.

We just started some real food!  We’ve started with purees and oatmeal, mostly because that is what I’m most comfortable with and it seems simple.  This is a rough plan we may follow. I like the concept of feeding her normal people food as soon as possible, but it makes me a little more nervous.

Personality / Milestones

In general, she’s been an easy going and happy baby (except when she’s not).  I marvel at how different it is from the newborn days, how much easier it is to take her places, how easy it is to hang out with her at home. She can be so much fun with her smiles and laughs.  She’s also an extremely cute little baby.

She found her feet this month!  It is so cute!  She started consistently rolling from back to front, usually when she wants to get a better view of something.  She doesn’t roll to get places, but she has started trying to army crawl a bit and seems frustrated that she is mostly immobile. She can’t sit unsupported, but enjoys sitting and standing with support. She also has a lot more vocalizations this month.

She achieved a weight of 14 pounds and 1 oz at her 6 month checkout – still small for her age, but ticking up a bit in the percentiles.  She’s come a long way from the ~4 pound peanut she was when we brought her home!

Money

We spent a little bit on feeding supplies – plastic bowls, spoons, bibs and such. We’re starting to scope out baby proofing items.  I did buy a few purees to get us started on foods.  I hope to make my own, and I also don’t expect her to be on purees for too long… but I’m realistic and making my own is not something I was sure I’d have energy for.

I’ve put a few of her newborn items up for sale – the bassinet and swing. We purchased so much second hand that we should recover much of the cost –  plus we will free up some space!  These things are too large to store “just in case” we decide to have a second, and we can always hit up the second-hand market again.

Co-parenting

I feel like we are doing well here lately, and I’m grateful. It should be the default that both parents are equal parents, but it still is a struggle in our culture. T is a great dad, and extremely hands-on with her.  He’s great at playing with her and entertaining her, as well as the more tedious tasks.  The feeding still tips the scales in my direction, but T takes on more dog duties to try to help balance it. Plus, it is all a relatively short time.  People keep telling me how short babyhood is, and it is proving to be true, seemingly all the sudden.

Parenthood: 5 months

March 23, 2019

Routines & Sleep

Baby doesn’t have a schedule yet. We’re still following an eat-play-sleep routine at home.  She’s fed bottles roughly every 3 hours at childcare. Her naps are still random, making a true schedule impossible. This is fine, and some other moms have said schedules can be tricky until Baby gets down to 2 naps.  We still have 3-4 naps, depending on length.

We try for a consistant bedtime, but it varies based on naps.  She can generally stay up for ~2-2.5 hours before she gets cranky and wants to sleep. She would play until she melts down if we let her, but she goes to sleep really easily for a well timed nap f we time it right. Many naps are still about 40 minutes, but we’ve started to get a few longer ones too.  I hope that trend continues to develop!  She usually gets at least one long nap at childcare, and only just the past weekend had some longer ones at home.

At bedtime, we do a routine then I nurse her to sleep. I’m pragmatic, and this works for now and is easy.  She still is sometimes sleeping from about 8pm until 5/6 am.  Recently she’s had more  middle of the night awakenings (~2 am), and they seem to be triggered by gas, and started when she had a mild cold. This is not a problem – nursing in the night is better for my milk supply anyway, and she goes back to sleep easily.

She’s still in the bassinet in our room. This is a perk of having a small baby – she fits in her newborn gear for a long time. The bassinet should last us another month.  I’d prefer not to bedshare, and I’m not too motivated to set up a pack-n-play or crib in our room.  This means we’ll move her to her crib around 6 months – unless we come up with something else that works better for us.

Childcare

This marks her first completed month of childcare!  I’m super thrilled that we ended up in a nanny share, even though we only did it because there weren’t other options.  The other child is older and may start preschool, so it is TBD if it will continue after fall.  The nanny is great, and I love how much individual attention Baby gets. When we first started arranging a nanny share, she was barely 3 months and tiny and cried a lot. I couldn’t imagine entrusting her to someone else for 40 hours a week. She blossomed a lot between 3 and 4 months, and she is doing great with the nanny. They have just started going on little adventures during the day, and it makes me happy to see.

Of course, I miss having so much time with her. I miss being the one that knew everything about her, her daily schedule/routines, and the details of how her day was. But all things considered, chid care is working out well.

Eating

She’s still only eating breastmilk, which is simple. It isn’t exactly easy – pumping is time-consuming and annoying – but it is simple. There are few decisions to make.  Baby hasn’t shown signs of readiness for food yet, but I’m hoping she will soon.  After a tiny bit of research, we plan to start solids foods no later than 6 months, and earlier if she shows readiness.

I tried reintroducing dairy to my diet, and it seemed to have an impact on her nursing and gas.  So, I’m back to dairy-free.  The nanny reports that she spits up about twice a day, but we don’t see that at home, so it must have something to do with the bottle feeding.

Personality / Milestones

I think it was just last month when I said I thought she was a bit of a difficult baby.  I take it back! She has turned into an easy and happy baby. Her digestive system has matured, and she isn’t as troubled by gas as she once was. We no longer have a cry before every single nap. She likes us to play with her, but she’s also often happy to play by herself for a bit. It is amazing.

She’s gotten really great with her hands, manipulating everything she can get her hands on into her mouth.  She’s rolling only intermittently from stomach to back, and has attempted back to stomach but not succeeded.  She likes to sit supported, but falls over instantly unsupported. She’s pretty smiley, and laughs just a little bit.  She’s still figuring that out.  We’ve started taking her on our evening walks sometimes, either in the carrier or the stroller.  She sometimes cries if she’s tired, but she’s getting more into it.

She didn’t have a doctor’s appointment this month, so I’m not sure how much she weighs.  I would guess roughly 12.5 pounds.  She’s still fitting into lots of her 0-3 month size clothes, but we’re starting to wear some 3-6 month sizes.

Money

Child care is $600/week, and everything pales in comparison to that. Costco diapers were on sale this month for ~13 cents a diaper, so we stocked up big time. (We didn’t seriously consider cloth diapers for a variety of reasons. I do feel a bit guilty about the eco/environmental impact of diapers, but I do not feel bad about the cost/benefit portion of this decision.)

I already mentioned this, but we intend to open a 529 for her within the next month or two.  I don’t really expect gifts until her birthday or Christmas, but it would give us a place to put the gifts she already received.

Co-parenting

With childcare, things during the week feel relatively equal. Aside from nursing for me and dog walking for him, we share the remaining tasks pretty evenly. On weekends, I feel more tied to her because I need to feed her every 3 hours or so. We can probably work on making the weekends more equal in the future.

The immediate impact on our careers has been unequal.  I’m back full-time and T is on reduced duties (no teaching for the semester) with normal pay. Now that we’ve started childcare, this is probably a boon to his career – more time for research.  He’s also traveled for work a few times already, while I’ve yet to travel and have no immediate plans to. This is quite the change from the past few years where I traveled a lot (and generally enjoyed it). I spend roughly 1.5 hours pumping during each work day.  I can somewhat work during this, but it breaks my flow, limits when I can have meetings, and is a huge distraction overall.  T does try to make things easier for me by doing the childcare drop off, taking care of the dog at lunch (formerly my responsibility), and generally being as available as possible. But again, being the one producing the milk means I’m more impacted.  I expect things will settle in time.  In the long run, this is a short period of time.

Random money bullets

March 14, 2019

In place of my monthly reports, here are a bunch of updates about money lately.

  • Our net worth has recovered after dropping last fall, due to market recovery and continued earnings.  Yay!
  • It appears we will owe a modest amount on our taxes, despite my rough projections and payroll adjustments trying to make a small refund happen. It was a little unclear how much taxable income I’d end up with, considering my maternity leave and short term disability.
  • My short term disability came through without trouble. The overall policy is not great, but it was good that the check came pretty easily. The real value is that it would have covered me if something extreme happened in my pregnancy early on.
  • We are now paying for childcare.  I might post more on this later, but we are paying about $600/week for 40 hours a week of nanny share.  This is expensive.  The share is close by, so we’re able to put off getting a second car for a bit longer.
  • We paid off the 0% interest car loan, mostly to have better cashflow throughout the year. The title came in the mail this week.
  • On that note, we may need a second car at some point in the next year. I’m keeping that in mind as we shuffle cash around. I love being a one car family, but if we ever move to a daycare, logistics get to tricky to manage.
  • I only worked 35% of February (half time for 3 weeks), and took about a week unpaid in January, after exhausting my sick and vacation leave (which I’d been hoarding for years in anticipation of maternity leave).  Most of my income thus far been shuttled to my retirement accounts. So, I’ve pulled money from our overfull cash buffer to cover expenses.  This was the plan – the money was to cover leave and I want to funnel the cash (indirectly) into retirement this year, regardless of whether we can cash flow it in the calendar year.
    Aside from childcare and lost wages (hahaha, aside from that huge expense), the baby isn’t so expensive! But anyone who says breastfeeding is free is a liar. First, that is only true if my time is worthless. Second, I am working so I have to pump. This requires milk storage and all the pumping accessories. So far, I’ve gotten a free hospital pump “rental” from my insurance. I may or may not have to start paying for it at the 6 month mark.
  • I have not created even a rough 2019 budget or tracked my expenses in months.  I want to create a budget, but the budget is largely useless without following up with expense tracking. This is a lot of effort and my previous system was not automated.  Is this OK?  Does anyone operate without a budget?
  • I think I need to open up a 529 account for the baby.  We’re saving for college indirectly via Roth IRAs because it gives the most flexibility, and we have an abnormal and abundant amount of retirement savings room. However, I want to enable family members to contribute in lieu of gifts, and it doesn’t seem acceptable to say “just write the check to me, I’ll put it in my Roth, and eventually she’ll benefit!”
  • To my dismay, we now employ a gardener for $25/week (2 hours every 2 weeks).  It helps a lot with our jungle-yard, and really, we don’t have time to keep up with it all ourselves… but it also feels wrong not to do it ourselves.  On the other hand, the gardener works for lots of our neighbors, was looking for more work, and is currently undergoing treatment for a medical condition. He’s an excellent gardener. He also helped with a larger short-term project.  We’re still doing (or not doing!) the house cleaning ourselves.  T is also doing a lot of yard stuff himself, it’s just there is so much!

That is all for now.  Things are relatively good.  I’m enjoying being back at work (mostly…), but things have been pretty busy.

Parenthood: 4 months

March 11, 2019

I’m doing my monthly net worth, but haven’t managed monthly wrap up posts in a few months.  I hope those will resume soon…  Most of this was written at the 4 month mark.

It’s been getting easier, and more fun.  She spends more time awake is generally happier.  It is easier to figure out why she is crying when she cries.  There are few total meltdowns, and more just sad complain-y fussing type cries when she has an issue.

Sleep has been reliable for the last month. She goes to bed around 7-8pm.  T does diaper, pajamas, and a book or two or three.  I nurse her and place her in the bassinet in our room asleep.  We sneak in later. She sleeps until about 4 or 5 am, eats, then goes back to sleep.  I want her to sleep until 7 am, but she often gets up by 6:30 am.  (Sleep experts warn heavily against nursing to sleep, but I’ll change it when/if it becomes a problem.)  I sometimes hear her wake in the night, and go back to sleep on her own. We’re considering moving her crib in her room soon, but I like having her next to me in the bassinet, so I’ve been putting it off.  We did little to achieve such good night sleep. I didn’t encourage her to drop night feedings at all.  As soon as we got the “all clear” to let her sleep from the pediatrician (which wasn’t until her 2 month appointment since she was so small), she immediately started sleeping 6+ hours (unless sick or having digestion trouble), and gradually increased from there. We practiced “drowsy but awake” a LOT for naps, but not really for bedtime.  But honestly, it rarely worked and we often ended up putting her down fully asleep for naps. I refrained from nursing to sleep for naps, because I needed other people to be able to put her down for naps. I knew she was going to childcare, plus she was taking 4+ naps a day and T was home to help.

We did allow some fussing at bedtime around 3.5 months in the cases where she woke up again after nursing to sleep, but never when she sounded really distressed, and never for long. I give it 3 minutes to see if she needs me, and if she does, I go cuddle her. Intervening immediately often would wake her up more fully, and resulted in lots of crying as I tried to rock her back to sleep. If she is still fussing after a few minutes, she probably has some issue, or just needs to be held and comforted.

Similarly, we started allowing fussing at naps when it became apparent that rocking/bouncing her was sometimes just upsetting her more. I rock her to drowsy if she will let me.  If she is fighting me too much, I set her down for a 3 minutes. Usually, she is asleep before a minute is up, whereas she would cry in our arms for much longer. If she doesn’t fall asleep quickly, I pick her up again and rock her until she is calm.  Naps are still generally 40 minutes and in the crib in her room.

We’ll see how the nanny taking over much of the nap duty impacts our schedule.

Growth, milestones, personality.

All of the sudden she is no longer has any trace of newborn!  She looks like an older baby and has officially entered infanthood.  She’s still small, but growing well.  She has mastered moving her arms and hands around, and is getting more into toys.  She smiles a lot and makes lots of different sounds.  She’s constantly squirming and kicking her legs on her playmat, but not reliably rolling tummy to back.

We now get 1.5-2 hours of awake time between naps, so there a lot more time for interaction and play!  She is generally happy, unless tired or hungry. She often prefers to be on the floor kicking and wiggling around instead of being held, but likes when we hang out on the floor with her. She is content with a play gym or toys by herself for short periods. When she gets bored, she’ll fuss and ask to do something new. She likes flying (superman/airplane style), likes being sung to, and has so many cute vocalizations and coos. My favorite is when I sing to her and she sounds like she’s trying to sing along. The dog is doing fine with her, although we often keep him on the other side of a baby gate when we have her on the floor.

She had her first airplane ride when we visited my sister and parents in the midwest (combined with a work trip for T).  She did really well on the flights, and even better hanging out with my family. Her cousins made her laugh! She smiles quite a lot, but laughs are still pretty rare.

Money/Spending

Childcare started the day after she turned 4 months old.  We ended up going with a nanny share for 40 hours a week. This is more hours than I was initially thinking, but the set up was a good fit. We could have gotten by on less for a few more months, but eventually we do need full time care.  The share is very close to our house, and we can continue to delay getting another car.  There is some chance we’ll switch to a daycare center this fall, but my current preference is to keep her where she is if possible.  (The cost would be the same and the commute is worse – but we’d have access to 50 hours/week.)

Other than that HUGE EXPENSE, costs have been fairly low.  Diapers, some pumping supplies, very little on clothes thanks to generosity of friends and family.

Feeding

We’ve been lucky that breastfeeding was pretty simple for us so far. I enjoy nursing, but I do not enjoy pumping.  My pumping output went down when she started sleeping longer at night, but I’m very reluctant to pump in the middle of the night or to wake her. I do encourage her ~4-5am waking by picking her up as soon as she wakes.   At any rate, between pumping, nursing and my freezer stash, I’m confident we can make it to 6 months EBF.  We’ll have to see from there.

She hasn’t shown the signs of readiness for solids that my pediatrician told us to look out for, but it isn’t so far away.  In many ways, it is simpler not to have to deal with that yet.  At the same time, I’m excited to introduce real food to her!

Co-parenting

I feel like I’m the default parent, which is mostly due to breastfeeding.  Even when T is primarily caring for her for a significant amount of time, I still have to feed her every 2-3 hours.  Even if we do a bottle, I still have to pump for her. Other than that, we share responsibility for the most part.  The dog also still needs attention and weekend hikes, and T is often the default dog parent.  This leaves me to spend more time with the baby on the weekends.  I don’t mind this at all, but it does further reinforce my role as default parent. This is fine for the early baby stages, but we’ll have to navigate co-parenting as we get further in the parenting journey.