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You paid how much for that dog?

March 27, 2015

I’ll admit it – I had no idea what it meant to own a dog.

I vaguely assumed we’d rescue a dog when/if  ever got one.  I also thought a medium sized dog would be best.  And that was all of the thought I put into owning a dog.  I might have even judged on my blog my friend for getting a $1600 bernese mountain dog.

Then we actually decided to get a dog. We put a lot more thought into it.

We decided not to rescue.  I’m happy to share why if you are curious, but it is great that people’s first instinct these days is to adopt a rescue.  Everyone should consider a rescue.  We did consider it, but chose not to go that route right now. (If you end up considering a puppy from a breeder, please do LOTS of research and find out how you can ensure you are not supporting puppy mills or irresponsible breeding.)

Dogs are one of the few things that it is unadvisable to buy over the internet these days. We had a hard time  getting started on find the reputable breeders, and even ended up going to a dog show to meet some in person.  (We are not dog show people.)

Anyway, here are the “start up” costs of our soon-to-be latest family member:

  • $1,800 the Vizsla baby puppy itself.  Yep, for reals.  It is possible to get them for less (as low as $1000 in the midwest, + flight to get them to us), including from reputable breeders (maybe?), but not locally.   By “locally” I mean in the state of California.  We wanted to meet our breeder in person, so far away wasn’t a good option. I can’t even explain why I think it is OK for the puppy itself to cost that much.  It is absurd, right?  I will say that we talked to several breeders, and our breeder is the most fantastic of them all.
  • $300 for puppy kindergarten classes. Our breeder requires this for 6 weeks, we’re doing ~10 weeks.  They are 1 hr/week.
  • $250+ for puppy supplies: crate, toys, dog dish, nail trimmer, etc.
  • $? – initial vet visit / shots.

So, that’s a ton of money, and I almost didn’t post this, because… Well, I think it is obvious why one might hesitate!  But this is going to be a big part of our finances this year, and it deserves to be discussed in the open.

The dog is “saving” us money, because we’re forgoing some intended travel this year. We thought about it, and I really wanted a dog more than I wanted to visit Hong Kong in June (as a tag a long to a work trip T has). I spent 6 months in Hong Kong in college, so this wasn’t a decision I made lightly. (That is probably a different post – my travel priorities have shifted pretty majorly in the last couple of years.)

Our new puppy comes home next month, and I hope it will bring us years of food bills, vet bills, and joy.

I love my new job

March 26, 2015

I love my new job.

I’m still adjusting, which comes with bouts of imposter syndrome, uncertainty, anxiety…  all totally normal things that are unpleasant, but not unexpected nor unbearable.  I still have a lot to learn, but not only do I think I can learn whatever I need to, no one else seems to doubt it either.  It is so refreshing to be assumed to be competent, rather than… well, I don’t know exactly what my last day-to-day manager assumed.  That is something I had taken for granted at previous jobs. It was extremely frustrating  and demoralizing to realize that someone you are working closely with doesn’t believe in you.

I want to learn from my experience in my 2014 consulting gig, but I also just want to leave it the heck behind me and not look back.

I never expected to be a person who hated their job.  It felt like a personal failure to be so unhappy with what I was spending my days doing.   I’m a positive person. I’m determined.  Most of all, I have been successful in the past in maneuvering myself into favorable positions.  Periods of frustration are part of any job, but I have always been able to get from a point of frustration into a situation where things worked.   Last year, I was in a situation that was making me miserable, and I couldn’t figure out how to get out of it without quitting my job or waiting it out.

In my new job, and everything feels right so far. The work is mostly interesting and varied. The people are great.  The culture is very positive, and I feel like I fit into it better.  I have the most beautiful walk to work, and I just feel so incredibly lucky.

I used to feel that way ALL OF THE TIME when we lived in our little beach apartment in southern California.  I’m so glad I’m starting to find that feeling here too.

Do men buy cleaning supplies?

March 18, 2015

My husband’s sister invited me to a Norwex virtual “launch party” on Facebook.

In general, I’m not a fan of friends selling to me through multi-level marketing companies. I am not an obsessive cleaner (in the “no bed making” club!).  But I give family a special pass, and probably would have considered buying a thing or two, a one-time show of support.  They probably work well, even though they are also probably overpriced.

But then…I realized my husband hadn’t been invited to his sister’s group.  I looked at the list of “members” of the party, and there were 78 women on the list.  There were 0 men.

It isn’t just that she knows that while T cleans, I’m more likely to choose cleanings supplies.  She literally doesn’t know a single man that would be interested in a cleaning product, but she knows 78 women who might.

I’m sorry, but this is not acceptable to me.

She’s smart, ambitious, and has a good career.  So, it she isn’t embarrassed to sell cleaning products to her 78 closest women friends and zero men?  Maybe not.  I would guess she does the vast majority of cleaning and child care in her home.

She lives far enough away that it really isn’t worth saying anything about.

But I just hate that this is not abnormal behavior.  I hate that even in a (relatively?) progressive marriage, I truly am faaaar more likely to be purchasing cleaning supplies.  I hate that someone has a favorite window cleaning tool that enables her to  cleaning the outside of windows without the help of her tall husband.  (I’ve lived here 6 months and I have cleaned the outside of our windows zero times, and the insides only a handful.)

Mostly, I hate that maybe most men really don’t buy cleaning supplies.

2015 Investment Action Plan

March 16, 2015

PF blogger confession:  For the past 2 years or so, I’ve not spend any time on my investment portfolio.

I’ve been doing the basics, which I think is the most important:  saving as much as possible in an automatically rebalancing asset allocation / target date funds.

So, now is the time to revisit this and optimize.  Here’s my plan.

  1. Find out what our current investments actually look like.
  2. Re-evaluate our ideal asset allocation.
  3. Move out of target date funds and create our own where it makes sense.
  4. Move my old 401k.  It looks like the best option is to put this in my new 401k since the investment options are good.  Investment options are being changed to eliminate some extremely low expense ratio funds (.02 – .07).  My best option will be target date funds with .15% expense ratios.   This is enough to push me to rollover to vanguard instead.

Step 2 is the hardest, but I’m not going to overthink it.  Based on a brief bogleheads review, a 70/30 stock bond split, and following vanguards 4 fund allocations, I’m targeting something like this:

  • Total U.S. stock market index fund – 49%
  • Total international stock index fund – 28%
  • Total U.S. bond index fund – 21%
  • Total international bond index fund – 9%

If anyone smart has any reason I need to keep digging and researching to find a better allocation, I’m open to suggestions.

The largest portion of our money is in my LA employer’s 401k.  This has been auto-rebalancing on an asset allocation that I set a while ago, and all funds have low fees.  I was getting charged $6/year to keep it there in 2014, but now it looks like that fee went away.  I don’t see a reason to roll this over, so I adjusted the rebalance allocation to include more bonds to reflect a less risky portfolio going forward.

My most recent employer’s 401k has one year’s worth of contributions, all in a target date fund with a relatively high expense ratio (.7%).  The fund options weren’t very compelling, so I was stuck with that while I was employed.  Now I need to move it into a roll-over IRA.   This is also less intimidating than moving my other 401k.   This one is a relatively small percentage of my portfolio.  Once the rollover is complete, I’ll rebalance my rollover IRA to try to hit my final allocation target.

2015 money tracking

March 13, 2015

I created a really pretty spreadsheet to start out 2015.  I attempted to address some deficiencies previous versions had… but I’m already frustrated by it.  I really don’t want to spend a ton of time on this, but I’m not getting in information I want.

Here are the questions I want to be able to answer at a glance:

  • How much will we take home this year (net)?
  • How much are we spending?  What big expenses remain?  What categories are trending over budget, and why?
  • How much are we going to save for retirement, towards mortgage pre-payment, or in cash (for mid-term spending)?
  • Are our tax withholdings approximately correct to net us a small refund?
  • What is our net worth?
  • Are there any major investment / strategic changes we need to make? [I know the answer is yes for this one.]
  • How have these answers changed since the last time I looked?  Are we still on track?

I was trying to do a zero based budget and track each dollar coming in.  That is too rigid if I also want to use a slush funds to smooth out cash flow.  For example, I want to ignore the fact that I spent about $4k on reimbursable work travel.  I want to ignore the fact that we paid for a big house project in February even though we didn’t allocate income towards it until later in the year.  I want to ignore this stuff in the big picture, while understanding that it is happening.  Our cash flow is actually net negative thus far – but this is OK.

I’m really jealous of the PoP’s monthly income statements and balance sheets.  This would be my ideal, but I’m not quite jealous enough to do them myself.  The problem is, I’m not really a details person.  They bore me to death.  Quarterly reports might be something I could and should handle.

There is a lot of value in summarizing the information for myself, and I’d like something T can digest.  Since he doesn’t often look at the whole picture, he has a constant low-level anxiety that we are about to go broke.  It would be funny if it weren’t also mildly stressful for both parties.

February Updates

February 13, 2015

It’s been nearly a month since I last wrote!  Here is what’s up.

We’ll get a net tax refund this year.  I’ve really struggle to estimate our tax bill this year (apparently).  I assumed T’s paycheck would be posted in 2014, but later realized it would be the first few days of January.   I only considered the fact that we wouldn’t get the 401k contribution, but forgot that we also wouldn’t have the associated income.  At any rate, we have most of our infos in Turbotax, so I’m pretty sure this time.  I think.  That frees up the $3k I had set aside to pay our taxes, as well as whatever refund we get.  We’ll owe to California (as always) and we’ll have a federal refund that will cover it.

We’re getting a puppy!  I had some buffer in our budget, and we decided now is the time to add a new family member.  This likely will impact our vacation plans.  I knew I was serious about a puppy when I realized I was willing to delay/forgo an intended vacation in order to accommodate a puppy into our life.  :)

(It is coming from a very reputable breeder, and no, I’m not accepting opinions on why we should rescue.   We are absolutely NOT supporting a puppy mill or a breeder whose puppies end up in rescue.)

Drainage work is supposedly starting next week, but the date isn’t confirmed yet.  It is the most recent project in our series of home maintenance projects that the average person would never see (furnace, bathroom fans, and now drainage).  Can’t wait to do the roof in a few years!  (<— sarcasm)

We’ve made no other real progress on the house.  We haven’t been home many weekends so far, but I’m hoping to get some minor things (hedges, picture hanging) done this weekend.  We still haven’t even got a desk.

New job is great!  I mean, I’m still new and figuring out the work.  But I like the people a lot, the project will be interesting, the commute is amazing, the hours are reasonable, and I really have no complaints.  And…. Dubai next week – woo hoo!

Two links:

Reasons you were not promoted totally not related to gender.  Related:  I was asked last week if this was “my first big job”.  I tried really hard not to roll my eyes.  At least I wasn’t mistaken for an intern or student.  Gah.

You must watch this.  Apparently there is some back story about the dancer being a rebel that is also perhaps interesting, but I only cared about watching the dancing.

2015 Plans and Goals

January 16, 2015

I love the feeling of a new year.  Maybe it helps that the past two new years have come with new jobs, but there is such a feeling of possibility and the perfection of a blank slate.

Finances

In approximate order of priority….

  • Save $18,000 each in our retirement plans
  • Reduce food and discretionary spending by 10% over 2015 (excluding travel, house)
  • $25,000 mortgage prepayment OR equivalent mortgage prepayment + cash saved
  • $9,500 in targeted savings
  • April property tax bill saved by December.
  • Consider rolling over old 401ks into IRA or consolidating.  (I’ve hesitated on this, as an IRA makes the backdoor Roth option, that I never use anyway, tricker.  But my current plan has good options, so I’m not sure why I shouldn’t just roll them together.)
  • Consider a back-door Roth for T.  We could do this in T’s name (I think) with no tax implications.

Self care

Run (or hike/backpack) 1000 miles.  This is something I did in 2012, and it was hard.  It requires me to be consistent.  It will help if I do a marathon.  I might fail.  I’m allowing myself to count hiking and backpacking this time, so that will help a bit.  I use a simple app to track this.

Find a local yoga studio.  I used to live about 1 block from my yoga studio, and even then, I was inconsitent.  I have some leftover money at a yoga chain, and after that, I’ll shop for a closer studio.

Eat more vegetables.  This one isn’t quantifiable, but it is something I want to list anyway.  We used to eat ~90% vegetarian at home, but have been experimenting more with cooking the past year. I finally know how to cook meat and make it taste good.  That is great, but I still need to get more veggies in.  This will come through regular meal planning and just serving more veggies.  I’ll also have the occasional green smoothie, because I like them more than I like salads.

Establish a weekly & daily routine/habits.  Most of what we do, we do out of habit.  I have good ones and bad ones, but I can say I was very inconsistent in 2014.  I’d like to have things be more structured.

Knowledge, Learning, Education, Career Development

Read 35 books.  I would like to read even more, but I am not sure I’ll make the time to do so.  I enjoy the act if reading, but the reason I like to set a goal for number of books read is because I like to be exposed to the knowledge and ideas in books.  I want to learn something new, experience more of the world than I could without of books, and sometimes, just to enjoy a good story.  My “to read” list is ever growing and I want to make some progress.

Take a class.  I’m not going to specify format (online, classroom) or topic.  It likely will not be related to my career.  I am considering a language (French, or maybe something else) or coding in a new language (Python?), but I just need to pick something and commit.

Take a knife skills class.  This is a one day thing.  I put it on my wish list for Christmas (we’re celebrating late), but I will pay for it if I need to.  I’m pretty proficient in the kitchen, but wouldn’t mind speeding up the prep work.

Come up with a list of fun local activities to spend weekends on.  We did some of this in 2014, but I was often too overwhelmed to do much on the weekends.  I need to fix this.

Be awesome at my new job.  I don’t know what to put specifically, but I’ll be learning a LOT this year.  I’m excited.  While there is a lot of new stuff, there is a lot that feels familiar, and I’m happy to be back in an engineering role.

Travel Plans

Hong Kong + ?:   Japan?  We should be able to score a free ticket (with miles) for me when I tag along on T’s conference trip this summer.  I spent a semester during college in Hong Kong, and I’ll die of jealousy if I don’t get to go too.  I want to add on somewhere new, and Japan is seeming like the most likely option, although we won’t have nearly enough time.  I have some SPG points that I have to figure out how to use, but that should help with the hotel.

Toronto: Friend’s wedding, super excited!

Home:  For Christmas.  Also, I’m going this month to celebrate 2014 Christmas.  I also think it would be good if T went to his parent’s this summer, but I likely won’t join.

Portland:  Doing a race here this spring.  I have some leftover southwest credit from a trip I cancelled, so this should be low cost.

Other than that, we’ll have some yet to be planned backpacking / camping and some weekend trips around the area.  I wish to go back to France, but it is pretty unlikely.  I’m going to Dubai again for work in the next couple of months, but I’m not sure I’ll have time to do much exploring.  I feel like I am too new to try to extend the stay for touring much, but I do have one day free, assuming jet lag cooperates.

House Plans & Budget:

I allocated $12k for maintenance (higher than I plan for a typical year), and $4k for furnishings.  We may not need all of this.  This excludes earthquake retrofitting, which I still have 2014 money set aside for…

Improve Drainage.  This is a ~$10k bill, so that is the bulk of our maintenances.  We knew about this, but I was hoping to put it off for a year or two.  After the first big rains of the year, we decided it is best to take care of it now.  We have several bids, and likely will start the work soon.

Blinds:  I want these on a couple of the bedroom windows.  T estimated $500-$600.  We don’t really need them for privacy, but our guests do.  My MIL has said multiple times that we “need” valences so it looks finished, but I do not really care for the look of window treatments in general.

Desk:  I think we’re going to build our own, due to lack of affordable options in the style I want.  It will still cost maybe $200+, but at least it will be what I want.

Repaint bathroom stall.  The tile only goes to about eye level, and the paint doesn’t seem to be bathroom appropriate.  It is already peeling a little, but now that we installed fans, it has gotten a lot better.  Someday, we might retile, but that is not going to happen any time soon.  This should be relatively inexpensive.

Paint ceiling.  We can have this done professionally for $600, or do it ourselves for less.

Replace light fixtures in main living area.  We have something like this right now.  Not only do I think they are ugly, they take up about 250 watts when they are on.  The biggest challenge is deciding what to replace them with.

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