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March Wrap-up

April 9, 2021

Money & Net Worth & Spending

We continue to save each month. I’m front loading retirement this year again, because I am. I have no particular reason to think I won’t have a job for the full year, and lots of reasons to expect I will, but it is still just nice to have that taken care of.

I finally set up my yearly projected spending. It went down due to the mortgage refinance. I’m pretty OK with letting that ride indefinitely, given the < 3% fixed rates. Childcare is also going down just a bit (on a monthly basis) due to LO getting older and officially in a preschool classroom. It is still a lot. Related, we increased our Dependent Care FSA deductions from $5,000 to $10,500, which should take a bite out of taxes for 2021. With these reduced costs, we should have extra funds to deploy to our savings priorities. A 529 or a megabackdoor Roth is next on the list. The 529 is easy. A megabackdoor Roth requires some research and effort, but is the more optimal choice. I need to detail out my yearly projected savings more carefully before deciding.

I finally tallied up our spending for the quarter, and it is basically as expected. Very high in food, but I’ve lost motivation to try to reduce that for now. A little high in other areas that will be easier to watch.

I decided to put in a new “target annual income” amount to calculate our percentage progress to FIRE in my spreadsheet. Something somewhat realistic, but still a total guess. So, i’m moving the goal posts, significantly. Since we aren’t planning on taking any actual action on the information any time soon, it seems appropriate.

COVID

We were fortunate to have received our first doses of the vaccine, and will be fully vaccinated by the end of the month! We went (separately) to one of the FEMA mass vaccination sites, and everything was really smooth. It was a little emotional, but it was such a sense relief. Also, case rates have plummeted locally, which makes me less anxious about childcare. LO’s teachers are vaccinated, and a lot of the other parents are getting vaccinated. I feel very grateful we made it through the past many months of childcare without a serious COVID scare at her daycare.

Despite this awesome news, not a lot has changed for us yet. The big thing is that my (vaccinated) parents are going to come and see us! The CDC is still giving some conflicting guidance about travel – vaccinated people can travel w/out quarantine but non-essential travel is still not recommended. But, we have weighed the risks and I have not seen any family in over a year, and have not seen my mom in nearly a year and a half. So, unless infection rates do something unexpected, we are going to have them visit and stay with us.

Activism

I feel like I have so little to give in this area right now. But, I also know that communities that have to deal with racism and discrimination don’t get to take a break when they don’t feel like dealing with racism. I have my financial donations still going, which is something.

Work

I’m suddenly feeling very burned out with respect to work. The adrenaline of last month’s major work accomplishment wore off, and the realization that I hadn’t really unplugged from work for more than a day or two (including weekends) since who-knows-when sunk in. We haven’t taken a true vacation at all since summer 2017. The only mini-vacations we had since were pre-pandemic visits to family for Christmas 2019 and a long weekend for my sisters wedding about 2 years ago.

I keep trying to book individual days off as vacation days, even if I’m just going to stay home. I did not do this earlier in the pandemic, because it felt like a “waste” of a day off. Still, I usually end up getting sucked into an “important” work meeting. Meetings are never REALLY that important, but they have become the main way to receive back-and-forth information about what is going on with the project. It always feels like missing a meeting is just missing too much key info, and you may never get looped into something if you weren’t in the meeting where it came up. This is a sign of sub-par project organization/communication in a totally virtual world, which I think we all (including management) recognize and are striving to fix. It is also just a bit of work FOMO on my part. Anyway, I end up prioritizing meetings over work blocks to get stuff done. A lot of my job is communication, coordination, and meetings – but there also are parts of it that require focus and time to complete.

My current method of working is by my design, or rather, by the individual choices I make each day, without a clear system or design in my mind. It is an inefficient way to avoid burnout, and also not the most efficient way to accomplish work. I’m going to try to change the parts I can change. I can set better boundaries when I do take days off. I can put work blocks on my calendar. I can’t really fix the broken meeting culture on my own, and I don’t even know what to suggest to improve it.

My role on my main project will shift at the end of May, and I can cut out a ton of meetings. Literally 8+ hours of meetings will vanish, mostly permanently. (No wonder I can’t get things done at a reasonable pace!) I can and do multi task during many of the meetings. I filed out a workplace survey on Zoom fatigue last week, and it was only then that I realized that I multitask during meeting because “I have to in order to get my work done”, which was one of the multiple choice options.

Family & Life

Things are good here, at least as good as they can be when I’m burnt out from work and still grappling with the pandemic. LO can now sing her ABCs. She has been doing so many fun activities in daycare. We are procrastinating on potty training, but it is probably about time.

February Wrap-Up

March 15, 2021

Money & Net Worth

Nothing exciting to report here, as usual. No news is generally good news.

I am realizing that it is March 15th and I’ve yet to make any moves on tax preparation. I’m 70% determined to not pay TurboTax (or similar), assuming I can find several hours to work through this again. I have a reasonable spreadsheet based estimate of taxes, and expect a modest refund.

I did just hear that there were some changes in the latest stimulus that will give us a little boost. We don’t qualify for the stimulus or expanded child tax credits, but the limit for the Dependent Care FSA were expanded to $10,500 (from $5,000). There were also increases to the Dependent Care Tax Credit, causing me to redo my calculations to ensure the FSA was still the best strategy for us. It is, but the math may have changed significantly for those with AGI under $150k so.

Spending

I’ve yet to tabulate any 2021 spending data, but may try to get that in place for March. I’m interested, but just haven’t had the down time to do it.

COVID

I’m writing this mid-March, almost a year to the date when the Bay Area shut down for the first time. Case rates continue to drop locally, although the more contagious variant is purportedly on the rise under the data. 

We kept LO home from daycare on a Monday due to some very mild congestion appearing on a Sunday. We took her for a COVID test Monday morning, and received results back by 9 am Tuesday. She was completely better, so she was able to return to daycare that day with a negative COVID test and doctor’s note in hand. The sick protocols for daycare pretty strict. I’m generally thankful for that, especially when COVID tests can be returned within a day. The last time we kept her home it took 4 days for the results to come back. T and I both later caught whatever LO had, but worse. This was the first real cold in our family since the pandemic started!

More and more people are getting vaccinated. Both of my parents have had two shots now. My younger sister was eligible based on the “additional risk factor” category. Lots of coworkers have received shots. It is great to see the big FEMA sites vaccinating thousands each day. Hooray for the scientists who developed this vaccine so quickly, and for the government for working to increase vaccination rates. The distribution has been very imperfect and inequitable, but it is still a massive undertaking and progress is being made.

It is unclear how much longer before LO could be vaccinated. I’m hopeful that community spread rate will remain low and get even lower, making this much less of an issue. We’ll continue to watch CDC guidance as we make decisions, and do our best to keep her safe.

Work

February was one of the most exciting and rewarding months of work in my entire career. When I quit my business consulting job in 2014, it was with the ultimate goal of achieving exactly what we achieved this past month. My part in this program did not turn out at all as I had expected. I wanted to quit a few separate times, for good reasons. But, I’m so glad I stuck with it. The fact that it worked out so well, really that it worked out at all, is because of my lead on the project. Well, also because of ME of course. There are a lot of great people I’ve worked with, but we worked very well together, and he was willing to let me do cool stuff while staying in California and being an outsider.

I have a couple more months of seeing this through, before a nice hand-off to other team members. I’m really ready for it, despite how much I like the project and the people. It has been an amazing experience.

My other projects have been mostly sitting on the back burner, but are ready to ramp up as soon as I am ready to support that. I’m trying to take on more there, without setting myself up for failure due to getting overwhelmed. I’m hearing of more and more people at my work getting vaccinated, and I’m hopeful that people will begin returning to a slightly more normal work environment several months from now. We’ll see, though.

Family & Life

LO is almost 2.5! Naps at home are no longer happening, but daycare still achieves them. We had a month or two of nice and easy bed time routines, but now are back to some rough bedtimes. We are begrudgingly thinking about potty training. The potty has been introduced, she’s used it few times, but we have not really pushed it yet. LO’s vocabulary is exploding and it is fun to hear all of the things she says.

With my parents being vaccinated, and the expectation that we’ll both be vaccinated relatively soon, we’ve started talking about them visiting us. I’m really excited about this. I haven’t seen anyone in my family in over a year and have not seen my mom in nearly 1.5 years. We’ve drastically increased the frequency of our FaceTime conversations, but this is the longest I’ve gone without seeing family in my life. I’ve usually seen my parents them 2-3 time each year, even after moving to California, and everyone else 1-2 times a year.

January Wrap-up

February 8, 2021

Money & Net Worth

Our net worth up with the market. I did not invest gamble in GameStop or anything exciting. Oh! Here is something a bit exciting. We’ve achieved “FI without home” status. This means that if we sold our home and used the equity to buy something outright somewhere cheaper, we could claim financial independence. In other words, if we removed the mortgage (and childcare) from our budget (but left property taxes, etc.), we have enough to cover a 4% SWR. I have LOTS of caveats about my use of flat out unrealistic assumptions, so this is just a made up milestone not reflective of reality. But it is something.

Food & Cooking & Spending

I’ve mentioned much every month that our food spending increased since last year, in large part due to switching to grocery delivery (mostly via Whole Foods, sometimes Good Eggs and Costco, no longer via instacart). This month, we did 2-3 weeks of “meal delivery box” from a local business that did food on the side pre-pandemic, but has pivoted into prepared delivery as a major source of income through the pandemic. After trying it out in December, I was sold. For $130/week, we get enough food to fill up most (not all) of the dinners, without cooking. It is hard to precisely quantify how much food it is. It isn’t organized into meals, but it seems to last us about 5-6 days, with some supplemented sides/salads. It is reasonably healthy, they have vegan/veg options, a variety of cuisines, and it takes all of the decision making and cooking off my plate. I’m pretty convinced that cooking as a service is going to surge in the next decade. This type of service has always been around, but was previously entirely unaffordable. It still isn’t cheap, but it is at a price I’m willing to pay, for now.

In comparison to our other most common takeout options, it is a little cheaper. We can get about 2 days worth of Thai food for $65 from our favorite Thai place, but it is a very specific delicious) cuisine. Pizza from our favorite place is around $35 for 4 meals, but really heavy to do regularly. Plus, those aren’t delivered – we pick up.

We’re going to continue this service heavily throughout the remainder of the pandemic, I think.

COVID

T resumed lecturing (remotely), and we had to bite the bullet and sent LO back to daycare mid-month. We couldn’t make our jobs work without child care. We still think daycare is our preferred option for her (versus nanny). Also, she has given up naps at home, further making work impossible. Cases dropped the week we sent her back, and continue to drop. They still are not low, but they are just this week have fallen below my “panic!” threshold.

I started getting weekly surveillance testing offered through my work. I’m glad testing availability has improved so much that this is possible. I’ve read that asymptomatic surveillance testing is a bit controversial, and that even though false positives are rare, it is more likely than not that an asymptomatic positive test is false. So, my plan is to not panic if I get a positive test, but take precautions. Then retest, ASAP.

Vaccination roll out is painfully slow. We don’t expect to be eligible anytime soon, but hope that LO’s teachers will be offered a vaccination very soon, and hope that they want it. I was initially very optimistic about the vaccine news. The slow speed and the variant news is tempering that, but overall, I’m still amazed we have vaccines already. My mom has received her two shots, though! Hooray nurses! My grandpa (over 85) is getting his second next week. Same for T’s grandma.

Work

January was a mixed bag. The first half of the month was working with a toddler underfoot (T admittedly took on more of this). My phase of the project wrapped up without much trouble (no more train wrecks). I actually took a vacation day late in the month (while LO was at daycare!) and just chilled about the house.

A big milestone for my main project will happen in February, then I’m back in a leadership role for a few months before fully handing off my responsibilities to other capable team members. It has been a privilege that the company I am working with has given me such a visible and important role on the project, despite me being external and an “outsider”. I know it wouldn’t have happened without my lead/manager advocating for me over the years, and I’m grateful. It’s been super long and interesting road. I’ll be both sad and happy to complete my role on the project.

There is plenty of work at my actual workplace, so I’m not too worried about what comes next. I have a role lined up (taking on more for my second project), but there is a lot of other places where my skills could be used.

Family & Life

We’ve started talking about a (still far off, post-COVID) sabbatical for T. Previously, I’ve dismissed the idea as too detrimental/risky for my career, and T has also been content to push it off. With the culmination of my project, combined with time to have built a reputation at my job, combined with our increasingly secure financial position…. I’m willing to take the risk. Or, I will be willing very soon. It is also a mini-pathfinder to expat life, if the political situation continues to deteriorate. I don’t actually want to leave this area/country without planning to return, but in the end, I’m going to make the decision that is best for LO and best for us.

LO continues to be adorable. We’re struggling with bedtimes (what is new), but delighting in the continued improvement in language and pretend play.

When asked if she wanted to watch the Super Bowl, she ran to the table . “Yes! Bowl of soup!!!” (She loves the hot and sour soup that I’ve made a few times.) My interest the Super Bowl was only slightly higher than hers. 🙂

2020 Financial Summary

January 3, 2021

Overall Net Worth

The market was up, so our net worth is also up – overall about a 20% increase for 2020. About 40% percent of the increase was from direct savings, and the other 60% was market growth. It always feels like the market is really propelling us forward (and it is!), but there is still a significant chunk of the growth happening due to our earnings and savings.

Our asset allocation changed a little bit throughout the year.

CategoryStartPre-refiPost-refiEnd
Cash7%8%4%4%
Investments67%68%70%71%
Home equity26%24%27%26%
2020 SP Asset Allocation

I’m glad we reduced our cash balance significantly, but not quite as glad that we put it into real estate – even though that helped us get a lower rate and lower payment. My goal is to have less than 20% of our net worth tied up in home equity. We’ll get there. I’m done with mortgage prepayments for some time, maybe forever. Our mortgage is now less than childcare (which isn’t saying a lot since childcare is $$$$), and the extra money is better invested.

Savings / debt repayment

We maxed out all tax advantaged retirement spaces, which includes two 403bs, two 457bs, two Roth IRAs, and some other (small) misc. non-voluntary savings through work. We also put a hefty sum from cash savings into our mortgage balance to qualify for a lower refinance rate (rates have since dropped even more!). We saved a little bit in a 529 for LO. This was mostly just gifts from relatives (total < $500), but I threw some money into it whenever the market was having a terrible day, or whenever life felt terrible. Our strategy for college savings is not primarily 529-focused. I hope to get to a mega-backdoor Roth IRA in the next couple of years for tax diversification and college savings. Maybe 2022? We heavily prioritize anything that gives us a tax break today over a tax break tomorrow, and we just haven’t had enough income for the mega-backdoor yet.

Spending

For spending, we “saved” on childcare for the 3-ish months daycare was closed, and also moved from infant care to toddler care. All in all, our childcare costs were $7k less in 2020 compared to 2019. We expect them to increase again in 2021, since we are voluntarily keeping LO home for now. I don’t expect the state will force our childcare to close again, and we have to pay unless they are closed, or we decide to withdraw.

Mortgage spending was down about $2.5k due to our refinance, but home maintenance spending was WAY up with a new roof. Despite saving in the childcare category and reducing our mortgage payment, our total spending was the highest ever due to the new roof.

Our grocery spending also went way up, increasing by ~$50/week. Most of this is pandemic related, but part of it is that LO now eats real food instead of breastmilk and small portions. For example, I rarely would buy berries for myself, but she has them all the time. On the pandemic side, ordering groceries online costs more, plus every order has an extra tip. I also count food boxes under grocery, and we’ve done some of those. They are pretty pricey for what you get. I can no longer shop in person at Costco in person (I used to get frozen chicken and other meat then). Finally, price just is not on the top of my list of concerns when meal planning (easy/quick, healthy, and tasty are the priorities).

Our pet spending was down because we had to rehome our dog early in the pandemic. I can’t go into details, but it was truly the only thing that we could do in the circumstances. It heart wrenching (and really still is), and one of the worst things we’ve gone through in our lives.

Donations were up! It still is a very small percentage of our take-home pay, but I’m glad that they are a regular and increasing part of our budget. This year they were mostly targeted on BLM / NAACP, combined with food security related donations. There are a lot of causes out there, but these feel the most pressing.

Everything else was pretty similar, or within $1000. Gas spending went down by half, but isn’t a large amount even in normal years.

Looking ahead

If the market stays flat, we would reach the “FI excluding home” number I set a few years ago by the end of 2021. This means that if we took our home equity and used it to buy a house outright in a lower cost area, and spent the yearly budget I set with a 4% withdrawal, we could retire. There are assumptions that imply it is an overly conservative number (ignoring social security and a tiny pension), and others that imply it is an overly risky number (health care, at market peak). I’m not planning on taking action on this milestone, so I haven’t calculated it any more detail. Also, our plan is not really to move to a lower cost area, and we probably should fund college for our LO. So, we are not really very close to FI, at least not for the lifestyle we have now and likely want to maintain. I estimate we have about another 5 years or so before we reach that, or less if the market performs well.

November and December Wrap-up

December 31, 2020

I started this entry a long time ago, but didn’t get time to finish until just now. I hope all are doing well, staying healthy, and had the best holidays you could. Happy New Years Eve!

Election week Recap:

(Doesn’t this already feel like so long ago?) On election night, I watched the NYT needles to get an idea of whether a president-elect would be identified that night. It quickly became clear we wouldn’t know right away. I followed the checked the FiveThirtyEight live blog, and they seemed convinced Biden had a shot a Georgia and Pennsylvania – but the early numbers made that hard for my brain to accept. I went to bed uncertain, but with hope. On Wednesday and Thursday, I didn’t get a lot done, aside from refreshing the NYTs vote counts and attempting my own spreadsheet models to see how likely it was Biden could pull ahead. The memes were so good! An overwhelming sense of relief washed over me on Friday when it became apparent that Biden would win, and would win by enough to make Trump’s coup attempts and legal shenanigans very difficult. The intensity of the relief was surprising. Our country has been so many problems remaining, and my faith in American democracy has been permanently shaken. Still, the relief of stopping the free fall to hell (as AOC put it) was very real.

Holiday Recap:

We celebrate the secular version of Christmas, centered around family and gift giving. We stayed home and saw no one. There really was no other choice for us aside from flying, which is not going to happen. I really miss seeing family, but it was also nice not to travel. LO got a lot of presents, mostly from other people. My mom always goes overboard on gifts, but she also is very willing to accept input on what we want/need. I think getting gifts at a smaller scale would be fine, but it makes her happy and I’m not going to fight that battle.

I got a few things I needed, and some things we wanted. I got a gift card to pick myself out some new clothes. It is an exercise in optimism after 9 months of mostly wearing casual lounge clothes and hardly leaving the house. I haven’t been very interested in clothes or my appearance since LO was born, honestly, but I suddenly have an urge to look just a little put together on occasion.

COVID-19 worries:

The spike across the country in November was frustrating and scary. Many of my extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins) were infected in their hot spot Midwest state, but most recovered major immediate complications. The last of my (deceased) grandma’s 15 siblings passed away of COVID after catching it in her assisted living community. My MIL and FIL were infected, and recovered I watched local cases climb with nervousness, and wondering how much longer before we’ll have to stop using childcare.

The December came, and the wave started here. We stopped sending LO to childcare as of 12/4, starting the already planned holiday break early. About 1.5 weeks later, one of her teachers tested positive for COVID and exposed the class, so the classroom closed down a few days early anyway. We didn’t get any further details on the case. I don’t know when we’ll be ready to send her back, but we opted not to cancel our contract. I think she’ll be back by February.

On a brighter note, here are some new, more happy, COVID statistics to track: Over 2 million American’s vaccinated. My mom got her first shot this week, hooray!

Money and Net Worth and Spending:

This is back to feeling super unimportant. I guess things are going well. It is really unfair how having money invested means that you can just get more and more money, without really doing anything. The more you have the easier it is to grow it.

Spending has been normal, I guess. I spent extra on Christmas presents, but everything else was normal. Food spending continues to be a bit higher, but travel and other fun spending is basically at zero. Donations continue monthly, and I topped off the year with another donation to the local food back, and one to the local dog breed rescue.

Work:

Work has been relatively good. There were no big train wrecks, and the one big blip that we had was due to randomness that couldn’t have been prevented. It was busy during non-holiday weeks, but we were able to get ahead on some things, keep the pace manageable over the holidays. The hiccup that we had was relatively easy to recover from (if still ill-timed for other reasons), which was a blessing. I’m about 2 weeks from shifting (temporarily) to more of a backseat role for a month. I’ll still be pushing forward work to get ready for the next phase I’m leading, but maybe there will be fewer meetings?

I’ve cut my time waaay down on my second project. My portion of that work is largely in a holding pattern. The project made a major decision to change one of our key partners, and I’m now feeling optimistic we’ll come out successful this summer (when I’m able to ramp back up). It will be an exciting project if we can pull it off. My boss/mentor is still leading things for now. I fully trust her to set up the project well, and that I’ll be able to shine in the role when I’m ready.

Since we’ve been keeping LO home, my productivity has suffered quite a bit, and I’m trying to just accept that as OK instead of holding myself to the usual standards. There is only so much I can do, and I am optimistic my reputation will not be overly tarnished, given everything. I’m prioritizing my family over my job, while still maintaining standards high enough to avoid letting my colleagues down.

Food:

We’ve still relied on Whole Foods delivery, an occasional Amazon Fresh for things Whole Foods doesn’t carry. I mix in some Good Eggs meal kits now and then. They are good and I feel good about the company, but they are expensive. I found a local place that is doing sets of pre-cooked takeout-style meals delivered, enough food for lunch/dinner for about 4 days for $130. They were not excellent, but they were good. Most of all, it was very very easy. I will probably do that again next month. It costs about 2-4 times what a takeout order might cost us (generally we get 2 each out of a takeout order). But quite a bit more food, and we don’t have to pickup. When we’re out childcare and trying to survive, I welcome shortcuts. On that note, I’ve been buying bagged salad kits to help us eat more veg/salad. They are a terrible value, but they are something we reliably eat and can whip up in a second.

Some of the easy and/or delicious things I’ve cooked for the first time lately: Chicken Shawarma, gnocchi, hot and sour soup, and this curry. I put a “healthy instant pot” cookbook on my wishlist because I’ve been pretty impressed with the ease and quality of instant pot meals.

Family:

LO has been amazing. Her vocabulary and language skills are developing rapidly, and it is so fun to hear what is going on inside of that little head. It is also adorable to hear her mimic every phrase we say. Two year olds get a bad reputation, but so far, this is a really fun age. There are tantrums, for sure, but we’ve been able to handle them calmly. She does miss going to school (daycare), seeing her teachers and classmates, and all the fun stuff they do there… but she’s doing OK with us too!

Cute toddler things:

  • One day we had tacos for dinner and asked her two brush all of the tacos out. Now when brushing, she says she’s getting the tacos out, and will sometimes exclaim “peeking tacos!” to indicate she’s getting a taco that is hiding out. It is very cute.
  • “Fish” was one of her early words, and she would mispronounce it so badly that it sounded like “rawrsh”. To encourage her to say it correctly, we’d say “Fff, fff, fff, fish!” Now she seems to think that fishes say “fff fff fff”. Cat says “meow, fish say fff, fff, fff
  • Wee had Chinese food one night and let her have a fortune cook. She opened the cookie then exclaimed “peekaboo paper!”
  • When she doesn’t want just to change her diaper, she claimed she is still “working on it!”
  • She gave her rocking horse a face mask
  • She started letting us know that she enjoys things by saying “having fun!” “Having play dough fun!” “Having tunnel fun!”

We have been struggling with naps a bit, and she’s been sometimes waking up with nightmares and needing to be settled. We’ve let her miss her nap a few times, but it generally has a bad result, especially multiple days in a row. So, we’ve started to try to enforce it more, to the extent we can.

Anyway, that’s all i have for now. Happy new year, readers!

September and October Wrap Up

November 1, 2020

Net Worth and Money News

We are settled into our refinance with our new lower payment. Immediately after closing, our refinance company sold the mortgage to the bank we already bank at, which is very convenient.

Our net worth is down with the stock market, setting us about 3 months back in time.

We’re still fully employed, but my raise was cancelled this year (has been about 4-5% most years) and I haven’t been able to push for a promotion that is roughly due. It is on my managers radar, but… I don’t know. It doesn’t seem that important right now, even though this stuff adds up over time.

COVID-19

Like so many others, I have coronavirus fatigue. I’m so so tired of this. Just like the rest of the world.

I’m grateful that I have childcare that feels mostly safe, and that local new case counts are on the low side right now (~5/100k daily new cases)… but trending back up a bit. Childcare makes my life possible, and didn’t force me into a position of needing to decide if I should quit or scale back my job in order to survive.

I’m pretty devastated at the thought of not seeing my family in person again for quite a while. It has been about a year since my mom has seen LO (and me) in person. We FaceTime frequently, but it just isn’t the same. I think I’m going to put the kibosh on their idea of driving out here for the holidays, because I don’t think it is worth the effort or the risk. If things haven’t changed by spring, we will figure out a way to make something happen. Their idea is to quarantine for a modest amount of time (days), get tested, then drive out stopping in motels. They are generally cautious, but my mom works as a nurse and cannot stay home for 14 days. I don’t think my mom could mentally handle the idea of getting on a plane, even if we could find evidence of it being lower risk. I don’t know if it is or not. They are in a major hotspot right now, and I don’t know how much that will change by December, given the lack of local restrictions and a strong “COVID is a hoax” culture. I just found out several of my relatives in the hotspot have tested positive (including my cousin’s pregnant wife), although no one is seriously ill at the moment. My cousin that runs a daycare may be exposed, but is not getting tested because she can’t afford to shut down. 😦 I’m also hearing stories of teachers testing positive and being at school again a week later.

It feels like the whole country has given up. I know this isn’t completely true, but it also isn’t false. Even if we have relatively conservative policies statewide and locally, what happens in the rest of the country and world affects us all.

I’m nervous that case numbers will grow too high and we’ll have to pull LO from daycare, which will be a disaster. We’ll probably have to keep paying for it too, unless the state/county mandates closure. If that happens, maybe I would take actual leave rather than trying to do everything again. It would be tough to step back from my roles, though. ::::sigh:::

Spending

Nothing to report here. I haven’t caught up on tracking, nor have any exciting large purchases to report.

Food spending continues to be high. I’ve stopped using InstaCart, mostly because the prices seemed very inflated and the pricing is not transparent. Also, there were some mistakes. I’m mostly using Whole Foods delivery, Costco delivery (2 day shipping, not fresh stuff), occasionally Amazon Fresh for things Whole Foods doesn’t carry, and Good Eggs. Good Eggs is a bit pricey, but they have meal kits that are fast/easy/healthy and they seem like an ethical company. (Blue Apron meals had more steps even if they weren’t hard.) I mostly use them when I’m too overwhelmed to meal plan, but am trying to get away from it..

House Projects

I think we are are on a break from these after the roof…

Activism

Aside from my monthly donations, I’m failing to make serious progress here, at least in terms of racial justice.

Like many, I was devastated by RBG’s death, and the new supreme court judge appointment. I’m just burnt out.

Work

My long term project had a bit of a train wreck recently, caused by a sequence of human errors and also issues with the hardware that we ar uncovering as we try to use more functionality. Our process checkpoints failed, including places where I feel like I could have caught something. (It turns out the train wreck was basically not preventable, but I could have mitigated one error.) It’s been rough, but it is maybe getting back on track now. It’s going to be a bit of a scramble through early January, then I’ll get to take a deep breath. I hope.

My newer project is also not going well, and it might end up fizzling next summer. I hope not, but it is a real possibility. I’m only working on this at about 10%, mostly because I’m too busy with the above. I also am trying to get up to speed on an even newer project that has a better prognosis (but is scheduled to go through next September if all goes well).

Family

LO is wonderful. Exploding with words and phrases and full of joy. She surprises us daily with new words.

“Whole moon!” she exclaimed on Halloween, marveling at the bright moon.

“Next song!” she calls out during my singing to her in the car, just like I say to Spotify playing on Google home. Ok, then!

She is getting more opinionated, and able to express her demands. “Different! Different!” if she wants a new shirt or book or whatever. “Two! Two!” she cries out during FaceTime with my parents, asking for them to both get into the frame.

T and I are doing OK. My parents are OK and trying to stay safe in the hotspot. My siblings are doing OK.

I’m just hoping this election brings something to be optimistic about…

August Wrap-Up

September 12, 2020

Net Worth and Money News

Our balance sheet underwent some major changes this month!

Our cash position dropped significantly, as we closed on the refinance and also paid for our new roof. Our home equity increased, and our retirement accounts also grew. Our net worth was up about 2% for another all time high. We’re up about 16% for the year, although the numbers were calculated before the recent market correction.

COVID-19

August was stable as far as COVID-19 impacts go. We’re still using (reduced classroom size) daycare and working from home. Local case numbers are reducing and in a range that doesn’t make me panic.

This month had the added tragedy of wildfires in the area. No specific fire threatened us, but we were on a “red flag alert” several days. The air quality was frequently terrible, which caused daycare to unexpectedly close. The policy makes sense, as the normal “bad air” protocol is to go inside with all windows closed. The normal COVID-19 protocol is to spend lots of time outside, and keep windows open and air flowing as much as possible. It was just a bit of a surprise. Wildfire season came sooner than we all anticipated.

Now, I’m regularly keeping my eye on city, county and university COVID-19 numbers (plus my family’s hometowns and then Germany as a control case of “what could have been” if we had competent leadership). Then I check out Purple Air and BAAQMD air stats multiple times a day to see if daycare is likely to close. Then check on wildfire progress to see if they are contained or if any new ones have popped up. Then check out the weather to see what kind of records the latest heat wave is breaking. Then maybe some political stats to see what might happen in November. (There is one outcome that is much much much better than the other, but I don’t see either outcome resulting in a smooth next year.) This just feels… apocalyptic. Dystopian.

Spending

I’m mostly caught up on tracking this, but nothing exciting to report. I mean, aside from the big house stuff already mentioned! I purchased a second home air purifier, since I was tired of porting the little one I had from room to room. It has come in handy with the wildfire smoke.

I had a goal this year to spend less money on Amazon, and I’ve succeed for normal household purchases by mostly switching to Target. I’ve failed because I’ve started using Amazon for groceries (Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods). The prices are generally much better than Instacart and I’ve had a lot fewer issues with the orders. I’m not happy with this, but I don’t see myself doing my own grocery shopping again any time soon. This is mostly due to time rather than the virus – I’d rather pay for delivery tips than spend time shopping. That said, one of my big problems with Amazon is/was their lack of quality control / counterfeit control on products (and reviews), so I guess I’ve removed that annoyance from my life. Using Target for similar items, I just collect those little one-off items in my cart until I’ve got enough for free shipping, then place an order.

House Projects

New roof! New whole house attic fan installed! The roof was done blazingly fast due to the weird weather threatening possible rain. The new roof is much better ventilated, and the heat waves gave us an opportunity to test out the fan a few times. It works great, except for the fact that it is useless when the air quality is too poor to open the windows.

We are thinking about how to improve home efficiency, both for heating and cooling. We’re not ready to pull the trigger on any cooling system (aside from our portable evaporative cooler). Windows are the likely next step, followed by additional insulation in the flooring. T did the bedrooms last year (great for overnight warmth), but the main living area is not done. Additional wall insulation in the main living area would help in the summers, but won’t happen this year. Ultimately, a heat pump and solar might be the way to go, but that is long term.

Activism

As predicted, this was light for August, but I need to make a plan going forward. My monthly donations continued, so at least there is something.

Work

My new project ran into some hiccups, but they may largely work out OK for me. It does add some uncertainty if the project will continue beyond early spring, but I’m surprisingly calm about all of this.

My long term project has been going really really well. We just entered another new phase, and I’m in a leadership role for this phase, which is kind of cool. My role on this will wrap up in April, after 6 long years. I’m excited for what is next. It isn’t totally clear what that will be, but there are a variety of projects, and some infrastructure around dealing with short gaps in projects.

Family

This month LO started saying a lot of adjectives, narrating what is happening: “Running!” “Walking!” “Kicking!” (NO, LO, please don’t kick mommy!) She also has added a few questions to her repertoire: “Is it?” when she is in search of a toy or book. “Happened?” when something isn’t as she left it. Very much mimicking the questions we ask her.  She has a solid concept of what “two” is, and if she has one of something, she’ll often ask for another by saying “two!” She can (inconsistently) count items up to five. She likes doing shadows in her room with the flashlight. She loves doing art at school. She likes music and doing hand actions with songs. We also just transitioned her from a crib to a toddler bed, and that is going better than expected!

So, our little family is still doing OK. My parents and siblings are also doing OK, as is my extended family. I’m getting sad wondering about when we will be able to see them, and how we could make it happen. I just don’t know.

July Wrap Up

August 5, 2020

Net Worth and Money News

The major money news this month is that we started the process of a refinance! I looked at refinancing into a 15 or 20 year mortgage, but I couldn’t pull the trigger on a 15 year and the rate on the 20 year was not any better. So, we’re refinancing back into a 30-year mortgage at 2.75%, although I fully expect we can pay it off much sooner if we so choose. We did have to bring cash to the table – not to cover closing costs (it was “no cost” or covered by lender credits) but to get the mortgage to a specific threshold that resulted in lower rates. Our month payment is dropping by about $700/month, but we are sinking tens of thousands of cash in. We’ll coast with the lower payment and rebuild our cash, although we did have more cash on hand than we need to anyway. It is only a slight discount from our previous rate, but still too good to pass up.

Our net worth is fine, and hit a new high, which seems like such a disconnect with the world at large. I’m not sure what to think at this point. We are still so far from many goals, but we have more than I can properly comprehend.

COVID-19

July was our first month of the return to daycare, and it has made our COVID-19 life much less stressful on a day-to-day basis than before. My job has been intensely busy, so having access to child care has been a life saver. Our county numbers are not great, nor terrible. We are still basically not leaving the house except for walks and to bring LO to daycare, occasionally picking up takeout. On the other hand, having LO in daycare brings a different kind of stress, worry and uncertainty. It is a no-win situation, but we made a choice.

Local schools have announced distance learning only, which I understand and basically support – I don’t think they can reopen safely right now. The whole situation is frustrating, even though we aren’t yet in the school system. I’m not yet sure how I can help, but I’m trying to see if PTAs or other organizations are looking for monetary donations to… help? I’m not sure what I can do.

Spending

Again, I haven’t had time to examine my transactions. Food spending is still up, I’m sure. Travel spending is non-existent, but I didn’t budget much. Our daycare bill finally dropped to toddler rates (which is still very very expensive).

House Projects

Nothing major this month. Some landscaping cleanup. Next month is the new roof, which I’m excited about! It should help a lot with ventilation in our home, especially after we add a whole house attic fan. We don’t have air conditioning, and it is mostly fine. However, if we have too many hot days in a row, the house just doesn’t cool down in the evenings.

New windows are on hold, since we are using a bunch of cash to get our refinance going. We still might pursue them in about 6-12 months, otherwise we’ll do them in about 2 years (original plan).

Family

LO is getting to be such a big kid. She has had a few sputtering of sentences, and is generally a really good communicator. She also is starting to go through a major “dad” phase, sometimes pointing at me and saying “Mom. Go!” and asking me to leave the room. Rude! She’s very physical, likes running and climbing. She learned how to jump. She’s still sleeping well, and is in fact going down for naps and night time with much less fuss than before. We’re considering the transition to a toddler bed, but not ready to pull that trigger yet. She surprised me by counting to 5, but isn’t so interested in learning the ABC song. She knows many letters, but not all.

Activism

As I mentioned, this is an ongoing category, but probably light for July and August. All that I have is my monthly donations, combined with abject horror at the ongoing fascism in Portland (and everywhere).

Work

The culmination of over 5 years of work occurred this past month! Everything went smoothly. It isn’t the end, but it is the beginning of a markedly different new phase. The project had so many ups and downs, but I’m glad that I stuck it out.

My newer project has been on the back burner, but is entering its first milestone review this month. I haven’t done the work up to my standards, but I hope it is good enough.

June Wrap-up

July 6, 2020

My feelings aren’t all that different than last month, but it is becoming the the new normal. I will proceed with my monthly update. A few new categories have appeared.

Net Worth and Money News

Our net worth fully recovered last month, and our investible assets hit a new milestone. I’ve been toying with a refinance, but the only way to beat our current rate is to refinance into a 15 year mortgage. It is pretty tempting, but I just can’t pull the trigger.

COVID-19

Not sure what “Phase” we are in here. Masks are mandatory for adults in all situation s, except outside when you can maintain 6′ or 30′ (it is unclear which). Curbside retail is open. Daycare was reopened for all (not just essential workers) early/mid-June. Our daycare took a few weeks to transition from Emergency Care to regular care (at reduced capacity and some new protocols). We started July 1st. Cases are rising, so I have a little apprehension… but am greatly comforted by the fact that kids don’t seem to get it very frequently, nor are they generally vectors.

My work still dictates that everyone who can work from home continues to do so until January 2021 (at least). There will be a phase of my project where I’ll need to go in for specific things, but we are not there. Our director has (at least 4 times now) cited that they are looking forward to offering a quiet space for those with dependent care challenges, and it enrages me each time. As if the problem has been the NOISE in my house…. not the fact that I have to be hands-on parenting for hours during the normal work day. It is a well meaning offer and may provide help to someone with a stay-at-home spouse or other in-home childcare. And, they can’t really solve my problem. I get why he brings this up since he can “solve” that. Still, it enrages me, and the fact that he keeps bringing it up makes him see out of touch (and he probably is out of touch honestly).

T and I are still staying home, and self-isolating. We made an exception and had two play dates with a family with a kid LOs age, who had been able to self-isolate to a similar level. These ceased now that we are in daycare since we are no longer a closed bubble.

I’m at a loss for what to think about COVID on a scale any broader than my own home. The US response has been horrible, but I’m tired of news stories reporting absolute cases instead of per capita cases and/or per capita trends. It is very confusing, although the per capita numbers do also depict our failure. Similarly, looking at entire states instead of counties is not very informative.

House Projects

Not a lot was done this month, aside from placement of more rocks for landscaping. There was a lot of planning done. We’ve booked the new roof (August?) and are also considering moving forward our timeline to replace our original windows to this year. The roof quotes came in at roughly $20k, $25k, and $30k all-in (new gutters, permits, etc.). Windows came in around $15-20k (includes several big sliders), plus some totally unreasonable estimate of “about $20k for the big slider and $5k per window”. Labor costs still seem as high as ever.

It maybe isn’t the best year to drop $45k on home projects, so we’ll see about the windows. The roof was something I was already willing to move forward on, despite the crazy politics / pandemic / dumpster fire. The windows were next on the list, and our last “high priority” major upgrade. (Exterior paint is on the horizon.) I don’t know. We could wait and see if there are furloughs, but I’m not sure that would affect our decision.

Spending

I’m going to skip a monthly breakout this month and provide rambles. We did not pay for daycare for June, but will for July. That is a total of 3 months of daycare reprieve, partially offset by the need for additional developmental toys.

Our overall charity budget has to increase, because I set up recurring monthly donation to support racial justice that matches my original charity budget. And I still care about other causes. Money is my easiest default, though I don’t think it is enough.

Food spending is still high, with limited effort to keep it down. Perhaps some attention can be paid now. I’m still paying a premium for grocery delivery, and probably will continue to do so. It is a big time saver.

Work

IT IS BUSY, and going to get worse. There are two overlapping crescendos of work, one peaking mid/late July and the other peaking early August. I’ve done my best to offload whatever I can, but it is still going to be a lot.

BUT IT IS EXCITING STUFF. The culmination of the job that I have been doing since 2015, and then a big milestone for my newer project.

Daycare opening any later than it did would have been a disaster, but probably more so for T, who would have had to act as primary parent while still maintaining some semblance of work.

We had yearly performance reviews. I have a new supervisor this year since they decided to “re-organize”. This actually just means that we have an org chart for the first time, rather than people just being hired (then reporting to) whoever happened to need them at that moment. I like this change. It is still basically flat, with one person in charge of all engineering then one layer of organization of the various engineer types below that. My new supervisor is both the engineering director, and also the lead of the small group I’m in. She is also the first woman supervisor I’ve had since retail days in high school! It was good. I also encouraged her to speak with my Colorado boss, who I’ve worked with much more extensively for much longer, and I knew he’d say positive things. I’m pretty sure there are no merit raises this year, but we did discuss my eventual promotion with no firm timeline. I didn’t push it very hard, given that I’ve been juggling work and childcare for the past three months.

Activism

I’m still getting my footing here, but this is a new section. (July and August may be light due to work.) I sent $50 to BLM (national) and $50 to NAACP, recurring monthly. I bought a some books from an area Black owned book store – a copy for me and a copy to give away of 3 kids books and The New Jim Crow. I also watched 13th, although maybe that was last month? I also sent two books to a friend who was requesting diverse kids books for the non-profit she works for.

There were a handful of meetings/discussions organized by young (white) activists at my workplace, whic I participated in. I opted not to push for a leadership role on anything they’ve identified. The actions identified are better suited to other people, and my time is better used in other efforts. But, I did show up and speak up and support, and will continue to do so, and be ready to step in as needed.

Other life stuff

I didn’t talk much about LO yet! She is FANTASTIC. She’s a lot of fun, so many words. She’s started acting out her books. She seems interested in emotions – pointing out surprised faces in books, crying when Llama Llama cries then screeching “Mama! Back!” when we get to the next page. She loves books and loves playing peek-a-boo. It has been so fun to have so much extra time with her, even though it came with the stress of trying to meet job responsibilities.

(No) May Wrap Up

June 2, 2020

I feel confident my readers who are privileged enough to not face systemic racism have already sought out appropriate resources, such as 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice. If you don’t know where to start, choose something from this list, then choose another, and keep going.

I found this open letter to rich white friends thought provoking, and apt for the personal finance and FIRE community. I know I am guilty of hoarding. I know I didn’t do anything special to be so financially rewarded. As a start, I added a recurring monthly donation to NAACP Legal Defense Fund and to Black Lives Matter. I abhor costs that automatically recur monthly, but it seems like a more appropriate commitment than a one time donation. It is not a lot, but it is my step. I also caught up on donations with some one-time contributions to causes related to local poverty and food insecurity. I encourage anyone making financial commitments to share what you are doing. I find it inspiring, not bragging.

Tanja has some thoughtful things to say about our community, as usual.

I can’t write my financial wrap up for May. I have the information, but I don’t really care, and I assume you don’t either. We are doing just fine, and I hope you and your family are too.