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Spending: What has changed in 11 years?

November 10, 2019

I stumbled across my 2008 budget and was marveling at how careful I was with my money just after I moved to California.  I was trying to get my 401k savings up, while also saving in my Roth IRA, building and emergency fund, paying down my student loan, and (in the next year) paying for a wedding.

I decided to compare my spending then with our spending today.  I adjusted the 2008 budget to 2019 dollars using this not-super-legit-looking-but close-enough website to compute a 19.25% inflation increase.  Then I took our spending projections for this year and, since my 2008 budget was just me, divided 2019 spending by two.

Ta da!

Screen Shot 2019-11-07 at 11.11.00 AM

Most of the major increases in spending are brand new categories, namely childcare, but also other baby costs and pet and donations.  We spend a lot more on both groceries and restaurants.  On the other hand, I no longer am trying to build up cash or pay down a student loan, so those categories dropped out.  My car expenses appear lower because we still have one car for two people.  I guess I’m ignoring the parking fee paycheck deduction, because I am bad about carefully including paycheck deductions in my budgets.

I was surprised to note that my housing costs aren’t wildly different – the “divide by two” thing is significant.  In 2008 I was living alone.  Once we moved in together, I paid $1,100 in 2019 dollars for my portion of a one bedroom apartment. That may be a more appropriate comparison point.  Still, we now have a house.  That includes modest housing projects that we did this year, but wouldn’t cover a new roof or anything major.

The big thing that has changed between 2008 and now is what happens outside of this budget.  In 2008, that budget was basically it.  I had some fluctuating percentage saved into a 401k (8-15%, always pushing it as high as I could stomach), but I essentially had no cash savings outside of what is listed (E-fund, Roth, car), plus what I could save from my two “extra paychecks” (paid bi-weekly).   In 2019, there is a lot going on after the budget & spending. There is a significant amount of money auto-deposited into various investments before we ever see it. There is more money left over after the spending, which is deployed to more savings, or to large but infrequent expenses like a car or a major home project.

Anyone else want to play this game?  How has your budget/spending changed in the past 10 years? Here is a slightly older post showing how our net worth changed, too!

October Wrap-up

November 9, 2019

Net Worth and Money News

We got the remainder of T’s summer salary.  I also got a modest retroactive raise.  Lots of income this month!  Our net worth increased about 3.5% this month, and we just might get a 20% increase for the year if we are lucky.

Spending Bullets (excluding childcare, mortgage, property taxes and car/home insurance – because I want to):

Monthly spend (excluding some major categories as noted above): $3,007

Highest single transaction that hasn’t been featured in a previous 2019 month:
$501.27, which was T’s purchase of a new coffee grinder. This is not something would have spent so much on, but he is the coffee snob in our house. When we discussed, I said something like “If you really want to / think it is worth it… it is up to you.” I did veto (for now) his desired espresso machine upgrade.

Smallest single transaction:
$6.54 for a used book for LO.  She also got a bunch of free books at a public library sale, where a friend gifted me use of half of her paper grocery bag space, which we were allowed to fill for a few dollars.

Most annoying expense:
 Hmm, maybe bags of ice to deal with the power outages?  That was uncool.

Expense that brought the most joy or utility:
 $78 for a joint birthday lunch. Honestly, the food was disappointing and we won’t be going back. Still, it was nice to take a minute to celebrate together, even if we had to do it during daycare hours.

Donations (for accountability): $25 to my nephew’s school fundraiser, $75 to DonorChoose (more needy schools than my nephew’s), and $50 to Revanche’s fundraiser.

House Projects

T cleaned the gutters in prep for fire / rain season.  It probably has to be done again before there is any serious rain, since the high winds blew more debris onto our roof.  I don’t think there was much else here this month, just general upkeep.

Work

Work is busy, and probably only going to get busier.  It is early stages on my new project, and I’m still trying to get smart enough, and I hope I’ll get there.

Other life stuff

Estate planning: The lawyer hasn’t got back to us?  Ugh.  I’m inclined to direct him (or other lawyer) to set us up with a basic trust that specifies guardianship and financial arrangements for LO, then do more research and revisit / update in the future. This leaves the onus on the surviving spouse to protect any assets, and I’m pretty comfortable with that. I’d rather do that than put unnecessary strings on the money that would complicate the surviving spouses life.  Also, we need want to slightly increase the life insurance policies we have on both of us.  My goal is for it to be enough to push the surviving spouse most of the rest of the way to FI, which mostly means enough to pay off the mortgage.

Power outages: We were impacted by the widespread power shut offs in California twice, although merely inconvenienced rather than any serious issues. Grocery stores near by had ice the whole time, so the fridge contents survived in a regular cooler. For the freezer, we moved the meat and other high value (and dense) items to a standalone chest freezer.  That freezer was packed with frozen water bottles/jugs & frozen breast milk. Everything was still frozen solid, but we probably can only tolerate ~2 days of that.  We did lose some minor freezer contents.

Our cell service fails when the power goes out, losing the ability to receive evacuation notices via our usual methods. Our neighborhood also has some basic protocols in place, and I think we’ll be buying some two way radios and a NOAA radio.  More on disaster and outage prep to come.

LO had to come into our bed one night when the power was out, because we  couldn’t keep her warm enough in her crib alone – especially since she still uses sleep sacks instead of blankets. Her daycare remained open & with power, but both of our work places closed due to outages. We were asked to work from home if we could. The first time it happened, we took the dog hiking. The second time, we both were too busy, so found some coffee shops to work in.

Setting up our estate planning

October 17, 2019

We have made some progress on our estate planning!  The first meeting with a lawyer is complete.  We came out with more questions than answers, but I hope we’ll be able to get this sorted out soon.

The easiest piece to set up is the “what happens if both of us die” part. Everything goes in trust to LO, and she is taken in by our designated caretakers.  We considered the pros and cons of having the trustee and the guardian be different people, and opted to make them the same. We chose a second person to take in our dog, and designated a small sum of money for his care.

The tricker piece has been trying to figure out how to set things up such that LO is protected if only one of us passes.  The default arrangement the lawyer posited was that everything goes to the surviving spouse. Our house and our non-retirement assets are placed in the trust, and retirement accounts, since they avoid probate anyway, pass directly to the surviving spouse.

I asked about an A/C trust such that LO would be included.  Then we got confused.  We have relatively few non-retirement assets, aside from our house.  We have so much room to save in tax advantaged accounts that we haven’t needed to build up outside investment accounts.  So, almost all of our non-house assets pass directly to the surviving spouse, and only the house is split between spouse and LO under an A/C trust.

But do we actually want LO to have ownership of half the house?  Not really.  The surviving spouse still will have to live there, or at least, live somewhere. What use is half a house to LO, if it isn’t liquidated? The lawyer offered a clause that would delay LO’s inheritance of half the house until the house was sold, and only T or I could determine when it was sold.  That seemed a little better, but still could box in the surviving spouse in terms of living arrangements.

Backing up, how much of the retirement and house do we actually want to designate for LO versus for the surviving spouse?  At least half of my retirement accounts should rightfully go to T.  I suppose the other half could go to LO, assuming it would also be used by T for her benefit until she turns 18 years old. But really, if T were to need any of “my” retirement savings for his retirement, I want him to have it!  Plus, there are tax benefits to having retirement accounts go to a spouse versus a child.  (But maybe those are mostly estate tax benefits, which we don’t expect to impact us.)

The situation we are trying to protect against is one where the surviving spouse remarries, and later passes away.  We don’t want LO’s rightful share of any assets to be diluted, or even lost entirely, to a future spouse and/or a future spouses children.  We can assume that the surviving spouse could handle this appropriately in a prenup and/or their own estate planning, but it seems prudent to try to set up some protection now now. On the other hand, a poorly set up trust can cause a lot of problems.

Basically what I want is:

  • T gets the house, no questions asked.  LO needs no entitlement to our primary residence.
  • Everything else I own goes to T at first.  He can spend it to benefit LO and himself until he retires.
  • If T remarries, he can continue to spend to benefit himself and his future spouse, and of course, benefit LO.
  • When he passes, any remaining assets go to LO. The future spouse shouldn’t have access to these funds. But, I suppose the future spouse could inherit the house….  Or at least live there until she passes, then LO gets it.  I wouldn’t want to kick a (presumable old) lady out of her home when her spouse has died, just because I have put much of my own money into it before I died.

The 3rd and 4th bullets are not simple!  The third bullet allows for use “my” assets before any “unrestricted” assets, minimizing those that will eventually pass to LO instead of future spouse.  I think we are looking for a QTIP trust, but I need to look into this further.  Maybe a “C” trust is indeed a QTIP?

(Note – we are using our legal insurance for this, and I’m not convinced that we have the right lawyer.  I would have hoped for a little more guidance on this during our visit.)

So, how are your estate plans set up in the case that just one of you passes?  Do you leave it to the surviving spouse to be sure to protect the children in case of remarriage?  Or do you have legal protections in place?  Also, do you think (minor or adult) children should be entitled to anything directly when one parent passes, or should it remain with the surviving parent?  Is there an Estate Planning for Dummies book I need to read?

September Wrap-up

October 15, 2019

Net Worth and Money News

T’s summer salary was still not fully resolved in September, despite being told that it would be. He is still missing about $8k, which they have promised will arrive soon.  Irritating, but not a catastrophe.

Our net worth creeped up another percent or so.

Monthly savings rates aren’t sensible for how our expenses and income fall out, but we appear to be on track for about a 50% savings rate this year, better if I include regular mortgage principle.  I made it confusing by setting us up for a large-ish tax refund again. This wasn’t on purpose. T’s summer salary makes it harder to predict withholdings.  This savings rate is pretty much what I anticipated it would be with a kid in daycare, which is a very satisfying result.  I can predict the future!

Spending Bullets (excluding childcare, mortgage, property taxes and car/home insurance – because I want to):

Monthly spend (excluding some major categories as noted above): $3,007
Highest single transaction that hasn’t been featured in a previous 2019 month: $121.80, which was our power/gas bill for the month. This is a bit high for a summer month, but I didn’t find an obvious culprit. We are temporarily running an extra freezer, so maybe that has something to do with it?
Smallest single transaction: $0.69 at Target. I had to exchange some gifted baby clothes for proper sizes.  I also grabbed a few groceries, and came out the door for less than a dollar.  Score!
Most annoying expense: Nothing this month.  Or maybe it was my non-expense. I completely failed to send gifts for the two September birthday’s on time, my dad and my nephew. This is a recurring thing, I’m always late on these, and I really just can’t convince myself to prioritize it.
Expense that brought the most joy or utility: $250.18 for a Nugget for LO.  Yeah, I know, this is ridiculous.  Still, it seemed like it will have a longer useful life compared to the small kids chair I was considering, and it fits well in her room.
Donations (for accountability): $200 total to Donors Choose and ALS (supporting a coworker’s fundraiser).

Our monthly grocery spend was kind of absurd again, and I’m not sure why, and if I should do anything about it….

House Projects

T added some flashing to the deck that should have been there all along, preventing future rot/damage.  He also scraped and repainted the trim on the exterior windows.  There also was some basic maintenance yard work.

Work

My new project is started to kick into gear, and I am BUSY.  The project is fun, although I’m struggling to be smart enough to do my job. Some of the technical details are a in a slightly new area for me, and I feel out of my depth.  But, I’m sure I’ll be able to come up to speed – I just have to keep at it.

My “merit” raise is 4%, beating inflation at least.  I need to figure out, with my manager, when the best time to submit my paperwork for a promotional raise.

We’re still waiting on the result of T’s tenure case, which is due any day now – but could still be months. We’re optimistic about the outcome, but we don’t know until we know.

Other life stuff

We finally set the lawyer appointment, and are hoping to make enough progress on our estate planning / will / trust that we can forgo the legal insurance plan next year.

Not much else to share here!  More to come next month!

Parenthood: 11 months

September 24, 2019

Personality / Milestones

LO is speed crawling, pulling up, and doing a little bit of unassisted standing. She has learned to clap on verbal command, and wave hello and goodbye.  She loves playing peek-a-boo.  She loves banging together blocks and chasing balls, and grabbing any household items that are not toys.  Cords are especially appealing.  Books are pretty good, if we can get her to sit still.  She has finally stopped putting them in her mouth immediately, although still not completely.

We keep most of the toys in the nursery and play with her in there a lot , but she’s become less content hanging out there. She loves heading for the door and exploring the rest of the house whenever we give her the opportunity, despite the lack of toys.  She (finally!) likes baths, but is pretty wild in the tub and doesn’t understand you aren’t supposed to try to crawl all around and check out all the interesting metal things at at the end.

Separation anxiety is there a little bit, but not too bad. Sometimes she’ll be happily playing, but if I walk by and don’t interact, it sets off crying.  Other times, not so much.

Childcare

Daycare is going really well. They have all the cool development toys / activities there, and she really likes playing with the other babies.  In the first month, we got many comments in this vein: “She’s very active. Is she so active at home?” and “She plays a LOT!” and “She had fun speed crawling around the play yard today” and “These two are the zany ones!”  She had about 4 or 5 weeks where she got an “ouch report” every week, but has seemed to learn how to balance better and fall more gracefully.

She got another runny nose and a cough this month, but the cold wasn’t severe enough to keep her home. She kindly shared this cold with her parents.

We’re still sharing drop off and pick up with T generally working from home for half a day when possible to walk the dog / keep him company.

Eating

We’ve made lots of progress on table food and have a variety of things she can easily self feed.  We don’t always give her exactly what we eat, but we are moving in that direction.   Her current favorite food is cheese.  I approve of this. I’m not quite sure how we get from food + bottles to mostly food + some cow’s milk… but I suppose we’ll figure it out.

I’m still super looking forward to stopping pumping, but it has gotten to be less of a big deal since we started adding formula. It seems LO has dropped her middle of the night meal (I hope this sticks!), and is now nursing at wake up, before bed and has 2-3 bottles during the work day.

Routines & Sleep

She is taking her two naps, which are still short at daycare (30-50 minutes) but good at home (1.5+ hours).  Weeknight bedtime has to be by 7, or we have a melt down.  On weekends, we shoot for 7:30 or so, depending on the nap schedule.  She wakes up around 6 or 7, depending on a variety of factors. (By “variety of factors” I mean that I have no idea why she sometimes wakes up early and other time sleeps until 7 am).

She’s just now started regularly sleeping through the night, although it isn’t 100% of the time.  I hope it isn’t just because she has a cold and that this is officially a new stage.

Money

We sold the pram bassinet attachment for our stroller for $100. That was the only things I ended up buying brand new (with coupon) at significant cost, yet hardly used at all. Whenever we tried it, LO woke up and started screaming instead of sleeping blissfully like I’d envisioned.  We just didn’t use the stroller all that much in the early days, preferring to keep her home when possible and in the baby carrier when she was sleeping.  (She only started tolerating the baby carrier when awake around 4 months of age.)

We bought a Nugget, a few small toys, and some clothes for the next size from Target (new) and Swap.com (used).  My supply of free baby clothes seems to have dried up for the moment.  I bought a used second hand warm sleep sack for the coming winter months for $10, which we’ll use in addition to her wool sleep sack that should last all winter. Last winter we kept the thermostat higher than usual. We still may need to do fleece pajamas, but we’ll see.

Co-parenting

Regularly sleeping through the night seems to be a game changer for me feeling like a person. So, that is a plus!  Nothing much new to say here.

August Wrap Up

September 16, 2019

Net Worth and Money News

Our net worth went up just a sliver this month.

For reasons unknown, T was paid a mysterious amount in summer salary that is uncorrelated to anything, and much lower than it should have been.  HR and Payroll are working on fixing that, but only after he contacted them to ask what was going on.

I spent a fair amount of time staring at our finance spreadsheet and wishing for the numbers to be higher. This is usually a sign of frustration with some other aspect of my life, but I can’t point to anything specific.

I would like to see data that shows federal taxes paid compared to Gross Income.  This data is available (I think) compared to Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)… but I’m interested in how much income ends up being sheltered from taxes for wealthy vs non-wealthy Americans.  This came up in my mind when I noted how much income we are able to shelter from taxes.  It seems unfair.

Spending Bullets (excluding childcare, mortgage, property taxes and car/home insurance – because I want to):

  • Monthly spend (excluding some major categories as noted above):  $2600
  • Highest single transaction that hasn’t been featured in a previous 2019 month: $338.04 for several months of a water bill, plus an extra fee that typical is on our property tax bill but was missed last year.
  • Smallest single transaction:  $3.33 for 8 jars of Yumi baby food due to a free intro trial.  LO mostly liked them, but they ares super expensive regular price, and she’s really moving beyond purees.
  • Most annoying expense:  Nothing in particular, but we did pay All The Insurances this month (home, earthquake, umbrella), which was a lot
  • Expense that brought the most joy or utility: Nothing in particular except daycare.  That was a great utility!
  • Donations (for accountability):  $200 to RAICES, again.

House Projects

Minor work on the yard continued.  We’ve been discussing a new roof, but are still waiting on the tenure decision, which is delayed due to bureaucracy.  We hope to hear this fall.

We got a new rug for the living room to replace the shag rug that was impossible to clean and also had two recent incidents of damage.  The Roomba can handle the new rug, which is a fantastic and a new requirement for any future rugs. Despite initially authorizing a budget of around $1k for a large area rug, I encouraged T to saticfice and get a lower priced rug, rather than buying a nice rug that he’d take forever to select. We really don’t need to buy a forever rug when we have an almost-one-year-old baby.

Work

I was creating a budget for a  proposed project, and noted another engineer with a similar job as me got a significant raise since I last noted his salary.  He now makes what I make, despite being 5 years less experienced. He may be just as good / valuable at his job as I am at mine –  yet it still bothered me.

We had performance reviews, and I “only” got a rating of 4 out of 5 (5 being the best). My manager offered me an opportunity to argue for a 5, but I couldn’t really do it with a straight face this year. The good part is, we plan to work on my promotion once I’ve put in a little time on this new project, and the raise I get from that will overshadow the 2-5% raise that is based on these ratings.  So, yay.

Other life stuff

I ended up not wrapping up this entry until over half way into September, so I can’t really remember what else to write about in August.  T was scheduled for a trip to Hong Kong, but ultimately ended up canceling because of the ongoing protests that occasionally were disrupting the airport.  We finished our last week of nanny share (it feels like a lifetime ago already!), paid out her accumulated vacation leave, and made it through the daycare transition.  Summer is winding down to a close, although it is still very much wild fire season and we need to be working on our emergency plans.  Fall is coming, and there are a lot of birthdays in the next few months.  Maybe I’ll be on top of gift giving?  Probably not.

Parenthood: 10 months

September 2, 2019

I’m switching up the order this month, as sleep has ceased to become the Most Important Baby Fact.  🙂

Personality / Milestones

She is SO mobile right now with her crawling!  She started pulling up a lot too.  She’s also very giggly and fun to play with.  So adorable.  Such a fun age.

Childcare

Daycare has started and I am LOVING it.  The environment is so good for her, and her teachers are amaaaaazing.  She also mostly loves it, is very social with the other babies.  She registers her protest by crying briefly when we hand her to the teacher, but stops crying within a few seconds.  The teachers say she is doing great, and told us “she is an amazing person.”  My heart about exploded.  She did get sick after the first week, but it was really just one day of bad sickness followed by a few days of mild runny nose. She’s also not sleeping well.  :/

T’s teaching hasn’t started yet, so his schedule remained pretty flexible. We’re generally sharing drop off and pick up, and T’s still walking the dog during the day after working from home a half day. This will have to shift as the school year starts.

Eating

Real people food is progressing.  She does great with thick purees, and is OK with certain finger foods.  We’re trying to do more and more self-fed table food, but also still purees to fill her up more quickly.   She eats 3 “meals” of solids, plus a snack and bottles.  She loves fruit, but also has been pretty good about eating a little bit of everything I feed her.  Daycare provides a variety of nutritious food, which simplifies life – no packing lunch for her!

Pumping is going okay and I haven’t ramped down yet… but it is coming.  Nursing is going fine as well, although I’ve started adding formula on the weekends.  LO is still nursing three times a day (at wake up, before bed, and once overnight), with 3 bottles during the work day.

Routines & Sleep

She’s still doing a good (~90 minute) morning and afternoon nap when she’s at home, but her naps at daycare are quite short.  The environment is too stimulating, so once a sleep cycle ends, she gets up to play.  Thus, she ends up silly-tired by bedtime, even if we move it earlier.  Often, she wants to wake up quite early in the morning no matter what bedtime.  It seems apparent she isn’t getting enough sleep during the week, but I don’t know how to fix that.  We can’t put her to bed even earlier – she’ll only sleep so many hours in a night anyway.

I’ve reverted to nursing to sleep for naps, which probably isn’t helping daycare naps out.  But I can’t bear to hear her cry, and we haven’t been able to hit those magic “wake times” that allow her to go down for her nap happily (probably because she is overtired).  She HATES being rocked to sleep or any other method.  The only things that have worked (aside from newborn days) are nursing or letting her fuss or (sometimes) the stroller.  (I’m OK with fussing, but true crying is too hard.)  We may want to sleep train at some point – but I’m not ready yet. It is a developmentally poor time for it, with separation anxiety and starting daycare.  I’m hopeful this will resolve itself over time, like many baby problems seem to.

She still wakes up once in the night to eat, which is generally OK but is getting old.  Occasionally, she sleeps through.  Sometimes she wakes up more, which is harder to handle.  Again, I might try to night wean after age one.  I’m trying to keep my milk supply going at least until then, and night nursing helps.

Money

Daycare is slightly cheaper than the nanny share – hooray!

We sold the nanny share double stroller for $200!  I think we paid $225?

I am thinking of buying a Nugget very soon.  The glider in her nursery needs to move out to make the room more baby safe, but I need somewhere for us to read together and nurse. It’s expensive for what it is, though…

I got a free push walker from my buy nothing group, but LO is not quite ready for it.  I also got a free shape sorter, but she just bangs the shapes together.

Co-parenting

Things were pretty transient this month, so I don’t have a good sense for it.  I think it was mostly equal this month.