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May Wrap Up

June 18, 2018

I was delaying this post until I got the numbers from T’s retirement accounts, since he was traveling so much. At this point, I just will leave them as they were last month, and update next month.

Net Worth / Money:

Our net worth went up by about 2% this month, with most of that in contributions and growth in my retirement accounts.  I’ve also slowly been paying extra on our 0% car loan, because I like the idea of that obligation going away before maternity leave.

We’re holding what I consider to be a slightly excessive amount of cash right now, and it feels like the right thing to do.  Once baby is born and here and has all the stuff baby needs and we are through maternity leave, I will re-evaluate this.  Once we find out if T gets tenure, we may blow some of it on a few major house projects, like a new roof.  We’ll at least get another assessment of the estimated remaining life, which was pegged at ~5-10 years when we moved in 5 years ago.  It definitely is coming.

House Projects:

A lot got done in May!  The burst in home productivity just might correlate with the end of the semester for my husband, and before his traveling started.

We finally purchased curtains to go on the sliders in the living room to augment the UV film we put up when we first moved in.  This should further help keep the heat out on those rare hot days in the summer.  (I hate vertical blinds and all traditional slider door blind solutions, so we went with curtains.) We also purchased, but did not yet install, blackout blinds for a small window in the future nursery, which match the ones we put on the big window a long time ago.

We purchased and T installed a bathroom vanity in the bathroom we remodeled earlier this year. T wanted to build a custom one, but his list of projects he wants to do was just too long.  We saw the price we could get for a vanity at IKEA, we decided to satisfice and go with that.  I’m super happy with it!  It took some effort to cut his own holes in the drawers for our plumbing, since we did not want to use the IKEA plumbing that you are supposed to use with it.


We completed re-coating the deck, although we ended up needing to buy more coating to finish the job.  All of the patio furniture is back in place and ready for the summer!

Finally, my favorite project of all!  T cut out all of the overgrown front hedges and put them into a giant yard debris bin!  The bins are provided by the city (“free” via property taxes) to help homeowners remove excess brush to mitigate wildfire fuel.  At the moment, it looks terrible since it is just the remnants of hedges and nothing to replace them.  Still, I’ve hated those overgrown and un-trimable (dead insides) hedges for the last 4 years.  Replanting and building some rock walls to mitigate erosion will happen later this summer.

Still on the list for the year: painting the nursery (and guest room?), another closet system, glass shower door install, and as much DIY landscaping as we can manage.  I’m trying to limit the to-do list because I don’t think there is time to do everything we want to do.  We may get quotes for exterior painting too. I kind of want to put it off for a year so we can DIY.  I do not see us having time for a DIY painting project this summer.


The big one was a replacement iPhone 8 for T.  He’s had an iPhone 5 since 2012 (with one warranty-covered replacement due to battery), but the battery finally made the phone unusable. (My iPhone5 died sooner and I have an SE as a replacement).  I personally don’t think that iPhones are the best thing on the market for the price anymore, but they have managed to keep us sucked into their ecoystem. We also bought a new wireless router.

House and maintenance spending was also pretty high (~$1300) to complete the above projects (deck coating, curtains, blinds, and vanity).

I made my first second-hand baby item purchase! I’ve started the process of stalking Craigslist and Nextdoor for items on my wish list. Not only will this save $, but it will help reduce overall waste.  We’ll buy the carseat new, and my in-laws want to buy us our stroller.  I don’t see a need for a new stroller, but I won’t turn it down.  I’m logging my purchases and plans here.

I also bought some maternity clothes. So far, I can get away with most of my normal tops, but not my normal bottoms.  Still, I’ve found this whole process annoying and more expensive than I was hoping.  I might post more about it later, but it makes me grumpy.  Some of it was just my own mistakes, and some of it is the fact that buying clothes that are temporary is just annoying.  My SIL sent me several things that she hadn’t donated yet, so that helped a lot!


May was a fun month for work on my “small” project, which will become a big portion of my time for the next 3 months.  I finally told everyone at work about my good news, and it seems like accommodations will be able to be arranged.  Legally, my job is protected for some amount of time (I think more than 12 weeks with additional California laws), but I am obviously worried about my specific role and projects.


I visited my family in my home town the week after Mother’s Day to tell them the good news.  They were really excited!  There hasn’t been a baby in my immediate family for about 10 years.  I can’t remember what else fun happened in May!

As far as pregnancy stuff goes, I’m still getting by with very minimal negative symptoms.  A few headaches here and there, a bit more peeing, some stuffiness and nose bleeds – but no real pain or sickness at this point.  I’ve been a bit less tired than I was early on, but still a few more naps than usual!   My weight is right on track, my doctors appointments have all been fine, and the major anatomy ultrasound happens in late June.  The 2nd trimester is supposed to be the easiest, but honestly, it has been mostly easy and I am feeling very lucky so far!


Pregnancy and pre-baby costs

June 7, 2018

Costs of getting pregnant:

This can be incredibly varied, both by random luck and by insurance plan.  Many women get pregnant for “free” the traditional way.  If that doesn’t work for you, costs can be moderate or they can be completely unworkable.  I ballparked US-based in-vitro fertilization at $25k+. Basic front-line fertility drugs can be as inexpensive as several hundred, or are sometimes covered by insurance.

For us, costs were limited to small non-essential costs: basal thermometer (~$10), ovulation prediction kits ($5-$30/month), prenatals, fish oil, and Coq10 supplements. I used inexpensive internet pregnancy test strips and a some more expensive “real” tests.  Much of this was covered by pre-tax FSA money that we were in danger of not spending.  This type of monitoring is not necessary if you are willing to take a more laid back approach.

Prenatal and birth medical costs:

We are lucky to have access to affordable healthcare through our jobs. Prenatal and birth costs are almost entirely covered by our insurance, which we pay about $100/mo/person for. There aren’t co-pays for appointments or labs/tests, and the (hospital) birth is $250, even if complications arise.  I’m not sure what is covered in an unlikely event of a prolonged hospital stay for an infant (e.g. NICU), but I’m also not worried about it.

Since I’m old enough, my insurance also covered a fancy genetic blood test (cfDNA / NIPT) that allowed an accurate and early screen for chromosomal disorders.  As a bonus, we found out the sex by 11 weeks! I am so amazed by modern medicine!

I’ve vaguely looked at hiring a doula to support us during our (hospital) birth, but probably won’t ($1k-$2k). I’m more interested in a postpartum doula, since we are far from family and not yet very baby-savvy.  This would make up for the general lack of postpartum care and support in the US.  I have a friend in Germany who is giving birth soon, and the standard there is for your midwife to visit you at home every 2-3 days for 2 months, fully covered by insurance. Wouldn’t that be amazing?  Purchasing postpartum doula services seems to run $25-$40/hr.  Has anyone done this, or did you just figure things out on your own / with help from family/friends?  My mom did offer to come out for 2 weeks, which will be amazing.

Non-medial costs so far:

Aside from some wasted food that sounded perfect when I bought it, I didn’t spend much money in the first trimester. I bought a body pillow to start transitioning to side sleeping, and some maternity clothes. My shirts are still fine to wear at this point, but pants not so much.  My sister-in-law was nice enough to send me some hand-me-downs, but she had gotten rid of most already, so we’ll see what works out.  She’s a lot shorter than me, but we both generally wear size small / extra small. I haven’t had time to deal with in-person thrifting yet, and have not been impressed with the pricing on online used clothes.  I’m kind of struggling with figuring out what I really need here.

Upcoming costs – prepping for the baby:

I started a list for the major baby items and have been checking Craigslist, Nextdoor, and  Facebook for second-hand items. It will take time, with the usual “Is X still available?” e-mails and hassle… but we have time for now. My main motivation in looking second hand is to reduce waste – both of my own money and of the environment! If we can’t get something second hand, we will just buy it in the end.

I don’t want a shower and don’t expect a lot of useful large gifts. I don’t want people to buy a bunch of stuff for us. It seems different when we are older with plenty of savings to cover cost. I do expect some small gifts, like clothes and books and toys, because they are fun for people to buy.

We plan some minor projects for the nursery – mostly just paint and probably another Elfa closet system since I was so thrilled with how the other one we did turned out.  We also have to get rid of some old furniture that we’ve carried from apartment to apartment to house and no longer use or need.

A second car?

Here’s a big ticket cost we are considering!  Looking at the location of our house, our jobs, and daycare options, we’re considering becoming a two car family for the first time in our 10+ years in California. This would likely be something we want even if we figure out the nanny/nanny share route – but it would be less essential.  We’ll likely look at used electric cars, which would meet a lot of our regular transit needs and be a nice balance to our larger Subaru (which was purchased with future kids in mind).  My dream electric car is the VW e-Golf, but we may settle for something a little less expensive.  (Well, a Tesla is probably a better dream car, but an e-Golf is a realistic dream.)  It probably makes sense to wait until late this year, or perhaps even after the baby comes for this purchase.

We’re expecting!

June 4, 2018

I am thrilled to share that we’re expecting a baby in November!  Yay for an extra tax credit! 😉 This is something that we have been planning and hoping for, and we’re very very excited.

Because we were trying I found out I was pregnant very early – before I was even 4 weeks along. I showed my husband the test and told him “this is positive” without fanfare – then immediately warned him of chemical pregnancies and miscarriage rates!   It certainly didn’t feel real for quite some time, but I was happy and grateful it happened relatively quickly without complications.

Physically, I hardly felt sick at all during the first trimester.  I was extremely tired, but rarely nauseated. I gagged over the toilet just once or twice, and didn’t throw up. I was tired, bloated, lost my appetite, and was more fussy about food – but it was quite manageable compared to what many others experience.  On the first day of the 2nd trimester, I got a huge headache/migraine that eventually resulted in me throwing up for the first time. Headaches have happened a few more times, and a similar headache+sick again last week.  Still, I feel good more days than I don’t.

Emotionally, the first trimester felt very fragile. I had envisioned a lot more excitement after finding out I was pregnant, but it was mostly just anxiety and worry until about 12 weeks. I had some minor issues that turned out to be nothing, but which made it hard to stay relaxed. My pregnancy books / apps also unhelpfully reminded me (more than once) that nausea and vomiting are a sign of a healthy pregnancy and correlate with lower miscarriage rates…  while I had no morning sickness at all! Who knew I’d be worried about not being sick?

People say that there is always something to be worried about, even when a baby is born.  This is absolutely true.  But since losing an early pregnancy is statistically fairly common, the level of anxiety simply isn’t the same to me. I can talk myself out of worrying about things that have a small chance of happening, but knowing 10-25% of early pregnancies result in a loss is simply terrifying. Biology is cruel. It took a solid 13 week appointment and clear genetic screen before my excitement overtook my worries.  However… The excitement is here, and the second trimester is treating me well!

I’ve started to think about maternity leave, but haven’t settled anything nor discussed detailed plans the people with whom I need to discuss. I have limited paid leave (short term disability) that will cover some of my lost salary, but don’t get the California state paid family leave.  Fortunately, finances won’t need to be the driving issue in leave decisions.  Keeping my career going and a foothold in current and future projects is my biggest concern.  And of course, child care! More on money stuff later!

We’re really excited, but we have SO MUCH TO DO before the baby comes!

April Wrap-up

May 9, 2018

Net Worth / Money:

Our net worth went up by 0.7% this month!  Most of the increase was in our retirement accounts, per usual.

We’re still holding quite a bit of cash, and plan to send in that mortgage pre-payment check of $8K soon. We’ve sent in $86k in extra payments since we started the mortgage nearly 4 years ago. I expect our pace to slow considerably since we’ve started to prioritize other things, but seeing that we’ve been able to make that kind of headway makes me really happy.


I am caught up with tracking my spending again – whew!

It was our wedding anniversary in April.  We typically don’t make a big thing of it, and we didn’t this year either… except we upgraded to a king sized bed!  We’ve needed a new mattress for awhile, so this potential upgrade has been under discussion for ~2 years.  The timeline became more urgent when we broke the IKEA bed frame we’d been using by trying to move the bed during a painting project.  (The old bed was propped up by buckets for about a month while we debated our next move.) We bought an upholstered bed frame for ~$1,100 and a Lessa mattress for another $900.  We also had to get new sheets, duvet, and duvet cover for the new size.  It was a big expenditure, but I am LOVING the space in the new bed.  It feels so huge!

T also bought some clothes and shoes.  It is an infrequent occurrence for him, and totaled ~$500.  We also had some house project spending, discussed below.

As far as “regular” costs go, groceries were suspiciously low at about $420.  I can’t figure out why, but one reason is probably that March had very high grocery costs and we probably had a surplus of food at the end of that month.  Maybe I missed a transaction?  I’ll have to look into this.  We also both traveled a bit for work, which deflates our food spending since meals are covered when traveling.

House Projects:

We put an Elfa closet system in our master bedroom! Our closet layout was quite inefficient before – sliding doors that left a good 2-3 feet of closet almost inaccessible,  Now we have double rods in the “main” section, and the formerly useless area is where our pants and dresses hang, with extra shelves on top.  This blog has a similar closet and I mostly copied their solution. It was about $300 for all of the parts, with T doing the demo, painting and installation. I’m so thrilled with how this turned out! We’re itching to do something with the office closet next.

Our deck is above the garage, so it is a “roof deck” which uses something called GacoDeck.  The “paint” for a fresh coat came to about $250, and is supposed to be done every 5-7 years.  We bought the new coating for our deck, but haven’t applied it yet.  We power washed the deck in preparation, and it should be done soon so we can put our patio furniture back out and enjoy the summer.

Next up is mostly outdoor landscaping things, which will be hard to get down with our travel schedules this summer.


April was a solid month for work.  I visited my team members in Colorado and had a productive and interesting week there.  I’m re-enthused of the next phase of the project, and looking forward to a busy busy summer.  Not to much to say here, but the post-summer situation is still basically the same.  My job should be roughly secure, but the overall work level at the office is a bit scary.

March (and February) Wrap Up

April 5, 2018

I skipped last month’s update, although I did update my net worth spreadsheet.  This update will have to cover both months.

Net Worth / Money:

Our net worth was up 1.4% at the time of the spreadsheet update, although stocks fell the day after.  I don’t keep a close eye on them.  In February, we had a 0.3% gain, just barely increasing.

One reason our net worth went up this month is that our tax refunds showed up!  We’ll $5-8k to a mortgage pre-payment.  The rest is just hanging around waiting for me to decide what to do with it.  Yes, our total (fed+state) refund was more than $8k, although not a lot more.


I’m way behind on tracking our spending, which is a somewhat manual process.  I was doing well just going through it once per a week.  So, nothing to report this month, but I’ll get caught up soon!  This was another reason why I didn’t do my wrap-up last month – I kept thinking I was just about to get caught up.

House Projects:

T spent lots of time outside this month!  Not only is the patio FINALLY mostly rebuilt (edging still needs work), he built a small rock wall to reduce erosion on the portion of our hill that didn’t already have a retaining wall.  The rock delivery was about $400.  He then moved on to repairing a small portion of our fence that has been threatening to topple over since we moved in.  The neighbor offered to pay for half of the material costs, so our total cost will be about $350.  (The neighbor was initially grumpy about the whole fence situation until she realized that we were offering to replace it and that the issues she was complaining about were either wrong or on her side of the fence.)

I’m excited for our intended late spring plan to pull out the really terrible hedges in front and put in some more natural landscaping.  T is hoping to paint the exterior (or get it painted).

I think the other main thing for this year/summer is decluttering and donating some furniture and things that have been stowed in the garage for a while.  It is just one of those chores that you NEVER feel like doing…


I was pulled into a new short-term effort, which could lead to something long term.  The near term work is mostly a bunch of somewhat tedious project management work to help set up a potential project.  But if the project materializes, it will be a lot of fun.  The future project has a low/medium probability of materializing, and wouldn’t start for about a year – but it was something I couldn’t say no to.

My normal work stuff has been okay – but only okay.  I didn’t travel in February or March for work, but will be back to Colorado in April for a week.  I think this is good.  I’m feeling very insecure about my ability to contribute high quality work to this effort at this stage of the project. It is also just hard to be so separate from the team physically. I talked with my lead there, and he is committed to keeping me on board.  I’m grateful for that, but I want to be sure I’m an asset to the team.


We just took a look at our summer travel schedules, and it is pretty bleak.  T has a 2 week trip to Europe, and I don’t think I’ll try to tag along as usual… even though I am always a bit tempted!  Immediately following, he’ll have a week in an out-of-state location for the normal big summer conference in his area.  Later in the summer, I’ll be traveling (domestically) pretty much every week for about a 6 week period for work.  T can come with whenever we can get a dog-sitter, but it is still going to be a big disruption to our routine.

This is all without any actual vacations just for fun!  We haven’t decided what, if anything, we’ll be doing for vacation this summer!

Bathroom Remodel (almost) complete!

February 19, 2018

This post walks through our bathroom remodel in detail, but skip to the bottom if you just want the before, after, and budget!

We decided to remodel our small bathroom.  We suspected possible water damage when we moved in (adjacent closet was always musty), but continued using the shower until we discovered a small water leak.  In the process of repairing the leak, it became clear that there was significant water damage from failed waterproofing over the life of the ~60+ year old shower.  We took this as a sign it was time to update.

Below is the staged photo of the bathroom from the realtor. The medicine cabinet, sink, window, and shower are from the 1950s.  The previous owners made cosmetic updates, covering up the original flooring and painting the formerly green walls white.  The tile border on the right of the photo is the entrance to the stall shower, which you can’t see behind the door.  (A green shower is not a selling point, so not pictured in photos!) It was a small but cute little bathroom!

IMG_1270 copy

… but with water-damaged framing in the shower, behind the green tile.  SAD!



I didn’t get many demolition pictures, but that was a ton of work and we hauled out bucket after bucket of mortar-backed tile and damaged drywall.  As part of the demolition, we uncovered the awesomely horrible original floors – puke green with flecks and a black border. We did some research and determined it was very unlikely the original flooring contained asbestos, but we still treated it carefully.  Do your research if you are messing around in a bathroom with old flooring – especially vinyl floor tiles.  We pulled this up to find the subfloor in good shape.


Once all of the demolition was complete, including very carefully removing the old rotted studs, T completed the framing repairs and built the appropriate blocking for the shower.


Then, we hired a plumbers to install our fixtures.  Both of our showers had quite old plumbing, and if you flushed a toilet (or used the sink or ran the dishwasher) the water would get scalding hot.  This is now fixed, at least for one shower!  With that complete, T hung the plywood to provide a stiff material for the build of the shower, and framed the shower niche that I insisted we have.




At that point, the professional took over.  I had no idea how showers were built until we decided to re-build ours.  It started with a pre-sloped concrete subpan, which was topped with a waterproof membrane (filled with water for an overnight waterproofing test).  Then, Grade B paper (tar paper) and lath is installed to serve as backing to the mortar bed.


Next, the mortar goes on the walls, followed by tiles, then grout, then sealing.



After – The finished bathroom and shower!



This wasn’t a budget remodel, except in the fact that we took on as much of the DIY as we were comfortable with.  To demonstrate this, I’ve included our costs next to the detailed quote one of the contractors gave us.  To make it a little easier to read, I greyed out everything that we spent $0 and lumped all of our materials and supplies into a single line.  We of course did all of the work, it just didn’t make sense to try to break it out.


Note that this includes $2,400 that we haven’t spent yet.

Materials, supplies and tools included a bunch of stuff, some of which will be used beyond this project.  (This list is largely organized by trip to hardware store….) Contractors bags, plastic sheeting , etc. $20, chisel, more buckets $20, Sawzall  $151.63, Ladder $184.23, Circular Saw $148.30, another chisel, shims $30, lumber for framing repairs and plywood $94.70, drywall, joint compound and more wood $130 even more wood, screws, primer $104.62.

Fixture choicesGraff Terra Full Pressure Balancing System With Handshower , Duravit 2336630000 sink, Robern R3 16×26 medicine cabinet, Toto Aquia II toilet, George Kovacs Tube LED light fixture.  T wants to build the vanity, inspired by KERF designs, but this hasn’t started yet.

Before & After Again




January Wrap-up

February 5, 2018

Net Worth / Money:  

Our net worth is up another 3.4%, mostly in the retirement savings category.  I just updated this over the weekend, so it includes some of the recent flutters in the overheated stock market, but we’ll see what comes next. I’m front-loading my 401k (see discussion about work below), so 2018 mortgage prepayments will wait for our tax refund, for improved cash flow later in the year, and/or for more job security. Our retirement account balance surpassed our mortgage balance some time last year.  It’s not really a milestone that means anything, but it makes me happy.


Groceries were high, partly due to a Costco restock trip and partly due to my focus on trying to stock healthy food and snacks. We’ve started a new ritual of going to the fish market on Saturdays to buy fresh fish for dinner, generally running just under $20 for the fish itself, and we get 4 portions out of it.  It’s super yummy, but more expensive than our typical meals.  I’ve also insisted T take care of himself and eat lunch EVERY DAY, and he has heeded my advice. This is good, but we’ve seen an uptick in the “work lunch” category.  This is OK for now.  I eat lunch at home 99% of the time.

I also booked our property taxes this month (actually paid last month), paid our car insurance, and we had another $500 in various hardware store purchases.  Lots of spending this month!

Charity:  I’m including this section only to keep myself accountable and to normalize the fact of giving.  I’m not bragging that I donate, because we donate far less than we should, given all of our blessings, and  I’m working on it.  I didn’t choose a charity or political giving opportunity this month, so I rolled my budget over into next month.  I did get a much-belated birthday gift from my sister, who took me up one of the charities I put on my Amazon wish list instead of a gift for me.  Yay!

2017 Taxes:  My estimates for federal taxes were super close, but I screwed up my CA tax estimate.  Our refund is still large, but not NUTSO large, which is just fine.  We’ll be filing in a few days – there was some form related to the backdoor Roth that TurboTax said the IRS didn’t have ready for us yet.

House: The bathroom remodel is basically done, but I haven’t updated the page or converted to a post.  We have a shower curtain / tension rod for now, but will be getting the glass shower door as soon as we get back on the ball and contact some places for quotes.  I’ll update this month.

The patio still needs plenty of clean-up work, but I finally got the last of the gravel pile hauled back. We are done laying the flagstone back down. It has progressed far enough that it doesn’t stress me out any more. T has various ideas of how he wants to develop it from here.

Our bedroom still has some minor construction since the drywall was damaged during the bathroom remodel.  We may end up repainting the whole room.  It makes sense to do it now since we have to paint at least one wall – but it sounds kind of overwhelming.  I’m easily overwhelmed.


There is a terrifying cliff of new projects after this August. My main project is somewhat separate from the cliff, but I can tell I’m less valuable to that project than I was in earlier phases. I’m still enjoying my current work and trying my best to add value, but I worry.

Sometimes I’m able to put this out of my mind and trust that it will be OK.  Other days, I’m a ball of anxiety. Our lifestyle very much benefits from us both working so close to home, and it would be a sacrifice for us both if I change jobs.  It isn’t out of the question – just highly highly undesirable.  I have a few actions/moves, but not many, and they are mostly just networking type things rather than things that actually are going to make a difference in the overall picture.  There is also one long shot project I’m waiting to hear back on, but there is maybe a 1 in 10 chance it will materialize. We weren’t selected for the long shot project I was waiting on, so any small hope there has vanished.

From a finance perspective, we could live without my income, and my paranoia has resulted in us having a big cash buffer. Yet, the financial progress we’ve enjoyed the past few years would be slowed until my income was restored.  At our current rate, we could be FI within ~5 years (? <— not a detailed estimate), but that slows significantly without my salary.  So, that’s my career stuff.

T will be submitting his tenure packet this summer/fall, and we should have a good indication (departmental recommendation) within a year from now.  He won a grant that was somewhat important for him to win (although not necessary, it will help a lot), and things look generally promising.  But who knows? We hope he’ll get tenure and we intend to continue making our lives here. Yet I can also see some appeal of taking our lives in an entirely new direction if he doesn’t. Cash out of the high cost area and…. what?  We don’t really have a plan B, but there are options out there, and if the time comes, we’ll chase them.


I had a terrible poison oak outbreak at the end of the month, and I just need to note it here and whine.  I’m on the mend, but needed a short course of oral steroids along with some potent steroid cream. Also, I was on work travel when it first started, so that was super fun.  Nothing else super notable happened in January.  Life is quiet and good and 2018 is off to a pretty good start.