Friday Food Round-Up!

We are keeping the variety alive at our house!

Friday – Harissa Salmon over Spinach

I had a salad like this a few weeks ago at a restaurant and had to recreate it. Marcus RAVED about the salmon so I will write up a recipe when I have the chance!

Sunday – Tomato and Gigante Bean Bake from Smitten Kitchen Every Day, Baguette

This is officially a fave.

Monday – Lime-Pickle Roasted Chicken with Potatoes and Watercress Spinach

This recipe has been in my binder since March 2017 untouched. I’m glad I saved it. Marcus got the lime pickle at the Indian grocery down the street. We both loved the meal and Critter loved the chicken.

Wednesday – Coconut Beef Curry, Steamed Rice, Steamed Cauliflower

I did this in the crockpot on Tuesday, we ate it on Wednesday.

We liked it fine, Critter enjoyed it some, Glitter ate TONS so will make again.

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Personal Finance: Stuff to Think About

Every year, I try to share a few tips, tricks and other things that make a difference in our financial life.

The Marcus Savings Account by Goldman Sachs (yes it is called that) is currently yielding 2.25% interest. Seriously.

We use Mint to keep track of all of our spending in aggregate. In our opinion (mine and Marcus’) it is a terrible budgeting platform but we use that along with our Excel spreadsheet to run our actual budget. I also have friends who use You Need A Budget (YNAB) and love it. I will note that YNAB is a paid service.

ALDI. If you’re not doing it you need to give it a try. I could go on and on about the reasons why but ultimately unless you are shopping at a premium/gourmet grocery store, you are paying too much for your shopping experience (and your groceries). For example, at the beginning of January, there was one trip where I was able to purchase a few cases of Spindrift AND I found chicken thighs being sold for $0.79/lb with an additional $1.00 off the entire package. Their organic kids fruit and veggie pouches are like $0.79 per pouch. They have everything, the quality is great.

We have allowances each week that we use for meals out with friends and personal purchases (clothing, lattes, books, etc.). It gives us a way to have fun without paying attention to what the other person is spending.

Finding a method to curb impulse spending. A great one I have found is to keep a list on my iPhone of the things I want to buy. If it isn’t already on the list I cannot buy it.

We accept basically all hand-me-downs we are offered for the kids and we work to purchase as much of their clothing as possible used. Until 2018 I did not have as much energy for this but something clicked and now I do have the time to go to Goodwill, the local kids’ consignment shop, or garage sales or sometimes I’ll even use eBay. My mom and mother-in-law also help in the hunt. I manage this by keeping track of what I already have for them in their next sizes up. With this in mind, I know what to look for and can start looking 3-6 months in advance. We also pass things onto friends to keep the cycle going.

As always, if you have any tips and tricks that have worked for you this year, feel free to share them in the comments!

The State of our Financial Union: 2019 is Here!

This is probably a much shorter post than many of you were expecting but there is only so much to be said.

This year we expect our overall savings rate to decrease significantly – we will be paying for two children to attend daycare and that costs a lot of money.  We all know! Critter didn’t start daycare until he was 19 months old and Glitter will not start until she is 16 months old. We are so lucky we have only had to pay for any daycare for a year and a half but like I said, now we will pay for two kids worth.

We will direct the majority (or all) of our savings efforts toward our retirement accounts. We will also maintain the same contributions to the kids’ 529 accounts. The only way that this will change is if we get raises or bonuses. In that case the money will go towards cash savings or charitable giving.

The biggest home improvement we plan to make is installing a large play set in our backyard. This is really a gift to ourselves.

We will maintain emergency funds for the possible situation in which we need to replace my 2006 Honda CRV or our 30 year old air conditioner and 20 year old furnace or everything. We hope we don’t have to replace anything but based on the ages I just listed, I am sure you can understand why we will always have to have a plan for this.

That’s a wrap! Feel free to share your own goals/questions/thoughts in the comments.

Some Things

WE HAVE NOT BEEN TO VISIT THE DOCTOR IN A WEEK!!!

Rejoice and be glad, all.

Absent suburban medical tourism, I don’t know what I should write about but I am confident we can navigate this new world together.

We got a new comforter (our old top blanket was white and not looking crisp any longer…it was also seven years old) and it is big and fluffy and warmer and heavier than the old top blanket we had on our bed and I love it. Marcus thinks the tufting looks wrinkly but tolerates it.

Every afternoon when the suns streams into the backside of our house I thank God we cut down our ash tree at the end of the summer. Note: increased sunlight into the house was NOT why we cut it down but it has been a surprisingly excellent by-product. Especially at this point in the winter where days have been so short for a month, every little bit of natural light is precious.

We are heading to Arizona on Saturday with all of my in-laws. I am really looking forward to being warm for a few days.

Facebook is the worst. I love that iPhones tell us how much time we spend on social media. I find the scrolling on Facebook pointless and while I appreciate that it allows me to stay connected to people I would otherwise lose touch with, I don’t believe the platform has our best interests at heart. At all. I have been trying to find ways to cut back. When I told my friend Megan about this she said Oh I only check my messages and notifications, I never scroll anymore. I said okay I will try this. YOU GUYS. I only spent 41 minutes on Facebook the entire week. Amazing. Next up: Instagram. Not sure how to tackle it yet but any and all strategies are welcome.

Friday Food Round-Up!

This week I revived our recipe binder. I also cleaned it out and purged the recipes we never made at all or made once but did not love.

Sunday – Pan Roasted Chicken with Harissa Chickpeas, Roasted Cauliflower

An old favorite is back.

Tuesday – Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

This time instead of using salsa I just dumped in a packet of taco seasoning.

Thursday – Braised Chicken Thighs with Indian Flavors, Steamed Broccoli, Steamed Rice

I made this in the crockpot instead of in the oven and that was a great choice.

2019 Goals

Okay. I finally have some.

Clean out the basement bedroom. We need to organize it and purge/donate/sell what we don’t need. If we achieve this we will have managed to rid ourselves of the giant room of clutter and things in our house.

Finish my SPHR recertification. This isn’t due until 2020 but I only have 14 credits left and they’re all business ones so I need to get it done so I can relax and forget about it.

Finish our photo albums. I need to assemble what we have so far, and organize and order vacation photos from all of our pre-baby trips.

Try to lose four pounds. Yes this is a specific number and yes I am and am not serious. Basically my pre-baby J.Crew shorts are on the edge of fitting and I actually like the shorts. I have no actual plan to accomplish this goal and frankly if I have to order new shorts it is what it is.

Take care of my actual garden. When I was looking at photos of our 2018 landscaping project and the Back 400, I forgot how much work we did! This year I actually need to plant a working garden for our jam/berry/herb garden and care for the flower garden.

The State of our Financial Union: 2018 in Review

Why am I sharing this? As always, on the chance you are curious about what others do with their $$$. I’ll also share in separate posts what we are doing for 2019 and some tools or information sources I have found to be useful this year. As always, I’d love to hear what you are up to or any resources you want to share!

When I reflect on what we are doing financially, I give thanks to the Lord every day for provisioning us.  Marcus and I try to keep up our end of the bargain by being mindful of what we have, and by paying it forward to those who need it through acts of philanthropy and service.

Our Total Savings Rate was 23.7% of our net income. This was broken out as 70% into our retirement accounts (Roth 401(k)s), 21% into cash and 8% into 529 savings plans for Critter and Glitter’s education. I know that only totals 99% – I didn’t want to get into minutiae of percentages so I rounded. I am sure you all understand and directionally get where we are going here.

Charitable Giving comprised 4.11% of our net income.

Pre-Tax Accounts.  We continued to max out our HSA account because we have a high deductible health plan.  As everyone knows, when you have little ones you go to the doctor a lot.  So we spent all of it! We also maxed out our contributions to a dependent care FSA this year.  As I am sure we all know, that comes nowhere near paying for our full daycare need, but being able to set aside some of that money tax free really helps. 

You’ll notice that I did not list 401(k)s here.  That is because we participate in Roth 401(k)s post-tax instead of traditional pre-tax 401(k)s.  We also maintain separate Roth IRAs that we contribute to as we are able to in any given year.

Fin. I’ll post later this week/next week with our reality and plans for 2019 (Spoiler alert it involves doubling our daycare bill! Fun!).