Lost Glasses

vspI lost my glasses in Palm Beach. So weird – I’ve never lost a pair of glasses before. Luckily, I have an old pair to tide me over until I replace them. It’s been a couple of years since I saw my ophthalmologist and I can’t get in to see her until the 24th. But I’ve already picked out some frames at Costco.

I was planning to get new prescription sunglasses this year, not regular glasses. I might get both. Costco has a special where you get $30 off the 2nd pair (for the same person). The frames I picked are both in the $50 range. I can use my out-of-network VSP benefits on one pair and get the Costco discount on the second pair. The prices at Costco are so good, I’m not inclined to go to an in-network provider for my frames – although I will check out the prices at a nearby place, just to make sure.

Palm Beach Trip

palm beachJay and I went to Palm Beach last week. After our recent not-so-great trip to New Orleans, I was really careful about our plans and it paid off in spades!

At five days, our New Orleans trip was too long. Palm Beach was just right at three days. It was four nights, because we got in late and left early – not usually how I’d do it, but the fare was unbeatable ($256 round trip for both of us on Frontier) and the flight choices were limited.

In New Orleans we had a lot of fun going on a bike tour and we rented bikes in Palm Beach, too, biking the North Lake Trail and North Ocean Blvd. We walked along the beach, which was practically deserted. We didn’t rent a car in New Orleans and felt somewhat trapped. In Palm Beach we rented a car for about $15/day and drove Ocean Blvd to Delray Beach. It’s gorgeous and the mansions are unreal. We drove about 15 mins inland to the Wakodahatchee Preserve which was free and, I thought, totally awesome. Tons of birds, really nice boardwalk, turtles, alligators (more than we saw on an expensive airboat ride outside New Orleans)… I loved it.

Jay also used the car to get to the launch point for a day of kayak fishing. He hooked a sailfish but didn’t land it. :( That would have been the crowning glory for him!

We stayed at a VRBO that was very well located. There was a Publix right down the street. We like to buy food so we don’t have to rely on going out to eat for every meal. The meals we did pay for were really good and we didn’t get sick of going out.

The Flagler museum was awesome. Unbelievably ornate and beautiful. When Jay was kayak fishing I walked the couple of miles to Worth Avenue, went to some antique and art stores, had a glass of wine and some mussels at an outdoor restaurant, under an umbrella while it rained a bit. Then I walked back via the Lake Trail and discovered the free and very pretty Society of the Four Arts sculpture garden. Somewhere, somehow, I lost my prescription glasses! I was wearing my sunglasses and probably hooked my regular glasses on my shirt front and they slipped off. Luckily, it was our last day and I had a spare pair at home. But now I need to get a new pair. :(

Palm Beach is rich and clean and beautiful. I would definitely go back. We are probably more suited to Jupiter or Boynton Beach or Delray Beach, should we ever decide to rent for a month or two.

We were really lucky that our flight back to Denver wasn’t canceled as there was a blizzard. And, though I find the Frontier flights uncomfortable, at least I was prepared this time. Forewarned is forearmed. I didn’t suffer (much).

Snowshoe Trip

IMG_1598A few weeks ago Jay decided to head up to Naylor to help our son out. He and a friend were up there for an ice fishing weekend and had lost something in the snow on their way up. Jay asked if I wanted to go. I was hesitant, not sure I’d be able to keep up with him snowshoeing up to the lake but, partly because I have “two snowshoe trips” on my 2016 TO DO list, I went.

Such a great decision. It was cold, but beautiful. And once you get going, you don’t stay cold for long. We weren’t able to find the lost item, but had a fabulous time and even caught a few fish. I had no trouble keeping up with him – on the way up. The way down was a different story. It always is. My knee started acting up, but I made it.

They say that writing your intentions down makes you more likely to keep them. I highly agree!!

147,600 Miles/Points Earned in 2015

Last year we earned 213,000 miles/points, recovering back to a balance of 300,000 miles/points.

This past year saw us switching to fee free, cashback cards and I just canceled a long held MileagePlus United card. Hence the reduction in miles earned.

Here’s a summary for the miles/points we earned in 2015:

Ink Bold – 46,756

MileagePlus – 32,384

Explorer – 68,461 (of which 10,000 were bonus miles)

Total: 147,601!

This year I’m anticipating even fewer miles, unless we get the Explorer card and its bonus miles for Jay. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping track of the cashback bonuses we earn with our new Bank of America cards. Last year we earned upwards of $440 because of the bonuses for signing up. And these cards have no annual fee, saving us another $90+.

Credit Card Shuffle

credit cardsWe’ve had a MileagePlus VISA for years. I think it was the only card around that still gave 2x miles for groceries. But the annual fee was expensive ($140) and I ran the numbers and decided that it wasn’t as cost effective as other cards. So I canceled it last month. Should have done it sooner.

I recently got Bank of America cashback cards for both Jay and I, earning a $200 bonus for each. There’s no annual fee and I’ve already earned an additional $75 cashback on mine. I pretty much use this card for everything, except online purchases, United airfare and foreign purchases. For those, I use the Explorer card (to get free checked bags, no foreign fees, and because they have a more robust, online dispute function – something I’m more likely to use with an online purchase than an in person purchase). This is the card two of our kids have and, hopefully, the third will get in a couple of months.

While I’ve started to focus more on cashback, no-fee cards, I still applied for another CHASE United mileage card for Jay last month. He got an application in the mail offering 50,000 bonus miles with no annual fee for the first year. I couldn’t pass it up. Not sure he’ll be approved but, if so, I’ll use it just enough to get the miles and then decide whether to keep it or not. We’re in good shape miles/points wise, with 450,000. And we’re not using that many miles these days. I’ve managed to get cheap enough flights to Calgary that I’m not tempted to use them. And when we fly to Florida and other places, it’s often on Frontier. Cheap – but OMG, so uncomfortable.

Finally, I just logged on to download our American Express year end statement. Our current card is going to be canceled soon, as Costco is ending their relationship with American Express. I was greeted with an invitation to apply for another no fee American Express card with a $300 bonus after spending $2,500. I applied and was immediately approved. Will most likely cancel this after getting the bonus, but maybe not, given that there’s no annual fee. I expect Costco will be contacting me soon to replace my American Express card with a Citibank card. Hope there’s a bonus connected with it, too. 😉


Antifragile-Book-CoverI’m reading this most recent book, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (Incerto), by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It’s SO hard to get through, it makes me feel dumb. You know the author is a genius, and all that comes with being a genius (ie. he’s a curmudgeon, and difficult, and condescending, and would be impossible to be married to). But, I admire his brilliance and his complete f*** you attitude towards the establishment and, especially, academia. I’m going to have to reread The Black Swan, which I read (after the ’08 meltdown, unfortunately) and loved.

The subtitle, Things That Gain from Disorder, indicates that antifragile isn’t just robust or resilient, it’s the opposite of fragility, a concept that doesn’t really even exist in our vernacular.

Here’s a good example of how Jay and I were actually antifragile. Back in ’04 and ’05, I kept reading about the rising rates of foreclosure in Denver. We were pretty much resistant to being foreclosed on, having financial security and lots of equity in our house. We were robust/resilient in the face of the looming housing crisis. But, it turns out, we were antifragile, too, because I thought, hey, I’ll bet I can learn about foreclosures and make some money here. So, I learned all about the process and how to research properties and titles and liens. I learned how the foreclosure process worked, went to public trustee auctions and watched and then followed how a couple of investors operated and, finally, started participating myself. I did all the research and paperwork and spreadsheets. Jay did most of the physical fixing and flipping activities. Together we had all the skills to make a bunch of money over the course of 7-8 years. We gained from the disorder of the housing crisis. We weren’t just resistant. We thrived because of it.

I would love to think that I can become antifragile, not just in a financial sense, but in an emotional and psychological way. I was the opposite of antifragile when my nephew died, and I don’t ever want to be so weak and vulnerable again.

A very dear friend took her life about three months ago and, while I’m not nearly the mess I was when Matthew killed himself, there are moments when I feel those familiar waters rushing in. I’m determined to find a way to be antifragile emotionally, to find a way to grow and become stronger and give the finger to the feelings of sadness and loss. I’m determined to come out of this stronger, let alone intact. I’d really like to find a book to help me. 😉

HDHP Started

hdhpOur switch to a High Deductible Health Plan occurred on January 1. Our annual premium has gone from $8,946 to $2,783, a reduction of $6,164. The company seeded our HSA with $1,500 and we are contributing $258.33 pretax per paycheck to fully fund the HSA to the $7,750 maximum. Under this new plan we can also earn up to $50 if we both complete a health survey (done) and $40/month by participating in the fitness reimbursement program – which we will do, of course!

Our annual max out-of-pocket spending for the family is $7,000, so it’s pretty much a sure thing that we will save money on this new plan. Last year our total cost was just shy of $11,000 – but that number was inflated because we jammed as much as we could (doctor visits and prescriptions) into the last couple of months of the year. This year, the most it should be is around $7,753 (assuming we maximize the benefits mentioned earlier). My goal will be to keep it under $5,000, however I know that even one emergencies would change that. So, I won’t keep my hopes too high.

I’m just thankful that the new plan is a good one (actually, better than our last one) and pray that we all stay healthy.

New Furniture

lazy boySo, our new furniture miraculously arrived in time for Christmas. I got a call from one store the week of Christmas that our sectional was in but, unfortunately, it couldn’t be delivered before the 25th. The sales person knew someone, however, who had a delivery service and he might be able to deliver it for us – for $125 vs. the $80 delivery fee the store charges. How convenient for her and her friend, but not for us! Luckily, my husband has a truck and he picked it up for free!!

I, subsequently, looked at the sales receipt he brought home and noticed that the sales person had added a service protection plan for $200 that I hadn’t remembered agreeing to. Luckily, I have a copy of the original sales receipt and, sure enough, it wasn’t there. So, I called and had her credit me $213. Very sleazy, if you ask me. Pay attention to the details!

But, I really love the sectional!

I had ordered two chairs from another store and they weren’t even supposed to be delivered to the warehouse until after the new year. But they arrived on the 24th! It all looks so nice and the room is much more functional. It was a big purchase, but I don’t regret or resent spending the money. I actually think that, when we go to sell, the house will show so much better that we’ll probably recoup some or all of the expense. The difference is that dramatic. And it’s not like we’ll be leaving the furniture if and when we move. 😉

Returns and Unsubscribing

unsubscribeChristmas was really good this year. I was very organized – in terms of decorating, shopping and cooking. All three areas were a big success!

The furniture I had ordered and wasn’t expecting until January arrived in time for our Christmas party! The house looks SO great. 😉

As usual, I have some merchandise to return and am organizing that according to my schedule. I went to Sierra Trading Post and TJ Maxx on my way home from yoga yesterday. Will go to Costco today. Macy’s tomorrow, before I meet my sister-in-law for a movie. Will do Dick’s and Gander Mountain later in the week.

In addition to getting my returns done, I’ve been tidying up. Sold a chandelier on Craigslist. And I’m unsubscribing from lots of email lists I seem to have been added to. Electronic clutter is still clutter.

After all it’s almost 2016! I love the start of a new year and the freshness it brings.