Last Tuition Payment!

I made our last tuition payment the other day. Yee ha!!

Granted, the money continues to drain our bank account with her rent, living expenses, cell phone, etc. etc. etc. BUT we just made the final tuition payment for child number two in September. So, until recently, we were paying tuition for two kids.

SO THIS IS HUGE!!

Child number one has been independent for close to five years, about a year before our youngest started college and moved out.

Child number two graduated in December and started a good job in January. An “I can support myself” kind of job. He’s responsible for everything now. He’s even started paying us back for expenses racked up over the previous 6 1/2 years (yes – it was a long haul). I’m taking $100 out of every paycheck until we’re good. I haven’t bothered to put a number on it but this means we are no longer shelling out for gas or rent or utilities. And I’ve set up automatic monthly transfers to cover his share of our Verizon and auto insurance bills.

Child number three graduates in May. I don’t want to get ahead of myself and jinx anything. Graduating doesn’t guarantee getting a job providing self sufficiency. And getting a job isn’t the same as getting the right job or keeping a job. And, let’s face it, you’re never really out of the woods if you’re a parent. Bad stuff happens.

But good stuff happens, too, and you may as well celebrate it when it does!

The 4-Hour Workweek

I’m reading an exceptional book right now, Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek.

It’s kind of mind blowing to be honest. And it makes me a little sad. Because Jay and I are the people who’ve lived the kind of life he advocates escaping – the life of 9 to 5 with a “big” retirement at the end. Jay especially. And his union job isn’t one that lends itself, in any way, shape or form, to the telecommuting strategy Timothy describes. Besides, we’re almost at retirement age whereas this book is most valuable for those in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

Despite this, there’s still a ton of value in reading it. It’s not too late to implement some of his plans/strategies even if I really like our “small” life. There’s no question that it can be improved and I agree so wholeheartedly with many of his observations and opinions. I feel like a kindred spirit, which is hilarious as our lives couldn’t be more different.

Plus, he’s funny as hell.

I’m getting it for my brother. And probably for the kids for Christmas. They’ve already made it clear they have no intention of following in our footsteps! 😉 It makes me a little nervous, because the lifestyle Ferriss advocates is SO different from ours and I’m not sure how achievable it actually would be.

FitBit

fitbitJay was very sweet and surprised me with a FitBit last week. Except it was the more expensive Charge HR version. And, since he doesn’t shop much, he isn’t “outfitted” with coupons and discount gift cards etc.

He bought it at Target for $149.99. With tax, it came to $162.20.

The non-HR version is $129.99 pretty much everywhere. I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond to get it. After using a 20% coupon and paying with a discount gift card, it cost me $102.99 (including tax), saving almost $60.

It can be both my Valentine’s and birthday presents. Now I just have to figure out how to use it! 😉

Petal by Petal

petalsIn one of the latest (and best) books I’ve read, Lit: A Memoir (P.S.), Mary Karr describes her elderly mother ‘She’d quit painting, quit buying pretty clothes. Petal by petal, she’s been shedding herself.’

Wow.

This really hit home and I brought it up the last time my friends and I went for a walk. All of us are dealing with aging parents in some stage of decline. I lost my father about 14 months ago and, luckily, my Mom is doing pretty well. Very well, actually, when compared with my friends’ remaining parents. But the metaphor is still applicable and I hope to keep it in mind as I age.

I already see signs of it creeping in. For example, I judge my Mom’s almost total disinterest in cooking while, in the next breath, congratulate myself for only having to prepare 3-4 meals/week now that the kids are out of the house. As far as my Mom goes, it seems that every effort that can be cut out is being cut out and I worry I’m destined to take the same route? I’m already thinking about moving into a house low maintenance home. I’m somewhat obsessive about saving money. 😉

Hopefully, not. I will try to remember Mary Karr’s line ‘Petal by petal, she’s been shedding herself. ‘ and keep it from being so. It will require some vigilance. Maybe I’m overreacting. For me, saving money is a very active pursuit. I might even go so far as classifying it as a hobby. A low maintenance home will make it easier for us to travel. It will probably make it easier for Jay to keep working. (And, speaking of, I recently got a job – quite the opposite of retiring!)

In other areas of our lives, I’m planning to take a more active role – for example, babysitting our niece once a month so my brother and sister-in-law can go out, driving up to Boulder, Vail or Fort Collins every month to take one of our kids out for dinner. I’m contemplating getting a FitBit, and taking golf lessons, and signing up to learn how to play PickleBall at the rec center where I work, swim and go to yoga class.

Another thing that might keep me engaged longer is the fact that I’m an older mother than my Mom. At 29, she’d finished having her kids, while I’d just started. I’m about 12 years behind her and, hopefully, that will force me to stay on my toes!

An Inexpensive Get Together

wash perkA group of us try to get together at least once a month to do something. We call it “We Women”. Some of the “events” are expensive – like a week in Florida (although we stay at one of the gal’s vacation home, making it a deal (but still expensive)). Some of the “events” are moderately priced – like going to an exhibit at the Denver Art Museum ($27) followed by lunch ($20).

And some are downright cheap (or free).

Last Friday three of us met for a walk at Washington Park – free. When it was over, my friend mentioned that she thought there was a good coffee shop, named Wash Perk, nearby. None of us had ever been. It was a short ways away, about .5 mile, so we walked there and back. One of the best cups of coffee ever!! I was starving, so I had a scone, as well. In the future, however, I’ll know our outing will include going for coffee and I’ll have a bite beforehand. For about $5, a walk and great cup of coffee is a cheap and fun outing.

I’m hoping we can do it every month. The weather in Denver is so great can almost always find mild days in the middle of winter. The trick in the summer is to get your walk in before it gets too hot!

Rebalancing the 401K

401kA substantial amount of our net worth is tied up in Jay’s 401K. He puts in just enough to maximize his company match. It’s been years since he originally picked the funds that the money is allocated to and it definitely needs to be rebalanced. About 63% of the funds were in one of the riskier, aggressive stock funds.

So, at the beginning of the year we specified that all new contributions go into Vanguard’s 2025 Target fund. We also moved about 15% of the existing funds out of the aggressive fund into the Target fund. And we’re continuing to do this on a weekly basis, moving a small fraction so that by the end of the year another 15% will have been moved.

We picked the 2025 Target fund even though Jay is probably going to retire closer to 2020. But we don’t expect to need the money until 2025. Also, there’s a chance that he’ll keep working past 2020, especially if he can find a way to take time off without pay. If, however, it starts to look like we need an even more conservative position, we’ll move the funds from the 2025 Target fund to the 2020 Target fund.

Rebalancing his 401K has been on my To Do list for awhile and I’m really glad we’re finally taking action. 😉

Replaced a Plate and Some Cutlery

ikea dishesA couple of weeks ago I decided to use actual dinnerware and cutlery whenever we were entertaining 12 or fewer. I’ve been using nicer plastic plates and cutlery from Party City and would like to save the approx $10 it costs every time I do this.

Earlier in the year I purchased some IKEA place settings I was really pleased with. Well, one of the dinner plates went missing. Not sure how or where. Our daughter was back for summer break and had some friends living with us off and on. I checked under all the beds and the couch downstairs. No plate.

I emailed any friends and family I may have left it at. No plate.

So, I decided to go back to IKEA and buy one. I bought three, just in case.

I also counted up our flatware. I bought place settings for 12 a number of years ago. Since then we had lost 5 cereal spoons, 4 salad forks and more. I went online and was able to find place settings for four for $32. I’m still short a cereal spoon, which I will either find or buy separately some day.

Now I can set the table for 12 (minus one small spoon) and, for once, everything will match!!

Another Free Concert

concert2We went to another free concert last night, part of the Concerts in the Crescent program.

We met our good friends, had a picnic dinner of pizza and Sangria and enjoyed the wonderful Colorado weather.

The music was fun. Kids were running around having a blast. People were dancing. Everyone was in a happy, summer state of mind. I was tired from working my first full day and was quite happy to just vegetate on the blanket.

What a simple and inexpensive way to spend an evening!

Hotel Savings

le square phillipsWe’re going to visit my brother in Newfoundland and, on the way home, stop in Montréal! My brother has tons of points on Aeroplan (sort a Canadian version of United Miles) and has arranged for our flights AND our hotel in St. John’s.

Wow!

So, I’m busily trying to figure out things to do (I don’t want to leave him to have to make all the plans) and get the Montréal portion of our trip planned. I just booked a hotel yesterday. I had just received an email from Orbitz with a promo code to save 15%. That amounted to a $150 savings. I also remembered to access Orbitz via TOPCASHBACK, which should result in an additional 7.25% savings of around $70.

Works for me!

I made sure to book a reservation that can be cancelled, just in case I find something more appealing. I just picked up some travel guides from the library and may get some good insights from them. But, at least I know that we’ve got a hotel. Montréal is a popular tourist destination and I didn’t want to wait and find myself scrambling for a room.

Planning a trip is half the fun! And, we wouldn’t be going if it wasn’t for Robert’s generosity because going on a trip is expensive!!

Hired!

new jobI posted recently that I interviewed for a part time position at the rec center I go to, and they called me on Friday to offer me a job! I’ll be working in the registration office. I go in today to fill out paperwork and start some training.

The pay is pretty horrible, but the job meets all my criteria:

– between 8 and 12 hours/week
– no weekends or evenings
– maximum 15 minute commute
– free parking
– casual dress code
– no manual labor

It’s VERY hard to find a job meeting this criteria!!

I’ll be working one full day and one half day each week. I should still be able to go to yoga twice/week and swim once a week, my weekly study group, and be available to go out with my friends most weeks, and have plenty of time for shopping/groceries/errands and generally keeping things running smoothly.

It sounds like they are flexible about vacations and there are enough employees to cover shifts when I’m gone. I expect I’ll have to cover other peoples’ shifts from time to time, especially if I expect the same in return.

We’ll see how it goes. It’s been almost exactly 12 years since I quit my last real job – where, BTW, I was making more than 4x the hourly amount (12 years ago!) than I’ll be making on this job. 😮

There will be a learning curve but, basically, the job is well within (if not well below) my capabilities. My biggest worries are a) will it mess with my current 100% flexibility, and b) will I like the job? I’m REALLY not good at doing things I don’t like. My hope is that I’m busy and the hours fly by. And, when I’m not busy, I hope it’s OK to read a book. I don’t read enough!

I would like to enjoy this enough that I’m still there in 5+ years.