Archive for the ‘General’ Category

2019 Savings Order of Operations
June 10, 2019

In math and in computer programming, the order of operations defines how you solve problems and prioritize the order in which you perform procedures.  In the spirit of, “You can do anything, but not everything,” below is my Savings order of operations for 2019.

1. 401K Contributions
This cuts our taxable income and lets us save for retirement. With all of the ways to access retirement funds early, if needed, this is our #1 item.

2. Roth IRA / Backdoor Roth IRAs / Mega Backdoor Roth IRAs
We dance around the eligibility limits for Roth IRAs, but these tax-advantaged accounts are better than regular taxable accounts.  We have a fairly large cash position, so it’s not necessary that we access this money quickly.

3. HSA
This ends up happening no matter what through employer deductions, but I’ve changed my thinking about the HSA vs. Roth IRAs in the past few years. If I can’t fund a Mega Backdoor Roth via normal cash flow / income (and I rarely/never can), I will pull money from the HSA to do it. Once the money is in an HSA, pulling it out to put into a Roth IRA offers the same benefits without the recordkeeping headaches. (Um, and it’s tax-free money into a Roth!)

4. Kids’ college funds
This ends up being weirdly tied with #2 and #3 above. My savings target is the maximum untaxed amount for our state, per kid (so $4K each). I’ve saved “extra” over the past few years, and also sort of cheat this since I simply fund it with invisible-to-me Dependent Care FSA reimbursements.

I have an underperforming yoga teaching side hustle which allows me to contribute to a SEP IRA or Solo 401K.  The SEP IRA required no extra paperwork, so I went with that.  This conflicts with a backdoor Roth, though, so I have to strategically roll it into my 401K before I convert my tIRA.

6. Taxable Investment accounts
We don’t usually made it this far down the list, but this would be tied with #7.

7. Mortgage Prepayment
We have a 15-year mortgage already and our rate is amazing (3.125%), but I still do not like that huge balance hanging out there.  Ideally, we’d contribute extra and then recast – protecting that awesome low interest rate while having annual payments that are slightly less onerous.

Checking In
June 7, 2019

I almost titled this post, “Restarting the Blog,”  but since both of my previous attempts failed, that may be too optimistic a title.  Even now, this post feels like little more than throwing some words into the void (but isn’t that any new blog?).

My first baby, my rainbow baby, starts kindergarten in the fall.  Preschool graduation was last week, and though I don’t usually fall for pointless ceremony, I may have gotten a little choked up at this one.

Baby #2 will be 3 later this summer.  We are almost out of diapers, though poops in the potty are still a challenge.

I switched jobs.  The new job is a project engineer role, which means less of doing the actual work and more of coordinating others to do it for me.  In some ways, this should be the perfect fit (I’ve always been a very good big picture person).  However, my fingers get twitchy to do the work myself, especially when it comes to using modeling software and fun problems. It should be reasonably easy to move around if I decide to revert to regular engineering.

Money is interesting again.  The added wrinkles of our lives – daycare costs (over $30,000 per year, which should seem crazy but at this point I’ve seen folks paying that much for one kid) and a 15-year mortgage of half a million dollars (PITI + HOA of $50,000 per year) – mean we cannot do all the savings anymore.  We still save more than the average American, anywhere from 40 – 60%, depending on which calculation I pick.

I’m still following some of my favorite blogs, the ones who are still around, anyway.  Some of their blogs have exploded, some are posting monthly(or less frequent) updates.  I guess that’s what made me want to write again… If I enjoy this voyeuristic peek into lives I’ve been following for over a decade at this point, maybe it’s time I give back.

Assuming this doesn’t become another one of my biannual life summaries, I want to start talking about some life changes that are coming up, give folks an idea of our spending, and talk about some trade-offs I’m currently making.  I used to be pretty bad at protecting the fact that I had a blog, so TBD on whether or not I will get specific with numbers (though perhaps any IRL folks deserve to be rewarded if they’re checking in 2 years later!).

2012 In Review
January 3, 2013

2012 was a year of great uncertainty. Last January, we weren’t sure when D would finish school, if he’d find a job, if we’d buy a house, etc. You all remember when D got his job offer, so at least that’s one question answered. We’ve deferred the house hunting until 2013, though, so the uncertainty isn’t going away any time soon (have you ever tried to make a budget without knowing how much one of your major expenses will cost? It’s impossible!).

This was a year of mixed blessings. D got a new job, but his commute currently takes about an hour. We bought a new car, but we struck a compromise between my insistence on fuel efficiency and D’s desire for space, with the result being that I think the car is a gas-guzzler and D thinks it’s too small. I still enjoy my job, but I had a promotion get turned down and I’m struggling with some bitterness about that.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. We got to take a couple of great vacations this year, and we’ve been visiting family more than ever. I never want to forget that I am very lucky and my complaints are really very small.

Overall, I had a good year. But I’ll be honest – I didn’t look at my goals at all this year. I should start doing a review at least halfway through the year. I met my financial goals (which is probably just the result of setting conservative goals and having a higher income) but epically failed on being the kind, charitable, minimalist type of person I want to be. Below, a summary.


1. Max out retirement accounts.

I maxed out my 401K, and we currently have money set aside for our Roth IRAs. I have just been lazy about actually making the desposit! D doesn’t become eligible for his company’s 401K until late 2013, so no deposits made to his.

2. Save/earmark an additional $15,000.

We put just over $45,000 into savings, but $30,000 of that was money we took out to pay for the car. I feel OK about this number since D only worked part of the year and because we cashflowed all of the things that were supposed to be earmarks.

I’m going to be honest – this was a strange goal when I set it. That said, I can’t really complain about our savings account balances.

3. Stay under personal budget.

I haven’t run the numbers for December yet, but I’m pretty sure I came in under this budget item despite higher spending on fitness stuff (yoga classes are expensive, yo!) and books/music.

4. Donate $100/month to charity.

I set aside the $1200, but I’ve found it hard to pull the trigger on any one charity. Charities I’ve donated to in past years just keep sending me fundraising information. I’m have so many address labels (with my maiden name), calendars, stickers, etc. I’m a little bit grossed out by it all, to be honest. I’ve been wanting to find a charity that’s not spending their money on mailings and salaries, but even Charity Navigator isn’t really helping me.

I’m weighing several options for using this money, but that’s a topic for another discussion…


1. Get at least 4/5 on my year-end review.

I got a 5/5, but it was bittersweet because of #2.

2. Ask for a promotion.

Asked for it, and it got rejected by a nameless executive who has no idea what I do.

I tried to write a post about this several times. I’m struggling with a lot of bitterness about it. Our department had a LOT of turnover this year, and my bosses leaned on me very heavily, counting on me to do work far above my current level. So when the promotion got rejected, it was pretty demotivating. I’m embarrassed, because I really think I deserve the promotion, so this made me feel as though I’ve overestimated my abilities. My bosses have promised me a promotion in 2013.

3. Train on at least one new task/discipline.

Done, in spades.


1. Work out 4 days per week.

Done! There were a few weeks where I might have worked out 3 times, plus there was a two-week period where I was on crutches and didn’t work out at all. Still, I’m pleased with how well I did this year, and I have actual muscle tone in my arms for the first time… ever.

2. Take an extra yoga class.

I have definitely taken a lot more yoga classes this year! I abandoned the cheaper 8-week series in July for multiple reasons, but I found another studio with awesome classes, even if it costs quite a bit more than $5/class.

2013 will include more yoga goals!

3. Set one food-related goal per month.

I’m going to be honest – I totally forgot about this goal until I reread my 2012 goals post! I know I made them for a few months, but consistently failed to meet them. Then I think I stopped, and never restarted.

Being Better

1. Work 15 hours for a non-profit.

I didn’t do this AT ALL. The animal shelter that I decided on wasn’t taking new people in January, and then I just… never looked again.

2. Read 100 books and jot down a quick summary/review.

I read about 80 books (which is close to my 2011 total) and created a GoodReads account and started off the year jotting down note in a small diary. And then I left the diary at my sister’s house. And then I basically avoided the internet for a few months. So, fail all around!

3. Institute a one-in-one-out shopping rule.

I explained earlier about my weight loss this year. I still think it’s temporary (and my unhealthy holiday eating habits might have pushed me back up!), so I haven’t donated anything. I have put some things into storage, but I don’t think it counts.

To Accomplish, October 2012
October 3, 2012

I feel like this year has flown by; I am just completely baffled that it’s October already. That means it’s time to check my yearly goals and panic over how far I am from meeting them. It also means it’s time for pumpkin-flavored everything, baking lots of cookies, and panicking over what gifts to buy everyone for Christmas. I also feel as though I will have no free weekends until 2013!  At any rate, this is a busy month so this will be more of a To Do list than anything involving actual goals.

To Accomplish, October 2012

1. Workout 5 days per week.
My sister is getting married in a few more weeks, and then we’re going to Hawaii. I need to step it up!

2. Read 10 books.
This is ambitious, given that I’ve been struggling to meet my 8 books per month goal. Still, with a loooong flight at the end of the month and a couple of days of vacation, I should be able to make this. Hopefully.

3. Buy D a birthday present.
OK, this is cheating because I’d remember to do it no matter what. But it’s on my To Do list, so it goes here.

4. Get ready for my sister’s wedding.
This involves a bunch of random beautify tasks, such as using those terrible teeth whitening strips, buying nail polish, making sure my makeup still works, etc. I also have to buy jewelry and shoes. And get my dress tailored. Ack!

5. Register to vote.
I attempted to register to vote when we moved here, but thanks to a DMV employee who fulfilled all of the stereotypes of DMV employees, my application was rejected. Since I’d like to be able to vote in the upcoming election, I should really get on this.

6. File my work expense report.
I always forget to do this and I’m pretty sure the people who work for the Travel group hate me. I can’t help it, it involves a.) keeping track of receipts, b.) filling out paperwork, and c.) finding a fax machine. That’s way too many things.

7. Figure out what to do with my stock options.
I got some stock options a long time ago and they’ve just finally vested. Now the question: Do I sell the shares or keep them for future emergencies?

D got a job!
June 22, 2012


TurboTax Happy Hour Recap
February 5, 2012

It’s tax season!

I went to a happy hour sponsored by TurboTax on Wednesday, thanks to the lovely Brian from My Next Buck, who scored me an invitation.  We enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and drinks while TT showed off their new apps for phones and for the iPad.  I don’t have an iPad (woe), but the app for the phones was pretty cool – you take a picture of your W2 and it reads in all of your data from the picture.  We have too many things going on to use the 1040EZ (which is all the app is designed to handle by itself), but the app will transfer your data to the online system.  Which beats typing in all the numbers!

And no, I didn’t get paid to write a review or anything – although in the interest of full disclosure, I did have a beer and some crackers and dip. And I got a swag bag with some sweet TurboTax stuff (giveaway coming soon!). I also spent like $10 taking the Metro, and we have beer in our fridge, so I pretty much could have done the same thing at home for free.

It was fun to get to see everyone (Brian, J. Money, Shawanda, Stephen Popick), again; I haven’t made it to a DC Blogger Happy Hour since March of last year.  I also got to meet Ginger from Girls Just Wanna Have Funds, who is intimidatingly gorgeous and put-together in person, and TeacHer Finance, who is so nice and just 100% adorable and I wanted to steal her whole outfit. And some others whose blogs I can’t remember, but I’m not sure they’d want me posting their names on the internet, so.

A bunch of us left around the same time and ended up riding the train together.  Have you ever seen people talking about blogging on a train (OK, we also talked about mice and pets)?  That was us. And there were so many of us that we could have ganged up on anyone who thought we were creepy. We could have beaten them up with our TurboTax notebooks.


Anyway, giveaway coming soon, and I will hopefully get my February goals posted before the month is over. We’re hosting a SuperBowl party tomorrow, so maybe I’ll get the post up by Monday.

Have a great weekend!


Happy Halloween weekend!
October 28, 2011


I fear change.
October 17, 2011

My manager let us know that he’s taking a new job, and thus won’t be our boss for much longer, although he’ll be around until the end of the year to do our year-end reviews.

I’m going to miss my boss!  He never took anything too seriously, and sometimes would hang out and chat and joke with us on Friday mornings or over lunch.  I’m convinced he’s a big part of the reason that my department has a reputation for being the happiest group at our work site.  And lest you think that this is great for the workers but bad for the company, our group is actually one of the best-performing.  And!  We get a lot of long-term employees who enjoy working here so much that they stay for decades.

He’ll still be working for our company, based out of our work site, and this is really a very nice step up for him.  I’m excited for him, and yet…

Since this is my blog and I’m a very self-centered person, I have to wonder what this does for my plans to get promoted next year.  It’s hard enough to get a promotion when you have someone advocating for you, and I don’t know how easy it will be trying to convince someone who has very little idea of what I’ve accomplished.

Well, I guess this will take some of the pressure off.  At the year-end review, I think I’ll bring it up as a “What do you thing my chances are?” and see if he’ll be willing to give me some concrete advice on what will be the best way to stand out, to show that I’m able to fulfill the next level (our promotions are mostly just pay-grade – the people several pay bands above me do essentially the same work but just have more years experience).  After all, he’s been a manager for years and years, and he knows how higher-ups make the decision to promote.

Or is that really tacky and desperate?  I feel like I will never get the hang of work etiquette.

Have you ever had a boss leave?  Was the change good or bad or not a big deal?

Just don’t look!
October 5, 2011

I’ve been slacking on checking my account balances lately, but I finally got a chance yesterday to log in and check on my 401K.

I knew the market had been bad, but I didn’t realize how bad.  My account was down $17,000!  Which means that I’ve lost (well, on paper) all of the money I’ve put in this year, including my employer match.

I know I’m too young to worry about what the balances are now (and that I should be celebrating the opportunity to buy low), but it still hurts.

I’m just going to have to keep singing this song from The Simpsons and just not look at my investment account balances.

How are you handling the market downturn?  Are you nervous about the lost money, or are you excited about getting a deal?  How do you deal with the stress?

(P.S. October goals coming soon – I promise!)

September Wrap Up
October 3, 2011


Wow, epic fail this month.  I have plenty of excuses (and all of them are work-related), but it’s still a little frustrating.  Some of these I just forgot about, and some I just ran out of time on since I was on travel last week.

How do you keep track of your goals throughout the month?  I guess it would help if I kept up with blogging more, then I’d probably see the post way more often!

1. Work out 4x per week, 2 of which should be running.  Fail.
I got my ass kicked by work this month – it was the first month where I consistently didn’t meet my workout goals, averaging only about 2-3 trips per week. The running thing totally didn’t happen after the first week.  I have to cut myself some slack because my work schedule really didn’t make much time for anything else, but I definitely need to get back on the horse next month!

D as actually been going to the gym himself!  I’m very proud that he manages to find the motivation to get in some physical activity every day.  I’m hoping he can keep it up now that our vacation is over.

2. Read 10 books. Done!
Technically I finished book #10 on October 1st, but I’m calling it good.

3. Pack away summer clothes. Fail.
However, we haven’t really reached fall yet, so I’ve still needed my shorts and tank tops.  I did pull out some of my fall clothes (wishful thinking!), but it’s still too hot to wear them.

4. Try at least 3 new recipes. Kinda?
I officially made two recipes.  I also kind of eyeballed some shrimp stir fry (which is where I dump vegetables, shrimp, and a bunch of seasonings in a pan and hope it works out), and got D to make a third recipe.  I did some aspirational grocery shopping today (read: spent a bunch of money on obscure ingredients in the hopes that it would motivate me to cook), so I’ll repeat this goal for October!

5. Chat with a couple of my coworkers about their jobs. Fail.
It’s easy to blame this on a bunch of different factors – some work stuff came up at the last minute (I even wrote a post about it!).  Still, I’m mad that I didn’t force myself to do this. I did at least let them know that I’d be coming to see them, so hopefully I can get this done in October.

6. Don’t worry too much about money while we’re in California. Done!
I’m glad – I didn’t let money worries stop us from doing anything while we were in California.  We didn’t attempt to do much, and luckily the best stuff (volleyball on the beach, fighting about college football) are all free!

What does it say about me that one of the two goals I actually managed to finish this month is me doing absolutely nothing?

7. Go to the tailor. Fail.
Uh oh.  Better get this done, I don’t want to actually have to get rid of my stuff!