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Home > Archive: February, 2018

Archive for February, 2018

Building up Reserves

February 28th, 2018 at 08:18 am

End of February, so I am taking a look at YNAB to see how the spending went...

We are negative in the following categories:
- Pets: because our dog has arthritis and a thyroid condition - we bought her expensive arthritis chews (but they work, and she's worth it). Also she had her bloodwork redone so that we could adjust her thyroid meds. $34 over
- Doctors: because we paid the hospital (two separate bills) for F's ER visit in January (when she had hives). And my many visits to doctors, acupuncturist, naprapathist to get over pneumonia. I am almost well! $132 over
- Drugs: I had to get another inhaler which I am still using once a day in my recovery from pneumonia. $22 over.

But... we are also building up other categories.
- Now have $300 in house repairs.
- Leftover in Dining/Groceries is about $175!
- $750 in auto servicing; I need a service soon, so that's good
- $300 in karate
- $224 in dentist (not sure we will need this with our amazing dental plan but we're keeping it in case a filling or something needs to be replaced)
- lots of other categories with money building up for once a year expenses

We also have $1250 in Camp, but F is not really interested in camp this summer. She'll probably do one camp (soccer of course) and then we'll be gone for 3 weeks overseas. That's 4 weeks. And she can help me out in the office. And we'll go to the pool (there is enough money to pay for our pool membership accrued in that category already).

Doing Our Taxes, Part I

February 24th, 2018 at 01:11 pm

We are gathering up the info for our taxes.

D needs to get me the following:
- side income (schedule C)
- income and expenses from the Dublin house
- foreign taxes paid
- max. amount in our Irish savings and checking accounts (so we can do our FBAR)

Missing (not sent to us yet):
- W2 from the gym

Since the taxes are all different this year, I have no idea how this is all going to come out.

But I know these things for sure:
- we always use the standard deduction (not enough for itemized)
- we paid almost $7000 in estimated taxes for 2017; I am so hoping we get some of that back (we also paid payroll taxes on our income)
- my business had only a very small profit this year (so that should limit extra tax incurred)
- the big "wild card" is the income we make on our Dublin house; technically we pay tax on that in Ireland and then get a tax exclusion, but it never really works out that way because in Ireland that is our only income (lower tax bracket) and here it is added to our other income (higher tax bracket)

I will let you know how it works out!!

Also - if you file FBAR, just want to remind you that it is due April 15th just like the taxes (in the olden days - like a couple of years ago) it was due in June.

Spending - End of the Month

February 23rd, 2018 at 04:34 pm

I got paid by the gym today! It was my first day back teaching since I got pneumonia, and it went well... I used only the bar (no weights on it) which was probably a good idea. Bench press was the hardest because my ribs are still bruised. It is going to take a long time to get back to where I was, but it was really good to go through different motions to increase my flexibility. I am embarrassed to say that I didn't even open the envelope to see how much I made.

I went to the acupuncturist afterward, and that was really great. She gave me some tai chi lung exercises to do. My acupuncturist was actually recommended by my doctor; she is known for helping women through peri-menopause so I was already seeing her about every 6 weeks. When I asked me doctor if I should see her for my lungs she said absolutely yes. My doctor practices western medicine, by the way, but this is Santa Fe where alternative is not alternative. The cost of the acupuncturist might be a splurge, but right now especially I am ok spending money on my health. $45.

Tonight - party for F's soccer team. We are picking up a pizza to share, and so is everyone else. There is going to be a lot of pizza. $16.

So, the meal plan for the week (we will shop on Sunday):
- kimchi quesadillas (https://www.purplecarrot.com/plant-based-recipes/kimchi-quesadilla-with-charred-scallion-aioli-korean-cabbage-slaw) - I found the recipe on the website, so this is not coming in a box!
- salmon cakes (already have a tin of salmon and some leftover mashed potato, also scallions - need to pick up a red pepper)
- asian meatballs (will use the rest of the scallions, need turkey burger)
- ottolenghi red rice and quinoa (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2007/feb/24/foodanddrink.recipes1) - we have the red rice and the quinoa, have apricots and pistachios and rocket... just need a white onion)
- roasted veggies and potatoes - red onion, beets, courgettes, brussels sprouts or whatever is on sale!
- artichoke pasta (D won't be happy - he isn't in love with this recipe, but it's so good! Lemon zest and artichoke puree... I will maybe try to jazz it up a little to convince him that artichokes are awesome).

So using up the things in the fridge - always frugal!

Trip to San Francisco - Fun and Expensive!

February 22nd, 2018 at 06:15 pm

The trip to San Francisco was so much fun, but, wow, that is an EXPENSIVE city.

We did not rent a car, but my brother has a two-door car with only two seatbelts in the backseat. So we ended up having to Uber more than we would have liked because we were in places not on public transport lines. I would have walked more, but still recovering from pneumonia. I actually did walk a lot anyway, and I think it was actually beneficial for my lungs (we live at 7000' elevation, and there was a lot more air down there!).

My brother is sort of fancy. We ate some amazing meals, but expensive. He bought the two most expensive meals which was nice of him, but then my brother picked this tea place and we reciprocated. And we saw a good friend of mine and took him out to breakfast because there were three of us and just one of him, and he is financially strapped at the moment. He gave us a copy of his book (it is beautiful!) and that was our only "souvenir."

That's all we bought - just food and transportation.

Well... we also bought tickets to Color Factory several months ago... that was a really fun experience! If you are going to SF, it is worth it, but you need to get tickets well in advance (you can't buy them there).

We walked a lot, saw a lot, went on the cable car. Went to the Golden Gate Bridge and did a free scavenger hunt I found online. Walked around Chinatown. Met an old high school friend and her husband and kids and walked all around Golden Gate Park (around the De Young and the pedalboat pond). She brought snacks which was nice!

Since we mostly did free things and my brother paid for the two most expensive meals, the cost of the trip wasn't as bad as it could have been. It was a weird hybrid between how we usually travel and how my brother does things. But I was so glad to see him!

And one of the meals was so good, I am still thinking about it... the restaurant is about to get a Michelin star apparently. It was a vegan sushi restaurant called Shizen. I've never eaten at a restaurant like that before. If you are wealthy, and especially if you are vegan, it is a once in a lifetime experience!

Going to San Francisco!

February 13th, 2018 at 10:09 am

I had a doctor's visit yesterday and was cleared to travel to San Francisco this weekend!

I am still not 100%, but that could take a month, so we are going to go and try to have a low-key trip. We have some things planned (a trip to ColorFactory, dinner with my brother, brunch with my good friend who is like my Chinese brother). We are staying near Chinatown and it's Chinese New Year's, so we want to walk (slowly!) through Chinatown. See the sea lions at Pier 39? Cable car (we are on a cable car line).

My doctor said it will feel like I have a ton of air because San Francisco is at sea level and we live at 7000'. I hope so!

We did not know if we were actually going until yesterday. F wrote me a note this morning: "Dear Mommy, I'm so excited to go to San Francisco! I just can't wait! I'm writing this letter because wanted to say how excited I am, and that I don't want you to feel bad because we have to go slow. We all (myself included) need a break sometimes. I'm so excited to go to Color Factory! And I can't WAIT to see Uncle D and N! Love, F."

I called the airline and I have a wheelchair to make our connection in case I need it (we have less than an hour to connect; I can't run).

The next thing to deal with is how to get from the airport to the hotel. Normally we'd take the BART, but it takes too long and too much walking up and down steps. Looked at shuttles but the reviews are atrocious. So we'll take a cab. But I need to be able to reject a cab if the driver is wearing cologne/perfume or if they've got an air freshener; I need an unscented cab.

Anyway, lots to think about, but very excited!

FBAR (reporting foreign bank accounts)

February 9th, 2018 at 04:11 pm

In addition to our taxes, we have to file FBAR each year (reporting of foreign bank accounts). This is in addition to showing any interest earned or money earned in Ireland on our taxes.

You have to do this if at any point during the previous year the total of your foreign accounts was over $10k. Not euro10k, but in dollars. We've had to do it the past five years or so.

The thing I don't like about it is that it it is under FinCen (the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network). It's like the assumption is that your committing a crime by having a bank account in another country.

Since I married my husband, there have been a lot of judgements (why couldn't you meet someone in the US? why did you keep the Irish house? why didn't you cut your ties to Ireland/UK? is your marriage real since you're older and he's younger? don't you like American men?). These are real questions from real people. It just gets old. This feel like one more example: "why do you still have a foreign bank account when you live in the US now?"

We have nothing to hide. We have that account because we lived in that country and I am very glad we kept it. We earn rental income on our house there (yes, we pay Irish taxes on that income, and we declare it on our US taxes). The bank account is the easiest way to transfer money between countries (we use Transferwise) and when we travel there, we just use that account (taking money out at ATMs) rather than out of our US account.

Do any of you also file FBAR? Does it make you kind of annoyed each time you file also?

Grocery Delivery and Update on Meal Service

February 8th, 2018 at 01:07 pm

Here are the facts:
- I am recovering from pneumonia
- My husband called me from work yesterday to say he has a cold!
- He is in exile in the spare bedroom. I wiped down the entire house; he is not allowed out of the bedroom except to use the bathroom which is designated as his now.
- He was supposed to be taking over most of the housework, making meals, dishes, driving F around, etc, and now he can't do that.

So... I have more to do, but I am feeling better day by day, and I can do some of it.

Grocery Delivery:
But I did NOT want to go to the grocery store. So I ordered online! Sprouts now has online delivery here. It was $8.98. I hope they actually bring what I ordered. My mother is covering the cost of the groceries and delivery because she wanted to do something nice for me. That is so nice!

Meal Service:
I wrote about the meal service gifted to us by my almost-sister-in-law. We had the first meal last night. As someone mentioned - wow that is a lot of waste in the packaging! Yikes! The food was pretty good. My sister in law is vegan, so the meal service is vegan (we are not vegan, but mostly vegetarian). I subbed out the vegan yoghurt for yoghurt we had on hand. It was a lime coleslaw, pan fried hearts of palm and basmati rice. I added some of our own rice. I would make the meal again on my own, but not vegan. I don't have an issue with dairy. Tonight's dinner is a farro risotto. I can't eat farro (it's not gf), so I will sub our own rice. There is tofu "feta." I am using real feta. I don't eat tofu.

My thoughts on Purple Carrot:
- Like that it's vegetable based, but not that it's vegan.
- You have to cook the meals yourself of course; I think it might've been better to send something that we only needed to heat up, because right now it'd be great not to have to cook.
- But I am getting some new recipes. I would have never thought of hearts of palm as a main!
- I think I have too many dietary restrictions for this to make sense.
- I'm cooking anyway, so I'm not sure how this makes it easier. Just a lot more little plastic things to open.
- Would never order one of these meal services again... but it was fun to try it at no cost!

Purple Carrot

February 7th, 2018 at 10:35 am

My very sweet not-sister-in-law (but we're hoping that she is my actual sister-in-law one day) wanted to send us food since I've been sick. She decided to send one of those food box services like Hello Fresh, but not Hello Fresh because she and my brother are vegan.

Well, there's a vegan Hello Fresh. It's called Purple Carrot. The meals came today. Three meals, so over the next three days we are having:
- Baja Bowls (with hearts of palm)
- Tomato Farro Risotto
- Black Bean and Polenta Casserole

The meals sound good! We eat mostly vegetarian. But we are not vegan, so I am going to sub out their Veganaise for my own mayo, their vegan butter for my own regular butter, their vegan mozzarella and cream cheese for my own.

The meals are supposed to feed 2 people, and we are three, so I am going to try to bulk things up with stuff from my own pantry (I have polenta, basmati rice, risotto rice etc.). We bought a can of hearts of palm.

I would never use a meal service like this, because seriously - $72 for three dinners? But as I mentioned, I didn't pay for this, and it was very sweet of her to send it.

If we like the meals, they give you the list of ingredients and recipes, so we could make them again. Pretty certain I could make these meals for less than $24 a meal!!! I mean, polenta, black beans, green chile, cream cheese and spinach - that is like $5!

Have any of you done meal services like this? Did you like them? Did you do it save money or for convenience or ??

Update on Paying Ourselves Back

February 6th, 2018 at 11:33 am

I know there are going to be medical expenses associated with F's visit to the ER for hives and for my pneumonia (chest xray), but right now, this is where we stand:

Medical - balance is positive for both doctors and drugs, and this is after a lot of miscellaneous expenses (drugs, had to buy a humidifier)

Estimated Taxes - done; although we will probably have to start paying estimated taxes again after we do our taxes. Not sure; we did extra withholding out of D's paycheck. He no longer has Schedule C income.

General Savings - We still need to bolster this a little bit. I figure even if we put in $100 a month, that will be fine.

School Savings - We are putting $500/month into school savings, I hope. I need to create a new category. This will mean that we eventually have the tuition before it's due, and we can pay on their May/November plan which avoids the monthly installment charges. It also means that we are done paying for private school around when she starts 12th grade, and the remainder of the money can be there for her first year of college.

Speaking of college... we have several plans, and since F is only 12, who knows how this will go:
- UC system? D's employer has a relationship with the UC (university of california) system that means children of employees pay in-state fees (even though we live in a different state)
- UK or Ireland - their college fees are about what we pay for private high school; we own a house there, and would move over there with her.
- Canada - I have Canadian citizenship; I actually think F would love Canada, so this is on the list.
- Ivy League school that pays most of tuition - this is only for kids that can get into these schools, but currently F is top of her class at an academic private school (will be in Geometry Honors in 8th grade). She is a really amazing student, participates in some interesting sports... you never know. I'm sure her school will encourage her to apply to at least a couple of Ivy League schools.

Spent a Lot on Being Sick and My Opinion on Meal Planning

February 4th, 2018 at 09:46 am

So first... I have spent a ton of money on being sick. I have pneumonia (no comments please, I am getting better and I've heard it all from my friends). Bought a humidifier, loads of drugs, I'm sure the copays are going to be awful. Missed teaching my classes (so I won't get that income). It's frustrating now that I'm starting to feel better. But I AM feeling better, and that's all that matters.

Enough of that (believe me, I've had enough of it).

On to meal planning.

So one of the things about being home in bed/on sofa for over two weeks is that I've been on the internet A LOT. We don't have tv. I did watch a series (A House through Time) which I loved and a movie (Hidden Figures) which I loved. And for some reason my facebook feed is full of "Prep 5 Dinners in an Hour" which I don't love. There was a lunch version, too, which I watched because it was a cute little girl and since I've been sick F has been making her own lunch.

The Lunch One - not enough food!!! I was horrified! If I sent F with some veggies and dip, a piece of cheese and a muffin, she wouldn't make it through the day! She does do a lot of sports. But seriously!

My Lunch Planning:
- a main (deviled eggs, caprese sandwich, turkey wrap, burrito, dolmas, avocado/tomato wrap)
- a veggie (carrots/celery/cucumber/snap peas and dip, a salad)
- a fruit
- a starch (chips/salsa, popcorn, seaweed, japanese rice crackers)
- a dessert (yes, I give her a dessert - usually a small piece of chocolate)
- a snack for some other time during the day (nuts, string cheese, trail mix, hardboiled egg, dried mango or pineapple)

And the Five Dinners in an Hour - I've seen a bunch of these, and they are all based on CHICKEN and BEEF and PORK. Every night is meat-based. We are not vegetarian, but a lot of our meals are. Most of the Five Dinners had almost NO vegetables in them - ack!

My Meal Planning for six nights:
- Something with Fish (tuna melts with a salad, fish with a veg and rice, souvlaki bowl, teriyaki bowl with red peppers/bok choy, salmon cakes with red peppers)
- Something with Pasta (red sauce with zucchini, carbonara and a big salad, pad thai with lots of veggies, pasta with balsamic and spinach)
- Something with Eggs or Potatoes (crash potatoes/vegetable, frittata with spinach, Mexican eggs, baked potatoes/vegetable, aloo gobi in the crockpot)
- Something Bready/Cheesy (enchiladas with black beans, risotto with peas, quesadillas with guacamole, roasted veggies and rice, tostadas, polenta with beans or veggies)
- Something with Chicken (roasted chicken in the crockpot, baked penne, chicken queso casserole with the leftover crockpot chicken, posole in the crockpot, asian meatballs in the crockpot)
- Something from the Freezer (leftover from earlier meals!)

I know my meal plan doesn't get everything done ahead of time, but I organize my meals based on activities that evening. Some nights, it needs to be cooking away in the crockpot. Some nights the 13 minutes it takes to make pasta (I prep everything while the pasta is cooking so I can get dinner on the table in 15 mins) is ok. Some nights I can spend some time making dinner (enchiladas, pad thai, souvlaki bowls).

I am putting this out there in case it helps someone... or maybe gives you new dinner ideas. If you have an awesome (fast) dinner idea that is vegetable based esp. if it is made in the crockpot, I would love to hear it!!