The last few weeks have been rough on everyone’s gardens in the Seattle area. There has been no rain and we had a massive heat wave a bit ago with temperatures well over 100 degrees which is super unusual for this area. I watered like […]
Hello and welcome to the first gardening update of 2021! This year my goal was to expand our vegetable garden and add in more pollinator friendly plants. My usual spring garden supply budget was much larger than usual because we ended up needing a large […]
We are about 10 months into dealing with Covid and things don’t seem to be letting up any time soon. I was looking back over pictures from the year today and I was struck by how sudden everything was last Feb/March when everything shut down. I have pictures from my office from mid-February and then by the second week of March everyone in our house was home and we were adjusting to the chaos. This virus took us by storm and the last year has been extremely difficult all around.
The first few months of Covid for us were all about adjusting to spending LOTS of time together and figuring out how to do work and school at home in a relatively small space. We were all crammed into our living room which is decent sized but with four people on computers in meetings all day it got really loud and difficult to concentrate. We also just happened to be at a natural low point with our groceries towards the end of February and were slightly scrambling to find some much needed items. We tend to eat down our pantry every February and were out of everything, including staples such as soap, TP, paper towels, laundry detergent, rice, flour and beans. We ended up waiting until large bags of our favorite local legumes went on sale and did without for some of the fresher items like tofu for a while. We are mostly vegetarian in our house so the meat shortages didn’t really affect us much.
The hardest part for me was adjusting to working with two loud children at home every day and our oldest moving back home at the same time. My kids are loud and the youngest is still pretty high needs as far as attention goes but he did get way better about playing by himself last spring. We have saved ton of money on daycare costs this year and had almost no summer camps lined up so I made the executive decision to spend a little bit of that savings every month on activities to keep the kids busy. I bought a lot of lego sets, art supplies, coloring books, dig kits and other items to keep them busy on their own. We also tried Outschool this summer with mixed success. I used it mostly for social interaction so that the kids were used to taking instruction from other people and focusing similarly to the classroom.
Staying active while at home has been a challenge for us. We don’t have a back yard that is great for the kids to be out on their own in and our street is pretty busy so they aren’t allowed out there by themselves either. We have been walking our trails nearly every day and bike riding has become a thing in our house with one child learning this summer. Luckily our oldest daughter has time a couple of days a week to take the kids on longer bike rides and that has helped tremendously. Mr. Oscoey and I do not own bikes which I know is probably unheard of in the personal finance realm but neither of us been super into it although I am seeing a need for us to get at least one so that we can go on long rides with the kids. We also splurged and bought a bouncy house which has been a lifesaver! It takes five minutes to set up and about 10-15 to take down (which is mostly time waiting for it to deflate) and wears out the kids fabulously. I bought a bouncy house just small enough to fit in our living room so we have even had lots of opportunities to bounce as the weather has gotten colder. It is pretty loud but I am able to work with it running and since it is pretty contained I could sit inside and work with an eye outside to the kids while they were bouncing this summer which was helpful.
We have tried over the past year to find Covid safe activities in our area but honestly we are pretty cautious and it has been hard. We went to Shadow Lake Bog which was nice but the hike was way shorter than we thought and it ended up being too easy for the kids. We did learn a lot about the bog and saw some amazing things but it was not the rigorous hike I was hoping for. The way they had it set up was you could reserve one of two parts of the bog and then hike it for an hour. We reserved the smaller side and it was about a mile round trip which is how far we walk most days in our neighborhood so for our kids it was not very challenging. The drive out there was almost not worth the hour we had the bog reserved for. I would recommend it for smaller kids or for people that live closer and aren’t spending 45 minutes in the car to get there. I would however love to go back when they have opened up their nature center and we would be able to see both sides of the bog on the same day. There was tons of nature that we don’t see every day and it was really cool to see.
Now that the weather is colder we have been trying to find indoor activities to keep our minds busy. The kids have been doing lots of art, Legos, pretend play, book writing and robot making on their own so I decided to try doing a cooking activity with the kids on the weekend. The first few weeks we baked brownies and made desserts but those don’t take up a lot of time and the weekends were starting to get long so a few weeks ago we tried out making a formal tea for lunch. It was a massive amount of fun! We didn’t dress up but we did get out the good china and practiced our manners at the table and the kids loved it. Everyone helped make fancy veggie bowls, fruit, sandwiches, salami “UFOs” and dessert. We cut our sandwiches into shapes and came up with interesting combinations which most of us tried.
We had a lot of fun with our tea time and I am already thinking of some ideas for the future. We will probably do some more smaller teas but in a couple of weeks I want to do another larger one. The kids and I have been talking about what we will make and thinking about new sandwich combinations. I found some gluten-free digestive biscuits and once they come in the mail we are going to try making the Queen’s favorite dessert which is a chocolate cake made from them. I am sure at some point we will get tired of it but for now, finding something to look forward to and plan for is super important for everyone’s mental health. The days have been blurring together and I realized we were just sitting around all weekend. Doing tea for lunch on Sunday gave the kids purpose for the day and a sense of schedule that we really needed so we will continue to do them every week or two until we tire of them.
Although we have not been out there nearly enough, we are incredibly lucky to have woods to visit on family property out on Whidbey Island. It is great to go out there and walk around in the woods without having to worry about Covid. For the most part we have been maskless except now that cases are skyrocketing in the Seattle area we are wearing our masks to protect my Dad. We have one kid in person at school and we really don’t want to pass anything on to him. We have been super cautious and barely seen any of our friends and family but for us it is worth it if everyone stays healthy.
We spend our time out on Whidbey walking in the woods while my dad shows the kids around. He has found several hiding spots for the kids to play in and has great plans to add cabins to the raw land. Hopefully by next year there will be power and water and we will be able to stay longer than a couple of hours but for now our kids get overtired and antsy after a couple of hours so we head home. Our last trip was about a week ago and it was getting a little bit too cold out to be comfortable so we may not be back for a few months. We saw a bunch of mushrooms this time out which was pretty neat to see.
Covid has definitely made the last year way worse than we ever anticipated but I am incredibly grateful that those around us have been staying safe and we have not lost anyone close to us yet. Just in the past couple of weeks we have been hearing of friends who have been in contact with others that have had it but so far nobody in our inner circle has gotten sick. I am certain however that is because we most likely all had it back in January/February when we all got this horrible sickness that fits Covid symptoms before it was even reported in the U.S.. We are continuing to find ways to keep ourselves entertained at home relatively cheaply and I am hoping that by next spring we will have a little bit more freedom.
Stay safe everyone.
As the nights get cooler and the days shorter our summer 2020 garden is winding down for fall. This summer our vegetable garden stepped up a notch and I planted way more than previous years. We also had a huge pest problem with rodents, ants, […]
This year is the first one in a while I have been excited about my garden. Working from home for the past few months due to the Corona virus has greatly reduced my commute time from 3-4 hours a day to nothing and this means […]
Oscoey’s three year anniversary passed in March and as much as I wanted to write a post about it we were dealing with Covid-19 and still adjusting to working from home, teaching our kids and being home together all the time. Oscoey was something I started when I was home with the kids as a way to stay home and maybe make some income off of it. To date I have made exactly zero dollars off of the blog but that is ok. Writing the blog and joining the personal finance community on Twitter has been a fabulous learning experience. I have met so many people and grown from where I was at with blogging when I first started. There were so many mistakes (paid advertising with minimal blog posts out much?). So, so many. Below is my first blog post and looking back it seems as though in an effort to maybe bolster how many posts I had I posted three posts my first day! Wow. Looking back I probably should have split those up a bit but hey, we all have to start somewhere.
My posting has been somewhat sporadic and since I am now a working parent time is very limited so that probably won’t change much. Working from home has given me back the 3-4 hours I was commuting but my workload has significantly increased which makes for longer work days. I am now regularly 9-10 hour days which includes some fabulous overtime. I have also been happily turning the extra time and money into outside/gardening time with the kids as often as I can and our garden is looking great! I would love to do the blog full time without working a traditional job but unfortunately that is not possible at the moment. I have run our numbers many many times and in order for us to feel “safe” with only one of us working (Mr. Oscoey isn’t ready to leave the workforce any time soon) we need to continue to both work and save as much of our income as we can. My kids are happy at their school and my job is pretty good with excellent benefits so that makes things much easier.
2019 was a really rough year for our family and we strayed quite a bit from our Financial Independence path by taking on some debt and keeping a blurry and somewhat blind eye on our budget. Honestly though, our family needed that break from the grind and most of our extra spending was in the travel department which I 100% do not regret. We were not able to take a vacation for many years due partially to a strict budget but mostly the difficulty of doing anything with a high needs child so once we discovered said child could actually travel a little bit with some accommodations we went a little wild. We made so many memories last year. Our kids love travel now and are pretty bummed that everything closed down this spring. Our last trip was in December when we went to our beloved Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C.. We saw the lights, we went ice skating and we walked around the harbor checking out the sites. We were scheduled to go back this weekend but it looks like the earliest we will be going will be next winter so we will miss out on all of the flowers.
One thing 2019 taught me is that we need to set aside a larger portion of our budget for travel expenses and another is that it is perfectly fine to drop the ball sometimes. Last year I dropped the ball with our budget but this year I have come back with more determination to bulk up our savings, increase our investments, pay down some debt and set aside larger amounts for travel. So far we have been pretty successful in this department. We have significantly increased our savings, paid down a large chunk of our debt and I am maintaining our investment amounts through the end of the year. I am hoping that by this time next year we will be at our increased Emergency Fund goal, have paid down the two debt items I am focusing on and will be ready to shuffle that extra money into our investment accounts. Part of our savings currently is set aside for travel but maybe, if things are looking better with Covid infection rates in our area we will cashflow a smaller trip at the end of the summer and/or a trip to Victoria in December. For now we are trying to be content with travel consisting of rotating from the front to the back yard and exploring our neighborhood during our daily walks.
Hawaii has been repeatedly requested over the past couple of years as a travel destination but the thought of flying that far with a child with a narrow comfort window and the inability to express themselves fully filled me with a sense of doom. We were however able to successfully fly to San Francisco and made one of our trips to Canada successfully without massive sickness at the border so I have some hope. I am tentatively planning on going to Hawaii in early 2021 but it depends on where we are at with a cure/vaccine for the Corona virus. Ideally we would go to San Francisco again first since it is a smaller flight just to get the kids used to flying a little bit more but I am not sure if that will happen. I would also like to travel somewhere new next year but I am not sure where that would be.
The last three years (and counting) of blogging have been great and even though I don’t have a regular post schedule I am going to keep up with it. Writing is a good outlet for me and I love to talk about personal finance, our vacations and what is going on in our garden. I have ideas for a few more posts so you might see me around more in the near future, especially since working from home allows me more free time. I would love to regularly update the “Fabric Crafts” section of my blog but I have not been super motivated to stitch and my sewing machine is currently on loan to the oldest. In the mean time please enjoy some of my top posts.
Dried banana chips are one of my son’s favorite foods. I have some in the dehydrator as I am writing this! This recipe is super simple and you can make as many or as little as you want.
My grandma’s fruit salad recipe is by far my most popular post, even with not so great photos. My grandma passed away last year and every time I check my post stats seeing this recipe up there reminds me of her.
For some reason this post always pops up in my top posts for the week even though it is pretty old and outdated. We did pay off my student loans that year and increase both our savings and investments which is great.
Out last post detailed the first half of our Victoria, B.C. trip last year when we went to Butchart Gardens. June was definitely a great time to go and see all of the flowers in bloom and it seemed far less crowded that it would […]
This past June as soon as school got out we took a weekend trip up to Victoria, B.C. with the younger kids. One of our goals this year is to increase our travel and since Victoria is so close to us we decided to take […]
I really love the idea of small changes over time adding up to huge improvements later on in life. When we first started our journey towards better financial health way back during the 2008 financial crisis we made many small changes that reduced our spending, raised our income and increased our savings rate. Over the last 10+ years many of the small habits we started are so ingrained in us that we don’t even think about it any more. We have added a couple of kids since then and now we have one in college and our expenses have dramatically increased so small changes are much more important for our overall financial health. I find that when we don’t keep track of the smaller things the larger ones get lost as well. One of our biggest costs every month is child care and keeping those costs low is a priority for us right now as we head into another school year where we could potentially be paying way more than we budgeted for if we are not careful.
As ridiculous as it seems, “sleeping in” until 5:30 am every day costs us around $300 a month. How you might ask? When I sleep in I start work an hour later and we end up paying for an extra hour of child care after school. At $15 an hour for two kids times 5 days a week is $75 a week extra in child care. Multiply that times 4 and you are at $300 a month which of course would be higher in a 5 week month. It is kind of ridiculous to think of that extra hour of snooze time as costing us so much money a month and $3900 a year if we do it all 52 weeks!
Small changes over time add up to huge improvements later on in life.
We are super lucky to have flexible schedules and childcare that charges us by the hour for after care instead of a blanket amount each month but it also leads to childcare costs not being steady and harder to budget. Starting this summer is our first time having to pay for after care for both kids. Prior to that our son was in a more traditional day care setting and had a flat monthly rate which was great for budgeting but it never went down when we missed days. Now that he is a preschooler his official school end time is at lunchtime and we pay for afternoon care by the hour. Our daughter gets out at 3:00 and we pay for care after that time.
One of the good things about this arrangement is that we are able to put our child care costs on a credit card and earn cash back for something we would be paying anyway. This only works though if you are paying off your credit card every month and not paying any interest. We find out about three weeks in advance how much our bill will be and prior to that I put a placeholder in my Quicken account for an estimated amount that is over what I think it will be and that helps us prepare for making a large payment on the next payday. I budget for childcare based on when they bill us. We get billed on a monthly basis from September through the first half of June and then we get a separate bill for care from the second half of June through the end of August. Last year all of the charges for the second half of June, and all of July and August went through in September so it was quite a large amount but I knew it was coming so I was able to set aside money and schedule my payments out in advance. This uneven way for charging us for child care is part of the reason why we have had a hard time budgeting over the past few years. Our expenses vary so much based on which month we are in that it is difficult to plan. Putting our expenses into Quicken months in advance and then looking at our lowest point over the next six months has really helped keep things in perspective.
We budget six to nine month in advance to get a bigger picture of where our finances are heading.
To reduce our child care costs Mr. Oscoey and I do a mini split-shift with work . I go in super early and pick the kids up as soon as I can and he drops them off when school opens so we are not paying for before care as well. We do this to save money and because our son can’t really be dropped off early enough to make a difference in paying for before care for our daughter. It does cause some issues, mainly because sometimes Mr. Oscoey has to go in earlier but so far we have been able to work it out where I work from home before dropping the kids off closer to 9:00 but honestly this is pretty exhausting for me. I usually end up having to work another hour at night and spreading my 8 hours out over the course of the day like that makes the work day seem soooo much longer. My commute is pretty bad and when I split my working hours up I end up spending the entire day working, driving, working, driving, eating dinner, and then working some more and that is not super fun. I need down time every day and when I work those crazy split shifts I don’t get enough.
Last year when we were only paying for after care for one kid some months Mr. Oscoey was able to get off early and pick the kids up by 3:00 nearly every day our bill was only $150 for an entire month which is super cheap. Based on our normal pick up time for this year with two kids in after care we will end up paying $262.50 a week if I sleep in until 5:30. This ends up being over $1000 a month which is a huge chunk of our budget. If I can leave in time to save an hour of after care every day that will lower our bill by $75 a week and $3900 a year! Unfortunately when Mr. Oscoey got off work early enough to pick up the kids and avoid after care he would have to work late at night and we would not get grown up time. For everything there is a trade off and finding balance while being a working parent is difficult.
Leaving an hour earlier will save us $3900 a year in child care costs!
If we wanted to save $3900 dollars a year and pick the kids up right after school I would have to get up at 4:30 every morning and unfortunately that is not an easy task for me. I need my sleep, like really need my eight solid hours a night and I would have to go to bed immediately after the kids if I wanted to get up at 4:30 in the morning every day. Leaving earlier would also be a guarantee that I would not see the kids in the morning, even for a little bit, nor would I get alone time with Mr. Oscoey at night. Being a working parent is all about balance and I love seeing my kids in the morning before I leave. We snuggle on the couch for a few minutes and we talk about our day for a bit. Sometimes if they get up early enough I am able to eat breakfast with them and maybe read a book. The days that I don’t see my son before I leave it is hit or miss whether or not he will cry for a long time because he didn’t see me before school and that is hard to hear about when it happens.
Alone time with your spouse is also key to a healthy marriage and difficult for any couple with small children. Mornings are spent packing lunches and getting ready for school/work and the evening is the only time Mr. Oscoey and I are able to catch up about work or talk about what our family plans are. I also spend some some of that time working on the blog and balancing our checkbook. Right now we are trying to watch “Game of Thrones” which is pretty inappropriate for kids so we are only able to watch when we are alone. Running the numbers on how much we would save if I leave earlier in the morning was pretty eye opening though and I think I will try to find a compromise where I can leave earlier some of the time and maybe have Mr. Oscoey pick up early when he can. I don’t want to lose too much of my morning time with the kids nor my evening time with Mr. Oscoey so we will have to find a way to reduce our costs without bringing too much stress into our lives.
Balance is key when you are a working parent.
What could we do with an extra $3900 a year? I can think of so many things but I would absolutely love to travel with part of it and invest the rest. If we saved $3900 for the remaining 6 years that we are paying for after care for both kids it would be a grand total of $23,400 plus interest! This small change would have a huge impact over time. It is definitely something I am going to work on and see if even leaving 30 minutes earlier will save us that hour of child care in the afternoon.
What small changes are you making that have a huge impact on your life?
Last April we took a road trip to Walla Walla, Washington for a kid-friendly attempt at doing a bit of Wine Weekend. We have been saying for many years that we would love to go to Walla Walla to pick up wine and this year […]