We bought all the things: Will I run out of ways to be obnoxious?

So over the past year or two we’ve bought two cars, renovated the kitchen, shared the expense for a new fence with our neighbor, and bought a new clothes washer.  We’ve subsidized family vacations to not-so-fancy midwestern destinations and we’re going on an anniversary trip (to Portland!) next summer.  I also bought an iPad pro and a Remarkable for quasi-work purposes (the iPad pro seems to be the winner so far for editing other people’s papers, and I’ve been good about not using it for goofing off).

Since October we’ve bought the aforementioned clothes washer, donated a TON of money to various educational causes (including $2K+ to DC2’s school, the + because they had a couple fundraisers that we donated to separately), sent money to various political causes, and I made DH buy an Apple watch because he works from home alone and it can detect falls and irregular heart-beats and notify people about them.  (Really I started the campaign to have him buy one because I thought it could detect heart attacks, but it turns out it can’t.  Still, the other health metrics seem more useful than nothing.)*  DH is buying himself a 3D printer (he’s been avidly reading gasstationwithoutpumps among other sources in anticipation), though maybe that shouldn’t count since he’s been saving up his allowance for it for a long time.  We also bought $200 worth of Scholastic books and a new tall bookcase to replace DC1’s short bookcase (hir old bookcase is going back into the hallway) for $500.  And we paid the full property taxes in one fell swoop and I transferred 10K over to Vanguard taxable.

Really only the property taxes (and technically the Vanguard transfer before it) made a dent in our savings.  This is because in October we both got a bunch of large delayed reimbursements (I think something like 9K (!) worth– did you know you can just rent an ultrasound for like $500/mo?), late summer salary, and my first paycheck on top of DH’s paychecks.  So we were super flush with cash after having a somewhat careful September and then the bills for a lot of these won’t be due until after we get paid again.

I don’t really have a point to this post, but it’s been weighing on me and I had to tell someone, and who else to tell besides the grumpy nation?  I am going crazy buying all the things, but a lot of this buying was also delayed spending.  So it feels like a lot, but maybe it isn’t because other people would have renovated that kitchen a decade ago, bought a new clothes washer the first time it broke instead of repairing it multiple times, regularly gone on vacations, and have bought a watch to replace that 20 year old Casio calculator watch a long time ago instead of just replacing bands and batteries.  (Me, I’m still rocking a 20 year old Timex that I love.  I think you can get the same model new for under $40.)  But let’s be completely honest, we’ve been spending a lot.

What I’m wondering is if after this spurt of buying things we’ve been putting off buying or thought would be nice to have if I’ll settle down again into not spending frivolously or if this is a new normal.  I can’t really think of anything else I want… I mean we’ve kind of exhausted useful Apple products.  Maybe my next big purchase will be a crown for when my third molar finishes cracking (dentist thinks no earlier than next year, but definitely in my future).  Or maybe I’ll see something new I want and just get it in my best Ariana Grande style.

Will the obnoxious posts end?  What money things will I blog about if they do?  Do you delay purchases and then spend when you’re flush or do you spend more evenly?

*Update:  it turns out our iphones are just a little bit too old for the newest Apple watch (we didn’t get the S version when we bought our phones).  So DH has to decide if he wants to get a new phone or return this watch.  And if he returns this watch, does he get an older model Apple watch or not.  He probably won’t get an older model.  My guess is we’ll either return or DH will finally upgrade phones (his is falling apart a bit and we have been thinking of passing it down to DC1 since DC1’s current dumb phone works only about half the time we need it to work, though that has its own concerns).   There was another item in the initial draft of this post that got returned as well– I bought a pair of fancy European shoes off Zappo’s, but when I got them one of the two didn’t fit and had all sorts of stitching problems(!) so I sent them back and decided I really do have to go to a store to try on expensive shoes, but there are no such stores nearby so… I’m not sure what I’m going to do for my brown dress shoes need given my half boots are really worn down in the heel.  DH is thinking an iPhone 8 (same size as his current 6) for $450 instead of an 11 for $700 or 11 Pro for $1000, so that’s almost frugal (not really).

We bought a new clothes washer

We decided it was time to get a new clothes washer because we couldn’t get the mustiness out of the old one (and did not want to spend a weekend taking it apart and putting it back together).  Instead, we spent a weekend reading online reviews, subscribing to consumer reports, etc. etc. etc.

Consumer reports had a different viewpoint than most of the other review sites, and that difference seemed to be entirely driven by brand reliability ratings.  Many of the for-profit sites preferred a fancy front-loading Electrolux model, but they got low points for long-term reliability with Consumer Reports.  Consumer Reports preferred LG as a brand.  After some comparison of pros and cons across different sites, we decided to get the LG #WM3700HWA (not an affiliate link) from Home Depot for a total cost including installation and parts of $913.93.

This is a pretty fancy clothes washer.

The thing that lots of people don’t like about it is that the panel display needs a lot of light in order to be read, so it isn’t great for basement laundry rooms.  Our utility room is bright and cheery with a window, so we don’t have that problem.

The second problem is that while this machine did really well on cleanliness in the tests, the regular cycle was not the most gentle of the washers that various places tested.  We have found that to be true in our case as well.  Our clothing gets clean without pre-soaking or a second wash (even DC1’s stinky pits), but it isn’t incredibly gentle on clothes.  For most of our clothing this doesn’t matter, but DC2 has had a couple of older shirts lose their printing in the washer.  My clothing that I’ve been washing on delicate doesn’t seem to have any problems, so maybe if this is something you’re worried about, stick to the delicate cycle.

Finally, there were complaints about the blue-tooth … but we are never going to want to use an app to run our laundry in our house.  Maybe if we had basement laundry or a more busy active lifestyle we might use the keep tumbling feature… but… I just don’t think we are going to be in a situation in which this would be a useful feature.

One nice thing about the washer, which may be also related to it being harder on clothing, is that it does a really good job of getting the water out of clothing, which has cut down on our dryer time considerably.  Most of our loads get dry in 50-60 minutes rather than 90+.  Of course, there’s also more time spent in the washer than before, so we haven’t actually cut down on total time.  But if dryers are bigger energy hogs than washers, this may not be a bad thing.

I also had some fun playing with the steam cycle that supposedly gets rid of allergens.  I did a load of itchy shirts and towels on that cycle and they came out not itchy at all and just as clean as the regular cycle.  So I’m not really sure if there’s a benefit to either cycle, except the allergen steam cycle takes twice as long as the regular cycle.

Supposedly this washer has a self-clean cycle.  We haven’t tried it yet.

The washer is also a lot bigger in capacity than our previous one.  Our dryer hasn’t gotten any bigger, so that’s not particularly helpful.

The thing we like best about this washer (other than the not giving me hives part) is that when it’s done washing, instead of strident beeping, it sings a happy little song that sounds reminiscent of an ice cream truck.  (Our Hondas also sing little songs when they’re going slowly– our household is getting pleasantly musical.  With a pleasantness exception of the way that the kids have been singing Christmas songs on the top of their lungs since June.)

So we’re pretty happy and I’m again wishing we’d just gotten a new washer back this summer when the door handle broke instead of after the leak and permanent spreading mustiness and hives.  But if it weren’t for the hives, we’d probably be happily continuing to use this washer and to fix smaller parts as they broke.

Are there any other updates you’re interested in reading about?

The diminished mental load of having a lot of money: An obnoxious post

DON’T FORGET TO VOTE TUESDAY NOVEMBER 5TH!!!!

Back when I had just graduated from college, my former roommate and I had gotten a bill for missing furniture that we’d never gotten in the first place (our room was too small to fit an easy chair they’d tried to deliver).  I had called up and complained and gotten the charge revoked.  My roommate’s father had just paid her half.  I don’t remember the exact amount but it was definitely over $100.

At the time I did not understand how someone could just *do* that.  If nothing else, the principle of the thing.  I’ve spent most of my life keeping track of things.  Billing discrepancies, missing reimbursements, accidental overcharges.  Even though I hate calling places, I would protest mistakes or make DH protest them.

And now… I just don’t.  I don’t notice them as much and when I do notice them, if the amount is small enough and not likely to be repeated I don’t call.  I do make DH keep track of our internet bill out of principle, and I would make him do the same for the cell if Ting wasn’t such a great company, because those companies would regularly cheat us.  In fact, shortly after starting this post our internet bill went up somewhat randomly, and DH called and… they refused to budge or let DH talk to a manager or anything.  We only have two internet providers in the area (this is down from 3– the major competitor no longer provides internet, only tv) and the other option is pretty bad, so this company feels like they have a monopoly on us.  Old us would have switched out of sheer annoyance at not being allowed to talk with a manager (or at least gotten far enough along in the cancellation process that they offered us a deal).  But right now we don’t want to deal with the hassle.  Maybe this summer.  Or never.

This is a pretty new phenomenon for me… maybe half a year old, give or take.  This is the first time we have money and really nowhere to put it.  We’re not saving for a car or a house.  We’re not saving for leave or so DH can quit his job.  We have a full emergency fund.  We’re maxing our our retirement.  Our mortgage is paid off.  Our college savings are such that depending on where the kids go we might be over-saving (though fortunately with two children we can adjust after we know what DC1’s situation is going to be).  We’ve way upped our donations.  We can cash-flow the kinds of vacations we go on with DH’s family.  And our next “it would be nice”s are so far away that there just doesn’t seem to be much point– we’re not going to quit our jobs and move to a house we’ve purchased in a West Coast city any time soon because we can’t afford a house out there without high-paying jobs and we don’t have those jobs in West Coast cities.  That certainly doesn’t seem worth scrimping and saving for.

I like this diminished mental load.  I like not worrying about things.  I like being able to say, “Enh, it’s just money.”  I like being able to think, “maybe they need the money more than we do” (NOT something I think about our terrible big chain internet provider, but something I do tend to think about say, restaurants, or the piano teacher if she makes a billing mistake).  I like having a lot of money.

Don’t let people say money can’t buy happiness.  It can and it does.  Having more than enough (without going insane with stupid things because you want to keep up with the Trumps or whatever) decreases stress tremendous amounts as you go up the income ladder.  Yes, there is some point where you hit diminishing marginal returns on that de-stressing, and we’ve probably hit that point, but with every increase there’s been more and more we can just not worry about.  First the price of groceries, later the price of gas, now the price of letting small* billing mistakes go.  Not keeping track of these things is such a gift.

*Disclaimer:  I do still keep track of BIG billing mistakes, which is why I got big influx of late reimbursements in early October.

Are there things you just don’t worry about anymore because you can afford it?  What do you wish you could just ignore?

Why we didn’t open a Chase bank account to get a $1K bonus

IF YOU CAN EARLY VOTE:  GO DO IT!  (Don’t forget regular voting day is Tuesday, Nov 5th!)

Somehow the fact that DH and I are high income has been made known to credit card and bank companies.

Chase banking has been trying to get us to open an account for a couple/few years now.  Usually they’ve offered something like a $200 or maybe $300 bonus offer which we don’t even look at because it’s not worth the hassle to us.  But most recently, they sent a $1,000 welcome bonus offer.

  1.  Open a new Chase Sapphire bank account by mid-November
  2. Transfer $75K NEW money to checking/saving/J.P. Morgan investments (but not cds or retirement or 529 accounts) and hold it for 90 days

We’re not going to be switching our investments to J.P. Morgan when there’s Vanguard and plenty of other lower-cost brokers out there.

If the balance drops below $75,000, a $25/month fee will be assessed each month.

So, ideally we would drop $75K in and then remove it and close the account after the $1K deposit on day 100 or 101 (they say the deposit will occur after 90 days).  This sounds like a hassle, but for $1K we could probably deal with that hassle in a way that we wouldn’t for a mere $200.

But is it really $1K?  No– we have to be aware of the opportunity cost of money.  $75K is a lot of money and it has to come from somewhere.  Unless we’re saving for an unpaid leave, I don’t keep that much in cash (I try to keep a slush fund of $30K in my primary emergency fund which covers the summer even with slow reimbursements or potential DH job-loss).  Selling stocks would trigger tax implications in addition to requiring too much thinking (though I could theoretically undrip dividends– though those are generally quarterly so I may have missed my chance).  I can probably get $75K by temporarily moving our primary credit union emergency fund (we don’t really need that money until summer), moving money from our online high interest secondary emergency fund, closing out our Wells Fargo account (it’s useful for ATMs when traveling and for checks), and then using my next two paychecks, overdue reimbursements, and overdue summer salary.

Ok, let’s then assume that I have gathered all 75K and instead of putting it into the stock market, I decide to go with the risk free alternate option to put it in my Capital One online savings account that pays 1.90% APY (which we opened up because they gave a $200 bonus AND had a good interest rate AND we already had a capitol one credit card).  Holding onto that in my already existing Capitol One account for three months provides total interest of $356.81 according to this online calculator.  Of course, I would actually need to hold it a little longer to make a direct comparison (it takes time to transfer money, time to get the Chase match, time to close an account etc.), though probably not a full additional month (another month in that savings account would bring in $476.13 total), so it will be more than that, say $400 (which is about a third the difference between 4 months and 3 months added to 3 months).  If I were instead to look for the best online rate out there, there’s a 2.75 rate (that may or may not be real) on one of those bank rates websites.  Three months of that would provide $516.18.

How much does the Chase savings account that they want me to put $75K in earn?  .01% APY.  Which is practically nothing.  That’s even less than our Wells Fargo account.  Three months of that is $1.88.  Four months is $2.50.

And, of course, we have to pay taxes on that $1K, minimum 15%, so at least $150, making it really only $850 of free money (though any other method of earning interest will also be subject to tax).

So, yes, there’s a big one-time cash infusion for opening up one of these Chase bank accounts, but it has to be with the strategy of closing it as soon as possible because the interest rates are so extremely low and the minimum required balance to avoid fees is so high.  And it is not worth even $600 to gather together money from all those different sources (while hoping an actual emergency that can’t be cash-flowed doesn’t occur), open a bank account, deal with the paperwork and hassle and so on, then remember to close the account and deal with all the attendant hassle of doing that, and then figure out where to place the money after.  Heck, I might pay $600 to avoid all that potential stress.

Now, I’m not planning on actually putting all those reimbursements and incoming checks into a savings account, not even a fancy higher interest online savings account.  I probably should sit down sometime and figure out a long-term strategy for our money now that we’re doing all the obvious things, but I’m not sure it’s going to be any better than putting money into a broad-based index fund of one kind or another every couple months (is it time to look into munis?  Maybe?).  So until I actually figure out what we’re going to do, that’s what we’ll be doing– keeping our emergency funds full and shoveling any excess money into Vanguard taxable.  Doing so does have higher risk than a Chase savings account, even at .01% APY, but we can chance it.

How much would a bank have to give you as a bonus to make you willing to switch?

Ask the grumpies: How much to save for different long-term priorities

Ali asks:

How much to save for college vs retirement vs other savings, etc.  Basically, tell me what to do.

The vast majority of our readers should max out their retirement savings prior to saving for kids’ college.  The reason for this is that you can get loans for college, but you can’t get loans for retirement AND US colleges don’t include retirement savings in their financial aid calculations.   That means every dollar that you hide in retirement is a dollar the universities don’t take into account for their financial aid calculations.  If worse comes to worse (ex. student loan rates are high), you can contribute less to retirement while the kids are in college (because you already have so much saved up) and cashflow some of those college expenses with what you would have contributed to retirement.

Disclaimer:  This is not what we did.  Originally I paid a lot of attention to the “recommended” savings percentages in various books and made sure we were putting away 20% of our income for retirement (recommended is 10-20%, we were on the “went to graduate school and need to save extra to make up for low savings years” track).  Then some extra money went into 529s (tax advantaged college saving) for our kids and then the stock market went crazy in a bad way (remember 2008?) and we started prepaying our mortgage as well.  It wasn’t until later that we started contributing to a 457 plan, even though that would have made more sense than contributing to the 529s.

The following assumes you have no debt other than a low interest mortgage.

  1. Save an emergency fund that will get you through a missing paycheck or late reimbursement or small emergency.
  2. Put money into retirement up to any employer match.
  3. Save an emergency fund that will get you through a reasonable job loss or other large expense.  (A Roth IRA is a good place to stash this when you’re just starting out since you can tap the principal without penalty and it can go to retirement if you don’t have a major emergency.)
  4. Save 10-20% of your gross income for retirement (or the max if are a high earner).  Play with retirement calculators to get more specific on the percent.
  5. Start putting money away in a 529 plan based on how much you’re planning to contribute and what schools your kid is considering.  We have more details here, and also more generally with other 529 posts.  The short is you’ll want to play with some college savings calculators AND the financial aid calculators at individual schools that you’re looking at.  (You might want to pay down your house at this step instead because colleges don’t use most housing wealth in their calculations for financial aid, but play with those different assumptions with the calculators.)

I DO think it is important to have a 529 for relatives to put monetary gifts in if you have relatives who are likely to think that’s a good idea, and don’t just have one for the oldest boy even though the money is fungible across kids.  That’s not how gifts work– people want to give to both kids, not just one.

So… I guess that’s the basic advice.  There are exceptions to the above– people who have access to a backdoor 401k at work but don’t have high incomes might never be able to max out their retirement, for example.

Grumpy Nation:  What advice would you give?  How do you decide how much to save where?

Men can sew too

DC1 brought home hir new orchestra uniform from school and the pants needed hemming.

My first thought was that I hate hemming pants and I was never very good at it, though my last experience was probably over 20 years ago.

So DH suggested we get them altered professionally.

But a quick search showed that all the alteration places in town had 2/5 stars and complaints about not following simple instructions and about losing orders and holding clothing longer than promised.

We know DC1 is going to grow this year, so those pants hems are probably going to need to be let out sometime this year, which means that cutting off the extra fabric, something a professional is likely to do (see “not following simple instructions”) is not a great idea.  The first concert was also only a couple of weeks away, which meant that losing the pants and holding onto them for a couple weeks was not viable.

I resigned myself to having to hem, but then DH said he’d give it a go.  There are plenty of youtube videos and guides.  I recommended the catch stitch to him since that’s the way I was taught.  (It might not have been the best recommendation since I hate hemming pants and I’m not great at it, but I’m sure if I hadn’t recommended something DH would have spent a few hours trying to figure out the best stitch.)  And then DH did it and did a good job and it took a little over an hour, far less time than going to one of the alteration places and returning to pick it up.

So… that probably saved $20-$40 in money, but also quite a bit more in potential aggravation, AND later this year we’ll know we’ll be able to let the hem down.  (It was pretty obvious from the fabric creases that last year’s kid had also had to let the hem back down, though that family had a sewing machine.)