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Crypto

November 8th, 2021 at 02:55 pm

I know it’s my age/generation but whenever I hear anything about cryptocurrency, it seems like fake money to me. I don’t get it. And I do realize that our paper money is no longer backed by precious metals so in effect its value is debatable too. I admit that I’m an old fogie in this area.

So recently DS2 installed something on DS5’s computer that earns cryptocurrency. The best I can understand after asking for an explanation is that DS5’s graphics card is being rented out for processing power when he isn’t using it. He’s making the equivalent of $2/day by having his computer run this. That piqued my interest. DS2 has his computer set up with multiple graphics cards connected to a single motherboard and he’s making a few hundred dollars a month while he’s at his real mechanical engineering job. That’s wild to me. He occasionally converts the crypto to dollars and transfers them to his bank account. Apparently the only gotcha is that you have to have a quality graphics card and they’re hard to come by now because lots of people are doing this. I assume that all that processing uses some electricity too.

 

 I just find it interesting that young adults have discovered an automated income stream. Kids today!

 

Life of leisure

 

Teenager Jobs

August 3rd, 2021 at 10:41 pm

Businesses in our area have been struggling to maintain staffing. I assume that it’s related to the stimulus package(s). Some have restricted their business hours or their offerings in response to the shortage. Some of the fast food restaurants just close for the day when enough workers don’t show up. It’s sad. But – it’s been a help to teenagers that are off for the summer and want to make some money, including ours.

 

DS4 kept his lifeguard job and got a pay increase this year. DS3 got a surprisingly high-paying job at an Amazon warehouse. DS5 got his first ever job at Burger King. It’s been a great learning experience for him. He’s learned about using cash registers, customer service, and of course making (unhealthy) food. The boys were required to take a career education class earlier in high school and one assignment was drafting a resume. Poor DS5 had no job experience, no volunteer work – pretty much a blank page with LARGE font to make up for the lack of content. It was a wake-up call. Now’s he’s done a cool volunteer project offered at school and gotten his first job.

Impending Transition

March 30th, 2021 at 07:09 pm

Tomorrow we move back to Dad’s house and a week and a half later, we head home. Then I return to work. Change will be the norm for the next couple of weeks.

 

Our annual egg hunt will include only two of the five boys but the addition of three cousins this year, and it’ll be at Dad’s house. I mailed each of the three boys at home a consolation prize. I paid just as much for the shipping as the value of the contents. It was a case where the sentimental value made the shipping cost worth it. (around $20 each)

 

Half my amalgam fillings are replaced now and the other half scheduled for the Fall. I met with the dentist here this morning to review sleep study results and to do an entire head scan. The information that can be gleaned from the tests about my breathing and potential health conditions is surprising to me. I found it interesting.

 

I spent over $100 buying books and CDs related to the boys' classes and calculators with trig functions since they left theirs at home. 'Educational' budget line item.

 

 

 

 

New Year, New Semester

March 2nd, 2021 at 03:24 pm

DS3 went back to college for the spring semester. The dorms are open though the classes are online. Students have the option of attending from home but he’s an athlete and so far, spring sports are on. The semester will be split up into mini-phases like they did in the Fall so that if a course returns to the classroom, the classes will be small. It’s interesting to see the creative responses to the Covid-related constraints in place now.

 

The semester bill including food and housing but not books and materials was $10,400. This is how the funding was cobbled together this time:

                $1000 – scholarship

                $4000 – cash set aside

                $5400 – 529 savings

 

DS3 is looking into other scholarships since he knows we’d split them with him. No word yet on any successful results.

 

New Kid, New Semester

August 7th, 2020 at 01:15 pm

So here we are just a couple of months after DS2 graduated and flew the coop. Now DS3 starts college this month. A fresh new round of cobbling together funds to pay the semester’s expenses. This is what Fall 2020 looks like financially:

Total bill from the university for housing, food, tuition, & fees - $10,637. It’s slightly less than I expected, maybe because now the semester ends just before Thanksgiving.

This is how it’ll be funded:
$1,000 scholarship
$2,597 balance of 529 account from old state
$4,000 cash set aside
$ 25 scholarship
$3,015 withdrawal from current 529

I wanted to transfer the funds from our old state’s 529 plan to the current plan after we moved just for simplicity’s sake but the old state informed me that I’d lose the ‘earning enhancements’ that had been paid into my account by the state if I transferred it. It’s just 2%, but still, it’s free money. I didn’t want to leave money on the table so I kept the accounts open. We had accounts there for DS1, DS2, and DS3. I’ve always pulled that money out first so I could close the account. This is the last kid with an account there so finally I’ll be able to close it completely.

Our current state doesn’t provide any contributions but it does provide a state tax exemption for money contributed to a 529 account – ANY 529 account – up to the gift tax exclusion which is around $15k per kid. Since I could choose any 529, I did research back then to find a good one. I selected the Utah plan and I’ve not been disappointed. The fund choices are good (Vanguard), the website is easy to use, and it’s easy to make withdrawals. For that withdrawal, I completed the request online on their website and the money was in my account in two days. In contrast, the old state’s plan doesn’t offer online withdrawals. I had to print out forms, including a tax form, then scan and e-mail them in. Now I’m still waiting for a paper check to arrive. I hope it gets here before the tuition is due. Otherwise I’ll have to temporarily transfer money from a savings account. Grrr.

I set aside $4000 cash per year (at least) from my income so that I’ll qualify for the American Opportunity Credit deduction on our taxes. It provides a refund/credit of $2500 if $4000 was spent on college tuition. It doesn’t provide the credit for money spent on college-related things like housing & food but I’m using 529 funds for that. You also can’t get the credit if you used all 529 funds because that would be double-dipping. You also have to have an AGI of $160k or less. As I type this, it sounds complicated but it really isn’t. Like most things financial, you just have to know the rules.

That $25 scholarship? I’ve waited 10 years to use that! DS3 participated in an after-school bowling camp during the winter of third grade. He’s high energy so I just wanted something active for him to do indoors while I worked in the afternoons. It was a neat setup: the bowling alley sent a bus to school to pick up the kids. They gave them homework time, pizza for snack, and then taught them to bowl. At the end of the week (or two? I can’t remember.), there was a bowling tournament for the kids and DS3 won the $25 scholarship as a prize. We laughed about it and told the grandparents that he already had an athletic scholarship for college at age 8. A couple of times over the years I got paperwork about the scholarship and had to create an account online, updating passwords sometimes. The online request to get the money was straight-forward but they won’t send it to me – it must go straight to the school. It makes me chuckle to think of the person in the bursar’s office who will receive that official scholarship check for $25! So really, I probably worked hard for that 25 bucks but again – it’s free money. I reminded DS3 that his bowling performance is helping him now! I don’t know if he’s bowled since then.

We’ll still have books and the costs related to setting up his dorm room. So I expect to spend another $500 or so. Then I’ll start thinking about next semester.

Car Insurance Increased

July 17th, 2020 at 12:18 am

So I did drop DS2 from our auto policy once he moved to his own place and bought himself a car as I planned in an earlier post. And our insurance price increased as a result! I guess the insurance company figures that with DS2 out of the picture, DS3 drives the vehicles more. And that’s true. One of the vehicles is in my name but is actually DS3’s – he paid for it. DS2 was 22 with a good student discount. DS3 is 18 without a good student discount. Ah, that’s what I get. I can only imagine how much it’ll be once DS4 and DS5 join the policy. They’ll be getting permits in the Fall and licenses sometime next year. Then I’ll have 3 teenaged boys on the policy. Eeek!

Our current 6-month premium is now $1070. That covers three drivers using two cars with liability coverage only. The liability coverage is 250-500-100.

DS2 Officially Out of the Nest

June 27th, 2020 at 01:09 am

Today was a milestone day for DS2. He’s moving into his own place. He graduated in May and then started working in a town about a 45-minute drive away. He was unable to get an apartment for months mostly because of Covid-related shutdowns. Property management companies weren’t even showing places. He also had decided only to consider apartments that were biking distance to his work and reasonably priced.

Finally, he found a place that suits him. It’s a two-building complex where each building is a 4-plex and it’s in the town where he works. It’s not pretty-looking on Google maps, but it’s practical for him. There’s even a laundromat across the street. He said he could walk to work in about 15 minutes. It’s basic – a one-bedroom apartment with a bath and a combined living room and kitchen area. He’s living alone though and wanted to live cheaply so he can save money for the next couple of years. I think he’ll be paying about $600/month in rent. In preparation for the move he bought a router for his internet, arranged for utility accounts in his name, bought a window A/C unit, and rented a U-Haul to move all his belongings. I’m surprised that he was allowed to rent the U-Haul since he isn’t 25 yet but he didn’t ask for help so I guess it was okay. Maybe the rental companies are being more lenient since their business is slow these days. But all those things are adult activities and I could tell that DS2 is feeling proud that he’s independent. I’m proud too.

Before he drove away in the big van loaded with his things, he told me that we could go see his place in a week. I think he wants time to get his place sorted before he shows it off to us.


DS4 helping DS2 load the moving van

I guess my next move is to have DS2 removed from our auto insurance. Hopefully that will save a few bucks because having DS3 on the policy is costing us plenty.

The Best Day of the Year

June 22nd, 2020 at 02:05 am

June 21st – the longest day (for natural light) of the year. I love the long days and made a point to spend a good part of the day outside. The only bad thing is that the days get shorter from here, already. DS4 started his life-guarding job today. He has rosy cheeks from the sun so he’ll remember to take sunscreen tomorrow. My boys don’t usually burn because their skin has a slight olive tone like mine – even the blond one – but it is the very beginning of the season here so they need to be careful now.

On the money front: I received an EOB from Aetna and they paid DH’s antibody test at 100%, like a preventive service would be covered. I didn’t expect that. It was $55.

Another Refund

June 16th, 2020 at 12:18 pm

We received another refund from the high school. This time it was $20 that we had paid for a class lab fee. It was refunded since the school was closed in March. That class – Foods – wasn’t fun for DS4 to do online. It would have been a challenge to make fun & interactive online and that teacher just wasn’t the type to change her lesson plans. The school just sent out a survey to get feedback on parent preferences for safety measures vs going online so I guess the Fall semester is in the air. Hopefully if it is online the teachers have time to learn how to teach effectively that way.

Boys' Inheritance Plans

June 11th, 2020 at 12:50 am

When FIL died at the end of January, he left most of his assets (IRA & other accounts, vehicles, etc.) to his wife. In his will he left one savings account to be split among his grandsons. Noone expected this. Our boys will each receive about $10k in the next month or so. They each inherited a gun from FIL too but they weren’t surprised because they’d been asked in past years which one they preferred. (FIL was an outdoorsman.) His will might be entertaining for another hunter to read because one line after another says something like “To my GS1 I leave my Winchester blah blah rifle with the blah blah scope, serial number blah blah” through about 20 guns. He covered all his grandsons, his sons, his son-in-law, former son-in-law, step-son-in-law, former boyfriend to his daughter, and his daughter.

I’m not eager to have those guns in the house – I resisted this with DH for the past decade because our boys were the have-to-touch-everything type of little boys. I guess I’m glad at least that they are older now and two of them don’t live at home any longer.

As for the money, because two of our boys are minors, we will be given the money on their behalf. The other three will receive it directly. I told the twins (DS4 & DS5) that I would allow them to spend some of their money if they chose to but that I would be doing it on their behalf. I’m not trying to be controlling but I just don’t want them to be vulnerable to someone taking advantage of them. In fact I worry about DS3 in that regard but he is 18 and typically not receptive to advice from me.

This is what each boy plans to do with his windfall:

DS1 - $5k to Roth IRA now for 2019 since the deadline is extended, $2k student loan debt, $3k current desires including $1k to “play” with stocks

DS2 – All of it to top off Roth IRA for 2019 and 2020

DS3 – undecided, but has talked about a newer more reliable car

DS4 - $1k to buy the bed he wants, $9k to savings for a car purchase after he’s 18

DS5 – up to $3k for a fancy gaming computer setup, $7k to long-term savings with no goal yet


I’m curious to see if all their plans stick when the money arrives.

DS3’s Truck Becomes More Expensive

April 18th, 2020 at 03:28 pm

DS3 forgot to close his door before backing out of the garage this week. I can’t remember a time that I ever forgot to close my door before driving. Maybe the trunk or the gas cap but not my door! He assures me that he was paying attention to driving and not his device. Ahem. I was working in my office space which is above the garage and felt the walls shake while I heard a loud crunching noise.



My initial reaction will not go on record as one of my best parenting moments. In order to get the truck’s door out of the wall, DS4 and DS3 pushed forward together while the thing was in neutral. Then we could see the damage.



DS3 knew that he’d be responsible for the repair. And we both agreed that he did not have the skillset to do it to my satisfaction. He opted to hire DS2. DS2 also has no drywall experience but he does have the skillset (He’s an engineer-to-be.). He’s charging DS3 $300 for the fix. I have no idea if that’s a competitive price. But the silver lining is that he’s learning something new while DS3 learns a tough lesson himself. The job is nearly finished.



I realized that all three driving boys have had a mishap in the garage. DS1 backed out with the side garage door open and bent it so badly that it couldn’t close so it had to be replaced. DS2 backed out too fast and broke one of Bertha’s side mirrors. And now DS3 has done this number. We’re 0 for 3 in getting through initial driving years without having an accident before leaving the garage. Wow.

Annual Egg Hunt

April 14th, 2020 at 01:21 am


Stuffed eggs ready for the hunt

Our family has a tradition of a family egg hunt on Easter morning. The boys are older now and still look forward to the egg hunt because some of the eggs have money in them! It used to be mostly coins when they were small but now it’s an assortment of bills and a few are substantial. Only some eggs have money but all eggs have candy. A couple of eggs had vouchers for bigger candy items that don’t fit in an egg like a chocolate bunny. I use the same plastic eggs and big basket year after year. During the hiding all the boys stay in the master bedroom with DH and watch a show to ensure no one gets a peek outside. They are released for the hunt by age in ascending order and when they were younger, I’d give the younger ones a longer head start. Now their hunting skills are comparable so I only make them line up to prevent trampling.

It's still a hoot to watch and the dog had the best time of all. She loved having all five boys running around the yard at the same time. This year she figured out how to hunt for eggs herself! We had to throw out one plastic egg she found because she cracked it with her teeth.

DS1 got the whopper egg with a $50 bill this year.



I guess if I ever become a grandma, I’ll stop hiding for the kids…

Exercising Caution

March 15th, 2020 at 05:52 pm

I’m a planner by nature so I’m directing any anxiety about the current situation to our logistics. The boys are off school for at least two weeks. DS2’s college extended spring break so he just extended his visit with our families in the south. He’ll fly home in a week. I’m hoping that travel is safer then with international flights discontinued. He also connects in Charlotte rather than one of the mega-airports. If his college makes a decision to complete the semester virtually and travel becomes more restricted, I suppose he could stay there. DS1’s current job is customer-facing so I do worry about that although it’s not in a big city. Fortunately, my job with the exception of occasional travel being canceled isn’t impacted much. I’m most productive working from the home office and that’s the typical work day for me. I will need to creatively replan some projects that have tasks normally done at the customer site though.

This weekend I’m cleaning. Our house is grubby most of the time. Women who value a pristine home environment would be appalled by our place. But with a crew of boys I learned years ago that I would be a ball of stress if I insisted on keeping the place like a showroom. Usually my cleaning efforts are focused on keeping dishes and clothes caught up with an occasional vacuuming. But this weekend I’m dusting, wiping, scrubbing, and disinfecting door knobs and light switches.

We’ve never had an emergency food stash despite the fact that we live far enough north that a snowstorm could potentially force us to be homebound without power. We once lost power but the snow wasn’t too deep to get out and we moved to a hotel for a couple of days. Every year I say that I’ll make one before the winter arrives and I don’t. Laziness I guess. Knowing that we could be forced to stay home for a month or more, we created a stash now. It includes an extra round of household items we purchase every couple of months – garbage bags, laundry & dishwashing detergents, and pet food. And some healthy food that can keep awhile – rice, beans, applesauce, figs, peanut butter, mixed nuts, carrots, onions, potatoes, and one box of Girl Scout cookies so we don’t feel deprived. I also ordered some organic coconut milk powder. Really I think we’d be healthier is we were forced to fast a couple of days or eat beans & rice only! I’m not saying that I hope it comes to that though.

In addition to the food stash, I created a small cash stash. That’s another thing I’ve always intended to establish. Eventually I’d like to have a month’s basic expenses in cash. Maybe I’ll consider that as a goal next year.

To prepare ourselves for exposure to the virus which may be inevitable, we’re all taking vitamins and an anti-viral herb each day. Last week I also ordered replacement filters for the Berkey water filter.

Since we’re hunkering down, I’d like to plan what to do with boys during their time off. Maybe working on scout merit badges with DS4. Or having a game night. I’ll check out our game cabinet and see if we have all the Monopoly pieces.

Introduction to Budgeting

March 4th, 2020 at 01:07 pm

Last night DS1 finally made the time to come over to create a budget. I have been nagging him so his participation was somewhat reluctant. I asked him to bring his laptop and I started him with an Excel workbook that I created with sample categories populated. I preached my truth about budgets not being restrictive but instead giving control so the funds are allocated to the things we believe to be most important in our lives.

I am cautiously optimistic that the session was effective! He adjusted the categories and evaluated different scenarios just like I do sometimes. The spreadsheet is basic but it calculates totals by month, by category, and year-to-date. He got excited about having a vacation fund and an entertainment category. Once he had the budget balanced to nearly align with his minimum pay, he downgraded his Netflix membership, downgraded his health club membership, and deleted a Doordash app from his phone. I didn’t suggest any of those things!

He created a category for health insurance premiums so he doesn’t forget but the budgeted amount is zero for this year since he can remain on our health insurance plan through December. We also talked about removing comprehensive auto insurance coverage to lower his premiums once he gets his financed 2007 vehicle paid off which he said will happen by summer.

We’ve planned another session on Easter day when he’ll be home to open an HSA account with Fidelity and a Roth IRA account with Vanguard. He’s got budgeted amounts ready to auto-transfer once he gets those accounts established. Before then he’s going to open a savings account at a different bank than his checking for his soon-to-be EF.

My justification for being so assertive in getting him to sit down and work a budget was that I wanted to make sure he paid back his loans to me. That’s what I told him to make him feel obligated to meet. And that is indeed a category in his budget. But my motive was broader – I wanted him to be empowered, to feel like he controlled his finances. I’m hopeful. He did seem to own it by the time we finished. We’ll see how it goes. I think I’ll e-mail some links to blogs with budgets every few days so he can compare his with others. I know I always find that an interesting exercise.