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Back from a short vacation

November 5th, 2019 at 09:26 am

My wife and I spent Friday-Monday out of town in National Harbor, MD, just outside of Washington, DC. We had a nice time just relaxing and spending time together. I had booked a hotel package that included a full buffet breakfast every day (not like a Holiday Inn Express buffet but a full buffet). It also included a $50/day resort credit toward food and drinks.

First night we had dinner at a great Mexican restaurant there. We've eaten there numerous times and it remains one of favorite restaurants anywhere.

Saturday we did some shopping at the outlets in town. I picked up a new belt and several shirts. We had dinner at the hotel sports bar (with our credit) and then went over to the nearby casino. We both lost but it was fun. Went back to the sports bar for dessert and drinks.

Sunday we went across the river to Old Town Alexandria and strolled around the shops and waterfront area. There's a large art studio there and it's always interesting to check out what all of the artists are working on. Had lunch at a rustic Italian place. Went back to the hotel and hit the gym for our workout. Had dinner at a Western-themed spot just across the way from the hotel. And ended the night back at the hotel for drinks to use our credit for the day.

Yesterday, we had breakfast and then got packed up. Our daughter was actually at a convention in Arlington, VA, about 25 minutes away. She had taken Amtrak down on Thursday. We checked out and headed over there, picked her up, and we all drove home together.

All in all, a very nice getaway. Not cheap but I had planned it a couple of months ago as a little treat for paying off the mortgage. It was definitely well worth it.

Happy dishwasher update

October 29th, 2019 at 07:01 am

The 2nd attempt at getting our dishwasher installed was yesterday afternoon. A different crew from a different company came out and they were amazing! They were friendly and understanding and professional and skilled. They were shocked that the other crew hadn't even made any attempt.

They pulled out the old dishwasher easily (the other guy said he might not be able to get it out) and proceeded to install the new one like it was nothing. They appreciated that we were educated and knew what we were talking about as I'm sure they encounter plenty of customers who think they know everything and don't really have a clue.

Once it was installed, they showed us the basic features and gave us some tips. They even answered a couple of questions we had about some other appliance issues. Of course, we now have their contact info and would happily use them again for future needs.

So we now have a shiny new installed and functioning dishwasher. We'll probably run the first load tonight.

Sent extra 6K to Ally

October 26th, 2019 at 07:01 pm

My base plan is to send at least $1,500 to Ally and $1,500 to Vanguard every month. Occasionally when excess accumulates in our checking account, I move that to Ally too. Yesterday I was able to transfer an extra $6,000 as I had gotten paid on Thursday and everything else was covered.

Our CC bills will be higher than usual the next 2 cycles because we bought a dishwasher last week and we’re going out of town for a few days next week but I think I’ll still have enough in checking to cover all of that. If not I can always transfer some back. At least this way it’s earning interest.

Nothing is ever simple - appliance issue

October 23rd, 2019 at 10:33 am

We bought a new dishwasher last week. They came yesterday to install it. The guy took half a step into the kitchen and said, "I can tell you right now it won't fit." We have a ceramic tile floor and there is a drop off at the end of the tiles to the floor where the dishwasher sits. It's been like that since we bought the house 25 years ago. This will be the 3rd dishwasher going into the exact same space. Previous installers thought the same thing and then proceeded to install it just fine.

Nope. This guy was convinced it wouldn't work and wasn't even willing to try. Back I went to the store today to complain. They said I had to contact the installation service directly as it's a third party.

I called them and the guy I spoke to actually seemed pretty good. He understood the issue and seemed surprised that the installer didn't even attempt to do the work. He said he'd seek out another installer and get back to me, which he did a short time later. He gave me his direct line if we need him and gave me the name of the new guy. We're just waiting for that guy to call and schedule to come out. Hopefully he can do it with no further issue. Otherwise I'm going to have to go to Lowe's again and have them refund what we paid for installation. I have a friend who has already said he'd be happy to install it if it comes to that. So still on hold at the moment to see what the final outcome will be.

Small DIY success

October 22nd, 2019 at 04:02 pm

Okay, this one may sound lame but I still count it as a success.

We were in Lowe's last week buying a new dishwasher. As we were walking through the store, we passed the aisle with the 4-foot long workshop light fixtures like many people have in unfinished basements or garages. We have 3 in our basement. One barely works and one hasn't worked at all for ages. I just never bothered to do anything about it.

Ours have 48" fluorescent tubes. Now they are all LED which is nice. I took pictures of the 3 options and a couple days ago searched on Amazon. Of course, I was able to find similar fixtures that are even brighter and cheaper than Lowe's so I ordered two of them.

They arrived today and I installed them both easily since they were going exactly where the old ones were, even hanging on the very same hardware that was already there.

We now have 2 super bright fixtures. The laundry room has only had a single regular bulb since that fixture died and the other half of the basement was pretty much in the dark except for the rare occasion when that fixture actually decided to work. It looks great down there. DW is happy because she is in charge of laundry and I'm happy because I do a lot of stuff on the other side. Plus the extra pantry is down there so now we can find things without pulling out our cell phone flashlight. And all for just $60 (and I'll get 5% cashback from our Discover card).

Change in asset allocation

October 18th, 2019 at 06:37 pm

I updated our portfolio spreadsheet and our asset allocation has drifted some from 12/31/18. I'm not surprised by that as I know we've been accumulating more cash. And of course market performance affects the numbers too.

69% stock
23.4% bond
7.6% cash

61.16% stock
26.67% bond
12.17% cash

I don't really have anything particular to say about these numbers. I'm fine with where they are. I do want to keep track as I don't really want the stock allocation to drop below 60%. I'm currently splitting at least $3,000/month between our savings account and our taxable Vanguard account so if I need to pump up the stock allocation, I can just direct more toward that instead of savings for a couple of months.

Bought a dishwasher

October 16th, 2019 at 02:13 pm

We headed over to Lowe's today. We've bought several other appliances there. They seem to have a good combination of reasonable prices, nice selection, and helpful staff that isn't overly pushy. Today was no exception. A couple of people asked if we needed help while we were browsing and walked away when we said not yet. Once we had it narrowed down to 2 models, we went over and asked the one woman for help. She was very nice and answered a few questions we had.

Of course, we ended up with the more expensive of the 2 we were looking at but it did have a couple of features that we preferred. It has a recessed handle so we won't be constantly banging into it like we would have been with the other one. And the racks and gliders were clearly of better quality. It was also rated a few decibels lower on sound level.

We just have to wait for the installer to call and schedule installation. Hopefully that will happen within a few days. It will be nice to have a working dishwasher again.

Time for a new dishwasher

October 13th, 2019 at 05:45 pm

Another chapter in "The Joys of Home Ownership". My wife informed me that the dishwasher has been making an awful noise lately and the other day was the worst it's been. We could: a) call out a repair person or b) buy a new one. Yes, I realize there is choice c) try to troubleshoot it ourselves to see if we can fix it. However, I'm opting for choice b.

We got our first dishwasher in 1995. We remember because we bought it when DW was pregnant and started having trouble reaching the sink to do dishes Smile. That one lasted almost 10 years and was replaced in late 2004. So the current one is actually 15 years old which is not so bad as appliances go.

I don't think it's worth paying for a service call plus any repair costs for a 15-year-old dishwasher. Plus, I've been self-managing gradual rusting of the one rack for the past few years, sanding it down and coating the edges. I even cut out a small section of the rack that was too badly damaged to save, so the whole thing is kind of ghetto at this point.

I've been browsing online and we'll probably hit a couple of stores on Wednesday and get a new one. It's not a huge expense as home repairs go and I can't complain about this one lasting as long as it did.

Huge update on my raise!

April 10th, 2019 at 07:35 am

I posted a couple of weeks ago that I unexpectedly got a new contract at work that included a substantial raise. I thought the numbers needed to be adjusted based on my hours. I was finally able to confirm that the numbers I got were actually correct.

I thought my raise would be $15,833.
My actual raise is $40,493!!!
I am shocked and obviously very pleased.

It will be a couple of weeks before I get the first new paycheck to see how my take home changes but it should be around 2K/month. I have to sit down and figure out what we're going to do with the added income but what a nice problem to have.

Got our state tax refund

April 3rd, 2019 at 04:06 pm

We got our state tax refund yesterday. When I subtract what we owed on our Federal return plus what we paid our accountant, we came out about $1,300 ahead which will probably all go to the mortgage. We are on track to pay it off in August but that would speed it up even more.

Forgot the sewer bill - oops

April 3rd, 2019 at 04:02 pm

I was going through some papers just now and found the sewer bill mixed in. I don't even remember getting it. Clearly I must have thought it was junk mail when it arrived as it was with some other junk. It was due 4/1. I normally pay by check since there's no charge for that (other than a stamp) but I went and paid it online. There's a $.99 fee for doing that but a stamp is $.55 anyway so really only an extra $.44 and it's done. I doubt there will be any sort of late fee for 2 days but if there is, it'll be my own fault so I can't complain.

I think I'm getting a raise

March 22nd, 2019 at 07:24 am

I love my job but sometimes they're a little weird, or at least a bit lacking in the communications department.

I got an email yesterday afternoon that they are issuing updated Employment Agreements. They attached my new contract for me to review, sign, and return.

1. I had no idea a new contract was coming.

2. I knew that our per diem pay rate had gone up so I wasn't surprised to see that in the new contract.

3. Our regular pay also went up and they added a "weekend premium" to the compensation. I have no idea what that is or how it was calculated.

4. I'm 99.9% sure that the numbers they sent me are for 40 hours/week but I work 36 hours/week so I need a new version that has my actual numbers.

I've emailed the corporate person who handles the contracts and my immediate supervisor asking for clarification on a few items so I'm waiting to hear back from them.

Bottom line, if I'm reading everything correctly (and it's accurate), even if I adjust to 90% of the numbers they sent me (36 hours vs 40), that would come out to an overall raise of about $15,800. But right now, I have no idea if that's accurate. I'll update when I know the answer.

Odds and ends

March 20th, 2019 at 03:55 pm

I said I'd try to blog more regularly so figured I actually need to post every couple of weeks.

I made our latest mortgage payment which brought our principal under the $10,000 mark. The end is near. I expect to pay it off in August most likely so that's exciting.

I haven't picked up any extra shifts at work the past week or two. I need to take a look at the schedule and pick up something in the coming weeks.

My wife and I are doing an overnight getaway this weekend. We're just going across the river into the city. There's a whiskey bar we've been wanting to try (we are big bourbon and whiskey fans). We didn't really care for their dinner menu so we're eating at a different place in the next block and planning to then go to the bar for drinks and dessert. The only problem with that is that we couldn't reserve a table just for that so we'll have to wait for space at the bar on a Saturday night. Hopefully around 6:30-7:00 it won't be too crazy yet. We're using a free hotel voucher for our stay. Just have to pay for parking.

Haven't done any decluttering lately. I'm hoping spring brings a nice weekend soon when I'm off and can start attacking the garage.

Need to start working on plans for our June trip to Dallas. The hotel was booked months ago but I haven't bought airfare yet. DW has been browsing the tourist sites looking for things to see and do when we're there.

I can't think of anything else of significance from the past couple of weeks so I'll stop there.

Happy Spring!

Results of our taxes

March 4th, 2019 at 04:07 pm

I heard back from our accountant today. As expected, the Trump tax changes impacted us but not as badly as I had feared. For the first time in many years, we owe for our Federal return but only $453. Still, in previous years we've always gotten at least a small refund.

The good news is we're getting $2,458 back from the state which offsets that making our net refund just over $2,000.

Our accountant had warned us months ago that the Trump stuff would be bad so I was happy that it wasn't any worse than that. And I must admit filing was so much easier because I didn't have to compile everything for itemizing deductions since we weren't able to deduct all of that stuff anymore.