On Points

A coworker sparked my interest in the practice of signing up for credit cards to get the sign up bonus points and earn free travel. So, Chris and I have signed up for four credit cards and have earned about 200,000 “miles” or about $2,000 to spend on hotels or airfare so far. Peanuts compared to folks who spend a bit more effort and earn, like, a million miles a year. But hey, it’s $2,000 we didn’t have before. It would be nice, at least, to not have the huge budget bombs of plane tickets for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I just found myself down a hole looking at tickets for Fourth of July weekend. Maybe to San Diego? Maybe Portland or Seattle? I was doing points math, checking deals leaving Thursday night vs Friday morning.

Then I remembered I actually love Fourth of July in Denver. So I feel silly.



I have oft read about to 50/30/20 rule, that 50% of your income after taxes should go towards needs, 30% towards wants, and 20% into savings or debt reduction. I generally feel like I have a really good hold on our finances, so this afternoon I decided to see if our spending fits in this model.

It doesn’t.

The bad news is that we’re only putting 16% of our income into savings. That includes what we’re putting into retirement, emergency savings, our “general” savings, and our extra payment on our mortgage. This seems a little unfair to me, though. Aside from our mortgage, we don’t have any debt. (We were both super lucky on the student loan front. We occasionally used to let our credit cards balloon to a few thousand dollars and then pay them down, but since I started using mint, we got off that train. The car’s paid for. Knock on wood, debt free for the moment.)

The good news is that we’re also well under 50% for needs. Including auto insurance, home insurance, gas and electric, gas for the car, our alarm system, groceries, pet food, and our portion of medical insurance, we’re sitting at about 36%.

When I add up the wants that happen every month, I end up with about 21%. (So, going out to dinner, buying lunch, booze, mobile phones, internet, occasional parking, car2go and uber, beauty stuff (I usually get alternate months getting a pedicure or my brows done), my yoga classes, hulu, clothes, coffee shops, and housecleaning.)

If you’re a math wizard, that leaves 27% for random stuff that is hard to budget on a monthly basis because it’s not monthly. Once a year stuff, like my eye doctor appointment and contacts, vacation, vet bills, race entry fees, christmas gifts, hair cuts, funeral travel, replacing our busted wireless router, parking tickets, concert tickets, getting Chris’s tux dry cleaned, car repairs, bike repairs, fabric to make curtains for my office…it’s not like we have a big chunk leftover every month. It’s always going somewhere.

Anyhow. All just to say that budgeting is hard because categorizing is hard and there’s always something random that comes up that doesn’t fit neatly into a bucket.


Good morning

Yesterday Denver was expecting some bad weather. There was a winter storm warning, we were expecting lots of snow, the airport had even started to cancel some flights already.

I was planning to go to a 7 am yoga class this morning. I checked the website to make sure it wasn’t canceled and then rolled out of bed. I peeked out the window at the snow. It didn’t look too crazy.

I don’t love working out in the morning, but with yoga I do pretty well, even really early, because you warm up pretty slowly and because there’s very little you need to find. Like, you don’t have to be stumbling around your house trying to find your garmin and earbuds and two socks that match.

I’m rambling, but what I wanted to say was that while I really love yoga and I’ve been enjoying going in the morning, it was pretty snowy and it’s Friday and I was a little tired and thinking maybe I should skip it.

But I didn’t. I went outside to my car around 6:30 and said hello to my neighbor who was scraping off his car and he lamented that the rain before the snow had made our cars extra hard to scrape because it was more icey than powdery. And then he helped me scrape off my car. And then I helped him scrape off his car. And I felt so happy and glad to know and like my neighbors so well. Even drudgery like scraping your car can be pleasant when you’re doing it with a friend.

It put me in such a good mood, and then I found myself being extra super duper smiley and happy to the lady who rang up my breakfast and the guy at Whole Foods who helped me with the catering menu. 

I hope you are having a good day, internet friends. I am.

Trophy Wife

A few days ago Chris and I were out of shows to watch. We watch a handful of shows on hulu, but since it’s January, we’re caught up on almost everything and there weren’t any new episodes of anything. Rather than, say, finding something else to do, I suggested we watch the pilot of Trophy Wife. Hulu automatically starts shows for you when one finishes, so we’d seen like 30 seconds of it and I thought it looked funny, plus I love Bradley Whitford and would watch him in about anything.

The pilot was good. A lot of the jokes were spoiled in a commercial for the show, but it had several solid laughs, enough for us to start a second episode before bed. The second episode? I was crying laughing. Honestly, we kept having to pause it because we were cracking up.

If you decide to watch the pilot, you can also have fun just trying to spot the main character’s baby bump; it was shot when she was five months pregnant.

Sorry for shouting

I haven’t ridden my bike to work in months. I’ve been using car2go, very rarely taking the bus, and mostly walking. (It’s just under 40 minutes walking, a bit faster if I grab the 16th street shuttle for the last few blocks.)

I stopped riding my bike because I was getting really frustrated with pedestrians, other cyclists, and drivers. Most of whom are lovely, but a significant minority of whom are terrible. And I just didn’t like starting and ending my day feeling angry. It had gotten worse as I had started going into work just a little later than I had before. At 7 am the roads are still fairly empty; the closer you get to 8, the more bozos there are.

I rode my bike this morning because I had a busy day on my schedule. (Though three hours of it just got canceled, which is why I have a moment to sit and write this.) Biking to work only takes about 15 minutes, and I wanted the extra time this morning.

On my way in, in the span of less than two miles, I shouted at four people:

  1. A woman on a B-cycle who genuinely startled me by whizzing past me on my right. (“You startled me! Usually we pass on the left!”
  2. A car who decided to pass me just as we came to a stop sign, meaning we arrived at the stop sign at almost the same time, and I was almost sure the car was turning right. “What are you doing?!”
  3. At a pedestrian who did that thing where he was waiting for me to go so he could cross but then stepped off the curb just as I passed him. “Too close!”
  4. At a pedestrian with her nose buried in her phone as she crossed an intersection. Three vehicles were waiting for her, as they should, but I wouldn’t trust my life to other people doing what they should in traffic. “You gotta look both ways!”

So. I think I’m going to stick with walking. Even though a 40 minute commute isn’t really my favorite, at least it’s 40 minutes of listening to This American Life podcasts instead of 15 minutes of hating everyone.


To bet or not to bet

Chris and I have a long-running tradition of competing to see who can go the longest without finding out the winner of the Super Bowl. I think this would be the seventh year, actually.

I don’t like football but I try not to be on a high horse about it. Chris is a bit more openly disdainful of people who spend their weekends watching sports. I don’t think it’s a worthwhile way to spend time and it’s pretty detrimental to the players themselves. But I’d also say watching the Bachelor is a waste of time and also pretty detrimental to the players themselves. So, live and let watch, I say.

But! This year, as you may know, the Denver Broncos are in the Super Bowl. Since we live in Denver, since we live maybe two miles from the stadium where they play, and since if they win there will be a parade that likely goes right past where both of us work, this year is a little different. 

So I can’t decide if this is the ultimate year for the bet, if this is the greatest and most epic challenge we’ll ever get to face? Or if it’s just too hard and we should throw in the towel, watch the game, and cheer for our city with the rest of our neighbors.

Nah, I’mma Stay (Home)

This rant prompted by a girl in my yoga class last night who complained about it being crowded. Shut it, pink tank top!

(While I am mostly an internet curmudgeon, I’m fairly positive in real life. I smile a lot. I am genuinely impressed by the accomplishments of my friends. I am encouraging. Just putting that out there.)

I’m just wondering if we might all agree that every meta-opinion expressing some variety of dissatisfaction about new year’s resolutions has been expressed and we can move on to new topics since no one in the world has anything new to say about this. I’m tired of resolutioners crowding my fitness of choice. I’m tired of hearing people complain about resolutioners. And I’m tired of hearing people complain about people who complain about resolutioners. I’m tired of myself being annoyed about this.