Smart Fi Ranch: Week 2

Braces for my second child, our first camping trip of the summer, and my mortgage increased, welcome to Smart Fi Ranch, Week 2.

It didn’t take long for the summer break doldrums to set in around the Smart Fi Ranch.  2 weeks after the school year ended and I’m already hearing the steady drumbeat chant, “I’m bored” from my two littles.  Well, they’re not that little anymore, 10 and 13, but they are still bored nonetheless.


Unlike last summer we did not buy a season pass to the local water park. After several trips last summer, the novelty wore off and it was more of a chore to get them in the car, with towels, sunblock, snacks, swimwear, and all the other necessities. Two trips covered the cost of the season pass, so not all was lost. The last year’s lack of enthusiasm led us to not purchase the season pass again.

Instead of the water park with overpriced concession foods, crying babies and the occasional code brown in the wave pool,  we plan to spend more time in the great outdoors.  Hiking in the mountains or hitting the local river for a swim, with a picnic lunch, may end up being more frugal and definitely less crowded.

Camping trip

Speaking of outdoors. We had our first camping trip of the year to Sheaffer State Park this past weekend. A relatively small state park, located on the Satsop River in Western Washington, made for a wonderful location to spend a sunny weekend with my extended family.

My sister and brother and their family’s, along with my mother made for a party of 12 split up between 2 campsites. This was our 5th annual family reunion camping trip and has become something of a family tradition. Each year we pick a new location somewhere in Western Washington and try to avoid going to the same location twice.

By the time all of the nieces and nephews are grown, they will have had a taste of what the great outdoors in Washington has to offer. Hopefully, this translates into a future generation that has the same love and respect for nature as we do.

Smart FI Ranch

Braces and FSA

My second son finally had his braces placed. It has been a year in the making with several dental extractions last year to pave the way for this moment. He handled the day after braces dental pain better than I expected. He did leverage his pain into several large bowls of ice cream. What can I say, I felt sorry for the little guy.

With a little over a year to plan for the $5,000 expense of braces, I have been contributing the fully allowed amount into limited FSA(flexible spending account). The maximum contribution amount is $2,700 for 2019.

I was able to negotiate with the orthodontist a one-time payment of $2,700 on the day the braces were placed. The remainder will be billed as another one-time payment in January 2020.

I am fortunate to have a limited FSA in addition to an HSA(health savings account) this tax maneuver allows me to use tax-deferred money to pay for the very expensive braces while still letting my HSA money stay invested.

I wrote a post last year about this tax strategy, Stop, Don’t Spend That HSA Money. You can read the article for more information

Escrow analysis

Welp! My mortgage increased again this year after our annual late spring escrow analysis. I vividly remember my dad telling me years ago to buy the most expensive house we could afford because it would be a great investment. What he failed to tell me was that every year our mortgage would increase.

Property taxes and insurance are never static and have increased every year that we have owned our home. It is probably time to shop our homeowner’s insurance policy to see if we can find a better deal.

I can hardly complain about this year’s increase because it was a small fraction of last year’s increase. Every year our mortgage company gives us the option to spread the escrow increase over twelve monthly payments or pay it as a lump sum.

Every year I chose the lump sum payment so I can keep our mortgage payment the stable and allow more of our payment to flow to the principal.  Someday this mortgage will be paid off and this problem will go away but for the foreseeable future, I will have an annual escrow analysis to deal with.

Thanks for reading this week’s Smart Fi Ranch Series. Be sure to subscribe in the blue box above to get all the weekly updates as the summer rolls on.

What are your frugal summer plans? Do you have any special tips or tricks to keep summer expenses down while still having fun with your children?

Head on over to The Smart FI FaceBook Group to share your ideas. I have a discussion in the group now where others are sharing their family ideas for frugal summertime fun.

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