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Note to self on pension value

July 18th, 2016 at 04:54 pm

I only get updated on NT's pensions once a year, and the last year they stagnated in value. But this year one of them is up about a grand, to 5523 pounds. I'm noting that here so when I do net worth at the end of the month, I'll have that number.

Vacation wrapup: England and Spain

July 10th, 2016 at 08:28 pm

I can't believe it's getting late already! I basically spent all day lazing around. Well, a lot of it budgeting and other organizational stuff on the computer, but it felt like a lazy day.

We got in yesterday evening from our trip. The flight home and getting through customs is always terrible, but it wasn't any worse than usual.

The trip itself was fabulous. Probably the best we've ever taken as a family. Lots of traveling, but worth it for all the experiences. We flew into Heathrow and had to drive about 4 hours to Exeter to spend a week with NT's family. We had a little outing or two every day, visiting different towns.

Here's a rocky beach at Dawlish Warren:

Babbacombe Model Village (a vast miniature world, this is just one small part):

The pier at Paignton, which had arcade games and other fun stuff:

Exeter itself was lovely:

We also visited a sandy beach, an otter sanctuary and butterfly farm and an archaeological museum. We mostly cooked at home (NT's parents had rented us a lovely 4-bedroom house) and brought picnic things out, but we did eat at a couple places.

After about a week, we left the kids with NT's dad and stepmom and drove about 3 hours to Oxford to our friends' house. That night they had people over so we could see some of the people we know there.

The next morning we left for Barcelona (me, NT, AS, our two best friends and the girlfriend of one of them); we took a bus to Gatwick airport, then a plane to Barcelona, then bought a 4-day pass for the trains and subways and found our way to our AirBNB, a nice 3-bedroom condo.

It was incredible there. For one thing, it was sunny and in the 80s (England had mostly been in the 60s and drizzly). For another, the place was just so beautiful. Everywhere had ornate iron railings:

There were tons of little alleyway-type streets that no car could go down, and tapas bars about every 5 feet, it felt like! The tapas was amazing. There were also a number of vegan restaurants; although none of them blew me away, it was nice to have so many options.

There were living statues in some areas that just blew me away:

We were close to the beach as well:

We got out to Parc Guell, a weird and wonderful park featuring architectural touches by Gaudi:

It was high on a hill so we got great views of the city from there.

And basically we spent hours sitting at various outdoor cafes having chilled wine and snacks. Smile Everything was so amazing. The only drawback of the city really was that it could really stink of sewage in places. But you'd keep walking and the smell would go away in a minute.

Meanwhile back in Exeter, things could not have gone better with the grandparents. We Skyped once but it seemed to simultaneously bore and upset the kids, so we just relied on Facebook photos from family members. It was easy not to worry when we saw shots of the kids having fun all over the Devonshire area:

Our Barcelona jaunt went by in a flash; it was only four days, three nights. We flew back to England and took the bus back to Oxford to spend two more nights with our friends. The one full day we had there, we spent in the city itself (our friends lived on the edge in a more suburban area). One friend showed us where he works, the impressive Oxford University exam schools, full of rooms like this:

Then we walked around Oxford, basically just soaking in the atmosphere. It's such a beautiful city:

That night we ate at a nice Italian restaurant and went drinking at a scruffy but charming pub, one of NT's old haunts.

The next two days were no fun, but we were prepared: We left Oxford around noon and drove 5 hours (traffic was awful) to Exeter, met up with the kids and grandparents for a dinner out (luckily there was a play area because the food took forever and was only so-so), spent the night at NT's mum's house (the kids still had to stay at his dad's because of space issues and that made one of them weepy), got up super early, drove to the car rental place with two emotional kids, dropped the car, lugged our stuff on a shuttle to the airport, waited out a delay, flew to Iceland, got straight on the next plane which was already boarding, flew another 7 hours or so, went through the awful customs line, got a taxi home, and put the by-now hysterical kids straight to bed. That was around 8pm last night, which would have been 2am in England, so they were a wreck (even though they were really good on the plane).

But today was a good recovery day. I almost feel ready to face work tomorrow. Almost. Wink

Paying off 0% credit cards!

July 10th, 2016 at 01:17 pm

One of the ways I was able to pay our tax bill in full was by putting other purchases on some 0% credit cards we had. I probably could have paid them off a month ago, but I wanted to be able to officially say the money had come in to cover the tax (and dental) bills.

Now that the on-paper deficit is wiped out, I feel comfortable paying them off. So I set up the payments today. I have 0% interest rates until early 2017, but I feel more comfortable not carrying debt if I don't have to.

I never counted them in my debt totals because I felt confident I'd pay them off quickly, so this doesn't change the total household debt. But it does feel good!

The total balance we were carrying across four cards was $6,133.07. There are also some new purchases on one of the cards, but I'll pay that in full when the next bill comes, as I typically do with credit card balances.

Another bonus to being done with the tax bill is that we can start maximizing our rewards by using the Target card for Target purchases (5% off each purchase), the Amazon card on Amazon (5% rewards you can redeem toward future purchases), and the Amex for groceries (6% cashback). The cards we were using only had 1%-2% rewards.

Update on tax/dental bill goal: DONE!, travel spending, and what's next

July 10th, 2016 at 10:35 am

As you may recall, our goal got a big boost when our neighbors gave us $4K toward buying their share of the house, and I decided to just count it toward the debt. Any other time I probably would have put it toward our mortgage or into an EF, but we're just so sick of having to make up our tax bill and dental expenses. So that cut it down quite a bit before we left.

While we were gone, AS got two more freelance payments: $1226 and $758 net. We had to take some travel expenses out, but NT's raise hit with a $50 boost to his paycheck, so even with the travel expenses, our current deficit was reduced from about $1800 to just about $100.

Then I checked the Chase Sapphire rewards card. The bonus had hit and we could either get $601 cash or $775 travel rewards. Again, any other time I'd have saved it to use on travel expenses for our next trip. But seeing the end of the tax bill in sight, I couldn't resist: I cashed it out for $601.

So the upshot is, we've fully funded the tax bill and current dental bills and have a current surplus of $507! Our future projected surplus including all the money AS is anticipating from booked work: $7950!

Now, we still have a few dental bills expected later this year, and with how crazy this year has been, I'm not counting on that money at all. I'm just going to leave it there and we'll use it if we need it. But I declare the tax/dental challenge officially completed.

So what's next? Well, honestly, after about four months of this, there are so many deferred wants that it's hard to choose just one. But generally, we're going to continue to examine our purchases and try to be sensible for the rest of the year, so we don't get caught out by something like the tax/dental double whammy again.

I stopped tracking our spending on vacation once it became clear we weren't going to go over our limit, so I'm not sure exactly how much we spent from our UK account. Somewhere in the ballpark of 2,000 pounds or $3,000, about $200 per day. This included about $300 for car rental insurance, some bus journeys, souvenirs, groceries, eating out, petrol (gas), etc. We also spent some on our US credit cards, but that's already been taken from the budget surplus mentioned above. So I don't feel the need to do a detailed spending tracker, but I'd estimate it was:
UK flights & travel insurance: $5500
(UK lodging paid for by NT's parents)
Rental car & insurance: $900
Barcelona flight and lodging: $1300
Other spending: $2500-$3000

So, roughly $10K or $11K all told. Wow! But it really was an incredible and unforgettable trip, so no buyer's remorse there.

I can't tell if we're still waiting for some pending charges to hit NT's UK account, but I think they're all accounted for. If so, we have about 437 left over ($655). If so, we're saving that as the first drip toward building an emergency fund again. Yay for EFs!

Speaking of, I've decided for now that the EF goal will be $10,000. My reasoning is that we do tend to have a big surplus each month so could conceivably lose one income and still survive. (Technically we could probably survive if we lost one full income and half of another.) So we don't need a massive EF at this point. But I want to have at least enough to pay off our downstairs neighbors if the house deal were to fall through for any reason, plus a little extra. We "owe" them $9K, so I figure $10K is a reasonable figure.

I don't know that we'll go full tilt at this goal or just add to it incrementally. But for now I'll count the $655 in the UK account and go from there.

I'll try to post a more fun travel wrap-up with a few pictures later!

July 2016 debt payments

July 10th, 2016 at 10:00 am

I'm back! Probably going to do several entries today to get all caught up. But first, our July debt payments. All mortgage payments hit, and at our old exchange rate for the UK mortgages, we paid:
US: $675 to principal
UK1: $226
UK2: $48
UK3: $50

So $999 total.

I could calculate it at the old rate, but I just didn't bother. I'll do it next month. We were so close to having $1K per month be the minimum, but now with the lower exchange rate, that won't happen for a while.

However, I'm now switching our debts to the $1.50 exchange rate, plus adding the $4K our neighbors gave us (they said it was toward buying their share of the house, but until we all sign a proper contract, I'm considering it a debt to them). So our new debt totals are:
US Mortgage (duplex) $403,626
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1: $43,976
UK Mortgage 2: $9,270
UK Mortgage 3: $9,762
TOTAL DEBT $475,634

June 2016 net worth update

June 24th, 2016 at 10:43 am

Doing this early since I won't get to it while we're on vacation in England ...

NT's UK pensions:
#1: 17,105 pounds ($25,658)
#2: 20,501 pounds ($30,752)
#3: 4,452 pounds ($6,678)
NT's 401(k): $43,051
NT's Roth IRA: $10,168
AS's trad. IRA: $15,289
AS's Roth IRA: $26,367
AS's SEP IRA: $9,485
CJ's 401(k): $89,389
CJ's Roth IRA: $13,246
NT's flat: 180,000 pounds ($270,000)
CJ/NT/AS house: $470,000 (value -6%)
Total Assets: $1,010,083

Total Debt: $480,832

Current Estimated Net Worth: $529,251

May 2016 estimate: $519,476

Change in net worth: +$9,775

Summary: Boy, what didn't happen this month?!? I revised our U.S. home value up, but also added $4K of debt to our friends (see previous post for explanation). I changed the British pound exchange rate from $1.60 to $1.50 in light of the EU nonsense. (Current rate is $1.37 but I do believe it'll stabilize from there, so I went with the general average of the past few years.) So NT's retirement and home values decreased. However, all our U.S. retirement accounts were up this morning (no doubt the Brexit panic will be reflected in tomorrow's balance, so I snuck in just in time!)

Lots of ups and downs, but overall gain of nearly $10K. And our assets are up over a million for the first time since we sold the condo!

Notes on the numbers above: House value estimates are approximate. I don't have a way to check NT's UK pensions or flat value, so their values stay static for the purpose of this update (unless I happen to get some info by chance). UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $1.50 for every British pound.

Update on tax/dental bill: surprise house payment!

June 24th, 2016 at 10:22 am

So this is rather strange... My neighbor downstairs, the lawyer who was going to draw up a contract for me to review for part ownership of the house, had gone silent on this. I hadn't heard anything about it for maybe a year. I kept thinking about asking him about it, but I've been personally concerned that he needs to clear up a big tax issue (basically, he hasn't paid taxes for years--five or so? and he's self employed, so it's not like taxes are getting withheld from his paychecks). I really want to know that's cleared up before I enter into a big financial agreement anyway, so I haven't asked about the part-ownership thing.

He still hasn't done the tax thing, though I've started gently asking about it now and then so it doesn't get swept under the rug. He'd recently gotten a huge freelance payment, and his husband now has a second part-time job that pays as well as his full-time one, so he keeps saying it's a good time to clear up the tax thing, but he was kind of wrapped up in building a web business.

Well, last night he brings us $4,000 cash, and says he's quitting the online business idea because his supposed partners keep flaking on him. Now he has all this money he was going to invest in it, and wants to give another installment on their down payment for the house.

I think it was partly wanting to move forward on something, and partly because he's no doubt heard me grumbling about money this year. But it took me aback. First, I told him we should get the contract part figured out before he gives me any more money. He says he'll get that done really soon now that he's not working on the business, so he feels comfortable paying some more on the house. Then I say maybe he should keep the cash until he makes sure he doesn't need it for sorting out his back taxes. He says he has plenty more money for that.

So, I took it. At first I thought, I should put it toward the mortgage, since this means either we're $4K more in debt to him or we have $4K less home value (once the agreement is signed). (I mean, that's not how the agreement is structured, but it's how I'm going to calculate things.)

Then I thought, no, I should use it to start an EF. We realize that things would be a lot less bothersome if we didn't have to cashflow all unexpected stuff out of our budget surplus and AS's freelance inaltcome, so that is something we've been talking about doing once our tax/dental budget deficit is cleared up.

But then, AS and I agreed that we just really want this budget deficit gone. So even though I'm counting this as debt, I'm just adding it to the budget to take the deficit down. At least I'm increasing our home value in my net worth calculation, so it will be more than made up for (although I'm also going to downshift our pound-to-dollar exchange rate this month, so that's going to give our retirement values a pounding).

Well, long story short, I'd rather my neighbor had waited until he cleared up his taxes and finalized the purchase agreement, but it's not like we weren't planning him to pay for the house, so I'm just going to take it as a welcome windfall. And I do plan to pay it back should the house agreement fall through, as I plan to do with the original $5K they contributed to the down payment.

House down payment from neighbor: $4,000

Current deficit: $1,822.27
Projected future surplus: $7,661.99

Update on tax/dental bill: Uhhhh

June 19th, 2016 at 08:18 pm

Whew. Some planned hits, and several unexpected ones.

Unexpected: We reserved a car for the UK thinking it would just be a hold on the credit card and we could pay with the UK debit card. Nope, they charged us. We may bring cash home from the trip to pay it off, but for now counting it as an expense from our U.S. finances. $470.83.

Expected: Date night while the kids were at the daycare sleepover. We had a great dinner at a new vegan restaurant and drinks and snacks at another place we'd never been to before. It was a beautiful night. I had $55 stashed for the night but we spent $104.37 over that.

Unexpected: An escrow shortfall meaning our mortgage payment will go up $312.54 per month, starting Aug. 1! (Supposedly not permanently, just until the shortage is made up...) Since I've budgeted the shortfall/escrow through the end of the year, that means $1,562.70. Oof, that hurts. The only bright spot is that it's coming later, and in small increments, so I'm only taking it out of future surplus, not current deficit.

Expected: Father's Day festivities. NT wanted lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant, a day at the movies (Finding Dory: excellent by the way!) with snacks included, and we stopped by the grocery store for berries (were going to get ice cream but everyone was stuffed and sugared up). $160.98 -- almost exactly the same as date night, I just realized!

Anyway, the two expected expenses were totally worth it for the fun we had, and the two unexpected ones were unavoidable, so it is what it is.

UK car rental: $470.83
Date night: $104.37
Mortgage payment increase Aug-Dec: $1,562.70 (affects future surplus only)
Father's Day: $160.98

Actual deficit: $5,822.27
Projected future surplus: $3,661.99

Boo hiss.

Update on tax/dental bill goal: AS freelance jobs

June 15th, 2016 at 10:36 pm

AS booked two new gigs today: a $500 writing assignment from my job and a $1250 distance teaching gig (advising one student on their writing project) at one of the two colleges she works for.

Since she's only booked the work, not received the money, this only increases the future surplus, doesn't affect the current deficit.

AS freelance writing job net: $325
AS freelance teaching job net: $812.50

Actual deficit: $5,086.09
Projected future surplus: $5,960.87

We have an upcoming date night Friday (the kids are sleeping over at daycare) and Father's Day Sunday, so we'll probably pull from shared spending from both of those, increasing the deficit and reducing the surplus. But AS is also due about $1100 in checks, so hopefully those will come in yet this week.

Zillow value

June 14th, 2016 at 09:51 pm

I never know how seriously to take Zillow, so I rarely check it. But it seems like every house in our area gets snapped up within a week or two (or less) of the "for sale" sign going up. So I decided to check our property's estimated value.

When we bought in late 2014, Zillow valued it at $369K and we got it for $465K (only a bit less than it was listed at). Does that get used as a baseline measurement for Zillow then? Because it seems like it's been a constant climb from that price point (with just a few dips) and the property is now valued at $530K.

Overall the value has stayed above $500K except for three small dips since Sept. 2014. I don't know whether that's a safe value or not. Anyway, it doesn't really matter, but I'm curious.

Update on tax/dental bill: AS freelance check

June 14th, 2016 at 10:58 am

My company is behind schedule on paying AS for a couple of jobs (frustrating!), but one of the checks ($500) finally arrived yesterday.

Since this was an expected payment it affects only the actual deficit, not the projected surplus.

AS payment net: $325

Actual deficit: $5,086.09
Future projected surplus: $4,823.37

Tax/dental goal update: Medical bill

June 10th, 2016 at 10:46 pm

Ever since the NYC trip, I've been managing to handle unplanned expenses with budget maneuvering. Flex spending, line items in the budget we ended up not needing the money for, random bits of credit card rewards, etc. But AS got a medical bill I can't swing any way except to add to our current deficit. Ah well, it was a good run!

Medical bill: $218.89

Actual deficit: $5,411.09
Future projected surplus: $4,823.37

It's frustrating hovering in the $5Ks after making such steady progress from the $10K mark. But looking at the future surplus, we're still doing OK. We'll get there.

NT got a raise! Upped 401(k)

June 9th, 2016 at 09:50 am

NT let us know yesterday he'd gotten a 5% raise! A conservative estimate is $60 more per paycheck, but we'll see once it kicks in; supposedly it's effective June 1 but will appear in the June 31 paycheck, which I find a bit confusing. But not complaining! Big Grin Counting AS's teaching raise and my recent one, we've all gotten them this year!

I went ahead and upped NT's 401(k) contribution by 1%. With all the crazy expenses this year I was going to wait to do that, but since it'll come out of raise money and we'll still have a net gain, I figured I could at least do a little. He's now contributing 5%, with a 2% company match, so at 7%. Eventually we'll get that up to 10% and someday 12% or 15%, but this is a good baby step.

We are now at 7% for him, 9.5% for me and 10% for AS, plus we hope to max out all three Roths for the first time this year.

AS's retirement funds surpassed $50K!

June 7th, 2016 at 02:59 pm

I put in her Q2 SEP IRA contribution and it put her over the mark. Big Grin I'm very pleased that we've built her retirement funds up from virtually nothing over the past several years. And she is 5 years younger than me (6 younger than NT), so I think it's a pretty good milestone for her age.

Update on tax bill: NYC spending; AS freelance check & job

June 6th, 2016 at 12:37 pm

So the NYC spending comes out of shared spending, which means it increases our current deficit and lowers the future surplus. A big hit to both, but we got some good news today too: AS received a big check we were expecting ($2500) and found out her teaching gig gave her a tiny raise of $180 for this coming semester.

NYC spending: $913.50 (affects both actual and future #s)
AS freelance check net: $1625 (affects only actual deficit)
AS teaching raise net: $117 (affects only future surplus)

Actual deficit: $5,192.20
Future surplus: $5,042.26

Some upcoming challenges to our tax bill goal: We want to take the kids out tomorrow for dinner and bowling to celebrate AA completing kindergarten, and the adults will want a date night next Friday, since the kids are going to be at a daycare sleepover. I'm going to see what I can do to scrounge up CC rewards and other money so we take as little as possible from the above future surplus. I think there are some little adjustments to the budget I've been meaning to make that we could use to help pay for these two nights out.

Trip to New York, including spending

June 6th, 2016 at 08:42 am

Ah, we had a wonderful time in New York! I got to catch up with many of my best college friends and attend some thought-provoking events such as seminars and lectures.

About the only negative was I drank too much the final night of the reunion. I thought I was OK until I woke up the next morning and had to throw up. I haven't done that in years! I gradually felt better, but I didn't sleep well any of the nights I was there. Too much drinking every day was part of it, plus being in a strange bed, plus probably my mom senses being a little fraught from not having the kids around. This was the longest we've ever been away from them--from Thursday morning (we left before they woke up) to this morning (we got in at 2 am after our flight was delayed a few hours, so we didn't see them until around 7am when we woke up to get them to school and daycare).

We got to spend some time in Manhattan Thursday and Brooklyn Sunday, on either end of the reunion (which was in Bronxville). Even though the expenses added up more than I would have liked, we had a great time. And some of the places we ate and drank were actually really reasonable, on a par with or slightly cheaper than comparable offerings in Minneapolis!

One thing AS realized was she was feeling a little shy of talking in the seminars and feeling a little stymied vs. inspired by everyone talking about all the stuff they do. Over the course of the weekend, we realized that working at home all the time may be having a negative effect on her. So once we pay off the tax and dental bills, we're going to look at co-working options so she can get out of the house and be around others when she works.

So on to spending. It wasn't a crazy amount, if a bit more than I would have liked. We had prepaid a number of things, so those won't come out of the current deficit on the tax bill goal:
Reunion registration $495 (included lunch & dinner Fri. & Sat. plus several cocktail receptions and other events)
Donation to college: $500
Hotel 3 nights: $611.04
Airfare (after CC rewards used): $20.80

So $1626.84 for those in-advance purchases. Then the actual spending on the trip:

Money to one of our friends to help pay for childcare expenses (food, activities, transportation): $100.00
Took our downstairs neighbors out to dinner as a pre-thanks for watching the kids the other 2 days: $67.00
Took out cash for the trip (ended up spending it on subway, used books from an outdoor stand, lunch at a place that didn't take cards, and various other small purchases): $120.00
Lyft from home to airport: $22.07
Checked luggage: $25.00
AS in-flight snack: $5.00
Airtrain from airport +subway fare: $8.00 x3=$24
Luggage storage Thursday while we explored NYC: $10.00
Thursday lunch: $35.60
NT purchases at a record shop: $51.18
Drinks Thursday afternoon: $45.00
Thursday dinner: $140.00
Train from NYC to Bronxville: $46.50 (I bought 3 round trips but we all misplaced our tickets and had to buy new ones Sunday, so wasted $23.25!)
Taxi from train station to hotel: $14.14
AS snack at hotel Friday: $7.08
Hangover snack for me Sunday (fries and soda): $6.51
Train from Bronxville to NYC: $23.25
Subway fare from NYC to Brooklyn: $3.00 x3 = $9
Coffee: $6.36
Airtrain fare back to airport: $6.00 x3 = $18
Checked luggage: $25.00
Drinks at airport: $38.40
AS snack at airport: $10.88
Souvenirs for kids (my impulse purchase): $17.40
Airport snack for NT: $3.58
Taxi home: $42.55

So total additional spending for the 4 days: $913.50

All told, $2,540.34. That comes to a little over $200 per person per day. I suppose that's not too bad for a trip to New York!

Debt payments for June 2016

June 6th, 2016 at 07:51 am

Just recording our mortgage payments, a bit later than usual because we just got back from our NYC trip. More on that soon, including a detailed breakdown of spending!

All our mortgage payments hit:
US: $673 to principal
UK1: $224
UK2: $46
UK3: $50

That's $993 to principal this month.

Retirement goal progress

May 31st, 2016 at 09:55 pm

Goal: $485,480 by 2019
(As a reminder, this is to get me to 3x my current salary which is now $66,625, so $199,875; NT to 3x his, which is now $57,083, so $171,249; and AS to 2x hers, which last year totaled $57,178, so $114,356)

Current balance: $269,301

April 2016 balance: $265,900

Progress: $3,401

To reach the goal by our birthdays in 2019, that's 33 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $6551 per month to reach it. I'll keep trying!

May 2016 net worth update

May 31st, 2016 at 09:51 pm

NT's UK pensions:
#1: 17,105 pounds ($27,368)
#2: 20,501 pounds ($32,801)
#3: 4,452 pounds ($7,123)
NT's 401(k): $42,311
NT's Roth IRA: $9,932
AS's trad. IRA: $15,051
AS's Roth IRA: $25,950
AS's SEP IRA: $8,315
CJ's 401(k): $87,425
CJ's Roth IRA: $13,025
NT's flat: 180,000 pounds ($288,000)
CJ/NT/AS house: $440,000
Total Assets: $997,301

Total Debt: $477,825

Current Estimated Net Worth: $519,476

April 2016 estimate: $515,079

Change in net worth: +$4,397

Summary: Pretty much a repeat of last month: The market had a (very) modest gain, so our net worth went up. I also put a bit toward AS's SEP IRA. I can't wait until we start contributing to our Roths again, so we can hopefully top a million in assets yet this year!

Notes on the numbers above: House value estimates are approximate. I don't have a way to check NT's UK pensions or flat value, so their values stay static for the purpose of this update (unless I happen to get some info by chance). UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $1.60 for every British pound.

Update on tax/dental bill: AS freelance check

May 31st, 2016 at 07:46 pm

AS received a $1975 payment we didn't think she'd get until early June! So we squeaked one more May payment in. She did have to pay a $57.58 fee to get the payment through Paypal. So our future surplus is lowered a bit, but our current deficit is better. But then we got another dental bill, so that lowers future surplus and cuts into the deficit reduction.

AS freelance check net after tax/retirement: $1,283.75
Paypal fee: $57.58
AS dental bill: $650

Actual deficit: $5,903.70
Future surplus: $5,838.76

I'm hoping after the NY trip we can stop spending and knock out some more of the deficit! Most of the UK trip spending money is already saved up so hopefully that won't make too much of a dent. We have a couple of hopefully minor home repairs. Other than that I want to take it easy on spending until we're closer to funding this tax and dental stuff.

Beginning of a jam-packed month

May 31st, 2016 at 11:52 am

I cannot believe tomorrow is June 1. This year has seemed to fly by faster than any year before. It's just crazy.

The first of our summer trips is coming up: AS, NT and I fly to New York for my 20-year college reunion. We leave early Thursday morning, REALLY early. Since I had Monday off, that means a two-day work week.

The kids are staying here. Thursday and Friday, our downstairs neighbors will be taking care of them. Then Saturday (maybe beginning Friday night), another good friend will be staying over at our place and taking care of the kids until we get back Sunday night. Neither of them is charging us anything to do this, but we'll be sure to leave some cash just to cover the extra expense of feeding, transporting and entertaining the kids!

Our downstairs neighbors are out of town at one of THEIR 20-year college reunions. They come back tonight sometime. That gives them a break of one full day before they take over parenting two kids for a couple of days! We need to touch base with them to work out the logistics of where the kids will sleep Wednesday night and the other nights they'll be watching them.

We also need to finalize our plans for Thursday and Sunday, when we'll have some time outside of the reunion to explore NYC. I know we're thinking we'll do Manhattan on the Thursday (possibly meeting up with a friend) and Brooklyn on Sunday (meeting up with two or more friends). We know for food, we want to do soul food, dim sum and pizza, so we just need to figure out which ones we'll do Thursday vs. Sunday. NT also wants to browse a record store. I did at some point have a vague plan mapped out, but I didn't bookmark anything, so we'll need to figure it out again tonight and tomorrow.

I know it'll be easier to figure things out on the fly without having the kids with us, but I still feel like I need some idea of what we're doing. We're going to do public transportation vs. renting a car, so we need to figure out how to get from the airport to the city to my college on Thursday, then to Brooklyn and back to the airport on Sunday. The hotel we chose while at the reunion is about a mile away from the college, so that's an easy walk. While at the reunion, our schedule and meals are all taken care of, so we don't have to worry about that.

Once we get back from New York, AA will only have two days of kindergarten left! And I have only two full weeks of work then a four-day week before our trip to England and (for the grownups) Spain.

There's also a daycare sleepover mid-month. What a crazy month! So far, July (once we get back the 9th) and August look very uneventful. I think that'll be a relief!

For LivingAlmostLarge

May 31st, 2016 at 05:44 am

My company does a lot of stuff related to the building and construction industry so we get sent a lot of news about it. Thought LAL would want to see this one, though I don't know how useful a national study is: http://qz.com/694181/the-us-housing-market-is-starting-to-boom/

Retirement accounts over $100K!

May 26th, 2016 at 07:22 pm

My personal ones, that is.

I typically only check retirement accounts once a month, but lately I've been thinking about retirement savings more, and so sometimes I absentmindedly go check the balance of my main 401(k) to get an idea where the market is. Well I just did that right now and noticed it was up over $87K for the first time: $87,033.08, to be exact. I knew my Roth was close to $13K, so I went and checked that: $13,003.21. That puts my retirement funds value at $100,036.29!

I know it's just a drop in the bucket compared with what I need, but it sounds like such a massive number to me!

NT has been over $100K for about 2 years now, thanks to his early investing in pensions in the UK. AS, who had barely any retirement savings to speak of until a few years ago, is getting very close to $50K: She's at $49,151.47. Unless hers take a major dive, she should hit that milestone in early July, when we'll put $2750 in her Roth.

Update on tax bill: Dental bill & business expense

May 26th, 2016 at 08:57 am

These were both expected expenses. The dental bill is just for the first part of AS's tooth implant procedure. It's a bit different amount from any of the estimates we got, so I'm not sure what the final total will end up being. But the next appointment is in September, so maybe we'll be done with the tax bill goal before new charges come in!

That does mean we'll need to spend up her Chase Sapphire with other stuff to get the bonus, because September will be too late. The NYC trip plus groceries and other regular expenses will hopefully get us to $4K. Who knows, maybe we'll open ANOTHER bonus card for September's charges!

AS also ordered business cards (finally!) for her freelance business.

Both of these expenses increase the actual deficit and reduce the future surplus.

AS dental bill: $1,450.57
AS business cards: $53.88

Actual deficit: $6,479.87
Future surplus: $6,546.34

The NYC trip (first weekend in June) will further increase the current deficit and reduce the future surplus. AS is expecting some freelance payments in early June that will reduce the actual deficit but have no effect on the future surplus.

The projected surplus is based on booked work to date; after our UK trip (last week in June/first week in July) she can continue to book work for the remaining six months of the year, so we hope there will be more money in play then.

Since we have such a large deficit to clear up first, we haven't formed any specific ideas about the projected surplus or any other money that comes in the second half of the year. Obviously a big chunk will go to AS's dental procedures. We may owe more on the basement bathroom than we have set aside; we still haven't spoken to our contractor since work was completed last month. We haven't put any more money into improving the house, so I imagine there may be some things this fall/winter. I wouldn't mind a warm-weather vacation in December or January, so maybe some of it would go to that. We've also talked about rebuilding an emergency fund. I also feel like the kids' mutual funds need some replenishing. And we'd all like to get back to charitable giving.

But I'm not going to make any specific plans because there could always be more unexpected expenses this year; we've already had so many big hits that nothing would surprise me!


May 22nd, 2016 at 04:34 pm

For LuckyRobin and anyone else who's curious, this is the fake meat I make, how I slice it into strips for "pulled pork," and how it looks cooking in BBQ sauce (also homemade).

Added to AS's SEP IRA, super cheap meal plan, etc.

May 21st, 2016 at 02:28 pm

I finally added AS's first-quarter contribution to her SEP IRA. I'd been holding back because of the tax bill and upcoming dental bill, but even though we still have a shortage on paper, the income that's going to cover it is a sure thing, and thanks to the 0% credit cards, we can easily float some of our expenses until those freelance checks come in. So I finally fought back my worries and contributed. It's just $568.67 anyway; AS had a light first quarter in terms of actual checks received, even though she's been booking work at a very steady pace.

First quarter of 2015, she pulled in $19K, vs. less than $6K this first quarter. It was because of work she did in late 2014 that she didn't get paid for until January 2015. So considering that, we're not sure she'll make as much this year even though she's working at about the same pace as last year. She might, though; she just hit on what may be a lucrative steady stream of work from a former co-worker of mine.

Still, I'm happy to be adding to our retirement. Since I've put off maxing our Roth IRAs until later in the year, it hasn't been a very exciting year for retirement fund growth (especially since the market has been so stagnant). Starting July 1, it'll get better as we start working to max our our Roths before the end of the year.

We've had a lot of expenses, including grocery expenses for a couple of recent parties, so this week we wanted to plan as cheap a meal as possible. Our groceries came in under $100! That's really good for us.

Here's our meal plan:
Saturday lunch: leftovers from last night's party
Saturday dinner: spaghetti & tomato sauce (total cost about $3)
Sunday lunch: spinach salad with strawberries, tofu & pumpkin seeds (already had pumpkin seeds; cost for other ingredients about $5)
Sunday dinner: mock pulled pork sandwiches, broccoli & potato salad (only needed a Vidalia onion and some garlic for the sandwiches since we have buns in the freezer and I made some extra fake meat last week; total cost of new ingredients about $5)
Monday: cereal & toast (things we had on hand; bought some more bread at $2.50 a loaf in case we need more bread for breakfasts etc.)
Tuesday: parsley breadcrumb pasta (already had heels of bread + parsley; spaghetti was $1)
Wednesday: General Tso tofu, peapods & rice (cost of new ingredients about $3)
Thursday: pizza (bought flour for the crust, vegan cheese, plus bell pepper and mushrooms; $9 total)
Friday: French toast, fake bacon & hashbrown patties (only needed the veggie bacon; about $4)

So weekend meal and dinner ingredients only came to about $31; the rest was spent on things like milk, kindergarten snacks, toilet paper, lunch items for the adults, fruit and cat food. Which all came to about twice the actual cost of our meals! Amazing how it all adds up.

We budget $200 per week, but we'd gone over the previous week, bought wine for last night's party, and bought supplies for a lemonade stand for the kids, so we about broke even this week. That's all I wanted, so I'm happy.

I started using an allowance tracking tool for the kids called threejars.com that I think I'm going to love, but I'll write about it another day when I've had more experience with it!

This weekend and next week look pretty cheap, so hopefully we'll stick to that. (Except AS's dental bill if it comes in, of course.) I'm trying to be very conscious of spending until June, when we have a bunch of travel that will rack up expenses.

Update on tax bill: Much randomness (edited)

May 19th, 2016 at 10:02 am

EDITED to add even more random bits of money in ....

We had a lunch out with my sister that I put on the card, but we also received various cash reimbursements from her, a friend and NT's group. AS got a payment but it was less credit card charges. I made a grocery budget error in our favor. Overall, the net result is positive to the actual deficit but reduced the future surplus a bit.

Also, our cellphone bill was a bit under what I budgeted, and we found out AS's mom will need $75 less than we budgeted for.

Error in our favor $10.87
Restaurant $66.97
Pay in from various sources $40.00
Payment net $610.13
A's mom doesn't need $75.00
Cell phone budget surplus $18.90

Actual deficit: $4,975.42
Future surplus: $8,050.79

Nice to see our deficit go under $5K and our surplus back over $8K, even if it's only a temporary bump before the first of the dental bills arrives!

Update on tax bill: Lotta hits

May 16th, 2016 at 09:29 am

As I detailed in last night's entry, we had lots of small blows to our progress on the tax bill. One thing I forgot to mention was some replacement parts for NT's bike. The one bright spot is that NT was able to use the bus pass allotment from his work to top up AS's and AA's bus passes, so I added $85 toward the tax bill goal that would have been used for bus passes.

All of these impact both current deficit and future surplus.

Groceries over budget $72.22
Bday gifts for 3 kids $51.67
City fine for basement bathroom $250.00
N medical bill $40.00
Bus pass budget surplus $85.00
N bike repair $10.67

Actual deficit: $5,663.35
Projected deficit w/ future money in: On paper we still have a projected surplus of $8,007.88

Market malaise

May 16th, 2016 at 08:41 am

I was checking my retirement balance (it's a bit less than it was at the end of April) and saw the performance summary for the first quarter of this year: up 1.26%.

Out of curiosity I ran a report for Jan 1 2015 through Dec 31 2015. Down 1.27%.

I don't know if that's a net gain or loss if you count all 15 months, but if it's a gain it's probably a depressingly small one.

Sometimes it's hard to believe that my investments will show a 6% return over time. Now that I'm paying more attention, I hope to someday see a good period that makes up for these crappy ones, but so far I haven't. My first foray into the market was when the tech bubble burst in 2000 or so and I had just put most of my 401(k) into a tech fund that had previously been making money hand over fist. I lost about 50% of my meager funds. Since then I've experienced the real estate bubble bursting, the Great Recession, and whatever you call this crappy period of time. So it's hard to have much faith.

Progress lost this week, but I'll total it later

May 15th, 2016 at 10:22 pm

It's been a bad weekend for our tax bill goal. Most of the lost progress was expected, but it still stings after we'd been on such a roll and cut the goal in half in about 2 months. Groceries went over budget because of some prescriptions plus a potluck, a dinner party and my sister being in town. We had to buy birthday gifts for 3 kids who had parties this weekend. We got notice that the appeal of our county fine for the basement bathroom was rejected, so we owe $250. NT got a straggler medical bill for his collarbone stuff. Looks like AS's mom will probably need the money after all (at least that's already been taken out of the progress, but I was kinda hoping to get it back). Could be I'm forgetting a couple more things; I'm kind of tired which is why I don't want to figure it all out now. We may get one more AS freelance check this month but probably no more than that, so positive progress may be slow to nil for the rest of this month. Adding the AS dental bill will take our progress back quite a ways. June has a lot more expected payments but also our NYC trip which is going to cut into their positive impact.

Ah well. I know we'll get through OK; I'm just impatient to be done with this goal and get on to using our money for other things!

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