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Some close scrapes! and dealing with the overspending

July 17th, 2018 at 01:31 pm

Don't you hate the moment of panic when something goes wrong or almost goes wrong, but then love the endorphins that flood the body when you get back what you thought you might have lost?

Last week I was working in my Number Crunch worksheet. It's a Google Sheets file, about 12 years old, and I use it to keep my real-time budget; checking account balance at the top, future income and outgo below for anywhere from one to 4 months. Along the side I show the projected checking account balance after each transaction. I update the checking account balance frequently (at least a couple times a week, sometimes more than once a day) and delete transactions that have happened.

But that's not all; I also keep my own record of AS's freelance income on additional tabs (one for each year). It helps me track tax and retirement and see what income has already come in and what we're still expecting. It has also come in handy because AS sometimes misses things on her much more complicated tracking spreadsheet, so every once in a while we compare bottom lines to make sure we've got the same amounts, and if not we get to the bottom of the issue.

But that's not all! I also have a tab where I note utility costs for each month, and note the highest bill for each month for gas, electric and water/sewer/trash, as well as the average monthly cost each year. This helps me plan my annual budget.

But that's not all either! I also have a separate tab where I track all credit card purchases for the month. Between us we use our CC a lot, so this helps ensure I don't miss any transactions. That tab also has info on all open and closed cards.

Although much of the info in the sheet is "real time" meaning I delete old transactions, I'm also able to use the version history function to look back at changes if I ever think I've messed things up. I use that fairly often as well.

So yeah, that spreadsheet is a beast of burden that does a lot of heavy lifting in my personal finances! Anyway, I was working in it last week and my fingers slipped and I opened a new browser window. When I clicked back to Number Crunch, it said it was trying to update. So I closed out of it and tried to go back in. I got an error message! I tried another browser, same thing! I opened several other Google Drive files, no problem there, just with Number Crunch!

My stomach dropped. I called AS. I left a message on help forums. I went to the file on my phone and lo and behold it was there! I couldn't save it or email it, but I was able to copy the data on each tab and paste into a new sheet. However, it pasted values only, none of the many formulas I use throughout. And of course all the version history was lost! Ugh. But I was so relieved I at least had the info, and I updated a couple of the most-used formulas.

I kept checking the help forum and it said there was an overall problem with Sheets. I didn't think this could be what happened since my other Sheets files were fine, but then lo and behold, they said the problem with Sheets was fixed, I tried to go into my old Number Crunch, and there it was in all its glory! I was sooooo happy. I actually felt euphoric.

I kept the one where I pasted numbers only, just so I now have some kind of backup. AS says I should probably save a backup outside of Google Drive too, to be safe. I should look into that.

Anyway, it made me appreciate the file all the more; in 12 years I'd never even considered the possibility that I would ever not be able to access it. I didn't realize how much of my peace of mind is wrapped up in knowing that document exists!

This was a much smaller moment, but today as I was about to step off the bus to take my 6-year-old to summer care, I suddenly felt lighter. I looked back and realized I'd left my purse on the seat! I grabbed it and stepped off the bus, thinking about my work phone, my wallet, my keys and my expensive glasses. Boy was I glad I hadn't left that purse! And it made me remember last week's close scrape with the spreadsheet and decide to write about both moments.

***

In other news, AS has the big freelance job! She'll invoice them for hours worked each Friday and get paid the following week. She's also got another multi-piece writing job that she'll be billing hourly for and invoicing as she delivers each round of. So a huge job and a pretty big job that aren't reflected in the spreadsheet because we're not sure how much they'll be in total, but I'll be adding them to the spreadsheet incrementally as she invoices.

It's a good time to be pulling in regular work because booking our UK airfare earlier than expected has stretched our available funds. I'm actually keeping an eye on whether I need to transfer money from savings temporarily to cover that credit card balance when I pay it off in mid-August. It'll be close, but thanks to Number Crunch I'll be able to forecast whether or not we have enough in the account.

We normally have a lot of cushion in checking just because I budget out so far, but with shared spending money a lot in the red, vacay fund a little in the red, and NT's personal money quite a bit in the red due mainly to buying inventory for his hat business, the float margin is looking very tight in August when we pay off the big credit card balance we racked up from UK airfare, our recent Va. trip, NT's inventory, summer program tuition for the kids, and other things. Close to $10K all told will need to be paid off!

Luckily even if we have to transfer from savings temporarily, I'm feeling good about much of the deficit being cleared up over the next few months. AS's two new jobs will help a lot, plus the other jobs she's already worked and expecting payment on, and hopefully NT will see some return on investment at a few key events coming up.

On the down side, we do have another family trip in early August, and they always end up costing more than I'd like. But we won't have to worry about those charges until mid-September, by which AS should have received quite a bit of money from her various projects.

This summer is even spendier than usual! We're having a blast, but one good thing about fall will be lower child costs with school back in session. Not just child care during the day but we tend to spend more on treats and fun activities during the summer.

The worst case scenario is that we would have to use some of our renovation savings to make up the deficit. We haven't heard back from our design consultant, and I'm inclined not to ping her, because that way we haven't committed those funds and have them in reserve if we can't dig ourselves out of the spending hole another way. Paying off the deficit right this second would take about a quarter of our reno savings. I won't do it unless I see no other way, and at this point, I do see a potential other way, so I'll wait and see how the next few months unfold.

News and notes

July 9th, 2018 at 12:28 pm

I'm having an annoyingly slow day at work where no one is giving me the info or go-ahead on several projects, so I'm more or less twiddling my thumbs. Probably if I start blogging, work will come in -- that's how it works sometimes! Smile Let's see how many random updates I can get through before that happens.

We got back from our first Va. trip on Thursday. It was a mini-family reunion and went very well, but we're happy to be home. Suburban Va. is just not our thing.

Every kind of spending money is in the hole now: each of our personal spending budgets, the shared spending, and we overspent our vacation savings on the Va. trip. Despite lame attempts at frugality it ended up costing us about $200 per day, not including the plane tickets. (We still have more than enough in our reno savings to cover the hole if necessary; I'd just rather not dip into it again.)

However, AS seems to be close to locking in that big freelance job! Rather than counting on a full $32K, we've decided to log it incrementally, since she'll be allowed to invoice and get paid weekly. That way if it ends early or anything else happens, we won't have budgeted with that big number in mind.

One of the reasons spending funds are so in the red is that June was a thin month for paychecks and we haven't received any yet in July. So once money starts rolling in we'll at least chip away at the big hole.

AS has started 2 weeks of jury duty and already got called for a case! It's very interesting to me but I know inconvenient, so I'm hoping for her sake that she gets released early.

NT is having great fun building connections with his hat business but is still a couple grand in the hole. It's one of those things that could take off or just end up being a hobby (hopefully a break-even one eventually). Only time will tell, but as long as he's enjoying it and it doesn't end up costing us tons of money, it's worth pursuing.

We enrolled the kids in a new swim school that's not easily accessible on the bus so we have to rent a carshare every Sunday. But they've already progressed leaps and bounds in just a couple of sessions, so the additional cost is kind of worth it!

AS has been pushing me to try to start a joint novel-writing project with a friend who lives in New York, so I'm finally reaching out and getting started on that. I'm excited that this may kickstart my writing outside of my usual November NaNoWriMo thing! I typically don't do any fiction writing the rest of the year, but I'd like to.

The kids are waitlisted for an in-school after-school program for next year, and if it doesn't go through, SL will go to daycare for another year and AA will just come home on the bus. She'll be in third grade and extremely conscientious about safety and rules, so if she's alone for an hour or two it'll be no big deal. Either way -- both in after-school at the elementary, or one doing after-school at our daycare -- our childcare costs should go down significantly during the school year, to $500-$650 per month! It's not been lower than $900 for several years.

My friend-making attempts with one woman may have failed -- I've decided to let her make the next move if she's interested, because I really can't tell -- and a couple others have stalled, but I have some alumni events coming up this summer that should be fun. And I'll be seeing my Canadian pal in person in August, so I'm really hoping we continue to hit it off.

The weather had been rather crappy most of the summer, but it's been wonderful since we got back from Va. However, I haven't been able to get myself back into the night walks I did frequently the past two summers. Hoping to kick-start that soon -- I've barely seen the lake that's only a half mile from our house! Plus my weight has plateaued about 7 lbs. higher than I want it.

Oh, I just thought of something regarding the shared spending deficit! We have an extra paycheck coming in October, so if we can manage to get the deficit to under $2K, I shall budget out through October so we can wipe the deficit out with that paycheck. (I have the annual budget worked out on a separate spreadsheet with one tab per month, and I usually paste into our regular spreadsheet one month ahead, so I've got August in there right now. But the way I have it structured there's nothing to stop me budgeting two or more months ahead.) That would be a weight off. But it would feel like a waste somehow to do the budget through October now and only cut the deficit in half vs. eliminate it, so I'm going to wait on that.

July 2018 debt payments

July 5th, 2018 at 02:37 pm

All our mortgage payments hit:
US: $724 to principal
UK1: $182
UK2: $39
UK3: $40
All told, $985 of debt was paid.

Current debt totals:
US Mortgage $386,825
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $32,306
UK Mortgage 2 $6,810
UK Mortgage 3 $7,171
---
TOTAL DEBT $442,112

June 2018 net worth update

July 5th, 2018 at 02:10 pm

Assets:
NT's UK pensions:
AV: 17,967 pounds ($22,459)
SW: 26,544 pounds ($33,180)
FL: 6,462 pounds ($8,078)
NT's 401(k): $64,859
NT's Roth IRA: $28,363
AS's trad. IRA: $19,113
AS's Roth IRA: $47,581
AS's SEP IRA: $25,285
CJ's 401(k): $129,506
CJ's Roth IRA: $32,353
NT's flat: $212,500 (200,000 pounds value x1.25 -15%)
CJ/NT/AS house: $427,281 ($454,554 value -6%)
---
TOTAL ASSETS: $1,050,558

US Mortgage $387,549
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $32,488
UK Mortgage 2 $6,849
UK Mortgage 3 $7,211
---
TOTAL DEBT $443,097

Current Estimated Net Worth: $607,461

April 2018 estimate: $607,337

Change in net worth: +$124

Summary: This paltry increase in net worth is due to paying off nearly $1K in debt. Most of our retirement accounts lost a small amount of value this month.

Notes on the numbers above: House value estimates are approximate. (I do have my eye on a comparable listing for the UK flat, but it's been on the market a long time.) UK pension values updated about once a year. UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $1.25 for every British pound.

Did AS just book a $32K freelance job?? and other news

June 27th, 2018 at 01:16 pm

Hello friends! I haven't been very bloggy this month, though I've kept up on all your posts.

It's been such a busy year! I'm having tons of fun but sometimes feel overextended. I continue to ponder work-socializing-rest balance and try to make sure I'm only doing things I really want to do. To that end, I might back out of an alumni board conference call next month. Two hours on a summer Saturday listening to a cacophony of people and not learning anything new doesn't seem like a good use of my time when it's at such a premium these days.

Anyway, not to bury the lede too far down, AS messaged me the other day that a Fortune 500 company she's been in contact with wanted to hire her for about 320 hours of writing work over the next four months. (Which would average out to about 20 hours per week.)

I was stunned because she bills $100 per hour for writing. I checked my calculator to make sure I wasn't hallucinating--nope, sounds like she just landed a $32K project!! (For comparison's sake, the biggest single job she's ever booked was $7500. And the most she's ever made in a year is $57K.) She has already earned or booked over $48K this year, so that could potentially take her to $80K or more for 2018! I'm the current high earner in our household at $75K!

Of course, if it's hourly there's a chance it won't end up being that much. And as she pays self-employment tax her taxes are higher than mine and NT. But still! Holy cow!

None of my other news really compares, but since I haven't checked in for a while, here goes:

- I've been shirking all my goals except guitar lessons. But I've been rocking those: I'm actually taking TWO lessons a week for 8 weeks this summer! Then I plan to go back to one per week. I love learning guitar more than I could have ever predicted.

- Speaking of goals, I may rejigger those. Or at least rethink how I structure goals next year. I might not need formal annual goals, since some of my biggest successes this year have been things I came up with along the way, such as broadening/deepening my friend base. AS said something interesting the other day about having intentions vs. hard goals. Sometimes a hard goal is helpful and important (like for paying down debt etc.) But I could also see intentions helping with things like forming good habits. So we'll see. I'm by no means close to being a perfect person, but I do feel that over the past decade I've morphed into a better, happier version of myself. I'm more confident, more productive/industrious, enjoying life more, more financially stable, more creative, and on balance a little healthier. And I'm certainly never bored or at a loss for things to do! So maybe I'm getting to a point where formal goals don't have as important a place in my life anymore. Still pondering.

- Among my adventures this summer, just this past weekend I just took two overnight bus journeys on consecutive nights in order to see my fave band (and meet up with a friend) in Chicago! The whole trip cost only a little over $200: $65 for the bus, $30 show tickets for me and my friend, and about $120 for food, drinks and other incidentals. I arrived back in Minneapolis Monday morning and walked 3 blocks from the bus stop to work, and managed to have a full and productive day despite having had hardly any sleep! Tuesday was rougher than Monday in terms of tiredness; I guess euphoria from the concert kept me going for a while.

- I have another trip coming up to see the same band in Des Moines in August, this time a 2-night road trip with another friend, and we'll be meeting up with my new Canadian friend there. So far I've only spent about $120 on that trip for 2 nights at an Airbnb (which my friend will chip in a bit for); my friend is driving so I only have to cover gas for transportation, and the show is outdoor and free! So other than that my expenses will be just some meals and maybe museum fees or shopping.

- But first, I have 2 trips to Va. coming up! We leave this Friday for a 6-day trip to hang out with family, and again in August we have a 7-day trip to see my niece get married (and we'll do other stuff TBD, of course). I realized the other day that I've only taken 2.5 days of PTO all year: one for a snow day in January, one for my bday in March, and one to hang out with my 8-year-old during her first week of summer break this month.

- In other travel news, we booked airfare for a UK family vacation! Shorter than our usual 14-day trips, this time we leave the day after Xmas (Boxing Day) and come back Jan. 6. I wasn't expecting to buy our tickets so soon, but I saw a nonstop flight deal for about $800 per person and snapped them up. Usually it's more like $900 and nonstop isn't always affordable. We also booked the car and travel insurance, and NT's mum and sister will work out accommodations, so we're pretty much set for that trip!

- We've done some preliminary planning for our kitchen reno, but our designer hasn't replied to the last email I sent her a few weeks ago. That's OK since we probably don't have enough money for the reno we want yet. But we'll keep saving up and maybe it'll happen later this year, or maybe we'll start it next year.

- Our reno savings are doing pretty well (around $23K) and our EF is steady at $10K, but our travel savings are virtually depleted as a result of booking the UK trip (and NT booked hotel and car for one of his solo trips). That's OK, we'll build it back up.

- Our shared spending is once again in the hole, about $3800 this time! As you may recall we took $5K out of reno savings to cover a shortfall earlier this year, yet here we are again. About $1630 of it is due to a letter from MN State Revenue letting us know AS isn't eligible for a property tax rebate our tax guy claimed for her. So we won't get $820 this year, and we'll likely have to pay back $816 from last year. So I already took that out of the budget. Another $500 or so was from medical bills and related expenses. And the other $600-700 was just general overspending: Father's Day, date nights, kid outings, guitar lessons, etc. AS is expecting some checks, of course, so that will patch up part of the hole. And if she's able to bill regularly for this $32K job, which starts in early July, we may be able to get back in black by August!

I think those are the major pieces of news. Work's great, social life's great, family is great, home life is great (even if I don't get much down time)! Very few complaints overall. Smile

June 2018 debt payments

June 2nd, 2018 at 05:20 pm

All our mortgage payments hit:

US: $721
UK1: $181
UK2: $37
UK3: $40

All told, $979 went to principal.

May 2018 retirement goal update

June 2nd, 2018 at 03:30 pm

Goal: $512,564 by March 2019

As a reminder, this is just an incremental goal along the way to 8x income by retirement. This mini-goal aims to get us to a milestone by the time I turn 45 and AS turns 40.

The milestone (which changes whenever our salaries change) is to get me to 3x my current salary, which is now $75,120, so $225,360; NT to 3x his, which is now $62,100, so $186,300; and AS to 2x hers, which in 2017 was $50,452, so $100,904).

Current balance: $411,632

January 2018 balance: $404,682

Progress: $6,950

Finally we have more retirement worth than we did in January! We didn't have any progress in February, March or April, so this isn't as good as it looks. To reach the interim goal by the end of our birthday month (March) in 2019, that's 10 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $100,932 -- $10,093 per month -- to reach it.

We rarely come close to that, so it's pretty unlikely. But I'll keep tracking anyway.

May 2018 net worth update

June 2nd, 2018 at 01:42 pm

Assets:
NT's UK pensions:
AV: 17,967 pounds ($22,459)
SW: 26,544 pounds ($33,180)
FL: 6,462 pounds ($8,078)
NT's 401(k): $64,604
NT's Roth IRA: $27,429
AS's trad. IRA: $19,383
AS's Roth IRA: $48,321
AS's SEP IRA: $25,687
CJ's 401(k): $129,635
CJ's Roth IRA: $32,856
NT's flat: $212,500 (200,000 pounds value x1.25 -15%)
CJ/NT/AS house: $427,281 ($454,554 value -6%)
---
TOTAL ASSETS: $1,051,413

US Mortgage $388,270
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $32,669
UK Mortgage 2 $6,886
UK Mortgage 3 $7,251
---
TOTAL DEBT $444,076

Current Estimated Net Worth: $607,337

April 2018 estimate: $596,325

Change in net worth: +$11,012

Summary: Finally some real recovery in our retirement accounts! We passed another net worth milestone, $600K, which means we have an average of $200K per person in net worth.

Notes on the numbers above: House value estimates are approximate. (I do have my eye on a comparable listing for the UK flat, but it's been on the market a long time.) UK pension values updated about once a year. UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $1.25 for every British pound.

Every post is a catchup

May 20th, 2018 at 02:54 pm

That's how it feels this year, anyway!

May is usually super busy at my job and this year is no exception. Last week I probably worked 9 hours of overtime. I was also sick most of the week but I made it through somehow. All my goals fell by the wayside, even my guitar practicing which has been my one steady thing. Even my morning strength exercises which are pretty much habit.

So, feeling flabby and unhealthy, but I got a ton done for my work, which is what needed to happen. And it doesn't go unnoticed or unappreciated when I put in extra effort there, so I don't feel like it's a waste.

Then yesterday we had a yard sale. We put out probably a thousand things (if you count all the kids' clothes) and sold about 60. Almost everything was a dollar, so we made $73 or so. $10 paid for joining the neighborhood sale, $13 went to our neighbors for some of their stuff that sold. Everyone worked so hard, even the kids, that I just divvied up the remaining $50 and gave each person $10 cash.

NT is putting $100 to his mom's Mother's Day gift of a weekend getaway, and that was going to come out of shared spending, but I asked if he could take it from UK money instead. Even if he puts in 100 pounds instead of $100, it felt like a gift, because we have plenty of money in that account that we're just saving up for now. So I felt OK about divvying up the yard sale proceeds.

We boxed up everything that didn't sell and took it to Goodwill that same day. It was a great feeling. Cleared up lots of space in the basement and in our bedroom as well.

After the sale, AS and I went to see my fave band at this neighborhood-wide art festival in Northeast Minneapolis. We got there a little late but met up with some friends and had a great time. One friend is a designer at a brewery, and we went over there afterward and got a tour of it! That was a really great bonding session with this newish friend.

I'd been getting 4-6 hours of sleep every night, so I was determined to get more today. I finally woke at 11:30am and NT was getting the kids ready for swim class! AS took them and I was able to take it easy. AS and I were going to go to a friend's bday event this afternoon. AS went but I decided to stay home and stay in PJs. Consider it my sick day I never took during the week.

My cold is getting better, and the 10 hours of sleep really seemed to help. I practiced guitar for the first time since Thursday and felt like taking a couple days off actually did me good.

Now I'm refereeing (and DJing some upbeat music on my phone) while the kids clean their rooms. I'm fine admitting that I've bribed them with a candy bar each if they finish! Big Grin

Next week is probably going to be crazy at work again, but hopefully I won't also be sick. Hoping I can get back on my goals, including planning for the kitchen reno!

At least our finances are on track. If you counted our EF, reno savings, and travel savings together, we've got almost $40K saved!

Catching up

May 3rd, 2018 at 08:20 pm

Ahh, let's see if I have time for a nice long chinwag so I can try to catch up on all the goings-on in ceejayland. Smile

Life is good, life is busy. We've all been very social and active in the community and busy at work. Not a lot of downtime, but nothing very negative happening, so we're happy.

- AS continues to get more work. She's actively turning down jobs more and more often now, and trying to focus on higher-paid and/or more interesting/satisfying stuff: marketing writing, children's book writing, teaching, speaking and judging, etc. Her co-working space is working out great and with all the complimentary food, toiletries and shower, it practically pays for itself! She had jury duty this past week but messed up and missed her call, so now she's got to do it again in July, unfortunately.

- NT's hat business is going better, though he still runs a deficit on paper, people are buying more and more. It takes him away at night a lot as he sells at shows most of the time. He's got some big shows coming up and hopes to eliminate his deficit by August. Either way he's having fun and enjoying becoming a recognizable figure in the local hip-hop community. He'll be traveling to Chicago for fun and (hopefully) profit, selling at a block party there in July.

- My work is going well; I'm on a high-profile job and doing pretty good. My mentor/boss's boss is (shh) retiring in August; only a couple people know so far. I expect they'll have someone else high-ranking helm some of my projects, but others might come solely under my control. I'll have to wait and see. I'm OK either way really, because I feel like my trajectory is steadily upward. Three people got let go today due to slow business in their accounts, but I feel my job is safe.

- AA and SL are doing great in school. SL is a little bored, academically -- that kid is brilliant! But maturity wise, she's in the right grade, so for the time being, I feel like we shouldn't do much. They do send her to specialists for reading and math sometimes, so I know they're doing what they can to address her advanced intellect. AA is in choir and doing great at that. Both kids do art and swim on the weekends and get invited to lots of other kids' parties -- which is annoying and expensive and time-consuming, but reassuring that they're developing socially.

We're participating in the neighborhood garage sale in a couple weeks; I don't expect we'll make much money, but if we donate what we don't sell, we'll at least have decluttered a ton!

I guess I should look at my goals:
Work on novel -- I don't think I've touched that in over a month. I also don't see a ton of time to do so. But if I found a part of the revision process that seemed clear and I was excited about it, I could probably find time. I just don't seem to have the mental energy to do that.

Learn guitar -- this is my big success story for the year so far! I've been doing guitar lessons for a little under three months and I can already play three simple songs and know 7 chords and a couple of strum patterns. I'm far from good at any of it, but I'm really pleased with my progress. I practice almost every day; I've only missed three or four days total. It's something I look forward to, so I only miss it if I'm out of town or out really late.

Limiting drinking -- I'm doing pretty well on this. My goal was to have 4 days per week where I have 0-1 glasses of wine. Last week was a total fail but other than that, unless I have social engagements during the week, I generally have 2 days of no drinking and 1 day of 1 glass of wine per week. So I'm at 3 days instead of 4, but believe me, it's WAY better than where I was in December or even January (when I did 1 day per week). I try not to be too hard on myself; at least it's progress.

Limit screen time outside of and after work: Meh. On the good side, I've been so busy that I really don't aimlessly surf the web like I used to. I often don't take my laptop out at home (though I increased my phone use a little bit, I don't think my total screen time is as much). I haven't been great about keeping closed out of screens at work as I meant to, but I do think I spend less time on them. So I'm a bit better but don't feel as far along as I am on the less-drinking goal.

Emergency preparedness: no progress in a couple weeks.

Agile learning: no progress.

Net worth/retirement: Retirement funds seem to be recovering but aren't at January levels yet, so I'm no closer to my goals.

Kids' savings: I save a bit each week for both kids, but I haven't done an infusion of cash as would be necessary to catch up to my goals for them.

Kitchen reno: Since we took out some savings to cover other expenses, we're actually a bit below where we were in January on this too. But we had our designer and contractor come over last night to help us think through our options. We're going to do some more talking and sketching things out and then move into the design phase. We don't know how much it'll cost to get CAD designs from our designer, but we need to do it, because our options are all very complicated. Once we have her designs we can go to our contractor and get some cost estimates. Then we can decide if we pull the trigger now or wait until we have more money saved up. If we're close to having enough, we may pull the trigger because it's usually half up front, half later, and we could pull from EF funds or even our unused line of credit if we hadn't quite saved up the second half by the time work was done. We do really want it done. But I don't want things to get difficult financially again, so I want to be careful if we do any of those things.

Vacations: We've booked airfare for the June/July and August trips to see family. We're planning on getting rides, borrowing cars, sleeping on people's floors, and generally doing these two trips fairly cheaply. We might do at least one hotel night for each to preserve our sanity though, as staying with family can be very chaotic without much privacy or down time.

I was almost ready to book my solo trip to see my favorite band 4 times in 4 nights in the south! And meet up with my Canadian friend who's also a super fan! But then realized the band wasn't headlining 3 of the 4 shows. So that trip is off and I'm hoping they'll book a similar swath of shows somewhere I wouldn't mind visiting. I do have one small trip I can do to see them in Iowa in August, but it would just be overnight and I might just do it with my own spending money. I'm hoping my solo trip if I have one will be a bit more elaborate and exciting than that.

NT has a solo trip planned for Chicago, as I mentioned, and he may do another one for a weekend to Seattle to see a friend. His outlay for his hat business has been such that I've told him if he doesn't make back some of the capital expenditures, he may need to forfeit the Seattle trip to offset those.

AS was thinking about an LA trip to see a friend. But she mentioned that she wasn't as hot on traveling this year, and was frustrated that she wouldn't be able to fix up other parts of the house until the kitchen was done. So I said if she wanted to forgo a trip, she could have some money from the travel budget to do some small home improvements. She was much more interested in that than traveling, so I guess that's what she'll do.

I've been doing well on some of my unofficial goals, such as broadening my social life. I had my old work friend and his wife over for dinner in April; I message my Canadian buddy daily; I've met up a few more times with another woman I met at a show; I continue to organize events for my alumni association; I've been making more of an attempt to hang out with some of my acquaintances more often. I'm about to text my old work friend and a current co-worker to set up a happy hour. So, pretty good!

I've got a couple other things I'm trying to do, like review an old high school friend's manuscript, participate in a committee to get our neighborhood name changed, attend a remembrance for a local man killed 5 years ago by police...

And I've been seeing more live music lately. This Saturday I get to see my favorite band, the next night an old-time country gospel band, in a couple weeks a country singer from Saskatchewan...

So overall things are great! The one slight worry on my mind is I got an irregular result on my annual mammogram, so I have a follow-up appointment next Friday. I've had this happen twice before and it's always been nothing, so I'm trying not to let it worry me. If this one turns out OK, I'm going to see how much more it would cost to get 3D imaging for my next annual. It's not covered by my health insurance, but if it saves this expensive follow-up trip (and saves me worrying), it might be worth it.

May 2018 debt payments

May 1st, 2018 at 10:22 pm

I realize I've been really absent from the blogs this month! Lots going on as seems to be the norm these days, but all good stuff.

I'll update on my goals progress and other life happenings at some point, but I at least wanted to do my usual routine and note the debt payments made:

US mortgage: $720 to principal
UK1: $181
UK2: $39
UK3: $42

All told that's $982 toward debt. Here are our current debt totals:

US Mortgage $388,270
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $32,669
UK Mortgage 2 $6,886
UK Mortgage 3 $7,251
------
TOTAL DEBT $444,076

April 2018 net worth update

April 30th, 2018 at 08:08 pm

Assets:
NT's UK pensions:
AV: 17,967 pounds ($22,459)
SW: 26,544 pounds ($33,180)
FL: 6,462 pounds ($8,078)
NT's 401(k): $63,240
NT's Roth IRA: $26,961
AS's trad. IRA: $19,162
AS's Roth IRA: $47,743
AS's SEP IRA: $23,603
CJ's 401(k): $126,091
CJ's Roth IRA: $31,085
NT's flat: $212,500 (200,000 pounds value x1.25 -15%)
CJ/NT/AS house: $427,281 ($454,554 value -6%)
---
TOTAL ASSETS: $1,041,383

US Mortgage $388,990
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $32,850
UK Mortgage 2 $6,925
UK Mortgage 3 $7,293
---
TOTAL DEBT $445,058

Current Estimated Net Worth: $596,325

March 2018 estimate: $588,981

Change in net worth: +$7,344

Summary: We had an OK month, and we're almost back to the January high. But since some of that is debt paydown, I know our retirement assets haven't fully rebounded and won't bother checking in on our retirement goal this month.

Notes on the numbers above: House value estimates are approximate. (I do have my eye on a comparable listing for the UK flat, but it's been on the market a long time.) UK pension values updated about once a year. UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $1.25 for every British pound.

Medical costs, money from savings, goals check-in

April 13th, 2018 at 09:57 pm

Well, even though birthday month is over (it bled into April since AA had to reschedule her party due to strep) life hasn't settled down at all. Work has been really busy, AS has a ton of nighttime obligations (teaching, board meetings) and so does NT (his hat business seems to have reached some kind of tipping point where he's in high demand -- which is exciting for him but means he goes out even more often). I too have had some night things such as dinners with clients, music shows, hanging out with friends ...

Anyway, there's been a bit more spending than usual, and also the medical bills have started to roll in from our March illnesses. Oh, and my mammogram came up with something that needs a follow-up ... I think I've had maybe one that hasn't, out of 4 or 5, so I'm not worried, but it typically runs me about $600 to get a follow-up exam. I think I might check into how much it would cost to just get the 3D mammogram (which isn't fully covered like the regular one), because if it's less than $600 and requires fewer follow-ups, it might be worth it. It's so hard to figure these things out, but maybe I'll ask the mammogram place to run an estimate by my insurance company or something.

I scheduled the follow-up for early May. Of course in the back of my mind I realize it could be something -- that's why I'm not ignoring it -- but I'm just not too worried since this seems to happen every time.

So a day or so ago, I was feeling like this deficit would never go away. We want to be saving really hard for the kitchen and for travel, but I finally gave in to the idea that maybe we should pull some of those savings back out to just take care of the deficit. We had a family meeting, talked about upcoming expenses and the current deficit, and decided that we could take some out of reno savings, even though it will set back the date we can start working on the kitchen. We decided to keep the meeting with our designer and contractor in May, because that will give us a much better idea of the number we're saving toward, but we pulled nearly $5K out of savings and used about $2K to eliminate the shared spending deficit. I'm holding the rest of it separate from our shared spending but will put it there as needed (like when medical bills come in... such as the nearly $900 bill for NT's ER visit when urgent care was closed and he had to get his cough checked out...sigh...but I insisted he go in, so I have only myself to blame for that one).

We also agreed that probably we'll only do one solo trip per adult this year instead of the 2 we each did last year. With three family trips planned (two to Va. and one to UK after Xmas) and everything else that's come up, unless we get a big financial boost we'll try to stick to that.

Our kitchen savings are at about $20K now. But we feel better not having that shared spending deficit staring us in the face all the time. I think it's OK to admit that our expenses exceeded our spending money, as long as we're taking the money from something optional (like renovations) and not from like the EF or retirement or anything.

Other goals...I've been trying a looser approach to drinking and screens and it's been going so-so. I was hoping to average 3-4 days per week of 0-1 drinks, and it has been more like 1-2 days per week for the first two weeks. Still, it's better than my habits were in 2017, so that's something. Screens have been hard to measure because I just haven't had a lot of downtime anyway. I'd say I'm a little better at not being on screens all the time than I was before my Jan-March days of enforced no-screen time, but I could do better.

I've been practicing up a storm on guitar but haven't made any progress on my writing goal. I haven't added to my preparedness supplies because of the ongoing shared spending deficit and probably won't for a while, but we did have some organic EP progress. There was a tornado warning siren test and NT took the opportunity to run some drills with the kids about getting to the basement. He also went over fire drill procedures and talked about the rope ladder and fire extinguishers we have. While we were at it, I showed them how to access 911 on my phone even when it was locked, and when I asked them to demonstrate it today, they both did it correctly. So we have made a little bit of emergency preparedness progress this week!

April 2018 debt payments

April 4th, 2018 at 08:52 am

All our mortgage payments have hit:
US: $717 to principal
UK1: $179
UK2: $38
UK3: $40
In total, $974 was paid to principal.

New total household debt amounts:
US Mortgage $388,990
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $32,850
UK Mortgage 2 $6,925
UK Mortgage 3 $7,293
---
TOTAL DEBT $445,058

Best Easter dinner

April 1st, 2018 at 05:41 pm

We had the perfect meal tonight! We all remarked on that, so I thought I should document it:

Vegan ham, sliced thin and baked at 375 with a brown-sugar glaze for about half an hour.
Oven-roasted asparagus
Simple pan-cooked broccoli
Mashed potatoes
"Melting potatoes" (roasted at high heat)
Brussels sprouts slaw
Parkerhouse rolls

And for once, we had enough for a few leftover meals but not way too much food!

Various doings

April 1st, 2018 at 12:40 pm

No more AS checks came in on Saturday, so I closed out the quarter. Quite a bit of the work she did hasn't paid yet, so I moved those payments to Q2.

Q1 came to about $11,000. Lower than 2017 and 2015 but higher than 2016. Q2 should be bigger (even though it's only a two-month quarter) because she's already worked a lot of the expected payments. In fact I'm hoping she'll get about $10,000 in payments in April alone!

After NT's and SL's birthday parties, and accounting for what we need to pay in taxes, but with a few of AS's payments offsetting slightly, our shared spending deficit is about $2300. Upcoming expenses this month are a donation to my alma mater on "Giving Day" and AA's party space rental. And medical bills from our various maladies last month; we've gotten about $300 of bills so far. I'm in no hurry to pay them as there doesn't seem to be any consequence to paying them a month or two late! But I will have to contend with it eventually.

AS and I both want new clothes for the spring and summer. We always try the cheaper thrift stores first, but sometimes it adds up, depending on how many things we need to buy new if we don't find what we need at the thrift stores.

I'd also like to make a donation to an environmental nonprofit whose founder died last year, and I'm still interested in this line of facial products. But I'm holding off on those until I see how our money goes over the next month.

The good news is, I don't foresee any more big expected expenses that aren't already in the budget. So I'm hoping AS's April payments get us close to eliminating the deficit even with the aforementioned upcoming expenses. March is always tough because we budget for gifts, but party expenses have to come out of shared spending, and we all love having parties for our birthdays! And it seems most of the kids' friends who have birthdays also have their parties in March, so those gifts hit the shared spending as well. The clothes shopping might make it challenging to break even, but hopefully we'll get close.

Last week I slipped and only did one day of no drinking and one day of no screens after work. Since I'm structuring my goals differently for April, I won't try to make those up. In April the goal is minimal, intentional screen time at both work and home Monday-Thursday, and 0-1 glasses of wine (0 at least 2 days per week) Monday-Thursday unless there's a social event or other special occasion.

Now that birthday madness is almost behind us, I really really hope I get re-motivated on my novel-publishing and emergency preparedness goals! Another thing I want to do in April is build a really nice capsule wardrobe. I have my colors, and preliminary window shopping has made me interested in possibly some floral prints. I haven't done many patterns at all for the past couple years, so it might make a nice change.

My weight has bumped up this weekend, which is a bummer. But hopefully that too will even out.

March 2018 net worth update

March 31st, 2018 at 05:12 pm

Assets:
NT's UK pensions:
AV: 17,967 pounds ($22,459)
SW: 26,544 pounds ($33,180)
FL: 6,462 pounds ($8,078)
NT's 401(k): $62,357
NT's Roth IRA: $26,841
AS's trad. IRA: $18,996
AS's Roth IRA: $45,908
AS's SEP IRA: $22,102
CJ's 401(k): $124,529
CJ's Roth IRA: $30,782
NT's flat: $212,500 (200,000 pounds value x1.25 -15%)
CJ/NT/AS house: $427,281 ($454,554 value -6%)
---
TOTAL ASSETS: $1,035,013

US Mortgage $389,707
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $33,029
UK Mortgage 2 $6,963
UK Mortgage 3 $7,333
---
TOTAL DEBT $446,032

Current Estimated Net Worth: $588,981

February 2018 estimate: $590,997

Change in net worth: -$2,016

Summary: Another decrease this month, though not nearly as bad as last month's crash. Hopefully things are stabilizing!

Notes on the numbers above: House value estimates are approximate. (I do have my eye on a comparable listing for the UK flat, but it's been on the market a long time.) UK pension values updated about once a year. UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $1.25 for every British pound.

Tax stuff

March 31st, 2018 at 08:52 am

We got our returns back from the tax guy. Now I'm trying to figure out if we owe or break even:

AS overpaid federal, so the overpayment will apply to her 2018 Q1 payment (which is going down a little this year, though I'll still set aside the same amount and keep the difference in savings).
She owes $48 in state.
She owes $589 in federal 2018 Q1 estimated payment.
She owes $340 in state 2018 Q1 estimated payment (up $20 from last year).
She's getting an $826 property tax rebate.
She owes $385 in tax prep fees.
So overall, she owes $536.

NT and I owe $995 to federal.
We owe $1,321 to state.
We owe $455 in tax prep fees.
So overall, we owe $2,771. (Ouch!)

Together, we all owe $3,307.

I had set aside $697.72 from AS's paychecks last quarter.
I have $2,001.91 set aside for AS federal 2018 Q1 estimated tax.
I have $383.90 set aside for AS state 2018 Q1 estimated tax.
(These may adjust if AS gets a check in the mail today, since it's the last day of the quarter, but it won't be by much.)
So all told, we have $3,083.53 set aside.

That means we need to come up with $223.47. Definitely not as bad as it could've been -- NT's and my returns looked scary at first! AS does have a couple payments coming soon, so I'll edit this post if one of them comes today! Smile

Delicious collards recipe

March 25th, 2018 at 04:52 pm

I always kind of wing it with greens, but tonight's turned out really delicious, so AS said I should write it down. I didn't measure anything, so it's all guesstimates, but here goes:

1 large bunch collards, ribs removed, chopped and rinsed
1.5 T vegan bacon grease (could use real, or canola with bacon bits)
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 T sugar
2 T white vinegar
1 t salt
1/4 cup water

I sauteed the garlic for a minute or two in the "bacon" grease. Then I put all the collards in (you can stuff the pot and fill it the top because they shrink way down). Throw in the remaining ingredients, cover pot and turn heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, anywhere from 15-45 minutes. (Collards are hardy plants and could be cooked even longer than that.)

Updates

March 24th, 2018 at 08:24 am

I seem to have shaken the last of my illness and fatigue, and most of the ice has melted off the sidewalks, so I have a nice springy feeling lately. Smile I started doing my morning strength training again this week and AS and I walked to work twice, plus got plenty of walking in the other days. I'm back to averaging over 10K steps a day.

Last week I achieved my two days of no drinking and two days of no screens after work. No personal internet use at work was a little patchier the two days I tried it. But I did stick to not having windows open; if I needed or wanted to go on a social site or budgeting spreadsheet or whatever, I opened a window, did what I intended, then closed it out.

I think for April (and maybe for the rest of the year if it works well), I'm going to structure these goals slightly differently, now that I've developed some pretty good habits:

I'll aim for two weekdays of no drinking, and other weeknights sticking to 0 or 1 glass of wine, unless something is planned like a happy hour or going to a show. So Monday-Thursday no or little drinking, with exceptions allowed for social events.

I'll aim for screens with intention at home after work Monday-Thursday. In other words, if I want to work on my novel, or do some budgeting, or check in with my Canada friend, or read a news story I'll do that and then step away from the screen. No aimless sitting with my laptop on my lap just idly flipping around the internet, or flipping through social media apps on my phone over and over. I can check them, but not spend a ton of time on them.

I'll aim for minimal personal internet at work Monday-Thursday. That means doing what I did last week, opening a screen if I need to check or do something but then closing out when that specific task is done. Keeping tabs open just invites aimless scrolling.

I'm interested to see how I behave in April, whether I feel like I have a more balanced life where I'm not feeling deprived but not overdoing it on unhealthy/unproductive activities. I like that this is an evolving goal that I can structure however I want from month to month.

For the kitchen renovation, we made a tiny bit of progress: The room has three doorways, which gives us limited wall space despite its size. So on our designer's advice we taped cardboard over the doorway we think we could stand to lose. If we feel like it's not too disruptive, we can consider walling that doorway over and using the space for something else. Currently it doesn't give us much more options because the fridge opens onto the space from one direction, the dishwasher from the other. But if we moved or turned the fridge or dishwasher, it could really expand the possibilities. So we'll start thinking about that.

I've not gotten much done on my novel revision or emergency preparedness, but at least guitar practice is going gangbusters! My Canadian friend also takes lessons, so she's encouraging and I can discuss things with her.

In big-picture goal land, I assume our net worth and retirement are down with the latest chaos from our government and esteemed leader, but I won't check until the end of the month.

Also, we asked our UK property manager about selling and he said the market was bad due to Brexit chaos, and strongly suggested we wait another year. So we will. He did think the flat would sell for about 200K pounds, which I don't think is terrible, but we'll wait and if the market is better next year, we'll hopefully sell for higher. If not, I'm fine with 200K so we'll put it on the market no matter what.

Back on track?

March 19th, 2018 at 08:43 am

I took it pretty easy this weekend, and finally today I feel like I have most of my energy back. The aftermath of my illness was much worse than the thing itself!

I did my morning strength training exercises today for the first time in about two weeks, and AS and I walked 3 miles to work for the first time in over a month. While we were sick, the temperature went up and most of the thick coating of ice melted off the sidewalks. We hope we can get back to daily walking, because it's so nice to get 3 miles under your belt first thing in the morning. Come into work a lot more energized and clear-headed too, versus just taking the bus in.

Last week I didn't bother with my two days of no screen time in the evening and two days of no personal internet at work. Most of the days weren't my normal routine; I was out sick or working from home or leaving early for a work happy hour, so work and personal time kind of blended together anyway. I did achieve two days of no drinking, just because I didn't feel like drinking two of the days due to being so fatigued post-illness.

But I'm starting back on all those goals this week.

We really got sick at the best possible time during birthday month, after the first three birthdays and during the two-week lag before the other two birthdays. Now we have NT's on Wednesday, his celebration on Saturday, SL's birthday next Thursday and party next Saturday, and AA's makeup party the following Saturday (that'll be in April). So five birthday-related things still coming up. We're not as prepared as we would normally be, but we'll just wing it and try to make it as fun as possible for the birthday boy and girls. Smile

Our shared spending deficit has been hovering at the $5K mark for the past few weeks, which was bumming all of us out. AS would get a payment or I'd apply a budget surplus, only to have some shared spending bump it back up again. I finally realized that we'd all be better served, psychologically, if I took AS's co-working membership ($1800) and planned to pay it off over the next several months out of the regular budget. So now I have $200 per month coming out of the budget May through January in the annual budget spreadsheet. I moved that $1800 on its own line in the tracker spreadsheet and will whittle it down a little at a time. Then I moved the roughly $1700 of prepaid summer programs for AA, and made a plan in the annual budget spreadsheet to pay back each portion during the actual months the programs are happening, July through August. So now that's on a separate line in the regular tracker too.

We still have the same deficit to float and will have to be mindful of that, but the shared spending deficit is now about $1500. Much more doable, even though AS's jobs have been much slower to pay than we predicted. But we know the money is coming. It might be in April but it will come.

Shared spending will still take some hits: The three birthday parties will all have expenses of a few hundred each, and AS and I will need new clothes for our spring/summer capsule wardrobe. And since we all went to the doctor at various times this month, those bills will likely be another few hundred total when they come in. But it's all looking manageable. I'm holding some money in checking that I would ordinarily put into savings, and I'll keep it in checking until the deficit is lower just to make sure we can float everything. But I know it's going into savings eventually so that's good.

Two of my annual goals are kind of stagnating: Getting my novel publishing-ready and working on emergency preparedness. But it's not to say they can't get done; the year is still pretty young. So we'll see if I can get those back on track soon too.

Odds & ends

March 10th, 2018 at 09:56 am

Ugh, I'm sick. The whole family has been dropping like flies and finally AS and I succumbed. I don't seem to be as hard hit (fingers crossed) so I'm hoping I snap out of it soon.

We had to cancel AA's pool party that was going to be today. She was sick every day last week (except, thank goodness, on her actual bday Monday), and yesterday she got a high fever. It only lasted a few hours, luckily, but she still has a cough and she's barely eaten for four days, so I'm glad I canceled her party. Plus her parents are in no condition to host a bunch of energetic kids, even if it is at another location! We rescheduled for early April, because the rest of March weekend days are already filled up.

AS and I have tickets to a show tonight. We'll see. AS looks worse off than me, so maybe I can go and she stays home.

Because I was home sick yesterday, I didn't complete my weekly goal of two days no personal internet at work. Friday was going to be my second day of the week. It was out of my control, so I'm not going to worry about it. There's only been one other week when I didn't complete one of these goals--no phone/computer time after work two days a week--and I added a third day to the next week to make up for it. But since this one wasn't my fault, I'm not going to do a make-up day next week.

We spoke with a kitchen designer Wednesday, and it was very interesting. She's definitely got us thinking and if we hadn't gotten sick right after we'd have already started planning. The good news is we really like her way of thinking and explaining things; I would love to see the designs she could come up with. The bad news was she thinks ballpark for a full renovation will be $60K, and we're closing in on saving up $30K. But, just the planning phases are going to take some time, so it'd be a while before we had to pony up the full amount. Plus, she said she couldn't really give an accurate amount until we settled on a plan, and spoke to our contractor about it. So it may well come under that--our contractor's rates are really reasonable. So we're going to go ahead with planning and discussion, and if it does seem like it'll be in that price range, we may just have to pause on actually getting it done until we have more money saved up. She totally got that, so that's good.

On my other goals, I've been making sporadic progress. My one big success story so far is guitar lessons; I've kept up on practicing every day, even yesterday when I was sick, and I can see some small improvement for sure. I even practiced finger positions on a piece of lined paper when I was out of town on business one night!

Emergency preparedness hasn't seen much progress. With so much spending for AS's co-working space, reserving summer programs for AA, and birthday celebrations, I don't feel like adding to the deficit. I'll pick up on it once the deficit is less. It's not like it's a ton of high-end items, just a lot of little things that add up. The most expensive thing will be CPR/first aid classes for me and NT and AS, since I couldn't find any free ones in our area. And those will be less than $100 each I think. I should at least work on the written portion of the EP plan; that doesn't cost anything. Note to self!

Working on the novel has been very sporadic since my class ended. I keep circling it, making little notes, thinking and talking things over, but not really diving in. Maybe today if I feel a little better later.

Not much more preparation on the vacations front. I do have over $1,000 saved, so we could book airfare on any trips that got settled. Everything is still a little up in the air as to exact timing.

My informal friend-making goal is going pretty well. I message my Canadian friend almost every day. I'll hopefully see my other new friend, as well as an old friend that I'm trying to step things up with, at the show tonight if I'm well enough to make it out! I texted my ex-co-worker to see if we could set up a dinner party in April, but I'm waiting to hear back.

The one goal I'm not sure I'll pursue is an Agile class for work. It felt like both my main clients were talking about this work methodology all the time, but now they barely mention it. Plus, that was something I was going to do to try and get attention for a promotion, and then they went and gave me my promotion already! So I may drop that one off. But I'll keep it on there a little longer in case it starts to seem like a good idea again.

Catching up on news and goals

March 4th, 2018 at 03:37 pm

It's been nearly a month since my last post (besides my strictly numbers-focused ones)! I did try to write one a week or two ago, but I lost it and didn't have the energy to rewrite it.

The basic story of the last couple months has been spending like drunken sailors, with not much freelance income coming in to balance it out. AS has booked quite a lot of work for this first quarter but they've been bigger, longer-term jobs, so actual checks received in January and February were pretty average.

Between AS's $1800 fee to join her co-working space (this covers her for a year), $1600 to book spaces in summer programs for AA, a couple of expensive dates, my new guitar, birthday party spending, and other random unbudgeted expenses, our shared spending deficit is back -- up over $5500! And we're not done yet -- AS's birthday dinner tonight is food delivery, same with AA's tomorrow night, I've put deposits on AA's and SL's party space rentals but we still have to pay the remainder, and NT is having a night out for his upcoming birthday that's going to run us a few hundred as well.

Also, I've decided to continue my guitar lessons, which is $30 per week. I'll pay half with my spending money but the other half will come out of shared spending too.

NT has been running a deficit on his personal spending money too, and he wanted to float an additional $1100 for a booth he's sharing with other vendors at a big concert coming up. Since we're floating such a big deficit already, I had to borrow from savings, which I wasn't thrilled about. It'll get paid back from NT's money, but not a habit I want to get into.

I have no idea what our taxes will look like this year, so I can't tell if we'll end up owing, getting a refund or breaking even. I have our initial meeting with the tax guy scheduled for tomorrow, so we should know in a week or two.

The bright spots in our money outlook: AS has a lot of money already worked, and we expect much of it to come in this month. April is a three-paycheck month for NT. We continue to put a third of AS's net pay and any budget surpluses/windfalls to reno spending and a third to pay for upcoming vacations, so we do have over $20K in US savings even after borrowing $1100 for NT's booth rental. And some of the prepaid summer expenses were budgeted for in the months they will happen, so we'll have more of a budget surplus in those months when we don't have to pay for summer programs.

And of course, birthday month will come to an end, so this level of spending won't continue indefinitely! If I wasn't confident in the future money coming in, I'd be reining things in more, but I think it'll balance out in the long run. It's just a bit tight right now, but as long as we can pay credit cards off in full and float this deficit, we'll be OK. Not that I won't be very very happy to get things more in balance, hopefully in the next month or two!

March 2018 debt payments

March 4th, 2018 at 02:59 pm

Well, birthday month is upon us! I had a business trip on the 1st, my bday was the 2nd (got to keep ages on the sidebar up to date!), and AS's is today. So I'm a bit late on reporting mortgage payments, but here I am.

US: $716 to principal
UK1: $184
UK2: $38
UK3: $40

In total that's $978 to principal.

Our current debt levels:

US Mortgage $389,707
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $33,029
UK Mortgage 2 $6,963
UK Mortgage 3 $7,333
---
TOTAL DEBT $446,032

February 2018 net worth update

February 28th, 2018 at 09:25 pm

Assets:
NT's UK pensions:
AV: 17,967 pounds ($22,459)
SW: 26,544 pounds ($33,180)
FL: 6,462 pounds ($8,078)
NT's 401(k): $62,676
NT's Roth IRA: $25,789
AS's trad. IRA: $19,394
AS's Roth IRA: $46,954
AS's SEP IRA: $22,606
CJ's 401(k): $125,603
CJ's Roth IRA: $31,484
NT's flat: $212,500 (200,000 pounds value x1.25 -15%)
CJ/NT/AS house: $427,281 ($454,554 value -6%)
---
TOTAL ASSETS: $1,038,007

US Mortgage $390,423
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $33,213
UK Mortgage 2 $7,001
UK Mortgage 3 $7,373
---
TOTAL DEBT $447,010

Current Estimated Net Worth: $590,997

January 2018 estimate: $596,482

Change in net worth: -$5,485

Summary: We had a good run, but the market correction caught up with us a bit. Even with paying off nearly a grand in debt and adding at least $2K to retirement, we suffered a setback in our net worth. Probably not as bad as it was at its lowest point; I didn't check during those chaotic Dow days.

Notes on the numbers above: House value estimates are approximate. (I do have my eye on a comparable listing for the UK flat, but it's been on the market a long time.) UK pension values updated about once a year. UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $1.25 for every British pound.

Many updates and goals progress

February 16th, 2018 at 01:20 pm

Wow, another week has flown by! Let's see if I can remember what's happened and which goals I've made progress on.

First off, I fell (indoors, not out on the ice) on Sunday and banged up my left thumb really bad. I took a sick day, called the virtual doc, pampered it, and it's gotten a lot better. Still hurts when I move it certain ways, but at least the fact I CAN move it means likely nothing is fractured or sprained!

On the good news side, I reached our EF goal of $10,000! I'll still save NT's rental income as usual but now I'll put it toward our next UK vacation.

AS confirmed a second fall class at another college, taking her booked work for 2018 up over $40K! $13K of that is for the fourth quarter, but still! Actual checks have been slow to come in (speed bumps on a few projects) but the expected money is piling up. Our shared spending is about $3K in the hole ($1800 of that her annual membership fee for the co-working space), but knowing what projects she's recently invoiced or is about to, I'm not worried at all.

Goals:
Creative: I've kept up with some of my fellow students from the novel class via a forum where we give one another advice and support, and I started a rough outline of my plan to finish the novel by the end of the year. I still want to break it out into smaller, digestible steps; I might try to do that this weekend, or Monday (I have the day off from work). I'm also reading a self-published paranormal thriller (actually it's one of Thrift-o-rama's!) for inspiration and to get a better sense of the genre, since that's what type of novel I'm working on but not what I typically read.

Creative: I took my second guitar lesson despite my sore thumb, and I'm still practicing every day. I like it so far, so I'm definitely leaning toward continuing. I'll have to buy a guitar and keep paying for lessons, but so far it feels really rewarding, so I probably will.

Health: I've been keeping up on my Feb. goal of no drinking 2 days a week and no computer/phone time after work 2 days a week. Actually I need one of those today after work, because I meant to have Wednesday be one of the days, but I caved and got on social media after our Valentine's day date, so I need today to be my second one for the week. Guitar practice has been a good addition to the things I do to relax and entertain myself on these days.

Work/professional development: I've continued my Feb. goal of no personal internet at work 2 days a week. If I need to get on for something urgent on those days, I do it quickly and log off again. That flexibility will make it possible to increase the number of days in the future, I think.

Financial: No big milestones but continuing to plug away at adding money to retirement and the kids' funds.

Home: The consultant finally got in touch with us--turns out she'd been very sick for a few weeks. We'll probably be meeting with her next week for an initial consultation on our kitchen.

Things I haven't made progress on for a couple weeks: emergency preparedness, looking for an Agile class, and vacation planning/booking.

Unofficial goals I've made progress on:
-Continued developing new/nurturing old friendships. The co-worker I've started bonding with more got another job someplace else, but I took that as an opportunity to invite him over for dinner sometime, and he said yes, so hopefully his leaving the job won't be the end of our burgeoning friendship!
-Took some photos of the kids and NT wearing his hats that he can use on social media and his website. He really liked the new website copy I wrote and will be updating his site soon with it.

I think that's about it. Lots of fun social things coming up in the next week or so, including a potluck, two music shows, a going-away happy hour for my co-worker friend, the "showcase" the second-graders at the kids' school will put on this year (including a recitation of an original poem by AA!), a committee meeting to change our neighborhood's name, a movie night for my college alumni group, and a community chili-fest fundraiser for our neighborhood. That's a lot when I look at it all together!

Catching up on goals progress tracking and my wonderful but busy year so far

February 8th, 2018 at 09:36 am

I've had a busy week! Heck, it's been a busy year so far. Fun, but hectic. Smile

I finished my January goal of doing one day per week no alcohol, one per week of no personal internet at work, and one per week of no phone or computer time after work. Technically I finished that last goal Feb. 1, but it was part of the last week of January so I'm counting it. Smile

For February I'm increasing that goal to two days per week. So far this week I've done two days no personal internet at work, one day no alcohol and one day no phone/computer after work. Tonight will be my second no-drinking day and Friday I'll avoid the phone and computer after work.

It's a little harder to track because it's basically 6 tasks instead of 3, but so far it feels all right.

My novel class ended, and though I didn't complete all the assignments, I got a lot out of it. I've joined a forum of classmates who want to continue supporting one another in our writing goals (one of mine will be completing the assignments, including making a plan/schedule for the rest of the year). I also purchased a software that makes novel writing easier, and I'm almost halfway through the tutorial on how to use it.

I took my first guitar lesson on Tuesday and brought home my loaner guitar. I like the teacher and don't hate the practicing, though right now it's just basic stuff to learn the strings and get my body used to the right way to hold it and play. I'm supposed to practice about 20 minutes per day. I did practice after class and also last night, so hopefully I'll keep it up. It's only a half-hour class per week, so if I don't practice frequently on my own, I can't expect to get very far. Smile Anyway, it's something to do on my nondrinking/no screen time days, although it doesn't take much time.

I've found a few other outlets on those days besides playing with the kids, reading, drinking nonalcoholic beverages and watching TV: play around on my harmonica and do adult coloring. There's also a partly done jigsaw puzzle I keep forgetting about because it's under the table leaf, but that's another option.

I booked time off work for the two family trips in June/July and August, and we've started discussing what solo trips us grownups might take.

That's it for progress on my stated goals, but I've gotten a lot of other stuff done this week too:
- Continued developing my new friendships!
I message with my Canadian pal nearly every day. She lets me know when our fave band schedules new shows, and I'll be going to two more in MN: one this month and one in May! The May show is all ages, so I can bring my kids. They've grown to love this band, but usually they play in bars, so I've never been able to take the kids to a live show.

AS and I had coffee with the other lady I met recently, and she seems really great and also up for a new friendship. We all bought tickets to two music shows, one this month and one in March, so we'll be hanging out with her a couple more times at least. I really like her--we have a ton in common and she's very funny and warm--so my instinct is let's get together again right away! But I want to take it slow and make sure we really are friend material; if I decided I was getting sick of her or didn't really like her once I got to know her better, it would be awkward. So, baby steps.

- Besides my fave band, I've bought tickets to three other music shows in February and March (including the two we're going to with our new friend). I'm excited that I'm getting more interested in music and branching out a bit beyond my rather narrow musical interests. Of course, my spending money is suffering, but with my raise and AS's busy year, I think we'll all be able to spend a little more on fun stuff (fingers crossed).

- Speaking of AS, she's booked over $33K of work for the year! Not all of it in the first quarter, but cumulatively. And it sounds like she's very close to locking in another $7K+ with a teaching gig, and that a couple of her clients are champing at the bit to give her even more high-paying writing work. So far this year she's only received a very modest $3K in payments, but when I look at future money booked, it's kind of astounding. If this teaching gig is confirmed she'll already be at more than $40K. Kind of crazy!

- AS and I have been helping NT with his branding for his hat business. AS designed and ordered new business cards, and I rewrote his website copy. He tried one of our ideas and got a new recurring customer right away, so it's already paid off a bit! Plus, I kind of count this as professional development because I'm practicing brand strategy in my spare time, which is the area of marketing that I'm growing into with my recent promotion.

- We've got a Valentine's date scheduled, with dinner reservation made and babysitter booked. I haven't started (but I need to really soon) planning out Valentine gifts for our kids and their schoolmates, and figuring out what we'll all be doing for our birthdays in March.

- I've started planning out AA's summer break. This will be her first one not at our beloved daycare, so I'm trying to patchwork a bunch of daycamp activities. It'll be more expensive than daycare and more complicated than just signing her up for the public school system's summer care, but she's a creative kid who gets bored easily, so I want to try and make the summer special for her. I've got a spreadsheet going, of course, and some good options and ideas. Smile

- I've got a few obligations for my alma mater coming up--an alumni board conference call, a social post I need to make for the anniversary of the college's founding, and organizing/sending out invites to alumni for a screening of an Oscar-nominated film at my place (the director went to my college; we won't get to talk to him or anything but it's nice to celebrate another alumnus's success). Matter of fact, I should probably stop writing this post and get some of them done! Smile

Whew, I think that's all. That's enough, anyway! Big Grin

February 2018 debt payments and UK mortgage thoughts

February 2nd, 2018 at 06:39 am

All our mortgage payments hit:
US: $713 to principal
UK1: $180
UK2: $38
UK3: $40

All told, that's $971 put toward debt.

Our debt now stands at:
US Mortgage $390,423
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $33,213
UK Mortgage 2 $7,001
UK Mortgage 3 $7,373
---
TOTAL DEBT $447,010

I was thinking the past few days: We're so close to our EF goal of $10K in the UK savings account. After that I'm going to start saving up spending money for our next UK trip. But now that it's happening later in the year than usual (we intend to fly there 12/26 or so), I know we'll save up more than we need for that.

I started to think maybe I should work on one of those smaller UK mortgages with the extra money. I could probably cut one of them in half before the end of the year even after funding our EF and our next vacay's spending money.

But then I thought, if we want to list the UK place this year, we might need money for sprucing it up. And even if we decide the market still isn't good, we may have maintenance costs that come up.

So now I'm leaning toward saving any extra money this year in a UK maintenance category. The interest rates on those debts are only about 1.4% anyway, so it's not like it's costing us much to carry them.

Progress on a few goal fronts

February 1st, 2018 at 08:46 am

It's been a pretty good week so far of moving forward on 2018 goals:

- Creative: I attended my novel-finishing class's online chat on Sunday. I'm also about 75% done with last week's assignment. This week's is to create a plan for the year, so even if I don't do it within the time frame of the class, it's something I intend to do anyway. That's the last assignment and I have one more online chat. I'm going to download the materials and some of the discussions so I have them for future reference once the class goes away.

- Health and work/professional development: I did my no-drinking night on Tuesday and my no-social-media-at-work on Wednesday. Last night was meant to be my no-phone-or-computer-after-work day, but I had to complete an assignment for work, so I wasn't able to do that. So I'm aiming to make tonight a no phones or computers night. That will complete my January goals on these three fronts! My February goal is to achieve each of these healthy habits twice a week.

- Health: for relaxation/destressing that isn't drinking or screen time, I haven't tried meditation yet, but I did read an entire book this month (which is quite the accomplishment these days!) and found a couple of nonalcoholic drinks I really like: a rejuvenating warm ginger drink and a relaxing sleepytime tea. I've also played with the kids a bit more, which can be relaxing (especially if it's just playing with one of them at a time vs. being referee for both of them).

- Financial: I bumped NT's 401(k) up 1% when I got my raise, so that's halfway to that goal. If he gets a raise this year, I'll bump it up another 1%. (Last year he got a raise around this time, so we'll see.) Our retirement assets got above $400K for the first time, so we do seem to have a chance of hitting the $475K goal this year if the markets don't correct too much or for too long. Net worth is nearly at $600K, so it seems like the $650K goal may happen this year.

- Home: We contacted a designer about a kitchen consultation but she hasn't gotten back to us. I need to get another recommendation and try someone else. I continue to plug money into the savings account for the kitchen reno; we're at $20,375.

- Vacations: NT's Denver solo trip plans fell through, but we've got plenty of other plans in the hopper. One of my sisters really wants a family reunion in June that's all my parents' kids and their spouses and kids. Most of us haven't seen one of my nephews in over a decade, and it sounds like he's in, so I can't very well be the one who ruins it! Smile We'll also be going to Va. in August for a niece's wedding, and tacking some beach time or something onto that. And we're going to shoot for a UK or Europe trip right after Xmas. Other than that, we agreed we'd each get to choose one or two short solo trips (or trips with just one companion, like I did last year with my Wisconsin road trip with AS). So nothing booked, but lots of plans in the works.

January 2018 retirement goal progress

February 1st, 2018 at 07:26 am

Goal: $512,564 by 2019

My salary increased 10% since last month, so our goal is more ambitious now! Which makes us farther behind, but that's OK.

As a reminder, this is just an incremental goal along the way to 8x income by retirement. This mini-goal aims to get us to a milestone by the time I turn 45 and AS turns 40.

The milestone (which changes whenever our salaries change) is to get me to 3x my current salary, which is now $75,120, so $225,360; NT to 3x his, which is now $62,100, so $186,300; and AS to 2x hers, which in 2017 was $50,452, so $100,904).

Current balance: $404,682

December 2017 balance: $390,774

Progress: $13,908

A really big month! To reach the interim goal by the end of our birthday month (March) in 2019, that's 14 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $107,882 -- $7,706 per month -- to reach it.

Not likely, but we'll keep plugging away!


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