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Archive for February, 2008

Credit card payment toward goal

February 29th, 2008 at 10:18 am

Credit card payment hit: $58, all to principal since this one's a 0% interest for a little longer.

So that's:

$657 down, $2743 to go on my March goal. (I just realized we may have to pay management fees for our UK rental property, so this one's looking shakier still. But I'll try my best!)

$1044 to go on our Overall Ad Hoc Goal (still a cinch to make this goal even if the above is true)

$64,633 to go on the Big-Picture Goal

I'll have lots of exciting progress to report on Monday, as all four mortgage payments plus at least one credit card payment, possibly another that's a payoff(!) and maybe a third one as well, should all post.

Monday morning money musings

February 25th, 2008 at 10:44 am

Well OK, it's not morning anymore, but I liked the alliteration.

I was looking over past entries (I'm procrastinating something I need to do for work), and I noticed that I said my $2900 February goal was symbolically $100 per day. I started it in late January so it wasn't literally going to be that much per day. But when I looked at the actual amount of time it took from that entry to the one where I announced reaching the goal (14 days), and the amount I actually paid in that time frame (over $3500), I realized I averaged paying off more than $250 per day in that two-week time period! How I wish I could manage THAT on a regular basis; we'd be out of debt in no time! It was just a fluke with not owing taxes we'd saved up to pay for, but still, I'm proud of us for putting it to debt and not squandering it.

Today we got AS's state refund, which I didn't expect so soon because we sent them in the old-fashioned way. I went ahead and added the other taxes (refunds and payments) into our projected budget because now I have an idea when they'll happen. Lo and behold, the small refund we'll be getting overall was enough to cover the rest of our homeowners insurance! The minimum payment was set up to go out tomorrow, so I amended that payment to include the full amount.

I now have a positive of $60 at the bottom of my three-month budget! That's about how much I'll need taken out of each paycheck to get my withholdings right, so that means as of now I can change my withholdings for the 4/30 paycheck. The more windfalls we get the more that date moves up, and the greater my chances of withholding enough to not owe next year, but not put too much of a strain on our current budget.

Windfalls coming in the next three months:
eBay sales ($70-$100)
AS's $300 paycheck bonus (probably $200 net)
NT's overtime pay ($50-$100 per paycheck)
B-Day money from parents ($50-$100 per birthday; $150-$300 total)
Gift cards from parents (Ikea & Target)
Stupid stimulus package ($600 for each of us; $1800 total)

Some will help me increase my withholdings, some will go to debt, some for future travel plans, and who knows? If I feel like we're making good progress, maybe some will go into our wallets to spend as we wish.

England trip fully funded!

February 22nd, 2008 at 02:30 pm

Huzzah!

Well, to be more accurate, it is projected to be fully funded by the time we board the plane in mid-May.

Basically we are trying to save $1300 cash and are allowing ourselves to charge the rental car expenses plus $300 on a credit card (with a plan to pay it off before we accrue any interest).

Today we brought a Mason jar full of change to the bank and had it deposited into our account: $68.08! As I was adding that to our tally in Google docs, I looked over our projected budget for the next three months. I realized I had planned to withdraw exercise incentive cash on May 15. Well, we're going to England for 10 days, so we won't be working out. I deleted that line item and voila! We had a positive number at the end of our budget spreadsheet.

Since we don't have an emergency fund, the budget's never set in stone. But odds are good we won't need that money for anything else and we'll be able to blow it in Europe!

Now I've set my sights on our homeowners insurance bill. Adding that to the end of my spreadsheet puts our bottom line in the negative, but only by $143. And that's no hurry--we can make the minimum monthly payments till we get enough to pay off the whole year's premium.

NT is expecting some OT pay, and AS a $300 bonus from work, and we have a few things listed on eBay, so shouldn't be too long before we have that fully funded as well.

After that, my goals will be increasing withholding so we don't owe as much on taxes next year, and then saving up for a trip to the old homestead (well, the suburbs of DC) to see family in the fall. And then I suppose it'll be time to start saving up for Xmas again!

Brr... OK, I think I've thought far enough into the future for now. The last thing I want to think about is next Xmas and another stupid Minnesota winter! :-)

February 2008 net worth update

February 22nd, 2008 at 09:06 am

NT's pensions: 7,250 pounds ($14,500)
10,725 pounds ($21,450)
NT's 401(k): $820
AS's 403(b): $1,440
CJ's 401(k): $24,731
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $182,000
---
Total Assets: $504,941

Total Debt: $439,237

Current Estimated Net Worth: $65,704

12/22 estimate: $64,308
Change in net worth: +$1,396

Summary: Two retirement plans and one of the properties lost value over the past two months, but paying off debt helped offset that, so our net worth increased slightly anyway.

Note: House value estimates are conservative, and retirement totals don't include amounts currently unvested.

Personal loan payment

February 18th, 2008 at 10:49 am

$426 to principal. So that means:

$599 down, $2,801 to go on my March goal. We'll be cutting it close, but we might make this goal.

$1,102 to go on my Overall Ad Hoc Goal. We'll knock this one out of the park before the 3/31 deadline. As my first longish-term goal, that will be very satisfying.

$64,691 to go on my Big-Picture Goal. I don't know what the odds are on this one. Depends if we can keep our lifestyle at about the same level even when we get raises, and also will only work if we don't have any expensive emergencies over the next couple years. A windfall or two wouldn't hurt our chances. :-) We need to average paying $2940 of principal per month for the next 22 months, and right now we're averaging $2780 per month. Hopefully snowballing debts will make enough of a difference.

Another credit card payment

February 14th, 2008 at 12:14 pm

Checked another UK balance online: $110 went to principal.

$173 down, $3,227 to go on my March goal.

$1,528 to go on my Overall Ad Hoc Goal.

$65,117 to go on my Big-Picture Goal.

This one paid off about $150 less than I thought it would be, for some reason...have to keep an eye on it next month and see what happened. There was a $35 purchase, but that doesn't explain it all. This leaves me in a bit of doubt that I'll reach my March goal, but I'm a long ways off, so I'll have to wait and see!

Teensy weensy payment

February 14th, 2008 at 07:26 am

A whopping $6 in principal to a credit card!

March progress: $63 down, $3,337 to go

Overall Ad Hoc Goal progress: $1,638 to go

Big-Picture Goal progress: $65,227 to go

Assessing grocery spending

February 13th, 2008 at 12:51 pm

We've been about two weeks behind in our grocery budget for several months now. It all started in late October when we used a big chunk of it for our Halloween party, but it's been slipping gradually ever since then. I allocated more money last month, but we absorbed it and stayed where we were: dipping into the next pay period's amount. While this is usually OK, I don't always have that much float money in the checking account, so it's occasionally caused us to skate along the edge, almost dipping into our overdraft (which was my first debt paid off and I want to keep it that way!)

We have a very generous grocery budget: $900 per month (was $840 before I reallocated some funds). Granted we roll all household goods including beauty supplies, food and drink for entertaining, and some medicines into it, but it's still a healthy amount for three adults.

We've got three different diets and a love of fine foods, but still, we'd been trying to plan only frugal dinners to pull even with our budget. I didn't itemize everything; just hoped it would work itself out. Now we've used over half of our Feb. 16-29 grocery money and we've got a party to buy treats for this Friday, so we finally sat down to try and figure out what we could do to catch up after that.

We didn't even have to look at receipts. Once NT started writing everything down it was brutally obvious what we needed to cut back on. Our favorite meals are actually really cheap; the most expensive one is homemade pizzas, which can cost approximately $12 for three people, or $4 apiece. It was mostly the little things we'd throw into the cart on impulse, plus a few things that we considered basics but can easily do without or with less of.

I'm almost embarrassed to write down the things we're going to cut out temporarily, but it does point to how you can have a real blind spot in your spending:
Ice cream and soy ice cream
Fancy olives
Sushi from the deli counter
Wine
Bottled juice (we'll buy concentrated)
Baking supplies (cutting down--should be good for our waistlines too!)
Paper towels (cut down; use rags and sponges more--better for the environment too!)
Cheese and soy cheese (cutting down--we're very generous with our portions)

At least for awhile, we're regarding the above as treats and luxuries--if anyone wants them they have to buy out of their own money.

I feel very silly that I didn't think this through before, but at the same time relieved that it should be easy to correct our budget with these relatively painless cutbacks.

Student loan payment; tiny step toward big goal!

February 12th, 2008 at 02:51 pm

I'm in that lag between exciting big payments toward debt, but a small student loan payment posted, with $57 going toward principal. So that's:

$57 down, $3,343 to go in my March goal.

$1,644 to go on my Overall Ad Hoc goal.

No progress on my Big-Picture Goal because it doesn't include education debt.

Small steps add up!

Got taxes done; 1st half sent out

February 12th, 2008 at 08:53 am

I filled out all our tax forms and put AS's in the mail. When we get her federal refund, I'll send out mine and NT's. Same with state. This way, no pain.

Since none of us qualified for any of the free filing sites I tried (H&R's TaxCut pissed me off by having me go through the whole thing before telling me whoops, AS wasn't eligible after all), I'm doing hard copy for all. It's going to cost me about $1.50 total (for postage).

I can't tell if I'm unusually stingy in this area but as long as our taxes are figure-outable without a professional (I don't count my one year of H&R Block training as making me a professional), I'm not going to pay to e-file. They want me to e-file; it saves them work--fine! Then make it free (or at least $1.50 or less) and I'll gladly do it. I hate having to pay anything for tax prep.

As for changing my withholding so I don't owe next year, I decided to do that only AFTER I've saved up sufficient money for the England trip. I can withhold more in the second half of the year to make up for not withholding enough in the first half.

March goal

February 6th, 2008 at 09:51 pm

My goal for March is to pay off $3400 of debt by March 31. I picked this number because, while it's aggressive, I have over a month and a half in which to accomplish it. Also, I'll be 34 in March, so it seems poetic.

As I updated my sidebar to reflect my progress and my new goal, I realized that my goal balance is $436,436. So that seems kind of cute too.

I'm so glad I don't have to explain to you guys how making a game of my finances helps me stay excited about getting out of debt. :-)

February goal reached!

February 6th, 2008 at 08:59 pm

My big UK payment posted, to the tune of $1556 in principal! So what does that mean? Well...

$3,559 paid for February, so I exceeded my goal of $2,900!

$1,701 to go on my Overall Ad Hoc Goal!

$65,233 to go in my Big-Picture Goal!! This one's especially exciting to me because it means I've paid off more than $5K in credit card debt since Jan. 1. Though my overall balance, $439,836, is very pleasing too, because it means that if I weren't counting an estimated $40K for NT's future education, our debt would now be under $400K.

OK, time to figure out my March goal!

Random money and other musings

February 4th, 2008 at 03:10 pm

Every few months it seems like a few money matters start piling up, and this is one of those times. Mostly precipitated by tax season, of course.

1. Tax strategy. I did a rough draft of taxes this weekend, and it looks like AS will be getting about $1900 back while NT and I will owe about $1600. I'm glad it worked out but kind of annoyed that using the suggested married withholdings got us so far in the hole--especially since NT withheld like a single person, which I thought would even us out. So this gives me a number of tasks:
A. Turn in AS's taxes ASAP. We'll wait until we get her refunds before submitting mine and NT's. That way we don't feel the pain of owing the taxes.
B. Figure out our withholdings. AS's refund should go down to about nothing since she won't be paying any tuition this year. I'm not sure if NT's tuition payments in the fall will help us since our combined wages are kind of a lot (I think). That means I need to have more withheld this year to make sure we don't owe too much. But I don't want to go overboard and withhold too much. This will take some reading and calculating to get just right.
C. Figure out how much my resulting smaller paycheck will set back our planned savings for our UK trip, and find the necessary money elsewhere in the budget.
D. File mine and NT's return once we get AS's refunds.

2. Net worth. I'm sure millions of readers breathlessly awaiting my net worth update noticed it didn't come out late last month as usual. This is because I don't have access to NT's 401(k) info until he gets me a PIN so I can log in. I lost the piece of paper that contained the PIN, and he is just not as interested in this stuff as I am, so he's taking forever getting me another. Anyway, it's probably for the best, as it sounds like most people's January net worth took a hit from the stock market. I'm sure our 401(k)s fared no better. Luckily our aggressive debt repayment pushes our net worth upward no matter what. I'll know more when I check in late February--hopefully I'll be able to by then!

3. AS contacts. She will be ordering once we have enough surplus money in play, and will get it reimbursed less than a month later. She already knows what day we'll have enough money; I just need to remember to add to the budget so I'm not surprised when it happens.

4. NT college admission. We need to have this figured out before we take our England vacation, I think. We've been putting off thinking about his applying to college because it seems so complicated: He's a continuing-ed student since he's in his 30s and it's been awhile since high school, but also technically a transfer because he did complete a year in England, though we need to figure out how his UK credits translate into the U.S. education system, and whether he needs any kind of standardized tests. He's a conditional permanent U.S. resident but still a UK citizen, so we need to find out what types of student loans he's eligible for. He's lived in MN for over a year so hopefully in-state tuition applies, but we'll need to verify that as well. Oh, AND he wants to take regular undergrad classes but still work full-time, so we need to figure out whether he can handle a full course load or if he needs to go part-time. Whew...am I forgetting anything? So...yeah, that's going to be a full-time job just figuring out where to start, and making sure we ask all the right questions of all the right people at the university.

OK, now I can't remember if there was more on this list. Good thing I can edit this entry if I remember, because I want to keep all this in one place so I don't forget anything.

February mortgage payments

February 4th, 2008 at 12:18 pm

U.S. mortgage: $291 to principal
UK #1: $116
UK #2: $24
UK #3: $26
Total: $457 of principal

Which means $2,003 down, $897 to go on my February goal...

$3,257 to go on my Overall Ad Hoc Goal...

No progress on my Big-Picture goal, as it only concerns credit card and personal debt.

I just posted a GBP740 (about $1,480) payment to one of our UK credit cards, so as soon as it hits we'll breeze past our February goal and take a big chunk out of the other two. That will happen tomorrow or Wednesday!

Another credit card payment

February 1st, 2008 at 07:22 am

$287 to principal.

$1,546 down, $1,354 to go on my February goal

$3,714 to go on my Overall Ad Hoc Goal

$66,789 to go on my Big Picture Goal

I will transfer a bunch of money to our UK account today or Monday, and once it goes through, I should be able to put enough toward a credit card to reach our February goal! Looks like I underestimated our February debt-paying potential, because of unexpectedly not owing the taxes we thought we would. Well, that just means I'll set a higher goal for March, since I'll be starting that challenge so early in February.