My credit card payment hit: $243 to principal. Now I've got $453 down, $897 to go on my September goal, and $49,396 to go on the Big-Picture Goal.
This is the fun part of the month when all my bills hit. I never thought I'd find it fun until recently.
Archive for August, 2008
My credit card payment hit: $243 to principal. Now I've got $453 down, $897 to go on my September goal, and $49,396 to go on the Big-Picture Goal.
Payment to the UK credit card hit. A pleasant surprise: apparently due to the big extra payment we made earlier this month, almost all of this payment went toward principal: US$210. So that's $210 down, $1140 to go on our September goal, $49,639 to go on the Big-Picture Goal.
We finally found out the details of our mortgage adjustment. On Nov. 1, the monthly payment will be going up $79.97. Then it will adjust every year after that.
Considering we can't do a damn thing about refinancing as long as we owe about what it's worth, $80 is a relief. We can definitely work that into our budget. And the interest rate is only going up to 5.99%, so that's still a good rate for the time being.
If it looks like we aren't going to have enough equity to refi by October 2009, we can start pouring extra money toward equity instead of other debt. I just hope house values start to rebound a bit by then to make it easier.
Thanks for the advice on my last entry! Both commenters said to go with my gut when categorizing spending. Hmm...well, my gut says the barber is a household necessity like shampoo--and like shampoo, we go to the cheapest one possible ($20 each with tip). And calling the "Mortgage/utilities" category "Mortgage/utilities/telecom" allows me to lump my phone and cable in that expense while still sort of calling it out as a separate category. (Telecom fits with the level of necessity of owning a nice condo in a good neighborhood: I don't NEED to live in a nice place, nor do I NEED cellphones and high-speed Internet, but it sure is important to me.)
So my breakdown prediction for my new October budget is as follows:
Mortgage/utilities/telecom: $2044.18 (28% of take-home)
Debt repay: $2687.67 (37%)
Spending/entertainment: $1489.66 (20%)
Household/grocery: $1059.49 (15%)
I'm fairly happy with those percentages. Debt repay has gone down and spending up since the last time I really calculated it. That's because I realized after our England trip how important travel was to my family, especially me. It's a little sobering to see 20% when you add up all our discretionary spending, but I think it's worth it so far.
The Mortgage etc. category will go up in November and I'll probably take that money out of Debt repay. But if AS gets a higher-paying job eventually, I would like most of that money to go toward the debt-repay category. I'd like to see that percentage get back up over 40%, at least for a little while.
Of course I'll need to start saving for babies soon, and when/if we actually have one (or more), the household budget will go through the roof.
I like seeing how my spending breaks down, but I don't always feel the same way about what bills go to which categories. The four main categories I use are:
Most things are no-brainers (mortgage and condo fees go in Mortgage/utilities, credit cards and student loans go in Debt repay, Netflix and travel savings go in Spending/entertainment, medical and education go in Household/grocery), but others I'm unsure about:
- Is the cellphone package a utility or a household expense? It's our only phone service.
- Is the barber a household or a spending/entertainment expense? Looking groomed is sort of a work necessity, but then so are work clothes and we pay for those out of spending money or windfall money.
- Cable/Internet package: entertainment or household? We use the Internet for a lot of practical household things, but obviously entertainment is a large part of it, and cable is all entertainment.
Where do you think I should put these items? Or do you have a completely different way of breaking things down?
I added a new page to my blog, showing my household's net worth broken down by individual. Since we have a lot of younger members on SavingAdvice now, this should be instructive: We all three have lots of debt and haven't handled our money the best, but one of us bought a house young and started retirement contributions as soon as he entered the workforce. Now we're in our late twenties/mid-thirties, and guess who has positive net worth?
I received word of my 3% raise, effective in September. Hooray! It's the first raise in a year and a half so I'm happy. The other good news is if the company doesn't do too terribly for the next six months, we might get another raise in April, since that's the month we usually get raises.
Sold a few more books on half.com, and going to send in some old cellphones and iPods to various online places to get a few bucks. I hope to net $6 for three phones and $20 for two iPods (one of which works). Considering their battered condition I think that's fair enough. The only thing I don't like about the iPod place is that I have to pay shipping upfront. The cellphone site takes care of it and sent me a postage-paid envelope. But I'll pick the cheapest shipping possible for the iPods and cross my fingers.
AS saved us at least $40 (probably much more than that if you figure full price) on NT's textbooks by extensively hunting around for the best deals online. I'm confident we'll be able to sell back whatever books he doesn't keep on half.com. I love that site; you can get really nice prices on textbooks! We've sold 16 of the 31 books we posted their in early August, and made about $150 total.
NT got invited to join Pinecone and cashed his first $3 check yesterday. I really hope they have need of a 34YO woman soon! I'm registered and just waiting to hear from them.
Looking ahead to our vacation, it looks like it will be completely funded by Oct. 1. We leave Oct. 3, so once again we'll have paid for a vacation before we even leave. Make that about the second one in my adult life!
NT's pensions: 7,250 pounds ($14,500)
10,725 pounds ($21,450)
NT's 401(k): $2,124
AS's 403(b): $2,360
CJ's 401(k): $25,452
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $182,000
Total Assets: $507,886
Total Debt: $421,117
Current Estimated Net Worth: $86,769
July 2008 estimate: $82,578
Change in net worth: +$4,191
Summary: All our U.S. retirement funds went up in value a bit this month, and we paid off a healthy amount of debt, resulting in our biggest jump in net worth for a while. If I were able to keep up this pace, we'd crack $100K by the end of the year! Unlikely, but not impossible.
Note on the numbers above: House value estimates are conservative, and retirement totals don't include amounts currently unvested.
Sold two more books on half.com, for $8.99 and $9.99. Also, AS got a small health reimbursement of about $28. And, our change jar is almost full, so soon we can take it into the bank.
We use the debit card for grocery and household spending, so the only cash we use is our spending money. We all throw leftover change from our spending money (plus whatever I find on the ground) into a jar and it goes to the bank when it's full, to put toward whatever we're saving for. So it's a nice way of recycling some of our spending money for other fun stuff.
I had fun yesterday moving around the $1700 that I had saved for dental costs. I:
- Kept $450 for my surgery
- Paid a couple of small medical bills (about $80 total)
- Paid AS's student loan interest ($145)
- Allocated about $650 to my September personal loan payment for a little debt repay. This means we'll exceed our September goal!
- Added $95 to our home-improvement garage sale winnings, taking it to $450
- Replenished our health and education categories for September that I'd dipped into (bringing them back up to $40 each)
- Put the rest into our travel fund. We've now reached our initial $3000 goal, but I'm going to keep saving in hopes that we can afford some spa treatments too.
I'm feeling kinda crappy today. Time-o'-month stuff, plus fending something off by guzzling cranberry juice. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, count yourself lucky and move on!) Also, I missed a call yesterday that would have moved my dental surgery up, so I'm bummed about that, and it started me kind of obsessing over my teeth again. Not as bad as before, though, so it's OK.
Despite all that, I'm having a good money day, so that part of me is happy. Here's the scuttlebutt, smallest to biggest:
- Found several pennies on the ground today and yesterday.
- Sold another book on half.com, for 19.99!
- Figured out the main pieces of furniture we want to buy will only come to about $270, leaving about $80 to play with (kitchen storage, artwork). And we have a ride to Ikea tomorrow to pick everything out!
- I freaked out about my upcoming dental surgery costs today, so I called my insurance provider. To my relief, they swore up and down that the max out-of-pocket cost would be $448! That is much better than the $1000-$2000 my fevered imagination was expecting. That means I will easily cover my health and education expenses in September and have a bit left over for extra debt repayment (and possibly spa treatment on our vacation--I think we're all going to need some pampering, bad!)
Phew, the garage sale is finally over. I've just been recovering today.
All day Thursday, AS and I loaded up borrowed vehicles (first a station wagon, then a minivan, then the first car again) with items for the sale. The Craigslist person didn't come over or call about the bench/loveseat thing, so we threw that into the sale too. When we were done bringing all our stuff over, we helped organize and load everything into the garage to be locked up overnight. We were exhausted by the end! Luckily NT had dinner and wine ready, so that helped restore us.
The friend who loaned us the station wagon let us keep the car for Friday, too, thank goodness, because we had to be at the sale before 7 a.m. to help lug half the stuff into the driveway and arrange the stuff that was staying in the garage. This was a seven-family sale, did I mention that? And that we'd brought over nearly 750 books in addition to everything else? We didn't get the signs out till we were ready, so we weren't mobbed at 7:30 like last year (a relief). AS and I ran the checkout table most of the day, but sometimes it took a third person, because we had to make sure we wrote down each amount on the right family's page even if someone brought up items from different ones. After the sale we helped load the remaining stuff into the garage. We broke a table the hostess had just bought for $50 when we tried to move it! (Luckily she was able to return it to the store.)
Saturday, we slept in a bit, but we didn't have the car and it's about an hour-long bus ride with a switchover. The second day was at least as busy as the first day, and we finally sold our loveseat thing for $40. We were just glad to be rid of it! Several bookworms took away boxloads of books, which was gratifying (we have eclectic taste between the families, and all the books were in pretty good shape). We kept slashing prices more and more throughout the day to make sure we got rid of as much as possible. At the end, we were having a $2 bag sale, and just letting people cram whatever in, because everything left over was going to Goodwill. (And there was still a lot left over!)
After three days of amazing weather, the heavens opened on the late shoppers, so AS and I grabbed the cash and ran inside to start counting and divvying. All told, we had a profit of nearly $1700, and of that, $355 of it was for my family! We're putting it toward some cheap Ikea furniture, stuff we've been wanting for awhile.
I guess if we counted the $181 from the book and CD stores, the $80 from selling the futon, the $90 or so on half.com and the $50-ish on eBay, we pulled out over $750 from this clearout. Our trip will definitely be paid for as well as some sprucing up of our condo. And there's so much more room in our place! It feels positively airy.
It was exhausting, but in the end I think it was worth it.
OK, I hit on a very safe goal of paying off $1350 in September, pretty much the minimum. It's not that any of our student loans have come due, nor that our mortgage has reset (yet). I just don't know how much the dental bills will be or when they'll come due. If I decide later that some of our extra money can go toward debt, I may do that. That's if I get the bill for the dental surgery and it's not as bad as I think. I just don't think I can put off thinking about this bill until later, because I don't know what our student loan bills and mortgage are going to look like, so my whole budget is up in the air right when I look toward September/October/November.
So, $1350 it is, with the possibility of surpassing that by quite a bit if things work out.
Enough about raising money just to spend it for a moment. My personal loan payment hit, with $452 going to principal.
So I've paid $3587 in August, surpassing my goal of $3500! My goal debt balance was $421,204; instead, we're at $421,117.
And, in even bigger news, I now have $49,849 to go on my Big-Picture Goal. Yes, our credit card and personal debt is now under $50,000!!!!
Even as I celebrate, I realize that's a terrible amount for three people to have. But it's sooo much better than where we were in January.
Time to update my sidebar and set my very boring September goal now...
Some items did great, especially my antique book for about $35. Some did kind of cruddily, such as my trio of 80s books for $.99. LOL. Overall I made about $57 on five items, so not too bad. Hopefully eBay and PayPal (aka eBay) won't take too big a chunk.
Tonight we do final pricing, bagging, boxing and disassembly of garage-sale items. We also figure out what time I can have the friends' car.
Tomorrow interested party arrives at noon (hope she's prompt!) to look at (and hopefully take) loveseat. Get friends' car somehow, sometime, and load their stuff and mine in. Take over and drop off at other friends' house. Try and keep trips to a minimum. Track mileage so I can pay for gas. Maybe pick up some cheap furniture I saw at the Office Depot. Drop friends' car back off. Make baked goods to sell at sale, and plan lunches to take to sale.
Friday: get up super-early to help out at garage sale. All-day thing.
Saturday: Sleep in! Head over to help with close of garage sale. Divvy up money.
Sunday: Relax. Clean dusty condo. Go to Mall of America for new bookcases? Go have celebratory drinks!
Since we've been doing so great in the pre-sale of items, I went ahead and booked our hotels and car for the fall vacation. I think it's going to be a great trip, with lots of different scenery from rural West Virginia to trendy Dupont Circle in DC. If we do really really well at the sale, we might even have enough money to enjoy some spa treatments in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland!
Once the garage sale and redecoration madness is over, I'm going to have so much fun mapping out all our routes for the fall vacation. Yes, I'm that dorky.
Sold a few more books on half.com. The one we're mailing off today went for $24.99! It's a slim paperback book, a textbook. AS can't remember how much she paid for it, but she swears it was less. She was good at scoping out relative bargains for her textbooks. Hopefully she can help NT do the same when he starts school this fall!
I've got between 11.5 and 12.5 hours left on my eBay items. There have been some more bids and a few more people are watching, so I'm hopeful! One set of two books is up to $10.50. I imagine they're worth more than that but I didn't know to include the author's name in the title, so I'm lucky people have found it. Plus, I don't mind that selling price at all! Another book is going for $1.25, and another for $0.99 (that one's an antique so I hope it does a bit better), and my antique iron is at $2.25. My last lot, a trio of books, has 5 people watching it but no bids, so I have no idea how that's going to pan out.
I listed a cute little sleigh-bench style loveseat on Craigslist and have someone coming over Thursday to look at it. It's gorgeous but its white upholstery has become a bit dingy and stained over time. I tried cleaning it but I just made whiter spots in the dinge. So I'm asking $60 and will take less, because whoever gets it will want either a professional cleaning or new upholstery.
Oh, and the 40 cents in my title? I "found" it on the breakroom table at work this morning. It was a pile of pennies, left where people usually leave extra food, items or coupons they don't want, etc. They also leave stuff there while they go to the bathroom, so I passed it by the first few times I went to the breakroom. Then I noticed there was also a stray staple and random washer in the pile, and that the pennies were a bit dusty. That's when I figured out someone had been cleaning out their desk and that was one of the items they had no use for! Apparently no one else did either, because stuff on the giveaway table goes pretty quickly if it's desirable. Um, OK dumbasses. I scooped the pennies into my pocket and counted them at my desk. 40 cents. How dumb can people get? Well, that castoff money will help us afford a nice hotel for one night in DC this fall. And apparently no one will miss it.
We finally sold our futon, for $80. I'm glad we listed it at $100 as it was probably inevitable that we'd get bargained down. $75 was my initial thought, so we did all right.
We also took six big bags of books to a used-book store and a bag of CDs to a used-CD store. We made $118 on over half the books and $45 on all the CDs. Then we took the remaining books to another store down the street. They took a handful for another $18. We brought the rest back, about two big bags full, and tagged them for the garage sale.
So all told, we made $261 to put toward our fall trip to the East Coast. By my calculations we only have to make about $250 more; the rest will come from regular scheduled deposits into savings. I think we'll easily make that much at the garage sale, and anything else will go toward home improvement. We're rearranging some of our rooms and hope to get some cheap bookcases and other pieces at Ikea with the profits.
Some more people are watching my eBay sales: yes, despite all your admonitions to try and stop obsessing, I keep checking them a few times a day. Sorry! But so far no more bids.
We did make a few more book sales on half.com, including one for $8.99! I don't total those till the direct deposits come through, because with shipping and reimbursement, commission and Paypal fees, it's too confusing. But I think we've got about another $25 coming to us from there, and 25 books still listed that I hope will pull in some money.
Oh, and someone commented on our last post suggesting we check the battery on our smoke alarm. Well, the handyman came and tested our wired smoke alarm and found it worked fine. Then he noticed our battery-powered one down the hall, which we hadn't checked, and indeed all the beeping had been because of its low battery. We don't know how much the bill will be for wasting the handyman's time, but it will probably be $35. We feel like quite the fools.
I feel wiped out by this week. I'm so glad it's almost over!
Highlights and low points:
Monday I got the news that I need some dental surgery; now I wish the appointment would just come, because I can't help imagining that my mouth is deteriorating even more in the meantime. But it's scheduled for Sept. 3, so I just have to be patient. I'm not even that worried about how much it will cost; I mostly just want to feel like I have a healthy mouth again! (I may be singing a different tune when I see the bill, but we'll see.)
I got a bunch of books listed on half.com, and I've sold 4 out of 31! We're averaging a profit of about $6 per book so far, so I'm happy.
I listed five items on eBay, which I don't use very often, and I've gotten absolutely obsessed with it, checking every few hours to see if there's been any new interest. I can't tell how they're going to do, because I listed them all at 99 cents, and so far three of them have 99-cent bids. But there are at least two people watching most of the items, so I hope they'll go up. It's an interesting mix of items: a 1946 General Mills iron still in its cute retro packaging, an antique book (possibly from the 1890s) about a female Civil War soldier, a 1961 book on decorating for teenagers, and two collections of classic erotica books (one set from the 60s and one from the 80s). I think they're all good items but I'm not really sure how much they'll go for. Oh well, at least they'll all get good homes, and if people get huge bargains on them it will be so exciting for them. I've learned from one of my favorite shows, Cash in the Attic on BBC, that you have to be willing to let things go at any cost if you're going to put them in an auction.
This weekend a friend is driving me to some used bookstores to try and sell as many books as possible before the garage sale. Whatever they turn down is going into the sale. We already have hundreds of books earmarked for that, so it's going to be quite a job hauling it all over to the sale!
NT got a $100 bill last night because they had to cancel a work gathering, and the founder wanted them to celebrate with their family instead. So we ordered our favorite gourmet pizza, had it delivered, and each got big, elaborate ones that would give us enough for lunch today as well. It came to $60, we gave the driver $10, and NT gave me the other $30 to put in our travel fund. Hooray! I wish it were lunchtime right this second so I could eat my leftovers.
I got to check over the above friend's budget (he's trying to track finances and get out of debt for the first time), and I helped him cut a few costs. It was very exciting because no one in the real world has ever asked for my help before. And now I have someone in the real world who will geek out about budgeting with me.
One of NT's UK pensions has lost about $1600 over the past year, so that will affect our next net worth update. But it shouldn't take us backward thanks to our huge credit card payment last week.
AS listed the futon at her college, and we've gotten two calls so far. Hope to close the deal for at least $85, today if possible.
I have bills stacking up in my purse, which is unusual for me. Nonurgent stuff like medical copays, dentist bills and student loan interest payments on deferred loans. I'm planning on using my September extra debt-repay to wipe all these out, but some of that money will actually be available with our Aug. 15 paychecks, so if I get a chance I will set those payments up today. It's been busy at work, and I've been writing this post in between jobs, but now it seems to be slowing down.
I still haven't finished up the UK taxes! It's OK if it waits till after the garage sale and all these other sales, but I want to get it off my plate soon...
Oh yeah, and our smoke alarm has been chirping angrily every few minutes for a couple days now. We're finally getting the handyman to come look at it, so that'll be another expense. If we don't use all our September extra money for the above-mentioned expenses, I'll save the rest to cover repairs.
Phew! No wonder I feel wiped out this week. Except for pricing some more garage-sale items, the bookstore jaunt and some grocery shopping, I'd like this to be a fairly quiet and relaxing weekend.
Hooray! The payment I've been whining about for the past week has finally hit! $2131 went to principal on the UK card, nearly a third of the balance gone. Now I'm going to leave that low-interest puppy alone, to die a slow death on minimum payments while I focus on my higher-interest U.S. debt.
So that makes $3135 down, just $365 to go on my August goal!
And $50,301 to go on my Big-Picture Goal! I'm so close to being under $50K--in about two weeks I'll be there.
I'll have to post a new snapshot of my debt spreadsheet when that happens.
Grr...my big CC payment has STILL not hit! I don't know why it's taking so long; it didn't last time. I hope to get NT to call them, although I don't know what that will do. It's already been taken out of our UK bank account (almost a week ago) so it has to be on its way there if it's not there already. An electronic payment should not take this long.
I went to the gums specialist yesterday, and he confirmed bone loss in my upper jaw, scheduled me for surgery in September. What can I say? I'm trying not to be freaked out, but I can totally tell the difference when I run my tongue over the left side vs. the right side. I just have to get used to the idea that my mouth landscape is changed forever, and there's nothing they can do to reverse that; all they can do is try to prevent further damage.
No more takers on my futon; I think I'll go add my phone number and see if that helps. If not, I'll knock the price down tomorrow.
And one bit of good news: first profit from my declutter as a book sold on half.com for $6.99 + shipping! Yay! Hope I get some more sales soon to cheer me up!
We're gearing up for a garage sale we're holding at a friend's house. We've been throwing unwanted stuff into one closet generally, so we pulled all that out, tagged it and stacked it in the dining area. We also went through the house and pulled more clothes and other items to add to the pile.
The biggest thing we did was exorcise our addiction to book-collecting. We've always had trouble taking books off the shelves and saying we wanted to get rid of them, because who wants to get rid of books they like? So I had an idea. I pulled every single book off every shelf in the house and stacked them all on the bedroom floor. Then I made some rules: Make two stacks, one of definite keepers and one of "want to reads." Anything you don't feel really strongly about, leave on the floor.
This way made it much easier to get rid of books that we liked, were somewhat attached to but didn't feel like we needed to make our lives complete. We managed to leave two-thirds to three-quarters of all our books on the floor!
Then we divvied the not-kept books into two categories: likely to sell at used bookstore or online, and unlikely to sell--take to garage sale.
We took the likely-to-sell books and entered their ISBN numbers on half.com. If they hadn't sold recently or hadn't sold for at least $5, we put them in the "take to used bookstore" category. If they stood a good chance on half.com, then we listed them and put them on a bookshelf by the computer.
So now we've got a single layer of books on our bookshelves for the first time in years(!), several large bags of books to take to bookstores, and several crates and boxes of books to take to the garage sale. We'll do the bookstore first, and anything they reject will go to the garage sale as well.
It was hard as I'm really attached to books, but once I saw how many there really were, I felt claustrophobic and wanted to get rid of a bunch. Plus, the ones we kept we REALLY love, so it's going to give us a warm glow to look at our pared-down bookshelves full of classics tailored to our unique taste!
We also listed our futon craigslist and got a response right away. This couple came over and gave us $80 for it, then asked NT to disassemble it for them. Halfway through the process they decided it would never fit in their car, so they took their money and left us with a half-disassembled futon in our doorway. Silly kids. Oh well. Hopefully we'll get another response. We still have a loveseat-type thingie to list and hopefully get someone to cart away.
A credit card payment hit: $245 to principal. And AS's student loan payment put $64 to principal. A total of $309 toward the August goal.
So that's $1004 down, $2496 to go on the August goal, and $52,432 to go on my Big-Picture Goal.
My big credit card payment to the UK card hasn't hit yet. Grr... That's OK, it'll still be exciting when it does!
All four mortgage payments hit today:
US: $297 to principal
$480 total went to principal, so that's $695 down, $2805 to go on my August goal.
The big mortgage milestone? Our combined house debt now equals $299,643! That's right, the odometer turned over and we're now under $300,000. Woo hoo!
No progress on my Big-Picture Goal because my big, exciting CC payment didn't hit today as hoped. Oh well, tomorrow or Monday.
We've been wondering for awhile what to do about our impending mortgage reset. AS bit the bullet last night and called our mortgage company to ask about possibly refinancing to a 30-year mortgage. Well, turns out you can't do that unless you have at least 5% equity in your home. Our home's value has tumbled at least $25K in the past 5 years, so we have little to no equity and may even be upside down a bit. Looks like we'll have to take the reset and try again later when the market has recovered a bit. Oh well, their estimate (if it reset now) was that our payment would go up about $100. So even if rates continue to rise, hopefully it won't go up more than $200. I can deal with that.