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Archive for September, 2008

My superstar celebrity household ;-)

September 30th, 2008 at 11:32 am

Today, NT got a bit of last-minute voiceover work from a friend who works in advertising. He had two lines in a radio ad, playing a snooty, surly English butler.

On Friday before we leave, AS is doing some hand-modeling for another friend, whose publishing house is doing a book about knitting.

And what about me? I'll be the money-grubbing, pushy handler behind the scenes. Smile

Actually, I don't think either job pays; they're just favors for friends. I think we'll get a copy of the book and a CD of the ad and that's about it. Still, it's kind of funny they both got gigs the same week, out of the blue like that.

$50 that I don't know what to do with

September 30th, 2008 at 08:36 am

NT's paycheck today has $50 in overtime. Usually I know what my top priority for extra money is, be it extra debt repay, fun-money savings, medical expenses or spending money. But in an uncertain future, it's difficult to make those kinds of decisions. I know I should either:
- Put it aside for emergency or medical expenses.
- Put it in Xmas gift savings.
- Use it to start saving for next year's CSA.
- Put it toward next year's vacation.
- Pay off a little extra on my personal loan.

All of these categories need a lot more than $50, and so it's difficult to prioritize. Maybe I should put $10 in each...

Weekend spending, and spending time with a spendthrift

September 29th, 2008 at 11:02 am

Saturday was haircut day in our household. I bit the bullet and got a super-short hairdo that I'm fairly confident could be classified as "fierce." I love it! It's actually shorter than NT's, and he's been giving me pointers about how best to style it. Our barber only charges $15 per haircut and hasn't raised his prices in at least three years. We tip him $5 on each job because he is really good for the price (and a great guy to boot), so the total was $60 for the three of us.

Saturday night we went to the restaurant we'd picked out, Broders Pasta Bar. Even though we knew it was high-end-ish, the name led us to believe it would be a casual, first-come-first-serve atmosphere, so we didn't bother making reservations. Turns out there was an hour-and-a-half wait! We got carryout instead, shared a carafe of wine while waiting, and enjoyed the food at home (it was amazing--we'll be going back--with reservation made next time). Spent $65 instead of the expected $100-$120, because we only had a bit of wine instead of the probable bottle or two, plus no tip and no appetizer. We decided to put our saved money into our vacation fund--why not? We'll be eating out a ton then too, so it's going to the same purpose.

A friend came over Sunday to sell NT a couple CDs because he was hard up for money and needed some to tide him over for the weekend. I don't know much about this friend's financial situation but he seems pretty impulsive and free-spirited. After explaining that he'd gotten down to his last $4 and needed to fill up his car before payday, he proceeded to pull out a new Apple iTouch and show it off! Someone asked when he got it, and he said he'd gotten a "windfall" a couple weeks ago and used it to buy this. Boy, it looked like a neat gadget, but it'll take me awhile before I stop associating it with someone who was so disorganized, they were down to $4 two weeks later. Not like I don't blow my windfall money on luxuries sometimes, but I at least look ahead and make sure I've got money to cover the basics first.

First step toward October goal

September 26th, 2008 at 09:32 am

UK credit card payment hit: $82 to principal. Since I made a huge payment to it, the minimum payoff each month has gone down by about $50. But that's OK, because the minimum payment itself has been reduced by $70. The goal with the UK account is to keep a small surplus in there so we can cover flat-rental expenses from flat-rental income and not have to transfer money over at $50 a pop (not including bank fees on the other end). So having a much smaller payment is good. And the interest rate on that credit card is low and fixed, so there are much more urgent debts to pay off quickly.

Anyway, that's $82 down, $2,918 to go on my October goal, and $44,984 to go on my Big-Picture Goal. (That goal got an artificial boost when I used part of a student loan to pay some of my personal loan off. I decided to go with it because it would get confusing to catgegorize part of one student loan under CC debt. I'm going to attack the student loans and mortgages with the same vigor once I'm out of CC debt anyway.)

Heading into a good weekend

September 26th, 2008 at 09:06 am

Several good strokes of luck this week, and many fun things planned as well:
- Got a $50 Target card from one of my bosses for the crazy week I had.
- Got word from another supervisor that I'll be given another batch of writing assignments this fall.
- Friend's birthday party tonight.
- Haircuts tomorrow, and I'm going to coax my barber into giving me a supershort cut (unless he thinks it will look terrible with my round face).
- Nice dinner out tomorrow (Broder's Pasta Bar--never tried it but read and heard good things about it).

Sunday will be all about shopping, cooking, cleaning and homework, but two out of three days will be fun!

Nice little surprise...

September 24th, 2008 at 02:40 pm

...in the checking account!

This was the first week AS's paycheck was due to go up to its pre-tuition-tax-withholding levels (her free tuition had exceeded tax-exempt levels and so for six pay periods we had about $250 more withdrawn from her checks). I knew her check used to be $900-something, but I just lowballed it in my budget estimations rather than looking it up (since AS's paychecks are notoriously unpredictable anyway) and put $900 even for today's deposit.

Well, I finally got a chance to check my account, and it actually was $1,005.22! Nice one! I put the excess aside for some medical expenses; I have some little dribs and drabs of copays and stuff that I've been putting off paying because I couldn't decide where to take the money from now that my September and October funds have both been depleted. Now I can pay all those little bills and won't have to wait till November (or take it out of some other category). It's about time we got a little stroke of luck!

September net worth update

September 23rd, 2008 at 05:42 pm

Assets:
NT's pensions: 7,250 pounds ($14,500)
10,725 pounds ($21,450)
NT's 401(k): $2,290
AS's 403(b): $2,504
CJ's 401(k): $24,685
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $182,000
---
Total Assets: $507,429

Total Debt: $419,076

Current Estimated Net Worth: $88,353

August 2008 estimate: $86,769
Change in net worth: +$1,584

Summary: NT's and AS's U.S. retirement funds actually increased in value a bit this month, but I lost about $800 in value. We paid off an OK amount of debt, so our net worth did go up a bit.

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

Financial doldrums

September 23rd, 2008 at 01:08 pm

Nothing exciting happening moneywise so far this week.

This is going down in history as one of my worst health years so far. Now I've got a cold/sore throat, just as my teeth start to heal! I have no idea if I should reschedule my final checkup with the periodontist tomorrow.

Ugh, ugh, ugh. I'm only at work because I knew my boss (the only other proofreader) is going home early today. Plus I don't know if I'll be worse off tomorrow and REALLY need a sick day.

I just hope I get better, because we've got a fun few weeks ahead of us; Project Runway night tomorrow, a friend's 30th on Friday, nice dinner out on Saturday, another TV night with friends next Thursday, and leaving for vacation next Friday, to tour VA/WV/DC/MD for 10 days. I want to be able to really enjoy everything!

Luckily this seems to be a minor, if annoying, ailment. Hopefully we'll all shake it off soon. (Oh yeah, we've all got it. Did I mention that part?) Hopefully now that we've all had it for a day or two, we aren't contagious anymore. (Isn't that how it works?)

On the bright side, very easy cooking night; we're using the mushroom sauce we made this weekend, so all we have to do is boil some pasta and reheat the sauce!

Busy week last week!

September 22nd, 2008 at 09:44 am

I just got caught up reading all the posts from Friday on! I've been so busy at work and home that I haven't been keeping up like I usually do, and haven't had time to write much either.

Last week was crazy busy at work--my time was almost 100% billable, which is unusual for me. Then at home, AS and I are working hard to get a housekeeping rhythm going so NT doesn't have anything to do but homework. Part of the job is keeping an eye on him and making sure he doesn't do any surreptitious housework! It's hard--today I woke up and some of the dishes I'd left for today were done, and the counters cleaned. Grrr...

NT had to write papers and do homework all weekend, so AS and I took a page from a friend's book--he's doing lots of batch cooking and freezing so there's less to do later in the month--and did a lot of cooking for the week. In addition to veggie "chicken" parmesan for lunch and veggie "roast" dinner with 3 side dishes on Saturday; veggie brats/burgers, instant mashed potatoes and cabbage & apples for lunch, and pasta with spicy garlic toss and oven-roasted cherry tomatoes for dinner Sunday; and several strawberry and/or banana milkshakes; we made:
- Big serving of the cabbage & apple dish (we'll have the rest Thursday)
- Two loaves of multigrain bread and one of banana bread, for lunches & breakfasts
- Carrot (with tops) soup to have for lunches
- Radish salad (I'll try that tonight)
- Salsa for tacos later this week
- Mushroom/tarragon cream sauce for pasta later this week

This was partly to save work later in the week, partly to make sure some of the veggies got used while they were at their peak.

We're trying to be extra-frugal with our grocery shopping so we can have a surplus next week and go out to dinner somewhere nice. So far the budget looks like it's working out exactly to plan!

October goal

September 18th, 2008 at 01:10 pm

OK, I feel comfortable posting an October goal now that I have a pretty good feel for what's going to happen with AS.

I feel OK about throwing the maximum we have toward debt this month, because I think we'll have enough to cover all the minimums for the forseeable future.

So my October goal is to pay off $3,000 in debt.

Layoff probable and imminent!

September 18th, 2008 at 09:42 am

I just heard from AS, who just had a private chat with one of her bosses.

It sounds like she will get laid off, and soon! Hooray!

The boss was very nice; she said AS was on her list of possible layoffs, but that she could spare a couple people because she'd saved more money than she needed to. She said she'd heard that AS might not be happy with her job and would want to move on soon, and was there anything she could do to change that? AS said probably not. The boss said she'd made her decisions a little easier and thanked her.

If only all people at her job were this nice and clear about things, she probably wouldn't want to leave this bad! But anyway, it's a good situation, because she was able to say in not-so-many words, Please lay me off. And her boss was able to imply that she would make it so.

It's not official yet, but it sounds like it will happen, and that it will be announced before we go on vacation.

She'll only get one week of severance pay, but at least she'll qualify for unemployment, which should cover health care and keep us from cutting back on anything except extra debt repay. That's a load off our minds! And this would mean AS could afford to do some volunteer work on spec, which is one way to maybe get a job in the field she wants.

Shifting some debt over

September 16th, 2008 at 09:01 am

Yesterday we got a check for $3,293.72 from the university NT's attending. We received too much financial aid and I thought they'd send the excess straight back to the loan company, but instead they sent it to us.

I was going to just deposit it and write a check to the loan company, but then it struck me: Why use the money to pay off a 5.7% interest loan when I've got that 8.9% personal loan sitting there with over $22,000 left to pay?

So I'm going to use the check to pay off $3,293.72 of my personal loan instead. I'm not sure how much money it will save us over time, but it certainly won't hurt matters any. So effectively, I haven't lowered my debt at all, but my CC/personal debt will be less and student loan debt will be more. Kind of like a little balance transfer to a lower-interest loan, but without the balance transfer fee.

Reached September goal and then some!

September 15th, 2008 at 07:27 am

Personal loan hit; $1,036 went to principal. Woo hoo! So my goal was to pay off $1,350, and I actually paid $2,041!

And that's $48,360 to go on my Big-Picture Goal. (I know I won't hit it but I still want to track my progress on it for the time being.)

Yesterday we were going to the mall for some much-needed clothes shopping and a movie. NT got over $100 in OT pay, and since we already reached our vacation goal that it would have gone to, we decided to divvy it up to help us shop for clothes. Good thing, because money doesn't go far at full-price stores (which we almost never shop at anymore). We all made some very smart purchases and got things we needed, and actually got our movie for free, because American Eagle was offering a free movie ticket for trying on some jeans and another ticket for buying them. Two of us liked our jeans so we got 5 movie tickets altogether! Now we can go next week and only have to pay for one ticket between us.

It felt oddly foreign to go to the mall and shop and go to a movie. We even ate at the food court! It did make me think I like shopping and eating out, but the only way at this point I could add more money in for that would be to divert money away from travel, and I think that's our main leisure priority. We can't have all our wants at once, but we could always reprioritize later if we felt like it.

Generous change jar; uncertain future

September 11th, 2008 at 03:10 pm

The change jar yielded $84.83 when the bank counted and deposited it! Our vacation is fully funded and then some. We're going to have a lot of fun in October.

Spoke to AS just now. Her job is getting more and more miserable by the day. More worrisome, it seems to be sapping her energy and confidence, both of which she's going to need if she's going to get a job to match her new degree. (It is a new field for her, but I know she can talk her way in, just not with her self-esteem at this low state.)

We talked about how she may need to get out before she finds a job, so she can lose the negativity and also have more time to devote to the job search. We put almost her entire paycheck toward extra debt repay, so with a few other cutbacks, we could survive on just two checks for a little while. All that would happen is that our debt repay would slow to a crawl, and some of our discretionary spending would have to stop temporarily. Of course we'd have to pay for health insurance and bus passes, but otherwise our necessary expenses wouldn't go up.

We decided to wait a week or two. Layoffs are going to be announced soon, and she wouldn't want to give notice before that. If she gets laid off instead of quitting she'll probably get a nice severance package, which could make this a much easier time for us. I've never hoped for someone to get laid off before, but there's a first time for everything! Smile Anyway, she's putting out some feelers, so there's a slight chance she'll get a nibble from some company before she has to quit. But I'm steeling myself for her quitting, just to be prepared.

It's kind of scary, but overall it's a gamble that I think would pay off. AS has fearsome interview and job-hunting skills, but the barrage of blows to her self-esteem from bad co-workers, an unstimulating yet stressful position, a dismal fiscal situation in her department and a revolving stable of ever-worsening bosses have conspired to weaken her somewhat. I think even just the satisfaction of telling them she's leaving will do wonders! Once she's back in fighting shape, I've no doubt she can find a great job, probably one that pays a good deal more than her current crapfest.

Within $1.11

September 11th, 2008 at 09:33 am

...of my new higher vacation savings goal! And since we have $25 automatically going into the account in two weeks, and a big ol' jar of change to take into the bank today, we will easily exceed, maybe even by $100. I think I will accumulate up to $100 more than my goal, and if we want to splurge on something during the vacay we will; if not, the excess will go into savings for our next vacation.

I have a nice big payment going to my personal loan tomorrow, though it will probably not hit until Monday. That will get me to my September goal and then some!

I've been thinking recently that I need to acknowledge my "Big-Picture Goal" will not be reached by 12/31/09. I'll have more money going toward mortgage and student loans and thus less and less to put toward CC debt, at least unless one of us gets a higher-paying job (too uncertain to count on). Also, if I want to start trying to get pregnant, I'll have to divert what extra money I do have into creating a proper emergency fund, and expanding my grocery/household budget to include baby supplies.

I'm now thinking that my main goal should be paying off my personal loan ($23,614 right now), which at 8.99% is by far the highest-interest debt I have. After that I really feel I need to pay my dad the rest of the money I owe him for helping us with our condo down payment. (I paid him $5,000 of the $12,000 within the first two years, but I haven't made a payment since then.) I was going to pay off ALL CC debt and then end with that, since it's no interest and no minimum payments. But if it's going to be several years before we're CC debt-free, I need to pay him by the end of next year either way. It's one of those emotional decisions that doesn't make the most financial sense; I know my dad is good with his money and has no urgent need to get that back, but I want him to feel like he raised a daughter who keeps her word.

Slowly coming back into focus

September 9th, 2008 at 09:32 am

Recuperating from an illness or procedure for me is like living life in the outskirts, slightly out of focus. It's hard for me to focus on anything outside of my own health, and I keep to myself more so I feel like the world notices me less.

Today I finally feel a bit more in focus. Yesterday I did go back to work, but I barely communicated with anyone beyond the necessities. Today I feel more up to talking, and people respond to that unconsciously--more people are addressing me in the halls, etc. I'm moving down to 2 Ibuprofens at a time versus 3, and it seems to be working just as well, so I assume the pain is a little less and the healing is happening.

Anyway, beginning to post and follow everyone's blogs is part of coming out of my daze. I'll be going back through the past few days to catch up on your news!

Moneywise, not too much has happened, except:

- We did get about $32 deposited into PayPal for our 3 old, semifunctional iPods. I recommend the site: buymytronics.com. You have to pay your own shipping but they responded quickly and were legit.

- Half.com deposited about $85 for the last few weeks of book sales. The rush appears to be over, but NT did decide to drop one of his classes, so we posted the textbooks, some on half.com and the rest on textbookX.com. Never used that site, so I'll let you know my experience with them! They suggested a higher price for some of the books so I decided to try getting more money that way.

- NT got another $3 from Pinecone!

- Found a necklace my brother gave AS for Christmas many years ago, and NT took it to a jeweler to ask if it was valuable or just costume jewelry. He said that it was 14K gold and a real diamond, and that we might be able to get $100 or so at a pawn shop for it! We'll probably try to take it somewhere over the weekend and see if that's the case.

- Finally sent NT's UK taxes off. Really crossing my fingers again that I did them correctly! He normally does not file (UK will take care of it for you most of the time) so I'm slightly more qualified because I understand US taxes at least. But British legalese and bureaucrat-speak is just different enough (from the US jargon I'm used to) that I feel like I'm wading through clotted cream when I read it! Smile

- Needed a new kitchen faucet; it sprang a leak when we put the new Brita filter on, and NT realized it had rusted through at the top. Was able to afford by using some of my paltry emergency fund, a bit of the home-improvement garage-sale money, and some of our household/grocery money.

- We also had to buy a new vacuum cleaner this month (they stopped making the replacement bags for our old one!), so our grocery money is looking a bit thin. AS and I have taken over the cooking since NT started college, so this weekend will be our first stab at a budget-conscious weekly menu. I think we'll do all right. We've actually been keeping up with the household work and cooking fairly well! This frees up NT to do his homework instead.

- Received a notice from the condo office about a noise complaint, which they suspect may be due to us not having the required 75% of floor covered by carpet. Now let me admit, we do not have any carpet and are in violation of this rule. BUT we've lived here for 5 years and never had a complaint, so I suspect the noise was from moving out the old furniture for the garage sale and assembling/moving into place all our new furniture. Which would have made a lot of noise even if we'd had rugs, I think. So we're not sure if we'll have to buy rugs and put them down, or what. I just hope we don't get some kind of stupid fine, because we've always been tolerant of neighbors' noisy renovation projects and NEVER have turned them in, even when they worked kind of later than they should. I hope instant karma favors us and lets us weasel out of this one without hemorraghing a lot of money. Smile

Well, I guess that was actually more money news than I thought I had!

Home and recovering

September 4th, 2008 at 09:05 pm

Thanks for everybody's encouragement and sympathy. I took today off and I wrote in sick for tomorrow, too--there's no pain so the medicine is working that way, but for some reason my stomach isn't tolerating either Vicodin or Ibuprofen too well--I threw up last night and again tonight. I think it's a matter of not taking anything on an empty stomach, but I don't want to be at work nauseous!

The doctor said he felt it all went well. It was very very unpleasant and I panicked much more than I thought I would during the procedure, but it didn't hurt at all because of the Novocaine. He had to scrape and plane some teeth, and "move the gumline" and "smooth some jagged bone" on the other side. Right now I have some kind of plasticy dressing so I can't tell if the shape of my teeth and gums feels dramatically different. Probably best I can't feel it. Unfortunately the dressing tastes/smells slightly chemicaly or mediciny, so when I'm feeling nauseous that doesn't help.

I'm going in to see him on Wednesday for a follow-up. I'm going to ask him if there's anything my dentist could have done to clean my teeth better and prevent this from happening. I'd hate to switch dentists, but I'm a little disturbed how much there was to scrape off. Maybe he can give me some advice to pass along to my regular dentist. My semiannual checkup is next week, and I'm going to keep that appointment so they can get to know my new tooth situation.

Well, time to go rinse my mouth and try to get some sleep. The nausea kept me up most of last night, so I napped off and on all day. Hope I can fall asleep normally tonight!

Off to the dentist soon

September 3rd, 2008 at 10:22 am

My gums surgery is scheduled for 2:30 pm today. I'm nervous and excited. If this means the end of feeling unhealthy for awhile, I'll be so happy. If my random health problems continue, I may need to learn transcendental meditation or something. I don't deal well with the feeling of my body slowly breaking down. Obviously I will have to get used to that feeling at some point, but at 34 it feels way too soon. (Yes, I'm very melodramatic when it comes to my health.)

AS suggested moving my physical up this year, as I seem to have lots of things to discuss with my doctor. I may consider it if I don't feel free and clear soon.

Anyway, here's hoping my surgery goes well and I'm not in pain for too long afterward. I bought some pureed soups in case I don't feel like chewing for awhile.

I just hope I feel up to housework, since I'm trying to get NT to stay away from chores and focus on work and school (which combined give him about a 60-hour work week not counting homework).

Student loan payment hit; new student loans

September 3rd, 2008 at 07:23 am

AS's student loan payment posted today, with $64 going to principal. So that's $1,005 down, $345 to go on my September goal. I only have one payment left before I hit my goal, a big one to my personal loan that should process around 9/13.

We've taken out student loans for NT's first semester of college; he went to his first class yesterday! He's working full-time and taking a full load of classes this semester, so I don't expect I'll see him much. After this semester he intends to take it easier.

I don't know the exact breakdown of the loans, because AS did the final bits of work. I think we took about 11,000 out for the first two semesters or something. At first that worried me because I only estimated $40,000 in loans for four years of college, but NT's already got a semester's worth of credits under his belt, so he won't have to take this many classes most semesters. I'm still hoping we can get his education for $40,000 or less, especially if I pay for most of his books upfront and don't use loan money for that.

So, when I find out the exact loan amounts, I'm still going to estimate the remainder of $40,000 in my debt list, rather than adding more. (Does that sentence make sense to anyone but me? Probably not.)

Mortgage payments hit

September 2nd, 2008 at 07:17 am

All our mortgage payments hit today. $488 to principal, broken down thusly:
US mortgage: $300
UK #1: $130
UK #2: $28
UK #3: $30

So that's $941 down, $409 to go on my September goal, and no movement on my Big-Picture Goal.

In other good news, my U.S. mortgage just dipped below $180,000!