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Archive for November, 2008

First two payments to Dec. goal

November 26th, 2008 at 10:18 pm

First off, happy Thanksgiving everyone! AS is cooking cakes and pies right now, and our house smells heavenly. I'm doing a stuffing, gravy and Waldorf salad, so that can all be done tomorrow. NT is handling three dishes, and our friends NJ & CC are doing five dishes together. Two other friends are coming over and will supply the wine and possibly some snacks. Most of our dishes are vegan even though I'm the only one in the party; I feel so loved! Smile It's gonna be fun! We also have a lazy social day on Friday, with friends coming over when they feel like it, to do puzzles or watch movies and eat. Saturday we try to shake off our lethargy and go out to a couple bars in downtown Minneapolis; we'll see how that goes! Either way, we're going to take it easy and go to brunch on Sunday; I have plenty of spending money set aside for all this going out.

Anyway, thought I should post some payments since I won't be thinking about it for the next few days. NT's UK credit card payment hit with about US$76 going to principal, and AS's student loan #2 got $100 toward principal.

So that's $176 down, $2,360 to go on my December goal. And the credit card debt is down to $39,087.

2008 New Year's resolutions: How did I do?

November 21st, 2008 at 07:59 am

I don't know when I'll be ready to post my 2009 resolutions--right now the new year seems so far away! But I think it's safe to see how I did, or am doing, on last year's resolutions.

So here they are:
1. Become personal-debt-free within two years. That's right, by Dec. 31, 2009, I want to see my nearly $70,000 of credit card and personal debt go pffft!

STATUS:
A partial success. I project that I'll be at about $38,000 by the end of 2008, by paying off $28,000 and using about $4,000 of returned student-loan money to reduce my higher interest personal loan. So not quite halfway there, and with layoff and baby plans in the future, not sure that I will get there by the end of 2009 as originally planned. Still, I made quite a dent, and I reckon at a minimum I'll pay off another $10K next year. Hopefully I can do better than that.

2. Look seriously at what it takes, character-wise and money-wise, to become a mom. I am 33 and almost (not quite) to a place where I want to have kids more than anything. This is a very new feeling for me, so I want to go slow, do lots of research, talk to some moms, talk to my doctor, and by, say, mid-2009, know whether this is the way I for sure want to go, and (if so) when.

STATUS:
On track! We've been discussing on and off all year in my household, and we know this is the way we want to go. I talked to my doctor and got the green light to start trying, so now I'm going to start researching the financial implications to determine when we'd be ready (enough) to begin. We're thinking we'll start trying early next year.

3. Continue to work out almost 5 times a week.

STATUS:
Strong start to the year, but fizzled out in August. Mainly because of despondency over various health issues; probably due to eliminating the exercise-incentive money from our budget; but also because my workout buddy, NT, is working full-time AND taking a nearly full course load at college, so it's been hard motivating myself. Hope to have him back over the winter break from school, and maybe that will get me somewhat back in track. I'm going to set myself a fitness challenge for December, but I haven't decided what yet.

4. Grow my second balcony garden, and try for bell peppers this time!

STATUS:
Partial success. None of my pepper plants made it this year, the cilantro was a no-go, and one of our tomato plants had a defect where the fruit rotted as it grew. But we got some small tomatoes from some other plants, a nice crop of baby lettuce and arugula, and a really strong basil plant that yielded several crops.

5. Complete my debt-repayment "Ad Hoc goal" by 3/31/08 (see sidebar for info).

STATUS:
Complete success! The goal was to pay off enough extra debt to more than fund our England trip, and we surpassed it. In fact, the trip was completely paid-for before we went, and we even stayed under budget in our spending while there.

So that's pretty heartening; I at least made some headway on each of my goals. Makes me even more determined to post some ambitious goals for 2009!

Good doctor's visit

November 20th, 2008 at 08:42 am

I finally had my annual exam yesterday, which I've been trying to get done for awhile now but kept having to reschedule due to various issues.

The reason I was so anxious to see my doctor this year was to discuss what I'd felt was a bad health year, and to see what she thought about my trying to get pregnant soon.

I rattled off my various health woes of 2008 (chronic heartburn, infected gums, dental surgery, three UTIs in four months). She basically said she understood how it could feel like a big deal coming all in one year like that, but that overall I was really healthy and shouldn't worry about a series of fluky mishaps. She recommended preventive heartburn medication rather than Tums, and told me that UTIs can sometimes happen in clusters because the body's defenses are weakened by the first one, causing a chain reaction. She said we wouldn't worry about it unless I had more in quick succession.

Then I asked about pregnancy; how did she feel about my being 34 or 35 when I got pregnant for the first time? Would the surgery scar running the length of my belly affect anything? What would I do if I got UTIs while pregnant? Should I stop drinking completely when I started trying? She wasn't concerned about my age or my scar, which she said might get sore but would stretch. And she advised me to be very moderate with my drinking, but told me what time periods I might want to cut it out completely. And she said antibiotics for UTIs were fine during pregnancy if needed.

I got some other pieces of good news too: My doctor said she was no longer worried about my bone density because since my last visit, she'd learned that women who lose bone density while on Depo tend to bounce back quickly once they're off it. So other than taking calcium supplements, I no longer have to worry about my bones, basically until menopause! No more expensive tests. Also, the cysts in my breast had not returned since I got them drained out in January, so no worries there.

I felt such a sense of relief! And earlier that day I'd finally turned in a story I was trying to write at work, and the person I was writing it for said it was perfect, and she didn't mind it was a little late. The two burdens off my mind made me positively giddy yesterday. Today I got confirmation that my office is closed Wednesday before Thanksgiving, making me realize the holidays are upon us. I'm glad I get to go into them feeling youthful and healthy once again!

November net worth update

November 19th, 2008 at 09:18 am

Assets:
NT's UK pensions: 7,250 pounds ($14,500)
10,725 pounds ($21,450)
NT's 401(k): $2,296
AS's 403(b): $2,795
CJ's 401(k): $19,614
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $170,000
---
Total Assets: $490,655

Total Debt: $412,536

Current Estimated Net Worth: $78,119

October 2008 estimate: $75,944

Change in net worth: +$2,175

Summary: We paid off more than $3,000 in debt, but my 401(k) tanked more than $1,000. However, AS and NT both showed small gains in their retirement accounts, so we had a good month overall. (I bet our U.S. condo value dipped even more, but I'll wait till I have proof of that.)

I will update my "Individual Net Worth" page shortly so you can see how it breaks out. (Hint: NT's nice net worth is still weighed down by AS's and my negative net worth.)

Note on the numbers above: House value estimates are conservative, and retirement totals don't include amounts currently unvested. I don't have a way to check NT's UK pensions, so their values stay static for the purpose of this update.

Over 100,000 visits!

November 18th, 2008 at 02:06 pm

I've been keeping an eye on my Total Visits stat on the blog for the past couple days, and it just went to 100,003! How cool is that--it boggles the mind that I have so many people interested in my plight and cheering me on.

Thank you to everyone who reads and comments on my blog. It would be very hard to sustain the momentum, with SO much debt to get rid of, if I didn't feel like I had a support network (and friends that I was accountable to).

I love the feeling that we're all in this together, no matter what level we're at. And I benefit so much from all the wisdom and encouragement in members' comments. You're all amazing!

December goals set

November 17th, 2008 at 01:59 pm

OK, I have my regular debt-repayment goal as well as a couple others.

My December debt reduction goal is to pay off $2,536. Why this odd number? Well, I figured out that I could probably pay off close to $2,500 by Dec. 31. Then I noticed that I was getting close to $410,000 total debt, and thought I should go for that. I was torn between that and going for $409,999, but I like the zeroes. Plus, if all goes well, I will tip the odometer down below $410K. Smile

I also have a December eco-friendly goal, which I've already been practicing for this month: to not take a single disposable bag from a retailer of any kind. I'm considering even washing and reusing the clear plastic bags that produce goes in. Generally I don't use those bags, but for some things (lettuce, snow peas) it's unavoidable.

We already do pretty well with our regular weekend grocery trip; we have a backpack and two cloth grocery bags that we take with us. It's the little purchases that kill me; getting a few things at Target, or buying a CD or a shirt or a couple snacks somewhere. To try and avoid using bags in those cases, I've smoothed out, and folded very tiny and flat, two Target plastic bags for my purse and one for the inside pocket of my coat. I've been doing pretty well at practice; if I forget initially, I will go back to the counter, take my stuff out of the bag they just gave me, and give it back to them. Hopefully they reuse it. Today I didn't notice that the clerk put a second bag around the one I gave him to bag with at Target; I had more bags and could have used one of those for double bagging. But, I'll learn.

I also want to have an exercise challenge, but I haven't quite clarified it. I think I'm going to wait till after Thanksgiving to decide what that will be. I haven't exercised, really, since late July or early August. Amazingly, I took another 2 lbs. off since my raw foods cleanse, but not by doing anything right. Probably just by being ill a couple times, and by losing muscle mass. Not good. So I want to do something in December to get moving again at least a little bit.

In your face, November goal!

November 17th, 2008 at 09:51 am

My big payment finally hit! $2,183 went to principal on my personal loan, so I hit my November goal and then some.

I wanted to pay off $1,400 this month. Instead, I paid off $3,147! Yay!!!

Time to update my sidebar and come up with a new goal for December. Incidentally, this brought my official CC debt total below $40,000, though technically I didn't pay all that off; I used student loan money to pay about $4,000, so I will still have to pay that off the student loans before I feel CC debt free. Still, nice to see that total get into the 30Ks!

Friday updates

November 14th, 2008 at 09:53 am

This week has flown past, thanks to another icky bout of illness no cranberry juice could conquer. I took two days off work and am now on antibiotics. Feeling better for the most part.

AS finally got her layoff notice! You know, the real one, not all the vague references to it. She has to work till Dec. 14 to qualify for unemployment. So she's going to try and go to work as little as possible while still getting done the few tasks that come her way. The best part is, I know when we can apply for unemployment (Dec. 28, or I guess Monday the 29th), I know when her last regular paycheck will be (Dec. 31), I know when her bus pass stops working (Dec. 14), I know when her health care ends (Dec. 31). Now we can start taking concrete steps in all these areas, thank goodness.

The holidays are upon us! We've gotten about five invitations in the last couple days. It's so great, but overwhelming. So we're going to try and start a shared Google calendar, since Google docs have worked so well for us. That way we won't forget any of the parties. Tonight is a happy hour with NT's office (they pay for the drinks!) and possibly going to see Quantum of Solace afterward. (I was never a fan of Bond films until Casino Royale; now I'm hooked!)

I decided to sign up for my company's health plan and try a Health Savings Account. I'm putting the full $3,000 in, since you don't lose any if you don't use it all, and if 2009 is anything like 2008 I'll go through it all anyway. My paychecks are going to be about $30 more than NT's, and he makes almost $8,000 less than me! It's not just health care of course; I contribute 6% vs. 3% to 401(k), and my bus pass money gets taken out vs. he gets to buy his with a company credit card. (I have stopped my bus pass purchases, but may start them up again if AS can't find a good deal on passes through the U before she leaves.)

I haven't completely stopped extra debt repay, but I have taken merch's advice in some part; I'm going to put aside enough money for our CSA farm share in Dec., NT's U bus pass in Jan., and our home insurance in Feb. And I'm going to set aside $1,000 as an emergency fund. If we don't need it by the time AS finds a job, I may keep it as an EF or put it toward extra debt repay, depending on what our situation is at that time. That still leaves $1,000 for debt repay in 2008, and about $450 (may be more with paycheck fluctuations) that I'm still deciding what to do with. I might see if that's enough to open an IRA with, because I want to make sure AS continues saving for retirement during her unemployment period.

And, some bad family news. AS's cousin G, an honor college student and all-around upstanding kid, got arrested for shoplifting Monday. He spent over $100 at Wal-Mart, but failed to scan a pair of socks at the machine. The guard stopped him, wouldn't let him just apologize and pay for the socks, called the cops, told them G had left the store and had spit on him. The cops arrested G and his friend, wouldn't let them have a phone call, decided to jail them for arraignment, and kept them there for 3 nights. AS's aunt and uncle nearly went crazy trying to find their son, until he was allowed a phone call on Wednesday night, after his friend had been released and he'd been kept there. Needless to say G was emotionally and psychologically shattered by that point. Police said he had to post bail to be let out, so his parents got some relatives in that state to take some money there.

Luckily, there are cameras in Wal-Mart that will prove the guard was lying about the leaving and spitting. Luckily, the Atlanta police chief admitted to the parents that A) G should have been given a phone call, B) most shoplifters are not held for arraignment, and C) under local law, 19-year-olds are supposed to be taken to juvie, not adult lockup. Luckily, G's going to get counseling, so hopefully this does not change his psyche forever. Luckily, G's mom is like a junkyard dog who is going to take down Wal-Mart and the police station, or at least cause them a lot of public embarrassment trying.

I don't have to tell you that this stellar student, dutiful son and upstanding citizen is a young black man, large in stature and with cornrows in his hair. You probably guessed that part already. I'm just bubbling with rage on his behalf. Three days in jail without a phone call for (supposedly) stealing a pair of socks!!!

Student loan payment toward November goal!

November 13th, 2008 at 09:58 am

$6 in principal, to be exact. LOL.

It was the first payment on NT's student loan, so it gets better from here.

Soo, what is that? $964 down, $436 to go on my November goal.

Can't wait for my big payment to hit on Monday!

Trying to predict my budget

November 7th, 2008 at 09:47 am

So we've always had a somewhat fluctuating budget, but I feel like I've had a pretty good idea of where we're going to be a few months out. With this looming layoff/unemployment thing, it's been really hard. Also I didn't know when student loans would start coming due for AS. Also my choice of health coverage is still up in the air, the total cost unclear.

Still, I'm trying to predict what the budget's going to look like as best I can. I know you can get up to 50% of your current pay in unemployment, and AS usually brings home about $1800-$2000 per month after tax. So I'm lowballing and saying she'll get $200 per week on unemployment; I think that's a safe estimation. I hope it's more because I have a feeling my pay's going down one way or another when I figure out my healthcare plan. And I haven't found out when her transit benefits will end and we'll have to buy bus passes for her. But we have places we can cut back; reduce the grocery budget, take away the $20-per-person-per-month raise in spending money I just gave us, cut back our travel savings...So I know we'll be OK.

One bright spot is that I checked her outstanding student loan, and it's not going to come due till February '09! That's wonderful because it gives us plenty of time to work out how to pay for it. Who knows, AS might even have a job by then.

Anyway, at present, assuming $200 per week unemployment, assuming $400 per month for AS's health care, not factoring in bus passes or my health care, I've got the budget to a good place where all I've cut out is extra debt repay. My four blanket budget categories are looking like this percentagewise: Mortgage/Utilities/Telecom
$2,140.15 (34% of net)
Debt Repayment/Savings
$1,176.41 (19% of net)
Spending/Entertainment/Travel
$1,549.66 (24% of net)
Household/Groceries/Healthcare
$1,481.00 (23% of net)

If it changes as I suspect it will, Spending and Household will go down, but the overall takehome will go down as well, so I don't know how the percentages will work out. I don't want to assume anymore until I figure out what AS's unemployment pay and my healthcare premiums will be.

Small step with student loan payment

November 7th, 2008 at 07:53 am

One of AS's student loans hit: $54 went to principal. (Reminds me I need to check and see why her 3rd student loan isn't in repayment yet--and make sure it's not just that we haven't been getting the bills.)

So that's $958 down, $442 to go on my November goal. Which I'm going to CRUSH in about a week. Smile

STILL waiting on layoff! and other news

November 6th, 2008 at 10:26 am

Ugh, I've been soo busy at work I haven't had time to think about anything else. I've been soo ecstatic about Barack Obama but mentally it's been kind of an anticlimactic time because I've been too busy to really bask in this achievement. I actually forgot about a doctor's appointment yesterday! I rescheduled for this Wednesday.

Speaking of doctors, I'm still waiting to hear from NT's HR whether it would be cheaper to join his health plan or to stay on my company's next year. It's hard because their open enrollment isn't till the first of the year, but I've got to make my decision here by mid-November. Hope I get some information in the next day or so!

AS is still waiting to be "officially" laid off, though it's been acknowledged by everyone she's spoken to. And the terms of the layoff keep changing. First they said she could leave whenever she wanted after it was announced, and still be eligible for severance and unemployment. Then it was stated that they had to put in the letter that she would work for 28 more days, but that she could still leave whenever and get unemployment, though no severance. The latest scoop is that she'd have to stay the 28 days, or else it would count as a resignation, and if that happened, she'd get neither severance nor unemployment benefits!

Well, that leaves her with two options, both of which she's willing to go forward with depending on how things pan out. 1. Try to get them to retrodate the letter, pointing out (if they protest) that she has been working for at least 2 months since she learned about the layoff, and that they've broken any number of well-documented rules regarding the layoff notification process already, so why not break another (and avoid legal action against them)? (This option contains several levels of escalation which may or may not be necessary.) Or 2. When she gets the letter, "work" the 28 remaining days by calling in sick, taking vacation days, working from home and taking advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday so that she's not actually in the office for any of the days. This might actually end up being the road she takes. (Did I mention she doesn't have any work to do because there is no budget for any new products? And that she commutes 45 minutes each way to sit around and do said nothing?) Whatever it ends up being, she's determined to get at least unemployment, if not severance, since she's stuck it out this long solely for that reason.

I've signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.org) again this year, but thanks to Halloween party, election fever and the insanity at work, I haven't written a word. Well, I probably will try to participate anyway. It's not like I ever finish, so doesn't really matter when I get started!

I've fallen behind on my budgeting too this week, but all it really needs is for me to total up our grocery and party spending and subtract that from the household line item, so it won't be too hard to catch up. Hopefully I'll have a little time this afternoon!

One of NT's student loans is already coming due--the private one. I thought those didn't need to be paid until after he stopped school. I was going to call them and check it out, but it's less than $50 per month, so I've decided to just start paying it. I can find room in the budget for it, and it will mean chipping away at our big student loan debt, and it doesn't take that much away from our CC debt snowball, so I don't mind.

BTW he is getting straight As and high 90s grades in all classes so far! I'm very proud of him.

I guess that's all in my frazzled world right now. Just felt like writing for awhile. Thanks for listening!

Mortgage payments

November 3rd, 2008 at 07:22 am

All four mortgage payments hit today:
US mortgage: $269 toward principal
UK #1: $133
UK #2: $28
UK #3: $29

For a total of $459. So that's $904 down, $496 to go on the November goal!