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Archive for January, 2009

Review of January goals

February 1st, 2009 at 06:32 am

I dropped off the glasses we collected (31 pairs) at Lens Crafters on Friday, so that means I accomplished all my January goals. In fact, my debt-payoff amount was a new monthly record for me!

Here's a summary of the goals and results:

1. Goal: Pay off $1,500 of debt
Results: $4744 paid
Goal balance: $408,365
Ending balance: $405,121

2. Goal: Save at least $1,550:
$1,200 for baby/emergency fund
and
$350 for birthdays fund
Results: $1,550 saved

3. Goal: Work out at least 10 times.
Results: 11

4. Goal: Catch up on washing/reusing produce bags.
Results: Done.

5. Goal: Mend rug.
Results: Done.

6. Goal: Collect eyeglasses and donate.
Results: 31 pairs donated.

I'm still trying to come up with a philanthropic goal for February, but I should have my goals settled and posted tomorrow. Oh, and I haven't forgotten about 365 Days of Dinner; I've been taking photos, but I've been so wrapped up in posting about other things that I haven't posted the pics. I will take care of that at some point.

Big payment hit!

January 30th, 2009 at 03:12 pm

I checked this morning and it had gone through. US$3000 straight to principal! That feels really good. I was feeling frustrated about not paying any extra money to debt, and the universe provided. Thanks universe!

Not quite as big a piece of news, but I worked on the Wii Fit again, so that's my 11th workout this month. Smile I'm not losing any weight, but I'm getting some exercise and definitely improving my balance and coordination, so I'm happy.

January savings goal met

January 29th, 2009 at 09:39 pm

$50 went into savings for the birthdays fund, so I've reached my January goal of saving $1550: $1200 for the baby/emergency fund and $350 for birthdays. Yay!

My only goal left is to donate eyeglasses, and I've got a bunch collected that I'm going to take to the drop-off site tomorrow evening.

I'll post a roundup of all my January goals and results on Saturday, and post my February goals soon after.

Surpassed January debt-repayment goal

January 29th, 2009 at 06:37 pm

My CC payment and one of AS's student loan payments hit. $221 and $50 to principal, respectively. This means I met and exceeded the January goal to pay off $1,500 of debt. To date I've paid $1,744, and that's without the ginormous CC payment that I hope hits tomorrow!

Sent huge payment to UK credit card

January 28th, 2009 at 06:18 pm

So yesterday as I was grumbling about the dwindling principal payments on NT's credit card, I got to wondering how much we still had to pay for his flat, and when it was due. He e-mailed his management company and they wrote back that all the foreseeable extra fees have already been paid. One of the bigger expenses they thought was coming has been put on hold indefinitely.

This meant that we had 1500 pounds sitting in the UK checking account, not earmarked for anything in the near future. I promptly sent a payment in that amount to his UK credit card. It should come through in the next few days. It will wipe out three-quarters of his credit card debt and mark a huge step forward for the Big-Picture Goal, which has been languishing a bit since AS's layoff was announced. I'm very, very excited.

Of course, 750 of that amount is from NT's gran, and we resolved to put it toward the baby fund. But once this credit card is out of the way, there will be a 270-pound surplus nearly every month from his rental income, so we can build up that amount in just a few months, and switch it into his savings account where it will sit and earn interest and be ready for when we have a child!

I asked NT when he was last CC-debt-free, and he reckoned it was 1995. I'm going to try and get him that way again by March...

Depression vs. now

January 28th, 2009 at 03:08 pm

I've taken to listening to Bing Crosby singing "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" on the way to work. It's on this great compilation of old music called "The Best of Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour" that I got for Xmas.

Anyway, the song is so poignant, and it also makes me feel better about the shaky feeling of our country today. The song is about feeling sort of betrayed because the singer did all these things to build America, and now he's standing on a bread line. But despite how wrenching and scary that must have been, the country came back stronger than ever. So even though the song doesn't have a happy ending, the real story got better.

But I'm also always struck when I listen to it because it's mostly about sacrifice and service to the country, not about the things he lost. He talks about building a railroad, building a skyscraper, and fighting in WWI. He talks about how "we were building a dream." I think the "we" would change to "I" in the modern incarnation of this song.

I do hear tragic stories about people who worked hard and got it all taken away this time around too, but more often the story is "I got all this easy credit and this awesome ARM and got to buy a ginormous house and all these cool gadgets and clothes and stuff. And then when I got laid off I tried to live the same lifestyle as before but now my cards and my HELOC are maxed out, but I can't sell my widescreen TV or downsize my home--that would be barbaric."

It's still a tragic story, just a different kind--one of greed, ignorance and false prosperity. There's more culpability this time around, from people, companies and the government. Or maybe I just never heard that part of the Depression story--I'm not sure.

Anyway, I'm not getting on any kind of high horse, because you have only to look at my sidebar to see the part I took in all of this. It's just something that runs through my head some mornings when I'm listening to that song.

365 days of dinner: Jan. 25-26, 2009

January 27th, 2009 at 09:14 pm

I don't want to jinx myself, but I've done better than I thought at this! I haven't missed a day (unless you count the times I had to photograph leftovers).

Anyway, Sunday night we had what used to be a typical Saturday lunch in NT's childhood: Cornish pasty and chips. We stuffed the pasty with vegetarian burger crumbles, carrot, potato, onion and herbs & spices.



And last night we had a "weekday roast dinner":



Which is basically some kind of easy meat substitute with several sides. This time it was Boca chicken patties topped with instant veggie gravy. One side was oven-roasted broccoli compliments of foodieatfifteen.blogspot.com/, who got it from www.amateurgourmet.com/, who got it from a Barefoot Contessa cookbook. (Whew! I like to give credit where credit is due. Smile ) I was really excited about making this but a tad underwhelmed at the result, but maybe next time I'd roast it for less time and make sure it was piping hot when I served it. Or maybe I've already discovered my favorite broccoli (steamed tender-crisp and tossed with melted margarine, lemon juice, salt and pepper) and will never be impressed by another preparation.

I was more impressed by the random recipe for honey-glazed carrots and parsnips I found on recipezaar.com. These were tasty! And another serving of French fries made the meal quite filling. I was proud of this meal because the only thing new that we bought were the Boca patties ($3.49, and we still have one left over). All the other components were either staples or extra stuff that needed to be used up. Despite that it was a very enjoyable meal!

Steps toward January debt-pay goal

January 27th, 2009 at 03:53 pm

Finally, some movement on my debt repayment. The UK credit card and one of AS's student loan payments hit: $73 to principal for the CC, $114 for the loan.

Paying the minimums is kind of agonizing after all those months of huge extra debt payments. I'm itching to pay extra on the UK credit card; the payments (and hence the principal paid) keep going down, and it's driving me crazy. We have about 1500 pounds sitting in there that could nearly wipe out that card, but I know we have some expenses coming still for the flat, and I can't remember how much we've already paid and how much is forthcoming. Hmm, now I think I have to do some digging...

On another note, NT's mortgage interest rate has adjusted twice since the last time I checked. His new rate? 2.49%! Holy cow, that's less than half our U.S. mortage interest rate. I know it will go up again once the economy improves, but it certainly is nice for now, lowering payments and increasing the amount to principal a bit.

But anyway, back to my progress on debt repayment. $1473 down, $27 to go on my January goal.

We're trendy, y'all!

January 26th, 2009 at 07:07 pm

This is so funny. And because I only became semifrugal about two years ago, I actually feel like a trendsetter (or at least an early adopter)!

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2008/dec/23/trends-whats-ahead-2009/

Reached January fitness goal!

January 26th, 2009 at 04:17 pm

I worked out on the Wii Fit Saturday and Sunday, so that means I've done the 10 workouts I was aiming for this month! It doesn't mean I definitely won't work out again, but I can take a break if I feel like it.

My supervisor today told me about Wii Fitness Trainer, a virtual trainer who helps you design a workout based on fitness level and available equipment. I might get that as well, because eventually I'm going to want more variety than Wii Fit offers. It's all about trying to make working out fun (because when it comes down to it, I'm not very entertained by working out, so it's better if I can trick myself into feeling like it's a fun game).

365 days of dinner: Jan. 22, 23 & 24 (+ 1 brunch)

January 25th, 2009 at 09:21 pm

Thursday night we had a dinner that will pop up pretty regularly: farfalle with mushrooms. We use a recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone that is dead simple, but following it exactly yields a perfect result. For instance, finishing the pasta off with a dab of butter at high heat in the skillet gives it a truly unique flavor and texture.



Friday we had a friend over and ordered Thai food in. I didn't remember to take a picture at the time, but luckily we had leftovers:



Last night we had Tequila Chili Lime Tofu, a recipe from the Vegan Dad blog (http://vegandad.blogspot.com/) with Spanish rice and guacamole. This was a nice change from the typical Mexican flavors I usually flavor--really light and citrus-y.



And I couldn't resist taking a picture of the "full English" that NT made for brunch today: fried potatoes, mushrooms and tomatoes; tofu "bacon"; baked beans; and scrambled eggs (tofu for me). Note the HP sauce in the background, integral to this breakfast. Smile

Step to fitness goal, and a funny moment

January 23rd, 2009 at 11:22 pm

Just a quick post, because I'm about to leave work and go out to happy hour!

Worked out on the Wii Fit yesterday, which makes 8 workouts and only 2 to go to reach my January goal.

And, a funny moment on the way to lunch with my co-workers (free lunch at a semi-fancy place, hooray!): I was talking to three or four of them as we walked along, and spotted a penny on the ground. I bent down without a pause in what I was saying and tried to pick it up. After a second, I realized it was frozen to the ground. After another second, I realized that looked kind of silly and said, "Oh, it's frozen!" and then "Oh sorry about that, it was just habit." I got good-natured laughter so I didn't feel too embarrassed; they don't know about the depth of my frugality obsession, but they do probably think I'm eccentric for other reasons, so it probably didn't surprise them. LOL.

Aggressive state of mind

January 22nd, 2009 at 10:40 pm

I'm feeling a bit unnerved. I've been reading Kiplinger's (AS & NT got me a subscription for Xmas), and Suze's book, and financial blogs, and all of them are saying not to stop investing, that in fact this is the perfect time to invest if you can afford it. And I'm thinking it's too bad I don't have any money to invest.

Then something struck me today, as I was updating our net worth: I do have my 401(k). And our new provider, Prudential, has this function where you can just plug in your risk level, your age and your retirement age, and they will pick a package that's right for you. I've always gone for moderate, so I'm pretty sure it switched over into a moderate fund. So I went into this "Goalmaker" dealie and said I was "aggressive." So it's going to pick a nice aggressive portfolio for me.

Even at a moderate level it's been posting pretty heavy losses, so it feels weird to get all aggressive. But at the same time, I feel like either things are going to go really well for the volatile stuff, or society as we know it is going to collapse and money won't be any good anyway. So I might as well go aggressive and see if I can eventually benefit from this financial nadir. Buy low, sell high! Or whatever. Smile

In other news, I read on one of the sites I follow that mortgage rates could go as low as 4.5% or even 4.3% this year, but that they will start to rise soon after. Man, I am wishing like crazy I could come up with a way to refi. Pay down as much as I can rather than saving up an EF? Reassign part of my debt to get enough equity? I don't know. I wrote to my realtor to see if she has any ideas.

OK, I've gone posting-crazy this afternoon but I think this will be my last one of the day! Smile

January 2009 net worth

January 22nd, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Assets:
NT's UK pensions: 7,250 pounds ($14,500)
10,725 pounds ($21,450)
NT's 401(k): $3,081
AS's 403(b): $3,058
AS's CD: $500
CJ's 401(k): $19,639
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $170,000
---
Total Assets: $492,228

Total Debt: $408,579

Current Estimated Net Worth: $83,649

December 2008 estimate: $81,526

Change in net worth: +$2,123

Summary: NT's and AS's retirement increased, but not enough to cover a loss of about $550 in my 401(k). So the jump in net worth is entirely due to paying down debt.

I haven't included my savings for the baby/emergency fund; I feel like that money is still in play and not secure enough to call an asset. Does anyone else count their emergency fund as assets?

I will update my "Individual Net Worth" page shortly so you can see how it breaks out.

Notes 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. UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $2 for every British pound, which was the exchange rate when I started keeping track. I maintain that ratio for the purpose of tracking progress, even though the exchange rate is now closer to $1.50 per British pound.

365 days of dinner: Jan. 20-21, 2009

January 22nd, 2009 at 09:49 pm

Tuesday night we had a Southern-style meal that we all collaborated on: I made honey-barbecue buffalo wings (vegan, of course!) and garlicky greens (kale), while NT made jerk-spiced sweet potatoes and AS made skillet cornbread. Mmm-MMM!



Wednesday we tried something completely new: leek and bean cassoulet from Veganomicon. You make this stew in a cast-iron skillet, then drop balls of biscuit dough on top and bake it in the oven. I really liked it; it was homey and comforting. AS helped out with the biscuit dough and NT had cooked up a batch of beans for me over the weekend, so it was also not labor-intensive at all. I took a photo while it was still in the skillet and one after I dished it out.



Mostly great couple of days! One Jan. savings goal met!

January 21st, 2009 at 05:12 pm

The past couple of days have been pretty great, with only a bad patch here and there. Obama's inauguration was rejuvenating; the sky was slightly light leaving work instead of pitch black; and the weather for nearly a week has been not only in the positive, but in the double digits!

Now the big news: AS is insured!! And she's receiving unemployment pay!!! She called the health insurance company yesterday and they confirmed that she has been insured since Jan. 16. And she was actually approved Jan. 1 (I could get pissed that they didn't tell us, but I'm too happy that she has health coverage again!).

Then this morning, she got a direct deposit for the unemployment she applied for Monday--plus three weeks of retroactive pay! That's more than I'd reckoned on, so it actually gave us a surplus in the budget for the first time in a long time! I put some money away for NT's fall-semester textbooks, put about $200 more toward Vegas (it's going to be an amazing trip!), and let the rest ride--I'll probably put it in the baby/emergency fund in February if we don't need it for anything else.

Speaking of that old thing...we nearly reached our savings goal! I now feel comfortable transferring the money for birthdays and the baby fund into our savings account. So this month we saved $1200 for the baby/emergency fund and $300 for birthday gifts. Right on target! (EDIT: I actually have $50 more to go on the birthday fund, which will hit via automatic payment on the 29th.)

The only cloud, really, was that six people got laid off at NT's job. Not him, thank goodness, but his two best work friends and several other people we really liked. It was quite a shock because they got a big bonus in December and everything seemed pretty stable, but I guess not as much as we thought. We're going to see one of his friends Friday, and hopefully the other one soon.

So now we've all rubbed elbows with the job crisis. I've survived two rounds of cuts at my job, AS actually did get laid off, and now NT's job has had a round of layoffs. It's pretty amazing.

Still, I'm thrilled to have gotten so close to reaching my goals, and I'm confident I'll reach them by the end of the month!

365 days of dinner: Jan. 17, 18 & 19, 2009

January 20th, 2009 at 04:36 am

OK, bit of catching up to do:

Saturday night (Jan. 17) we took it pretty easy with mac & cheese (plus a vegan version for me) and tofu chili dogs. (Thanks CouponAddict for implanting the suggestion in our brains in one of your comments!)



Sunday, Jan. 18, NT made us a lovely roast dinner: Tofurkey vegan roast, mashed potatoes and lemony Brussels sprouts, with the rest of the chick'ny sauce and some stuffing leftovers that were in the fridge.



Tonight, NT cooked again (we're really savoring his cooking as much as possible before he goes back to school this week!) and made a vegan version of spicy crispy beef (he calls it "spicy crispy vegan" Smile ) over rice. The "meat" is this dehydrated stuff that you soak in water before cooking. I guess because the pieces are much smaller, we like this a lot better than the "chicken nugget" version we tried awhile back.

More progress on my goals; apparent progress for AS

January 20th, 2009 at 12:46 am

Worked out again, making that 7 workouts down and 3 to go for the month.

And I finished mending the rag rug! It's in the dryer and that makes me happy--one of my motivations for mending it was to get it sturdy enough to be washed.

AS found some more information on her unemployment--the Web site now says she's been approved for $323, which is kind of confusing because she should have at least two or three weeks' worth and that's just one week. But at least it says she's going to be paid, so hopefully it will hit this week. If it's not for the full amount she's applied for so far, we should be able to argue that because they said it would be retroactive as long as she reapplied every week.

And we also think she may have been approved for health insurance! We haven't heard anything and they don't have any way to check progress on their Web site, but they cashed my check for the first month's premium. We assume they wouldn't have done that if it weren't final, but we're not going to stop holding our breath until AS calls them tomorrow to make sure.

Progress on two goals

January 19th, 2009 at 01:00 am

I finally got around to working on the rug I wanted to mend for my crafts challenge. It's a rag rug AS made out of T-shirt scraps, and several of the seams holding the rings together have gradually loosened.

It wasn't too bad, even for a completely unpracticed seamstress (I probably haven't sewed in over 10 years). A perfect project for my rudimentary skills. I got a little more than halfway done, and I'll probably finish it tomorrow.

I also worked out on the Wii Fit today, so that's 6 workouts I've done, 4 to go to reach my January goal.

I've been keeping up on washing the produce and Ziploc bags, so that's still going well.

So far, these monthly goals are really keeping me motivated!

365 days of dinner: Jan. 16, 2009

January 18th, 2009 at 07:05 pm

Friday night we had a real splurge, something we hardly ever do. But we had all accumulated some spending money and we'd wanted to go to this restaurant for a long time.

Restaurants must be pretty used to people photographing their dinner, because no one commented. Smile

So here are some of the things we tried at moto-i, the largest sake microbrewery and I think the first one outside of Japan. They do mostly small-plate Japanese bar food. It cost us $52 apiece, but we all tried more food than we needed and had quite a bit of sake; we could easily hang out there for less than half that price.

Here's the tofu miso soup:



Veggie dumplings with some amazing dipping sauce:



Grilled eggplant (I loved the sweet soy glaze, but it didn't turn me into an eggplant fan):


One of my personal favorites, the tofu bun:


And our three desserts we shared--mochi, sake-infused fruit and coconut sticky rice, and doughnuts:





If you're ever in Minneapolis and want a completely unique experience, I would recommend this place. And the servers have all been educated and trained to answer questions about sake-making!

Finally, more progress on my Jan. debt repayment goal

January 17th, 2009 at 03:50 pm

It's been a while!

My personal loan payment hit, and $507 went to principal. $1286 paid, $214 to go on my January debt-paying goal. I've got another credit card payment and three student loan payments still to come, so I should just make it.

AS heard from unemployment that there's nothing holding it up but the press of applicants, so they hope to finish processing hers and get her all the pay she's requested so far by early next week. I hope so, because then I can complete our savings goals!

365 days of dinner: Jan. 15, 2009

January 16th, 2009 at 03:37 am

Whew, I'm still digesting--I way overestimated how much to make tonight, and then it was too tasty to stop eating. Smile

Tonight I made "chicken" enchiladas with sides of refried beans and guacamole.



Sometimes I go for prepared ingredients--honestly, I think Mexican food tastes pretty great either way. But tonight I went all out: cooked up pinto beans and fried them, and made my own enchilada sauce too (from an online recipe).

The trick with a good Mexican meal is not to repeat the same spices in all the components. So the enchilada sauce had the spiciness, the cumin, the chili powder, and the enchiladas had onions, cheese and oregano; the refried beans just had garlic, salt and pepper; and the guacamole was just avocados mashed with some fresh lime juice and a bit of salt.

Delicious, but I made way too much. Groan... Smile

365 days of dinner: Jan. 14, 2009

January 15th, 2009 at 08:54 pm

Last night we ate at our friends' house. They're quite adept at cooking vegan, having cooked for me often over the years, but they're also doing a cleanse where they only eat vegan, mostly whole-foods meals, so last night's was especially healthy.



There was sweet-and-sour red cabbage, Thai chickpeas over rice, and--my personal favorite--lima bean salad with sweet chili dressing. That is going into the lunch rotation when the weather's warmer! I had no idea that lima beans could be so huge and have such lovely texture, like butter beans. They've always been smaller and pale green with a weird texture whenever I've had them.

Small step toward savings goal; and other money matters

January 15th, 2009 at 04:31 pm

First things first: savings
$25 went toward savings today. I'm putting it into the birthdays fund. So far, that's $50 saved this month, with $1500 needed to reach my goal. It sounds like a long way to go, but I actually have most of the money needed in checking right now. But I don't feel comfortable putting it into savings until we know if or when AS will be getting regular unemployment, so for now it's parked in the checking account. I don't want to call it my emergency fund only to have to use it right away, so right now it's nothing.

Unemployment, health insurance and severance pay
So what progress have we made on the "three-legged stool" that will make AS's temporary unemployment manageable? Some, but the outcome is the same as it was last time I wrote: We still have no unemployment pay coming in, no health insurance (AS is uninsured as of 12/31/08), and no severance pay. She did get compensated for unused vacation time this week, which I hadn't figured into my budget, so at least we're no longer looking to be in the red due to the severance problem. But the three main matters remain unresolved.

Tomorrow marks the end of the fifth week in the "3 to 5 weeks" unemployment is supposed to take to get straightened out. AS has been applying every week, and theoretically she has about three weeks of pay waiting for the red tape to go away. If there isn't a direct deposit tomorrow, she's going to call them again. There are some confusing elements involved that I won't go into, but I'm hoping the only issue is a backlog of new applicants and that we'll see the money tomorrow.

We sent a new application for health insurance and got confirmation they received it the first week of January. They could take "up to 30 days" to approve it, so we're looking at early February being the soonest we can start to bug them. Sigh. This really stresses me out. She's got enough prescription refills to last, but I'm not sure how much that medicine is going to cost without insurance. I'm kind of glad AS has been staying in most days, because it's icy and cold and crazy out there and I could just imagine some accident setting us back, well, our whole lives with a whopping hospital bill. But if we sign up for COBRA it's just going to complicate the application that's out there, so we're leaving as is for now.

And the severance pay? Well, she e-mailed her boss pleading not to deny her severance because she'd missed one tiny little line requiring her to go get an extra form that she was not readily provided. Her boss e-mailed back that she wasn't aware AS was even eligible for severance pay. The next step is going to be e-mailing central HR and explaining that, with her boss not knowing she was getting any, she was not given any guidance about the extra form and thus shouldn't be penalized. But NT and I are basically going to have to write that e-mail for her because she has pretty much given up and decided nothing is going to work. NT and I will write it tonight, hopefully, and get AS to send it out.

Bills that have gone up
We got off pretty easy this year, with cable going up about $1.50 and condo assocation dues about $40. I was hoping our mortgage bill would go down because of a reduction in property tax, but no dice. Well, at least it didn't go up.

Sales on half.com
We've been selling NT's books from last semester and making some pretty good money: nearly $200. I took DisneySteve's advice and repriced some stuff that had been hanging around for a while, and a couple things actually sold! If AS's unemployment works out like we hope, I will put all the half.com profits into savings to cover fall '09 semester textbooks.

Survey checks
Just got a $5 check from Synovate, and there should be $10 and $31 in the mail, eventually. These things take so long that I always forget about them before they actually get here. The big check is for Inbox Dollars, but as soon as I get the check I'm canceling that account. It took me over 2 years of clicking on 3-cent e-mails (plus 1 or 2 surveys and some bonus money for joining) to reach that amount. Not worth it.

Suze's book
I haven't read very far in Suze's free ebook yet, but I uploaded it to my Google Documents so I can access it from anywhere. I doubt I'll be able to act on much of what she says since I'm still in the paying-down-CC-debt stage, but I've never read a money advice book, so I'm looking forward to it.

Free advice day Jan. 30
I missed the first one Tuesday, but there is one more chance that I hope I don't forget about!

"On Friday, January 30th from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, NAPFA members across the country will be standing by to answer your financial questions. Normally these Fee-Only planners, well versed in investments, taxes, insurance, estate planning, and saving for college and retirement, charge clients $150 to $300 an hour. But, during Jump-Start Days, their expertise is free.
"Just dial toll-free 888-919-2345 or log on to www.kiplinger.com/links/jumpstart/ anytime from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time on January 30th to participate in an online discussion with an advisor."

I'm dying to ask someone (for free) where the best place to park my retirement contributions is, considering I'm likely to retire in England.

Thinking about taxes
I have no idea what taxes are going to look like. Last year NT and I owed and AS had a refund coming, and we pretty much broke even. But I didn't like owing so I altered my withholding, but didn't have AS alter hers because with all this free tuition, some of it taxable income, and knowing she would be quitting (which turned into a layoff), I didn't know what her taxes were going to look like. I just hope we at least break even. I feel like too many things are variable from year to year to really fine-tune my taxes so I don't owe but don't withhold too much.

This year on the UK condo, we actually posted a tiny net profit (last year was a loss), but it was below the taxable threshold after the standard deduction (or whatever the equivalent is in UK terms), so I think I don't have to worry about declaring it on my U.S. taxes. I think. I hope. Mostly because it's mind-bogglingly complicated and I will have to hire a pro when that income finally grows to the point where I have to declare it on my U.S. taxes. If anyone knows that I should be declaring it this year, let me know. It's very hard to find layman's advice on these subjects.

Phew! Felt good to unload all the random money subjects that have been on my mind lately.

365 days of dinner: Jan 11, 12 and 13, 2009

January 14th, 2009 at 05:13 am

I've been faithfully taking photos of dinner but haven't gotten around to loading them onto the computer, so here are three nights of dinner. Smile

Sunday night: Mock chicken satay over rice. Loved the marinade, but we won't be getting this mock chicken again. It's a kind you rehydrate in water before cooking, and it just doesn't have a nice enough texture or ability to soak in the flavor, compared to other mock meats.



Monday night: Polenta with tomato sauce, and oven-roasted garlicky zucchini (which NT had cut up and put on top of his polenta by the time we remembered to photograph it). The polenta, we all agreed, was slightly on the soft side, but still delicious, as were the sauce and zucchini.



Tonight: Chickpea cutlets (thanks Kashi for reminding me to try this recipe!) with "amazing chick'ny sauce" (a recipe I randomly found on the Web and use ALL the time), lemon-butter-pepper broccoli, and AS's famous biscuits. (Well, famous in our home.)

Another step towards the January fitness goal

January 14th, 2009 at 04:58 am

Worked out on the Wii Fit today! Halfway through the challenge, so I'm on target to do 10 workouts this month. 5 down, 5 to go.

Completed January 'green' goal!

January 12th, 2009 at 01:39 am

Tonight, I finally buckled down and washed the pile of bags that I got behind on over the holidays.

I washed 27 Ziploc and produce bags and hung them up to dry. It feels good because we just ran out of Ziplocs, but now we won't have to buy any more, at least for a while.

Good to get one goal completely out of the way, especially the most tedious one. Smile

365 days of dinner: Jan. 9-10, 2009

January 11th, 2009 at 05:15 pm

Friday night I made Penne Vodka from the Veganomicon cookbook. (Penne again--I'm seeing a real trend in my diet!) We had some more of the whole-wheat focaccia.



The recipe uses fresh basil and is really rich and flavorful. We had extra basil and were going to use it the next night, but it had already wilted. Stupid basil! The creaminess comes from almonds instead of a dairy product.

Anyway, we didn't mind at all because we had plenty of toppings for our next meal--pizza! AS makes a great crust with half whole-wheat, half white flour, and NT makes the sauce out of tomato paste and spices because it's WAY cheaper than the packaged stuff. We used all sorts of toppings--onion, green pepper, vegan pepperoni, banana peppers and jalapeno peppers, corn, olives, artichoke hearts...I think that's all. Smile We had guests, so we made a lot of individual pizzas with the toppings tailored to taste.

Progress on the fitness goal

January 11th, 2009 at 06:54 am

I worked out yesterday (Friday) on the Wii Fit (unlocked some slightly harder levels), so that's 4 down, 6 to go on my fitness goal.

No progress on the other goals, but I'm hoping to do some of the bag-washing and rug-mending tomorrow (Sunday).

I did take pictures of dinner yesterday and today, but I'm too sleepy to upload them, so I'll do that tomorrow as well. Smile

Debt/assets/net worth snapshot at today's exchange rate

January 9th, 2009 at 08:50 pm

Based on the exchange rate NT and I got on a small check the other day, I did a quick calculation of our debt and assets. Per my previous entry I am NOT changing my records to reflect this, since A) It would wipe out all meaningful signs of progress and B) The exchange rate could easily fluctuate that much again.

That said, I was really curious. I knew our net worth would go way down because NT is responsible for our having a positive net worth at all, and most of his assets are in England.

Here are the totals:

Assets in my normal 2/1 ratio calculations: $492,570
Asset value at today's exchange rate: $383,069

Debt in my normal calculations: $409,086
Debt at today's exchange rate: $363,725

Net worth last time I calculated it: $81,526
Net worth at today's exchange rate: $19,344

And NT's individual net worth goes down from well over $100K to $68,822.

Weird...seeing my debt magically go down by $45,361 is kind of cool, though meaningless. And that whole under-$400K thing achieved in one neat math trick!

Now, back to my way of calculating things, and not another word about this! Smile


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