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Archive for August, 2009

Reached one August goal

August 27th, 2009 at 09:25 am

Today was my biweekly deposit into savings, and I put $306 to the baby/emergency fund (which is now at $5542). Speaking of the EF, remember when I had to use about $900 of it to pay NT's tuition? Well, thanks to budget cuts, I've been able to replace those funds incrementally. It's all back in the savings account except for $275, which will be replaced by mid-September at the latest.

But back to my August goal: That makes $1251 saved, so I surpassed my goal of $1200.

My only other goal besides debt and savings, to finish the UK taxes, won't get done, unfortunately. I was mentally ready this weekend but couldn't find most of the necessary paperwork. AS found it this week, but I won't get a chance to do it before our vacation. So, I'll move that goal to September and definitely finish it up then (since they're due in early October).

Another step toward August debt goal: so close!

August 26th, 2009 at 10:22 pm

OK, I checked AS's student loan account right before bed, because I'm not sure how busy it's going to be at work tomorrow. It hit, with $116 going to principal. Unbelievable: That makes $1599 down, $1 to go on my August debt-repayment goal!

AS has one more student loan due this month; however, that automated bill payment system isn't always super prompt,

My $1K list

August 26th, 2009 at 08:27 am

I think I've bought many things for over $500, but not many have tipped the scales into $1K territory. For being 36 and a former disorganized spender, I think this is a pretty modest list.
Physical things:
Condo $207K
Treadmill $1K
Table $1K+
Entertainment center $1K
Computer $1K
Laptop $1K+

Nonphysical:
NT Bachelor's $45K (estimated future total)
AS Bachelor's $25K (guess)
AS Master's $15K
My Bachelor's $15K
UK vacation $7K
Vegas vacation $5K
Va/Md/WV/DC vacation $4K
Wisconsin vacation $3K

Of course, NT bought a flat and a couple cars and probably some other things for more than $1K before we met, but I have no idea what they were and how many.

I don't think AS and I ever spent more than $1K on a vacation before NT moved in, because it was airfare for two, they were shorter trips, and we would cheap out on redeye flights and Priceline hotels. We may have spent $1K+ on our first trip to see NT while dating, because we kinda went all out on food, drinks and presents.

The only two appliances I've had to buy so far, dishwasher and fridge, each came in under $1K.

I never bought my own car (dad bought me two used and gifted me another of his which he had bought used), and my parents paid for our $2K+ wedding.

That's it, as far as I can remember. Overall, it seems we spend more on experiences (education and vacation) than toys! This experience of having a baby is probably going to make this list soon... Smile

Hooray for the recession!

August 24th, 2009 at 04:57 pm

I'm kidding, of course. But I feel like we finally saw some kind of benefit from all the financial turmoil swirling around.

We just got notice of what our mortgage (an ARM) is going to reset to starting Nov. 1. It started at 5.0%, then reset for the first time in 2008 to 5.75%. This November, it's going to reset to 3.875%!

Last time it adjusted slightly before it actually hit, but that was an adjustment downward. Hopefully they wouldn't adjust upward after telling me the rate.

Our payment is changing from $1445.01 to $1256.24. That extra money is going straight to principal on our personal loan. With nothing going wrong for the rest of the year, we could have the loan balance at $4000 by mid-December!

Random Monday updates

August 24th, 2009 at 01:55 pm

Today I'm at 12 weeks in my pregnancy! Yippee! I feel so much more relaxed about my prospects, though I know it's never a sure thing. Also my vague dislike of food is waning and my energy steadily returning.

Vacation starts Saturday! Actually, I took Friday off as well, just to putter around getting ready with no hurry. Some friends are having a BBQ Friday too, which will be a nice way to see some folks before we leave for a week.

We're leaving Saturday morning, stopping off in Wisconsin Dells for lunch (no waterparking, though we'll probably be able to see some of the more impressive rides from the highway) and arriving at our first cottage in the late afternoon. We're staying on Lake Kegonsa, about 20 minutes outside of Madison. I've done research on veggie-friendly restaurants in Madison and we'll probably check out a few, but we'll also have a charcoal grill (a rare and decadent treat) at the cottage and will want to grill some as well. We'll try to take a day trip out to see the House on the Rock, a crazy funhouse/museum built by an eccentric and prominently featured in the book American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

We're staying three nights, then heading out next Tuesday morning and driving about four hours to a cottage in Ephraim, a small town on the Door County peninsula. We'll be there for four nights, and might take a ferry, go minigolfing, rent bikes...whatever takes our fancy. We'll probably mostly cook there, but I did find one veggie-friendly restaurant a town over that we can check out if we feel like it.

We'll get back to Minneapolis next Saturday night, and head over to a friend's birthday party (he's visiting from New York, so we really hope we're not too tired). Then, Sunday or Monday, we'll go stuff our faces and look at crafts at the State Fair.

I've already transferred the money from savings into checking. We're down to $740 spending money because of furloughs and tuition, but I have high hopes that it'll be plenty for whatever we want to do, since we'll be cooking some and using the grocery budget for that. We'll each have our $60 spending money for the week too, so that will help.

I got a glimpse into how expensive this pregnancy is going to be on my high-deductible insurance; my first visit is going to cost me over $500. Hopefully some of the visits will be cheaper than that, but I bet the ultrasound one is going to be nuts. I have about $650 in checking and $630 in my HSA, with $250 more going into the HSA each month. So this first visit's going to cut that money nearly in half. Well, the EF is there if I need it, though I hope it doesn't come to that.

I've been keeping a spreadsheet of baby expenses and savings. (The savings is $20 each month that I don't have to spend on birth control pills.) Thus far I'm actually in the black, though of course when that $500+ bill comes I'll be permanently in the red from then on. Still, I think it'll be a great exercise in considering each purchase and deciding if we need it for my or our baby's well-being. We'll be taking any handouts from our friends and seeing how much we can get second-hand.

NT had three $3 Pinecone surveys recently and I got a $7 rebate in the mail. I've put those toward the personal loan payment going out in September.

We're nearly a month behind on 365 Days of Dinner! I'm hoping AS or NT will do an entry or two for me, just to get me back on track. I feel more able to do the entries since I'm not as nauseous about food, but I feel overwhelmed by how many days there are to do. So don't be surprised if you see a guest post from one of my spouses sometime soon!

August 2009 net worth update

August 18th, 2009 at 02:41 pm

Assets:
NT's UK pensions: 7,250 pounds ($14,500)
10,725 pounds ($21,450)
NT's 401(k): $5,692
AS's 403(b): $2,888
AS's CD: $500
AS retirement savings: $485
CJ's 401(k): $26,401
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $160,000
Baby/emergency fund (shared asset): $5,236
---
Total Assets: $497,152

Total Debt: $391,851

Current Estimated Net Worth: $105,301

June 2009 estimate: $99,744

Change in net worth: +$5,557

Summary: Wow! We shot past the $100,000 mark much further than I predicted. NT and I combined gained over $3000 in 401(k) worths. I also set aside a bit for AS and into our EF. We paid off a modest amount of debt as well.

Looks like our total assets are nearing the $500,000 mark again, where they haven't been in a loong time! Should get there by the end of the year...

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 or flat value, 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.

More debt progress

August 17th, 2009 at 07:19 am

One of AS's student loans hit, and $79 went to principal. $1483 down, $117 to go. It's going to be a bit of a squeeze with the current scheduled payments, but I think we'll make our goal, probably right on the 31st.

And we hit a pleasant little milestone, with AS's total student loan debt dipping below $30,000 to $29,946! She has two degrees to show for that debt, so I think it's not too bad. Once I get out of CC debt and debt to my dad, AS's student loans will be my next target, but it's looking like that won't be for a couple years now.

Progress on the August debt goal

August 15th, 2009 at 06:39 am

My personal loan hit, with $760 going to principal. So $1404 down, $196 to go on my August goal.

$8100 left on that personal loan. I can't wait to see it cut in half by the end of the year, if all goes according to plan.

Progress on August savings

August 13th, 2009 at 10:27 am

Whew, starting to come down from the massive adrenaline rush I got from hearing my baby's heartbeat! We decided to go ahead and tell the rest of the world even though we're not quite at 12 weeks. It's been fun reading comments here and on Facebook. I can see how people who are already moms get super-excited when they find out someone is pregnant--now I'll always understand what a crazy high it is the first time you actually feel like the baby is yours. (I've been calling it the "embryo" and then the "fetus" this whole time; now I can't stop calling it a "baby"!)

Anyway, back to reality...even though we're going to cut back on savings and ramp up debt repayment soon, I decided to finish out August as planned. I'm not THAT impulsive. Smile So the regular biweekly savings hit, and I put $225 into the baby/emergency fund. $945 saved this month, $255 to go on my goal.

Guys, we heard a heartbeat!!!

August 13th, 2009 at 07:53 am

At 10 1/2 weeks! That's all. I'm wordless. Just so excited and overwhelmed.

Eeeeee!

Tentative budget rejigger; unsure if it will stick

August 11th, 2009 at 03:28 pm

So Frugal Dad (a good personal finance blog) posted an entry today about creating a dream budget: basically taking your existing budget, removing all debt payments as if you were debt-free, and playing around with what you'd use the extra money for. I went one better: I created a "Basic Dream Budget," which imagined we were debt-free except the mortgage, and an "Ultra Dream Budget," in which we no longer had even a mortgage debt.

It was exhilerating but also kind of bittersweet. I mean, we won't be there for many years, if we get there at all. But it did make me consider that maybe I should be knocking this $623 personal loan payment out before Baby #1 comes in March.

We currently owe $8860 on the personal loan, which means at my current accelerated rate (I recently bumped up my minimum payments to $200 more, paying about $750 in principal each month) I would pay it off in about 12 months, or July 2010.

I tried cutting back all savings through Dec. 15, besides my minimum required biweekly $25, plus $600 for Xmas. I also cut my remaining full-strength grocery line items (most have already been cut to pay tuition & fund furloughs) to $350. If I do that, assuming no financial hiccups, we could get the debt down to $4500 by mid-December. That would give us only 2.5 months to pay off the rest, or about $1800 per month.

Clearly that wouldn't happen on our current budget, but if there happened to be any windfalls--tax returns, bonuses, gifts--we might be able to come close.

So what would happen to the baby/emergency fund in the meantime, you ask? Well, the UK account would continue to run a 300-pound surplus each month. We may owe a bit in taxes, which could cut into that, but assuming we don't owe UK taxes, we would be at about $8000 by the time baby was born (depending on exchange rate). That would get us through a little over a month completely unpaid--if NT and I took turns with parental leave, we could get through two months unpaid. More if we made some cuts to our normal budget (easy).

If AS gets a job before then, we will have lots of extra money to throw at debt and EF. If she is still taking odd jobs from home, we can forgo some of that unpaid time because she'll be able to watch Baby during the day.

I don't know if I'll stick to this accelerated debt repayment, but it seems like there's an outside chance we could get that debt gone by the time Baby is ready for daycare--and that freed-up $623 could cover about half the monthly daycare costs! So it seems like something I should consider. I'm going to talk it over with the fam tonight and see what they think.

I welcome comments on both sides of the argument. To sum up all the above number crunching, I'm basically thinking about taking approximately $2000 that would go to the baby fund and putting it to debt instead.

365 days of dinner: July 10-27, 2009

August 9th, 2009 at 10:34 am

I haven't been posting dinner pics, despite the fact that we've been taking them fairly faithfully, for two reasons: one, I feel tired all the time, and two, food is just not exciting to me like it used to be. I was going to try and conscript NT or AS into doing an entry for me, but they've been plenty busy with other things. So I'm going to suck it up, ignore how unappealing these pics are, and post some before we get too far behind to ever finish this project.

Friday, July 10, we ate at a great restaurant, Sen Yai Sen Lek Thai, which uses local ingredients and sustainable practices such as composting. The last two photos are of dessert: black beans and sticky rice in a warm sweet coconut-milk soup, and banana and sticky rice in the same. Much, much more delicious than they look, believe me!







July 11 we had avocado salad and pizza:




Sunday, July 12, we had a big English fry-up for brunch, and veggie brats, cole slaw and veggie patties for dinner:




July 13 we had creamy broccoli pasta:



Tuesday, July 14, we had BBQ tofu, jalapeno potato salad, bacony (via Bacos) green beans and biscuits.



Wednesday NJ and CC brought over a risotto with baby lima beans and oven roasted squash. I was having a weird stomach night so I didn't have any, but I was told it was delicious.



Thursday, July 16, we had mock duck and vegetables in a spicy peanut sauce.



July 17 was basil rice-noodle stir fry.



Saturday, July 18, we had a kind of Asian-Middle Eastern fusion dinner: mahogany tempeh (a recipe from Vegan Fire and Spice), wasabi mashed potatoes, garlicky greens, and oven-roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce.



Sunday for brunch we tried out a recipe from the new Vegan Brunch cookbook, Tofu Benny, which NT served over a beet-potato hash. For dinner, we had Asian-flavor sesame-cabbage tofu pasta. This marks about the end of Asian food for awhile; I basically found that I can't stomach many of the flavors that I normally love.



Monday, July 20, I made spaghetti and tomato sauce with breaded, pan-fried zucchini:



Tuesday NT made spinach tart and oven-roasted cauliflower:




Wednesday, July 22, we went to the Torchlight Parade in downtown Minneapolis. We brought ingredients and made pizza at NJ & CC's house but neglected to take photos.

July 23 NT made BBQ gluten "wings" and a wild rice salad:



Friday July 24 was my and AS's 12-year anniversary! We went to a nice Italian restaurant called Zelo in downtown Minneapolis. We were with a group of friends and having so much fun that we forgot to take many pictures, except of the wine and the dessert (gelato and sorbet).




July 25 we had Morningstar buffalo wings, corn on the cob, kale and biscuits:



Sunday, July 26, NT made pesto fresh pasta with green beans. Unfortunately I found that pesto is too rich for my delicate stomach these days, so I foraged for something else to eat that night.



July 27 I made chili with TVP (textured vegetable protein) and AS made cornbread:



Whew, I can't look at food photos anymore, so I'm going to take a break!

Progress on August goals

August 3rd, 2009 at 07:27 am

All our mortgage payments hit:
U.S.: $281 to principal
UK #1: $253
UK #2: $54
UK #3: $56

That equals $644 down, $956 to go on our debt-repayment goal.

Also, I transferred GBP300 (US$600) into NT's UK savings account for the baby/emergency fund, and $120 into the U.S. savings account for AS's retirement. $720 saved, $480 to go on the savings goal.

August 2009 goals

August 1st, 2009 at 11:44 am

OK, as I warned, I'm going really, really easy on myself. So I'm having free months in all areas except debt repayment, savings, and my "Other" category (I really need to get NT's taxes done this month; they're due in October, but I'm not going to want to do them in September).

My credit card payment hit early this past month, which is why I surpassed my goal so much. So debt repayment will be modest in August; I'm going for paying off $1600.

Savings should be pretty good this month; I'm going to put $120 away for AS's retirement, and I'm going to try and save $1080 for the baby/emergency fund. So $1200 total.

And, I need to do NT's UK taxes. I'm nervous because he might owe this year, and I'll need to take that out of the EF. But it can't be avoided.

July 2009 goals wrap-up

August 1st, 2009 at 11:19 am

Well, my first trimester is my excuse for not completing most of my goals. Luckily the financial goals were accomplished despite some budgetary hiccups.

1. Debt: Pay off at least $2,000 of debt.
Balance as of 7/29: $393,334
Goal balance: $393,579
Progress: DONE! $2245 paid

2. Savings: Save at least $800 ($125 for AS retirement; $675 for EF)
Progress: DONE! $870 saved

3. Fitness: Swim at least three times. Failed. Sigh.

4. Environmentalism: Try to get off some junk-mail lists. Failed.

5. Creative/crafts:
a. Super-secret gift for AS. AS and I agreed to skip this nice idea once we realized how little energy I was going to have the rest of the month.
b. Start another blog. Progress: Some. I did take some photo essays for this blog, so I'm hoping to keep going. HOWEVER, it's a cooking blog, and I really don't like food very much right now, so this will have to wait until I start feeling less nauseous and picky. So we'll see if I still feel like doing it in a couple months.

6. Philanthropy: free month

7. Side hustles: Do some more Mechanical Turk tasks. Progress: none. I've been hella busy at work (which is good for job security), and haven't wanted to do anything that requires thinking once I get home.

8. Other: Finish and send out RFE packet by the second week of July. DONE! Thank goodness I got right on this and finished before all of my get-up-and-go went elsewhere.