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Archive for January, 2010

And...one more January debt payment, plus February debt goal

February 1st, 2010 at 02:37 am

My credit card payment did hit on Saturday, with $222 going to principal (I sent in a bit more than the minimum payment). So our January grand total is $3216 of debt paid! If all goes well and my dad actually cashes checks when I tell him, February should be even better, but my stated debt goal will be really modest, to make sure I don't fall short should Dad flake. Smile

So my minimum February debt payment goal is $1800, but I'm hoping it's more like $4800...

More debt paid

January 29th, 2010 at 08:22 pm

Another of AS's student loans hit, with $58 going to principal. That brings us to $2994 of debt paid this month.

I sent off my credit card payment today, but I'm not sure if it will hit tomorrow or whether it will go into next month's debt-repay totals. I also e-mailed my dad that he could cash in another $1000 check, but from what's happened so far he won't do it right away.

I just checked over the next month's cashflow and realized I can have him deposit the remaining $3000 after we get our Feb. 15 paychecks! So that debt will be retired 2 weeks earlier than planned (assuming he actually goes and deposits them). It will feel amazing to have this debt cleared up between us. Not that he's ever given me the slightest bit of guilt or pressure over it, but I've felt bad that it took me this long to pay him back.

I think that's it...I'm feeling very overwhelmed this week, just too many balls in the air, too hard trying to plan things with the upcoming birth such a wild card. Just over 5 weeks until my due date!

Debt repayment, 30-in-30 progress, US Bank savings deal

January 27th, 2010 at 05:13 pm

One of AS's student loans hit; $116 went to principal. That brings our January debt repayment to $2936.

We sold another book on Half.com. Unfortunately, Half's e-mails are always dated oddly and this one slipped unnoticed into my (admittedly cluttered) inbox. We were supposed to have shipped this book by the 22nd (gulp!). On the upside, the buyer basically lives across the street from us, so AS is going to just drop it off at her doorstep tonight. So it'll get to her about the same day it would have via Media Mail if we'd sent it on the 22nd. Anyway, one more for the declutter challenge!

Our checking and savings accounts are all with US Bank, and recently they began advertising this new deal, where if you put $1000 into a savings account you get a $50 Visa card, and if you keep the balance at that point or higher for a year, you get another $50. NT and I took advantage of this yesterday. We had to open a new checking account since our current one is joint with AS, but our savings account is only in our two names (which we did mainly to have some documentation of our marriage for our green-card application).

I transferred $1100 of our medical-expenses line item into the new checking account, then $1000 of that into our savings account. So we've already earned our first $50 card. I have to do regular transfers from that checking account into the savings account, which is kind of hassle-y since we don't really plan to use that checking account for anything, but I figure I'll just use it as a dumping ground for some of our medical funds. Shouldn't be too hard to keep track of since all the accounts are linked when I log in online.

If AS gets time sometime soon, I want her to open a savings account linked to her business checking account, which is just in her name. That way she can put aside $1000 of her profits into savings and get two $50 cards herself!

What with having to keep the savings account balance up for a year, it means we can't start withdrawing funds to put into CDs anytime soon, but this is a pretty good deal. Anyway, if we do really well this year, maybe we can find money in our budget to open some CDs.

Monday miscellany

January 25th, 2010 at 08:21 pm

Had to look up the spelling of that word! Sad because I'm an editor, but some words you just don't come across often enough to cement their spelling in your mind.

***

We have a few jobs opening up at my company, and I sent the descriptions to a friend of mine. He wrote back that he didn't think he had the right experience. I'd read his resume and thought it was mighty close to the job description, even if he didn't have some of the things listed under "preferred." I know it's a competitive job market, but it never hurts to throw your hat in the ring! I sent him a gentle dressing-down via e-mail, and he's going to apply for it after all. Some of my friends are just too humble and honest for their own good!

***

I've been thinking more about retirement planning. Even though I don't feel that should be the main focus of my money right now, I would like to have a ballpark plan that I could start implementing once we're free of credit-card debt at least. I've no idea how to find a planner with international tax expertise, so I'm just going to start poking around various company's Web sites (Ameriprise, for example) and see if I can find mention of that somewhere. If that doesn't work, I guess I'll just look for places with fee-based consultations and start calling them to ask if they have anyone who qualifies.

Today I was thinking about how we indulge in quite a few luxuries compared with my frugal online friends (though we still live pretty thriftily compared to many real-life friends). If we cut our lifestyle down to the bone and still maintained three incomes, we could be out of debt probably in 5-7 years and have a nest egg for a modest early retirement in probably another 10 years (I'd be 50-52, NT would be 51-53 and AS would be 45-47). It's interesting to idly contemplate, but I'm comfortable with our choice of moderation. We're very controlled in our spending but still get to enjoy travel and high-quality food and some tech gadgets, and a few other luxuries and conveniences. We won't be getting out of debt anytime soon, but I believe we'll continue to make steady progress and get there eventaully. Same with our retirement. I think we'll be able to retire in our 60s if we want to, but probably not before if we want a similar or higher-level lifestyle to what we have now.

There are some risks to this strategy, because there's nothing to guarantee we'll all always be able to work, that we won't get hit with some unforeseen expense, etc. But in a way, that makes me want even more to make sure we're enjoying ourselves some now, because who knows if we'll have a more pressing need to cut back in the future?

I feel very fortunate that we're recovering fairly gracefully from the potential huge financial disaster that we were facing a few years ago. I think in a few years, we'll have made enough progress that little to no evidence will remain in our financials of how bad off we were at one point.

***

I did some airfare searches today. I don't want to reserve seats for our trips to visit family until the baby is safe in my arms, and I know it's healthy enough for travel--and I want to wait to make sure we're not going to have unexpected large expenses after the birth. But I'd like to get a rough idea of what it's going to cost.

We decided we can have the baby on our laps for the Virginia trip, but for the trip to England we'll want to reserve a seat so we can put it in a carseat occasionally--international plane trips are already uncomfortable and grueling enough without having to hold a baby the whole way.

At first when I was doing searches on the aggregator-type sites like Orbitz.com, they were indicating that I'd be charged full price for the infant seat. So I went directly to the Web site of the lowest-priced airline--IcelandAir--and searched for the fare there. Turns out the baby's seat will only cost about $150 with tax--whew! Far better than over $1000.

Looks like we'll easily get our Va. tickets for $1000 or less, but so far UK tickets are bringing us over $3000. I'm hoping it's because I'm searching so far in advance. I'd love to keep it to $3K or less.

***

Last night we were sucked into ordering Domino's Pizza. I don't know if you U.S.-based bloggers have seen their intriguing new ads, where they basically own up to the fact that many people think their pizza tastes like crap. They claim to have improved the crust and sauce considerably. So we tried ordering online and were delighted that the site gave us a name of a person who was supposedly beginning to prepare our order.

An hour and 20 minutes later, after many attempts to call them I finally got through. Turns out they had to take on all the business for another location which had been flooded (with water), and they were also taking in massive amounts of orders because of the football game, so they hadn't even started cooking our pizzas and didn't expect to deliver them for another 1-2 hours.

Which I was totally sympathetic about, having worked pizza delivery and knowing what it's like getting overwhelmed with orders and/or unusual weather conditions. (I went ahead and canceled the order since it was already getting pretty late and we weren't willing to wait potentially 2 hours to eat.) But it did show their online order-tracking system to be a complete useless lie. If the app doesn't have the capability to indicate a 3-hour wait for pizza, it shouldn't be there assuring you that "Troy" or whoever has already started cooking your food!

We were already primed for cheap pizza delivery, so we ordered some Pizza Hut, which was servicable and came within half an hour. We'd still like to try the "new improved" Domino's sometime, but next time we're calling, so we can get an idea of how long the order is going to take.

We're eating out on Tuesday, too! We've been going kinda nuts (relatively) on eating out/ordering in lately, but it hasn't affected our budget at all because it comes out of our discretionary spending money. It just means we have less money for other little luxuries. We're already planning where we want to eat for Valentine's Day and our birthdays (early March for me and AS; late March for NT).

***

This concludes my test of the emergency rambling system. I have to get ready to go to the dentist now.

Money stuff

January 23rd, 2010 at 07:36 pm

I finally received my $260 check for some freelance proofreading I did in December! I used it to ensure that I'll be able to pay my dad off by March 1, assuming my budget follows my plan. We had some left over, so we were thinking about getting a new espresso/steamer machine (our current one doesn't steam milk properly anymore) or some CD towers (we need to make room for the board games we got for Xmas, so we want to move our CDs). We finally decided that I'll ask my parents for the espresso maker for my birthday, and we used the rest of the freelance money to supplement the current home improvement fund and pay for a CD shelf. Found it on Target.com, then found a better deal on the same case with free shipping on Amazon!

AS is finally signed up for her 401(k) at work--some incompetence on the provider's part delayed it. Now we just need confirmation that she's on her health care--they're being shamefully slow, and she's been technically uninsured since Jan. 1 (because she had to drop her private before she could apply for the new plan). Don't get me started...

AS got another freelance editing project that will get her about $600! I'm a little worried about her burning the candle at both ends, but I can't deny we can use the money this year...

I took home copies of a 2009 and 2010 paystub, along with benefits info for my '09 and '10 health insurance. It still seemed to me that my overall paycheck shouldn't be lower than last year, since my new health plan shouldn't have been offset completely by the stimulus withholding changing. Then when I read somewhere that the "making work pay" credit is still in effect this year, so federal withholding would only change a little to stretch the credit over 12 months, I really got suspicious that something was wrong with my check.

I sat down and checked everything. At least they were correctly billing me the individual premium, so they'd reversed my request to add NT to healthcare (I changed my mind once I saw his work's healthcare was still cheaper for him). No problem there. Then I noticed a $25, after-tax "healthcare surcharge." I realized what it was. My company has added a $50-per-month surcharge if you put your spouse on your plan and that spouse has access to employer-sponsored healthcare at their own job. Well, they'd apparently neglected to deactivate that charge even though NT isn't going to be on my plan.

I'm so glad I checked! This is the sort of thing that never would have been caught on their end, especially since it's completely separate from the insurance company's charges--this is just my company trying to discourage people from bringing their spouses onto our plan.

Once my rage had (mostly) subsided, I realized something: I'd been $60 per month off on my estimate of what my 2010 paycheck would look like. Once they fix this $50 error, it means I was actually within $10 of guessing my paycheck, and the difference is simply due to a change in withholding for the stimulus credit. Sweet! At least I don't feel as ignorant as I did when I saw my first 2010 paycheck. (I'm still pretty ticked at my HR department; this isn't the first ball they've dropped, and I'm not looking forward in my postpartum haze to riding their asses making sure they get my baby's coverage and my disability compensation right. But, they've proved they can't do their job without supervision, so it is what it is.)

Overall, though, a positive set of financial things have happened so far this weekend!

Free advice at kiplinger.com

January 22nd, 2010 at 09:27 pm

Well, I asked my question, and (as I suspected) the answer was that I need to find an adviser who's an expert on international tax law. Sigh. I didn't really think I was going to get easy, free answers to my questions, but it was worth a try.

Anyway, this is my first year I've been able to take advantage of the free-advice day, and I recommend it if you have a question. I submitted my question online and they posted it with their response in less than half an hour! There's only about an hour and a half left today, but they're doing it again on Tuesday.

Prepaid plan costs update

January 22nd, 2010 at 04:10 pm

I think I'll keep averaging out the costs until late March, and then I'll start my calculations over again. That will have been a full year, so I can state what the average monthly cost for the first year was, then start tracking the average monthly cost for the second year, etc.

NT filled up with 300 more minutes because his 60 days had nearly run out (AND he'd had to be really careful not to run out of minutes this time!). Cost: $32.82

RECAP: I switched to prepaid in late March, meaning it's been 10 months. We have 2 phones on T-Mobile prepaid and 1 on Net10 prepaid. AS and I refill in 1000-minute increments and only need to refill when we run out or when it's been a year since our last fillup to stay active. NT needs to buy 300 more minutes every 60 days to keep his phone activated.

Initial layout to get us set up with phones and 2300 minutes: $241.63
NT's late-May Net10 fillup: $32.65
AS's late-June T-Mobile fillup, 1000 minutes: $107.40
NT's late-July Net10 fillup: $32.82
NT's late-September Net10 fillup: $32.82
AS's early-October T-Mobile fillup: $107.78
NT's late-November Net10 fillup: $32.82
NT's late-January Net10 fillup: $32.82

So our total cost so far is $620.74.

So far, if I divide our total cost by 10, our new plan has cost us $62.07 per month. That's the lowest the average has been, and much better than our $85 average on the T-Mobile family plan.

I've still got about 300 of my original 1000 minutes and I don't need to re-up until late March 2010 unless I run out of minutes before then. AS may need to fill up again soon, but she's made her latest 1000 last 3.5 months, which is better than the 3 months and the 3 months, 1 week, that she lasted the other two times. And that's with having been at home through November. I think the next round of minutes will last her even longer now that she works full time!

(Our cellphone bill, for three phones on a family plan, used to range from $80-$95, depending on texts, calls to 411, etc. Usually it was close to $85. My goal is to get my average cost below that, preferably to $50 per month, but any average number below $85 will be a savings.)

Reached debt goal and then some!

January 20th, 2010 at 03:26 pm

Whew, my dad FINALLY cashed two of my checks! I'm going to have to leave my payments to him off my monthly debt repayment goals; he's too much of a wild card. Smile

So my debt to him is down to $4000! And I've paid $2820 of debt this month, well exceeding my goal of $1999.

Very exciting! In other good news, NT called one of the in-home daycare lady's references and she gave a really strong recommendation. Apparently the lady loves infants, is really reliable and knows everything there is to know about raising kids. Good enough for us! He may try to call the others today, but we feel very sure even if he can't get hold of them in time. We're going to get our foot in the door ASAP. When we went to meet her, she said she wouldn't hold the spot indefinitely unless we were sure, so I told her if we committed to her, we'd pay for our first month right away, even though we're not starting until July. Well worth it for the peace of mind!

Personal life is going really well...I just have to keep away from the news today. Aftershock in Haiti, mass murder in Va., healthcare reform dead in the water--way too much for my emotional pregnant self to deal with, so I'm going to focus on how everything's going well for us right now. I have to keep telling myself (as AS told me once) that my feeling really sad isn't going to help anyone.

More progress on the 30-in-30 challenge

January 19th, 2010 at 05:53 pm

Third post today! I just keep thinking of things to write about.

We sold an LP box set ($20) and a set of Elvis-themed stamps ($0.99, LOL oh well, at least they weren't U.S. postage stamps!) on eBay and are shipping them out today. So two more items toward the decluttering challenge.

Tuesday news

January 19th, 2010 at 05:22 pm

Usually I do my rambling on Mondays, but I had the day off yesterday and slept/relaxed for most of it! My favorite pastime, even more so these days.

I just posted our January net worth and then went and calculated our individual net worths. Some nice milestones there:

I hit five figures in my positive net worth, mostly due to shifting some of my credit card debt onto NT's student loan debt. But I would have gotten really close to five figures even without that!

AS's negative net worth got below $30K; we're still not focusing on her debt much because it's all student loans and mortgage. I am making sure she makes some progress by putting at least $120 toward retirement each month. Since her 401(k) didn't kick in at work yet, I had her put $120 of freelance profit into the IRA we set up recently.

***

NT has expressed interest in moving some of our savings into community banks; while our big bank, US Bank, was one of the least foolhardy during this whole financial meltdown, he still feels we should support smaller banks. AS has been itching to do some CD laddering with our savings since we earn practically nothing at US Bank. Hopefully we'll find some nice rates around town and can accomplish both at once. It's kinda low on our priorities list right now, but something I'm trying to keep in mind as a rainy-day project.

***

Speaking of lousy interest, do you bother even putting it on your tax return if you earn less than $3 in interest for the year? I've done a rough calculation and it doesn't bump us into the next tax bracket, so it wouldn't change anything anyway, and it'll be a pain adding up the dribs and drabs to get the exact amount we earned.

***

On the subject of tax returns, it looks like NT and I will get about $1000 back from the federal government and owe the state of MN about $300. I haven't been able to make a rough calculation for AS because she needs to get her home-business stuff in order and we need to figure out whether the place that has paid her the most money intends to count it toward 2009 or 2010. She did the work in '09 but got most of the checks in '10, so I guess it depends on their accounting method. Right now she's in a flurry of manuscript-proofreading for both the freelance place and her new job, so it will have to wait at least another week.

However, since we'll pay anything she owes from her business account, that $700 net refund NT and I are getting is free and clear. I'll probably put it toward the Virginia trip but I might put it toward the American Express card. Haven't quite decided.

***

We went to visit the in-home daycare provider, and she seemed good to all of us. Nice older lady, no-nonsense but not overly structured or strict with the kids, 25 minutes from work, 5 minutes from home. $800-per-month cheaper than the cheapest daycare center! While we loved the educational aspect of the first center we visited, and its proximity to our workplaces, we agreed that this lady fit the bill of our current needs and especially our budget (since we have no idea what other baby-related expenses will come up). If down the road we decide the child needs more structure or intellectual stimulation or that it's worth it to be able to visit during lunchtime, we can always change our minds. So NT's going to call her references, and if he doesn't get any bad vibes from that, we're reserving a July spot with this lady.

(Oh, and we all three went to see her, all three asked questions and spoke as if we were the parents-to-be, and she showed no curiosity as to why there were three of us. Excellent! As usual, all my paranoia was for naught.)

January 2010 net worth

January 19th, 2010 at 04:25 pm

Assets:
NT's UK pensions: 7,250 pounds ($14,500)
14,721 pounds ($29,442)
NT's 401(k): $7,248
AS's 403(b): $2,888
AS's IRA: $1,601
CJ's 401(k): $32,030
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $160,000
Baby/emergency fund (shared asset): $7,652
---
Total Assets: $515,361

Total Debt: $380,040

Current Estimated Net Worth: $135,321

December 2009 estimate: $131,418

Change in net worth: +$3,903

Summary: Despite my dad's best (unintentional) efforts to sabotage our progress by not cashing the checks I gave him, we made some nice progress this month. Our retirement accounts showed good gains, and we paid off a bit of debt.

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. 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 (unless I happen to get some info by chance). 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 $1.60 per British pound.

Progress on debt goal; 2010 paychecks; shuffling some money around

January 15th, 2010 at 03:57 pm

One of AS's student loans hit, with $81 going to principal. $820 down, $1179 to go on the January debt goal.

We got our first paychecks of 2010. I still don't know what AS's will look like for the long haul because she's still straightening out her healthcare and retirement. Mine is about $30 less than I predicted (so over $60 a month, boo), and NT's mysteriously went down a buck and some change from last year, even though we made no changes to his pretax stuff. If it was the stimulus tax withholding changing back you'd think it would change more. Whatevs, paychecks confuse me and I'll never quite be able to accurately forecast what they'll look like. One good thing about my company is that they're going to give me a rundown of what my paychecks will look like on reduced-pay and unpaid leave. Good, because I could never figure it out on my own!

We also got an unexpected deposit of $2101 from NT's college. Apparently we overborrowed for the semester. I'm sending a payment to my credit card. Although the loan from my dad is my current focus, somehow it felt wrong to use debt to pay that off. Doesn't suit the spirit of why I'm focusing on it: the psychological importance of honoring my commitment to my dad. So I'm transferring this debt to my next goal, the credit card. It doesn't feel great to bring the student loan debt back up over $75,000, but the faster I get rid of my personal debt the sooner I can start attacking the student loans. It makes sense to pay down a credit card vs. student loans that get a tax break on the credit, could get deferred in times of hardship, monthly minimum payments don't go down if I pay extra, and some of which aren't even in repayment yet.

What is exciting is it brings my credit card balance down below $10K, and total personal debt below $15K!

Saving, purging, donating, etc.

January 14th, 2010 at 11:29 pm

The biweekly savings transfer happened, just the required minimum of $25. I'm putting it toward the birthday fund.

Still waiting for my dad to cash my payment to him, LOL. I gently nudged him by letting him know I'll have another $1000 ready for him on payday (tomorrow), and he said he'd cash $2000 tomorrow or Saturday. Whew, finally!

We purged three items by selling them! A textbook (netted about $34), an indoor plant-growing lamp ($40) and our old laptop ($400). Sold the book on Half.com and the other two items via Craigslist.

We used the textbook profit to buy a new set of sheets to replace some really worn-out ones, since our textbooks fund is already at $200 and I'm confident we won't need more than that (we sell most of NT's books at the end of each semester and make back nearly all the money we spend). We took the grow lamp profit, plus $20 of pocket money, and are donating it to Doctors Without Borders to help with Haiti relief efforts. The laptop money was divvied up: I paid for our recent cable repair, put some into a future payment to my dad, finished paying off some holiday expenditures, and set aside $100 for general home improvement/decor (we've had a few minor needs come up recently).

Random musings

January 11th, 2010 at 04:53 pm

Nothing much has happened monetarily for a couple days, which is really boring, especially since I'm still waiting for my dad to cash the first check toward paying him off!

We had kind of a decadent weekend, with pizza delivery on Friday night and Thai food (at an actual restaurant!) on Saturday. We're also in the red on grocery spending -- doesn't mean much except that we dip into the next biweekly budget, which often causes us to dip into the next one earlier as well. I'm going to see if it balances itself out gradually, but if we're still ahead of ourselves in a month, we'll do an eat-through-the-pantry week. That always gets us back on track, so we've never actually overspent on groceries to the point of taking money out of any other category to pay for them.

***

AS just got a $500 check for a freelance proofreading project, and she just got $400 the week before for another one. She's working on another book for the same place and I think she's got another lined up? I'm starting to get mixed up because the jobs are coming so fast and furious. While I miss our weekend and night-time hanging out, the money is going to help tremendously.

Right now, we're holding on to all the money in her business checking account. The first thing is to see if we owe any taxes for 2009 -- we're not even sure whether some of the money is '09 or '10 income, so we're waiting to get the 1099 from the company. The second order of business will be to make sure we're holding enough money aside for '10 taxes. I'm thinking if we set aside 25% it should cover self-employment tax; does that sound about right?

Thirdly, AS is going to need to purchase some equipment that will fit discreetly in our dining area, which is going to become her primary workroom as we transition the sewing room into a nursery. For a while she'll be able to keep some of her supplies in there, but if she gets pregnant in a couple years, we'll need the entire room to fit two babies and their things. So she's probably going to get a sewing machine that goes into its table, as well as some kind of cabinetry that can hide away her most-used supplies. The dining room table will work great as a desk and cutting table, but there may be other storage solutions we need to think of. That will all be coming out of her business account, another reason we're not touching those funds.

But, once taxes and dining-area conversion are taken care of, any excess funds will be available to put toward one or more of our 2010 goals. I'm hopeful that we'll have at least $1K to play with, and that's conservative (and not counting any further freelance projects she may get offered).

***

NT and I had our first daycare center tour last week (AS got tied up at work and didn't make it). It was a very impressive place on all levels, including a positive vibe, educational yet fun focus for the older kids, good child-to-caregiver ratio, and open-door policy for parents (meaning we could visit during lunchtime). It's also less than a block from my office! Really there are only two drawbacks: It's $1300 per month, and there are no openings until October (and that's if we reserve a spot now; October may go away if we don't act quickly enough).

But, if our one or two home daycare options don't work out, $1300 is still the least expensive center option available to us, so for the center to have such a high level of quality is great. NT and I (and hopefully AS this time) have another tour, at a center that's located in a Baptist church and is $1352 per month. Still convenient to our bus route, even though we couldn't walk over there on our lunch break. We should at least have a point of comparison, even though we're pretty sold on the other one if we do have to go the daycare-center route. (Plus, we'd have to have somewhere to send baby until a spot opened up at our place of choice.)

Whichever option we're going to take, I'm feeling some stress about how best to explain to the provider that the child has three parents. We live in a bubble world where we generally only meet new people who already know some of our friends, so we've been vouched for as not weirdos (or, not *bad* weirdos). I always get flustered when it comes to a complete stranger that we have to get to accept us without the backing of mutual friends. I have these nightmare scenarios in my head of someone taking offense to our lifestyle and trying to call in Child Protective Services or INS or something. I'm going to lean heavily on AS and NT, who both have better social skills as well as less of this particular type of social anxiety, to get strangers to warm up to the idea. (Because honestly, once people do, we usually end up getting compliments about how happy and well-adjusted we are and how lucky to be able to share parenting between three. I just worry about how it sounds when someone doesn't know us.)

I think I had some other random topics I could have blabbed away on, but I finally got some work to do, so I'd better go!

Baby expenses so far

January 7th, 2010 at 09:15 pm

It's been awhile since I posted about this here (I keep track in my Google Docs and on my baby blog). I actually think (fingers crossed) that this year's medical expenses will be lower, because I finally think I chose the correct healthcare plan (after misunderstanding and picking the more expensive one two years in a row).

Things this list doesn't include: expenses for weird craving foods, cost of treating conditions that are PROBABLY pregnancy-related (I'm letting my baby be innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt), savings on alcohol, tax savings on the portions of my medical bills that are paid for with my pretax health savings account (HSA). I am including things that are DEFINITELY pregnancy-related but could be construed as wants vs. needs. As you look through you'll no doubt see things that could have been avoided. I feel that I'm having a pretty frugal, but not bare-bones, pregnancy.

Date Type of (expense)/savings Amount
1/9/2009 Prenatal vitamins (16.10)
4/1/2009 No birth control $20.00
4/15/2009 Prenatal vitamins (24.69)
5/1/2009 No birth control $20.00
6/1/2009 No birth control $20.00
7/1/2009 No birth control $20.00
7/6/2009 Pregnancy test (6.99)
7/21/2009 Large pair of trousers (19.99)
7/30/2009 Dr. visit co-pay (10.00)
8/1/2009 No birth control $20.00
8/10/2009 Iron supplements (5.99)
8/11/2009 Iron supplements (5.49)
8/27/2009 Rx for prevention of UTIs (10.00)
9/1/2009 No birth control $20.00
9/6/2009 Prenatal classes (155.00)
9/10/2009 OB contract pmt (127.04)
9/16/2009 Belly band (16.99)
9/29/2009 1st visit tests + rest of OB contract (1012.62 total; 1st pmt) (377.43)
10/1/2009 No birth control $20.00
10/4/2009 Maternity clothes (177.91)
10/12/2009 Iron supplements (5.92)
11/1/2009 No birth control $20.00
11/2/2009 2nd pmt for tests, dr. visits & OB contract (268.78)
11/4/2009 Fleece zipup to supplement borrowed maternity coat (14.99)
11/10/2009 Iron supplements (5.92)
11/30/2009 2 new bras (one nursing, one larger strapless) (24.93)
12/1/2009 No birth control $20.00
12/7/2009 Maternity leggings (to use as long johns) (24.99)
12/15/2009 3rd pmt dr. visits & OB contract (254.70)
12/26/2009 Maternity clothes (including replacement fleece $11) [used gift cards] (70.00)
1/1/2010 No birth control (just $20 every 3 months now, w/ new health care) $20
1/6/2010 Prenatal vitamins & iron supplements (26.38)
1/7/2010 Exercise ball (for relief of back pain & labor pains) (23.64)
1/8/2010 4th pmt dr. visits & OB contract (178.96)

TOTAL (COST)/SAVINGS (1,652.83)

Small progress on a 2010 goal

January 6th, 2010 at 10:39 pm

We got a bill from Sears a couple weeks ago and called to discover somehow we hadn't gotten put on the deferred interest and payments plan. They switched us onto it right away, but the rep advised us to pay the current bill, just to be sure we didn't get a late payment charge. It was just $13, but it hit yesterday, taking our balance down to $848.10.

That is all. Still waiting for my dad to cash that dang check. Smile

One more item purged and other news

January 6th, 2010 at 01:52 am

We sold another textbook on Half.com and shipped it out today, so one more item is gone from our home...

I e-mailed my dad on New Year's Eve letting him know he could deposit one of the $1000 checks I gave him. Now I'm impatiently waiting for him to do it so I can knock a grand off our debt!

I called an in-home daycare that we happened to see a sign for; it's blocks from our condo. It's the only one within a mile of our place, as far as we know. The rate the lady gave me? $110 per week, or $477 per month. The least expensive daycare center we've been able to find within a reasonable distance charges $1300 per month! And she's got a July opening for an infant. So of course we've got our fingers crossed that the in-home place seems nice. We're going to look at a bunch of the professional centers and then visit this woman on the 18th.

Progress on the 30-day purge

January 5th, 2010 at 02:04 am

We shipped out two books that we sold on Half.com today!

Progress on debt goal

January 4th, 2010 at 04:17 pm

All the mortgage payments hit today:
US: $375 to principal
UK#1: $254
UK#2: $54
UK#3: $56
In total, $739 paid, $1260 to go on the January debt-repayment goal.

I transferred 440 pounds ($880 per the CJ exchange rate) from the UK checking account into UK savings. I'm going to keep putting this money aside as part of our EF, because even though that's not one of my stated goals this year, our emergency fund should definitely be bigger. This deposit takes it to $7651, or less than two months' expenses.

Speaking of savings, AS is interested in doing a CD ladder with our EF money. We'll probably just keep it in our savings account until the baby comes, see if we have to raid the funds in the first few months, but if not, we can start doing that this year. Maybe I could get her interested in finding the British equivalent of CDs and doing the same with the money in our UK savings account. Smile

Bit of money to savings

January 4th, 2010 at 02:30 am

My automated biweekly deposit into savings actually hit on New Year's Eve, but I hadn't allocated it anywhere. I'm putting it into our birthdays fund, so $25 saved, $575 to go.

We got our 1040 instruction booklet in the mail, and looking through it, I'm thinking AS made enough money to qualify for part of the "making work pay" credit. NT and I will, but of course we've essentially already got it by having less money withheld from our paychecks. But AS has only had two paychecks this year. She made a couple thousand with her home-based business, enough I think for a partial credit, maybe $150 or $200. (You need to have made over $6K to get the full amount of $400.) The stimulus funds really helped us out last year, and it looks like we'll get one last treat from 'em!

Purged items for Fern's 30-day challenge

January 3rd, 2010 at 01:23 am

Donated:
31 tops
3 pairs of jeans
2 ornaments
1 calendar
1 puzzle
1 computer game disc

Trashed:
4 shirts

1/2 total: 43

So we've already passed the goal, but we have a few more things to get rid of: Tomorrow we're shipping out a few books we just sold on Half.com, and we listed our older laptop on Craigslist. NT and I might take a necklace to the pawn shop in the next few weeks, and we have a few more items we might list on Craigslist or eBay. I may cut down my shoe collection (probably my old shoes will just have to be tossed, not donated, but it counts). Does it count if we declutter our fridge and throw out old condiments that are expired or no longer used? I may do that at some point...

Of course, we're just decluttering in order to bring stuff in, but it's necessary stuff. We just got our crib today from some friends who transitioned their youngest to a bed!