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Archive for June, 2010

June debt-repayment results, July goal, gone for a while

June 26th, 2010 at 04:04 am

June was a success (just barely), with $1006 going to debt, just tipping the $1000 goal.

I'm sleepy because we've been getting ready for our week-long trip to Virginia tomorrow, so I'm not sure if I'm correctly predicting how many payments are going to hit between now and July 31. But I'm going to set the July debt-repayment goal at $1100; that seems conservative, and if I'm miscalculating in the wrong direction, I can always make a snowflake payment to the credit card to make sure I hit it.

Anyway, I've got to get a bit more done before we go to sleep, so I'm going to have to sign off, probably until July. Happy early Independence Day!

June 2010 net worth update

June 23rd, 2010 at 05:44 pm

Assets:
NT's UK pensions: 12,663 pounds ($25,326)
14,721 pounds ($29,442)
NT's 401(k): $8,241
AS's 403(b): $3,300
AS's IRA: $1,682
AS's 401(k): $507
CJ's 401(k): $31,744
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $160,000
Baby/emergency fund (shared asset): $8,431
---
Total Assets: $528,673

Total Debt: $365,100

Current Estimated Net Worth: $163,573

May 2010 estimate: $151,034

Change in net worth: +$12,539

Summary: My 401(k) lost $1 in value (which means it lost more like $300 since I also made contributions). What an annoying figure! LOL.

You may notice a kind of huge leap in net worth. Well, for one of NT's UK retirement plans that I hadn't updated in years, I finally looked at a statement and tried to ascertain the current value. It was about US $10,000 higher. We also paid off some debt and made small gains in other areas, i.e., the EF and some of the U.S. retirement accounts.

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 fairly 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.

Reached June goal!

June 15th, 2010 at 04:52 pm

Just a quick entry before I go downtown to apply for AA's passport. AS's student loan payment hit: $83 to principal. So we passed our $1000 goal with $1006 going toward debt this month! I paid some extra to the credit card early because I'm going to have to close out this month's blogging early, before our trip to Virginia. Not yet, but the next 10 days or so are going to fly by as we get prepared--and as NT and I enjoy our last days of parental leave with AA.

I took some cute smiley pics today, but I haven't uploaded them yet. So here are some from previous days:


Quick entry during a whirlwind weekend; progress on June debt repayment

June 12th, 2010 at 04:17 am

My extra principal payment of $175 to the credit card hit. $923 down, $77 to go on the June goal. Yay!

Tonight we just got back from our first date since the baby came. NT's co-worker babysat and said AA was cute and fun. Double yay! I hardly freaked out at all; sometimes I even didn't think about her while we were at the restaurant.

This date had been planned for a while. What we didn't plan was renting a car; we just decided that recently since AS and NT are getting so much extra money. Then, AS got some great news about her job. I'll elaborate when it's official! But anyway, we decided to go ahead and use some more of that extra income and book a hotel in a nearby town for Saturday night, to celebrate. We're going to take AA on her first vacation, which will be good practice for the longer, much farther away family visit to Va. at the end of June. So, triple yay! AS keeps asking "Who are you?" because I hardly ever "authorize" big impulsive spends; if we're going to spend a lot of money, typically I plan it for ages in advance. But recently I've been thinking a lot about enjoying life in the moment, I mean as long as it doesn't mess with any of my financial goals. This wasn't planned money at all, so I feel good about loosening the purse strings and having some fun that we can totally afford.

The continuing adventures of Spendy McGee, and other tales

June 9th, 2010 at 06:49 pm

So yesterday I got two teeth filled that didn't have cavities but failed this new density test. My crappy new dental insurance will probably leave me with $300-$400 of the bill, but I definitely don't want to lose the teeth if they can be saved.

Then I walked all over downtown Minneapolis with AA in the Baby Bjorn, looking for a simple, lightweight rattle or other toy that she could easily grasp. She's getting very interested in touching things but she doesn't have any good toys for holding in her hand. Target and Marshall's didn't have any rattles that I saw (though AS and NT said I should have checked the baby-supplies section of Target rather than the toy section, so I might go back today).

So then I hit up the boutique baby store Pacifier. Kind of a mistake--I let the cashier talk me into buying a toy for $22! I thought about taking it back but it is a really good toy--a lightweight rubber giraffe that squeaks, with high-contrast spots and face, with long neck and legs for easy grasping, also good for teething. And it's utterly adorable. Still, remind me not to go to any beautiful boutique-y baby stores ever again! It was my own spending money, so not detrimental to the budget, but hilarious that it cost more than the average price of the new clothes I just bought. This is gonna look out of place on my baby-expenses worksheet!

On the up side: AS earned $15 for mending some pants, $10 for doing an elderly woman's laundry (she also made her bed for free), and $575 for proofreading a manuscript. Since we've been doing so well financially, we all get to keep small amounts of side-hustle money for ourselves if we choose, so AS will keep the $25 and donate the $575 to put toward our goals. Similarly, NT is giving his week's-pay bonus for the communal good but keeping all profits from some recent eBay selling (he's getting rid of some records, CDs, DVDs and toys). I have some vintage dresses that I'm getting rid of, so I thought I'd list them on eBay and see if I can get a couple bucks for them. I'll probably list them this weekend.

We got a great offer of half price to go back on the diaper-cleaning service, and so we did. The reasons? AS's diapers didn't hold up well in the wash--she would need to sew extra seams down the middle to keep the toweling in, and her current sewing-machine needles aren't really designed for that kind of heavy-duty sewing. Also, the diaper covers we were given aren't very watertight, so that doesn't really work for us. So we went back on the cleaning service--just $12 a week through mid-August--while we hunt for better supplies. I inquired on Freecycle and already got one response about covers, so if I can find a ride out to where the person lives, that part might be sorted.

We decided to Freecycle some good-quality moving boxes that we'd been hanging onto, and they'll probably be picked up today.

I've been Facebooking back and forth with my sister about sleeping solutions for AA while we're in Virginia. My parents have a crib she can use while at their house, but the portable bassinet they have is pretty decrepit. So my sister's going to find a playpen (now known as pack-n-plays) on Craigslist that we can use at her place and also at AS's mom's. Once we're done with it, my sister is going to donate it to charity. This is a great solution because it means that big expense won't be for just a temporary travel use; it will go to the greater good. My sister practices a lot of philanthropy by volunteering through her church but doesn't have a lot of money to give, so I think this will make her very happy too.

Now that I think of it, this would probably be a good idea for our England trip, too. We must figure out who's going to take us in first, and see if they can get us a compact pack-n-play that we'll be able to take around with us (we're staying in two different cities for that trip). Then we can donate to charity or see if any of NT's friends or relatives need one.

This Friday NT and I are taking AA to the government center to apply for her passport. I'm excited for our little future world traveler!

Speaking of AA, she woke me up early for a feeding this morning, so I brought her back to bed and fed her there. Then I let her fall back asleep next to me and I dozed lightly, waking every couple minutes to make sure she was OK. We all woke up together (the cat Noodles had come in and fallen asleep on the bed too) about an hour later. I don't think I'd do co-sleeping full time, but it sure was nice to wake up with a cute smily baby next to us!

Misc.

June 7th, 2010 at 03:57 pm

I've just spent a couple hours straightening out all my spreadsheets after a weekend of spending. Amazing how long it takes me if I don't check in every day or so!

This weekend we bought a new TV cabinet and shelving for the DVDs, closet systems (rods, drawers, shelves), and curtain materials for AA's nursery, as well as some other assorted household items. About $1000 total. We also sold our old entertainment center for $200, though, so that offset it somewhat.

I took the leap and went on a bit of a clothing-shopping spree while we were out at the mall. I spent just over $200 and got 5 dresses, 1 skirt, 1 romper and 3 tops. An average of $20 per piece, not bad! I didn't mean to spend that much in one go, but they were all good or at least interesting pieces, and I really have been hoarding my spending money during the past few months, so I don't feel too bad about it.

Some of the clothing is really simple; two of the dresses are plain black jersey material, so I want to go out soon and shop for accessories. I think I have one hat, one pashmina, one belt, one wrap, two necklaces, two bracelets, five purses and about 15 pairs of shoes. I don't need any more shoes, but I'd like to expand my other collections a bit more, so I can wear the clothes that I have in different ways, create several different looks from each piece.

I'm already feeling better just by having clothes that fit and flatter the body I have right now!

Considering potentially spendy hobby; long-winded ramble

June 3rd, 2010 at 05:53 pm

NOTE: If you haven't heard the made-up word "spendy," you haven't been to Minnesota. Wink

OK, so I've been having a long rambly thought process going on in my head for the past few hours. Thought I'd try to get some of it written down.

It started when I saw a link on the MSN home page to some photos of everyday people on the street in fashionable clothes. Reminded me to go to The Sartorialist, an excellent photoblog of on-the-street fashion that I find so beautiful and inspiring. Like home cooking, the wearing of fashion by non-models is one of those ephemeral art forms that is mainly experienced in the moment of wearing/observing (or preparing/eating in the case of cooking). This blog, however, succeeds in capturing something of that moment.

Scrolling through the photos awakened a desire in myself to really dig into fashion and discover my own taste and ideal looks, maybe become a bit more adventurous or just try for a more classic, elegant look than the tops-and-jeans, sundresses-and-flipflops combos that I typically wear.

That got me thinking about whether this would really be a worthwhile pursuit. I mean, not only is it an ephemeral art form with little accumulated benefit (except maybe better vacation photos LOL), it's potentially expensive and, well, pretty much entirely self-centered. I guess you could argue that other people like to see interestingly dressed people, but other than that it's entirely self-absorbed.

Then I thought about how I'm feeling a bit stagnant physically. I always told myself that I'd start getting into shape as soon as I recovered from giving birth. Well, some things have mostly cleared up--the fatigue, the surgery aftermath, the rollercoaster of postpartum emotions--but I do have one problem still lingering, one that should have cleared up quickly but I fear has become chronic. If it doesn't clear up on its own, pretty much the only alternative is surgery. I'd like to avoid another surgery if possible, so I keep hanging on, trying to follow a home-remedy regimen in the hope that it clears up. I've recently decided if it doesn't clear up by my next doctor's appointment in mid-July, I'll ask her about taking the next step.

But anyway, it's a distracting and demoralizing (though minor) condition that's held me back from exercising, or really trying to look nice in any other way.

Another thing that's stagnating me is breastfeeding. Well, I'm mostly on pumping now because AA hates small, frequent meals and strongly prefers a big bottle meal, but she's still exclusively fed on breastmilk. The good side is that it's helping me lose some of my pregnancy weight without dieting or exercising, and she is thriving and clearly loves the stuff. But the bad part is I'm finding it hard to regard my body as my own again yet. It still feels like a vessel for the care of my baby. I also think it may be sapping my energy a bit, though I'm not sure if my general langorousness (sp?) is due to producing so much milk or to being quite out of shape.

Ever since the birth, I feel like my face and body have aged quite a bit. When I look at pictures from just a year or two ago and then now, I look much older. I'm also heavier than I've ever been (although that seems to be improving) and parts of my body are altered seemingly permanently.

Then I think about how sometimes when you feel bad about yourself, you can actually become MORE self-centered because you spend so much time feeling down about your own situation that you don't have as much time to empathize with others. When you feel like your own situation needs fixing, you're less apt to try and help fix other situations. (I'm not claiming these are absolute truths, just one way that people can be.)

That makes me begin to think that it would not be an unworthy pursuit to get into fashion a little, and try and get myself excited about improving my own appearance. Because there might be a domino effect of feeling more confident and "fixed," which would give me the boost to A) get into shape and get past the minor physical complaints I have since the birth, thus having more energy to B) pursue other things, such as less ephemeral creative hobbies and also philanthropic activities.

I tend to have a nice bit of spending money left over each week, unless we go out to eat more than once or something else expensive comes up. Not enough to start frequenting Macy's or Sak's, but maybe to check out their bargain racks once in a while. Also, while garage-sale and thrift-store shopping for fashionable garments is more time-consuming and hit-or-miss, it certainly is possible. So maybe I can do this and not completely drain my supply of spending money.

Dunno. Still thinking about it. But I'm definitely feeling restless now that my fatigue is lessening. I have that slight bit of creative energy that I get once in a while, and since it doesn't come often I generally try and harness it and do something while it lasts. And if I discover something I'm truly passionate about, as I did with budgeting and debt repayment, then it will last beyond the initial temporary flare-up of ambition.

Progress on June debt goal

June 2nd, 2010 at 04:53 pm

All four mortgage payments hit their accounts today:

US: $381 to principal
UK1: $256
UK2: $54
UK3: $57

All told, $748 down, $252 to go on the June goal. Now, no more payments until the 14th. Bo-ring! Wink

May results, June goal, spending the surplus, cloth diapers

June 1st, 2010 at 03:15 pm

I'm very pleased with our May debt repayment of $1125, especially since the goal was $900.

I'm setting my June goal at $1000. I won't be able to confirm the last few June payments since I'll be on vacation, so to make sure I get to that amount before I leave, I'll make an extra payment to the credit card. Even though we're concentrating our extra money on getting the house fixed up and a few other luxuries, I can set aside $150 for the credit card and it won't get in the way.

We've been having fun with the budget surplus, planning to get some better-functioning furniture, including organizational tools for the closet. IKEA has some really great storage solutions. It might take some wrangling to get everything we want within the amount of money I've earmarked, but I think we can do it with a little creativity.

Our cloth diaper service ends today. We decided to go it on our own after the trial period. We have more energy and confidence now, so hopefully we can handle cleaning them ourselves.

The service loaned us liners and covers, and they're picking everything up today, so now we have to get our own. Luckily one of NT's co-workers gave us several covers that should suffice. Good cloth diapers are about $2 apiece minimum, and we use about 10-12 per day, so we need 30-40 to have several days' supply. So we were looking at $60-$80. AS suggested that she could make us some, so we went and bought some towels and flannel sheets at thrift stores. She also had some flannel fabric that her mom had given her. She was able to make about 35 diapers this weekend! I'm nervous about taking care of diapers ourselves, but we have a sprayer attachment on the toilet now, so hopefully it won't be too gross. I'm proud of AS for not only saving us money but using reclaimed materials instead of new. Now wish me luck getting through the first day of diaper cleaning on my own!