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Archive for October, 2010

Weekly menu and other healthy/not-so-healthy living notes

October 31st, 2010 at 09:56 pm

I got to plan the entire week's menu so that I could put a healthier spin on the usual. I'm not making us do a raw-foods fast or low-carb or low-fat thing; just trying to get fresh veggies and whole grains into the mix more than we have the past couple weeks.

I plan only dinners for weekdays; I've got bagels and vegan cream cheese as well as leftovers to take for lunches. NT has promised to cut up fruit for me to take in, and also make fruit smoothies some evenings.

Today:
Lunch - veggie burgers and apple-lettuce salad
Dinner - homemade pizza
Monday:
Greens & sweet potatoes with peanut sauce over millet
Tuesday:
Salad of quinoa, spinach, grapes, walnuts and veg chix strips
Wednesday:
Mexican skillet (buckwheat, black beans, avocado, zucchini & bell pepper) in tortilla
Thursday:
Broccoli-portobello stir fry over rice
Friday:
Seitan buffalo wings, honey mustard carrots, cornbread
Saturday:
Brunch - Oatmeal, veggie sausages & toast
Dinner - "Chicken-fried" veggie burger, green beans, baked potato

Now the bad healthy living news: My mom sent a Halloween package that included my favorite, terrible-for-you cookies. I should just get rid of them, but I never make them for myself, so whenever she sends them I can't resist. But, they're almost gone, and I won't get any more until next year! I also went to a Halloween party last night where I had three beers, chips and a cupcake. And Friday I had all sorts of treats at my office's Halloween get-together. Being pregnant unleashed a sweet tooth that had been dormant for quite a few years, and it's going to be difficult to get under control!

On the plus side, I went for walks both Friday and today, and I made two grocery trips yesterday, one on foot and one by bus, so I have been getting a bit more exercise than usual. Anyway, November hasn't officially begun, so these are just precursors to get my month started right!

Oh, and for your enjoyment, some Halloween cuteness! I dressed AA up and took her to work with me on Friday. Smile


October wrapup and November 2010 goals

October 30th, 2010 at 01:55 pm

Even though my October debt repayment total, $2004, wasn't that spectacular, it was a huge month for us financially because we finally paid off the last of my credit card debt! I've updated my sidebar info to celebrate that fact.

We've still got a long way to go, but our story has changed significantly; it's not just about the massive debt but the success we've had in eliminating a big chunk of it. We ended October with $282,479 in mortgage debt on two homes and $73,542 of education debt for three degrees. It's a lot, but it's not the kind of debt you have nothing to show for!

The goal for November is to pay off $1000 of debt. It's less than the average minimum we pay each month, but I have some doubt the last two student loan payments of the month will go through in November due to the holiday, so I'm going to try and pay extra on the first student loan to make sure I hit this goal.

I'm confident I'll also finish up my remaining 2010 goals: pay off the Sears card balance (for the new stove) of $848.10, a month before the interest would be applied (as a matter of fact the payment has already been set up); and build our Xmas fund of $700. (Next year I'm going to have an escrow fund for gift money among other things, so I don't have to scramble to get the money together right before we need it.)

I've also got some other, less concrete November goals:
*Healthy eating, fitness, weight loss
*Decluttering
*Participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)

I'm not setting specific goals, like I want to lose 5 lbs., or not have any sweets, or get rid of 50 items, or hit a certain word amount in NaNoWriMo. I know November's a busy month so I'm not sure how much of this I'll accomplish, but I wanted to put those wishes out there, and I'll blog any progress I make on any of these goals. Hopefully that will spur me to do some things, because I've been feeling scattered and lazy and unfocused for the past couple weeks.

I think it might have something to do with 1) finishing with breastfeeding, which wasn't something I enjoyed but did give me a sense of purpose; 2) going on the trip to England, which we'd been planning basically since AA was born; and 3) getting rid of credit card debt, which has been my main life goal for the past three-plus years. Having three such big parts of my life, big responsibilities, end one way or another in one month may have zapped my motivation in other parts of my life temporarily. I want to feel some momentum again, and I'm hoping it's in one or more of the areas I mentioned.

One more October debt payment

October 29th, 2010 at 11:33 pm

And, AS's third student loan payment of the month hit, with $60 going to principal. That brings our October debt repayment to $2004!

That will be it for October; I'll post a goal wrap-up and November goals sometime this weekend. Right now we're heading out to one of our favorite restaurants for pizza! Hooray for the weekend!

Progress on October debt repayment plus more good money news

October 27th, 2010 at 04:13 pm

One of AS's student loan payments hit, putting $124 to principal. That makes $1944 paid this month toward debt.

We had a big clothes shopping spree this weekend. I'd been saving up money in the UK account for the trip we just took. Well, both of NT's parents gave us money, and hardly anyone let us pay for anything. So we transferred the remaining money we'd saved into the US account and went shopping! It was nice to not just go to the bargain stores for once. For the first time in my life I spent more than $20-$30 for a pair of jeans, and I absolutely love them. Sooo comfy and nice-looking.

We went out to eat a few times as well; we had a rental car for what we initially thought was going to be the lawyer visit, but the lawyer rescheduled so we could also meet with one of the partners (apparently our case has garnered some interest). Luckily they'll meet us in downtown at NT's work so I won't need to rent another car. So we kept the car rental and knocked out a few errands, including getting our cat Noodles's annual shots and checkup, in addition to our big spree and eating out.

At one of the meals out, we had a family meeting to discuss how our budget surplus should be allocated in 2011. I still need to make a few tweaks for some annual expenses I'll need to create "escrow" line items for, but it was really nice to get family input. But generally, here's what we decided:
*We'll be putting extra money toward education, whether paying down debts faster or cashflowing some of NT's remaining classes rather than taking out additional loans.
*We're also going to allocate $150 per month to charity next year, which is something we've been wanting to do for a while.
*We'll still put a large amount aside for vacations, because we all love travel and put it near the top of our wants list.
*I'll be opening Roth IRAs and putting an average of $300 per month in them, divided evenly between the three of us. It's not much, but it's a start.
*I'm keeping a small cushion of unallocated money each month to hopefully avoid using the EF for anything (or derailing any of our other financial allocations). I'm calling it the "Oh sh*t" line item! Smile
*We're looking into getting housecleaning once or twice a month. Total luxury, but we all have other things we work on outside of our full-time jobs, so we could definitely use some professional help.

In other good money news, AS got a $1125 freelance check, I got a $125 profit-sharing check from the grocery co-op, and NT got concrete news of a $1500 (before tax) bonus coming in his next paycheck! AS's freelance work keeps flowing, and NT's job is probably going to give a second bonus before the end of the year. So we've really been rolling in money recently (and boy is it easy to spend). But this should help us take care of things this year before our new budget goes into effect.

I'm not implementing anything immediately, because I'm not sure how much the lawyers are going to charge for our parental-rights stuff, and there may be other legal issues that come up in the meeting that we want to get taken care of right away too. So I'll probably need most of our remaining 2010 budget surplus for that. Our meeting is now Monday, Nov. 1, so I'll tell all about it once I know more!

For the single men of SA (and all of us, really)

October 26th, 2010 at 06:55 pm

I couldn't help but share this because I feel like there are occasionally discussions of "why do women do such-and-such" (probably because we're a majority-female, largely civil community and so it's a safe place to ponder such questions without getting beat up for it!). This is a thought-provoking take on the most oft-repeated questions, and it all boils down to the same piece of advice: Treat each situation/girl individually. Worth remembering even for the women, because I feel like we sometimes try to give broad answers that, of course, might not have anything to do with the specific situation that triggered the conversation. (Not that I mind having said conversations, but this link reminds me to take all of it with a grain of salt.)

Enjoy!

http://www.cracked.com/article_18804_the-6-wrong-questions-men-love-to-ask-about-women.html?wa_user1=4&wa_user2=Sex&wa_user3=article&wa_user4=recommended

October 2010 net worth update

October 20th, 2010 at 09:00 pm

Assets:
NT's UK pensions:
#1: 12,663 pounds ($25,326)
#2: 16,005 pounds ($32,010)
#3: 3,709 pounds ($7,418)
NT's 401(k): $10,376
AS's 403(b): $3,300
AS's IRA: $1,682
AS's 401(k): $1,005
CJ's 401(k): $35,078
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $160,000
Baby/emergency fund (shared asset): $8,634
---
Total Assets: $544,829

Total Debt: $356,205

Current Estimated Net Worth: $188,624

August 2010 estimate: $181,108

Change in net worth: +$7,516

Summary: All of our U.S. retirement funds posted gains, and I also got an annual notice of gains on one of NT's UK pensions. We also of course paid off the last credit card, so debt decreased by a bit. All in all a great month! I don't expect I'll do much with either debt or savings for the rest of the year, so our gains will probably be more modest. But I do plan to start Roth IRA accounts for all of us in 2011, so that will help the balance sheet.

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

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.

And then there was none!

October 18th, 2010 at 09:08 pm

I've been wanting to write my big, huge news for a while, but we've been traveling to visit friends and family in England until yesterday, and today a very spoiled little AA has been demanding constant attention. Right now I'm letting her fume in the swing a little bit, hoping she'll get back to her sunny self soon!

Anyway, couple of payments hit. One of AS's student loans got $97 put to principal. And...drum roll, please...

$774 went to my last credit card, eliminating the remaining balance! That's right, we're finally, finally free of all credit card debt!

I made some rough calculations based on spotty recordkeeping from the bad old days. I believe at our lowest point we had about $82,500. Well, $5,000 was "estimated future debt" because I'd already promised NT we could visit England for his sister's wedding when I started the challenge. But we ended up funding the trip without creating any new debt. Also, I ended up transferring $7,402 of credit card debt by using student loan money to "pay" it. So, in actuality we paid off about $70,000 between mid-2007 and now to get where we are.

As this was my first really big milestone, I have to agree with fellow bloggers that it's a bit anticlimactic! But it feels really, really good to have that weight and embarrassment off my mind. I have lots and lots of things I want to do with our money now that our stupidest debt is gone, so now it's a matter of prioritizing wants, needs, donating, spending, saving and repaying, to try and use our money as smartly as possible to enjoy ourselves now while still preparing for the future.

Oh yeah, and I reached the October debt goal! Almost forgot about that. I've paid off $1,820 of debt, exceeding the $1,700 goal.

Random updates

October 5th, 2010 at 09:36 pm

First of all, thanks for all your kind words on my previous post. I have decided to stop pumping, and it appears I'm nearly done with nursing too as a result. Made it 7 months so I'm pretty proud of myself! I know working moms who lasted much longer, but I also know some who found it too difficult to work into their busy lives.

So I'm not going to fight them taking away my room at work, but at my meeting with my boss this Friday I am going to ask for his advice on lodging some kind of complaint about how the situation was handled, to hopefully prevent this happening to any other women in the future.

I'm glad our meeting isn't today, because I feel quite woozy. Last night around 7, a slight scratchiness in the back of my throat suddenly escalated to full-body tender skin, a headache and fatigue. I went to bed at 10 p.m. and slept off and on until 7 a.m., but it was a terrible night's sleep. I was achey, and hot/sweaty or cold/shivering by turns. AA coughed what felt like the whole night, and three or four times she started crying in her sleep so that we had to get up and feed her, change her or help her get into a better position and get her pacifier in. This is unusual for her; she might cough or grumble enough to wake us up slightly, but she usually quiets down on her own. This morning she seemed groggy at first, but then she was in a really great mood, blabbing and smiling all over the place. So hopefully whatever she and I have will be really mild and shortlived, and not interfere with the trip!

I'm thinking I'll mail the UK taxes while we're actually there, to save some money on postage. I just have to finish filling them out; I should be able to knock it out in one night, so I'm not even going to try tonight.

An old college buddy saw my plea for financial advice on Facebook and met up with me this past weekend. He didn't have any specific advice, but he did think that I need to be including the UK rental income on my U.S. taxes. So, this year I'll probably try and find someone affordable to help me figure that out. Then if I've been doing the old ones wrong, I guess I'll have to send in revised taxes for '07, '08 and '09. I hope the fines won't be too steep! I think I'm OK on the UK taxes; I'm half considering trying to schedule an appointment with an adviser while we're over there, but I may not want to pile that on top of all the family and friend time. We'll see. I suppose if I knew for sure I was doing the UK taxes right, that would help me know what to include on the U.S. taxes if I find out I need to be doing that.

This friend also mulled over my retirement problems. He doesn't know the specifics of tax treaties, but he figured since we'll probably continue to make more money, and since tax rates will probably rise whether we live in the U.S. or the UK, that Roth IRAs would be the best place to start (pay the taxes now while we're in a lower bracket). So I'm going to look into that next year. Don't know if I'll be able to put away the maximum for each of us, but I should be able to manage some contributions.

Last week, I went to an informative free estate-planning seminar at a law firm. I got the invitation from my diaper-cleaning service! The lawyer broke down estate planning into four areas that you need to worry about: wills/trusts (including appointing a guardian for children in case of death), health care directives, power of attorney, and nonprobate assets. This will be on my radar to get done either late this year or sometime next year. I still have the meeting with the family planning lawyer later this month, so I'll see if what I learn from him affects any of what I've learned so far.

One thing that's in the back of my mind is that with the intent of immigration back to England someday, I do still need to keep proof of NT and I being in a marriage together. I want to meld our family with AS as much as possible, but I think the arrangement would send up red flags to immigration officials about whether NT and I were actually married or just in a marriage of convenience to be able to immigrate. So for the purposes of those applications, I need to keep some proof of our marriage that's just about the two of us.

I have so many ambitious goals for our money next year, but I know I won't be able to achieve them all! It's going to be hard to prioritize between maxing out Roth IRAs, upping our charitable contributions, paying down student loan debt, and saving up for some nice vacations.

On a positive note, I think we're going to have lots of money to decide how to spend this last quarter of 2010. NT looks to have two bonuses coming up before the end of the year, AS has just taken on another freelance project that pays $1100 (and she may get others before the year is over), and who knows? Maybe I'll actually be able to talk myself into a raise this Friday.

Progress on the October goal

October 2nd, 2010 at 03:12 am

So...I had kind of a meltdown at work today. Basically the facilities manager casually informed me that A) someone would be moving into my boss's old office, which I'd been using for pumping and had requested to get moved in to, and B) that there wouldn't be anywhere for me to pump after that. Suffice it to say, after being overworked for three months with no reward, and after having my pumping station shuttled from room to room with periodic questions about how long I was going to keep doing it, I was like a pile of dry tinder waiting for a spark. I bawled quietly in my cubicle for about half an hour. AS saw my Facebook status and called, and I cried into the phone until she left work early. My new boss saw me in the hall and came over to talk to me, and I burst out crying again trying to talk to him. Very unusual for me. I'd been meaning to talk to him in a much calmer, more positive way next week, so this put a kink in my plans. I do think it got his attention, though, so maybe it won't turn out all bad. He did offer to find me somewhere else to pump, but by that point, I decided I should just quit now, instead of next month as I'd already planned. AS came and took me out for a bit, and then I went back and finished what was absolutely necessary. I still feel kind of headachey from that huge burst of emotion. But I'm in PJs, sitting around at home, so I feel better.

Anyway, despite that freaky incident, it was a good day on the money front. The following payments processed:
US mortgage: $386
UK mortgage #1: $259
UK mortgage #2: $56
UK mortgage #3: $57
Credit card: $191
All told, that's $949 down, $751 to go on my October goal.

AS got a $225 freelance check that I forgot she was getting, so I deposited that in the bank and will put it toward the credit card ASAP. I also noticed my and NT's paychecks were higher than usual, so I'll put any extra to the card debt as well. Right now, the CC is down to $774, but it won't stay there for long!

Our next mortgage payment will be $34 less, but we'll be paying $20 MORE to principal. That's because our ARM's interest rate is adjusting down, from 3.875% to 3.5%.

Oh, and we've now got over 2000 pounds in the UK checking account. A nice cushion so we don't have to be too cautious about our spending on the trip!