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Archive for September, 2011

Small addition to EF; considering borrowing from lawyer fund

September 30th, 2011 at 08:58 am

$25 went into the EF and we earned 55 cents interest, bringing our pathetic progress to $2859.06 for the year and our total EF to $11,371.01.

We'll have another $500 to send AS's mom probably by Oct. 14, and at least another $400 by Nov. 15. But I'm considering just borrowing the full $2000 from our lawyer fund and sending it to her all at once. The bank charges $30 per wire transfer, so if I send it all at once, we'll have spent $60 on transfers vs. at least $120 if I send her a second payment in October, a third in November and a fourth whenever we come up with the remaining $1100. The other option would be to make her wait until we've gathered the full $2000, but I'm not sure when that would be. We're pretty confident we can come up with the rest without harming our budget, and we won't need the lion's share of the lawyer fund for a little while at least.

I'm going to think about it a little longer. I'd feel a lot more confident about that if my job gave me a raise. We'll have to see.

One more debt payment; September wrap-up and October goals

September 29th, 2011 at 08:18 am

AS's other automatic student loan payment hit, and $60 went to principal. That takes us to a monthly debt-payment total of $3323! Very nice, thanks to NT's big raise, our credit card rewards and AS's payment from her last big freelance editing project.

This means I should hit my 2011 debt-payment goal of $20,000 next month, because this month's payments takes me to $19,533 for the year!

A couple of my 2011 goals have fallen a bit by the wayside, but I didn't expect to hit them all 100%. AS's net worth slid, but I've been avoiding calculating by how much. I didn't read a book or do anything creative this month, but I did make another push to get a raise, which may work (though I haven't heard anything this week as I hoped I would). We got our wills but have been too busy/sick to go through them; it's like a novel full of legal-speak and none of us is looking forward to it.

I don't think we had a get-together at our house this month, but I did go out and see friends (and made new acquaintances) more than usual this month, so I'm happy with my social life. And the shared blog post thing has really slacked off; whenever I think of a good one I'm away from my computer, and then I forget to post it later!

EF savings have pretty much stopped while we wait to see how much the redecorating of NT's flat costs us; I have a bunch of money sitting in his checking account but I won't count it toward the EF until I know we don't need to use it and can safely transfer it to savings.

Our charity and Roth IRA goals are pretty much on autopilot, so I know we'll hit both of those exactly. And my weight loss is chugging along slowly but pretty steadily; if I can correct my course after the Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts, I should hit that one by the end of the year.

Oh, and I haven't had any side hustles besides the one big one, but I might as well check that goal off, because I didn't specify an amount or frequency of projects, just that I did it at all.

Anyway, my October goal: I might be able to manage $2000 again this month, but since we're helping AS's mom out, I'm going to hedge my bets and set my goal at $1900.

Debt and weight progress

September 28th, 2011 at 12:27 pm

One of AS's regular student loan payments hit, with $123 going to principal. That takes us to $3263 of debt paid this month! And we should have one more student loan payment hit tomorrow or Friday.

I forgot to update my weight what with the recent family drama. We weighed in Sunday night and I was down one more pound, to 142. Just 3 lbs. to go on my 2011 goal! I've fallen off the exercise wagon to some extent, but I'm being very moderate with my eating. When I do "cheat" the parameters I set for myself, I try to make sure it's at least a reasonable portion.

Speaking of the family drama, we wired the $500 that I had set aside for a tax payment to AS's mom. We may not send more money until Oct. 15, but hopefully this is enough to make some small payments on the things she needs. I don't want to borrow from any of our savings buckets, but if she calls and needs the money more urgently, we might do it.

Big drama, big expense

September 26th, 2011 at 01:23 pm

Sometimes when SA bloggers write very briefly and obliquely about things that seem to be hugely important (and dramatic), it seems strange to me. Not only does it arouse my curiosity to know the whole story, but it seems like something people would want to vent about.

But yesterday we got a dose of crazy in our lives, and I can see how you don't really want to rehash it. It's like you use up all your energy experiencing it the first time.

So I'll recap, but if it seems like I'm being strangely short or vague, that's why.

So it's a normal weekend, things are chugging along. I told my mom AS was pregnant, and she was really excited. She was the last family member that I was slightly worried would not take this the right way, so I was relieved.

We see we all have voice mails from AS's mom, but that's not unusual. Even if she just wants to chat idly, she'll typically leave messages on all our phones in quick succession if she doesn't get one of us in person.

NT finally listened to his message Sunday afternoon, and he said AS should call her mom right away. It sounded like something had happened to SJ, AS's 17-year-old adopted sister.

So AS did call her mom, and there was so much in their conversation that we're all still reeling. OK, so:
- SJ is in juvenile detention on charges of armed robbery for allegedly using a knife to hold up a woman at a store.
- She's saying she did it, but no one believes her, especially since a neighbor woman claims she saw SJ playing with her kids at the time of the robbery.
- They've already got a lawyer and hope to get her out today; the lawyer doesn't think she's got any real worry of being found guilty of this.
- SJ's ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend were recently arrested for a murder plot against some of his and her family members. A search of their possessions turned up a written note discussing killing AS's mom!!!! AS's mom is thinking this bizarre armed-robbery thing is somehow linked -- a frame-up? Is she saying she committed the robbery because someone threatened her? No one knows anything for sure.
- D, AS's adopted 18-year-old brother, called Child Protective Services because the dad (stepdad to all kids) hit him.
- AS's mom and stepdad have been separated for a couple years, but he recently moved back in and has been in and out. And has been verbally (and it seems physically) abusive. Also, not really helping out financially. Apparently he started divorce proceedings way back when, but stopped doing anything about it when he realized that AS's mom would be entitled to part of his income and pension. (At least he is paying for a lawyer for SJ's robbery charge, so that's something.)
- AS's mom asked AS for a loan from us (well, from my dad first, but we deflected that. She's mentioned getting a loan from my parents in the past but none of us want my parents getting involved in her financial ruin). She needs tabs and insurance for her car and to hire a divorce lawyer herself, since she knows stepdad will put it off indefinitely to avoid giving her money. Total she thinks she needs for all three: $2500.

I can't even express how unexpected all of this is. SJ seems like a genuinely sweet and good kid, so that's the craziest part. The fact of all of this coming together, only some if it related, is especially overwhelming. AS's mom has been known to call and relate several layers of chaos and bad news all at once, and to hint around for money (we usually say no), but never chaos on this level, and never this desperate and specific plea for such a large amount of money.

So, we're going to do it this time. She needs car tabs and insurance, and she really needs that divorce (for her sanity as well as her financial well-being).

I was really freaked out by the amount. I didn't want to dip into our EF savings or curtail our student-loan payoff progress. We'd already spent much of our surplus income for the summer and fall on our "wish list," so there's not much money that's not allocated to something already.

But we're starting to figure it out. AS plans to get some freelance editing work, though I insisted she wait until the tiredness and nausea of first trimester subsides. I have $500 I was going to send to IRS as a prepayment on AS's 2012 self-employment tax, but I don't really need to do that right now. We can just pay the tax (if we even owe any) and any penalty when we actually do taxes. Or I can send some to the IRS the next time AS does a freelance job.

Then, AS is getting $400 from her recent speaking engagement in NY, which she was going to keep for herself or donate to her publishing house, but she can give it to her mom when she gets it.

I have $100 surplus money in October's budget, and we have a new Mastercard that we'll get a $200 bonus from once we spend $500.

I have about $400 in surplus money in November's budget.

So, $500, $400, $100, $200, $400 ... that's $1600 right there that we can scrounge over the next month and a half without too much trouble. If we can't figure out where to get the other $900, we can take it out of our own lawyer fund and pay that back in when AS does some freelance or some other extra money comes our way.

AS's mom is trying to insist this will be a loan, but we know better. So no matter what she says or thinks, we are viewing this as money we won't get back. That's why I want to try and do it as painlessly as possible, without harming any of our goals or security.

And honestly, I would have said we couldn't do it if it was really going to hold us back. It royally sucks to lose that money that could be going to pay off our student loans or buy stuff for ourselves, but we feel obligated to try and help AS's mom. I just really hope she uses the money for the stated purposes and doesn't just fritter it away. But that's up to her and not to us.

In a way, I think figuring out the financial logistics is helping distract me from my intense worry about AS's little sister. The whole rest of the situation is so far out of our control that it almost feels good to have a part that we can do something about.

Great childcare news; anticipation about job

September 24th, 2011 at 09:36 am

We told our daycare lady about AS's pregnancy the other day. NT had hinted around earlier by asking whether she ever took infants (she's more of a preschool teacher), so when we officially told her, she asked if we wanted her to watch it when we went back to work.

Uh yeah!!! She's the most wonderful caregiver, and even though she doesn't specialize in babies, she's had her own, plus she's got a baby granddaughter who's going to be spending more time at the daycare soon.

Plus, she's dead cheap! You can expect to pay anywhere from $600-$1000/month for an in-home provider, to $1200-$2500/month for a center, in the downtown Minneapolis area. Our daycare lady charges $575.

I'd worked out a 2012 budget for when we were all back to work full-time and paying for 2 kids' daycare (probably mid-summer). I'd assumed $1000 because we'd probably want to go with an in-home caregiver. It wasn't a terribly tight budget, but I'd had to cut back a bit in many areas. Well, after I figured kid #2's daycare costs at $575 instead, it was like getting an instant $425/month raise! We can essentially go back to our normal budget that we have now, because NT's recent raise covers this smaller daycare expense.

At my job, things are looking promising, but I'm not taking anything for granted. My supervisor sent his proposal to the president and head of HR for our division, and they agreed to it. Now they've sent it off to our DC headquarters, who are the final word on raises and promotions. I have very high hopes because they seem to pretty much let us operate independently in many other areas, but I'm not sure how that translates to paying employees more, so we'll see.

Anyway, I'm asking for $5000/$6000 more per year. I doubt they'd give me the full amount I asked for, though I did send proof that I'm on the very low end of the payscale for my position and years of experience, so who knows?

I'm trying not to spend the money before I even know whether I'm getting it, but of course I can't stop my mind from running scenarios. I'm so trained to strategize with every penny; I can't help it!

The first priority if we got more regular income would be to improve our transportation situation. We do fine with no car and one kid, but a second kid would make things a lot harder re: bus travel and long walking trips. Also taking cabs would be more difficult because we'd have to lug two car seats wherever they dropped us off.

We don't want to buy a car if we can avoid it; that would eat up any raise I got, easily, and possibly eat into our existing budget.

We've considered a car-share service in the past, and that's looking like a good possibility. You pay a monthly or annual membership and also pay an hourly fee when you actually use the car. Our best friends use the service nearest us, so we'll find out more about it from them. Of course the most essential element would be that the cars fit 3 adults and 2 carseats. We'll see.

My other big priority would be upping our retirement contributions. We're not too far off what we need to be contributing, but $300 to $600 more per month would make me feel much more secure. I don't know whether I'd have us increase our 401(k)s or send more to our Roth IRAs.

I have no idea how much of a raise I'll be offered, if any, but if I could put $300 more toward Roths, and have enough money for using the carshare occasionally, my budget would be pretty much complete. There's nothing else I feel we're missing. It would be so awesome. I should find out soon, and my supervisor says that if it's approved, it would be effective Oct. 15!

September 2011 net worth update

September 23rd, 2011 at 08:16 pm

Assets:
NT's UK pensions:
#1: 13,753 pounds ($27,506)
#2: 16,005 pounds ($32,010)
#3: 3,709 pounds ($7,418)
NT's 401(k): $12,618
NT's Roth IRA: $3,157
AS's 401(k): $5,296
AS's trad. IRA: $1,682
AS's Roth IRA: $4,349
CJ's 401(k): $34,738
CJ's Roth IRA: $3,157
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $160,000
Baby/emergency fund (shared asset): $11,320
---
Total Assets: $563,251

Total Debt: $332,270

Current Estimated Net Worth: $230,981

August 2011 estimate: $231,733

Change in net worth: -$752

Summary: Considering the stock markets just took a dive and all our retirement accounts lost value, we got off pretty easy. But it was only because we paid off enough debt to offset most of our losses. AS's net worth will have suffered, since but I think we can still get her to positive before the end of the year.

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.

Weight loss and other quick updates

September 20th, 2011 at 03:03 pm

I recently declared a sort of open season for spending. Basically, we had a lot of money coming in, and so I wanted to satisfy a bunch of wants before the inevitable belt-tightening of preparing for baby #2.

So spend we have. I won't go into it all, because a lot of it is pretty frivolous and I'm not what you would call proud or boastful about that particular fact. But I can say that we have the money to pay for it all, and that we've managed to also put a bunch toward debt, and that I now have a fall wardrobe (I'd gotten rid of most of my clothes because they were either maternity stuff that I'd kept using, or were worn down beyond repair).

We have a couple more things on the list, but spending season will soon come to a close. Whew! It was kind of fun, but also a bit guilt-inducing. Not the way I'd want to live normally. On to some more boastworthy stuff! Smile

One of my big goals for the year was to either get a raise or to get a new job, whether a better-paying or a more satisfying job didn't matter to me. I haven't succeeded on either front, but the other day I made another plea to my boss, and he seemed to think the time was right -- he has sprung into action. He wrote a very compelling memo about why he thinks I deserve a raise and promotion. The president of our division replied to him today -- favorably according to him -- so he has indicated that if our DC headquarters approves it, I should get something! Even if it doesn't work out, I'm really glad I tried again. The first time, no one seemed very receptive, so I didn't feel like pushing anymore. But AS encouraged me to have another go. I'll update the second I find anything out.

I just realized I haven't updated our Roth contributions progress for a long time -- it's on autopilot, $300 each month, so I forget. Well, we're at $2700 and on track to make our $3600 goal by mid-December!

Oh yeah, weight loss! I weighed in last night because I forgot on Sunday, and I'm down two more pounds, to 143! That's only 4 lbs. away from my goal. I've been reasonably good about my diet, and even though I haven't worked out with weights or anything, I've been walking a TON -- including a 45 min. walk home from a restaurant when we missed the bus Friday, and 5-6 hours of wandering around the Mall of America on Saturday. So excited that my goal is in sight!

There's been progress on the estate planning, too -- the lawyer's assistant wrote to say she's put our wills in the mail. Once we review them, we can sit down with our lawyer and sign them. I asked her for a cost estimate because this took a LOT longer than I thought it would. I'm kind of freaked but I also know we'll be able to come up with the money. It's important in case anything happens to anyone, since our family is not traditional in structure.

I wrote back to the assistant to let her know that AS is pregnant, so we'll want to proceed with planning the third-parent adoptions of AA and the yet-to-be-born little one. Considering it's taken over 9 months (so far) just to do the estate planning, I assume we should start now! I also want advice from the lawyer as to whether I have any legal rights as the adoptive non-blood parent regarding parental leave.

I think that's all! Life feels crazy right now, but in a very good way. AS is on a business trip to NY today and tomorrow, but that's the only sad thing right now. And as I kept telling her, I'm glad the trip got here so we can get it over with and be back together without it hanging over us! We got to see an early ultrasound of her (our) baby yesterday, and so it feels all the more real now. We also made a public announcement (Facebook), so no more having to change the subject when people ask us about our future plans. Yay!!

Nice progress on several fronts, including big debt payment

September 13th, 2011 at 09:27 am

At my Sunday weigh-in, I was back to 145! I'm glad I shed my State Fair pounds so quickly. So 6 lbs. to go on my weight loss goal for the year. I went on a 13-mile bike ride Sunday, the longest of my life by far! Tonight I hope to do some weight training, though I didn't get much sleep last night so I hope I'm not flagging too much by the end of the day to work out.

$25 went into our EF, bringing our 2011 progress to $2833.51 and total EF to $11,345.46. Yawn.

But, I was able to send a big payment to one of NT's student loans, using most of AS's freelance check. $1112 went to principal, so our September debt repayment now totals $3140! And we have a couple of credit card rewards coming in the mail soon, I believe, so I may be able to throw still more at the debt before the month is up. AS has two regular student loan payments at the end of the month that will add to this number, too.

I'm hoping we can get our student loan debt down below $50K before our second baby comes! Obviously debt repayment will slow once we're dealing with unpaid leave, hospital costs and another daycare payment, so it would be nice to get over that hurdle beforehand.

Oh, and I had my meeting with my supervisor regarding another request for a raise/promotion. He was very optimistic and had me send him a list of my new job responsibilities that he could compile into a proposal to send upstairs. I sent him the list later that day, so fingers crossed he gets some results!

Big debt payment, cool debt milestones, $$ coming in, promising job thing?

September 8th, 2011 at 09:52 am

I was able to send off a big payment to one of NT's student loans yesterday, and it hit the account today with $1236 going to principal! That means we've put $2028 to debt this month, exceeding our $2000 September goal.

This also brings our student loan debt down to $59,540. Don't ask me why $59K feels so much better psychologically than $60K, but it does! Suddenly the light at the end of the tunnel got brighter.

And we're not done with debt repayment this month! AS got a big freelance check, and after I send a chunk to the IRS, I should still have over a grand to put toward student loans. Also, her final 50,000 Chase Sapphire points showed up, so I ordered a $530 check yesterday. I also ordered $150 from Citibank Mastercard because our bonus points hit from there. So some of that will probably go to debt, either this month or next depending on when we receive the checks.

In other ways this hasn't been a great week. (Why do short workweeks always seem to drag on even longer than regular weeks?) Yesterday at work it was announced that two more ladies at my job were getting promotions. Soon after I was asked to sign off on my contractor-proofreader's time sheet, and I was reminded that she makes quite a bit more than me. More than twice as much as me, so the fact that I have benefits doesn't balance the equation. She in fact makes $10 more per hour than the girl she replaced.

The combination of these factors had me quite down about my job, because they've always said they can't give raises and can't really do much about promotions, yet here are people getting promotions and fistfuls of money left and right.

So after complaining a lot at home last night, and starting to look at accounting classes at the community college as a possible exit strategy, I decided to email my supervisor and ask if he'd help me make another attempt to get a raise and promotion.

He emailed me back right away and said he would like to support me in that, and that he thought it was a good time to try again. So I'm slightly encouraged, and we're going to meet tomorrow morning to discuss it!

Fingers crossed for me. I could use the morale boost, and more money never hurts!

Progress on mortgage, weight gain (sigh), really good mortgage news, UK taxes

September 6th, 2011 at 10:17 am

Our mortgage payments hit as usual, but I'm only just now getting to recording them:
US: $418 to principal
UK1: $260
UK2: $56
UK3: $58

In total, $792 down, $1208 to go on our September debt repayment goal!

I weighed in Sunday night and was up 2 lbs., to 147. Back up into overweight territory as well. I'm not too bothered because Sunday was the day we went to the Minnesota State Fair, which is just as bad as Thanksgiving for me in terms of gluttony. Plus I cheated on diet and exercise a few more days than usual last week because of a wedding and a couple other social or unusual situations. I feel pretty confident I'll get back into the swing of things this week.

We got our annual letter in the mail telling us how much our ARM's interest rate was going to change and how it would affect our mortgage payments, starting Nov. 1. I was dreading this one because I thought it must have to go up after several years of decreases. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that our rate is going down again, from 3.5% to 3.25%! Our mortgage payments will be $21.66 lower beginning in November, and I'm sure a bit more will go toward principal, since that happens every time it goes down.

Yesterday I was suddenly inspired to get our UK taxes out of the way. It turned out to go much faster than in past years, because I was able to find all the info I needed electronically versus rooting through various piles of random paper. I also didn't drive myself crazy trying to read and decipher the instructions; the forms were nearly identical to last year's, so I just made sure to fill in the same pages and boxes I did last year. Now all we have to do is have NT sign, make a copy, and mail it off! Woo hoo. Very relieved to have that done for another year. Thanks to some repairs, we made less this year than last, so I know we won't owe any taxes.