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Archive for October, 2011

Weight goal reached!!! (Oh, and annual debt goal too!!)

November 1st, 2011 at 03:47 am

Oh my goodness. I spent the weekend at some friends' home, where we snacked and feasted constantly. So I was really worried about my weigh-in. I'd been pretty good the week before, but I thought for sure that Saturday and Sunday would do me in.

Luckily, I think all my housecleaning and general moving around during the week, plus one good hard Gilad workout on Tuesday, was enough! I weighed in tonight and had hit 139, my 2011 goal!!

(Actually, AS pointed out that my idea of snacking and pigging out now, after my months of dieting, is probably much more modest than it was before.)

So now, I just need to maintain, and lose any weight that I gain over the holidays. Next year I'll set a more ambitious goal, but I just feel satisfied that I made it under 140! Considering I started the year at 156, 139 is like a whole new world!

***

I was updating my sidebar info and realized that I surpassed my 2011 goal to pay off at least $20,000 of debt! We've now paid $21,440 off, and still have two more months to go. Might even pass $25,000 this year. Smile We've done much more in past years, but since we've also been putting $300 per month to IRAs and setting all of NT's rental income aside in savings, and have more expenses such as childcare, I'm very happy with this result.

Debt goal reached! Plus Halloween pics

October 31st, 2011 at 02:55 am

Well AS's regular student loan payment hit. Oddly, as with NT's payment, which still hasn't been applied to his principal even though I know they have it, I had to estimate how much of AS's payment went to principal, because that accidental payment of someone else's hasn't been removed from her account yet. But anyway, it's usually $60, so that's what I'm estimating.

So that makes (an estimated) $1907 of October debt repayment, taking us $7 over our goal. Not as satisfying since two of the accounts aren't showing accurate balances, but it counts.

Next month I'm going to shoot for at least $2000 of debt repayment.

So here are pics of me as Columbo and AA as a monkey. Smile Coincidentally, in one of the shots I was trying to imitate a classic Columbo stance where he has his hand on his forehead, which obscures my identity pretty nicely. Smile Good pic to share here.



Day of weird financial things

October 28th, 2011 at 08:45 pm

OK, first the only normal financial thing: one of AS's student loans hit, with $124 going to principal. That makes $1847 down, $53 to go on the October debt goal.

I went to AS's other online student loan account to see if that payment had hit yet. As soon as I logged in I knew the balance was lower than I expected. I checked my debt spreadsheet and sure enough, it was about $200 lower. I noticed a payment had hit on Oct. 21 for way more than our $61.55 autopay that usually hits the last couple days of the month. (That one hadn't hit yet.)

For a second I was really excited, thinking maybe there was an ontime-payment bonus or something that I'd forgotten about. But then I thought, what if it was someone else's student loan payment and it got applied to AS's account accidentally?

I called the student loan place and explained, and they said it was a payment by check. (I haven't paid student loans by check in years.) They put me on hold while they pulled up a scan of the check. Sure enough, it was for someone else's student loan! The rep said the account number was blurry and they'd entered a wrong number.

Phew! Sad to lose $200 extra on our debt repayment, but happy to think that someone else maybe won't have to go through a hellish rigamarole just to get a late fee taken off their account and have their payment found. Especially with NT's student loan account STILL not showing our payment from Oct. 17, I know how maddening that would be for someone.

***

About the time I was checking into that, the guy who owns the cleaning service emailed me. Said he'd noticed from our cleaning guy's timesheets that he spends 2 and a half hours at our condo, when we only pay for 2 hours. He asked the guy who said it's a solid 2 and a half hour job, and he'd thought he was supposed to be doing that anyway. Said if we wanted 2 hours, we might have to agree to rotate certain aspects of cleaning since he didn't think he could get it all done in 2 hours.

The upshot is, we've been getting an extra half hour of cleaning every 4 weeks. However, if we want to keep this level of cleaning, we're going to have to start paying for that half hour, which would be $26.26 more per month. Or we can talk about taking certain items off his cleaning list, or rotating them. We just got this email, so still trying to decide what to do. Weird, huh?

***

NT and I were talking about whether we should start the car share service next month instead of after the new year. We have our lawyer appointment out in another city in November, and a big college-alumni party in December that's out in the suburbs. I was thinking I should apply today at work because my workload has finally lightened up, but our Chinook Book coupon book is at home, and there's a half-off application fee coupon we wanted to use. Then I remembered that someone had put a 2011 Chinook Book in the breakroom and that those coupons were good until Oct. 31. I checked and, sure enough, the car share coupon was in there! So if it stays slow at work for the next hour, I might go ahead and apply. Isn't that a weird coincidence though?

I just had to write because I thought those were a lot of odd things to happen in a day (in an hour, really).

Payment still hasn't posted, but they got it; Halloween costume; brain dump

October 28th, 2011 at 05:30 am

I finally called NT's student loan providers since the $1125 payment I sent Monday before last wasn't showing up on the new website. Turns out they got the payment; the phone rep said the amount before I did so I know it's true. But when I asked him what the principal balance was, he rattled off the previous balance. When I told him the payment hadn't registered, he said they would do a review of the account and should hear something in -- where have I heard this before? -- 7 to 10 days.

Sigh. So I don't know how much the payment will end up being toward principal, since interest continues to accrue. But I'm hoping at least $925 will go to principal. I'm going to record that, since I know they have my money, and just hope I don't have to report less going to principal.

So, that's $1723 down, $177 to go on the October debt goal.

***

We're going to spend Halloween weekend at our friends' weekend house in Winona, MN. It'll just be us four plus four friends, but I requested we dress up in costumes Saturday night. Mostly because I'd decided earlier this year what I wanted to be: Lt. Columbo, in honor of Peter Falk who passed away a few months ago.

Halloween costumes can end up being surprisingly pricy if you're putting your own together and have very specific items that you need to get. So I felt like I got off pretty easy:
$15 for a tan raincoat
$8 for a white men's shirt
$10 for a tie
$3 for a small pad of paper and a cigar
I've got a pair of khaki pants and am borrowing a pair of NT's shoes, and that's the costume! $36 total.

The raincoat and shirt I got from the church thrift store, so I know the profits go to a good cause. I'll either donate the coat, shirt and tie back to them when I'm done, or if I like the costume enough, this might be one worth keeping. I do love Columbo more than almost anything! I'm watching one right now! Smile

***

Now the random brain dump:

Lots of other little things happening. Today was very dramatic at work, as I suddenly realized that my two roles (proofreader and reviewer for corporate style compliance for our main client) could be very much in conflict. On the one hand I'm subordinate to many people and expected to sort of give in if I'm overridden, but when I wear my other hat I pretty much have more authority than anyone in my company. Anyway, there was a situation where I tried to fulfill both roles as faithfully and ethically as possible, but ended up ruffling some feathers and really making no one happy. I don't think anything bad will come of it, but I keep going over it in my head, wondering if there will be any lasting effects.

AS and I made a very cool dinner tonight, time-consuming but satisfying since it was so far outside our comfort zones. We had beets to use up so I did some research on borscht and found that in Ukraine, it's served with garlic fried bread (that was AS's contribution since she's the bread expert). I thought there should be another dish (not realizing how hearty that would be) so I found a recipe for veganized Ukrainian stuffed cabbage. It was all quite delicious; I don't think it'll freeze well and we're going out of town, so I'll take some for lunch and bring the rest in to see if anyone from work wants it.

We got our annual profit-share check from the natural foods co-op where we do some of our shopping. Typically it's $40 to $50. Well, I don't know if we've been spending a lot there or if they had a good year, but it was over $140! This co-op was $75 to join about 13 years ago, and between the discounts and these yearly checks, it's more than paid for itself, plus it's a good place to support.

I also was able to redeem $25 from our American Express card. I believe this is the second or third $25 we've earned and we've only had it a few months. Definitely worth the $75 annual fee.

I signed up for that Southwest Visa where you get 50,000 points after one purchase, and I asked NT and AS to sign up too, to see how many of us they would approve. I think I got immediate approval but NT didn't get any such message, so maybe he won't get it. I don't think AS has tried yet. We still have to spend about $240 on NT's new Citi card to get the $200 bonus, and AS just got a Capital One card where we spend $500 we'll get I think $150, so we need to do that. Shouldn't be hard at all.

On the estate planning front, I set a date to meet with the lawyer on Nov. 11. We'll need to rent a car or sign up for that car share a couple months early, since his office is kind of far away. Usually he comes and meets us at NT's office, but since we need witnesses or something, we have to go to his office for the signing.

AS has her next ultrasound scheduled for I think Nov. 5. It'll be at the hospital perinatal unit because of her high blood pressure, but we're still really excited. This might be the one where they'd be able to tell us the sex, but AS has been really back and forth on whether or not she wants to find out, so I'm not sure what will happen.

What else, what else, what else? I just realized the other holidays are coming up very fast. Really looking forward to it, but we have some planning and gift-buying to do. Probably get started in November, but we won't have budget surplus until December for any extra holiday spending outside the Xmas gift fund for the four of us.

If there's anything else, it can wait for another post. I should relax so I can get to bed soon. Smile

Prepaid phone plan costs update

October 27th, 2011 at 05:47 pm

NT bough some more minutes to extend his contract, but he accidentally bought 200 minutes which gets him 30 days of service, instead of 300 minutes for 60 days of service. He already has trouble using up his minutes, so this is kind of a bummer; he'll have to refill again next month to keep his service active no matter how many minutes he has. I wonder if we should look into whether T-Mobile will allow an exception to the two-prepaids-per-household rule; their one year of service for buying 1000 minutes is much more flexible (and less hassle).

FY2011 spending so far:

NT's April Net10 fillup (300 minutes): $32.87
AS's May T-Mobile fillup (1000 minutes): $107.78
NT's June Net10 fillup (300 minutes): $33.38
NT's August Net10 fillup (300 minutes): $33.38
CJ's October T-Mobile fillup (1000 minutes): $107.78
NT's Oct Net10 fillup (200 min.=1 month svc): $22.26

FY2011 total: $337.45

We're still in the seventh month of our prepaid "fiscal year," so that means our average monthly cost went up to $48.21. Still slightly below our ideal $50-per-month average, so that's good.

RECAP: I switched to prepaid in late March 2009, so our phone "fiscal year" begins each April. 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.

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 ideal goal is to get my average cost to $50 per month, but any average number below $85 is a savings.

Progress on some goals, plus random life updates

October 25th, 2011 at 05:23 am

$25 was transferred into savings and we got 50 cents of interest, so that takes our 2011 EF progress to $2909.56 and our total EF to $11,421.51. STILL waiting to be invoiced for the UK flat redecorating so we can shift any leftover money into the EF fund.

I'm pretty much off my diet but still striving for moderation most of the time, and this week it paid off; I lost the pound and a half I'd gained over the previous two weeks. So now I'm back to 142 with just 3 lbs. to go on the 2011 goal. Which means I sort of wasted the past three weeks. But I've still got time to do it.

NT finally reviewed his will, and we asked a friend who's a lawyer to look it over. We'll get it back from him this weekend, hopefully see the lawyer sometime in November, and our estate planning will be done! I didn't expect it to take most of the year, but I guess that means it was done well?

Our retirement accounts had recovered when I checked our net worth today, and AS's net worth is now -$187, so close to positive! I can't wait to report that. Makes me want to put the whole $180 available from my raise toward her Roth IRA so she can build that positive net worth faster. Hmm, maybe I will.

It's a minor thing, but we had a small get-together at our house Saturday, so that's 9 months out of 10 that we've managed to do so this year!

Although I'm not technically involved in the declutter challenge, I've been doing really well on that front. We're reviewing all the baby stuff we got before AA's birth and getting rid of stuff we never used for her -- a baby backpack, some booties and other articles of clothing. We got rid of a falling-apart baby dresser (though we'd bought a new cheap Ikea one to replace it). I cleared a large bag of expired or unneeded medicines and toiletries from the bathroom. We dumped a duvet that was too thick onto the free table at our condo. We even "decluttered" 4 containers from the freezer -- 2 of crushed tomatoes, one of pinto beans, one of rice -- and some sorta stale tortillas from the fridge into an enchilada lunch this weekend.

And even though it doesn't count as getting rid of stuff, I went through all the bags and piles of AA's clothes and got them sorted by age and put away. I nearly groaned when NT told me his HR manager was sending a huge bag of size 2T clothes our way -- even though I know they'll be very stylish, expensive and gently used based on past donations from her. But I've already figured out where I'm going to put them, so they won't hinder my organizing progress!

What else has been going on? Oh, my sickness/malaise seems to have cleared up; not sure what that was. I expected to lie low this past weekend, but instead I was super productive, cooking and cleaning and organizing. I did tons of laundry and dishes, and cooked a lot of the meals as well as some extras like brownies and muffins. Smile

Work is so much better since I got my promotion. A lot of my bitterness and anger has cleared up and I'm much more able to cope with the ups and downs of the position. I feel like people finally see that I'm doing much more than just proofreading.

I recently realized I have 5 days of vacation I need to use (or lose) by the end of the year! Since we figure our trips based on the least amount of days off someone has -- AS at the moment only gets 12 days a year -- I sometimes forget that I have other days I can use outside our family vacations. I still don't have a good replacement option for when I'm out of the office, so I may try to use most of it as Mondays off, which is typically the lightest work day for me. We shall see.

AS's pregnancy is going mostly well. She has high blood pressure, so that's causing some higher scrutiny, but no real problems so far. She got to hear the heartbeat today for the first time! Moneywise I feel pretty good; some of the extra stuff they need to do because of the hypertension may cost us, but we've got the EF if we can't figure out a way to cashflow it. So excited to meet our new baby next year; we've been throwing tons of names around and are nowhere near coming to an accord. Big Grin

I'm seeing some pretty good deals popping up for a warm-weather trip; we want to go somewhere tropical in the new year, but I want AS to check with the doctor to see if there's any additional risk to traveling pregnant with the high blood pressure. Seems like there will be tons of deals, so I don't think I'll have any trouble finding one if we're able to do it. If we can't, we'll just staycation together in Minneapolis. That'd be fun too.

Is that it? Oh, I won't get started on my extra payment ($1125) to NT's student loan, lost out in limbo thanks to a website conversion. They said it would take 7 to 10 days. Today was the 7th day and no sign. I really hope it hits before the end of the month or I'm going to seriously miss my debt goal! If it's not there by Thursday morning I'm going to raise hell!

Whew, I'm going to have to update my sidebar later. It's late and I'm getting tired!

October 2011 net worth update

October 24th, 2011 at 09:35 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): $13,515
NT's Roth IRA: $3,461
AS's 401(k): $5,785
AS's trad. IRA: $1,682
AS's Roth IRA: $4,899
CJ's 401(k): $38,073
CJ's Roth IRA: $3,461
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $160,000
Baby/emergency fund (shared asset): $11,421
---
Total Assets: $569,231

Total Debt: $331,289

Current Estimated Net Worth: $237,942

August 2011 estimate: $230,981

Change in net worth: +$6,961

Summary: Nearly $7,000 gain! NT's federal loan site is still being dumb, and my payment from last Monday still hasn't posted. If it had, we'd have close to an $8,000 gain. Still, this brings us to our highest net worth yet, beating our last high of $235K in July! Most of this was our retirement accounts making up losses.

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.

Ugh

October 19th, 2011 at 10:28 pm

I feel ugh. I've had so many good things happening, maybe this is just a natural chemical downturn in my body, so that's why I'm letting things get to me more than usual.

- Wholly derailed and unmotivated on my health goal. After gaining 1.5 lbs. over the past two weeks, and getting behind on the grocery budget, and the cold weather discouraging outdoor activity, and having to work later so I don't want to take the time to walk home -- I'm just not finding the extra strength to push through this rough patch. I'm not eating "on plan" this week and I feel just under-the-weather enough to not be able to push myself to work out. I'm trying to figure out what to do to get myself on track again. I wrote down some fitness goals for next week, so hopefully I'll follow through on those and that will help.

- As I just mentioned, our Costco stockup/grocery run for our cabin weekend wiped out our grocery frugality progress and we're once again dipping into the next fortnight's grocery money. This past weekend I even decided to ignore my diet plan to make a super-cheap grocery list. Somehow we ended up spending even more than we usually do. So I want to do a pantry challenge as much as possible for the next couple weeks, and stick to low-cost food, which is going to mean straying from my diet plan for awhile longer.

- I sent a big payment to NT's student loan on Monday. Well, they've decided to create a completely new site, and now my payment isn't showing up. It aggravates me because every day when I check in I can see that interest is accruing on the debt, and I can see in my bank account that the big payment is gone, so my $1125 is just sitting out there in the ether doing no good on either end. If it hasn't hit by tomorrow morning they're going to get an earful from me!

- NT's classes are crazily reading-intensive this year, which means he hasn't had a chance to review his portion of the estate documents. Until we all look over them, I can't ask my lawyer friend to review them. Until he reviews them, I don't want to schedule an appointment with the lawyer. Until we meet with the lawyer, I don't know what my parental rights are regarding AS's child. Until I know what my parental rights are, I don't know how to approach my HR or what to ask them for. Until I know that, we can't make plans for how we're all going to schedule our parental leave (not to mention plan the budget for our unpaid leave). It's a logjam of stuff-not-happening!

- As mentioned earlier (because all of these things are feeding off each other), I feel oogy. Can't tell if I'm sick, or just going through a slightly depressive period, or if my body is reacting negatively to being off my diet & exercise plan. But we're unusually busy at work so I don't feel like taking a health day unless I get actually, undeniably sick.

- Needless to say, feeling like I'm not going to try NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year. Since I usually (OK, always) get behind and give up halfway through the month, I don't think this would help my doldrums any.

OK, done whining. Let's try to remember the good things:

- My work gave me a lovely bouquet to celebrate my raise, and it's been brightening up my office all week.

- My 19-month-old daughter has shown a real aptitude for learning letters! She can usually recognize A, E, F, H, I, M, O, S and Y, and even points them out on random things when I'm not even trying to get her to say them.

- I've done some good decluttering at home (bathroom cupboards, toy shelves) and have been pitching in more with housework the past couple weeks (since NT is partly out of commission with homework and AS with pregnancy, I've been meaning to step up my game).

- Been looking online for Caribbean vacation deals for January, and it looks like we should be able to find something well within our budget. Just need to save up a bit more money, and also decide exactly what we want.

- It's time to leave work, and I'm all caught up for the day!

Plans for using my raise; small weight gain

October 17th, 2011 at 04:07 am

I saw my paycheck and confirmed that I got a 10% raise -- the lower end of what I asked for, but still a satisfying amount of money. Big Grin It seems to net me about $280 more per month (I don't have my exact normal paycheck numbers yet because my bus pass payments have been stopped for a few paychecks to fix my being too far ahead on them).

For now, the $280 can just be extra money, along with NT's raise. We can use it to fix up the house, or put toward debt, or whatever we need it for most. It's really going to help cover the shortfall when AS and NT (and who knows, possibly even me) take unpaid parental leave next year.

Then, looking ahead to post-birth, post-parental leave, back to full-time work for all of us and full-time daycare for two kids, I've projected my budget as best I can. NT's raise, and our daycare lady's cheap rates, meant that we could basically go back to our current budget ($10 short; not bad) even with full-time daycare. So $10 of my raise will cover the shortfall, leaving $270. If we set aside $90 per month for car-share service, that will leave $180. I figure I can put this monthly surplus toward our Roth IRAs.

Ideally, we'd put $600 more toward retirement each month. But, to get to 10% of gross income going to retirement, we only need $300 more per month. So this $180 will get us very close, only $120 short of 10% and $420 short of our ideal.

Yay! Now for some bad news; I gained one pound last week and half a pound this week. Since I round up my weight, that takes me to 144 lbs. Got to lose 5 lbs. to meet my 2011 goal. And I better not gain again, because I'm riding the line between "normal" and "overweight" in terms of BMI! So the theme of this week must be moderation, and hopefully some exercise after several weeks off.

Prepaid phone plan costs update

October 13th, 2011 at 10:46 pm

I finally had to fill up my cellphone; the last time must have been March or before, since I don't see a fillup for me listed on this year's records. I paid $107.78 for 1000 more minutes.

FY2011 spending so far:

NT's April Net10 fillup (300 minutes): $32.87
AS's May T-Mobile fillup (1000 minutes): $107.78
NT's June Net10 fillup (300 minutes): $33.38
NT's August Net10 fillup (300 minutes): $33.38
CJ's October T-Mobile fillup (1000 minutes): $107.78

FY2011 total: $315.19

We're in the seventh month of our prepaid "fiscal year," so that means our average monthly cost so far is $45.03. Nicely below our ideal $50-per-month average!

RECAP: I switched to prepaid in late March 2009, so our phone "fiscal year" begins each April. 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.

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 ideal goal is to get my average cost to $50 per month, but any average number below $85 is a savings.

Uberfrugal and not-so-frugal behaviors

October 13th, 2011 at 04:02 am

I've been thinking about the things we try to really cheap out on and what we decide to spend more on.

I think some of our choices are a bit different from the priorities of many, but many are probably right in line.

Uberfrugal areas:
-Transportation. We don't have a car, I haven't for over 10 years. NT gave his up when he moved here about 6 years ago. We get completely reimbursed for one bus pass, another one is at a student rate so costs about $30 per month, and the other is at full price ($85) but paid for pre-tax. We're thinking about joining a carshare service, which I'm estimating will come out to about $90 per month. And once in a blue moon we get a taxi or rent a car. Since we don't have a car, we're able to rent out our parking spot for $85. Overall, our current transportation costs are about $30 per month, and may go up to nearly $120. When you factor insurance, gas, repairs, parking, car payments or the other possible car expenses, I think we come out extremely cheaply.

-Baby clothes, toys and equipment. We get whatever we can as hand-me-downs, gifts or garage sale finds. Some things we had to buy new for safety reasons, like the carseats. Other things we couldn't find satisfactory hand-me-down versions of. But I think overall, we spend a fraction of what people would expect.

-Phone service. We have three cheapy, basic cellphones with prepaid service, and I've finally gotten our costs down to about $50 per month (and that includes the occasional phone replacement when one gets lost or broken). At less than $17 per person per month, I think we're way under the curve of the average American (although not the curve of SA bloggers, LOL).

Hair/grooming. We get our hair cut (or in the case of AS's dreads, washed) every 5 weeks. Our barber only charges $15 each for the 2 haircuts and $10 for the hairwashing, but he's a good friend and way too cheap, so we usually pay $70 for what would be a $40 bill (we throw in another $5 if he trims little AA's bangs, and will pay another $10 on top of that when he gives her a full haircut). Still, at most $85 every 5 weeks for 4 people still seems cheap to me. And for grooming, we mostly go for supercheap stuff, though there are a couple of things we're willing to spend a bit more on (like AS's love of Body Shop shower gels).

Mixture of frugal and spendy:

Food. On one hand, we cook almost all our meals at home, which is highly unusual at least in our social circles. When we do eat out, though, it's usually not Domino's or Olive Garden; we usually try to have something special (not crazy high-end, but nice). And, while we do cook at home, we invest in a CSA (community supported agriculture) share. Though it's a good deal for local organic produce, it's still more expensive than supermarket veggies. There are certain other ingredients where we'll go for the more expensive option (such as my favorite vegan cheese, and NT's British tea). Plus, when we feel a high-end piece of equipment is important, we don't shy away from getting it (Vitamix blender, Kitchenaid mixer, marble pastry board). Then again, some of our dishes are hand-me-downs, chipped and faded, and just plain worn-out looking. It's a schizophrenic mixture, our food/money situation.

Home. Our home saves us money in that it's reasonably priced for a condo in our area, and the small space keeps us from buying a ton of stuff. Also, the location enables us to be car-free. However, we've got that ARM that has treated us well so far but could someday start to bite us. And our condo fees are over $500 per month. It includes maintenance and repairs on the building and grounds, utilities, security desk, and basic cable, but still, it's a lot.

Electronics. As I said before, our phones are super cheap, as is our bedroom TV. But we have a really nice TV ($600), camera ($600) and laptop ($2000 I think?)

Entertainment. We go to the movies maybe once or twice a year, and we just cut back our cable and Netflix to save money. We hardly ever go to plays or museums. But we do have a fairly extensive DVD collection, and NT has easily $10K worth of LP records. Oh, and we have a Wii and about a dozen games, including Rock Band and Guitar Hero, which were really expensive.

Clothes. We'll put off and put off buying, and shop at Old Navy, H&M and Target when possible. But if we have a windfall of money, we're not averse to a big shopping spree with some higher-priced items (rarely if ever over $100 per item, to give you an idea of what we consider higher-priced).

Not-so-frugal:

Travel. This is one area where I think we're way above average. It's one of our great loves, and I'm so glad we get to indulge it. I set aside $850 per month, and we use every penny, usually saving it up for two or three semi-lavish vacations per year. Sometimes we spend more than that, if we can save up extra side income in advance of a trip.

Diapers. It's very important to us not to use disposables, but we're not equipped to clean our own cloth diapers (and our daycare doesn't do cloth). So we have a diaper cleaning service that also sells us compostable disposables for the daycare to use, and we're about to move onto compostable wipes. All of these options are much more expensive than if we just got disposable diapers and wipes at Target. There is a cheaper way to avoid disposables (making and cleaning your own diapers and wipes), but with all of us working 40+ hours per week and not having our own washing machine, this is something we're willing to pay a premium for.

Cleaning. A lot of people would laugh that we hire a housecleaning service but don't have a car. But to me, this is something I don't resent spending money on. Every four weeks we're forced to declutter and our service deep-cleans in ways we tend to put off. Total luxury, but one that really adds to my quality of life.

***

Those are the only categories of note that I can think of right now. If you actually got through this blabby rambling post, I'm interested to hear people's opinions on my assessments. It's hard to judge your own spending and figure out where you stand. Some of the things I think are superfrugal might seem like unnecessary luxury to you. And I've got two different places to compare to, my regular real-life/social networking social circle, and this community. So in some areas I feel really frugal compared with my friends and acquaintances but kind of spendthrift compared with some of you guys.

Good news keeps on coming!

October 6th, 2011 at 04:49 pm

Thanks for the congrats on my promotion! I still don't know what my raise will be; I'm not sure what my supervisor asked for because I told him that I'd like to request $55,000, but that if he thought a 10% increase was more realistic, he could ask for that. That would be $53,800. Since I haven't heard anything, I feel pretty safe assuming I got one of those two figures. I suppose I could just ask my boss, but I'll find out in a week's time in my paycheck anyway. Big Grin

Anyway, the other good news. I wrote a second email to my lawyer's paralegal asking for an estimate on the cost of our estate planning. I'd saved up $2500 for it, but it was so complicated and was taking so long that I was getting pretty nervous. Turns out it will be a $1500 flat fee! So great! Now I can put that extra $1000 I saved toward AS's mom. We can get that situation cleared up much more easily than I thought, and get back to extra debt repayment.

We've been having good luck with our two rental situations: NT's flat and our condo parking spot. His renters moved out, but the management people found new ones right away, and they prepaid for three months! Our parking-spot renters also like prepaying, and they just paid for October-November-December. When I read about how erratic renters can be, I count us very lucky indeed that we haven't had any problems so far.

While I'm writing, I should record that $25 went into the EF. That takes us to $2884.06 in 2011 savings, and our total EF to $11,396.01.

Tonight I'm going to Costco with my friend to stock up on staples as well as buy groceries for this weekend. He and his partner both have birthdays in October, so we used some of our recent influx of extra money to rent a minivan and a cottage about 3 hours away, so we can spend a weekend with them. We leave Friday evening and come back Sunday afternoon/evening. Just a quick little trip away, but those can be a lot of fun.

I GOT IT!

October 5th, 2011 at 07:46 pm

I got the promotion I asked for! I know my title is what I asked for but haven't gotten anything from Payroll about what my salary will be.

I'm really busy at work today, but I wanted to check in. I've written repeated posts about wanting this for over a year now, so you'll be relieved that I can finally move on to a new subject! Smile

Congratulations are pouring in at work and it's such an unbelievable feeling after years of career stagnation.

Progress on October debt goal, plus small bits of good news

October 3rd, 2011 at 04:49 pm

All of our mortgage payments hit:
US: $419 to principal
UK1: $264
UK2: $55
UK3: $60
In all, $798 down, $1102 to go on the October debt repayment goal.

I'm excited about our US mortgage interest rate adjusting next month! We'll pay $22 LESS per month, but $14 MORE will go toward principal.

I didn't feel like I had a very good week for healthy living; hardly exercised, ate more off-plan meals than usual. But I guess I exercised just enough moderation, because at my weigh-in I'd lost a tiny amount of weight. Less than a pound, but considering I'd been predicting a 2- to 3-lb. GAIN, I'm extremely pleased with that. I have a tough week coming up; lots of social eating that's going to be off-plan, and a busy week where I may not be able to exercise. But after this week I think I can get back into the swing of things and push through my last 3 lbs. (technically 2.5 now) that I need to lose in order to hit my 2011 goal.

About the raise request: I spoke to my supervisor last week and he said he should find out early THIS week whether it's been approved. I also learned that if it is, it'll be reflected in the 10/15 paycheck! I'd thought before he said it would take effect 10/15, meaning it would be in the 10/31 paycheck. It would be very exciting to see a raise two weeks earlier than I thought. But trying not to get too excited since nothing is guaranteed.

But, as I discussed it with AS this morning, I realized that either way, my future will be clearer this week. If they don't give me the raise, they'll have made it obvious that they don't think I'm that important to the company's success, and I can decide based on that information what I should do -- start the job search up more aggressively this time, or just give them the bare minimum and tune out the job as much as possible in my life. If they do give me the raise, I can feel like I accomplished my next big goal, can really throw myself into excelling at this company, and can use my non-work hours toward something fun and creative versus job-searching (or fretting about my dissatisfaction).