I know I've mentioned most of these at one time or another, but I had some free time at the end of my workday and found myself going over them with impatience, because I love having my budget figured out to a penny, and that can't happen until we know:
- What health bills will come in for the rest of the year (expecting one for NT's operation and possibly more for AS's labor/delivery)
- When our adoption process will be complete, so I can add SL to my healthcare (the cheapest of our options; until this happens she'll be on NT's, which is about $70 more per month)
- What my paycheck will net out to once the above is established
- What AS's raise will actually net out to
- What NT's financial aid package for fall semester is, and whether we should cashflow by borrowing from EF, or just take the student loans they offer (I think it'll depend on current interest rates)
- What our mortgage payment will be when the interest rate resets on Nov. 1
Nice to have it all in one list. I'll be able to check these off gradually over the remainder of the year.
Archive for July, 2012
I know I've mentioned most of these at one time or another, but I had some free time at the end of my workday and found myself going over them with impatience, because I love having my budget figured out to a penny, and that can't happen until we know:
Phew, I was working on this entry a long time and would have lost it all if I hadn't done a select-all and copy right before I clicked Save and Publish!
10 min. workout: No. 12/27
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,939. 26/26
No night snacks: Fail. 19/27
10 min. workout: Yes, 20 min. 13/28
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 2,324. 26/26
No night snacks: Success. 20/28
10 min. workout: Yes, 11 min. 14/29
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,274. 26/26
No night snacks: Fail. 20/29 (But, I was under my minimum calories by 6 even with the snack, so I don't feel guilty.)
All told, the social week and weekend was rough. I didn't work out consistently, and socializing for me equates to more calories and more night snacks.
It's been a busy weekend! Friday night AS and NT went to see the Olympics opening ceremony at a private party in a bar. She got the tickets from work. All food and drink was free! I had a friend over, and we snacked quite a bit, but at least I kept my calories under 2,000.
Saturday I was busy from about 9 am until 6 pm, constantly. I tweaked the grocery list, did the first round of groceries on my bike, dropped that off, walked to the store to do the second round, came home and put the groceries away, fixed lunch, made pickles with CSA cucumbers, cooked rice and lentils for the next day's lunch, cooked seitan for the next day's dinner, did all the dishes and cleaned the kitchen, tidied the house for the babysitter, cooked a quesadilla for AA, showered and got dressed for date night. Whew!
We had an awesome night out. I won't say how much we spent, but let's just say it was paid for from our summer fun fund, which is now much depleted. We went to a movie, which we hardly ever do, got overpriced movie snacks, went to a fancy hotel bar for drinks and more snacks, took a pedicab home, paid the babysitter extra because we were out a LONG time, and ordered pizza after the babysitter left. I did actually restrain myself more than I did when I wasn't dieting, but it really added up.
Today I lazed around a lot, though I did fix lunch, get caught up on budgeting (we've got a lot of credit cards in play right now so it's a bit complicated), and worked out. And my weigh-in was amazing: I lost 4 lbs. from last Sunday! I'm now at 134, my lowest in a LONG time, and just 5 lbs. away from my 2012 goal!
We were watching a documentary called "Fat, Sick & Almost Dead" that was about two men who turned their health and weight around with 60-day juice fasts. AS and I were reminded that we like to do raw-food cleanses every so often, and we thought the juice fast sounded like an interesting way to do it. We wouldn't want to until AS has stopped nursing, of course, because part of it is a reduction in calories. But maybe this winter if we both (or all, if NT is interested) want to lose weight.
I spent a lot of time this weekend dreaming about moving to England. Two more things have spurred our desire even more to follow through on this goal: the wonderfully uplifting Olympic opening ceremony and, on the other side, the mass shooting in Aurora Colorado. We talked about moving on our date last night, and I said we should really think before each purchase, how badly do we want this, and would that money serve us better in the moving fund?
We sold our baby swing for $85, so today I transferred that money into our house/moving fund. $1,085 saved, $78,915 to go!
Right now it seems like we won't make progress for a while, because we have other financial goals of paying down student loan debt, getting our EF to $20K, renewing our medical fund to $5K, and saving for a trip to England in May. But we can still put a little bit away while doing these other things. And as these other goals are knocked down one by one, we can start to put more and more toward moving.
I think I'll do what I can without any real plan until the end of the year; we still have so many variables and unknowns coming up. Once I see where we are with all our goals, I can map out a strategy to attack them all; whether it's putting everything to one then another then another, like a debt snowball, or just rejiggering the amount I put toward each so that we feel we're approaching them all at a good pace.
AS's student loan payment hit, with $127 going to principal. That takes us over our $1025 goal with $1052 paid toward debt!
For August, we can start putting more toward debt now that we're all back to work full time (starting Monday). So my goal is to pay off at least $2000 of debt in August.
I didn't work out yesterday, BUT I did both the daycare drop-off and pickup, which involves a lot of walking and pushing, and I hauled the farmer's market produce around a lot. So I feel like it wasn't a lazy day. Still, this is turning out to be a bummer month for workouts.
10 min. workout: No. 12/26
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,356. (Woo hoo!) 26/26
No night snacks: Success. 19/26
Two credit card rewards checks came in the mail: $105 and $440.96. I'm using them to cover the budget shortfall from my miscalculation of NT's paychecks. We'll earn two more soon: $150 each for me and NT from Citi Dividend cards. NT has already spent the required amount and I need to spend about $100 more on mine. That $300 of rewards will cover a window replacement we did recently.
It's a bit depressing that my recent rewards keep being needed for unexpected shortfalls and expenses, but I cheer up when I realize how our budget would otherwise have been damaged by these events, which were going to happen with or without the rewards!
Tonight we should be selling an infant swing via Craigslist. The buyer has promised $85, the same amount we paid for it when we bought it off of Craigslist. It's a great little swing, but SL is a very alert baby and prefers to be where the action is, so she only liked it for about a month.
Since we weren't expecting to get rid of the swing so soon, this is an unforeseen windfall. I should put it to the medical fund which is kind of skimpy these days, but I need the psychological boost that we're saving toward a new house/moving, so I'm going to put it in that fund instead.
AS let the publishing house she freelances for know that she was about to end her maternity-leave break, and they sent her a job offer right away. Another freelancer snatched it up before she had a chance to respond, but the editor promised she'd send AS more offers now that she knows she's available again. This is an amazing side hustle that can earn AS anything from $300 to $600 a pop, so this will boost the house fund immensely when it gets going again. I hate losing her company in the evenings, but we can't really turn up our noses at that kind of money when we have so many financial goals!
NT's summer semester ends next week, and his fall classes are going to be in the afternoon, so he won't be away most nights! I know he'll still have homework, but maybe I could start looking for freelance proofreading jobs to do in the evenings.
Our CSA is taking a break from deliveries this week to tend their crops. NT and I decided to continue with local food while it's in season, so we went to the farmer's market downtown today at lunch. (It's a combination of real local farms and grocery-store rejects, but it's easy to tell which is which now that we've been doing the CSA for a few years and know what's in season in Minnesota right now. Hint: Tropical fruits are not. )
We spent $26 and got:
Summer squash & zucchini
Green bell peppers
Portobello mushrooms (the only non-local purchase)
Baby bok choy
(plus free samples of hummus, Sun Chips and Pepsi!)
We were kind of brainstorming what we'd make, but mostly just buying what looked good and was reasonably priced. Now I have to make sure we plan our menu so none of this goes to waste! The greens and herbs are most delicate, so we've got to use those first. Tonight's dinner is already planned, and we're not cooking Friday night. I'm thinking:
Saturday lunch: Creamy kale pasta
Saturday dinner: N/A, date night
Sunday lunch: Rice-lentil salad, zucchini boats, leftover Harvard beets
Sunday dinner: Holy basil seitan w/sauteed bok choy & rice
Monday: Sauteed cherry tomatoes & basil over pasta; garlic-butter crostini
Tuesday: Gardein BBQ "ribs," fried green tomatoes, leeks & carrots, cornbread
Wednesday: Portobello sandwiches w/sauteed peppers & onions, potato salad
Thursday: Southern fried tofu, cross-hatch squash & biscuits
Friday: Depends on CSA box
We shouldn't have to buy much for this menu. We already have:
- At least 2 boxes of pasta, may need to get one more
- Vital wheat gluten so I can make seitan from scratch
- Fresh basil (non-Thai) and parsley growing on the balcony
- Thin baguette in the freezer
- Gardein "ribs" that I bought with my own spending money as a treat recently
- Leftover carrots from last week's CSA
We'll need to get:
- Maybe 1 box of pasta
- Maybe some nutritional yeast for southern fried tofu mix
- Brown rice
- 1 shallot
- Bread for sandwiches
Also on the grocery list so far:
Tofutti cream cheese
Earth Balance buttery sticks
Bonne Maman jam
I'm excited! I hope we can stay well under budget this month. We've got to use our CSA months to catch up on the budget so we don't fall farther behind when winter comes and we have to start buying grocery-store veggies again. Also, we're now buying disposable (well, compostable) diapers for SL going into daycare, and some formula to supplement the breastmilk. So we need to conserve our grocery dollars more carefully than ever. Plus, this is one of the half-months that has 3 weeks of grocery shopping instead of 2. Hmm, thinking about all that, I may skip Rainier cherries for a week, and probably the Tofutti cream cheese as well.
This morning as I was sitting at my desk, I suddenly felt a painful pinching sensation down my spine. Sometimes my back just goes out like that. It was pretty painful all day but manageable, but it didn't heal up enough to allow a workout; I couldn't think of a vigorous activity that wouldn't make it hurt worse.
10 min. workout: No. 12/25
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,565. 25/25
No night snacks: Success. 18/25
I also went over a bit in calories, but only because there was a load of fresh fruits at work and I had a big bowl of pineapple, blackberries and strawberries.
It's too bad I went over because AS made an amazing-looking berry-peach cobbler that I just knew I shouldn't have. But I'll have some for my breakfast tomorrow, so that'll be something to look forward to!
Earlier today I saw a Facebook ad for a good sale at a fashion online store, so I signed in and got an offer for 50% off my first item, plus free shipping. AS and I are celebrating our 15th anniversary,* in a very low-key way since we're so busy this year, so I let her choose something to be her present. She got a handbag and it was only $19.95. As I was going through I scanned the terms & conditions, but as I submitted my order I saw something that concerned me. I went back into the Ts & Cs and saw that it's one of those sites where you have to make one purchase of $40 per month or else they'll charge you $40 anyway. Uh, no, I don't think I'll be spending $40 per month on fashion accessories! As soon as AS receives her bag, I'll cancel.
*(For those who are curious, AS and I had already been a couple for years when NT came into the picture. We've been with him about 7 years.)
AS's gift to me, besides the cobbler, was that she cleared off that fabric cabinet! It looks so much better with the bolts of fabric not piled on top. I'm so happy about it! To make it even better, NT rearranged his DJ equipment so it hardly blocks any of the window any more. Our place is slowly looking better and better.
Got a fun, busy summer ahead of us! Thank goodness for our shared Google calendar, because things keep getting added and it would be so hard to keep track. Especially with all the medical appointments we've all had this year, and the shared parental leave, and NT taking summer classes.
Tomorrow is AS's publishing house's regular happy hour; it's our good luck that it's outside the museum across the street from home! Close by AND kid-friendly, so AS and I can both go and bring the kids. And they have vegetarian hot dogs, which lil AA loves.
Friday AS and NT are going to an Olympics opening ceremony viewing party at the local British-themed pub, and I'm having a friend over to see the kids and watch a movie after they go to bed.
Saturday we'll be having an anniversary date; with NT if we can find a sitter, otherwise just me & AS.
Next week is NT's last classes until September, and then one of my sisters and her family comes on Saturday for a 4-day visit. Should be lots of fun, and they're staying at a hotel so we won't feel overwhelmed.
The weekend after that, we've got a little road trip planned to a small-town festival, leave on Friday & come back Sunday.
After that the calendar is mostly clear -- but we're almost into September! Wow, summers go so FAST in Minnesota. I'll never get used to that.
Finally my fitness results are starting to look better again. (I did need to snack tonight and last night for my antibiotics, but I'm now done with the pills, so I won't need to again.)
10 min. workout: Yes! 11/23
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,431. 23/23
No night snacks: Necessary fail. 17/23
10 min. workout: Yes! 12/24
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,439. 24/24
No night snacks: Same as above. 17/24
Also, last week I sent a small extra payment to NT's student loan to make sure I hit my monthly goal. (I just took it out of what I plan to pay next month, since we've got a cushion in the checking account.) $44 went to principal, so that takes us to $925 down, $100 to go. AS's student loan payment will hit soon and take us over the top!
Well, not a raise, but as good as one. I've been factoring in $575 per month starting in August for SL's daycare tuition. Then it occurred to me that our daycare lady might charge more for infants, as some places do. (She's in-home but has a lot of pro daycare experience and runs hers really professionally.)
So AS finally asked her how much it would be and she said $475! She's actually charging less since there are two of them. When AA starts going to school in a couple years, SL's will go up to $575 since we won't have two full-timers at that point.
So awesome! Right now I'm putting the surplus to our house down payment/moving fund. This may change in November when our mortgage rate adjusts; but I won't know probably until August or September. Of course, I may have underestimated AS's net take-home from her raise, so there's a chance we'll have more than we thought.
So now because of AS's raise and this unexpected daycare discount, I'm estimating we'll have $185.70 per month for that new savings goal. Of course, it would take us our whole lives to save $79,000 more at that rate, but we'll put any other windfalls or income increases or expense decreases into that fund as well. This is just a starting point. Last month, we had no money earmarked for an expensive international move. Now, we have $1000 saved and $185.70 per month designated to go there.
OK, so Banker Gurl's recent posts have gotten me intrigued about what (and how many) clothes I own. They're divided between hangers and drawers, laundry baskets, ironing pile and such, and I never really thought about it. Once in a while, if I get a windfall, I'll buy a few more things and get rid of things that are worn out or don't look good on me anymore, but I don't think I've ever analyzed my entire collection. Which is funny because AS and I have mentioned it in passing once or twice.
This was a great exercise because it also made me neaten up my drawers, toss a few things I haven't used for years, and realize that I'm probably going to need to fill a few gaps before winter comes.
So here's my total (I found it kind of hard to pick categories, so not sure if some of them make sense):
T-shirts, camis & tanks: 17
Short-sleeve tops that are not Ts; blouses, dress shirts, vest, etc.: 12
Long-sleeve shirts (both pullover & button-down): 7
Pullover sweaters: 3
Cardigans, hoodies, suit coats, etc.: 10
TOTAL tops: 49
Slacks & Khakis: 4
TOTAL bottoms: 13
Other (one-piece, underclothes, fitness, etc.):
Long johns (thermal pants): 2
PJs: 2 sets
Fitness bottoms: 4
Fitness tops: 4
TOTAL other: 41
TOTAL shoes: 20
Did not count: coats, winter gear, socks, tights, a couple things I keep at work, costumes
So not including the areas I didn't count, I have 123 articles of clothing.
Some of the areas seem skimpy -- 3 sweaters and I live in Minnesota?? -- but if I think about it, the cardigans etc. category is what I mostly wear. Indoor temps are typically pretty high in winter here, so dressing in layers is a must.
I did spot a few problem areas for winter:
- My slacks are going to be too big if I continue my fitness regimen. Even though I haven't lost a ton of weight this year, my fitness regimen (assuming I start back up and keep it up) has trimmed down my figure. My work pants were already on the too-big side last winter. If I keep up my progress they'll be falling down by the time cold weather hits.
- Same with my bras. It's time for a smaller cup size.
- All my shoes are getting in pretty bad shape except my workout sneakers, two pair of flats and one pair of sandals. And the flats that are still nice, one pair is purple and the other is a pair of ankle boots, so neither goes with a ton of things. I need a basic black and a basic brown pair that go with everything. My current ones won't last the winter, I don't think.
Everything else I feel is at a decent level. I don't have a ton of clothes compared with my closet in the past, but nor do I feel deprived or like I lack a bit of variety.
What do you think? How do my numbers compare with yours?
All I can say is, after the weekend I had, I felt fortunate that I gained less than 2 lbs. at my weigh-in tonight. I knew I was going to be heavier, but I wanted to at least stick to part of my routine so I can hopefully get back on track soon.
Even though I didn't work out, I feel like I've been on my feet much of the weekend. Maybe that's why I didn't gain as much as the calorie counts and lack of workouts would warrant.
10 min. workout: No. 10/21
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated (gulp) 2,824. 21/21
No night snacks: Sort of? No. I don't know, I felt like I was constantly eating until pretty late, so I don't know where dinner ended and snacking began. I'm going to say I did snack. 17/21
10 min. workout: No. 10/22
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,945. 22/22
No night snacks: No, I needed to eat something for my antibiotics. 17/22
It was a mostly fun if hard weekend. Saturday was haircut day, as well as having our friends over to celebrate their 5-year anniversary. I ran around lugging bottles of wine and a massive box of Chinese takeout food and we all ate at our place. Then we rushed out to catch fireworks; the best Minneapolis fireworks are always late July, rather than on the 4th.
Lil AA fell out of her big-girl bed very early this morning; second time it's happened. NT positioned a beanbag chair by her bed tonight so if she does it again, hopefully it won't be such a bad shock for her. We're thinking about whether we can do anything else to help. She REALLY travels in her sleep.
Today we only had one Skype call to England, but I promised my parents one, so I spoke with them later in the day. We got a new bedframe and put it together; now we'll have more bedroom storage space. I made a new complex dish for dinner (seitan stroganoff; seitan is a fake meat made of wheat) that was a big hit with everyone, so I'll probably get practice getting better at it!
I don't really know why the weekend felt so overwhelming. Part of it was NT being somewhat out of commission after his surgery; partly the lost sleep due to AA falling; partly I had my own illness to deal with, along with antibiotics. Tomorrow is my last day of parental leave, so I'll try to take it easy, get back on working out and a sane amount of calories, and just generally find my equilibrium.
I've pretty much written off this week in terms of my health goals, but I'm still going to record everything so hopefully I can get back on track next week.
10 min. workout: No. 10/18
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,851. 18/18
No night snacks: Success. 16/18
10 min. workout: No. 10/19
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,461. 19/19
No night snacks: Success. 17/19
10 min. workout: No. 10/20
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,847. 20/20
No night snacks: No, I needed to eat something because I started antibiotics. 17/20
I thought I'd share my menu and shopping list, since I like reading LuckyRobin's. This week we have more eating out scheduled than usual. We've been buying more fruit than usual because it's fresher and cheaper during the summer. Also, during the summer we hardly have to buy any vegetables because we get most of them from our CSA.
Get takeout & take it easy. Pizza Luce
super Saturday scramble - tofu/eggs, diced potatoes, fried tomatoes, toast, facon
AS making cupcakes for fireworks display tonight
Friends' anniversary dinner (eat out or takeout)
Veggie burgers, lemon-butter broccoli
Seitan stroganoff over pasta; Harvard beets
Chikn-fried steak or chix patties, potatoes, carrot-walnut salad
Tuesday (NT has class until 8:30)
Bacon-avocado sammiches (tomato if we've got some), corn
Wednesday (NT has class until 9:00)
Thursday (NT has class until 8:30)
Corn, cilantro, black beans, tortillas
Ideas for next week: Buffalo salad (if we get corn in CSA); something Mexican; portobello sammies & potato salad; BBQ
Grocery list (we divvy it by the stores we got to for each):
small bag Rainier cherries
Silk soymilk (coupon)
veg burgers BOGO
Athenos feta BOGO
Smart Ones desserts (coupon)
sweet brown rice (1 C for pudding)
slivered almonds (1/2 C)
pistachios (1/2 C)
walnuts (1 c)
dried cranberries (1/4 c)
flour (all-purpose, unbleached)
vegan wide noodles
AS's April T-Mobile fillup (500 minutes): $53.90
NT's May Net10 fillup (300 minutes): $33.36
CJ's May T-Mobile fillup (1000 minutes): $107.78
AS's June T-Mobile fillup (1000 minutes): $107.78
NT's July Net10 fillup (300 minutes): $33.36
FY2012 total so far: $336.18
Since we're only in our fourth month of the "fiscal year," that means our average is $84.05 per month! I hope that will go down quite a bit since we all just filled up, but we also have been using more minutes because of the new baby: more calls to the proud grandparents, and people staying home with the baby = more use of cellphones vs. work phones.
But, it's netting out to be cheaper than our old family plan, just barely.
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.
NT's UK pensions:
#1: 13,884 pounds ($27,768)
#2: 16,005 pounds ($32,010)
#3: 3,709 pounds ($7,418)
NT's 401(k): $16,961
NT's Roth IRA: $4,213
AS's 401(k): $7,221
AS's trad. IRA: $1,682
AS's Roth IRA: $7,159
CJ's 401(k): $43,019
CJ's Roth IRA: $4,213
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $160,000
Baby/emergency fund (shared asset): $14,750
House down payment/moving fund: $1,000
Total Assets: $587,414
Total Debt: $308,822
Current Estimated Net Worth: $278,592
June 2012 estimate: $274,611
Change in net worth: +$3,981
Summary: Modest gains in all our retirement accounts and a modest amount of saving and debt repayment add up again! We need to increase our net worth by $4,282 per month to reach our goal by year's end, but considering this was a month when we didn't pay much extra on debt at all, this is a good result.
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 very approximate. 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.
Not doing too great this week so far:
10 min. workout: No. 10/16
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,521. 16/16
No night snacks: Success. 15/16
10 min. workout: No. 10/17
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,688. 17/17
No night snacks: Fail. Had drinks and sweets. 15/17
Hoping to at least hold steady on my weight this week! It's a social one, which can lead to both more eating and less exercising.
So last year I did the Chase Sapphire offer for a $500 bonus (which I eventually turned into a $1000 bonus after much threatening and wrangling). I decided to try again this year, even though the reward is down to $400, and I wasn't sure it would work to do the same card again.
Well, I checked my rewards balance tonight because I knew my statement would close today, and ... it worked! I just redeemed for a $440.96 check, which by the way is 79 cents over my budget shortfall. So that problem is totally cleared up; I don't need to take more money out of the medical fund for now.
So, if anyone did the Chase Sapphire last year and wants another offer, I recommend trying it again!
A small payment to NT's student loan hit, with $56 going to principal, so that's $881 down, $144 to go on the July goal. Hmm...there's only one more debt payment this month that usually pays about $125 to principal. I may send another small payment to make sure I hit my goal. I should be able to scrape together some money somewhere to do that.
We recently had about a $545 shortfall; we thought NT would be returning to full pay this past pay period, but didn't know that he gets paid oddly, so some of the unpaid time was still reflected in the new paycheck. We thought about cutting back our summer fun/vacation fund, but in the end we took the money out of medical savings (since the paycheck had been intended to pay part of NT's wisdom-teeth bill). Hopefully we can make it back up at some point.
We should have a couple of CC rewards coming in soon, to help offset this loss. (Actually, I just thought to check on them all, and my CapOne that I JUST opened and used up on a medical bill has already given me my reward! $105--I just requested a check. So that shortfall is already down to $440. Nice! The statement on my Chase Sapphire double-dip should be ready any day now (statements are dated the 17th of each month), so I'll finally know whether or not double-dips work.
Also, since the good CC cash rewards seem to have dried up, I'm having all 3 of us apply for Delta SkyMiles Amex cards, where we can get 30K points each for spending $500 in 3 months. If we transfer all the points into a single account, there's a chance we can use them to help purchase one of the UK tickets for our trip next year. If not, we can use the miles to save money on a future trip.
Back in June I posted pics of our problematic living space, and you all gave us excellent suggestions to fix it. I wouldn't say these are "before and after" pics, because we still have more that we want to do. But we've made some small, subtle changes that already make me feel less crazy when I look around the room ...
THEN: OK, so here's the view through the hallway from the foyer into the living space ... note record collection and random liquor bottles on left, AA's toy kitchen & the cat's house thingie that AA also plays with more than Noodles does.
The liquor collection fits on two shelves, there's much less junk on top of the shelving unit, and you can probably see there's less clutter on the kitchen island.
THEN: Here's a view from the corner of the kitchen, looking over the island, that attempts to capture as much of the space in one shot as possible.
Less kitchen clutter, one less entertainment shelving unit in the far corner.
THEN: Here's the kitchen straight-on ... very small space. The stuff that's out pretty much has to be out; we've used most of the cabinet space to its capacity.
Found storage for most food stuff, moved coffee station to corner, moved our most-used spices out onto the counter.
THEN: Here's the dining room/crafts room. The sewing cabinet is behind the dining room table; the sewing machine lowers into it, which is super sweet because it's one less bit of "stuff" visible. To the left is my pet peeve, the sewing supplies storage unit.
You can see AS's project in progress, cutting down on amount of fabric and storing it around pieces of cardboard for a more uniform look. (The stuff on top of the cabinet will get stowed away once our new bed frame arrives.) Also, no more kitchen supplies in this cabinet; it's all sewing or household supplies.
THEN: Here's the view of the DVD/CD/videogame storage that AS finds problematic. I will admit that the clock which was there when we had a much taller entertainment center looks sort of silly and off-center.
We reduced our CD/DVD collection, getting rid of some, putting others in books. Some CDs are stored in the drawers under the TV, but once we get more shelves to put in that narrow CD shelving unit, most or all of them will fit there. I also moved the weights that were visible under the TV, to under the couch where they can't bee seen. This is very incomplete; we want to take down the clock and those little white pieces of paper and put in a single, striking piece of art in that big blank space.
THEN: This built-in cabinet is against the wall by the window, and in the lower right you can see the toy shelf and the board games shelf just peeking out behind the couch -- the couch is about 8 inches away from the shelf, so getting games is a pain, but we don't play them that often now that we have kids, so it doesn't matter too much. If we had room elsewhere, that's something I'd consider moving (the board games).
Closer view of the toys and games:
We got rid of a TON of toys and books so that we could simplify here and put the rest away in the girls' room. We moved some of the puzzles and games under the couch. We still have a few DVDs we're getting rid of, and we'll be able to put more puzzles and games in the TV drawers once we move the CDs out of there.
THEN: And, just so you can see some of the more "necessary" clutter -- AA's blackboard, our rocking chair, the bassinet up on two chairs, the swing, the bouncy seat -- so you can see why I want to simplify elsewhere and give my eyes a rest! (To the left in this shot you can see the balcony door covered by the brown curtain.)
A slight overall improvement, to my eyes.
If I get a chance today, I'll do a beginning-middle set of kitchen storage pics. That is more complete than the overall space, but there's still some work we're planning there.
10 min. workout: No. 6/11
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,498. 11/11
No night snacks: Success. 11/11
10 min. workout: Yes, 25 min. 7/12
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,186. 12/12
No night snacks: Success. 12/12
10 min. workout: Yes, 25 min. 8/13
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,933. 13/13
No night snacks: Success. 13/13
10 min. workout: Yes, 20 min. 9/14
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,766. 14/14
No night snacks: Slipped up a bit. It wasn't terrible; oven-roasted chickpeas w/olive oil, and a banana w/ peanut butter. 13/14
10 min. workout: Yes. 10/15
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,421. 15/15
No night snacks: Success. 14/15
I did slip up a bit in the calorie department these past few days, but the longer workouts must have balanced it out. I weighed in at 136, 2 lbs. less than last week! Very very pleased, and motivated to keep it up this coming week.
10-min. workout: Yep.
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,414.
No night snacks: Success.
10 min. workout: I don't think I'm up to it tonight. Total so far: 6/10
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,256. 10/10
No night snacks: No problem. Half the calories were in dinner, so I'm stuffed. 10/10
It's been a hectic couple of days!
I worked Monday and took today as parental leave instead, because NT got his wisdom teeth taken out and he needed a driver to take him there, wait there and drive him home.
Monday AS and I went to the sheriff's office and got fingerprinted as part of a background check for adopting each other's kids. It took ages and little SL absolutely hated the wait. I thought the other people waiting to get fingerprinted were going to scream themselves after a few minutes of her crying echoing through the dingy little hall we were in.
Today I got a carshare, we dropped AA off at daycare and took SL with us to the dental appointment. Surgery went well, and NT was only a bit slow and dazed from the anesthesia. I drove him to the pharmacy to get his painkiller and antibiotic and some mango sorbet (also picked up some junk food for me because I hadn't had time to eat). Then I got him home, changed the gauze in his mouth, got him some soft food and milk to eat so he could take his meds, fed SL her bottle, dropped the car off and walked home.
In another hour I had to go to the dermatologist, so I strapped SL in and took her with me. Also picked up some ibuprofen for NT, and mailed off a package as well as the background check packet.
Got home and rushed to make some lentil dal so NT could eat and take more painkillers. The second round of Percocet really hit him and he was finally able to nap. SL and I napped too, until it was time for me to pick up AA from daycare. I left SL with NT since she was fast asleep, walked to daycare, and AA and I walked back home. She's a good little walker but you have to keep on her to hurry, and she always wants to stop and touch flowers, grass, etc., which I can't say no to most of the time.
Then AS and I cooked a dinner of all soft foods so NT could eat it too: scrambled eggs/tofu, smashed new potatoes, and stewed apples. AS said she'd been skeptical they'd all go together but would actually have it again sometime!
AS and NT helped me clean up and get AA to bed, and then they went out to trivia night. So, don't think I have a workout in me, but I did a ton of walking and stayed under my calorie range, so I'm happy.
On the reorg front, we got rid of the CD bookcase, someone said he'll pick up the empty DVD cases tomorrow, and I Freecycled our bed frame and box spring for someone to pick up once our new one (which will give us more storage) arrives. Hope someone takes us up on it. I did notice a lot of other people offering mattresses, box springs and bed frames on Freecycle, but I don't get the "Taken" emails so don't know if people take that sort of thing.
We talked about a few more things we could do around the house. AS wants to sit down and sketch out a plan of everything; we are making progress but it's a bit haphazard at times.
In other health news, AS is working SOO hard to get her milk supply up, but it appears that work, plus SL sleeping through the night, have affected it too much. We bought a box of formula to have around. May make it a few more weeks without supplementing; if not, we'll do a combination for as long as AS can. Same thing happened to me around the 3.5/4 month mark with AA, and I hung on doing half-and-half for another 3 months.
At this point she'd only need to supplement with a bottle here and there; she's not much short but when she goes to work, she doesn't bring home as much as we pull out of the fridge and freezer.
The formula will be an added cost, BUT, not too much at first, and AA is going to get potty trained in September, so not buying compostable diapers in a few months will offset the formula costs in the grocery/household budget.
NT has a vasectomy scheduled for later in the month. I'm glad the wisdom teeth surgery didn't affect him much, since he'll have something else to recover from soon! The dental surgery was $705; not sure about the other one.
I'm putting off getting a dental checkup; should have gotten one in June, but I know I want to switch dentists again and just can't face the hassle and uncertainty, what with everything else going on.
I do have my annual physical this month. My job is offering $200 of flex spending next year if we check off a certain number of preventive health measures this year. I'm going to take the list to my OB/GYN and see how many she can do in one visit! I want that $200. (And then watch, next year will be a super cheap health year and I'll struggle to use it. I always have either way too much or way too little flex money.)
We've been trying really really hard to eat through our CSA and the pantry and cut down on grocery/household expenses. One week we only spent about $20 on food! This past week it was $110 or so; still really good for us. However, with diapers, wipes, cat food, a bike light and a bus pass, we still struggled. So far we're about $25 into our July 16-31 grocery amount, so we're still behind and need to be smart about our food spending this week. We've only let one thing from the CSA go to waste; some basil in the fridge that looks like it's about to go. AS might try to dry it before it goes bad, so maybe we won't even waste that! (Oh, and I tried a cilantro-scape pesto that was nearly unsalvageable, but that was a different kind of waste so I don't feel as bad about that.)
Still scheming and dreaming about saving money for a house/moving fund, but until we get all our medical bills for the summer settled, and see what our new mortgage payment will be in November, I can't really do anything tangible about it. Once those hurdles are out of the way, should start to see some real movement on that fund!
My job just got a huge new project from our biggest account, and I've noticed a ton of promotion announcements this past week. So I'm hoping in the spring we'll be doing well enough to talk raises! NT's work seems to be doing well enough for an Xmas bonus, and he hopes to get either a raise or more PTO soon.
So anyway, you can see why I'm exhausted. Physically ran around a lot today, and mentally I'm all over the place!
Got some fitness progress to catch up on:
10-min. exercise? No for July 5-6, yes for July 7-8. 5/8
Calorie counting? Yes for all four days:
July 5: estimated 1,313.
July 6: estimated 1,188.
July 7: estimated 2,516. (Date night!)
July 8: estimated 1,085.
Avoid night snacking? Yes for all four days. 8/8
My weight held pretty steady; I'm now at exactly 138, which is what I was rounding up to anyway. After the decadent desserts and drinks of date night, I feel lucky not to have slid backward!
The home declutter/reorg is gradually but steadily continuing.
- I got the CD/DVD jackets I ordered and put all of my and AS's discs in there, and threw away the cases. (Well, the DVD cases I put up on Freecycle, figuring someone who burns DVDs might want them. If I don't hear from anyone in the next day or two I'll throw them away.) I fit all the CDs and DVDs in one case except a few rows that I stored in the entertainment center drawers for now; when NT thins his collection and orders more shelves for the bigger storage unit, they should all fit there.
- I freecycled the now-empty storage unit and someone will be picking it up today or tomorrow. Once that's gone, it will leave a big blank wall that would be a great place for some original art. We know a couple artists and I'd love to support one of them, if they have something that would look good in our place.
- I put some of our board games under the sofa, and moved the remaining ones to the two lower shelves so that the one that's most visible is empty and clean. We'll try to keep it free of anything permanent and just store laptop, iPad and remotes there when not in use.
- NT ordered a higher bed frame for our king-size bed, which is now too low to the ground to store much under. Once that arrives, we'll be able to store some things under there (perhaps AS's larger bolts of fabric, for example).
- AS hemmed the balcony door curtains and sewed them together so they'd have a neater appearance. She'll do the matching window curtain soon.
All in all, the differences may be subtle, but it's feeling cleaner and more restful to us. I'll post before-and-after pics when we're at a better place.
One night last week, thinking about the need to save $80K to move to England, I started wondering how fast we could reach that goal if we deployed a "nuclear option"; pared our budget down to its bare bones and cut out all fun stuff, other savings and extra debt repayment.
The next day I got spreadsheet-happy and mocked up a drastically severe (for us) budget. All I kept were:
Condo association dues
Minimum student loan interest
Barber (but cut down frequency)
Medical EF savings
Cable and Internet
Xmas & bdays
CSA (farm share)
Extra student loan repayment
I was slightly shocked to see that we could raise over $4,000 per month (assuming no emergencies arose) and have the remaining $79K needed to reach $80K in a year and a half.
I showed it to AS and NT; they were suitably impressed. We're not going to implement this, at least not for the foreseeable future, but it's good to know that we have that ability. While this would be a difficult and not-fun exercise, it would be a good option if a chance to move to England did suddenly arise and we needed to turbo-charge our saving. At this point we're just going to see how much we can save while keeping our normal budget. If we do that for a year or so, maybe we can see how far we've gotten and re-consider the "nuclear option" then, which would be achievable in an even shorter window of time once we have some more of the $80K already saved up.
Speaking of the $1000 we already set aside for this house/moving fund, I decided to open a Barclays online savings account; it pays 1% interest and says it compounds daily. That's at least 10X the rate I get on my savings account that's linked to my checking account, so I think it's a good option. We decided we wanted zero risk on the house/moving fund, since the economy and markets are still so volatile.
And speaking of England, we semi-finalized our plans for a trip to bring the new little'un to meet her British grandparents. We decided to devote nearly a whole year's worth of vacation funds (and 9 days of PTO) so we can go for a full two weeks. At this point, plane tickets are so expensive that it would seem like a waste to go for less than that amount of time, but any more than that and we wouldn't have any vacation time to use around the winter holidays. We're going to go in late May or early June of next year, so we can take advantage of the Memorial Day holiday as part of it.
We figure airfare alone will be about $4K. Then we have to budget for travel insurance, rental car w/carseats, possibly a hotel for a few days (though we'll stay with people at least some of the time to economize), food/entertainment, and possibly boarding our kitty somewhere (or paying catsitters to come see him).
I reckon we can save $8500 between now and the trip, so after airfare (assuming we can get the price I'm counting on) that leaves $4500 for all of the above. If we're smart about planning, we'll be able to manage.
10-min. exercise? Nope. I did walk a total of 60 mins. outside in the heat, but it wasn't vigorous. Hopefully it counted for something. Results: 2/3 days
Calorie counting? Yes: estimated 1,564. 3/3
Avoid night snacking? Yes. 3/3
10-min. exercise? Yes. 3/4
Calorie counting? Yes: estimated 2,243. 4/4
Avoid night snacking? After that dinner? You bet. 4/4
After resolving we need to save up money if we're ever going to move, we actually sat down and tried to guesstimate what we might need for our two scenarios. We even checked out homes in our desired areas in Oxford, UK and Minneapolis, just to see what they would likely cost. (A lot of our other numbers are off-the-cuff guesses, which we hope to refine as one or the other of our two goals comes more into focus.) Anyway, here's our first rough set of numbers for each scenario:
Costs & offsets of moving: To UK (Oxford) in British pounds, then U.S. dollars
Home Price £ 325,000 $520,000
Upgrade US condo:
Kitchen £ 3,125 $5,000
Bathroom £ 3,125 $5,000
Floors £ 1,563 $2,500
Misc. (painting etc.) £ 625 $1,000
Immigration (lawyer, fees) £ 2,500 $4,000
Shipping £ 625 $1,000
Income interruption £ 5,000 $8,000
Interim lodging £ 1,875 $3,000
TOTAL COSTS £ 343,438 $549,500
New mortgage (assuming max amt we could prob qualify for) £ 225,000 $360,000
Profit from sale of UK flat £ 68,000 $108,800
TOTAL OFFSETS £ 293,000 $468,800
SAVINGS NEEDED £ 50,438 $80,700
Costs & offsets of moving: To U.S. (somewhere w/in Mpls)
Home Price $350,000
Upgrade US condo:
Misc. (painting etc.) $1,000
Immigration (lawyer, fees)
Interim lodging $3,000
TOTAL COSTS $367,500
New mortgage (assuming 80% of cost of new home est. above) $280,000
Profit from sale of UK flat $108,800
TOTAL OFFSETS $388,800
SAVINGS NEEDED None, the above works out to a $21,300 surplus.
So basically what to infer from the above? If our calculations are anywhere near accurate, and we sold NT's UK flat, broke even on the U.S. one (after updating it) and borrowed as indicated for our new mortgage, to move to England we'd need to save an additional $80K cash, whereas to move within MN we'd actually have a $20K surplus with similar assumptions.
That means it would cost us an additional $100K to move to UK vs. staying in MN. Kind of staggering, until you look at how much we've managed to pay off of debt and raise our net worth in the past three years. If it's really worth it to us to do this, it's not an impossible sum of money.
Anyway, we've decided we should at least start saving toward that $80K mark for moving to the UK. If it turns out we can't move, it won't hurt to have set money aside. I'm thinking I'll open a money market account or online savings account so we at least make a bit of money on the savings.
We decided to take $1000 of the money we saved by my family refusing my offer to fly them out to see us, and start the fund with that. So, as I have the money in checking (just haven't opened a money market to put it in), that makes $1,000 down, $79,000 to go. There's no timeline to this goal yet; I'll put it out there if it becomes more clearly defined. Right now it's just, put as much money as possible toward the $80K goal, without disrupting any of our other goals or budget items.
The U.S. mortgage hit: $443 went to principal, taking us to $825 down, $200 to go on the July debt goal.
July 2 fitness results:
10-min. workout? Check.
Counted calories? Check; 1347.
No night snack? Check.
Our new HGTV obsession continues. Not only has it caused us to look at tweaking the design and organization of our place, it's also made our conversations about a future home slightly more concrete.
We know that at some point -- in a few years, when the girls are older -- we'll want a slightly larger place. It's been really hard to entertain that notion seriously, because we have two possible, very different paths. One is to move to England or possibly continental Europe permanently. The other is to resign ourselves that we won't be able to do that, and set down at least semipermanent roots here in Minnesota. (We love MN, but it's our second choice.)
But, watching HGTV (which focuses more on real estate and house-hunting than renovating existing places) has made us start to visualize it more realistically. We don't know which path we'll take, or when, but some of the issues will be the same either way. They are:
- Underwater mortgage on our U.S. condo.
- Unknown equity on UK flat.
- Money needed to get our U.S. condo into sale-ready condition.
- Money needed for moving expenses (much more, obviously, if we go the EU route).
- Money needed for down payment on new place.
Translation: Whichever route we take, we'll need cash, and lots of it.
We don't have a discrete moving/house fund set aside. I've always thought we could temporarily drain our EF if needed (i.e. if we couldn't sell our places timely and/or didn't have any/enough equity after the sale). But even factoring that in, we have less than US$15,000. That's just not a lot of money when thinking about all of the above. Whether we move to a bigger place in MN or to the UK, we'll be looking at purchasing a more expensive place than we currently have, and we're not even sure we can tap any equity on our current places.
Since AS was notified of an upcoming raise, I've been idly turning over in my mind where it should go (if our ARM doesn't adjust upward in November). Our budget is basically in balance, and pretty generous, but I'll be honest: We're not naturally thrifty, and there are spending areas we'd gladly increase -- clothing, eating out, grocery, gifts.
However, I was thinking more of putting the extra money to debt or savings. We've already raised our "wants" category recently by adding the carshare. Time to focus on practical things.
Now, talking to AS this morning, it seems clear that we should start building a moving/house fund with any additional money that comes our way, so we'll be in a more comfortable position in a few years when it's time to take the leap.
First, I want to rebuild our decimated medical fund to at least $5,000 and our emergency fund to $20,000. But once I get to those levels, unless they get depleted again and need rebuilding, I want to focus hard on saving for our future home.
AS intends to try and pick up freelance editing jobs again once her maternity leave is over, and we should be able to put most of that money into savings. Hopefully NT and I will be looking at raises and bonuses in the next year or so, and if nothing else changes in our financial life we'll be able to dump those into a home fund as well.
It's nice to have a new resolve and a new focus! We're a long way from being able to afford to move, but I believe we can do it if we all work together.
The UK mortgages hit:
#1: $268 to principal
All told, $382 down, $643 to go on the July debt repayment goal.
Also, we had US$600 in the UK checking account left over after the mortgage payments hit, which I was able to transfer into UK savings for the EF. That puts our EF savings at $14,724.41 -- FINALLY above our $14,472.57 starting point again! Let's see if it'll last -- seems like every time we make some progress, an unexpected expense hits. We have basically no hope of reaching the $20K goal this year -- we'll make it our 2013 goal and hope for the best!
I've been thinking about AS's raise of $84+ per month, which we're not allocating until we find out what our mortage will adjust to come Nov. 1. I looked around online to try and see if anyone had predictions on the future of ARM rates, and I did find one site that predicted rates would stay low through the end of the year (http://www.hsh.com/2month4cast.html). I would be ecstatic if our mortgage payment stayed about the same and we were able to allocate that raise money to something else!
We made some decent progress on trying to simplify our cluttered main living area. We tried putting some test sheets of fabric over all the open shelving. We didn't mind the one we put over the fabric cabinet, but the cumulative effect of cloth on all the shelves was a bit overwhelming. AS said it looked like portions of our place had been "redacted." LOL.
So, we're going forward with putting fabric over the sewing supplies, but our goal for the other shelves will just be to simplify so there's less to look at.
NT doesn't want to get rid of the jackets for his DVDs or CDs, but AS and I don't mind about ours. So I took all the DVDs that classified as ours -- all our belongings are more or less shared, but there were about 80 DVDs that NT doesn't care about that are only here because AS or I love them. I took those down and stored them away and ordered a 100-DVD storage book on Amazon. I also pulled out my CDs (about 40) and ordered a 48-CD holder. The three of us also went through our collections and eliminated about 40 DVDs and 15 CDs, which we'll Freecycle, eBay or give to friends. (I've already got a friend who wants our 7 Seinfeld box sets!)
NT is going to go through his CDs tomorrow and see if he can give up a few more.
With this slimming down, we're hoping to get all our CDs, DVDs and videogames to fit on the one larger shelving unit so we can get rid of the smaller unit. That will simplify that corner of the room.
We read a great article about how American kids are less self-sufficient and more pampered than ever before (http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2012/07/02/120702crbo_books_kolbert) and one thing NT was struck by was talking about how much STUFF an American kid has. He'd suggested paring down the toys and books before but I'd kind of put him off. But in the new spirit of decluttering, and in light of this article, we've decided to have another go. That will help cut down on the toy shelf in the living room too; I've decided to keep just one row of books and have the other shelves only contain a few aesthetically pleasing toys. The rest will go in her room (and STAY there dammit! ).
Once I get rid of my DVD and CD cases, which are currently taking up a drawer in the TV table, we'll put some of our board games there. That will simplify the appearance of that shelf.
Once again I can't do pictures yet, since the Seinfeld and other DVDs to be gotten rid of are now out on countertops. We did get rid of the other stuff that was sitting out, but it's still a work in progress!
June debt results: paid off $1069, a bit over the $1000 goal. Ending balance $309,703
June fitness results: worked out 24 of the 30 days, counted calories 28 days, avoided night snacking 27 days. AND, I just weighed in at 138, 4 lbs. lighter than last week! First time I've been under 139 since before I was pregnant in 2009. This is a big boost that I really needed.
Debt: Pay off at least $1025. This will hopefully be the last puny debt-repayment month; August we're on to our new budget where there should be about $1000 extra for debt each month!
Fitness: I'm so glad I had some significant weight loss this week, because it's inspired me to stay the course. So I'm still going to try for 10 minutes of vigorous exercise daily, calorie counting every day, and no night snacking save for my exceptions of fruit, veggies, peanut butter or tea.
To that end, here are my results for today, July 1:
10-min. workout: 20 min. playing wiffle ball w/AA in the park. Results so far: 1/31
Calorie counting: Estimated 1356. Results so far: 1/31
No night snacks: Success! Results so far: 1/31