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Archive for August, 2012

Reached August debt goal!

August 29th, 2012 at 04:14 am

Yay! I got home from trivia (where we won first place and a $30 gift card that paid half our bill) and decided to check NT's student loan account. My little snowflake payment hit, with $18 going to principal. That takes us to $2011 paid for the month!

I'll post next month's goals when I'm a bit more focused.

Debt progress & fitness tracking

August 28th, 2012 at 03:05 pm

AS's student loan hit, with $127 going to principal. That takes us to $1993 down, $7 to go on the August goal. So close! I sent a $50 payment to one of NT's loans yesterday, so it should hit tomorrow with hopefully about $20 going to principal. I took the money from September's budget; just couldn't stand to miss our goal by such a small amount! Smile

On to fitness.

Aug. 26
10-min. workout: No. 6/26
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,219. 26/26
No night snacks: Success; stuck to fruit and peanut butter. 20/26

Aug. 27
10-min. workout: No. 6/27
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,206. 27/27
No night snacks: Success; stuck to fruit and peanut butter. 21/27

Two really low calorie days! My general goalposts are 1280 to 1400. I didn't feel deprived, so hopefully it wasn't too low. I've been terrible about working out, but I plan to pick it up again in September.

I weighed in exactly the same on Sunday, not an ounce gained or lost. I'm OK with that. Hopefully I can move the needle this week by being very careful with my eating!

Slowly whittling down the list of financial unknowns

August 27th, 2012 at 07:55 pm

Remember my big list of financial unknowns coming up this year? Well, it's gotten shorter:

- What health bills will come in for the rest of the year (still expecting some)
- When I can add SL to my healthcare (I've got the paperwork with me today, so should be soon!)
- What my paycheck will net out to once the above is established
- DONE: What AS's raise will actually net out to
- DONE: 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
- What our mortgage payment will be starting Nov. 1

We'd already decided to take $2750 of financial aid for NT. Well, I was finally able to view the tuition bill, and it was $3879.64. Minus financial aid, that leaves us on the hook for $1,129.64. Almost all covered by what would have been our extra debt repayment for September, so totally do-able. I'll pay this off after our 9/15 paychecks hit.

With any luck, all these variables will be settled in September (with the possible exception of more medical bills) and I can fine-tune my budget for the rest of the year accordingly. So close!

What's wrong with this house?

August 27th, 2012 at 03:38 am

I've been poking around real estate listings lately, mostly because of the article about prices recovering in Minneapolis. I started out looking for other units in our building that had sold (none have too recently), and ended up looking around our neighborhood to see what single-family homes are going for.

I ran across this listing and was puzzled but intrigued. On the market for $93K but with a Zestimate of more than twice that. There are no photos of the interior, and some of the exterior shots are of a very unkempt lawn. I wonder what other things are probably wrong with it?

It's a block or two away from daycare, so I will probably take a small detour at some point, out of curiosity.

Our current plan is to stay in the condo for a few more years. If a path to England becomes clear, we'll hold off buying a larger home and just save up for a move. If at some point we think England is a long ways away, we may set down roots here in the form of a non-condo home. (We're kind of longing for a lawn and garden and such.)

But with such a cheap place in such a desirable neighborhood, it does feel kind of tempting to take a leap now. Our current mortgage is at $162K. I value our home at $160K in my calculations, but if I'm forced to be honest, in the past year they haven't sold for anywhere near that. It may get to that point again fairly quickly if the market really is improving, but I would guess the value is somewhere between $125K and $145K. Don't know if we could even sell it for that with its dated kitchen, bathroom and other finishings (compared with some of the more updated units for sale in our association).

The thought of ditching this mortgage for a less than $90K one, even if we were still on the hook for part of our underwater mortgage, is very tempting. But I'm sure if that house is so cheap, it would need a TON of work that we wouldn't be able to afford. We can't invest a ton into living here until we know whether or not it's for good. Buying w/intention of "flipping" in a few years seems like the kind of risky move we're just not equipped for. And then there's the problem of ditching the condo. And, I do still love our condo, so I think I'd only want to leave it for something I loved equally or more. Though the lower payments would help us get farther faster.

This is not really serious. But I am going to walk past the house at some point, just to see what's up.

Fitness tracking, super-cheap grocery trip, other rambling

August 26th, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Aug. 24
10-min. workout: No. 5/24
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,478. 24/24
No night snacks: Success. 19/24

Aug. 25
10-min. workout: Yes, 20 min. 6/25
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 2,061. 25/25 (Bummer! I'd managed to go two weeks without going over 2,000 calories per day. At least I wasn't MUCH over.)
No night snacks: Fail, went to a party and snacked/drank like crazy, then came home and had aNOTHER glass of wine! 19/25

Did the grocery shopping yesterday; not counting formula & diapers, we only spent $28! Not bad at all. This should hopefully get us on track for a while, if we continue to be really smart about meal planning.

We'll be potty-training AA in earnest come Labor Day. Initially that will mean more money because she'll be full-time on the compostable pull-ups instead of cloth. But I think she'll catch on pretty quick (we've been practicing on and off), so that will eventually mean a savings in diaper costs.

We decided to try SL on the generic formula since she seems so unpicky about everything. Sure enough, she sucked it down like she does everything else! This will be a big savings, too.

We went to parties Friday and Saturday night; took the bus to and from one; bus/lightrail to the other and some friends gave us a ride home. Nice frugal fun (except the babysitter Sat. night). Today we used some of our carshare budget to head out to a fun kids' bookstore where they have all sorts of live animals hanging around. Someone had given us a $30 gift card at AS's baby shower. We spent $28 and some change, so we got really close! We'll see if the daycare lady wants the $1 or so that's left, since she goes to that store regularly. We got two books for AA and one for SL, and a young adult book that I loved as a kid that I might save and give to them when they're older.

We just never go to book or toy stores! I was really at a loss what to get because they already have so many nice books, most of which we've gotten for free. But I found a cute, only slightly spooky Halloween book for AA, a cloth book that SL can chew on, and a picture book of sharks (AA loves them).

We're gonna switch meals so AS has time to make bread tonight for ratatouille tomorrow. So I'll be making stuffed poblanos and rice.

I'm also going to use up our CSA hot peppers by attempting to make hot sauce tonight. But I'm going to wait until the girls go to bed, in case it makes the air spicy (as seems to happen sometimes when making spicy food). AS might make zucchini bread tonight, and NT already made curry for lunches.

Menu planning for the week; got adoption record!

August 25th, 2012 at 04:42 am

Friday dinner
party; hosts provided food

Saturday lunch
Veggie burgers, fries, coleslaw
Make zucchini bread for breakfasts

Saturday dinner
BLTs & corn on the cob

Sunday lunch
Thai curry w/ seitan & squash & 2 ears corn; rice
Find use for CSA hot peppers (pickling, harissa?)

Sunday dinner
Ratatouille with homemade bread

Monday
Stuffed poblanos (tomatillos, crumbles, corn) & rice

Tuesday
Garlic toss pasta w/ cherry tomatoes & parsley

Wednesday
Thai food delivery

Thursday
Chix parmesan w/ spaghetti & tomato sauce; side of green beans

Shopping lists:

Rainbow:
apples
berries
bananas
2 onions
carrots
bread
1 crushed tomatoes*
white vinegar
1 apple juice (c)
bagels

Wedge:
milk
paper towels
loo rolls
cumin

That's it! We cut to the bare minimum this week, because we're going to go a bit into next month's grocery money. The only things needed for our dinners are the bread, onions, cumin and crushed tomatoes. The fruits and bagels are for lunches and breakfast, the carrots are to make baby food, the vinegar is for laundry.

NT is going to bring some bananas from work that are too ripe for people to eat, and we'll have banana bread for breakfasts too. We've got chickpeas and curry sauce already, so he'll make curries for lunches and we'll also have leftovers from some of the dinners for lunch. There's also still some free hummus samples from the farmer's market and some of my homemade baba ganoush.

NT said I could forgo my turn to buy wine until next week. We have some partial boxes of white and red that will last us until next Friday. I drink less now that I'm counting calories anyway. So that's $10 extra of spending money that I get to keep for a while. I'm going to try not to spend it so I can pay for next week's wine.

***

Came home from the party tonight and NT checked the mail. We got packets from our lawyer with the adoption records! It was official when our hearing ended, but now it feels extra official. Now we REALLY should get a safe deposit box! We're accumulating more and more important documents.

I can take my copy to work and get SL added as a dependent on my healthcare on Monday. Nice monthly savings will result!

More interesting finance stories, weekend plans, fitness tracking

August 24th, 2012 at 04:12 pm

More interesting money articles on Yahoo! today. They're on a roll ...

This one is about rather outrageous kid allowances. We haven't started giving AA an allowance yet and haven't decided when to start or how to handle it. I do want to use it as an opportunity to start her financial education a lot earlier than mine started. I only got an allowance starting in 10th grade, and it wasn't combined with any lessons.

This is a rather depressing story about our shrinking middle... I've actually done great in terms of income and net worth over the past decade, but partly that's because of how badly we were screwing up before I came to this site. Most of us here are doing great with what we have, but just think how much better we'd be doing if more and more of the wealth didn't keep getting funneled to and hoarded by the top 1%!

And speaking of the top 1% hoarding wealth ...

***

We get our spending money out today, and I've already got it spent in my head!

I get $80, and I owe in $5, so I have $75 to spend essentially. $20 is going in an envelope for the play I want to see next year, $20 will go for my portion of babysitter wages for Saturday, about $15 will pay for wine for the week (we take turns and it's mine). That leaves $20. On Wednesday I'm treating my old boss and my family to Thai delivery; I hope to keep that to $50 with tax & tip.

That will leave me $30 in the hole for next Friday, so I'll only take out $50 then. $20 will go to the theater envelope, leaving me $30. Essentially I have $30 out of the next two weeks unallocated. Much tighter than usual! That's OK, I'll try to view it as a fun challenge to spend as little as possible for the next couple weeks. I really want to start saving up for a couple wardrobe updates!

We have a birthday party tonight and another one Saturday. Lots of my friends are turning or about to turn 40, so I expect a wave of parties. People are more likely to throw parties on the big 3-0, 4-0, etc. I told AS & NT that I didn't really want to chip in for gifts, so we're using a Barnes & Noble gift card to get them some cute novelty items, plus AS picked up a $2 "I'm the birthday boy" button at a thrift store for one of them. Glad to have one less expense to worry about! Also, tonight's party is kid-friendly (starts early & everything), so we only have to get a sitter for Saturday's.

***

Fitness tracking for the past few days:

Aug. 20
10-min. workout: No. 4/20
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,480. 20/20
No night snacks: Success. 17/20

Aug. 21
10-min. workout: No vigorous exercise, though I did walk home from work (30 min.). 4/21
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,636. 21/21
No night snacks: Fail (had wine at trivia). 17/21

Aug. 22
10-min. workout: Yes! 5/22
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,440. 22/22
No night snacks: Success. 18/22

Aug. 23
10-min. workout: No. 5/23
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,527. 23/23
No night snacks: Fail, though I kept it to a very small snack. 18/23

Clearly my 10-min. workout idea has run out of steam, at least for now. I need a new "trick" to get myself more active. These are the ideas I'm pondering for next month:
- My job is doing a yoga tutorial and pedometer challenge, so I think I'll sign up for those and try to really get into it.
- Bike riding on weekends, at least to do groceries but hopefully for pleasure too.
- Baby dance party at least one weeknight per week, where I play dance videos and dance around with AA and SL.
- Mild weight training regimen; at least two nights per week of upper body free weights, two nights per week of lower-body and ab exercises.

I have this weekend to ponder how to structure it and will post new fitness goals for September along with my debt-repayment goal.

Interesting finance articles on Yahoo this morning

August 23rd, 2012 at 03:59 pm

Usually I flip through the top headlines (which are almost all fluff stories) on Yahoo and read one or two. Today there were several that dealt with interesting finance-related topics, so I thought I'd share:

High-end clothing hoarder who filled a 4,000-square-foot home with clothes

Most Americans toss out 40% of the food they purchase

On the flip side, Americans dealing with hunger

And finally, the top 10 cities where housing prices are on the rise. Minneapolis is #2, thank gawd! Would love to be less underwater than we are now (or breaking even would be even better!).

Pondering an envelope system for my fun money

August 21st, 2012 at 09:12 pm

This time of the summer I always start to feel a financial pinch. We go out more, people visit more, maybe I'm just a bit freer with my spending money because I feel more social, less cautious/frugal and more up for fun outside the home.

We each get $80 every Friday for spending. It's a princely sum, I think, yet especially during the summer we find ourselves running through it quickly.

The money is for anything not covered by our regular budget: restaurants & takeout, booze, clothing, babysitters, movies, taxis, CDs/DVDs/etc., incidentals that fall outside the grocery/household category, gifts (we do save separately for Xmas and bday for the nuclear family, but extended family/friends, as well as anniversary/Valentine gifts, we have to cover ourselves), etc.

Most weeks I don't get much of the above, so a lot of times I'll find myself stashing most of the cash in my dresser. Then I might make a bigger purchase once I have some money saved, like a big order of vegan snacks online, or treating AS & NT to gourmet pizza delivery, or a wardrobe refresh of several outfits/shoes.

But lately, I don't have any money left over, which would make it hard to save up for a big purchase. I'm considering going to "The Book of Mormon," a Broadway comedy/musical coming to Minneapolis in February. Looks like tickets are in the $100-$120 range. I'd also want to bring AS or NT or both. So that would really add up.

It just occurred to me that maybe I should put an envelope in my dresser earmarked for the tickets, and put $20 per week in there. If I do that most weeks, I should have enough to treat us all to a night at the theater, something I never typically spend money on, so it would be a really special thing to do.

I should also try to save up some money for new winter clothes and/or alterations of my existing ones, since I've lost a bit more weight, and my clothes were already starting to be too big for me last winter. That will need to happen sooner than the theater, so I guess I'll start another envelope and stash everything left over at the end of each week.

We love the cash spending money system because it's the one part of our financial lives where no one has to be accountable to anyone else. But I think for these bigger purchases I'm going to have to plan a bit more than I usually do.

Meal planning, good weigh-in, fitness tracking, other news

August 20th, 2012 at 04:18 pm

I'm late posting our meal plan because I've taken more of a backseat for a week or two, to rest up before I take the lead again when NT goes back to school. AS has really stepped up and with NT's help has done most of the cooking and meal planning! It's been really nice.

I think we'll have gone over budget on groceries (I still need to add it up after we buy canola oil), but we did stock up a bit on rice, flour, veggie "meats" that we had coupons for, and laundry detergent. Next week we should have to buy very little, since we have all the staples we need to build meals for the CSA veggies.

MENU:
Friday
Veggie burgers, cole slaw, green beans

Saturday lunch
Vegan Thai Lettuce Wraps and Stir-Fried Bok Choy with Roasted Peanuts

Saturday dinner
Breadcrumb pasta with cherry tomatoes
make baba for lunches, make seitan for mock duck sandwiches

Sunday lunch
Southern fried tofu, Succotash with edamame

Sunday dinner
Enchiladas

Monday
Pasta with sauteed zucchini, garlic, lemon and parsley


Tuesday
Barbecue mock duck sandwiches with corn on the cob and crosshatched squash


Wednesday
Pancakes, hash (bacon bits/garlic/potato/bell pepper/tomato/parsley)
defrost pizza dough

Thursday
Pizza

GROCERY LISTS:

Rainbow:
potatoes
apples
berries
pluots
bananas
garlic
lettuce
veggie burgers & facon (c)
Gardein burgers or chik strips (c)
bread (C)
panko breadcrumbs
coffee filters #4 (c)
pasta (c)
salsa
crushed tomatoes*
Ziploc bags (c)
degree deodorant (c)
hash browns (c)
frozen peas (c)
orange cheddar
muffins
bagels

Wedge:
sandwich fillings
firm tofu
6 eggs
peanuts (1/2 cup)
chickpeas
flour
rice
loo rolls
laundry detergent
1C black beans
chick peas
chili powder
paprika
oregano
sesame seeds
cheese strings
Australian cheddar

Hai Nguyen
rice vinegar

Target
veg/canola oil

***

Had a very good weigh-in last night; I lost over 3 lbs.! Back to 134 with 5 lbs. to go to reach my 2012 goal weight. I'm excited, because my goal is to lose those pounds before Thanksgiving and then hopefully just maintain through the food-happy winter holidays.

We do have some parties and other things planned, but I'm really going to try and behave so I don't stall or lose ground. One positive thing I'm doing is skipping the State Fair this year. For me, the reason to go is to eat fair food, and I always go overboard. I'm going to stay home with the kids (who are really too young to get much out of it) and send NT and AS with some tupperware and one or two food requests (versus the 5 or 10 things I'd normally eat while there).

I'll miss the fair, but it's the right thing to do this year.

Anyway, fitness tracking for the past couple days:

Aug. 16
10-min. workout: No. 3/16
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,447. 16/16
No night snacks: Success (just had fruit). 14/16

Aug. 17
10-min. workout: No. 3/17
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,705. 17/17
No night snacks: Success. 15/17

Aug. 18
10-min. workout: YES! 25 min. 4/18
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,752. 18/18
No night snacks: Fail, had 7 peanut M&Ms. 15/18

Aug. 19
10-min. workout: No. 4/19
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,433. 19/19
No night snacks: Success (just had fruit). 16/19

So overall, yay! I did notice less definition in my tummy last night; was actually afraid I'd gained weight. So I do need to get back into working out, even if it's just strength-training and crunches.

***

I got a nice little freelance proofing assignment from a co-worker doing some side work of her own; $130 for a little over three hours of light proofing. Yay! I'm going to put it to the house/moving fund if we don't need it for anything. That's a bit up in the air because:

On Saturday I came home from grocery shopping to see the bathroom sink half full of black, stinky liquid. NT (by far the handiest in our house) valiantly spent most of the day removing sections of pipe, cleaning, attempting to find clogs, calling the building management and Roto Rooter, etc. But we still have no bathroom sink. Now the Roto Rooter guy said it was due to a clog somewhere below us, and that they'd need to cut into a section of pipe somewhere else. This sounds like something our condo should be responsible for, not us, costwise. So I'm hoping my freelance money will go to the house fund, but it might have to go toward helping cover these costs if there are any.

AS hasn't gotten any more freelance offers since she just missed the last one, but she tends to get bigger-scope, higher-paying freelance jobs, so if she gets any this year it will be a big boost to the house/moving fund.

***

I liked the recent "frugal things I did today" topic, so let me try and think of the frugal things we did this weekend:

Did another big re-org of the kids' clothes, discarding a TON and rearranging the others. This is frugal because it unearths the usable clothing so we don't have to buy any. 99.9% of these clothes are gifts or hand-me-downs. So far we haven't had to buy winter boots or snowsuits for the girls, so accepting clothes from anyone and everyone who offers is a frugal deed, even if it leads to these big archaeological digs every couple months. We'll be giving the extras (4 big boxes!) away on Freecycle, helping someone else be frugal too. We're also getting rid of a crib bumper (now that AA's in a "big girl bed"), thermal cover for small stroller (we'll just use the big stroller if we need to take the girls out in one--NT's going to try and get some money for the cover) and some baby-carrying slings. NT listed the unused pacifiers on eBay, so hopefully we get something for those.

AS decided to cease pumping, and just nurse in the mornings and evenings for a little while longer. Breast pumps are called "single use" by the manufacturer, but AS used the one I used and it worked fine. I don't know if we could sell it, but we might try to get a few bucks on Craiglist. It was $250-$300 new and is still in good condition. If we can't sell it I'll try to Freecycle it, because as long as the user sterilizes the cups and tubes and/or gets new ones, I can't think of any reason why it shouldn't get another life.

SL has made great progress learning to eat rice cereal so is going to start on pureed vegetables tonight. Rather than get the expensive and wasteful little jars of baby food, I'll be cooking, pureeing and straining her veggies as I did with AA. This week we try peas!

I made homemade mock duck (aka seitan or wheat meat) last night; a double batch so we have some for next week too. We figured out that buying the vital wheat gluten and having me make it is about a quarter of the cost of buying canned mock duck.

I made a big batch of baba ganoush (eggplant-tahini puree) for NT and me to use for lunches this week. We had a lot of eggplant from the CSA and had plenty of other veggies to use for dinners, so it would have gone to waste. It will also taste good with CSA tomatoes, which we have way too many to use up with just dinners.

We got more curly parsley from the CSA than we could use, so I hung it upside down to see if it would dry as well as the oregano did. We don't have to buy dried parsley very often, but this would help us avoid it even longer!

I think that's it. I'll try to note the frugal things I do from now on; this is fun! Smile

August 2012 net worth update

August 19th, 2012 at 05:00 am

Assets:
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): $17,503
NT's Roth IRA: $4,406
AS's 401(k): $7,454
AS's trad. IRA: $1,682
AS's Roth IRA: $7,757
CJ's 401(k): $45,104
CJ's Roth IRA: $4,406
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $160,000
Baby/emergency fund (shared asset): $15,275
House down payment/moving fund: $1,089
---
Total Assets: $591,872

Total Debt: $306,785

Current Estimated Net Worth: $285,087

July 2012 estimate: $278,592

Change in net worth: +$6,495

Summary: The market smiled on us the same month I was able to put more extra money to debt again. I feel pretty good about meeting our 2012 goal of $300,000 net worth!

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.

Great debt progress, fitness tracking, and my busy week so far!

August 16th, 2012 at 02:01 am

Today was our adoption! But I'll talk about that in a bit.

A big extra student loan payment hit, with $1042 going to principal. That makes $1866 down, $134 to go on our August goal. Sounds good, except we only have one more regular debt payment that usually puts about $127 to principal. So I'm pretty sure I'm going to send a small extra payment to make sure we hit our goal! I'll use some of next month's extra debt repayment money.

Now the fitness tracking. I've done really well with food, but utterly neglected working out. I've got to find a new way to trick myself into doing it! I'm not big into working out, so I always peter out if I don't add some new twist to make it seem more like a game and less like work.

Aug. 13
10-min. workout: No. 3/13
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,426. 13/13
No night snacks: Success. 11/13

Aug. 14
10-min. workout: No. 3/14
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,369. 14/14
No night snacks: Success. 12/14

Aug. 15
10-min. workout: No. 3/15
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,371. 15/15
No night snacks: Success. 13/15

It's not been a routine week so far, which is my flimsy excuse for working out -- but really I know I'm just bored and need a new game to focus on.

Anyway, Monday night we had a friend over for dinner, playing with the kids, and a game after kids went to bed. This is a newer friend; we've actually expanded our social circle a bit over the past couple years, and not just parents of other kids either. It's been really nice to feel like it's not just shrinking steadily. This friend is younger than us, around 30, and works with NT (he got her the job after we met her) as well as attending trivia with us on Tuesdays.

Tuesday was primary election night in Minnesota, so I voted after work and then spent the night glued to the computer watching for results. NT and AS went to trivia with friends and I stayed home with the kids.

Today I stayed home from work because ... we had our court date this afternoon! It went really smoothly (once I figured out which car we'd reserved and fought my way through downtown traffic, oh and we forgot a nipple for SL's bottle and didn't realize it until halfway through the hearing ... but other than that, TOtally smooth). Our lawyer had already cleared everything with the judge; once he explained our relationship she was fine with it, so the hearing was just a formality. Our lawyer asked us a bunch of questions, we kept the kids as quiet as possible, and the judge said like two words at the end and it was over really suddenly! It feels amazing to have legal rights in place for me as SL's mother and for AS as AA's mother. Best $4500 we ever spent. Wink

We'll get our certified copies of the official record in the mail, so I won't be able to switch SL to my healthcare until we get that. But it should be pretty soon.

In other financial-variables news, we saw AS's first post-raise paycheck today, and it was $15.00 more than my guesstimate. (I did get the cents part right, which is really odd.) So that's $30 more per month that we can put in the house/moving fund (unless our mortgage goes up in Nov. and it needs to go there).

Let's see, other random updates:

We fixed another issue with our living space, the two mismatched rugs in front of the couch, by purchasing carpet tiles and making a custom-sized rug that stretches all the way to our rocking chair. It looks so much better and more uniform. I should do another photo soon. Not right now because there's laundry and mail scattered around. Smile

AS's mom sent three big boxes of clothes and stuff for the girls. Mostly SL (who totally doesn't need anything because we still have all of AA's, but it's kind of fun to have new stuff) but some for AA as well. Now we have to either get rid of some or find more places to store them. NT and AS are looking through them now.

The pack 'n' play we got on Freecycle is really slanty and leans to one side. It's fine for SL now, but it won't cut it when she starts cruising (walking around holding the sides for support). So at some point we'll need to replace it. I think we'll try Freecycle again; the last time we requested one, we got three offers in two days!

Now that NT is out of school for a few weeks, I think we'll try to list a few odds and ends on eBay and/or Craigslist. NT already listed an old school book on Half. We've got some DVDs and books from our recent declutter that might get something. Oh, and SL has totally given up on pacifiers, and we have two unused ones still in packaging that are a pretty nice brand; might get a couple bucks for those.

The books I'll just take to the used-book store. They don't take much these days, but we might pick up a few bucks that way. The ones we can't sell there I'll donate to either the Women's Prison Book Project or the library.

Anything we make will go toward our new, as yet still tiny house fund!

I'm also taking a couple weeks off in the meal planning/cooking department. It's going to be almost all me again when classes start up, so I'm trying to take a bit of a break. I'll try not to be too meddlesome, though I've been trying to be hypervigilant about keeping the grocery list to a minimum. We've been doing REALLY well, keeping food spending under $100 most weeks (sometimes MUCH less), but the diapers, wipes and formula are killing our budget nonetheless. It's going to get crucial to make cheap meals once the CSA stops delivering produce in Sept./Oct.

That's all the news I can think of for now!

Check-in and fitness tracking

August 13th, 2012 at 07:27 pm

Well, we had a blast on our road trip and at the small-town festival we attended, and at the alumni gathering which was at a mansion on an island in a lake! Omigosh do I have some hilariously disgusting anecdotes about a string of bodily-excretion incidents involving our darling daughters (I'll spare you), but we made it through and still had lots of fun. We ate TERRIBLY and are all having serious digestive issues today as our bodies get back on an even keel. I weighed in and only gained a fraction of a pound, and I'm ecstatic about that considering all the factors.

Some catching up to do with fitness tracking (the calories are VERY rough estimates for some of the days, of course).

Aug. 8:
10-min. workout: Yes. 3/8
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,321. 8/8
No night snacks: Success. 7/8

Aug. 9:
10-min. workout: No. 3/9
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,651. 9/9
No night snacks: Success. 8/9

Aug. 10:
10-min. workout: No. 3/10
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 2,070. 10/10
No night snacks: Success. 9/10

Aug. 11:
10-min. workout: No. 3/11
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,931. 11/11
No night snacks: Success. 10/11

Aug. 12:
10-min. workout: No. 3/12
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 2,501. 12/12
No night snacks: Fail. 10/12

Today I've had a very light breakfast and lunch and feel MUCH better. I might end up snacking more than I need to tonight because we have a friend over (I do tend to drink & eat more when I'm having fun & not paying attention), but hopefully the overall calorie count will be OK.

Meal planning for the upcoming week

August 10th, 2012 at 04:58 am

Menu
Friday dinner
traveling
dry oregano before we leave

Saturday lunch
eat out

Saturday dinner
eat out

Sunday lunch
eat out

Sunday dinner
alumni gathering

Make cucumber limeade

Monday
Buffalo tofu sandwiches, chips w/ watermelon salsa

Tuesday
Chinese soy pepper steak; spicy garlic eggplant; Taiwanese sesame cucumbers; rice

Wednesday
Veggie franks, corn on the cob, watermelon on the grill

Thursday
Carrot fritters w/ (? - rice maybe); use up any other leftover veggies

Friday
depends on CSA

Ideas for coming weeks: chili mac, taco baked potatoes, crockpot enchiladas, pancakes for dinner

Grocery lists:

Rainbow
3 limes
cilantro
green onions
ginger
1 small shallot
apples
pineapple
soymilk
red cooking wine (c)
panko breadcrumbs
Franks hot sauce (c)
tortilla chips
moist toilet tissue (c)

Wedge
milk
yogurts
loo rolls
Field Roast franks
EB buttery sticks
Extra firm tofu x2
Vegenaise
coffee filters #4
basil
dill seed
thyme

CSA farm share contents:
Sweet Corn
Red Slicer Tomatoes
Mixed Peppers
Onions
Carrots
Asian Eggplant
Cucumbers
Oregano
Watermelon

Itching for time to pass

August 9th, 2012 at 05:17 pm

I remember when paydays just could not come soon enough for me; I was always scraping the bottom of the barrel (i.e., my credit cards and line of credit) waiting for a cash infusion. Now, it doesn't really affect me as much; I have plenty of money for the things I need, and I don't spend on wants if I don't have money budgeted for them.

However, I'm really looking forward to Aug. 15, much more than usual. First, to have our day in court and hopefully complete the adoption process. Second, AS's raise will be reflected in her Aug. 15 paycheck, so one of our financial unknowns will be revealed.

I hope the adoption goes through and is effective immediately, so I can change the healthcare and know what MY paycheck will look like by the Aug. 31 paycheck!

We haven't gotten any new medical bills recently, which is another of our financial variables. I still think there's a chance we'll get more bills from the labor & delivery, or for NT's recent surgery. Still, every day that passes without a new bill makes it a bit less likely. If we don't get anything by the end of the year, I think we'll be safe. But that's nearly 5 months from now!

NT's tuition should be available end of this month or beginning of September. Our notification about our mortgage should also come at the beginning of September (actual adjustment, if any, will happen Nov. 1). OK, I'm just impatient for the next month to pass! I shouldn't feel that way because it's summer in Minnesota and warm weather is to be treasured, but I can't help it!

1 million views! Plus fitness results & lots of other news & plans

August 8th, 2012 at 10:08 pm

I keep forgetting to mention that my blog has topped 1 million visits! Every so often I'd check that number, but it was just like trying to catch the odometer turning over; half the time I'd miss the actual moment. So it was with my blog, but I'm still amazed at this milestone. This is one involved community!

Now for the ugly truth of my calories ...

Aug. 3:
10-min. workout: No. 0/3
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,888. 3/3
No night snacks: Fail. 2/3

Aug. 4:
10-min. workout: Yes, 20 min. 1/4
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 2,210. 4/4
No night snacks: Success. 3/4

Aug. 5:
10-min. workout: Yes, 20 min. 2/5
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 2,735. 5/5
No night snacks: Success. 4/5

Aug. 6:
10-min. workout: No. 2/6
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 2,807. 6/6
No night snacks: Success. 5/6

Aug. 7:
10-min. workout: No. 2/7
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,507. 7/7
No night snacks: Success (I stuck to fruit). 6/7

I'm rather stunned that vacation, restaurant and social eating can add 1,000 or more calories without much effort. I'm glad to be back to normal, and I'm really going to try to take it easy on the food amounts when we go away this weekend.

I had a couple hours of downtime today at work, so I printed out maps, driving directions, reservation info, dining options and more for our little weekend getaway. I find it never hurts to have too much vs. too little information, and since I had the time on my hands, I decided to go ahead. The packet of info is laughably thick for the small scale of our trip. Smile

***

I keep forgetting to mention this too, but we have a court date set for our third-parent adoptions! It's Aug. 15. I'm not too nervous because it sounds like everything will be pretty much settled; we just have to show up. But I know I can't count on anything until it's over.

As soon as that's done, I can move SL to my healthcare, which is cheaper than NT's. Plus, we'll all feel a bit more secure.

***

Yesterday I had a meeting with a 401(k) adviser from Prudential. It counted toward a checklist of activities I can do to earn $200 of flex money for next year, so I mainly did it for that. I thought he was slightly dim because he asked to see my Prudential account, then proceeded to lecture me about gradually getting my contribution up to 15% (right now it's at 6%, plus a 50% match on 3% of that). He didn't even bother to ask me if I or my spouse had any other accounts we were contributing to. (Our retirement saving is at 9.1% of gross income, or 12.5% of gross excluding tax.) Of course I do want to up my percentage, but we're doing a heck of a lot better than 7.5% of $53K, which is the only part he bothered to think about!

I didn't bother to correct him because I was annoyed by that, and because I figured he'd try to sell me on putting all our money with Prudential.

Toward the end, I decided to go ahead and ask if he had any advice for what to do in preparation for moving to England. He actually had a decent-sounding answer! He said continue to build our U.S. accounts and keep the money in the U.S., only drawing down when it was time to retire vs. moving all the funds. He said it would just be U.S.-taxed assets at that point, so our Roth money wouldn't get extra taxed in the UK or anything as long as we kept it in U.S. accounts.

Of course I'll want to verify that, but it's the first piece of straight advice I've gotten from anyone about my situation, so I'm pleased to have something to start with. So overall the meeting wasn't a complete bust, though I struggled to keep a straight face when he advised me to check my spending and see if I was wasting money anywhere.

***

I can feel the calendar for August and September wanting to fill up, and I'm hesitating to commit to things. I'm thinking I'll skip some events so these months don't feel as hectic as the rest of the summer did. I wouldn't mind just hanging out at home and relaxing! But there are some things I can't avoid, and some I might decide are worth my time. We shall see. There's a volunteer event for a hunger relief org NT and I are kind of interested in, a launch party for a friend's literary magazine, another literary type event, one firm and one tentative plan to have dinner with friends, the adoption court date, the out-of-town thing this weekend, the state fair ... I'm feeling lazy just thinking about it all! We'll see.

Rough weigh-in, but that's OK

August 6th, 2012 at 04:47 am

I do plan to go back and record everything I ate, but the weekend with my sister, her husband and her three (high-school & college age) kids has been a whirlwind, so I just haven't gotten the computer time to go online and estimate calories.

I did go ahead and weigh in, even though we ate a late and pretty heavy dinner. 3 lbs. heavier, back up to 137. I'm not surprised, since I ate out for Friday lunch, Saturday lunch, Saturday dinner, Sunday lunch and Sunday dinner. And had leftover restaurant food for Sunday breakfast. Tomorrow I'll eat out for lunch and dinner as well. And then Tuesday I'll get to go back to my routine, and what a relief. I'm enjoying the eating out and I'm making every meal count (eating something I love and don't usually get). But if I want to hit my weight goal, obviously I couldn't keep eating out like this even if I could afford it (I can't).

I did work out some; 20 min. biking on Friday, a lot of carrying around kids while walking on Saturday, and 20 min. more of biking today. But just not enough to counter the unusually heavy meals.

I was feeling a bit glum about the weight gain, and about an uncomfortable dinner with my difficult, contentious brother-in-law. But then I went onto Facebook and saw a notification for an online auction I'd bid on to purchase baked goods to help pay for a little boy's fight with cancer. The chef auctioning things off announced the close of bidding, and said if people wanted to make a memorial donation or express condolences to the family, they could go to a certain website. I went there and it turns out the little boy passed away today, the same day the auction was ending.

I didn't know the little boy, but I know how it feels to feel responsible for a little kid's existence and can sort of begin to imagine how it would feel to have that existence end way too soon. So really, any feeling of irritation for my BIL or annoyance over my weight gain were dwarfed in comparison.

I'm taking the family to the Mall of America tomorrow, and then hopefully just back to rest and play games Monday night. I don't plan to buy anything there, except food (I'll probably pick up their checks since BIL picked up an especially big tab tonight).

I love my extended family, but I love being around my nuclear family so much more. Looking forward to a mellow late summer/fall with them; our only big plans are the small-town fest and alumni party next weekend, and the State Fair in late August. And those plans mostly involve just hanging out with each other.

All right, I'm just babbling. I'm going to finish my chamomile tea and start getting sleepy now.

Menu planning, as much as I can

August 3rd, 2012 at 09:07 pm

First off, thanks to CB in the City for a thoroughly enjoyable, interesting and fun lunch! I loved meeting a current SA blogger in real life and now feel even more as if we're all really connected.

Our menu's a bit up in the air; I have two meals planned for this weekend, but my sister & her family will be in town and they have a million ideas about places to eat. So I may scrap these two, rejigger our perishables for the rest of the week, maybe make lunches with some of the extra ingredients if they can't wait. But, it's good to have a couple meals planned just in case.

Friday dinner
Spicy bok choy (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/spicy-bok-choy-in-garlic-sauce/), fried tofu & rice
[make pesto w/CSA basil & freeze]

Saturday lunch
Eat w/Family: Fancy mac & tomato salad: macaroni w/fresh tomatoes, corn, basil, parsley, garlic, olive oil

Saturday dinner
Eat w/Family

Sunday lunch
Eat w/ Family: Eggplant parmesan sandwiches & chips

Sunday dinner
Eat w/ Family

Monday lunch & dinner
Eat w/ Family

Tuesday
Buffalo chikn salad (Morningstar wings; chopped salad of lettuce, tomato, carrot, corn; bleu "cheez" dressing)

Wednesday
Bean & "chorizo" burritos w/tomatillo salsa, tomatoes & corn

Thursday
BLATs ("bacon," lettuce, avocado & tomato sandwiches) & honey-mustard-parsley carrots

Friday
Going out of town; eat on the road

Grocery lists ("c" means we have coupon)

Rainbow
2 garlic
3 avocados
iceberg lettuce
fancy rolls for eggplant sandwiches
Silk
2 granola (c)
2 lbs. macaroni
large tortillas
bread (c)
Caribou coffee beans (c)
red wine vinegar (c)
Tabasco Buffalo sauce (c)
mozzarella shreds
frozen juice

Wedge
milk
yogurts
loo rolls
paper towels
pinto beans
tortilla chips
cheese strings
parmesan cheese

Target
cat litter
potato chips
buffalo wings (C)
facon

Hai Nguyen
2x tofu

This is what we should be getting from the CSA, which is why we don't need many veggies:
Sweet Corn
Mixed Heirloom Tomatoes
Red Slicer Tomatoes
Onions
Sungold Cherry Tomatoes
Parsley
Bagged Carrots
Tomatillos
Eggplant
Hot Peppers
Bok Choy
Melon
Basil
Lipstick Peppers

Fitness tracking

August 3rd, 2012 at 04:23 pm

Or should I say "diet tracking," since I've been good on the food side of things and horrible on the exercising side?

Aug. 1:
10-min. workout: No.
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,392.
No night snacks: Success.

Aug. 2:
10-min. workout: No.
Calorie counting: Yes, estimated 1,514.
No night snacks: Success.

For some reason this week, I have not been able to convince myself to work out for 10 lousy minutes, and I have been fighting snack urges like crazy. I was starting to get some nice definition, so I hope I can wrangle myself back into workout mode. Might not happen til after this weekend, though, because I have family in town from Saturday to Tuesday.

It's looking to be a very expensive weekend. My family is all excited about various food things, so we're probably going to eat out/get delivery every meal, and not cheap places like fast food either. We've got about $100 left in the summer fun budget, and after that it's up to our spending money to cover our portion of the eating out. I'm just going to try and get the most cost-effective vegan option at each place and hope for the best! After I take out my spending money today, I'll have $140 of my own money (a bit less after my lunch with CB). So I should be OK, but it's amazing how fast it adds up when eating out. It'll be fun, though!

The next weekend we have one of our small-town festival road trips we planned. We leave Friday and start back Sunday, and we'll be stopping off Sunday afternoon to attend a get-together for alumni of my college at one of their homes. This is the woman whose family donated the governor's mansion to the state of Minnesota, so I imagine it's going to be quite lavish! The invite says casual, though, so I'm just going to wear a sundress and hope I don't look too out of place. Wink

One financial variable figured out, other financial ramblings

August 2nd, 2012 at 03:40 pm

A couple days ago I blogged about the financial unknowns that are making me impatient because I can't really set goals or finalize my budget until they're settled:

- What health bills will come in for the rest of the year
- When I can add SL to my healthcare
- 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
- What our mortgage payment will be starting Nov. 1

Well, one is mostly settled, and one will be on the 15th.

NT got his financial aid package; they offered something like $22K, but we don't need that much since he doesn't need room & board and doesn't take a full course load.

They offered $2750 as a subsidized federal loan, something like $15K as unsubsidized federal, and the rest as a private loan. The $2750 subsidized had a great rate, something like 0% while he's in school and 3.5% once he graduates. The unsubsidized was at about 6.8, higher than any of our current debts, and the private didn't give an interest rate.

We decided to just take the $2750 at the great rate and decline the other two. I figured we could borrow from the EF and pay it back in gradually for the rest.

Then I checked his fall 2011 student account to see how much a semester costs us, and it was between $3000 and $4000. So the most we will probably need to cashflow is probably about $1250. The bill will come due in September, and we'll have $1100 ready to put toward extra debt repayment that I can just use for tuition instead. (I'll delete the amount from our "estimated future debt," which is part of our total household debt, so it will still feel like we're lowering our debt!)

Good to have that sorted out, and I think we picked a good option. Can't beat a 0% interest loan, especially when we have interest-bearing loans that we're still working on.

The other variable that will be settled soon is AS's paycheck; her boss confirmed that her raise will be reflected in her Aug. 15 paycheck. Soon 2 variables will be gone with just 4 more to go. Smile

***

I checked my new Barclays online savings account, and we'd earned monthly interest of 71 cents! This may not sound like much, but it feels like a fortune to earn 71 cents on just $1000. My savings account linked to checking has $6000-$7000 in it at all times, and we earn 25 to 30 cents per month on that. I keep it because it's really easy to access the funds, but I may be lured away from the convenience by this much better rate. We'll see ... At the very least, it inspired me to snowflake a random amount of money I had sitting in my budget ($3.49) to the Barclays account.

***

I started thinking about the winter holidays recently, and how we usually tip our various service providers and send gifts to family. I really want to put most of any bonuses we receive into the house/moving fund, but I also want to make sure we're generous at Christmas. Plus, NT wants a big 40th birthday bash next March, and I was thinking we'd save some Xmas bonus money for that so it doesn't affect our budget. I think I'll sit down with NT and AS in the next month or two and plan out what we think we'll need to spend this year and for his birthday party. Then figure out what we can cover with our own spending money and what we'll need to come up with funds for.

***

Oh, and one more bit of great news:

I just confirmed a lunch date with CB in the City tomorrow! Very excited to have an SA meetup after getting to read about the recent California one. Smile

Aug. debt & savings progress; fitness tracking for remainder of July

August 1st, 2012 at 05:48 pm

All our mortgage payments hit today:
US: $444 to principal
UK1: $264
UK2: $56
UK3: $60

In all, $824 down, $1176 to go on the August debt repayment goal.

I was also able to transfer US$500 into UK savings, bringing the EF to $15,249.70. A pathetic amount of progress so far this year; essentially my 2013 goal will probably be the same as my 2012 goal, just trying to get the EF to $20K.

Fitness stuff for the last two days of July:
10-min. workout is a no for both days.
Calorie counting was a yes: 1,611 & 1,830
No night snacking: success for both days. And boy, I had a nearly uncontrollable craving both nights, but I didn't give in to it!

I hope to come back strong in August in my workouts; July was kind of a bust. But I somehow lost weight anyway, so I'm not too disappointed in myself!