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Archive for March, 2013

Withholdings finally sorted out!

March 29th, 2013 at 05:26 pm

AS's job finally got her withholding sorted out! In the end, NT kept his the same, I increased mine a bit and AS decreased hers a lot. We're netting $345 more per month in take-home pay.

This is great because our budget has had a $250 or so monthly shortfall to keep everything as-is and still meet our four-year big-picture goals. Now, we have a $106 surplus! Basically, if nothing changed for the next three years and nine months, we would coast easily into meeting all of our aggressive goals: $5,000 medical EF, all student loans paid off, remaining tuition paid in cash, and $56,000 in a moving-to-England or house-down-payment fund.

I'm going to continue to throw most windfall money at the goals so we can get ahead, just in case things happen and we have some lean months. Plus, if we get an opportunity to move to England before the four years are up (unlikely, but you never know), we'll know we got as financially prepared as possible.

More money in :)

March 27th, 2013 at 04:33 pm

NT's mom just deposited GBP500 (US$800) into his UK checking account to cover our rental car for the trip. The car only cost GBP318.42, so we'll be able to use the rest to help cover gas or other expenses. I paid off the UK credit card we used to book the car.

NT's rental management company took service fees out of his income this month, so we would have been about 20 pounds short of making the mortgage payments and would've dipped into savings. Luckily his mom's gift makes it so that doesn't have to happen.

She also deposited GBP100 (US$160) for the girls' birthdays, so I transferred that into savings and credited US$80 to each girl. Now AA is nearly at the $3000 benchmark in savings and investments ($2,952.83), but SL is a bit behind the $1000 benchmark I wanted hers to hit by this week ($701.00). But we have probably $100 in the piggy bank, so she'll get close when we deposit that. We'll catch up at some point.

In other money news, we are heading into the next month of groceries with over $50 left in the March grocery budget! However, our monthly invoice for the carshare hit, so we've now blown through April's carshare budget and dipped into May's. Apparently this is our new budgetary weak spot. Smile Ah well, we won't need the carshare much in May since we'll be gone half the month, and we'll just try to be good in April and not get even farther behind.

I'm also happy to report that I've finished paying off my web hosting annual fee for my ordinarysavers.com site. Now my spending money is my own again! I'm so glad not to owe in anymore.

I'm not sure whether we'll get our paychecks Friday or Monday since the last day of the month is Sunday. I'm hoping it's Friday because I'm eager to see what our new net pay for the year will be. AS's company didn't adjust her withholding last pay period, so this will be the paycheck where I find out how much more we're going to get.

At least until my annual review, which should be coming up soon! My boss hinted at potential for a raise, which I don't think he'd have bothered to do unless he was already planning to give me one. Even a small one would be just fantastic.

Our little SL will be one year old on Friday. She's such a gorgeous little handful! Hard to believe she'll already be that old. I hope she's not too skinny when she gets weighed at the doctor's. She doesn't care much for formula, but she eats like a horse, so I think she'll plump up when we switch her over to cow's milk after her birthday. It'll probably taste much better.

Final debt payment of March (I think!)

March 27th, 2013 at 04:40 am

AS's regular student loan payment hit and $131 went to principal. There have been lots of windfalls this month, but I don't foresee any more. So I believe this will be the final debt repayment number from March: $8208!

Big-picture progress is at $12,441.20, almost double where we need to be at this point!

Teensy bit of medical EF/big-picture progress; other news

March 25th, 2013 at 09:55 pm

I got another random check from the dentist I ditched for overcharging and being confusing about billing. $36.60 -- certainly not enough to make me go back to them, but I'll take it and add it to the medical EF. Along with 25 cents of interest, that's $36.85 more of big-picture goal progress, taking us to $12,310.20 progress for the year. The medical EF is at $1,385.81.

NT had his 40th birthday party this past weekend. It was a blast! Also quite a splurge, funded mostly with money we saved from his Xmas bonus (we also used bday gifts money and dipped into our charitable line item):
$350 to rent party space (a really cool photography studio)
$225 for DJ (a local figure and NT's favorite)
$190 for booze (we've got enough left over to save us buying wine for weeks!)
$150 for food (plus a few more snacks that NT used a Target gift card to get)
$100 for babysitter

$1015 total! But a fun, memorable night, and we could afford it, so no regrets.

We also used the carshare service to haul things to and from the party space, but we're taking that out of our regular carshare line item. (We had to use up April's amount, so we'll have to try to avoid using it for a while.)

I'm feeling a bit shaken because one of our friends (NT's co-worker) lost his sister today. It's just so sad; she was in her 40s or 50s. She got sick suddenly about a year ago and they tried just about everything. She kept getting to death's door and then having miraculous recoveries, but this time no miracle. Our friend is such a good brother and he's been consumed with trips to visit her through all the struggles. He would talk about our kids and show her pictures, and she wanted to meet them as soon as her immune system was strong enough for young visitors, but it never got there. I believe she leaves behind a couple of young kids herself. Even though I never met her, knowing all my friend has been through and then to get hit like this just makes me feel terrible.

A VERY pleasant surprise! More debt progress

March 21st, 2013 at 07:41 pm

Remember that lost student loan payment? (How could you forget when I harp on it every chance I get??) I've been halfheartedly checking NT's account every couple of days, fully expecting that it wouldn't hit and I'd have to call and do some more investigating when the next arbitrary deadline they gave me hit.

Well, today, there it was! There was a slight glitch in that they applied it evenly across the loan, even to the paid-off portion, so some parts are showing a negative balance. But I called them and it sounded like a routine thing to adjust, so hopefully it won't take them forever and a day this time. Nevertheless, since the negative balances count against the positive, we still show the full amount paid -- $1140 to principal!

That takes us to a rather heart-stopping $8077 of debt paid this month. I have no words. So pleased beyond belief.

It also takes our big-picture progress to $12,273.35 -- basically where I hoped to be by mid-June of this year!

And, it takes that Sallie Mae loan to less than $10K.

Bit of rambling before bed

March 20th, 2013 at 03:54 am

My financial life feels pretty slow and dull now that I'm not throwing big daily payments at the student loan! Smile I'll see what else I can find to talk about instead.

I've been sick pretty much since Friday night, so I haven't gotten much done. I stayed home Monday and went in today, so I'm on the mend for sure. Saturday evening was the worst; I was really achy. Thank goodness that part didn't last long.

Our grocery budget finally, FINALLY seems to have come back into balance. Smart spending plus reduced diapers and formula has paid off at last. We have over $200 left for this Friday's shopping trip! We should be all right from now on; formula stops completely at the end of this month, and we won't buy groceries for two weeks in May (we'll be in England), and our CSA starts up in June, so we'll be getting produce every week from another part of our budget.

Something that is NOT working out: our new internet service. It's very patchy and unpredictable and sometimes slow. Sometimes it will randomly choose a site to lock us out of. Tonight it's my ordinarysavers.com site. Sometimes it's Netflix (though I'm watching a Netflix movie right now and it's working fine).I have to admit it's annoying. I'd probably stick it out for another 6-8 months until we make back in savings the money we spent on the modem, which we can now no longer get a refund for. But AS and NT really want to switch sooner.

AS accepted another $1000 assignment on the condition that she could put $500 toward the overage that better internet service would cost for the next couple years. The other $500 I can put toward debt.

I actually think we could probably get a good intro deal from Comcast to get us to switch back; after all, they offered me a temporary deal to stay with them. So her $500 might last a really long time. And who knows? Maybe we can sell the modem for a few bucks on Craigslist.

I'm glad we tried it, but the moral of the story is, sometimes saving a few bucks just isn't worth it.

What else? Well, I've come out of my malaise somewhat; at least I feel like writing on my ordinarysavers site, which is a good sign, since that's meant to be a somewhat creative outlet for me. I also did a bit of reorganizing of the girls' room, buying some rolling plastic chests of drawers that fit in their closet, to help handle some of their toys. (Of course SL's birthday is coming up next week, so let's hope everything still fits! We only got her three toys, but we know all the grandparents will go nuts.)

Speaking of birthdays, every year I wonder whether it's time to start giving AA an allowance. I almost started this year, but AS pointed out that it wouldn't mean much to her until she starts getting the concept of money, and doing her fair share around the house. Anyway, she and SL get most of our loose change put in their piggy bank, so they do get an allowance of sorts. Smile I'm a bit behind my goal to have their accounts at $1000 per year of age, but it's just a rough rule of thumb I came up with. It'll be easy to make up at some point.

AS's "HR" (there isn't really one at her job) forgot to adjust her withholdings, so this past paycheck my net pay was less and hers was the same. Luckily I'd decided to only have about $20 more withheld each paycheck, so it was easy to absorb. Hopefully hers will be right next payday. I can't wait to start putting that extra money toward our goals. Should eliminate the shortfall for the monthly amount we need to hit our big-picture goals!

My boss hinted that I may be up for a raise this year! That would be exciting, because our budget is already coming into balance quite nicely. For the time being I would probably put it toward the student loan I want to get rid of ASAP, but at some point I might allocate it toward fun. Part of me wants to scrimp every extra bit so we have more than enough for our eventual move. But at the same time, our current life is pretty hard, and it would be nice to have a little more money to treat ourselves to something nice once in a while. I'll have to think about it.

One thing we'll really enjoy this year: We'd already decided to do staycations for the rest of the year since we're using so much money and PTO to go to England. I had also thought we might have to siphon money from our travel budget to stay on track with our big-picture goals. But now it's looking like we won't have to do that, so our staycations could be pretty lavish if we wanted to spend our money that way. Maybe we could even do one or two short weekend trips to Chicago or St. Louis or somewhere it's cheap to fly to from Minneapolis.

Or just stay in the city and visit fancy restaurants, like the one half a block away that we've only ever had drinks or appetizers at, except once when a friend had their wedding reception there. Smile

Sigh ... I definitely have winter fatigue and frugal fatigue right now, can you tell? Wink

March 2013 net worth update

March 18th, 2013 at 04:07 pm

Assets:
NT's UK pensions:
#1: 13,884 pounds ($22,214)
#2: 17,268 pounds ($27,629)
#3: 3,709 pounds ($5,934)
NT's 401(k): $22,486
NT's Roth IRA: $5,294
AS's 401(k): $9,178
AS's trad. IRA: $1,682
AS's Roth IRA: $11,277
CJ's 401(k): $53,031
CJ's Roth IRA: $5,294
NT's flat: 125,000 pounds ($200,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $145,000
Emergency fund (shared asset): $15,000
House down payment/moving fund (shared): $4,044
---
Total Assets: $528,063

Total Debt: $268,179

Current Estimated Net Worth: $259,884

February 2013 estimate: $247,924

Change in net worth: +$11,960

Summary: Maybe that big Dow Jones run has already evened out, or maybe it didn't affect us much. Either way, our gains in all our retirement accounts were modest this month. However, a huge month for debt repayment made for a big increase in 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 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 $1.60 for every British pound.

WOO HOO. :)

March 15th, 2013 at 01:00 am

Ahh, so satisfying after a particularly hard day. The $4000 payment to NT's loan hit, and $3999 went to principal! Big Grin

That takes us to $6937 of debt payment in March, exceeding our $6770 goal. And we still have AS's regular student loan payment near the end of the month!

A record month by FAR. It also takes our big-picture progress to $11,133.35, way over the $6687 benchmark.

It also takes our total household student loan debt below $30K!

It also takes the average interest rate for that loan from 5.43% to 4.9%, since I paid it all to the highest-interest portion. Still our highest interest rate, but not by as much!

It also raised my spirits after a fairly grueling day! Smile

More debt progress!

March 14th, 2013 at 02:27 am

The payment I sent Monday hit tonight, with $1039 going to principal.

That takes us to $2938 down, $3832 to go for our March debt repayment goal. (Will hit that tomorrow Big Grin.)

It also takes us past the March benchmark for our big-picture goals! As you probably recall, to achieve all three goals in 4 years we need to average $2229 per month toward them. So by end of March we should have $6687 of progress. Well, as of now, we have $7134.35 of progress! Smile (Tomorrow will basically take us past our April and May benchmarks too!)

Forget the fact this will be a record month for us ... this WEEK we may pay off more than we ever have in a month!

Oh -- and tonight's payment takes the average interest rate for this loan from 5.52% to 5.43%!

Federal tax refund arrived!

March 13th, 2013 at 03:39 pm

Wow, they said it would process on the 13th, but I assumed it would take a day or two to hit the account! I immediately set up a $4000 payment to the student loan. That should hit tomorrow night. With that, and the regular extra payment I sent off yesterday, the 6.8% portion of this loan is going to be down to a couple grand. I can't believe all the extra money that has appeared in such a short span of time!

Tomorrow will mark 6 weeks since I sent that $1100 Direct Loan payment right as they were transferring NT's loan to Sallie Mae. I have no idea who will be able to help me, but if the money doesn't appear by tomorrow morning, I'll start making phone calls.

Guess I should send off the tax returns we owe on now ... the non-fun part of the process. Wink

Debt progress

March 13th, 2013 at 03:58 am

A student loan payment hit with $238 to principal.

That takes us to $1899 down, $4871 to go on the March debt goal. And $6095.35 down, $591.65 to go on the big-picture benchmark for March.

Tomorrow night I should get another nice bump, and of course later in the week our big tax refund will take quite a bit off the amount.

I figured out a way to calculate the average interest rate of the loan (since different chunks of it have different interest rates). By paying down the higher-interest debt first, just that $238 payment took us down .02% on the interest rate. Pretty cool.

AS state refund came! And my weird state of mind

March 12th, 2013 at 04:09 pm

Today I saw that AS's state tax refund already hit our checking account! I was surprised because we mailed hers in the old-fashioned way. I suppose they get done pretty quickly since not that many people file that way anymore. Smile

That's $1554 that we're going to use to pay my and NT's tax bills and to make some repairs and upgrades to our computer. We already bought a new power cord, and AS is taking it in to get the battery replaced. We're also going to upgrade the operating system. All told, a couple hundred bucks and it should be in much better condition.

Since we don't need to pay our taxes right away, I'm taking advantage of the extra money sitting in the account: I set an extra student loan payment a couple days early (I was waiting for payday on the 15th, but we can easily float the payment on AS's refund money until then).

***

I've been in kind of a weird mental place, it seems. I think it's the fatigue of wanting winter to be over, coupled with the exhaustion of having a 3-year-old and an almost-1-year-old, coupled with just not really having anyone to talk to at night. We get home, someone wrangles the kids while someone cooks dinner, we do the bedtime routine for the kids (1 after the other, since the baby gets tired a half-hour to an hour earlier than the preschooler). Then NT hits the books until bedtime and AS works on freelance jobs (or overflow from her regular full-time job). By then I just want to turn my brain off, so I usually stare at the TV or the computer or play games on the iPad.

I'm not depressed, but I just feel like I'm in a waiting period; waiting for spring, waiting for the semester to be over, waiting for this student loan to get paid off, waiting for our trip to England, waiting for AS's job to slow down at some point, waiting for the kids to hit various developmental milestones.

When I do develop an interest, it kind of obsesses me for a short period of time. After I saw Les Miz, I kept thinking about it, replaying the songs in my head and thinking about my favorite parts of the movie, over and over, for weeks. A few days ago, one of our Facebook friends let it be known that she and her husband had become polyamorous (opened their marriage). I find myself obsessing over that, wondering how it got started, what the exact setup is, how they both feel about it. I guess because they're some of the few friends we have who aren't monogamous, yet their arrangement seems completely different from ours. I wonder what the next mini-obsession will be that takes over after this one. Smile

If I felt really bad, I'd worry about shaking myself out of this stupor, but since I just feel kind of neutral, I'm not too worried. Plus, I've gone through phases like this periodically over the years; I always liken it to a field lying fallow for a season to regain its fertility for new crops later.

What energy I have at home, I try to give to the girls. It's hard to completely enjoy my time with them because it's so scattered and demanding, but I do believe people when they say that you really miss these innocent young days when they're gone, even if you can't fully appreciate them while they're here. So I try to pay attention and enjoy all their little quirks, their developmental breakthroughs, their innocence and unconditional love and trust of me.

Life is good, but life will be much better soon, I think. Smile

A tiny bit of progress while I wait for the big ones ...

March 12th, 2013 at 02:43 am

I hadn't checked my down-payment savings account in a few months since I haven't been contributing regularly to it. $6.46 of interest had accumulated, taking our down payment fund to $4044.46.

That brings our big-picture progress to $5857.35. I'll take it! Any little bit helps. Smile

Refund approved! And other good news

March 9th, 2013 at 10:32 pm

I've been quietly and obsessively checking the "Where's My Refund" tool on the IRS website at least twice a day, and today it finally said AS's refund had been approved! They estimate it will direct-deposited the 13th and will show up a couple days later. Yippee!

It's $4769, so $4000 will go to NT's student loan and I'll set the remaining $769 aside to help pay mine and NT's taxes. When AS's state refund comes in, that will cover the rest of our tax bill.

I haven't sent our taxes out yet; will wait until we get the state refund to make sure we have plenty to cover what we owe.

AS also got another freelance check in the mail; the $250 we were expecting. That one is going to the student loan too, so I already set up a $250 payment that will probably come out of the account Monday and hopefully hit Tuesday.

I'll also be sending out a little over $1000 when we get paid on the 15th. If our paycheck adjustments work out the way I want them to, may even be able to tack another $120 or so onto that!

It's going to be a very fun couple of weeks totaling all this up. I reckon NT's Sallie Mae loan could get below $10K when it's all done. Smile

I almost forgot: AS told me yesterday that she accepted another freelance job: $1000! She said she couldn't resist because she'd read my blog post about how we were only $1800 short of paying off the Sallie Mae loan this year. So now, make that $800. Big Grin

Oh, and we had AA's birthday playdate today, and her little friend who's a year older came. As always, her parents brought several big boxes of outgrown clothes for AA! NT just got a huge bag from a co-worker recently too. We'll sort through and give some away, because it'll be too much to hold onto, but this means AA will be set for clothes for another year. Not counting underwear, we've probably bought about a dozen, maybe 20 pieces of clothing for both girls combined, ever, yet they have hundreds and hundreds, sorted in boxes by size and age, and we've given hundreds away on Freecycle too. It's a GREAT system. These clothes are getting at least three uses, sometimes more. And we don't even have to factor kids' clothing into our budget at all! Probably won't until well after they're done with daycare and THAT big expense is gone. Big Grin

We invited 7 kids but only 2 could come. It was a perfect amount, because with our 2 that meant 4 kids running around. You don't need more than that in a little condo! It also means we have plenty of little party favors left over that we can probably hand out at SL's party.

We had a couple expenses eat into our grocery budget, so we have a small shopping list this week and are using a lot of stuff we already have. AS and NT are out at two stores now so I don't know how much it will be, but I have high hopes we'll be coming in under budget.

Formal invitation to my website and Facebook group

March 5th, 2013 at 10:49 pm

I've mentioned it from time to time, but I started a discussion group, website and Facebook page called the League of Ordinary Savers.

It's mainly aimed at my friends and acquaintances at present, and the topics I'm covering are pretty basic so far -- too basic to interest most of you, I'd think. Still, some people here were curious and/or had already checked it out, so I thought I'd provide links for anyone else who's interested:

Website

Facebook page

Chances of getting rid of Sallie Mae this year

March 5th, 2013 at 04:56 am

With so much exciting debt repayment this month, much of it from the surprise tax refund, I'm thinking we really do have a chance to get rid of the Firstmark-turned-Sallie Mae loan this year, AND cashflow NT's 2013 tuition.

The loan has $15,660 left, summer class will probably be about $2000 and the fall semester will cost us about $4000. So we'll need to come up with $21,660.

We have the following expected payments coming in:
$4000 (tax refund)
$1100 ("lost" payment)
$250 (AS freelance check)
$1000 (regular March extra debt repayment)

That leaves us $15,310. Once our withholding is adjusted, we should be able to put about $1500 per month toward it, so over 9 months that would be $13,500. Then, we'd be only $1800 short! If NT got a bonus at the end of the year, that could be the final nail in the Sallie Mae coffin.

That's assuming no crises come up, but it's also assuming no other windfalls, and those do seem to pop up fairly regularly in our life. So I'm feeling pretty great about making this happen!

Debt & big-picture progress (more than I'd expected)

March 5th, 2013 at 03:23 am

The $600 from AS's last freelance check hit NT's student loan account. I checked the balance and it was $611 less than the last time I checked. Uh, what? I can't really think of a reason, since the last payment, all but $4 went to principal. Some weirdness with interest, I suppose; they show accumulated interest in the principal balance I believe (but am not 100% sure).

I'm happy with how fast payments hit Sallie Mae, and ecstatic about being able to choose the higher-interest portions of the loan to target first. But I'll be so glad to see the end of this confusing loan.

But anyway, I checked my math twice, and the balance is showing as $611 less, so I'm counting that.

That takes us to $1661 down, $5109 to go on the March debt goal, and to $5850.89 in big-picture goal progress. $836.11 away from hitting the March benchmark for that.

The big-picture benchmark we'll easily meet after the 3/15 paycheck, because I have a $1000+ payment scheduled to go out then. The March debt goal I'll only hit if AS's tax refund goes through without a hitch. None of us has ever had such a large one, so I'm finding it hard to be confident it will go through, even though I calculated it both manually and used TaxACT, so I'm certain the numbers are right. I check the "where's my refund?" site every day, and it always says it's being processed, not approved. It has only been a week though. Wink

More student loan debt progress and other news

March 2nd, 2013 at 03:14 am

Another payment hit NT's account where it hurts. Smile $296 went to principal.

$1050 down, $5720 to go on the March debt goal.

$5239.89 of big-picture progress, so we just need $1447.11 more to meet the March benchmark.

***

I got freaked out that we were going to be withholding too much with our recent adjustments, because the IRS calculator didn't say how much we'd actually be netting each paycheck. I found a calculator at paycheckcity.com that gave us estimates, and sure enough we'd only be bringing in about $50 more per month. I wanted more like $300 per month, so I'm going to adjust mine and NT's back down. I claimed 4 exemptions last year and had adjusted it to 0, but I'm moving it back up to 3. The only way we can come close to breaking even on taxes is for me and NT to owe a bit, since some of AS's refund is refundable credits, not actual taxes paid. Hopefully this will come out right in our next paychecks.

***

We're starting the weekend grocery spending with MORE than the budgeted amount! This is because we only dipped into March a bit last month, and then our Amex rewards hit, which I always put back into the grocery budget. So we're starting the weekend with $389 instead of $375 (or less, which is usually the case. Smarter spending + potty training are already helping the budget!

Tomorrow's my birthday, so I've got some treats and drinks on the shopping list. I've determined we should only spend $170 of the $389 if we want to stay on track through the 15th. So, if groceries go over that, I'll pay for my own treats, but otherwise I can pay for them with grocery money.

Birthday plans are pretty mellow this year. I'm having a few friends over to eat and play videogames and chat. That's all I want (or have energy for!) this year.

March debt progress and some big-picture movement too!

March 1st, 2013 at 06:53 pm

All our mortgage payments hit:
US: $440 to principal
UK1: $219
UK2: $46
UK3: $49

That's $754 down, $6016 to go on our huge March debt-repayment goal.

Also, I transferred the rental income left over after paying the mortgages into savings; that goes toward our house/moving fund. US$544, so that takes the fund to $4038, and big-picture progress to $4943.89.