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Archive for August, 2013

September 2013 goals

August 31st, 2013 at 05:27 am

This is just a quick entry since it's late and I've got to work on getting to sleep. I'll write a longer one soon; I spent quite a bit of time this week working through a strategy to pay for my tooth procedures next year, but I don't have the energy to write about it right now!

Our debt payment goal for September is $1820. Should be able to put about $900 extra to one of the student loans.

The big-picture benchmark for September is $20,133. We're already beyond that at $25,705.33, and we'll get close to $28,000 in September! I like being a few months ahead because it gives us breathing room in case there are setbacks, and of course I'd love to reach our goals early so I can supercharge our savings for greater flexibility in our selling/buying/moving process.

Good news on mortgage interest!

August 29th, 2013 at 09:46 pm

Just got our annual letter about our adjustable mortgage rate. Beginning Nov. 1, it's going down from 3.5% to 3.125%. Our payment will go from $1,070.59 to $1,040.77!

This is good timing, because I've been thinking how to handle my upcoming dental costs, and I was thinking rather than save up snowflakes this year, I'd just put all possible snowflakes to debt and savings, and next year change my flex spending to have enough to pay for it. That'll mean a lower paycheck, but also a lower tax bill for 2014, so I think it's the way to go.

So $30 less for our mortgage per month will help us not feel the sting of the lower paycheck next year. A few other recent lower bills that I haven't worked into the regular budget yet: the diaper service going from $82 to $22 per month, and cable/internet from $76 to $65. So with the mortgage change that's $100 lower monthly bills. I reckon the increased flex spending will take a $200-per-month bite out of my take-home pay next year. So our budget surplus will only decrease by $100. I can deal with that, especially with AS's raise kicking in next month.

Building a luxury condo in my mouth

August 28th, 2013 at 09:07 pm

Or at least I'll be spending like I am!

I'd forgotten and/or blocked out that once the dental surgeon is done with the implant next year, my regular dentist have their own role to play: a crown and "abutment." At my regular checkup today, I got the estimate for that.

$1,646, none of it covered by my insurance apparently.

So the upcoming expenses are now:
$1200 (after insurance) implant
$2200 (after insurance) possible extra bone graft
$1646 (no insurance) crown and abutment

So it seems I have to plan for a minimum of $2846 and a maximum of $5046 next year. ($5000+ on one tooth! Can you believe it?)

This is going to take some thought ...

Reached August debt goal!

August 27th, 2013 at 06:45 pm

AS's student loan payment hit, with $132 going to principal. That takes August debt repayment to $1775, just over the $1750 goal.

Oh, and we earned a whopping 27 cents of interest on our savings account; that goes to the medical EF, taking it to $1,513.71. Can you tell it's my least favorite goal? But I will definitely fund it up to $5K at some point in the next three years.

Big-picture progress is now at $25,705.33.

A point of interest: total household debt is now at $253,630. I'm thinking as soon as October, we could be under the quarter-million mark! I think at that point, I'll celebrate by revising my sidebar and finally deleting the "massive debt" wording, because $250K doesn't seem that bad when most of it is mortgage debt on two homes.

I actually wrote this entry last night and lost it; not the usual way, just me being sleepy and stupid and clicking a link that took me off the page and lost what I'd written. Ah well, I was just grumbling about the heat wave and a summer cold that has come over all of us, to varying degrees. And how my family has had illness on nearly every major holiday since last Christmas! So I figure it's that jinx, come back in time for Labor Day. Hopefully it doesn't last long and we can still enjoy the weekend. Daycare is closed Wednesday through Tuesday, so I have a seven-day break from work.

I'll probably check in a few times over the vacation, at least to post my September goals and any progress I make.

August debt progress, dental update, random other updates

August 21st, 2013 at 03:24 am

I sent off an extra $100 payment to NT's student loan to make sure we hit our August goal. As I was setting it up, I realized there hadn't been any interest added this past month. I did some sleuthing and realized that, since I've paid off all his unsubsidized portions of the loan, the remaining, subsidized portion won't accumulate any interest while he's in school! I was just hitting the higher-interest portions first, not realizing this difference.

The balance is only $3200 now, but it's nice to think that we won't pay any interest on it as long as we pay it off before NT graduates next year. (Plus I think there's a certain grace period after he graduates.) So, long story short, I'm going to stop targeting this loan and work on the next-highest-interest student loan, his private loan. When I pay that off (probably sometime next year), I'll work on AS's student loan. Then, we'll see if I can pay off this loan before it has a chance to accumulate any interest.

Anyway, all $100 of the payment went toward principal, so that takes August debt repayment to $1643 down, $107 to go. Big-picture progress is now at $25,573.06.

***

I had a follow-up with my dental surgeon today and had the sutures removed. He said it looked good and will check it again in 2 weeks. No copay because apparently these checkups are included in their original price quote. Sweet!

I asked him if he thought I'd need that extra bone graft (the one I'd have to pay $2200 out of pocket for). He said he wasn't sure, that it would be decided next year at the time of the implant.

So I won't know for a while, but at least it gives me time to plan. I've tentatively decided that I'll save up the $1200 that I know I'll need to pay for the implant, but I think I can cashflow the other $2200 when the time comes, if need be. (It'll just mean a lot less goal progress that month.) I'll make a note in my budget and make sure I set aside $2200 for January, and then if I don't need it I can put it toward student loans or something.

(Hmm, or maybe I should set aside an extra $100 per month in flex spending next year. I can use it right away to pay the dental bill, and my paycheck will be less than $50 per month less. I'll still be able to cashflow the $2200 fairly easily in that case. And that would mean I can put this year's snowflakes toward other things!)

I'm still trying to figure out how much my ultrasound/mammogram appointment will cost me. From what I can tell from the inscrutable claim forms, the mammogram is 100% covered but the draining of the cysts they did during the ultrasound may cost me a couple hundred bucks. Not too bad, I suppose. I just don't like not knowing!

***

I feel like I'm in another period of waiting. Waiting for my teeth to stop bothering me. Waiting for AS's raise to kick in. Waiting for our debt to get under $250K (should happen this year!). But having a busy calendar this summer has helped me stay distracted. We had "grownup weekend" last Friday night through Sunday afternoon -- our good friends, also the girls' godfathers, took them to their house for the weekend -- and that was amazing. We did go to that super-classy restaurant next door to us. It was like being in a dream made of food -- 11 tiny courses of transcendent flavors and textures, plus the most skilled, attentive service we've ever gotten at a restaurant. You don't want to know how much it cost! But we had the money set aside so it's OK.

I've also been trying to get involved a bit in a local cause -- a case of police brutality that ended in a killing just blocks from our home. It's really made clear to me that there's a bigger problem with our police force, and it's a cause I'm getting more passionate about the more I learn. So we've been going to rallies and meetings and spreading the word among friends. I don't know if it will really change anything, but it feels good to try to do something about it.

I have a 6-day weekend around Labor Day because daycare is closed, and we've already got lots of plans, including trips to the State Fair and the Renaissance Festival. The following weekend my sister and niece are coming for a few days, and we've got tickets to the science museum we'll probably use. In the weeks after that there's a drag show AS and I are going to, NT and lil AA going "camping" in friends' backyard, a visit to a winery -- and then suddenly it's nearly October! We know at least one Oct. weekend will be spent at our friends' mansion and another celebrating a friend's b-day. Thank goodness the girls are much less tiring these days, or there's no way we could keep up this pace! I don't know how it keeps happening, really; for a while there it didn't seem like we saw our friends at all, and now fun things just keep coming up. With all of the above, most of the tickets have already been purchased, so the only upcoming expenses will be food and carshare and (for one or two of them) babysitting.

Work's had its ups and downs but overall seems to be going pretty well. AS and NT are way overworked in their jobs and trying to find ways to offload some of the extra work on other people, but it's a struggle for both of them in different ways.

AA finished up her first swim class and did really well, so we're enrolling her in a "preschool" level one where she goes in the water without a parent. That starts in September too. I still want to enroll her in a dance class sometime soon, but I'll wait until there's a break in swim; not ready to be one of those parents carting the kid all over for various classes yet! Big Grin

I guess that's enough rambling for now. I'm starting to get pretty tired and will probably doze off soon.

August 2013 net worth update

August 17th, 2013 at 03:59 pm

Assets:
NT's UK pensions:
#1: 13,884 pounds ($22,214)
#2: 17,268 pounds ($27,629)
#3: 4,452 pounds ($7,123)
NT's 401(k): $24,200
NT's Roth IRA: $5,800
AS's 401(k): $10,210
AS's trad. IRA: $1,682
AS's Roth IRA: $13,580
CJ's 401(k): $57,767
CJ's Roth IRA: $5,800
NT's flat: 140,000 pounds ($224,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $145,000
Emergency fund (shared asset): $15,000
House down payment/moving fund (shared): $4,555
---
Total Assets: $564,560

Total Debt: $253,862

Current Estimated Net Worth: $310,698

April 2013 estimate: $308,089

Change in net worth: +$2,609

Summary: A relatively static month of retirement returns and savings, and modest debt paydown.

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.

Big-picture progress!

August 12th, 2013 at 10:14 pm

I checked NT's student account this weekend and the balance for his fall semester was in there. It won't be due until next month, but I'd planned to pay part this month and part next, and I was itching to send this month's portion.

Technically I shouldn't have until our paychecks hit on the 15th, but we have so much float money in the bank from my "escrow" line items that there really is plenty in the bank. And no doubt that I'm getting paid Thursday. So I paid $2500 today! There's about $1200 left to pay, which I'll do next month.

When the payment hits our checking, we'll still have about $1300 of float. And when the CapOne 360 money comes back into our account (I closed the account that I opened only for a bonus once the 30 days were up) in the next day or two, that'll take our balance back up to $1800 or so. So I won't even be cutting it close, but I checked my budget a half dozen times to make sure I wasn't forgetting any big expenses expected to hit before payday.

Anyway, I had only $790 left of "estimated future debt" in my household debt total, so this wipes that confusing category out for good. I'll be cashflowing the rest of NT's education and it will count toward big-picture progress but not debt reduction. After I finish paying for fall, I only have three semesters to pay for next year: spring, summer and fall. Then he'll have graduated. Woo hoo!

So our August debt repayment is $1543 down, $207 to go, and our big-picture progress is at $25,473.06!

Other frugal/money-saving happenings:
- Our switch to weekly vs. semimonthly grocery budgeting seems to be working well so far; we're cutting it close this week but should be able to stay within budget.
- Took a survey that will get us a free tub of the delicious (but expensive) vegan margarine we love.
- On our diaper guy's advice, decided to go off cloth diapers and onto compostables. Since we have to use those for daycare and nightttime anyway, overall our fee will be smaller than it is now. I'll use the savings to snowflake toward medical debt until that's paid off, then add it into the general budget surplus.
- I get to take my one supervisee out to lunch this Thursday on the company dime, so free lunch for me too!

Retirement, decluttering, frugal stuff

August 9th, 2013 at 05:21 pm

I'm coasting on 4 hours of sleep today, which I'm not very good at. I dozed off on the couch at 10:30 and got woken to come to bed at 1:30 am. Not unusual at all; I find a nap on the couch before bed helps combat my occasional insomnia. But not last night; I stayed awake once I got in bed, and finally got out at 3:30 to mess around on the computer since I wasn't getting the least bit sleepy lying there. I finally dozed off on the couch again at about 6 and got woken up a bit after 7 to get ready for work. TGIF!

Had some good frugal and other happenings lately:

- A friend signed up for the carshare we use and gave us as having referred her, so we got a $25 statement credit! I'm using that in my medical snowflake fund.

- Started spending on the two USBank cards we got recently; once we spend $500 on each we'll get $200 and $100 bonuses. Those will go to medical as well.

- AS recently got some kind of mail-order offer for 6 bottles of wine free with $11 shipping (so less than $2 each). The same company gave us a $100 credit to use, so we ended up getting 13 more bottles of wine for $70, or a bit more than $5 per bottle. About par with what we pay for our usual boxed wine, but much more variety and better quality too! AS does need to cancel an automatic membership before it kicks in; but NT might sign up as being referred by her and see what other deals we can get from them.

- Not for us, but we got free lodging for my sister and niece who are coming to visit in September. My niece is coming a day earlier and she'll stay with us that night, but more than one person for one night would be a real strain in our tiny home. We have friends who own a condo slightly bigger than ours, and they don't have kids. They said my family could stay with them the 3 nights they need to. No charge, and their condo is closer to ours than any hotels! And really fancy and upscale as well. Smile

- Freecycled a bunch of baby stuff recently, and last night while AS and NT took the girls for a walk, I dumped two big bags of toys on the free table of our building. One thing gave us a bit of a pang, a train set that they play with occasionally and seem to like, but it's just too big and bulky, and the girls keep accumulating toys, so something had to go. I don't think they'll notice; they have so many other toys. I got rid of a lot of baby toys that the youngest one has outgrown, but luckily I'm not super-sentimental. Everything will find a good home, and our condo is a bit neater.

Last night while I was dealing with the insomnia, thoughts of retirement kept coming up due to an email exchange I had with a friend/co-worker who is a bit of a financial mess. So when I gave up on sleep and got on the computer, I played with a few things:

- I looked for a good financial calculator, and found one offered by the AARP. I really trust them because of their good advocacy for seniors, so I tried it out. It had a fair amount of customization options and I was left feeling pretty good about where we are. We'll need to up our retirement contributions once the house stuff is settled and the student loan debt paid off, but I think we're heading in the right direction.

- I realized I never know how much we actually have in retirement funds since I just add up all assets once a month (including the EF and our home values), so I did a quick calculation of that, as well as how much we add to our accounts each month, as well as how much we'd have if we kept adding the same amount every month (and didn't have any growth). The number was smallish, but of course we aren't planning to stay at that level of contribution, and we are planning to experience growth in our accounts, so for what it was, I found the number to be just fine.

- While using the AARP calculator, I found a link to the Social Security website, and realized I could create online logins for all of us so we could check our statements anytime we wanted. So I did that and looked at what we could expect to receive in Social Security benefits upon retirement. (That's if we stay in the U.S., but even if we move, I'm sure we'll receive a smaller amount based on what we contributed while we were here.)

I think that's all! I feel good that I'm at least on top of the financial side of things, since my diet, exercise and other blog have fallen by the wayside while I recover from my tooth extraction. Ah well, I'll get back on track in due time.

Promising data on home values

August 8th, 2013 at 07:35 pm

A year or two ago I downgraded my estimated value of our US condo to $145K. It had been a long time coming; I knew my estimate of $160K was too high. Even $145K seemed like the high end of sale prices for comparable units in our complex, but I figured if we upgraded the kitchen and bath, spruced up the flooring and made a few other small changes, we could possibly sell it for that much.

Well, I don't have any new actual sold homes of our size to confirm this yet, but there's a place listed for $169,900 that's comparable to ours -- it looks reasonably upgraded, but not crazy high-end. The Zillow estimate of its value is $144,577, and they have tended to value condos in our complex for less than they sell for. And I found a site called Homes.com that estimates our condo's value at $155,700.

I'll be keeping an eye on that new listing to see if it sells and if so, what the sale price is. We currently owe $157K on our home, so it would be very exciting if we could consider ourselves not underwater anymore, practically for the first time since we bought it (since we paid too much, and took out a home equity loan for what little we'd paid on it, and the real estate bubble burst not too long after we bought).

Bit of big-picture progress and other rambles

August 7th, 2013 at 08:41 pm

I'm still feeling out of it after my tooth extraction, though thank goodness very little pain or swelling has occurred. Today I feel kind of strange, but it may just be the constant distraction of having stitches and a new hole in my mouth! Amazing how much that can affect concentration. Anyway, I'm just doing the bare minimum this week and hoping I'll feel normal soon.

I realized I forgot to record interest on the house/moving savings account last month, so I have a whopping $6.81 to record! Even though savings interest is admittedly abysmal, I still get kind of excited because up until a few years ago, I never had the discipline or money (so I thought) to even have a savings account, so the idea of making money on money without doing anything is kind of cool.

Anyway, that takes house/moving/renovation progress to $5950.69, and big picture progress to $22,973.06. Almost a quarter of the way to our goal!

I'll have to think about this more when I have a clearer head, but I've been pondering the possibility of taking another route besides our current one. Currently we plan to sell both places, hopefully making a profit on the UK place and breaking even on the US one, in order to help fund the new home purchase. But I've also idly thought what it would be like to keep renting out the UK flat and try to save up more money for a down payment on a new home vs. trying to fund it from the sale of the old one.

The UK flat rents for £725 per month now (US$1160), and we clear about £360 ($580) in a good month with no extra fees or repairs. It'll be worth 160,000 when renovations are done in a year or two, and we think we'll clear about £100,000 ($160,000) after paying off the mortgages and giving the management company their share of the profit. So it would take 23 years to make in rent what we could make in a sale; but, at the end of the 23 years, we'd still have a (possibly even more valuable) property (with the mortgage paid off).

I'm still leaning toward selling it. The rental income would be nice, but so would a smaller mortgage on our next house. But we'll see where we are in a year or two. Anything could happen in terms of raises, jobs, windfalls, expenses, etc. If I actually start thinking about it seriously, I'll be asking your perspectives for sure, but right now it's completely idle speculation.

Dental update

August 6th, 2013 at 01:36 am

Well, today I got my tooth taken out. The dentist said it was really infected under there so it was the right decision to take it out. He also did the bone graft to build up bone in preparation for the implant.

So far the pain is not bad. I'm slurring like crazy to avoid messing with that part of my mouth and possibly irritating the surgery site. I've also been doing ice packs, ibuprofen and Vicodin. And antibiotics. And I need to remember to use a special mouthwash tonight. Lot to remember! But the dentist said it went well.

Today I paid a $54 co-pay and $166 estimated that I'll owe after insurance. This part of the process was $1100 and covered 80% by insurance.

Aside from some follow-up appointments, the next part (surgical implant) can't happen for at least 4 months. I asked him if it could wait 5 months, until my next year of dental coverage starts, and he said that would be fine. Good, because that means I'll have another $1500 of coverage.

I don't want to get too excited, and I'll ask the surgeon about it at my 2-week checkup. But he hasn't said anything about the "sinus augmentation" additional bone graft that he said might be necessary depending on certain circumstances. That portion was estimated at $2500.

If I don't need that part of the procedure, the remaining step is surgical implant, which is $2400. If my insurance covers it, it would be $1200 for them and $1200 for me.

If I do need the sinus thingie, that would be an additional $2500 of which insurance would only cover $300, since I'd have maxed out the $1500 at that point, so I'd be on the hook for $2200.

So without the sinus thing my cost would be $220 + $1200 = $1420.
With sinus thing, $220 + $1200 + $2200 = $3620.

Huge difference, so I'm really hoping it's off the table and not just that he assumed I already knew he was going to do it!

August debt repayment

August 1st, 2013 at 04:53 pm

All our mortgage payments hit:

US: $446 to principal
UK1: $216
UK2: $45
UK3: $46

That makes $753 down, $997 to go on the August debt goal.

I noticed on our governor's Facebook page something about property taxes going down for the first time in over a decade! That will hopefully reduce the escrow portion of our mortgage payment next year. Probably only by a few bucks if anything, but it'd be nice.