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Archive for October, 2014

Some nice fat snowflakes!

October 27th, 2014 at 04:29 pm

Yesterday I confirmed that my dental implant bill came in about $500 less than projected, leaving $500 in flex spending money. I could roll it over but chose to hunt around and submit some receipts, since we need the money more urgently now than we probably will next year.

Also, NT emailed me a letter from his company leadership announcing a surprise mini-bonus of $750 that will come with his Oct. 31 paycheck!

So, even assuming we only net 50% of the bonus, that's $875 minimum in found money. I'm setting it aside to help deal with condo sale if/when it happens.

Speaking of, we have an agent previewing the place tomorrow. I'm relieved since it's the first showing in probably over a week.

Reached October debt goal

October 27th, 2014 at 12:04 pm

AS's student loan hit, with $141 going to principal. That takes us to $1565 paid this month, exceeding the $1500 goal.

I shall set up a November goal later this week.

Weekend wrapup

October 26th, 2014 at 09:41 pm

Had a fun weekend, and not TOO spendy. Friday night the girls stayed with our friends/downstairs neighbors while we drove to Stillwater (40 mins away) for a wedding reception. We only stayed a couple hours so we could get back downtown and hang out somewhere. We dropped off the carshare and walked to a pizza place a couple blocks from home, where I had two appetizers, and NT and AS each had a drink and a slice. We had a gift card from a friend, so we only had to put in $5 each. The carshare to the wedding was about $35, and the gift was a $20 serving bowl that we bought with Amazon CC rewards.

We pay for carshare with a monthly budget item, but we're already partly into December's allotted amount. Typically carshare usage goes way down once it gets snowy and icy, so it's usually OK to go over budget in the summer and fall and make it up then.

Saturday we did grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning. Saturday night we had a potluck at the downstairs place; the ingredients for our dishes fit into our regular grocery budget, so it was a nearly free night of entertainment.

We talked briefly about Xmas and agreed that it might be a good year to just give each other the money budgeted for gifts so we could get exactly what we wanted, since things have been so tight lately. If we did it we'd promise to use the money just for ourselves, even if it's for practical things (I really could use new bras and slippers and PJs and work pants).

AS has gone to give plasma after hearing our friend talk about it; she made $100 over two sessions. It takes a while so it's not a good hourly rate, but you can work on laptops, read, etc., so it doesn't sound too bad. The first 5 sessions you get $50 each; after that the amount goes down. But I might consider trying it at some point. I wouldn't mind having a little bit of extra spending money.

Today we finished up grocery shopping at CVS; with coupons and savings we spent $43 for $80 worth of stuff! I splurged with some of my spending money at CVS and Target today. $7 for Halloween candy to give out, $3 for a silly witch hat to wear while handing out candy, $4 on party favors for a party/playdate AA is hosting next week, and $4 on some sweet treats for my kids. So $18 total, about half of my weekly spending money.

Earlier in the week, I suddenly decided to try and apply for an unsecured personal loan to cover getting out of my promissory note to the crazy seller. I put NT as a co-applicant; it didn't offer a third spot, plus it's still hard to say what AS's monthly income is. Unfortunately, I didn't get approved; our debt-to-income for just our two incomes is too high, and our incomes not quite big enough for what I applied for. (I tried for $35K thinking it would also help us pay off the condo mortgage if/when we sell.)

However, the lady did tell me that if we didn't have the condo mortgage we would probably qualify for about $25K, which would be almost enough to cover the promissory note. So maybe if we get an offer on the condo, we'd get approved for $25K. The interest rate is 5.99%, which is pretty good for unsecured debt I think. Our promissory note is 5.375, but only for a year, after which it goes up. So I'd gladly switch to an unsecured loan with a slightly higher rate.

Today I was looking over my budget and bank accounts and realized that when I switched the promissory note payments to the 25th, I'd somehow skipped Oct. 25 and had no payment scheduled for the Nov. 1 bill! I set one up right away that is scheduled to reach the seller on Oct. 30, so fingers crossed it does get to him faster than last month's.

No news on the condo. Showings have really dropped off. We have a week left in October, and our agent says 25% of sales in our complex do happen in the winter months, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that we'll sell yet this year. So, we sit tight for now.

Daycare tuition is going up by $20 per kid next year. But AA will only be full-time there until the school year starts; after that she'll do after-school there, which is half the amount of full tuition. So overall, our daycare costs will be less next year, just a bit more for the first eight months.

AS continues to pull in smaller jobs here and there and is nearly three-quarters of the way through funding December paychecks and healthcare.

NT has eight more weeks until he gets his BA! So so excited to have that out of the way.

AS and I are getting ready to do NaNoWriMo again this year. I've nearly got my book plotted out. It's a cheesy young adult supernatural-ish thriller/horror novel. I'm hoping it'll be fun to write!

I have to check my PTO; I believe I have quite a few days to use up before the end of the year. Maybe I could work on my novel and give plasma on days off! Smile

Still in limbo, but life goes on

October 21st, 2014 at 01:01 pm

No bite on the condo. Only one showing since we lowered the price and none scheduled at present.

I woke up this morning utterly convinced that I'd miscalculated my net worth in my post a few days ago. Sure enough, I went back and checked my math, and I was $10K off! So we lost $11K+ last month, not $1K+. Ah well. Part of that was reducing the condo value in the asset section.

I wrote a brief and trying-to-be-helpful email to the seller in advance of November's payment and got a faceful of unpleasant bluster spewed back at me. If it weren't for his attitude I wouldn't be so freaked out about this debt. I really want to get rid of it. My first big attempt will be in late Feb./early March, when I try to refinance our mortgage and see if there's enough equity to roll the promissory note in. So we have to put up with each other at least until then (or until/unless I come up with a plan to get rid of it sooner).

I'd built up about $2700 in the budget thru February to help get out from under the condo when/if we sell it, but I had to use a bit because I realized our phone bill will be a bit bigger now that AS is working from home. Not really a business expense; it's mostly from calling and texting with us and friends, calls that may have taken place on her work phone before. So our monthly bill will be $51.51 vs. $38. Not a huge deal, still super cheap for three people.

I may also pull from that money to help AS get a work computer (our home laptop is impossibly slow) and a hair appointment (her dreads would ideally be maintained a couple times a year but it's been over a year since her last appointment). A couple hundred dollars isn't going to get us out of our condo money pit much faster, so it's not that big a deal.

We had to use more of the housewarming money to call an electrician for lights not going on. Turned out to be a faulty breaker. $125. We're probably lucky that necessary maintenance has been less than $1000 so far. Considering the crazy seller and his DIY wiring and repairs. We have about $200 left now.

Other than the above, life is good. I believe it's 8 more weeks of classes for NT, and he's already acting more relaxed. I can't wait! We've been having dinner together with our housemates two or three times a week; sometimes they cook and sometimes we do. Fun and socializing with no extra cost! AS and I are planning our NaNoWriMo novels and our housemate CC is going to join us this year. We're helping each other develop our ideas and get motivated. I got a real office at work; still getting settled but I love the privacy already. The girls sleep so much better at the new house, which makes them learn faster and have better moods. We have some fun times coming up that shouldn't cost too much, including a wedding Friday, a potluck Saturday, Halloween the following Friday, a playdate the following Saturday.

Our wedding anniversary comes up in early December and right this second, I’m tempted to splurge on a nice dinner out. We’ll see how I feel closer to the actual date.

Mapping out a plan for the next year

October 15th, 2014 at 01:51 pm

So our real estate agent emailed us a detailed run-down of what's been going on with selling units in our condo. She's so great! But the news was not. All the 2-bedrooms just dropped their prices, and the ones that sold, were sold for less than asking with the seller covering part of closing costs.

So we're following suit and dropping our price $5K, to $140K. Our agent thinks we might not sell this fall at our current price and would have to drop the price in the spring anyway since we'd have a stale listing. So we're hoping the drop now will precipitate a sale. There's still a glimmer of hope with one of the flaky buyers but we already offered them $140K with no nibble, so I told our agent to throw out $138K and see if it gets them interested again.

I'm figuring if we do sell in the next month, the best we can hope for is $135K and we pay 3% of closing costs. So the best case scenario is we lose $28,600 in getting out from under the mortgage.

Then there's the crazy seller of our new place that I really want to get out from under. Our payments are only $118.70 per month for the next year, but I can't stand working with him. So I want to come up with $26,500 ASAP to pay him off.

So, OK, we've got to come up with $55,100 to get out from under these two burdens. (I'm choosing to assume the condo will sell at the above numbers but am well aware that's not a guarantee.) I came up with a plan that could work, but it basically means no fun money [beyond basic spending money] for the next year and a very steady income from AS's freelance business. It also means using all of NT's year-end bonus (he found out he's not getting a raise this year, but we can count on the bonus at least). It assumes we can refi the house in February to save $450 per month by eliminating PMI. And it means using all the money we save by not having the condo mortgage and association payments.

It means no travel our housecleaning for the next year, too. So in its current form, the plan is going to require patience and careful budgeting and a deferral of two of our favorite luxuries.

But, it's a plan. It's somewhere to start, even though so many things could change over the next year. So now we just cross our fingers that the condo sells soon.

October 2014 net worth update

October 15th, 2014 at 09:05 am

Assets:
NT's UK pensions:
#1: 17,105 pounds ($27,368)
#2: 19,653 pounds ($31,445)
#3: 4,452 pounds ($7,123)
NT's 401(k): $31,033
NT's Roth IRA: $6,930
AS's 401(k): $12,979
AS's trad. IRA: $1,682
AS's Roth IRA: $18,605
CJ's 401(k): $70,465
CJ's Roth IRA: $6,930
NT's flat: 140,000 pounds ($224,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $140,000
CJ/NT/AS house: $440,000
---
Total Assets: $1,018,560

Total Debt: $679,079

Current Estimated Net Worth: $339,481

September 2014 estimate: $351,278

Change in net worth: -$11,797

Summary: Debt repayment couldn't outpace the market downturn that hit all our retirement funds, especially since we haven't been contributing anything to our Roths. Also, I downgraded the value of the US condo to our current sale price (though it's going to end up being worth less than that with the money we have to pay to sell it).

I'll update the Individual Net Worth page shortly, breaking it out by 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..60 for every British pound.

Class actions and other small financial bits and pieces

October 13th, 2014 at 09:58 am

AS told me about a couple of class actions we qualify for, one against Red Bull and one for Truvia sweetener. You can Google them and find the online signup form if you bought either of these products. She also turned me on to a handy site, topclassactions.com, that gathers them for you to browse and also lets you sign up for a weekly email about new ones. Those were the only two I qualified for and I'll probably get about $17 total in like a year or two, but still, worth 5 minutes of my time!

We'll be spending more of NT's mom's housewarming money on repairs, this time servicing the radiator in AA's room that won't warm up and is leaking a bit. We should still hopefully have $300 or $400 left after that as a reserve fund for any other little house things that come up in the next couple months.

I was looking at next year's prospective budget. If we can sell the condo by then, and refinance the duplex mortgage to get rid of PMI, we should be in pretty good shape! After FrugalTexan's blog post about less strict budgeting, I'm fantasizing about that for myself as well. We won't be able to do it until things loosen up, and when we can, it'll probably take some trial and error to find a simplified system that works for us. But I'm looking forward to trying!

It's hard for me to imagine how it would happen exactly. I guess just keep an eye on checking account and credit card balances to make sure we're not in danger of going over budget. And setting certain things on autopilot as much as possible, like retirement and extra debt repayment. With AS's irregular freelance income the retirement thing won't be quite as automatic, but maybe if I just dump a certain percentage of every check she receives into her Roth and a certain amount into savings to pay taxes later, it wouldn't take a ton of tending.

Once we have the condo sold and the promissory note to the crazy seller paid off, that's when I'll feel like I can start to find our new equilibrium!

Various stuff

October 12th, 2014 at 12:41 pm

We heard from the pipeline company, in the form of $250 to re-up their right-of-way option for 6 months. AS looked over the contract and says this the only time they can do that; in April they'll either need to pay up, drop the option or renegotiate with all of the landowners. I don't think the third thing will happen because it took them months and months to get everyone in line the first time, so it'll either be all the money or nothing by April.

Also got $28 from cable company as a partial month refund.

I also realized I still had $168 set aside for the kids' swim lessons, but we missed the fall session and won't be signing up again until spring. So I put that into our surplus too.

I also transferred another $2000 onto the 0% card. So that's another $2K I can keep in the bank in case it's needed to get out from under the condo.

(If there was no money coming in from anywhere else I would need all of that credit card money, plus the tuition money I saved while taking out a student loan, plus the money I've been setting aside for Roth IRA make-ups. But I keep forgetting that if I do sell the condo, I won't have mortgage or association payments anymore. Since I'm budgeted out to February, that's quite a bit of money that would be added to the budget if we sold. So I might not have to use all the money set aside for these other things.)

On the other hand, I might do all of those things and stockpile the mortgage/association money to pay off the promissory note to the seller. He's a nightmare -- will only work from paper checks but wants me to send him 12 checks upfront. I want to mail one at a time. I have them set up automatically from my checking account but so far there's been a problem with both September and October's payments. And now I have an extra e-payment in limbo I sent him when he thought he hadn't received the October check, that he hasn't used or responded to let me know his intentions with it. He's a thoroughly unpleasant person just by email (I've never met or spoken to him) and I can't wait to get him out of my life forever.

So maybe I WILL keep the 0% credit card balance, the new student loan and forget about catching up on Roths, and just save up money once we sell the condo so I can pay him off in a lump sum as soon as possible.

Still deciding.

In other news, I broke down and bought some things that just weren't showing up for free any of the places free things tend to appear. 2 sweaters for work ($11) and two scarves and a hat for the kids ($12) at the thrift store. And 2 side tables for the living room, $30 on Craigslist. Not bad prices anyway.

I also spent $24 at a bar after my work friend's funeral, hanging out with co-workers. A bunch of us didn't just want to be alone after the service, so it was worth it to feel that camaraderie. Although with that plus the sweaters, I've overspent my weekly money. That's OK though. I don't have anything planned and nothing else I really need for a while. At the end of this month our kids are staying over at daycare Friday and part of Saturday, so we'll have a date night. And in November one of our favorite comedians is in town, so we've got to pay in for those tickets ($15 apiece).

Other than that, we've been finding frugal ways to have fun. Last night we made pizza from scratch for our friend/downstairs neighbor's birthday, and later this month we have an autumn-themed potluck with a bunch of friends coming. And November is NaNoWriMo, so I might take part in that again.

Just dragging along

October 7th, 2014 at 07:32 pm

My work friend died Saturday. Frown I knew it was coming with absolute certainty, so the pain has been kind of diffused over several points: when I found out what she had and read about the survival rates online; when I heard she'd gone into hospice, and then when I heard she'd died. But it still hurts. Hard to believe such a lively, constantly moving, super-bright woman could decline so quickly and be gone from my life. The workplace is subdued, but luckily it's being faced head-on: the office is closing early Friday so we can all go to her funeral.

The second maybe-interested buyer backed down from making an offer. This time the reason was association dues too high in the city, going to buy a place in the suburbs instead. Can't argue with that. There have been two more showings, Saturday and Monday, both from a single agent but can't tell if it was one buyer coming back for a second look. No feedback from those.

No word on the WV deal. The option expires Saturday. No idea what they're going to do.

No word on NT's raise. He's bugged his manager again to talk to the person she needs to in order to get the promotion and raise made official. She tends to drag her feet for ages, so who knows if/when this will happen. But she's lost a good worker by ignoring his needs, so hopefully she's learned somewhat of a lesson and won't try to play games with my husband.

Other than that, things are steady. Just some really sad news and some frustrating lack of progress on some fronts. Nothing we could control. Everything we *can* control is working out nicely. We've managed to hang onto about $600 of the $1200 that NT's mom sent us, so we have some for must-have repairs and urgent wants. The rest was spent pretty sensibly on equipment repairs and various winterizing and storage type things.

NT's mom's boyfriend sent us some lottery tickets he'd bought in the U.S. and we cashed them out; $15. We spent $9.50 on a buy one get one free costume deal at Target.

AS has $25 gift card coming from MyPoints that she gets to keep or trade in for cash by giving it to me for grocery money. I've completed the pedometer challenge at work and will get a gift card for it. NT used some Pinecone money to offset a pair of used boots from eBay. I'm going to try and make do with all my winter stuff from last year, and we'll see what we have for the girls before we buy them anything from a thrift store. I'm close to earning $100 in CC rewards from USBank, which means we'll also get an extra $25 for waiting until we'd accumulated $100. All the little stuff adds up and helps us stay on track during this very tight time. That means I've been able to hold onto $2K from my raise, and that NT's raise (if/when it comes) can go toward helping us get out from under the condo mortgage.

AS has less than $5000 to earn to finish making up for her paychecks and healthcare through January. Once she's done I can start saving up for taxes and putting some to her retirement. She's got three or four prospective and/or definite jobs that will probably put her over the top; we just don't have exact dollar amounts so I can't count them yet. So far it looks like freelancing will pay way more than the job she left; not sure how much more after SE taxes and self-funded healthcare. But at least she's happier and doesn't work quite as much as she did, so that alone makes it worthwhile.

So things are going pretty well. Even though I'm feeling sad and stuck, we're actually doing OK.

Fingers crossed!

October 4th, 2014 at 01:28 pm

The people who saw our condo Thursday expressed some interest! They asked if we'd consider a $135k offer. It's listed at $145k, so I asked our realtor to say we'd take $140k. Still waiting to hear back, but their agent thinks they'll be interested. Here's hoping!

I ran a 1-mile fun run with my 4-year-old today. She struggled some but had a good time. We got medals for finishing so she liked that, and there were people in animal suits. Her favorite moment was high-fiving a rabbit.

Had a family meeting with our friends/tenants. Happy to report everyone is pleased with the arrangement so far. They really want to buy a share of the house at some point. One is a lawyer so he'd be able to draw up the papers for that. They don't want us to pay back the $5k they loaned us for the down payment, so if we do this deal that can go toward their share of the home. We agreed to wait a while and make sure we continue to all agree it's a good idea. I love it myself but don't want to rush into it.

October debt progress + tidbits

October 1st, 2014 at 07:38 pm

All five(!) of our mortgage payments hit:
US (condo): $483 to principal
US (duplex): $625
UK1: $221
UK2: $46
UK3: $49

All told, we paid down $1,424, with $126 to go on the October debt goal.

AS got another promise of on-site work from my company next week. Not sure how many hours it will be, somewhere between 8 and 16 I believe, at $40 per hour. She's closing in on fully funding December and it's just turned October!

Since we didn't sign up for swim lessons in time, the nice thing is our Saturday mornings with the kids are free. I signed up for a fun run with AA this Saturday and to clean up streets with the neighborhood association next Saturday. Now to think of some fun activities for the younger one as well ...

Another tooth appointment tomorrow. Fingers crossed this is the last one for my implant! Take care of your teeth, folks. Replacing them is a real PITA.