Taking some good advice from one of my last posts, I'm setting two possible goals.
Without the WV money coming through: pay at least $1,300 of debt.
If the WV money comes through: pay at least $39,300 of debt and be debt-free except for mortgages!
I hope I hope I hope it's the second outcome. But it still doesn't feel like a definite that I'm getting that money, so I'm hedging my bets.
This is a first, two possible goals. But then this is an unprecedented windfall that may or may not come through!
Archive for May, 2015
Taking some good advice from one of my last posts, I'm setting two possible goals.
Our overpayment of property tax on the condo mortgage was finally refunded. This was the last piece of money connected with the two big closings last month: the sale of the condo and the refinance of the duplex.
I allotted a third toward making up AS's retirement contributions that were delayed, a third to debt payment, and a third to our shared spending money.
Of the $356 I sent to our highest-interest debt, the line of credit, $330 went to principal. That takes us to $998 of debt paid in May.
AS and I got the SEP/traditional IRA confusion sorted out, seemingly, so I'm going to dump more money into it for her. $2029.29 -- 10% of her earnings for the first quarter of 2015.
NT's student loan hit, with $42 going to principal. That takes us to $668 paid for the month of May.
Also, our new fridge got delivered today! I love it! We ended up getting the cheapest option of the most expensive type of fridge (36 inch wide, French door, bottom freezer, water dispenser). It was on sale but still more than I thought we'd end up paying. The extra cubic feet sold me! Especially during CSA months and the holidays, our fridge can get really stuffed with space-hogging fresh produce.
I spoke to my dad today, and he hasn't heard anything more about setting up a "closing" on the WV right-of-way deal. He said he'll give them until June 15 and then check in. They took the option in mid-April and told him they'd contact him for a closing within 60 days.
Our new fence should be installed within the next week or so. That will make the backyard one of the first places that feels really redone, so I will share before and after pics when it's up. The rest of our spaces have a long way to go but I'll try to take "before" pics of all of them before we really get going on them.
I realized my 20-year college reunion is next year in early June, and I really want to go. That may mean a trip to New York in early June as well as our England/Spain in late June/early July. We'll see!
A quick check-in before our day of shopping begins!
AS's student loan hit, with $142 going to principal. That takes us to $626 of debt paid, exceeding our $500 goal.
I have a few days before I need to set my June debt goal, but I'm already wondering; do I roll the dice, assume that my dad's WV deal is going to go through on schedule and that I'll be able to pay off all my non-mortgage debt? Or should I set a modest goal and just be elated if it turns out to be much, much more?
My debt goals are my own little motivator so it makes absolutely no difference in real life. Just something I'm idly wondering about.
After the great suggestions on one of my recent posts, I went back to the drawing board to think if there were other ways to pay the rental management company besides by wiring money. I suggested to NT either charging to his UK credit card or asking if they would take it out of our upcoming rental income.
They agreed to the latter, so we don't have to wire money! The only drawback is we'll be a bit short on July mortgage payments, probably only about 10 to 20 pounds. We're going to try and request an overdraft increase to cover that little bit. Then we should be all right for the July mortgage payments, and we can start paying NT's mum back with the second month of rental income. I think we can pay her back in 4 or 5 months. Hopefully by October since that's what we told her. We can always find another way to pay her back by then if we don't have enough rental income to get it done.
I also checked out credit cards with good travel rewards and bonus offers, and decided on a Capital One Venture card. $400 worth of travel if you spend $3000 in the first 3 months, plus you earn I think 1.5 or 2 points per dollar on spending; no annual fee the first year. NT applied for one first; if he's approved we'll put everything on that card and once it's clear we'll meet the spending requirement for the bonus, I'll apply for one and then AS. With home improvement stuff on top of regular spending it shouldn't be a problem to meet the amount for three cards as long as we stagger the opening of them. That could mean $1200+ off the airfare for our UK/Spain vacation next year!
It's been such a great holiday weekend. The kids go back to daycare tomorrow but we adults have one more day off tomorrow.
Friday, NT and AA went to a father-daughter test thing for a study being done at the university. They had fun; there were lots of toys and games worked in to the tests. SL and I did some of the grocery shopping and had some mom-daughter bonding time while AS worked on a freelance project.
That evening, after the kids' naps and dinner, AS kept working while the rest of us went for a walk, got some ice cream, and stopped by a playground for a little while. AS ordered cake and ice cream from a local pizza place later that night so she didn't feel like she missed out. She made good progress on the project and only had to work on it for short bursts the rest of the holiday weekend.
Saturday we had a leisurely day mostly at home. NT did the rest of the grocery shopping. AA, NT and I went for a walk around the neighborhood in the afternoon, stopping very often to examine flowers and plants. We stopped by the doughnut shop but they were sold out, so we walked to a cafe and bought cookies. Then we passed a yard sale and AA bought a framed photo of a butterfly plus a cup of lemonade from some other kids. A free-standing hammock we'd ordered was delivered and NT set it up on the front porch. It was in high demand the remainder of the weekend! It's wonderful, very comfortable and sturdy.
Sunday NT was at a music festival all day. AS and I took the kids out for brunch at a nearby restaurant. It was raining but not too hard, and we had umbrellas so it wasn't unpleasant. AS and I played videogames at home and sporadically did some chores: laundry and dishes mostly.
Today we headed out to the playground again; it was cloudy but the weather held. We stopped at the pizza place after the playground and had lunch. While the kids napped, AS and I went to a thrift store that had a 50% off sale. We managed to find a lot of really nice stuff. Between us we got 10 tops, 9 pairs of jeans, a dress, a purse, and some costume jewelry for the kids for $95. Less than $4 per item! We stopped off at Subway for drinks because we were dying of thirst after hours of shopping and trying things on. When AS and I got home, NT and I took the kids (and our neighbors' dog) for a walk around the neighborhood. NT grilled veggie hot dogs and apples on the front porch for dinner.
Tomorrow we plan to drop the kids off at daycare, have breakfast together, and then have a full day of shopping: first to Warners Stellian to pick out a fridge, then to Ikea for various household goods (we've got a list so hopefully we don't get sucked into TOO many impulse purchases), and JCPenney for some clothes needs and wants (suit and shoes for NT, shoes for me).
It's nice to have money to play with again. I feel we're all being very intentional about spending it on things we want or need, or experiences that are relaxing or make us feel good. And I'm still tracking everything very closely to make sure we don't go over the amounts allotted.
I sent a third of the condo escrow to the line of credit, and this time it did decrease the amount I owe, by $60. That takes May debt payment to $484 down, $16 to go. Every little bit helps! Actually, I'm hoping to pay off all the non-mortgage debt in one fell swoop next month if/when the WV money comes through. But whatever I pay now saves us a bit of interest, plus I might have a bit of WV money left over if I pay some debt now. I figure any WV money left after taxes, charitable contribution and debt payoff, I'll split 50/50 between retirement and fun money.
Speaking of retirement, I figured out I had my 6/15 paychecks mislabeled as 6/16. What it means is I can do AS's first-quarter SEP contribution now instead of waiting until mid-June. But when I went to the new Vanguard account I just opened, it was called a traditional IRA and it had a $5500 limit. SEP retirement funds are supposed to be up to 25% of income. I figure I made a mistake when setting it up. I emailed Vanguard as AS so they'd contact her and hopefully convert it to an SEP. I'm not going to send her first-quarter payment to it until we get that figured out, even though it wouldn't be over the limit.
I'm a bit too keyed up to go to sleep just yet. I think I'm excited about my five-day weekend!
The kids are home Friday through Monday, and then us grownups took an extra day Tuesday to hang out together. We don't have any big plans, just some rough ideas; the playground and park if it's nice weather; going to the movies if there's a rainy day (which there will probably be a couple of).
We do have a plumber coming out tomorrow to look at this basement bathroom and see what's not up to code about it, and hopefully estimate how much it would cost to bring it up to code.
Also, NT and AA are going to the university to participate in a father-daughter study tomorrow.
Oh, and NT is at an all-day music festival Sunday. Nothing big for me to do, though. I just want to hang out with my family and relax.
Maybe I'll do a little shopping; I do need a couple pieces of clothing for work and I have some big client meetings coming up. And perhaps we can look at fridges and a few other smaller household needs.
I've been really busy at work, and several money things have happened that I haven't had time to blog about. Let's see if I can remember them all ...
The escrow from my old duplex mortgage came in! Over $3K. Most of it I used to make up for the money we had to put into new escrow, but there was about $450 more than I needed for that. I put one-third toward retirement, one-third into our shared spending money and a third toward debt payment.
(The debt payment only covered accrued interest on that $15K line of credit, but at least it means future payments will go more toward principal. And actually I noticed we now have some available credit on the line, so they did put most of it toward principal, but since I can see the accrued interest keeping the balance at nearly $15K, I'm not counting that way. So no debt paid off with that payment, but that's OK.)
And, since the money is in the bank now, I was able to open AS's SEP IRA (retirement account). I put $957 in there: 10% of the money she made from freelancing in the last quarter of 2014. As soon as I have enough money in the bank to do so, I'll add in the 10% she made in the first quarter of 2015, but right now I need to keep that in checking to make sure we can cover her 2nd quarter income tax prepayments. As soon as we have enough in the bank to cover both, I'll add to her SEP.
I wrote to the county about condo property taxes because we double-paid first half due to closing on the sale of it. The county got back and said they considered property taxes to be paid in full for the year and wouldn't be able to refund any until they were overpaid -- presumably whenever the new owners paid 2nd half taxes later this year or early next year! I wrote to the title company and they called the county and got it straightened out -- they should refund the overpayment sometime next week.
Then, I got the remainder of the condo mortgage escrow in the mail today. Only $193, but certainly welcome! I'm dividing it into thirds like I did the surplus from the duplex escrow refund.
NT's UK property manager wrote to ask for more money -- just 114 pounds this time ($182). Luckily we'd waited to wire the other amount he asked for, so we'll only pay the wire fee once. We still don't know what the council taxes will be that he mentioned, but it sounds like we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. I'll wire the money for the last two renovation expenses tomorrow -- I've got the day off work.
Good news about that though -- he also let us know he's found somebody to rent the place starting May 29 for 825 pounds per month -- 30 more than the 795 he initially projected. That means we'll be able to pay his mum back a bit more quickly and start saving up spending money for a trip over there.
Speaking of which, we decided when we're going to visit England next. In late June/early July of 2016. We've got a while to plan, which is good because we've got to save up airfare for 5 passengers now that neither girl can sit on our laps anymore.
We also talked about leaving the kids with their grandparents for a few days and checking out another European city with some of our Oxford friends, and the grandparents agreed. We've more or less settled on Barcelona. I'm excited -- the only European city I've visited outside the UK is Amsterdam!
NT ran a check to see how much it would cost if we were traveling THIS June/July instead of next. It probably doesn't have much to do with reality, but it gives us a rough number to start working toward. Get this: round trip airfare for 5 from US to England, plus round trip airfare for us three adults from England to Barcelona, came to about $9000! That's more than we've ever spent on an entire trip including hotel and food, and that's just for the airfare. It freaks me out a bit, but we really want to do it and can afford it, so we will. And hopefully the actual fares will be a bit less than that.
The good part is, NT's mum is paying for lodging for us while we're in UK, and we'll have money saved up in the UK account for dining and other spending, so the only other expenses we'll need to cover are a hotel in Barcelona and maybe rental cars. And, of course, we have well over a year to come up with the money, so we can start saving up a few months before we want to purchase the tickets.
NT's UK pensions:
#1: 17,105 pounds ($27,368)
#2: 20,501 pounds ($32,801)
#3: 4,452 pounds ($7,123)
NT's 401(k): $37,098
NT's Roth IRA: $7,888
AS's trad. IRA: $15,613
AS's Roth IRA: $21,399
CJ's 401(k): $84,582
CJ's Roth IRA: $7,888
NT's flat: 140,000 pounds ($224,000)
CJ/NT/AS house: $440,000
Total Assets: $905,760
Total Debt: $524,753
Current Estimated Net Worth: $381,007
April 2015 estimate: $377,561
Change in net worth: +$3,446
Summary: Modest gains and modest debt paydown equals a modest change.
Starting next month our retirement funds will increase faster. I can't wait!
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.
The garage sale finally happened. Not a ton of traffic, so we didn't make much. We spent $45 on supplies, snacks and sodas for the sale. We didn't sell many snacks or sodas, so a lot of that wasn't helpful money to spend. Sometimes drinks and snacks go over really big at sales, but not this one. We made a little over $100, which means we netted about $60.
Then we spent the rest of Saturday in a gardening flurry. Our backyard is (was) completely paved over with bricks, and we wanted at least a little patch of green out there. So we pulled up the bricks on about a third of the yard, tilled the sandy ground underneath, bought a ton of topsoil and tilled that in, and bought several rolls of sod and placed that. Now we have a small patch of grass that's going to look so nice! We used some of the pavers to build a raised border around the area we're going to use to plant fruits and veggies, and the rest we stuck in the garage for now. Then I weeded like a madwoman and pulled up a ton of deep-seated roots in the fruit/veggie bed. I believe our downstairs neighbors planted some stuff there today, but it's been raining off and on and I haven't had time to ask, so I'm not sure.
Sunday morning I hired a carshare and took the rest of the garage sale items that would fit (everything except a mattress, a table and a chair) to a donation drop site.
Then from about 2:30 to 7:30pm (counting travel to and from the campus), I was at NT's official graduation. Over a thousand grads in the ceremony, so it took ages! Kind of an anticlimax since he graduated in December, but fun at the same time. I took some nice pics of him in cap and gown on campus, to please his parents. That was the important part anyway.
AS got another check yesterday, for $525. We're thinking our next purchase will be a new fridge, since the one we have doesn't stay shut unless you really slam it or use the child-proofing latches that NT installed. But we have a ton of items on our wish list, so we should probably go through and vote again.
We also want a couple of date nights and minor personal items (clothing, shoes), so we'll use some of AS's money for that. And we still have to figure out what to do with the basement area that the city wants us to make un-rentable, and how much that will cost.
Feeling unstuck is such a wonderful feeling that we really don't care how long it takes to have all the wants we've withheld for so long. We're happy to take it slow.
I'm feeling SO much better, no longer stuck in a holding pattern. Yesterday and today were both big money days for AS: She got $3600 and $1400 respectively. Add in the $4K from earlier in the week and she received $9K this week!
NT has started shopping for some LONG-overdue work clothes -- dress shirts, slacks and a suit. He thinks he can keep it to about $600.
We went ahead and set aside money for the rental cars for our two upcoming road trips, and reserved hotels for the longer one. The rentals will be about $575 for the longer trip and $230 for the shorter one. The hotels came to less than $500 for three one-night stays in different cities.
The fence guy came by to finalize his estimate. It was very close to the initial one -- $2640. We're splitting 50/50 with our neighbors. And we should have the back yard fenced in within 3 weeks! I've taken some "before" photos so I can share them along with the "afters." I think it's going to make a world of difference.
Today I had off work and spent much of the day prepping for the garage sale tomorrow. AS helped me a ton. We lugged out boxes from various places, and tables from the porches. We bought sodas and snacks to sell at the sale as well. I spent $45 on sodas, granola bars, fruit snacks, posterboard and pricing stickers. Any food/drinks we don't sell will definitely get eaten up by the family.
It's the only expense for the sale -- our $10 registration to the neighborhood sale will be refunded because NT discovered we got left off the map. But there are enough sales around us that we're not too worried. They did give us a sign to put in our yard to signal that we're part of the sale.
Our neighbors contributed some items too. Instead of keeping track of what money came from whom, we agreed that any proceeds would go toward something shared -- probably plants or soil for the garden.
Now that we've been getting serious about fixing up the house together, I've been giving some thought to their wish that we sell a portion of it to them. I'm definitely in favor of that in theory. But I feel like I want to talk through the ramifications -- tax, insurance, estate planning -- with others before we finalize it. All this past year, I've felt reactive -- trying to make up for not having properly prepared before each big decision. I want to be knowledgable about this next step before we take it.
AS called me today at work to let me know at last some money had come in. It was a big 'un, too: a $4000 check!
Not long after, NT forwarded an email from his UK property manager letting him know they need more money. :/ We just can't borrow any more money from his mum--we're already nearly $3K in the hole with her--so we'll have to wire some of our newfound riches. NT asked them to make sure this was the last additional charge, because sending money from the U.S. costs money, and we don't want to have to pay multiple wire charges. The manager also said council taxes would be due soon, but he didn't have any details on that.
On the upside, he says the place will be rentable soon, and at 40 pounds more per month than before. So once it's all said and done, we should be able to pay off NT's mum in 5 or 6 months and start saving money in the UK account again.
NT also had to get his bike repaired, so that will come out of our shared money as well. About $46.
So here's how $4000 becomes a shadow of its former self:
Our half of fence costs (est) $1,300
Send to UK for reno (min) $616.40
Bike repairs $46.48
Left over: $837.12
Still, that's a lot more shared spending money than we've had in a while!
I booked a rental car for our July trip to my family reunion, but we won't have to pay that until we actually rent it. I added a note to my budget sheet so it doesn't fall off the radar, but I don't need to take it out of shared money right now. We know AS has lots more money coming in that will definitely be here before July! I figured out how to use my company's discount on the rental and saved about $100!
Even though it's just a road trip through Indiana to Ohio for a gathering of family (most of whom I don't know terribly well, except my nuclear family), I'm excited at the thought of traveling again. Before that, we've got a weekend in June in our friends' giant home in Winona (small town south of us). So two trips coming up!
My stomach is about 90% better. It's hurting and grumbling now that I had dinner, but not nearly as angrily as the past couple days.
Cat's not back. It's only been 5 days, whereas he was gone 10 days last time. I hope he gets hungry sooner and comes home!
Garage sale is this weekend. I'm taking Friday off to prep for it. We don't really think we'll make much money but it's a good excuse to go through our house looking for things to get rid of. I'm more excited about decluttering than I care whether we make money!
NT's official graduation is Sunday. Kind of anticlimactic; this is mostly so his dad gets pictures of him. And he did work hard on that degree, so it's worth celebrating again.
It's been a few days of ups and downs, and I either haven't had a chance to blog or haven't felt like it.
- Down: Our Noodles ran off again! Even the first night, NT was leaving doors open and letting the cats hang out on the porches. AS and I were worried about that and she mentioned it but we didn't do anything. Well, the second night, he was suddenly gone! There was only one door open, to our front porch (second floor), so he must have gone that way.
I'm not as gutted this time because A) He's demonstrated an ability to find his way home, B) I know it was voluntary on his part this time (last time I thought he might have been shut out), and C) I was very worried about NT last time, but I feel like he was asking for it this time. That was Thursday night and Noodles hasn't shown up. I hope he gets back safe! I've already implemented a strict indoor policy for our remaining cat, and if/when Noodles gets back, he won't get another chance to disappear if I can help it.
Up: NT's work has been pulling in so much money that they gave everyone a $200 Visa gift card!
Down: AS still hasn't received any of the big checks we're expecting. Our small amount of discretionary money is gone mainly thanks to getting NT's cap and gown for his official graduation ceremony, and me and AS going out to brunch for Mother's Day.
Up: We got the property tax money refunded from the duplex refi. I was able to pay off that high-interest reserve line loan. I still need to receive the escrow refund to make my budget work, but I can float everything until mid-June at least, and they're supposed to mail out that refund by May 24 at the latest.
Down: I caught some kind of 24-hour bug and had to go home early yesterday and work from home today. It just wasn't a good time to take sick days, unfortunately. But I've been getting better gradually over the course of the day. And I got a fair amount of work done.
I think that's most of the news. I still feel a bit out of it so I may be forgetting something!
Just kidding; I'm not superstitious, but that doesn't stop me from feeling "lucky" when more than one good thing happens in a row. So first, this morning, I'm awakened to the good news that Noodles came back.
Tonight my broker emailed (that's right, he and the title company actually did their job without my nagging!) to say the property taxes had been paid, so they can refund that portion of my money that they'd been holding. They'll mail a check tomorrow and it'll be to me Friday or Saturday. (I should ask them to wire it and pay a fee like I had to! But I know that's not how it works.)
I hope this means tomorrow we start receiving some of AS's long-awaited freelance checks!
After a mysterious 9-day absence, our cat has returned. He just showed up this morning and meowed to be let in. We don't know where he went or why, but at least he's back! Scratch on his ear, some dust in his coat, and he's lost his paunch (looks like a fit cat now!), but otherwise unchanged. If anything, he was more loving with us than usual and more mellow with our newer cat Clue. (She, on the other hand, is very displeased he came back and keeps growling and trying to intimidate him. I guess she took ownership of the whole house while he was gone!)
Ah well. Just so happy my family is complete again!
Nothing much has happened the past few days. Not much money coming in or out. We did get two Truvia settlement checks for $7.89 each, but no new freelance checks for AS. She keeps working, so the expected money keeps building up. Sure will be fun when it comes in!
We agreed with our neighbors to get started on fencing the backyard in. They said they can cover our share until AS's checks come in. We might have them by the time work starts, but we're just not sure.
NT borrowed another 600 pounds from his mum to finish the UK renovations. I need to transfer it over to the management company this week.
No sign of our cat. I wish he would come home, and I still think there's a good chance he will, though my hope gets a little dimmer every day. We're still hunting for him, have signs up, and are checking found-pets sites.
Tomorrow a big credit card payment goes out, and our bank account will be down to less than $100, either until payday next Friday or until AS gets some checks.
I checked with the broker and the property taxes supposedly sent by my old mortgage company April 10 have still not posted. Which means we can't get that money refunded. Still waiting on the refund of escrow money from the old mortgage as well, and property taxes from the condo that we also double-paid because of closing requirements.
So, in a holding pattern on most things. But I had a nice chat with AS where she assured me I didn't need to feel stressed out on their account because none of our fun money had come in; she and NT know it's coming and they're feeling patient about making big purchases.
AS saw my blog the other day and nicely offered to handle figuring out what to do about the basement area so I don't have to.
I did decide we'll drive to the family reunion in July. Now that the kids don't fly for free, it would be over $2K for airfare, vs. about $600 for a car share. Can't ignore that price difference even if it is a 12-hour drive each way! We'll take the Friday and Monday around the weekend so we can divvy up the driving over two days each way.
I won't actually book the car or the hotels until we have some money in our shared spending, though. Just to make sure we have enough.
I guess that's it for now. Good things brewing but nothing much happening!
The UK mortgage payments and our 0% credit card payment hit.
UK1: $223 to principal
All told, that's $424 down, $76 to go on the May debt goal. I underestimated what our minimum payments would be this month, so we'll easily surpass that with the student loan payments at the end of the month.
NT's had a stomach bug for a couple days, so I don't think anything's been done about the $900 we owe the UK management company for the additional renovation expense. We should figure it out soon, because we don't want the renovation to be held up. Our only two options are to ask his mum for money or ask the management company if they can wait a week or two (whenever AS receives some more freelance income) and then wire it over once we have the funds.
I guess a third option would be to take out some reserve line funds in the US and wire it over, but at the 29% interest rate, I really want to avoid that if possible.
No sign of our Noodles yet. We have signs up around the neighborhood, and NT looks for him at least twice a day.
I had a follow-up budget meeting with my second friend I'm helping. She was unable to stick to the plan we laid out, so she's going to try cash only for her fun money and see if that helps her control her spending. She's also got some homework; to apply to have her student loan payments lowered now that she's single, check on her credit card interest rates, and see if she can put her gym membership on hold without penalty. I've also added a weekly reminder to check in with her to my calendar because she says being accountable to someone might help.
Yesterday was payday. I managed to pay off $2000 of the reserve line funds I borrowed, so there's just $1850 left, plus some interest. I'm using the money that's usually there because we're ahead on our bills; I still need to get escrow and property tax money back from the duplex refi in order for it all to work out. I just emailed our broker to make sure he's on top of it.
In good news, the condo mortgage company found my funds and applied them to that mortgage, so it's gone. I just checked the original duplex mortgage and it's also paid off. So, even though everything still feels chaotic, things are still moving along. I thought May would be the month I started to find out what the new normal felt like, but now I'm thinking it'll be more like June. Oh well. Getting there!