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Archive for September, 2015

My first capsule wardrobe!

September 30th, 2015 at 02:50 pm

I'm really excited. I've known about capsule wardrobes since early this year and been really intrigued. The concept is, you set a limit to how many pieces of clothing are in use at one time, and you make sure the pieces all go together, so you can wear them in various combinations.

Maybe because this was a more finite way of getting part of my life in order (vs. renovating the house, which could go on for years and cost tens of thousands of dollars), but when I realized I didn't have many fall/winter clothes, I decided to seriously try this concept.

So yesterday I made a list of the 33 items I thought I'd need, and AS and I went on a breakneck shopping spree (we put the kids down earlier than usual and had about an hour and a half until the store closed).

I didn't get everything on the list and got a few things that weren't on my list, but when I got home and also pulled out my current items I intend to keep, I realized I was very very close. So today AS and I went to a few more stores over my lunch hour and got the last few items we needed to round out our capsules.

We did have to go in the hole on our shared spending, but we won't carry a credit card balance or anything. All it means is we'll be floating our purchases using money that's allocated elsewhere for a month or two, and then when more spending money comes through the budget we'll be able to cover other expenses. (Sounds complicated but it's really very easy to do if you've got a lot of money set aside for various things.)

I spent between $500 and $600 to get 20 things, and AS spent a bit less than that. (She had more existing pieces of clothing that worked with her capsule.) This is the first major investment in my wardrobe in a long time, and the most I've ever spent at one go. But hopefully many of the pieces will last through the season and be able to be brought out again next fall/winter.

September 2015 net worth update

September 30th, 2015 at 10:15 am

Assets:
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): $36,077
NT's Roth IRA: $6,906
AS's trad. IRA: $13,845
AS's Roth IRA: $22,484
AS's SEP IRA: $4,706
CJ's 401(k): $75,895
CJ's Roth IRA: $9,835
NT's flat: 180,000 pounds ($288,000)
CJ/NT/AS house: $440,000
---
Total Assets: $965,040

Total Debt: $485,706

Current Estimated Net Worth: $479,334

August 2015 estimate: $486,035

Change in net worth: -$6,701

Summary: Despite dumping a couple thousand into retirement and paying off nearly a thousand of debt, our net worth is down -- more than doubly as bad as the $2800 dip we suffered from July to August. We've now lost nearly $10K in net worth value over two months. For a short while, our assets were worth more than twice our debt amount. That is no longer the case, since our net worth is now less than our debt amount.

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.

Temptations are strong, resolve is weak

September 25th, 2015 at 01:31 pm

I've seen several of my fellow frugal bloggers over the past few weeks struggling with spending, sometimes incurring debt. I am so sympathetic! I have plans, but my resolve is getting tired. I've got the renovating/decorating bug bad, and it's hard to resist the idea of using some of the money we've got now, or putting some things on 0% credit. (I know! I know how bad that sounds coming from someone who spent the past 8 years paying off CC and student loan debt.)

One plan is to allot 35% of AS's paychecks to saving up for UK airfare, and not touch it until we have $5300. I've already relented somewhat on that, saying we could spend $600-$700 of what we've already saved up ($2349) on living-room furniture and still reach the airfare savings goal by the end of the year, based on what work AS has booked but not received payment for.

Another plan is to put every penny of my and NT's paycheck that doesn't cover our fixed budget categories toward Roth IRAs, with a goal to max all three out for 2015 by January or February. After that, I'll just allot enough to max us out for 2016 by the end of 2016, and any extra money from my and NT's paychecks can be used for other stuff. But January-February seems so far away!

I'm excited about maxing Roths for the first year ever, but it's HARD. The 35% of AS's pay that we use for shared spending money is great for extras such as date nights, kids' classes, wardrobe items that need replacing, and a few other irregular expenses and luxuries. But with diverting so much toward UK airfare, there's not enough left over to do any serious home improvement.

It's hard. I've got money in the bank: $4000 for home improvement; but I know some or all may be needed to get the basement bathroom up to code. $1500 for lawyer and city fees for the shared-ownership and accessory dwelling unit stuff that we'll be exploring soon. $15,200 in savings, but that's to pay taxes on the WV money.

All told, including the above, our checking account has over $12K and our savings account has over $15K. But it's all spoken for! I know I can't touch it.

Believe me, I'm not proud of feeling weak about this stuff. I'm staying the course. I'm staying the course. I'm staying the course.

New furniture and more

September 24th, 2015 at 11:49 am

Our living room furniture arrived! Well, some of it. When we had the living room renovated, we ordered a rug, a chair, a sofa, a chaise lounge and an ottoman. The last three we ordered a custom fabric for, so they told us we wouldn't get them until early October. It was a nice surprise when they called and let us know they were ready this week!

We're not quite ready to show before-and-after photos, though. We've managed to sell or give away most of our old furniture, but we still have a sofa and two end tables clashing with our new stuff. Plus, we haven't hung art up since the contractors painted the room -- been waiting to see how the other stuff looked.

We also haven't picked out end tables, lamps or any other decorative elements for the room, so at the moment it looks incomplete. We've started looking, so hopefully we'll make some decisions soon.

It'll be nice to have one whole room done! Meanwhile, we need to get the basement bathroom figured out, and then we can focus on the others. The dining room should be the cheapest reno of all the rooms. Basically we want new paint, a new light fixture, something to hold keys and sunglasses, and a window seat with a bit of storage under it. Oh, and we should figure out some art for that room as well. The floor needs redoing, but we think we'll focus on the other parts of the house for a while before we sink money into that.

The main-floor bathroom would be our next big reno, but with saving for the UK trip and making up retirement contributions, I'm doubtful we could do it this year. Maybe early next year.

Next year I'm hoping AS's income stays steady and NT and I get a raise. We have a lot of wants for the house! Including central AC, which in an older house with no vents can get rather expensive.

Another payment to NT's mum; retirement recovered a bit; etc.

September 17th, 2015 at 01:14 pm

NT's UK rental income came in, and I was able to send 400 pounds to his mum. That leaves us owing her 1000 pounds by my calculations.

I peeked at my 401(k) as I've done every few days since the market stumbled. I'm back over $80K at least, though still under the high of $84K-$85K that I hit in early August. Performance wise, my holdings are still down about 5% from Aug. 11.

Our living room furniture will be coming next week! This puts us under the gun to A) replace the accessory stuff in the room (side tables, storage and art) and B) trim our foster cat's claws before then (he unwittingly gets them caught in our current old loveseat, pulling long strings from it, and our new furniture will have a similar material to the loveseat). To that end, we've trimmed two claws (we'll need to do just a couple at a time because it stresses him out) and listed the furniture we want to get rid of on FB and Freecycle. Only a few pieces have gone, so I'm going to try again on Craigslist and another FB site. When I get a chance! It's been a busy week.

We don't really have money carved out to buy the furniture, but we're ahead of where we need to be on saving for our UK plane tickets, so I'm thinking we take some from there and make it up later.

We had our basement bathroom inspection and our contractor has news about the results, but we haven't connected with him yet. Sounds like there does need to be work done, so I'm glad I resisted the temptation to spend the last $4K of WV money.

We're having a house meeting tonight to talk about various things, among them applying for city approval to turn our garage into an accessory dwelling unit (granny flat). I found the application online and my downstairs neighbor sounds interested in helping me investigate it. But I want to make sure no one has any concerns before we move forward.

I've started dieting and joined a pedometer challenge at work. I lost one pound last week, but I've been trying to eat less and walk more this week, so we'll see if the results are any better when I weigh in Sunday. Ideally I want to lose 15 lbs. (well, 14 now) before the whole Thanksgiving/Christmas season of decadence starts. So I'd need to lose a bit more than a pound a week!

Quiet Friday night for me

September 11th, 2015 at 06:02 pm

It's a quiet night for me. I'm home alone with the kiddos, who so far only want to watch a movie and eat dinner on a blanket on the floor. I'm OK if they just want to veg out until bedtime. (Yep, they just asked me to put on another movie! Wink)

Things have been going well, just not much to report on the financial front. One interesting thing is we seem to have more and more conversations about budgeting with various friends and acquaintances. At an alumni event, we were talking about our system and the other alums said they'd be interested if I hosted an event where I talked about it. So we'll see. I'll think about it even though I'm not good at public speaking.

AS wanted us to loan her mom some money. She asked about $800, I proposed $500 (which is what AS had left in her charitable giving fund from the WV windfall), and we settled at $700. (That also wiped out the $200 of my charitable giving that I'd been saving up to give to my college. Frown We just got the first fundraising mailer of the annual drive this week. Frown)

It bums me out because we've loaned and given money before and her situation never really improves permanently. In this case I was already reluctant, but especially enraged when I found out one of the reasons she was late on her rent was because she'd loaned her sister $500 and her sister wouldn't pay her back. (The sister, AS's aunt, and her husband make upwards of $200K, more than the three of us together and loads more than AS's mom.)

So, great, we're loaning money because someone who makes more than us foolishly borrowed money from a poor relation and couldn't pay it back. People. Come on.

Anyway, AS suggested to her mom that she consult me about setting up a budget. She PMed me on FB, I sent her my email address and she said she'd send me the details of her income and expenses. But she hasn't yet. So we'll see.

AS also told our downstairs neighbor, who is self-employed and hasn't paid or filed taxes in about three years, to get me to help him. He too has not approached me yet.

Another friend and her husband were talking at a party about how they save nothing and have no control of their finances. They're in their 40s and just got married (2nd marriage for at least one of them). Really cool people but you wonder what's going to happen to this generation that doesn't have the same safety net as previous generations, too much access to credit, and too little financial education. Hopefully I can help them sort it out a bit at some point!

My one friend I set up on spreadsheets similar to mine is still using them, over a year on! I'm so proud of her. I do still have access to the sheets and she asked me to help her with an issue recently, so I could see they were up to date. I couldn't help but notice that she still has about the same amount of debt as six months ago, but at least it isn't more, and her day-to-day budget is pretty under control. And she opened a Vanguard Roth that she puts a bit of money in on a regular basis. So that's kind of gratifying!

AS finally got some of the long-overdue freelance income, which was a relief; we hadn't had much spare money for a while. She's only been getting about $2K a month for the past few months, and a third of it goes to retirement/taxes and a third to the UK travel fund, so the rest has had to stretch.

With this latest influx I made up the shortage from going to the fair, paid for a delivery dinner night, and signed the kids up for swim classes again. I also sent AS and NT, who've both had big intense weeks, out for a date tonight. Hence being alone with the kids.

AS's teaching gig is going well. It's had its ups and downs but overall she seems to enjoy it. At least she's not terrified of the unknown anymore! Smile

She also had an interview with a recruiter from the Fortune 500 company I mentioned in an earlier post. It sounds like an interesting job and one she could do, but on paper she's not at all qualified, so she's rather puzzled as to why they reached out. But, she sent her resume and some writing samples in anyway. We shall see. The salary is insane, high 90s to low 100s. Then again, if she's averaging $60K this year working about 2/3 time, it wouldn't be that big an HOURLY raise to make $90K working full time. But it would be a huge salary nonetheless. But none of us (including AS) is sure that a full-time corporate job is right for her. So we shall see!

We heard from our contractor that he hasn't heard from the city about the basement bathroom. He's going to follow up with them. We're kind of scared to spend the rest of our WV money until we know if anything needs to be done down there. I'm sure our contractor is eager to clear this up so he can get to work and get more of our money! Smile

I've managed to send in all the October extra retirement money already, about $1450. I like staying a month ahead, but it makes me impatient, wondering when we'll be far enough ahead to put in the November amount. Smile I just want to hurry up and max out our 2015 Roths. Once I do that I'll see if we're in a good enough place to put our retirement on autopilot and focus on other things.

We just heard from HMRC (the UK version of IRS) that we did get a late fee for turning in our 2014 taxes late. Jeez, we didn't even owe anything; they're harsh! It was 30 pounds and I had just enough in the UK checking account to pay it. This year we're going to try and file online; hopefully it works. The 2015 returns are due in early October, so we've got a reminder on the calendar to log in to their system Oct. 1 and make sure it works. If not, I can print out hard copies and hopefully get them in on time the old-fashioned way.

I guess that's about it. I've got some days off planned in October for various things, so I'm looking forward to that month. One is for my sister who's coming for a long weekend; another is for a long-weekend staycation with AS & NT (and the kids, though they'll be in school/daycare on the weekdays and have at least one sleepover with our downstairs neighbors).

We decided to have a Halloween party this year. We sent out the invite today, because with Halloween falling on a Saturday, I'm sure other people are pondering throwing parties. We want to get ours in front of people first! Big Grin Lots of planning to do for that one, and it'll probably cost a fair bit of money for food, drinks, some decorations and some iTunes purchases.

I remember now that the weather is turning cool, I got rid of all clothing I didn't love. Now I have barely any slacks or sweaters. Methinks a trip to the discount outlet is in order this month or next! Probably I'll do it after AS receives more of the freelance money she's owed.

Day off musings

September 4th, 2015 at 01:55 pm

I feel like I've had lots of short weeks lately. Last week, I took Friday off to go the MN State Fair. This week, I took Thursday off and my job gave me Friday and (of course) Monday. So I had a three-day week and will have a four-day work week next week.

We've been running lean on shared spending money; AS hasn't tapered off too much, but my job in particular is being slow and clunky in getting her POs and checks. We've had enough to do some fun stuff, but this week we may go in the hole a little on shared spending. Luckily I'm confident the money is coming soon, just not WHEN.

For the State Fair, we probably spent $60 each on food and beer! We went without the kids and just made it a big foodfest, trying new offerings and old favorites.

The reason I took yesterday off is that daycare is closed, which means SL needed people to stay home with her. AS had a teaching-related appointment on Wed. and her first class on Thurs. So NT took Wed. off and I took off Thurs. Today, AS and I are both home with SL. Right now AS is attempting to have her "help" bake a pie. Wink

We tried to plan a fun activity for each day, since we don't get much one-on-one time with either kid, but especially not with SL. So on Wednesday, NT took her to a nearby lake with a beach and let her play in the sand and water. Then he took her to our favorite pizza place for lunch. Yesterday, I took her to a kids' bookstore that has lots of pets wandering around and/or in cages. We browsed, read, hung out with the animals and bought a book each for her and AA. Then I took her to lunch at the cafe next door to the store. Today, she went grocery shopping with us, which is about a mile walk total, and is getting some hands-on kitchen experience. And we let her watch a ton of TV today, since she'd been out and about a lot the past couple days.

Our shared spending covered all of that, but with no new checks in the mail today, we'll have to go in the hole this weekend. We want wine for the long weekend, and we're heading out to the State Fair again, this time with the kids. Don't expect to spend as much because we already have some ride tickets, and we won't be able to stuff our faces quite as much. But a day at the Fair does add up.

Oh, and we need to pay for a carshare for an alumni event we're going to tomorrow. We have a line item for carshare, so we'll pay for it there. We've really gone through the carshare budget this month, though, so other rentals may have to come out of shared spending.

It's not a dire situation, though. AS is expecting $13K in freelance income through the end of the year, and that's without booking any new work, which she'll still do a bit of even with her teaching gig. $3900 of that will go to tax/retirement and $4550 toward our UK trip. But the other $4550 is up for grabs. If my company weren't being so disorganized, we'd have some of it by now!

Speaking of AS's work, her first class went really well. It's going to be interesting because she's using my NaNoWriMo novel for a semester-long mock publishing exercise, where they edit, print, develop a marketing plan, etc. Part of it is learning to correspond with authors, so I'll be helping AS with that (though she'll guide me on what to say if there are certain lessons she's trying to get across; I'm not a typical author so she may want me to act more typical in my correspondence).

Also speaking of her work, she got an interesting LinkedIn message from a local Fortune 500 company regarding a high-level job opportunity. She's not at all sure she's qualified or even wants it, but she emailed back to say she's interested in learning more. So more on that once we learn more about it!

I've been going kinda crazy on the food this summer. I haven't weighed myself, but my clothes tell me all I need to know about that. I've given myself until after the fair this Sunday. Then I'll weigh myself to see how bad it is, and start to formulate a plan to deal with it.

I guess that's it for now!

U.S. mortgage payment

September 1st, 2015 at 08:12 pm

I checked in again tonight and the payment had posted. Guess I've just got to be patient with this new provider.


$656 went to principal, taking us to $976 of debt paid for the month, and taking our household debt down to $485,706.

I'll try to do a more interesting update this week, but right now I'm feeling very sleepy. Time to zone out and doze off. Smile

UK mortgage payments

September 1st, 2015 at 08:16 am

Our new US mortgage holder doesn't post my payment right on the first, which drives me nuts. It's a pretty lo-tech website overall.

But the UK mortgage payments hit:
UK1: $222 to principal
UK2: $48
UK3: $50

All told, $320 paid toward debt, bringing our household debt to $486,362.