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Archive for June, 2017

Halfway to my new meals goal, and other thoughts

June 23rd, 2017 at 01:23 pm

Our CSA vegetable delivery has started up again, so I'm trying to look at it as inspiration for new meals. The first one I tried was roasted asparagus, chickpeas and shallots with a soy-lemon dressing. It was pretty good! I don't know if I'd go out of my way to make it again, but we all liked it. I served it over rice with a spinach-lettuce salad that had roasted pumpkin seeds and balsamic vinaigrette. (I usually just mix oil and vinegar for that, but this time I actually read a recipe and added salt, pepper and a little brown sugar, and it was delicious!)

So that's 25 new meals tried, 25 to go. I have another new meal planned for Saturday night.

AS left today on her travels, heading to NYC first. I haven't posted much because everything feels so up in the air. Trying hard to "go with the flow," which includes scheduling as well as money irregularities. And a good deal of emotions.

So AS's mom had her open-heart surgery Tuesday to repair a valve. She could have had her breathing tube removed and been out of sedation that day, but every patient is different. Doctors kept pushing it back until today, when AS was finally able to speak to her on the phone. She sounded groggy but OK. AS's sort-of plan is to stay in NYC until her mom is ready to leave the hospital. Her reasoning is her mom will have round-the-clock expert care there, but could use AS's help more (and just enjoy her company more) once she's headed home.

But then there's AS's aunt. Who has her own opinions and is trying to ram them down AS's throat. Namely that AS should have been there for the surgery (which was not a risky or uncertain procedure and is actually quite routine) and after. She's at the hospital now and freaks AS out every time she talks to her. Trying to tell AS that her mom is hiding things (all of a sudden her aunt reveals that she has suspected for a while that AS's mom "drinks." To excess? Who knows; she's very vague but worried and disapproving. But if she thought it was a serious thing, why hasn't she told AS before?). Trying to insist that AS's mom needs to go into a rehab facility for several weeks, that the doctors and nurses are more worried than they're letting on, that AS's mom sounded really bad when she came to and could only say "yes" or "no" with no sign she understood what was going on. (AS knows that is not the case because her mom was able to respond more than that even on the phone call they had right after she woke up and had the breathing tube removed.) Telling AS that she'll need to make several visits out there.

It's a big stew of manipulation, mistrust, judgy-ness, lifelong sibling conflict (between AS's aunt and mom) and attempts to get her way, for all of the above reasons. AS knows her aunt, knows she can be unreasonable, paranoid and inflexible. But still, when her mom's health is involved, it's hard to stay dispassionate in the face of all this.

So anyway, she's going to talk to her mom again tonight when she's had more time to clear her mind from her aunt's latest barrage (and when her mom will have had time to perk up after being sedated for four days). She'll talk to the doctor. She may talk to my sister, who's in the area and has visited a couple times. She'll try to decide if she is needed there sooner than she thought. My feeling is if her mom seems despondent, scared or lonely, that would be a good reason to come early. If not, there's no medical or practical reason to hurry down there. This is all due to her aunt's emotional blackmail.

I hate to think of AS having to take calls from the aunt when I'm not there, because they rattle her and I'm usually able to help her calm down. I'd like her to enjoy a couple days in NYC as planned before heading down. But I don't know how that's going to pan out.

I also don't know how long she'll be gone. She's been thinking a week or two in Va., starting next Tuesday or Wednesday.

I also don't know how much this will all cost. It's not that expensive to fly to Va. from NYC, but AS has also mentioned hiring additional help if the insurance-provided caregiver doesn't seem sufficient. So I know that could be a huge expense. And then there's the flight back from Va. to MN.

And then there's just the worrying. Me worrying about AS, her worrying about her mom, and what her aunt thinks of her, or might try to do.

And just missing her. We were separated for up to a month at a time when she was in college because she'd go home on breaks sometimes while I stayed in MN. But we haven't been apart for more than, probably, 5 days at a time since then. Our 20-year anniversary is coming up, so it's probably been over 15 years since we've been apart longer.

Plus, it's a luxury, but it's so nice to have three parents and I've gotten used to that flexibility and ability to cover for one another, so it's gonna be weird to be just me and NT. And the fact that AS works her own schedule, from home, gives her more opportunity to watch the kids if they come home sick, or wait for repairmen, or do little errands and chores that need doing during the work week.

So, I'm just trying to be supportive and flexible and get through the next unspecified number of days/weeks with relative grace and calm. It goes against my pro-planning, routine-loving self these days, but I know I have to try, and that it could be much worse.

My 10-year blogoversary!

June 22nd, 2017 at 08:23 am

OK, OK, technically it was yesterday.

I put it on my calendar a long time ago, reminded myself to post even during the day yesterday--and then just plumb forgot. I'm a bit off my routine at the moment.

Anyway, here I am 10 years later! Since my blog is largely numbers-focused, I thought I should do a snapshot of then and now.

My estimated debt was $457,714. It included $305,544 in mortgage debt on two homes, a $7,000 loan from my dad, $5,000 projected for a trip to England, $72,365 in education debt (this included $40,000 projected debt for NT's undergrad that was about to start), and a horrifying $72,808 in credit card debt!

I didn't calculate our assets for a few months, but in August I estimated them to be worth $507,550. That included $445,000 of home values (though one of them ended up being overvalued by about $40K) and $62,550 of retirement funds.

So technically taken together, we had a net worth of $49,836. If you took out the overvaluation of our condo it would be less, but then again if you took out the $45K of "estimated future debt" for our trip and NT's education, it would then come to about the same. So I'd say we had about $50,000 net worth together.

Our monthly net income from paychecks (including an estimate for NT because he was a temp at the time) was about $5,400.

Fast forward to today:
Our debt is actually almost the same, just a tiny bit lower, at $454,735. The difference is it includes $0 in personal loans, $0 in student loans, and $0 in credit card debt. It's all mortgages on two homes (one of them a multifamily), except $9,000 owed to our downstairs neighbors, which will get converted from a debt to their down payment if we ever complete an agreement for them to purchase their unit of the home.

Our assets are $974,945. This includes two (much more realistically valued) homes and $335,164 in retirement funds. That puts our net worth at $520,210.

Our monthly net income (again an estimate because now AS is a freelancer) is about $9935. So it's $4,535 more per month, almost double, and that's with increased retirement, healthcare and daycare withholdings.

So, our debt hasn't gone down much, but our "bad debt" has been wiped out. Our retirement funds are up $272,614, our total assets have increased in value by $467,395, and our net worth by $470,210!

All in all, it's been a great 10 years. We've made some mistakes, had some setbacks, but I'm pretty proud of my family for sticking with me through it. We've all changed in the way we look at and talk about and use money. I hope the next 10 years will be even more fruitful!

Thank you, SA family, for always being willing to listen and advise. I feel like I wouldn't be in as good a place without you.

Couple of checks

June 17th, 2017 at 05:28 pm

And just like that, AS's freelance check drought broke! She got $1800 from one place and $2500 from another. Our shared-spending deficit is gone.

That win might be temporary, with Father's Day festivities coming up tomorrow, and AS's trip to NYC that will probably get a trip to Va. tacked on to it. Oh and we need to get the outdoor spigot fixed. But it's still nice to see us in the black for a bit! And she's still expecting a couple more checks this month, so hopefully we won't get badly behind again.

Eventful week

June 16th, 2017 at 05:07 pm

Earlier this week (gosh, I can't even remember what day) AS got a call from her mom. She was in the hospital because she'd been getting dizzy and out of breath while on a walk.

Turns out she had an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia?) and they wanted to do this procedure where they shocked her heart to get it back on track. They also wanted to examine her more closely and figure out the right medication, because she'd never had an ideal mix.

A couple days later she had the procedure, but they'd turned up a leaky valve and a stiffening artery. They said she would need open heart surgery.

At first AS was very scared and upset, but the more she learns about it the better she feels. She was thinking she'd need to go take care of her mom, but her insurance will cover a nurse, and she doesn't seem that worried.

To complicate matters, AS's solo trip to NYC is coming up next Friday-Wednesday, and we didn't get trip insurance on that one. AS was trying to figure out whether to skip it entirely, to fly to Va. from there, or what. The date of the procedure kept changing, so that was adding to the uncertainty.

But today things seem to be clearer. The procedure is probably happening this Monday. AS's mom is insistent that she doesn't need her by the bedside during/after surgery. She'll be in the hospital a few days and then will go home.

So at present AS's plan is to go to NYC as planned, but instead of coming home afterward, to fly to Va. and stay with her mom for a week or two. (Just saying that is weird to me -- I haven't been away from her that long probably in about 18 years!)

The great thing about being a freelancer is she can bring her laptop and not miss a beat work-wise.

I'm glad this is happening after the school year ended; AS does all the getting-kids-ready stuff in the morning while I get myself ready for work, and it's less stress if I just need to get them to daycare vs. to the school bus stop at a certain time!

It'll take a lot of other adjustments too; we're creatures of habit, and while we're used to covering for one another during short absences, I'm sure there are lots of things we don't even realize AS takes care of until she's gone!

So it'll be a bit of a drain on our funds, but overall it doesn't seem as bad as it was seeming (health-wise or money-wise) earlier in the week!

Our shared spending is in the negative because there's been a big drought of freelance checks. I would really love that to get back in balance before all this starts up!

24 down, 26 to go on new meals goal

June 14th, 2017 at 10:03 am

So last Thursday I made tostadas for what I believe was the first time. Basically hard flat tortilla shells spread with refried beans and sprinkled with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado, salsa. It's funny because Mexican is a staple that shows up almost every week for us, but I'd never thought to do these. The kids loved them and even had more for snacks the next day. AS wasn't a huge fan because she prefers soft wheat tortillas, but I can easily get a pack of those the next time I make tostadas. We also had corn and Spanish rice with the meal.

Sunday I made "grilled cheese rollups" from the damndelicious site where I got the Korean beef bowl idea. The kids like regular grilled cheese and tomato soup so I thought they'd find this fun, but they didn't seem to be very into them. So I'll probably just stick to regular sandwiches in the future.

Beautiful little house!

June 11th, 2017 at 12:09 pm

Our neighborhood is mostly big, early 1900s single-family or multifamily homes, interspersed with (non-high-rise) apartment buildings. There are these three darling little houses that we pass a lot on our walks, and we've always thought we'd love to own one and make it a rental property, preferably renting to a good friend of ours. They're only a couple blocks away from us.

We never thought they'd ever go on sale, but one of them did, just two days ago. $225K for a 900-square-foot home. It's a reasonable price for our neighborhood.

If we'd sold the UK flat this year I'd totally consider making an offer! But alas, we won't be listing our UK property until next spring at the earliest.

I see that this house is already "pending," and it's only been on the market 2 days. Sigh. I know a duplex would make a lot more sense as a rental property, but I just have such a crush on these adorable houses.

https://www.edinarealty.com/homes-for-sale/1212-w-33rd-street-minneapolis-mn-55408-4840710#/

22 down, 28 to go on the new meals goal

June 5th, 2017 at 05:41 pm

We tried three new meals in the past week or so, so we're getting close to the halfway point on my new meals goal!

First, I decided to make a "breakfast wrap" with a burrito tortilla, stuffed with my go-to tofu scramble, veggie bacon, cheese, and sauteed peppers and onions. We had it with watermelon and potato chips; I'd planned it to be able to be taken on a picnic if the weather was nice (it wasn't). It was tasty, but I prefer a breakfast burrito (refried beans etc.) so I wouldn't go out of my way to make this again.

Then, AS made mushroom Swiss burger melts, with veggie burgers (and vegan mozzarella instead of Swiss for me), sauteed mushrooms and onions, and melty cheese, served with fries. A tasty twist on the usual veggie burger meal; we'd definitely have it again.

And tonight I tried the Korean beef bowl that Monkey Mama posted about! I used vegan ground beef but otherwise followed the recipe, and served it with white rice and sauteed broccoli. It was a big hit with the adults (NT and I spiced ours up with Sri Racha) and even the kids finished it with no complaints. It was super easy, so I could see this becoming a regular weeknight meal. Thanks Monkey Mama!

So that's 22 new meals tried, 28 to go for the year!

June 2017 debt payments

June 2nd, 2017 at 11:11 pm

Our kids are at a sleepover, so we can stay up late and sleep in. So what's a girl to do but check our budget? Smile

All our mortgage payments hit:
US: $697 to principal
UK1: $181
UK2: $39
UK3: $40

That makes $957 to principal this month

New debt totals:
US Mortgage $396,071
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $34,663
UK Mortgage 2 $7,306
UK Mortgage 3 $7,695
TOTAL DEBT $454,735

The busiest year we've ever had (that I can remember)

June 1st, 2017 at 06:35 pm

The year we bought our current home was one of the most stressful, but in terms of actual activity I can't think of a year that's been as busy as this one!

The main thing is travel, which I find more disruptive than other types of activity because there's all the preparation leading up to it and getting caught up from it afterward. Somehow we went from thinking this would be a quiet year travel-wise to planning a ton of trips (and having a few dumped on me by my job).

So here's what we've done so far (and have coming up):
January: No travel
February: NT overnight road trip to Chicago with friends and an overnight solo work trip to Memphis for me
March: 2 overnight solo work trips to Memphis and my solo vacation to NYC
April: family road trip/vacation by a lake
May: a 4-day work trip to Memphis
June: AS's solo vacation to NYC
July: Possible 2-week work trip for AS to Tahoe (late July/early August)
August: week-long family vacation to Virginia
September: NT's week-long solo trip to UK for his sister's wedding
October: my niece is getting married in West Virginia and I'm tempted to go as she's my first niece or nephew to get married, but I'm looking at our schedule and budget and feel very on the fence about it!
November/December: No travel planned at present

So, whew! What a year it turned out to be. Somehow we've managed it all (so far; the airfare is bought for NYC & Va. but nothing else) without incurring debt, and had our bathroom redone, and saved over $8K toward renovations, over $5K toward our EF and upped our retirement contributions by 1 percent or so.

Good and bad money news this week

June 1st, 2017 at 06:13 pm

First the good: NT was able to fill up all the bus passes we needed with reimbursable expenses, so we were able to save $100 in the budget. AS is still benefiting from catching up on this mysterious healthcare discount, so we saved about $176 in the budget! (Next month I think it'll be about $85 less than budgeted for, but I'm not counting on it because I'm not sure what this discount is for.) We also earned $10 in credit card rewards and checking account interest.

I put $100 into savings and the rest toward our shared spending deficit. Even with having a planned restaurant dinner night and me and AS getting some clothes, our deficit is only $500, and we have a bunch of money expected from AS's freelance job.

We found some 4' by 4' raised garden beds for half price on Amazon and ordered two at $25 apiece. Our downstairs neighbors ordered one too.

However ...

I found out that our homeowner insurance will be going up $54 per month in August. That's the same month we'll be done paying in for an escrow shortfall, so I was looking forward to saving about $120 per month, but now the mortgage will only be about $70 less than it is now. Bummer.

Also, we found out our leaky outdoor spigot was due to a pipe freezing and bursting over the winter, and our first quote to fix it is $675.

Plus, we got a massive wasp infestation in our screened-in porch. They found some tiny gaps in the screen's frame, poured in by the hundreds and started building several nests on our porch. We have pest control coming out tomorrow; estimate is $175 to get rid of them.

So overall it's been a bad money week. But I know we'll be able to fund these expenses with AS's expected freelance income.

Which is good because we have to pay for more swim and dance lessons soon and start saving up for AS's June trip and the August family vacation. Oh, and the kids will need a bunch of school supplies over the summer. And AS and I really want a fancy dinner date for our 20-year dating anniversary coming up in July!