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Archive for January, 2018

Progress on goals, healthy habits, savings, etc.

January 17th, 2018 at 04:39 pm

Over the weekend we received a few of the emergency supplies I ordered. I need to put in batteries, figure out how to use them and where to put them, etc. For now they're just in a box in the dining room. I'll try to keep the grocery budget low so I can get a few more this week.

I joined a live chat for my novel-finishing class and it made me consider some of my characters and how I could make them more interesting. I'm also going through my novel, getting reacquainted, reviewing AS's feedback and doing a light copyedit as I go. I've done 87 of 299 pages. (It started at about 306 pages, so it's also shrinking as I cut unnecessary copy.)

Yesterday my task was no drinking. Warm ginger juice and sleepytime tea again; it might be a new rut for now, but at least it's a healthy rut. Smile Tonight my task is no phone/computer time after work and Thursday will be no social media at work.

I finally yesterday had a day where I did all four of my healthy habits that served me so well last year: morning strength-training exercises, no breakfast, at least 10K steps, no night snacks. I'd weighed in over 135, the highest I'd been in a while, and decided enough's enough; I have to stop making excuses and get back to what worked. Today I weighed in at 133.2, so hopefully I'm on the path back to getting under 130.

Our UK rental income hit that bank account, and AS got a nice freelance payment, so I put some money in savings. US$562 went into UK savings, which is our emergency fund; $300 went toward kitchen reno savings, and I've just started saving up for vacations, so $300 went into a vacation fund. NT is already starting to plan his next solo trip (Colorado in March) so I need to start putting money aside.

We're now at:
$9,562.50 EF
$19,900 reno fund
$300 vacay fund

Our EF goal is $10K, so we're really close! Our kitchen reno goal is $30K, so we've got a ways to go on that. Our total savings are at $29,762.50.

Other random happenings in the past few days:
- I moved a bunch of books and bookcases and taped off the baseboard so NT could finish painting my book nook. It was a dark dull green and then it was half and half (he started a few months ago but ran out of paint); now it's all a nice cream color. It's still a bit haphazard up there -- the furniture is mismatched, I have some boxes of papers I need to clear out, and the books aren't all organized -- but it looks way better. It's so low on my priorities list for home improvement, but this paint job makes it feel nicer. We chose paint colors for the bedroom, so that room will get a little lift next weekend. It's another space that needs a lot of work, but this is a quick way to make it a little better, since it'll likely be a year or more before we prioritize it.

- I went to see my fave band for the third time this month on Monday. Two more shows that I already have tickets to! I've had friends say they were going to the past ones and every single person flaked except AS. She can't go to the next one, but I have about five friends who say they're going, so hopefully at least one of them won't flake and I'll have someone to hang out with. If not, I'm going anyway. Smile

- AS and I ordered new glasses. It came to about $525 each. Yikes! I would have thought it was crazy if PatientSaver hadn't said hers were $400. Mine is covered by flex spending, but now I only have about $70 of flex left for the year, so copays and any other expenses will pretty much need to be out of pocket. Here's hoping for a healthy year! But I think I made a good choice with glasses that will give me a new look. And I changed my hair style when I got my hair cut Saturday. I can't wait to get the glasses so I can start 2018 with a somewhat new look. Smile

- AS now has nearly $18K worked or booked for the first quarter! As a reference point, she made about $13K in Q1 2017 and less than $6K in Q1 2016. Her previous high first quarter was $19.5K in 2015 (kind of a fluke). Since we're only midway through the first month, it's hard to imagine her not breaking that record. But she does have to be very careful about accepting things for the next three months because her time is almost all booked up, so it won't be a TON more, I don't think.

Hmm, I think that's all. 2018 is off to a brisk, but good, start for us!

Progress on goals

January 13th, 2018 at 05:40 am

I know my posts are very repetitive; when trying to establish habits it's kind of mind-numbing to track! Smile

Thursday my task was no phone or computer time once I left work. I did succeed for the most part. I woke up and had about an hour of insomnia at 3 a.m., so at 4 I started watching a show on my phone and managed to get back to sleep after half an hour. I didn't want to, but I also didn't want to lose any more sleep, so I feel OK about that.

Yesterday I refined my emergency preparedness shopping list a bit, and after we did our weekly grocery shopping today (so I could see how much money we had left in the budget), I ordered the first few items for our kit. I used $69 of surplus grocery money and $40 of shared spending to buy:
- 2 first-aid kits (a larger home one and a small one for our "bug out bag")
- 2 flashlights
- 1 combo knife/whistle/firestarter
- 1 crank radio/flashlight/charger
- 10 foil mylar emergency blankets
- 75 "stormproof" matches and a waterproof container

I also looked into first aid/CPR classes in the area and found some Red Cross ones. AS and NT expressed interest in taking them too. We're thinking about taking a health day off work and taking one together; it runs from 9am to 3:30pm. I'm waiting to hear about business travel in February, and once I know what the days are, I'll see about taking a different day off and scheduling the Red Cross class. They're $80-$120 per person depending on level of detail and whether they include pediatric first aid, so we'll probably go with the higher-end ones that include pediatric. (There are free classes through other organizations but all are either filled up for the foreseeable or they're not geographically convenient for us.)

As for my novel writing class, I finished the "query hook" (brief teaser description of my novel) and gave feedback to quite a few fellow students on theirs. I went through a checklist and mentally answered the questions to make sure I didn't have any doubts about the message, purpose, what's special, etc. Now I'm going to start just going through re-reading my novel, making any easy changes that occur to me as I read, and deciding which of AS's edits to take. I'll start that a bit tonight and try to finish during my three-day weekend (I have Monday off for MLK Day).

Oh, and a couple bits of incremental progress on other goals: NT reached out to a designer to see if she'd consult with us on our kitchen redesign. And we pretty much decided we wouldn't go for a UK trip this year; we might tack a week at a beach or resort onto my niece's wedding in August. No firm plans other than that, but it's a bit of decision-making progress at least.

Progress on goals: social media, novel class, drinking, etc.

January 11th, 2018 at 06:24 am

I've had a pretty good couple days in terms of my goals. I wrote the "query hook" blurb for my novel class and gave some classmates feedback on theirs. I at least opened my manuscript and figured out what version I'd be working from. (Turns out AS did edit about a quarter of it, so I'll use that version and review her changes.)

Yesterday was a no-social-media-at-work day, and I succeeded at that. It actually was pretty easy, so much so that occasionally I'd have a moment where I feared I'd clicked one of the sites automatically. But I never did.

Today was a no-drinking day. I liked the warm ginger drink and sleepytime tea last time, so I had those again.

Tomorrow is no phone or computer after work, so I've been kind of getting it out of my system today. Smile But I do feel like I've been spending less time on social sites, at least, so maybe these random days away are helping me be less addicted to them.

I finished the UK taxes for another year. The next tax year finishes in early April. I would absolutely love to list and sell the UK flat before then so we'd only have one more year of taxes, but I don't think we'll be able to do that. Still, I've got a note on the calendar to check in with the management company in February to see if the housing market is any better.

I seem to have restarted some of my good habits, namely my A.M. strength training exercises. And AS and I have walked to work three days this week, though we're getting another cold snap that may thwart our walks. But NT is interested in subscribing to Gilad workouts on Amazon, so that could be another way to get in shape on these really cold days. He's almost over his cold, so hopefully soon we'll do that.

I've had the same hairstyle for a couple years now, but I've had a sudden urge to get bangs. Our regular haircut day is this Saturday, so I might as well take the plunge. I also need new glasses. So I've been looking for good frames and trying to picture them with bangs. I hope I find a cute style and cute glasses. It would be nice to have a new look, though I do like the one I've been sporting. It's just getting a tiny bit old.

I got my eyes tested last year but never got around to buying glasses (so many other expenses kept coming up). So I probably need a new test and prescription. For some reason I hate getting my eyes tested, but I know I need a new prescription; I actually can't read up close with my current glasses, and I can no longer compensate for seeing farsighted. (I think I have astigmatism now in addition to being nearsighted in one eye and farsighted in the other. I'm trying to remember what the last doc said; I think it was that I needed progressive lenses?)

I got a free lunch today; my mentor/boss took me and my other boss out on a whim. I was kind of hoping there would be raise/promotion talk, but it was just a friendly get-together. Still enjoyed it though!

This weekend NT and I aim to get the walls of my book nook painted. He already painted some of the walls but there are a few with bookcases full of books against them. So I just need to help him take all those books out, move the cases, and tape off the edges. It's really not much painting once we get that done. It'll be nice to have it all one color, even if it's still not all that decorated. (I've just got random free/cheap furniture in there.)

I also want to continue my emergency preparedness planning this weekend and read through my novel, applying AS's edits and seeing how it hangs together. (Since I combined two years' NaNoWriMo into one, I've never read it all together to see if it flows OK.)

I guess that's all my news for now!

Progress on goals: emergency preparedness, guitar, novel

January 8th, 2018 at 10:34 pm

I spent several hours yesterday researching emergency preparedness and came up with a pretty comprehensive shopping list, which I'll purchase incrementally when we have spare money in the budget. I started looking at written plans and what documents we need to include in our kit, but I'll need to work on that some more.

I also need to do location-specific research on what disasters I should prep for and how. And I want to look for CPR and general preparedness classes I can take locally, hopefully for cheap or free.

I finished signing up for guitar lessons; I'll be going every Tuesday in February. They'll set me up with a loaner guitar to take home and practice with, which is great because it'll give me a chance to try it out and see if it's really something I want to continue before I commit to buying one myself.

I can pay for these lessons with my spending money, but if I wanted to continue, it would be more than my spending money can handle, so I'll need to chat with the family about it.

My online novel-finishing class officially opened today. I took a survey the teach posted and read and responded to messages on the class forum. This week I want to reread the novel I'm going to work on, because I haven't touched it in a while. I'll also complete the first two assignments: writing a short "query" blurb about the novel and answering a list of questions about the novel.

Other random happenings: NT was able to download the tax software to his computer, so I'll try to work on UK taxes this week.

And I got a notice that my ordinarysavers.com domain will be expiring soon. I need to decide whether I'm going to keep it active. I paid $100 for hosting last year and don't think I published a single new post, so I'd need to think about whether I really have enough new stuff to say about personal finance to make it worth my while. Especially with possible guitar classes eating up funds. Is there a way to archive a site so I don't lose the posts I did do, but don't have to pay to host it anymore? I wonder...

Progress on two more goals: less screen time, learning guitar

January 6th, 2018 at 10:29 pm

Last night I was successful in not using my phone or computer at all after work. Well, I did play music on my phone on the way home from work, but that was it. There were times I felt tempted but it wasn't too bad.

I didn't even take my phone to bed, which I usually do so I can watch a show on mute until I fall asleep. Luckily I didn't have trouble falling asleep and didn't wake up in the middle of the night like I do sometimes.

Today's task was to sign up for guitar lessons for February. I filled out an online request form and the store will get in touch with me, apparently. So I'm not quite signed up and won't check off that task, but at least I did what I could on it.

I also started NT's UK taxes (ugh), but couldn't get the software to download on my work computer (which is the main computer I use at home too). So I'll have to get NT to try and download it onto his. At least I gathered all the mortgage and rent info to plug into the software once we get it up and running. This just has to be done by the end of the month.

We're having a quiet day at home. We'd arranged play dates for both kids with friends, but one got sick and the other flaked. I don't want the kids to grow up, but one benefit will be when they can handle their own social life! There's so much work on our end to get them together with their friends. I was lucky when I was a kid and had friends on my same block.

Tomorrow's task toward a goal is to start researching emergency preparedness. I'm looking forward to it!

First step on another goal (less drinking) and other trivia

January 5th, 2018 at 05:04 am

Today was the night I designated to not have any alcohol. I had a warm (nonalcoholic) ginger drink and a cup of sleepytime tea instead. I've developed a cold, so I didn't feel up to trying any other relaxation techniques, but I will try some on other nights.

The goal tomorrow is no phone or computer time after work. So once my work day is done, no more checking or using either device for the rest of the night.

We'll see how I feel about that, but so far, rotating my bad habits so I can have some but not all of them seems to be a good way to dip my toe into reducing/omitting them.

My goals this weekend are to book guitar lessons for February and start researching emergency preparedness. (I also hope to get the UK taxes done; they just need doing before the end of the month so we don't get fined.) We also have some activities for the kids planned, so it will be a brisk weekend! And poor Anitra has been trying to get the cigarette smell out of our basement since her mom left, and NT has a couple of meetings or other activities.

The good news side of things:

AS's mom's visit is over! It was challenging in many ways but it could've been a lot worse.

We're a little in the hole on shared spending but only because we had to reorder the kids' beds and request a refund, which hasn't come through. If it had, we'd actually be in the positive by about $500. Pretty amazing considering the holidays and everything.

AS's business has started with a rush of offers, and she's already worked or booked nearly $14,000 of jobs for the next couple months! As a reference point, her first quarter of last year grossed less than $13,000. And we're only 4 days into the quarter! I don't know if it will all get paid in the first three months, but I'm positive she'll book other work in the first quarter as well, so I think it's going to be a big 'un.

She also connected me with one guy she works for (who I actually connected her with initially, when he used to work at my company a couple years ago and used AS as a freelance writer). He's going to need a lot of freelance help and I figured I should pitch in a little extra to try and build up the kitchen reno savings, since my entire paycheck goes to bills, groceries, spending money, retirement etc. So we'll see how that is; if I can juggle it with my regular job without feeling burnt out, it would be awesome to have another income stream. If not, I can always bow out after the first assignment if it proves to be too much.

I think that's all for now; my sleepytime tea plus my cold has got me all dazed so I may be forgetting something.

First step on a 2018 goal: social media at work

January 4th, 2018 at 04:15 pm

I think one mistake I (and probably many other people) make with New Year's goals is try to go 100 MPH on the first day of the year, then get burnt out and/or so intimidated or overhwhelmed that I don't do some of the things.

So this year, I very deliberately plotted out my January with lots of little incremental tasks on my calendar.

Yesterday my task was not to do social media at work. Even though I left early and worked from home part of the day, I succeeded even at home. From when I got on the bus toward work until signing off at 5:30pm, I stayed off Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, SavingAdvice, and for good measure I'm throwing in Yahoo email, Google news and my budgeting spreadsheets, because those are all big time sucks. The only things I allowed myself to look at were Google calendar and Slack (which my household has started using to communicate and plan). And I let myself briefly go into one spreadsheet to help AS with a specific task.

Today, obviously, I'm letting myself back on at work. Smile But that's the point of these incremental goals. In February I'll go up to two days per week for each of these tasks.

Today my task is not to have any alcohol.

I'm also trying to be gradual but persistent about adding back in healthy habits that fell off over the past couple months of 2017. Although not part of my 2018 goals, I want to restore them because they served me so well last year. So I've restarted my weekday morning strength exercises (4 days in a row this week) and skipping breakfast most days (3 days but then I did have a little breakfast today).

I still haven't gotten back into the walking 10K steps habit--I'm going to try for that once temps get back in the teens and 20s, which should hopefully start this weekend.

And I haven't gotten back into not snacking at night; there are still so many snacks in the house from the holidays. As they start to get eaten down, I'll try not to bring more snacks into the house, and gradually I hope to get rid of the night-snacking habit.

Baby steps!

January 2018 debt payments

January 3rd, 2018 at 06:52 am

All our mortgage payments hit:
US: $711 to principal
UK1: $178
UK2: $37
UK3: $40

All told, that's $966 toward debt.

Current debt amounts:
US Mortgage $391,136
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $33,393
UK Mortgage 2 $7,039
UK Mortgage 3 $7,413
___
TOTAL DEBT $447,981