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Biggest CC discrepancy ever

July 19th, 2017 at 03:27 pm

So I was suspecting that my tracking of CC spending would be off this month. It usually is on months where there's a lot of spending -- and if it's a couple bucks I just figure my finger slipped on the calculator at some point during the month, and I just add or subtract the amount of the discrepancy to/from the shared spending budget.

And with this being the CC statement that would house the spending during AS's stay with her mom, I knew there was more room than usual for error.

I didn't expect a $185 discrepancy!

I downloaded the transactions to Excel and compared against my manual tracking of CC spending and found a full NINE transactions unaccounted for in my budget tracking. I added them up and they didn't match the discrepancy--off by about $18--so I probably made a calculator error or two on top of missing all those purchases. Jeez!

Three of them were personal expenditures by me and NT while AS was out of town, and the rest could be chalked up to shared spending (hardware, drugstore, more spending by AS while in Va.). This takes our shared spending deficit over a thousand. Dang!

We won't likely see another time period like that soon, where there was stress and disruption of routine on top of tons of spending. So I hope that's the biggest discrepancy I ever have to come to terms with.

But just in case, I should probably come up with a more idiot-proof way of tracking CC spending during the month. Hmm, maybe there's something I can do with a separate spreadsheet tab ...

31 down, 19 to go!

July 19th, 2017 at 02:24 am

New meals, that is.

Tonight I tried a new recipe to use up more CSA beets: beet burgers! They also had lentils and brown rice in them. Also onion, garlic, thyme, fennel, mustard powder and breadcrumbs.

They turned out really well! All the adults liked them, and the kids tolerated them (mainly because I made tiny ones for them molded into custom shapes Smile ).

I attempted a new room-temperature pickling recipe for some cucumbers and it ... did not go well. I had to toss two cucumbers' worth of yucky pickles. Frown

Still, at least the beet burgers were a success! We had them with traditional fixin's and fries.

I had an exciting discovery the other day: Hellman's makes a vegan mayo now! I may switch to them from my favorite vegan mayo. Theirs is pretty good, and cheaper.

Increase in UK fund value

July 17th, 2017 at 03:54 pm

This is partly a note to myself so I make sure to change it on my next net worth update! One of NT's retirement accounts (the one I call FL) sent its annual report, and it has increased from 5534 pounds in value to 6462. Not bad for such a small fund!

One of his three pensions also notified us that it was being transferred to a different company. As it happens, that company holds one of our other pensions. So that reduces the number of companies we have funds with to two. This should make it easier to combine the three into one, which is something NT and I keep meaning to do.

Crazy week coming up!

July 16th, 2017 at 08:07 pm

We've spent the past week sort of dazed and getting back into the rhythm of our regular life now that AS is back home. Wednesday we went to the annual ice cream social at our closest park, and Friday-Saturday we had two kids over for a slumber party. (We invited four but it was kind of a relief that only two could make it!)

Our shared spending is almost a thousand bucks in the red. It's more annoying than anything; we have over $10K in the renovation fund so could pull from that if necessary, but I like to pretend that money isn't there and see if we can make up the deficit with money coming in. Between AS's unplanned extra days in Va. and having two unused plane tickets (she had to buy a third, much more expensive one when it was finally time to get home), and all of us spending a bit more on eating out than usual as a result of our routine being off, plus just the higher spending of summer fun, AS's freelance checks haven't been able to keep up. She booked some new work already though, and still has some checks expected from work she did before her travels. So I think it'll even out.

But first it might get worse, if those checks don't come soon. I looked at the calendar and realized I have quite the week coming up!

This Wednesday there's a parade we like to go to if we can, the Torchlight Parade. There are lots of pageant floats from small towns and (as expected) lots of torches. That shouldn't cost us much at least; I've asked AS to make portable pizza pockets for dinner and meet us there. There's a small kids' fair before the parade that I might take the girls too, but the games and snacks are usually pretty cheap.

Thursday is my work's outing, which is going to be lawn bowling at a nearby British-themed pub. That one won't cost me anything, and I get to leave work early to go to it!

Friday we're having a party at our place; we invited everyone we know and have about 35 yes and maybe RSVPs, which makes me think 15-20 people will come. So we'll need to make sure we get enough food and drink for everyone.

Saturday night is the Aquatennial fireworks display, which is usually better than the 4th of July fireworks in Minneapolis! We used to watch them from NT's work's balcony on the 33rd floor; they moved a few blocks away and are now on the 50th floor. I'm hoping we can watch them from there, although I think NT is at a show that night. But we know enough of his work friends that I think we can still go and not have it be weird.

Then next Sunday, I'm hosting a BBQ lunch at my place for college alumni and a few current students who are interning in Minneapolis. Attendance is typically very low for these events so I'm not going to knock myself out on food and drink, but I do need to lay in some supplies. I'll pay for them myself and claim them as a donation to the school.

Monday the 24th I want to go to a pretty close-by park to see an old-timey country music performer that I used to go see and haven't for years. I'm hoping I can get a couple of friends to come with me, since I've been to several shows alone recently. It's fun, but it's more fun to be with someone. It's free, so that's a plus!

Tuesday the 25th is my and AS's 20-year anniversary of dating! I need to figure out babysitting so she and I and NT can go somewhere nice for dinner. I emailed one place that looks great but doesn't have any vegan options to see if they could accommodate me; typically fine dining places will do so, especially if you give them notice so they're prepared. Whether we go to that place or another, we are expecting to go somewhere pretty fancy and run up a fairly big tab.

Our calendars do seem to fill up lately, but that's a really busy week even by our standards! At least it's a lot of variety and all fun stuff.

New meal & other news

July 10th, 2017 at 12:46 am

I'm on a roll thanks to the CSA! NT and I used a spiralizer to make summer squash noodles, which I lightly sauteed and mixed with a homemade spaghetti sauce with fresh basil in it. We've had spiralized zucchini noodles, but only as a raw preparation with raw tomato or alfredo sauce. It was nice cooked; not as yummy as pasta I must admit, but pretty good.

I believe that's 30 new meals tried, 20 to go. Glad I'm making progress on this goal since some of my others have stalled!

AS called Saturday morning in tears. They were talking about not releasing her mom until Monday. She'd been thinking of Monday as her coming home day, so the thought of staying another day or two to help her mom settle in was too much.

Later in the afternoon she called back. Decision made: Whether or not her mom was out of the hospital, she was coming home Monday night. The stress is getting to AS and she's been having chest pains herself. Plus she's unable to conduct her freelance business since her mom's second hospital stay caused her to camp out at my sister's home most of the time instead of at her mom's apartment as planned. My sister's family is great but it's really hard to concentrate on work when you're in an unfamiliar setting.

Besides, her mom has been getting stronger every day; this incident wasn't a setback in terms of healing from her surgery, so she's in much better shape already than when she came home from the hospital the first time.

I was so relieved! Then this morning we got even better news; her mom got released today and was home by the early afternoon. That gives AS about 24 hours to get her mom settled before she comes home.

I confirmed AS will be leaving town again July 31, but we'll have three weeks together this month, starting tomorrow night, and I'm going to appreciate every second!

29 down, 21 to go on my new meals goal

July 7th, 2017 at 06:14 pm

Last night I did another big salad to use up CSA veggies. I wanted to change it up, so I made rice to go in it, and pickled beets, and a kind of quick sauerkraut-esque cabbage called krautsalat.

The rice was cooled and tossed with bell pepper, green onion, cucumbers, and a simple vinaigrette with fresh basil. The beets were pickled in malt vinegar with sugar, salt and pepper. The cabbage was soaked in boiling salted water, then pressed and tossed with vinegar, oil, salt and pepper.

We also had romaine lettuce, Napa cabbage, spring onions, more cucumbers, sugar snap peas, and toasted cashews, pecans and almonds.

It was a really good salad! I'm having some more for lunch as I write this, minus the nuts and beets which were all eaten last night.

In other news, no definite return date for AS, but her mom is in the step-down unit and doing better every day. They found no sign of stroke in the MRI, and her appetite is much better than before the seizure (so the fear of low blood-sugar, the likely cause of that incident, is lessened). AS floated Monday as a possible return date! That's assuming she can get her mom to a point where she can take care of herself with some help from home-visit nurses and physical therapists, which should all be covered by healthcare. She is feeling really good about it, so fingers crossed it's for real this time!

Time keeps dragging on

July 6th, 2017 at 04:14 am

Long whiny post ahead ... feel free to skip over. Wink

Well, AS's mom continues to improve; they still aren't 100% sure what happened to her but they do get more and more confident that whatever it was wasn't as serious as it first seemed.

The rough outline right now is MRI tomorrow and hopefully moving back to a "step-down" unit. Then ... ???

My timeline -- which is 50% based on actual evidence and 50% wishful thinking -- is that she moves to step-down tomorrow, the MRI shows nothing wrong, she continues to improve, they discharge her Friday afternoon, and by Saturday afternoon AS is confident enough in her mom's ability to take care of herself that she books a Sunday evening flight home.

Considering how much her mom will have to manage -- diet and exercise and pills and appointments, let alone regular stuff like housekeeping and bills -- this is probably quite fanciful. But a girl can dream, right?

Tomorrow will mark 2 weeks apart, the longest in at least 15 years. Actually we probably passed that milestone a week ago. I know, I'm exceedingly lucky that we never had to do this before now...

Luckily the hospital isn't too far from my sister's so AS has gotten to spend her time there when not at the hospital. Actually she hasn't been at the hospital much, though she calls several times a day to check in with the nurses.

My sister left for Kenya today, and most of her family follow on Friday. But my brother-in-law will still be around. He can be a difficult guy to get along with but he's still family, so I'm glad he's there for AS.

NT and I are getting on with things, but I feel like I'm in a holding pattern. The thoughts of converting the basement for my friend to live in, my creative writing, frugal behavior, no night snacking and cutting back on wine, those are all sort of out the window. At least we're still cooking every day -- the CSA veggies dictate that or else they'd go to waste.

And work is going well, though my heart's not in it as much. I was gearing up to hint at wanting a raise or promotion before this all happened, but for now I'm just doing the work that comes in. Oh, and I've kept up on my walking routine and morning strength exercises. I only don't hit 10K steps about once a week, and most days I get more like 12K-20K. For me that would have seemed like a lot even just a couple months ago, so I'm glad I'm in this new groove.

The kids are doing great. They live in the moment a good deal of the time, so they don't suffer too much having an absent parent. Though SL, who's very physical and affectionate with AS, has been very cuddly and kissy with me, so I imagine she's compensating for not having that with AS. I can't complain about that anyway! The morning routine getting the kids out the door hasn't been as bad as I feared; I make them lay out their clothes the night before and I hide all the iPads and remotes in our bedroom, so they know to get ready and not get distracted watching a show. It's been working out and we might actually keep this routine going once AS gets home.

I'm looking ahead at the calendar and really hoping AS gets home by the 14th, when we have a sleepover planned with a few of AA and SL's little girl friends. And really really hoping she gets home by the 25th, which is our 20-year anniversary of being together. I wrote to a fancy restaurant just to see what their prices are and whether they could do a vegan meal for me. If not, I'll start to look at reservations elsewhere. I'll proceed as if she'll be home by our anniversary.

I also remembered looking at the calendar that AS is maybe scheduled to fly out to Tahoe on the 29th for a week and a half at a college she does distance teaching for. If that's still on, I really-really-really hope she comes home in time for us to have a couple weeks together before that happens.

Whatever happens, she'll be back in Va. Aug. 12-20 for our family vacation out there. But at least we'll be there too!

Writing all this down I do realize what a baby I'm being about the whole situation. I think I'll snap out of it once AS has a new return date for sure. I just hate the being in limbo part most of all.

If you're still here, thanks for listening! Smile

AS update

July 4th, 2017 at 08:23 pm

I'm not in a good mood today. No energy whatsoever. I think mostly because AS is still gone and we don't know when she'll be home.

She had her travel booked for Wednesday (tomorrow) and we didn't know that she'd secretly switched it to Tuesday (today) to surprise us by coming home a day early; her mom was doing that well.

Then on Sunday, she went to do some laundry and came home to find her mom lying on the floor unresponsive.

She called an ambulance and took her mom to the hospital.

It seemed really really bad to AS, but so far tests have not turned up much. It seems that she was dehydrated, or had an infection, or low blood sugar led to seizure-like reaction.

So hopefully, her mom will get to go home soon. Hopefully she'll not have lost progress on recovery. Hopefully AS will be home soon. Maybe this weekend? We just can't be sure.

Spending has been meh. Obviously AS has had to buy food, and Lyfts, and stuff for her mom. NT and I have been spending a bit more than usual too. AS did get a couple big freelance payments which helped the shared spending deficit. I haven't saved anything for travel expenses during our August trip or NT's September one, or for my and AS's 20-year anniversary dinner. Hoping I can fund all these things without dipping into the savings I've been putting aside for renovations. Hoping no other unexpected expenses come up once AS is home. But again, just can't be sure.

July 2017 debt payments

July 4th, 2017 at 08:14 pm

All our mortgage payments hit:

US Mortgage: $699 to principal
UK Mortgage 1: $183
UK Mortgage 2: $38
UK Mortgage 3: $41

All told that's $961 to principal.

Current debt:
US Mortgage $395,372
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $34,480
UK Mortgage 2 $7,269
UK Mortgage 3 $7,654

TOTAL DEBT $453,775

Retirement goal progress

June 30th, 2017 at 04:59 pm

Goal: $494,743 by 2019

As a reminder, this is just an incremental goal along the way to 8x income by retirement. This mini-goal aims to get us to a milestone by the time I turn 45 and AS turns 40.

The milestone (which changes whenever our salaries change) is to get me to 3x my current salary, which is now $68,291, so $204,873; NT to 3x his, which is now $62,100, so $186,300; and AS to 2x hers, which in 2016 was $51,785, so $103,570)

Current balance: $335,025

May 2017 balance: $330,279

Progress: $4,746

An OK bump, but not as much as we need to gain monthly to reach our interim goal. (At least it looks like we'll pass our 2017 mini-mini-goal of $350K before the end of the year!)

To reach the goal by our birthdays in 2019, that's 20 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $159,718 -- $7,986 per month -- to reach it.

June 2017 net worth update

June 30th, 2017 at 04:53 pm

NT's UK pensions:
AV: 17,967 pounds ($22,459)
SW: 20,398 pounds ($25,497)
FL: 5,534 pounds ($6,917)
NT's 401(k): $53,765
NT's Roth IRA: $20,651
AS's trad. IRA: $17,433
AS's Roth IRA: $37,982
AS's SEP IRA: $16,812
CJ's 401(k): $109,222
CJ's Roth IRA: $24,287
NT's flat: $212,500 (200,000 pounds value x1.25 -15%)
CJ/NT/AS house: $427,281 ($454,554 value -6%)
Total Assets: $974,806

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

Current Estimated Net Worth: $520,071

April 2017 estimate: $514,368

Change in net worth: +$5,703

Summary: Slowly working toward the million-dollar mark on assets. Not sure we'll get to $600K in net worth this year; not if we stay at this pace.

Notes on the numbers above: House value estimates are approximate. (I do have my eye on a comparable listing for the UK flat, but it's been on the market a long time.) UK pension values updated about once a year. UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $1.25 for every British pound.

I could just use the same title as my last post, but add cat pics!

June 29th, 2017 at 04:35 am

We tried a new kind of tempeh, black bean tempeh made by a local company. I sauteed it and coated with storebought BBQ sauce. I wasn't blown away but it was nice tempeh, much more tender than regular. However I think it's about twice as expensive as the more commercial tempeh, so I don't know how often I'd get it. I also made drop biscuits (AS is the biscuit expert so I just looked for an easy variation). They were OK but would never compare with hers. And we had coleslaw and sauteed chard using CSA veggies.

But anyway, new tempeh, new biscuit recipe, I think that counts as a new meal! What's that, 28 down, 22 to go? I forgot how the CSA veggies sort of cause new meal attempts to happen naturally.

Spoke to AS again. Her mom is sleeping a lot but otherwise seems OK. AS says it's like having a newborn; pills every couple hours, exercises every couple hours, weigh-ins, blood pressure and glucose checks twice a day. All about checking boxes and keeping to a schedule. She's not getting much sleep but it's obvious her plan to come down when her mom got home was the correct one. The aunt hasn't called at all since AS's mom kind of told her off over the phone after she'd left. That's good because I can tell AS is very emotionally fragile with the exhaustion and responsibility and homesickness and lack of sleep.

AS is working on getting the home nurse set up. She also set up some follow-up appointments for Tuesday that she plans to accompany her mom to. So it looks like at least another week apart.

It was easier when she was in NYC because she was always happy when we spoke; tipsy and happy when we spoke at night. Smile I was happy for her and not worried about her. Now of course, I'm very proud of her, but worried and wishing I could do something to ease her burden. She looks thinner on FaceTime and seems on the verge of tears most of the time. I think it'll get easier as her mom is able to stay awake more often and starts to take charge of her own routine more. Also AS is trying to catch her mom up on laundry and housework, but she'll catch up on that and have less to do in a few days. And she's got a couple freelance assignments she planned to do while away, but little free time and no good Wi-Fi signal, so that's stressing her out.

But we're getting through. Fun activities planned for Thursday night, Friday night and Sunday evening. Would have been more fun with AS, but we'll make up for lost time when she returns. We're hoping for Wednesday. We'll make up the budget too; we're now about $1300 in the red on shared spending. But lots of freelance work that AS is expecting checks for any day now, so I'm not going to worry about that.

Anyway, to end on a fun note, I realized I never shared the cat portraits that I got made as my birthday present! Here they are! They're very small, 5 or 6 inches square. NT hung them up in a corner of the living room for me. They're very accurate portrayals of our sad-eyed, flop-eared, many-toed, overweight doofus Whiskey and alert, pretty little girl Clue. They're both such wonderful cats in their own ways; I'm really happy we immortalized them in paintings! (PS, the file is showing up sideways in the post, but clicking on it brings up a version that's right side up.)

New meal and missing AS

June 28th, 2017 at 01:58 am

Tonight was a meal designed to use up some CSA veggies. Smile We had a big salad and I basically put all the ingredients in separate bowls and let everyone make their own. It had:
- CSA Napa cabbage
- CSA Romaine lettuce
- CSA sugar snap peas
- CSA cilantro
- storebought avocados
- storebought tomatoes
- storebought mangoes
- vegan chikn strips
- roasted pumpkin seeds with soy sauce
- leftover soy-lemon dressing from the other night

Not exactly setting the world on fire since we've had similar meals before, but not this exact combination of ingredients so I'm counting it as 27 down, 23 to go! Big Grin Anyway, it was delicious and I had seconds ... and then ate up the last bits of vegan chikn with more avocado and pumpkin seeds ... and then mashed the last of the avocado and had it on a tostada with a bit of leftover refried beans and hot sauce. Needless to say, I'm stuffed! Oh, and the kids ate it up no problem, so that's always good. Letting them leave one or two ingredients off made it more of a curated experience for them, which always goes over bigger with kids.

We spoke with AS on FaceTime tonight. She's in Va. now, at her mom's apartment. I'm proud to say that my family has really stepped up to the plate: My sister drove AS's mom home from the hospital and also all over to get prescriptions etc., and also stayed with her to help her get settled in. My dad picked AS up from the train station and drove her to her mom's apartment, and even offered to loan AS one of his cars (she doesn't drive and her mom shouldn't be driving for a while, but it was nice of him to offer).

Nevertheless, she's missing home and us and the kids and the cats and her routine, and we're missing her. She got a bit teary at the end of the call. Hopefully her mom will progress to the point that AS feels OK coming home sooner rather than later.

New meal tried and things looking up

June 26th, 2017 at 03:24 pm

Thanks everyone for the sympathy on my last post! I'm happy to report that things are going better for AS. She talked to nurses, her mom and my sister, and those three voices were able to balance the scales against her aunt's hysteria. So she's still in NYC and having a good, guilt-free time with one of my old college buddies who has become her dear friend too.

Here's one funny anecdote that illustrates what was going on so perfectly: She talks to her aunt who says "They tried to have your mom sit in a chair, but she couldn't handle it! She got so exhausted that they had to move her back to the bed!" Then AS called the nurses to ask how it was going. "Your mom's doing great! She actually wanted to sit in a chair for a little while! When she got tired, we moved her back to her bed to rest." So, there you go. Two ways to look at one situation.

My sister confirmed after a visit (as did snafu from her own experience) that AS's mom didn't really want visitors. And AS's aunt went home, so she's less of an "authority" now that she's not hanging around the hospital.

AS's mom got moved to the "step-down" unit, which is halfway between ICU and a regular hospital room. She confirmed that AS's aunt was being a real pain with her attempts to raise alarms about every little thing. (She couldn't really say it before because the aunt was in the room. Big Grin )

So that's all looking good. NT and I are hanging in there with the girls, although the housework has slipped a bit. (In our defense it was a really busy weekend and we were barely home.)

Saturday night I tried a new meal. It was going to be pasta with a spinach-garlic sauce. But then I saw that the CSA had given us a much smaller bunch of spinach than I'd expected, not nearly enough for the recipe. So instead I chopped the spinach really small and cooked it with some garlic and herbs. Then I tossed with spaghetti and sauteed broccoli.

It was basically a modified version of this garlic-toss pasta that we do, but it was a nice variation. Simple and healthy. The kids finished it no problem. So I'd do something similar in the future.

So that's 26 meals tried, 24 to go!

Halfway to my new meals goal, and other thoughts

June 23rd, 2017 at 08:23 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 03:23 pm

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 18th, 2017 at 12:28 am

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 17th, 2017 at 12:07 am

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 05:03 pm

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 07:09 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.


22 down, 28 to go on the new meals goal

June 6th, 2017 at 12:41 am

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 3rd, 2017 at 06:11 am

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 2nd, 2017 at 01:35 am

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 2nd, 2017 at 01:13 am

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!

Retirement goal progress

May 31st, 2017 at 09:33 pm

Goal: $494,743 by 2019

As a reminder, this is just an incremental goal along the way to 8x income by retirement. This mini-goal aims to get us to a milestone by the time I turn 45 and AS turns 40.

The milestone (which changes whenever our salaries change) is to get me to 3x my current salary, which is now $68,291, so $204,873; NT to 3x his, which is now $62,100, so $186,300; and AS to 2x hers, which in 2016 was $51,785, so $103,570)

Current balance: $330,279

April 2017 balance: $324,735

Progress: $5,544

An OK bump, but not as much as we need to gain monthly to reach our interim goal. (At least it looks like we'll pass our 2017 mini-mini-goal of $350K before the end of the year!)

To reach the goal by our birthdays in 2019, that's 21 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $164,464 -- $7,832 per month -- to reach it.

May 2017 net worth update

May 31st, 2017 at 09:28 pm

NT's UK pensions:
AV: 17,967 pounds ($22,459)
SW: 20,398 pounds ($25,497)
FL: 5,534 pounds ($6,917)
NT's 401(k): $53,055
NT's Roth IRA: $19,166
AS's trad. IRA: $17,339
AS's Roth IRA: $37,755
AS's SEP IRA: $16,239
CJ's 401(k): $107,705
CJ's Roth IRA: $24,147
NT's flat: $212,500 (200,000 pounds value x1.25 -15%)
CJ/NT/AS house: $427,281 ($454,554 value -6%)
Total Assets: $970,060

US Mortgage $396,768
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $34,844
UK Mortgage 2 $7,345
UK Mortgage 3 $7,735
TOTAL DEBT $455,692

Current Estimated Net Worth: $514,368

April 2017 estimate: $507,869

Change in net worth: +$6,499

Summary: Slowly working toward the million-dollar mark on assets. Not sure we'll get to $600K in net worth since I devalued the homes last month, but maybe.

Notes on the numbers above: House value estimates are approximate. (I do have my eye on a comparable listing for the UK flat, but it's been on the market a long time.) UK pension values updated about once a year. UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $1.25 for every British pound.

Added to savings (US & UK); halfway to EF goal!

May 27th, 2017 at 12:46 am

This was a good money week! As I mentioned earlier, I got a $100 Amex gift card from my job. The next day, NT got a $500 mini-bonus check from his! And AS got paid for a freelance job for NT's work much earlier than expected (netting $400). We have about $70 in CC rewards that I can redeem, and we finally got the "secure key" replacement so I could log in to NT's UK account and transfer rental income into savings.

So, of the $1070 in U.S. dollars, the $100 gift card will be used for our next date night, $350 went into reno savings, and the rest went to make up some of the shared-spending deficit we have right now. (I decided to go ahead and book our airfare for AS's solo trip to NYC and our August trip to Va., knowing that AS's booked jobs will pay eventually.) Our deficit is now only $260, with more money expected soon.

Our reno savings are up to $8300! We have quite a ways to go if we want to do the kitchen next. Or we could decide to do a smaller project.

And, I was able to transfer 450 pounds ($562) into the UK savings account. That brings our EF savings to $5500, over halfway to our $10,000 goal!

19 down, 31 to go on the new meals goal

May 25th, 2017 at 04:04 am

Whew, it's been a crazy few weeks at my job. I traveled for work 4 days last week, and this week is me playing catchup. Plus it's our main client's fiscal year end on 5/31, so it would've been nuts without being mostly out of commission for four days.

The bad: Yesterday I came home from work, made dinner, then pretty much worked until 1:30am on a project I totally hadn't wanted to take, because I had more than enough on my plate. And it was for this PowerPoint where I'd presented an outline that the client got really confused about and thought it was meant to be the piece itself, so she thought I'd really "missed the mark."

The good: I got a really big compliment from two clients yesterday, emailed to an account exec. She forwarded it to all the execs and supervisors, and today I got a nice note from my two direct supervisors and a $100 Amex gift card! Oh, and the client that was confused about my outline yesterday was really happy with the actual writing I stayed up late to do, so I fixed that little snafu.

Anyway, I came on here to record progress on my new meals goal. I knew it was going to be busy this week (though I couldn't have guessed HOW busy) but wanted to try a new meal. So I decided to do "loaded fries." Essentially it was frozen fries, baked in the oven, topped with lots of cheddar cheese partway through. Then people could add chili (heated up from a can), green onions, veggie bacon and tofu sour cream. It actually went over really well, even with AS who's not crazy about chili and our youngest who's not big into fries. Oh, and I roasted some cauliflower so we'd have something healthy with it. Would definitely do this again for a week when we're busy and/or not trying to spend much! That's 19 new recipes tried, 31 to go.

Nice surprise "bonus" and some spending

May 11th, 2017 at 09:53 pm

I noticed that AS's healthcare premium payment hadn't posted for May 1, so I asked her to look into it. Turns out there was some kind of discount from the state (she's on Obamacare), and we don't owe anything this month! So that's a $351 bonus we totally didn't expect. I also redeemed $33 in credit card rewards while I was at it. As usual, I put one-third into reno savings, one-third toward future travel and one-third to shared spending.

The shared spending portion went to make up part of our current deficit. We were about $500 in the hole and now we're $369 down. AS's income has had a dry patch where she's booking lots of work, but no checks have come in this month and she's not expecting any for a little while. We've scaled way back on shared spending; we've only splurged this month $75 on getting delivery (first unplanned eating out all year, I believe) and $90 for a ticket to a show NT goes every year. But we were already in the hole from April; a $100 budget mistake that I had to take out of shared, plus $70 for contacts for AS, plus $175 for kids' swim lessons, and some spring wardrobe items for each of us had put us in the red.

When the money does start rolling in, we'll be all good again. AS has nearly $10K worth of work booked through mid-June, and some of it has already been worked so some money will hopefully come in this month.

And it's important to note that we're not *actually* in the red; I have $7675 saved up for renovations, $200 for painting and other small improvements, and over $600 saved up for travel. So any of that could be used to make up our shared spending shortfall if need be.

Which is good, because we have a couple of fun things planned this weekend that I'm planning to take out of shared spending. A friend visiting from out of town, so we're hiring a babysitter Saturday and going out for drinks with her. And boozy Mother's Day brunch for me and AS on Sunday Smile. Oh! That reminds me I need to figure out what we're doing for OUR mothers. Big Grin

Oh, and we've agreed to split the cost of a handyman/yard worker with our downstairs neighbors; they've found someone who does odd jobs for $15 an hour and is eager to get more work, so we'll be hiring him to mow the lawn, help us plant our garden, and do other general outdoor work. So that type of stuff will come out of shared spending.

But, on the plus side, we've got about a $700 surplus in the June budget that I haven't applied yet. And it looks like AS's healthcare discount may be for the whole year; the way they applied it was about $88 for every month of 2017 so far, so it seems like they may be giving us that discount for every month of 2017 going forward. Not sure why, but pretty cool! (Maybe because she made a little less in 2016 than she did in 2015, and the premium was based on her 2015 returns?)

Oops, I realized it's about time to leave work! I think that's most of my money news anyway. Smile

Progress on new meal goal

May 10th, 2017 at 02:49 am

I tried two new meals this week, so that's 18 down, 32 to go!

First, I had a bunch of cooked lentils left over from the last new meal I cooked; I'd thrown them in the freezer until I thought of what to do with them. With some advice from a friend, I cooked them last night with curry flavors and made lunch portions with rice.

It wasn't a recipe per se; I chopped some garlic, onions and carrots and sauteed in olive oil until they started to soften, then added curry powder, garam masala, coriander, salt, cayenne and black pepper. When they started to smell fragrant I added some water and mock chicken broth powder and cooked until the carrots were really soft. Then I put the cooked lentils in and simmered for about 15 more minutes.

It tasted great and had a real spicy kick. A good lunch option I'd make again!

Then for dinner tonight I made Thai-style tofu wraps with ginger peanut sauce, shredded carrots and slivered red bell pepper, and a side of fried Thai-style potato-corn-chili-cilantro-lime patties. All the chopping and prep took quite a while, but the results were delicious! If I had someone assisting, or had extra time and energy, I'd definitely make both again.

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