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Money in, money out

September 4th, 2017 at 01:21 am

I've been working hard to lower our shared-spending deficit, but like magic, something comes up every time I manage to reduce the balance a little bit, so we're still at about $4K despite finding hundreds of dollars in the budget to put toward it.

However, I'm feeling more optimistic after this week. AS has booked a bunch more work. Some of it is up in the air as to the exact amount, but I do feel like at some point, the money will start rolling in and our deficit should go down pretty quickly. Fingers crossed some of that happens in the next couple weeks, so I can feel confident enough booking our 2-night trip to Wisconsin. We'll see! We have a friend possibly interested in coming with us, which would help diffuse transportation and lodging costs because she has a car.

We went to the State Fair 2 days in a row and spent nearly $500 total! Luckily I'd set that aside in our annual budget so the only thing that added to our deficit was ordering food delivery when we got home on the second day.

I spent some time today turning over the kids' wardrobes from summer to fall/winter. In the process I always transfer AA's outgrown/unwanted clothes to storage for when SL grows into them, and we ended up with about 75 articles of clothing that SL had outgrown or wouldn't need. I took the advice that a few of you posted on MyEnglishCastle's blog and listed some lots of kids clothes on FB garage sale. $15 for a batch of size 4 clothes and $20 for a batch of 5/6 clothes. I have no idea if they'll sell but I figure it doesn't hurt to hold onto them for a couple days and then donate them if no one is interested. We got most of the clothes for free in the first place, via hand-me-downs and grandparent gifts, so it's no loss if they don't sell.

Raise/promotion talks have gone nowhere at work since they switched my reporting structure around and my direct supervisor has been insanely swamped. But we have a check-in this coming week, and I've been getting rave reviews from important people over the past month, so hopefully she has time for our touch-base and I can ask her where we should go from here now that the guy we were going to talk to isn't in charge of us anymore.

AS recently got an offer of a LOT of work from a guy I used to work with who now works elsewhere; I put AS in touch with him when she went freelance and she's done several projects for him. She suggested maybe there was so much work that he'd need even more freelance help, so I asked her to mention me to him. If I could squeeze in some freelance work while I'm slowly trying to nudge my work into giving me more money, that would be a great boost in the meantime. I know he pays really well!

I transferred 1,000 pounds from UK savings to UK checking in preparation for NT's trip. He's hoping that will suffice for his remaining trip expenses. He leaves Friday for 10 days. He's staying with family and friends and taking public transport when not being driven around. So other than a few bus/train tickets and food and drink (and stuff he wants to bring back like HP sauce and PG Tips teabags), it shouldn't be an over-the-top vacation in terms of spending. I'm hoping people cook for him and/or buy him meals once in a while! Big Grin

Anyway, that brings our EF down to $6,000. But if he can manage not to take any more out, and the flat doesn't require any repairs in the next few months, we should be at our $10K goal by about May 2018.

But, I'm braced for curveballs that throw us off course, because it's been that kind of year! I'm hopeful but realize things may not go the way I want.

September 2017 debt payments

September 3rd, 2017 at 10:10 pm

All our mortgage payments hit:
US mortgage: $703 to principal
UK mortgage #1: $183
UK #2: $39
UK #3: $40

All told, that's $965 toward principal

New debt balances:
US Mortgage $393,968
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $34,116
UK Mortgage 2 $7,191
UK Mortgage 3 $7,574

TOTAL DEBT $451,849

August 2017 net worth update

August 31st, 2017 at 06:32 pm

Assets:
NT's UK pensions:
AV: 17,967 pounds ($22,459)
SW: 20,398 pounds ($25,497)
FL: 6,462 pounds ($8,078)
NT's 401(k): $55,218
NT's Roth IRA: $21,088
AS's trad. IRA: $17,792
AS's Roth IRA: $40,190
AS's SEP IRA: $17,167
CJ's 401(k): $111,525
CJ's Roth IRA: $26,168
NT's flat: $212,500 (200,000 pounds value x1.25 -15%)
CJ/NT/AS house: $427,281 ($454,554 value -6%)
---
Total Assets: $984,963

Debts:
US Mortgage $394,671
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $34,299
UK Mortgage 2 $7,230
UK Mortgage 3 $7,614
---
TOTAL DEBT $452,814

Current Estimated Net Worth: $532,149

June 2017 estimate: $530,114

Change in net worth: +$2,035

Summary: Nearly flat month; the only progress was some debt payoff and a bit toward retirement thanks to contributions outpacing minor losses. I'm now doubting whether we'll reach the million-dollar mark on assets in 2017. It's also now even more unlikely we'll get to $600K in net worth this year; we'd have to gain about $17K per month to get there, which just ain't gonna happen.

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.

Sort-of good news for the budget deficit

August 30th, 2017 at 02:27 am

Two recent curveballs, my chipped tooth and the wasp infestation outside our house, are blessedly less than the worst-case scenario.

For my tooth, I was picturing expensive restoration, but the dentist actually suggested just smoothing it down, which I readily agreed to. She called what I had a "limited exam." I'm hoping that means all or part of it is covered by insurance. They didn't have an estimate yet when I was ready to go so they just said they'd mail me a bill if need be. Fingers crossed it's only $30 or $40!

For the wasps, they were inside the wall so I was picturing having to take down the stucco on the outside or the drywall on the inside. But they were able to just spray and said that should take care of it. $118.55, which I consider way less than some of my more grim imaginings.

I did get a $35 bill for the kids' doctor visit last month, but I'm going to check in with the insurance company, because it was a well-child visit with nothing out of the ordinary, so I believe it should be 100% covered.

On the upside, our September utilities bill came in $26.80 under budget, so I put that bit of money against the shortfall. Since the school lunches will be free this year, I requested a refund of the account balance, so we'll be getting $9.40 which I already counted toward the deficit.

On the minus side, some of our recurring monthly donations/subscriptions came through, and I signed AA up for art classes for $189.

All told, the deficit stands at about $4100. I keep telling myself that it would be worse if we weren't putting snowflakes toward mitigating it.

I'm already working on next week's menu and grocery list, trying to keep it minimal so we can put some of the budget toward the deficit. It may not be as big a chunk as last week but maybe I can swing $50 to put toward it. We'll see.

Besides just the annoyance of the deficit, my other incentive is that I really, really want to go to Wisconsin for 2 nights to see my favorite band in October. I don't have enough personal spending money for that and wouldn't feel comfortable adding to the shared spending deficit unless we were well on our way to making it up. If we've made a decent amount of progress, maybe I can split the cost between shared spending and my personal money. But not if it keeps hovering around $4K. It will have to be quite a bit lower than that!

I half-heartedly reactivated my Mechanical Turk account, thinking about raising some bits of money that way. But AS thinks if I'm going that route, I may as well just look for real freelance writing/editing work and get paid a decent amount for my time. So I'm vaguely considering that. I'm also still tooting my own horn at work in hopes of a promotion; I got a really good praise email from the company president and forwarded it right along to my direct supervisor.

Spending, saving and more

August 26th, 2017 at 07:56 pm

Some small financial ups and downs this past week:

- Our daycare lady has raised the price of after-school care to $500 per month per kid. Last year AA's was $485 so that's what I was expecting for SL. So this is $30 more per month than expected. However, I can't complain. For that amount we get the kids picked up after school and watched for about 3 hours (and given a snack), full-day care on school closure days when daycare is open, and of course the bonus "parents' night out" in December when they keep the kids one Friday night for a sleepover. Plus we just love our daycare lady and this is likely AA's last school year with her!

- Not a financial woe yet, but a tooth that slightly chipped last month chipped a bit more yesterday. I went ahead and scheduled a dental appointment to see what they think. If they think it needs fixing but that it can wait until the new year, I'll do that so I can up my flex spending and get a bit of a tax discount.

- We had some good news at the back-to-school night: Our entire school has qualified for free lunches! We typically spent about $7 per week for AA, so that would've doubled with SL. We didn't have a line item for it since it was irregular, so that would have come out of our shared spending money. Considering the big deficit we have right now, this news is especially welcome!

- We kept our grocery spending to about $107 this week. That means we can put $63 toward our deficit. We're doing a great job using up the CSA veggies, eating through our pantry and only buying what we need!

- However, I bought the kids back-to-school outfits today to the tune of $250. Considering we got 2 pairs of pants, 1 dress, 1 shirt, 1 skirt, 1 cardigan, 4 pairs of shoes, 2 hair accessories, 2 backpacks, 2 lunch boxes and 1 thermos, that's less than $15 per item, so not bad. But it sounded like a lot all totaled up!

- We might have a bit of money left in the carshare budget for August, maybe $50, that we can put toward the deficit. We shall see.

- I'm going to sign AA up for art classes, and I think that'll be nearly $200. But it's through the end of the year, so we'll get a lot out of it. We'll have to start the kids back up on swim lessons soon too, so that'll also add to the deficit.

- I used an Amex deal for a $25 credit if I spent $75. I actually spent $80 but used a $4 credit, so all told, I spent $51 out of pocket for tons and tons of snacks and juice boxes for school lunches that will last us a while.

- AS booked some good-paying work, and I made a good impression on my boss on Friday at a big meeting -- nothing concrete, but she made a point of complimenting me in an email to several execs including the president of my division, so I think she's positioning me for promotion/raise talks. Fingers crossed!

-EDIT: Aand, now we have another bee infestation. Or wasps. So that'll be more money out.

And the beat goes on

August 24th, 2017 at 04:00 pm

We're back from our vacation! Contrary to my prediction, we spent a TON on the trip. We spent on food, because there wasn't a single home-cooked meal. We spent out of boredom -- the grownups would take turns one staying at the hotel while the other two went out to have drinks after the kids were in bed. We spent to treat family members to meals -- we bought lunch for my sister and niece, aquarium admission for another niece, dinner for AS's mom once, and food for my mom a couple times. (People also treated us to meals so it wasn't one-sided.) We spent from disorganization -- we'd let the kids pack and they left out some significant articles of clothing, so we hit a thrift store to buy stuff they could use.

All told I think we spent around $180 a day, and that's not counting flights, car rental or hotel. Yikes!

But whatever. We're back, we survived, and our shared spending deficit is up around $4K. We did get it down through AS freelance income and September budget surplus, but then back-to-school stuff and unreimbursed expenses from AS's trip brought it back up.

A warm-weather trip during Xmas break certainly seems like a pipe dream now, but that's OK if we can't swing it. We've traveled a TON recently and NT still has his UK trip in September. I'm actually contemplating a road trip with AS in October to Wisconsin -- my favorite band is playing in two WI towns on two consecutive nights! But that wouldn't be a very expensive trip. But I'm holding off committing to that one right now.

A shared-spending deficit is more annoying than anything. We can float that kind of deficit in the budget indefinitely since we're always about a month ahead in terms of paying bills. And we have almost 5x the amount of the deficit in savings, so we could easily pay it off at any time. So I'm not going to get in the dumps about it; I'll just keep pecking away however I can.

At least we've been able to stay under budget on groceries every week, so I've been putting that toward it. But that's just a drop in the bucket. We don't really have anything we could sell to raise extra money. I'm subtly trying to position myself for a raise and promotion but there's no guarantee that'll happen anytime soon. AS is always booking new work, so that's our best bet for getting rid of it. There is the possibility of a Xmas bonus for NT in December, so if we haven't eliminated the deficit by then, that would probably help us wipe it out.

So long story short, I'm reporting it to keep myself accountable for reconciling this deficit, but I don't feel that bad about it. Smile

Grocery success & other money stuff

August 9th, 2017 at 03:46 pm

We're over halfway through the week and I'm now confident we won't need to buy any more groceries, so I put the $139 surplus toward our shared spending deficit! Unfortunately we had two expenses this week -- a $48 train ticket for NT's UK trip and a $70 rental license renewal fee for our duplex -- so it was pretty much a wash. Oh well; those expenses would've come anyway, so without our scrimping on groceries we'd have gone even further into the hole.

AS did have two freelance checks come in, so our deficit is down from $3200 to about $2400.

Of course, here comes vacation, so the deficit will go up again! The good news is, we shouldn't need to use the next weekly grocery budget ($170) at all, so all or most of that will go toward offsetting vacation spending.

AS gets in from her work trip this afternoon, and we head out to Va. on Saturday. She's had quite the summer; this will be her third trip (fourth, if you consider she went to both NYC and Va. during the first one).

I'm not planning many expensive activities, but I know food and gas expenses will pile up. We'll be able to cook a bit at our family's homes, and I'm sure family will buy some of our meals, but I know it'll add up.

And then, after vacation, shopping for school supplies and clothes for the kids! Still, I'm feeling good about us not splurging on things that aren't planned. We're doing well at reining it in and it's helping the deficit not go out of control.

$30.83!

August 4th, 2017 at 09:58 pm

Our goal was $38 for groceries this week. We bought everything on the list and it appears we got away with spending even less: $30.83! That means we have $139.17 left in the grocery budget for the week.

I'm not sure if I'll count it toward the shared spending deficit just yet. What if we run out of something that we need to replace? But I'm going to try my darnedest to head off that possibility.

We're looking at a moderately uneventful weekend, so I'm hoping to just relax, stick to the meal plan, maybe work on one of my novels, and not spend much. Sunday I'm planning to go to a brunchtime show out at a nearby , which I think is free but I'll feel obligated to buy something. Maybe just a snack and beverage. We'll see. I've still got a big ($138) personal spending deficit from buying tickets to a different music show (plus parking and a beverage), so I'd love to put at least some of this week's $40 allowance to seeing that go down a bit!

This week's grocery spending goal: $38

August 3rd, 2017 at 04:04 am

I made a menu plan and ran it by NT to try and eat all the veggies we got and buy only minimal staples to supplement them. Our goal for this week is a little more than last week's $23, but still astonishingly small for us! If we swing it, we could have $132 to put toward our shared spending deficit.

Here's the proposed shopping list:
2x garlic $2
onions $2
fruit $6
ginger $1
bread $4
5 boxes of pasta $5
baked beans $3
soymilk $4
margarine $4
parmesan $4


Meal plan (starts Friday because tomorrow our neighbors are treating us to dinner out):
Friday: roasted potatoes, zucchini, pepper & veggie sausage w/pasta or rice
Saturday lunch: hot dogs & beans & cukes w/ranch sauce
Saturday dinner: creamy kale pasta
Sunday lunch: grilled cheese sandwiches w/veggies & chips
Sunday dinner: spaghetti w/red sauce & breaded eggplant (cukes/celery for kids)
Monday: parsley breadcrumb pasta & veggies
Tuesday: BBQ mock duck, corn, potatoes, zucchini & pepper
Wednesday (neighbors cook)
Thursday: sandwiches/leftovers/etc.

It's a little more roughed out than usual. For instance I'm not sure how I'll cook all the veggies Tuesday. Separately or together? Stovetop or oven? I'll figure it out when I get closer to it.

We'll probably do the shopping Friday evening, so I should know then how close we got to staying within budget!

One more new meal!

August 3rd, 2017 at 01:52 am

Tonight we had the new black eyed peas recipe, with rice, vinegar-sugar cucumbers, pickled beets, pickled jalapenos, red cabbage slaw, and buttery green beans. We have a ton of leftovers but should be able to eat it all for lunches before anything goes bad.

It was all right, nothing to write home about. It was a nice mild accompaniment to all the spicy and sour sides though, so I really enjoyed it all together. That's 36 meals tried, 14 to go!

Assuming we eat all these leftovers, we made it through ALL our veggies except 2 cucumbers, a couple stalks of celery and a bit of garlic. Now we've got a whole batch of new veggies from the CSA, so I'm sitting down to make out a meal plan to use 'em all with minimal grocery shopping!

More new meals and eat-it-all progress

August 2nd, 2017 at 04:31 pm

We tried the vegetable soup last night. I didn't follow the recipe exactly, just used what veggies and fresh herbs we had, but it turned out pretty great. It's vegetable soup, not something anyone in the house would be excited to do very often, but it tasted good and served its purpose of getting rid of a bunch of veggies. I cooked some macaroni to drop into the soup. The kids weren't crazy about it but managed to finish so they could have sweet treats. Smile So that's 35 meals tried, 15 to go!

Last night I prepped some various pickly things for tonight's dinner: I pickled some beets in malt vinegar, salt and sugar; marinated all but 3 of our cucumbers in white vinegar, salt and sugar, and sliced up 3 jalapenos and put those in apple cider vinegar with salt and sugar. This will go with black eyed peas, white rice, green beans and red cabbage slaw. We're having the neighbors up and possibly another friend over so hopefully we can eat down this food. If not I'm determined to finish it as leftovers! We do have two big containers of the veggie soup from last night too, but some of this will keep into next week so I should be able to eat it for lunches.

Anyway, once I cook tonight's green beans the only old veggies left in our fridge will be 3.5 cucumbers and about 5 stalks of celery. Those are things I can get the kids to snack on.

But today after work I pick up our next CSA box, so we start over again! However, this time I don't ALSO have the remains of two parties, so using up this batch will be a walk in the park, more like what we're used to with CSA season.

We'll have to spend a bit more on groceries this week than last. We almost got away with spending just $9.05 on groceries! But a recurring razorblade order went through for $16.38, taking us to $25.43. A tiny bit more than the $23 I was hoping for, but not bad at all! I get to put $118.37 of grocery money toward the shared spending deficit. It's a drop in the bucket, but I'm proud of us for pulling it off. This coming week we're starting with $170, so maybe we'll be able to put a similar amount toward shared spending.

A couple unexpected shared-spending things came up: The girls are going away for their first non-daycare sleepover tomorrow, so I need to get them sleeping bags. And I need to buy note cards to write some notes for my alma mater. So the grocery push didn't reduce the deficit much, but at least it's holding a bigger deficit at bay. Some kind of progress anyway!

August 2017 debt payments

August 2nd, 2017 at 04:17 pm

All our mortgage payments hit:
US: $701 to principal
UK1: $181
UK2: $39
UK3: $40

All told that's $961 paid toward debt for August.

I looked at next month's mortgage payment and it doesn't seem to be going up, even though our homeowner insurance went up by over $50 per month. Maybe they'll do another escrow shortage thing the next time they assess it. I'm not going to ask them about it anymore, because I'm pretty sure if they assess now, they'll stretch our current shortage over another 12 months plus add on to it. Let's get this shortage made up (should be over in December) and see what the next one looks like.

Current household debt now stands at:
US Mortgage $394,671
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $34,299
UK Mortgage 2 $7,230
UK Mortgage 3 $7,614

TOTAL DEBT $452,814

Retirement goal progress

August 1st, 2017 at 05:46 am

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: $344,108

June 2017 balance: $335,025

Progress: $9,083

Man, if we had progress like this every month, we'd be on track to hit our 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 19 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $150,635 -- $7,928 per month -- to reach it.

July 2017 net worth update

August 1st, 2017 at 05:36 am

Assets:
NT's UK pensions:
AV: 17,967 pounds ($22,459)
SW: 20,398 pounds ($25,497)
FL: 6,462 pounds ($8,078)
NT's 401(k): $54,953
NT's Roth IRA: $21,137
AS's trad. IRA: $17,813
AS's Roth IRA: $40,273
AS's SEP IRA: $17,199
CJ's 401(k): $111,841
CJ's Roth IRA: $24,858
NT's flat: $212,500 (200,000 pounds value x1.25 -15%)
CJ/NT/AS house: $427,281 ($454,554 value -6%)
---
Total Assets: $983,889

Debts:
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

Current Estimated Net Worth: $530,114

June 2017 estimate: $520,071

Change in net worth: +$10,043

Summary: Pretty good month! Steadily working toward the million-dollar mark on assets. That seems within reach. It's unlikely we'll get to $600K in net worth this year; even if every month was as good as this one we'd still be about $20K short.

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.

More eat-it-all progress

August 1st, 2017 at 05:19 am

Phew! I've been busy tonight, cooking vegetable soup for tomorrow and black eyed peas for Wednesday. Both have to simmer for another half hour at least, so I've got to stay awake. Smile I'll wait to count these two meals toward the new-meals goal until we actually serve and eat them.

I've got our use-it-up list down to 15 items. A few of them are frozen or could be if we don't use them soon. The last remaining veggies I have plans for: a sugar-vinegar cucumber salad, pickled beets and pickled jalapenos for Wednesday's meal; cucumbers and celery sticks and grapes for the kids to snack on this week. Oh and we've got one tomato from the garden that I'll probably just cut up and share with the kids at some point.

Other than that, it's mostly things that can wait until next week if necessary. We did throw out a few pieces of watermelon, a bit of chopped cilantro and some green onions tonight. So there has been some food waste this week, but not nearly as much as if I hadn't been tracking usage and planning meals. At least we have composting so it's not like the tossed food isn't serving any purpose.

When we get our CSA Wednesday, we can start planning the following week. We've run through some staples but still have a few things, so I'll see what we can manage to not replenish until the week after next. My hope would be to use some of the grocery money toward our shared spending deficit. Even though it's just a drop in the bucket, it would help, and it's just a good exercise to see what we can do when we need to get creative and thrifty with grocery spending.

New meal, AS gone again and the eat-it-all goal

July 31st, 2017 at 09:56 pm

Sunday for lunch, we had the spicy Thai carrot soup I made the other day. We had it while the kids were at a playdate because I wasn't even going to try to get them to eat it. Smile I liked it, NT didn't have much to say one way or the other, but to my surprise, AS -- who doesn't really like soup, doesn't like spice and has no strong opinion about carrots -- loved it and had two big bowls! 34 new meals down, 16 to go!

AS headed out this morning for another trip. This one is 10 days, but it doesn't come with the stress of worrying about a family member's health, or AS's state of mind -- it's just a work trip -- and it has a definite return date, so that's a lot less stress on my end too.

On the eat-it-all goal, we used some stuff up this weekend (many veggies and seitan and satay sauce -- in a stir-fry and a slaw and by snacking) and threw out a bit (a handful of basil that was too limp to save). Tonight I'm going to make a soup for Tuesday using as many veggies as I can--I think I can use everything not slated for another meal, except cucumbers (which I'm hoping the kids will eat up as snacks, but I may use some to make a cucumber salad...) and beets (which would turn the whole soup purple ... maybe I'll pickle them like I did last time I had beets...). I'll leave aside some garlic and onion and one carrot for other meals we have planned, but other than that I want to try and use everything in the soup. (It'll be very green-bean heavy, but oh well!) Then hopefully we'll have a clean slate in terms of fresh veggies, just in time for our next CSA delivery Wednesday!

Grocery spending so far

July 29th, 2017 at 08:33 pm

So our goal was $23 for groceries. NT stopped at one store Friday and picked up coffee (came to $6.56 instead of the $10 budgeted) and milk ($2.49 instead of $3). Total: $9.05

NT decided he could do without granola this week and found some probiotic in the fridge so didn't need Activia. And it looks like he's making do with iced tea instead of lemonade. So, this may be our only grocery spending this week!

We're running out of some staples/supplies, so I've been adding them to the list. But if it seems like we don't NEED them next week, I may delay buying them as long as possible.

We've crossed 21 things off our list of stuff to use up, and only two were because we had to throw stuff away. (And it wasn't much that got tossed -- a slice of cake and maybe 5 leaves of lettuce.) We still have 30 things on our list but we've been working our way through some of them, just haven't finished them off completely.

The kids have gotten into the spirit of it and now we've got a name: Team Eat-It-All. Big Grin

A $23 weekly grocery shop: Can we do it?

July 28th, 2017 at 02:45 am

I tried to make a completely shopping-free menu for the coming week! I did for dinners, but there were a few staples it would be unpleasant to live without.

Here's the menu:
Friday: tofu meat/cheese sammiches, veggies, fruit, chips
Saturday lunch: grilled cheese sammiches, chips & fruit/veggies
Saturday dinner: seitan, potatoes, snap peas, green beans, bell peppers in satay sauce over rice
Sunday lunch: Thai carrot soup & bread or rice
Sunday dinner: veggie burgers/dogs, red cabbage slaw
Monday: spaghetti & red sauce, fresh veggies
Tuesday: black-eyed peas, rice, red cabbage slaw, corn
Wednesday: neighbors cook
Thursday: garlic toss pasta w/CSA veggies

And here's our grocery list:
lemonade $2.00
coffee $10.00
1/2 gallon milk $3.00
granola $3.00
Activia $5.00

Total: $23.00

As a point of reference, our grocery budget is $170 per week in the summer, but we usually try to go under that (and sometimes go over). We went over budget last week, so we have $143.80 left. If we manage to keep our grocery spending to $23, that will give us $120 to put toward the shared spending deficit.

Wish us luck! Smile

Lots of expenses

July 27th, 2017 at 04:01 pm

One of the reasons I'm dead set on eating through the fridge is so we can hopefully skip grocery shopping for at least a week (and do minimal shopping the following one). Our shared spending is now deeply in the red.

We have plenty of time to make it up before we'd have to pull from savings, so I'm still hoping we can pull it off. I think we will.

Recent expenses that have thrown us out of whack:
- It started in June with a $150 medical bill and an outdoor spigot that needed fixing, $625
- Then came AS's additional trip after the planned one--between her necessary spending and my and NT's extra spending due to routine being thrown off, maybe $2000?
- The two parties, about $425 for food and beverages
- Our anniversary dinner, an absolutely incredible experience that came to $415 plus Lyft rides to and from
- Spending for the August trip to Va.--I was thinking about trying to bunk with family and borrow a car from them, but decided it was worth the expense to save the hassle and get a hotel and rental car. About $1500--and we'll have food, entertainment and gas expenses while we're there.

All things considered, the fact that we're "only" $3200 in the hole isn't too bad. Without the unexpected medical, repair and travel costs we'd be almost breaking even. And I've been still putting a third of AS's net income into savings for renovations.

AS has been booking work steadily since she came back from her travels. She's traveling again for 10 days starting Monday, but it's a work thing where she expects a lot of downtime, so she's been booking jobs that she can work while she's there. She's just agreed to another job that may be small or big--we're waiting to hear how much time it is and what it pays (but it's with a place that's always generous, so she agreed to it either way).

So without that, which could be anywhere from a couple hundred to a few thousand, and another place that's probably going to give her $1000 job soon, she's already got nearly $5K of work booked. With these other two factored in it could be closer to $7500. I always take off 36% for taxes and retirement, which would leave us with about $4800. If I put a third of that into savings, that leaves $3200--exactly what we need to make up the deficit!

We don't have a ton of other expenses coming up that aren't budgeted for.
- School supplies and clothes will be a couple hundred, probably, now that both kids are going.
- Vacation spending in Va. will add up but I don't think it'll be outrageous.
- State Fair has already been budgeted for, thank goodness--we like to go a couple times and sample a ton of food.
- And NT's spending while in the UK will come out of UK savings (which is our EF, but he won't use it all and we'll replenish easily enough with rental income).

If we can avoid too much grocery spending for the next couple weeks, we can apply that budget to the deficit. Plus I have a small ($500 or so) budget surplus in September that can help offset it too. And of course AS will continue to book more work.

So, it'll be a bit of a slog, but I feel good about being able to eventually make it up without withdrawing from or slowing contributions to our savings!

Trucking on using up food; new meals goal

July 27th, 2017 at 05:52 am

I took Carol's advice and made a big list of perishables, and I've become addicted to crossing things off it! We've been winging it with meals, but making sure that we eat something from the list every time.

Tonight I made our first organized meal in about a week: roasted veggies and vegan brats tossed in spices and mixed with pasta. It went over pretty well and, more importantly, used quite a few veggies! 33 down, 17 to go on the new meals goal!

Tonight I stayed up late getting some cooking done. I made the chard, kale and collards we have from our garden and the CSA into chips (AS and I ate some of them but there are plenty for low-cal snacking). I also turned the Chinese eggplant as well as a bit of the garlic, parsley and cherry tomatoes into baba ganouj for a mini-potluck tomorrow at work, and I'll take the gluten-free crackers that someone brought to my Sunday BBQ.

Then I made a Thai carrot soup using up 2 lbs. of the many many carrots that had somehow accumulated in our fridge. We still have probably another pound and a half left! It also used one of the onions and some garlic. Hopefully we'll be able to eat it for lunches or something.

We took in a whole new load of veggies today thanks to our CSA, but I added them to the list and intend to keep going. With fewer events planned I think we can go back to the menu plan to some extent, though there are a fair number of social things coming up so it might be a quick and random meals week. But with our list, we should be able to avoid food waste and hopefully not have to get many groceries.

It's been fun, but weird, to not have a meal plan and to have such a crazy abundance of veggies! (Click image to see it right side up.)

New meals goal and other ramblings

July 23rd, 2017 at 02:49 am

We are halfway through our crazy week, and AS and I decided to skip the fireworks tonight. The kids didn't even know they were happening; I must have sensed I might not be in the mood, so I didn't tell them our plans. NT's work decided not to host a viewing party this year, and the thought of finding a place out in the crowds was uuuggghhh. NT is at a show tonight so it would've been me and AS. And they don't start till 10 so the kids would have another late night. They've had two recently (last Friday for a sleepover and Wednesday for the Torchlight parade), so we figure that's enough for now. So AS and I are having a quiet night at home and I must say it feels like a FABulous decision. Smile

So our crazy week started Wednesday. The pre-parade kids' festival was awesome (SL had her first pony ride!). I spent less than $20 for game tickets and snacks. The parade was great; the kids were really into the lights and the fancy pageant floats and the music. We saw dark clouds gathering and left a few minutes before the end. Had to walk a ways to get a bus because they'd been diverted for the parade. Got the bus and the heavens opened while we were on it. So we only had to endure a one-block mad dash in the rain, and AS had thought to bring raincoats for the kids, so it wasn't too bad. But it was almost 11pm, so a late night for them!

Oh, and AS brought our dinner: pizza pockets made with Pillsbury crescent dough. They were yummy and we'd definitely have them again! So that's 32 meals tried, 18 to go.

Thursday my work party was tons of fun. Lawn bowling, talking to people about stuff other than whatever we're working on, delicious drinks and OK snacks. Oh, and the morning of that day, I decided to finally broach the subject with my boss of wanting some kind of advancement in my career! She seemed on board though she's newish and doesn't know how that all works; we'll be talking to HER boss (who used to be my boss and is wonderful) soon, I hope. So fingers crossed! I had a great time chatting with him at the party (I didn't bring up the promotion thing), and he opened up and showed me photos of a baby he recently fathered for some friends of his, a lesbian couple. So sweet!

Friday our home party was wonderful. About 15 to 20 people as I'd predicted, but spread out (some early attendees left just as others were coming) so it always felt small and mellow. Which is actually what we were in the mood for vs. a loud party, so we had a great time. Tried several new recipes, but none of them were a meal so I won't count any. But we did strawberry-honey-lime-chili popsicles, a lemon basil olive oil cake, a vegan creamy-cheesy buffalo "chicken" (jackfruit) dip, and pea-mushroom-garbanzo flour fritters. Oh, and two punches: one was ginger-rum-tea-lemon and the other was lemon-vodka-basil-cucumber. Everything went over really well. I had the kids make fruit skewers and it kept them busy as well as provided another snack for guests! Smile

I stayed up until about 3am and drank quite a bit, so needless to say I was a bit slow-moving today. I did a grocery order for tomorrow's BBQ, did a bunch of dishes and walked the kids to the library and then to a coffee shop. And that was about it!

Tomorrow is the alumni BBQ event. I'm not expecting a big turnout but I bought enough food in case every RSVP actually does show up. I'm just going to try and relax and have fun even if there's a poor showing.

Monday I'm still planning on seeing the country music act in the park but I no longer have to entertain a client beforehand, so that's good. She's coming in two weeks, when my schedule isn't quite so busy.

Tuesday is my and AS's 20-year dating anniversary, and I got reservations at a very in-demand restaurant. I confirmed they would be able to accommodate a vegan even though there's nothing vegan on the menu. Sometimes those are the best meals, when the chef gets creative just for you!

Nothing on Wednesday, but the following weeks are pretty eventful too: AS has a happy hour Thursday, we have playdates with different families on Friday, Sunday and possibly Saturday too. Then AS and I have a concert Sunday night (the 30th), and the very next day she leaves for Tahoe for 10 days! She gets back in early August and is home for 2 days before we leave for Va.! Then it's a couple weeks of school starts (SL starts kindergarten!), Labor day weekend, and State Fair (which is an all-day event that we like to do twice). A few uneventful days after all that, then NT heads to England for 11 days in September.

Whew! Anyway, back to this current week.

In light of the crazy schedule, I did something we probably haven't done in over 10 years (except when we're on vacation): We didn't plan a meals menu! We didn't even come up with potential meals. I made sure we had rice and pasta and bread and canned tomatoes on hand, and we have tons of CSA veggies plus extras we bought for Friday's and Sunday's parties. It's a lot of veggies so I hope we can get through them all without a plan and without letting any spoil!

Spending for the two parties was pretty high: Nearly $300 for the Friday party and $122 for the Sunday one. We did stock up on booze and will have quite a few leftovers. It would be lovely if we could eat through our pantry for a week or two and contribute our grocery budget to mitigating our shared spending budget, but we'll have to see how it goes! At least the second amount counts as a charitable contribution on my tax return.

So our shared spending deficit is pretty dismal now. I see several factors that are going to make it a while before we're back in the black:

- Our anniversary dinner Tuesday. (I do have some money set aside for it, but I'm expecting to exceed that.)

- Our vacation to Va. in August to visit family, which I've saved zero for and haven't even factored in a rental car expense or hotels. (We might be able to get away with borrowing a car from family and crashing at their houses, but I was hoping to get our own car and at least a couple nights at a hotel because too much sharing with family can get exhausting. We'll see what I feel like in a week or so.)

Things that don't seem too bad:

- NT's trip to England in September. A) he'll be spending time with family and at a wedding, so his expenses shouldn't be too bad. B) we'll just have him take from the UK savings account, which is our EF. It will replenish automatically with rental income, so it's OK if he uses some of it. So that won't affect our shared spending.

- AS's trip to Tahoe in August. All expenses will be paid and/or reimbursed by the college that's bringing her out there, so that won't affect our shared spending either.

Things that may not be a go:

- My niece's wedding in October. I'm just not sure the budget or the paid-vacation amounts I have left will accommodate it.

- A warm weather vacation after Christmas or after New Year. This is an idle idea that's come up a time or two with NT and with the kids. (Can't remember if AS has been part of those chats.) It would be awesome but it will really depend on how we make up our shared spending deficit once the anniversary dinner and Va. trip are done and fully accounted for.

OK, I think I've rambled enough!

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


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