<< Back to all Blogs
Login or Create your own free blog
Home > Category: Uncategorized

Viewing the 'Uncategorized' Category

Weird few days

March 10th, 2017 at 01:15 pm

I believe it was Monday that I got an email about a strange charge on our Capital One card, on AS's number. I checked with her and she didn't recognize it. There was also another mystery charge using her number, that one quite a bit bigger, and it hadn't gotten flagged. But CapOne took it off with no problem, canceled AS's card and said they'd send another.

That night, I saw that there were two mystery charges on the same account using MY number. So I called and contested them and got my and NT's cards canceled and reissued as well.

Thursday morning, I dropped my work phone into the toilet. Frown First time I've ever done that -- I'm usually really careful about checking my back pockets before sitting down. It couldn't be fixed, so work is getting me a new one. Meanwhile, I've lost $40 on Stepbet and a bunch of photos (though luckily I've at least got lower-res versions posted on FB and Instagram).

Last night, I noticed that Capital One took off a LEGIT charge on my card, $102.45 for taking the kids (and a couple adults) out to eat on AA's bday. I guess I have to call and let them know; wouldn't feel right about that!

On the good side, my alumni group had a financial discussion, and one of the main focus points was goal-setting via the "Think and Grow Rich" method. We're all trying to come up with mantras that state our goals and what we're going to give (skills, knowledge) in return for reaching them. Even though I haven't finalized mine or gotten around to reciting it daily, I've noticed a difference in how I approach things, especially at work. I've begun talking more directly about my advancement path, and getting positive responses from higher-ups. I think I'm in a good place and all I have to do is sort of get people thinking about it and make my desire to do so clear. Time will tell whether this is the impetus I need to make change happen in my career!

Oh! and our bathroom is nearly done. Contractor has finished his part, and now we just need to accessorize. We bought about half the stuff we wanted yesterday and will get the rest picked out and ordered soon. I'll share pictures when it all comes together. Smile I almost lost all my "before" pics because they were on my phone, but luckily I uploaded two of them to FB a couple days before I broke the phone, so I can at least share those.

Next week begins 4 straight weeks of travel for me! Two overnight work trips, then two fun trips (one solo flight and one family road trip). Although it's annoying, it's also a good sign that I'm getting sent on these work trips. Still, I hope this is it for a while. (Although I heard rumblings about another one in April sometime.)

Ooh, I just noticed--time to update three of the ages on the sidebar of my blog! Big Grin

The biggest birthday week is over!

March 6th, 2017 at 08:52 am

Whew, we just finished up the most intense week of March, when three of the five household birthdays happen in quick succession (March 2, 4 and 5).

I had a nice day off and a mellow night at home for mine. AS and I went to another friend's birthday party on AS's birthday, so that was really fun. (We also stopped off at a club that gives free admission and free bottle of champagne on someone's birthday!)

AA had her salon day. One little girl was a no-show but the other three showed up, and four kids was actually a good amount -- the fifth one might have made it a little intense, even with one of the moms staying to hang out with us and help with the kids. Anyway, they got their mini-manis and pedis and felt very fancy, then we took them to lunch afterward. It was funny because only one of the moms was at all girly; the rest of us were kind of looking at each other and shrugging that we got such girly daughters. I told one of the salon workers this and she said her daughter is a tomboy! Big Grin You just never know.

We had AA open family gifts that afternoon and ordered pizza delivery. I fell asleep on the couch before 10pm, happy with how everything went but exhausted.

Spendingwise, we went over budget on some things and stayed under for others, so we pretty much did OK. AS got a largish freelance check on Friday, so our spending money is at about break-even levels. Hoping for some more checks in the next couple weeks so we can fill in the budget for my upcoming NYC trip (end of March) and our family lake vacation (beginning of April). We've already prepaid some expenses for both, so we don't need too much to pay for the rest of both trips.

This week is looking less intense than the last two:

- Tonight we just have our neighbors coming up for dinner, as they do most Mondays.

- Tuesday AS has a PTO meeting for AA's school.

- Wednesday the three of us are going to a play as an alumni event for my alma mater and the downstairs neighbors are watching the kids.

- Thursday and Friday -- no plans, amazingly enough! I was going to have to travel overnight for work, but that got moved to later this month. I'm glad for the break!

- Saturday is SL's swim class and a kids' bday party that she's going to, and maybe a playdate for AA at the same time; if that falls through she'll go to the bday party. NT might be working Saturday morning which could complicate things a bit.

- Sunday morning, I have another alumni event -- helping coordinate a small networking event at someone else's house. (I have a feeling that could get canceled due to low attendance but I'm prepared just in case.)

March 2017 debt payments; savings boost

March 1st, 2017 at 10:52 pm

All of our mortgage payments hit:

US: $690 to principal
UK1: $184
UK2: $39
UK3: $41

So that's $954 paid toward debt this month. That takes our total debt to $457,599.

While I was checking the UK payments I remembered I never transferred the net rental income into savings earlier in the month. So I did, and now our EF is up to $4218 -- almost halfway to our $10K goal!

Hmm, it's getting late. I should try and get sleepy so I'm not too tired on my birthday day off!

Retirement goal progress

February 28th, 2017 at 08:30 am

Goal: $489,745 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 $66,625, so $199,875; 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: $315,041

January 2017 balance: $304,883

Progress: $10,158

A big bump this month, though as I mentioned last month, I take it with a huge grain of salt.

To reach the goal by our birthdays in 2019, that's 24 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $174,704 -- $7,279 per month -- to reach it.

Got through last week! Here's what's coming up

February 28th, 2017 at 07:32 am

Whew, we did everything on the schedule and even managed to have fun doing it! Smile This next week is slightly less crazy (in that not every single day has something(s) going on):

Yesterday I ordered the last of the kids' birthday presents and made invitations for SL's bday (which isn't actually happening until April 1). I also signed tax docs and wrote checks, so we're done with taxes for the year. I still need to write donor thank-you emails for my alma mater, but it keeps getting pushed. It just needs to happen today or tomorrow. Other things I've pushed off: scheduling a bunch of routine doctor appts. for me and the kids, donating to my friend's fundraiser for a good cause.

Tonight and tomorrow are easy dinners and nothing going on, so hopefully I'll have the energy to get some more stuff done.

Thursday is my 43rd birthday! I have the day off and no real plans other than picking up ingredients for vegan rice krispie treats. Maybe I'll treat myself to breakfast or lunch somewhere. I may stop off at the arcade because I heard they give out free tokens on your birthday. That night we're getting Chinese delivery and hanging with our downstairs neighbors, and might "test out" SL's karaoke stand (we really should make sure we know how to work it before her party Smile ). My one big present from the spouses is 2 handpainted cat portraits, but I need to choose photos of our kitties to send to the artist and I haven't decided yet, so they'll come later.

NT has events Friday and Saturday for a festival he helped organize, but I don't think I'm going to any of them.

Saturday is AS's 38th bday! We'll be ordering some kind of delivery for dinner, and then glomming onto someone else's bday party as an easy way to have fun without planning or too much money. Smile We have one small present for her, but this year she'll be deciding what to buy with her bday gift money.

Sunday is AA's 7th bday! We have four confirmed guests for her salon day, so we'll be getting manis and pedis for five little girls in the morning, then taking them out to lunch. Meanwhile SL has swim class in the morning and a friend's bday party in the afternoon. That night we'll have dinner of AA's choice, cake and presents. Mostly books and a couple toys; the big present is a 2-wheel scooter to replace her 3-wheel one.

Then Monday and Tuesday will be relatively uneventful before the next wave of activities hits us. Smile

Spending, taxes, etc.

February 21st, 2017 at 05:43 pm

We've been spending, spending, spending recently!

- NT had his solo roadtrip, and the carshare cost twice as much as we'd estimated! I forgot they charge for mileage after the first 100 miles per day. Whoops. He also had other expenses on the trip.
- We bought Valentine gifts and treats for the kids and had a dinner date. At least that was cheap; less than $70 for three appetizers, three entrees and six drinks!
- I booked my airfare to NYC for March and bought tickets to the show I'm going to.
- NT booked airfare for his solo trip to England for his sister's wedding in September.
- We had a number of other shows besides my March one that we wanted to go to: two plays and a movie, one already past, one tomorrow, and one coming up in March. So I bought all those tickets.
- I signed the kids up for another round of swim classes and AA up for an art class.
- I set aside $$ for AA's party, which will be mani/pedis with 4 friends, plus lunch afterward. I'm trying not to stress that we haven't gotten any RSVPs! AS got one of the parents on the phone tonight and we'll send notes for the other three. I'd like the chance to invite some of AA's other friends if any of these can't come.
- We bought a karaoke stand for SL's bday party.
- I set aside $$ for AS's dreadlock maintenance appointment.

What with AS's freelance checks being a bit sluggish, we were about $1500 in the hole after all of this spending! Then today we got the news from my tax guy that we're actually going to net about $3K in refunds this year. What luck! I put half toward the renovations budget and used the other half to make up the spending money shortfall. Now when AS gets some more checks, we can use them to set aside funds for my NYC trip, for grownups to order food for our birthdays, and to set aside to pay the remainder of the cabin and car rental for our April trip.

February through the first part of April are looking extremely busy! Travel for work, potluck, movie, plays, my solo trip, our cabin trip, and of course Birthday Month (all five of our birthdays are in March). Luckily none of us adults have a milestone this year, so we're having low-key birthdays. The kids are having more elaborate birthdays than us this year!

This week alone, we have: movie date tomorrow night (our downstairs neighbors feeding and watching the kids), me leaving for a quick business trip Thursday morning (coming back Friday morning), an alumni event I'm cohosting Saturday, swim classes for the kids Saturday and Sunday, the neighborhood "chili fest" on Sunday lunchtime, a potluck at our downstairs neighbors Sunday at dinner time. Oh and tonight I have to write notes to the kids' parents who we want to come to AA's party next week, and I need to write some thank-you emails to donors for my alumni association.

Holy moly! I'd better get to work. Big Grin

Progress (or lack thereof) on goals

February 21st, 2017 at 05:24 pm

Whew, it's been a long time since I posted!

Luckily I keep our menu plan in a Google spreadsheet, so I can look at revision history and see what new recipes we tried. Smile

NT found a vegan crab cake prepared food, so we tried that. I made a new kind of purple coleslaw and a new (very standard) rice pilaf to go with it. We really liked all of it. I'd get the crab cakes again and definitely make the rice pilaf. It's just from the Campbell's website, but nice comfort food.

Another night we did "pizza style" grilled cheese sandwiches. (No recipe, just something that occurred to me to try.) We used pizza cheese, and for the grownups added sauteed peppers and onions, vegan pepperoni slices, and marinara sauce on the side for dipping. It was pretty good but not transcendent or anything.

That's 15 new meals tried, 35 to go!

No progress on the financial goals, and no progress from my neighbor on the agreement for selling the lower unit of our duplex. No decluttering progress. No movement on refinancing the US place or selling the UK one (that similar UK place is still on the market, now for almost a year).

No progress on self-publishing. I asked AS to read one of my two novels and give me some recommendations, but I don't know if she's actually going to do it. She started getting irritated with me asking, so now I just have to wait. I've decided if she doesn't look at it by end of March (birthday month), I'll just do the best I can to edit it without her input. We have a week at a cabin with no screen time, so if I bring a printout, I can work on it there.

Renovations: the bathroom is almost done! Unfortunately, the other bathroom's tub/shower has sprung a bad leak. It was a small leak for a while and I hoped we could ignore it until the other one was done, and then figure out how to close off the water until we get around to renovating that one completely, but it's gotten really bad. The plumber who's working on the renovation will hopefully come tomorrow and we can hopefully ask him if he has a recommendation for the cheapest, fastest solution. The other bathroom really is almost done, so we could turn off this one very soon. I'd hate to spend a ton to fix it knowing it will be completely renovated down the road, but I'm also concerned this leak will turn into a flood soon. (It's already a very bad leak, and it's hot water coming out as well.)

Progress on goal (new recipes)

February 7th, 2017 at 12:47 pm

We tried two new meals in the past few days! On Sunday, we had biscuits & gravy. It was pretty good (AS made her usual vegan biscuits which are always great) but I wonder if I could make a better gravy. I used veggie sausage patties and crumbled and browned them before adding to the gravy. That part was good. I used soymilk that I typically use for savory recipes, but I felt like it brought a sweetness to the gravy that spoiled the effect a bit. Maybe a different milk or just add some savory elements to overpower the slight sweet taste.

Then Monday we had ham, beans, greens and cornbread. The ham and beans were both new recipes: I made a vegan ham from scratch and a modified version of FrugalTexan's beans. (I don't have an instapot so I took an online recipe for stovetop beans but used FT's suggested seasonings.) The beans were an awesome side dish (maybe I'd put a bit more paprika next time), but the ham was a fail. The flavor was good but the texture didn't work. I sliced it and pan-fried the slices, and that made it OK, but still my least favorite "wheat meat" I've made in a long time. I may look around for another vegan ham recipe since we liked the concept of it!

13 new meals tried, 37 to go!

Progress on goals

February 2nd, 2017 at 10:34 am

I've again decided that a refi of the U.S. mortgage is off the table at this point. If rates go down, values go up or we're able to pay down a big chunk of principal, I'll reconsider, but for now the matter is closed.

Total debt is down to about $458K. We should meet the goal of less than $450K of debt in about nine months, unless something else happens to add to debt (selling the UK property and buying a U.S. one with a bigger mortgage, for instance, or refinancing the U.S. mortgage and rolling in closing costs). It's an unpredictable year so I'm not sure about that particular goal.

We tried another new meal on Monday: taco crescent ring using Pillsbury crescent dough and vegan "ground beef" substitute. I thought it was great! NT thought it was OK. The kids actually cleaned their plates, which hardly ever happens with new foods, so for that reason alone I'd make it again. 11 new recipes tried, 39 to go.

February 2017 debt payments

February 2nd, 2017 at 10:29 am

All our mortgage payments hit:

US: $689
UK1: $180
UK2: $39
UK3: $40

In total, $948 went toward principal.

Seeing my U.S. mortgage payment go through was another small weight off my mind about switching banks. I'm watching even more closely than usual to make sure I don't miss any payments or anything.

Credit score :(

February 1st, 2017 at 09:40 am

Well, Capital One wrote us a letter telling us that they went ahead and reported NT's late payment, so our phone call was useless.

Today the mortgage guy let me know that NT's credit score is currently in the 600s because of showing as being over 30 days past due on that account.

So he's going to try and qualify just AS and me for a refi. NT will still be put on the loan (if we do the refi) but will not be included on the qualifying info.

News and notes

January 31st, 2017 at 09:35 am

NT's raise hit today, and I was within $9 of my estimate. I would've liked to have estimated too low by more than that, but that's OK. A raise is a raise!

Our direct deposits hit the new checking account! Hooray, everything seems to be working! AS has been added to the account and I'm working on switching her Vanguard account over. Then I just need to confirm the kids' Pax accounts have switched over and I believe I'll be done with the switch.

One thing I haven't done is cancel the $15K line of credit with my old bank. Decided I'd hang onto it until we see how this whole refi thing goes. Hopefully I won't have to dip into it.

We're still waiting on many payments AS is owed, but I went ahead and booked our vacation home for April and AA's mini-manicure/pedicure appointments for her and her friends. So far we only had to put down a deposit on the rental property, so hopefully AS's checks will come in before we have to pay the rest. (If not, we have plenty of float money, but I like it better when the budget is balanced.)

Looks like NT will be going to England in September for his sister's wedding, but we're waiting for them to nail down a date. I'm still leaning toward a trip to NYC in March, but I haven't felt like booking it until we see some money roll in. AS is considering a train ride with a sleeper car for her solo trip.

We're still waiting on one or two 1099s from AS's clients before I fill out the tax questionnaire and book our appointment with the tax guy. Kind of hoping for a refund this year since AS made less than in 2015 (but we sent in the recommended estimated payments based on the previous year's income), but would also just be happy with breaking even.

Retirement goal progress

January 31st, 2017 at 07:55 am

Goal: $489,745 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 $66,625, so $199,875; 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: $304,883

December 2016 balance: $297,419

Progress: $7,464

Another decent-sized bump this month, though as I mentioned in the previous entry, I take it with a huge grain of salt. However, AS's and NT's salaries increased, so the goal got more ambitious and we actually lost a bit of progress on it.

To reach the goal by our birthdays in 2019, that's 25 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $184,862 -- $7,394 per month -- to reach it. Probably not going to happen, but I'll keep doing the best I can!

Progress on health, refi & new recipe goals

January 30th, 2017 at 09:06 am

I finally lost some weight this year--3 lbs. down at my Sunday weigh-in! Very happy. I wasn't perfect with eating but I exceeded my Stepbet goals, so I'm glad it worked out. I'm at 134, so not far from getting below 130 if I can keep it up.

I started the application for the refi last night! Interested to see where we appraise at; nothing would surprise me, whether we're below what we bought for or way above. All the indicators out there give very mixed signals, so I'm not holding my breath.

We tried three new recipes this past week! That takes us to 10 tried, 40 to go.
- Breakfast ramen bowl: AS put this on the list and made it for us. Basically a ramen soup with (veggie) bacon, seaweed, green onions and egg (hard-boiled for AS, scrambled for SL, and tofu scramble for the rest of us). It was deeeelightful.
- Honey sesame tofu: Another of AS's ideas, and I made it. We had it with broccoli and rice. While it didn't knock my socks off, it was really good and easy to make, so I'd do it again for sure.
- Black bean, spinach and quinoa bowl. NT's contribution. The flavors were really good, but I find quinoa doesn't have the satisfying chewiness of rice, so together it was all a bit soft. I grabbed some tortilla chips to eat with it, and that fixed the texture issue for me.

Interesting refi development

January 26th, 2017 at 06:41 pm

So one of the two guys I'd been working with for estimates got back to me saying he'd cover half the appraisal cost if the home didn't appraise at least 80% LTV.

Talking it over with my partners and neighbors, I realized there was a psychological hurdle about the prospect of blowing $475 on a step that might go nowhere. Bringing it down to $235 suddenly made it seem less foolish.

So I wrote back to him accepting the offer. Now we get to see what our home will actually appraise at! If it's worse than 80% LTV, we're out $235 but at least we didn't regret not finding out. If it's at 80 or better, then we might have to scrape up some funds to cover closing costs, which will be painful in the short term (especially since we have a number of renovations we're saving up for and fun things we want to spend money on) but will be worth it in the long term.

New recipe, other happenings

January 26th, 2017 at 08:55 am

We tried another recipe last night: grilled cheese, sun-dried tomato and spinach sandwiches. Wow, it was so delicious! There was pesto in it too and the whole thing was fried in olive oil. It's a keeper for sure, and it was easy to kid-friendly it by just giving them plain grilled cheese. So that's 7 recipes tried, 43 to go.

I've been doing pretty well with my eating and exercising; I've only had a couple of night snacks and they were related to socializing. I haven't lost weight but at least I've maintained. Hoping if I'm really good this week I'll have some progress on the scales Sunday. So far I've skipped breakfasts and night snacks, done my AM weekday strength training, and kept up with my Stepbet goals.

I've begun setting aside 11% instead of 10% of AS's pay for her SEP retirement fund, so that goal has been reached. I'm waiting to see what NT's new paycheck is before I decide whether to up our retirement a bit more or wait to see if I get a raise this spring. Another thing we could possibly spend his raise on would be life insurance, which I've never gotten around to getting (for any of us).

My bank switchover is nearly complete. I want to see the direct deposits and autopays come through OK next week and then I'll rest easy. I had to mail in requests to change the bank info on the kids' Pax funds, and I'm waiting confirmation that AS has been added to the new checking account so I can switch her bank info in her Vanguard account. I finally closed the old account yesterday and deposited the remaining money in our new one. I'm hoping to get checks delivered today so I can pay daycare tuition and our bathroom contractor. I think I still need to go online and cancel my USBank line of credit. There's a lot involved in switching banks! Hopefully I'll stay happy with my new one and never have to change again. Smile

We've started planning birthdays and travel for the year, although I haven't made any purchases yet. I know AS has a lot of money coming in any day now, but right now our shared spending is a bit in the hole (mainly due to AA's ER bill from when she had strep, and the late fees on that one credit card. Also we've been using Lyft kind of a lot lately.)

Once the money's in the bank, we can start putting money toward our planned birthday and travel stuff, which includes (all estimates, no exact amounts):
Cabin rental for April ($735) + rental car ($250?)
AA's party in March ($200 mani/pedis + $70 lunch?)
SL's party in March ($90 karaoke stand)
NT's road trip in Feb. ($65 car & $75 hotel?)
CJ's NYC trip in March ($300 plane + $400 food & expenses?)
Grownup bday celebrations in March ($100 each for food?)
Family trip to Va. this summer (TBD)
AS's solo trip (TBD)
NT trip to England for sister's wedding in November (TBD)

My tentative plan is to take AS's net pay (and any other windfalls) and save 1/3 for home renovations, 1/3 for travel, and 1/3 for other shared spending (including birthday-related expenses). Currently we've been saving half for home renovations and half for misc. shared spending. Hopefully the money rolls in fast enough to cover all the above things (which are nice-to-haves but not necessities)!

Progress on goals: new recipes

January 23rd, 2017 at 07:04 pm

Yesterday and today we tried new recipes. Yesterday it was something called "Roasted & Toasted Things" from my favorite cookbook author. I'd always been a bit intrigued by the name but had never gotten around to trying it.

It was pretty good: oven roasted veggies (mushrooms, tomatoes, onions and I subbed in zucchini instead of eggplant), toasted almonds (recipe called for pine nuts but they're SO expensive), white beans and wild rice blend.

I wouldn't go out of my way to make it a bunch, but if I was in the mood for something tasty yet super healthy and nourishing, I'd make it again.

Tonight it was BBQ jackfruit and pickled onions from the Veggie Sri Racha Lover's Cookbook. Really good, if a bit spicy for the kids. We had it on buns with sliced avocado and wedge fries. I loved the pickled onions. NT says he prefers jackfruit simmered in sauce, vs. baked as this recipe called for.

So that's 6 recipes tried, 44 to go. No other progress to report; the bathroom is getting there slowly but surely, but it'll be a while before it's done.

Progress on goals

January 19th, 2017 at 02:57 pm

Well, several things have conspired to make me think the refi thing is just not worth the sweat right now. So my progress on that is, I have my decision for now, unless something changes in our situation.

We got a quote on the insulation and it's quite a lot higher than the ballpark figure the energy audit guy threw out -- our share of the house alone would be over $8K -- so we're going to get a second quote. If we do go with this, that will pretty much rule out saving up much for the kitchen reno this year. But it would be nice to have insulation -- the comfort levels of the house vary wildly depending on where you're standing. Smile

We tried another recipe last night: "Pizza bowl" from the cookbook "Isa Does It." OMG. It was nothing like a pizza, but it was aMAzing. OK, maybe a little too garlicky -- I enjoyed it going down but did not enjoy the strong aftertaste on my tongue for the rest of the night. Next time I'd cut a few garlic cloves and make sure I cook the sliced ones more thoroughly. But other than that it was amazing -- brown rice, vegan sausage, red onion, kale and a red pepper-cashew sauce, topped with olives, fresh thyme and chili flakes. Definitely a keeper with a small edit to the garlic. That's 4 new recipes tried, 46 to go!

Late fees :-(

January 18th, 2017 at 11:03 am

Dang. My goal for many years (since I've given the credit card companies thousands of dollars in the past) has been to not give them another dime. Today I had to give them $60 because we accidentally charged a purchase to a credit card that I no longer track.

I've been asking NT to cancel several credit cards for at least a year now, maybe more. I used to remind him every month or so but I'd kind of given up. Anyway, one of them called him to say he was 2 months behind on a payment. I looked into it; it had been linked to Paypal and I must have accidentally chosen it to pay something.

Every once in a while I have a budget tracking discrepancy, so I imagine when this happened, I marked the purchase as going on our regular credit card. Then when the month's payment came I probably had a $36 discrepancy from what I owed and wasn't able to reconcile it, so just altered the budget. My math does fail me from time to time, so I probably thought nothing of a $36 discrepancy.

So we paid the stupid tax. Frown Hopefully this will spur him to close those cards once and for all.

Back to refi headaches

January 17th, 2017 at 07:01 pm

So the place across the street sold at $499K. That's good news because our place is comparable (slightly less updated but more square footage) and we owe $399K, which would give us 80% LTV.

Bad news because a refi is now back on the table, only with considerably less attractive rates. We're currently at 3.5% fixed. The best 30-year rate AimLoan is showing is us 3.75%, and that's with (at least) $9K in closing costs that we'd supposedly have to foot the bill for.

Back in August we could've gotten the same deal for 3.25% interest rate.

The ones we wouldn't have to fork over as much money for would be 4.0% to 4.25%. So we'd actually be going up quite a big from our current rate. That would only save us $154 per month over what we're paying now with mortgage interest. I guess it would pay for itself fairly quickly if it were a nearly free refi. I'm checking again with the AIM guy because I seem to remember when he got me a more "actual" quote, there were no options with zero points and zero closing costs, which the link he sent is currently sending me.

Assuming we could scrape up funding for that (we don't have a ton of cash on hand now that we've committed to the bathroom reno), that would save us about $250 per month. So I guess it would pay for itself in 3 years.

It's just that much more painful because we'd probably have to take out an unsecured loan of some sort to finance the refi. Which would mean it would take more than 3 years to really pay for itself.

I don't know. Interest rates are probably going to keep going up. If we wait longer, it might actually end up being beneficial to hang onto our current mortgage, $260 mortgage interest premium and all, vs. taking a higher interest rate.

I just don't know if it's worth it. I'm so bad at figuring these things out!

Progress on goals this weekend

January 16th, 2017 at 10:47 pm

We tried a new recipe Sunday that AS found: Korean BBQ mock chicken with peapods and coconut rice. OMG. It was amazing. A little time-intensive (mainly making the mock chicken ahead of time) but really really delicious. I added it to our "favorite meals" list. Smile That's 3 new recipes tried, 47 to go.

Today we had our financial meeting with our downstairs neighbors about the agreement for them to purchase their share of the house (they're calling it the "intentional community agreement"). It went pretty well. They agreed that we need to research the questions I had about tax implications and how to figure out their fair share should we refinance, pay off early, etc. And the need to put in clauses about what would happen if they decided to move and not buy their share, that we should seek aribtration in the case of an unresolvable dispute.

On my concerns about their figuring out their own financial stuff before we become entwined financially, it was a mixed bag, mostly good:
- NJ let me know he has settled up with MN on his back taxes, and plans to file taxes jointly this year with CC (they've been legally married for about 3 years now, so it's high time). He was a bit more vague about when he would have his federal taxes fixed, but acknowledged that it would have to happen before they were legal part-owners so there wouldn't be a lien. (If the agreement goes as planned, they wouldn't become legal owners until they've paid their full share of the home, so I want them to settle it sooner than that. I may bring this one up again to get a clearer sense of when he's planning to fix this problem.)
- He has already started looking into retirement savings, which he hasn't done even though his husband has always put money away.
- I mentioned my family's need to get life insurance. He said his husband has it, but he has a pre-existing condition that makes it harder to qualify. Still, he knows there is insurance out there for people with his condition, so he will start to look into it.
- He has a good deal of student loans and isn't sure they'll ever be paid off. I think as long as there was a clause or something about what would happen if he defaulted on the loans, this would be manageable.
- I need to look into tax implications of remaining a landlord for the foreseeable future (since the agreement would keep them as renters until they had paid their full share). He thinks I should be able to deduct the portion of the mortgage payment that covers their unit; I think it's interest and property taxes only that can be claimed. So I need to look into this.

Overall, they're very happy with the living arrangement and feel good about continuing to pursue this agreement. And so am I ... I want to protect myself financially but I feel good about the communal living part of things. There are minor annoyances from time to time, but overall I feel like we're really good at living under the same roof (albeit in different units) and making it work. Very responsive to each other's concerns, and able to voice said concerns, so I think this is a good arrangement long-term.

Note to self on pension values

January 15th, 2017 at 01:29 pm

We got a statement for NT's UK pension #2 (which I'm going to start calling SW pension because I get them mixed up), and it has increased in value to 20,398 pounds ($25,497).

I also see that UK pension #3 (now to be called FL pension) went up slightly to 5,534 ($6,917).

And UK pension #1 (now AV pension) is at 17,967 ($22,459).

This year I'm going to have NT look into whether these can be rolled into a US retirement account, or at least rolled into a single UK account. I hate having all these weird lingering financial things in the UK. Now that we've started thinking about selling the UK flat, it's making me think of other things we could do to minimize the international business I have to take care of!

Contemplating trips this year

January 13th, 2017 at 02:27 pm

Last year was a kind of crazy travel year.

- I made 2 trips (January and April) to Va. to see my and AS's folks (once just with the kids, once with AS and the kids)

- NT, AS and I traveled to NY for my 20-year college reunion at the beginning of June

- The whole family traveled to UK (Exeter) at the end of June for 2 weeks (and NT, AS and I took an extra trip to Oxford & from there to Barcelona without the kids)

Fun, but it really added up! I'd say we spent $15K-$20K on travel alone last year.

So when NT asked me about trips at the end of the year -- even though he was only talking about a weekend at a cabin -- I kind of ran away from the idea. I wanted this year to be focused on home improvement.

But now that the sticker shock of last year is wearing off, I've quickly warmed to the idea of some travel this year -- albeit nowhere near what we did last year in terms of cost!

So vague plans include:

- A cabin trip somewhere in MN or WI -- maybe 5 days or so?

- A family trip to Va. with maybe some day trips for NT (and maybe AS and the kids) to other attractions (I'll be planning to spend most of my time in my parents' living room with my mostly immobile mom, but I know that'd drive NT nuts)

- A solo trip for each of the adults?!? This came up kind of weirdly; NT had proposed the idea of an overnight trip to Chicago with some of his friends to see a show, which AS and I agreed to, with me half-joking that I assumed if we let him do that, I'd be entitled to a trip to see my favorite band on tour at some point.

He's now doubting whether he'll do it -- but in the meantime, my favorite band announced they're playing in NYC in late March. I was thinking more like Wisconsin when I said I'd be entitled to a trip in return, but AS suggested I could have my bday gift money put toward an NYC trip, and then it wouldn't cost us as much from shared spending. So I'm kind of thinking about it.

NT was shocked when he learned that we'd assumed his trip would come out of shared spending (and thus why we thought we'd be entitled to trips ourselves). I guess I assumed he'd never be able to afford the trip on shared spending so it was implied in his request. He was more like "What would make me ever assume that it wouldn't have to come out of my own money?" Ha! I guess I am that much of a ballbuster when it comes to frivolous spending. I should be glad he didn't assume that.

What I didn't know at the time he asked was that round trip bus to Chicago is only $40 per person and he'd been planning to go in on a hotel room with his friends. So the trip he'd been planning actually would be super-cheap and probably doable on his spending allowance.

But now the genie's out of the bottle and we're all kind of dreaming of our own solo trips, so we may go ahead and go through with it. We'll see. Dunno -- I've never wanted a trip without them before, but I'm just that obsessed with this band! Plus I have lots of friends in NYC I'd love to see -- and I could probably crash with someone and not have to pay for a hotel.

Progress on goals this past week

January 13th, 2017 at 02:09 pm

- Selling lower unit of duplex:
AS and I have a lunch date Monday with our downstairs neighbors where I can hopefully hear their thoughts about my concerns.

- Continue home renovations:
The upstairs bathroom has been completely torn out, down to the wood! AS and I will go pick out sink, tub etc. on Monday.

- Walking and eating habits:
I've been good with my eating habits. I haven't done either of my "stretch" goals this week and already used up my one free day, so I need to hit 7712 steps once and 10,012 twice over today, Saturday and Sunday. Temps are supposed to go up quite a bit tomorrow, so I'm thinking I'll do some walking outside and if not, get down to the treadmill so I don't lose the Stepbet.

- Try new recipes:
AS picked a new recipe this week which I cooked: peanut noodles with vegetarian chicken, cucumber and green onion. It was really yummy! The kids didn't try it because NT got them home late from daycare so I just heated up easy stuff for them while I cooked. I don't think they'd like it, but it was good enough that we might make it again anyway! So that's 2 new recipes tried, 48 to go. We've got two new recipes on the meal plan for next week, one that I picked and one AS chose (but I'll be cooking them both).

- Big picture goal: look into selling the UK flat:
The comparable place that got taken off the market last month is listed again at the same price as before. We'll watch it and whether or not it sells (and for how much) will have a big impact on our decision.

Progress on goals this weekend

January 9th, 2017 at 07:29 am

- Selling lower unit of duplex:
I still haven't heard from my downstairs neighbors regarding my email about my concerns about his finances that need to be settled before we can form a co-ownership agreement for the duplex. I'm going to propose we meet up in person about it next Monday, since I have MLK Day off.

- Continue home renovations:
We heard from the contractor that they'll start tearing out the upstairs bathroom today. Just in time, because an unfortunate smell, like stagnant water or sewage, has started becoming noticeable just this week. We think it's coming from the shower drain. Hopefully nothing too serious!

- Walking and eating habits:
I was nearly perfect about walking (hit my Stepbet goals for the week!), skipping breakfast and avoiding night snacks. Unfortunately I didn't lose any weight, but I'm going to keep it up this week and hopefully the scale will be my friend next Sunday!

- Self-publish two novels:
I offered AS $50 apiece (out of my own spending money) to review my two novels and give me her high-level editorial opinion. Hopefully a financial incentive will give these a better chance of happening!

- Try new recipes:
I tried out a new recipe last night, Tofu Swiss Steaks from the cookbook "Friendly Foods." I thought it was really good, and there was a lot of leftover tomato-veggie sauce that the tofu baked in, so I cooked up some pasta and mixed the sauce in to make two days of lunches. Verdict: The grownups liked the new recipe but the kids didn't, so I probably won't make it again for a while. Anyway, 1 new recipe down and 49 to go!

Progress and setbacks on goals

January 4th, 2017 at 08:19 pm

Made small progress of sorts on three of my goals:

- Attempt refi on US duplex if it appears home values are strong enough to give us 80% LTV
Here's where I hit a setback. My realtor who sold our condo called to wish me happy new year, and she asked about our refi efforts. I told her about the pending place across the street listed at $515K, and she did a little sleuthing. Found out it's closing on Jan. 16, and the selling agent hinted that it's going for quite a bit less than listing price. Sigh. We'll have to see how much less, but it seems to put a damper on refinancing.

- Continue home renovations:
Upstairs bathroom (complete redo)
The contractor let me know that he plans to start our bathroom on Monday! I'm very excited to get this going.

- Re-establish nearly daily walking and no breakfast/snacks habits; get weight below 130
I've been good about no breakfast or night snacks, and the Stepbet has kept me honest; I made the active goal of 7700 steps yesterday by dancing with my kids, and today by going on our treadmill after work. It's so cold and dreary out, I have to admit I wouldn't be doing any of that activity without the bet hanging over me!

First debt payments of 2017

January 3rd, 2017 at 10:24 pm

Yay! My U.S. mortgage payment hadn't posted earlier today, but I just checked again and it had gone through.

The reason I was really anxious to see this one is it brought our duplex mortgage principal under $400K. This may be temporary, if we need to roll some closing costs into the loan when/if we refinance, but it's nice to see anyway. That loan is at $399,535.

US: $687 to principal
UK1: $181
UK2: $37
UK3: $40

Total debt paid down: $945

Progress on goals

January 2nd, 2017 at 06:53 pm

Had a lazy and off-kilter day today (probably just sad about going back to work tomorrow) but made some progress on 2017 goals:

- Attempt refi on US duplex if it appears home values are strong enough to give us 80% LTV
I checked on a home across the street from us that's sort of comparable (smaller but slightly better condition duplex) that's listed for $515K...status has been pending for about a week. When it sells I feel like I'll know whether a refi is possible in the near future.

- Explore possibility of selling lower unit of duplex to friends.
I posted these goals to a FB group and my friend thought I was talking about selling it to someone else...it gave him a fright and he said it was the kick in the pants he needed to send me an outline of the agreement he's been drafting. In response I emailed him all my concerns (including the ones about his back taxes and no renters' insurance). We had dinner together tonight and he briefly acknowledged that I'd responded to his outline but didn't say anything about the actual contents of the email. Hoping he actually responds and doesn't just ignore the issues I raised...that would unfortunately give me further pause about selling part of the duplex to him and his partner. We shall see...

- Continue home renovations:
Upstairs bathroom (complete redo)
Insulation for whole house
Save up as much as we can for kitchen (complete redo)
I did some brainstorming with a friend and later with NT and AS today about ideas for the kitchen reno. Although it's far in the future, it's going to be complex, so it's good to start talking about it now. We also settled on a color scheme for the upstairs bathroom (white tiles & walls with green accessories & natural wood accents).

- Re-establish nearly daily walking and no breakfast/snacks habits; get weight below 130
On Sunday I did 60 minutes on the treadmill and today I accumulated over 11,000 steps, reaching one of the stretch goals on the first real day of my Stepbet challenge. I was up 4 lbs. (from two weeks of bad eating and no exercise) at yesterday's weigh-in, up to 137, but feeling good about re-establishing good habits and getting my weight down again.

- Self-publish two novels (already written, need editing) and write at least one more
I asked AS if she'd be able to give my first novel I want to publish a quick run-through and give me some guidance, and she said she'd be able to tackle it in February. So I'll kind of set this goal aside until then; I do want someone to look at it (but not ready to show it to anyone but AS yet! although I thank everyone who offered).

I didn't make activism a formal goal but it is one of my focuses this year (and at least for the next four years); after the very ambitious protest at the Vikings game I've decided to leave my bank (which invests in the Dakota Access Pipeline) and join a credit union. I took the first steps today and hope to make more progress tomorrow.

This wasn't one of my formal goals either, but a couple of conversations recently have made me realize I need to start shopping for life insurance for me and my partners soon. I'm thinking I'll wait until Jan. 15 and see how much NT's raise is; that will help me decide what we can afford.

2017 goals

January 1st, 2017 at 10:32 am

I had some fun last night and this morning coming up with various resolutions and goals for this year! I tried for a mix of financial, practical and creative, and I'll try to post about my progress as I go and maybe a monthly recap.

2017 Goals:


- Attempt refi on US duplex if it appears home values are strong enough to give us 80% LTV

- Increase 401(k)/SEP contributions up to 10% for NT, 10.5% for me and 11% for AS.
(Right now NT is at 8% with match, I'm at 9.5% with match, and AS is at 10%)

- Get assets above a million, debt below $450K, net worth to $600K, retirement above $350K

- Explore possibility of selling lower unit of duplex to friends.

Other goals:

- Continue home renovations:
Upstairs bathroom (complete redo)
Insulation for whole house
Save up as much as we can for kitchen (complete redo)

- Re-establish nearly daily walking and no breakfast/snacks habits; get weight below 130

- Self-publish two novels (already written, need editing) and write at least one more

- Try about one new recipe per week (at least 50)

- Declutter/reduce stuff, beginning with boxes of paper

- Take a more active role in garden/yard maintenance

Big picture goals:

$490,175 in retirement assets by 2019
Balance as of 12/30/16: $297,419
(NT $62,100 salary X 3 = $186,300
CJ $66,625 salary X 3 = $199,875
AS $52,000 projected income X 2 = $104,000)
Ultimate goal: 8x annual income by retirement

Explore selling UK flat and buying a rental property in Minneapolis

Completely debt-free by age 65 (2039)

2016: Year in review

December 30th, 2016 at 02:12 pm

Let's see what progress we made this year ...

Assets end of 2015: $986,118
Current worth of assets: $992,419

Debt end of 2015: $482,768
Current debt: $460,445

Net worth end of 2015: $503,350
Current net worth: $531,974

Emergency fund end of 2015: $0
Current EF balance: $3,312

Not bad, especially considering we had to downgrade the worth of our assets due to Brexit gutting the pound's value.

2016 goals and results
- Fully fund a trip to my 20th college reunion in New York for me, NT and AS. DONE!

- Fully fund a 2-week trip to England late June-early July for all five of us. DONE!

- Fully fund a side trip to Barcelona for me, NT and AS during the England trip. DONE!

- To continue home renovations. NOPE. We did renovate the basement bathroom because we were required to by the County. That and other expenses made it impossible to do any of our desired renos.

- To max out our 2016 Roth IRAs. DONE!

- To get my and NT's 401(k) contributions up to 10%. Not quite: Mine is up to 9.5% including match, and NT's is now at 8% including match. So we did up them both a bit but not quite to 10%.

- To continue exploring the possibilities of selling part ownership of the duplex to my downstairs neighbors, and of converting our garage into an accessory dwelling unit. Not quite. I concluded the ADU wasn't financially or practically feasible, at least not for the foreseeable future. And my neighbor promised several times (but did not deliver) the first draft of the sale document. Anyway, I'm not going to agree to anything until he sorts out his back taxes, renters insurance and other financial issues, and we have not had that conversation yet.

Non-financial goals, Make every month a "do something" month in 2016. In other words, to come up with a creative or outside-the-box goal for each month of the year. SORT OF. Some months were more successful than others, but I did do something extra about 6 of the 12 months.

Other notable occurrences in 2016:
- NT's collarbone surgery (about $3500)
- AS's tooth replacement (first half done, about $1,500)
- Basement bathroom renovation (our share about $2,000)
- Tax bill (about $10,000 more than we expected)
- NT became a U.S. citizen!
- Had TWO trips away from the kids: 3 days in New York and 5 days in Barcelona & Oxford
- Conversely, hosted their first sleepover, with 2 6-year-old guests. Intense!
- NT got 2 raises (1 in June and 1 this month, effective Jan. 1) and a big bonus (net $4,500)
- NT started a hat business that has possibly broken even by now (I don't track his bookkeeping)
- AS got a few $100-an-hour clients; hopefully portending good things for her 2017 earnings
- I completed my 4th novel during NaNoWriMo
- Saved up enough money to do our next renovation (upstairs bathroom), hopefully in January, as well as getting insulation for the house
- Kid milestones: AA graduated from kindergarten, lost three baby teeth and learned how to tie her shoes. SL learned how to read (at age 4!) and write a bit, and has a loose tooth.

<< Newer EntriesOlder Entries >>