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More money in than out!

September 21st, 2017 at 04:21 pm

I'm cautiously optimistic that we have some concrete progress on reducing the shared spending deficit. Good money news this week:

- NT brought back 800 pounds in gift money from his family. He exchanged it for $927 and I put half toward the deficit and half into kitchen reno savings.

- AS got paid for 2 weeks of remote teaching ($200 net) and I applied that plus October budget surplus of $314 to the deficit (minus a third which I sent to kitchen reno savings).

- I had smaller budget surpluses that I applied to the deficit (grocery $70, cellphone $6, electric bill $9) plus $15 in CC rewards.

We did have some expenses hit the deficit: a business subscription for AS $39, our monthly ACLU donation $30, a field trip for SL $20, bus pass $30, NT's taxi home from his UK trip $43, and some Lyft rides for AS to and from her night class $20.

And of course we have some known upcoming expenses not accounted for.

But overall our deficit has been reduced from $3993 to $3258 this week. Not bad!

And I haven't applied eBay sales yet. You may recall I found a bag of videogames and DVDs on the curb; I've managed to sell 5 of them so far, with prices ranging from $5 to $28, and there are still 3 games and 3 DVDs listed for a couple bucks each. For some reason that reminded me we have two no-longer-used iPods hanging around, so I listed those plus a novelty hat NT had. One iPod has already sold for $25 and the other has three watchers. In total, we look to clear over $80 so far, maybe more if the rest of these items sell. I'm waiting to deposit the money because I was unable to test the games (different system than we have), so I want to make sure no one needs to return one.

Oh, and NT got a $922 profit sharing bonus at work; it went straight to the 401(k) so it doesn't help us with our spending deficit, but it will give us a nice little net worth bump!

AS has booked even more work; she had a bit of a slump earlier in the year due to giving up my company for their slow payment, but the last quarter is going to be huge. There's a good chance she'll top $50K in earnings again this year, which was looking doubtful before.

In terms of actual payments September has been a low month, but the next three months should be much bigger in terms of checks coming in. Plus, there's still over a week left in September and I think three more payments have a good chance of coming in, making September a moderate vs. low income month.

Various money goings-on the past couple days

September 17th, 2017 at 04:39 am

Let's see, there's been a lot of little money-in, money-out activity since my last post.

I took a sick day on Tuesday simply because I hadn't gotten much sleep for a few days and it was messing me up. I have plenty of sick PTO (I rarely take even half of it) and I could see my work projects could all wait a day without burdening any co-workers, so I did it.

Felt much recovered after sleeping in most of the morning. In the afternoon AS and I went for a longish walk and ended up by a cafe she had a free beer coupon for, so we stopped in. I bought myself a glass of wine for $8. I was feeling a tad sheepish about that spending because I was already planning to go out that night and have a couple drinks with friends. But it was nice to have a leisurely drink with AS.

I got on the bus for my happy hour in plenty of time, but the bus ended up in standstill traffic, turning a 35-minute ride into 1 hour 20 minutes! And I happened to get the bus that doesn't cross the bridge to where I needed to go, so I walked across (another 10 minutes). Ended up being nearly an hour late to the happy hour. Luckily my two college alumni friends were unfazed, and we had a fabulous time. I was going to only order 1 drink but after my ordeal I had 2 drinks plus an appetizer. When I pulled my wallet out at the end, one friend stopped me; he hadn't seen either of us in about a year and wanted to pay our tabs! Phew, he saved me going about $45 more in the hole on my spending money!

Later in the week I started planning my and AS's Wisconsin trip to see my fave band. I bought tickets for both shows; I put my and AS's on shared spending since this is my 2nd solo trip (we each got 2 this year), but I also bought a friend's ticket who is joining us for one of the shows and put that on my own spending (which put me back in the hole).

Less than an hour after I booked those tickets, the band finally announced a Minneapolis show in November! I'd given up on them playing here anytime soon, which is why I wanted the WI trip. Well, I'm not going to pass up seeing them at First Avenue, the legendary Minneapolis club I saw them at last November, so I bought 3 tickets (me and NT and AS) and added that to my personal spending deficit (they're just humoring me by coming Big Grin). I'm now quite a bit in the hole again, but I'll make it up gradually!

I also got me and AS a hotel for the first night of Wisconsin ($72). I was going back and forth with my friend who works in the hotel industry and is going to join us for the second night from Chicago. I tried to find a VRBO or AirBNB place but couldn't find anything that worked. He checked his corporate discount with a chain that must be affiliated with his group of hotels, and they gave him a double room for only $59! And it's much nicer than the $72 room AS and I will be in the night before! Without his discount the cheapest I was finding was about $140 for a modest hotel, whereas this will be a nicer place for less than half the cost. Definitely worth splitting a room!

We haven't worked out whether he will pay for it or not. I've bought his show ticket, but he bought me and AS drinks the last time we saw him, so we owed him at least that. Maybe we'll buy him dinner and drinks to cover the hotel.

I did have to rent a car because my friend that was thinking about going couldn't get the time off work. So that will be about $175 for 3 days, plus gas.

That and the hotel don't get charged to the credit card until we use them, so there is about $250 not showing up in the shared spending deficit. The tickets did come out immediately.

AS got paid nearly $300 for 2 weeks of teaching at one of her college gigs, and I factored in our October budget surplus of about $300 plus about $15 in CapOne rewards. I set aside $175 for renovations but the rest went to the budget deficit. We also kept grocery spending about $70 under budget and applied that budget surplus to the deficit.

So, as it stands, the deficit is at about $3600, much better than the $3900+ we were at. Of course we have the $250 in trip costs that would technically make it $3850, but we'll hopefully get more income before those costs come due.

Meanwhile, NT is still in England. I'd withdrawn 1,000 pounds from the EF for him to use for spending money while he was there. He emailed me to check in; he felt he'd stayed under that, and his mom and grandma had each given him 500 pounds to put toward home renovations!

I checked the UK account and he'd only used about 400 of the 1,000, and had deposited 1,000 from his family, so he was technically 1,600 ahead of the game! I emailed him back that he may as well take the 1,000 back out and we could put it toward the renovation fund in the U.S. But even if he doesn't get a chance to do that, it'll be a nice boost to our EF, so I'm happy either way.

AS pointed out that we could put some of the money to the deficit! It hadn't even occurred to me since the relatives earmarked it for our renovations. But I suppose one reason the deficit is still there is because I have continued to put one-third of AS's net pay into renovation savings. So it seems fair to put part of the relatives' gift toward the deficit. We'll see how much we end up with when NT comes home (which is Monday!! Yay!).

Another interesting money thing that happened just today: Someone had left a bag of DVDs, video games and books out on the curb marked "Free." I grabbed it on the way home from the grocery store. I passed a Little Free Library and put a few books in that, then brought the rest home. I checked eBay for whichg items might sell for more than a couple bucks, and listed about 10 of them. Most for a couple bucks each, but one of the more expensive ones, a video game, has already sold for $24! So I feel like my effort already paid off enough to be worth it. If none of the others sell, I'll sock them away for the neighborhood garage sale in the spring. We already have a ton of clothes and a few toys, but it'd be nice to have some other things besides.

I was daydreaming about getting a promotion and raise today, but it hasn't happened. However, I'm still feeling good about the possibility if I keep selling my supervisor on the idea. I was thinking I'd raise NT's retirement a little and keep the rest for renovations, travel and general spending. But we'll see. If Roth IRA limits get raised next year, I'd definitely target that first. It's all speculation, anyway, at this point.

That's it on the money front, I think. NT gets home Monday afternoon; AS and I and the kids have done pretty well but I'll be happy to get the family unit back together!

More spending, another new meal (revisited)

September 12th, 2017 at 02:36 am

Hah, just realized today's entry could have the same as yesterday's! Smile

I realized aNOTHER expense I'd forgotten about, when I sleepily dropped my phone onto the sidewalk this morning. Luckily NT had put a screen protector on it, so only a small corner shattered that shouldn't affect anything. But it did remind me to order a case for the damn thing! (I did order one when I first got the screen fixed, but it was the wrong size and I returned it. Then I was on vacation for a week and just kind of forgot.)

Anyway, I quickly ordered a case from Amazon. $16.16 more to the deficit. Deficit is just over $3900. Would love to see it go down significantly soon!!

I figured out the October budget and do have a small surplus there. I might use it to book part of my Wisconsin trip (at least the tickets to the show; I'm paranoid one or both will sell out if I wait too long!) ...

Oh well. I did try another new meal tonight: tofu fajitas. Usually I use fake chicken or just veggies, but tonight I cut tofu into strips and baked it until slightly browned and chewy, while I sauteed bell peppers, onions and garlic in the cast iron. Then I threw the baked tofu into the pan and sprinkled it with Mexican seasonings. It was pretty good! On its own the tofu would've been bland, but with the veggies, and salsa, cheese and refried beans, it was a really good meal. I've got leftovers for tomorrow which is nice. I believe that's 46 down, 4 to go.

More spending, another new meal

September 11th, 2017 at 02:17 am

A couple posts ago I laid out all the upcoming shared-spending expenses I could think of for the rest of the year, but I'd forgotten that AS and I would need clothes, and that NT would probably want a refreshment at the U.S. airport before he left for England, and that the kids would want new Halloween costumes. Well today, I realized I forgot about prescriptions. AS should be good for a while, but I needed to refill three medications. And we were running low on spray sunblock as well. So, another $36 added to the deficit.

But we're still at less than $3900. AS is going to check with the one university I thought was going to pay her weekly, because we still haven't seen the payment I expected Friday. It's not a huge amount but it would be nice to know when I can expect those payments to hit.

We tried another new meal from damndelicious.com today. This was called "cheeseburger grilled cheese sandwiches," but I would call it "taco grilled cheese sandwiches" because it uses taco seasoning. Regardless of what you call it, it was fantastic. Ground beef (in our case a vegetarian version) browned, with taco seasoning added, then shredded cheese and diced tomato were added to the mix. That was the filling of the grilled sandwiches instead of just cheese. So good! I drizzled hot sauce on almost every bite. The kids were "meh" about it, but I think NT will love to try it when he gets back. Maybe I'll offer to make them regular grilled cheese next time. So that's 45 down and 5 to go on the new meals goal!

August retirement goal progress (a bit late)

September 10th, 2017 at 06:34 am

I realized I didn't do retirement goal progress on the last day of the month like I usually do. I guess because it was the last day before a holiday weekend it just slipped my mind! (Or maybe it didn't occur to me because the numbers for August were so underwhelming.) Anyway, these numbers are based on 8/31 totals, so they don't include the contributions and gains since then.

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: $345,182

July 2017 balance: $344,108

Progress: $1,074

We contributed more than that in August, so it was a loss overall. (At least it does still seem likely that 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 18 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $149,561 -- $8,309 per month -- to reach it.

New meals tried; couple shared spending expenses

September 10th, 2017 at 06:21 am

Friday night we tried a new salad recipe which was basically raw corn cut from the cob, heirloom tomato, red bell pepper and tamed red onion (soaked in ice water then drained), with a balsamic dressing. We had it with veggie buffalo wings and dipping sauces for the "wings." The salad was good! Nice and simple but refreshing and flavorful.

Tonight we tried another recipe from damndelicious.com, which MonkeyMama turned me on to. It's a meat heavy site so I usually use tofu or a veggie meat in its place. This time it was honey lemon chicken & broccoli with rice. I used Morningstar chicken strips. AS and I really liked it; the kids managed to get their obligatory bites in.

So that's 44 meals down and only 6 to go! At least I'll hit one of my annual goals; I've kind of fallen down on some of the others.

We had some expenses this weekend that added to the shared spending deficit, but at least we're not back up to $4K. NT left for his 9-day UK trip Friday and had snacks and drinks at the airport before his flight. All other expenses will be on the UK debit card and will come out of the UK account, but since he was still in the U.S., this one was on our Capital One card. Just $20.

AS and I tried to put together our fall/winter capsule wardrobes from clothes we already had since we're so far in the hole on spending money, but there were a few things we were missing. We went to Savers; we promised the kids they could each get a toy if they were good, which was only about $4 apiece. But they spotted the Halloween section and wanted to shop for their costumes. I realized I hadn't figured that expense in but it was something we would have gone to Savers in October for it anyway, so we let them pick out costumes.

AS and I spent about $30 each, and the girls spent about $35 each on costume + costume accessories + toy. $130.38 total. Not terrible considering AS and I typically spend a few hundred each on our wardrobes every 6 months; I should be good for the most part, and even if AS needs a couple more items, this is way cheaper for 6 months of clothes than we have been used to.

Shared spending deficit is back up close to $3900. A couple of expected freelance payments didn't come in or else it would be less. Hopefully those payments hit next week and we can see that balance go down!

New meals goal progress over the past month

September 8th, 2017 at 09:29 pm

Wow, I realized I didn't record any progress on this goal since August 3, when I cooked my 36th new meal! It's been a hectic month, but I did manage to try some new recipes, so I'm going through my revision history on my menu Google sheet to remember them all.

Meal #37: spaghetti with tomato sauce and breaded, fried eggplant. We got some of those long, skinny eggplants from our CSA. None of us are huge fans of eggplant so I always try to transform/disguise it. This time I sliced them thin and rolled in soy buttermilk and panko breadcrumbs, and we had them with pasta and red sauce. It was pretty good, considering it was eggplant! Smile

Meal #38: coriander chutney & eggplant sandwich. I had some cilantro from the CSA and hot peppers in our garden, so I made a chutney. Then I ate it in a sandwich for lunch with the rest of the breaded eggplant from dinner. I really liked this, actually!

Meal #39: TVP taco salad. In our attempts to use up the pantry to avoid waste & save money, I played with a bag of TVP (textured vegetable protein). I made taco salad where I usually buy a $4 bag of vegetarian burger crumbles, but instead I spiced up the TVP with fake-beef buillion & Mexican seasonings. I thought the kids would hate so I only gave them about a tablespoon each and put the rest in the grownups' bowls. AA requested more and was disappointed that I didn't have any. I may do this again and make sure there's enough for seconds, now that I know she likes it!

Meal #40: TVP burgers w/frozen corn on the cob. I made another recipe using the rest of the TVP. It also had minced veggies and some vital wheat gluten, as well as Worcestershire sauce & other spices. The flavor was great but I was disappointed they didn't hold together better. We had the burgers with potato salad and corn on the cob. I'd accidentally bought frozen corn on the cob from Instacart a few weeks back, so this was my first attempt using it. Yuck! I couldn't eat more than a couple bites; it was a soggy mess. We have several more packs of it in the freezer, unfortunately. I'm not sure what to do with it. maybe cut it off the cob and puree for a chowder? Any ideas?

Meal #41: Eggplant parmesan sandwiches. We got a large eggplant from the CSA, so I sliced it thin, salted to remove the bitterness, dipped in vegan buttermilk and panko breadcrumbs with Italian seasonings, and pan-fried until the coating was lightly brown and crispy. Then placed the slices on a baking sheet, topped with Italian cheeses (vegan for me), and served on a bun with fresh tomato, sauteed onion and spaghetti sauce. I put it on burger buns because we had a lot to use up. We also had a side of spaghetti aglio olio, which is essentially olive oil, sauteed sliced garlic and red pepper flakes. Our neighbors and their friend had dinner with us; no one at the table was a fan of eggplant, but we all finished the sandwich no problem. A pretty good way to use an unpleasant vegetable and not let it go to waste!

Meal #42: Grits & oatmeal bar. One thing I found while eating through the pantry was a container of grits we'd only cooked from once. So it was mostly full. Our downstairs neighbor had once done an oatmeal bar where you could add whatever sweet or savory ingredients to your oatmeal, so I tried that. I cooked a big pot of plain grits, and AS a pot of slightly sweetened oatmeal. Then I put out lots of plates and bottles: sauteed onions, sauteed peppers, chopped-up vegetarian sausage patties, vegetarian bacon, shredded cheese, hot sauce, maple syrup, brown sugar, margarine, chocolate syrup. I ended up eating two big bowls of grits with all the savory ingredients; it was delicious but I was stuffed! I loved it but the kids really didn't, so I don't know if I'd go out of my way to do it again.

That's it for now, but I've put three new dishes on this coming week's menu, so I'll make some good progress again soon! But for now it's 42 new meals tried, 8 to go!

Money updates

September 8th, 2017 at 07:21 pm

Well, I managed to scrape up some money to put toward the deficit -- $200 from an AS freelance payment, $50-$90 here and there from various line items such as keeping grocery spending and carshare rental down and skipping haircuts for a month. We managed to hold onto about $400 of those gains and the deficit is now $3700.

AS has some more small freelance checks expected this month and a TON of work booked that should get paid in the next few months. But I also see some expenses coming up in September-October that will add to the shared spending deficit:

- Swim lessons. I just booked our last paid-for lesson for this Saturday, so I'll need to buy some more.

- Lyft rides. AS has started teaching her class Wednesday nights; she buses there and takes a Lyft home. The first couple Lyfts are covered by our transportation budget but the rest will come out of shared spending. At least she can claim on her taxes, I think!

- Theater tickets. I promised the kids I would take them to a play, and there's one coming up in October that they should like. AS is going to look for a Groupon for the theater company to try and offset that cost.

- My trip to Wisconsin. I'm feeling more comfortable with the thought of spending on this and have booked the time off work, but haven't spent any money on it yet. Ideas for keeping costs down: Having my friend drive her car and just paying for half of gas; getting an AirBNB or possibly a deal on a hotel room because of a friend who works for one; packing some food to avoid eating out every meal. The tickets themselves aren't too bad; $12 for one show and $20 for the other, and I'd have to get AS tickets too, so $64 total. I may also have a bit of personal spending money by then that I can put toward the trip expenses--I've almost made up my personal spending deficit (that's also been in the red for the past couple months).

- Wedding gift for my niece. I feel bad I can't go, so I want to get her something kind of nice. Thinking $200 or so. She gets married in October and of course I have a year to get her a gift after that, so I don't have to pull the trigger right away on this expense, but I would like to get it to her in October if possible. She and her mom drove 4 hours each way on the same day to come see me and the kids during our trip to Va. in August!

- AS's mom's November visit. She's coming for a week or so around Thanksgiving, so I'm sure food costs will go up. (She's a meat eater so won't want to eat our vegan/vegetarian meals all the time.) However, this is her visit to sort of get a sense what it would be like to live in Minneapolis, so I don't think we'll go out of our way to give her a costly touristy experience. More a taste of what our everyday mundane life is like. (Yes, she is considering moving here again, which some of you may remember from a panicky post years ago. More on this later, but at least we're in a much better place mentally and financially and I'm not feeling as panicky about the thought of her coming!)

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

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.


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.

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.

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