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UK trip spending

January 11th, 2019 at 07:49 am

We got back from England Sunday and have been incredibly tired AND busy since then! Last night I got a second night of fairly solid sleep so I'm feeling partly back to normal. Still a lot of work and housework to catch up on, though, so I don't have time to run down our trip. Suffice it to say, fun but tiring, lots of quality time with family and friends, didn't see a ton of new sights but that wasn't what it was about this time.

I did keep track of our spending so I thought I'd do a quick summary and compare it with our more epic July 2016 trip. That one was 15 days, included a short jaunt to Barcelona in the middle, and came to about $10,500:
UK flights & travel insurance: $5500
(UK lodging paid for by NT's parents)
Rental car & insurance: $900
Barcelona flight and lodging: $1300
Other spending: $2800

This trip was 12 days, included stops in Exeter, Cornwall and Oxford, and came to about $7,300:
Flights & travel insurance $4,200
Car rental & minor damage (just some scuffs from all the narrow roads and parking lots) $700
Other spending (gas, food, gifts/souvenirs/clothes, sightseeing, drinks): $2400
(some lodging paid for by NT's parents; stayed w/people the rest of the time)

So there you have it!

January 2019 debt payments

January 6th, 2019 at 07:02 pm

All the mortgage payments hit:
US: $736 to principal
UK1: $179
UK2: $37
UK3: $40

That's $992 to principal. (Maybe this will be the year when my minimum payments put $1000 or more to principal!)

Current debt totals:
US Mortgage $382,438
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $31,231
UK Mortgage 2 $6,584
UK Mortgage 3 $6,933
TOTAL DEBT $436,186

New year's non-resolutions: my 2019 mindset

December 31st, 2018 at 03:08 pm

Usually I have goals with measurable results and I achieve maybe half of them? So for 2018 I tried to really analyze why goals succeeded or failed, and come up with ones I was sure to meet, and enjoy meeting.

Well, the results were not what I expected. Over the year I ended up abandoning most of them and doing some other equally awesome things. Basically, my focus and priorities changed. It was still one of my favorite years, but I don’t like the feeling that I didn’t meet my goals.

I won't go into them in detail, but here are the things I achieved in 2018:
Creative - learn guitar.
Vacations: UK family trip after Xmas. Solo trips for adults. CJ family reunion in June/July Niece's wedding in Va. in August.

And things I didn't quite get done in 2018:
Creative - get a novel publishing-ready.
Health - Limit drinking on everyday nights.
Health - limit screen time outside of work.
Health - Try relaxation/destress tactics on nondrinking/no-screen-time days
Pragmatic - emergency preparedness.
Work/professional development: Look for class on Agile; see if work will pay for it.
Work/professional development: Limit social/personal internet at work.
Jan: No personal internet/phone at work one day per Financial: Retirement assets to $475K. Net worth to $650K. Bump NT's 401(k) up 2%.
Financial: Kids' savings up to at least $1K per year of age.
Home: Full kitchen renovation.

So there you go.

I feel like I've entered a new stage of life where I can achieve anything I set my mind to, but can't necessarily map out the exact things that I'll want to do.

So for 2019, I've decided I’ll have less structured “intentions”: a mindset where I try to live a full and successful life and, yes, have ambitions, but I'm not laying out specific ambitions or milestones I'm working toward.

Part of it is my new mindset but also, I realize with family members in all three of our extended families struggling, and also all of us chasing our dreams, which may make our day-to-day schedules and finances less predictable.

So here are my intentions for 2019:

- Make healthy choices (with an eye toward fitness, weight control and general energy and vitality and hopefully longevity). My initial thoughts are getting back into walking and AM exercises and intermittent fasting, and trying to bring more salads and whole foods into my diet. But I'm leaving this open to any other ideas or inspirations I have.

- Deepen friendships. In 2018 I put a lot of effort into widening and deepening my social circle with mixed results. Recently I've been spending less time chasing the people who don't seem to be putting any effort in reciprocating. If they want to hang out, I'm not shutting off any avenues; I'm just going to focus more on the people who have been more responsive, and putting out feelers for other people to focus on.

- Do creative things. Right now I'm feeling very happy learning guitar and working on a new novel with a college friend. I'm also seriously considering finally self-publishing one of my novels as kind of a test run. But we'll see what other creative urges hit me! The point is to do things that aren't just stressing over the news or mindlessly checking my phone or computer.

- Chase pleasure. I don't know how many solo trips we'll get to go on (due to the uncertainties I mentioned) but if I do get to, it'll likely be to see my fave band in other places, meeting up with my Canadian friend I met in January via their concerts. That friendship has been the single biggest social success I had, even though we mainly communicate via computer! I also want to see lots of other live music, which has become one of the biggest pleasures of my life. So has guitar. Maybe it means more date nights with my partners; we didn't get many this year. I also consider reading a creative activity, and I don't read as often as I used to, so I could try to focus on that. And my kids are getting to the ages where we start to have activities we both enjoy, so I hope to hang out with them more and more! This is a wide open field, so hopefully I'll surprise myself pleasantly!

- Build my career. I'm still very happy with my current job and seem to be still making good impressions and doing good work, so right now that's my focus. I don't have any big ambitions about moving up quickly; as long as I get modest raises and the work environment stays supportive and the work interesting, I don't see any need to do anything other than continue to challenge myself and keep growing and deepening my skills in this position. But I realize jobs are a fluid thing, so again, a wide open intention!

- Be flexible when life throws things at me. This is about resilience as well as openness to new ideas and new situations. It's optimistic that amazing new opportunities may present themselves, but also realistic that challenges may arise, and I don't want to be blindsided or feel persecuted, I just want to land on my feet no matter what. I hope I can do that!

So, those are my thoughts. I'm in the UK, so we're about to hit the new year in about an hour. I wish all my SA friends the 2019 they want, and the ability to tackle the year even if it doesn't turn out the way they hope!

Quick check-in, hopefully more soon

December 23rd, 2018 at 10:39 pm

Hi friends!

I had an absolutely crazed December; working nights and weekends trying to get through a mass of work that suddenly hit me all at once. I did all I humanly could, so now I can take my two weeks with a clear conscience if not a clear plate. I'll have a lot to do on Jan. 7 so I'll need to hit the ground running, jetlag be damned.

But until then, I have some time off, so I'm going to try and rest my brain as much as possible.

I want to do a detailed end-of-year rundown like I typically do. I'll be in the UK on New Year's Eve, so I'm not sure if I'll do it beforehand or try and do it from my phone in England. I don't think I'll take my laptop...but I'm still figuring that out. We leave the day after Xmas and I haven't even thought about what I'm going to bring!

This was an odd year. I started off with some of my most organized, regimented goals ever, did really well the first two months, and then things just kind of went off the rails. But not in a bad way, really...I still had a busy, fruitful, creativity-filled year, I just ended up doing things differently from the goals I had so methodically put in place.

So I think next year, I'm going to structure things differently, in that I won't really structure annual goals. It'll be more about being ready to jump on something when I feel it, no matter when it happens in the year. I'll still have intentions, ambitions, but not as many yardsticks or finish lines. It'll be about the doing, and hopefully there will be some achievements reached along the way that I'll celebrate.

Besides the fact that the very concrete goals didn't work as well for me last year -- indicating I'm moving into a different way of getting things done -- another reason I don't want to be so specific with my benchmarks is we have a number of wild cards next year.
- My mom is home from the hospital and doing somewhat better, but I still feel it's very possible that she's not long for this world.
- AS's mom is struggling financially and with finding a stable place to live and any kind of employment; we've had to bail her out financially a few times in the past couple months and feel the worst may be yet to come.
- AS had her best income yet this year, and we have high hopes for next year, but she's taking a leap and getting rid of some of her steady but lower-paying work to give herself more time for higher-paying work and also to build her personal brand. So there's some risk but also more potential for reward.
- We've enlisted a kitchen designer, and depending on what the estimates come to, we may have to decide whether to take on a short-term loan to cover part of it, or find alternatives that work within our current savings, or put off the renovation a while longer until we have the funds. So it's hard to say the impact that will have.

Anyway, still taking stock of the year and thinking about next year, so I'm hoping to do a longer, more coherent post soon. But since I had a bit of time to drop in, I wanted to at least say something. One of my "intentions" for next year will definitely be to blog more frequently again -- I miss it! Even though I still read all of your blogs, I haven't had time to comment as much, so I hope to be more present in general here.

December 2018 debt payments

December 4th, 2018 at 08:50 am

All the mortgage payments hit:
US: $735 to principal
UK1: $180
UK2: $38
UK3: $40

That's $993 to principal.

Current household debt:
US Mortgage $383,174
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $31,410
UK Mortgage 2 $6,621
UK Mortgage 3 $6,973
TOTAL DEBT $437,178

November 2018 debt payments

November 5th, 2018 at 11:44 am

All our mortgage payments hit on Friday, but I'm just getting around to posting about them:
US: $732 to principal
UK1: $179
UK2: $37
UK3: $40

All in all, $988 of debt paid off.

I got a notice that our escrow shortage is lower now, so our US monthly mortgage payment will also be lower starting next month. Only by about $30, but I'll take it! Our utilities have averaged about $100 per month higher this year than last year, and I don't see that changing until/unless we can invest in better insulation, mini ductless AC, etc. So it's nice to have one house expense decrease a little.

Current debt amounts:

US Mortgage $383,909
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $31,590
UK Mortgage 2 $6,659
UK Mortgage 3 $7,013
TOTAL DEBT $438,171

My mom

October 30th, 2018 at 08:00 am

The past few days have been hard. My mom went into the ER with chest pain (and just gradually feeling worse over the past couple weeks; regular doctors and specialists unable to pinpoint the problem).

Her heart rate was super low and she had several infections in various parts of her body. There were some scary points where a temporary pacemaker wasn't working, where they were debating whether to do surgery before they got rid of some of the infections.

But yesterday she had pacemaker surgery, today she's off oxygen and catheter, and the infections are coming under control. If she continues to pull through she'll likely have to go to a rehab facility before going home, which is good, because after her heart attack a few years ago she totally ignored the physical therapy exercises recommended. If she's at a place, they'll make her do something.

I'm in MN and she's in VA, so all of this has been communicated by email, calls and texts. My dad is stressed and burdened by all the decisions and insurance things he's having to handle, but he had two of my sisters around to help somewhat. One went home and another came, so he still has two there.

I was holding off booking a trip until I heard whether I needed to get there right away, but now it seems like it might be nicer to come in a week when she's probably going to be better able to enjoy a visitor. So I'm going to research flights for early November. I have an extremely busy month (all cancelable if there's an emergency) so I'm looking at a three- or four-day window next week as my best bet for a non-emergency visit.

Luckily we have vacation funds stored up that we don't really have plans for, so if I make this trip and still need to run out another time if anything goes wrong, it shouldn't put a financial burden on my household.

Everyone is being supportive including my work. I know things are touch and go still, but I'm enjoying the feeling of relief after the surgery even if it turns out to be premature. The mind and body can use this respite. It was a few days of -- I don't even know what to call it. The feeling of my mom in danger and my dad suffering mentally was like this ocean of raw emotion right under the surface 24/7. As long as I stayed busy and around people it stayed under control, but it was always there, every second, even when I was laughing and having fun. So to have the ocean subside a bit, even if temporary, is a good sensation.

Medical cost increases for 2019

October 23rd, 2018 at 09:32 am

We had our benefits presentation today, so now I know how much more our medical costs will be (pretax; the effect on my paycheck won't be 100% known until Jan. 15).

Medical is going up a little, plus I've just edged into the next income bracket, so the premium for me and the kids is going up $85 per month pretax.

Dental is staying the same.

I'm adding NT to vision coverage next year because he thinks he may need glasses, so that's going up $8.33 per month.

Since he'll likely need glasses, I'm going to put another $600 into flex spending, or $50 per month.

That means medical expenses are going up $143.33 per month, or $71.67 per paycheck. I'm going to estimate $60 per paycheck for now and we'll see what the change in tax withholding actually is in January.

On the bright side, AS's Obamacare premium is actually going down a little bit for some reason. I guess she made a tiny bit less in 2017 than 2016, so maybe that's why. If so, we'll enjoy it while we can in 2019, because she's making a lot more this year and 2020 healthcare will likely reflect that! (Of course the GOP could do more horrible things to the ACA and it could get even worse, so there's no sense extrapolating that far into the future for healthcare costs.) I believe her costs will decrease about $20 per month.

So I guess the impact of the changes will be about $100 lower income per month. Could be worse, I know. Hopefully NT or I will get a raise to help offset it, since this comes out of our regular budget which is covered by our paychecks. (I handle AS's pay separately; after her tax and retirement it goes toward renovations, vacations, variable/unplanned costs and shared fun money.)

Note to self for net worth update

October 16th, 2018 at 04:54 pm

A UK pension statement came in the mail; since I can't check them online it's the only time I get one. The Scottish Widows pension value has increased from 26,544 pounds last year to 28,134 pounds this year. I'll reflect that in our net worth update at the end of the month.

October 2018 debt payments (a little late)

October 4th, 2018 at 01:43 pm

I hate having to wait a day for my US mortgage to hit the actual account, because sometimes I then forget to update my debt totals! But anyway here I am, better late than never.

All our mortgage payments hit:
US Mortgage: $730 to principal
UK Mortgage 1 $179
UK Mortgage 2 $39
UK Mortgage 3 $38

All told, that's $986 to principal this month.

Current debt totals:
US Mortgage $384,641
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $31,769
UK Mortgage 2 $6,696
UK Mortgage 3 $7,053
TOTAL DEBT $439,159

Quick life update

October 3rd, 2018 at 02:29 pm

Wow, I haven't blogged properly for months! Life is just busy, I guess. Some highlights:

- Social life is good. Making/keeping/deepening friendships is a LOT of work, but I'm loving hanging out with folks when I can corral them. Next week I'm going to Wisconsin to see my fave band and my Canadian friend!

- AS's big freelance job is still chugging along; she's invoiced for about $8K of the possible $32K. They pay weekly for however many hours she worked the previous week, which has been GREAT for our shared spending!

- We applied AS's increased income plus NT's third upcoming October paycheck to eliminate the shared spending deficit and begin saving up for renovations once again. We've fallen out of touch with our kitchen designer, but we probably won't nudge her until we've built up the savings to more than they are now.

- Most of the goals I set at the beginning of the year have fallen by the wayside, except learning guitar. I love guitar! I still take lessons weekly and practice almost daily. I can play almost 20 songs, I think.

- Another unexpected project I didn't foresee on Jan. 1 but am still working on is planning a novel with an old college friend who lives in NYC. We're slowly bringing the plot and characters into focus and I hope to have a detailed outline done in time to work on the novel in November. Doing a shared project for NaNoWriMo is an iffy proposition but hopefully there's no harm in trying it this once. I just need to figure out a way to keep working even if my friend gets busy or stuck, so I can get to my 50K words by the end of November!

- Also, it's become something of a habit to see more music live! There were a few years when I really didn't feel inspired by music but I'm getting really into it again. In addition to the October show in Wisconsin, I have tickets to FOUR concerts in November! And I discovered another local act I really like; he's taking a 2-month hiatus from playing live, but I'm looking forward to when he starts playing around again.

- My work just started up the pedometer challenge, which is 4 weeks in October. I know I'll do enough steps to get the $25 gift card; the real challenge is doing enough steps to get one of the $100 weekly prizes. We shall see! I did finally order some new sneakers which I've been meaning to do for months.

- We decided to do a staycation in October instead of going to a lake. Still deciding what fun things to do but we've got $750 set aside for the 5 days, so I'm sure it'll be great! Our next trip as a family will be to the UK, leaving the day after Xmas and coming back in the first week of January.

- Work is good, family is good, everything is trucking along!

September 2018 retirement goal update

October 1st, 2018 at 11:58 am

Goal: $512,564 by March 2019

Current balance: $436,289 ($76,275 to go)

July 2018 balance: $431,075

Progress: $5,214

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 $75,120, so $225,360; NT to 3x his, which is now $62,100, so $186,300; and AS to 2x hers, which in 2017 was $50,452, so $100,904.

To reach the interim goal by the end of our birthday month (March) in 2019, that's 6 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $76,275 -- $12,713 per month -- to reach it.

We rarely come close to that, so it's pretty unlikely. But at least we're making progress in the right direction!

September 2018 debt payments

September 5th, 2018 at 07:47 am

All our mortgage payments hit (a bit late because of the holiday):
US: $728 to principal
UK1: $178
UK2: $38
UK3: $40

All told, $984 went to principal.

New debt totals:

US Mortgage $385,371
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $31,948
UK Mortgage 2 $6,735
UK Mortgage 3 $7,091
TOTAL DEBT $440,145

August 2018 retirement goal update

August 31st, 2018 at 07:28 am

Goal: $512,564 by March 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 $75,120, so $225,360; NT to 3x his, which is now $62,100, so $186,300; and AS to 2x hers, which in 2017 was $50,452, so $100,904).

Current balance: $431,075

July 2018 balance: $421,009

Progress: $10,066

To reach the interim goal by the end of our birthday month (March) in 2019, that's 7 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $81,489 -- $11,641 per month -- to reach it.

We rarely come close to that, so it's pretty unlikely. But at least we're making progress in the right direction!

August 2018 debt payments

August 2nd, 2018 at 10:16 am

All our mortgage payments hit:
US: $726 to principal
UK1: $180
UK2: $37
UK3: $40

All told, we paid $983 to principal.

New debt totals:

US Mortgage $386,099
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $32,126
UK Mortgage 2 $6,773
UK Mortgage 3 $7,131
TOTAL DEBT $441,129

Money and other news updates

August 1st, 2018 at 02:33 pm

As always happens recently, I'm going to try and run through a lot of updates all in one post! It makes for very nondescriptive titles but oh well. Smile

- Had a sit-down with the spouses about our shared spending and vacation budgets being so far in the red. I put together projections of what would happen if we stopped funding the reno fund for a while and split AS's net pay 50/50 between the two line items. If we were careful about our spending for the next few months, we should be back in the positive by October, so hopefully then we can start splitting it 3 ways between shared spending, vacations and renovations.

Everyone gave up some things to make this projection work. NT gave up a second trip he was hoping to take. (I was also idly thinking about another trip because my two have/will be very very cheap. But it's highly unlikely I'll get another one this year.) I cut back the amount I was planning to spend on my next solo trip and pledged to shop my closet for my fall wardrobe and avoid buying new clothes if possible. AS cut her sewing-room renovation budget from $1000 to $600.

And we all agreed to skip the State Fair this year; we love going but most of the charm is buying tons of different foods, which combined with admission (and sometimes a second trip with the kids, which involves rides and games) gets very expensive. There's always next year!

- Some other expenses came to light after our discussion, but also AS logged some more hours on her big freelance job that aren't in the projection. I'm going to update my projection every week or so to keep tabs on whether we're likely to hit our goal.

- I just realized that I'll be in four, maybe five different states this month! Tomorrow we leave for Va. (technically we're spending the first and last night in a hotel in Md. but I don't count that). We may do a day or overnight trip to W.Va. while we're there. We get back Wednesday, and that Friday I leave on a road trip with a friend to Iowa to see my fave band. We get back that Sunday, and on Tuesday I fly to Tenn. for a two-night, three-day business trip! Whew!

- Although I haven't made any progress on editing my own novel, I've been busily chatting with my NY friend on our plans to write a new novel together. We're a long way off from starting; we need to agree on the main plot, character and setting before we can start writing a scene-by-scene outline. But we have lots of great ideas so I'm hopeful we can pull it off!

- I've been neglecting most of my goals except guitar, which I practice almost every day and keep making progress on. However, I realize that most of my goals were about reducing stress and increasing mental health, and guitar is doing more for that than I could have imagined, so I'm kind of OK with taking a different direction than my initial goals for the year.

- I do wish I could finish my emergency preparedness kit and schedule us for some first aid/CPR classes, but I need to wait until our spending deficit is under control.

- Things we decided not to cut back on: kids' swim lessons at the pricier (but very effective) new place we've been trying, art class for the 8-year-old, and we're going to start gymnastics lessons for the 6-year-old. We had her on art but it's not really her thing. She's always doing somersaults and flipping off couches, so maybe gymnastics will be a better fit!

- I thought about withdrawing from my alumni board so I could maybe focus my time on other interests, but then I had a couple of fun events that actually went well, and the alumni office has been so grateful for the work I do. So I'm reconsidering and may try to serve out my term (until 2021).

- My second-weekly guitar lessons end next week, which I'm glad of so I can have more of a social life again! When I finish all this traveling, that is. But maybe I can do some planning now to set up some hanging-out time with various people for when I'm back from my three trips. Tonight though I have to focus on packing, since we'll be leaving for the airport as soon as I get home from work and picking one of the kids up from daycare tomorrow.

- We've had some minor illness and injury lately -- AS sprained an ankle, AA had a fever for a couple days, a few other things -- but overall we're in good health. My one complaint is I've been so busy and our kid dropoff routine is so off-kilter that I haven't been walking nearly as much as I had been, and my A.M. strength exercises have fallen off the radar. Got to get those two habits back, because they do wonders for my energy!

I'm sure there's more I've forgotten, but that's more than enough for one post!

11 years of retirement progress

July 31st, 2018 at 02:19 pm

I've never looked at my retirement changes year over year, and suddenly was curious. I started in September 2007 since that was the first time I added up all the retirement values, but for every year after I used the July retirement amount. Here's what I found:

2007: $62K

2008: $65K (+$3K)

2009: $69K (+$4K)

2010: $109K (+$40K)

2011: $141K (+$32K)

2012: $151K (+$10K)

2013: $175K (+$24K)

2014: $220K (+$45K)

2015: $248K (+$28K)

2016: $279K (+$31K)

2017: $344K (+$65K)

2018: $421K (+$68K)

It's interesting that growth has been so uneven. There are different factors: I may have found out about some of NT's pensions in 2010. My dad gave me a pre-inheritance of which I put $9K into retirement, which impacted 2011. Between 2014 and 2015 we slowed our retirement contributions while we were purchasing our duplex and trying to sell our condo. And of course vagaries of the market affected everything.

Sure hope we can continue more in the vein of 2017 and 2018 from now on!

July 2018 retirement goal update

July 31st, 2018 at 01:15 pm

Goal: $512,564 by March 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 $75,120, so $225,360; NT to 3x his, which is now $62,100, so $186,300; and AS to 2x hers, which in 2017 was $50,452, so $100,904).

Current balance: $421,009

May 2018 balance: $411,632

Progress: $9,377

We didn't have any progress in June, so this isn't as good as it looks. To reach the interim goal by the end of our birthday month (March) in 2019, that's 8 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $91,555 -- $11,444 per month -- to reach it.

We rarely come close to that, so it's pretty unlikely. But at least I'm making progress in the right direction -- nice to see the amount needed to reach this mini-goal has shrunk to a 5-digit number anyway!

Some close scrapes! and dealing with the overspending

July 17th, 2018 at 01:31 pm

Don't you hate the moment of panic when something goes wrong or almost goes wrong, but then love the endorphins that flood the body when you get back what you thought you might have lost?

Last week I was working in my Number Crunch worksheet. It's a Google Sheets file, about 12 years old, and I use it to keep my real-time budget; checking account balance at the top, future income and outgo below for anywhere from one to 4 months. Along the side I show the projected checking account balance after each transaction. I update the checking account balance frequently (at least a couple times a week, sometimes more than once a day) and delete transactions that have happened.

But that's not all; I also keep my own record of AS's freelance income on additional tabs (one for each year). It helps me track tax and retirement and see what income has already come in and what we're still expecting. It has also come in handy because AS sometimes misses things on her much more complicated tracking spreadsheet, so every once in a while we compare bottom lines to make sure we've got the same amounts, and if not we get to the bottom of the issue.

But that's not all! I also have a tab where I note utility costs for each month, and note the highest bill for each month for gas, electric and water/sewer/trash, as well as the average monthly cost each year. This helps me plan my annual budget.

But that's not all either! I also have a separate tab where I track all credit card purchases for the month. Between us we use our CC a lot, so this helps ensure I don't miss any transactions. That tab also has info on all open and closed cards.

Although much of the info in the sheet is "real time" meaning I delete old transactions, I'm also able to use the version history function to look back at changes if I ever think I've messed things up. I use that fairly often as well.

So yeah, that spreadsheet is a beast of burden that does a lot of heavy lifting in my personal finances! Anyway, I was working in it last week and my fingers slipped and I opened a new browser window. When I clicked back to Number Crunch, it said it was trying to update. So I closed out of it and tried to go back in. I got an error message! I tried another browser, same thing! I opened several other Google Drive files, no problem there, just with Number Crunch!

My stomach dropped. I called AS. I left a message on help forums. I went to the file on my phone and lo and behold it was there! I couldn't save it or email it, but I was able to copy the data on each tab and paste into a new sheet. However, it pasted values only, none of the many formulas I use throughout. And of course all the version history was lost! Ugh. But I was so relieved I at least had the info, and I updated a couple of the most-used formulas.

I kept checking the help forum and it said there was an overall problem with Sheets. I didn't think this could be what happened since my other Sheets files were fine, but then lo and behold, they said the problem with Sheets was fixed, I tried to go into my old Number Crunch, and there it was in all its glory! I was sooooo happy. I actually felt euphoric.

I kept the one where I pasted numbers only, just so I now have some kind of backup. AS says I should probably save a backup outside of Google Drive too, to be safe. I should look into that.

Anyway, it made me appreciate the file all the more; in 12 years I'd never even considered the possibility that I would ever not be able to access it. I didn't realize how much of my peace of mind is wrapped up in knowing that document exists!

This was a much smaller moment, but today as I was about to step off the bus to take my 6-year-old to summer care, I suddenly felt lighter. I looked back and realized I'd left my purse on the seat! I grabbed it and stepped off the bus, thinking about my work phone, my wallet, my keys and my expensive glasses. Boy was I glad I hadn't left that purse! And it made me remember last week's close scrape with the spreadsheet and decide to write about both moments.


In other news, AS has the big freelance job! She'll invoice them for hours worked each Friday and get paid the following week. She's also got another multi-piece writing job that she'll be billing hourly for and invoicing as she delivers each round of. So a huge job and a pretty big job that aren't reflected in the spreadsheet because we're not sure how much they'll be in total, but I'll be adding them to the spreadsheet incrementally as she invoices.

It's a good time to be pulling in regular work because booking our UK airfare earlier than expected has stretched our available funds. I'm actually keeping an eye on whether I need to transfer money from savings temporarily to cover that credit card balance when I pay it off in mid-August. It'll be close, but thanks to Number Crunch I'll be able to forecast whether or not we have enough in the account.

We normally have a lot of cushion in checking just because I budget out so far, but with shared spending money a lot in the red, vacay fund a little in the red, and NT's personal money quite a bit in the red due mainly to buying inventory for his hat business, the float margin is looking very tight in August when we pay off the big credit card balance we racked up from UK airfare, our recent Va. trip, NT's inventory, summer program tuition for the kids, and other things. Close to $10K all told will need to be paid off!

Luckily even if we have to transfer from savings temporarily, I'm feeling good about much of the deficit being cleared up over the next few months. AS's two new jobs will help a lot, plus the other jobs she's already worked and expecting payment on, and hopefully NT will see some return on investment at a few key events coming up.

On the down side, we do have another family trip in early August, and they always end up costing more than I'd like. But we won't have to worry about those charges until mid-September, by which AS should have received quite a bit of money from her various projects.

This summer is even spendier than usual! We're having a blast, but one good thing about fall will be lower child costs with school back in session. Not just child care during the day but we tend to spend more on treats and fun activities during the summer.

The worst case scenario is that we would have to use some of our renovation savings to make up the deficit. We haven't heard back from our design consultant, and I'm inclined not to ping her, because that way we haven't committed those funds and have them in reserve if we can't dig ourselves out of the spending hole another way. Paying off the deficit right this second would take about a quarter of our reno savings. I won't do it unless I see no other way, and at this point, I do see a potential other way, so I'll wait and see how the next few months unfold.

News and notes

July 9th, 2018 at 12:28 pm

I'm having an annoyingly slow day at work where no one is giving me the info or go-ahead on several projects, so I'm more or less twiddling my thumbs. Probably if I start blogging, work will come in -- that's how it works sometimes! Smile Let's see how many random updates I can get through before that happens.

We got back from our first Va. trip on Thursday. It was a mini-family reunion and went very well, but we're happy to be home. Suburban Va. is just not our thing.

Every kind of spending money is in the hole now: each of our personal spending budgets, the shared spending, and we overspent our vacation savings on the Va. trip. Despite lame attempts at frugality it ended up costing us about $200 per day, not including the plane tickets. (We still have more than enough in our reno savings to cover the hole if necessary; I'd just rather not dip into it again.)

However, AS seems to be close to locking in that big freelance job! Rather than counting on a full $32K, we've decided to log it incrementally, since she'll be allowed to invoice and get paid weekly. That way if it ends early or anything else happens, we won't have budgeted with that big number in mind.

One of the reasons spending funds are so in the red is that June was a thin month for paychecks and we haven't received any yet in July. So once money starts rolling in we'll at least chip away at the big hole.

AS has started 2 weeks of jury duty and already got called for a case! It's very interesting to me but I know inconvenient, so I'm hoping for her sake that she gets released early.

NT is having great fun building connections with his hat business but is still a couple grand in the hole. It's one of those things that could take off or just end up being a hobby (hopefully a break-even one eventually). Only time will tell, but as long as he's enjoying it and it doesn't end up costing us tons of money, it's worth pursuing.

We enrolled the kids in a new swim school that's not easily accessible on the bus so we have to rent a carshare every Sunday. But they've already progressed leaps and bounds in just a couple of sessions, so the additional cost is kind of worth it!

AS has been pushing me to try to start a joint novel-writing project with a friend who lives in New York, so I'm finally reaching out and getting started on that. I'm excited that this may kickstart my writing outside of my usual November NaNoWriMo thing! I typically don't do any fiction writing the rest of the year, but I'd like to.

The kids are waitlisted for an in-school after-school program for next year, and if it doesn't go through, SL will go to daycare for another year and AA will just come home on the bus. She'll be in third grade and extremely conscientious about safety and rules, so if she's alone for an hour or two it'll be no big deal. Either way -- both in after-school at the elementary, or one doing after-school at our daycare -- our childcare costs should go down significantly during the school year, to $500-$650 per month! It's not been lower than $900 for several years.

My friend-making attempts with one woman may have failed -- I've decided to let her make the next move if she's interested, because I really can't tell -- and a couple others have stalled, but I have some alumni events coming up this summer that should be fun. And I'll be seeing my Canadian pal in person in August, so I'm really hoping we continue to hit it off.

The weather had been rather crappy most of the summer, but it's been wonderful since we got back from Va. However, I haven't been able to get myself back into the night walks I did frequently the past two summers. Hoping to kick-start that soon -- I've barely seen the lake that's only a half mile from our house! Plus my weight has plateaued about 7 lbs. higher than I want it.

Oh, I just thought of something regarding the shared spending deficit! We have an extra paycheck coming in October, so if we can manage to get the deficit to under $2K, I shall budget out through October so we can wipe the deficit out with that paycheck. (I have the annual budget worked out on a separate spreadsheet with one tab per month, and I usually paste into our regular spreadsheet one month ahead, so I've got August in there right now. But the way I have it structured there's nothing to stop me budgeting two or more months ahead.) That would be a weight off. But it would feel like a waste somehow to do the budget through October now and only cut the deficit in half vs. eliminate it, so I'm going to wait on that.

July 2018 debt payments

July 5th, 2018 at 02:37 pm

All our mortgage payments hit:
US: $724 to principal
UK1: $182
UK2: $39
UK3: $40
All told, $985 of debt was paid.

Current debt totals:
US Mortgage $386,825
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $32,306
UK Mortgage 2 $6,810
UK Mortgage 3 $7,171
TOTAL DEBT $442,112

Did AS just book a $32K freelance job?? and other news

June 27th, 2018 at 01:16 pm

Hello friends! I haven't been very bloggy this month, though I've kept up on all your posts.

It's been such a busy year! I'm having tons of fun but sometimes feel overextended. I continue to ponder work-socializing-rest balance and try to make sure I'm only doing things I really want to do. To that end, I might back out of an alumni board conference call next month. Two hours on a summer Saturday listening to a cacophony of people and not learning anything new doesn't seem like a good use of my time when it's at such a premium these days.

Anyway, not to bury the lede too far down, AS messaged me the other day that a Fortune 500 company she's been in contact with wanted to hire her for about 320 hours of writing work over the next four months. (Which would average out to about 20 hours per week.)

I was stunned because she bills $100 per hour for writing. I checked my calculator to make sure I wasn't hallucinating--nope, sounds like she just landed a $32K project!! (For comparison's sake, the biggest single job she's ever booked was $7500. And the most she's ever made in a year is $57K.) She has already earned or booked over $48K this year, so that could potentially take her to $80K or more for 2018! I'm the current high earner in our household at $75K!

Of course, if it's hourly there's a chance it won't end up being that much. And as she pays self-employment tax her taxes are higher than mine and NT. But still! Holy cow!

None of my other news really compares, but since I haven't checked in for a while, here goes:

- I've been shirking all my goals except guitar lessons. But I've been rocking those: I'm actually taking TWO lessons a week for 8 weeks this summer! Then I plan to go back to one per week. I love learning guitar more than I could have ever predicted.

- Speaking of goals, I may rejigger those. Or at least rethink how I structure goals next year. I might not need formal annual goals, since some of my biggest successes this year have been things I came up with along the way, such as broadening/deepening my friend base. AS said something interesting the other day about having intentions vs. hard goals. Sometimes a hard goal is helpful and important (like for paying down debt etc.) But I could also see intentions helping with things like forming good habits. So we'll see. I'm by no means close to being a perfect person, but I do feel that over the past decade I've morphed into a better, happier version of myself. I'm more confident, more productive/industrious, enjoying life more, more financially stable, more creative, and on balance a little healthier. And I'm certainly never bored or at a loss for things to do! So maybe I'm getting to a point where formal goals don't have as important a place in my life anymore. Still pondering.

- Among my adventures this summer, just this past weekend I just took two overnight bus journeys on consecutive nights in order to see my fave band (and meet up with a friend) in Chicago! The whole trip cost only a little over $200: $65 for the bus, $30 show tickets for me and my friend, and about $120 for food, drinks and other incidentals. I arrived back in Minneapolis Monday morning and walked 3 blocks from the bus stop to work, and managed to have a full and productive day despite having had hardly any sleep! Tuesday was rougher than Monday in terms of tiredness; I guess euphoria from the concert kept me going for a while.

- I have another trip coming up to see the same band in Des Moines in August, this time a 2-night road trip with another friend, and we'll be meeting up with my new Canadian friend there. So far I've only spent about $120 on that trip for 2 nights at an Airbnb (which my friend will chip in a bit for); my friend is driving so I only have to cover gas for transportation, and the show is outdoor and free! So other than that my expenses will be just some meals and maybe museum fees or shopping.

- But first, I have 2 trips to Va. coming up! We leave this Friday for a 6-day trip to hang out with family, and again in August we have a 7-day trip to see my niece get married (and we'll do other stuff TBD, of course). I realized the other day that I've only taken 2.5 days of PTO all year: one for a snow day in January, one for my bday in March, and one to hang out with my 8-year-old during her first week of summer break this month.

- In other travel news, we booked airfare for a UK family vacation! Shorter than our usual 14-day trips, this time we leave the day after Xmas (Boxing Day) and come back Jan. 6. I wasn't expecting to buy our tickets so soon, but I saw a nonstop flight deal for about $800 per person and snapped them up. Usually it's more like $900 and nonstop isn't always affordable. We also booked the car and travel insurance, and NT's mum and sister will work out accommodations, so we're pretty much set for that trip!

- We've done some preliminary planning for our kitchen reno, but our designer hasn't replied to the last email I sent her a few weeks ago. That's OK since we probably don't have enough money for the reno we want yet. But we'll keep saving up and maybe it'll happen later this year, or maybe we'll start it next year.

- Our reno savings are doing pretty well (around $23K) and our EF is steady at $10K, but our travel savings are virtually depleted as a result of booking the UK trip (and NT booked hotel and car for one of his solo trips). That's OK, we'll build it back up.

- Our shared spending is once again in the hole, about $3800 this time! As you may recall we took $5K out of reno savings to cover a shortfall earlier this year, yet here we are again. About $1630 of it is due to a letter from MN State Revenue letting us know AS isn't eligible for a property tax rebate our tax guy claimed for her. So we won't get $820 this year, and we'll likely have to pay back $816 from last year. So I already took that out of the budget. Another $500 or so was from medical bills and related expenses. And the other $600-700 was just general overspending: Father's Day, date nights, kid outings, guitar lessons, etc. AS is expecting some checks, of course, so that will patch up part of the hole. And if she's able to bill regularly for this $32K job, which starts in early July, we may be able to get back in black by August!

I think those are the major pieces of news. Work's great, social life's great, family is great, home life is great (even if I don't get much down time)! Very few complaints overall. Smile

June 2018 debt payments

June 2nd, 2018 at 05:20 pm

All our mortgage payments hit:

US: $721
UK1: $181
UK2: $37
UK3: $40

All told, $979 went to principal.

May 2018 retirement goal update

June 2nd, 2018 at 03:30 pm

Goal: $512,564 by March 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 $75,120, so $225,360; NT to 3x his, which is now $62,100, so $186,300; and AS to 2x hers, which in 2017 was $50,452, so $100,904).

Current balance: $411,632

January 2018 balance: $404,682

Progress: $6,950

Finally we have more retirement worth than we did in January! We didn't have any progress in February, March or April, so this isn't as good as it looks. To reach the interim goal by the end of our birthday month (March) in 2019, that's 10 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $100,932 -- $10,093 per month -- to reach it.

We rarely come close to that, so it's pretty unlikely. But I'll keep tracking anyway.

Every post is a catchup

May 20th, 2018 at 02:54 pm

That's how it feels this year, anyway!

May is usually super busy at my job and this year is no exception. Last week I probably worked 9 hours of overtime. I was also sick most of the week but I made it through somehow. All my goals fell by the wayside, even my guitar practicing which has been my one steady thing. Even my morning strength exercises which are pretty much habit.

So, feeling flabby and unhealthy, but I got a ton done for my work, which is what needed to happen. And it doesn't go unnoticed or unappreciated when I put in extra effort there, so I don't feel like it's a waste.

Then yesterday we had a yard sale. We put out probably a thousand things (if you count all the kids' clothes) and sold about 60. Almost everything was a dollar, so we made $73 or so. $10 paid for joining the neighborhood sale, $13 went to our neighbors for some of their stuff that sold. Everyone worked so hard, even the kids, that I just divvied up the remaining $50 and gave each person $10 cash.

NT is putting $100 to his mom's Mother's Day gift of a weekend getaway, and that was going to come out of shared spending, but I asked if he could take it from UK money instead. Even if he puts in 100 pounds instead of $100, it felt like a gift, because we have plenty of money in that account that we're just saving up for now. So I felt OK about divvying up the yard sale proceeds.

We boxed up everything that didn't sell and took it to Goodwill that same day. It was a great feeling. Cleared up lots of space in the basement and in our bedroom as well.

After the sale, AS and I went to see my fave band at this neighborhood-wide art festival in Northeast Minneapolis. We got there a little late but met up with some friends and had a great time. One friend is a designer at a brewery, and we went over there afterward and got a tour of it! That was a really great bonding session with this newish friend.

I'd been getting 4-6 hours of sleep every night, so I was determined to get more today. I finally woke at 11:30am and NT was getting the kids ready for swim class! AS took them and I was able to take it easy. AS and I were going to go to a friend's bday event this afternoon. AS went but I decided to stay home and stay in PJs. Consider it my sick day I never took during the week.

My cold is getting better, and the 10 hours of sleep really seemed to help. I practiced guitar for the first time since Thursday and felt like taking a couple days off actually did me good.

Now I'm refereeing (and DJing some upbeat music on my phone) while the kids clean their rooms. I'm fine admitting that I've bribed them with a candy bar each if they finish! Big Grin

Next week is probably going to be crazy at work again, but hopefully I won't also be sick. Hoping I can get back on my goals, including planning for the kitchen reno!

At least our finances are on track. If you counted our EF, reno savings, and travel savings together, we've got almost $40K saved!

Catching up

May 3rd, 2018 at 08:20 pm

Ahh, let's see if I have time for a nice long chinwag so I can try to catch up on all the goings-on in ceejayland. Smile

Life is good, life is busy. We've all been very social and active in the community and busy at work. Not a lot of downtime, but nothing very negative happening, so we're happy.

- AS continues to get more work. She's actively turning down jobs more and more often now, and trying to focus on higher-paid and/or more interesting/satisfying stuff: marketing writing, children's book writing, teaching, speaking and judging, etc. Her co-working space is working out great and with all the complimentary food, toiletries and shower, it practically pays for itself! She had jury duty this past week but messed up and missed her call, so now she's got to do it again in July, unfortunately.

- NT's hat business is going better, though he still runs a deficit on paper, people are buying more and more. It takes him away at night a lot as he sells at shows most of the time. He's got some big shows coming up and hopes to eliminate his deficit by August. Either way he's having fun and enjoying becoming a recognizable figure in the local hip-hop community. He'll be traveling to Chicago for fun and (hopefully) profit, selling at a block party there in July.

- My work is going well; I'm on a high-profile job and doing pretty good. My mentor/boss's boss is (shh) retiring in August; only a couple people know so far. I expect they'll have someone else high-ranking helm some of my projects, but others might come solely under my control. I'll have to wait and see. I'm OK either way really, because I feel like my trajectory is steadily upward. Three people got let go today due to slow business in their accounts, but I feel my job is safe.

- AA and SL are doing great in school. SL is a little bored, academically -- that kid is brilliant! But maturity wise, she's in the right grade, so for the time being, I feel like we shouldn't do much. They do send her to specialists for reading and math sometimes, so I know they're doing what they can to address her advanced intellect. AA is in choir and doing great at that. Both kids do art and swim on the weekends and get invited to lots of other kids' parties -- which is annoying and expensive and time-consuming, but reassuring that they're developing socially.

We're participating in the neighborhood garage sale in a couple weeks; I don't expect we'll make much money, but if we donate what we don't sell, we'll at least have decluttered a ton!

I guess I should look at my goals:
Work on novel -- I don't think I've touched that in over a month. I also don't see a ton of time to do so. But if I found a part of the revision process that seemed clear and I was excited about it, I could probably find time. I just don't seem to have the mental energy to do that.

Learn guitar -- this is my big success story for the year so far! I've been doing guitar lessons for a little under three months and I can already play three simple songs and know 7 chords and a couple of strum patterns. I'm far from good at any of it, but I'm really pleased with my progress. I practice almost every day; I've only missed three or four days total. It's something I look forward to, so I only miss it if I'm out of town or out really late.

Limiting drinking -- I'm doing pretty well on this. My goal was to have 4 days per week where I have 0-1 glasses of wine. Last week was a total fail but other than that, unless I have social engagements during the week, I generally have 2 days of no drinking and 1 day of 1 glass of wine per week. So I'm at 3 days instead of 4, but believe me, it's WAY better than where I was in December or even January (when I did 1 day per week). I try not to be too hard on myself; at least it's progress.

Limit screen time outside of and after work: Meh. On the good side, I've been so busy that I really don't aimlessly surf the web like I used to. I often don't take my laptop out at home (though I increased my phone use a little bit, I don't think my total screen time is as much). I haven't been great about keeping closed out of screens at work as I meant to, but I do think I spend less time on them. So I'm a bit better but don't feel as far along as I am on the less-drinking goal.

Emergency preparedness: no progress in a couple weeks.

Agile learning: no progress.

Net worth/retirement: Retirement funds seem to be recovering but aren't at January levels yet, so I'm no closer to my goals.

Kids' savings: I save a bit each week for both kids, but I haven't done an infusion of cash as would be necessary to catch up to my goals for them.

Kitchen reno: Since we took out some savings to cover other expenses, we're actually a bit below where we were in January on this too. But we had our designer and contractor come over last night to help us think through our options. We're going to do some more talking and sketching things out and then move into the design phase. We don't know how much it'll cost to get CAD designs from our designer, but we need to do it, because our options are all very complicated. Once we have her designs we can go to our contractor and get some cost estimates. Then we can decide if we pull the trigger now or wait until we have more money saved up. If we're close to having enough, we may pull the trigger because it's usually half up front, half later, and we could pull from EF funds or even our unused line of credit if we hadn't quite saved up the second half by the time work was done. We do really want it done. But I don't want things to get difficult financially again, so I want to be careful if we do any of those things.

Vacations: We've booked airfare for the June/July and August trips to see family. We're planning on getting rides, borrowing cars, sleeping on people's floors, and generally doing these two trips fairly cheaply. We might do at least one hotel night for each to preserve our sanity though, as staying with family can be very chaotic without much privacy or down time.

I was almost ready to book my solo trip to see my favorite band 4 times in 4 nights in the south! And meet up with my Canadian friend who's also a super fan! But then realized the band wasn't headlining 3 of the 4 shows. So that trip is off and I'm hoping they'll book a similar swath of shows somewhere I wouldn't mind visiting. I do have one small trip I can do to see them in Iowa in August, but it would just be overnight and I might just do it with my own spending money. I'm hoping my solo trip if I have one will be a bit more elaborate and exciting than that.

NT has a solo trip planned for Chicago, as I mentioned, and he may do another one for a weekend to Seattle to see a friend. His outlay for his hat business has been such that I've told him if he doesn't make back some of the capital expenditures, he may need to forfeit the Seattle trip to offset those.

AS was thinking about an LA trip to see a friend. But she mentioned that she wasn't as hot on traveling this year, and was frustrated that she wouldn't be able to fix up other parts of the house until the kitchen was done. So I said if she wanted to forgo a trip, she could have some money from the travel budget to do some small home improvements. She was much more interested in that than traveling, so I guess that's what she'll do.

I've been doing well on some of my unofficial goals, such as broadening my social life. I had my old work friend and his wife over for dinner in April; I message my Canadian buddy daily; I've met up a few more times with another woman I met at a show; I continue to organize events for my alumni association; I've been making more of an attempt to hang out with some of my acquaintances more often. I'm about to text my old work friend and a current co-worker to set up a happy hour. So, pretty good!

I've got a couple other things I'm trying to do, like review an old high school friend's manuscript, participate in a committee to get our neighborhood name changed, attend a remembrance for a local man killed 5 years ago by police...

And I've been seeing more live music lately. This Saturday I get to see my favorite band, the next night an old-time country gospel band, in a couple weeks a country singer from Saskatchewan...

So overall things are great! The one slight worry on my mind is I got an irregular result on my annual mammogram, so I have a follow-up appointment next Friday. I've had this happen twice before and it's always been nothing, so I'm trying not to let it worry me. If this one turns out OK, I'm going to see how much more it would cost to get 3D imaging for my next annual. It's not covered by my health insurance, but if it saves this expensive follow-up trip (and saves me worrying), it might be worth it.

May 2018 debt payments

May 1st, 2018 at 10:22 pm

I realize I've been really absent from the blogs this month! Lots going on as seems to be the norm these days, but all good stuff.

I'll update on my goals progress and other life happenings at some point, but I at least wanted to do my usual routine and note the debt payments made:

US mortgage: $720 to principal
UK1: $181
UK2: $39
UK3: $42

All told that's $982 toward debt. Here are our current debt totals:

US Mortgage $388,270
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $32,669
UK Mortgage 2 $6,886
UK Mortgage 3 $7,251
TOTAL DEBT $444,076

Medical costs, money from savings, goals check-in

April 13th, 2018 at 09:57 pm

Well, even though birthday month is over (it bled into April since AA had to reschedule her party due to strep) life hasn't settled down at all. Work has been really busy, AS has a ton of nighttime obligations (teaching, board meetings) and so does NT (his hat business seems to have reached some kind of tipping point where he's in high demand -- which is exciting for him but means he goes out even more often). I too have had some night things such as dinners with clients, music shows, hanging out with friends ...

Anyway, there's been a bit more spending than usual, and also the medical bills have started to roll in from our March illnesses. Oh, and my mammogram came up with something that needs a follow-up ... I think I've had maybe one that hasn't, out of 4 or 5, so I'm not worried, but it typically runs me about $600 to get a follow-up exam. I think I might check into how much it would cost to just get the 3D mammogram (which isn't fully covered like the regular one), because if it's less than $600 and requires fewer follow-ups, it might be worth it. It's so hard to figure these things out, but maybe I'll ask the mammogram place to run an estimate by my insurance company or something.

I scheduled the follow-up for early May. Of course in the back of my mind I realize it could be something -- that's why I'm not ignoring it -- but I'm just not too worried since this seems to happen every time.

So a day or so ago, I was feeling like this deficit would never go away. We want to be saving really hard for the kitchen and for travel, but I finally gave in to the idea that maybe we should pull some of those savings back out to just take care of the deficit. We had a family meeting, talked about upcoming expenses and the current deficit, and decided that we could take some out of reno savings, even though it will set back the date we can start working on the kitchen. We decided to keep the meeting with our designer and contractor in May, because that will give us a much better idea of the number we're saving toward, but we pulled nearly $5K out of savings and used about $2K to eliminate the shared spending deficit. I'm holding the rest of it separate from our shared spending but will put it there as needed (like when medical bills come in... such as the nearly $900 bill for NT's ER visit when urgent care was closed and he had to get his cough checked out...sigh...but I insisted he go in, so I have only myself to blame for that one).

We also agreed that probably we'll only do one solo trip per adult this year instead of the 2 we each did last year. With three family trips planned (two to Va. and one to UK after Xmas) and everything else that's come up, unless we get a big financial boost we'll try to stick to that.

Our kitchen savings are at about $20K now. But we feel better not having that shared spending deficit staring us in the face all the time. I think it's OK to admit that our expenses exceeded our spending money, as long as we're taking the money from something optional (like renovations) and not from like the EF or retirement or anything.

Other goals...I've been trying a looser approach to drinking and screens and it's been going so-so. I was hoping to average 3-4 days per week of 0-1 drinks, and it has been more like 1-2 days per week for the first two weeks. Still, it's better than my habits were in 2017, so that's something. Screens have been hard to measure because I just haven't had a lot of downtime anyway. I'd say I'm a little better at not being on screens all the time than I was before my Jan-March days of enforced no-screen time, but I could do better.

I've been practicing up a storm on guitar but haven't made any progress on my writing goal. I haven't added to my preparedness supplies because of the ongoing shared spending deficit and probably won't for a while, but we did have some organic EP progress. There was a tornado warning siren test and NT took the opportunity to run some drills with the kids about getting to the basement. He also went over fire drill procedures and talked about the rope ladder and fire extinguishers we have. While we were at it, I showed them how to access 911 on my phone even when it was locked, and when I asked them to demonstrate it today, they both did it correctly. So we have made a little bit of emergency preparedness progress this week!

April 2018 debt payments

April 4th, 2018 at 08:52 am

All our mortgage payments have hit:
US: $717 to principal
UK1: $179
UK2: $38
UK3: $40
In total, $974 was paid to principal.

New total household debt amounts:
US Mortgage $388,990
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $32,850
UK Mortgage 2 $6,925
UK Mortgage 3 $7,293
TOTAL DEBT $445,058

Best Easter dinner

April 1st, 2018 at 05:41 pm

We had the perfect meal tonight! We all remarked on that, so I thought I should document it:

Vegan ham, sliced thin and baked at 375 with a brown-sugar glaze for about half an hour.
Oven-roasted asparagus
Simple pan-cooked broccoli
Mashed potatoes
"Melting potatoes" (roasted at high heat)
Brussels sprouts slaw
Parkerhouse rolls

And for once, we had enough for a few leftover meals but not way too much food!

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