Home > Archive: May, 2008

Archive for May, 2008

Good money news all around

May 30th, 2008 at 08:05 pm

I've cheered up a good deal from my recent gloominess about yucky expenses: UK leasing costs, new fridge, laptop repair. I still have to figure out where the UK money is going to come from (it will come from my extra debt repay if I can't find another way, and that's OKAY), but we've got a while (maybe 6 months) to figure that out. But we bought a fridge last night and it was about $150 less than I was afraid of, even with a three-year service contract.

Also, NT used his irresistable British accent on the computer folks and explained they'd fixed the hard drive less than a year ago--and they agreed to do it free, with only a $50 fee for data recovery. We'll also buy an external hard drive for $100, but $150 total is much better than the $450-$550 we initially thought it would be!

So I allotted the rest of the surplus to our July extra debt repay. If AS ends up switching jobs I may have to drop that plan, but it feels good knowing exactly where it will go if we don't need it.

NT got quite a bit of OT pay in his check today: $265! I put that immediately into travel savings. Our trip to England made us realize how important traveling is to all of us, so I'm making sure we save up for a fall vacation.

Our grocery/household budget has finished healing itself (mostly because we took a 10-day break from cooking while overseas), so we treated ourselves to 3 new frying pans ($15 at Target). We haven't had the right sizes for several cooking projects, so this will make cooking much more pleasant. We still have $184 in grocery money to last us through the 31st, so we'll be able to do a big grocery restock this weekend and still be within budget!

And Monday/Tuesday should be exciting, as many payments will hit and I'll be able to report several strides toward my June goal!

Now if my stimulus check is waiting in the mail, it'll be the perfect end to a good couple of money days. Smile

May net worth update

May 28th, 2008 at 10:15 pm

NT's pensions: 7,250 pounds ($14,500)
10,725 pounds ($21,450)
NT's 401(k): $1,520
AS's 403(b): $1,878
CJ's 401(k): $26,533
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $182,000
Total Assets: $507,881

Total Debt: $428,551

Current Estimated Net Worth: $79,330

4/18 estimate: $75,156
Change in net worth: +$4,174

Summary: All our U.S. retirement accounts posted small gains again this month and we paid off a few grand in debt, so though it's not as big a gain as last month, I'm happy! I figure there's a chance our net worth could top $100K by the end of the year, which would be awesome.

Back in the States!

May 27th, 2008 at 10:16 pm

My trip to England is already over! I can't believe it; it seems like it went by in a matter of hours. On the other hand, it feels like I've been away from work/home for years; my head is all dazy and I can't seem to focus on any particular tasks. I know I'll get over it in a couple days! I took some photos and will post those on my blog as soon as we get around to downloading them.

Financially, doing OK. We actually stayed within budget despite some scheduling and itinerary mishaps! On the downside, our laptop crashed within an hour of returning home, so we'll probably have to use some money earmarked for debt and get that repaired. Another fly in the debt-repayment ointment is that our leasing agent in the UK informed us of some upcoming charges regarding the flat we own and rent out. That may slow down my throwing of extra money at the last remaining UK credit card. Darnit! So my 12/31/09 credit card payoff is looking less certain. But not less likely, I hope--for every obstacle we usually see unexpected windfalls as well, so hopefully we'll get some of those in the next 1.5 years.

On the way back they asked if we would volunteer to give up our seats for a day, and we'd get a hotel for the night and $1000 each in travel vouchers ($3000!) We said heck yeah, but they ended up not needing us. I'm glad because we'd have been even more tired and out of it, but at the same time I'm groaning, because that would have covered airfare for our next three vacations!

Our trip coincided with the part of the month where there's not much money coming in or going out, so it was super-easy to catch up on my spreadsheets and everything.

Anyway, I'm still catching up on everyone else's blogs, but I wanted to say "hi" and that it's good to be back on!

First payment to June goal

May 14th, 2008 at 03:51 pm

Yes, it looks a little silly to be paying toward my June goal. But that's how I set up my system when I started--once I hit a goal, I start on the next one, even if the month isn't over yet. It works for me, somehow.

Anyway, $481 toward principal on my personal loan, which means:

$481 down, $2,319 to go on my June goal.

$55,633 to go on the Big-Picture Goal.

This will be the last payment til it's actually June, and possibly my last entry before we go to England tomorrow (!!!), though who knows? Maybe I'll have a deep thought between now and takeoff. But if not, take care everyone, and I'll try to post some photos when I get back!

June goal set

May 13th, 2008 at 02:31 pm

OK, I ran some numbers to figure out how much I think I can pay off between now and June 30. Since I'm going to buy a fridge and hold onto the rest of my budget surplus for the time being, it's my smallest goal in a while. But, looking at my "Past Goals and Results" page, it's still a lot more than the first few months of doing these challenges.

And that goal is...$2,800. I should probably have my first payment hit tomorrow, but then nothing till it's actually June.

Big ole payment; goal reached!

May 13th, 2008 at 12:26 am

Yay! I figured out how to set up an electronic payment for our last UK credit card, and we checked the balance for last month's payment as well. All told, we've paid US$1,449, which sails us nicely past our May goal! It's nice to get it done before going away on our trip.

The May goal was to pay off $4100 of debt, and we paid off $4,305! Our biggest month so far, and probably our biggest for awhile.

It also means we have $56,114 to go on the Big-Picture Goal.

Time to set our June goal, which won't be anywhere near as aggressive!

Small card paid off!

May 12th, 2008 at 03:27 pm

Another one bites the dust! My wire transfer hit the UK account, so I paid off a small credit card balance. Ordinarily I'd wait for the satisfaction (and certainty) of seeing it post to the account, but I was never able to figure out how to check this one online, and I don't want to wait a month for the paper statement to reach me. So I declare this bill paid off!

$190 to principal.
$2,856 down, $1,244 to go on my May goal.
$57,563 to go on my Big-Picture Goal.

Am ready, willing and able to pay off about US$1290 on another UK credit card, but I need to verify some info before I can set up the payment. The exchange rate was very nice; I got slightly more than 1 British pound per $2! There was a time when I'd only get 90-some pence per $2, so I'm very happy.

Stimulating the UK economy

May 9th, 2008 at 09:12 pm

AS's $600 stimulus check was direct-deposited on the very day predicted. If only everything the feds attempted was carried out this precisely! I sent it over to the UK, along with $3550 more. This amount should cover:
- Minimum payments on UK bills for April, May and June (about $1000).
- $1000 (500 pounds) extra toward credit card debt, including payoff of a small-balance card.
- Car rental, gas, food and fun during our trip ($2150--think that sounds high? Divide it in half, and then account for driving for 9 days and multiply gas prices by two).

Mine and NT's stimulus check should come via mail near the beginning of June. We paid our taxes by hard-copy because it would cost money to do an electronic payment from our bank account. Nice try. I said it once and I'll say it again; if the government would benefit from me doing things the high-tech way, they'd better by-gosh make it free to do so. Otherwise I'll stick with just paying for a stamp.

Whoops! Got sidetracked. Anyway, we should be getting $1200, and we've decided we want to treat ourselves. $600 is going to fun-money savings (for our autumn trip to Va.) and $600 is getting divvied between the three of us for whatever we like. I may try to save my $200 for a rainy day if I can't think of anything specific; don't want to piddle it away and wonder where it went.

So, I'm afraid Mr. Bush will get his way on 2/3 of the stimulus money coming to my household, even though I think the rebate was a bad idea. But at least I'm putting 1/3 toward debt.

Considering to-the-penny budgeting

May 8th, 2008 at 09:42 pm

I've been considering it for a few days, and I finally decided today: I'm going to try budgeting to the penny as soon as AS finds her job.

Currently, I just set up a budget for what money we know we need, and there was a bit left over (about $225) that I considered fluff money: Every so often, if I didn't need it for an unexpected expense, I'd put it toward debt, or toward fun-money savings, or build it up gradually for a planned expense (like a trip). But quite often it would go for a medical bill or to buy textbooks.

It's worked perfectly well, but I'm starting to get annoyed that there [i]are[/] still expenses that I don't have money allocated in the budget for. Also, when we get a smaller windfall, like from selling a book on, I just roll it into the general surplus and never get to see [i]exactly[/] how it benefits us.

So I've decided when AS changes jobs and we figure out how much she'll bring in, I'm going to start budgeting to the penny of our minimum paychecks. I'm going to add a regular line item ("envelope" I guess) in my budget spreadsheet for health care and one for education expenses, and I'm going to up my regular contribution to fun-money savings, so that we're more likely to reach our gift and travel budgets in time for the relevant holidays.

That should cover all the things outside our budget that have come up in the past year. I've been socking a bit away for medical expenses in case I couldn't cover them and I have about $75 saved and contribute a few bucks a month. Once I create this health-expense line item, I'm renaming that money "Emergency Fund." There are probably expenses I still can't predict, so that bit of savings could keep us from going off track. When I up the fun-money savings it will automatically increase my contribution to the emergency fund, so it should build up pretty fast.

Unexpected windfalls such as OT pay and eBay sales will go toward debt repayment. (The only exception is our June garage sale, because I've already promised we could use those profits for home improvements.)

If we get raises or AS gets a higher paycheck than at her current job, my next priorities would be: 1. Up the health and education allotments (right now I see $75 per month for both but I'd like it to be $50 apiece). 2. Up our spending money, but as an exercise incentive, so it will encourage us to exercise (rather than decide "woo hoo! extra spending money! now I don't have to exercise!") 3. Increase debt repayment. 4. Increase 401(k) contributions.

Currently I have a budget surplus of $1256.40 through July 15. I'm keeping that there, and we'll use part of it for a new fridge (hopefully our last unsaved-for expense) and the other part will sit as a security blanket during AS's job hunt. If we don't use it all to cover a paycheck gap, I'll put every penny of the remaining surplus toward debt and start fresh with an eye toward maintaining a $0 bottom line at all times.

There! I've published it, so now I'll have to make it happen. Smile

Student loan payment

May 6th, 2008 at 06:22 pm

This posted early! Usually it's not till the 9th or 10th.

$63 toward principal. I recently upped my fixed payment from $71 to $75, figuring my budget would never notice the difference and I'd thank myself later.

So that's $2,666 down, $1,434 to go on my May goal.

A bigger payment should happen this week or next. As soon as our first stimulus check arrives, I'm transferring a big chunk of money to the UK, some of it spending money we saved up for our trip and the rest for bills and debt payment. I'll pay off a small UK balance and throw something at the remaining card (which I hope to pay off by October or earlier). Soon as I pay that sucker off, NT's rental income direct deposits will be enough to cover the remaining UK bills, and I can stop transferring money over there at $50 a pop.

So long surplus, but hello England!

May 5th, 2008 at 04:41 pm

I realize I usually only write about my debt payoff goals, so here are some other money-related life updates.

I've been happy to have about a $1200 surplus in my budget, because AS will want to switch jobs soon, and while she'll almost certainly be making as much as or more than she does now, there might be a lag in paychecks and I'd love it to be painless.

But our refrigerator sprung another mysterious "leak." It does this thing where periodically a mysterious puddle of water appears in front of it, usually in one place. Yesterday it showed up in two places. NT's tried to find a way to fix it but we can't even tell what's wrong. I think it's the seals on the doors, but whatever it is, I don't feel like it's worth trying to get repaired. It's an old fridge, we don't like its setup (side by side doors), it's insanely loud (humming and rattling), and we knew we'd have to replace it anyway. AS and I got off easy for the first 4-odd years we lived in this condo; the only repairs we had to pay for were a new rubber stopper in the toilet tank and a fan replacement in the heating/AC unit.

So, we'll be using about half our surplus to get a new fridge. Worst-case scenario, we cut back on spending money and a couple other luxuries if there's a gap in paychecks. NT gets a fair amount of OT pay most months, so it may not even come to that. I was going to put this surplus toward debt if we didn't use it, but I still will, just not as much.

In other news, the trip to England is coming soon. Finally! That's the only bad part of reserving tickets early, the waiting and waiting. The good part is that prices are only going up on airfare, so we probably did OK even though $900+ per person didn't feel like a bargain. We leave next Thursday. Dave Ramsey on his TV show last night was talking about taking a vacation that doesn't follow you home, and this will be the first vacation since college that is fully paid-for in advance! We can't wait to see friends and family and maybe do a little sightseeing. We've been watching a lot of antique-auction shows on BBC America and would love to visit an auction house while we're there, just to watch in person!

In other other news, we had friends over yesterday for brunch, and they brought their adorable sons. I'm afraid they made my parenting urge even worse! Well, I've promised myself I can start trying as soon as we're credit-card debt free, so that will push me even harder to pay off this debt early. I've decided to talk to my doctor at my next physical (December), to see if it's feasible and safe for me to try. I have a great big scar across my belly that doesn't seem like it would be flexible, and I've had a broken pelvis (about 12 years ago), but I'm hoping it's OK. It's not going to break my heart if I can't have my own kid, but it's an experience I don't want to miss if I don't have to!

Several steps toward goal

May 1st, 2008 at 04:27 pm

Several regular payments hit today.
Credit card: $297 in principal
US mortgage: $294 in principal
UK mortgage #1: $134 in principal
UK mortgage #2: $28 in principal
UK mortgage #3: $30 in principal

All told, $783 toward my May goal and $297 toward my Big-Picture Goal.

So that's $2603 down, $1497 to go on my May goal.

And $57,753 to go on my Big-Picture Goal.

I look like I'm way ahead of my May goal, but that's because I was able to make some of my May payments early. But I only have about three payments left this month: a big chunk of money that will be divided between two UK credit cards (early to mid-May); a student loan payment (mid-May); and a personal loan payment (mid- to late May). I think they're going to be about $1100, $60 and $440 to principal, respectively, so I should pass my goal if I'm calculating correctly. But I don't ever really know until I see what the going exchange rate does to my international wire transfer.

I got a nice little bonus from work--$130--but I'm just going to ignore it and let it collect on the bottom line. For one thing, I want to let that cushion grow in case there's a lapse in paychecks when AS finds another job, and for another, we've got health and education expenses that are hard to predict. As soon as AS's job situation does stabilize, I'm going to add estimated health care and education expenses as regular budget items, because they're the only two expenses we ever have anymore that are unaccounted-for in the budget, and even though we've been able to absorb them using our budget surplus, I'd much rather have that money allocated so I'm not frustrated when I can't put it towards debt or savings instead.