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Archive for July, 2008: Ceejay74's Personal Finance Blog
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Archive for July, 2008

Can't wait for tomorrow!

July 31st, 2008 at 07:23 pm

Anyone who has been enjoying reading about my journey and rooting for me, look forward to tomorrow with me. A bunch of payments are due to hit, so I should have lots of good news to report for a change!

Today is really busy at work. I'm trying to get as much done as possible so tomorrow hopefully won't be as busy and I can take time to total up my debt payments and blog about it.

My family is on a mission to eat our way through the freezer and not stuff it as full in the future, so we can see and get to everything more easily. Today I had kung pao tofu leftovers from god-knows-how-long ago. Not terrible, but not the most flavorful thing after so long in the freezer. But it's worth it knowing we're saving money and being more green by not letting things go to waste!

OK, back to the grindstone.

2008/2009 goals

July 30th, 2008 at 03:29 pm

OK, my goals are focusing less on debt repayment for the time being. I will work on paying off CC as I am able to, but I'm not stressing about getting my CC debt down to $35K by the end of the year, nor paid off by the end of 2009. We will need several big strokes of luck to make that happen (which is not to say it won't, just that I can't count on it so I can't plan for it).

2008 GOALS
AUGUST:
- Finish up UK taxes & mail them out (just need to fill out one more section)
- Pay off $3500 of debt, get CC debt below $50K and house debt below $300K
- Have garage sale; put half of proceeds toward home improvement and other half in travel fund (still need about $1300 before October)
- Try to sell futon, old cell phones & gold necklace online; put proceeds toward travel fund
- Post-sales, reorganize and try to plan for a less-cluttered home

SEPTEMBER:
- Pay minimum on debt (about $1400)
- Pay off medical debt and st. loan interest bill
- Start paying back student loans; reorganize budget to fit them (if they come due; otherwise move to next month)
- Reorganize chores to accomodate NT class attendance and study time
- Finish saving for trip

OCTOBER:
- Pay at least minimum on debt, hopefully more
- Switch my & NT's cells to prepaid; put AS on cheap individual plan; see if this saves us $$
- Start saving for Xmas, CSA farm share and Feb./March vacation

NOVEMBER:
- Reorganize budget to accomodate mortgage reset; see where reset takes us & investigate possible refinancing
- Decide on flex spending amount for health insurance (take possible pregnancy into account)

DECEMBER:
- Annual checkup; discuss baby-making potential
- Assess financial progress; see if it seems feasible to start trying in next year
- Start saving for b-days

2009 GOALS
JANUARY:
- Set 2009 financial goals more concretely; hopefully find CC payoff timetable that works (CC-free in 2010?)
- Start baby emergency fund

FEBRUARY:
- Start working on NT app for lifting conditions on green card

MARCH:
- Send in green card app
- Start saving for fall vacation

That's as far out as I can see right now. I'll revisit in a couple months when some of these financial variables have straightened themselves out; then I'll have a clearer view of what I can do, and when.

And the money keeps rolling out...

July 29th, 2008 at 09:08 pm

I saw the dentist today and now she says there's bone loss in my mouth that might be causing my gum infections, and that might be solved by some removal of gum tissue by a specialist. Made appointment with specialist for Monday.

I'm assuming that's bad news moneywise. I've also still got a few medical bills from this month that I was planning on using some of my September debt-repayment money for. So I think I'm just going to designate my entire $1700 of September extra debt-pay money for medical expenses. If I somehow luck out and it doesn't cost that much, I can put some toward debt and it will feel good. If not, I'll have already let go of that hope, so I won't be too crushed.

If it's more than $1700, I would hope they'd let me pay in installments, so hopefully I will not have to put anything on credit cards.

Off kilter

July 28th, 2008 at 04:58 pm

I feel very off this morning. Various little things adding up to a general tenseness that I know is illogical but am powerless against. There's a great quote from Tootsie (uttered by Terri Garr's character) that I think of when I'm in a mood like this: "I just have to feel this way until I don't feel this way anymore!" It cheers me up a little to think about Tootsie, anyway. Smile

The main (almost) bad thing is that last night, NT was working on getting our free credit reports. Later, AS saw an e-mail about one in her inbox and, thinking it was to finish a process NT had started, went through it. Next morning I was like, "Wait a minute." He was going to mail in her request to Experian or someone. Then she mentioned there was a $1 processing fee and I thought "Uh oh." We went and looked at it and it was just some random spam that had hit her inbox at the right time, so she thought it was legit. We looked up the company and there were complaints on this one blog from various people that they'd gotten several unauthorized charges from the company afterward. We canceled the account and also called our bank to make sure we could easily dispute any other charges should they come through. So far so good; there's just the $1 charge which I can live with. They don't seem to be an out-and-out scam company from what I've read, just a weaselly one that tries to charge a bit extra and can be really hard to cancel with. But I think we got it taken care of, and I check our bank account every day, so I'll notice anything screwy. Well, at least her credit score was good! Smile It's amazing how even savvy people can get taken in if they're caught off-guard at just the right moment.

Also, my tooth is still hurting a bit, so I went ahead and made an appointment tomorrow. More money down the drain, but oh well.

On the good-news side, we had a pretty great weekend. AS finished her capstone and will be getting her master's degree confirmed shortly! We went to NT's office on the 33rd floor on Saturday and watched an annual fireworks show--we had a perfect view and wine to sip while we watched. Beautiful!

Speaking of beautiful, AS worked on a dress all weekend for a contest. She designed it with me in mind, and so I got to model it (and I get to keep it!) I'll be wearing it tomorrow at my summer work party.

Here it is (my head cropped to protect anonymity, hope it doesn't look too weird that way):

Our photographer friend thought it would be cute to pose me in various homemaker-themed shots, so there's this one and one where I'm pretending to chop vegetables. Smile

Wish AS luck on the contest! I thought her entry was very creative, and I can't wait to wear it to work tomorrow.

First step toward August goal, other news

July 26th, 2008 at 10:55 pm

Checked our UK credit card balance, and a payment hit: $215 went to principal (a little more than I expected).

That's $215 down, $3285 to go for August.

And $52,677 to go on my Big-Picture Goal.

This bodes very well for my getting the CC debt under $50K by the end of August!

I also got an unexpected boost when a friend was discussing removing the payment protection plan from a credit card. I realize we pay quite a bit--about US$131 per month--for payment protection on our UK mortgages. This made sense when NT wasn't sure when he'd be allowed to look for work or how long it would take him to find a job. But now, with a steady rental income and three full-time incomes, it's very unlikely we wouldn't be able to make the mortgage payments.

So today we canceled those protections. This means our rental income will now cover minimum payments, so that account will more or less take care of itself. I'm still going to make one more big transfer in August to take a bite out of the UK credit card as well as deposit some funds to cover upcoming expenses. But after that, we should be able to avoid transferring funds for awhile, maybe not until next year sometime! That will save $50+ per month just in wire transfer fees.

So starting in September I can concentrate on my own CC debt, which has a higher interest rate than NT's credit card. The only reason I tackled his first was to try and get the payment down to where I didn't have to transfer money just to cover the minimum, and with canceling the protection plan we've accomplished that.

Random musings

July 24th, 2008 at 09:42 pm

I'm still in that slow period before the beginning of the month with all the exciting debt payments to report. Not much going on, but some good news:

NT's review confirmed a 3% pay raise ($100 per month before taxes), and that he will probably get a 10% bonus in December if the company keeps doing well!

Met with the friends we're doing the yard sale with to plan pricing and who's covering which tasks. Should be a fun (and hopefully profitable) couple of days! I've arranged to borrow another friend's car in return for lugging and selling some of his stuff as well.

I'm almost done with our UK taxes--looks like we about broke even or had a small loss on the rental, so we won't have to pay any, I don't think. Even if we made a small profit, they have a 5,000-pounds exemption similar to U.S. taxes, so we should still be OK.

AS and I celebrate 11 years together today. We're going to a Thai restaurant we used to frequent all the time in our spendthrift days, but now hardly ever go to. I'll really enjoy pad thai that someone else besides me made! Or the peanut-spinach curry...mmm...so hard to decide. To help pay for it, we've resolved to keep the rest of our grocery spending for the month down to $40, so there's extra we can put toward our restaurant bill tonight.

We've all three managed to maintain most of our weight loss from the cleanse, though I've been too busy/tired to work out and try to push through the plateau. But I have been trying to pay attention to portions and keeping some amount of fresh/whole foods in my diet. Oh, and I added a couple more recipes to that page on my blog.

On the bad-news side, my tooth has begun hurting again in the past couple days. At least I know now that it's the gums and not the tooth that's the problem. I've tried to brush more carefully, using the special supplemental brush the dentist gave me as well, flossing more often and rinsing with salt water and/or mouthwash once in awhile. I guess if it doesn't get better soon I'll have to go in and see if I need more antibiotics...(sigh) I don't want that because last time, the antibiotics caused an equally unpleasant problem. I feel like I'm just a bundle of ailments lately!

Thanatophobia

July 23rd, 2008 at 09:48 pm

Ever since I was a kid I've worried, obsessed and panicked about death. Mostly my own--the loss of consciousness, everything I've tried to learn and be just blinking out and gone forever in an instant. But also that of people I love, people I dislike, people I've never met, animals...I don't want anyone to die, partly because I imagine they must fear it as much as I do!

It doesn't take over every day but I usually think about it, even if just briefly, every couple of days, sometimes what seems like every few hours. It would almost be boring if it weren't terrifying, since I rarely get anywhere in my thinking, just go around in circles! It's definitely tiresome.

Anyway, I've been having a good couple of weeks where it doesn't bother me as much, but today I got hit with a big wave of it. I haven't been able to concentrate on work for the past hour or so. I think because I got a letter from Mom yesterday where she idly mused about what would happen to all our family traditions when the old folks were gone? It's true, I don't intend to carry on most of my family's traditions, cute as they are, and it must have had a delayed impact and re-triggered my fear.

So I looked it up on line. Apparently it's called thanatophobia, thantophobia or necrophobia. So many people on different sites and blogs articulated the exact same fear as me. So there are others who share it after all. But oddly, that comforted me a bit. Also seeing it called "irrational" helped. It doesn't feel irrational, it feels like logic brought to an extreme, but it's nice to think maybe it's just an irrational fear that could be alleviated somewhat. I also like thinking that most people truly aren't that bothered by the thought--that they can look it in the face and not avoid it, and it still doesn't terrify them.

Has anyone else had to cope with this phobia? I wonder if therapy or medication would help. I've always felt that it's something I can cope with because it's not debilitating like some forms of anxiety or depression. However, I think it's idiotic to think so much about dying, since it's just wasting what life I have. (I love my life; that's part of the problem--I don't ever want it to end! But I worry I'm not doing enough with it to feel satisfied at the end.) If I could get myself to accept it more or dwell less, that would be such a relief.

July net worth update

July 22nd, 2008 at 07:59 pm

Assets:
NT's pensions: 7,250 pounds ($14,500)
10,725 pounds ($21,450)
NT's 401(k): $1,898
AS's 403(b): $2,214
CJ's 401(k): $25,220
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $182,000
---
Total Assets: $507,282

Total Debt: $424,704

Current Estimated Net Worth: $82,578

June 2008 estimate: $81,447
Change in net worth: +$1,131

Summary: My 401(k) again lost value, so our assets went down a bit despite gains in AS's 403(b) and NT's 401(k). Our debt repayment was very modest this month, but it gave us a bump in net worth anyway.

Info from a couple sources leads me to believe that I'd struggle to sell our U.S. condo at the amount listed above; it would probably go for more like $175,000. But I noticed that a 2BR UK condo in the same development as NT's 1BR just sold for 185,000 pounds ($370,000). So I'm sure my valuation of his house is very conservative. Therefore I'm just going to leave both house values as is for the purposes of this tracking.

Note on the numbers above: House value estimates are conservative, and retirement totals don't include amounts currently unvested.

August debt payoff goal

July 20th, 2008 at 12:20 am

OK, I've decided to start looking at the worst-case scenario for my debt repayment efforts. I need to be realistic so I'm not too disappointed.

The facts? We've still got some significant expenses coming up for our UK rental flat. AS's student loans will be coming due, if not in August then definitely in September. Her income will be $500 lower for the next two months, and we don't know when she will get a new job, or whether it will be a significant jump in salary. NT and I can't count on more than a small cost-of-living raise this year.

And if all these factors are going to push back our goal of losing the CC debt, I don't want it to delay our plans to start trying to have children. That means I've also got to start saving up money for that, instead of waiting till all our CC debt is gone. Which will push back our goal date even further. It's like a debt-slowdown snowball.

That said, August may be our last month of big, exciting debt repayment in a long time. So I'm going to enjoy every second!

The goal for August is to pay off $3,500 in debt. I will also get our CC debt below $50,000 and our mortgage debt below $300,000.

July goal reached!

July 20th, 2008 at 12:06 am

As you all could probably guess, I made an $8 payment to my credit card so I could reach my July goal. Smile

So, goal was $1,450, and $1,450 is what I paid off!

And, that's $52,892 to go on my Big-Picture Goal.

Stay tuned for my August goal!

Mostly raw: days 13 and 14

July 19th, 2008 at 11:55 pm

Yesterday's breakfast was a fruit salad of pineapple, mango and banana.

For lunch, I had curried "no egg" salad: carrot, bell pepper, avocado and scallion blended in a food processor with salt, pepper, curry and coriander, with more bell pepper diced and stirred in. Then I brought lettuce leaves to wrap it in for eating. Not too bad.

Dinner that night was "pasta della California," a favorite recipe of ours from a cookbook called Veganomicon. NT made fresh pasta, and the topping was garlic, spices, arugula and avocado. Then I made some "smoky grilled tempeh" from the same cookbook and we put that on top. Wonderful.

That night we went to our friend's birthday gathering, and I had three glasses of white wine. Wow did it hit me! Smile I felt a little draggy this morning but was able to sleep in till 11 a.m.

When we weighed ourselves this morning, AS and I had held steady and NT had dropped another pound.

For lunch today we had the raw corn salad with avocado dressing again, adding chopped kohlrabi this time since we got some in our farm-share box.

Right now I'm enjoying some fancy olives with various stuffings and spices and a glass of rose wine, and tonight we're having our favorite meal--homemade pizza on homemade crust.

Thus marks the end of our cleanse! I will add some more recipes to my new page, little by little.