Home > Archive: January, 2009

Archive for January, 2009

Big payment hit!

January 30th, 2009 at 03:12 pm

I checked this morning and it had gone through. US$3000 straight to principal! That feels really good. I was feeling frustrated about not paying any extra money to debt, and the universe provided. Thanks universe!

Not quite as big a piece of news, but I worked on the Wii Fit again, so that's my 11th workout this month. Smile I'm not losing any weight, but I'm getting some exercise and definitely improving my balance and coordination, so I'm happy.

January savings goal met

January 29th, 2009 at 09:39 pm

$50 went into savings for the birthdays fund, so I've reached my January goal of saving $1550: $1200 for the baby/emergency fund and $350 for birthdays. Yay!

My only goal left is to donate eyeglasses, and I've got a bunch collected that I'm going to take to the drop-off site tomorrow evening.

I'll post a roundup of all my January goals and results on Saturday, and post my February goals soon after.

Surpassed January debt-repayment goal

January 29th, 2009 at 06:37 pm

My CC payment and one of AS's student loan payments hit. $221 and $50 to principal, respectively. This means I met and exceeded the January goal to pay off $1,500 of debt. To date I've paid $1,744, and that's without the ginormous CC payment that I hope hits tomorrow!

Sent huge payment to UK credit card

January 28th, 2009 at 06:18 pm

So yesterday as I was grumbling about the dwindling principal payments on NT's credit card, I got to wondering how much we still had to pay for his flat, and when it was due. He e-mailed his management company and they wrote back that all the foreseeable extra fees have already been paid. One of the bigger expenses they thought was coming has been put on hold indefinitely.

This meant that we had 1500 pounds sitting in the UK checking account, not earmarked for anything in the near future. I promptly sent a payment in that amount to his UK credit card. It should come through in the next few days. It will wipe out three-quarters of his credit card debt and mark a huge step forward for the Big-Picture Goal, which has been languishing a bit since AS's layoff was announced. I'm very, very excited.

Of course, 750 of that amount is from NT's gran, and we resolved to put it toward the baby fund. But once this credit card is out of the way, there will be a 270-pound surplus nearly every month from his rental income, so we can build up that amount in just a few months, and switch it into his savings account where it will sit and earn interest and be ready for when we have a child!

I asked NT when he was last CC-debt-free, and he reckoned it was 1995. I'm going to try and get him that way again by March...

Depression vs. now

January 28th, 2009 at 03:08 pm

I've taken to listening to Bing Crosby singing "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" on the way to work. It's on this great compilation of old music called "The Best of Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour" that I got for Xmas.

Anyway, the song is so poignant, and it also makes me feel better about the shaky feeling of our country today. The song is about feeling sort of betrayed because the singer did all these things to build America, and now he's standing on a bread line. But despite how wrenching and scary that must have been, the country came back stronger than ever. So even though the song doesn't have a happy ending, the real story got better.

But I'm also always struck when I listen to it because it's mostly about sacrifice and service to the country, not about the things he lost. He talks about building a railroad, building a skyscraper, and fighting in WWI. He talks about how "we were building a dream." I think the "we" would change to "I" in the modern incarnation of this song.

I do hear tragic stories about people who worked hard and got it all taken away this time around too, but more often the story is "I got all this easy credit and this awesome ARM and got to buy a ginormous house and all these cool gadgets and clothes and stuff. And then when I got laid off I tried to live the same lifestyle as before but now my cards and my HELOC are maxed out, but I can't sell my widescreen TV or downsize my home--that would be barbaric."

It's still a tragic story, just a different kind--one of greed, ignorance and false prosperity. There's more culpability this time around, from people, companies and the government. Or maybe I just never heard that part of the Depression story--I'm not sure.

Anyway, I'm not getting on any kind of high horse, because you have only to look at my sidebar to see the part I took in all of this. It's just something that runs through my head some mornings when I'm listening to that song.

365 days of dinner: Jan. 25-26, 2009

January 27th, 2009 at 09:14 pm

I don't want to jinx myself, but I've done better than I thought at this! I haven't missed a day (unless you count the times I had to photograph leftovers).

Anyway, Sunday night we had what used to be a typical Saturday lunch in NT's childhood: Cornish pasty and chips. We stuffed the pasty with vegetarian burger crumbles, carrot, potato, onion and herbs & spices.

And last night we had a "weekday roast dinner":

Which is basically some kind of easy meat substitute with several sides. This time it was Boca chicken patties topped with instant veggie gravy. One side was oven-roasted broccoli compliments of, who got it from, who got it from a Barefoot Contessa cookbook. (Whew! I like to give credit where credit is due. Smile ) I was really excited about making this but a tad underwhelmed at the result, but maybe next time I'd roast it for less time and make sure it was piping hot when I served it. Or maybe I've already discovered my favorite broccoli (steamed tender-crisp and tossed with melted margarine, lemon juice, salt and pepper) and will never be impressed by another preparation.

I was more impressed by the random recipe for honey-glazed carrots and parsnips I found on These were tasty! And another serving of French fries made the meal quite filling. I was proud of this meal because the only thing new that we bought were the Boca patties ($3.49, and we still have one left over). All the other components were either staples or extra stuff that needed to be used up. Despite that it was a very enjoyable meal!

Steps toward January debt-pay goal

January 27th, 2009 at 03:53 pm

Finally, some movement on my debt repayment. The UK credit card and one of AS's student loan payments hit: $73 to principal for the CC, $114 for the loan.

Paying the minimums is kind of agonizing after all those months of huge extra debt payments. I'm itching to pay extra on the UK credit card; the payments (and hence the principal paid) keep going down, and it's driving me crazy. We have about 1500 pounds sitting in there that could nearly wipe out that card, but I know we have some expenses coming still for the flat, and I can't remember how much we've already paid and how much is forthcoming. Hmm, now I think I have to do some digging...

On another note, NT's mortgage interest rate has adjusted twice since the last time I checked. His new rate? 2.49%! Holy cow, that's less than half our U.S. mortage interest rate. I know it will go up again once the economy improves, but it certainly is nice for now, lowering payments and increasing the amount to principal a bit.

But anyway, back to my progress on debt repayment. $1473 down, $27 to go on my January goal.

We're trendy, y'all!

January 26th, 2009 at 07:07 pm

This is so funny. And because I only became semifrugal about two years ago, I actually feel like a trendsetter (or at least an early adopter)!

Reached January fitness goal!

January 26th, 2009 at 04:17 pm

I worked out on the Wii Fit Saturday and Sunday, so that means I've done the 10 workouts I was aiming for this month! It doesn't mean I definitely won't work out again, but I can take a break if I feel like it.

My supervisor today told me about Wii Fitness Trainer, a virtual trainer who helps you design a workout based on fitness level and available equipment. I might get that as well, because eventually I'm going to want more variety than Wii Fit offers. It's all about trying to make working out fun (because when it comes down to it, I'm not very entertained by working out, so it's better if I can trick myself into feeling like it's a fun game).

365 days of dinner: Jan. 22, 23 & 24 (+ 1 brunch)

January 25th, 2009 at 09:21 pm

Thursday night we had a dinner that will pop up pretty regularly: farfalle with mushrooms. We use a recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone that is dead simple, but following it exactly yields a perfect result. For instance, finishing the pasta off with a dab of butter at high heat in the skillet gives it a truly unique flavor and texture.

Friday we had a friend over and ordered Thai food in. I didn't remember to take a picture at the time, but luckily we had leftovers:

Last night we had Tequila Chili Lime Tofu, a recipe from the Vegan Dad blog (

Text is and Link is with Spanish rice and guacamole. This was a nice change from the typical Mexican flavors I usually flavor--really light and citrus-y.

And I couldn't resist taking a picture of the "full English" that NT made for brunch today: fried potatoes, mushrooms and tomatoes; tofu "bacon"; baked beans; and scrambled eggs (tofu for me). Note the HP sauce in the background, integral to this breakfast. Smile

Step to fitness goal, and a funny moment

January 23rd, 2009 at 11:22 pm

Just a quick post, because I'm about to leave work and go out to happy hour!

Worked out on the Wii Fit yesterday, which makes 8 workouts and only 2 to go to reach my January goal.

And, a funny moment on the way to lunch with my co-workers (free lunch at a semi-fancy place, hooray!): I was talking to three or four of them as we walked along, and spotted a penny on the ground. I bent down without a pause in what I was saying and tried to pick it up. After a second, I realized it was frozen to the ground. After another second, I realized that looked kind of silly and said, "Oh, it's frozen!" and then "Oh sorry about that, it was just habit." I got good-natured laughter so I didn't feel too embarrassed; they don't know about the depth of my frugality obsession, but they do probably think I'm eccentric for other reasons, so it probably didn't surprise them. LOL.

Aggressive state of mind

January 22nd, 2009 at 10:40 pm

I'm feeling a bit unnerved. I've been reading Kiplinger's (AS & NT got me a subscription for Xmas), and Suze's book, and financial blogs, and all of them are saying not to stop investing, that in fact this is the perfect time to invest if you can afford it. And I'm thinking it's too bad I don't have any money to invest.

Then something struck me today, as I was updating our net worth: I do have my 401(k). And our new provider, Prudential, has this function where you can just plug in your risk level, your age and your retirement age, and they will pick a package that's right for you. I've always gone for moderate, so I'm pretty sure it switched over into a moderate fund. So I went into this "Goalmaker" dealie and said I was "aggressive." So it's going to pick a nice aggressive portfolio for me.

Even at a moderate level it's been posting pretty heavy losses, so it feels weird to get all aggressive. But at the same time, I feel like either things are going to go really well for the volatile stuff, or society as we know it is going to collapse and money won't be any good anyway. So I might as well go aggressive and see if I can eventually benefit from this financial nadir. Buy low, sell high! Or whatever. Smile

In other news, I read on one of the sites I follow that mortgage rates could go as low as 4.5% or even 4.3% this year, but that they will start to rise soon after. Man, I am wishing like crazy I could come up with a way to refi. Pay down as much as I can rather than saving up an EF? Reassign part of my debt to get enough equity? I don't know. I wrote to my realtor to see if she has any ideas.

OK, I've gone posting-crazy this afternoon but I think this will be my last one of the day! Smile

January 2009 net worth

January 22nd, 2009 at 10:28 pm

NT's UK pensions: 7,250 pounds ($14,500)
10,725 pounds ($21,450)
NT's 401(k): $3,081
AS's 403(b): $3,058
AS's CD: $500
CJ's 401(k): $19,639
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $170,000
Total Assets: $492,228

Total Debt: $408,579

Current Estimated Net Worth: $83,649

December 2008 estimate: $81,526

Change in net worth: +$2,123

Summary: NT's and AS's retirement increased, but not enough to cover a loss of about $550 in my 401(k). So the jump in net worth is entirely due to paying down debt.

I haven't included my savings for the baby/emergency fund; I feel like that money is still in play and not secure enough to call an asset. Does anyone else count their emergency fund as assets?

I will update my "Individual Net Worth" page shortly so you can see how it breaks out.

Notes on the numbers above: House value estimates are conservative, and retirement totals don't include amounts currently unvested. I don't have a way to check NT's UK pensions, so their values stay static for the purpose of this update. UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $2 for every British pound, which was the exchange rate when I started keeping track. I maintain that ratio for the purpose of tracking progress, even though the exchange rate is now closer to $1.50 per British pound.