I'm being real easy on myself this month extra goalwise, because there's so much to do, what with our anniversary, holiday party, Xmas, prenatal classes, and figuring out our leave with mine and NT's jobs.
1. Debt: Pay off at least $2900 of debt.
Balance as of 11/30: $384,013
Goal balance: $381,113
2. Savings: Save at least $650 (all for baby/Ef)
3. Fitness: free month.
4. Environmentalism: free month.
5. Creative/crafts: free month.
6. Philanthropy: free month.
7. Side hustles: free month.
A. Help AS with couch reupholstery.
B. Begin to contact daycare options we've collected.
This will be the last month with this goal format anyway; next year will be much more about debt repayment, staying frugal, and just trying to figure out the whole parenthood thing, so I don't think I'll need extra goals to have a full life.
Archive for November, 2009
I'm being real easy on myself this month extra goalwise, because there's so much to do, what with our anniversary, holiday party, Xmas, prenatal classes, and figuring out our leave with mine and NT's jobs.
Well, it's a mixed bag this month, so I'll just list it out. Things got exceedingly busy, so it certainly wasn't a case of procrastination on any of the goals I didn't meet.
Debt: Pay off at least $2200 of debt.
Goal balance: $384,134
Progress: DONE! $2321 paid
Balance as of 11/30: $384,013
Savings: Save at least $720 ($120 for AS's retirement; $600 for Xmas fund)
Progress: DONE! $890 saved ($240 for AS retirement, $600 for Xmas, $50 for EF
Creative/crafts: Participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo); goal is 50,000 words.
Results: Stalled at 9,214 words
Other: Help AS with couch reupholstery.
Progress: A bit. Measured cushions and other parts so we can start cutting out fabric soon.
Begin to contact daycare options we've collected.
Progress: None. I was going to do it today, but I didn't have a single moment of free time after writing my last blog post. Will get on this soon!
Happy belated Thanksgiving everyone! I read everyone's latest posts last night, so I feel all caught up even if I didn't comment on many of them. Welcome back Pennywise!
Our Thanksgiving was great--much better than we'd hoped for. Went to my sister's in Ohio--she's closest to me in age, but she and her husband are the most religious/conservative of my family, and I haven't seen her since NT moved in.
I needn't have worried. My family doesn't like making people uncomfortable, and I bet my sister's family got positive advance notice from the family that has met NT and seen the three of us together. Everyone was so nice. When it came time for family photos, someone yelled, "OK, inlaws stand behind the couch--AS, you get in there." So I knew they regarded her as an inlaw even though we're not technically married. Then later someone suggested taking separate photos of each sister's family, and they had me, NT and AS pose together first. I was very happy--that's all I want from my family, to recognize us as a family unit so that they understand AS is going to be our baby's mom too.
And I only got into two political-esque conversations--both with my mouthiest brother-in-law--and felt I managed to extricate myself before either of us got too heated. That was one of my main goals for the trip too, since me & mine are the only liberals in my whole family! LOL. But politics aside, my family is very open-minded so I would almost call them socially liberal. More like mind-your-own-business, classic Republicans, which is a trait I admired in that political ideology (and still do admire when I see it).
My baby bump got to "meet" 9 of its 11 cousins, who range in age from 12 to 20 (I think). So baby will be like me; I'm much younger than all my cousins, who seem more like aunts and uncles to me.
Oh, and I gave my dad the undated checks for $1000 each and explained my plan for paying him off. He seemed really happy, though in typical dad fashion said "Oh, you don't have to worry about paying me back before the baby comes." I explained that was just my personal benchmark that I was going to try for. I noticed he flipped through and said "Are there six checks here?"--that told me that even though he would never hassle me about paying him back, he does remember how much he gave me and how much I still owe him, so it is important to him too. That made me feel good--I wouldn't want to be sweating over the money if he didn't even care about it.
My mom gave me $100 cash to put toward the trip expenses, and told me to just let them know how much more we needed. I'm waiting until the car rental charge comes through on my card, but I think we got the trip in at about $540, a little better than the $585 I was expecting. We paid for our own food, but my parents are covering car, insurance, gas, tolls and hotel.
Anyway, progress on the goals: AS's student loan hit and put $117 to principal, bringing our November debt payment to $2321.
Plus, I had AS research IRA options for the retirement money we've been saving for her while she was laid off, and she settled on eTrade. I was going to put one more chunk of $120 to her retirement in December, since she'll start her 403(b) with the new job in January. So I took out that $120 a couple days earlier than usual, which means it goes to the November savings goal, bringing it to $890.
We got an early Xmas card from NT's dad and stepmom, with US $120 in it! We're putting that toward the laptop we're saving up for. I also got a $120 check for the freelance proofreading I did a couple weeks ago. Our total saved is at $888. We're now leaning toward a reconfigured Macbook Pro which is $999, so we're getting really close! The change jar is half full and I've been saving my one-dollar bills from my spending money, so we'll add all that in when we get a bit closer.
OK, I've got loads of work on my desk and my boss is unexpectedly out due to complications her poor husband had due to the lymphoma treatment.
Another thrilling episode in the cost of my prepaid plan! I know these are really boring entries; they're mostly for my benefit so I can keep track.
NT filled up with 300 more minutes because his 60 days had nearly run out (not because he'd used up his minutes). Cost: $32.82
RECAP: I switched to prepaid in late March, meaning it's been 8 months. We have 2 phones on T-Mobile prepaid and 1 on Net10 prepaid. AS and I refill in 1000-minute increments and only need to refill when we run out or when it's been a year since our last fillup to stay active. NT needs to buy 300 more minutes every 60 days to keep his phone activated.
Initial layout to get us set up with phones and 2300 minutes: $241.63
NT's late-May Net10 fillup: $32.65
AS's late-June T-Mobile fillup, 1000 minutes: $107.40
NT's late-July Net10 fillup: $32.82
NT's late-September Net10 fillup: $32.82
AS's early-October T-Mobile fillup: $107.78
NT's late-November Net10 fillup: $32.82
So our total cost so far is $587.92.
So far, if I divide our total cost by 8, our new plan has cost us $73.49 per month. That's the lowest the average has been, and measurably better than our $85 average on the T-Mobile family plan.
I've still used just over half of my 1000 minutes and I don't need to re-up until March 2010 unless I run out of minutes before then.
(Our cellphone bill, for three phones on a family plan, used to range from $80-$95, depending on texts, calls to 411, etc. Usually it was close to $85. My goal is to get my average cost below that, preferably to $50 per month, but any average number below $85 will be a savings.)
I did send off a $20 payment to my personal loan, just to make sure I'd hit my goal. $14 went to principal, so I hit the $2200 November goal and surpassed it by $4. LOL. There's also a chance a student loan will hit on the 30th, but now I don't have to worry.
I've spent all weekend, except for a nice Friday out, planning and planning and planning our near future. We have so many money-affecting balls in the air right now that I just had to get as much figured out as possible. So here's a rundown:
1. AS GOT HER JOB! She found out a few days ago. Couple of changes: It pays less than we thought ($25K instead of $30K), but rather than starting part-time in January, it starts Dec. 1 at full time. And there's a promise of a raise in July. So we're very happy, and my chances of paying my dad off by my due date are now extremely good. It does mean we won't be able to keep the baby out of daycare as long as we'd hoped, but otherwise great news.
2. Sat down with my healthcare plan (and NT's from last year, since he doesn't have his yet) and did some calculations. Turns out it looks like kind of a wash as to whether mine or NT's would be a better family plan, but it does seem to be better to have a family plan versus individuals with one of us taking on the baby, because the family deductible is triple whether there are two family members or three. So I signed NT up for my plan; we can drop it during his open enrollment if his is better.
I just second-guessed myself as I was writing this. NT generally does not need much health care, so I'm wondering if it really serves to pay a high monthly premium to have him on my plan. I might have to do the calculations again. Hmm. Maybe tomorrow; I don't know if I have the stamina tonight!
3. Based on the above knowledge about AS's job and health insurance, I tried to extrapolate out a budget basically for the next year, to get a sense of how healthcare, daycare and unpaid leave are going to affect us. There are still a lot of variables, but I think I got a rough, conservative estimate of each month's numbers, and it looks like the only tight month would be June-July, when NT and I will be taking turns staying home without pay.
4. If that's how our parental leave goes. I've gotten the OK from my boss to arrange my leave however I want, but we still need the thumbs-up from NT's job, and his position is much more intense than mine. So we're going to present two options to them: one where NT takes off two days per week for 15 weeks, and another where he takes all six weeks of his leave at one go. We also have preferences for which two days he'd have off based on his class schedule for next semester, but if they don't like those he can take other days off, but he may have to leave early some days and work later on others to make up for it. There are some days he may be watching the baby and need to get to class pretty early, so AS and I will then need to take off early some days, but our jobs are a lot more flexible, so we're not too worried about that.
5. We have some smaller events coming up in the next few weeks: Thanksgiving, our anniversary and a holiday party we're throwing. Thanksgiving travel will be paid by my dad, but we need to figure out money for eating during the drives to and from Ohio, if we don't want Taco Bell 3 times a day. We also want to eat out for our anniversary, which is Dec. 2, so I'm trying to find discretionary funds in the budget for that. And for our party, we'll need to replenish our liquor cabinet, because we barely have anything in the house right now. We have some discretionary spending in December and January that we could skip and redirect those funds to the above three events if needed; I just need to figure out how much we'll need for each.
6. AS and NT are both incredibly busy, with schoolwork, freelance work and preparing for the new job, so I've been handling much of the online Xmas shopping for us. I've been carefully bargain-shopping so I make sure we can get as much bang for our buck as possible (when you have a fixed amount it makes you think that way), but it's been time-consuming and kind of mentally exhausting. I'm making good progress, though.
7. On beyond the holidays, new job and parental leave, we have to keep in mind that we've promised our families that we'll bring the baby to see them next year. My and AS's parents live in Virginia and NT's in England, so two different trips. We not only have to make sure we save enough paid time off from being eaten up by parental leave, we need to have a plan for how to pay for the two trips. I still have a ways to go on figuring out the money aspect, but we did pick out some dates we'd like to go, and I figured out how much PTO we need to save up for those two trips.
I think that's all I worked on this weekend. We did end up buying an oven on the Sears card, so we need to come up with $800 within 12 months, but I'm not at all worried about that. AS made a list of contact info for the daycare centers within convenient bus or walking distance, so I'm going to start calling on Monday. We still need to figure out what we're getting our parents for Xmas, and hopefully get a holiday photo taken that we can turn into a card for our families, but those things can wait (though not too long) until after Thanksgiving.
Phew! It's no wonder that my NaNoWriMo novel has suffered this week, but all of the above planning is much more important than the NaNoWriMo goal, which is fun but essentially useless.
NT's UK pensions: 7,250 pounds ($14,500)
14,721 pounds ($29,442)
NT's 401(k): $6,620
AS's 403(b): $2,888
AS's CD: $516
AS retirement savings: $845
CJ's 401(k): $30,273
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $160,000
Baby/emergency fund (shared asset): $6,731
Total Assets: $511,815
Total Debt: $384,144
Current Estimated Net Worth: $127,671
October 2009 estimate: $116,484
Change in net worth: +$11,187
Summary: OK, we made a HUGE leap in net worth, but let me explain. I don't get regular info on NT's UK pensions, but I happened to look at a piece of mail we got, rather than just filing it away uncomprehendingly, and realized that one of his pensions had jumped quite a bit in the 3+ years since he gave me the initial balance. So that gradual increase is recorded as a big leap here.
I also paid off a healthy chunk of debt, and all our other retirement accounts increased modestly, so that all contributed to the change.
After Creditcardfree's post about getting close to six figures on their retirement funds, I got curious about ours. Turns out we're at $85,084, so quite a ways to go before we hit six figures. But it's better than nothing!
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. I don't have a way to check NT's UK pensions or flat value, so their values stay static for the purpose of this update (unless I happen to get some info by chance). 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 $1.60 per British pound.
Ack, this has been a busy and eventful week, both financially and otherwise! Anyway, yesterday I would have transferred the remaining $400 of Xmas money into our savings account--except we're ready to start Xmas shopping! So it stayed in checking, but I did technically reach my savings goal, with $770 saved, $50 over my November goal.
Time to go check out net worth now. Where has the month gone??
Not as much as I'd hoped, though! One of AS's student loans hit, and only $75 went to principal, not the usual $80-something. Maybe it was because the bill was technically due the 14th (a Saturday), but didn't hit the account until today. So $2190 down, $10 to go on the November debt goal.
I know I've said this before and it's never happened, but I'm really not sure I'll make my monthly goal this time. My next payment is scheduled for Thanksgiving day, so as long as it goes out the Friday after, should hit the following Monday, which is the 30th. Should I take that chance or do a little extra payment on the personal loan? I have plenty of fluff money in the checking account. Hmmm...
OK, one non-money bit of news: My NaNoWriMo novel is up to 8099 words! I managed about 3300 words last night, my most prolific night to date. Now if I could keep up that pace for the rest of the month, I could actually achieve this! I had nearly a week of writer's block and lack of motivation, but hopefully that's over. If you divvy the month up evenly, I should have reached 25,000 words last night, but I'm trying not to think about that.
The other day NT asked if we'd have any money to give my dad for the personal loan when we see him at Thanksgiving. We won't, but it got me thinking. My dad doesn't trust the mail carrier they have due to recurring delivery problems, so he won't just let me send him checks for payment. I'll have to do a wire transfer from my bank account to his, which will incur a fee each time. I thought, maybe I should write out 6 checks for $1000 each, and leave the dates blank, and give them to my dad at Thanksgiving. I can e-mail him whenever I have $1000 ready for him so he can date and cash one of the checks. This way, I'll save money on transaction fees, and he'll have a concrete piece of evidence that I do intend to pay him the rest of the money, and soon. He's a very organized guy, so I know I can trust him to hold onto those checks and not lose them. Still considering it, but it seems like a good idea so far.
Got a surprise check in the mail this weekend, nearly $70 from our organic grocery co-op. AS and I bought a membership years ago, and we get special discounts, two $2.50 coupons per quarter, plus this profit-sharing check once a year. I always forget about the check so it's always a nice surprise! We're going to put half toward paying off my dad and half toward the laptop fund.
We've nearly decided to get a new oven! One of the big burners (the back one I used all the time for boiling pasta, grains and beans) went out a couple months ago. We've made some attempts to fix it and to find someone who can repair it, but the stove is 25+ years old so we're now leaning toward replacing it. Cleaning under the coils is a pain, so we'd want one of those flat-surface electric stoves. There are good ones to be had for $400-$700 at Sears, and we can do the no payments, no interest for 12 months thing. I'm confident we'd easily save up that much just with extra income streams once we finish saving for our laptop. We've bought a fridge and a dishwasher this way and didn't pay a cent in interest because we paid them off in plenty of time.
Speaking of extra income streams, the woman who wants me to do a little freelance proofreading asked my hourly rate. I'm stalling getting back to her because I have no idea! I know I get paid about $24 per hour (plus benefits) and that my company bills clients $150 per hour for my time, so I feel like it should be somewhere in between those. Not sure what to do. AS will help me come up with a price later if I haven't decided.
Had a delightful dinner at the home of some friends we see far too seldom this weekend. They have two small children and we really enjoyed seeing how happy and engaged the kids were, and how much the parents clearly liked having them around. At the end of the night, they gave us some baby equipment including a bouncy seat for infants, a breastfeeding pillow that helps support the baby, and a brand new copy of The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I know we have lots still to get, but our front closet is filling up with loads of useful (and free!) supplies.
I was bummed on Friday because I didn't find any change on 5th St. But this morning on the way to work I found a penny, so my lucky streak is back as far as I'm concerned!
While trying to pick the health care coverage with the best pricing, I'm trying to factor in the worst-case scenario. So I'm ignoring the deductible, which only tells you the most you could pay for one medical event. Instead I'm adding the monthly premium and the out-of-pocket maximum for each option. That will tell me which plan would cost the least should I have expensive medical issues. (And judging from the past few years, and the fact I have the final trimester plus labor and delivery to get through in 2010, I should definitely plan to be reaching my out-of-pocket maximum.)
I have two options for medical, plus optional additional dental and vision plans. What I've done is tried to figure out the highest possible cost for each plan for me as an individual; for me and the baby; and for me, NT and the baby. Then when NT gets details of his job's options, I will figure out the highest possible cost for each option for just him; for him and the baby; and for him, me and the baby.
I'll then pair up the different ways that all three of us can be covered, adding together the maximum costs, for instance, of having just me on my work plan while NT and the baby are on his work plan. Then I'll compare, and the combination that results in the lowest maximum annual cost will be the option that I go with.
Sounds fail-safe, right? Although have you seen the movie or read the book Fail Safe? They think there's no way they could make a mistake, and next thing you know New York and Moscow are getting blown up. So we're watching the documentary "Sicko," and there are all these stories of people who had coverage, but when they were diagnosed with a serious condition, the insurance company found a way to disqualify treatment, such as calling a proven method "experimental," or to kick the person out of their coverage altogether, as they did with a woman by pointing out that she hadn't disclosed the "serious" condition of once having had a yeast infection on her application, so therefore she should never have been covered. I think she had cancer.
So I do realize that under the current conditions in the U.S., all this scrupulous planning to make sure I have enough money for the maximum out-of-pocket could be for naught if one of us were diagnosed with something serious, because there's a good chance the insurance company could find a way to deny payment for the treatment.
But what else can I do? I still have to make the best plans I can, and find the best deal, and try to have enough money in the bank to cover what the insurance companies say would be the most I'd have to pay.
And bide my time till we can move to England...hoping no health disaster befalls any of us between now and then.
Two paychecks in the checking account (mine and NT's) was a pleasant little surprise. Even though I've been at this job for 3+ years, I still tend to think that if the 15th hits on a Sunday, payday isn't till Monday, as it was at my old job. Maybe this time I'll remember, since I'm writing about it!
Making my loan payment early worked out well; I had plenty of float money in the checking account and my balance never got below $1200, even though my Number Crunch worksheet showed some red for awhile (because theoretically, if I'd had to withdraw all of my medical-expense money and all the money saved for the laptop fund before this payday, I would've overdrawn). Now my balance sheet is lovely and black all the way down for the next three months again!
The only trouble is, now it's over a month before my next loan payment (which will be my payoff)! Oh well, maybe I can float again next month. I'm very impatient to pay this off so I can start paying my dad off. (The back story on that: He gave me $12,000 for down payment on my & AS's condo. So far I've paid back $6,000 in six years; that's progress, but not nearly enough, so ideally, I'll pay back the other $6,000 before baby comes in early March.)
I think I'm going to update the Big-Picture Goal in my sidebar...it's eminently clear I won't be CC-free by the end of this year. Soo, I'm just going to move it out a year and try to reach the goal by the end of 2010! I'm going to list a couple other goals I have for debt, such as getting rid of one of AS's student loans by the end of 2011. Could happen! Anyway, it's something to shoot for. (I'm sure my baby is laughing maniacally and tenting its little fingers because it has other plans for my money, but oh well.)
I probably have a bit of freelance proofreading headed my way next week. Woo hoo! I haven't negotiated a price, because just between me and all of you, I'd do it for any amount of money! If it's just a little sum, I'll put it toward the laptop fund. If by chance it ends up being more, or if I get more work as a result of doing a good job, I'll put some toward the laptop fund and some toward paying my dad.
It's now a little over a week until AS finds out whether she'll get the job at the publishing house! We think her chances are good because she's worked there before; the head editor trusts her taste and instincts; and she left on good terms last time, has kept in touch ever since, and also has gotten a lot of impressive education and job experience in the meantime. However, she knows a little bit about the other person who's in the running for the job, and they also have an extremely impressive resume. So there is some chance she won't get it. But we're realistically optimistic.
While admiring Thriftorama's forethought in getting her new baby-to-be's college fund ready to go, I was struck once again with how clueless I am as to how to proceed financially once I'm ready to start saving and investing more than paying extra debt. I feel like our debt load is still outsized, so I'll be focusing on that for at least another two years. But at some point, we're going to have to get serious about retirement and college savings, and we'll have quite a bit of catchup to play since we're not doing much on those fronts in the meantime. But it's an extremely complex problem, since we'll be drawing U.S. income for several more years but plan on ultimately retiring in the UK (and raising our kids in the UK, which means they may want to go to college there). I'm ignorant of tax laws and haven't found any Web sites for dummies to figure out the best way to somewhat protect our assets so that when we withdraw in the UK, we won't be subject to taxation that we wouldn't in the U.S. I think this is a job for a financial planner. But how to find one with the areas of expertise we need? And how to find one whose judgment we trust? And when should I start forking over money for said expertise--should I wait until we're ready to get serious about retirement/education contributions, or should I start preparing now? I've been running in circles on this question regarding retirement for years now, and now that I've added college fund to the mix I'm more at a loss than ever!
Oh, and I found a nickel on the ground yesterday. And that concludes this edition of my financial news! LOL