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Archive for May, 2010: Ceejay74's Personal Finance Blog
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Home > Archive: May, 2010

Archive for May, 2010

Progress on debt; nice debt milestone

May 30th, 2010 at 03:50 am

AS's third student loan payment did go through before the end of the month, with $59 going to principal. My CC payment hit, and $115 went to principal. That means we've paid $1125 this month. I'm happy we went past the $1K mark!

I paid a little extra to make sure my credit card debt went below $5000, since we're so close. Actually, I paid just enough to bring the balance to $4999.99. LOL. What I realize now is that I should have paid another 99 cents, because I round off my debt numbers, so this is going to show up as $5000. Ah well, at least I (and now you) know it's under $5K. Big Grin

Reached May debt goal!

May 27th, 2010 at 08:33 pm

A student loan payment for AS hit, with $119 going to principal. That means we've paid $951 of debt this month, surpassing my $900 goal.

I got notice of the CC bill today, so I set up a payment for tomorrow that should hit Monday. There's also another AS student loan payment that should go through by Monday. That means we'll probably pay off more than $1,000 this month. Yay! This would be the first month since we started this that we paid less than a thousand to principal, so that will make me very happy if one or both of those payments hit.

Our student loan debt dipped back below $75K again, and it won't go above that number again if I have anything to do with it. The reason it slipped above $75K a couple times is because we accidentally borrowed too much for NT's college tuition, and decided to use the surplus to pay down "bad debt" first, so NT's student loans went higher as a result.

An interesting tidbit that I don't mention very often: Only about $46,000 of the $75,000 education debt listed in my sidebar is actual student-loan debt. The rest is "estimated future debt"; what I predict the rest of NT's education will cost. So maybe some of it, by the time he needs more tuition money, I'll be able to cashflow and not take out student loans, or pay off the student loans soon after we borrow them.

At the time that I started my debt paydown journey, we had over $70K of "bad debt" and we'd already committed to NT getting his bachelor's degree, so I thought we'd definitely be taking out loans for school while we concentrated on paying off the consumer debt. Now that the consumer debt will be gone by the end of the year, the future's a lot brighter. But I still leave the "estimated future debt" on my spreadsheet so if we do have to take out loans, I won't have the depressing feeling of seeing our debt increase again.

Decluttering mayhem-mayhem-mayhem!

May 25th, 2010 at 08:45 pm

It's a heat wave in Minnesota! After weeks of cold dreary weather, suddenly days of 90s temperatures. AA hasn't worn clothes for over 24 hours:

The past few days have been filled with productivity, because all three of us adults got the decluttering bug simultaneously.

I think it was triggered by having two couches in our living area for several weeks. We bought a new one but could not give the old one away, even though we advertised on Freecycle, Craigslist and Freemarket. The condo would haul it away to the dump for $80. That hurt both financially and environmentally. Finally we decided to offer $30 on Craigslist to help someone with the moving costs, because A) People kept backing out of picking it up, and we figured transportation was an issue, and B) If someone just took the couch to get the money, at least it would be a cheaper haul-away fee than $80. As luck would have it, some guy picked it up for his boss, because he had a moving van for his own move and she needed a couch. So I felt good that it was actually getting a home and we weren't just paying to send it to a landfill. He said she'd given him some money to move it, so together with our money he did all right that day! Smile

So once that was gone, the sudden clearing up of space inspired us to take on three closets and several clutter hotspots, including the area under the coffee table and a built-in shelf in the living room. Now we're thinking we'll try and sell our entertainment center, which is awesome but too imposing for our small space, and also not babyproof for when AA starts crawling. Hopefully we can make enough to buy a sleeker unit with doors at Ikea. Or we can mount the TV on the wall and buy cabinets to store our DVDs. Either way would open up the space more.

AS and I spared no expense when we furnished this condo, using a HELOC to buy furniture we couldn't afford, including this $1000 entertainment center:

One day I was adding up the cost of everything we'd bought on the HELOC: dining-room table and 10 chairs, armchair, couch, padded sleigh bench, padded butterfly chair, entertainment center, king-size mattress, iMac desktop computer and two iPods ... we kinda went nuts. NT was a little shocked, but then he estimated what he'd spent on LPs, CDs and DVDs, and realized that he'd probably spent as much just on that habit! We're a household of reformed spenders. (Well, partly reformed anyway, LOL.)

So back to decluttering. We got rid of tons of empty boxes, worn-out clothes and bedding, an old computer shell; things that had just been sucking up space in our closets. I went through a couple stacks of paperwork and dumped a bunch. We tore out what we wanted from some magazines and put them on the free table. We got rid of a canning pot that was huge and hadn't been used in years. We reorganized things so that you can actually see everything that's in the closets.

We decided another couple of purposes for our surplus money: new luggage and some closet organization. AS is going to plan how to redo our closets so there isn't so much awkward or unusable space. And while we were cleaning we decided our battered, 12+-year-old luggage would have to go. There are some great sales at Sears, and you can buy online and then go pick up, so we'll probably do that soon.

We'll probably use up the entire surplus on the household purchases we've planned so far. That's OK, because we've learned of some other money coming in: two more freelance projects for AS, a medical refund for me, a bonus (one week's pay) for NT. So our surplus will probably be bigger, and I may still be able to accomplish some of my financial goals, such as speaking with financial planners, before the end of the year.

Wow, I can't believe I was able to finish this entry! AA has been super-clingy today, but she's finally taking a nap. I'd better go, though, and see if I can get one or two other things accomplished before she wakes up...

Prepaid plan 2010 costs update

May 25th, 2010 at 04:26 pm

NT refilled his cell phone, so that's another $32.82 of prepaid costs. Since the second year began in late March, here's what we've paid:

CJ 1000 minutes late-March T-Mobile fillup: $107.78
NT 300 minutes late-March Net10 fillup: $32.82
NT 300 minutes late-May Net10 fillup: $32.82
Total cost for the year: $173.42

This is the end of the second month, so our average monthly cost for this year is $86.71. I expect that average to drop over the next few months.

RECAP: I switched to prepaid in late March 2009. 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.

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 for this year is to get my average cost to $50 per month, but any average number below $85 will be a savings.

Update to pension value

May 23rd, 2010 at 06:40 pm

I get very confused looking at NT's UK retirement statements. It seems like there are a dozen different company names involved, but supposedly there are only two pensions.

So I believe I got an updated value for the smaller of the two pensions. Supposedly it's at 12,663 British pounds, which is quite a bit higher than the value for it I have in my net worth records.

Just a note to myself so I can update that amount the next time I calculate net worth! Now I can put all these confusing statements away in the file and not look at them anymore, because I'm getting a headache. Smile

May 2010 net worth update

May 19th, 2010 at 08:46 pm

I just posted an entry linking to an article calculating

Text is presidents' individual net worth and Link is
presidents' individual net worth. It reminded me that it's about time for a net worth update!

NT's UK pensions: 7,250 pounds ($14,500)
14,721 pounds ($29,442)
NT's 401(k): $8,119
AS's 403(b): $3,237
AS's IRA: $1,682
AS's 401(k): $353
CJ's 401(k): $31,745
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $160,000
Baby/emergency fund (shared asset): $8,355
Total Assets: $517,433

Total Debt: $366,399

Current Estimated Net Worth: $151,034

April 2010 estimate: $152,639

Change in net worth: -$1,605

Summary: We suffered a dip in net worth for the first time in ages. NT's and my 401(k) accounts lost about $4K total, and small gains for AS and the baby/EF, as well as a modest decrease in our debt, weren't enough to offset that. I wasn't aware there was market volatility this month, beyond that one crazy day on Wall Street.

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 fairly 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.

Presidents' net worth

May 19th, 2010 at 07:59 pm

Text is Here's and Link is
Here's an interesting article of trivia: the peak of net worth, adjusted for inflation, for all the U.S. presidents. Can you believe some of the most brilliant men never made it to $1 million of net worth (in 2010 dollars) in their lifetimes?

I definitely plan for my family to reach that, and that's on the modest end of my goals. Of course by the time we attain it, it won't be worth as much as today due to inflation, so I want to go above and beyond that!

Speaking of, it's about time for my own net worth update. I'll have to see if I can get to that today.

Bit of progress on the May debt goal

May 18th, 2010 at 09:00 pm

A student loan payment hit, with $84 going to principal. $832 down, $68 to go on the May goal.

I haven't written in a while. Nothing financial is really going on. We're using the Chase Visa to earn reward money, so that's made just regular budgeting more of a challenge. Before, everything came out of the checking account, and since my ledger spreadsheet begins with the checking account balance, it was always easy to see that everything was balanced. Now I have to keep receipts, because the credit card account doesn't post things immediately and I don't want to get confused. Then I have to set up payments to the credit card for every few days. I'm willing to do it for a while longer and see if I get better at it as it becomes more routine. But it is a lot more complicated, and using a credit card makes me nervous because they are so devious, though hopefully the new regulations has cut out a lot of the ways they used to cheat people.

The Virginia trip to visit my and AS's parents is getting more exciting by the day; we found out that most if not all of my siblings and nieces and nephews are going to try and visit at the same time (including my brother, whom I hardly ever see), so AA can meet a ton of cousins and aunts and uncles. Also, we've booked a night at a quirky luxury hotel in DC for the last night of the trip, to treat ourselves and decompress from all the family.

AA had her 2-month pediatric appointment today and did great. She's almost 10 lbs.! That was pretty exciting, because with nursing you can't fully track how much she's eating, and she's kinda thin (belly and chipmunk cheeks notwithstanding) so I couldn't tell if she was gaining weight well or not. But the doctor said it's fine; she's just a somewhat tall (LOL) skinny baby, but she's gained a good amount since her last visit. She was mellow and alert throughout except a bit of bawling during the vaccines. Smile

Baby photos

May 7th, 2010 at 07:58 pm

Grr, lost an entry I've been working on for hours!! I reminded myself to copy/paste it but got distracted trying to upload some pictures, and didn't do it.

Oh well, it wasn't anything important, just babbling a bit. It only took me so long because AA ended up needing a few hours of attention halfway through.

So I'm not even going to recap--I'll post about the stuff later if it's still on my mind. But while I'm here, might as well post some pics.

AA has started smiling but it's so hard to capture the full-on grin on camera! But I've caught some halfway coming or going. This is AS's favorite smiley pic:

For some reason I'm enamored of this one, I think because it kinda looks like she's making a funny face on purpose:

Baby things acquired for free

May 4th, 2010 at 09:25 pm

Since I pasted my list of baby expenses, I thought I'd try to note everything we were given by friends, relatives and co-workers. If it was bought new for us as a gift, I noted that. Otherwise, everything was hand-me-down (therefore no additional cost for our friend) or bought used (so a bit cheaper than new).

Book: What to Expect the First Year (actually 2 copies; one used and one NEW)
Sheets for crib
Stroller base that can hold car seat
Baby-carrier backpack
Baby Bjorn
Baby slings (2 or 3; also AS handmade one from gifted fabric)
Bouncy seat
Baby monitor
Bathing seat
Towels & washcloth (NEW)
Heat-sensing rubber ducky (NEW)
Comb, brush & mirror set (NEW)
Breastfeeding pillow
Breastfeeding cover-up
Manual breast pump
Pads for wearing in bra (unused but left over from someone's supply, so not bought new for us)
Diaper bag (free from doctor's office, included sample can of formula and bottle cooler bag and ice packs)
Sample pack of formula (free offer when bought maternity clothes
Baby gate
High chairs (1 regular, 1 travel)
Bibs (mostly secondhand, one NEW)
Spoons (some used, some NEW)
Changing pad
A few cloth-diaper prefolds & covers
Diaper Genie (actually two, one used and one NEW)
Container & enzyme solution for cloth diapers
Moses-basket bassinet (NEW)
Pacifiers (NEW)
Bottle (NEW)
Burp cloths (10-15; a few secondhand, most handmade, two NEW)
Blankets (10 or 15 of various types; one handmade, mostly secondhand, one NEW)
Toddler-size rocking chair
Baby clothes (all sizes; onesies, pants, shirts, shoes, hats, sleepers, skirts, socks; 100+ items, mostly used, a couple handmade, maybe 5-10 bought NEW)
Snow suit
Toys: stuffed animals, blocks, a train set, rattles, and more; maybe 75 items, mostly used, about 10-20 NEW)
Books: 50+ of my own from childhood; many secondhand, several NEW)
Music (many old 45s from my childhood, plus several CDs of international lullabies)
Activity rug

That's all I can think of! As you can see, we saved hundreds and maybe even thousands of dollars by putting out the word that we wanted hand-me-downs--and we saved our friends some expense by letting them know we actually preferred secondhand gifts for our baby shower.

May debt-repayment progress; baby expenses update

May 4th, 2010 at 03:17 pm

Lost my bloody entry again! I've been lucky for the past few weeks, so I've gotten out of the habit of saving the copy elsewhere before hitting "publish." Even though I've had fewer problems posting, I find that I have to log in nearly every time I come to the site. I appreciate the aesthetics of the new site but I miss the functionality of the old one.

Mortgage payments to principal:
US: $379
UK1: $258
UK2: $54
UK3: $57

Total progress: $748 down, $152 to go. That's all the progress we'll make until around the 15th.

I'm still tracking all expenses and savings related to the baby, so it's pasted below for anyone interested. It isn't representative of everything you need to get for a baby because we got the bulk of our supplies for free, secondhand from friends, family and co-workers (and those things weren't tracked since they were budget-neutral; I'm only tracking how it has affected us, both cost and savings-wise, to have a baby versus not having a baby). Also, out-of-pocket health expenses vary person-to-person depending on extent of health insurance coverage and also how the pregnancy/labor/delivery/first few months of infant health go. But as a snapshot of one family's spending, it might be interesting to some.

I haven't indicated wants vs. needs since those labels could be up for debate anyway. This is simply what we've spent so far.

Date; Type of expense/savings; Amount
1/9/2009 Prenatal vitamins (16.10)
4/1/2009 No birth control $20.00
4/15/2009 Prenatal vitamins (24.69)
5/1/2009 No birth control $20.00
6/1/2009 No birth control $20.00
7/1/2009 No birth control $20.00
7/6/2009 Pregnancy test (6.99)
7/21/2009 Large pair of trousers (19.99)
7/30/2009 Dr. visit co-pay (10.00)
8/1/2009 No birth control $20.00
8/10/2009 Iron supplements (5.99)
8/11/2009 Iron supplements (5.49)
8/27/2009 Rx for prevention of UTIs (10.00)
9/1/2009 No birth control $20.00
9/6/2009 Prenatal classes (155.00)
9/10/2009 OB contract pmt (127.04)
9/16/2009 Belly band (16.99)
9/29/2009 1st visit tests + rest of OB contract (1012.62 total; 1st pmt) (377.43)
10/1/2009 No birth control $20.00
10/4/2009 Maternity clothes (177.91)
10/12/2009 Iron supplements (5.92)
11/1/2009 No birth control $20.00
11/2/2009 2nd pmt for tests, dr. visits & OB contract (268.78)
11/4/2009 Fleece zipup to supplement borrowed maternity coat (14.99)
11/10/2009 Iron supplements (5.92)
11/30/2009 2 new bras (one nursing, one larger strapless) (24.93)
12/1/2009 No birth control $20.00
12/7/2009 Maternity leggings (to use as long johns) (24.99)
12/15/2009 3rd pmt dr. visits & OB contract (254.70)
12/26/2009 Maternity clothes (including replacement fleece $11) [used gift cards] (70.00)
1/1/2010 No birth control (just $20 every 3 months now, w/ new health care) $20.00
1/6/2010 Prenatal vitamins & iron supplements (26.38)
1/7/2010 Exercise ball (for relief of back pain & labor pains) (23.64)
1/8/2010 4th pmt dr. visits & OB contract (178.96)
1/14/2010 Rx for prevention of UTIs (10.00)
1/26/2010 5th pmt dr. visits (16.59)
2/9/2010 Prepayment of 1st 4 weeks of daycare (440.00)
2/20/2010 Crib mattress ($200 pd w/ gift cert; $30 discount for water discoloration) (271.77)
2/20/2010 Gift certificate from baby shower $200.00
2/21/2010 Sprayer for cleaning cloth diapers ($15 pd w/ gift money) (45.00)
2/21/2010 Gift money from baby shower $25.00
2/21/2010 6 boxes of disposable diapers (different sizes) (incl. $10 coupon from dr. office) (52.94)
2/21/2010 2 wet bags (for holding cloth diapers while out) (13.50)
2/21/2010 Gift cards as baby gift from NT's mom $150.00
2/21/2010 Baby soap/shampoo (9.64)
2/21/2010 Bath cradle (6.64)
2/21/2010 Baby clothes hangers (2.19)
2/21/2010 Outlet covers (3.64)
2/21/2010 Baby nail clippers (2.13)
2/21/2010 Convertible carseat (56.85)
2/21/2010 Baby sunscreen (4.72)
2/21/2010 Cotton pads (for baby cleaning, etc.) (2.19)
2/21/2010 Baby liquid pain reliever (1.99)
2/21/2010 Iron supplements (5.89)
2/21/2010 Thermometer (8.54)
2/21/2010 Thermometer (3.14)
2/21/2010 Baby anti-itch cream (3.74)
2/21/2010 Baby neosporin (3.89)
3/5-3/8 Convenience food (estimated) (75.00)
3/5/2010 Breast pump, bottles, two sleepers (swaddling blankets) (333.00)
3/8/2010 Hospital parking ramp (10.00)
3/8/2010 Percocet & stool softener (14.79)
3/10/2010 Cabs to & from pediatric clinic (22.00)
3/11/2010 Baby lotion, caffeine tablets, ibuprofen, liquid vitamin D, breast gel packs, maxi pads (40.71)
3/12/2010 Sleepers (7.94)
3/12/2010 Nipple ointment, GasX (61.63)
3/13/2010 Nursing bra, ibuprofen (estimated) (25.00)
3/14/2010 Diaper service (299.00)
3/15/2010 Gift certificate for diaper service $100.00
3/5-3/15 Lost wages (disability) (518.87)
3/16/2010 Vicodin (10.00)
3/23/2010 Baby wipes (3.22)
3/23/2010 Baby wipes, baby powder & breastmilk storage bags (24.68)
3/24/2010 Car seat with lift-out carrier (127.39)
3/24/2010 Target gift cards given as baby gifts $100.00
3/29/2010 Hospital bill (1,149.73)
3/30/2010 Baby wipes (2.12)
3/31/2010 Lost wages (disability) (815.33)
4/9/2010 Baby wipes (5.00)
4/9/2010 Ibuprofen & witch-hazel pads (10.33)
4/15/2010 Lost wages (disability) (412.85)
4/15/2010 Baby healthcare premium (59.50)
4/22/2010 Hospital bill (251.24)
4/23/2010 Bottle steamer bags (4.79)
4/25/2010 Hemorrhoidal suppositories (5.49)
4/27/2010 Fiber tablets (13.37)
4/27/2010 Anesthesiology bill (183.20)
4/29/2010 Baby wipes (estimated) (10.00)
4/30/2010 Baby healthcare premium (59.50)
5/2/2010 Storage unit, ceiling lamp and night light for nursery (84.72)
5/3/2010 Hemorrhoidal suppositories (7.99)


April results, May goal, bought a couch!

May 3rd, 2010 at 12:22 pm

April was a great month because I was able to see that my paychecks are going to be a lot bigger than I'd calculated for parental leave. That allowed me to put some big chunks of money toward debt that I'd been hoarding in the checking account to help cover the leaner weeks. So I paid down $4113 in debt, surpassing my $2190 goal by $1923.

My May goal is to pay off at least $900 in debt. Why such a small amount? First, some of my end-of-month payments may not hit in May since the last two days fall on Saturday and Sunday. And second, NT decided on some purchases he wanted to make for the home, so we may not do any extra debt repay this month. I'm hoping to at least surpass $1000 of debt repayment since we've never done less than that in a month, but I'm setting my sights low so I'm not disappointed if it doesn't work out.

As I stated in an earlier post, we're looking to have a $5500 surplus after I accomplish my goals this year, so I let AS and NT know that this can be used to fill any need/want gaps for the household. And that we can spend some of this money before I actually achieve my goals, since my deadline is the end of the year, and some of our wants are more urgent than that. I want next year to be devoted to several ambitious financial goals, so I'm hoping we can get set with everything we really want this year, and not need to make any big purchases next year.

Yesterday we went to IKEA and bought a couch, some lighting and storage for AA's nursery, shelving for the balcony closet, new dishes to replace some chipped and scratched dinnerware, potholders to replace some really grungy ones that weren't coming clean in the wash, and a duvet with two covers to replace a coverlet that had developed several holes in it.

The couch is being delivered on Wednesday. We'll try to freecycle our current, half-reupholstered couch on the same day, because you need to have padded curtains hung up in the elevators to move big pieces in and out (our elevators have mirrored walls). I hope that works out. I seem to remember there being some difficulty with getting the couch through the door when we originally got it, so I'll have to warn NT (he's better at spatial relations stuff, so he'll be able to figure it out when the time comes).

Next we'll probably focus on getting the balcony screened in. I'm really glad we didn't do it already though, because we just got notice that the balconies are being restored--railings painted and replaced where necessary, etc. People who have the screened-in feature will have to pay $350 to have it taken down and then put up again, whereas the restoration is free for the rest of us. Whew, dodged a bullet there! They've never done this type of work in the 6+ years we've lived here, so it probably won't need to be done again for a long time.