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Archive for February, 2011

Progress on Feb. goals, but ...

February 28th, 2011 at 08:44 pm

I'm not sure I'm going to hit my debt-repayment target!

One of AS's student loan payments hit, putting $120 to principal. That's $900 down, $100 to go.

AS has one more student loan payment that is supposed to process today, but it may not update the amount until tomorrow morning. I'm still going to count it as Feb. progress if it hits tomorrow and shows up as a Feb. 28 payment. However, that one will only put $58-$60 toward principal.

The month got away from me and I didn't remember to make an extra student loan payment until Friday. I set up a $100 payment to one of NT's student loans that's not in repayment yet. The account shows that a payment is processing, so hopefully it'll have hit by tomorrow with a Feb. 28 date. However, it just occurred to me today that since that loan does accrue interest (which I pay quarterly), my payment may go to interest rather than principal. I looked all over the site and it didn't say what they do with extra payments when the loan's not in repayment yet.

So I'm afraid that even if both the above payments show up tomorrow with a Feb. 28 date, it won't be enough to principal to meet my goal. Also, it would be the first month since I started that I've paid off less than $1000!

I'm also not doing well on my creative project/book reading goal. I have over 100 pages left in the book I'm reading, and I didn't do any creative projects. I have tonight to either finish the book or do something creative. Maybe I can dash off a short story?? We'll have to see. Lil' AA is home with a fever, but she's actually lower-maintenance when she's sick, so it's a possibility.

We had a really spend-happy weekend. Lots of money going out in all directions. First, we rented a car because AA got invited to two birthday parties, and one of them was not accessible by bus. While we had the car, we went to Costco and loaded up on supplies. Then we finished off most of the birthday shopping for all four of us, and NT and I also bought ourselves some clothes. Oh, and we had two unplanned meals of carry-out vs. cooking.

Whew! I just have to remind myself that even though some was unplanned, we had the money in the budget. The rental-car costs came out of our travel fund, the gifts from the birthday fund, and the food and clothes we paid for with our regular weekly spending money. We blew our grocery budget and had to borrow from the 2nd half of March, but hopefully some of the staples that we now won't have to buy for a while (olive oil, veggie burgers, canned tomatoes, razors) will help us reduce our shopping bills for the next few months and make it even out overall.

Costco was really annoying. I'd forgotten to bring my card, and it took forever to find my info in the system. Then, they wouldn't take Visa (???) and I don't carry my American Express card (in fact, I never use that account and have been meaning to close it, but I guess now I'll keep it), so NT had to get money out of their ATM (fees on both ends, of course). Then they check your receipt when you try to leave, like they think you might be trying to pull something over on them. Still, some of the deals are pretty great. Only time will tell if we saved ourselves money in the long run, though.

We have a busy busy month of March planned, but I hope to blog more than I have in recent months. I've been keeping up on everyone else's but I like posting my own entries more often. Just a matter of carving out that time; I used to always have time at work, but I need to get used to blogging from home since I'm usually too busy at work.

BOGO Chipotle burrito coupon

February 24th, 2011 at 07:42 pm

There's a Facebook offer where you just have to watch a trailer for a new TV show and you'll be able to print out a buy one/get one free Chipotle coupon.

Not sure how to share it with you, but I searched for Chipotle on Facebook and saw they had posted this link on their fan page, so you could try that:

FYI: The coupon is good through March 3. So if you're on the February bring-your-lunch challenge, that gives you a couple days in March to take advantage without breaking your February commitment! Smile

Progress on goals

February 23rd, 2011 at 09:13 pm

Well, I still haven't worked out or really tried to eat healthy this year (although I haven't been super-unhealthy either). Combination of laziness, lack of focus and a series of mild but unpleasant colds. I'm currently on the second week of a persistent cough, and if talking spurs coughing, I can't imagine what cardio exercise would do.

As a result I haven't bothered to weigh in; I know I should be doing it anyway, to keep weight loss top of mind, but I just haven't felt like it.

However, I've made some progress on other goals.

Charitable donations: AS donated $20 to a nonprofit, bringing our total to $145
AS's net worth: AS's negative net worth decreased by $802 since last time I checked, bringing her to negative $5608.
Read a book/creative project: I've started a book and hope to finish it by the end of February. It's interesting; I just never seem to find time!
Make money with side hustles: Finally some progress on this! NT's job, out of the blue, asked me to do a light proofread of a book they're reprinting. I'm charging $40 per hour and it's about 500 pages, so even going super-fast I'm going to make probably at least $800. This will go to the tax bill or lawyer fund.

February 2011 net worth update

February 22nd, 2011 at 07:02 pm

NT's UK pensions:
#1: 12,663 pounds ($25,326)
#2: 16,005 pounds ($32,010)
#3: 3,709 pounds ($7,418)
NT's 401(k): $12,233
NT's Roth IRA: $3,350
AS's 401(k): $5,421
AS's trad. IRA: $1,682
AS's Roth IRA: $3,657
CJ's 401(k): $41,044
CJ's Roth IRA: $3,350
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $160,000
Baby/emergency fund (shared asset): $9,342
Total Assets: $564,833

Total Debt: $344,939

Current Estimated Net Worth: $219,894

January 2011 estimate: $215,270

Change in net worth: +$4,624

Summary: We lost some ground in our EF savings, but I was able to access NT's 401(k) finally after two months of no access (solution: his company had switched providers completely!), and we had gains in all our retirement accounts, so we still posted a respectable gain in net worth this month.

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

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.

Progress and some loss of progress

February 16th, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Made some progress on the following goals:

Save to Roths - $300 more for a YTD total of $600

Give to charities - I sent $15 to one and $15 to another, and NT gave $50 to another, so that's $80 more for a YTD total of $125

Organize at least one get-together per month - we have a dinner party for four friends planned for this coming weekend. Vegan soul food -- I'm excited to start cooking!

Made money with "side hustles" -- well sort of; I got a $50 reward card from a savings program with my bank for hitting a savings goal.

Write one shared blog post per month - done!

I also recorded the biweekly savings transfer to the EF plus some interest: $25.91 total. On the downside, NT's flat has required some repairs that ate up the usual income. So not only do we not have UK money to add to EF savings, we had to pull money OUT of EF savings to cover the mortgage payments next month. So we lost $540 of EF progress. Offset by the small automatic savings and interest, that's a negative of $514.09, taking us back to $830.40. Now we suddenly seem far away from our $7000 goal! Since we won't make progress in UK funds for March, that means we'll need to save an average of $685 per month April to December to hit our goal. Hmmmm...

There's been lots of money in and money out news lately. I think we're all going to owe on taxes. I've only calculated AS's federal and we already owe over $1600. I have no idea how much her state plus my and NT's federal and state are going to add to that. Sigh, the lawyer fund is going to take a beating.

On the plus side, my bonus actually cleared $1100 after withholding versus the $600 I thought it would! And I've got a possible freelance job for NT's company that might pay pretty well. NT continues to rake in OT pay and AS continues to get freelance jobs. So I still have high hopes of fully funding the lawyer money this year even with the tax hit.

Paying the mortgage w/ credit card?

February 16th, 2011 at 03:35 pm

I'm thinking about setting up some of my bigger bills to be paid via credit card, namely my mortgage. I figure I could be getting rewards money for purchases I have to make anyway. Right now we charge our groceries and some other things to the credit card and pay it off every couple of weeks, so it seems like the same philosophy.

But I'm nervous to try it for some reason. Does anyone else do this? Any advice or cautionary tales?

Share Your Thoughts: Parenting success stories

February 14th, 2011 at 04:34 pm

Today we dropped AA off at her new daycare for the first time; she's 11 months so of course she was bawling at being left with strangers. I got a really good feeling from the place, the people running it and the kids, so even though AA freaked out, I felt good about leaving her there. But at the same time I feel tense, insecure and distracted; and as a result, I'm inwardly overreacting to other little things that are coming up at work. So now my shoulders ache, I feel kind of like crying, and I can't really focus on anything very well.

So, perfect time to ask my question of the month, since it has to do with parenting!

We've been blessed with a really easy baby, but she's starting to show signs of willfulness; little things such as frustrated mini-tantrums if something is taken away from her that she wants or if someone is changing her or dressing her (she hates that now). We've started discussing methods of discipline to make sure we're on the same page when it becomes necessary, but we don't really know what to expect until it happens.

I don't really have any yet, but I'd love it if you could share parenting and/or childcare success stories you've either experienced or witnessed. Tell about a time you (or someone you know, or your own parents) dealt well with a challenge. It could be weaning off of a bottle or pacifier; potty training; curbing naughty behavior; calming fear or anxiety in a child; motivating an unwilling student; dealing with bullying -- anything where you felt like a clever or commonsense approach brought a positive resolution to a challenging situation.

Sometimes the squeaky wheel DOES get a bit of grease!

February 10th, 2011 at 01:46 am

Some surprising twists in the miserable saga of my job, and my attempts to get respect/money/power there.

I wasn't going to tell anyone about my concerns over the new creative director, nor about the ridiculing of my appearance that very bad day a week or two ago. But my direct supervisor, a nice though seemingly ineffectual in the getting-me-stuff department kind of guy, set a meeting last Friday to get up to date on things, and I let it all hang out. I nearly cried a couple times but kept it to a voice quaver. I didn't tell him I was looking for a job, but when he said (again) that he just didn't think there was any money for raises, I mentioned that my ex-supervisor had told me that when she gave her notice (last year when the financials were MUCH worse at my job) the first thing they said was "Would more money change your mind?" I told my current supe that I didn't want to play hardball, but that it frustrated me because I felt that if I threatened to quit they would come up with more money to keep me, whereas if I played nice there were no raises to be had.

I also told him my concerns about our department being headed up by a man who seemingly either disliked me specifically or thought proofreading was a load of bollocks. I also told him about the insults I'd endured recently.

My supe was nice but basically told me A) He didn't think he could get me a raise or promotion, B) He didn't think the creative director meant anything by it and that he thought he did respect me and my work, and C) Wait three months, because a big shake-up on one of our major projects would probably result either in less stressful work for me OR even more responsibility with a strong case to be made for a promotion at that time.

I kind of said uh-huh, OK, and I must not have been very convincing, because my supe set up a lunch meeting for today. Free lunch is always nice though it wasn't going to change my mind or anything. Inwardly I thought, OK, if I'm still stuck here in three months at least there's a chance something will change, but I'm going to keep looking for another job.

I was home sick on Monday. Then yesterday, the mean creative director sticks his head around the side of my cubicle and says it's music to his ears hearing me type on my computer. I look at him like "what's the gag?" and he goes on to say he's glad to have me back in the office and he's glad I'm feeling better. He's even smiling! So that was weird, but I thought hey, at least my supe must have let him in a bit on how he was coming across to me. That's the first real sign of anything but irritation or utter indifference I've ever gotten from him, and even if it was put on, it was nice to hear. (Actually it was a bit humorous too, since it was so out of left field.)

So today was the lunch meeting with my supe. As soon as we sat down he hit me with some amazing news:

He and the creative director basically wrangled me a $1000 bonus that's going to show up in my next paycheck!

He said he spoke with creative director guy and basically told him I'd been doing a ton of extra work and was feeling really underappreciated and undervalued, so they got me a bonus since they couldn't get me a raise!

I did some quick math, and this bonus plus the $250 I got last month for being part of a team that did some award-winning work means that I basically got a 2.5% raise this year!

I know it's a one-time deal and not a real raise, but I'm counting it as progress on my annual goal. It took a lot of resolve to talk to my supe, because I'm shy, and awkward, and tend to stay away from confrontation these days. And getting some respect from my creative director wasn't on my list of goals, but it sure is good! Whether it's phony or real, either way, he is having to put some effort into his relations with me (as he should), so I feel a lot better. And I don't have to worry that he'll come out with any more personal remarks, because I bet you anything my supe found a way to bring that up!

Whatever I clear from the bonus (I'm estimating $600) is going straight to the lawyer fund. We're on track to have that completely built up to where we want it by July, if not sooner!

I wanted to let you all know about this right away, because you were so supportive on my earlier posts and helped me feel like I wasn't just overreacting. And now there has been some vindication! Big Grin

Progress on goals (debt, charity and savings)

February 1st, 2011 at 04:34 pm

All four mortgage payments hit today:
US $409 paid
UK1 $258 paid
UK2 $56 paid
UK3 $57 paid

All told, $780 down, $220 to go on the debt repayment goal. Hopefully we'll pay about $180 more via regular student loan payments over the course of the month, which means I have to come up with about $40 more out of the budget to meet the goal. I won't worry about that until a bit later in the month when I can see how various line items are doing.

The other bit of progress is that NT bought lunch and coffee for a homeless man outside the grocery store last weekend. So that's $10 more to the charitable goal.

EDIT: I forgot we also added $25 to the EF, so that's progress on a 2011 goal as well. We've saved $1344.49 of the $7000 I want to save.

It looks to be a busy day today at work. But as part of my "do the minimum" resolution, I'm not going to let that stress me out! I'll just do what I can at an unhurried pace and they'll have to deal with it if I don't get everything done. I have to say, it's been hard taking my effort down a notch, but it's getting easier! LOL. Anytime I feel like working harder, I just think about the new creative director laughing at me and ridiculing my clothing, and I'm cured of THAT impulse.