Home > Archive: May, 2011

Archive for May, 2011

What a long strange month it's been

May 31st, 2011 at 05:02 pm

Good grief, I somehow hit a random set of keys that just completely shut down the window as I was trying to type a post. It was already turning out to be a scattered entry, and now it probably will be even more so. I'm writing this in between jobs at work as well, making it hard to stay coherent.

As predicted, my office was closed Friday as well as Monday. However, I had to work from home both days, so I didn't even get a real three-day weekend let alone a four-day. But I'm leaving early Thursday and have Friday off for our trip to New York, so at least it will still be a short week for me.

I'm still waiting to see if AS's last student loan payment will hit by the end of the day. If it does we'll reach our goal, but we'll remain $51 short if it doesn't. Ah well. It won't be the only goal I don't hit this month. I never wrote a "share your thoughts" blog post and I didn't read any books or do anything creative this month. I weighed in this Sunday and have basically plateaued these past two weeks.

Our daycare lady passed away yesterday. Her assistant is watching AA at our home today and Thursday. Wednesday the daycare center is open for one day and then closed again. Friday we're trying to figure something out for our friends who are taking AA for the weekend; they may need some babysitting help that day after all, and the assistant can't do that day because the funeral is taking place. We found out she's known Jo for over 40 years, so she's understandably pretty devastated about it. She's trying to say she won't take any money, so NT is going to try and convince her tonight when he comes home.

There's also some weirdness where we thought the assistant told us the daycare is closing for good and that she wouldn't have a job, but Jo's daughter left me a message that said it's open for business full-time beginning next Monday. We're not sure if they're firing the assistant but telling her a lie about why, or if the assistant (who is mildly learning-disabled) just misheard, or communicated it to us in such a way that we misunderstood her, and she really is going to continue to work for them. Who can say.

I am glad we have one more day there so we can try to get receipts, extra diapers and a refund for the rest of the 4 weeks that we won't be doing with them. I don't get a great feeling from Jo's daughter and I'm glad we went ahead with finding a new place.

AA's fever finally went away last week, and a rash broke out over most of her body at the same time. NT was able to find info online about a virus called roseola that matched all the symptoms. By the time the rash comes, the virus is winding down. Her rash was almost completely gone by this morning, so she's much better. She has been really cranky lately, though, and picky about food, and we can't tell if it's the illness or if she's moving into a new, more difficult, stage. Only time will tell on that one!

My 15-year college reunion is this weekend. We're leaving Thursday evening and coming back late Sunday night. We went over to our friends' house with AA last night, and even though she was tired and cranky, and freaked out by their overly enthusiastic dog, by the end of the night she'd been held by both our friends and had started trying to say the dog's name and chasing after it. It made us all feel even better about her staying with our friends, seeing how she already recognized them and was becoming comfortable in their home.

AA starts the new daycare the Monday after we get back. It's going to be a big adjustment, but maybe after being away from us for a few days and seeing how nothing bad happened, she will be less nervous about going to a new place. I really hope this place works out; it seems like the perfect situation.

I'm sure I have more to say, but I'd best get back to work; it's starting to pile up.

Progress on debt goal and great daycare news

May 27th, 2011 at 11:47 pm

One of AS's student loans hit, and $122 went to principal. That makes it $949 down, $51 to go on the May debt goal. We have one more debt payment to hit ... well, Monday is a holiday, so hopefully it will hit Tuesday so I can count it in May. Well, too late to do anything but hope now! Smile

The daycare situation seems to have completely cleared up! I got confirmation from the new daycare lady that we're good to go for Monday, June 6! I adjusted the budget and I can't tell if it's a calculating error, but it seems I've got over $150 more per month, even though it's only $75 cheaper. Maybe my daycare escrow was calculated too high before. Or maybe I saved too much in the beginning of the year when I started trying to calculate it. (Shrug.) I'll keep my new calculations and I can always adjust later if it looks like I won't have enough money. But as is, it seems I can up my extra debt payments to $1000 starting in July. Hooray!

Daycare & other updates

May 27th, 2011 at 01:15 am

Man am I exhausted! I was supposed to go on my business trip last night, but the flight got canceled (after we'd already boarded) and there was no other option to get from Minneapolis to Memphis before noon (meeting started at 9:30 am). So I ended up going home and today had an all-day conference call with the clients instead.

AA has had a fever for about two days now. It spiked to 105 recently and we called a nurse helpline. They gave us some advice to treat it and since there are no other scary symptoms along with it, we don't have to bring her in unless it lasts another 24 hours. She seems basically OK except she gets kind of lethargic periodically, but in between she's walking around playing and babbling as usual.

Last night we heard that our daycare lady probably has less than 2 days to live. We booked the assistant to come over and watch AA next Tuesday through Thursday. She didn't know how much to charge, so we told her to think about it. If she still has no idea we're going to propose $60 per day, but we would pay up to $100 per day if she wanted.

We also heard back from our old daycare lady who's retired, and she said she would love to watch AA for a few weeks if we were having trouble finding someone. She's so sweet! But I don't think we'll need her, because...

Today we toured one of the two centers we found on Craiglist. It's an in-home center but most of the home is decked out like a commercial center. And it's FABulous. The lady and her husband who run it seem super, super nice. It's about a 10-15 minute walk from home, and we could use the bus on bad-weather days (though we'd have to take 2 buses to have no walking at all). And it's only $575 per month, with two meals and two snacks provided! And even though they only take 16 months and up, they're willing to take AA (she'll be 15 months next week). There was a bit of uncertainty I'd be able to get my flex money reimbursed because she's "legally unlicensed" by the county (will have to look that up, but I'm not too worried), but I called my flex provider and they said it wasn't a problem. It's like a real daycare center, but intimate and homey. At this point we're looking at each other thinking, There's got to be something not perfect about this place. But we haven't figured it out! We saw the kids, and they all seemed energetic, good-tempered and confident.

I emailed her right after I talked to the flex spending people, so now I'm just checking my email every 5 minutes to see if she's gotten back to me! But I don't think there will be a problem; she even said she had another opening if we knew anyone who was looking.

Omigod, really hoping this isn't too good to be true!!!

The childcare plan for the next couple weeks

May 25th, 2011 at 03:06 am

Bear with me; my blog is going to be all daycare, all the time until we sort this out. :/

We've got this week sorted out, a couple good options for next week and two promising leads on long-term solutions.

This week:

Tomorrow, AS will stay home with AA in the morning, and NT will take over at noon. (I'm off to the airport at 2pm so I'm not much help.)

Thursday, AS is working from home all day.

Friday, I'm either getting an extra holiday day or working from home. Well, I predict we'll get the day off as an office but that I'll have to work a couple hours from home to catch up.

Next week:

Monday is a holiday, so we all have the day off.

Tuesday through Thursday, if the daycare hasn't reopened, we're hoping to hire a relative of NT's co-worker or else the assistant from our daycare to come sit with AA here at home. I'm guessing it will be about $80 per day or $240 for three days, $90 more than we currently pay for a full week. (Gulp!) But we need to do something; it's just not fair to AA to work from home and only half pay attention to her while she plays by herself for another full week. We all have sick days available, but we're all much too busy to actually take any right now!

Thursday evening we leave for my college reunion, so Friday she'll stay with our friends. I was going to have them drop her off at daycare before this all hit, but thank goodness one of our friends is a freelancer and can take her for the full day.


I can probably take a sick day or two the next week, which would make a total difference keeping AA home, because I could keep her company and take her out and stuff. If daycare reopens (which would mean the worst has happened, so I kind of don't want it to open for a while) we're fine using their unlicensed service for a bit; we'll easily be able to access the rest of our flex money as long as our long-term provider is licensed.


We found two places on Craigslist; we have a meeting with one for Tuesday evening, as I mentioned, and I'm in the process of setting up a meeting with the other one, hopefully for sometime this week. Locationwise they're good (10-25 min. by bus) and pricewise they're great (one is $150 per week, our current rate, and the other "starts at" closer to $130 per week). I didn't see either person on the state database of licensed providers, but I'm not sure that list is comprehensive. We'll have to check that out.

I'm going to stay glued to Craigslist to see if any other slots open up. I think you have to jump on these things when you see them; the one lady posted less than a week ago and is all booked with interviews from now till next Thursday. The other one JUST posted yesterday, so I'm hoping to get us in kind of early and maybe get a slot if they seem nice.

One bright spot about all of this is that it's kept me from worrying about this business trip. (Being a naturally introverted person, stuff like this usually makes me nervous.) Other than checking in and picking out some clothes to bring, I haven't even really thought about it. I figure I can pack tomorrow and go in a bit late if necessary; no one is expecting me anyway because of the daycare situation.

Daycare closed until further notice

May 24th, 2011 at 03:01 pm

By the time NT went to pick up AA from daycare yesterday, Jo's family had reassessed the situation. They think she may have days vs. weeks to live, and having the kids around was too disruptive. So they've closed the daycare down. They still plan to reopen (unlicensed) after she passes.

In the meantime we've got to take turns staying home with AA while we figure out what to do next. There are lots of university students on Craigslist looking for summer nanny positions, so that's a possibility, though it would get expensive (currently our daycare rate equals $3.75 per hour, which you couldn't pay a person to babysit at night, let alone nanny all day). The cheapest I saw online was $8/hour for a high school junior. The assistant at the now-closed daycare might be an option for in-home care, since she's out of a job temporarily; not sure what she would charge though.

We've got an interview next Tuesday with a home-based provider that charges the same as our current one, but she's got so many interviews before us, she'll probably already have the slot filled before we even get to interview her. We've left messages or are going to leave messages with some more that we found in the state government database.

The center near my work ($1200/month) doesn't have a baby opening until April! Basically people have booked slots who are just barely pregnant, I guess.

It's a crazy week because I have that trip out of town from Wednesday afternoon until Thursday night; AS and NT are going to have to juggle that day and a half with their jobs or else we'll have to find a babysitter. But Friday will probably be an extra day off for me courtesy of our CEO, so that's handy. And Monday is a holiday for all three of us. That buys us a bit of time.

This is a time I'm glad we have money in the bank and so many optional budget items (such as vacation and spending money) that we can cut out temporarily or even permanently. We prepaid at the daycare and are now owed $300 back, but we can wait to ask for it because we're not treading water like we would have been a few years ago.

Very sad news; small goals progress but not much

May 23rd, 2011 at 05:49 pm

Our daycare lady is dying. Frown I found out today that she has cancer, and that it's gotten to a point where she's probably got a couple weeks. She wanted to be home, so she's out of the hospital. Please wish Grandma Jo a peaceful and love-filled rest of her life. She has lots of very supportive family, which I'm so glad of. We didn't get to know her very well yet and now we never will, but it's very very sad.

But I've got to suck it up and think about our options. Her daughter is keeping the daycare going for a while at least, but she's not licensed and I don't think I can get my flex money to reimburse unlicensed daycare. Plus, it doesn't seem like a very stable situation; how long is the daughter really going to keep it up? So I emailed a nearby center and we're going to look at the list of in-home providers we started just a few months ago. Our barber knows someone close by as well, so we're going to ask him for more information.

On to May goals. I've fallen down on nearly everything in the past week. I didn't weigh in last night, for one thing. We had a party on Saturday and paid for it with grocery money, so our budget's a bit out of whack, though still salvageable if we're careful over the next few weeks. I've looked at job listings but haven't applied for anything since I got the news about the one place I'd interviewed with. My "extreme couponing" for charity has fallen off, though I've got a bag full of past coupon circulars.

I did make money with a "side hustle"; namely, putting my stuff into and helping out with a friend's garage sale. After paying my share for ads and the food that we ordered, I made $40. But the main goal was to get rid of stuff and to hang out with my garage-sale gang, so it was a success. I'm putting the $40 toward the hotel room we got for my sister and her kids for their upcoming visit.

And our regular biweekly savings deposit added $25 to the EF plus 45 cents interest, bringing our 2011 progress to $1967.16 and our total EF to $10,479.11.

It's been a weekend of bad news in my state. Tornadoes hit Minneapolis and really wrecked a somewhat poor, struggling neighborhood north of us. The state House voted to send a constitutional amendment to the ballot in 2012 to outlaw same-sex marriage (which, by the way, is already not legal in MN; they just want to make it extra hard to ever make it legal by putting it in the state constitution). And former Gov. Pawlenty announced his candidacy for president. He took our progressive state with its solid infrastructure and left us much weakened in the name of tax cuts for the wealthy. He earned the nickname "Governor No" for his refusal to compromise or work with other elected officials in any way. Public programs have been slashed and property taxes have skyrocketed. Nothing has improved that I can see. I sure hope he doesn't get a chance to wreak similar havoc on the entire country.

Didn't get the job

May 19th, 2011 at 06:46 pm

I left my phone at home yesterday, and it wasn't until late last night that NT noticed I had a voicemail on it. I was informed I didn't get the job; I came a close second (or does everyone get told that who doesn't get job offers?) and blah blah blah.

I felt sad and disappointed -- mainly it's a blow to the ego when these things happen. What was it about me that didn't stand out? I wasn't a 100% perfect fit experiencewise, so I think that's probably what it came down to. I may never know though.

The guy said I could contact him, so I called him this morning, figuring I should stay courteous to someone who has influence in this incestuous job market. He's gone until the 26th, so I just left a friendly message thanking him for the chance to apply and asking him to keep me in mind for future opportunities.

Now that the ego is mending and disappointment seeping away, I have to say there are lots of upsides. Namely, though I don't feel my job is compensating me fairly, it is paying me about $9000 more than this other job would. Now I can think about booking that train trip in August, which I figured we would have to skip if I got this job. I can also breathe easier about other "austerity measures" we might have had to take.

Other money benefits of not taking a pay cut:
-I don't have to freak out that we may need to change daycare providers again if our current lady closes up shop. We're easily able to absorb a higher daycare cost at our current salaries.
-NT can feel better about looking for jobs even if they mean a slight pay cut for him, and we can still think creatively about job/school balance options for him in the future.

Plus, my job is probably going to get noticeably better in June, when we can finally replace my proofreader who's not very good with one who is extremely capable (she worked here before, so I know it for a fact). I can shove off some of the responsibility I was unwilling to turn over to my current proofer, and hopefully get to work on more creative stuff, and at a higher level on some other stuff. At least it should break up the monotony a bit.

And, thinking about taking this other job, I was already starting to miss my vacation time, which I've built up to over 3 weeks off per year. This "dream job" wouldn't include any official PTO for the first year, and God knows how much the second year.

So in a way, I've come to appreciate certain aspects of my current job. Doesn't mean I'm not going to keep looking, but it's nice to feel slightly less bitter and cheated!

May 2011 net worth update

May 19th, 2011 at 03:12 pm

NT's UK pensions:
#1: 13,753 pounds ($27,506)
#2: 16,005 pounds ($32,010)
#3: 3,709 pounds ($7,418)
NT's 401(k): $13,191
NT's Roth IRA: $3,517
AS's 401(k): $5,782
AS's trad. IRA: $1,682
AS's Roth IRA: $4,282
CJ's 401(k): $41,923
CJ's Roth IRA: $3,517
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $160,000
Baby/emergency fund (shared asset): $10,454
Total Assets: $571,282

Total Debt: $341,625

Current Estimated Net Worth: $229,657

April 2011 estimate: $224,905

Change in net worth: +$4,752

Summary: Weird, I just noticed that all of AS's assets end in -82! I mean, I round off to the nearest dollar, but still... Everything went up this month, so even though we didn't pay off much debt, we had a nice upturn in net worth! Chugging along to that nice quarter-million milestone soon, I hope.

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.

Small debt payment, weight gain, etc.

May 16th, 2011 at 10:17 pm

I sent another $25 off to NT's student loan to make it more likely we'll hit our May goal. $11 went to principal, which should be enough to tip us over the top once AS's student loans hit at the end of the month. $827 down, $173 to go on the May goal.

Last night at my weigh-in, I was back up to 151. No surprise, though it was disappointing to see my 140s disappear again so quickly. I didn't get to walk home every day, and I didn't make up for it with other workouts. There were also several social events where I ended up eating a lot and/or drinking beer, which I find to be really fattening compared with wine. We also had some beer around the house, which we hardly ever do, and I found myself drinking it occasionally. Oh well, this seemed an unusual week, so hopefully I'll be back under 150 in no time.

Our Roth IRA payments hit, so $300 more to that goal ($1500 total so far this year). One of my regular $15 donations also hit, so that's $605 total to that goal.

No word on the job yet; I sent my writing test in, and will definitely count it toward my creative goal (though if I also do other creative things this month, so much the better). If I get offered the job, it will probably be either this week or not for a few more weeks. The decider said he has some hectic weeks coming up, so if he doesn't make up his mind soon, it won't be for awhile.

I still haven't done a grocery tracking thing for this week because we had a few stray items we needed to pick up here and there. At present, it looks like we'll only go over my intended budget by a couple of bucks. And that's only because of two nights where we're having friends over and wanted to treat them to something special. So feeling pretty good about that. I may or may not post a big entry about the groceries this week; I find if I don't do it Saturday or Sunday, I become sort of "meh" about it. But I did enter all our purchases so far into the spreadsheet I'm keeping.

I found out my sister plus a niece and a nephew are coming to visit in June! We hardly ever get visitors from out of town, so I'm excited for AA to get to hang out with some extended family. Our place is really small and we think we'll want some down time at night away from my high-energy family, so I told them we'd pay for a hotel. I found a pretty good deal (for being in downtown Minneapolis) of about $320 for three nights. We'll pay for it with NT overtime and possibly AS extra freelance money.

True to form for Minnesota summers, our weekends are filling up quickly. So far for the next month and a half, only a couple weekends are completely free of events.
May 21-22: We're having a party Saturday night
May 28-29: NT and I are going to an all-day music festival one of the days
June 4-5: All three of us adults are going to my college reunion in New York, and leaving AA for the first time
June 11-12: FREE (so far, I think)
June 18-19: My family's visit
June 25-26: Twin Cities GLBT Pride parade & festival
July 2-3: Free so far, but it's the 4th of July weekend, so I'm sure there'll be something

AS got another job offer from the freelance place. We'd asked her not to take any more until after our June trip, so she asked if I'd like to do it in her name. I wasn't sure so she's just telling them no. But it did make me think that this place is kind of a cash cow with all their editing assignments; maybe if I get offered the low-paying dream job I interviewed for, I can get in good with them as well as AS and we can pull in almost enough money to make up for my salary cut!

I'm probably going on my first business trip (for this current employer) next week. Out of the blue I got a call. I have mixed emotions; it'll be nice to break the monotony of the job and get a trip to Memphis. On the other hand, I'll probably have to stay overnight without my spouses and baby for the first time since AA was born. And I've heard that you don't really get to see the fun bustling parts of Memphis; just a hotel and the client's offices. It also means the least-favorite (but most job-security-sustaining) part of my job, which I thought might be going away, will probably be here to stay. Very mixed emotions about that; this is the part of the job that I assumed would get me a raise, since I took it over after my boss left, but it hasn't gotten me a damn thing except a permanent headache. But will this trip somehow elevate me in my company's eyes and maybe get me a raise for the first time in four years? Doubtful. I guess there's a small chance.

We found out (AS finally just asked) that AA's daycare lady is in the hospital. They still didn't say what she had--very closemouthed family. We brought her flowers for them to take to the hospital. No idea what this will mean for us in the future -- whether she'll need to retire (or worse, whether she'll pass away), and whether her family will continue the business with or without her.

We took AA to a kids dance party at a grungy old bar near us -- so fun! We met up with an acquaintance and she mentioned she's gotten a couple of potty chairs, just to have around and maybe have her kid (a couple months older than AA) sit on it while the adults go. I can't believe it's almost time to start thinking about that! But NT and I looked around Target at lunch and saw a neat, cheap option that converts from a freestanding potty chair to a converter seat + stepstool, so we could really have either -- or switch from one to another as she gets a little older. We'll probably pick that up soon, I guess. Wow! I hope AA learns quickly, for her sake -- she hates having her diaper changed and lets us know!

I should start getting ready to go soon -- I've been pecking away at this entry between projects for about an hour now. And you better believe I'm going to Ctrl+C before I hit Save and Publish!

Small amount of debt progress; interview; daycare; grocery tracking

May 12th, 2011 at 04:54 am

I sent a bit of extra money to NT's student loan. $27 went to principal. I "borrowed" the payment from June debt money since we have so much float in the bank account. I tried to estimate how much interest there would be so I'd pay off the desired amount of principal. But I underestimated and didn't pay as much principal as I wanted to. So I sent another $25 off to the loan; we'll see if that gets me to a comfortable place to hit my May goal.

Anyway, that makes $816 down, $184 to go on the May debt goal.


I had my second interview yesterday. Considering how intense it was (met with 5 people one-on-one over 2 hours) I felt pretty good after I got out. A few flubs here and there, but overall I think I articulated some good reasons I'd be a solid fit for the job. The middle interview was with my friend who recommended me, so that was really nice and alleviated a great deal of stress. Now I have a writing test to turn in by Friday morning. I glanced over it tonight and will let it percolate, then try and finish it tomorrow night after work.

It seems like SUCH an interesting job. I still don't know what the whole job offer package would be, so I don't know what I'd do if I got the job. I have been thinking of ways to reduce our budget or bring in extra money if I get the job offer at a huge salary cut. I even wonder if my current place would let me freelance for them if I leave. They do seem to stay on friendly terms with former employees.

Anyway, I'm still thinking too many steps ahead; I've got to ace this writing test first.


I keep meaning to write about this, but it's a weird situation so I don't really know what to say. Our daycare lady has been out sick for about three weeks. She has a big family and they've all been pitching in, but they're a cagy lot, and haven't said anything about what she's got, how long she'll be gone, etc. AA still seems happy and they all seem like good caregivers, so I'm not worried about that. I've just reached this awkward place where it's almost too late to ask more probingly how the main daycare lady is, you know?

Part of me is worried about her; I don't know her very well yet, but I want her to be OK. And a selfish part of me is wondering if we'll have to start looking for a new provider again soon. This place isn't ideal for several reasons, but AA just finally adjusted and stopped crying when we leave her, so I hate to think of her having to readjust so soon. (Plus, to be crass, there aren't many cheap options as close to downtown as we are.)

So, fingers crossed that it's just a lingering but nonserious illness...


On a completely different subject, I did track our grocery budget last weekend, and I wrote up a big entry detailing the cost of each meal, but I forgot to copy it before I hit Save and Publish, so I lost it. I'm interested but not THAT dedicated, so I wasn't about to go through the whole rigamarole again. But, at least I still have the raw data in my grocery spreadsheet, so I pasted that below. We didn't do great last weekend; I was hoping we'd stay between $105 and $120, but we hit $144.19, and that wasn't counting a diaper refill we need to pay for. But we got a ton of staples that will last us weeks, even months in some cases, so it sounds worse than it was. I think. We'll see if we can keep it under control for the next three weeks; we've still got a chance to catch up if we do.

Diced tomatoes $0.59
Diced chilies $0.59
3 zucchini $1.05
3 lg. potatoes $1.79
Red bell pepper $1.41
2 avocados $3.00
Ginger root $0.84
Romaine lettuce $1.69
Cilantro $0.50
3 lbs. onions $2.49
Grape tomatoes $2.50
Tater tots $1.75
Hashbrowns $2.19
5 bananas $1.02
2 mangoes $1.00
2 pts blueberries $3.98
Generic "cheerios" $1.99
2 boxes organic cereal (C) $5.00
Panko breadcrumbs 2.19
Bread (C) $2.59
Rice $6.39
Fruit turnover $2.69
Fruit danish $2.99
Brown rice $1.21
Banana cake $3.99
Veg chicken patties (C) $3.65
Veg chicken nuggets (C) $3.65
3 salmon filets $3.00
Veg turkey slices (BOGO w/ sausage) $0.00
Veg Italian sausage $3.89
String cheese $3.56
Cheddar $2.08
Vegan sour cream $2.89
Vegan butter $4.19
Vegan shortening $4.19
Milk $2.29
Vegan cheddar $5.69
TVP $1.24
3 pkgs tofu $3.97
12 eggs $3.29
BBQ sauce $2.50
2 jars salsa $2.00
Vegetable broth powder $2.68
Maple syrup $2.60
2 bags potato chips $5.00
4 frozen juices (C) $5.54
Coffee $9.17
Chocolate bar $2.29

Total food spending: $134.79

Toilet paper $1.79
Paper towels $2.29
Bar soap to make laundry detergent $5.98
Garbage bags $5.09
Tax $0.40
Tax minus bags credit $0.80
Co-op quarterly discount -$3.75
Bags credit (cashier error; should have been $0.10) -$3.20

Total nonfood/cat spending: $9.40

Thoughts on longevity to accompany some health progress

May 9th, 2011 at 07:19 pm

Last night I weighed in at 149, my first time under 150 since I got pregnant! Just 10 lbs. to go on my 2011 goal. Let's hope I can keep it up. I've been walking home from work or daycare most days, so getting about 30 minutes of exercise. I know I should be doing weight-training, especially on my upper body, but at least I'm doing something.

The other day I read an article about a very old man (113?) who had recently passed away. The article detailed his very long career and other things about his lifestyle and philosophy.

While he sounded economically comfortable, he wasn't super-wealthy as far as I could tell. It occurred to me that I don't remember reading any bios of extremely aged people that mentioned them being rich.

I've heard that economic factors play into overall longevity (and longer active/healthy years), which makes sense when you think about access to good food, education about health, and medical care. But I wondered how much effect wealth had on superlongevity.

Not much, it seems. Most of the articles I read focused on the New England Centenarian Study, but I also read one that surveyed Chinese superlongevity. Socieconomic status and education varied wildly and showed no easily explained pattern. In the Chinese study, about 50% reported having had a serious childhood illness or injury, and about 50% reported having gone hungry as a child. Nor did whether they lived alone, with family or in assisted living, according to a study of Georgia centenarians (though that one reported a vast majority were female and white). The dominant common characteristics, according to the New England study, were:
- Lack of obesity, especially in the men.
- No substantial smoking history.
- Ability to handle stress better than the majority of people.
- 15% had no significant changes in their thinking abilities.
- For women, a history of bearing children after the age of 35 years and even 40 years. (They think it's not the act of bearing a child in one’s 40s that promotes long life, but it may be an indicator that the woman’s reproductive system is aging slowly and that the rest of her body is as well.)
- First-degree relatives and/or grandparents who also achieve very old age, and many have exceptionally old siblings.
- Their offspring score low in neuroticism and high in extraversion.
- Genetics play a very strong role.

Very interesting that one thing money can't buy is a super-long life. It's like those studies that indicate there's a "sweet spot" of wealth, and that after a certain point the correlation between money and happiness ends. (Although, I bet if scientists are able to isolate the superlongevity gene and apply it to other people somehow, that would be a very expensive procedure and the superwealthy, could well become the super-aged. But probably still not happy, LOL.)

Even overall longevity needn't be tied to economics necessarily. Areas of the country or world where the average lifespan is 10-15 years longer share common characteristics that don't have to do with money:
- Family - Family is put ahead of other concerns.
- No Smoking - Centenarians do not typically smoke.
- Plant-based diet - The majority of food consumed is derived from plants.
- Constant moderate physical activity - Moderate physical activity is an inseparable part of life.
- Social engagement - People of all ages are socially active and integrated into their communities.
- Legumes - Legumes are commonly consumed.
(This is from a Wikipedia entry on "blue zones," which is what these places are called.

So, those are my Monday ramblings. Interview is tomorrow, so I think I'm both trying to distract myself from nervousness AND remind myself that I have interesting thoughts from time to time!

Progress on savings and job hunt; hard-earned bonus just for AS

May 6th, 2011 at 08:26 pm

$25 went into EF savings, so that's $1941.71 saved to our EF so far this year (EF total is $10,453.66).

Also, good news on the job front: I got called in for a second interview at the previously mentioned place! They interviewed 5 or 6 people and have narrowed it down to 3. It's going to be time-intensive -- 2 or 3 hours with several different people. This is absolutely not my forte, but I'm trying to look forward to it as a potentially pleasant and interesting experience, so I won't get too nervous and tongue-tied the day of.

Also, at my current job, I had a lunch with three other employees who are also disgruntled, and we all aired our grievances. Pretty much the same stuff even though we have four different roles in the company ... stagnant salaries, ineffective (or actively evil) bosses, little decision-making power or control, not enough respect for our roles. It was good to feel solidarity but depressing to realize the problems are so widely endemic. (Two of the ladies sound like they're in much worse positions than me ... at least I have a sympathetic if ineffectual direct supervisor!)

But, on a slightly bright note, my supe came and asked me about possibly taking on some managing-editor responsibilities as we transition from my current backup proofreader to the one we're going to replace her with. I doubt it comes with any pay or job-title hikes, but it would be nice to feel some control over some projects maybe. I told him I was definitely interested.

There was also a merger, announced today, of our division with another one based in DC that basically does similar things. Too early to tell if this will affect me positively, negatively or at all ... but I hold out some small hope that maybe they'll be passing around some promotions or raises at some point. (Or maybe they'll lay a bunch of us off. So hard to tell from the chipper corporatespeak of our prez.)


Almost forgot the other tidbit of news. AS gets occasional freelance jobs and typically all the income goes into the communal pot to be used for whatever is needed at the moment. A huge part of our lawyer money was funded by her extra projects.

Anyway, her last one was a heavy copy-edit of a book for $900. She way underestimated how much work it would be -- she was basically deprived of sleep or a social life for a week. It coincided with a proof of a very long poetry anthology at her regular job, so she's basically been editing and proofreading from about 9:30 a.m. to anywhere from midnight to 4 a.m. every day for over a week!

She finally got the freelance book done (though she still has to put in a lot of overtime on the poetry book to try and get it out of the way for the tons of other books that are stacking up behind it). I figured she needed a big reward for the huge toll this took on her, so I said she could keep the full $900 to do with as she pleased. We occasionally get extra spending money of a couple hundred bucks each from freelance jobs and bonuses, if I'm feeling good about the progress on our debt and savings and feel we could use a reward, but rarely a big amount all at once like that. So I hope it makes up for the hell she went through. I've advised her to buy a new iPad, which she's always coveted!

Prepaid plan costs update

May 6th, 2011 at 08:14 pm

AS's minutes finally ran out; that girl stretched her minutes like a champ! I bought her another 1000 for $107.78. So here are our costs so far:

NT's mid-April Net10 fillup (300 minutes): $32.87
AS's early-May T-Mobile fillup (1000 minutes): $107.78

FY2011 total: $140.65

We just ended the first month of our prepaid "fiscal year," so that means our average monthly cost so far is ... $140.65! However, AS and I won't need minutes for awhile, and NT will just need to refill in June. So that number will drop over time, and I'm convinced our monthly average this 12-month period is going to be our lowest yet in the long run.

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 ideal goal is to get my average cost to $50 per month, but any average number below $85 is a savings.

Progress on debt and savings

May 3rd, 2011 at 09:26 pm

Our mortgage payments hit today:
US: $413 to principal
UK1: $262
UK2: $56
UK3: $58

So that's $789, $211 to go on the May debt-repayment goal.

The UK flat payment had semiannual management fees taken out of it, so after paying the mortgages I only had 20 pounds ($40) to transfer into savings. Still, progress is progress! That's $1916.71 in EF savings so far this year; total EF is up to $10,428.66.

I set the mostly random goal of $7000 because it seemed reachable just with UK income plus the $50 I put aside each month in the US account. However, the UK flat has been hit with expensive repairs a few times, so we may be a bit off schedule with this one. Well, we'll see how it goes. I'm kind of comfortable with our EF now, and part of me is tempted to start paying down the UK mortgages instead. They're our lowest-interest debt at 1.49% (variable), but on the other hand the UK savings account is earning us a few pence a month.

Bringing the money over to the US to pay down a higher-interest debt doesn't make too much sense to me because we'll get hit with exchange and transfer fees. Maybe if the exchange rate goes crazy again and a pound is worth $2, we'll think about doing that. Right now it's worth about $1.60. Plus, whether I'm putting the money in the UK account or paying down the UK mortgages, it feels like I'm working toward our future, when we'll move to England and need to purchase a bigger place than NT's teeny flat. It'd be nice to have a ton of equity and/or a nice down payment. Down payment probably even better since we may keep renting the place out; who knows?

It seems nearly impossible to think about getting the money into a smart investment vehicle in the UK. The tax complications might more than outweigh any profit we could see.

Any thoughts or opinions on what I should do with that money?

Lots to catch up on! April wrap-up, May goals, & progress already

May 2nd, 2011 at 07:46 pm

April saw a lot of progress on goals! The only one I made no progress on was making money from side hustles.

We did entertain at home once, just had our besties over for snacks and TV. I guess I'll count that as our small-group get-together, though it was effortless! We did have a very social month; it just all happened outside the home.

As for creative projects and books, I felt like I was very creative this month, but it was all mom stuff: helping decorate AA's room, getting her Easter basket and outfits together, taking photos, etc. I guess you could say I read a dozen books since AA's finally getting interested in books; however, they were all board books for toddlers! Still, I'm counting the cumulative effect of decorating and preparing for Easter as a creative project. I will try to do something a bit more sophisticated for May though!

On to May: I want to pay off at least $1000 in debt again this month. I can't wait till next month when I can start aiming a bit higher than that! If we keep paying just $1000 per month, we won't be rid of our debt for over 28 years, so that's obviously not a good plan. But for one more month, it will have to do.

Typically I would have mortgage progress to report already, but I guess since May 1 fell on a Sunday, the banks need an extra day to catch up.

I did have some health progress at my weigh-in last night. I lost 2 lbs. last week, down to 150 lbs. Just 11 more lbs. to reach my goal!

Note to self on pension value

May 2nd, 2011 at 01:50 am

Just a note so I remember to update NT's pension value next time I do net worth.

#1: 12,663 pounds ($25,326)

13,752.50 pounds ($27,505)