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Archive for April, 2012

April results & May goals

April 30th, 2012 at 03:48 pm

AS's final student loan payment didn't hit after all, probably just because of the timing of the weekend right at the end of the month. That's OK, because NT's tuition payment pushed us to $2959, well over the $2000 goal.

Not planning any big extra debt payment this month because of reduced income and wanting to pay to bring my sisters and nieces out this summer. However, AS's student loan should hit twice in May since it didn't make it into April, and when I send in estimated interest payment to NT's loan in deferment, typically some goes to principal. So I'm thinking I'll eke out about $1100 of debt repayment in May. A modest goal. Probably won't be an exciting goal until August, unless one of us gets a bonus or something else unexpected happens before then (unlikely).

My other May goal is to complete the 5-5-5 fitness challenge, and complete at least 5 types of exercise 5 times each this month.

My 5 things I'm going to try to do at least 5 times are:
1. Walk to or from work
2. Exercise to a Gilad program
3. Do free-weight training
4. Ride my bike
5. Walk up the stairs to my condo

I hope to post some progress tomorrow!

More April debt repayment

April 27th, 2012 at 02:24 pm

I'm excited that people are already on board the 5-5-5 fitness challenge! That will give me much more motivation. Smile

A student loan of AS's hit, with $124 going to principal. Also, it appears those unwarranted late fees on one of NT's student loans were applied to principal, taking the balance down by $9. All told, it's $2959 paid toward debt this month. AS's other student loan should hit on Monday and tip us over the $3000 mark!

The 5-5-5 fitness challenge: Are you in?

April 26th, 2012 at 09:00 pm

I wanted to kickstart my exercising in May -- or, even if it doesn't last, at least get more active for that month! To make it seem more fun, I came up with the 5-5-5 challenge.

The rules are simple: Do 5 types of exercises 5 times each in May (the 5th month of the year; get it?).

Or, if you already exercise enough and have other healthy habits you want to try out (meatless meals, meditation, whatever), you could make your 5 different activities anything you want.

My 5 things I'm going to try to do at least 5 times are:
1. Walk to or from work (30 min. walk)
2. Exercise to a Gilad program (got a bunch saved on my DVR)
3. Do free-weight training (both upper and lower body)
4. Ride my bike (any distance or duration of time counts)
5. Walk up the stairs to my condo (which is on the 18th floor)

If you want to join me, list your 5 activities on your blog, and we'll start May 1!

Reached April debt goal!

April 26th, 2012 at 03:21 pm

The other night I went on to the university site because I'd gotten second notice that my password was expiring. I didn't expect NT's summer class tuition to have been billed yet, but there it was. It's not due for ages, of course, but I figured, I've got the money to pay it now, so why not? Plus, since I can subtract it from our "estimated future debt," it would count toward our April debt goal, which I'd given up hope of reaching.

Tuition and fees were $2005, so that takes us to $2826 of debt paid for April, surpassing our $2000 goal!

When I entered that into our debt spreadsheet, I saw that it will now take less than 20 years to pay off our student loan debt at our current rate, and less than 37 months if we pay $1000 extra per month! So if we paid that amount extra, we'd be out of debt (except our mortgages) in May 2015.

The bad news is, with our reduced income due to parental leave, we won't be paying that much extra again until August. Still, if we manage the $1000-extra every month from then on, we could be debt-free except for mortgages by September 2015! And I'm not ruling out future windfalls; even though I don't know of any on the horizon, we've had lots of nice surprises over the past couple years. It would be amazing if we could accelerate our repayment even more and be out of student loan debt by the end of 2014. But I can live with 2015. Smile

We do have money in our travel budget over the next few months that I could put toward debt, but I've decided to try and coax all my sisters and nieces out for a visit this summer by offering to pay their airfare and maybe for their hotels. (They all have more kids and fewer incomes, so I know I'm better off.) I was already going to put out the offer, but didn't care too much whether they accepted. Since my mom's health scare, though, I've gotten very family-minded all of a sudden. So I'm really going to work on them to try and get them out here.

NT said yesterday that he would really like to do a weekend at a rental cabin this year, since we aren't having any proper family trips (no vacation time due to parental leave). So I'm also going to leave money aside for that.

Oh, and thanks for those who asked about my mom. She seems to be doing better; I actually think her color is better than the last time I saw her, so the stent has done wonders for her blood flow. She's still weak and sedentary, but then she always has been. I'm a bit concerned that she doesn't have a diet or physical therapy regimen in place. But she's a very stubborn person deep-down, so I bet she'd resist it anyway.

Right now I'm trying to think how to help my dad out with the house. It's very messy (mom's a hoarder) and though my dad does the basics of laundry, dishes and keeping the floors clear of junk so there are safe walkways, I noticed a lot of grime and some cockroaches. I talked to him about hiring a cleaner and he was interested, but of course they couldn't really do a cleanup of my mom's clutter, because it would be very upsetting to her and not good for her heart. So I want to reach out to a few Virginia cleaning companies to see if there would be someone willing to ignore the hoarding aspect, for the most part, and just do what they could cleaning the surfaces that are visible. The kitchen and bathrooms are my main concerns. But also the living room carpet is a few shades darker than when they bought it!

Anyway, got to think about that some more. My mom is very resistant to change, so it would have to be handled with kid gloves. But I don't think it's realistic for my 82-year-old dad, who still works nearly full-time, to try and do all the housework AND take care of my basically helpless mother.

Expense tracking FAIL

April 26th, 2012 at 03:19 am

Well folks, it's been 6 days since I tracked spending, and my heart's just not into going back and figuring it out. When I agreed to join the challenge, I did not foresee a last-minute trip to Virginia in the middle.

The positive part, anyway, is that during my trip, I spent less than $40. $36 to take AS's mom out to dinner and $3 to buy a box of Pringles on the plane.

It's too bad, because this would have been a truly epic month for tracking spending. Not only did I send $4500 to the lawyer, buy plane tickets and hotel for two separate trips, and pay over a thousand dollars of various medical bills, but I also just paid for NT's summer class, which was over $2000. Believe me, we do not usually spend like this; we definitely spent way more than we brought in, which is unusual for us (obviously, or we'd be in a heck of a lot of trouble!).

Still, 19 days of tracking was pretty good; I've never done anything like that before. If we really need to tighten our belts at some point, I would use that as a way to keep us accountable.

Anyway, paying the tuition means I reduced our "estimated future debt" for college, which is part of our total household debt. That means we've reached our April debt goal after all! I didn't think we'd be doing that. I'll do the exact calculation in a post tomorrow.

I've been cooking up a May fitness challenge for myself, so I'll post about that as well. If anyone would like to join in, it would probably help me keep on the straight and narrow. Smile

Expense tracking April 19

April 20th, 2012 at 04:05 am

Dental bills (I just gave up and paid them; still hope insurance will come around and cover some of it): $517
Hotel for AS's mom's visit (she's coming in June, but I'm going to wait a bit to see if airfare goes down): $537.52
2 copies of SL's birth certificate: $41
Postage (certified) to send one copy to the lawyer: $3.85 (paid out of my spending money)

What can I say? These are crazy times. I kind of had a tantrum over the dental bill. And then when I went to book AS's mom's flight, it had gone up $70 from two hours before (when I couldn't book it because I needed some more info from her).

So, I'm going to wait until Monday or Tuesday to book the ticket. I think it's worth the gamble. It's hard to game the system, but several sites seemed to agree that prices slowly go up as you approach the weekend.

I took money out of the medical fund to cover the dental bills. I'm going to have to take money out of the UK portion of the EF to cover UK mortgages; there were unforeseen expenses that took a hit out of our monthly deposit from the management company.

Two days after our taxes were done, the packet for UK taxes came in the mail. Sigh. They're not due until October, but I usually do them early because they sit there hanging over my head until I can't stand it any more. We won't owe anything, that's for sure; we've had more expenses on the flat than usual, and we don't usually owe anything. (We do pay U.S. taxes on the profit.)

Anyway, after my tantrum (OK, maybe there was more than one), I vowed to AS to stop stressing about expenses. After all, this is why we worked so hard to turn our financial lives around -- so we wouldn't be struggling and we could afford life. Sometimes life gets expensive, but here we are, paying thousands of dollars in CASH and not going in debt a cent. We will even out and start to build up our reserves again.

Expense tracking April 18

April 19th, 2012 at 03:43 am

Today's spending:

I booked a quick trip to visit my mom this weekend, and I'm taking AA, who can no longer fly free. The airfare cost $519.20, but I'll save $50 because I applied for a credit card they were offering, where you get a $50 statement credit if you're approved and use the card to book a flight. So only $469.20. I'm hoping my family will provide room and board for the most part, so I won't have to spend a ton more. NT will get a carshare to take us to the airport, but that's much cheaper than a cab (about $10 vs. $40). I'll get rides to and from the D.C. airport, and then I may break down and get a cab when I get home from the trip, because I'll have been up since about 3:30 am and will probably be vibrating with tiredness.

NT and I bought some groceries and some kids' socks (Thriftorama, weird coincidence huh?) today on our break, $31.48, but we used the Amex gift card, so nothing out of budget. I also bought some lunch for me (a giant plate of Indian food) and a mango lassi for NT, about $8 with tip. Used spending money for it.

I swear, I do not eat out this much, or buy impulsive plane tickets, or get tons of medical/dental stuff done, or send large retainers to lawyers, in an ordinary 30-day period. This is SUCH an out-of-the-ordinary month. I'm completely off my equilibrium, and I guess I spend when that happens. At least it's all cash spending. No credit, no loans, no new debt.

Small progress toward debt goal

April 18th, 2012 at 07:54 pm

I sent $100 to NT's student loan just to make sure we covered the interest for the month. $56 went to interest, so the remaining $44 was applied to principal.

That's $865 down, $1135 to go. We have two regular student loan payments that will knock about another $185 off of principal.

Obviously, not going to make the April goal unless some miracle happens in the next two weeks. I held back most of the money I would be putting to this goal, to make sure we could cover all the other upcoming expenses without taking too much out of the EF.

If things go REALLY well this next month, I might even be able to cashflow all the non-medical expenses without borrowing from the EF. I will need to take money from the medical fund, but I keep those funds (mentally) separate from the EF, so it's not as painful.

But things would have to go VERY smoothly to avoid siphoning from the EF.

The $4500 check to the lawyer came out of our account this week, so we lost that big cushion that was there for over a year. We won't be able to "float" on that and pay things early; will have to wait until we actually have the funds in checking. Not a problem, but it will take some adjusting, since I'd gotten kind of blase about it.

April 2012 net worth update

April 18th, 2012 at 05:53 pm

NT's UK pensions:
#1: 13,884 pounds ($27,768)
#2: 16,005 pounds ($32,010)
#3: 3,709 pounds ($7,418)
NT's 401(k): $16,464
NT's Roth IRA: $4,145
AS's 401(k): $7,076
AS's trad. IRA: $1,682
AS's Roth IRA: $6,683
CJ's 401(k): $43,980
CJ's Roth IRA: $4,145
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $160,000
Baby/emergency fund (shared asset): $14,799
Total Assets: $586,170

Total Debt: $314,105

Current Estimated Net Worth: $272,065

March 2012 estimate: $268,202

Change in net worth: +$3,863

Summary: Decent progress. I was the dead weight, because both of my retirement funds decreased a bit. NT and AS both posted small gains, we put some money away in the EF, and we paid down a good amount of debt. If our net worth increases by about $3492 per month for the rest of the year, we'll hit our $300K net worth goal. It's doable.

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 very approximate. 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.

Expense tracking April 17

April 18th, 2012 at 06:11 am

Whew, let's see. Actual money out of the budget:
Dermatologist copay $20
Prescription $20
Student loan payment $100

Then, we bought some things with spending money:
AS got delivery of some kind $??
We went to weekly trivia night at a nearby restaurant and got drinks and snacks...$40?

On the upsides, our trivia team came in second place ($15 gift card) and my work gave me a $25 Target card for the new baby. Smile

I'm thinking I'll use some travel money to visit my mom for a couple days. This weekend would work best, but I'm not sure I can find a good deal. If not, I'll try for the following week. I'll probably bring AA; I can't bring her for free since she turned two, but my mom loves grandbabies, so it'd make her really happy.

I'd miss little SL but, let's face it, she'll be just fine and won't miss me. Smile And it would only be for a couple days.

Expense tracking April 16 and lots of good news etc.

April 17th, 2012 at 04:43 am

Let's see if I can remember ...

AS medical bill $390
NT dental bill $70
Tax prep fee $325

Then there were some spending-money expenses:

I got me and AS coffee drinks on the way back from dropping AA off at daycare. $10. And they weren't even that good. I decided to try a new independent shop. Glad I tried it; now I know to stick to one of the other many fine indie coffee shops in the area. The important thing is, AA felt well enough for daycare! Her littlest friend there was beside himself with joy that she was back. Tonight at dinner she had almost a whole (tiny) bean burrito, and then nearly a whole apple and half a banana for snacks later. Yay for healthy kid!

We just missed the connecting bus to our pediatrician appointment, so AS paid for a cab: $9.

AS bought herself fries and a cookie at McDs on the way back from SL's pediatrician appointment. $5? I have no idea. Good news #2: SL had gained 3.5 oz. since her Thursday checkup. She's back on track and AS feels much better about nursing.

My sister JL called soon after we got back. Good news #3: My mom was discharged from the hospital and my parents were on the road heading for home in Va.! She had the X-ray and my sister said the bleeding was diagnosed as diverticulosis (or -itis, she kind of stumbled over the word so I'm not sure). I looked it up and it can be a serious medical event in an older person (my mom is 78), but compared with other things I feared (colon cancer was top of the list), it's such a relief. Plus, if it's treatable by diet, my dad is the right caretaker. He got diabetes recently and completely turned his diet around, so I know he could enforce healthy eating for my mom if he knew it was necessary.

I paid AS's first bill from the pregnancy (see above). We put it on NT's Chase Sapphire to work toward the reward.

NT paid $70 toward getting a cavity filled. It was just an estimate, so we may owe more later.

We sent a $325 check to our tax preparer. Considering we have an international component, and two self-employment sidelines in addition to full-time jobs, I consider this a bargain. At H&R, we used to charge poor folk that much to do their taxes because of the EIC worksheet and refund-anticipation loan. So it doesn't seem that bad to me.

We also sent off checks to pay the remainder of taxes owed ($645 AS federal, $292 CJ/NT state), as well as AS's first quarterly estimated 2012 tax payment ($250). If she doesn't go back to freelancing, I don't think I'll send any more because I don't think she'll owe any more. We'll play it by ear.

Remember that AS's health insurance would charge $350 per month to add SL? Well, NT asked his work and it would be $284 to add her to his. I tried to research mine without contacting work or going into my email, and I think it would be $131 to add SL to min. So I'm going to ask my job what the procedure is for adopting a kid and putting them on your healthcare. My adoption is a little different because neither birth parent is giving up their right, but it's a real adoption. I'm just not sure what would usually happen with an adoptive child. We don't have the process officially started yet I don't think, because we still owe our lawyers a birth certificate, and the hospital hasn't heard from the county why NT's name isn't on their records.

So I'm thinking if it's going to be a months-long possible delay before I can add SL to my insurance, we should switch her to NT's for the time being. It would save us about $65-$70 per month over AS's insurance. But ultimately it will be cheapest to add SL to mine. So I really hope we can get that going. Hopefully by end of July when we start paying daycare for two!

I go back to work tomorrow, 4 days a week. Not sure how I feel about that right now. What with the 10-day break, plus all the distractions (mostly negative with some positive), I've completely checked out. I didn't even think about work once. It'll be interesting to see if the break renewed my interest or just made it harder to be there.

I have a dermatologist appointment tomorrow; I kind of hate to spend money on a frivolous matter at a time when we've got so many expenses, but I'm kind of fed up with my face, which has been breaking out in angry red pimples on my cheeks off and on for about 6 months now. I haven't had serious acne since high school, so it's really annoying. I don't know if they'll be able to do anything about it, but I figure it's worth asking an expert.

Expense tracking April 15

April 16th, 2012 at 02:55 am

Free tickets to the Twins game led to a veritable orgy of snacking at the game! $28.25 for a large beer, a Pepsi, a bag of mini-donuts, a big pretzel and a stick of cotton candy. (I did split some of the above with NT!) Twins lost and it drizzled several times, but NT and I still had fun. And AS was fine looking after both girls alone for the first time.

Then AS treated us to pizza delivery from one of our favorite places: $53.

All of the above was from our personal spending money, so no budgetary effect.

AA was finally better and had some slivers of pizza and milk! She's slowly returning to her happy, easygoing self. Hopefully she can go to daycare tomorrow.

The fenugreek seems to be working and SL getting more milk. Hopefully she's gained enough at the weigh-in tomorrow.

My dad called to say my mom is getting a barium enema and X-ray tomorrow; they don't want to do a colonoscopy unless they have to, since she's still quite fragile from a heart attack and having a stent put into an artery. Dad's hoping they will know enough from the X-ray to discharge her so she can go home. (She fell ill in W.Va. where they have a vacation home; they actually live in Va.) I'm still extremely worried what the X-ray might reveal, but at least the heart procedure seems to have had a positive effect; Dad says she's less short of breath than she has been in a long time.

I wrote out checks for my and NT's state tax, our prep fee to the tax guy, AS's federal tax, and her first quarterly estimated payment to the IRS. They're not really spending (except the tax prep fee), but I'll count them in tomorrow's tally. I'm starting to feel a bit more in control. We can deal with any healthcare costs that come along. We can add a year to repaying student loans if it means staying CC-debt-free. Hopefully it won't come to that, but I need to remember that my timeline is a personal benchmark, not a do-or-die deadline.

The worst part of having all these worries has been losing my enthusiasm for life. It sounds stupid, but I didn't feel like doing anything, food didn't taste as good, I didn't have any physical energy, I was cranky and easily overwhelmed by little things ... I still don't feel 100%, but I'm starting to be able to deal with my emotions and still enjoy the day-to-day.