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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.

Expense tracking April 14

April 15th, 2012 at 03:03 am

Groceries: $71.30 (including $19 fenugreek supplement for AS nursing)
Also, $44.31 more at another store, but this time I remembered to give NT that Amex gift card, so that one wasn't out of pocket.

So effectively the spending total was $71.30.

Today was off-and-on pleasant. We had another lovely dinner, spinach-quinoa-strawberry-walnut salad and crostini with a tomato-basil topping. But I felt hectic, lackluster and/or out of sorts sporadically all day. AA had a huge coughing fit at about 9 p.m., so we sent her to bed with a teaspoon of honey, some Vick's vapor rub and the humidifier on in her room. Less than 5 minutes later she started shrieking, not her usual winding-down crying. NT went in and she'd thrown up. He gave her a bath while I changed the sheets, and she threw a tantrum of sorts (usually she likes baths especially when dad's in charge). But that seemed to tire her out because we can't hear any crying now.

Tomorrow is webcam chats with the UK grandparents. Every Sunday. Sometimes I just stay in another room. It's mostly to see AA anyway (hopefully these get cut short if she's still sick).

AS is on a crazy nursing-pumping regimen to try and get SL's weight (and her own supply) up. Just added fenugreek on the pediatrician's advice. We go in on Monday for another weigh-in.

When it rains, it pours. Oh yeah, that reminds me. Won tickets to the Twins baseball game tomorrow, but there's a 50%-80% chance of rain. See?

Expense tracking April 13, plus a buncha other updates

April 14th, 2012 at 05:24 pm

Spending money cash withdrawal: $240 (actually $200 because NT paid in for some credit card purchases)
Groceries (I actually used my own spending money because it was such a small amount): $5.85

So, actual money out of the budget was $240.

Yesterday a couple of money & other things happened:

- Got our tax documents in the mail. The guy misspoke on the phone; we actually owe $292 in state taxes and are getting $1656 federal refund, and we owe $325 for tax prep. So $1039 to the positive, and if you add in the $600 I was planning to pay, $1639 to the positive in our planning. Not quite as exciting as the $1900 positive I thought based on my phone conversation, but still good news.

- Our paychecks hit and I noticed that AS's was over $300 less than usual. She looked into it, and it turns out that adding SL to her health insurance will be $350 per month, and for some reason they took the whole amount out of one paycheck instead of spreading it over two. Or, maybe they're charging us for half of March since she was born March 29. Either way, we're out $320 net, and probably about $160 per paycheck from now on, or until we get SL switched to a more affordable coverage. NT and I are going to check with our jobs to see how much it would cost to add SL to one of ours. I don't think I'd be able to until the adoption is official, but I wonder if NT could do it immediately since he is the birth father. AlTHOUGH:

- Our lawyer told us to be sure and have NT & AS complete the Recognition of Parentage form to make sure NT's info would appear on the birth certificate, since AS is technically unmarried. We got a letter from the county confirming the birth certificate info so we could order birth certificates, but NT was not listed. AS was the only parent listed. AS has calls in everywhere, and it appears that the hospital did send the form to the county, but they are not finding record of SL's birth in the county's records yet, which is weird since they DID send us the letter about ordering a birth certificate. So it's a big old mess with a couple of unwieldy organizations, and we need to get it sorted out before the adoption can take place. Before, there wasn't a huge amount of urgency to the adoption, but now with the health insurance issue, it's more critical.

So, probably the "surplus" I got from the tax returns (which still might not be enough to keep from withdrawing EF money) will be steadily eaten away by health insurance costs unless we get this fixed. And we probably will still have some bills coming in from the doctors and hospital, since are still pending insurance claims to the tune of $6000 from just one of our providers (the doctor; as I recall from my delivery, the hospital, anesthesiologist and possibly some other groups all bill separately).

In other news, my mom is still in the hospital, and one of the two big issues is still undiagnosed. A colonoscopy on Monday should tell us more. Until then my emotions are sort of in a holding pattern; I know they could be telling us that she's very, very bad off, or that it's something fixable, although I don't think internal bleeding is ever going to be a simple painless fix, whatever it ends up being.

AA was even more feverish on Friday, so she stayed home again. She's got a rash and a cough today, but seems much happier and more energetic. I would love to have one day home with the new baby without a sickly toddler, so I'm really hoping she's better by Monday morning. I know I'm being selfish, but I'm so disappointed that I didn't enjoy my week home with AS and SL.

On the bright side, had a really fun night last night. I made Asian lettuce wraps with vegetarian beef crumbles, fried Cantonese noodles with bean sprouts and soy sauce, and we broke open a vino verde, a slightly fizzy white wine that I love. We had an impromptu silly game where we were trying to draw Rachel Maddow's face on AA's easel, and posted the results on Facebook for our friends to vote on. We watched the movie "Big" and had fajita-spiced popcorn.

Expense tracking April 12

April 13th, 2012 at 04:32 am

$31.99 for prescriptions for me and AS
$25 (approx; they figure the exact amount later) for Hourcar to take SL to her 2-week appointment

Total: $56.99

AS, AA and I also got Noodles & Co.; we put it on AS's Chase to work toward rewards, but will pay it back in from our spending money. $21.48.

Definitely been a weird spending month, but I knew it would be with the new baby and the maternity leave. I didn't know my mom's still yet-to-be-fully diagnosed health crisis would knock the wind out of me, draining my energy and luring me to pick up restaurant/fast food stuff for comfort (and because I just don't care that much about cooking).

I do best when I'm distracted, so it's kind of good that I've had to care for AA, drive us around to the pediatrician, had a couple of visitors, etc.

I do feel calmer every day. It just took some getting used to. Of course if they find something really serious, I'll be a mess again.

Expense tracking April 11, plus updates on anticipated expenses/assets

April 12th, 2012 at 05:20 am

Today, the only spending I'm aware of is NT bought some milk at Target, but he probably used a gift card. Oh, and he gave me some cash to pay in for a Kickstarter campaign he donated to, as well as for some postage he put on the credit card.

So there were some transactions, but none that will affect our bottom line.

We got some nice freebies too -- a couple we're friends with brought lasagne for a future dinner, and later another friend brought tonight's dinner (pesto pasta and salad), as well as wine, fruit and snacks. So nice how people reach out to take care of new parents.

It was especially nice because uncertainty about my mom is ongoing, and AA had a temperature and needed to stay home from daycare. I think she'll need to stay home tomorrow too, and we have another newborn checkup to go to as well, so I don't know if we'll drag her along or if I'll send AS to the appointment alone. Needless to say I'm not enjoying my one full week of parental leave. But very grateful for the kindness and support of friends and family.

Anyway, remember the big list of upcoming expenses and assets that I laid out to make sure we have enough to cover everything? Some things have changed, some negative but mostly positive to the bottom line.

* Parking spot renter must have taken pity on us, because her replacement check was not reduced as we told her she could do to cover the stop check fee. $30 to the positive.
* We hadn't factored any doctor bills for the pregnancy because we weren't sure it was 100% covered, but we got our first bill today: $390. There are still insurance claims pending to the tune of over $6000, but I'm hoping most of them will be covered. Still, $390 to the negative. (The good news is, this is an easy way to wrap up the Chase Freedom spending and get that $200 reward faster than we thought we would.)
* One gift card that I thought was worth $100 only had $20 on it. So that's $80 less in assets than I thought we had.
* Tax guy called to say NT and I don't owe any taxes and are instead getting about $1800 in state and federal refunds. I was figuring we'd end up paying about $600 in fees and taxes, but instead, even if he charged us $500, we'd net $1300. So $1900 to the positive.

Overall, we're $1460 better off than I thought. Pretty great, especially since there are still other uncertainties in life right now, so the more cushion in the bank account, the better.

Expense tracking April 10

April 11th, 2012 at 04:49 am

A cost of staying home I hadn't thought about in a while: We go through toilet paper a lot faster!

Groceries (including TP): $11.43 (plus $1.51 that went on a gift card)
AS state tax owed: $3

Total: $14.43

Other than that, we did some spending with our pocket money ... I know NT got something on eBay for about $7, I bought a small soy latte ($5 with tip! Yikes!), and I got McD's breakfast for me and AS ($9.25; yikes again! I don't do fast food or coffeeshops often, so rising prices tend to startle me).

I've been comforting myself with junky treats, I know. My mom is in a hospital; I found out Monday during the day. I haven't written about it here because I've been using that energy to write to family and friends on Facebook, receiving and passing along updates. Anyway, it's probably pretty bad. Still some things we need to find out more about. I will write more at some point when I have more energy (and more details).

Credit card rewards update

April 10th, 2012 at 03:23 pm

OK, I'll jump on the bandwagon and list my amounts so far:

2011 rewards minus fees:

2012 rewards received:
2012 rewards expected:
2012 total so far: $1900

Grand total for both years so far:

Expense tracking April 9

April 10th, 2012 at 05:13 am

The only out-of-pockets:
Netflix $7.99
Condo dues (includes utilities, maintenance, security, basic cable) $593.85

Total: $601.84

I also bought feminine products for $2.50 but used a gift card. And AS and I got delivery food for lunch ($33.77); we put it on the Chase Freedom we're currently working on to get a reward, but we will pay it back with the spending money that was included in Friday's expense tracking.

Expense tracking April 8

April 9th, 2012 at 10:18 am

The only thing we bought yesterday was a pack of wipes and a box of tissues, $4.47, but we used a gift card, so out-of-pocket spending was $0!

Expense tracking April 7

April 8th, 2012 at 01:09 am

Groceries: $37.34 + $27.97 (Also bought about $18 more using one of our gift cards, but I won't count that)
Haircuts for NT & AA: $40 (including tip)

Total: $105.31

Got all the upcoming expenses/assets down on paper

April 6th, 2012 at 09:16 pm

OK, so I finally sat down and tried to come up with reasonable guesses as to how much all these upcoming expenses are going to cost us, and exactly how much we have available to spend. Here's what I came up with (keep in mind all but three smaller amounts are guesstimates):

Pay renter to stop check: $30
Dental checkup bill: $226
Gum infection followup appt: $145
Dental surgery & followup: $600
AA & SL birth certificate copies: $52
AS birth certificate copy: $15
NT summer class tuition & fees: $2,707
NT/CJ tax prep & taxes: $600
Dermatologist appt: $139
Extra grocery money (we already spent all our Apr 1-15 money): $150


Budget surplus: $1,432.80
AS/CJ skip haircuts: $40
Check from AS's birth father: $30
U.S. portion of EF: $4,398
Medical EF: $2,550
Amex gift card: $200
MasterCard gift card: $100
CJ medical flex spending acct: $154

TOTAL ASSETS: $8,904.80

So, if I subtract my guesstimated expenses from available cash assets, we have $4,240.80. That makes me feel a LOT better, because some of these expenses may end up being more!

Of course, not all the assets can be applied to just anything. For instance, I can't use gift cards to pay taxes, or flex spending to buy groceries. So I'll break down the assets and expenses into categories to see what the surplus is in each category.

Dental checkup bill: $226
Gum infection followup appt: $145
Dental surgery & followup: $600
Dermatologist appt: $139
Medical EF: $2,550
CJ medical flex spending acct: $154
SURPLUS: $1,594

Extra grocery money (we already spent all our Apr 1-15 money): $150
Amex gift card: $200
MasterCard gift card: $100

Pay renter to stop check: $30
AA & SL birth certificate copies: $52
AS birth certificate copy: $15
NT summer class tuition & fees: $2,707
NT/CJ tax prep & taxes: $600
Budget surplus: $1,432.80
AS/CJ skip haircuts: $40
Check from AS's birth father: $30
U.S. portion of EF: $4,398
SURPLUS: $2,496.80

So, this looks pretty good. I feel like I can relax while I have the next 10 days off work to help look after SL!

Expense tracking April 6

April 6th, 2012 at 08:06 pm

I think we're done for the day ...

$4500 retainer for adoption proceedings
$15 fee for copy of AS's birth certificate
$240 spending money (technically I only took out $150, because we were paying back for various personal expenses charged on cards that needed to come out of spending money, but ...)
$4755! (Should be our most expensive day by far)

With some of the spending money I withdrew, I did buy a few things, but to simplify I won't try to keep totals of these, though I'll note them if I think of it:
56 cents: 4 wallet photos of SL
$2.94: bag of chips (got 5 cents off for my reusable bag)
$41ish: 2 boxes & 1 bottle of wine (on sale -- equivalent of 9 bottles of wine, which makes it about $4.50 per bottle!)
$4.25: postage (mailed out retainer agreement, birth certificates, marriage license & $4500 check via certified mail)

Expense tracking April 5

April 6th, 2012 at 01:57 am

Fee to order copy of AA's birth certificate: $26

Huh, I think that's it! I don't think anyone even bought anything with their cash.

Gratitude for many blessings

April 5th, 2012 at 05:23 pm

One of my Facebook friends from college writes this as her status update occasionally. At our 15-year reunion, we were chatting and she mentioned that this is her mantra when things are difficult; it helps her feel grateful for the things that are still right in her world even when some things are going wrong.

So where I used to think she was writing it because she was happy, now when I see it I realize she's struggling with something, and I hope for things to go better. Smile

I thought I was doing quite well being back at work, but today I realize I'm really struggling. With a number of financial issues dovetailing together at the same time, and the natural emotional issues of new-motherhood, and the exhaustion, it's a bit much. I'm feeling a bit fragile.

Last night I hit a breaking point when I realized that AS had put a $255 check from our parking-spot renter (for 3 months' rent) in my lunch bag. I hadn't really realized it was there, and it must have fallen out somewhere. After an unsuccessful search today we realized we need her to write a new check, and deduct the amount that it will cost her to stop the other check.

The sick feeling of losing another check, so soon after a couple weeks ago, combined with yet another stupid expense, kind of tipped me over the edge into a pessimistic, frightened, emotional place.

I detailed a lot of big, yet amount-unknown expenses coming up and how our big checking and savings account balances suddenly seem like they might not be enough. Today I learned we will also need to order extra copies of the kids' birth certificates for the adoption process; a small but unwelcome additional expense.

But, I have to remind myself that we also have some gift cards (including an Amex and a MasterCard, and some Amazon and Target credits), as well as credit card rewards (totaling $700) that should come in the next month or two. I also have a bit of money left in my flex spending account: about $150.

We have other recourse should we need to scrape together more money out of the budget. We could skip a housecleaning and save $120. We could skip a month of charitable giving and save $150. We could not take out spending money for a week and save $240. We could take out a student loan instead of cashflowing tuition. I could put off the dental surgery until our finances are more stable. We could even transfer money from our UK EF savings account. Not ideal options, but possibilities that are there if things turn out to be on the expensive side.

When I have more time and feel more lucid, I'll try to estimate all our upcoming expenses and all the available assets, and see how things come out.

Anyway, not everything has been bad on the financial front: We've been wondering whether we'll need to reduce our parking-spot renter's rent and share the spot with our new double stroller, or even stop renting altogether and take the spot back. Then we found a place in the other building's garage where people park bikes and things, and figured out we could put it there for free. NT also realized it will fold up, so we could actually get it into the elevator and into our condo if needed. But we put up a notice to see if anyone in our garage would rent us a piece of their spot, since that would be a much easier option.

NT got a call a couple days ago from someone who said she'd let us park our stroller in part of her spot for no charge! She's putting her condo on the market, so this situation probably won't last for long, but it's great to have it even for a short time.

When I initially calculated the cost of getting the big stroller relative to our other options (such as getting a car), I figured in a loss of $1020 of rental income per year. Now that that won't happen, and we got our stroller for $100 less than I estimated, our first year cost should be $1600 instead of $2715! And, if we can keep finding free ways to stow the stroller, subsequent years will be no cost instead of the anticipated $1020.

So, that's really good news. And I have many other things to be grateful for as well, namely the support of my spouses. They realize, I think, that I'm pretty overwhelmed, so they're taking over some red-tape-y things of the kind that I typically handle. AS is handling contacting our renter about stopping her check. NT is gathering the necessary documents for our adoption proceedings.

And SL is a lovely healthy little baby, and next week I get to spend a lot more time bonding with her than I got this week. That will do a lot of good for me, I think.

Expense tracking April 4

April 5th, 2012 at 04:00 am

Cosmetics, ear plugs, Vitamin D drops for baby, peanut butter: $18.06 (it was more than that but I used a gift card for part of the balance)

I bought a bottle of wine too, and AS and NT got ice cream, but we paid for all of that with the spending money already reported on an earlier day.

Money out, money out, money out out out

April 5th, 2012 at 01:36 am

Sung to the tune of the William Tell Overture...

It feels like a spendy coupla weeks are behind us and still coming up. Totally separate from my April daily expense calculations, let's see if I can get it out of my system so I can stop stressing about it.

* First there was the useless $30 stop check because I lost a check last week (P)
* The $220 or so dental bill has not been settled, so I may well end up paying that
* During the labor/delivery/hospital stay, we racked up:
* $200 or so eating out and getting hospital room service (P)
* $80ish for a carshare for 25 hours
* $69 for replacement pumping supplies (P)
* Stroller and accessories came to about $1100 (P)
* Yesterday I had to have a followup appointment after my gum infection; no idea how much that will cost, but so far not thrilled with my new dental insurance
* May need to get more gum surgery to fix problem; new insurance will cover 60% (gulp) of costs (oh, AFTER a $100 deductible)
* Today I may have lost the parking spot renter's check, so that will be $30 so the renter can stop THAT check Frown
* We got the lawyer papers, which is GREAT, but it also means we need to mail off that nice $4500 cushion we've had in the checking account for over a year (P)
* NT's semester starts in May, and sometime we're going to need to cashflow that from our EF, greatly depleting (temporarily) our $6000+ cushion in the U.S. savings account
* AS state, federal & estimated 2012 quarterly tax bills need to be paid this month (P)
* Still haven't found out how much I owe my tax preparer, nor how much (if any) NT and I owe in to state and federal
* We want to bring AS's mom out this summer to meet SL (will need to get plane ticket and hotel room) (P)

Sigh. OK. At this point I'm thinking I don't send anything extra to the student loans until I know more about what's going on. I was going to use the medical and regular EF to cashflow tuition, but maybe some of it will be needed for my teeth? At this point I'm thanking whatever powers that be for Obamacare existing long enough for AS to have a free pregnancy and (hopefully) free delivery (looks like healthcare reform is going bye-bye in June).

I have $6500 in the U.S. portion of our EF, and a little over $1400 left in budget surplus (at least we've paid (or at least budgeted) for the things indicated above with a "P"). So about $8000 to cover dental bills, carshare, stopcheck, NT's summer semester, and NT and my unknown tax bills.

What with the $4500 lawyer money and the $6500 in EF/medical savings, I was feeling pretty flush there for a long time. Funny, isn't it, how quickly that big of a cushion can be depleted?

Oh well. It might not be as bad as it seems right now. I'll sleep on it.

Expense tracking challenge April 1-3

April 4th, 2012 at 02:37 pm

OK, I think I captured everything! This is to participate in Brooklyn Girl's April challenge.

Groceries $62.07

Total: $62.07

4/2 Housecleaning $121.21
US Mortgage $1,195.26
UK Mortgage #1 approx. $355
UK Mortgage #2 approx. $75
UK Mortgage #3 approx. $79
Charity $25
Weekly spending money $240

Total: $2090.47

Carshare for baby's dr. appt $17.08
Baby supplies $35.25
Stroller accessories $79.95
Double stroller $796.45
Stroller accessories $99.95

Total: $1028.68

Progress on April debt goal & others

April 3rd, 2012 at 09:14 pm

All our mortgage payments hit:
US: $439 to principal
UK1: $263
UK2: $56
UK3: $58

All told, $821 down, $1179 to go on the April debt goal.

I was also able to transfer 300 pounds ($600) to the EF, bringing our total to $14,798.55. If only we could do that every month, we'd get VERY close to our $20K goal!

Also, NT's dad put 100 pounds ($200) in his UK savings account for little SL. Along with the $200 we'd already saved for her, her net worth at 5 days old is $400. Not bad!

As for my weight goal, I somehow managed to lose 2 lbs. even during the hospital stay with all the sitting around doing nothing but eating. I'm at 140, so 1 lb. higher than I started the year and 11 lbs. away from my 129 goal.