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Archive for May, 2012

Various financial doings

May 31st, 2012 at 02:48 pm

Lots of random little things have happened financially recently:

-We took part in a condo garage sale. We made $16 pretty early on and then not another penny. Spent $8 of it for 2 puzzles, a pair of snow boots and maybe something else. Since we'd been using the girls' piggy bank to make change, we just put the $8 or so of profit in with their money.

-Deposited said piggy bank and it was almost $100, so I made up the difference and moved it into savings for SL. She already has some money there. Once she has $1000, I'll open a CD for her.

-We took the clothes and some other stuff that didn't sell at the sale to the church donation van that parks across the street from us every Sunday.

-We took the books that didn't sell to a used bookstore. They took a few of the books and gave us $15, but we had a ton they didn't take. I looked at a few bookselling sites and confirmed that the books have pretty much no resale value. I looked up charities, and we're going to donate some of the books to the Women's Prison Book Project and the rest to the library. Both good causes.

-AS got a tax bill for $101.34 from the IRS; they claimed we'd overstated what she'd paid in estimated taxes. I checked back through my records and they were right! Part of the amount is to cover the balance of tax we owe, and a couple bucks of it is a late fee. Fair enough.

-NT's student loan account that wasn't showing payments finally caught up! ... mostly. The principal balance is suddenly much closer to my calculation of what it should be. They said they'd fix it by adjusting the original loan amounts or something, and I can't figure out what they did. Their balance is about $380 higher than what I estimated it would be. I was going to call and argue, but I have no real basis for my claim, whereas they have fancy computers and stuff. So I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say I messed it up -- after all, I did make the tax mistake recently.

-I immediately sent a $400 payment. I don't want to have to change my spreadsheet to make the debt amount higher, so this will bring the actual principal in line with my version.

-I wasn't sure how I was going to pay for the tax bill and the student loan payment above, BUT I checked our paychecks today and found they were more than I'd bargained for. Turns out I'd underestimated NT's pay during his part-time parental leave, and I forgot that I'd adjusted my withholdings since I'll most likely be claiming SL on my and NT's tax return next year. So when I applied those changes throughout my spreadsheet for June and July, I was able to cover the above unexpected bills plus a little left over. Hooray!

-My tax adjustment is a permanent boost in our income, so I can figure that into the budget. Only about $60 per month, but believe me, I can put it to good use!

May debt goal reached, and another tombstone in the Old Debt Graveyard!

May 30th, 2012 at 12:28 pm

AS's two student loans hit, with $128 and $61 going to principal, so $189 total. That makes it $1151 paid toward debt this month, surpassing the $1100 goal.

Also, the smaller of the two payments was the final payment on that loan! That's right, another loan bites the dust!!

It's funny, because when I logged in, it still showed a 1-cent balance, but next payment due date was N/A. You better believe I called them to make sure that wasn't going to trigger a late fee if I didn't set up a payment! They assured me that the one cent would be forgiven with no payment and no danger of a late fee.

That takes AS down to just one student loan and her half of the mortgage she and I share. Here's how our remaining debt breaks down, with interest rate, if anyone is interested:

US Mortgage: $163,748 (3.25% var.)
UK Mortgage 1: $72,301 (1.49% var.)
UK Mortgage 2: $15,242 (1.49% var.)
UK Mortgage 3: $16,049 (1.49% var.)
AS SM student loan: $11,468 (3.25% fixed)
NT DL student loan: $15,620 (6.175% fixed)
NT FM student loan: $5,510 (3.8% var.)
NT Education (estimated future debt) $10,834 (interest n/a til borrowed)

TOTAL HOUSEHOLD DEBT $310,772

I did it! 5-5-5 challenge complete

May 28th, 2012 at 10:27 am

Today NT took me for a very hard (for me, not him) bike ride, which means ... I'm done! I did all 5 of my challenge activities 5 times:

Walked to or from work (or at least 30 min.)
Exercised to a Gilad (aerobic & weight training) workout
Did free-weight training
Rode my bike
Walked upstairs (18 floors) to my condo

Phew! I'm going to let my legs recover, then go shower and have some lunch.

5-5-5 progress & weight update

May 27th, 2012 at 10:51 pm

It rained almost all day yesterday so I didn't ride my bike as planned. But today I did my 5th Gilad workout.

So I just need to do one more bike ride before June 1 and I'll have reached my fitness goal!

I'm still planning on a new goal for June, but I've decided to not require myself to do it until after AS's mom leaves. She's visiting the first weekend in June and leaves Tuesday morning. It's her first time flying out to see us, so we're probably going to spoil her (and by extension maybe ourselves) in the food and other indulgences (aka laziness) departments. So my June goal will begin the first Tuesday in June!

I weighed in tonight and was down a pound to 142. So, I'm ending the month 2 lbs. higher than I started it, but I'm glad my weight did go down a bit at the end. Gives me an extra boost to keep going in June.

5-5-5 progress; getting close to meeting goal!

May 25th, 2012 at 09:13 pm

Thursday I walked up the stairs to our condo after work. (This time I counted the stairs per flight and they are 14, so it's about 250 stairs total!) That activity is done, thank goodness! But I might still use that as part of my working out in June. Don't think it takes quite 10 minutes so it might not work on its own for my "10 minutes a day" rule for June; I'll have to time it and see.

Today I worked from home since my office was closed for the holiday (but my particular duties depend on our largest client's schedule, not our office schedule). So I was able to do a Gilad workout.

That makes it 23 workouts done, 2 to go for May. I still need to do one Gilad and one bike ride. I'd love to do my bike ride tomorrow and my Gilad on Sunday, but we'll see.

5-5-5 progress and looking ahead to June

May 24th, 2012 at 09:03 am

Last night AS and I did free weights together, so that completes the free-weight portion of my challenge. 21 of the 25 workouts are done. 2 out of my 5 categories are complete; I just need to walk up the stairs once more, ride my bike once more, and do two more Gilad workouts.

I started poking around Sparkpeople and decided that for June, I'll try to count all my calories (or estimate when I can't get exact numbers), eliminate night snacking, and try for at least 10 minutes of *vigorous* exercise every day. (In other words, my walking to daycare or other walking will be a nice addition but won't count toward my goal.)

I'll try to post everything here as well as on Sparkpeople, since I feel more supported on SavingAdvice than I ever could on another site. Wink

5-5-5 progress yesterday, hopefully more today!

May 23rd, 2012 at 01:05 pm

Yesterday after work I walked up the stairs to our condo, so that's 4 out of 5 for that activity and 20 out of 25 for the challenge as a whole! I hope to do some free weights tonight after work.

I need to come up with a new challenge for June to hopefully keep the momentum going. I wish I could say I'll just work out naturally from now on, but I know that's not the case.

I was thinking about getting involved in SparkPeople -- I've joined but never done much with it. They recommend calorie counting, which I find so tedious for cook-from-scratch meals with tons of ingredients that don't have nutrition info labels, but maybe it would help me scale back my eating so that my working out actually had an effect on the scale.

May 2012 net worth update

May 21st, 2012 at 09:37 am

Assets:
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): $15,964
NT's Roth IRA: $3,897
AS's 401(k): $6,761
AS's trad. IRA: $1,682
AS's Roth IRA: $6,403
CJ's 401(k): $40,841
CJ's Roth IRA: $3,897
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $160,000
Baby/emergency fund (shared asset): $13,999
---
Total Assets: $580,640

Total Debt: $310,961

Current Estimated Net Worth: $269,679

April 2012 estimate: $272,065

Change in net worth: -$2,386

Summary: Sigh. Despite paying off a few thousand of debt and making our regular contributions of over a thousand to our retirement accounts, all our retirement accounts lost value more than that. Sometimes I feel like we're getting no returns on our retirement accounts. But, since I don't keep records of what I've contributed, I can't look up the truth to cheer myself up.

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.

5-5-5 progress, but ...

May 21st, 2012 at 07:25 am

This morning I did another Gilad workout, taking me to 19 workouts done, 6 to go for the month.

Unfortunately, I weighed in last night at 1.5 lbs. heavier. So far for the month, I've gained nearly 3 lbs.

Initially I was very discouraged. I mean, I'm still not thrilled. But, I'm trying to reframe this in a way that helps me not give up.

I could just decide this didn't work, stop working out, lose the benefits I've gained from these three weeks, and end my month heavier than I started it with nothing to show for it.

Or, I can finish the workouts for this month, and then craft a new plan for next month that includes diet as well as activity. I don't feel like I'm eating more, but clearly I'm sneaking in some extra calories that negate my workouts. Maybe some calorie-counting or something would help me get on track.

5-5-5 updates

May 20th, 2012 at 01:59 pm

Friday I walked home, which means I've completed the walking portion of my challenge. Yesterday I took a bike ride with NT to the grocery store and back, and I also weight-trained with AS. So I've done 4 out of 5 on both of those activities. I guess that's 18 down, 7 to go on my challenge. What I still need to do:

3 Gilad workouts
1 weight training
1 bike ride
2 trips up the condo stairs

That seems doable, though I need to make sure I leave at least a day between each of the Gilad and weight-training workouts, so my muscles can recover.

Not sure if I'll do anything today; it would have to be either a bike ride or climbing the stairs, and both involve leaving the condo. Wink

More 5-5-5 tonight

May 17th, 2012 at 09:01 pm

As promised, NT went on a bike ride with me this evening. Smile It wasn't very long, but there was an uphill stretch at the beginning that definitely made me feel like I did enough.

That takes me to 15 workouts done and 10 to go. I feel like I'm on the home stretch and hope I don't lose steam now.

I guess that's all. I thought I had more to write, but I'm starting to wind down for the night. Smile

5-5-5 progress plus random number crunching

May 17th, 2012 at 10:39 am

Yesterday I hurried home and did a free-weight workout before I lost my motivation. That takes me to 14 workouts done and 11 to go. I might just make it! NT has said he'll go on a bike ride with me tonight, so hopefully I'll soon be able to report that I'm 3/5 done with my challenge.

I must say I have noticed a small difference in my physical fitness. This morning it looked like it might rain, and I'd forgotten my umbrella. So I was going extra fast with the stroller, and I noticed I didn't get out of breath and that it felt easier to go fast than it did a few weeks ago. I would love to say that this time, I'll be making workouts a permanent part of my life. We'll see -- I've gone through many bursts of activity in my life, sometimes even lasting over a year, but I've always copped out at some point. At least I do start trying again eventually ...

Anyway, feeling very restless with finances. Part of is that our budget (especially extra debt repayment) is scaled back while we're on parental leave, which is through July. It's already dragging and I have 2.5 more months to get through! Another reason is my sister who will definitely visit is dragging her feet deciding on a weekend, and thus I don't know if I'll be able to afford tickets for my other sisters and nieces if she ever does decide. (I want them all to come the same weekend, both because it will be more fun that way, and I'm going to be borrowing a friend's condo for them to stay for free, and don't want to impose on him by asking for TWO weekends of condo use.)

So yesterday I played around with my "absolute budget" spreadsheet, which shows our gross income and breaks everything down, including tax withholding.

I updated it with our probable budget numbers in August ... I couldn't quite get everything to match up, but I'll be able to once I see how our paychecks end up in August, when leave is over and healthcare for SL has been worked out.

Anyway, on this spreadsheet I divide our expenses into "Needs," "Wants" and "Savings/extra debt repay." I pay attention to the 50/30/20 ratio espoused by many, including Elizabeth Warren in her book "All Your Worth." I don't try to adhere strictly to that, but I do like when my numbers are somewhat in line with that ratio.

It looks like our budget come August will look like this:
Needs 55.89%
Wants 20.82%
Savings/extra debt repay 23.23%

Our needs are a little high, but otherwise it looks good. But wait! Then I thought about how Elizabeth Warren has you calculate it AFTER your tax withholdings. (I include tax withholding in our "Needs" category.) So I added a line to my spreadsheet that factored out taxes from the equation, and got these numbers:
Needs 48.01%
Wants 24.54%
Saving/debt 27.38%

Now THAT ratio I really like! Smile I think our third category has to be higher than 20% because we're playing catchup from previous years of irresponsibility and brokeness: paying down excessive debt, building up an EF, accelerating our retirement contributions.

I also wondered how we're doing with our retirement contributions, since we pay into several different buckets and it's hard to tell at a glance. So I added ANOTHER line that calculated the percentage of post-tax income going to retirement: 10.92%. I can live with that! I'm still going to want to increase that ratio at some point in our lives because I feel we're a bit behind where we want to be, but that's pretty good for having two young kids and still paying off lots of debt.

Prepaid phone costs update: 2011 wrap-up, beginning 2012

May 16th, 2012 at 10:53 am

Well, our "fiscal year" for our cellphones ended March 2012. Only NT had one more fillup before then, so our April 2011-March 2012 phone costs look pretty amazing:

NT's April Net10 fillup (300 minutes): $32.87
AS's May T-Mobile fillup (1000 minutes): $107.78
NT's June Net10 fillup (300 minutes): $33.38
NT's August Net10 fillup (300 minutes): $33.38
CJ's October T-Mobile fillup (1000 minutes): $107.78
NT's Oct Net10 fillup (200 min.=1 month svc): $22.26
NT's Nov Net10 fillup (300 minutes): $33.38
AS's December T-Mobile fillup (1000 minutes): $107.78
NT's Jan Net10 fillup (300 minutes): $33.38
CJ's February phone replacement: $29
NT's March Net10 fillup (300 minutes): $33.36

FY2011 total: $574.35

Averaged over the 12 months, that means our spending for 3 cell phones was $47.86 per month! That's gonna be hard to beat this next year, and since we all had to fill up recently, our average is going to look bad at first:

FY2012 Spending:
AS's April T-Mobile fillup (500 minutes): $53.90
NT's May Net10 fillup (300 minutes): $33.36
CJ's May T-Mobile fillup (1000 minutes): $107.78

FY2012 total so far: $195.04

Since we're only in our second month of the "fiscal year," that means our average is $97.52 per month! Of course that will go down quite a bit since we all just filled up, but we also have been using more minutes because of the new baby: more calls to the proud grandparents, and people staying home with the baby = more use of cellphones vs. work phones.

But, hopefully it will still net out to be better than our old contract.

RECAP: I switched to prepaid in late March 2009, so our phone "fiscal year" begins each April. 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.

5-5-5 and pathetic progress on EF goal

May 16th, 2012 at 08:45 am

Yesterday I walked up the stairs, so that officially takes me more than halfway to my fitness goal for the month! 13 workouts down, 12 to go.

Our monthly scheduled transfer of $25 into savings happened, so that takes our EF to $13,998.84. We started the year with $14,472.57, so we're still way behind even our starting point, and very far away from the $20K goal. I mainly depend on our UK rental property to add to the EF, and this year it's been one expense after another eating away at profits. Hopefully we've seen the end of it and can at least progress past our starting point of the year, but every time I think that, some new expense seems to crop up. So we'll see.