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Archive for November, 2012

December goals; random financial tidbits

November 30th, 2012 at 10:05 pm

This will be a modest month for debt repayment probably; most extra money is going to pad the EF to get as close to that goal as possible.

So, my goal is to pay $940 of debt. I should be able to reach it with just minimum payments.

I'll definitely reach the 2012 goal of getting total debt under $300K! Probably Monday or Tuesday; whenever all the mortgage payments have processed.

I'm hoping to reclaim the 2012 goal to get to $300K net worth, as long as stocks haven't tanked even more.

I don't think I'll reach my final 2012 goal, getting the EF to $20K, but I might get within $2K of that. I'll just do as much as I can without disrupting my regular budget.

Other random $$ news:

We got notice that our condo association dues are going up next year -- by over 8%! Yikes. That's almost $50 per month more. So that's a setback for our big-picture goals, though not a huge one.

I've got a $200 dental bill I keep meaning to pay -- I was hoping NT would settle a workman's comp claim and get another, $100 bill refunded, but not sure when (if ever) that will happen, so I'll have to suck it up and pay it soon. They sent me a second notice, less than two weeks after the first! I guess they really want it bad; usually doctors and dentists are much less pushy than that.

I got a $25 Amex card from work as a reward for a project I was on, so I'll use that for groceries and put $25 of grocery money toward my Va. trip. That'll take me to less than $75 owed! This trip may even be fully funded before I go. (I did pay cash for it, but now I need to make it up in the budget.)

AS got one of her freelance checks -- $981 -- and we decided to set aside most of it for next year's tax prep and this year's holiday gifts for service providers. $300 of it we divvied up for our personal use. Not sure what I'll do with mine, but I like having the extra money to my name! The next freelance check will go strictly to savings. If NT gets a holiday bonus, that will mostly go toward a big blowout 40th bday party for him next year, and anything left over will go into savings (ours or the kids, haven't decided yet).

I decided not to buy tickets to that theater show I wanted to go to. By the time I started looking, tickets were only available on Stubhub.com, and I'd only be able to afford nosebleed seats way off to the side. I decided my $450 could go toward more fun than that! So I'm using some of the money to treat us to three date nights (one person will stay home with the kids for each one). Tomorrow night AS and I are going on the first one.

I'm sure there are lots of other little things that have happened this month, but I'm worn out from a busy week at work. This weekend is going to be fun but hectic, so I wanted to get something posted here before I go to bed!

Reached November debt repayment goal!

November 26th, 2012 at 10:00 pm

AS's student loan payment hit, with $128 going to principal. That takes us to $1777 paid for the month, exceeding our goal of $1750.

That takes our total household debt to $300,790. Since our mortgage payments will pay over $800 in principal, that means that in another week, we'll reach the 2012 goal of having less than $300,000 in debt! Hard to believe, but so wonderful. We'll still have a long road ahead, but it seems so much more manageable now than when I first started this blog and this journey.

Planning for the next four years

November 26th, 2012 at 11:40 am

I've been tinkering with my big-picture plan, and it looks like even if the payroll tax cut expires, we should only be about $583 per month short of accomplishing our (pretty aggressive, in my opinion) saving and debt-repayment goals in four years. In other words, it would take us another 13 months at my estimated pace. (However, if AS continues to pull in freelance editing jobs at $1000 a pop, she'd only need about 6 of them per year to make up the shortfall.)

The goals are:
- $20K EF
- $5K medical fund
- Debt-free except mortgages by end of 2015 (about $38,350 of student loan payments plus $11,194 more in tuition)
- $80K in a moving to England / house down payment fund

Before 5 years are up, I know we'll have some money freed up in the budget; diaper service $91 per month will dip down and then go away once both girls are potty-trained (2-3 years for the infant, but the toddler hopefully will be done in a couple months), and daycare reduced by a couple hundred a month when AA starts going to kindergarten. (I assume we'll still pay something for after-school care and possibly other school expenses.)

Additionally, we pay about $100 per month in interest on our student loans. If we focused on eliminating those first, that would free up that amount to go toward savings.

With those changes, we might be able to cut down on the time it takes to meet all our goals.

I'm still torn as to whether I should just tackle one or two goals at a time, or continue putting a bit of money to each until they're all accomplished. Some of the money can only be put to certain goals: The UK rental income would be expensive to bring over to our US account, so I would use that only for the EF and house/moving savings goals, not debt repayment or the medical fund. And I do need to make at least a $125 minimum principal payment to AS's student loan even if I decide not to focus on student loans first.

So, I'll continue to mull over it, and hopefully I'll make up my mind before the new year starts.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 22nd, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Hope everyone has/is having a wonderful day. I have no cooking to do today, I did a ton of prep work yesterday, chopping veggies and herbs, making mashed potatoes that we can just heat in the oven today, writing down cooking times and how to finish each recipe. Today NT will manage our half of the entree dishes, AS is finishing up pies, rolls and vegan ice cream, and our friends are bringing the other entree foods.

We're hosting four people plus the five of us, a very manageable gathering.

I spent the morning making crafts with my toddler AA, and now she's all tuckered out, and she and the infant SL are taking naps while I relax.

Having kids has inspired me to rediscover my love of making crafts. When I was a kid I'd make things pretty regularly, even if it was just doing a latch-hook kit or paint-by-numbers. AS is still craftsy, so she'll have no trouble helping the kids be artsy as they get a bit more coordinated, but for me it's hard to remember or call up those skills I used to have. Thank goodness for the internet -- I printed out coloring pages and templates for projects. There was only one I did on my own, from a memory of something my parents had around every Christmas, a pipe-cleaner elf with card-stock head, feet and hands. I spent about $10 on glue, markers, construction paper, pipe cleaners, pom poms and googly eyes, and we'll be able to make tons of things with those.

So far I've spent about $7 of my charitable dollars. Luckily I don't have to keep track -- when my envelope of $1 bills is spent, I'll know I'm done. Today I had to run to the grocery store for one item we'd forgotten, and on the way I gave $1 to a panhandler and put $1 in a musician's guitar case.

Anyway, just wanted to check in while I have a moment to relax. Nothing to report really. Have a lovely day!

November 2012 net worth update: slipped under goal amount

November 19th, 2012 at 09:28 am

NT's UK pensions:
#1: 13,884 pounds ($27,768)
#2: 17,268 pounds ($34,536)
#3: 3,709 pounds ($7,418)
NT's 401(k): $19,556
NT's Roth IRA: $4,463
AS's 401(k): $7,708
AS's trad. IRA: $1,682
AS's Roth IRA: $8,615
CJ's 401(k): $45,107
CJ's Roth IRA: $4,463
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $160,000
Emergency fund (shared asset): $16,915
House down payment/moving fund: $2,195
Total Assets: $600,426

Total Debt: $300,918

Current Estimated Net Worth: $299,508

August 2012 estimate: $300,000

Change in net worth: -$492

Summary: Well, we paid off debt and added to savings, but it wasn't enough to offset the stock market fluctuations this month; we dipped down below my 2012 goal of $300K net worth.

But, we're only $492 off. I feel confident that we can make that amount up in the December net worth tally and still make our goal.

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.

My holiday charity money

November 15th, 2012 at 10:08 pm

So each of us gets $50 per month to allocate to any charitable or altruistic cause that we choose. I don't have any one thing I do; sometimes I donate to a friend's cause like a charity run, sometimes I give it to someone who's having a hard time, usually I send it to an established charitable or political cause: emergency humanitarian aid, animal rights, children's causes, environmentalism, social equality, my college, etc. There's so much I would like to give to, that whatever I do feels like a drop in the bucket, but I'm glad I have this budget so I feel like I can do something.

I never give money on the street. So many times I've had the person clearly ask someone else for money after I give them the bus fare or bus pass they said they wanted, or try to not give me change after I lend them some money to buy food, etc. and so on. Basically I hate that feeling of being duped. Plus, I feel that the money might go to feed a dangerous addiction that's the cause of the person being on the street in the first place. But I still feel mean that I always turn everyone down, no matter what. I realize that especially in these times, there are a lot of people truly in need. And as the weather gets harder in MN, only the people who truly have nowhere to go are going to be out there.

So for one month (or however long my $50 lasts), I'm going to give a dollar to everyone who asks me. Who knows, I don't get out much for lunch or otherwise, so I may not even run into that many people. Or maybe work will slow down around the holidays and I'll take more lunches.

I feel a bit silly doing it, but it's something I thought would feel nice for Thanksgiving and Christmas time, and hopefully brighten some people's days a bit during the holidays.

Progress on debt goal, money into the moving fund, trip planning

November 15th, 2012 at 03:22 pm

An extra payment to one of NT's student loans hit, and $836 went to principal. That means we're at $1649 down, $101 to go on the November debt goal! AS's student loan payment near the end of the month will finish that off.

I was also able to transfer $461.06 to the house/moving fund, and saw that we earned $1.29 in interest recently. That takes the fund balance to $2,194.65!

AS got another freelance editing job, nearly $1000! We still haven't gotten the money from her last one, so I know we won't see this money for a while, but it'll be nice when it comes! I think she said if she does about 7-10 pages per day, she'll get it done on time, so it won't even be a big marathon session of editing.

On the card I opened to get a statement credit when I booked my Va. plane tickets, I noticed they'd already credited me the $100 but hadn't charged me the $69 annual fee! I think I'm going to try and cancel it once my payoff of the balance hits, and see if I can avoid the annual fee. That would be essentially $69 more toward paying for the ticket! Then I would only need about $125 more.

If not, that's fine too, but it would be a nice boost.

I confirmed that my sister will pick me up and drop me off at the airport in Va., and I know my dad will loan me a car and/or drive me around while I'm there, so transportation will be free once I get to Va. NT is going to drive me to the airport using Hourcar, which will only cost us about $10 or $15, much cheaper than a taxi or shuttle and much faster/more convenient than the bus and lightrail. Now I just need to figure out transportation from airport to home once I get back (NT will be at work). I'll ask a few nice friends and offer some gas money for their troubles; if not, one cab ride won't kill me.

Food will be free on the trip (my family will feed me) unless the girls and I need snacks during the flight/waiting at airports. I won't carry a ton since it will be just me with 2 kids, 2 carseats and luggage, so I will purchase snacks vs. carrying them, for convenience.

I guess that's all my news! Grocery budget has been tight and running over some weeks, but we're doing admirably considering. Showing restraint in our meal planning nearly every week, cutting out or putting off things that aren't absolutely necessary. When AA is potty trained and SL off formula (both should happen sometime next year), sticking to the budget will be a walk in the park because we'll be so used to working with much less.

Very excited about Thanksgiving, but I think it will be much less gluttonous than most years. Both because we're trying to be moderate with our groceries and because we're all trying to lose and/or maintain weight. It'll still be delicious and fun, and maybe even better because my menu planning won't be as ambitious as usual.

EF progress, weight holding steady

November 12th, 2012 at 07:53 am

I'm slowing my extra debt repayment for the rest of the year so that once I get household debt under $300K, I can focus on the EF instead. I most likely won't get to $20K and meet my 2012 goal, but I'll get as close as I can so I can finish that goal by early next year, hopefully.

To that end, I reckoned I only need to pay $900 extra to the student loan debt this month, so I had $389.14 I could put into savings for the EF. That brings our EF to $16,914.76, $3085.24 short of our goal.

Next month I'll be able to put at least $1062 into the EF that would normally go to extra debt repayment, and hopefully another $600 from flat rental profits if no repairs or other expenses crop up. That might be it, leaving us about $1400 short of the annual goal. Still, considering the hit our EF took right at the beginning of the year, not bad!

In other good news, I weighed in last night at less than 127! I was a hair over 129 last Sunday which had me worried, and we had Chinese takeout on Friday plus went to a party Saturday this week (and hadn't worked out beyond my usual walking), so I wasn't sure how it would net out. But I lost about 3 lbs.!

I have the day off today, and it's cold and snowy outside. So I'm going to do a bit of cooking, a bit of cleaning, and some nerding out over finances and news. Other than that I'm just going to relax!

Where do I start??

November 10th, 2012 at 01:59 pm

Wow, what a week and a half it's been! Lots has been happening, and my sleep has been messed up. I got up before 6:30 am to vote before work Tuesday, then stayed up past 1:30 hoping to see whether our two horrible proposed amendments passed. (I finally went to bed when I heard they were doing a hand recount of some precincts -- I missed the good news that they'd both been voted down until I asked NT the next morning!) Then SL has been teething and restless, and she woke us up in the middle of the night a time or two this week.

So, I guess I'll start with the bad news and then get to the good!

The bad news is that I've majorly FAILED on my goal to work on a novel and my fitness goal to do weight training. I wrote about 1325 words before I realized it was just too hard with a toddler, an infant, a spouse in college and another who has to bring work home all the time. Any bits of time I found, I found it impossible to concentrate. I gave up by about Nov. 4.

And working out, I just keep honestly forgetting to do until it's late and I'm tired. I've got to remember not to make a bunch of ambitious goals in November! There are only about two and a half weeks between election day and Thanksgiving which are both BIG days in our home, and then after turkey day it's time to start getting ready for Christmas.

But, I don't mind too much about my goals because of all the good news!

First, I went ahead and booked my plane tickets to visit my parents in December, and I'm over halfway to paying for them through random windfall money. I found extra money in the haircut fund, won a $10 and a $25 gift card at work, got $82 profit sharing from our grocery co-op, AND I did a credit card deal when I booked the airfare. It's a $100 after first purchase deal, but with a $69 annual fee I'll only net $31. Still, for $366 worth of plane tickets, that's nearly 10% off the price. With all these random windfalls coming, I'm sure I can find another $160 here and there and fully fund the tickets without taking money from another budget item.

Next, the HUGE good news. We got a letter from our mortgage company that they canceled our private mortgage insurance! I didn't know this, but as part of Dodd-Frank, banks are required to cancel PMI once you pay your mortgage down to 78% of the original property value. We're still underwater, but apparently we met that other requirement! I checked and it's about $127 less per month. So that's a BIG boost to our budget. I can put it toward any of our goals, like our emergency fund or our house/moving fund.

It also means that over 50% of our regular debt payments now go to principal! Because of PMI, mortgage, escrow and of course because we're paying interest-only on a couple of the student loans, our minimum payments have always had less than 50% going to principal. (A great motivator for all my extra debt payment, believe me!) But eliminating PMI finally takes us below the 50% line.

We've had some other bits of good money news, but those are the best. I've got to go now; more minutes slipped by since I started this entry, and now we have to get ready to go to a potluck party!

Debt-repayment & savings progress for November

November 1st, 2012 at 01:39 pm

All mortgage payments hit today:
US: $435 to principal
UK1: $264
UK2: $56
UK3: $58

All told, $813 down, $937 to go on my November debt repayment goal.

NT's rental management company charged a service fee, as they do twice a year, so I could only put $70 into EF savings. Still, that takes our EF to $16,525.42. That means we'd still have to come up with nearly $3500 to hit the $20K goal this year. Not likely, but hoping to at least get to $18K this year and then finish up early next year.

To that end, I'm only paying enough extra on student loans to get total debt under $300K. Anything else will get put into the EF.