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Archive for March, 2014

March goal wrap-up and April debt goal

March 31st, 2014 at 05:42 pm

Well, as mentioned previously, my March workout goal stalled at 13 workouts, so I missed my target of 20. My body was begging me for a week off, so I listened to it. Hope to come back somewhat in April so I don't struggle too badly at the 5k!

I exceeded the March debt goal of $900 with $930 going toward principal.

For April, I'm still setting aside extra money vs. putting it toward student loans until I know something, either about up-in-the-air job considerations or the WV land deal. So I'm shooting for the minimum payments only. Therefore the April debt goal is again to pay off at least $900. If the chips fall the way I think they will, we should be able to pay more, but I'm just not sure how soon anything is going to be definite.

Random financial updates

March 31st, 2014 at 12:36 am

Last night was the end of birthday month in my household. Friday was my mom's 80th bday; we sent her a handmade card from the girls and ordered a bouquet. Saturday SL turned 2 (can you believe it??) and we had some grownup friends over for dinner. We ordered delivery and it probably came to about $40 per person (since the three of us split the bill and treated our friends).

Today was *meant* to be a free-ish outing, except for the carshare (which we have a line item for). We had tickets to the science museum that we'd won at a fundraiser auction last year; the package even came with a free parking pass.

But when we got there, we discovered that the exhibit we wanted to see cost $8 extra per person. So that was $24 (kids got in free). I was bummed because we gave a ticket to our friend who doesn't make a ton of money, thinking it would be a nice cheap outing, and I think she had to spend $12 on parking and $8 on the exhibit ticket. Ah well. She was gracious about it.

SO, that should be the end of spending for March. I'm way in the hole still on my own spending money and looking forward to acting like a cheapskate for the month of April to make it up.

I can't believe it's already April soon! It's not as big a month for us as March, but there is AS's business trip to England the 2nd week, and our 5K near the middle of the month. There was a big thaw today, so I'm hoping I can practice outside soon. I haven't run in a week, so I need to get back into it, and I think getting to be outside vs. the exercise room will motivate me.

Several big money things are kind of pending or unsure right now, so I feel a bit in stasis. I think it contributed to not feeling motivated to run; I felt like I was waiting vs. moving.

- The land deal hasn't had any visible movement in a couple days, but as far as I know it's going through. Now that I've come to peace with it, I just want it to go through so I can contact a tax guy and figure out how much of it I'm actually going to get. I also researched nonprofits and decided which one I'm going to support.

- We saved up enough UK money to make up the rest of the 10K the management guy said we needed, and sent him an email. Turns out he meant 10K MORE (not counting what we spent last year), and he meant it as a minimum, and he meant plus VAT (making it 12K). He also mentioned the current tenant leaves in July, not May as we thought, so that gives us more time to save up money. Still, I did some calculations and we're only going to be able to come up with about 8100 plus VAT.

So NT's going to contact the guy and ask if we can do a modest reno for that amount or do a payment plan for the amount we're short. I really don't want to send any US money over there if we can find a reasonable way to avoid it, though if the land deal goes through that would be an option too.

- On Saturday, our realtor friend took us around to look at several condos with renovated bathrooms in our association. We got a good sense of what others are doing, and it's nice but not super high-end. That makes me think we might actually be able to do a budget-conscious reno and still make the place sellable. One of the places had sold for $137K recently, but it was a 1-bedroom. So that gives me hope that we could really sell for $145K in a year or so if we fix our place up.

- We discussed the possibility of buying sooner rather than later if the land deal goes through and we decide to stay in the US. If we didn't sell the UK flat, we might only be able to put 10% down at this point. Out of curiosity, I checked out what it would cost to have a mortgage, PMI and property tax on a $425K home (which might be what we would end up paying unless we decide to go a bit outside our area). It was about $2600 per month, about $900 more than what we pay for mortgage plus condo dues. (Of course I know our condo dues include utilities, so it would be even more than that if I added utilities, but I started there as a rough estimate.)

If our incomes stay fairly steady, there will be offsets next year. Hopefully student loans will be paid off, which is $157 less. We should get about $350 more per month as a result of not setting aside $5K in flex spending. We shouldn't have to spend any more on NT's tuition, which should net us $500 per month on average. So that's over $1000 per month more we'll have per month, which makes the increased mortgage seem more reasonable if we went that route.

And, there is the occasional cheaper home in our area that looks nice; I saw one the other day listed for $275K that looked great and made me wonder what the catch was! So that would mean a cheaper mortgage (especially if we could afford 20% down and avoid PMI).

I've never sold a home before, so I don't really know what the best strategy is; do you wait for it to sell and then start your search? Or do you start your home search with the hopes it would sell before you close? I think we could manage a couple months of overlap in mortgages by cutting back on fun money and maybe even IRA contributions, but anything more than a couple months would start to suck the fun out of life, not to mention stall our retirement planning! I suppose we could try to rent our old place when we bought our new, but I feel like the renters might spoil the renovations we'd made. And that's if we could find renters to cover most of our current costs.

Lots and lots to think about. I feel like things will be clearer once we find out about the land deal, once AS has her business trip and can sit back to consider her prospects in both countries, once we hear back from NT's management company about whether we can work out a deal for the UK reno.

Looks like the deal is going through ...

March 28th, 2014 at 04:51 am

My very business-y brother has taken over the land deal, and so it looks like it's going to happen very soon. I'm kind of stunned.

I've been vague about it because I feel like the words could be search engine/spam magnet, and also because I feel so conflicted about it. But basically the deal would be granting right of way on my dad's unused land for a pipeline for a very controversial type of mining venture.

When I saw the deal was going ahead very quickly, I wrote a very friendly and trying to be neutral but still impassioned email to my brother, letting him know why I thought we should each donate a portion of our proceeds. He wrote a very nice note saying he would consider it and that he understood why I wanted to think about our kids and grandkids when we accepted money from this company. So I'm leaving it up to him; I've definitely convinced at least one sister to donate part of her proceeds to an environmental group.

My brother says the deal currently looks like $78K apiece. I am assuming I will send him $1000 for doing so much legwork, $750 to my third sister who's not taking part in the deal since she got just $75K on her related deal, $10K to an as-yet-undetermined environmental cause, and $20K to taxes (though there may be some loopholes if part of the payment is compensation for damages to the land?). Looks like that could leave $46,250 of straight profit. Just kind of a phenomenal number that could wipe out some of our current goals and contribute to our pie-in-the-sky goal of buying a new home without selling NT's flat. If we decide we can't wait and do need to sell his flat to raise some cash, it still accelerates our goals to an almost unimaginable degree. I was hoping for some windfalls this year, but I was thinking in the hundreds, not the tens of thousands!

We'll see. It all seems made-up so I'm not going to assume anything until I have the actual check in my hands. But my brother is pretty confident it's going through and that the only variable is what the exact number on each person's check will be.

Reached March debt goal!

March 27th, 2014 at 02:50 am

My workout goal, alas, is stalled, but at least I reached the debt goal!

AS's student loan hit, and $138 went to principal. That takes us to $930 paid, exceeding the $900 goal.

Everything else is in a holding pattern right now:
- The weird land deal windfall is still pending; I've done some research and emailed back and forth with one sister and spoken to another one on the phone. My sister in Va. is sort of gathering info and everyone's opinions, so I assume she'll let me know what comes next.
- The various career/job considerations are still ongoing, with nothing too promising or definitive in the past week or so.
- I have some money set aside for extra payments on student loans, but with so much uncertainty about our future income, I don't feel comfortable using it, so I'm keeping it in the bank for now.
- Canceled some CCs, but also opened another Discover card. We now have 9 cards open.
- SL will be getting 500 pounds (US$800) from the UK grandparents soon, so I'll keep that in the UK account for our eventual reno, and will take $800 from U.S. EF/medical fund savings to put in her mutual fund.

Oh, we finally switched our 3rd and last prepaid phone over to Ting, so I guess that's actual progress on something!

Workout progress and ... interesting prospect

March 24th, 2014 at 03:58 am

I worked out yesterday and today, so I'm at 13 down, 7 to go. Not sure I'll hit the goal since we have a busy week ahead, but I'll be happy even if I just get close. I haven't lost weight, in fact I've gained a bit, but it's been a decadent birthday month plus I've been really lax about avoiding snacks and extra calories. I know what I need to do, so I just need to do it. No one to blame but myself!

It's been a weird weekend. Much like this year, which I thought would be totally routine financially, this weekend started with a curveball. On Saturday, my sister calls to let me know about a potential windfall from my dad -- a land deal -- my share could be $75K!! Then she tells me the source of the money, and it would be from a morally (and environmentally) questionable source. We (my dad's kids) would have to decide whether to greenlight the deal. So then I'm thinking I can't agree to it.

But then, on further reflection, I come around to thinking that turning down the deal would not change the overall course of events. I bring up the idea, and my sister likes it, that we accept it but donate a large portion of the money to a watchdog or other nonprofit org, which might in the end help more to combat the source of the problem than just saying "no" and not doing the deal. Then, I talk to one of my own sisters, who is not going to be part of this because my dad already let her do a similar deal where she got a similar amount. Her deal, I feel like, already has put wheels in motion to the point where the rest of us saying "no" wouldn't even change the course of events on this particular plot of land, let alone the region in general.

So I still don't know -- what my other siblings will say (both about the deal in general and about the idea to donate a portion), whether the deal would go through even if we said yes. But I'm kind of thinking that on my end, I will agree to consider it, and commit to donating at least $10K to a worthy cause if the money comes through, and strongly suggest that my siblings also donate if they think we should do it. I think my two sisters would donate -- they both have offspring who are deeply troubled by the nature of the business we're dealing with. My brother, I don't know if we could convince. But even if three of us did, it would be a significant contribution to a good cause. So we'll see. I'm still trying to think about it from all angles and haven't given my final opinion yet.

It all feels very surreal to me, and will remain abstract unless/until I actually see a check for the amount. But if it happened, I know exactly what I'd do with the money; donate $10K, pay whatever taxes we'd owe on it, and then put the rest in our house down payment fund. It could accelerate our goals by over a year and possibly make it so that we could keep NT's flat for rental income, vs. selling it to afford a new home.

Check-in about fitness, finances, etc.

March 21st, 2014 at 03:48 pm

I realize it's been a while since I mentioned my workouts! I haven't done as many as I would have hoped by today--only 11, which means I'd only have one free day after today (when I know I'm not working out) to get to 20. So 9 workouts to go. Even if I don't make the goal, I'll keep working out as many nights as I can find the time or energy. Heck, I can jog 30 minutes at a slightly higher pace than when I started the month, so even that's something.

On the financial side, a few more credit card rewards have come in, so I've canceled a few more cards. We "only" have 11 open between the three of us now! I also have three more that can be canceled now, and three that we need to wait for the rewards on. I'll try to cancel those three this weekend, and then we'll be down to 8! Not for long, though; as soon as we're ready to start purchasing things for the bathroom reno, I'm going to take out a few more bonus cards.

The bonuses we've received so far, along with AS's $1000 check from her recent speaking engagement, helped me pay off my bday party and have enough saved up for our upcoming tax bill. I reckon we'll owe about $1700 between the three of us; I already got AS's federal refund and saved that, so I just had to come up with about $1150 more, and now I nearly have that!

Now we can move on to saving up our snowflakes/extra money for our other unbudgeted wants. All we have left now are (including tax bill since I haven't paid it yet):
Duvet/comforter $40
Dual citizenship for girls $580
NT passport $250
AS yoga x38 $570
Swim lessons (3/$160) $480
2nd half of laptop $500
SL bed & mattress $120
Girls' new snow gear $150
Tax bill $1,154

At least some of these can be taken care of through Amazon or other retailers, so when my SW credit card bonus comes through I'll redeem for gift cards with these items in mind.

So that's $3844 of projected expenses. I have slightly more in expected snowflakes than expected expenses (mostly thru CC bonuses), but you'll see that it's assuming I take out 4 more rewards cards over the course of the year (2 Discovers and 2 Southwests). Expected snowflakes:
Current surplus $1,135.63
Apr-Dec surplus $479
CC bonuses $300
CJ raise $350
Amex rewds $150
Other CC rewards $40
SW GCs $401
NT SW GC? $401
AS SW GC? $401
CJ work anniv bonus $25
NT Discover bonus? $150
AS Discover bonus? $150
Amex GC balance $19
projected total $4,002

I haven't factored in NT's raise because I don't want to count on it (in case he finds a job he likes that pays less), so as long as he stays in his current job, that's a bit more on the surplus side. And this doesn't factor in student loans, which I'm still planning to pay off this year if we don't suffer a major income reduction when our career stuff nets out.

We also have a stack of books to try and sell on, and we'll be gathering up detritus to try and sell at our friend's garage sale this spring. So I'm not ruling out other snowflakes (nor am I expecting to get off scott free on unexpected expenses, so I figure it'll balance out in the end).

On the bathroom reno front, we scheduled one contractor consultation at the home&garden expo, had to cancel and reschedule (their fault), but have since decided they're not the best for us so are planning to cancel altogether. Instead we contacted our realtor to give us some showings of other condos in our building that are on the market and have had recent bathroom renos, so we can get an idea of our "competition." There was one contractor we talked to at the expo who seemed very willing to help keep costs down by determining what we could do on our own and what we needed a pro to do, so we'll probably contact him. And we had a look at Ikea's bathroom offerings, and they actually look pretty good -- might be able to save money on the vanity and sink basin there, so we can use the money on other things that matter more (like actual fixtures, tiles, etc.)

So, things are trucking along pretty well overall. Tonight we have the 4th of our 5 birthday celebrations (NT's), and we're going to a nice restaurant that does wood-fired pizza. Next Saturday is our 5th and final birthday celebration, our little SL's 2nd birthday! I'm pretty far in the hole on my spending money, but I have hopes that I can recoup by early April. I've cut out incidental spending completely for myself, but bigger chunks of expenses keep coming up, such as NT's dinner tonight, and ordering flowers for my mom (HER bday is next week too!), and babysitting this Thursday for a date night. Right now I'm $60 in debt, but after pizza and date night, I'll probably be another $80 in the hole, which means if I don't take any money for myself next week, I'll still be $60 down. SL's bday will probably be another $20-$30 because we're ordering in food for a few friends. Then the next week (assuming no more reasons to spend money come up) if I don't take out any money for myself and don't spend anything, I should break even! Which means I can hopefully start drawing a regular allowance for myself April 11! Whew, this is definitely the farthest in the hole I've ever gone with my spending money; I'll be glad to get back to normal.

OK, enough babbling; got to get some work done today!

Bereavement fund?

March 19th, 2014 at 04:47 am

This post will be a bit morbid, but it's something I've been thinking about so wanted to get it out of my system.

The past month has felt kind of "death is all around me." First, a college friend passed away at age 39 (cancer). Not totally unexpected, but I'd become very involved in her journey via Facebook and her blog, and had convinced myself she'd live. She left behind 2 young kids, a husband and a mother.

Then, a friend's mother died. She was in her 70s or 80s, but still, it was unexpected. He went up north to check on her and do some work around her home, and found her body.

And of course poor Sicily/Teresa from our SA community.

It's made me think, I'm 40 years old, parents are getting older, siblings are getting older, and plus, death just happens unexpectedly to younger, healthier people. Is there a point where you just start having to deal with more and more deaths of loved ones?

The college friend was a big blow. Not because we were super-close (though I did like her and we had tons of mutual friends), but because she fought so hard, seemed so invincible, and then just died. She sort of represents the realization (or rather, the confirmation) that I and my contemporaries are not immortal.

I vaguely considered going to her memorial but I knew it would be well-attended by people who had many, many more memories and stories to share. It did make me think, though. There are lots and lots of people whose services I would like to attend if they passed away.

Last-minute airfare and expenses could really add up. So what so I do if that situation comes? It's not really an emergency, because you know it's likely to happen (you just don't know when or who). Do you pull money out of "wants"? Take it from the EF and build it up later? Or maybe there should be a separate pocket of money, so if and when tragedy strikes, financial considerations aren't an added burden on top of grief.

I'm not prepared to start yet another savings goal right now, but I'm turning over the idea in my mind as a possibility for the future.

March 2014 net worth update

March 17th, 2014 at 06:56 pm

NT's UK pensions:
#1: 15,544 pounds ($24,870)
#2: 19,653 pounds ($31,445)
#3: 4,452 pounds ($7,123)
NT's 401(k): $28,832
NT's Roth IRA: $6,753
AS's 401(k): $12,208
AS's trad. IRA: $1,682
AS's Roth IRA: $17,491
CJ's 401(k): $67,596
CJ's Roth IRA: $6,753
NT's flat: 140,000 pounds ($224,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $145,000
Emergency fund (shared asset): $15,000
House down payment/moving fund (shared): $4,584
Total Assets: $593,337

Total Debt: $241,235

Current Estimated Net Worth: $352,102

January 2014 estimate: $350,340

Change in net worth: +$1,762

Summary: The market must not have been good this past month; our retirement funds increased by less than what we contributed. At least there wasn't a huge dive. We only paid off a modest amount of debt, so our overall change in net worth is OK, but not spectacular. I'm hoping for a big month in the markets soon, so I can see our assets hit the $600K mark!

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 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 $1.60 for every British pound.

Fitness progress, small savings, big relief

March 16th, 2014 at 05:50 am

Today has been a do-nothing type of day for me. I'd split a bottle of wine with AS last night and so figured I was hungover this morning (headachey and low-energy), but then NT said the bottle was way-low alcohol and my share would've been the equivalent of a glass of regular wine. That's when I realized I had a cold (or the one I've had has gotten worse). So I didn't work out, or do much of anything, today.

But I did force myself to work out last night for 30 mins. in the exercise room. I did lower-impact stuff, but at least I got my workout in. That made it 8 down and 12 to go to meet my goal for the month. We shall see!

I checked our savings accounts; .32 in interest in one and 6.34 in the other. The .32 will just get set aside in money I'm holding for EF replenishment once the UK renovations are paid for; the 6.34 goes into our moving fund.

NT got his back pay from his raise, a little over $200. This goes into our general surplus to help pay for some of the unbudgeted-for but expected things. In this case it will help cover our taxes owed April 15.

Groceries were about $50 under budget this week! We're going to use the surplus to stock up on Asian pantry staples we're running low on; hoisin and sesame oil and such.

There's been something hanging over our heads lately. Basically, AS's mom started saying about 6 months ago that she was going to try and find a job in our city. Didn't ask us, or discuss it, just started making offhand comments when commenting on our stuff on Facebook. It was a tad odd but I didn't think much of it. Then when she visited in December, she talked about it again, but again, not in a way that really invited conversation. It was like, I'm going to do this. Then she said something about AS's aunt not approving of the plan and saying "who's going to take care of you if something happens?" and AS's mom told us that she told the aunt, we would.

That's when I started getting uncomfortable. We have worked hard to get out of the hole and have grand plans about what we want to do with our money once we're out of debt, and it didn't involve this big unknown quantity. I started feeling insecure about our finances all of a sudden. AS's grandmother once gifted her some money to help with college applications and visits, and her mom cleared out the account (after racking up charges checking the balance repeatedly by phone) and never paid her back.

Additionally, one of the reasons we started getting in the hole was that AS didn't qualify for federal student aid because her parents had refused to file taxes that year. So I took out an unsecured personal loan to pay for a semester, that her parents said they'd pay part of back (I believe I took out $12K and they said they'd pay $4K). They sent me one $200 check and that was the end of it; they never mentioned paying me back again.

Then, when we were buying our condo, a credit check turned up a loan in default under AS's social security number; some digging revealed it was a car loan taken out with her social but her mom's name, when AS was 15. We got it cleared from the record.

A year or two ago, AS loaned her mom $2500 to help pay for a divorce and a couple other things. When I say "loan" it's because her mom used that word; I treated it like a gift and didn't expect to get a penny back, and we haven't.

Needless to say, I was worried that if she moved out here, she'd expect us to finance a lot of things.

So today after another FB message, AS called and spoke for a long time. Not being mean and saying we don't want you out here, but more about thinking practically, considering cost of living here, retirement, etc. Turns out she was really frustrated living with AS's aunt (the mom's sister) and that may be a big part of this wish to move to our city. (And grandkids being here, of course.) AS made it pretty clear we would not be able to contribute much of anything financially, and got her to consider other options, like moving back to the city she used to live in, or just trying to speak more frankly to her sister. At any rate it seems she'll think carefully before doing anything. Here's hoping! I'm just glad things are more out in the open than before.

I feel much better that things are out in the open. Feels like one less variable when we already have so many hanging over our heads!

Workout progress and quick update

March 14th, 2014 at 01:32 am

Wow, I feel like I haven't blogged in forever!

First of all, I worked out Friday, took three days off of exercising (gulp), then worked out Tuesday and Wednesday and tonight. So that's 7 down, 13 to go. The only way I could be halfway done with my goal halfway through the month is if I work out Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Then I'll have 15 days to do 10 more workouts.

My 40th bday party was specTACular. Didn't get a ton of photos, but everyone was so complimentary saying it was a great party, great idea, etc. I sang most of my favorite karaoke songs and some people who'd never done it before tried for me. Including NT! He had never successfully gotten through a song until that night, and he did THREE. My best college friend came from out of town just for my party, so I felt extra special. Also, there were tons of leftovers that made many lunches and snacks.

I had insomnia for two nights after that -- partly exhilaration and remembering all the great moments, and partly freaking out that I spent so much money on a single night! But it was totally worth it, and I'm paying off the credit card I used tomorrow.

There were only a few wrinkles, one of them being I forgot to bring the rewards card I was going to use! Oh well, it will be easy to spend it up in other ways and get the rewards.

Speaking of cards, NT canceled two more last night, so we're down to 15 cards. As soon as some payments post (due to go out tomorrow), we'll cancel some more. Can't wait to get under 10!

I was dead on my feet Monday -- had a slight cold on top of the insomnia. Tuesday I went in late because of a dentist appointment. Wednesday AA woke up with pinkeye, so I worked from home. Today, my company had our long overdue holiday party. So this whole week has felt weird and unproductive.

But, AS got paid for her speaking gig she hasn't even done yet (she's going next week): $1000! And I got a $100 Amex gift card at my holiday party. So we're doing OK on money lately! Still no news on any of the career changes being contemplated. Basically if we manage to make about the same, we should be able to barely make the progress I want to this year, if we make less we'll need to stretch out some of our goals a bit more. If we start making more, we'll obviously be able to hit our goals early.

Until we figure out where we're going, I've decided to bank the money that would go toward extra student loan payments. For instance, I was going to put $600 extra to student loans in March, but I'm keeping that in the checking account until we get some more clarity.

Workout progress and promising work stuff, plus a Ting question

March 7th, 2014 at 04:01 pm

I worked out again last night, 30 mins on the treadmill (15 walking uphill and 15 running). That's 3 workouts down, 17 to go. I hope to go again tonight!

Yesterday my new supervisor (who I've worried might not nurture me as much as my old one) told me that later this month, I'm going along to visit a huge new client of ours. I think this is a direct result of my being proactive and telling him I wanted in on this project a few weeks ago! He also mentioned that he'd like to start transitioning me from my current editing/proofreading role to more of a writer position. That could mean more money! I'm cautiously optimistic.

NT got an email back from someone he'd contacted expressing interest in working for their company, so he sent her his resume. I'm glad he's still working on an exit strategy just in case these promising signs of his job improving turn out to be nothing.

Unrelated: Our cat is showing signs of ANOTHER UTI, yowling more often, going to the litterbox more often, scattering litter throughout the condo. We had him on half wet and half dry food, so we're temporarily switching him to 100% prescription wet food in hopes that clears it up. It's expensive, but if the Rx wet food keeps the UTIs away, we may make it a permanent thing.

Question to Ting customers: My prepaid phone is about to run out, so I'm switching to Ting. Can NT "refer" me to get credits, or does it not work that way since we'll be on the same plan?

Workout progress, some bits of news

March 6th, 2014 at 05:38 am

I finally got my second workout done! 2 down 18 to go. I realize I cannot take 3 out of every 5 days off if I want to hit 20 workouts this month! But we had three birthdays in the first 5 days of March, so it was a bit distracting.

I added $800 to AA's mutual fund, as planned, because of her granddad's gift, and kept the 500 pounds in the UK account. We'll now almost certainly have enough money to authorize the complete reno in May when the UK flat tenant's lease is up. I took some from our unallocated savings and some from our medical EF to fund the mutual fund, so we now need about $2300 to reach the medical fund goal. But I'm really happy to have the money in the UK account instead, since our income to that account is limited and it would be expensive to send US dollars over there to fund the reno.

NT called the hospital that he'd accidentally double-paid a bill for, and they said they'd refund it in a couple weeks. I'm glad they didn't fight it! The person he talked to actually acknowledged that the payment had gone toward the 2011 workman's comp claim, which is what I thought too.

We finished the credit card rewards last night, at our dinner out for AS's birthday. Now it's just a matter of waiting to receive points, redeeming them for cash, paying off the cards and canceling them. I canceled one more last night and am ready for NT to call and cancel two that won't let me do online cancellation. After payday the 14th, I'll pay off a bunch more and be ready to cancel them.

AS got that Discover offer in the mail (spend $750 get $150). I'm tempted! We'll see. I want to cancel a couple more first.

A very very interesting, potentially lucrative job possibility has appeared on the horizon. Nothing concrete, but something that puts stars (and dollar signs) in my eyes at the possibilities! Cannot go into detail about anything unless something comes of it, so fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, NT's job has actually shifted a couple of things around and eased a bit of the pressure. Probably not enough to keep him there if he gets another job offer, but it's nice to see any amount of progress since he's been under so much strain.

My birthday party is coming up! I'm nervous because there are several moving parts. It's at a restaurant, so there's a room reserved. Usually we just have parties at our place, so you hang out while you wait for people to show up. Hanging out in an empty restaurant space hoping people come on the early side might be nerve-wracking! But I'll have my spouses and my best friend visiting from NYC, so that will distract me. Then, I have a karaoke DJ, so I hope he comes as promised and everything hooks up right. Then, I have a stranger coming to babysit. She's a good friend of a niece of a former boss, so not completely unconnected to us, but I have no idea how reliable she is. I'm really hoping there isn't some babysitting crisis where we end up paying a fortune for a last-minute stranger, or have to take turns staying with the kids instead of being at the party!

I'm sure it will be fine. It's just the most expensive party I've planned (besides my wedding), so I hope it doesn't feel like a complete waste. But then I tell myself, some of my best friends are definitely going to be there, so it'll be a great time no matter what. Also, I went and had a make-up lesson and am going to buy cosmetics tomorrow, and I bought a really pretty dress ($200 value on sale for $50) that I'm looking forward to wearing. Yes, I'm going all out for this birthday! Smile

I'm still surprised by how this year is not turning out at all like I thought it would so far. I thought it would be a routine, buckle down kind of year with lots of knowns and few unknowns. Instead it seems like *everything* is potentially up in the air, and I've made a few bold (for me) moves such as this party. Exciting but unnerving.

Progress on debt goal, plus generous grandparent gift and more

March 4th, 2014 at 09:32 pm

The mortgage payments all hit:

US: $474 to principal
UK1: $223
UK2: $46
UK3: $49

All told, $792 down, $108 to go on the March debt goal.

Not doing as well on the March fitness goal; I didn't work out last night, and I probably won't tonight since we're going out for AS's bday. Will just have to hit the goal hard after that!


NT's dad gave AA a very generous 4th bday gift of 500 pounds, direct deposited into the UK checking account. That's $800, nearly a whole year's goal for her savings! He said something about planning the same for SL on her 2nd birthday.

I think I'm going to put $800 into AA's U.S. mutual fund and keep the 500 in the UK account to help cover renovations in a couple months. That means the $800 will need to be taken out of existing funds -- I have about $150 in unallocated savings and I'll take the rest from the medical EF. Although this is a setback to the medical fund goal, it's going to help with the UK renovation goal, so we're not losing any progress, just moving some money around.


The first part of March I have many expensive fun things planned, so I'm going to go in the hole in terms of spending money. Although I don't like having to borrow against future spending money, I've done it several times in the past and always been able to catch up. I should be caught up by mid- to late March. The main expensive things were/are a new party dress, make-up that I plan to buy this week (I pretty much have to start from scratch since I haven't worn make-up regularly in years), and babysitting for my bday party. My 40th only comes once in my life, so I'm OK with going a bit in the hole for it. Smile


We've been having some trouble with a medical bill that keeps coming; it's from a workers' comp claim from 2011 for NT. We'd never gotten a bill for it and assumed it had been handled, but his 2013 ER visit triggered something in the system and now we keep getting the bill. We've tried to have NT's work handle it, and he finally called after they threatened to send the bill to collections! He got through to them and they're going to put off the collections issue and talk to his workers' comp insurance company. But while they had him on the phone they claimed he still owed $142 from the 2013 visit. He paid it via credit card on the spot, but that number sounded familiar so I dug through my own records. Sure enough, I paid them that exact amount back in December! Whether they were being dishonest or dense I'm not sure, but they basically got him to pay part of the balance on the workers' comp claim, and I want that money back! I hope we do resolve it someday. I have not taken the money out of the budget; I have a line item saying that it will be reimbursed. If we fail in our efforts to get it back, then I'll have to take the $142 out of somewhere else, which I would HATE.

Rant over. Sorry!


More good news, though; NT got notified of a 5% raise, backdated to February 1! We're not sure how much longer he'll be at this job if they don't employ more help, but at least we can bank some extra income while we wait to see how everything pans out. Looking forward to his next paycheck including some back pay! Smile

I still hope to get a raise in April, but if I do, it will probably only be 2%. I'll take it though!

No word on AS's job giving out raises this year. But, she's getting $1000 for a speaking gig in Chicago this month! It'll come just in time to help pay our tax bill, so it's an immensely welcome amount of money.


We are almost done with the spending on this round of credit cards. I just need to spend $70some on the Southwest Visa, and I hope to buy a smartphone this week from Ting, so that should top it out. Now just waiting for CC rewards amounts to post!

Fitness progress on my 40th birthday!

March 2nd, 2014 at 11:59 pm

It's my birthday! I'm glad SavingAdvice got back online; I was kind of nervous I'd lose all my data!

I worked out today, so that's 1 workout down, 19 to go for the March goal.

It's bitterly cold today, so we skipped the kids' event at a nearby museum. I didn't want to have to wait for the bus, which are all off-schedule because of the icy roads. We already got exposed to enough cold yesterday when a bus was half an hour late! We went to a home & garden show to get ideas and contacts for our bathroom reno, then went out to dinner with our friends who watched the kids for us while we were at the expo.

Anyway, it's been nice to just relax at home today. I got lots of nice thoughtful gifts and extra pampering. I wanted something unique for dinner so I'm going to be making a modified Elvis sandwich: a fried banana/peanut butter/jelly/veggie bacon sandwich. With a salad so I don't feel completely unhealthy. Smile