Home > Archive: September, 2014

Archive for September, 2014

October debt goal

September 30th, 2014 at 08:30 pm

One more quick entry for today!

My goal for October is to pay off at least $1550 of debt.

Starting balance of all debt: $680,503. Goal balance: $678,953.

September goal reached and general brain dump

September 30th, 2014 at 04:29 pm

AS's student loan hit, with $136 going to principal.

Also, we got a call from Sallie Mae about NT's loan a couple days ago. I logged on and saw that we'd missed a payment in August and had one due for September too! I hadn't even been checking his account because he's in school until mid-December and they shouldn't have come due. I quickly paid both (a little over $100 total) and will take it out of the money I've been hoarding for getting out of the condo. Then I called Sallie Mae and it turns out they'd been waiting to hear from the college to confirm enrollment but payments had started up anyway. They've put a hold on future payments pending confirmation from the college.

So long story short, I paid off some interest that had accrued plus $25 on NT's student loan. Annoying that we had to make a payment now, but I'm always happy to reduce debt! Smile

All told, that's $161 put to principal. That takes us to $1581, exceeding the $1500 goal for September. I'll post an October goal soon.

Other news:

- One of my favorite co-workers, probably in her 40s, is dying. Stage 4 lung cancer. She just found out a couple months ago but probably won't last many more days. She started chemo and planned to keep working, but it was progressing way too fast, so she's in hospice now. Healthy woman, full of energy, smart-alecky and hardworking. Two tween-aged kids and a husband and parents. This will be the second unbelievably vibrant woman I know this year to die of cancer. It is awful. Especially knowing there's no hope of her survival at all.

- Beyond aching for her and her family, the suddenness of it makes me evaluate whether I've got a good balance of delaying gratification while allowing some. I think I am. We allowed a big gratification -- moving into our new house -- in exchange for delaying a lot of little things. If luck continues to go our way, we'll be able to start introducing those little pleasures early next year. Doesn't seem like that long, except when I think that if my co-worker had found out about her cancer today, she'd likely have died by early next year. But it does make me glad we moved into the house. Couldn't imagine putting all that effort, money and mental anguish into buying the place and never getting to live there.

How to live your life to its fullest while keeping mind that you have anywhere from three months to 60 years left? That's the financial balancing act. Those who don't have that many wishes that take money are lucky. A good deal of the things I want to do, have or see will cost me money. But it's not all that. Some of what I want to do is just not work as hard and spend more time with family and friends. That doesn't take money, really, just good money management and work/life balance. And we're all actively trying to achieve that. It's gotten a bit better for me and AS; NT is still stretched way too thin, but if he can hang on through mid-December, he'll at least get college off his plate, and that's a biggie. And hopefully his new managerial role at work will eventually mean more delegating and less long hours, but only time will tell with that one.

OK, sorry, I had to write about that. I know it wasn't too cheerful. It's been weighing on me and when I heard about her going into hospice yesterday, I had to get it off my chest.

Other stuff:

- AS now has enough freelance work to fund November and part of December. She's got some potential work that will finish off December if it pans out. If she funds through January, I'm going to start allocating future jobs toward 2014 taxes and AS's retirement, which have both been neglected since the end of August. After that I would start socking away money to get out of the condo.

- No word from the people interested in the condo, so we're going ahead with getting the rest of the floors redone. Should be about $800, which I've already got set aside.

- We got through our third and final set of visitors (just Friday through Saturday). My sister and two of her kids (adults, really). My sister generously paid for all meals out, so we just paid for carshares to/from airport, a haircut for my niece, an ice cream cone for my nephew and a few other little things. Came to about $75 which we all helped pay in. A cheap visit! I have no money until Friday, but that's quite all right.

- I have my final(?) dental appointment for my implant this week. I hope no adults in my household lose teeth for a very long time! It's been nearly a year-long process and would have cost about $5000 if I hadn't used pretax money and credit card rewards to offset it.

- Living in deliberate frugality again, I've noticed the same reactions as the first time we did it, when we started our debt-payoff journey. I'm not ashamed at all to say I have no money for a new winter wardrobe, that we can only get new furniture if it's free, that we have no money to eat out, that I'm not going to replace my sneakers with holes in the heel until they actually become uncomfortable, that we've cut our haircut visits in half, etc. I feel good about these decisions because they're helping us to carry two mortgages and move into our big new house. Some people seem to react positively, but others kind of get quiet and look embarrassed or sad. I just think it's funny now, because I know I'm working toward a place where I can easily afford those things again, and I'm not feeling deprived by putting off these purchases. In fact I feel smart, free and empowered by these decisions. It's not like we don't have some money in the bank and tons of available credit on cards; I just don't want to use any of those things until we're in a better position with our debt and monthly budget. If we absolutely need something, there are ways to pay for it.

See if I can get an update in

September 26th, 2014 at 02:39 am

I started to write something yesterday but didn't get far enough to save it. Life is busy and full! Maybe part of it is now that I write in my daily job, I feel less need to blog as often.

I don't have any huge pieces of financial news, but the bits and pieces are piling up, most of them good. I'll get the bad news out of the way first:

- No offer on the condo. The people who seemed interested have stopped communicating suddenly with THEIR agent. She has no idea why. I think if I haven't heard anything tomorrow, I'm going to call and get the floor job scheduled. I think it will show better if we do that.

On to the good stuff:

- NT's mom sent us over $1000 as a housewarming gift! Instead of hoarding it like I have any other windfall money, we're actually using it for house stuff. So far we've used it for furnace repair, wireless internet router & Chromecast, kitchen trash cans, picture hangers, and vacuum cleaner repair. We still have about $800 left.

- NT found out he is getting a promotion next month to a managerial position. He should get a decent raise but the main benefit will be in a larger bonus in December. Either way, great news!

- AS's $2300 editing job fell through but she's more than covered it with lots of smaller jobs from different places. The work is flowing in steadily, so she's still replaced net pay plus health insurance through mid-November.

- Can't tell if it's for real or not, but the contact at the WV gas company said he thinks we'll get payment for the right-of-way on or before the option expiration date, which is Oct. 12. At least we should know something by then, whether it's full payment, letting the option expire or renewing the option for another 6 months.

- My new job is going very well overall. I've had some difficult moments but have also received some nice compliments and good feedback, so I'm starting to feel more confident.

- I transferred $8500 of CC balances onto the 0% card. I figure I'll leave it there for a while in case we sell the condo at a loss and need to pay to get out of the mortgage. Maybe we'll have enough money to cover it when that happens (especially if the WV deal happens or NT's bonus is really big) but since the card is 0% until end of 2015, might as well leave the debt there and keep the money in the bank just in case. I also have NT's last semester of tuition sitting on a loan ($4500) with the money to pay it off sitting in checking, and an extra $2K in checking. And I could put another $2500 at 0% on the credit card if needed to get out from under the condo. So we'll see what happens, but at least I have options.

Lots of other bits here and there, but I think that's all the big stuff. Onward and upward!

September 2014 net worth update

September 18th, 2014 at 05:05 pm

NT's UK pensions:
#1: 17,105 pounds ($27,368)
#2: 19,653 pounds ($31,445)
#3: 4,452 pounds ($7,123)
NT's 401(k): $31,883
NT's Roth IRA: $7,381
AS's 401(k): $13,842
AS's trad. IRA: $1,682
AS's Roth IRA: $19,809
CJ's 401(k): $75,028
CJ's Roth IRA: $7,381
NT's flat: 140,000 pounds ($224,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $145,000
CJ/NT/AS house: $440,000
Total Assets: $1,031,942

Total Debt: $680,664

Current Estimated Net Worth: $351,278

August 2014 estimate: $346,493

Change in net worth: +4,785

Summary: Some decent gains to retirement despite the fact we aren't contributing as much right now. Also some nice debt reduction helped.

I'll update the Individual Net Worth page shortly, breaking it out by 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..60 for every British pound.

Showing went ... ?

September 14th, 2014 at 01:31 am

Well, the feedback from the third showing was promising but not definitive. The mom (who would be living there and was seeing it for the first time) loved our view. They feel it would need lots of updating, but the other place they're considering is much more expensive, so they're still considering. They might schedule a FOURTH showing before they decide.

If they don't, back to the drawing board; we'll get the rest of the floors refinished and clean the appliances really well, and hope it appeals to someone else soon. We had a couple other people see it last week but no feedback so not sure if any are interested.

Meanwhile at our new home, we haven't heard from the boiler repairman we called Friday, but we're likely getting a reprieve in the form of higher temps for the next week, so no hurry. They've got tons of good feedback online, so we'll give them a chance to contact us Monday.

We have an annoying problem upstairs with circuits shorting if too many things are on at once, but we're learning to work around it until we can get it looked at.

I did some yard work today; very light stuff, just mowing grass with a push mower, raking up clippings, and sweeping these dry pod things that are falling from our tree onto the back patio. I felt like an imposter but enjoyed it! This morning I took the girls to our local park, three blocks away, and we had a good time there. I also got to walk our friends' dog while they were away, and that was really fun too. Tonight we might light a fire in our friends' little portable fire pit.

Our cat is learning how to rattle our new bedroom door even louder than he used to the old one at the condo. We need to scheme ways to keep him away so we can get some sleep! We have a few plans to try out.

Since we have so much CSA veg to use up, our grocery shopping was way under budget. And we have money left over from last week too! We're getting $29 back from canceling cable, and Monday I find out whether I underestimated the net raise I'm getting.

On the down side, a gift snack box subscription AS and NT got me for my birthday sneakily renewed and charged us $72, and refused to refund it. Ah well. We'll get another box or two, which I do enjoy getting, and AS and I are going to gradually pay it back in to the budget from our spending money. Annoying, but not a huge deal.

We're getting back on a menu plan and it feels great! I kind of OD'ed on junk food and restaurant food. Home cooked meals are so comforting and good for the digestive system.

Super quick check-in

September 12th, 2014 at 10:27 pm

Someday I'll feel like I can sit down and write a leisurely well-thought-out post again ... hopefully. Smile

The second set of UK visitors left yesterday. Although we're eager to get more settled into our home and that was difficult with visitors, we're very sad. The first set are some great in-laws that I've only met in person about five times, and the second set an amazing couple of lifelong friends that I've only seen in person about nine times (though each time was for weeks or even months).

Another bad thing? While we had visitors, I could attribute the disorganization and unsettled feeling to having visitors. Now I'm having to face up to the fact that we have a lot of work to do before we feel fully unpacked, organized and comfortable in our new home! Smile

First thing we need to do is figure out the boiler/furnace/water heater stuff. We have hot water but are having trouble getting the heat going, mainly for our friends' unit, but apparently our heater was making a weird noise today. Trying to decide between a monthly plan or a one-off service call. I think they're nearly new heaters, so I'm leaning toward one-off, since I don't think they should need too much maintenance for a couple years (once we get them up and running, that is). Right away something has exposed our ignorance as homeowners, after being spoiled by condos and landlords taking care of things for us!

We have a THIRD showing on the condo tomorrow. Apparently they are down to either ours or another place (more expensive but more updated). So we're holding our breath. They don't mind spending the money to update ours since it's cheaper than the other. The main strike against us is the location of our parking spot in the garage; too far away from the condo for their taste. Hopefully they can get over that.

Tonight or tomorrow morning, though, NT has to go deal with a clogged sink there. Apparently we masked it well enough that they want to see the place again, but it was pretty backed up a few days ago and NT says he needs to get deep in the pipes to clear it out completely.

Meal planning is completely messed up, but we hope to sit down and create a meal plan tonight for the first time in about three weeks! I'm sure we've let some CSA veggies go to waste in the meantime; we used some of them, but the visitors were mostly meat eaters and wanted to eat out or get carryout a lot, so we didn't cook much.

At least we stayed on budget for vacation spending! I'm really excited about that! I have one week of regular spending money to enjoy and then next week we've cut ourselves down to half the amount for the foreseeable future until we get out of the hole somewhat.

There are other bits of news, I'm sure, but I need to get home (I'm at work), so I'll stop there. Fingers crossed for tomorrow's showing to lead to an offer!!

Another quick update

September 8th, 2014 at 12:57 am

We're halfway through our second set of UK visitors, so I still don't have much down time to post. I'm having lots of fun, but busy busy!

Friday night was our first night in the new place! Everyone slept like logs, surprisingly, even the kids. Cat is still hiding for the most part, but eating, and accepting strokes, and coming out occasionally to explore, so I think he'll be OK.

The place is a little dingy and run down in parts, but basically functional. We don't really mind, because there's so much space, and trees outside our windows, and our friends living downstairs from us. Everyone in the family seems more relaxed. AS is just over the moon, and she's the one I really wanted to be happy, because she's still a bit mentally banged-up from leaving her stressful job and finding freelance work.

The Brits are very impressed, of course; one said you probably couldn't find a home this big in Oxford for under a million pounds ($1.6MM)!

We've moved 90% of our stuff out of the old condo. The only thing that's left is some stuff in the front hall closet (strollers, etc.) and some things for staging: the sofa, dining room table and chairs, lamp, bathroom accessories. We moved most of it Friday, stirring up a ton of dust and cat hair, and then had a showing Saturday morning. We did a frantic session of cleaning and decluttering and actually got interrupted by the realtor and buyer because they came early! (They saw I was in the middle of it and came back at the agreed time instead.)

Now that the beds and dressers are out, we can get the rest of the floors finished, The floor guy is calling on Monday to set that up.

But then, the feedback was that they might be interested! The main concern was the parking spot is pretty far away (it's in the garage of the next-door building). Our new realtor (so great) called promptly last night to let us know that she'd called that agent to tell them more great things about the unit. She wanted to know if we had any response to the parking spot concern. We let her know that there was a chance the buyer could swap with someone, or rent another spot from someone, and she called them back with that.

This morning our agent called again to say they were interested in coming again this week, and asked if we still wanted to do the rest of the floors or wait to see if we got an offer. It was a toss-up, but we decided to wait and see. It sounds like they are communicative, so if that was a deal-breaker hopefully they'd tell us and we could offer to do the floors at that point.

So I'll call the floor guy and have him hold off until we hear something. I have $800 set aside for the floors, so that would be a real boon!

I got some more good news: approved for the 0% (for 15 months) 0 balance transfer fees credit card, with a $9400 credit limit. So if I transfer that much in purchases that I was planning to pay off, that gives me $9400. If I don't do Roth catchup contributions in December, that's another $2250. If I keep the new NT student loan instead of paying it off in February, another $4494. Total: $16,144.

If we sell at the listing price we'll need to come up with $16,469 to get out of the mortgage. So we could pretty much cover it without having an onerous unsecured personal loan. Especially if we save $800 by not having to redo the floors! (Since some of the above money isn't coming into the budget until later, we'd probably have to get one for about $6K or $7K temporarily, but we could pay it off quickly and not pay too much interest.)

If we get a lowball offer or they ask us to cover closing costs, we wouldn't be able to avoid a personal loan. But with the money freed up by not paying mortgage and association dues, we might be able to pay one off pretty quickly.

I know I'm counting my chickens before they hatch, but I just want to make sure I know what we'll do in the event of an offer. It'll be some juggling but I think we can get away with low or no interest on the remaining condo-related debt until we can pay it off completely.

Other bits of money news:
- Vacation spending appears to be on track. I don't think I'll have to go into future spending money, which is good since our spending money is being cut in half to help afford moving into the new place so early! Grocery spending is actually down since we've been eating out using our vacation savings, so we might have a nice grocery cushion when this is all over.
- We spent a bit more than planned on van and car rental during the moving process, but I think only $20 or $30 more. I think I can get some credit from both our car share companies: one for downloading their new app, and the other if I report that we had to fill up the car we rented recently. So those credits may make up for it to some degree.
- We got some unexpected bonus items with the house: two wall-unit air conditioners, a bag of pretty nice clothes and accessories that got left by the garbage probably by mistake, a rake and a snow shovel, and some nearly-full cans of paint. These will definitely save us a bit of money in the short term.
- AS saw a great kitchen scale on deep discount on about $16 for a $45 item. We figure if we bought this for our next wedding gift instead of the $50 Amazon gift card we were planning, we'd have more Amazon credits as a result. I need to see if it's still on sale and get it ordered! If not that, maybe we could find a similarly valuable sale item.
- We'll be getting a free date night in October; the daycare lady is planning a sleepover!
- A friend gave us a bag of really nice clothes she found on her free table. We've had a couple other good scores lately, including the big propane grill and a couple chairs from another friend, a coffee maker and two cute trays from the condo free table. Whatever we don't use I'll try to sell on our local Facebook garage sale page, or throw into storage to do a garage sale in spring. There's a big annual neighborhood one two blocks from our house that we could participate in if we didn't want to throw our own.

Overall I think it's going to be easier for my family to strive for frugal choices now that we're living here. Whereas it did feel like just deprivation with no reward, now the reward is all around us, a tangible reminder of why it's important to spend little or no money.

I'll check in when I hear more about the showing!

September debt progress

September 3rd, 2014 at 05:42 pm

I figured out how to log in to my new mortgage account, and it looks like principal reduced even though the payment hasn't officially been taken out of my checking account yet. Odd, but at least I can post my debt payment progress on all mortgages:
US (condo): $482 to principal
US (duplex): $624
UK1: $218
UK2: $46
UK3: $50

All told that's $1420 down, $80 to go on the September debt repayment goal.

September goal & quick updates while I have a sec!

September 3rd, 2014 at 03:14 am

OK, I'm not really sure what the new mortgage will pay off each month, but I did an online calculator and hopefully I'm in the ballpark.

The goal for September, hopefully a conservative estimate, is to pay off $1500 of debt.

I'm also not sure when I'll learn the balance, but I just got the info for the provider that bought the mortgage, and they seem to have online access, so I'll try to log in tonight or tomorrow.

I'm sure our other mortgage payments have all hit the accounts, but it's been such a whirlwind that I haven't had a chance to check.

Our first wave of UK visitors left this morning and our second crew arrived. The first set -- NT's family -- were wonderful guests, but the second round is just two good friends so it'll be even better.

They all went out tonight and I stayed home with the kids, so I splurged on $10 delivery food. Our grocery and meal planning are in a bit of a shambles. I'm sure I could have scraped something together but was feeling lazy by the time I got the kids fed and off to bed.

We managed not to go over budget with the first set of visitors, and we have more money set aside for this lot, so I'm feeling OK about staying on budget.

Other news:

- First the washer went out at the new place. We convinced the seller to give us $100 to help offset the cost of replacement since it happened on their watch, and our friends/tenants covered the rest. Now our dryer is on the fritz. We've got $180 saved and a Home Depot $100 gift card lying around somewhere, and we should be able to cover the rest pretty easily because ...

- I finally got my promotion and raise! It's a nice raise too, $10K more per year. That's an almost 20% bump! I'd already factored $100 more per month into the budget but conservatively this is another $400 per month, which means $300 more than I have worked into the budget. It hits on Sept. 15 so we'll easily be able to cover the cost of the dryer.

No word on NT's potential raise, and AS has had only one more quickie $20 job (though she had to turn one place down and they said they'd check in again with her after the 15th, and she has four jobs already accepted that she'll start working on soon, including the $20 one). I'm still feeling very good about her potential for having a lucrative contractor career! One place has been REALLY quick about paying her, which is awesome because she's waiting on another check and soon to start a third job with them.

With all the stress of the purchase process, I was afraid our relationship with our friends would be strained, but it's actually been quite wonderful. We let them start moving in early without paying rent in August, and they provided air mattresses, bedding and furniture/kitchen supplies for our visitors. We don't move in officially until this Friday but I'm already feeling SO good about living in close quarters with them. They had expressed interest in buying their share of the duplex, and I want to wait a few months before committing to that, but so far I'm feeling good about that prospect.

The renters left Aug. 31, and despite being 2-3 hours late moving out, they left the place in good shape! They did put a ton of large items by the trash pile, so I'm going to see if the city takes them on the regular trash day. If not, we may have to pay to get them hauled away and I'll take that out of their deposit. Other than that, no complaints about how they left things!

In other news, we dropped our realtor (gave her one more chance to give us a discount and instead got a rather emotional, insulting and unprofessional email back), got a great professional new one, and dropped our price on the condo by $10K. We had a showing today that was a no-go and we have another one tomorrow morning. Fingers crossed we get this puppy sold!

With the new price, if we sold this month we would suffer about a $17K loss -- and that's IF we got an offer for the full amount with no request to cover closing costs. I was thinking personal loan to cover it; the interest rate wouldn't be great and the monthly payments would be big but it would be out of our hair in 1 to 5 years, depending on what term we chose.

But then we got an offer from Chase Slate for a 0% interest until Dec. 15, 0% balance transfer fees card, and I started thinking. We've got about $7K on credit cards now that we're budgeted to pay off in October. We also have the new student loan for NT for about $4500. We're budgeted to put $2250 into Roth IRAs for catchup contributions in Dec. or Jan. I have another $1600 I'm going to put on CC for my dental implant and most of it is going to be reimbursed by flex spending, so I was planning to pay that off right away. Between spending money, a new dryer and groceries we'd probably spend up another grand or two in the next month and plan to pay that off by CC.

So I thought: What if we don't do any of that? What if we transfer the CC balances to a 0% card, keep the new student loan (which doesn't have great interest rates but better than a personal loan), and not do catchup Roth contributions? Then we could get out from under the condo with barely (if any) personal loan debt. We'd still have the new debt, sure, but it would be lower interest, which would mean less of a monthly budget burden and more of an ability to pay extra since we wouldn't be wasting as much money on interest.

So it's an idea. In the past I would have said it's dangerous for me to play around with shifting debt from place to place, but I am determined to pay it off at an accelerated rate regardless, so maybe it would be a smart decision.

Of course we need an offer, or the whole point is moot. But I applied for a Chase Slate card just in case. We'll see if I'm accepted. (It wasn't instant approval, I think because I used the new address instead of just putting the condo address.)

Any other news? I think that's all of the big stuff. I'm feeling pretty good about things, with or without WV windfall. I think we're going to make this work.