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Archive for December, 2014

First monthly debt goal for 2015

December 31st, 2014 at 05:44 pm

The January goal is still to pay off the minimum amount of debt, so $1550.

We received our last paychecks of 2014. I'm hoping the next paychecks will show a net increase because of less flex spending being taken out, but we'll have to wait and see what it is exactly.

We ended 2013 with $244,516 of debt, having paid off $35,113. We ended this year at $675,788 in debt, so we effectively added $431,272 of debt.

I'm still waiting to state our 2015 goals until we have more clarity, but one thing that keeps coming to mind is that I'd like to end 2015 with less than $500K of debt.

December debt goal reached

December 26th, 2014 at 07:19 pm

AS's student loan payment hit, the last debt payment of the year. $141 went to principal, so that takes us to $1581 of debt paid this month.

On my "official" debt tally, we are now under $10K in student loan debt. However, we have another $4K loan that I'm not counting because we also have the money to pay it off. But chances are I'll use that money to either pay off the duplex seller or get out of the condo mortgage, so at that point the student loan will be added to the debt tally. So it's not very exciting to be under $10K on student loans on that spreadsheet; it's not real and probably won't last very long.

It's weird to go into 2015 without stated goals, but it's not because I have no direction. I have some pretty specific ideas of what I want to do, it's just that it's hard to predict how much progress I'll be able to make. Once a few more things shake out, I'll have a better sense. I'm still very optimistic about the future. We can definitely afford to keep paying all the bills and setting aside a bit of surplus money, and once the condo sells we'll be able to do a lot more than that.

Everyone is still sick here, but I'm still the least sick of everyone. I really got away with a milder form of whatever this is, at least I hope I don't get it worse later on.

Last night we chipped in with our tenants to buy the new season of Doctor Who on Amazon instant watch, so that's mainly what the grownups will be doing whenever the kids are asleep!

Happy holidays!

December 25th, 2014 at 06:02 am

The whole CJ family is sick, so it's been a very low-key Xmas Eve. The kids were nearly better, so hopefully they'll be all the way mended for the gift-opening orgy tomorrow.

We spent $100 on each of them, but of course their many many grandparents went crazy, so they're going to have quite an exciting morning.

We have a big feast planned tomorrow, so I'm really hoping we have better appetites. We had a delicious meal downstairs at our friends' house; I could only manage one serving, and AS couldn't eat a bite. NT did eat but was in bed by 8:30pm. The girls only picked at their food and were so unbearable that we put them in bed at 7:15pm. They didn't fight it; I think they needed it.

I didn't have as much time, money or energy to really get super-involved in Xmas preparations this year, so I actually don't mind getting sick as much as I would on a typical year. I'm still getting time with my friends and family, and time off work. It's all good.

Oh! And my downstairs neighbors/tenants/friends gave me a rather extravagant Christmas present, to thank me for going through hell to get this home. They filled my nearly empty book nook with bookshelves from IKEA! I'm so excited, at least I would be if I had any energy. I'm going to love fixing it up and getting it just so; now that it doesn't look so bare I think I'm going to move a comfy chair in there and actually hang out in it sometimes.

The year in review (and what a year!)

December 22nd, 2014 at 03:36 am

Since everyone is reviewing 2014 and planning 2015, I thought I'd take a look back. Even though we completely threw out our initial plan for the year and went for a daring overreach to buy our dream home. Wink

Here were the goals set for 2014 last December:

- pay off student loans ($12,196)
- cashflow NT's remaining tuition ($6,470)
- renovate US condo bathroom ($5,000)
- renovate UK condo (cashflowing $5400)
- slowly build moving fund (maybe only $50)
- start to rebuild EF after I use it for rest of UK renos (hopefully $4375 [$3475 UK rental + $900 US savings]) and medical EF (probably nothing in 2014)

What we achieved:
- Paid off only about $2000 of student loans; decided to stop paying extra so we could save faster for a home
- Cashflowed about $2000 of NT's tuition; the rest is sitting on a student loan. We have the cash to pay it off but will probably use that cash to get out of the condo and/or pay off part of the duplex seller loan
- renovated not only the bathroom but the rest of the condo, and paid for it all
- the UK reno got put off because our tenant renewed their lease; that's going to happen next year instead
- rather than building a moving fund, we used every scrap of US money we had to buy and move into the duplex
- we still have a decent EF (over $18K) but only because the UK renos haven't happened. They'll wipe out the EF and we'll need to rebuild in 2015

So, a real mixed bag. But, one goal that we weren't meant to achieve until next year or the year after was to buy a new home, so even though it knocked us for a loop, it's still a huge step forward for us.

I checked net worth at the end of 2013 compared with now, and we're at $12,904 higher. Not very much for a year's progress, unless you figure that I valued the duplex $27K less than we paid for it in our net worth, and also devalued the condo by $5K. So our other debt and retirement progress was good, even though I slowed our retirement contributions for the second half of 2014. 2015 should be much, much better in terms of net worth.

I'll only be able to post very general goals for 2015, initially. Once a few things get cleared up I should be able to refine and clarify them. But I'll try to post something before the end of the year.

So annoying

December 20th, 2014 at 05:09 pm

I don't know why, but my June 1 post keeps attracting spam comments, week after week. I keep deleting them, but it's a pain. I would delete the post, but it has my before-and-after pics, so I'd like to keep it.

I wrote to Jeffrey and Nate on the forums and they never responded.



December 19th, 2014 at 04:42 am

He sent off his last final exam tonight (it was a take-home). And with that, the bachelor's degree is official!

Dazed and stunned and still trying to believe it's finished. Once it sinks in, it's going to feel amazing, knowing he doesn't have to start classes up again in January.

One more piece falling into place. He's also finally in serious talks about a raise in the new year. He's asked for $10K more; we'll see if they try to cheap out, but they really shouldn't. They can afford it, and he's that instrumental. So we'll see.

I have no more work this week, two days of work next week, and none the following week. It'll be nice to spend time at home.

We have an outrageously elaborate menu and grocery list this week. We were so far under budget last week that it probably won't cause us to go over, though. Looking forward to preparing exciting new dishes and sharing them with friends and family.

Xmas shopping is done, for the most part. AS has some more money to buy herself gifts, and we might get a pair of sneakers for the 2-year-old.

I'm just babbling. Still trying to process that NT has graduated!

NT's bonus and other thoughts

December 17th, 2014 at 07:47 pm

NT got his bonus! He netted about $3400 on a $6K gross. A tiny bit went to 401(k) but the rest is tax withholding. of course it'll help us at tax time, but it always hurts a bit to see that much taken out!

We used $350 to tip our amazing daycare. The rest stays in the bank until we sell the condo.

On that front, still getting a showing or two a week. The two buyers who expressed vague interest before Thanksgiving haven't reappeared. We'll hang in at this price for a while longer since it would be very rough to lose any more than what we've planned for in a lump sum.

The main reason I don't want to go any lower is because we'll already be losing an estimated $27,700 if we sell for $5K below asking and cover half the buyer's closing costs. These two conditions seem to be standard for condos in our building, so we have to plan for them.

Besides having to come up with that lump sum, I'm also trying to scrape together $26,500 to pay off the secondary loan from the seller we bought the duplex from. That loan causes me more stress than almost anything in my life right now, and I want it gone at any cost. My broker said we might be able to roll it into a mortgage in March when we refinance, but what if we can't refinance? What if we can't refinance for that larger amount? Our credit scores are a lower than before due to all the activity and new debt, and with the condo still on our books, our debt-to-income ratio is really high. I don't want to wait another three months and then be disappointed.

So anyway, my goal is to come up with $54,200 so we can pay off the crazy seller and still have enough funding to take the loss on the condo when it sells.

So far I've accumulated money and credit by saving surplus amounts both large and small, by delaying payment on loans and holding that cash instead, and by signing up for a line of credit. Here's what I have so far:

Line of credit: $15,000.00 available to borrow
Reserve line: $5,500.00 available to borrow
Money owed to a friend that we can wait on: $80.00
Deposit into kids' Pax funds that can wait: $80.00
AS IRA contributions that can wait: $868.60
Deferred Roth IRA contributions: $3,600.00
Credit card balance (0% til Dec '15): $10,753.00
NT extra student loan: $4,470.73
Cash surplus: $6,248.72

So that's $46,601.05, or $7,598.95 short of where we need to be.

I'm not sure if/when we'll be able to borrow or save the additional funds. Selling the condo is our first priority, so I can't pay off the duplex seller until we have enough money to do both.

If we do sell the condo, I think we'll be able to come up with the other funds quickly: We'll have an extra $1700 per month from not paying condo mortgage & association dues, and I'll gladly carry balances on some of our lower-interest credit cards in order to gather enough funds to pay off the duplex seller.

Assuming we eventually get both things done, sell the condo and pay off the seller, we'll then have a bunch of debt to pay off and deferred retirement contributions to make up. My plan is to do it gradually over the next year or two using the money freed up by not carrying two mortgages and sets of utilities. If (and it seems like a big if at this point) we do get the WV land deal money in the spring, that would be enough to pay off the debts listed above and make up the retirement contributions.

So those are the "plans" I have; right now it's just a waiting and money-hoarding game while I wait for things to change.

December 2014 net worth update

December 16th, 2014 at 10:14 pm

NT's UK pensions:
#1: 17,105 pounds ($27,368)
#2: 20,501 pounds ($32,801)
#3: 4,452 pounds ($7,123)
NT's 401(k): $33,447
NT's Roth IRA: $7,167
AS's trad. IRA (V): $12,865
AS's trad. IRA (E): $1,682
AS's Roth IRA: $19,243
CJ's 401(k): $75,334
CJ's Roth IRA: $7,167
NT's flat: 140,000 pounds ($224,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $140,000
CJ/NT/AS house: $440,000
Total Assets: $1,028,197

Total Debt: $675,929

Current Estimated Net Worth: $352,268

November 2014 estimate: $363,981

Change in net worth: -$11,713

Summary: The market dipped down again and we lost about half the net worth we gained last month. Overall it's been a stagnant couple of months, then.

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.

Jumpin' on Sarah's bandwagon...

December 15th, 2014 at 07:53 pm

...with a festive pic of my girls!

This was at a Christmas village thing happening in downtown. I wasn't going to take them because I'd heard it had an entrance fee and everything there cost money. But on Sunday, NT needed to finish a paper for school (his last one!), AS had to buckle down on a big freelance project, and it was 50 degrees out (very warm for MN in December). So I said to heck with it. I had no plans for my weekly spending money anyway.

It wasn't a great festival, but it had a merry-go-round, music and snacks, which is about all preschoolers need to have a fabulous time. I enjoyed seeing them so happy. I spent:

- $6 admission
- $10 on 3 rides on the carousel
- $3 on cider for the kids
- $1 to let the 4-year-old give to a street musician whose performance she was enjoying
- $14 on pizza and drinks at the Target cafe

NT gave me $10 of his spending money when I got back, I guess since I'd kept the kids out of their hair!

A fun SA-minded TV show, and various other ramblings

December 8th, 2014 at 03:22 am

NT just introduced us to a sitcom from the '70s, The Good Life, and I'm hooked! It's about a couple who decides to leave the rat race and become completely self-sustaining. I thought it would quickly descend into lame jokes but each of the first four episodes has been packed with details about reusing, recycling, budgeting, bartering and backyard farming. And it's really charming and funny! Their next-door neighbors provide the counterpoint, but they mostly come off as materialistic and not really happy in their lives. Super interesting for members of this site, I'd say. Even though I'm not opposed to the "9 to 5" style of life, I love it.

AS was going to work 2 days at my job last week, but they needed her for four. It's going to make some other deadlines tough, but at least she made $640 more than expected! She's making real strides toward her next milestone; I'm going to have to make a new one soon, I think!

I splurged on two big purchases this past week. One was $105 on holiday cards, calendars and photos. It's for presents and cards to other people mainly; only some of the photos and one of the calendars are for me.

The other big splurge was on a Roomba! AS found a deal: $245 for one that's normally $100 more than that. I went ahead and took the plunge.

My plan for funding them is that my parents usually send us each $100 and some gift cards as well. If I use the gift cards for other budget line items I can repay these purchases.

If I don't get enough cash and gift cards from my parents, I'll gradually repay the remaining balance of these purchases with my own spending money.

They were big impulse buys, which I never feel all the way great about these days, but I'm still happy with both purchases and will pay them off without messing up other parts of the budget.

It's been a great December so far. We've been to a couple of holiday gatherings and have a few more planned, as well as a few people coming for dinner various nights. All relatively cheap outings except our anniversary dinner out this past Monday, which was $250 for the three of us but all paid for with plasma money and a couple random gift cards.

No news on the condo, but another showing this past weekend. At least people are still looking!

One more week of classes and then a couple of final exams, and NT is done with his BA!

Two more paychecks until we see the benefit of $4500 less in flex spending being taken out. It would be nice if NT got a raise in addition, since he's been promised several times, but we'll see.

We're hoping to see his annual bonus in his next paycheck; if not it'll be in the last one of the year. It'll be set aside for the time being to help us get out of the condo mortgage.

All those things will help make our finances easier, as will refinancing the duplex mortgage in March (if we can swing it). But the biggest relief to our budget will be selling the condo, even at a loss.

December debt goal progress

December 3rd, 2014 at 02:18 am

All the mortgage payments hit:
US condo: $492 to principal
US duplex: $630
UK1: $222
UK1: $46
UK3 $50
All told, that's $1440 down, $110 to go on the December debt goal.

AS is working at my job a few days this week. Also, she accepted a huge editing project for $1445. That means she's funded net pay and healthcare through January 2015! Her next goal is to fund retirement and taxes for the payments she's already received.

Interesting sports story about money

December 1st, 2014 at 06:16 am

I hardly ever read news about sports figures, but

Text is this one and Link is
this one caught my eye for some reason. I didn't even know it would be about money, but it's incredibly interesting -- and will resonate with some of us who deal with relatives asking for more money than we're comfortable with.