Home > Archive: January, 2015

Archive for January, 2015

Small work bonus and yet another condo prospect

January 31st, 2015 at 04:02 pm

Yesterday was our belated holiday party. Got some free snacks and drinks at a fancy lounge/bar, and a $100 Amex gift card. Perfect timing for Valentine's day, which I probably would have had to go into future spending money for. We've already got free babysitting from the friend I'm helping maintain her budget, so should be a pretty cheap night out. Yay!

We have another party interested in the condo. Very interested, but they're wheelchair-bound and would need to make adjustments, so they brought a contractor and need to hear if he thinks it's doable before they make an offer. We lowered the price $5K, to $135K, the day before, so I really hope they don't try to lowball from there. But I'm prepared to accept a lowball offer.

We've been thinking about getting a second cat. I spoke with our older kid about it recently, so it kind of brought it top of mind. Then someone posted a photo of an adorable cat available for adoption at a local shelter, and it really started the ball rolling. I think I'm going to call them today and see if that cat's still available and how the process works. We've been reading up on integrating cats, and we need to buy a few supplies. But the adoption fee is only $70 and includes shots and spaying, so all we'd need to do is take her to the vet. Now that we're on better financial footing, I feel OK about this potential addition, which we'd been planning to do once we were in a bigger place.

Good news and meh news

January 30th, 2015 at 06:08 am

NT's raise came through! I'm surprised, I must say; they always take forever at his job to move on things like that. Exciting that we've added more income. It's about $140 more per paycheck, or $280 per month.

We're finally at the point where NT and my paychecks will cover our bare-bones budget most months without any input from AS. Only a couple of months (CSA payment, Xmas, bdays) still fall short, but only by a few hundred dollars.

This will be wonderful when the condo is sold. But even right now it's nice; things are tight but not nearly as bad as they could have been.

We heard back from the potential condo buyer via our agent; apparently a friend of his who lives in one of our buildings put some worries in his mind about difficulty getting renovations approved, and noise complaints. So now he's hesitant. I sent some responses via my agent because honestly, before we had kids we only had one noise complaint, and that was when we were moving a ton of stuff around. And we had no trouble getting our (admittedly pretty minor) renovations done.

Still, just in case that buyer doesn't bite, we decided to lower the listing price another $5K. (He had indicated that he'd need a price reduction if he made an offer anyway.) Now, best case we would lose $27K on the deal, but more realistically people are going to ask for $5K less than listing, so I'm expecting us to actually lose about $32K.

I was hesitant to lower it that much before, but since NT got his raise and AS's freelance business is booming, I feel more confident that we can cover that now. It'll take some doing to get out of the hole, but it's good to know we can survive it. No chance of paying off my debt to our crazy seller now, though. My best hope for that will be to roll it into a refinance of the duplex, if that's still an option.

At loose ends tonight

January 28th, 2015 at 04:47 am

NT and AS are out at weekly trivia. We got the kids in bed before they left, and I'd already done my designated chores, so I don't have anything to do. I mean, I don't have anything that NEEDS to be done. I could be working out, or gathering tax documents, or reading a book instead of lazily surfing the web. But I have a potentially stressful day tomorrow -- going to help present some concepts and copy I helped write to a big client -- so I feel like zoning out right now.

AS got paid for some past jobs today and yesterday -- over $3000 total. Funny how it works with freelance; you might work pretty steadily, but the actual pay is erratic depending on different organizations' pay structure.

I'm realizing that she's doing really well for having just started. She's trying to replace an annual income of $37K. My rough estimate was that to cover that plus benefits and self-employment tax, she'd need $42K. Well, she's booked work mid-August through February to the tune of $23,000. Even if she pulls in no more work in February, that's more like equivalent to $43K per year. So she's at a pretty comfortable place income-wise. And overall she's working fewer hours than she was at her job. I hope she stays happy with this arrangement, because it's pretty sweet from my perspective.

NT has a touch-base with his boss soon, so hopefully we'll hear when his raise will hit his paycheck and whether it'll be retroactive. I'd love it to be soon!

Reached January debt goal

January 26th, 2015 at 09:36 pm

AS's student loan payment hit, with $139 going to principal. That takes us to $1576 of debt paid for the month, exceeding the $1550 goal.

I've begun gathering info and filling out our tax questionnaires. Ugh! Even this part is arduous. So glad someone else will be doing the actual return for us.

I weighed in last night 4 lbs. down from Sunday! Either that reading or this one was affected by normal body fluctuations, but I'm happy to be down to 135, even if only temporarily. I just need to get to 133.4 for Dietbet, so technically just need to lose 1.6 lbs. in 3 weeks!

I skipped breakfast so I could afford the calories of a Chipotle burrito for lunch. Today there's a deal on that if you order their soy sofritas burrito, you can bring your receipt in for a free burrito on a different day. Five of us in all ordered burritos today -- AS, NT and I, plus our two downstairs neighbors.

We have two days during Dietbet where it would be easy to go overboard on eating: Valentine's Day and our Mardi Gras potluck the day after. So I need to be extra careful all other days.

AS pulled in more freelance work without even trying. She's definitely got more than enough regular clients to keep busy! She is going to block out 2 weeks in March as vacation time, thinking there will probably be encroachment on either end, so that way she can ensure at least a week away from work completely. Even without NT's raise or any news on selling the condo, our bare-bones budget is cranking along, so she doesn't need to worry about taking some time off. She hasn't had a true vacation since she quit her crazy more-than-full-time job in August.

January 2015 net worth update

January 26th, 2015 at 03:05 am

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): $35,088
NT's Roth IRA: $7,421
AS's trad. IRA: $14,931
AS's Roth IRA: $19,924
CJ's 401(k): $78,562
CJ's Roth IRA: $7,421
NT's flat: 140,000 pounds ($224,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $140,000
CJ/NT/AS house: $440,000
Total Assets: $1,034,639

Total Debt: $674,350

Current Estimated Net Worth: $360,289

December 2014 estimate: $352,268

Change in net worth: +$8,021

Summary: I almost forgot to do net worth this month! The market dipped up, so we're doing better now.

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.

Meal plan and cleaning day and much rambling

January 25th, 2015 at 05:03 am

I haven't done this in a while even though we've been really good about sticking to our weekly meal plan; the only eating-out days have been planned well in advance.

We finish our menu and grocery list by Friday night at the latest, and do our shopping Saturday morning, so that's where the new meal plan begins.

Saturday lunch
grilled cheese sandwiches & soup

Saturday dinner
TVP & black bean chili

Sunday lunch
salad with tofu, spinach, pepitos, corn, avocado, chili-lime dressing

Sunday dinner
spaghetti & veggie meatballs

our friends cook for us

refried black bean burritos with rice & tamales

seitan stroganoff over pasta

veggie burgers, fries & raw vegetables

mash, chikn tenders, peas & corn

Lots of "fake meat" meals this week, but all different sorts. TVP is dehydrated soy protein, seitan is a meaty substance made with vital wheat gluten. We make the meatballs with a ground-beef substitute we get at the store. The veggie burgers and chikn tenders are just premade stuff we purchase too.

Dietbet is in full swing and I'm feeling pretty good about the eating side; I need to get the exercise going too. My shoulder muscles are still hurting from the sledding collision, so I haven't been in the mood to work out. But today I at least did a lot of taxing stuff.

First I went to the grocery store, about a 10 minute walk each way, and then I vacuumed the upstairs as well as the stairs themselves. I cleaned one of the bathrooms, scrubbing the shower walls thoroughly which I don't think any of us had really done. They still need work but at least they're a lot cleaner! I went up and down the stairs a lot because I had to keep looking for various cleaning supplies. Next time I'll know better what I need for the job. I've never been in charge of cleaning the bathrooms but I took it on in an attempt to be more of a help around the house.

Our realtor called yesterday; she's in contact with the interested parties but they haven't made an offer. So either they're dragging their feet or it was a false alarm. We have another showing tomorrow. NT went to the condo and did a light cleaning today to make sure it looks its best.

I got a super deal via the Minneapolis garage sales page: a glider and ottoman in great shape for $40. The guy even delivered! It's perfect for my book and TV nook, which is looking better and better. I finally organized the kids books and AS put out some little framed illustrations on the tops of the short shelves.

I splurged on the kids for Valentine's Day; nearly $40 for two stuffed animals, cards and candy, and treats for their daycare pals. I discovered later that I'd gotten one of the cards I'd meant to put back, and that one I did mean to get was no longer working (was supposed to light up and make sounds). So I have to go back tomorrow to return the unwanted card and hopefully exchange the broken one. At least I got about $5 in ExtraBucks!

AS has raked in some more big freelance projects. At this point it's looking like she won't get breaks even if she doesn't actively seek work, so I've told her she should give herself a week's vacation around her birthday (early March) and let all her clients know well in advance so they won't be expecting her to take or do work during that time. She worked part of Xmas break and was sick the rest of the time, so it wasn't a real break for her. The last semi-break she had was in late August/early September when family and friends visited, and even then she was finishing up a few freelance jobs.

Since she's so new to this, I don't think she feels like she can turn down work, so it needed to be said that she had to give herself some planned time off. We don't need much from her for April and March's budgets, and if NT's raise comes through, we won't need anything from her.

She told me tonight she wants to buy her mom a sewing machine. Her mom is an amazing clothes-maker and all her machines are broken right now. I said I think that's fair, since we spent budget money to entertain NT's family, and I'm probably gonna want to use some to attend my family's reunion this summer.

I rushed through NT's UK tax return and we sent it off Friday. We really hope there isn't a penalty, but it looks like they charge one even if you don't owe anything. I wrote an explanation about not receiving the usual packet in the mail. Fingers crossed we don't have to pay!

Now I need to get our tax packets done for our new preparer and meet with him. Still waiting on some 1099s from AS's clients but there's no excuse to not get started on it, except that I just don't feel like it. All the mortgage interest and rental income and dependent info is so confusing. Oh, and AS never was able to enroll in Obamacare last year (she's still working on it thus far unsuccessfully), so I'm hoping there isn't a penalty for that.

Tomorrow is my first Ordinary Savers meeting in a long time. If they all come, there will be four new attendees! That'll be nice to get some fresh perspectives and new stories. I don't have a specific theme; thought I'd just ask the newbies why they came and let the topics come out of that.

I bought about $25 worth of treats for the meeting; that was my other big splurge this weekend. I assume there will be leftovers from that. Other than paying off my web hosting charge and maybe dinner out for Valentine's Day, I don't have any purchases planned for the foreseeable future, so I figured why not splurge on nice treats for my meetup and cute Valentine gifts for my daughters?

With the budget probably loosening up in the next few months, we've started thinking about budget-friendly trips. We miss traveling, even if it's just out of town for a day or two. We thought we might rent a car and drive to Omaha, about 6 hours away, to check out the restaurant of our favorite cookbook author. Maybe we'll make a weekend of it! Of course we can't book anything until our budget situation improves, but it's nice to think about even as a tentative future plan.

Promising NT update, cheap night out, etc.

January 21st, 2015 at 07:37 pm

NT came home with pretty good news last night, though I won't celebrate unless it becomes official. His boss is proposing a $5K raise, $2K more in his year-end bonus, and the prospect of more once he gets more experience in his new position. He asked for $10K and I'm glad he did; if he'd asked for $5K she probably would have offered $2.5K. We know how her mind works!

NT still has to talk to her about making it retroactive to January, and she has to get it approved by the other partners. But it's the first concrete number she's put out there, so it's encouraging.

AS has gotten many job prospects in the past week or two, but not many definites. But she doesn't really need them right now; she's still finishing up work she already booked, and she's already funded net pay, taxes, retirement and healthcare through mid-February.

No news on the condo. Pins and needles!

I finally finished paying off the Roomba I splurged on before Xmas. It has made life so much better! We have it programmed to run once a day on the main level. Now I just need to vacuum the upper level and the various landings and stairs, but the main level gets the most traffic and use, so I'm glad to have that chore off my plate.

Now I'm working on paying off my dad's bday present, but that should be done soon. Only about $12 left on that.

I'm thinking about splurging a bit for the kids on Valentine's Day. I don't know why; I've just been remembering how much I enjoyed getting a toy, candy and a big fancy card from my parents. I might see if I can find any good deals at Marshalls or Target. I should get some cheap cards, toys or candy treats for them to hand out at daycare anyway.

But, I also will need to start paying for my domain registration soon, so I need to keep that in mind. We'll see what I decide.

AS and I went out last night, but we had a very cheap night. The trivia host needed a scorer, so I scored for him and he bought my drinks. And AS and the rest of my friends' team won second place, which is a $15 gift card!

I've been calorie counting already in preparation for Dietbet, and with the hope that I'll lose a little weight before it even starts. I've gone over my target both days so far, but at first it's hard to plan the meals; you're estimating, or counting after you eat and discovering it was too much. That's why I wanted to get into the swing of it before the bet started.

Soon it'll be six months since we closed on the new home. That's the time frame for when we can seek a refinance. I'm not sure if we're in a good enough place to qualify for a really good rate, but my broker was extremely helpful, knowledgeable and motivated last time, so I'm sure he'll give me a fair prediction if I tell him what my concerns are (lower credit scores, AS now self-employed, more CC and student loan debt than before, more open lines of credit, haven't sold the condo). I'm wondering if we'll have to wait to refi. But we don't want to wait too long, because rates are most likely going to go up sometime this year.

My work announced a belated holiday party. It'll be fun, I'm sure, but I'm mostly excited because that's usually when they give out bonuses! We only get a couple hundred bucks on a gift card, most times, but that would be very welcome. It's been hard to move the needle on saving up for selling the condo and getting out of the duplex seller's debt. We've basically been stuck in the same place for about a month.

I haven't heard from the duplex seller in a while. I send the check out really early now (the one for Feb. 1 went out yesterday), but he always seems to cash them on the 5th or 6th of the month. Hard to tell if he's getting them late or if it just takes him a while to get to the bank. I don't want to ask because he's so abrasive and obnoxious in his emails. As long as he doesn't complain I'm not going to start sending any earlier. I still can't wait to get out from under his unpleasant shadow though!

Dietbet, rally, condo interest etc.

January 20th, 2015 at 03:29 am

Today I had a half day of work from home. A friend drove me to St. Paul in the afternoon for a MLK rally and march. One of my friends who was going to get me info for my know-your-rights app hasn't been getting back to me, so I'm stuck on that project. So it was good to do something else for the cause.

I started a Dietbet challenge last night. It'll begin Thursday; AS is joining me and she wanted a few days to prepare. This way I can try and get others to join me. Four other friends asked for invites, so hopefully some of them will sign up. But I'm not in it for money (beyond getting my $35 back).

Just to get in the mindset, I started calorie counting today. I couldn't exercise because my shoulder is a bit messed up from a minor sledding accident that happened Sunday. It's getting better though; I should be able to exercise in a day or two.

Oh! I almost forgot. This morning we got three window air conditioners from Freecycle. All we had to pay was the car-share fee for 45 minutes (about $7).

I don't want to get my hopes up, but our agent called; the people who saw our condo a second time Saturday are thinking about putting in an offer. Nothing final, and we have no idea what the offer would be. We've had four or five nibbles before that have all fizzled without a formal offer. But it's nice to have some interest again.

Showings have really picked up again after the holidays, and we've gotten positive feedback from several people. So if not them, I have a good feeling that we'll get an offer soon.

Up 3 lbs!

January 19th, 2015 at 03:13 am

Well, I knew I did just about everything wrong this week, so I'm not a bit surprised that I gained this much in one week.

I'm at 140 now. I haven't been in my 140s for a long time.

I signed on to Sparkpeople and will start calorie counting tomorrow, and I'm pondering a Dietbet.

The only good thing about this weigh-in is that 140 is the wake-up call I needed to get serious!

Goulash recipe

January 16th, 2015 at 10:03 pm

I asked a Facebook friend to post a recipe for his goulash because the picture looked really good. I fiddled with it, adding/deleting ingredients and simplifying the instructions. I'm going to try it out this week, but I wanted to put my altered version somewhere easy to find. This way I can update the recipe once I try it, in case I want to make it a little differently the next time.

28oz can tomato sauce
16 oz condensed tomato soup
1 small can diced green chiles
8 oz elbow macaroni
4 cups cooked kidney beans
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
8 oz frozen corn
8 oz mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes
1 T paprika
olive oil

Heat oil in large pan. Saute mushrooms, onion, bell pepper and celery and salt and pepper to taste.
Cook noodles al dente and drain/rinse.
Combine all ingredients in 9x13 pan. Leave about ΒΌ of the sauce to top the dish with.
Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 min.

Update; This turned out great! I tweaked ingredients somewhat above.

This & that

January 16th, 2015 at 09:29 pm

Well, my poor eating/exercising continues this week. I had THREE servings of tater tot hot dish on Wednesday plus several glasses of wine. Last night I ate very reasonably and abstained from wine, but didn't use the elliptical. I've only used it once this week, though I've done crunches/squats/pushups a few times. Tonight we're going out for Mexican food as a date night, so I'll probably go a bit overboard again! Next week I'll try and turn over a new leaf.

Otherwise, mostly good news over the last couple days:

- My and NT's paychecks came to $90 more than I budgeted for, so that's an additional $180 per month.

- He is on his boss's case about the raise he's been promised. She's really good at stringing people along, but he's not going to let it go until she follows through. So hopefully she'll get sick of him bringing it up and just get it done!

- Last night's condo showing produced promising feedback; the buyer is considering a second showing of several places ours may be one of them!

- AS submitted a resume for a possible adjunct teaching gig at a local (very reputable) college in the fall. She was approached because of her previous position; it's a class on publishing. She likes a lot of variety, so it would be great if she could add teaching to her list of freelance jobs!

- AS has been touring kindergartens for AA, and they all seem like good prospects so far. She still has to tour the one that would be our default school; I really hope that one's good too, so we won't feel bad if we don't get in to any of our preferred schools and have to go with that one.

Soo looking forward to the weekend! Date night tonight, and then decent temps predicted for the weekend, so we're planning a few (free) family outings. Monday I just work from home a bit, and I'm going to a MLK-related rally with a friend in the afternoon.

Various tidbits

January 14th, 2015 at 05:00 pm

Work is really quiet right now, but should pick up soon. So I'll get my updates in while I can!

Oy, I'm not doing well on my diet/exercise goal this week! I haven't worked out yet, which means I have 5 days to get 4 workouts in. I'm making a hot dish (casserole) tonight, so I think I'll run down and do 10 minutes on the elliptical while it's baking.

Yesterday I took my team out to a lunch (which I'll get reimbursed for) and I had a big delicious bowl of vegan spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread. Last night NT and I went out to trivia and I had french fries and several glasses of wine. I had an old gift card for the restaurant so ended up only having to spend $3 for tip. So budgetwise it was a great day, but dietwise a disaster! Oh well...

Two more random bits of condo news: Our agent called passing along a question from another agent about whether you could see any bodies of water (lakes, rivers) from our condo. Uh, no. Another strike against us, I guess. Then we got feedback from Monday's showing that was basically saying they weren't anywhere close to buying yet, but if they were, they'd buy our place. Nice to hear, but not very helpful.

Tomorrow is the big day I find out what our paychecks are going to be for a while. (NT is still being promised a raise, but they've strung him along for months, so I'm not holding my breath.) I'm having $2000 less withheld from my pretax pay annually (about $80 per paycheck), and NT is having $2500 less withheld (about $100 per paycheck). Of course there are going to be higher taxes as a result, so I'm not sure what the net benefit will be. I've only factored in about $30 more per pay period, so anything above that will be gravy.

I've got three new people saying they'll come to my next personal finance discussion group, which is near the end of this month. Also, the friend I've been helping with her budget may pay off one of her credit cards this month! I'm crossing my fingers that she sticks to that and doesn't fritter the money away on something else.

I've avoided my Ordinary Savers club in recent months because I took such a big risk in buying this house. But most of the things I've hoped would happen have fallen into place. There are four more things that would be instrumental in getting us back on track faster, none of them sure things, but all of them likely to happen (if they DO happen) in the first half of this year. 1. Selling the condo. 2. Refinancing the duplex to remove PMI. 3. NT getting a hefty raise. 4. the WV land deal going through.

If all four happen we'll be on easy street. If only one or two happen we'll be in great shape. If none of them happen, it'll stay hard for a while but we'll get through. (I mean, the condo WILL sell, it's just there's a chance we'll need to take a much bigger loss. If it doesn't sell in the next couple months we'll hopefully be in a position to drop the price by a great deal and get rid of the thing quickly.)

Various updates

January 12th, 2015 at 07:24 pm

So I've made my initial fitness goal to work out at least 4 times a week. I haven't set any time amounts or anything more specific; I just want to get back in the habit of working out.

I did 10 minutes on the elliptical 3 times last week and shoveled snow one day, which was quite the upper-body workout. Unfortunately I weighed in 2 lbs. up on Sunday, so back to my starting weight of 137.

I haven't been going crazy eating, but the cold weather does make me crave starchy filling comfort food, and being shut in all the time increases opportunities to snack. I'll try to take it easier, but I'm not going to resort to calorie counting unless I fail to make progress any other way.

This weekend we made a concerted effort to spend more time actually playing with the kids, helping them come up with ways to cure cabin fever and keep them from arguing all the time. A nice accidental side benefit was much less screen time; almost no TV and just a little bit of LeapPad playing!

I started to set up a chore chart. We adults have all fallen into certain tasks that we're comfortable with/good at, but I thought if we had it on a chart we'd feel more ownership and also feel confident that the work was evenly divided. I'm going to finish it up and print it out and hang it in the kitchen, where we can check off/date the tasks as we do them.

Checked in on the condo this weekend, and everything looked OK. We have a showing scheduled for today. I'm glad they've picked up again after the Xmas/New Year break. Hopefully we'll find the right buyer soon!

We've been good about eating every meal at home except when planned. Our downstairs neighbors offered to babysit the kids one night this week, so we planned a date night at a Mexican restaurant for this Friday. Excited for some grownup time!

One cool thing we've been doing is having dinner with our friends twice a week. One night they'll cook and we eat downstairs at their place, and the other night we cook and they come up. It's one less night we have to cook, and it gives us two nights of being social. It also helps our friends eat at home twice a week, whereas otherwise they eat out most nights. (I'd say I'm jealous, but I fear they're ignoring debt repayment and retirement contributions in favor of frittering money away, which I'm definitely NOT jealous of! If/when we start to eat out more, it'll be once we tackle other more pressing concerns.)

We heard from NT's UK rental managers that they're going to offer a 12-month renewal to the current tenants with a small rent hike. NT asked what that would mean for the plans to renovate this year; we're still waiting to hear back. Not sure they would renew since it sounds like the place is getting pretty run-down, but our tenants are typically single guys attending flight school who probably don't spend much time at home, and the location is convenient to the school, so maybe the guy will renew and not think too much about it. We'll see!

One crazy thing I realized a few days ago--I think we forgot to do our UK taxes! The deadline would have been in October. I'm not even sure we received the packet, which should have come while we were still living at the condo. We need to contact the HMRC (equivalent to IRS) and see what we should do. At least we know we won't owe anything, so hopefully it's like the IRS and there are no penalties unless you owe.

I decided we need professional tax help this year after a few years of winging it, but unfortunately my tax guy left the profession. So I'm sussing out potential replacements based on friend recommendations. With all the complicated stuff, I don't just want to walk into an H&R Block or anything. Having worked for one, I know how little training preparers receive beyond the basics!

I'm finally close to paying for the Roomba, using spending money and Xmas gift cards. (By the way, I'm SO happy with that purchase!) Next I'll need to start paying for my web hosting ($109), and a bday present for my dad (about $25). But first, date night this Friday!

Not quite goals, but ...

January 6th, 2015 at 10:07 pm

... I did realize today I have several projects and groups that I'm starting or picking up the pace on this month. If I don't have a lot to say on financial goals for a while, maybe it'll be fun to check in with progress updates on these, just to feel like I've still got momentum.

- My other blog and personal finance discussion group,

Text is The League of Ordinary Savers and Link is
The League of Ordinary Savers. I went back and forth on renewing the blog since it costs money, but I got positive feedback from a few friends when I asked, so I decided to do it. I'm also scheduling an in-person meetup this month or next. I may also offer one-on-one budgeting help to my friends, since several of them have expressed an interest in that (and I'm already helping one of them maintain a budget).

- Exercise and weight loss. I've committed to try and use the elliptical at least four times a week, and I managed to do that for the first week in January. We'll see if I can keep it up! I've also joined
Text is PatientSaver's challenge and Link is
PatientSaver's challenge to lose weight.

- Activism. My city, as do most, has a problem with police misconduct and lack of repercussions. One problem is that not enough people know their rights. In addition to going to rallies and marches, I'm also trying to develop (with help from a few people) a smartphone skin and an app that informs people of their rights regarding police stops, so they'd have the information handy if anything happened to them.

- My NaNoWriMo novel. I actually think there might be something halfway decent in my 2014 one. AS offered to edit it in her spare time, so we'll see if she can get it in decent shape, and then I'll look into submitting it to agents or publishing houses (or just self-publishing if I can save up some money).

- Trivia. Our weekly trivia night at a local bar had petered away because of NT's night classes and our general brokeness and tiredness, but we've decided to start it up again now that two of us will be able to go while one stays home with the kids. There's no admission so it's as cheap as you want to make it; occasionally I've nursed a single drink for the whole night.

- Food/cooking. One of my friends started a Facebook group to share cooking tips and recipes, and we had a successful potluck back in October, so I offered to throw another one in February. This will have a Southern/Mardi Gras theme. One of my friends also wants me to show them how to make seitan (mock duck). And my housemates have thrown around the idea of doing group food prep of some make-ahead meals we can put in the freezers. I may also try to think of more meals that the kids can help prepare, since they're always interested (but we're usually too rushed or the recipes too complicated to really include them).

- Organizing/cleaning. I finally had the first really thorough decluttering session in AA's room (she's the 4-year-old and quite untidy like I was as a kid). She's pleased with the results and finds it easier to tidy up daily now. AS and I have also talked about creating some kind of chore chart for both adults and kids to keep us on track, now that we have such a bigger house.

- Alumni group. My NY college has a lively alumni group here in MN, so I want to organize a couple of events to get everyone together (that's not an expensive outing). I'm thinking dinner party at our home for starters.

The great thing about all of these projects is that I can work on them at any time, pick up or drop them whenever I feel like it, so there's always something for me to do but I don't need to feel stressed or overscheduled by any of them.

Weight and exercise progress

January 4th, 2015 at 08:49 pm

I just weighed in (I'm going to aim for Sunday afternoons while the kids are napping) and I'm at 135, so 2 lbs. down since Jan. 1. Could just be weight fluctuation, but I'll take it!

So 8 lbs. to go on my goal, or about a pound a week.

I also just worked out, 10 mins on the elliptical plus crunches, pushups and squats.

A snapshot of our stripped-down monthly budget

January 3rd, 2015 at 11:34 pm

Since I started making an annual budget spreadsheet, I don't use a monthly budget anymore. But recently NT asked how well our regular income was covering expenses, and I honestly couldn't say. I knew our budget was balancing and we were putting a bit aside, but that was it.

So I resurrected my old monthly spreadsheet and updated it with current numbers. Since AS doesn't have a regular, predictable paycheck, I didn't put anything down for her income. She's brought in quite a bit, but with paychecks arriving sporadically, it's hard to say how much will actually come each month.

This stripped-down budget doesn't have anything extra going to retirement, charity, extra debt repayment or savings. Housecleaning is long gone, of course. It includes my and NT's 2014 net pay; we expect them to change in 2015, hopefully for the better.

CJ paycheck $1,621.64
NT paycheck $1,567.64
Duplex rental $1,074.00
Parking space rental $85.00
CJ paycheck (est) $1,621.64
NT paycheck $1,567.64

Total Take-home: $7,537.56

Daycare escrow ($1080 - $416.66 FSA) -$703.34
AS healthcare (est) -$200.00
Duplex mortgage -$3,149.72
Condo mortgage -$1,030.32
1st-15th groceries/household -$400.00
Spending money -$120.00
Utilities (est) -$400.00
Condo association -$696.03
Spending money -$120.00
Promissory note -$118.70
Xmas & bdays -$133.34
NT extra student loan -$25.00
Spending money -$120.00
16th-31st groceries/household -$400.00
Spending money -$120.00
Barber ($80 every 5 weeks) -$40.00
AS student loan -$157.56
Cell phones (est) -$50.00
Extra spending money -$40.00
Hourcar (Chase Freedom) -$90.00

SHORTFALL -$576.45

Considering that AS has been tending to bring in a lot more than that every month, it's not too bad. The budget breakdown is WAY out of whack, of course, since we're carrying two mortgages and two sets of utilities:

Mortgage/Utilities/Telecom $5,444.77 72.24%
Debt Repayment/Savings $182.56 2.42%
Spending/Entertainment/Travel $653.34 8.67%
Household/Groceries/Healthcare/Transportation $1,833.34 24.32%

TOTAL $8,114.01 107.65%

Sigh. I look forward to getting these numbers back in balance gradually over the course of the year!

Debt progress, first weigh-in, etc.

January 2nd, 2015 at 10:30 pm

All the mortgage payments hit:
US (condo): $493 to principal
US (duplex): $631
UK1: $219
UK2: $46
UK3: $48

All told, that's $1437 down, $113 to go on the January debt goal.

I weighed in on Jan. 1 to join PatientSaver's challenge. I'm right around 137. Could be better, could be worse. My goal weight is 127, and my birthday is March 2, so I figure I'll aim to lose 10 lbs. by then.

Last night I tried out my friend's elliptical that we recently got moved into the basement. I only did about 5 or 10 minutes; I'm pretty out of shape from being less active during my various holiday ailments. Still getting my energy back. But it was good to start the first day with some exercise. I'll try to do it again tonight.

AS is not seeking out work actively right now because she's been pretty busy; she worked most of the holiday days except the ones she was too sick to work. But even without seeking, she'll have at least a bit of work every week for the foreseeable future; two of her clients (my work and her old one) both have some ongoing/recurring assignments for her. And her other clients tend to offer jobs pretty regularly. She's got her tax and retirement for 2014 funded and is nearly done funding her first February paycheck replacement. I'm not sure if that's still how I'm going to handle things; we'll see what NT's and my paychecks look like Jan. 15 and that should let me know the minimum that AS needs to make each month. Anything extra I can set aside to help pay off the condo mortgage when the time comes.