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Archive for June, 2015

Shifting focus of goal tracking?

June 30th, 2015 at 04:20 pm

So, with all my non-home debt paid off, I'm actually considering discontinuing my monthly debt goal! I'll be paying the minimums on home debt for the foreseeable future as I focus on retirement savings and other priorities, so debt payment will be on autopilot. Plus all debt payments will happen at the first of each month; there are no mid-month payments to keep track of.

I'm thinking instead of the monthly goal structure, I'll just do an SA entry detailing each month's mortgage payments, how much went to principal and what's left.

My net worth updates on the 15th or so will be a good place to talk about retirement progress, so I'll either tack it on to that entry or do a separate post about retirement savings progress.

I'll still have plenty to blog about financially, but the structure that has framed my blog for so long is really not relevant. I can't believe it!

Various ramblings

June 28th, 2015 at 11:21 pm

We've had a spendy-spend-spend week or so! I must admit, I'm kicking up my heels a bit and spending on stuff that seems frivolous. Smile But it's all cashflowed spending that doesn't take away from the necessary bills or retirement savings.

A random assortment of the spending:

A $4000 down payment for the living room reno, which starts tomorrow. Tonight we need to clear everything out of the room. NT came up with a plan to have our dining room table in his record room and have the living room furniture in the dining room. I don't know if it will all fit, but we'll find out tonight.

$5000 to the environmental group I found that does work in WV. They called when they received the check and were over the moon about it. Seem like a really good group that's getting things done on both legislative and awareness raising levels.

$750 donated by NT to a local group he supports when he can. They run on a shoestring budget so that was a big donation for them.

$500 to wire enough money to the UK to cover our July mortgage payments.

$120 for a robot mop. We love our robot vac, and this was a super good deal!

$120 or so for an alumni gathering I threw at our place. Lots of snacks and booze left over for us too.

$30 for tickets to a drag/burlesque Pride-related show and $80ish for drinks there, plus $21 for a T-shirt.

$60ish for eating at and admission to a food truck festival a couple blocks from us.

$20 for a toy for each of the girls (which they definitely did not need but it was fun to let them choose -- they picked the exact same toy!).

$60 for the last round of groceries for my volunteer cooking gig. I'll be cooking tomorrow and they'll pick it up Tuesday, and then my obligation is over!

...and other odds and ends here and there. Phew! It really has been quite the week!

On the good side, the tax guy got back to me and estimates about $15K for federal + MN + WV. I have $18K set aside, so that's good news! He also says we have enough withholding to be able to keep it aside and just pay it in at tax time. Not sure if I will or not. We could get a bit of interest income, I suppose, if I transferred it over to savings. Would you bother if you had to decide, or just send it to the governments so you don't have to worry about it?

More than halfway done with my charity gig!

June 24th, 2015 at 03:41 am

Whew! I've been cooking basically since I got home from work. I've got a huge pot of pinto beans simmering to make refried beans for making burritos tomorrow for Thursday's donation. Luckily I only have to worry about the cooking this week; the organization found people to pick the food up Wednesday and Thursday so we don't need to deliver it.

It's a really good organization so I'm happy to help, but it's been a lot of work! First figuring out things that will be good in big batches, then figuring out whether to double or triple recipes, then shopping for the ingredients and disposable containers, then cooking it all up. (Not to mention delivering it the first two days.)

The first week of stuff (for 2 meals) cost $140, and the second week $95. So it's cost nearly $60 per meal. Feeding 20 people each time, that comes to almost $3 per person per meal. I have one more meal to do next week.

I'm sure there are ways to do this more cheaply; I'm probably making rookie mistakes. But I'm using the money I likely would have donated to them anyway, so I don't have a problem with it.

Here's what I've made/am planning to make for the 5 days I volunteered for:

(last Wed.) Three-bean and tempeh chili, cornbread, lettuce/cucumber/tomato salad and 2 bottles of dressing.

(last Thurs.) Mac and cheese, veggie marinara pasta bake, mixed greens salad and 2 bottles of dressing.

(tomorrow) Potato salad w/chopped hard-boiled egg, pasta-veggie salad, sliced cantaloupe and watermelon.

(Thursday) Bean/cheese/veggie burritos, Spanish rice, chips and salsa.

(next Tuesday) Veggie baked beans, coleslaw and biscuits.

Everything is vegetarian and I made sure at least one substantial piece of each meal was vegan. I don't even know if they have any vegans or vegetarians working for them; I just don't feel comfortable buying or working with meat. (Even when I ate meat, I never cooked it beyond making tuna sandwiches with canned tuna.) My concession was making sure at least one thing had dairy and/or egg in it, since I know vegan food can feel unsubstantial if one is unused to it. At least basic dairy stuff doesn't require any special knowledge, though I had to ask NT for a refresher on how to hard-boil eggs!

I don't know if I'll do more if they ask me to; I don't mind the work but I'd like to use my charity money for other things as well. Also I don't have many more ideas for vegetarian meals that are accessible crowd-pleasers!

What a Father's Day!

June 22nd, 2015 at 12:58 am

It started out bad but ended up really really good. The girls and cat woke me up early for a weekend (about 7am, which is normal for a weekday, but I'd stayed up super late and had quite a bit to drink at a party we threw).

I was really cranky and it definitely showed to the kids, but for some reason I assumed I'd overslept so I helped the kids bring NT his breakfast in bed: 2 croissants warmed in the oven and a cup of tea. They also presented him with two flowers (that he'd bought and put in a vase; we replaced them shortly thereafter). Only after I stumbled back downstairs did I really focus on a clock and realize that it was 7:30, not like 10am like I'd assumed! Which meant I'd gotten less than 5 hours of sleep. Oh well. I downed 3 cups of coffee and had breakfast and managed to stay awake for the rest of the day. Smile NT laid in bed a while after his super-early breakfast treat.

We puttered around for a while and then I took the kids to dance class. I didn't stay in either room and watch, but it seems like they had a good time again. So far I'm just paying for individual drop-in classes; it keeps our schedule flexible for when we're busy (and in case the kids decide they hate it) and it's only $2 more per class.

Meanwhile, NT and AS went to a pizza place not too far away. After dance class, the kids and I met them there and had our lunch too. The bus boy brought some raw pizza dough for them to play with, and it occupied them for at least 20 minutes! Awesome idea.

After that we strolled toward the movie theater to see Inside Out. It was 2 hours until the movie time, so we wandered around a festival that happened to be going on that same day. (You're never far from a festival in MN in the summer!) The kids got balloon animals (tipped $1 each) and glitter tattoos (supposed to be $7 each, though we only had $12 cash and they let us get them anyway). Those were the only kid-friendly activities we could find; it was mostly local artists and artisans.

Then we went to the movie. I splurged on popcorn, soda, lemonade, Swedish gummy fish and peanut M&Ms. I think it was $17? At least movie tickets were only $6.50 for grownups and $6 for kids. Anyway, the movie was REALLY good, and the kids were remarkably attentive and quiet. It was SL's first movie-theater experience, so I was really happy with how she behaved especially.

We took the bus home, AA especially jacked-up on sugar (she'd gone through the whole bag of Swedish fish and a ton of lemondade!) but still being cute and funny. She showed her glitter tattoo off to anyone who would pay attention to her (movie cashier, bus driver, etc.) I asked her if this day was as fun as the winter carnival I took her and SL to last year, and she said "Yes" without hesitation. That has been the benchmark family fun day that no other one has lived up to yet, so it's saying a lot! Big Grin

I am utterly exhausted, but it was a really fun day despite the terrible beginning.

The only thing that bums me out is not getting my dad a father's day gift this year. Frown The day really snuck up on me. I'll email him and also try to think of a belated gift to send him.


June 19th, 2015 at 04:09 am

Today I worked from home so I could nip out and deliver the second batch of food using the carshare near my house. It was fun, but I'm going to call the guy organizing this and see if I can just arrange to have the food picked up the other days. It's not just the cost of hiring the car, it's the inconvenience. Hopefully he'll understand.

I did get a fair amount of writing done for my job too, which felt good. I was able to turn some things around quickly and also turn one thing in earlier than probably anyone expected.

Our contractor's subcontractor came by tonight with an estimate for the first piece of work we want done, taking an archway out of the living room and removing/walling up a door. At first his quote seemed high -- $6500 -- but then he started going over everything that was included. Finding matching hardwood to fix the floors where the archway was, and doing it in a way where it wouldn't look like just squares of new flooring. Finding wood trim to go over the wall where the door was and having it match our existing hundred-year-old trim. Smoothing out the ceiling (it has a popcorn-type thing). Painting the whole living room. Hauling all the waste away. We decided it was a good deal.

We're also having him do some electrical work for $1500. Adding some outlets, including bringing electricity to our front porch.

So, $8000 total. I'm so glad I have the leftover WV money, because it means we can start right away, vs. waiting about two-three months to save up that amount. The work will start June 29 and likely take three weeks, though he said he'll keep it as clean as possible so we can still use the porch and dining room. I'm really excited about this project because I think it'll really open up the living room and make it look more like a cohesive room. I'll be sure to post before and afters when it's done so you can see what I mean!

Since he'll be painting, we need to decide what color we want. We're going to schedule a consultation with a local paint store, on the recommendation of our across-the-alley neighbor. She said it's just $150 and you get an in-home visit with expert color advice.

Our fence, which was meant to be finished weeks ago, is finally getting moving again. Our downstairs neighbors paid the first half, so we just need to pay the second half. But it's still not done, and plus our neighbor gave them a deposit midway through to get them going again, so he needs to get that back before we pay him. Weird stuff. But the fence looks pretty great so far! It's black chain-link. I hope they finish soon. Kids and dogs will benefit from being able to hang out in the back without us worrying about alley traffic.

Oh! I almost forgot. NT got an email from his UK property manager. Among other things, he said those flats are now selling for around 200K pounds. I have the place listed at 140K in my net worth calculations. I've decided I'll take 10% off as I did with the duplex, to cover what selling it would likely cost. But even then, I can value it at 180K. Our net worth is going to have another huge bump next month then!

One thing I haven't heard is whether we'll get any rental income this month or whether it's all going to cover the additional costs of the reno. If we don't we'll need to either borrow some to cover the mortgage payments or wire some money over. When I thought we'd get some money and only be about 20 pounds short, I thought we'd just borrow from NT's dad. But if we're not getting any income it'll be more like 100 pounds we need. Still galls me to pay $50 to send $160 over, but we might do that to avoid having to borrow that much from either of NT's parents, even short-term. We'll see. I asked him to ask the property manager.

Feeling uneasy

June 17th, 2015 at 06:22 pm

Ever since last night I've been feeling unaccountably anxious. I even had insomnia for part of the night. I wonder if that's a typical reaction of suddenly getting rid of a former source of anxiety that you'd gotten used to having around?

Or it could be this volunteer task I've taken on. I agreed to prepare and deliver meals 5 days this month to a local volunteer organization I admire. There needs to be enough for 20 people who will be canvassing neighborhoods and then coming back to the offices to eat.

I'm providing food today and tomorrow, plus Wednesday and Thursday of next week and Tuesday of the following week.

As I was shopping for ingredients on Monday, it occurred to me that the amount of food I'd be making would make it very difficult for one person to transport by bus. (AS had agreed to deliver for me.) So for today, our downstairs neighbor is going to hire a car or get an Uber and help her. Tomorrow I think I'll work from home and use a carshare to take it over there.

For the other three days, I'm thinking I'll ask if they can pick up the food. I wasn't thinking it through how bulky and heavy a big meal for 20 people would be.

So maybe that's why I'm nervous, all the logistics and planning being more than I counted on. Or maybe it's work; I've got a lot of projects in the air but not too much to work on this week, which might be making me antsy.

Anyway, whatever it is, I know it will pass. I just hate being uneasy; I have no appetite and don't feel very focused.

So, I'll talk about the rest of the windfall from my dad:

It came to just over $80,000(!). As posted earlier, I used about $38,000 to pay off my non-home debt, leaving $42,000. I'm donating 10% of it: $5000 to an environmental nonprofit in that area, and $1000 each for me, NT and AS to donate as we please. (I'm using some of my money to buy groceries for the meals mentioned above.) That leaves $34,000.

My tax guy said he would get back to me with calculations on what to send to the IRS, MN and WV. For now, I've earmarked $18,000 for taxes, but I realize that could change.

I've set aside $1,500 to consult with lawyer, accountant and insurance agent about the pros, cons and possible ramifications of selling part of the duplex to my friends. I may also submit a rough plan to convert our 2-car garage into an accessory dwelling unit. (I don't think we'll be approved because of small lot-to-home size ratio and not enough parking spots, but I'd like to at least try.)

That leaves about $15,000. If I don't need to send any more than I calculate to the federal and state revenue departments, I've decide to use it to speed up the renovations we want to do on our home. It would make us so happy to be able to make some of the desired changes this summer and fall.

Speaking of which, we walked our contractor around (the one who did such good, reasonably priced and speedy work on the condo) and showed him a bunch of the things on our wish list. He helped us prioritize our top few projects, and his main assistant will be coming over Thursday to present estimates on one or more of them.

(Maybe it's the feeling of rapid change -- finally getting to renovate after a year of being stuck -- that's making me feel queasy? No idea.)

June 2015 net worth update

June 16th, 2015 at 04:12 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): $36,894
NT's Roth IRA: $7,705
AS's trad. IRA: $15,316
AS's Roth IRA: $22,728
AS's SEP IRA: $4,099
CJ's 401(k): $83,051
CJ's Roth IRA: $7,705
NT's flat: 140,000 pounds ($224,000)
CJ/NT/AS house: $440,000
Total Assets: $908,790

Total Debt: $488,621

Current Estimated Net Worth: $420,169

May 2015 estimate: $381,007

Change in net worth: +$39,162

Summary: Awesome change in net worth, though it could have been even better. I started a new retirement account for AS with nearly $4100 in it and added $1800 to her Roth as well as my and NT's regular 401(k) contributions, but we lost over $3000 total among our other retirement account values. We paid off over $39,000 of debt, but also added over $3000 of debt to the duplex mortgage when we refinanced.

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.

Reached my bigger June debt goal! Officially debt-free except for mortgage!!!

June 16th, 2015 at 02:23 pm

Well, it happened!

We got home from our weekend away yesterday and the checks had arrived. We deposited them right away. I couldn't pay everything off because it takes a business day to process deposits, but I had $12K in my account earmarked for future stuff, so I used that to make a $10K payment on my LOC.

This morning the deposit had cleared, so I went into each online account and paid off all our non-mortgage official debts. It took less than 20 minutes. It was amazing to me what a quick, quiet process it was; I half-expected balloons and confetti to drop and music to start playing! Big Grin

Here's what I paid off between yesterday and today:
AS student loan $5,988
NT student loan $3,018
NT student loan $4,465
LOC (taken out to help pay off duplex 2nd mortgage) $14,379
Slate CC (taken out to help cover loss on sale of condo) $10,228
Total: $38,078

So...that's it! Our only non-mortgage debt is the loan from NT's mum, which we have a plan for paying through our UK account over the next five months. It's not on the official debt spreadsheet since it was just a bridge loan and we knew we'd pay it back quickly.

Progress this month: $39,379 of debt paid, exceeding the $39,300 goal!


June 13th, 2015 at 06:57 pm

We're in our friends' weekend home until Monday afternoon, but my downstairs neighbor messaged me that he signed for an envelope from WV today.


The WV money is coming soon! Question for tax experts

June 9th, 2015 at 04:23 pm

My dad called yesterday to say that he'd received the documents, and that the checks were cut. He made the energy guy read the amounts to him over the phone so he could assure us it was the full amount we were expecting. Smile

This morning he emailed to say that the signed, notarized forms were in the mail to the energy company. As soon as they receive it they'll send out the checks.

This possibility has been looming over me for so long (well over a year) that I find it hard to believe it's finally going to happen!

I emailed my tax guy to get his take on how much to send to the IRS. I did a little calculator a while ago and came up with $20,000. I also saw on some tax advice website that income over my and NT's regular income would be taxed at the 28% rate (so $22,400), and the MN website says that bracket is 7.05% ($5,640). So if I don't hear back from the guy, should I just send the IRS $22K and MN $5600?

AS is now caught up on her freelance retirement!

June 7th, 2015 at 10:13 pm

I decided to add July to my budget spreadsheet, and when I finished moving dates around etc., I realized I now had enough to fund AS's retirement for her second quarter (April-May). So I sent $1104.38 over to her Vanguard SEP. She is now caught up with contributing 10% of her freelance income to retirement!

The next step is to start throwing money at our Roths. They've had virtually no contributions this year, so I'm not sure we'll be able to contribute the max, but we'll see. I'll start with AS's, since she has the least in her total accounts, and see how far I can get this year. I have about $1000 that I can contribute in July.

Another fun weekend and lots of fun coming up too

June 7th, 2015 at 12:50 am

Last night was parents' night out, which is a wonderful day twice a year when our daycare lady and her husband keep all the kids for a sleepover on a Friday, and you pick them up Saturday late morning!

It was the first one since we'd had money to spare, so we went all out. First, I'd taken the day off because of a weird lull in my projects at work. (They'll pick up again on Monday.) AS and I went shopping and had lunch in downtown. I picked up the last few things my wardrobe was missing. I'd tried all the thrift store and discount store options that were within a reasonable distance, so I finally had to buy some stuff at higher prices than I care to pay for clothes. A cardigan for $37, 2 bras for $40 each, a pair of flats for $49, and 2 pairs of flip flops for $3 each (those were cheap at least!). But, now my wardrobe is in pretty good shape. Unless something wears out, I shouldn't need to buy anything for a while.

Then, we met up with NT and went to happy hour at a sushi place. We just stayed and stayed, ordering a series of small plates in lieu of dinner, as well as bottles of sake. We were there for over four hours! We spent $125 and tipped $25. Then we went for drinks at another place (I just had coffee at that point!). That place came to $46 with tip. So worth it to us!

Tomorrow there's a celebration called "Open Streets" where they block off traffic on a major road and let people walk/bike around. Local vendors set up stalls, musicians play, people take yoga on the street, etc. It's going to be really fun, and the street is only 3 short blocks from us!

Monday through Wednesday, we're doing a raw-foods cleanse. Today we bought a bunch of ingredients for the meals we have planned. I feel like a break from the indulgent eating and drinking will be good for us.

Monday we have a contractor coming over to look at our place while we tell him what we'd like to do with it. He'll help us figure out what's feasible and affordable, and from there we can develop a timeline and start saving up for each stage. That night, we're going to a raw vegan restaurant, and our neighbor is watching the kids and feeding them dinner.

Thursday there's a dads-only daycare event for Father's Day, and a happy hour for my alumni group. It's also technically 60 days from the WV option expiring. I wonder if my dad will hear anything from them?

Friday we have the day off, and we're renting a carshare and driving down to our friends' massive vacation home about 2 hours south of here. We'll drive back Monday afternoon (we have that day off too). I just realized I have a lot of 3- and 4-day weeks in a row all of a sudden! Smile

The following week we have our CSA starting, with a box of fresh veggies to pick up every Thursday. That weekend we have a going-away party for a friend, and it's Father's Day on Sunday. NT still has to decide what he wants to do for it.

The next week we have a going-away party for a fellow alumna, and then it's GLBT Pride weekend with parade, festival and more.

And that's June! That's how summers go here in Minnesota. Everyone's so eager to get together and have fun. Luckily there are some quiet weeknights in there. Sometimes we accidentally overbook ourselves and don't even have that.

That wasn't much of a financial update. I did set up AS's 2nd-quarter tax payments today. I scheduled them for June 15. And I advised one of my two friends whose finances I consult on about what debt she should tackle next -- she's about to pay off her first credit card since we started!

Our fence isn't up yet, but the guy has set a date for this coming week to work on it. Excited!

There was a smash-and-grab burglary on our block, and now our downstairs neighbors want to install a security system. I'm just letting them decide what to do. They just need to do something to make themselves feel better, because the news really freaked them out.

Whoopsie on debt goal

June 3rd, 2015 at 03:27 pm

Well, my first payment to the new duplex mortgage hit today, with $650 going to principal.

However, I forgot that when I refinanced, the principal went up by $3821. So overall, my debt balance is higher.

I'll still count my progress based on the old number, so that takes me to $1301 of debt paid, surpassing the smaller June goal by $1! It leaves me with $37,348 to go on the bigger June goal.

June debt progress

June 2nd, 2015 at 02:28 pm

The line of credit and 0% credit card payments both hit:
LOC: $231 to principal
CC: $103 (all to principal)

That's $334 total paid toward debt today. That takes us to $651 down, either $649 or $38,649 to go to meet the June goal(s).

Nearly all the LOC payment went to interest, but that's because I made a couple of extra payments in May. Normally I think it would be about $150 to principal.

My new mortgage payment hasn't hit yet. I sent it out last Tuesday and dated the check 5/27, hoping it would hit promptly. Oh well, I'll try not to worry and give it another couple days. Can't wait to get it on autopay! I sent out the request for that as well.

Progress on June debt goal(s)

June 1st, 2015 at 09:17 pm

All three UK mortgage payments hit:
UK1: $221 to principal
UK2: $46
UK3: $50

All told, that's $317 down, either $983 or $38,983 to go on the June debt goal.

We had to dip into the overdraft to make these payments since the renovation cleaned us out. We'll be able to pay it back in full with our second income check from the rental. (The first one will be funding the additional reno costs plus mostly covering the July mortgage payments. Once we get the payment from the management company, we'll be able to see if/how far we'll be short on mortgages so we can borrow or wire the money to cover it.)

It's been so nice to have money in the U.S. checking account again. I'll be really glad when our UK account is similarly in the black!