Home > Archive: March, 2016

Archive for March, 2016

Update on tax bill goal (my umpteenth post today)

March 31st, 2016 at 08:29 pm

Already some movement on the new goal! Unfortunately, it's backward movement. AS has been meaning to create a website for her business, and now she has. It's a good purchase because she'll be able to up her profile and hopefully get some more business because of it.

New website: $96

Actual deficit: $10,359.22
Projected deficit w/ AS future income: $1,075.11

Retirement goal progress (1st time since December!)

March 31st, 2016 at 08:24 pm

I haven't been able to post any progress because our funds all lost value since December. Finally they are up over the last high point, so I can report a small amount of progress on our retirement goal!

The goal: $486,000 in retirement assets by 2019

Current balance: $263,174

Dec 2015 balance: $258,118

Progress: $5,056

Pretty good progress if it were for one month, but over three months it's not that great!

To reach the goal by our birthdays in 2019, that's 35 months, so we'd need $6366 per month to reach it. Should see some big leaps the second half of the year if I'm able to max out the Roths like I hope to!

March 2016 net worth update

March 31st, 2016 at 08:19 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): $40,807
NT's Roth IRA: $9,845
AS's trad. IRA: $14,820
AS's Roth IRA: $25,524
AS's SEP IRA: $7,611
CJ's 401(k): $84,450
CJ's Roth IRA: $12,825
NT's flat: 180,000 pounds ($288,000)
CJ/NT/AS house: $440,000
Total Assets: $991,174

Total Debt: $479,812

Current Estimated Net Worth: $511,362

February 2016 estimate: $501,958

Change in net worth: +$9,404

Summary: Once again the market must have improved, because we didn't put that much away this past month, and we only paid the minimum on debt.

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.

Tracking a new goal: Funding the tax bill

March 31st, 2016 at 04:00 pm

Since tracking and reporting worked so well for getting us out of consumer/education debt and other financial goals, I've decided to track paying for our giant tax bill.

I have two sets of calculations: What the current budget deficit is as a result of the tax bill, and what the estimated future debt bill is based on jobs AS has already secured and is just waiting payment on. I'll track both because one is the actual deficit, but the other shows me how close we are to eliminating the deficit. Sometimes we'll have to use AS's checks for something else, but if I see how close we are, it'll help motivate me to NOT use her checks as much.

I guess I'll try to post every time one or both of these numbers change. They have already changed a bit because AS booked another small ($50) job, plus the tax guy let me know his bill will be $775, not $700 as I estimated.

Here's where we stand right now.
Actual deficit: $10,263.22
Projected deficit w/ AS future income: $979.11

Tax bill: just about worst case scenario*

March 30th, 2016 at 06:06 pm

I finally got all details of taxes. Well, almost; waiting to hear what the tax guy is charging me. Right now I'm operating under assumption he'll charge $700 like last year, but our taxes were more complicated this year, so I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up being more. But for now, $700.

He did decide we could claim WV money as capital gains. However, we still didn't put enough away. And I overestimated AS's state tax by a bit, but I grossly UNDERestimated her federal, so it's ugly.

Here goes:
Me and NT:
Federal owe $12,013
MN owe $2,228
WV owe $4,822

Federal owe $4,542
State overpaid -$1,201
Federal 1Q estimated 2016 tax $2,990
State 1Q estimated 2016 tax $500

Tax prep for both (est.):

TOTAL OWED: $26,594

What we had saved up:
$15,331 saved from WV money + interest
$796 saved for AS federal 1Q est 2016 tax
$341 saved for AS state 1Q est 2016 tax



I got over my hyperventilation last night, and then got to planning. What else could I do? It was an honest mistake, I don't begrudge paying taxes, and now I just need to figure out the best way to do it where I don't pay a ton of fees or interest.

AS already has enough future payments expected to cover all but about $936 of that. And it's only March, so we expect her to book much more work. Trouble is, not all of those payments are coming in right away. The biggest one comes in 4 monthly installments starting in September when her class starts up. So how do we stay afloat in the meantime?

Interestingly, several of the cards from our recent rewards-getting churn are 0% until 2017. So we won't cancel those but will start using them as our primary cards, paying the minimum on them until we have room in the budget to pay the full balances.

That still leaves a couple of momentary shortfalls in the projected checking account balance: about $700 when tax day hits (shortfall goes away a couple days later when AS receives some checks), and $2200 when the May 1 mortgage hits (shortfall goes away May 13 when my and NT's paychecks hit).

If nothing else materializes before these two points, we may need to do a short-term line-of-credit transfer, or not pay the full balance of an interest-bearing card right away, so that would cost us a little bit in interest, but not too bad.

This all looks pretty good on paper, but there's another problem: This assumes nothing will happen that can't be folded into our regular budget categories. Things I'm not sure about: my breast evaluation, house stuff. Things I am sure about (but not sure the amount): spending during the April Va. and June NYC trips. One thing that is for sure off the table this year: AC for the house. We may not even be able to upgrade our window units this year.

But as long as we can put these things on 0% credit cards, AS's income will eventually cover the hole. It'll just take longer the more unbudgeted things we have.

This was only one of several crappy things that have happened in the past couple days, but it's the one that needs the most attention and work from me right now.

We will make it through this!

*When I say "just about worst case scenario," I mean worse than my worst-case scenario (I was thinking $8K) but not as bad as AS's worst-case scenario (she feared $20K). Wink

Two little worries, trying not to let them get to me

March 27th, 2016 at 02:45 pm

I've got two potential worries right now, but unless they actually materialize into real problems I'm trying not to let them get to me.

First, one of my breasts has been slightly sore for about two weeks. I saw my doctor and while she didn't feel anything, she's sending me for a full battery of tests (sonogram etc.). That's in a little less than two weeks. So I'm trying not to worry until I learn more.

Then, my tax guy emailed me to ask about the WV money. He'd advised me on how much to withhold for taxes on the assumption that it would be capital gains, but he says the documents from the gas co. imply it's ordinary income. He says that would make quite a difference.

He asked me to email my siblings and see what their tax people said. One emailed back and told me hers said it was ordinary income. I'll wait a bit more and see if anyone says anything else, but if not, I guess that's what my tax guy will call it, and now I'm worried that I'll have a big tax bill beyond what I put into savings.

But, again, I don't know how much that means, or even if that's true, so I'm trying not to worry that much.

Money can be found, and health things can be dealt with. Even though we don't have an EF to speak of, we have AS's income which isn't allocated to anything, so we could use it to pay tax and medical bills. Even if we had to put off renovations for a year or two, at least we've got lots of nice trips planned and basically paid for already.

3 flights to NYC for less than $7 each!

March 21st, 2016 at 09:20 pm

Things are shaping up for our summer vacations; NT booked our flights and accommodation for our little Barcelona jaunt, which will happen during the 2nd half of our UK trip. The plan is to leave the kids with NT's parents for that whole week. Very exciting! He put the AirBNB on our credit card, and our friends will pay for half of it by transferring money into our UK account. Hopefully we can then book our car rental via UK credit card and pay for it with that money.

Inspired by that, I figured out child care for our earlier June trip, to New York for my 20-year college reunion. We'll be without the kids for this trip as well, though it's only for 4 days, 3 nights. Our downstairs neighbors will take care of them Thursday and Friday, and another best friend will come stay at our place and take care of them Saturday and Sunday. What can I say? We have incredible friends!

I imagine many parents who have family nearby have times away from their kids much more often, but save for a few sleepovers (with our daycare and with our downstairs neighbors) and one 2-night trip where we left AA with our friends who are now our downstairs neighbors (that was to NYC in 2011 for my 15 year college reunion), we haven't really been apart from our kids. But those few times, they've always seemed to enjoy themselves, so I'm hoping both upcoming jaunts away from us will go well for them as well as us.

Anyway, I saw that our Chase Sapphire rewards had hit, and the bonus plus what we'd earned through spending had given us about $740 in travel rewards. I found some cheap flights (leaving early, getting back late--but that will give us more time to explore NYC, so it's a trade-off) and booked them. The grand total out-of-pocket for the three of us to fly from MN to NYC and back? $20.80!

That savings made it a lot easier to decide to book a hotel instead of on-campus lodging. It was about $100 more, but so worth it for the added comfort! And if I recall, the hotel I chose is a decent walk from campus, so we may not even need to take cabs much.

Last year, the only real travel I did (besides a business trip) was going to see my mom, an impromptu trip when my sister mentioned her health is in gradual decline. This year, I've already been to see my mom once, will be going again in April, and also have the NYC, England and Spain trips planned. Big year for travel!

March is flying by, as usual

March 15th, 2016 at 04:17 pm

Oh, hello! I'm taking advantage of some downtime at work to update on everything I can think of that's happened this month, financial and otherwise.

This is my household's "birthday month"; all five humans (and at least one of the cats) have March birthdays. So it's a whirlwind!

We set aside $100 each for parties/celebrating, $200 for gifts for each of the adults, and $100 for each of the kids. In addition, parents/grandparents send gifts and gift cards too.

My bday came first; my 42nd, and it happened midweek, so I didn't want anything big. I used my $100 to get delivery for us and four friends and we had a mellow evening sitting around chatting. AS and NT got me some gifts (a necklace, underwear), but they also did some homemade stuff; I'd asked for an adult coloring book so they printed out pages online; and I'd asked for "everything bagel" seasoning and they bought the ingredients in bulk and mixed it up themselves! They had $160 left in my bday fund so I just added it to my spending money, which was great, because my other blog's domain renewal in January had put me in a whole that I couldn't seem to dig out of. I also bought myself a couple extra things with the surplus: a harmonica instruction book and a couple CDs of my favorite current band (The Cactus Blossoms).

Then AS's 37th bday was two days later. We got her a home beer brewing starter kit, a giant bottle of her favorite lotion, and new bluetooth headphones. She used her celebration money to order sushi delivery, and then went out to a show with NT where she could get free admission and a bottle of champagne because it was her birthday!

AA's bday was the next day. We got her some of the new diverse Barbies, a magic kit, a practical joke kit and some jewelry. The grandparents got her a bunch of stuff. I'd asked my mom and dad if they just wanted to splurge on one gift, the Barbie Dream House, and they agreed (they just sent me the money to buy it). But then they sent about three other gifts too! We gave SL an early gift (a new backpack) and held back one of AA's gifts (a Barbie car) because last year there was some jealousy. SL was really good this year on AA's bday; let's hope AA can do better than last year when it's SL's.

The day after that was AA's party. We used her celebration money to rent a rec center at a nearby park, and we brought breakfast pastries and fruit for her morning party. She invited all her daycare buddies, some of our friends' friends, AND her whole kindergarten class. Only about a third of the invitees showed up but it was still crazy! It was a nice day, so near the end of the party everyone went out to the playground, which was great because then we (mostly NT) had extra time to get the center cleaned before our reservation was up. On the invite we said "gifts not expected" but many of the kids got her presents anyway. One little girl was sobbing at the end because she *hadn't* brought a present, so we told AA that she had to say something the next day at school to make her feel better. She said she told her "coming to my party was a gift." Plus the little girl made her a book. So all was well. I would rather say "NO gifts" but I know some of the daycare moms who aren't comfortable not giving gifts, so I tried to make it looser than that.

Next (just being silly) we celebrated both cats' birthday by giving them catnip and extra treats. Reminded me why we don't! They fought over the catnip, and for days after they whined for more treats like they thought that was the new routine now. It was fun though.

Then last Saturday, our downstairs neighbors took the kids for a sleepover as their birthday gift to all of us, so we went out to a "speakeasy" (it's legal and they require IDs, take reservations, etc., so the only thing speakeasy about it is that they don't advertise online and don't have a sign outside the door; you have to go through an alley to get there). It's a few blocks from our house and it's aDORable. I don't think I'd go much during the summer since it's in a basement, but I could see it being a hangout in cold-weather months. We met up with a friend there and had lots of drinks and snacks.

Now we're in a break between birthdays; the last two are on the 21st and 29th. This week the only thing we're doing for St. Patrick's Day is I came up with a goofy all-green dinner; I'm not really sure how it will go over with people (it's pasta with a kale-carrot sauce) but it should be funny.

Moneywise, we've stayed on budget for the birthdays, so that's good. AS is about on track to make the same as last year in her freelance business, so we've used that money for fun or to save up for things. We've fully funded (we think) the England/Spain trip. We've been doing the credit card churn again; we've already gotten two $100 CapOne bonuses, we have a Chase Sapphire that closes this week so hopefully we'll get the $625 in travel rewards soon; we have an Amex that just closed but I can't remember what the bonus was ($250?). I'm working on a Citi ThankYou and am about 25% of the way to the spending needed, and NT is on an HRC Visa that's spend $500, get $100.

We plan to use the Chase Sapphire rewards to help fund airfare to my 20-year college reunion in NY this June. I'm hoping it pays for 2 tickets and we'll just have to pay for 1 more out of pocket, but we'll see. We're trying to decide between staying on campus and staying at a hotel while we're there. The campus is handy but the rooms and beds are so uncomfortable! I have about $450 set aside and I think either way could be covered by that. But the hotel would mean cabfare to and from a lot. (We may get a rental car, but this reunion serves alcohol at almost every event, so we'd probably want to take a cab even if we had a car.)

We have about 950 pounds saved up in the UK bank account for trip spending, with more coming from rental income. I'm hoping we don't have to spend any US money out of pocket, though we may have to pay for a rental car. That's the only thing I'm not sure we have covered right now.

AS and I started working on our capsule wardrobes for spring and bought just about everything we needed in one day (plus finding a few pieces from our stored-away clothes); spring is coming earlier than usual here so we'll probably start wearing them later this month. We're just waiting for some stuff to arrive in the mail. We both departed pretty drastically from our color palette for winter; I went from black/gray/magenta/silver/blue to brown/beige/drab green/pastel pink/pastel turquoise/pastel blue. I'm excited to start wearing it! Another reason to love capsules is that you can make a big dramatic change from season to season.

We spent about $225 at a thrift store (getting over 30 pieces total), then about $75 at Payless, then about $100 on Amazon (using bday gift cards). Then I got a surprise offer on Ibotta for $5 back for spending $35 at Payless, so we dug the receipt out of the recycle bin and redeemed that! And it pushed me over the edge to where I could get a Paypal transfer of Ibotta bucks.

I got all of our stuff over to our tax guy, so now I play the waiting game. I set aside $15,200 of the WV money, and I sent 20% of AS's income in prepayments (13% to IRS, 7% to MN). These are both wild cards and I have no idea whether we'll owe big time. I'm kind of just trying not to think about it; we'll handle it whatever comes up.

We're pretty sure that we're not going to have the money to get air conditioning installed this year. We might invest in some newer, more efficient window units (all our current ones were free, either left by other renters or found on Freecycle) and get through this summer, hoping to take care of it by next. What with NT's surgery; trips to England, Spain and NYC; getting the basement bathroom up to code; AS needing glasses, contacts and (the big one) a dental implant to replace a dying tooth -- not to mention the fact that we want to get out and enjoy ourselves once in a while and don't feel like scrimping and saving constantly anymore -- I just don't see the money accumulating fast enough to have the full amount by summer. And I think that's fine. As you can see from the above, we got a lot done with our money, all of it either necessary or desirable, so I don't feel too bad.

Performance reviews are in progress at my job, but I haven't heard any word about whether there are raises available this year. In other work news, I managed to offload my direct report onto someone else, so I can concentrate fully on my writing. I'm so happy! My new boss is still awesome; I enjoy working with him so much. So work is going really well.

As I think I've mentioned, I've tried to make fun/creative/motivational goals each month. This month my goals are to start learning harmonica and play at least a little bit every day, and to do at least a little bit of extra activity every day. So far I haven't missed a day on either, though I have gained some weight because of birthday month eating and drinking! I'm thinking a dietary change is in order for April, but I haven't decided on the details yet.

I think that's it! Well, I'm probably missing something, but I've got to get back to work now, and you've probably stopped reading a long ways back. Wink

March debt payments

March 3rd, 2016 at 09:44 pm

Someday I'll write a proper life-update post, but I seem to be so busy lately! Planning birthdays and whatnot. Anyway, all four mortgage payments hit:

US: $667 to principal
UK1: $228
UK2: $47
UK3: $49

All told, we paid $990 of debt in March.

February 2016 net worth update

March 3rd, 2016 at 06:09 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): $39,411
NT's Roth IRA: $9,445
AS's trad. IRA: $14,164
AS's Roth IRA: $24,345
AS's SEP IRA: $7,259
CJ's 401(k): $80,540
CJ's Roth IRA: $12,304
NT's flat: 180,000 pounds ($288,000)
CJ/NT/AS house: $440,000
Total Assets: $982,760

Total Debt: $480,802

Current Estimated Net Worth: $501,958

January 2016 estimate: $496,064

Change in net worth: +$5,894

Summary: It's so funny how it works. We're postponing Roth contributions until the second half of the year, and yet our net worth saw a pretty good leap. Not recovering all of last month's loss, but up over half a million again.

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.