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Archive for August, 2016

August 2016 retirement goal progress

August 31st, 2016 at 07:26 pm

Goal: $479,875 by 2019
(As a reminder, this is to get me to 3x my current salary, which is now $66,625, so $199,875; NT to 3x his, which is now $60,000, so $180,000; and AS to 2x hers, which this year is projected to be $50,000, so $100,000)

Current balance: $285,018

May 2016 balance: $279,380

Progress: $5,638

To reach the goal by our birthdays in 2019, that's 30 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $6,495 per month to reach it. We came somewhat closer to that level of progress this month!

August 2016 net worth update

August 31st, 2016 at 07:23 pm

NT's UK pensions:
#1: 17,105 pounds ($25,658)
#2: 20,501 pounds ($30,752)
#3: 5,523 pounds ($8,284)
NT's 401(k): $44,856
NT's Roth IRA: $10,436
AS's trad. IRA: $15,685
AS's Roth IRA: $29,931
AS's SEP IRA: $9,735
CJ's 401(k): $93,312
CJ's Roth IRA: $16,369
NT's flat: 180,000 pounds ($270,000)
CJ/NT/AS house: $470,000 (value -6%)
Total Assets: $1,025,018

US Mortgage (duplex) $402,949
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1: $43,766
UK Mortgage 2: $9,225
UK Mortgage 3: $9,716
Total Debt: $474,656

Current Estimated Net Worth: $550,362

July 2016 estimate: $543,746

Change in net worth: +$6,616

Summary: No huge gains anywhere but we contributed over $3K to retirement and paid off nearly $1K of debt, so we saw a nice bump.

Notes on the numbers above: House value estimates are approximate. UK pension values updated about once a year. UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $1.50 for every British pound.

First day of first grade!

August 29th, 2016 at 02:52 pm

AA started school today! She finally got to wear the sparkly outfit she bought a month or so ago. It's a nightgown; none of the real dresses at Target were fancy enough for her taste. Wink

Overall it went well, though she was nervous and out of sorts at first. SL is champing at the bit to start school, so it was hard for her to watch AA get to have another special first day. Next year she'll have her turn.

I'm feeling tired and distracted after the excitement and noise of dropping her off. Wish I could take the day off, but alas, I can't. I do have a work-from-home day planned for Wednesday, and we have Friday off, so I really can't complain about being at work today.

Dug the hole a little deeper, filled part of it in

August 28th, 2016 at 01:18 am

Well, two days of the State Fair was super fun, but it was a frenzy of spending and we dropped a small fortune on it. Also, utilities bill was higher than usual (possibly due to letting the kids play with the hose and sprinkler more often). So the deficit in our shared spending got about $100 bigger.

But, AS's client who was supposed to pay at the end of the month paid a few days early! $1975, and we netted $1226.

Even though the hole is a little deeper, I decided to go even further than planned and add $650 to savings instead of $500. There are a few more payments from my company expected soon, so I'm hoping they get their act together and pay a bunch of them in one big check. It'll all work out in the end. And now we have $1500 in our U.S. savings!

The shared spending deficit is now $484.79. Hoping my company pays up on Monday, before our next few expenses (swim classes and alumni event refreshments) increase the deficit.

I also really want to get new running shoes so I can use our new (to us) Freecycle treadmill. And I want to start putting together my fall capsule wardrobe, which is going to need some new pieces. And there are a bunch of little household items, not needed but wanted, that we'd like to get. But those things can wait a bit longer. I like adding to savings knowing it'll enable us to satisfy some big want(s) in the future.

Going in the hole a bit, temporarily

August 25th, 2016 at 04:22 pm

Well, my company is lagging in promised payments to AS for her freelance work, whereas planned expenses are happening right on schedule. Wink Therefore our shared spending looks pretty bad right now: $954.47 in the hole.

The extra bathroom-contractor charge was about $850, so we actually wouldn't be doing too badly if not for that. And, we have $850 in savings that I could pull if needed, but I'm going to hold off on that and see if we can just clear it up with incoming money.

If my company gets its act together, they should soon be sending AS $1748.75. If we net $1136 from that and send $500 of that to savings, it's $636 toward our deficit.

However, we do have two more expenses coming up shortly: kids' swim classes ($180) and refreshments for an alumni event I'm hosting (unknown how much we'll spend, possibly a couple hundred). If both came to $400, that would take us to about $718 in the hole.

AS is expecting another $1975 at the end of the month. She'll net $1226 and if I send $500 to savings, that gives us $726.

So if no other unexpected expenses came up, we should just barely be able to cover the shared spending deficit by the end of the month and still add some money to savings. Fingers crossed it works out this way!

Transportation budget (and lifestyle) considerations

August 22nd, 2016 at 02:44 pm

Every once in a while I check in mentally on how much we're spending on transportation to make sure it makes sense for us to continue as is. Our expenses for this category are fragmented as we use a combination of transportation methods and payment types.

- NT's bus pass is fully reimbursed by his job, up to $90 per month. During summer months he sometimes uses it less and AS or AA can use those funds while he bikes to work. During the winter he gets the $85 unlimited rides monthly pass.

- Bike maintenance is very cheap, a couple hundred bucks per year at most. He's probably looking to get a new bike next year but we'll partly fund it with the birthday gift budget. (AS and I also have bikes; we hardly ever use them but they're there if we need them or want to use them.)

- My bus pass is paid for with pretax money, so it comes directly out of my pay. I get the unlimited rides pass at $85 per month, but with the tax benefit the net impact is a bit less than that. (I should note the bus pass also covers traveling on the light rail, which goes to St. Paul, the Mall of America and the airport.)

- AS doesn't use the bus daily now that she works at home most days, so she gets stored value and pays per trip. Sometimes in summer this is covered by NT's work stipend. Otherwise it's out of pocket, probably about $45 per month. It's so irregular that I don't have a budget line item for it.

- AA is 6, which is when people are supposed to start paying for their bus rides. She would use hers about as much as I do, so I have $85 per month budgeted. But most bus drivers don't think little kids should pay, and AA forgets her purse a lot anyway, so it ends up being a lot less right now. Maybe $30 per month, though at some point I'm sure she'll get into the habit and she'll look old enough that drivers will expect her to pay.

- For times when the bus is too slow or doesn't go where we're going, and walking or biking won't cut it, we use a combination of two carshares (one works for longer round trips and rides the whole family needs to go on; the other one is better for short one-way trips for one or two people). And we occasionally use Lyft, though it must be getting more popular; more often than not it seems there's a 50%-75% upcharge for high-demand times, and it can get REALLY pricy (don't ask me about a trip to the airport we took at those rates). So what seemed like it would be a regular part of our arsenal is now only for emergencies or special occasions. We budget $90 per month for carshare services and it seems to work out most months; occasionally we're over or under a bit. For staycations we take car expenses out of our shared spending, not this category. If one of us wants to use these services and the budget has already been spent, it comes out of our personal spending.

So, a rough estimate of monthly transportation costs:
NT bus pass $0
Bike maintenance $15
My bus pass $85
AS bus pass $45
AA bus pass $30
Carshare $90

So about $265 per month for a family of five.

If we bought a car there would be a big outlay of cash plus insurance, gas and maintenance, so it would be a lot more than this at least initially. Plus, our current system allows all members of the family to travel independently, whereas a car would have to be agreed upon who got to use it when. NT and I go into downtown at different times, so one of us would need a bus pass anyway, and AS doesn't drive, so she'd need a bus pass or else be dependent on us to drive her places. Monthly parking in downtown costs more than a monthly bus pass.

Being carless requires patience and planning, but having a car comes with a whole other set of responsibilities too. So for us, it continues to be a good decision not to have one.

More checks in, more to savings

August 20th, 2016 at 09:53 pm

Our homeowner insurance sent us a refund check for $233 due to the reduction I worked out recently. I'd forgotten or hadn't realized they'd be giving us a refund for the premium we already paid, so that was a nice surprise.

I decided to send $94.23 to the savings account to bring it to an even $750.

Then AS got a small freelance payment -- $260.15. We netted $169.10 after tax and retirement, and I sent $50 of that to savings.

We did get AA's school supplies; I'd guessed it would be $50 and it came to $54.94. I got a 4-pack of kleenex boxes and we only have to give the school two, plus I got AA a candy treat, so in actuality it was pretty much $50.

Anyway, the part of the checks that didn't go to tax, retirement or savings went to reducing the shared-spending deficit caused by the larger contractor bill. But the school supplies bumped the deficit up a bit again. Now we're $615.77 behind.

Still expecting some slightly larger checks from my company; they didn't come this week so I'm hoping they come next week. They should just about get rid of the deficit (as well as let us add more to savings). Some of the wants on our list are coming up though, so that's going to affect it too. Overall I'm hoping for a lower deficit a week from now, but we'll see.

Added to savings (US & UK)

August 18th, 2016 at 02:12 pm

When I found out about our $40 U.S. mortgage payment savings, I put $100 of the $180 projected surplus into our U.S. savings account. Even though we now have a shared spending deficit, I want to keep adding at least a little bit of every windfall or freelance check to savings for future big wants such as renovations. (It can of course be used for emergencies too if need be, but I'll try to avoid that.) Just over the past month, I've gotten the balance from about $5 to $655.77.

NT's rental income hit his account and I was able to transfer 475 pounds ($712) over to his UK savings that we're considering to be our emergency fund. The EF is now at US$1,837.55, almost 20% of our goal in just over a month!

I'm not expecting to always add this much to savings in a month, but then again maybe some months we'll be able to add even more. Either way, it's nice to see that our savings has grown from practically $0 to nearly $2500.

A few things trumped the wants list

August 17th, 2016 at 09:16 pm

While balancing the budget this morning I noticed an $82.80 charge on a credit card for NT's dentist. At first I thought he'd double-paid for a procedure but found out he had the same done to the other side of his mouth. Instead of waiting for it to go through insurance I guess they billed him upfront. That was about as much money as we had in shared spending; now it's gone.

For the past month or so we've been trying to get in touch with our contractor who has handled all our home-improvement projects so far. First, because we still owed him some money for the basement bathroom work and second, we wanted to ask him about fixing some track lighting and installing a dishwasher we got from Freecycle.

Today he was finally able to stop by. He showed AS how to get the track lighting on and off free of charge, and was skeptical of the dishwasher's condition. Our current one hasn't been acting up recently so we can probably just pass along that dishwasher and replace ours with a new one whenever it does break down (or when we save up enough to remodel the kitchen).

But the bill for the end of the bathroom project was $2025, more than the $1125 I'd planned for. (I'm not surprised or upset; there were several unpredictable bumps in the road during the renovation.) We've been splitting the cost with our neighbors paying two-fifths, so I had $675 set aside for our share. Our share is at least $540 more; our neighbors paid for tiling supplies for the DIY portion of the bathroom so I asked if they want to calculate that into their two-fifths, which will make our share bigger (not sure by how much). (EDIT: The neighbor said tiles and supplies were about $400, so our share is $1455, or $780 more than I had set aside.)

So looks like the next few freelance checks that come in will go to making up that deficit. I'm looking forward to our wants list but it can wait.

By the time we pay off this deficit, some more items on the list will probably need to move in front of the new running shoes AS and I hope to get. School supplies for AA, fall swim lessons for the kids, and spending money for the State Fair may all end up moving ahead. It depends how many freelance checks AS gets this month. She's done a lot of different jobs lately, so there's a chance she'll get a lot of checks in August, but it's so hard to predict.

Bit of good news on the mortgage payment(s)

August 16th, 2016 at 03:07 pm

AS and I have taken walks the past few days past recently sold homes to try and determine why the sale prices were what they were and see how the homes compared to ours (at least from the outside).

Based on what we saw, we feel pretty comfortable that our home is worth at least $490K. But not quite confident we'd reach $503K, so I don't think we'll try for a refinance right now. I'll keep an eye on home sales and our debt amount and hopefully will feel more sure of our equity in a few months or a year.

But, all my work getting insurance quotes paid off to some extent. I got the results of our escrow analysis, and our payment is actually going down $41.63, not $24 like I thought! It's because the escrow shortage payment went down as well as the regular insurance escrow. Every little bit helps, so I'm happy! And since I already worked up our 2017 budget as well as having the rest of 2016 worked out, there's a nice ripple effect on our finances.

EDIT: Oh! And I just saw some new messages in our UK mortgage account. Turns out the interest rate on all of those is decreasing from 1.49% to 1.24%. Our total payments are going down about $8. Again, I'll take any little bit! Big Grin

Working through the wants list

August 15th, 2016 at 08:29 pm

Our many expenses in the first half of this year (shoulder surgery, trip to Europe, tax bill, dental procedures) meant that we pushed off a lot of nice-to-have or will-need-eventually things. Now we're gradually taking care of things as AS's freelance checks come in and no longer need to be applied to a budget deficit.

First on the list, I set aside $300 for painting the interior of our house, though NT might not buy the paint until the weather cools. Then he and I got new underwear to replace worn-out stuff, and I replaced a broken umbrella. (About $30 for all that.)

Then it was new sneakers for the kids. They wear them out so fast! About $50.

Back-to-school outfit and backpack for AA: about $60.

Work trousers for NT: $30

New laptop for AS: $480

Among all of this I've also managed to send $750 to savings. What we're saving for is up in the air; I just wanted to start trying to accumulate a bigger amount for some of our bigger needs and wants.

Now we're waiting on more freelance checks so we can cross some more wants off our list. I've got a list going on our shared spending tracker roughly organized by urgency of want:

Athletic shoes for me and AS
School supplies for AA (the school sent us a list)
Refreshments for an alumni event I'm hosting
Door handles
Replacement bowl for food processor
Roomba part
Handheld steamer (recommended by snafu & Thriftorama!)
Fridge water/ice filter
Fall swim classes for kids
Work shirt for NT
Add to AA & SLs's mutual funds

We can always move things around, add or take things off, but this helps so when money comes in, everyone understands where it's going. I also hope to put half of net freelance income into savings, but sometimes it'll be less than that. But I'll always put at least a little bit of each check away.

A plethora of paper bags

August 13th, 2016 at 02:58 pm

We bit the bullet and paid the year's membership to Instacart. It just adds so much to our weekend to have someone else do the grocery shopping.

But there's one small problem: They don't use reusable bags, and they double-bag (which I can understand because they don't want the strap breaking while delivering). But now we're accumulating a massive pile of paper bags.

What can be done with them? They're perfectly good, but we have no use for them.