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Archive for November, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 24th, 2016 at 03:19 pm

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday. I am very thankful for this community's support, wisdom, criticism and sympathy. I know I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't found a resource and group of people like this.

I promise I'll be participating more in the blogs come December; November has been a perfect storm of stuff and I've barely been keeping up with my budget, let alone blogging about it.

The good news is I think I'll be able to finish my NaNoWriMo; I've been feverishly pounding away at it the past week or so and am almost caught up to where I should be. And I'm starting to come out of my funk and be more creative and productive at work, though I'm still not at my best.

The bad news is that me and AA keep getting hit by illnesses this month. At least the rest of the family has been relatively OK.

Money stuff is up and down; AS is booking a lot of work but we haven't been getting a ton of checks. But we're hanging in there.

I have a cough and the medicine gave me a weird night of sleep, so this is going to be a mellow Thanksgiving for me. Luckily I'm cooking all familiar foods so it'll be an easy year.

Money into savings, quick update

November 18th, 2016 at 03:39 pm

It's been a crazy crazy month. Starting with being sick, then a visit from family, then THE EVENT that will reshape our entire world, then NaNoWriMo, a flurry of stuff to do at work, AS being busier than she's ever been, social justice events going on in my city around police issues, plumbing/water issues, AA getting really sick (possibly the flu--kicking myself for not getting her the flu shot yet).

What's fallen by the wayside: my evening walks, my appetite, sleep, my ability to focus, peace of mind, blogging, keeping my inboxes clear, quality time with spouses & kids, housekeeping.

Half and half: NaNoWriMo. I've written every day except Nov. 8, but I'm only about a third of the way to my goal because I've either had work to do, have dozed off over my computer, or have wanted to just turn my brain off and watch The Walking Dead.

What I've kept up with: my 5-minute daily morning strength training, the basics of budget tracking, home-cooked meals, the minimum amount of work and housekeeping required to not live in filth and not get fired.

We were getting pretty far in the red on shared spending because of some expected expenses and AS just hadn't gotten many paychecks in October or the first half of November. She finally got nearly $3K in the mail yesterday and a third of it went to our shared spending deficit so we're less than $100 in the hole, although we have a long-planned date night tonight that will set us back some. But she's got lots of work coming in so we know the deficit will eventually be made up.

I also put about a third of the money into savings for our eventual renovation plans. I was also able to transfer some flat-rental money from UK checking to UK savings for our emergency fund. So we now have $6,250 in the U.S. account for renovations and $2,812.50 in the UK account as an EF.

We got one estimate for the bathroom reno and it came a little over $12K (would be more because we'd purchase the new vanity and toilet ourselves). Still waiting for our regular contractor to come do an estimate. The first one would be a fast job using that single-sheet shower stuff, which won't look very high-end but will be much lower maintenance. And they could do it in a matter of days. Our regular contractor will give us an estimate for traditional tiling, which will take longer and be higher maintenance but will look so much better. It's our upstairs bathroom that only we use, so I'm not as set on it looking high-end. So cost and quick turnaround will definitely be considerations, but until we get the estimate I can't say which way we'll go.

Tonight is a daycare sleepover. Even before we knew how busy and stressed we'd be, we planned a "parents' night in" instead of the usual "parents' night out." NT is going to make us a special cocktail and we'll order food delivery. Really looking forward to unwinding. I need to do a bit of NaNoWriMo on my lunch break today because I don't want to think about it tonight.

So much more has happened, but I've had a couple good nights of sleep and AA isn't sick anymore, so things are starting to turn around I think. Hope to get back on my routine soon though it probably won't really happen until December, when NaNoWriMo is over.

Last thing I want to say is though I'm very distressed by the state of the world, I love and respect all of you and thank you for keeping the discourse relatively civil at a very highly charged and divisive time. (The few trolls I saw on these blogs seemed very out of place!) I intend to do all I can to protect the environment and equal rights for all. I know there are so many good and caring people in America so I won't go it alone. It somewhat heartens me that even some who voted for the T-word don't support the insults and slurs he used. Hopefully they will keep the pressure on him to abandon that behavior and rhetoric and hopefully step up to represent our country in a way that doesn't humiliate us and put us and the rest of the world in greater danger.


November 3rd, 2016 at 02:47 pm

I forgot one tidbit of news in my last update. Kind of a funny story.

I went trick-or-treating with the kids Monday evening. When I came home, at some point I realized I couldn't find my work phone, which had been in my jacket pocket.

I remembered checking the time on it during our jaunt, so I retraced my steps to the best of my ability. It was getting dark and tons of people had walked the same streets before me, so I was convinced either I'd walk right past it or that someone had already grabbed it.

I wasn't too upset about the phone itself since I wouldn't have to pay to replace it; I was pretty sure my work would just issue another one, and even if they didn't I still have my personal phone. Obviously I wasn't looking forward to telling work I lost an expensive piece of company property, but I didn't think that would be a huge deal. I was more sad because I use the phone to take pictures a lot, and I don't have them saved anywhere else except on Facebook.

I didn't find it and headed home, trying not to let the bummer of it spoil the rest of Halloween. AS told me about the "find my iPhone" apps and features, but I was pretty sure my phone was about to go dead and wasn't sure it would be detected. Plus the tool I found required an iCloud login, which I wasn't even sure I'd ever signed up for.

But I fumbled through the "lost username" and "lost password" things and sure enough, I did have a login. I searched for my phone, and a map appeared that showed it was somewhere on a corner just a block away!

I went back out with NT, and after scouring the small part of the street (which was dark and covered in leaves), he finally saw it poking out from under a bin of drinks someone had left out on their steps for trick-or-treaters. Either it had fallen and slid under there, or someone had seen it and decided to tuck it into an unobtrusive place so no one would find it but the owner looking for it. I felt like I won the lottery!

When I got it home, I saw that the screen had several spiderweb cracks from its ordeal. Now ordinarily that would have REALLY bummed me out, but compared with the alternative -- not ever finding the phone again -- it felt like nothing. The phone still works perfectly well.

Now I actually kind of smile when I check my phone and notice the cracks again, because it reminds me of that feeling of relief and elation when I finally found it! And it makes me chuckle that something that could have been upsetting didn't bother me at all because of the near-miss I had beforehand.

PS: AA didn't win her primary election for first-grade class president, but she seemed totally fine. Turns out she didn't even vote for herself! One of her friends is in the final election next week, so she's happy about that.

The daycare lady took her to get a donut after school to celebrate her effort. I'm sure that lessened any sting she felt too. Smile

Various money things & life updates

November 2nd, 2016 at 04:52 pm

Feels like a long time since I posted ... let's see if I can remember some of the stuff that's happened.

Our CSA farm invited members to a talk; turns out they've had a disastrous year due mainly to the overly rainy summer we had. Lost lots of crops to rot and disease and therefore made far less money than expected. They asked members to help out in various ways, and one of them was to purchase three years of shares now. That one made the most sense because we have no intention of quitting our farm, so we did it.

I already had the money saved up for the 2017 share but not 2018 or 2019. So for now we're floating that money. We typically have $2K-$10K of wiggle room in the checking account at any given time, so I don't think it'll be a problem floating $1575 until such time as we can make up for it in the budget. (Probably will pay off before the money comes up in our 2017 and 2018 budgets, but if not, I think we could easily float it that long.)

I got a voicemail from a farm staffer thanking me for the advance subscription and saying we were the only people at that particular event who signed up. Frown They sent out a follow-up email and she did say that others are starting to sign up too. She also said if they don't manage to keep afloat for next season, they will refund our money. Frown

We love our farmer and his devotion to the land, so hopefully other members will step up. They need $150K to make the changes they think will protect the farm from climate-change effects in the future.


Halloween was a bit of a budget buster, with costumes, candy, pumpkins, and Lyft rides to and from a party. So worth it though! October was a very low-income month for AS; she pulled in $1865 and only a third of that goes to shared spending. So I'm actually pretty happy with the fact that our shared spending is only $140 in the red right now.

My sister is coming for a visit this weekend, and this time she's bringing her foodie husband, so we expect to eat out at least 4 meals. I'm sure they'll pick up the tab on a couple of them, but we'll still go farther in the hole unless AS receives some checks soon. It'll all work itself out!

We have one contractor coming out to give a quote on the upstairs bathroom next Friday and a text message in to our regular contractor, so hopefully we can get him in soon. Our preference would be to work with him because he's done such an amazing job on all jobs so far, but we'll take cost and other things into consideration when making the decision. We have $5350 saved and know we'll likely need a lot more than that, but we just need to find out how MUCH more so we can have a goal to shoot for.

We're still waffling about whether to appraise for a refinance of the US duplex. I've got my eye on a similar listing -- a duplex right across the street from us with fewer bedrooms/square feet that's listed for $515K. It just went on the market, so who knows what it will actually go for, but if it does go for over $500K, the refi just might be doable.

I've also found a very comparable flat to NT's UK property that's listed at 215,000 pounds (about $270K). We currently value his flat at 180K pounds, so that's very interesting if it actually sells for that amount. It's been on the market for 4 months and they've dropped the price twice, so we'll see if it ever sells and where the sale price lands.

I started NaNoWriMo last night! I did 1,580 words, which is less than I like to do per day (I shoot for 2,000 per day so I can have a few free days in the month and/or finish early), but I spent most of the day working on my outline, so I was kind of burnt out by the time I was ready to start writing it. I'm not totally happy with the plot I came up with but think I'll find it entertaining enough to keep going through the month. It's mostly a straight-up action novel and I didn't come up with many twists and turns, so I don't think the end result will be very commercial. I'll just look at this year's NaNo as a chance to practice my fiction writing skills. I'll try to write the heck out of my paper-thin plot! Big Grin

What else? Oh, lots of kid updates! AA has finally graduated from preschool-level swim class and is SO close to being able to swim on her own. She's running for 1st-grade class president and the "primary" is today, so wish her luck! She wrote and gave a speech to her class; it was 3 sentences long. Smile 4-year-old SL has suddenly learned to read! She has trouble sounding out words she doesn't know, but she knows a ton of words on sight, so she can get quite far in reading a new book. She's about where AA was in early-mid kindergarten, so she's about a year ahead of her. But AA was more of a sounder-outer so could figure out more unknown words. They just learn and process information very differently. Both smart as whips though! AA is going to take the gifted tests soon at school, so we'll see if she qualifies for whatever gifted program is available. SL I'm pretty sure will go in the gifted program right away.

Other family news: Today is the 10-year anniversary of NT arriving in the United States!

November 2016 debt payments

November 2nd, 2016 at 03:20 pm

All of our mortgage payments hit:

US: $683 to principal
UK1: $180
UK2: $38
UK3: $40

All told, that's $941 toward debt this month. We were getting close to having $1000 be the minimum debt paid each month, but that's not going to happen for a long time now. (The amount paid is smaller now because of the exchange rate calculation shift on the UK debt.)

October 2016 retirement goal setback (vs. progress)

November 2nd, 2016 at 03:14 pm

We did contribute a lot to the Roths -- maxed out two of them this past month! So I'm proud of that progress, but the UK currency exchange gave us quite a setback on paper.

Goal: $479,875 by 2019

(As a reminder, this is just an incremental goal along the way to 8x income by retirement. This mini-goal aims to get us to a milestone by the time I turn 45 and AS turns 40.

The milestone 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: $280,625

September 2016 balance: $290,052

Progress: -$9,427

To reach the goal by our birthdays in 2019, that's 28 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $7,116 per month to reach it. Yeah, that's probably not going to happen, but I'll keep doing the best I can!

October 2016 net worth

November 2nd, 2016 at 03:10 pm

NT's UK pensions:
#1: 17,105 pounds ($21,381)
#2: 20,501 pounds ($25,626)
#3: 5,523 pounds ($6,904)
NT's 401(k): $45,526
NT's Roth IRA: $14,268
AS's trad. IRA: $15,380
AS's Roth IRA: $30,665
AS's SEP IRA: $10,762
CJ's 401(k): $91,383
CJ's Roth IRA: $18,730
NT's flat: 180,000 pounds ($225,000)
CJ/NT/AS house: $470,000 (value -6%)
Total Assets: $975,625

US Mortgage (duplex) $401,590
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1: $36,112
UK Mortgage 2: $7,612
UK Mortgage 3: $8,016
Total Debt: $462,330

Current Estimated Net Worth: $513,295

August 2016 estimate: $556,383

Change in net worth: -$43,088

Summary: The market trended downward slightly, we managed to put quite a bit into our retirement -- but the biggest change was the currency exchange rate from $1.50 to $1.25 per British pound. Took our total assets below a million for the first time since May, and our net worth to its lowest since March. Ah well -- it's just a math thing. We'll build back up.

Notes on the numbers above: House value estimates are approximate. (I do have my eye on a comparable listing for the UK flat and one for the US duplex, but no movement on them as yet. Their sale prices [if they sell] should give me a good idea of both properties' true worth.) UK pension values updated about once a year. UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $1.25 for every British pound.