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Archive for August, 2017

August 2017 net worth update

August 31st, 2017 at 06:32 pm

NT's UK pensions:
AV: 17,967 pounds ($22,459)
SW: 20,398 pounds ($25,497)
FL: 6,462 pounds ($8,078)
NT's 401(k): $55,218
NT's Roth IRA: $21,088
AS's trad. IRA: $17,792
AS's Roth IRA: $40,190
AS's SEP IRA: $17,167
CJ's 401(k): $111,525
CJ's Roth IRA: $26,168
NT's flat: $212,500 (200,000 pounds value x1.25 -15%)
CJ/NT/AS house: $427,281 ($454,554 value -6%)
Total Assets: $984,963

US Mortgage $394,671
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $34,299
UK Mortgage 2 $7,230
UK Mortgage 3 $7,614
TOTAL DEBT $452,814

Current Estimated Net Worth: $532,149

June 2017 estimate: $530,114

Change in net worth: +$2,035

Summary: Nearly flat month; the only progress was some debt payoff and a bit toward retirement thanks to contributions outpacing minor losses. I'm now doubting whether we'll reach the million-dollar mark on assets in 2017. It's also now even more unlikely we'll get to $600K in net worth this year; we'd have to gain about $17K per month to get there, which just ain't gonna happen.

Notes on the numbers above: House value estimates are approximate. (I do have my eye on a comparable listing for the UK flat, but it's been on the market a long time.) UK pension values updated about once a year. UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $1.25 for every British pound.

Sort-of good news for the budget deficit

August 30th, 2017 at 02:27 am

Two recent curveballs, my chipped tooth and the wasp infestation outside our house, are blessedly less than the worst-case scenario.

For my tooth, I was picturing expensive restoration, but the dentist actually suggested just smoothing it down, which I readily agreed to. She called what I had a "limited exam." I'm hoping that means all or part of it is covered by insurance. They didn't have an estimate yet when I was ready to go so they just said they'd mail me a bill if need be. Fingers crossed it's only $30 or $40!

For the wasps, they were inside the wall so I was picturing having to take down the stucco on the outside or the drywall on the inside. But they were able to just spray and said that should take care of it. $118.55, which I consider way less than some of my more grim imaginings.

I did get a $35 bill for the kids' doctor visit last month, but I'm going to check in with the insurance company, because it was a well-child visit with nothing out of the ordinary, so I believe it should be 100% covered.

On the upside, our September utilities bill came in $26.80 under budget, so I put that bit of money against the shortfall. Since the school lunches will be free this year, I requested a refund of the account balance, so we'll be getting $9.40 which I already counted toward the deficit.

On the minus side, some of our recurring monthly donations/subscriptions came through, and I signed AA up for art classes for $189.

All told, the deficit stands at about $4100. I keep telling myself that it would be worse if we weren't putting snowflakes toward mitigating it.

I'm already working on next week's menu and grocery list, trying to keep it minimal so we can put some of the budget toward the deficit. It may not be as big a chunk as last week but maybe I can swing $50 to put toward it. We'll see.

Besides just the annoyance of the deficit, my other incentive is that I really, really want to go to Wisconsin for 2 nights to see my favorite band in October. I don't have enough personal spending money for that and wouldn't feel comfortable adding to the shared spending deficit unless we were well on our way to making it up. If we've made a decent amount of progress, maybe I can split the cost between shared spending and my personal money. But not if it keeps hovering around $4K. It will have to be quite a bit lower than that!

I half-heartedly reactivated my Mechanical Turk account, thinking about raising some bits of money that way. But AS thinks if I'm going that route, I may as well just look for real freelance writing/editing work and get paid a decent amount for my time. So I'm vaguely considering that. I'm also still tooting my own horn at work in hopes of a promotion; I got a really good praise email from the company president and forwarded it right along to my direct supervisor.

Spending, saving and more

August 26th, 2017 at 07:56 pm

Some small financial ups and downs this past week:

- Our daycare lady has raised the price of after-school care to $500 per month per kid. Last year AA's was $485 so that's what I was expecting for SL. So this is $30 more per month than expected. However, I can't complain. For that amount we get the kids picked up after school and watched for about 3 hours (and given a snack), full-day care on school closure days when daycare is open, and of course the bonus "parents' night out" in December when they keep the kids one Friday night for a sleepover. Plus we just love our daycare lady and this is likely AA's last school year with her!

- Not a financial woe yet, but a tooth that slightly chipped last month chipped a bit more yesterday. I went ahead and scheduled a dental appointment to see what they think. If they think it needs fixing but that it can wait until the new year, I'll do that so I can up my flex spending and get a bit of a tax discount.

- We had some good news at the back-to-school night: Our entire school has qualified for free lunches! We typically spent about $7 per week for AA, so that would've doubled with SL. We didn't have a line item for it since it was irregular, so that would have come out of our shared spending money. Considering the big deficit we have right now, this news is especially welcome!

- We kept our grocery spending to about $107 this week. That means we can put $63 toward our deficit. We're doing a great job using up the CSA veggies, eating through our pantry and only buying what we need!

- However, I bought the kids back-to-school outfits today to the tune of $250. Considering we got 2 pairs of pants, 1 dress, 1 shirt, 1 skirt, 1 cardigan, 4 pairs of shoes, 2 hair accessories, 2 backpacks, 2 lunch boxes and 1 thermos, that's less than $15 per item, so not bad. But it sounded like a lot all totaled up!

- We might have a bit of money left in the carshare budget for August, maybe $50, that we can put toward the deficit. We shall see.

- I'm going to sign AA up for art classes, and I think that'll be nearly $200. But it's through the end of the year, so we'll get a lot out of it. We'll have to start the kids back up on swim lessons soon too, so that'll also add to the deficit.

- I used an Amex deal for a $25 credit if I spent $75. I actually spent $80 but used a $4 credit, so all told, I spent $51 out of pocket for tons and tons of snacks and juice boxes for school lunches that will last us a while.

- AS booked some good-paying work, and I made a good impression on my boss on Friday at a big meeting -- nothing concrete, but she made a point of complimenting me in an email to several execs including the president of my division, so I think she's positioning me for promotion/raise talks. Fingers crossed!

-EDIT: Aand, now we have another bee infestation. Or wasps. So that'll be more money out.

And the beat goes on

August 24th, 2017 at 04:00 pm

We're back from our vacation! Contrary to my prediction, we spent a TON on the trip. We spent on food, because there wasn't a single home-cooked meal. We spent out of boredom -- the grownups would take turns one staying at the hotel while the other two went out to have drinks after the kids were in bed. We spent to treat family members to meals -- we bought lunch for my sister and niece, aquarium admission for another niece, dinner for AS's mom once, and food for my mom a couple times. (People also treated us to meals so it wasn't one-sided.) We spent from disorganization -- we'd let the kids pack and they left out some significant articles of clothing, so we hit a thrift store to buy stuff they could use.

All told I think we spent around $180 a day, and that's not counting flights, car rental or hotel. Yikes!

But whatever. We're back, we survived, and our shared spending deficit is up around $4K. We did get it down through AS freelance income and September budget surplus, but then back-to-school stuff and unreimbursed expenses from AS's trip brought it back up.

A warm-weather trip during Xmas break certainly seems like a pipe dream now, but that's OK if we can't swing it. We've traveled a TON recently and NT still has his UK trip in September. I'm actually contemplating a road trip with AS in October to Wisconsin -- my favorite band is playing in two WI towns on two consecutive nights! But that wouldn't be a very expensive trip. But I'm holding off committing to that one right now.

A shared-spending deficit is more annoying than anything. We can float that kind of deficit in the budget indefinitely since we're always about a month ahead in terms of paying bills. And we have almost 5x the amount of the deficit in savings, so we could easily pay it off at any time. So I'm not going to get in the dumps about it; I'll just keep pecking away however I can.

At least we've been able to stay under budget on groceries every week, so I've been putting that toward it. But that's just a drop in the bucket. We don't really have anything we could sell to raise extra money. I'm subtly trying to position myself for a raise and promotion but there's no guarantee that'll happen anytime soon. AS is always booking new work, so that's our best bet for getting rid of it. There is the possibility of a Xmas bonus for NT in December, so if we haven't eliminated the deficit by then, that would probably help us wipe it out.

So long story short, I'm reporting it to keep myself accountable for reconciling this deficit, but I don't feel that bad about it. Smile

Grocery success & other money stuff

August 9th, 2017 at 03:46 pm

We're over halfway through the week and I'm now confident we won't need to buy any more groceries, so I put the $139 surplus toward our shared spending deficit! Unfortunately we had two expenses this week -- a $48 train ticket for NT's UK trip and a $70 rental license renewal fee for our duplex -- so it was pretty much a wash. Oh well; those expenses would've come anyway, so without our scrimping on groceries we'd have gone even further into the hole.

AS did have two freelance checks come in, so our deficit is down from $3200 to about $2400.

Of course, here comes vacation, so the deficit will go up again! The good news is, we shouldn't need to use the next weekly grocery budget ($170) at all, so all or most of that will go toward offsetting vacation spending.

AS gets in from her work trip this afternoon, and we head out to Va. on Saturday. She's had quite the summer; this will be her third trip (fourth, if you consider she went to both NYC and Va. during the first one).

I'm not planning many expensive activities, but I know food and gas expenses will pile up. We'll be able to cook a bit at our family's homes, and I'm sure family will buy some of our meals, but I know it'll add up.

And then, after vacation, shopping for school supplies and clothes for the kids! Still, I'm feeling good about us not splurging on things that aren't planned. We're doing well at reining it in and it's helping the deficit not go out of control.


August 4th, 2017 at 09:58 pm

Our goal was $38 for groceries this week. We bought everything on the list and it appears we got away with spending even less: $30.83! That means we have $139.17 left in the grocery budget for the week.

I'm not sure if I'll count it toward the shared spending deficit just yet. What if we run out of something that we need to replace? But I'm going to try my darnedest to head off that possibility.

We're looking at a moderately uneventful weekend, so I'm hoping to just relax, stick to the meal plan, maybe work on one of my novels, and not spend much. Sunday I'm planning to go to a brunchtime show out at a nearby , which I think is free but I'll feel obligated to buy something. Maybe just a snack and beverage. We'll see. I've still got a big ($138) personal spending deficit from buying tickets to a different music show (plus parking and a beverage), so I'd love to put at least some of this week's $40 allowance to seeing that go down a bit!

This week's grocery spending goal: $38

August 3rd, 2017 at 04:04 am

I made a menu plan and ran it by NT to try and eat all the veggies we got and buy only minimal staples to supplement them. Our goal for this week is a little more than last week's $23, but still astonishingly small for us! If we swing it, we could have $132 to put toward our shared spending deficit.

Here's the proposed shopping list:
2x garlic $2
onions $2
fruit $6
ginger $1
bread $4
5 boxes of pasta $5
baked beans $3
soymilk $4
margarine $4
parmesan $4

Meal plan (starts Friday because tomorrow our neighbors are treating us to dinner out):
Friday: roasted potatoes, zucchini, pepper & veggie sausage w/pasta or rice
Saturday lunch: hot dogs & beans & cukes w/ranch sauce
Saturday dinner: creamy kale pasta
Sunday lunch: grilled cheese sandwiches w/veggies & chips
Sunday dinner: spaghetti w/red sauce & breaded eggplant (cukes/celery for kids)
Monday: parsley breadcrumb pasta & veggies
Tuesday: BBQ mock duck, corn, potatoes, zucchini & pepper
Wednesday (neighbors cook)
Thursday: sandwiches/leftovers/etc.

It's a little more roughed out than usual. For instance I'm not sure how I'll cook all the veggies Tuesday. Separately or together? Stovetop or oven? I'll figure it out when I get closer to it.

We'll probably do the shopping Friday evening, so I should know then how close we got to staying within budget!

One more new meal!

August 3rd, 2017 at 01:52 am

Tonight we had the new black eyed peas recipe, with rice, vinegar-sugar cucumbers, pickled beets, pickled jalapenos, red cabbage slaw, and buttery green beans. We have a ton of leftovers but should be able to eat it all for lunches before anything goes bad.

It was all right, nothing to write home about. It was a nice mild accompaniment to all the spicy and sour sides though, so I really enjoyed it all together. That's 36 meals tried, 14 to go!

Assuming we eat all these leftovers, we made it through ALL our veggies except 2 cucumbers, a couple stalks of celery and a bit of garlic. Now we've got a whole batch of new veggies from the CSA, so I'm sitting down to make out a meal plan to use 'em all with minimal grocery shopping!

More new meals and eat-it-all progress

August 2nd, 2017 at 04:31 pm

We tried the vegetable soup last night. I didn't follow the recipe exactly, just used what veggies and fresh herbs we had, but it turned out pretty great. It's vegetable soup, not something anyone in the house would be excited to do very often, but it tasted good and served its purpose of getting rid of a bunch of veggies. I cooked some macaroni to drop into the soup. The kids weren't crazy about it but managed to finish so they could have sweet treats. Smile So that's 35 meals tried, 15 to go!

Last night I prepped some various pickly things for tonight's dinner: I pickled some beets in malt vinegar, salt and sugar; marinated all but 3 of our cucumbers in white vinegar, salt and sugar, and sliced up 3 jalapenos and put those in apple cider vinegar with salt and sugar. This will go with black eyed peas, white rice, green beans and red cabbage slaw. We're having the neighbors up and possibly another friend over so hopefully we can eat down this food. If not I'm determined to finish it as leftovers! We do have two big containers of the veggie soup from last night too, but some of this will keep into next week so I should be able to eat it for lunches.

Anyway, once I cook tonight's green beans the only old veggies left in our fridge will be 3.5 cucumbers and about 5 stalks of celery. Those are things I can get the kids to snack on.

But today after work I pick up our next CSA box, so we start over again! However, this time I don't ALSO have the remains of two parties, so using up this batch will be a walk in the park, more like what we're used to with CSA season.

We'll have to spend a bit more on groceries this week than last. We almost got away with spending just $9.05 on groceries! But a recurring razorblade order went through for $16.38, taking us to $25.43. A tiny bit more than the $23 I was hoping for, but not bad at all! I get to put $118.37 of grocery money toward the shared spending deficit. It's a drop in the bucket, but I'm proud of us for pulling it off. This coming week we're starting with $170, so maybe we'll be able to put a similar amount toward shared spending.

A couple unexpected shared-spending things came up: The girls are going away for their first non-daycare sleepover tomorrow, so I need to get them sleeping bags. And I need to buy note cards to write some notes for my alma mater. So the grocery push didn't reduce the deficit much, but at least it's holding a bigger deficit at bay. Some kind of progress anyway!

August 2017 debt payments

August 2nd, 2017 at 04:17 pm

All our mortgage payments hit:
US: $701 to principal
UK1: $181
UK2: $39
UK3: $40

All told that's $961 paid toward debt for August.

I looked at next month's mortgage payment and it doesn't seem to be going up, even though our homeowner insurance went up by over $50 per month. Maybe they'll do another escrow shortage thing the next time they assess it. I'm not going to ask them about it anymore, because I'm pretty sure if they assess now, they'll stretch our current shortage over another 12 months plus add on to it. Let's get this shortage made up (should be over in December) and see what the next one looks like.

Current household debt now stands at:
US Mortgage $394,671
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $34,299
UK Mortgage 2 $7,230
UK Mortgage 3 $7,614

TOTAL DEBT $452,814

Retirement goal progress

August 1st, 2017 at 05:46 am

Goal: $494,743 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 (which changes whenever our salaries change) is to get me to 3x my current salary, which is now $68,291, so $204,873; NT to 3x his, which is now $62,100, so $186,300; and AS to 2x hers, which in 2016 was $51,785, so $103,570)

Current balance: $344,108

June 2017 balance: $335,025

Progress: $9,083

Man, if we had progress like this every month, we'd be on track to hit our goal! (At least it looks like we'll pass our 2017 mini-mini-goal of $350K before the end of the year!)

To reach the goal by our birthdays in 2019, that's 19 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $150,635 -- $7,928 per month -- to reach it.

July 2017 net worth update

August 1st, 2017 at 05:36 am

NT's UK pensions:
AV: 17,967 pounds ($22,459)
SW: 20,398 pounds ($25,497)
FL: 6,462 pounds ($8,078)
NT's 401(k): $54,953
NT's Roth IRA: $21,137
AS's trad. IRA: $17,813
AS's Roth IRA: $40,273
AS's SEP IRA: $17,199
CJ's 401(k): $111,841
CJ's Roth IRA: $24,858
NT's flat: $212,500 (200,000 pounds value x1.25 -15%)
CJ/NT/AS house: $427,281 ($454,554 value -6%)
Total Assets: $983,889

US Mortgage $395,372
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $34,480
UK Mortgage 2 $7,269
UK Mortgage 3 $7,654
TOTAL DEBT $453,775

Current Estimated Net Worth: $530,114

June 2017 estimate: $520,071

Change in net worth: +$10,043

Summary: Pretty good month! Steadily working toward the million-dollar mark on assets. That seems within reach. It's unlikely we'll get to $600K in net worth this year; even if every month was as good as this one we'd still be about $20K short.

Notes on the numbers above: House value estimates are approximate. (I do have my eye on a comparable listing for the UK flat, but it's been on the market a long time.) UK pension values updated about once a year. UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $1.25 for every British pound.

More eat-it-all progress

August 1st, 2017 at 05:19 am

Phew! I've been busy tonight, cooking vegetable soup for tomorrow and black eyed peas for Wednesday. Both have to simmer for another half hour at least, so I've got to stay awake. Smile I'll wait to count these two meals toward the new-meals goal until we actually serve and eat them.

I've got our use-it-up list down to 15 items. A few of them are frozen or could be if we don't use them soon. The last remaining veggies I have plans for: a sugar-vinegar cucumber salad, pickled beets and pickled jalapenos for Wednesday's meal; cucumbers and celery sticks and grapes for the kids to snack on this week. Oh and we've got one tomato from the garden that I'll probably just cut up and share with the kids at some point.

Other than that, it's mostly things that can wait until next week if necessary. We did throw out a few pieces of watermelon, a bit of chopped cilantro and some green onions tonight. So there has been some food waste this week, but not nearly as much as if I hadn't been tracking usage and planning meals. At least we have composting so it's not like the tossed food isn't serving any purpose.

When we get our CSA Wednesday, we can start planning the following week. We've run through some staples but still have a few things, so I'll see what we can manage to not replenish until the week after next. My hope would be to use some of the grocery money toward our shared spending deficit. Even though it's just a drop in the bucket, it would help, and it's just a good exercise to see what we can do when we need to get creative and thrifty with grocery spending.