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Still Paying Back (A Few Negative Categories) and Stockpiling

August 17th, 2015 at 08:27 pm

I'm still paying ourselves back on a few negative categories:
- household repairs (the remainder of the restuccoing project)
- medical unforeseen
- medical

All other categories are positive. Some have money in them because they're building up for annual purchases (like the camp category and our HOA fund. Also F's camp fund and the fund for the pool we join each summer.

And then there are categories with a lot of money in them; I'm afraid to transfer the balances to the negative categories, and I have no idea why. I mean, if some emergency came up, then those would be negative categories instead, right?
- Utilities has $228 in it. I want some money in there for winter when the bills are higher, but even in winter, our bills are under $115, and I have a budget of $95, so I don't need to keep that much in there. Spring bills are about $50 and summer bills are under $30.
- Auto registration has $93 in it, and we pay about $40 in March for one car and $50 in December for the other car... we put in $10 per month. Quick math problem... we can take out $73 and still have enough built up for both December and March.
- $58 in Entertainment; I put in $50 per month and this covers our netflix subscription plus any fees to museums, etc., but I doubt we're going to do much since school starts Wednesday and we have soccer every weekend.
- $128 in Gifts for Others - We'll probably spend some of that at Christmas, so maybe I should keep it in there, but I put in $31 a month, so that will build up more
- $97 in pets - yes, there could be an emergency, but then this could be the negative category. That's what the emergency fund is for, right? All of our pets have a ton of food and treats, and both just went to the vet for well exams, so no expected expenses for the rest of the month.

Thinking about our Mortgage

February 20th, 2015 at 07:26 pm

I just paid off another $20 toward mortgage principal. It's not a lot, but every little bit helps, right?

We have 3 years (best scenario) until this is paid off entirely. Worst scenario is 5 years. I should be feeling really positive, but I am just antsy!

Just to remind myself:
- We have put $300k into this house
- All but $62,310 is paid off
- That is our only debt
- We are living on last month's income
- Our house is worth about $500k
- Three years ago F was 6 and starting private school; it seems like yesterday! So three years will go by quickly (that actually is sort of sad!)

Because we live on last month's income and because I have several sinking funds and because we have an account specifically for car replacement (in 3 years or so), it looks like we have a lot in the bank. But that money is all spoken for. It is not for paying down our mortgage.

What if we took that car money and just wiped out like a third of it, though? Then it would take 8 months to pay it back in. I guess this is my plan for the end of the mortgage.

Time to Think about Taxes

January 19th, 2015 at 07:29 pm

I bought Turbo Tax yesterday and started plugging things in (even though I can't finish our taxes because I haven't gotten all of our tax forms; I still know the amounts).

Now I'm slightly depressed because it appears we didn't withhold enough (Federal Withholding) from our paychecks. At least I think that's what's going on. I put in my W2 info and there was a big refund. Then I put in D's W2 info and we owed money. So I took out my W2 info, and it was a refund again. Then put it back in and we owed. Which says to me: we withheld enough if just one of us was earning, but since we earn very close to the same amount, we need to withhold about $30 more federal and about $12 more state per pay period.

I've adjusted my payroll for February (too lazy to do this for the last half of January). And now I make about $100 less a month. So... that's not good, right? I've also adjusted my monthly business distribution to give ourselves back the $100, but this feels like I'm not really facing the problem.

Next year is going to be more challenging since we will own our house in Dublin outright (although it seems like mortgage interest at this point is a very small deduction off the Dublin house rents received). Also D is making more, but I'm not sure his W2 will reflect that since he 6% of each paycheck will come out before taxes for the employee savings plan (it's matched).

I am definitely going to do a 2015 Trial on Turbo Tax, but I am wondering if I also need to finally have an accountant do our taxes.

Bought House Supplies and YNAB is working well

January 8th, 2015 at 12:12 am

I've been using YNAB for all of 7 days, but it's already helping me stay within budget.

I had to buy some supplies today (consumables)
- sale on bodywash and lotion at sprouts (it's their 25% off vitamin and body care extravaganza) - I made sure to check prices against amazon first
- and I also bought D's face sunscreen and some vitamin D3 on Amazon

But... I didn't go over this month's budget on supplies because I checked available budget first in YNAB. (I sound like an advertisement).

I also had to buy a dimmer switch for our new LED lights (also Amazon). I'll install it myself when it arrives. Dimmer switches are pretty easy to install. We put in 6 lights that are 4 w each (24 w total). They replace 210 w of lighting that we use all the time, so I'm pretty happy! This is well within "small appliances" which is where I put stuff like this in our budget. No plans to buy anything else so the rest will flow over into next month.

In a few minutes we're heading over to the indoor soccer place (it's just an old building on a college campus that is used for indoor soccer). I am crossing my fingers that they have the heaters going; last week they didn't and I was so cold! F was running around, and she wore a hat and gloves. I'm taking a blanket in the car just in case! The weather says 27 deg but feels like 15. I know that's warmer than it is where most of you are right now - so stay warm!!!


December 22nd, 2014 at 05:58 pm

I am thinking of switching from Moneywell to YNAB in the new year. It might be sort of irritating and complex in the beginning but here are my reasons:

- I haven't been really tracking properly (shifting money and tracking all accounts including savings) because it's sort of difficult in Moneywell
- New year with new budget is a good time to start a new program
- YNAB closely aligns with how I budget already so it should be more intuitive
- I want to be able to use my phone and YNAB has what appears to be a really good ios interface

The only thing is... I do sometimes have negative categories when I'm paying something back over several months. I'm not sure how YNAB looks at that. I suppose I could set up a debt account and track it that way, lowering the debt each month.

Do any of you use YNAB? Do you like it? Is it worth the money?

Medical Expenses

December 16th, 2014 at 02:38 am

I had to go to the chiropractor today (that's the bad news - picked up the vacuum cleaner while twisting - ouch!). The good news is that the last time I was in, I paid in full but they submitted the claim to insurance. So I had a credit. I didn't have to pay for this visit.

The other bad news: I have to go back tomorrow. But the other good news is that I've had a version of this low back pain for a few weeks but very mild - the vacuum cleaner incident just brought it out. So now at least it's being addressed.

I'm pretty irritated that the medical category was way over this year. Even with insurance, it's just a fact of life. I'm budgeting better next year because I know that D will do his allergy shots.

I have a very low prescription cost, and I'm wondering if the doctor can give F a prescription for her allergy medicine even though it's not a prescription medication. It would cost half as much as we pay now! Also, I take omeprazole for acid reflux; if I could have a prescription for it instead of having to buy it I'd save a ton!

That is on my financial to-do list for next year... check with the doctor about medications!

Summary for November and a New Budget

December 9th, 2014 at 09:08 pm

Last month's income decreased by 15% compared to the same month last year (that's because D started his new job last year and he collected income from his previous business for the previous month - about $1500 extra).

But our expenses were 49% lower than last year.

Our savings was 3% lower (because we put last year's extra income into savings).

Knowing D now has an employee savings plan at work and that he'll be getting a raise, we've been working on the 2015 budget. I set the budget based on last year's expenses as well as anticipated expenses (had to increase a few categories including home repair since we hope to restucco at some point and medical - D needs allergy shots).

Since the employee savings plan is before employment taxes, I'm not sure how to calculate our savings rate. I was just going to add that amount to what we're saving. I'm trying to keep my 50-30-20 formula.

Have you re-jigged your budget for 2015?

September Analysis and D got a Pay Rise!

October 2nd, 2014 at 03:04 pm

I'm pretty happy about September. We made $6335 net (that includes our salaries, $21 in side income and a gift from my mom for our anniversary).

We spent $4138 and saved $1165 (IRAs, school savings, mortgage principal, car savings). That leaves $1032 (which will go toward the Big Medical Expense - I covered it with savings, but I'm paying myself back, and as of Oct. 1, we are now back in the black in the medical category - yay!!!).

Our income is 1.5% lower than last year (D had a side project last year that added income in September, but August was way less; now his income is stable).

Expenses are 9% lower than last year.

Money put into savings is 53% higher.

And now the really good news: D just got a raise (effective Jan. 1); it's $2400 more a year (gross). I figure about $140 net a month. He is also eligible for his company's employee savings plan. It's a matching plan, so now we need to figure out what to do.

We currently contribute $400 to his IRA each month, after tax money. The employee savings plan is pre-tax money. There are a lot of unanswered questions (which I listed for him so that he can ask): up to what amount do they match? Where does the money go (Fidelity? Vanguard? something else?) Is there an option to put it into an IRA? A Roth IRA? If so, how do the taxes work in that case?

I've done some reading on employee savings plans, but I'm not sure I understand the tax implications. It is not a 401k. It is not a SEP or Simple.

We'll make decisions about the $400 and the new $140 once we know more.

Does anyone have experience with an employee savings plan?

Analyzing the Year so Far

August 14th, 2014 at 01:21 pm

When I analyze the year so far, we're over budget by about $1700. (The way I do this is to use numbers for last year for the remaining months, which gives me an overall year to look at, but it means I still have August through December to "correct" things).

The $1700 is still less than the surprise medical bills I had in the Spring, which means that we're working on getting those paid for by shifting other budget items, and that makes me feel good. Basically, those medical bills account for the budget bust for this year.

So I looked at how August through December might go in order to make a plan.

Obviously, and easy way to get the budget back in order would be to stop contributing to our IRAs for two months, but I don't want to do that; we have money in the bank (EF) and so we don't need to do this. We can whittle at the $1700 instead.

So, the plan:
- limit cash for D to $40/month
- don't buy any new yarn (knitting budget down to zero)
- maybe skip the Nutcracker this year (just talked to F and she is very willing to make a less expensive substitution)
- F has a lot of new clothes from Grandma, and her winter coat fits and so do winter boots, she has the next size up on soccer cleats, so I don't think we need much for her clothing budget this winter.
- work on grocery costs (don't have to reduce much from last year)

When I do this in my excel spreadsheet, I end up with a $3,000 surplus! Yeah!

Paid Down Mortgage and Other stuff

May 4th, 2014 at 04:31 am

It's 10 pm, and I am sitting here with my laptop while D heads back to F's friend's house. Her friend is having a sleepover birthday, and F wanted to stay, but she sounded conflicted. The friend's mom, who is a good friend of mine, just called to say F wants to be picked up.

For the record, I think 9 is too young for sleepovers. (Even though this particular family is fantastic, and I know the kids won't stay up too late).

So I have a few minutes to write a little bit.

Friday was popcorn day at the bank, so I made a deposit (rent check from my office sublet) and paid down principal on our mortgage ($169). And got the popcorn, of course, which I gave to F after school for a treat. Bank popcorn is the best! And we're now in the $72k's on our mortgage. As usual around this time of month, I play all sorts of games with the mortgage calculator. But really you just have to keep chipping away at it. I am putting this out there, though: I want to own our house by October 2018. I will be 52 years old (that's 4 1/2 years from now).

I also found out last week, that my second office sublet, the one who doesn't get a parking space and has just a desk in the main area (but pays very little for the desk) is leaving as of the end of May. I like having the extra money in the business, but it's not a lot, and I figured that I might figure out someone else at some point.

And just a few hours later, I got a call from my friend K. She's an architect, too, and she was calling because she's designing a porch for a house in a neighborhood where I lead the architectural review committee. K works out of her house, so I immediately said, "I don't know why you're calling, but you need to come share the office with me and A!!!" (The guy who sublets the one of the other office spaces is our mutual friend, A, and, yes, he's also an architect).

She hasn't committed yet, but pretty much said yes! I am so relieved, but mostly happy to have K there - she is close friend, and a great person. But we also are like a support group for each other.

April Recap

May 1st, 2014 at 08:07 pm

We did well in April despite a car repair. Since I am saving for when my big medical bill arrives, I will try to do even better next month, particularly on the food budget. This is for a family of three people, one dog, one cat, two birds.

House (mortgage, utilities, etc) = $1558
Food = $664 (I budget $800)
Auto = $739 (yes, way high! And I need tires this month!)
Pets = $60
Medical = $74
Personal = $285 (but this includes D's new shirts, $90)
F = $883 (includes private school tuition)
Gifts = $119 (over budget)
Family Entertainment = $33
Household (includes all furniture, supplies, remodeling) = $54
Travel = ($487) this is a deposit, not an expense (came from credit card statement credits)

Total spending = $3981
Total savings = $1260

Total incoming = $6983 (some of this will go to fill "once a year" categories)

My analysis:
- continue working on the food category (this can be sort of hard since I have dietary restrictions, but I've been consistently lower than the budget amount; new goal: stay below $700)
- save some money for the tires I need
- we now have plenty of pet food, but it's time for Colin's annual cat vet visit, so this should be at budget in May
- personal category should be low in May
- gifts may be high since F's birthday is coming up - I'll make a list and determine what can be be from grandparents (they always send checks and say "buy something")
- no travel planned, and in fact just found out that over Memorial Weekend F will be in a soccer tournament, so that'll be a frugal weekend

Analyzed Our Budget to Pay for Big Medical Bill

April 13th, 2014 at 01:52 pm

With the remainder of the Big Medical Bill looming (I've paid $500 so far which was the deposit), I decided to analyze our budget to see where I can cut to help pay for the bill over six or eight months rather than dip into savings. I'm basically paying myself back since I have the money to pay for the bill. I am looking for about $350 each month.

In the process I found out some things about our budget...

Here's a breakdown:
- Home (mortgage, utilities, repairs) - $1677 (27%)
- Food (both dining and groceries) - $890 (15%)
- F (tuition, clothes, supplies, camp, piano, soccer) - $1042 (17%)
- Auto (servicing, repairs, registration, gas) - $265 (4%)
- Travel (this is carried forward for future trips to visit D's family) - $301 (5%)
- Medical (doctor, dentist) - $200 (3%)
- Personal (cash, clothes, knitting, haircuts, life insurance) - $177 (3%)
- Household (supplies, appliances, etc) - $119 (2%)
- Family Entertainment - $95 (2%)
- Gifts - $85 (1%)
- Pets - $75 (1%)
- Savings - $1200 (20%)

And my analysis:
- Home category is usually lower because I carry the monthly amount set aside for repairs forward. I currently have $770 set aside for repairs. Don't really want to dip into this
- Food category also usually (much) lower by about $190. I could plan less expensive meals and get that to $200 or $250 - that amount doesn't need to carry forward, so I can put this toward the medical bill
- Stuff for F is a category where I usually seem to go over (which I guess gets absorbed by the food category. I need to rein in that spending!!
- Auto - I need two new tires, so can't really "steal" from this category
- Travel category is carried forward so even though spending for about a year is low, we spend in one big wad (plane tickets) about every other year. I can't use overage from this category, otherwise we won't have enough when we need to go to see D's family in the UK every other year
- Medical - maybe I need to increase the savings in this category in the future
- Personal - I can't limit D's spending, but this has been lower than projected in recent month by anywhere from $20 to $120, so I can definitely use some of the savings here to pay for the medical bill
- Household - I think I can actively reduce this category, too. It's been lower than expected in recent months, and I've been carrying the balance forward.
- Family Entertainment - I carry forward money for the summer pool membership here, which I just paid. Also stash money here for winter nutcracker tickets. I don't want to mess with this too much, but maybe a little for the short term.
- Gifts - This tends to be accurate over the full year (also gets carried over all the way to Christmas when it's really important that the money is in here!) so even though we're spending very little out of this category now, we will in key months - November for Christmas, May for F's birthday in June, also birthday gifts for F's friends
- Pets - Also pretty accurate over the year although recent months have been lower, so maybe a little from here would be ok.
- Savings - NOT messing with this - that's what I'm trying to avoid! This includes paying down our mortgage, car savings, school savings and our IRAs.

Some Thoughts on Lifestyle

March 13th, 2014 at 01:35 am

I am so excited for my friend C - she has been looking for a really long time for a not-full-time job, and finally found one with a great non-profit here in town. I personally wish there would be more part-time jobs for people like me and C who want to drop our kids off at school and pick them up and hang out with them while they do their homework, etc. (This is one of the main reasons I opted to start my own firm rather than work for someone else; I work about 6 hours a day plus about an hour more at home and maybe a few weekend hours).

Anyway, C's husband makes alone what D and I do combined. But they really needed her income because they can't make it on his alone. She used to ask me how we made it on the amount we make, because from the outside our lifestyles are remarkably similar.

We both have one daughter, and they both go to the same private school. We both live in nice houses. We both have cars made in this century. We both eat good, fresh usually organic food that we make ourselves, and neither family eats out very often. We love potlucks and hanging out with friends. We belonged to the same pool last summer. Our daughters both do a few activities after school; both girls take piano. We all have masters degrees (all four parents); C has a PhD. We all like to exercise and hike (this is a beautiful place to hike). We'd all be making a lot more in a different city (ours is known for low pay) but we'd probably have to spend more, too.

There are two really big differences in our lifestyle that account for their need for more income:
- Their mortgage is about double what ours is. This was mostly lucky timing on our part (and some sweat equity! and of course I didn't have to pay for an architect to draw up plans!). Their house is smaller, but it's in a slightly more high-end neighborhood.
- Everything we own, they have the upgraded/fancier equivalent. This goes for food (we shop at Trader Joe's and they shop at Whole Foods), cars (us - Nissan and VW, them - Audi), barbecues (they have that egg thing), art (we have photos that D took and some 20x200's)... and of course their neighborhood. C's husband believes in having the best of everything.

I don't know how I feel about all of this. I do think it's nice to have nice things. Sometimes you just can't afford it. Sometimes you have to be content with what you can afford. Sometimes you can spend more on something you'll have forever. Sometimes it's hard not to be able to buy exactly what you want.

I think that is the essence of budgeting; there are sacrifices (some are easy and some are hard) and some things you won't compromise on.

Trying to Help my Uncle

February 13th, 2014 at 12:19 am

I have an uncle (about 70 years old) who is both mildly schizophrenic and also mentally disabled. He has money from a pension (which goes right into his bank account) and also from a trust that my grandmother set up for him (that my parents manage).

My uncle has been dipping into the trust principal and that combined with the stock market a few years ago means that he'll probably deplete the trust in about six years. My parents worked out a plan to make it last longer (basically only dipping into principal a little bit - I think he shouldn't dip in at all, but that's me).

It means having a budget, which he's never had, and watching his spending, which he's never done. It means paying his bills on time (also - rarely happens). Actually, there is no way he can have a budget or watch his spending. Remember: he's kind of like a 6 year old in terms of emotional age, so this is actually a lot to ask. Also - my mother thinks he might be getting Alzheimers.

My mother has been setting up autopay for all his regular bills. That's a start.

My parents are going to pay his rent and his auto insurance (I know what you're thinking - you don't want to be on the road with him - you're right - I'm glad he lives in another state!)

I suggested:
- have an automatic transfer from his bank account into another "bill pay" account (we have several accounts at our bank for various savings) so he won't spend his bill money (utilities, phone, stuff like that) and is only in control of a limited amount of money for food/entertainment basically - my dad hated this idea for some reason
- if he doesn't go cash only (my mom vetoed this idea for some reason), have the credit card company set a limit equal to what his spending money will be given the budget my mom comes up with (he can't have a debit card - he's too easy to prey on).
- Wondering if the credit card company could set a daily limit, too?

Whatever my parents do, it needs to be simple, and he's been getting really angry about the whole thing - he says "You're trying to take my money!"

It's consuming my discussions with my mother right now, and she is so tired of dealing with it. I am going to call her while I make dinner...

Medical Expenses for D's Vertigo

January 22nd, 2014 at 05:25 pm

Vertigo is gone, but D still has symptoms (in the end I think it was a sinus infection that settled in his ear). He says his ear continues to feel plugged (but at least he's functional!). The tally for the medical expenses is about $215.

Not sure if it's related (maybe sinus pressure is affecting his eyes?) but he also went to get a new pair of glasses - total $261 incl. the doctor visit. He now needs them to see up close (so it's prescription reading glasses - he didn't want bi-focals). This wasn't an expected expense since he just got glasses in June.

It's a lot to absorb, and we're about $209 down on our medical "envelope." (This is a virtual envelope - we do our budgeting and tracking in moneywell which uses what they call a bucket system, but its basically an envelope). I'll need to funnel some money in there from underspent buckets. Dining and groceries should be low this month, so we can use some of that to fill that bucket back up.

The Big Teacher Gift Dilemma

December 18th, 2013 at 11:33 pm

F's school has one class per grade, starting with pre-school through 6th grade. So: nine classes total. Some have two teachers (up through second grade), the 3rd and 4th grade share their second teacher. The 5th and 6th share three teachers. And there are ten specials teachers (a few are part-time). I'm calculating 26 teachers.

Currently each class room parent collects money for the teacher gift (anonymously in an envelope for each grade at the front desk), puts about $40 or $50 of that into the special teachers fund, and then buys visa gift cards for the two teachers.

The problem is that the amount of money that is collected varies widely (I asked for $20 per student, but another class asked for $40). The specials teacher amounts are divided evenly, but the amounts the lead teachers get can vary widely! Our school is small, and the makeup of each grade seems to have a "personality." Some classes are super-wealthy. Ours isn't. Even in the "wealthy" classes, there are kids on tuition assistance, and I think $40 is a burden.

I'm parent association president next year, and I was talking to the secretary today about how this could be easier and more equitable. I'd like to have a suggested amount to contribute for a gift (or more if you can afford it, or less if you can't). Then we just divide it evenly between all teachers (maybe less if you're half time?).

Then just one person has to buy the gift cards (I guess next year that's me) and there isn't a huge inequity in how much teachers receive. And each class could have their class cards in an envelope at the front desk so that the class could give the teacher the hand-signed cards.

I know the world isn't always fair... but I'd like it to be more fair.

(And I've already talked to the 4th grade room parent; we are dividing our gift money 2/3 and 1/3 so that the teacher that is half time each in 3rd and 4th doesn't get double the money of the full time teacher).

I'm sure people are going to have thoughts on this - I welcome all ideas! And I won't take it personally if you disagree with me!

Picking up another hour at the gym?

December 17th, 2013 at 05:50 pm

Got paid for teaching at the gym today. So... a $40 snowflake, going to mortgage principal.

Now that I've redone the budget for 2014, I have $115/month earmarked for mortgage principal. This is in addition to the snowflakes.

And, I just got an offer at the gym yesterday - they want me and my friend L to co-teach a noon weightlifting class on Wednesdays. I was thinking it could be fun, another chance to work out and I'd get paid more. And L and I would alternate weeks, so it's not that often.

Balanced Budget Formula

December 12th, 2013 at 04:17 pm

A while ago I read this great article on the Get Rich Slowly website:

It's about the balanced money formula from a book by Elizabeth Warren and her daughter. It advocates allocating some money to things that are not needs or must-haves, but wants. Some money allocated for fun.

I like a balanced approach and a balanced life. I want to note, though, that there are income levels where there is only enough for Needs, and nothing leftover. And I think if you have debt, you'd want to get rid of that first, so maybe you allocate less for fun while you attack the debt.

They advocate allocating your budget this way:
- 50% needs/must-haves
- 30% wants
- 20% savings

I just did our 2014 budget and managed to make our budget exactly match this formula. If we are below budget in any category, that money will go toward savings (which will increase savings from 20% - that would be great!).

What gets categorized as wants v. needs/must-haves is a personal thing. Here's how I did it:

Needs/Must-Haves: mortgage, utilities, life insurance, house repairs, food, auto, medical, dental, household supplies.

Wants: Cash, personal items, haircuts, clothes, pets, entertainment, pool, toys, birthday parties, supplies for F, camp, F's classes (piano, soccer), furniture, appliances, gifts (within the family and birthday and Christmas), vacations (including pet boarding, travel insurance, airport parking and everything else). And F's private school tuition.

That is kind of the key to Wants. You have to prioritize and budget. F's school tuition is $650/month. That for us is a Want, but it's important to us. The money leftover after that is for the other Wants that aren't as important. Clothes aren't that important to me. Neither are haircuts. I don't do a huge, expensive birthday party for F (we usually have it at home). But we have money for the Big Want: that private school tuition.

Savings: Emergency fund, paying down principal on our mortgage, retirement savings.

Shutterfly Photo Books

December 7th, 2013 at 03:49 pm

Over the past few years, I've been trying to catch up on our photo printing. We do a photo book each year (I complete it in early January and wait for a promo to have it printed).

If I see a promo earlier in the year, I print one of the past years I haven't printed yet. I was missing 2006, 2008 and 2010.

Anyway, I received a $10 off coupon in the mail, so I decided to work on 2008. I guess it was a good year for photos (D is a children's photographer), because I ended up with 64 pages! Eeek!

But... they were having a 50% off promo for photo books. And I found a 20% off the entire order coupon. And there was a free shipping code.

In the end, we got the photo book plus our holiday cards (I would probably not send these, but D is insistent - we have a lot of overseas family who we don't see very often) for $54. I think it was about a $70 savings.

I should mention that I have a line item in our budget for this (I put in $10 a month - so $120/year) which will go down once I finish the previous years (now just 2006 and 2010 - yay!!).

There are obviously other companies that do this, but I'm really familiar with shutterfly now.

Do you make photo books? Or print photos and put them in an album? Or print photos and put them in a box? Or just keep them on your computer? Or something else entirely?

November Statistics

December 3rd, 2013 at 11:22 pm

I have to say, the November statistics are sort of blown to shreds since we purchased our plane tickets to the UK.

I did realize one nice thing - about 32% of the cost of the tickets was covered by rewards statement credits.

Gain in income = 145% (that is because D didn't make any money last November)

Increase in spending = 85% (that's the plane ticket)

Increase in savings = 714% (we are now putting $400/month each toward our IRAs; this also includes paying down our mortgage and funding savings - total saved this month $1221)

Plane Tickets to Europe

November 13th, 2013 at 01:47 am

We are in the process of purchasing the flights to England to see D's family (mother, father, sister, brother-in-law and our two nephews and one niece... oh, and a few cousins, too!)

His family cannot or will not (different in each case) travel here, so if we want F to know her grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins, we need to travel there. We're currently on an every-other-year schedule, but, oh my gosh - it's so expensive! Total will be - gulp - $4482.

We have money saved up (I set a little aside each month so that we save about $2800 every two years) and also travel rewards (about $1500) to apply to the tickets.

And I just figured out that we can fly from here directly for the same price as driving down to Big City. That means: someone can drive us to the airport (so we don't have to pay for parking for two and a half weeks) and we don't have to drive an hour to the Big City (saves tons of time!). But we do have to take a smaller plane (one of those regional jets) which I don't love. It's still just one stop, though, in Dallas.

I have to remember that this is one of the reasons (in addition to saving for retirement of course) that we are frugal in our spending: so that we can afford for D to visit "home" every few years and so that F can know her family.

October stats

November 1st, 2013 at 10:58 pm

October stats are in! (I had time to do this today thanks to F and her friend L who was over for a playdate - the girls were great, gave me tons of time, but the yard is a mess!)

- Income - up 21% thanks to D's new job - hooray!! (self-employment was sort of unpredictable for him)
- Spending - down 16% - hooray again!
- Savings - up 650% - wow! I will say that it's easy to do that when your savings is very low to start with.

To put this in perspective:
- Income net - $6,344
- Expenses - $4,069
- Savings - $1,126
This is for a family of three with a private school tuition payment and a mortgage. (Because sometimes it's interesting to look at the raw numbers).

First Paycheck from My Husband's New Job

October 19th, 2013 at 06:27 pm

We got the first full pay deposit from my husband's new job - woo hoo! He was self-employed before, and now he's happier at work, they LOVE him, and he's netting $778 more a month. (Plus health insurance!)

So here is the grand plan:
- We will max. out our IRAs (contributing about $400 more each month total - already changed the automatic pay thingy in Vanguard)
- We will pay down the mortgage
- Small increase in budget for spending just so things are reflect actual expenses from the previous year (we spent more on medical and on car repair) - if we end up not spending the amount on food we allot each month, that will go to savings instead of to medical/car.

I think the biggest change is in my piece of mind.


October 5th, 2013 at 11:45 pm

I just read about an app/website called Manilla that tracks when your bills are due and sends you reminders - also will link directly to the site for the bill you need to pay. I'm pretty excited about this!

I always pay total balance (never minimums) but it's a chore keeping up with all of the different providers (work credit card, home credit card, old navy credit card, t-mobile, internet bill, gas bill, electric bill home, electric bill office). This sends you an email or text as soon as your bill is ready. And you can get into it at any time to see what is unpaid.

And it's free!

OK, off to make dinner, now that I know my electricity bill is paid! (I somehow put that one in the trash in my email - ugh).

September Statistics

October 1st, 2013 at 10:50 pm

Compared to the same month last year:

Income increased by 2.8%
Expenses decreased by 4.9%
Savings increased by 472% (yes, really!)

So I'm feeling pretty good about the spending.

We owe $82,018 on our mortgage. House value is about $550,000.

We have $8,573 in car savings.

We have $5,217 in personal savings.

We have $13,118 in the private school savings account. We dip into this every month to pay for F's school, but it is replenished a little bit every year by one of the grandparents. Actually - I need to pay tuition today!

IRAs are worth $67,481 (mine) and $17,275 (D's). We are trying really hard to improve this! Now that D has started his new job, we are going to contribute the max. to our Roths.

We owe about $10,000 on the Dublin house mortgage. House value is about $360,000. (This is a major part of our retirement).

And finally - our income which was about $76k total last year will probably be about $86k with D's new job.

Statistics for August and Zero Waste Week

September 3rd, 2013 at 10:45 pm

This month compared to the same month last year:

- earnings up 38%
- expenses down 12% (and seriously, our lifestyle is the same)
- savings up 346% - yay!

Also - it's Zero Waste Week!
My wonderful friend B and I decided to do it together (we've been emailing all day). Today for breakfast I had: leftover rice and the rest of F's juice (which usually goes into the fridge and later is often sent down the drain). For lunch I had an avocado that was on its way out, some leftover fruit from our picnic on Sunday and other stuff that was not going to waste.

I also froze some cilantro in water (cilantro cubes!) to be unfrozen later for guacamole or whatever.

For dinner we're having fish with salad, and on the side the leftover potatoes from last night, but I'll smash them slightly and put in the oven with olive oil to re-brown. Yum! And it uses up the potatoes.

Things I Won't Buy (and Things I Buy that Some People Don't)

August 31st, 2013 at 03:49 pm

My won't buy list:
- manicures, pedicures or anything like that
- haircut over $15
- hair dye (no need for this yet anyway, thankfully)
- cleaning person
- almost all processed food (some canned items)
- fast food (except sonic slushies during their happy hour special - two for $2 - once in a while)
- expensive cars (I love my Nissan Versa!)
- clothes shopping (only go out to replace a specific worn-out item)
- birthday parties for F where you have to pay a fee (like at the children’s museum)- we have parties at home
- tons of lessons and activities for F
- massages
- gym/club membership
- store-bought gifts for adults in the family
- coffee I didn’t make at home (except maybe once a month - but I am weaning myself off of this)
- buying toys for F if it’s not Christmas or her birthday

But there are things that I plan into our budget that are definitely extras.
My will buy list:
- life insurance
- eating out once a week - lunch or dinner
- rolfing (otherwise I'm pretty sure I'd have to pay for back surgery instead)
- passports for more than one country
- piano lessons for F
- camp for F (I set a budget, and it allows me to work during the summer)
- summer pool membership (so F can be water safe)
- travel
- pets (and all of the costs that go with them)
- store-bought gifts for the kids in the family

July 2013 v. July 2012

August 3rd, 2013 at 05:42 am

Last month compared to the same month last year:
- income increased 21%
because my husband is now depositing a consistent amount from his business to our personal account each month
- expenses decreased 19%
because I am watching my spending! (biggest change - food spending! - I've always done meal planning, but I'm planning more with an eye to cost now)
- savings increased 298%
because we weren’t saving very much before (and we’re trying really hard to increase that!)

So overall, very happy!

Back from Vacation!

August 1st, 2013 at 08:38 pm

We're back from vacation to Vancouver and Victoria (Canada) - it was GREAT! Not cheap, but we'd set aside the money for the trip.

Favorite part of the trip: cycling around Stanley Park (had the bikes for a half day - $50), picnic lunch (about $10), stopping at the large Second Beach pool ($8 for the three of us).

Least favorite part: food in Canada is so expensive! But we ate some great food. We cooked in a lot of the time, had picnic lunches, and a few meals out. The best meals out were in Victoria - we ate at Red Fish Blue Fish right on the pier and breakfast at a place called Jam. Highly recommend both!

F's favorite part: the hour and a half we spent petting goats at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria. (which followed the hysterically funny goat stampede where they run into the petting enclosure).

Museums are also expensive in Canada. I am really appreciating the free museums in the UK!

We spent $30 on souvenirs: a cuddly toy beluga whale for F (who studied them in 1st grade) and a very sweet tea set from the Empress Hotel in Victoria (also for F). Our other souvenirs were lots and lots of photos!

Our lodging: apartments we got through websites like airbnb and the last night was an airport hotel that my mom paid for with her hotel points (which she never uses and offered to us - that was nice!).

But, as I said, the real key to the trip was to set aside the money before the trip (not try to pay for it with credit!) and have a budget.

Our Budget Priorities - Tuition

July 3rd, 2013 at 01:33 am

I just worked out that 15% of our spending is for tuition to F's school (and this takes into account the financial aid we receive). I am probably opening up a can of worms discussing this, but I am ok with paying for school. The public schools where we live are not good (there are a few ok elementary schools and everyone asks for a transfer). There are other reasons I won't go into. Trust me - for us and for F, her school is worth every penny.

Anyway, the problem is not paying this tuition, it's being able to save with this large fixed bill as part of our budget. We've done so much to tighten up in other areas in order to save.

We could probably do more.

Our other huge expense is the trip we make to England every other year. If we don't go, F doesn't get to see her grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins. And D doesn't get to see his parents, sister, nephews and niece. I earmark money each month for this expense, and we use the profit (which is not that much) from the rent on our house in Ireland when we are over there so we just have to buy plane tickets (I gather as many credit card travel points as I can to offset the cost).

I feel like rather than some formula, spending is really individual. We buy private school and trips to see D's family because those are priorities for us. And we do without other things some people would think are priorities.

Do you have non-negotiable expenses like this?

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