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March 17th, 2018 at 07:17 am

Wow okay so I wrote over 50 checks last year. Crazy. I thought checks were a thing of the past turns out not. Check bill pay does not seem to work for me. I tried 3 times to have them mail a check to the guy who came and cleaned our gutters. I also am told to send a check to the school for activities. They don't seem fond of having an electronic check sent. Nor does the music teacher. Pretty much any kid activities wants a check cut unless they take credit cards.

I only realized this as I am looking over our annual spend and figuring out our taxes. I am pretty sure pre-kids we pretty much never wrote a check.

Oh well. I guess this explains why we run through checks a lot faster than I thought. When I told DH his eyes opened wide. Of course he pays no bills and hasn't cut a check in years. So he was floored. I can now see how many moms walk around with a check and comment "i am constantly cutting checks for every activity." More kids = more activities = more checks. Yes even if it's one activity it's still one check.

do i need an ef?

March 15th, 2018 at 05:46 pm

Years ago we ran so lean that every penny had to be accounted for so we didn't overdraw on anything. Our credit cards functioned as float but we basically ran it as a check register. No extra pennies anywhere. We squeezed dollars till they screamed.

But the things got easier for awhile and then we had kids and went down to one income and it was tight again for awhile. Then we decided time to get serious again and we started saving hardcore looking back we were at 50% savings again. We had made a plan in Christmas 12/2012 for 6/2016 that we were going to save 1 year of living expenses and move without jobs. We bumped it up to 6/2015 and we saved more than expected.

Anyway we lived on our savings (ie spent it the horror!!!), then knew we wanted to buy a house so we kept a lot of cash on hand for 2 years from 6/2015 to 6/2017 and then even after. We paid 100% cash out of pocket for our $75k renovations this year. No debt. We also bought a car and put down $8k.

But it appears we are unsure what to do about our saving again. We are back to having a "normal" EF of about 8 months cash. The problem is my DH I think feels insecure now and talks about having 1 year sitting in cash. I think not a good idea.

Second, I think that maybe we should start running lean again and have 1 month cash on hand and the rest we invest in something.

I'm struggling because I do think the stock market is high and I'm not sure I want to invest more in stocks right now. Second I'm really becoming interested in investing in real estate as a diversification in our overall portfolio. Not something we fall into but a real investment and bought solely with cash flow in mind.

But the the housing market seems red hot right now and I'm not sure it's the right time to plunk down cash. I mentioned the duplex a co-worker is selling that I've considered. It wasn't enough of a return to generate making it worth investing right now.

But if we are serious about getting into RE i think we need the cash to put as a down payment so investing it in stocks doesn't seem wise either. Nor does running with a lean EF. We probably should have a fully funded rental EF.

For people who invest in RE what's the wisest decision? For people not invested in RE is it because of the entry barrier in cost? Too much time? Too much risk?

I have been pondering this for awhile actually. What we should do regarding our Emergency Fund and whether to invest it for now or to wait and perhaps buy a property.

Overbudget and over time

December 1st, 2017 at 02:11 pm

Well we are officially over budget and way over time Well the timing thing is tight. The contractor told me Thanksgiving which I always thought was optimistic. Turns out I was right. As it stands we are hoping 12/20 before my parents arrive. Of course it won't be completely done the glass shower door and side won't be done. That is looking like January but hopefully everything else will be done.

We are currently framing the windows and just finished priming. We have to paint and do the tile of the fireplace and floor. Then there is still the upstairs work and attic, fan, insulation to still deal with, which I may tell them come back in January. We've got guests for the holidays and I don't think I can deal.

Budget wise we are over period. Over my "budget" not what they told me. When we started we were at $3700 for garage doors, $55k contractor, and $5k for designer and OOP. I figured we would come in around $75k. We are at $77k and not done. I knew things would come up and things would change But I was thinking 20% over was generous. I was wrong.

Things that changed? Our shower was rotted, we finished the garage, moved a door, found rot on the siding, replaced some rot and reinforcements. So our change orders are currently at $18k and we aren't done yet. Things happen when walls come down and you don't know what's behind them.

Oh well. I hope this works out okay. We are in so deep that we can't turn back now. Whatever it's worth I think if I escape under $100k I'll be happy right now. I don't think we should be that much further over I am going to guess $85k all in. But don't hold me to this. I'll continue updates and more importantly I'll post photos when it's done. I can't wait.

Quick Trip Summary

August 31st, 2017 at 11:54 am

So we just got back from our trip. I can't wait to post pictures. They were amazing.

Our entire trip was around $10,000 for 3 weeks - 2 weeks in Japan and 1 week in Hong Kong. The breakdown.

Tickets $2850
Hotels $1240 - my parents covered the hotels for the part we were were traveling with them except for 1 night. The total cost was $4500 for 14 days for both our rooms and theirs. So I covered the last night @ $179. Then we paid $745 for the week in Hong Kong and at the last minute we decided to do the last night @ Hong Kong Disney Hotel for $316. This is the most we've ever spent on a hotel by far. I mean $315 for 1 night. It was a little insane. We typically spend $100/night and Japan was expensive because it's Japan but we were spending around average there.

We spent $660 on tickets to Tokyo Disney Sea, Hong Kong Disney, and other attractions. We spent $1360 in cash on who knows what eating out, stuff, etc. Finally we spent $1724 on our credit cards on eating out, uber/lyft from airport, etc.

Our total spending on the trip was $7835 for 3 weeks. About 50% of what I budgeted and expected. I actually thought we'd spend between $15-20k. Even if I added in the $2250 for hotels my parents very generously gifted us, we've still be at $10,085. Which for 3 weeks isn't terrible for a family of 4 traveling for 3 weeks without cooking a single meal.

But to get away with under $8k for 3 weeks? That included all the transporation, we used trains and cabs (which is were most of the cash went), I have to say we did well.

I'll discuss it more in depth later. Can't wait to share photos. But disney in Tokyo and Hong Kong was ridiculously cheap the tickets. For us 1 day at each place we spent $222 for 4 tickets and $246 for 2 adults, 2 kids, and my FIL senior ticket. Crazy. That's the price of entry to Disneyworld and Disneyland for 2 adults. Strangely the food in the parks was CHEAP. I've been to enough parks to be surprised that they were charging like $5 for a meal which in the US runs around $10-$20.

$5k loan followup

May 8th, 2017 at 11:00 pm

I told DH full disclosure. I ended up showing him a few emails and photos and he agreed she needed the money. She retained a lawyer today and was advised not to wait to file for divorce but most as quickly as possible.

Well things are worse than she thought. So she thought it was just cheating Nope. Well she went into their garage and started opening up all the mail they've been ignoring for years. She hasn't paid a bill since 2007 when they got married. They had separate checking and savings accounts and he paid all the bills. So she never bothered to open a bill or inquire how things were going.

Her husband has played her and everyone for a fool. He's built a house of cards spending money he makes as fast as he can and then some. As I've helped organize the paperwork and explained some of the debts I said to her it's time to cut her losses and pray she can get out of this without declaring bankruptcy. But it might already be too late. She is so far in the hole.

The lifestyle she's become accustomed to is too champagne taste for her beer budget. How will she go back and change her mindset? I can see it in the way she handles money now? I can't tell her right now but she needs to realize that the house of cards money even after the divorce won't cut it. Maybe the sale of the house will wipe the slate clean of debts. But the days of going to the grocery store and buying whatever she wants is probably over. I asked her once before how much they spend on groceries and she guessed for a family of 5 about $3k/month. She put down in the budget $2k/month on groceries. That's not counting the eating out, starbucks, take out. We've found receipts for an average of $600/month lunch at her husband's club. That's on top of his eating out daily.

I dare not say the truth, but perhaps she had a suspicion that the lifestyle they were leading was way more than $200k/year. That the spending was so over the top, but she thought they were making enough to cover it. Yes she was saving for retirement but she made much less money. I really wonder how she had no idea they were living an unsustainable lifestyle. Or maybe he has been burning through his inheritance faster than even he imagined.

I don't know but the unpleasantness of the money situation I think will be hard. I can't even fathom how hard this fall will be. Tougher still to realize that he dug them into a deep hole and if not for the hole she might have a chance. I know BK seems irresponsible, but I wonder if it's not the best option in this case? How do you live on a $50k salary when you've been used to 5x that or more?

We'll see how this all plays out. But it turns out that more people than you can imagine are living lifestyles they can't afford. I never dreamed that she would be one of those people.

Spend everything you make

January 19th, 2017 at 08:59 am

Okay people really do spend everything they make. You think they don't. Or at least I thought they didn't. Turns out people really do spend everything they make and then more.

I've now seen people making incredible salaries, still working, and drawing from a 401k. Paying 30% tax on their 401k withdrawal based on their income and somehow not saving. Being in their 60s and still have a mortgage with interest. I am floored.

It explains a lot about people talking about how will they retire? I mean I work in a tax office where one of the other tax people has admitted to it being too hard to save. So she gets a $8k tax refund to help them through the year make ends meet. She said it was too hard to save for college so they meant to but they never got around to it. Her kids have $8k saved at 16 and 14 and most of it was from her dad's initial contribution into a 529 of $2500. She said everything else just seemed more important.

Or another one said there's no way we'll retire before 65. My husband was hoping 60 but we have so many expenses. Apparently they have a couple of rentals that aren't really breaking even. I wanted to point out that perhaps they should cash in and buy rentals that actually produce income. But they see it as a long term investment of price appreciation. I'm not RE savvy enough but I can't help but wonder if this is a losing proposition? Sure you can write off depreciation and other stuff on rentals, but if you can't cover the mortgage with rent, I wonder if you shouldn't buy a different property?

These are supposedly financially savvy people and the clients who come in are in the top 2-3% of earners in the US. But they have very little savings. They spend it as soon as they make it.

I know we chose to live without income. But I have to wonder don't these people worry? Do they even have 3 months saved in an EF? From what I can the answer is no.

Odds and Ends

December 29th, 2016 at 11:58 am

I'm struggling with auto-bill pay. I am so annoyed by it. I put things like the internet, cell phone, garbage, water, electric bill on auto-bill pay. The problem is that the CC it's hooked up to keeps getting changed and I have missed payments because I forgot to update the credit card. The real problem is that these credit cards discover, citibank have been compromised so much that we were trying to update our accounts over the summer every month. It's so frustrating.

Plus I'm pissed at Capitol One now for not paying our CC in full even though I have confirmation numbers of payments. So now we are hit with finance charges and late fees and I'm dealing with paying everything manually and calling the card companies to deal with the fees. I'm just annoyed that it's taking so much time. Plus they refuse to help me when I have confirmation payment codes. Seriously? So I've been dealing with all of BS all morning.

I need to still evaluate our investments and rebalance our accounts. I think we're a little to aggressively invested. Of course it probably doesn't matter too much long term. Staying invested is most important.

But TD Ameritrade lost $60k of our money for 2 weeks. They couldn't find the check we mailed for our Roth IRA conversion. But after we called and complained then they suddenly found it in processing. I am ready to shriek.

The US needs to become more automated. They literally cut checks from checking accounts and mail them. Other countries do immediate electronic debiting when you pay bills. I can't help but wonder how the US is so far behind other countries with processing of banking?

At least the year is over and we have some potential good news. DH might not be the executor of his uncle's estate. There might be a will. So he doesn't have to deal with anything. Cheers. So much better because he won't have to deal with any ramifications from being executor. YES!

November 30th Net Worth

December 1st, 2016 at 10:00 am

It's almost the end of the year and it's been good. So we hit our peak NW in June 2015. And since then we are down about 12%. From when we moved because we had a lot of costs moving, selling house, etc September 30th 2015 we are down 0.7%. So we have made up the difference. At our lowest point we dipped 19.4% from 6/15 or 9.1% from 9/30/15.

Part of it has been saving and part has been the market. We managed not miss a beat and maxed out DH's 401k and Roth IRAs for 2016 and kid's college funds $4k. We also saved our signing bonus. We hit a new high of $600k+ in retirement savings. To just show what holding steady does in DH's old 401k without contributions after August

June 2015 $332k,
9/30/15 $301k
10/30/15 $325k
1/28/16 $288k
3/24/16 $311k
5/15/16 $314k
6/7/16 $324k
6/27/16 $306k
11/3/16 $321k
11/30/16 $340k

In one year we had quite a ride. So shut your eyes and let it ride. A stretch goal for 2017 will be if market cooperate $700k in retirement.

We are right now in a holding pattern until we settle into a house. It'll be interesting what the next year financials hold with proposed tax reform. I can't say I'm upset because I know we'll benefit a lot. We pay a ton in taxes and this year more than ever.

a year in financial review

October 8th, 2016 at 07:56 am

It's been a great year. I'm doing it now a little late because as of September 1st we spent a whole year in our new life. It's been amazing for all of us. We got to get closer as a family with DH not working for 11 months. He pretty much did not get a paycheck for 12 months. But he was unemployed from August 15 2015 to July 25 2016.

We burned through $91.5k. Yes you read that right in 11 months. Granted $17k was tuition but still that $74.5k. We spent around $6700/month including our fees for renting our place which was $8k up front costs. So we spent around our normal $5500/month rate we had budgeted. Lucky for us a signing bonus helped bump our spending for the year up to $71.5k including the $17k tuition.

Was it worth it? Yes. We had a great time. I think perhaps our spending will force us to delay "retirement" by 1 year.

I forgot that from our $91.5k we direct $4k to college for kids, $11k to Roth IRA so I guess we "saved" $15k out of the $91.5k. Also we're maxing out Roth IRA and 401k this year on a compressed 5 month paychecks. So we're still on track to save for retirement even if we aren't saving our normal cash cushion.

But the real goals were met. Move and be able to be closer to family. Get job that DH loves. Buy a house. Check on first two and working on the third.

Sometimes in life as I'm reflecting on the past year you have to spend money to make money. You have to invest in yourself, maybe start a business, buy a rental property, go back to school and retrain to get to where you want to be. It's a HUGE risk and it can cost you a lot of money. But the rewards can be significant, not just financial but pay dividends in other ways.

I suspect our net worth might be able net zero with gains in our retirement accounts. But back to regular programming of saving now. I have to admit it was REALLY daunting spending all this cash without any income. To go from being a saver to a spender. This could be why my DH and I are not meant to be true early retirees, we are too nervous nellies and risk averse to pull the trigger. We're actually very close to being able to do it but would rather pad our accounts.

quick check in

August 29th, 2016 at 10:13 am

I have so much to do. We are back from almost a month away. We have new budget to work on, school to start, and house hunting. I think I am dreading the house hunting.

I need to iron out the kids schedules and figure out where we are with activities. It's weird this year we have so much more to do it seems than last year.

We blew August budget out of the water obviously but it's okay. Back to the grind. I'm so excited we have medical insurance and income again.

Tentative Budget

July 20th, 2016 at 11:02 am

Right now with the knowledge I have from company documents and potential gross income I have drawn up a potential budget. Right now I have us saving 30% of our income excluding bonuses. Right now I hope we are able to save our bonuses after taxes. Right now I plan on us saving the maximum 401k, roth ira, college ESA, and ESPP. With all of that we will be at 30% savings. This is of course with us approximating taxes.

With the approximate budget I've drawn up we have $3500/month to save/spend on food, groceries, fun, etc. It's close to what we spend now so we should be okay.

But my budget assumes that we are still paying the same in rent/mortgage. What happens when we buy a house and pay more? I am worrying about our budget. I have to admit that renting another year is a relief. It gives us time to stabilize a budget.

I'm starting to understand now what renting buys freedom. It's buying me peace of mind. However I get why people buy before moving into an area. It's so stressful though to go through a new job, budget, and moving.

debit versus credit versus cash

April 11th, 2016 at 09:57 am

Interesting thread about how to spend money and use your debit card. I know many who follow Dave Ramsey say "use a debit card." I think even Dave Ramsey has said it's okay.

But I have to disagree. I'm a credit card user without an issue. But I think a debit is too easy to abuse. I think if you have a problem with spending the only way to curb it is cash. If you have trouble with credit cards it's just as easy to spend on a debit card. The bank will keep letting you spend and you'll rack up overdraft fees.

I also think that it's super easy to spend without following spending by swiping a card. But if you had cash and tracked every penny it's harder. Also if you are married or partnered up and sharing an account it's easy for both parties to overspend.

I find we need a CC to track our spending since we don't use cash. Also because we both spend independently it prevents overdraft. But this has worked for 15+ years and we aren't big spenders and haven't ever paid interest. So I'm not concerned.

But for people getting out of debt? I wonder if cash doesn't make it easier?

February Wrap up

March 1st, 2016 at 11:06 am

It's been 4 weeks into the bootcamp. Things are getting into a routine. My DH was crawling up walls at the end of his sabbatical. I'm not sure he could deal with early retirement right now. But either way it's not in the card for us right now.

On financial news we are more in line these past two months with spending. I find our spending on gas since moving amazing. From September to February we spent $137, $203, $180, $180, $69, and $22 respectively! So I used to budget $350/month and last month we spent 10% of the budget. CRAZY. I am finding it insane.

Our grocery budget has been bad though since September it's been $1183, $608, $981, $1222, $637, and $749 respectively. I've been trying to stay around $800/month or $200/week which for a family of four seemed reasonable. It seems we have very drastic swings in spending. I think it might have to be stockpiling and sales.

But because we made a concerted effort to eat out less our grocery budget had to increase. We spent $197, $162, $224, $266, $185, $121 respectively again on eating out. My previous budget was probably closer to $300/month and our grocery budget was closer $600/month.

So even though we were mostly under budget these past few months we ran over with lots of Murphy's law moments and unexpected expenses. Mostly dog vet bills (OMG I think we're at $5k and we are done yet) and moving replacement of stuff. Also buying two new computers happened.

But overall things are progressing.

Eating out way of life

February 2nd, 2016 at 04:46 pm

My bad habit is easily going out to eat. It's a vice I'm sure I share with many others around the world. Something I enjoy and find convenient. But is it a way of life even for people in debt? Is it something that people just do even if they can't afford?

Next week my DH starts his program and we were joking today about lunches, dinners, and eating out. Since we've meet he's pretty much always brown bagged it. I can honestly say probably 95% of the time both of us have always packed a lunch. When we've gone out to eat for lunch it's usually a planned meal with friends or some weird like a smashed glass container in lunch bag or accidental forgotten lunch bag (both things happened to my DH). So I can honestly say for 15 years and as he's made more money he hasn't changed his spending habits. What was necessity at 23 at 35 wasn't at all required.

Also for the most part until we had kids we enjoyed cooking dinner together at night and would turn on the TV and cook leisurely. We sometimes would sit in front of the tv and prep meals and just enjoy wine or beer. It was very pleasurable to eat out at hole in the wall places or nicer restaurants. But then we had kids and our meals became less cool (fancy meals from cookbooks) and more boring and standard and efficient.

So I ask if he's planning on packing a lunch and if so what. He said absolutely he's planning on brown bagging it, but he mentioned that on the group board for the program everyone discussing their favorite delivery programs and restaurants they want to order from. I suggest perhaps he may have to eat out to network dinners or lunches. He said he'll see.

But both of us are curious about the dynamics next week. This is a 13 week intensive program you can't hold down a job and do. Either the other 19 people are on sabbatical from work or not working. It's like that most have partners that are working and supporting them, but I imagine going down to one income and spending $16k on a course, then suddenly eating out lunch and dinner every day would still strain most budgets. Or maybe it was just a way of life.

I can easily imagine it costing us $35/week for lunches and $60/week for lunches. In 13 weeks that will cost us around $1300 which in the grand scheme of no income and $16k tuition a drop in the bucket. But as we are living off savings and it's half a month's rent. I wonder though will most be frugal and try to pack a lunch?

My DH said so I'm assuming $7/lunch how much is it for him to bring a lunch? I said $1 maybe. Am I wrong to throw together a sandwich? Or leftovers?

Have you calculated what lunches or packed dinners cost? I know if we spend say $800/month for groceries and my kids milk cost me $80/month at $175/week for groceries. A meal assuming 21 meals for 3 people (2 adults and 2 kids = 1 adult) = $2.77 a meal not discounting snacks or fruits. So by brown bagging it my DH is saving at least $5/meal if not more.

Do you think people who eating out every meal is a way of live have ever calculated it? Is it worth it?

Planning ahead and expenses

November 8th, 2015 at 10:19 pm

We have been really good about our spending in this past month. Ridiculously good. Our spending with 2 kids is on Mr Money Mustache level. We spent about $2000 on everything outside our mortgage last month. We also spent $1000 on the dog but I don't consider that "us" spending. We got our grocery budget more in line and eating out too. A lot of money was spent on getting set up again and in October as well but we had a better handle on it and really the bulk was done in September.

But there a few expenditures this week which I found interesting. I bought myself 3 new silicon spatulas from amazon for $5.49, 8 piece pyrex baking for $15, and cake tray for $5.99. For some reason I lost in the move, or perhaps we threw out our old bakeware because it was in poor condition.

But I've noticed as we are cooking more a few things are not quite up to snuff. I find myself yearning to buy the cookie scoop and I always tell myself at Christmas I need to buy it because I hate doing cookies with spoons. But at the same time I know right now I shouldn't be spending money. I also would like to buy the stackable cookie racks. UGGH.

How do you budget replacement of items you either have but are old or never bought but want? In the past I'll admit I'd have bought it without blinking an eye. But right now we're very budget conscious and so I'm reluctant to spend money on anything.

The things I did buy I really need and the best home "investment" I ever did was buy in 2005 (year we got married) my calphalon cook set. OMG I think it was $550 for the set and I got the roasting pan, griddle, extra pan, etc and spent over $1k. But I have used it daily. I have used the pots and pans so much in 10 years that whatever I paid for it, it's returned to me in spades.

Before I bought it I remember my aunt pulled me aside and said "don't cheap out, but the best quality you can get for pots and pans because you'll use them forever. And you'll use them daily." Of course the one thing I didn't buy then was really good knife set something I'm still lusting for.

I think I might cave on the cookie scoop and maybe the racks too. But I'll resist everything else unless it happens to break or i can't find it. I also wanted to get a french press but that's again on the wish list.

What is your favorite kitchen tool/appliance you have? What is the most expensive appliance or tool and do you regret buying it? Or do you love, love, love it and would recommend it? I swear by my pots and pans and when people ask I say I still have mine and they are phenomenal.

October Budget Roundup and other stuff

November 1st, 2015 at 11:50 am

So October we came in under budget. On the CC we spent $3255 to be paid November 1st, though its not due until November 22nd. That included about $1000 in vet bills for the dog's chemotherapy. So we were way below budget for us as a family but in our "budget" now we are trying hard to run lean because of unexpected dog costs.

We spent $203 on gas fuel, $74 on alcohol (we bought some rum and vodka restocking), $608 on groceries, and $199 on restaurants/eating out. The eating out included $50 I spent on groupons for future restaurant visits. All in all, I think we got a pretty good handle on food now. The $608 included all my groceries for the week except some milk and maybe some veggies. Of course November is probably going to be expensive with Thanksgiving and potentially my in-laws visiting.

An interesting thing we use a lot of data at home. We don't have cable but have high speed data for $50/month. So we used 11 GB in August (5 days), 130 GB for September, and 173 GB in October. It was suggested on the forum that we could cut internet and use only the cell phones. At those usage rate we'd blow over the normal cell phone limits. Guess we're stuck with paying for internet for a long time.

I'm still pondering college and retirement and overall savings goals.

Financial musings

October 13th, 2015 at 11:02 am

First we are doing better this month on groceries. We've spent $45 on alcohol so far and have enough beer to last the month, $57 on eating out/coffee shops, $242 on groceries and honestly we are good enough for the week. So I think we are on track to spend $150/week this month or around $600-750. I think spending around $150/week = $650/month which seems reasonable for a family of 4. Last month and even some of this month's costs are still us rebuilding our stockpile and necessities. Plus $650 for groceries and spending very little on eating out compared to previously I think is a huge savings. Last month spending around $1200 on groceries freaked me out a lot.

Second we are debating whether to do a Roth IRA this year. We have until April 15th to decide. We usually wait until January 30th anyway to see where our income lands. This year we may be able to do a roth IRA without doing a backdoor rollover Roth. We did manage to max out DH's 401k before he left his job. But it's $11k we'll be tying up instead of having in cash. My preference is once he's in his bootcamp in February we move the money if we think he's going to land a job asap. Or if I land a job sooner.

Third our utility bills are ridiculously cheaper. It's 20% of what we used to pay. A full month of electric and gas and we paid a combined $83 for the month! This is with a very inefficient furnace and refrigerator. I can't believe it. We did use 404 kwh of electric instead of our base usage of 900 kwh. In our last place our water heater was electric and we never changed it to natural gas because of the location it was impossible. Second we used 28 therms to heat the house where we are now and it $35. Insanity. We were on a budget billing for both electric and natural gas in our last place to help even out the winter costs and we were budgeting $250/month each. This is on top of our $250/month for HOA dues for water and insurance. $400 extra month for just utilities I had to admit really helps the budget. I can totally understand now how Mr Money Mustache talks about living frugally as a early retiree.

Anyway I had a great weekend and I'll post more later.

End of Month Lookback

September 30th, 2015 at 08:56 pm

Ugh....What can I say? I haven't looked at our investment accounts or retirement accounts until now. We'll we've lost about 10% in retirement down from 6/15/16 $575k to $520k. And we're not adding to it either this year anymore so it's a bit frustrating. Our taxable accounts are down $40k but part of that is from our investments going down $33k. $7k for a move, month long trip, deposits, and start up costs is not terrible. Of course our investments tanking is a sorry thing.

Unfortunately our burn rate needs to come down we're been spending way to much money on just getting set up again. How bad has it been? Well the utilities weren't bad this month we paid trash $52 until end of October, $59 for electric/gas, $99 to set up internet with comcast $50, downgraded our cell phones to $90/month from $130 and am waiting for the water bill. We spent $137 for the month on car gas.

So the food budget and pet budget are where we are bleeding money. We spent $203 on eating out, way too high I think. But I'm having trouble curbing my husband. He's not willing up a coffee from starbucks and wants it almost daily. Our groceries this month was $1122! OMG. Granted a lot of it was set up stuff like toilet paper, paper towels, diapers, shampoo, body wash, cleaning supplies, and basic kitchen stuff. We used up mostly everything and gave away stuff that would have been difficult to move. Also we had to buy a lot of stuff to start up the kitchen like a spice rack for $25 from costco. But honestly it was everything else that added up quickly. Canola, sesame, evoo, balsamic, red, cider, white vinegars, soy sauce, mirin, cooking wine, etc. A shopping trip to the ethnic markets we spent $100 on spices and other stuff. The cleaning supplies from costco was another $100. Moving is a lot more expensive out of town than probably people realize. I certainly didn't expect all these expenses.

Hope that we are able to curb our budget next month.

Budgeting struggle

September 19th, 2015 at 02:34 pm

I find it impressive and amazing people can follow a budget. I struggle with organizing receipts and honestly I hate breaking them down. I hate trying to group cleaning supplies, home furnishings, clothing, etc. I mean I can do very simple stuff like groceries and eating out and gas for the car. I also can do stuff like insurance or cable or water or electric.

But tracking all the spending? I'm not sure where to put categories and receipts sometimes. I only check my restaurant receipts against the charges to make sure the tip is put on correctly. And I keep receipts of things I might return or are high value with the item.

But how do you really track it? Is it better weekly? Or month? How do you budget stockpiling groceries or cleaning supplies?

What really worked for us and I'm still getting into the rhythm is picking a number and seeing where our budget will land. I'll pick a number and see if we can stay within and if need be I'll tighten it.

Rent $2400, Electric $200, Water $100, Internet $60, Cell Phone $95, Trash $30, Gas $200, Groceries $500, Eating out $200, Misc $100. Then see if we hit these targets and adjust.

But tips for budgeting will be appreciated.

another vaccuum

August 20th, 2015 at 02:02 pm

Still love my dyson cordless. But we moved into a house full of carpet. Ugh. Oh well it's a rental. But I'm not sure our cordless will do the whole house. So I'm considering $200 dyson DC 41 from Amazon or $210 canister DC 39 from overstock. Both are refurbished vacuums.

I hesitate to buy a canister but a lot of people swear by them. They say they are easier to use on stairs.

Do people have canister or upright vacuums? Which do you prefer and why?

Old Habits are Hard to Break

July 8th, 2015 at 09:48 pm

I realized that old habits are hard to break. I find that even now traveling with our kids and getting older I'm reluctant to spend more on our hotels. I do spend more because I need a bigger room, but the the level of hotels aren't so much more expensive than when DH and I traveled solo.

The level of hotel I've come to realize is substantially lower than most of our friends. Most tell me then never spend less than $100 or $125+. They look for hotels with pools and location and name. I will admit based on our income we likely should be spending more on hotels. Our next hotel stay is $60 for America's Best Value Inn.

But at the same time where we stay makes it more palatable for us to drop extra cash on experiences. Recently because the hotels we were staying at were less than $100 we made up for it by doing a Niagara Falls boat tour, Whirlpool Aero Car Ride, and renting bikes at Mackinac Island. The bike rental was $100 for 3 hours.

But at the same time if we spent more I think I might really examine what "experiences" we want to do when we are traveling instead of just doing them.

Do you find you've changed the way you travel as you've gotten older? Or stayed the same?

I wonder if I'll ever feel comfortable just booking a hotel without considering costs? And yes I will admit to spending more but it was Manhattan and it can't be helped there. Our most recent NYC trip we spent $200/night in the financial district and it was a king size bed for all four of us.

I write this because my DH mentioned perhaaps we should consider upgrading and staying somewhere nicer. FWIW with one exception everywhere we've stayed has exceeded expectations.

Upping the food budget

March 29th, 2015 at 04:52 am

Moving means upping the food budget. Why? Because right now we are in mode of eating what we have but at the same time not stockpiling sales. Instead we are trying to create meals with stuff both in the freezer and pantry that need to be used up since it's not worth moving. Plus since we are moving at the end of June, the idea of buying in bulk meat or making food and freezing food seems wasteful.

I think I freaked out my DH a lot because this week we finished off a bunch of food in the freezer and it's starting to look empty. I can definitely say that we have one shelf clear. Our fridge we are eating the permanent residents and not replacing them, ie hoison, bbq sauce, etc.

Usually I buy meat and portion out the meals and freeze them. I also usually cook in bulk and we eat half and freeze for lunches the leftovers like curries, stew, chili, etc. But I've decided to stop doing it though we have three months and instead focus on cooking stuff we have and keeping the freezer lean. Before I might have bought 2 bags of fish, 2-3 meats, but now I'll keep only 1 bag of fish and 1 bag of fish.

No more stockpiling toilet paper or paper towels. I'm done with cleaning supplies and laundry detergent. Before I usually buy a backup when i'm on the last of something but now I'm running everything out and not looking for sales.

You can see the difference in the amount of stuff in the house. And while I haven't seen the difference yet in my grocery or shopping bills I bet it'll increase the amount I'm spending. Plus just eating out more for convenience of painting and packing.

odds and ends

March 17th, 2015 at 07:02 am

So we had two late/overdraft fees last month. Because February is 28 days my DH set up auto deposit into our checking for the 28th of the month and it didn't hit until the 3rd. So some of bills I auto pay on the 1st would have cleared if the cash got deposited on time. We were over by $65 anyway and BofA protected us by transferring some from our savings float. Still they charged us $10 and I was annoyed with my DH for not setting up deposits on the 1st of the month.

But I called and they waived the fees since we don't do it very often. They were actually very nice about it. I wonder if we should deposit more into the checking instead of cutting it so close. Usually there is a $500 buffer but the deposit being late ate that up.

We are exploring our options right now and I have a call out to the realtor who sold us our house. We really liked and trusted her and she's very experienced and lived in our neighborhood. She did us a big favor helping us get our place and guiding us what neighborhoods.

So now do we just hire her back and go with her recommendations? Or do we contact other realtors say 2 others and get an idea what our place is worth? Have them do comps and show us what they can offer?

Last time we also with the realtor who sold us our place. But she was my friend's mom and we knew she had our best interest at heart. At the same time, when we were selling she told us to call 2 other realtors and ask for comps and we did and she came in "dead on" with the other two estimates and we sold for $1k above what she priced at in the 1st weekend in a bidding war. So I believe she was good and secure in knowing we trusted her.

This realtor we know was suggested by the relocation company. But she seems like our old realtor someone whose been in the business over 20 years, lives where she sell, etc. She didn't get in during the boom and has lasted.

But should we talk to others? What's the etiquette?

Further I contacted from craigslist some apartments to discuss potential month to month rentals and how to handle that. There are a few places both cheaper and more expensive than what we are spending that based on location we could be happy with.

This week my goal today is to try and list a few items for sale and donate at least 1 box. I am determined if we are selling I am going to minimize the amount we are going to move. We can't hold onto baby stuff anymore. Perhaps we'll have a third child, that is not off the table, but shelved until after we move. I am a little sad because I feel my kids are getting older and so am I, but at the same time I know that a move isn't easy with 2 and we certainly couldn't take this risk with 3 kids. So perhaps it'll still happen.

No clue about finances?

March 13th, 2015 at 07:40 am

I find it stunning that so many women have no clue about their family finances. I mean literally no clue. Now you'd think okay maybe because they are stay at home moms? Nope. Turns out that many of them are also working moms. It doesn't appear to matter. I find it incredible that so many women in a marriage have no idea what they have saved, make, or spend in a month. I'll tell you a few different stories recently which left me wondering WTF?

Dr H is a primary care doctor with three kids and her husband works as well. They are super busy and never have time to manage their money. They are pretty frugal and don't overspend and save a lot. BUT they could be saving more. Unfortunately neither Dr H and DH haven't a clue what they spend. They went to their financial advisor and said we were thinking about buying Amazon Prime to save on shipping. The FA said "you've been paying for 5 years for Amazon prime and had no idea you've been paying it?" DH said "I just pay our bills in full, we've never looked." Dr H tells me and a friend this story and says the FA told them they should probably try to see what they are spending their money on. Thankfully they make enough to not care, but it could be detrimental.

Friend Mrs. C is a full time school teacher. She has no idea what she makes or what they save. She says her husband takes care of everything and he tells her what she can spend on groceries. She says that she's sure he's taking care of their retirement but has no idea if she even has a Roth IRA or college accounts for the kids.

As you all are aware Mrs A is the financial train wreck of a stay at home mom. Has no idea what they make or spend and figures if they made more they'd be fine. Her husband is having his wages garnished by the IRS because he hasn't paid taxes in 7 years and filed in as many. They are being audited.

Another friend Mrs K also works part-time is being audited because her husband handles all the money and she too has no idea what it's being spent on.

I have many, many more friends both working full and part-time, and non working moms, NONE of which have any clue how they are spending their money. They have no idea what their mortgage is, but they know what daycare costs. They have no idea if they have a retirement account or how much they are saving.

I found it incredible that all these well educated women have completely handed over control of the finances to their partners/spouses. They have no clue if these people are being at all responsible. They have no idea what they have saved for retirement if anything. They just assume whatever financial decisions are being made are the right ones.

Granted the two under audit have realized that something is not right, but still. Does it take getting audited for someone to get concerned? And when I said perhaps they should take over the finances the response was "it's too much work and it was a mistake."

Really? I know that people of both genders here on SA are more concerned and aware of finances than the general population. But I can't wrap my head around women just having no idea about their finances period. And literally they aren't even worried or concerned that they could be eating cat food when they get older or are in debt, or not paying taxes.

My DH and I are both aware of our finances. He's not as detail oriented, but he knows the gist and well aware of our spending habits and our savings plan. He knows roughly what we spend and doesn't care for those details. We make joint decisions and I'm well aware of ALL accounts and track them. I know it's a bit obsessive, but why don't more people care?

Should we sell our house now?

February 22nd, 2015 at 09:07 am

So we are not sure what to do whether we should sell our home and rent. Background and some information. We are planning on moving June 2016 no matter what. DH is quitting his job and we are leaving the area to relocated cross country. This could happen sooner if the right opportunity arises. Unfortunately his most recent interview did not work out. So we plan on selling our townhouse next spring no matter what. But we have one year to live where currently are or sell.

We live in a nice 3bd/2.5ba townhouse (1700 sq ft) with parking spots in good school district. DH commute is 30 minutes driving and 1 hour by public transit. We owe $385k on our place and conservatively we could sell for $750k right now. Our current monthly payments are $1700 mortgage, $550 property taxes, $250 HOA = $2500/month. Our utilities we pay a balanced budget of $250 electric and $300 natural gas (last month our gas/heat bill was $700).

If we were to move we would be looking at paying around $2k/month to rent a 2 bd condo 1200 sq ft. However it would be a 30 minute commute by public transit and less driving. A few of these rentals include heat and hot water including one I found for $2195/month 2 bd. The school district is also good but the commuting location is better.

So the question is should we sell our place and lock in our equity? Perhaps it'll go up more in the next year but we are really betting on is that nothing will happen to our condo in the next year. That we won't be hit by any big repairs.

When I look at it I know financially it makes most sense to stay put right? I mean we are paying around $850 interest and $850 principal. And the interest and property taxes are deductible and principal payments are enforced savings. So in effect we are paying to rent our place $1300/month with HOA + interest/property taxes (taxes deducted out). Versus $2k to rent a smaller but better located apartment.

So how do I calculate what's better? What am I missing out?

Tired of hearing it...

February 4th, 2015 at 11:33 am

Seriously winter sucks. I can't believe how much snow there is. I have ice dams hanging off my house. I also have 2 inches of ice on my stairs, life is not good right now. But seriously I am finding that my friends are splintering into two groups. Those with money and those with less.

The group with money often don't even realize their lifestyle is not the norm. For instance recently they are SAHM who on a snow day hire a babysitter and go to the spa. I was told "we deserve it, spent all day cooped up inside. It was tiring yesterday and we are used our "me" time," since the kids normally go to preschool in the mornings. I was invited but said sorry too expensive a day. My DH hears this story and the invite and said "what part of staying at home with your kids is hiring sitters and going to the spa?" I hear that a lot recently from a group of moms, "we deserve time away from the kids. You should send them full time and get time to yourself. How unaffordable can it be?" I'm seeing a pattern.

Of course on the flip side you see those moms who either stay at home and say they can't do anything. Or who are working and say they have no money because everything goes to childcare. I hear complaints from these friends about how hard it is to do anything. And I find it interesting that mom's who stay at home but with a very tight budget are offended by the suggestion to work. And those who work are horrified at the idea that if didn't work they'd have to live on half or reduced income.

The pattern I'm seeing is that very few people are actually satisfied with what they have or make. Very people understand or realize that the grass is not always greener on the other side or that some people are satisfied with less money.

I mean the people who have money rolling in have no idea how to people live on so little money. You just can't when you are used a certain lifestyle. And those who have less can't fathom spending that much and desire more but aren't willing to make a sacrifice of working more. While dual income families are jealous of those not working but never stop to examine how much less often times the single income families are living on.

I rarely make financial comments to friends because I doubt they would listen. But I really want to shake them all and say be satisfied and realized people make difference choices for different reasons. That if you choose to work then realize you make more than the family who has one breadwinner.

But when will people learn? What would happen if more people were satisfied with what they have?

Health Insurance Premiums

February 3rd, 2015 at 05:01 am

We've got great coverage for our health insurance through my DH's job. However less and less is being covered and "co-pays" and premiums are going through the roof. It's going up faster than our raises percentage wise. I know others here will weigh in but I hadn't really thought about it till I looked at my DH's paystub this month and cringed a little.

In 2015 we are paying $135/biweekly (26 payments) for family health insurance. We paid in 2014 $119/biweekly for an increase of 13.4% in one year. In 2013 we paid $101/biweekly for an increase in 2014 of 17.8%! In 2012 we paid $96/biweekly for an increase of "only" 5.2%. In 2011 we were paying $84/biweekly for our family plan for an increase of 14.3%. In 2010 when we had our first child and moved to a family plan it was $82/biweekly so the increase was only 2.4%

So in 5 years our premiums have gone up 65%. I imagine in probably the next two years we will have doubled our premium cost. What can be said and done? I don't have a clue. I guess we just suck it up and say I hope we get a raise, which has happened but it's been 2% merit increases. How do we keep up with inflation when some of our fixed costs are spiraling out of control?

I'm not complaining. I'm actually happy we have health insurance and it's a very generous policy. But I worry how much more expensive it's going to get and whether we can ever afford to leave a "group" plan and buy our own.

Have you been tracking your health insurance premiums? Dare I ask what others pay? I am going to guess a lot.

2014 a review and 2015 Ideas

January 15th, 2015 at 10:31 am

I probably should write goals but what I think we need to do are not really goals but ideas I'd like to see through. It's been a very interesting 9 years living where we live. Like Monkey Mama we've changed a lot. How much?

Net Worth
12/31/2005 $131,762.00
1/1/2014 $878,472.00
1/1/2015 $1,073,474.80

So in the 9 years we've lived where we are we increased our net worth 8 fold. This past year has been particularly good to us as we increased our net worth by 22% or $195k. It was a combination of decreasing our debt by $30k and I valued our house $50k more. We wiped clean the last of our student loans, we had around $8k hanging around at 2%, and $8k 0% CC debt. We also paid off one of our cars and the second car will be done in July.

Account 1/1/2014 1/1/2015
LAL IRA $62,327.00 $77,254.24
DH IRA $132,924.00 $148,527.37
DH 401k $244,399.00 $287,059.53

Fid Tax 1 $86,847.00 $85,389.30
Online Check $1,000.00 $8,642.11
Online Savings $42,510.00 $55,542.43
Fid Tax 2 $54,000.00 $50,959.49
SB 1 $10,788.00 $34,493.33
College 1 $11,239.00 $12,251.00
College 2 $6,369.00 $6,831.00
House $650,000.00 $700,000.00
Subtotal Assets $1,302,403.00 $1,466,949.80

Car 1 $7,900.00 $3,045.00
Car 2 $3,900.00 $0.00
Sallie Mae $8,000.00 $0.00
CC #1 0% $4,000.00 $1,867.00
CC#2 0% $4,000.00 $0.00
Mortgage $396,131.00 $388,563.00
Subtotal Debts $423,931.00 $393,475.00

Net Worth $878,472.00 $1,073,474.80

So we got close to my last year "goals" of increase NW by $200k, break $1M net worth, and break $500k retirement. But where does that put us?

Well my DH just came back from a job interview out on the west coast. We'll hear back in a month but they contacted him and said he hadn't filled out a formal application just resume and cover letter. So he's guessing they are going to do the background check, credit check, etc and are interested. He also has a second interview to be scheduled on the west coast.

We are still wavering on whether to move this year without a job or wait until 2016. If we wait until summer 2016 we'll have 18 more months of job hunting and potentially a lot more money saved.

As it stands we have I would guess about 1 year in cash living expenses at our current budget and no income. After the sale of the house we stand at closer to 8 years without income, not touching our retirement.

I guess our goal is to continue saving and break $200k net worth increase this year and see if we can't make a big push in saving cash since we don't have to pay down $30k in debt.

I'll write more as the story about jobs unfolds.

Odds and Ends

November 24th, 2014 at 08:26 am

This month's cleanse has been enlightening. I'll probably keep on the low car and high veggie diet for a while to keep losing weight. But it has been interesting how eating vegetables and fresh fruit can be expensive as eating meat and carbs. Our bill will likely be as expensive more with the slight modifications in diet. What I found interesting is that we barely ate out as well thus far (it should be going up) my BIL is town for thanksgiving. We usually go out to eat and will be hosting him and his girlfriend. So I'm guessing we are breaking the budget.

But on a serious note, I can see why people on a limited budget eat less healthy food. It's cheaper to eat a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup than a full veggie meal. Or a bag of goldfish for $1.99 is cheaper than 4 apples or 4 yogurts.

We are going on vacation in a few weeks for a few weeks. Leaving in two weekends till after the new year. We are trying to decide between vrbo in San Diego. One is in Pacific Beach (PB) and other in Ocean Beach (OB). I prefer the PB location and it's great a block from garnet and on the beach. I found it through VRBO, but the guy only advertises on there. You have to mail a check and sign a lease, but you can't book through VRBO. This is the first time its happened to me. I usually book through the vrbo website so I'm nervous and why I'm considering booking the OB site though we don't love the location. I will say the PB rental did offer me to pay through paypal by check.

What have people's experiences been? Should I be worried? My DH prefers booking through vrbo he thinks it gives us an extra layer or protection. Does it?

Also we've gotten a good deal on the mininvan we're renting. We're staying with my in-laws at the VRBO so we need a minivan. And a one way rental of a small car from SD to LA so we can leave for Hawaii. I can't wait to get away from the start of winter and see family (even my in-laws). The only thing left is organizing gifts for family and teachers.

I bought 4 cookie skillets from costco for $18.99 and will give 1 skilled to each teacher with a $20 starbucks gift card. I bought two sets and figure it's a nice christmas gift. I may add in a dry cookie mix I make as well or a book. Last year was cookies and banana bread with SB gift card. The year before was hot chocolate homemade in containers and SB gift card. End of the year gifts were target gift cards and plants. If anyone has creative gifts I'll take it.

I wrote a few weeks ago I was floundering and I still am in some ways. I applied for a couple more positions and my DH has a phone interview with a small company on the west coast. But he's had so many it's hard to get excited. However reading that post, I realized I have to keep moving forward and counting down the months. If we move without jobs it'll be important we purge and minimize.

Plus my DH and I have been talking more. The third child is still on the table perhaps later than I would wish but it is. We've done nothing permanent and we have all our baby stuff. I don't feel complete but I do desire to move and having a third would change our timeline.

On a depressing thought my Dad is 84 has said that he is not coming to visit me again. The trip is too long. So this June my oldest finishes preschool and wanted my parents to see her little ceremony and visit. It'll be warm since it's June so my mom is coming. My Dad said no. So it really is coming now or never. My in-laws have also said they don't want to see us in the winter anymore where we live. It's too far a trip and they feeling the transfers as well.

But with 2014 wrapping up I am trying to think positively. I am trying to be in a good frame of mind. I am definitely purging, losing weight, and just focusing on moving.

Balancing now for later...

November 21st, 2014 at 07:17 pm

Nika brought up a great point about enjoying your money now and later. That it's hard to find the balance between spending and saving. It really is. It's so very easy to get miserly and not spend money. At the same time it's also easy to go off on a spending spree and justify all your spending because you make $X.

So how do you balance spending now versus saving for later?

My thought, it depends on what your priorities are. Do you want to retire early? Do you want to have time with your kids now by staying at home? Or perhaps time later by retiring early? Can you never imagine retiring early because you want a certain lifestyle? Or do you feel obligated if you have kids to pay for college so retirement is out of the question?

There are so many choices and no one right answer. All of the choices above are valid. The choice you make is the one that will lead your financial decisions.

About a year ago when I submitted our financials to MMM blog for a reader case study, I realized that without knowing it we were mustachians. I also realized and confirmed that my DH and I bought wanted the financial security of being "financially independent" from working. He's still unsure about "retiring early" but my DH is completely on board with having money to say FU to anyone, anytime. To know that if we didn't have an income we'd still make it as a family. How did this realization affect us?

We have never lived up to our income and never been big spenders. But that realization that really living on a budget, curbing our spending, and watching every dollar meant we might be closer to "FIRE = financial independence early retirement" than we ever imagined. We had $462k in retirement, we now have in 9 months $519k. We had $163k taxable and $54k cash, now we have $167k and $58k cash and our liabilities has gone down to $3800 car payment gone in 6 more months. Also according to zillow (very underestimated) our house went from $609k to $647k, I am guessing more like $750k to be honest.

Are we there yet? Projections say no. But I do think that we are definitely closing in fast on a FI number but more importantly we are much more focused on becoming FI to decide what we really want to do.

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