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Tax planning

October 5th, 2014 at 01:55 pm

I decided to try to get us some more tax money back this year by putting my husband's IRA contribution in a traditional instead of a Roth. Which is great but when I forecasted our taxes this year, it became clear that the last contribution to his IRA will have to wait until after I know exactly how much we made. We are in the phase out of the deduction so part of his 2014 IRA will need to be Roth after all.

Its a good problem to have and we still make a significant amount of money back from taxes, just shocking that we tripped it. I thought we would have more room this year.

Our variability in income has always proved a challenge in tax planning.

Checking in with an update

August 28th, 2014 at 02:04 pm

I transferred my husband's IRA to his 401(k) which has expense ratios that make Vanguard look expensive and transferred my IRA to Vanguard to lower my expense ratios as well. I will have maxed by 2014 IRA contribution by November and will have half my husband's contribution for 2014 in September, the rest of it will be in the beginning of next year or December depending on cashflow.

We have made progress with the food budget but there is still a lot of progress yet to be made. We have saved over $1800 YTD over last year's food budget but I still am struggling with being motivated. I suspect dropping this expense will also be a goal for next year.

End of May Update

June 1st, 2014 at 07:20 pm

April was on track but May was a big spend month for both food and miscellaneous expenses. June however is a new month and I will be aiming to get the food budget back on track (miscellaneous expenses hit a couple times per year and tend to take care of themselves, no shopping addicts in this house).

My brother is employed once more so I don't have to worry about that expense now.

Its looking like the auto loan will be paid in full at the end of August and then I can start on the 2014 Roth IRA contributions.

I still struggle with how much do I care about the food budget being low but even attempting to cut it has resulted in saving $914 this year so far. So I figure I will keep trying since its the easiest area to make a dent in and by far our most ridiculous expenditure. Sadly, all of that savings was ate up by my brother's period of unemployment. This, however, was my brother's final bail out for stupid decisions so further savings should go towards our actual goals.

End of March Update

April 4th, 2014 at 02:00 am

While we are averaging $900 per month on the food budget, it was up in March. April will see us focusing once more on keeping this down. I am okay with averaging $900 per month instead of meeting $900 every month but do not want us to start trending up.

Helped the brother out a little but gave more advice than money. His budget was a lot better than I was fearing which was nice.

We are still doing the daily breakfast shakes, have started adding more vegetables to them which is interesting. It helps to cut the sweetness of the fruit (why on earth people sweeten fruit smoothies is beyond me).

I appear to have essentially given up soda, which was more than I was hoping for when I cut back so I will take the victory.

Preparing for a Potential Setback

March 20th, 2014 at 01:51 pm

My younger brother may end up needing some financial help due to job loss and poor choices. I will be meeting up with him to discuss where he is and what his options are. As a result, I am taking a pretty thorough look at my finances to determine how much I can help if I decide to go that route.

I don't want to make it too easy on him but I am also not going to let him sink. It will probably be a combination of financial assistance and forcing him to make some hard financial choices.

Its a good thing that I had cut my expenses back because this could make cashflow over the next couple months difficult. We shall see.

Food budget update and dietary changes

March 8th, 2014 at 02:56 pm

Only spent $736 out of the $900 goal amount in February so doing much better than expected. I am not going to change the goal amount, however, as some months we may have a hard time staying under $900.

We have undergone a major revision to our diet which should be interesting long term. We do breakfast smoothies (plain greek yogurt, a splash of milk, massive quantities of fruit and leafy greens) every weekday morning. I have never eaten this much fruit in my life. I have always been big on veggies but never much cared for eating fruit but even I have been consistent in my breakfast smoothie (helps that I keep changing each day what fruit is in the smoothie). I have been doing them for 2 weeks, hubby has been doing them for 3 weeks.

Another revision I have made is that I am drinking unsweetened tea and water during the workday. So coffee (with its creamer and sugar) is only allowed in the morning (usually half a cup) and is not drank all day either. I think I am going to try giving up buying mountain dew for at home as well as I just ran out earlier this week.

During the transition from eating out a lot to eating almost exclusively at home, I made a lot of sweets, kept mountain dew at home and was willing to make some pretty high fat meals to ease the transition. The key was breaking the eating out habit. But since we are now used to eating at home, I have noticed that the high fat meals are getting rarer, the craving for sweets is diminishing (thank you breakfast smoothie) and we are eating a huge variety of vegetable based dishes (I have never been a bread and pasta fan so veggies tend to dominate in my house).

I think we still have a lot of changes to implement but I think we have made a tremendous amount of progress nonetheless.

This and That

January 30th, 2014 at 06:10 pm

My taxes have been filed (and accepted boy was that weird). Apparently I was part of a test batch sent early to the IRS, no early refund though, processing doesn't begin until the 31st. Don't much care either way, just glad I was able to check that chore off my list. First year I didn't have to do it in late February though because all the forms reached me early.

When I get the refunds, that will top off my 2013 HSA contributions and I will have finished that goal (my HSA contributions being after tax is the only reason we are getting a refund from the feds).

We are coming in under the $900 mark for our food budget for the month and we are coming in under the $1k mark for our vacation.

Since the markets have been down for a little bit, I took the opportunity to scrounge up another $1k in the budget for a 2013 Roth IRA contribution. Thanks to massive overtime and a lower food budget, we had the wiggle room. It wasn't one of our goals but I always make a point to add more when markets are down as a sort of game to increase my retirement savings. It would be nice to max my 2013 Roth contributions but I doubt I have that much wiggle room. Still, having accomplished the 2013 HSA, my 2013 Roth is the next up for savings prior to April 15th.

2014 401ks and family HSA (since we changed my insurance as of January) are already on autopilot for the max so after April maxing 2014 Roths for both DH and I and then upping our emergency fund will be our next priorities.

2013 Year End Review - Real Numbers

January 1st, 2014 at 02:18 am

Category Amount
Home $17,886
Food $14,951
Credit Cards $11,879
Shopping $10,601
Car $8,275
Student Loan $7,991
Brother $4,800
Health Ins $4,183
Utilities $2,555
Pets $2,152
Personal Care $1,867
Travel $1,063
Spent Total $88,203
Savings $35,698
Taxes paid $33,842

Retirement Savings 23.36%
Total Savings 41.29%

Amount spent in 2013 on obligations that don't continue = $25,556. This includes the brother category (money given over the year for transitioning to his own), credit cards, student loan and about $900 of health insurance expense because my new premiums are much lower.

1st category to explain is shopping. Way more vague than many people may like but includes most non-food household items and $6000 in big ticket, one-time purchases. As I am not particularly concerned about this category at this time, I feel no need to break it down further.

Personal care can be translated as massage and hair cuts. Travel is low because it only includes air fare, hotels and airport parking and we did mostly day trips this year.

Now the category I have been avoiding, Food. See that awful number up there? That is why my big project for 2014 is going to be averaging under $900 per month by year end. For the curious, I started this goal in December and came in at $805 for the month. Hold the applause though, my goal is to get that consistent and one month does not a pattern make. I managed low numbers at the beginning of last year as well and we had already sprung back up to $1400 per month by the time I decided to cut it again.

I use gross income not net for calculating the savings rates since we have pre-tax and post-tax savings. Total savings includes debt payoffs and disappearing obligations as this money is freed up for savings goals.

Cash Poor at the Moment, 2014 Goals Posted

December 10th, 2013 at 02:45 pm

Between paying off the student loan and paying for the large irregular expenses that come with this particular December, I have an upcoming week (a Mon-Thurs period) where we will have less than $500 cash on hand. Youch. Fortunately after that we will return to normal levels almost immediately afterwards but, until then, I will be watching the cashflow like a hawk.

I am actually starting one of my 2014 Goals early because I have completed my 2013 Goals and because starting this one now will help me afford one of my other 2014 Goals. I am going to start cutting our food budget. We currently spend about $1400. I would like that down to $900 monthly on a regular basis by next December. This is really my only low hanging fruit left. While I can definitely do one month of reduced food spending, its the "on a regular basis" part that will be challenging.

It's my Christmas morning, just setup the student loan payoff!

November 20th, 2013 at 02:27 pm

Its my happy day. I was able to schedule the payoff payment to my student loan to clear on Monday because we were able to peek at the paystub for this Friday's paycheck and its sufficient to allow the payoff. (I only get excited when I am setting up payments, not when they clear. That is because once I have scheduled a payment, I have moved on. Same as when I paid off the last of the credit cards as well.)

My student loan was never huge so you wouldn't think I would be this excited but I am. I have been paying on this loan for 8 years so I am thrilled to have it gone.

When I paid off the credit cards (0% aprs), it was sort of a let down because it just wasn't that big a deal by the time we made the last payment but the sense of victory I feel paying off my student loan is everything I could hope for. Probably because this goal was more in doubt as to whether we could finish it this year with everything else we had going on.


Homemade pizza finally a success!

November 13th, 2013 at 03:54 am

So pizza is one of the items I was still eating out. I had previously had "homemade" pizza twice in my life (I was a kid) and, as you can guess by my remembering them so clearly, they were awful. I think both had been made with a jiffy mix pizza crust and it didn't have any flavor and was not very pizza like. I am not particularly impressed with premade crusts either.

Recently, I decided to try making homemade pizza. DH grabbed a no rise recipe and we did a test run over a long weekend. 1st pizza was the too thick and dense crust but good flavor so the 2nd one we thinned the crust down and I was okay with that.

So we just did the pizza again after work but this time did it with more toppings and in personal pans. Because the pizzas were smaller we cut the cook time. Oh my goodness, they turned out perfectly. DH had figured the crust out, we made sure to keep the crust thin and we loaded up on good toppings. Way better than the normal carry out restaurants. May never order take out pizza again.

The fresh mozzarella was the only reason we made it to round 3 of pizza making because it was so fabulous it was worth the work to get the crust to play nice so we could eat more of it.

We even have pizza dough left so we are putting it in the fridge to rise for 24 hours for tomorrow's pizza.

Despite using high quality ingredients, we will still be saving money over take out pizza.

Contemplating 2014 Priorities

October 27th, 2013 at 05:46 pm

So I expect October to end at 82.39% increase in networth YTD (~187k networth). November and December of this year are as planned as they can be given the huge variable of income so I decided to turn to next year's priorities.

The for sure priorities include maxing DH's HSA and 401(k) and my 401(k). I would also like to max both Roths and my HSA. Looking at the yearly total on that amount however, is very intimidating. Especially since I would like to build up our cash reserves as well. That said, despite the scary yearly total, its really not much more than we were able to accomplish this year when you add in the debt payoff we did.

End of August Progress Report

September 3rd, 2013 at 02:00 pm

YTD networth increase: 68.75%

We also broke the six figure mark for the first time in our 11 year work history as of last Friday. I suspect this year will be a fluke and we will reach that number much later in the year for the next couple of years but it was nice for paying things off and ramping up savings.

Otherwise, not much to say. Everything is on autopilot and I will have to wait till the end of the year before deciding what I can and can not accomplish come the beginning of next year or even what I can accomplish this December.

Credit card debt officially gone, on to the next goal

August 15th, 2013 at 01:32 pm

The final payment posted today which was nice but at the same time anticlimactic since I had scheduled the payment 3 weeks ago.

My last real goal of the year is the student loan and that gets paid in full in November. Since we are using an already earned but not paid till November bonus to pay that, there really isn't much to do in the meantime financially.

So my current area of self improvement is eating healthier, a never ending challenge for me since I love food (both good and bad). As eating healthier tends to result in cheaper groceries and less out to eat, it does have a financial component but that is a side effect, not the end goal.

Finally hit a slowdown

August 1st, 2013 at 01:13 pm

DH's work has cut the overtime. It means a dramatic pay decrease for us and a slow down on goals but that was always temporary money in my mind so no big deal. We do get to sleep in more now. Smile

So the student loan will be paid off in November and the 2013 Roth contributions will moved to the beginning of next year. Credit card payment has been scheduled for early this month so that is completed.

July Update

July 30th, 2013 at 01:06 pm

Current YTD networth increase is 64.63%. Which almost matches last year's total networth increase. I also suspect this will be the last year we increase our networth over this amount given the size of that hurdle from now on. After this year, I suspect that shooting for 50% will be ambitious...

The last credit card payment is scheduled for August.

The first extra payment went to my student loan and now I am waiting to see if they will take the auto debit as well. I think they will but we shall see. They do have a feature that when I am ready to pay in full, so long as I tell them what day I plan to make the payment, they will tell me the total final payment.

Slow 401(k) deposit.

July 28th, 2013 at 06:18 pm

It took almost 2 weeks for them to deposit my 401k money from my last paycheck. As in it showed up the day before my next paycheck. They have always taken their sweet time with depositing but that it ridiculous. They must mail the deposit or something because otherwise, how would you even get a delay? There is no rhyme or reason to when it gets put in either. I have had same day and multiple days later deposits.

I wonder how long it will take them with the paycheck I just got...

Course, the only reason I know all this is thanks to Mint. Ah the joys of seeing everything on the daily basis, you learn all the little things you never knew before but are now so obnoxious.

Going to start chipping away at student loan

July 18th, 2013 at 02:02 pm

The last credit card payment is scheduled for August so I have begun sending extra payments to the student loan this month. $500 extra per month just makes the 2 large payments later a little less massive.

Thanks to the purchase of the road bikes, our summer spending has been very low, close to winter levels. We are too busy biking to spend money. Another month like this and the bikes will have paid for themselves in reduced spending.

Did the math and the car loan is not going to get paid off this year, it will have to wait till the end of next year as originally planned. It sets back too many of my other goals for 2014. You would think that freeing up the monthly payment would be beneficial but it just doesn't pay back quickly enough to justify it. Too many things need to be funded in spring 2014. Ah well, I knew it didn't make financial sense but it would have been nice.

Temptation - Do I or Don't I?

July 16th, 2013 at 01:01 pm

Despite the variability in our income, I am pretty good at projecting it out. I have reached the point where I know by December we will have enough to pay the car loan in full. If I do, one of the Roths will need to be funded in the beginning of 2014 instead of December 2013.

The benefit is that a payment of $409 would immediately disappear. Its the last of my non-mortgage debt (come December). The con is that it delays building the EF and delays putting money in the Roth.

Really it doesn't matter tremendously either way. It is more a psychological victory than anything. It would certainly fit with the theme of 2013 as debt payoff year.

On the other hand, I am wondering what I have against saving up cash. This would not be the first time I delayed building a more robust EF (we have a small one built in to the budget already) in order to payoff low interest debt. Maybe I just really hate monthly payments, hmmm... I seem to have no problem saving to retirement accounts so its not that I can't save money.

I do think a part of it is that I like a simple budget and I like seeing big changes quickly. A car loan disappearing and then being able to save up more money quickly just works for me.

I figure I will probably debate it for a little bit and see how I feel come December.

Reviewed a friend's budget

July 15th, 2013 at 12:37 pm

She wasn't in as bad a shape as I was expecting, only needed to drop her necessities percentage by 14% and move that money to savings. She is no longer spending more than she makes though its still pretty close.

The jaw drop of the night was when I asked her what she was saving for in her extra savings account. I kid you not the answer was "Because you told me to". I explained what an EF was and that we were going to give her a goal of 3 months worth of expenses. We are also starting her on a baby step of turning on monthly contributions to her retirement accounts (the only reason she has one is again, I told her so but I already knew that one).

Since Mint actually tracks both of these goals, it will keep her aware that she needs to keep those items in mind. I think in a couple more years she will be in a pretty good place. Maybe one of these days I will even convince her to pay off her car loan before buying the next car. For now, I consider it a victory that her budget is net positive.

Halfway through the year

July 10th, 2013 at 01:40 pm

Since the end of June gives me a nice clean set of data for 6 months, it makes it easy to track where we are headed for the year.

Yearly spending with debt payments is $68k, $20k worth has been dedicated to debt or other payments that won't outlive this December. Another $18k in spending services debt that will be around at least one more year (read mortgage and car loan). There is something disturbing about spending more on debt payoff than actual spending but we have been making large payoffs of our debt so not too surprising.

We have only 2 more months before the credit card is wiped out so August is the final payment. We already have less credit card debt than at any other point since college.

Our networth increased 52.47% YTD as of end of June so we are still on track with that as well.

I revised our expected income up this year. Even though this is our first year breaking the 6 figure mark, we will surpass that by a decent amount. In fact, barring layoffs or job changes, DH will probably break that barrier all on his own.

Progress Report

June 2nd, 2013 at 01:22 pm

Our progress is slowing a bit as our summer spending is picking up. Networth increase YTD is 50.7%. Currently looking to pay off the credit cards by September (though we will be cutting that amount in half in June alone) and paying off the student loan by December.

Part of the slow down can also be blamed on the squirreling away of money into our retirement accounts. Our original goal of doubling the amount of money in retirement accounts should be met by October. We have been shooting for 100k in retirement accounts alone for awhile and are on track to meet that by the beginning of December. 2013 Roths and the EF goal will be shifting to the beginning of 2014.

Our first credit card payoff is June 7th with another chunk eliminated on the 14th. Between the two payments, $5k in debt will be wiped out. It will be our first time under $10k since college. I nearly wiped out the student loan first since that actually has interest on it but the credit cards are a bigger psychological victory. Besides, the student loans will be gone shortly thereafter.


May 16th, 2013 at 01:44 pm

Investments $76,498
Home $200,000
Car $11,000

Mortgage $112,160
Student Loans $6,859
Credit Cards $8,979
Car Loan $9,213

Networth $150,287

Already posted the above in a forum post so figured I would add it here. YTD networth increase is 46.70%

As I really started investing in a down market, watching the gains from a climbing market seems insane to me. Market gains are contributing almost as much as us at this point.

June begins the elimination of the last of the credit card debt so there isn't too much going on while I wait for that.

Did get the touring bikes though, have already been out on them and am planning an extended ride with picnic this weekend. Its so nice being able to go for bike rides again. We had forgotten how much we enjoy them.

Added a spending goal

April 19th, 2013 at 02:38 pm

Because I don't have enough goals to work on, I am planning on buying DH and I road bikes this year. It's my fault because I mentioned wanting to get road bikes again and DH went and researched the ideal ones for long distance travel (we think of 30 miles as a quick bike ride). Long term its a fairly cheap hobby and we got our use out of our bikes we bought last time (sold them awhile back because they were too small long term and we knew we needed larger frames). Fortunately with all the overtime DH has been working and the raise he got, it won't actually slow our debt payoff.

If you include debt payoff, we are saving 45% of our gross income this year (25% gross to retirement savings). While I would have preferred to wait another year, I think we are doing well even with this big purchase.

Could have been a problem

April 15th, 2013 at 01:05 pm

Our toilet in the basement appeared to be slowly draining (probably something small between the rubber gasket and the whole it covers) so I went down to check on it and see if I could jiggle something to prevent the pump from kicking on every half hour (ended up just shutting the water off to it until we have time to work on it). While down there noticed that the washer machine connection hoses (which are reinforced rubber) were bulging in multiple places. Not good. Had DH turn the water off to them and went online to order stainless steel braided hose replacements. We had already replaced these once about 3 1/2 years ago thanks to the previous hoses leaking where they hooked up to water supply after only 6 months but our high efficiency washer is tough on the water supply and sounds like a jackhammer when it kicks the water on and off so can't say I am surprised.

Now I am thinking I should make a point of checking the dishwasher line (suspect that one is already stainless steel braided but the gaskets in the ends can periodically fail). That one is about 4 years old. Just glad I noticed the hoses before we had one burst. Even with a drain in the basement, that could have been one very big mess.

Another nice surprise

April 5th, 2013 at 01:12 pm

I have only recently gotten access to my DH's 401(k) thanks to mint accessing everything for us. So imagine my surprise when I see another deposit to his 401(k) when we already got the matching. Turns out he gets a profit sharing contribution every April as well. I remember him mentioning something like this last year but didn't realize it was an every April type thing till I checked the account history.

And this is why I have one of my goals on mint as the retirement goal. Not because I don't know what I am shooting for, but because I need something tracking how much the retirement accounts are growing every month. My guess had been less than half of what we have been averaging...

You would think I would have had a better idea because I know what percentage I am putting into the 2 401(k)s and I know the actual dollar amount that is going into the Roths the time you have 4 different accounts going and you are using different methods of contributing, it just seems that its hard to tell the actual dollar amounts, especially with market returns. Which is further complicated with his matching and profit sharing.

Not that I am complaining. Its a good problem to have. But this is definitely the first year I have gotten a good look at how our retirement accounts are growing as a whole.

End of March Surprise

March 29th, 2013 at 12:27 pm

As we get DH's pay stubs the Wednesday before payday, we thought we had the final tallies for March. It appears though that the quarterly match from his employer hits in March, not April. Not only that, they matched his new salary for the entire quarter instead of the old salary. Nice little surprise.

So retirement is revised to 60962 for this month which increases our YTD networth increase to 33.05%.

That's what I get for jumping the gun, lol.

End of March and beginning CC payoff

March 27th, 2013 at 01:57 pm

We have increased our networth YTD by 31.6% which means we just beat 2011's entire networth increase.

Assets Debts
Checking 3097 Mortgage 113362
Taxable 0 Student Loan 7189
Savings 300 Credit Cards 11279
Retirement 59470 Car Loan 10013
Home 200000
Car 11000
HSA 2786

(Ain't that savings amount the most pitiful amount you have ever seen? Mind you the checking holds a part of savings as a cashflow cushion but still...)

The next 3 months will be all about the credit card payoffs. I just scheduled the first payment for April 22 for $2100. May will see the payoff of the 1st card and probably a payment to the second card and June will finish the second and final card payoff. July we will allow the coffers to refill and then August and September will finish the student loan.

That just leaves October through December to stash money in our Roths which is doable. Any excess cash will go into our EF which needs to eventually get to 24k.

For the curious, even during the payoffs, we are keeping about a 2k "cushion" so our EF is technically larger than my savings but its definitely not large.

My latest research project

March 22nd, 2013 at 01:05 pm

So I know I want a smartphone eventually but am unwilling to sign a contract or spend a fortune per month. As a result, I have been studying up on my options. I have a couple of good leads but I have until late May (when my minutes are good through on my current phone) to decide which gives me time to hem and haw. I think I will end up with $14 per month per phone average which is actually cheaper than the $100 for 6 months per phone we pay now ($16 per month). Since both carriers use the same network, I know the new service will work at my house (an important consideration when your brick house neighborhood is too much for some carriers' networks).

It was bizarre how hard I had to work to find the resellers though. The main carriers were all ridiculous and even the big resellers were too high for what I wanted. Since I have been with my current prepaid carrier for 7 years I wasn't sure who was in the market anymore. A lot of times, it was the comments sections that had the info I needed on who the resellers were nowadays, not the actual article. Go figure.

I have to say though. After seeing the monthly expense of some of those plans, no wonder my coworkers are broke. My utilities combined don't equal the majority of those plans in monthly cost (2 people add up).

Now all I have to do is convince myself that I want to spend that much on a phone/mini-tablet/mp3 player/internet on the go connection. At least we are only converting one phone at a time. DH has already said he will let me figure it out and then make the move himself and his time is good through September.

Just when I was starting to understand our income

March 20th, 2013 at 01:39 pm

DH goes and gets himself a 9% raise, lol. The big issue with that is not the salary change but the calculation change for bonus and overtime. Base alone, that is another $5k per year. Though to be fair, they are changing the bonus structure here shortly in a way that will benefit us so I was never going to get an idea on those. However, this does mean that funding the EF might just be possible this year.

I currently think this will be around an extra $250 per paycheck (ignoring bonuses). It does not actually change anything before June though. The big difference is that the student loan payoff will move to August. At that point, I will probably have to ask myself if I would like to max my 401k for the year (because I don't have enough savings goals for this year) as it will be doable at that point.

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