March 2015 Monthly Review

March Monthly Review

As you can see, I have finally finished the redesign that I have been working on for just about a year, and it seems to be going well. I started writing anonymously when I started, because I was afraid (or something) of sharing all my personal financial details online. It wasnt 100% anonymous, but it was close. I mainly did this out of fear, and I’ve been slowly loosening the reins on that since 2011 or so. I will say though, that nothing is more awkward/uncomfortable when people find your site and you’re in the room as they go through your financials. I will say that I dont regret my decision (then or now), as back at that time many bloggers were anonymous, and like me, many have started to put a bit more personality into their sites. I’m hoping that more people can relate to our situation now because they see a real person behind it.

We are continuing to move forward, but due to poor meal planning we spent a whole boat-load of money on food last month, and will be focusing on reducing those costs as the year progresses. It seems to be a never ending battle, with the hinge point being the meal planning. When we do it, we are much less stressed during the week, eat better and spend less on food. When we dont, the dam breaks and calling it a disaster is an understatement.

In case you didnt catch the last post, we are focusing our financial energy and goal setting now on the FI/RE movement, or retiring early. Both my wife and I want nothing more than to have our time back, and spend it with family and friends doing things we enjoy. The easiest ticket out of that will be to lower our expenses and build up enough savings to meet our needs for the foreseeable future. We live fairly lean already (when we can control our food spending), and figure that it will take about 10 years to reach our goal.

Debt

Mortgage $ 100,971 (-$1966) There is a huge drop off here from last month, and it’s because this took a while to write and I didnt get it up before the april payment happened. It looks like we will be under 6 figures by early may, after our extra payments this month.

Total Debt: $ 100,971

It’s nice only have 1 source of debt (and even then, we know we can sell our house for more than what we owe on it. Now that this number is solidly in control, it’s time to ramp up our savings.

Savings

Goals in this area are pretty straight forward – Max out traditional IRAs for both of us, contribute to my wife’s 457 plan (Im not eligible for a retirement plan yet at my new job) and put the rest into our savings accounts, listed below.

Vacation fund $1,000 – We will be transferring what was going to our emergency fund into this account, and once we reach a goal here we’ll be investing in taxable accounts.

Emergency Fund $9,950 – We are almost back at the 10,000 that we wanted to keep in here, but there is still some confusion between us and the insurance company about the hospital stay we had last month. The insurance company has told us that they both have and have not paid the entire bill, so we are not sure what’s going on.

How are you doing so far in 2o15?

February 2015 Monthly Review

Cart track in Upperaustria leads to the sky.

These keep getting later and later into the month, but I’ve been working on the new site design (and have been, for probably about 8 months) and it should be ready to go live soon. There’s a lot of new stuff, and will go into where SLB will go and my renewed focus for the site once everything changes over. I think it looks pretty good if I do say so myself but we will see how it works.

Unfortunately, we had an expensive month, as our daugther spend about 3 days in the hospital. We’ve got that bill to look forward to, but we also have our taxes coming back with a positive number, so I’m happy about that. We are still spending WAY too much on useless things, but we are working on it and overall our numbers are moving the right way. They just are not as good as they can be.

I’ve got a post in the que about why we are choosing to divert some of our extra cash to our mortgage, even though the rate is 3.375%. There’s been quite a bit written about it, but we have been looking at it from a bit different angle.

Debt

Mortgage $ 102, 937 (-$778) This is continuing to go down steadily, and we are happy with the way this is progressing. At the end of 2014 we upped the extra payment to $250 every two weeks. Unfortunately, I set it up wrong and it didnt paydown that amount every time in January. That has been fixed, and we will continue to send $250 every two weeks to our note (in addition to our normal payment). By my calculations, we should be free of this debt in 6 years or so. Due to this, I’ve been casually looking around for a 7/1 ARM at a lower rate than we have now, but that has proven difficult. We have a low rate right now, I can’t find anyone willing to give me a rate that makes it worth switching.

Total Debt: $ 102, 937

It’s nice only have 1 source of debt (and even then, we know we can sell our house for more than what we owe on it. Now that this number is solidly in control, it’s time to ramp up our savings.

Savings

Goals in this area are pretty straight forward – Max out traditional IRAs for both of us, contribute to my wife’s 457 plan (Im not eligible for a retirement plan yet at my new job) and put the rest into our savings accounts, listed below.

Vacation fund $1,000 – A dip in this account was cause by our severe cash flow issue (wife’s employer messed up her paycheck last month, so she was paid much less this month), so we had to move a bit out of savings to cover it.

Emergency Fund $9,500 – We are working building this back up after pulling some out to do some renovations to our house. This will go up a bit slower than it was last year, as we’ve diverted part of the money that was going in here to my wife’s 457 plan.

The year is plugging on just fine, and I’m hoping everything will continue like this.

January 2015 Monthly Review

Thankfully, 2014 is now in the books and our cash issues are over as we’ve switched to my wife’s health insurance. This is something we have been waiting to do for about 6 months, and as predicted our cash levels really jumped up this month. It was nice to see that, and see the effects of us consciously focusing on lowering our spending as well.  We decided at the end of December that we would stick to a hard limit of spending per month, and allocate the rest for savings.Monthly Review

Since we’ve lowered our spending quite a bit, we now needed some places to put all that (tax advantaged, preferable). I opened a traditional IRA for myself, and my wife opened a 457 account through her employer. She also has a Traditional IRA for herself, and in total we will be able to shield up to 29,000 from the tax man in 2015. We probably wont hit that number, but we will still be saving a significant portion of our income (around 65%, if numbers hold). This is exciting, as it will go a long way to help us achieve our next financial goals.

In other news, I’m thisclose to being finished with the redesign, so that should be coming up soon. I’m trying to take a few new pictures for the layout, and at the moment the weather is being rather uncooperative. The weather should turn this weekend, and hopefully my photographer can find the time to get some pictures of me.

Debt

House

Mortgage $ 102, 937 (-$778) This is continuing to go down steadily, and we are happy with the way this is progressing. At the end of 2014 we upped the extra payment to $250 every two weeks. Unfortunately, I set it up wrong and it didnt paydown that amount every time in January. That has been fixed, and we will continue to send $250 every two weeks to our note (in addition to our normal payment). By my calculations, we should be free of this debt in 6 years or so. Due to this, I’ve been casually looking around for a 7/1 ARM at a lower rate than we have now, but that has proven difficult. We have a low rate right now, I can’t find anyone willing to give me a rate that makes it worth switching.

Total Debt: $ 102, 937

It’s nice only have 1 source of debt (and even then, we know we can sell our house for more than what we owe on it. Now that this number is solidly in control, it’s time to ramp up our savings.

Savings

This is an area we did really well in this year. We were able to max out Roth IRA accounts for both me & my wife, in addition to the mortgage pay down we saw. We also built up some cash reserves, though we used them for the project on the house. We’ll still keep the goal of maxing our retirement accounts for 2015 (though we will be focusing more on pre-tax dollars this time, for reasons which I’ll explain later).

Vacation fund $1,000 – A dip in this account was cause by our severe cash flow issue (wife’s employer messed up her paycheck last month, so she was paid much less this month), so we had to move a bit out of savings to cover it.

Emergency Fund $9,000 – We are working building this back up after pulling some out to do some renovations to our house. This will go up a bit slower than it was last year, as we’ve diverted part of the money that was going in here to my wife’s 457 plan.

The year is plugging on just fine, and I’m hoping everything will continue like this.

December 2014 Monthly Review

Hi Everyone – This is a little bit late, but I’ve been busy. At any rate, I’m excited for 2015, for quite a few reasons. The first one being is that our “cash crunch” is finally over. When I switched jobs in June, I went from paying 100/mo for insurance for the family to paying over 1,000 per month for insurance for the family. We wanted to switch, but we couldn’t get on my wife’s plan until Jan 1, 2015 – leaving us with outrageous insurance costs for 6 months (honestly, we probably would have been far better off to self insure – nothing happened aside from a few routine dentist visits.

This period of super-high (to me) insurance also coincided with me switching jobs (and making less) and my wife going part time after the baby was born (and also making less). So, after looking at the numbers, I knew it was going to be a long few months, and I’d say we did pretty well. We ended up dipping into savings a bit, but that could have been avoided had we not done work on our house (we removed a structural wall & replaced it with an I-beam). We are happy we did it though, as it really opens up the room and will be nice for the baby to play in.

Debt

House

Mortgage $ 103,715 (-$1,761) This is higher than our normal reduction because we’ve already made our payment for january. In addition to our regular payment, we had been paying more every other week. I recently increased that to $250 ever other week, which equals 5.3 extra payments per year, and will really cut down on the loan duration. With no future increases, we should be out of our mortgage in about 6 years (though hopefully less). The nice part about having such a huge cash squeeze and living just fine with it is that I can take the “raise” I got after switching health plans and save it or put it to debt.

Total Debt: $ 103,715

It’s nice only have 1 source of debt (and even then, we know we can sell our house for more than what we owe on it. Now that this number is solidly in control, it’s time to ramp up our savings.

Savings

This is an area we did really well in this year. We were able to max out Roth IRA accounts for both me & my wife, in addition to the mortgage pay down we saw. We also built up some cash reserves, though we used them for the project on the house. We’ll still keep the goal of maxing our retirement accounts for 2015 (though we will be focusing more on pre-tax dollars this time, for reasons which I’ll explain later).

Vacation fund $1,000 – A dip in this account was cause by our severe cash flow issue (wife’s employer messed up her paycheck last month, so she was paid much less this month), so we had to move a bit out of savings to cover it.

Emergency Fund $8,800 – just the boring old 10k in here. Going to leave it steady at this level for the foreseeable future.

The house fund was zeroed out to pay for the contractor, and we dipped into the emergency fund a bit as well. We will go right back to building that up, then continue saving for our next goals (which I’m going to discuss later).

All in all, 2014 was a great year for us. Our spending went down almost 20k from 2013, and if you dont the almost $17,000 that we spent on our mortgage (and prepayments) alone in 2014, we are very close to getting down to our yearly expense goal. Of course, there’s going to be more on that later, but it’s a good number and exciting.

For 2015, I’m hoping to make some major strides on our home loan, as well as max out our IRAs and add a solid chunk of money into my wife’s 457 plan. Any money leftover from that will be used to build up assets in a taxable brokerage account. My business did well last year, and I’m hoping that continues on into this year, and if it does, I’m hoping that we will be able to make a major step towards our goals. I’m hoping to earn enough in the business to open a i401k for my sole employee (me), and do a few other things. We will see how it goes though I’m looking forward to it.

 

November 2014 Monthly Review

Hey All –

It has been a packed month. I’ve been very busy with side work and this site, and am hoping to launch the new site soon (Yes i’ve been saying that forever, but it’s going to be totally different and is a LOT of work). I’ve already removed about 400+ old posts that were not really worthwhile, and done quite a bit of other things related. I’ve also been working hard at building up income streams online, and I’m expecting to be able to reap those dividends sometime in 2015. I’m hoping that they all come through, and if they dont, I hope at least some will.

Once again, this was a month with out many updates on the blog, but again, I just dont know where the time goes. I’ve been working on getting back into this, but there always seems like there’s more to do.

Work on the house started (and is almost finished), so you’ll notice a rather large hit to our savings account – that was all planned, and it’s why we were saving the money in the first place. The wall is out, but the beam is not in yet, so there’s still temporary supports but already it looks a million times better. I’m going to be looking forward to working down there wiring and plumbing and doing other things once the contractor is finished up. I’m hoping the basement wont be as expensive as the upstairs, but I have a feeling we will still pay a bit of money.

Debt

House

Mortgage $ 105,466 6,337 (-$871) We set and end of 2014 goal for this at 97,500, and I dont think we are going to make it – we just didnt do enough on this front. The good news is that our health insurance squeeze lessened a bit, as my company switched providers and our premiums went from around 900 per month to around 600 per month. I took that $300 per month “raise” that I got from the health insurance change and set up $200 to go to the mortgage, bringing our total (extra) mortgage payments to $400. There’s going to be some real headway coming on this in 2015. I’m hoping that if all goes according to plan, this will be under 50k.

Total Debt: $105,466

We are down $871 from last month, which is to be expected. I’m excited that when I’m doing this update, I can simply move the mortgage down to the total debt line instead of adding in student loans, vehicle loans, credit cards and other debts. Having minimal debt has been HUGE to our savings and cash flow.

Savings

We have moved all of our savings over to vanguard, and instead of putting them in different accounts, we allocated the funds based on a hard number for our emergency fund and a percentage of what is left. Right now, we have our emergency fund in two places: Vanguard Money Market Fund (VMMXX) and Vanguards Total Bond Fund (VBMFX). There have been some suggestions to move a portion of that to a dividend fund, but I’m not too keen on that with the balances where they are at the moment.

House Fund  $0 – This has been drawn down to pay the contractor for the bulk of the work. We estimate that he’s got about 1 more day’s worth of work, which we will take from other savings.

Vacation fund $1,000 – A dip in this account was cause by our severe cash flow issue (wife’s employer messed up her paycheck last month, so she was paid much less this month), so we had to move a bit out of savings to cover it.

Emergency Fund $10,000 – just the boring old 10k in here. Going to leave it steady at this level for the foreseeable future.

I am also probably going to update this portion of the review as well. I’d like to share more information (given our goals have changed) but I need to run everything by my wife and see what she thinks. I’m erring on the side of sharing more, but again, it’s not just my decision anymore – not like it was back in 2009 anyway, when I was in a relationship and my finances were just mine.

October 2014 Monthly Review

Cart track in Upperaustria leads to the sky.

Hey everyone – it’s been a quick month of October, and I’m happy to report that everything here has been going well. The initial squeeze that was placed on our finances when switching jobs and seeing a 10x (!!!) increase in health insurance plus my wife beginning work 2/3rds time instead of full time put a fairly sizeable dent in our take home pay (on the order of -45%). The squeeze has lessened, as my company switched health insurance providers and our costs went down, and will go away in january when we move to my wife’s insurance plan (which is paid for mostly by her employer). That alone should put a sizeable amount of cash back into our accounts each month, and will do well once we begin transitioning full-on to the goals that I’ve alluded to previously.

As for the re-design of the new site, that is going swimmingly (yet slowly) and should be done soon. I’ve enlisted the help of a photographer to take a few pictures for the new site, as well as an editor for my free guide on how to cut cable TV. Once all those are back, I’ll make the move to the new site.

In house news, we have finally got a start date for demolition of the wall in our basement, and hopefully that will be wrapped up by thanksgiving. It’s going to be loud & noisy for a while, but I’m certain it will be worth it. I’ll also be able to start working on other projects in the basement once that’s done.

Now, on to the monthly review.

 

Debt

House

Mortgage $ 106,337 (-$869) Gone are they days where we are knocking this down by just $550 per month, and we are starting to see some real progress here. We had set a few goals related to this note, the super stretch goal would be to have it under 97k by the end of the calendar year, which is unfortunately probably out of the picture at this point. We still can meet our stretch goal of getting this below 100k by the end of the year though, as we should have funds to free up after the health insurance moves around and bonus season comes along. It’s going to be close – and it could happen in the first week of January, but considering we bought this house 2.5 years ago (in may 2012) I’m very happy with where we are at.

Total Debt: $106,337

We are down $869 from last month, which is to be expected. I’m excited that when I’m doing this update, I can simply move the mortgage down to the total debt line instead of adding in student loans, vehicle loans, credit cards and other debts.

Savings

We have moved all of our savings over to vanguard, and instead of putting them in different accounts, we allocated the funds based on a hard number for our emergency fund and a percentage of what is left. Right now, we have our emergency fund in two places: Vanguard Money Market Fund (VMMXX) and Vanguards Total Bond Fund (VBMFX). There have been some suggestions to move a portion of that to a dividend fund, but I’m not too keen on that with the balances where they are at the moment.

House Fund  $2,000 – This is lower too for the same reason as the vacation fund. Relying so much on cash flow is a pain, but these things happen. Good news is that we are pausing savings, not skipping on debt.

Vacation fund $1,000 – A dip in this account was cause by our severe cash flow issue (wife’s employer messed up her paycheck last month, so she was paid much less this month), so we had to move a bit out of savings to cover it.

Emergency Fund $10,000 – just the boring old 10k in here. Going to leave it steady at this level for the foreseeable future.

 Thanks for reading everyone! How was your October? Did everything go well for you?

August 2014 Monthly Review

Welcome everyone – thanks for stopping by and reading.

It seems like august just flew by, and I spent more time working on side projects than ever. That venture of my online business is starting to see success far greater than what I’d imagined, and I’m looking to continue that trend as the year comes to a close. In this neck of the woods, we decided on an extra payment amount for the house note, and are still working on getting some updates done to the basement.

Note to bloggers: If you’re going to be at fincon, lets meet up. I’m running the cocktail tour thursday at 4pm with my buddy Joel from Save Outside the Box, and I’d love to meet you there.

Debt

House

Mortgage $ 107,973 (-$665) after a lot of talk, there’s finally been some movement on this front. This is by far our biggest monthly expense (about 3x higher than the next closest one), and we can see that when this is paid off our needs will be significantly lower. I’ve been talking about adding extra payments to this once everything got sorted out and I finally did it. For now, we settled on $100 extra every 2 weeks, which amounts to a bit more than 2 full extra payments every year.

The great thing is that by January, we should be able to raise this significantly. We are in a bit of a cash crunch right now because of job switching and seeing a 10x increase in insurance costs because of it (ugh), but we should get back to lower insurance costs in january when we move to my wife’s insurance for all of us (instead of mine) and that should free up $900 or so per MONTH!

Total Debt: $107,665

We are down $665 from last month, which is to be expected. We are waiting to make any drastic changes until we can increase our cash flow, but we have already lowered our spending in anticipation of our lowered incomes for 2015.

Savings

We have moved all of our savings over to vanguard, and instead of putting them in different accounts, we allocated the funds based on a hard number for our emergency fund and a percentage of what is left. Right now, we have our emergency fund in two places: Vanguard Money Market Fund (VMMXX) and Vanguards Total Bond Fund (VBMFX). There have been some suggestions to move a portion of that to a dividend fund, but I’m not too keen on that with the balances where they are at the moment. I forgot to turn on the automatic withdraws, so these didnt really grow much last month.

Child Fund $2,000 – This is gone and has been close, and the balance was deposited into the 529 account we opened for our daughter. In a depressing turn of fate, she already has more assets in that account than either my wife or I have in any one account with vanguard.

House Fund  $3,000 – This is holding steady right now, and it looks like we may have found someone to do the work we are looking to do in the basement.

Vacation fund $1,000 – We are building this account up for a big trip we plan to take next summer. This is also holding steady as we had to pause contributions to make up for some overspending that happened in late june and early july. Shame on us.

Emergency Fund $10,000 – just the boring old 10k in here. Going to leave it steady at this level for the foreseeable future.

All in all, we had a good month and moved forward a bit, but we are honestly kind of in a holding pattern. We dont know what my wife’s reduced checks will look like, and we dont know what sort of monthly income we will be having for 2015. We’ve figured out our expenses and our monthly target, but we dont know what percentage of our income we will be able to save.