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mortgage and primary

March 15th, 2016 at 08:07 am

The extra mortgage payment hit today, so I'm down to $9,422.72. Yay.

The regular mortgage payment will be made next Friday, and should bring that down to about $8,400.

I hope to work on and finish the taxes this week. If we get a refund, we will be putting that toward the balance as well. (Estimating $3500, which would equal $4,900 left!)

chip chip chip!

I live in Ohio, so I'm off to vote now. It's my first time in a primary. It's kind of exciting in a weird way.

Year ahead? Birthday thoughts...

March 13th, 2016 at 09:32 am

I'm 41 today. Woot. I always get too philosophical on my birthday. It's kind of like my New Year, the day when I sit and reevaluate and try to parse out what is good and bad from life.

I shouldn't complain. I have a nice house in a good school district, two healthy kids, and a DH of 14 years. Money in the bank and a plan.

But some things are still out of control! Any ideas or helpful hints would be greatly appreciated.

1. The mess. I spend soooo much time cleaning up, and yet the house is never clean. Two little boys and a hub sure do make messes and destroy stuff. Is there a way to manage this? Is it possible to keep the house tidier without spending all my time behind a broom?

(I am in my second round of major decluttering. I figure less stuff= less to manage/clean, But I'm not sure it'll work that way)

I got angry about this yesterday. It was my first day working outside in the garden, and I realized the yard was a huge mess. Raccoons had knocked over an extra trash can--which I thought was empty because I never put anything in it. Well, hubby apparently put something in it this winter, because there was an old garbage bag of food strewn everywhere. There's a stack of wood in the driveway that hubby promised he'd chop 6 months ago, and it's still there.

Gah. I got angry because I felt like I am the only one who cares, and the only one who does the work. We have a house in a nice area, and because of stuff like this, it's the shabbiest house on the block. I want it to look nice!

I can't do it all alone. There is too much. Too many jobs, too much work, but DH doesn't seem to care, and the boys destroy destroy destroy...

2. Career. I have kind of always suspected that career was a hollow ambition. I'm thinking about this because the in-laws just left.

My inlaws were defined by their jobs, and worried constantly about career and doing 'what they were supposed to do' as far as the life script: moving up, up, up! they don't understand our casual approach to work, and my MIL is hand-wringing about my decision to let go of a lot of my freelance work. She's worried about my 'career'. She followed me around for 3 days nagging about it. Gah!

So... of course I am thinking. I have figured out a few things in the last year.

A. I don't want to work at a newspaper again. Journalism is no longer a field I want to be in.

B. I kind of want the next stage of my life/ career-wise to be a mix of fiction-writing and hobby farming. Okay okay. I know it sounds crazy. I am very realistic. It's not big money and it could flop. But I feel like I should try. It's now or never. And I don't expect to write a blockbuster, I'd be happy with eventually building up a small, but solid income from those sources.

3. Finally, I want more creation in my life. More creativity, more writing, more paintings. Now, time is the issue. The youngest isn't in school all day until fall. But I feel like my life and ambitions have been on hold for 8 years waiting for that to happen for two kids. I'm tired of being on hold. Is there a way to add more creativity into my daily life? I can't write when the kids are here. I've tried. They interrupt constantly. But maybe I could move some art supplies upstairs, so I could paint in the dining room while we're home together int he afternoons? Maybe they'd even join me.

So this is what I'm thinking about on my rainy 41st birthday. I'm not mental, I swear. Wink

$300 to mortgage

March 11th, 2016 at 07:23 am

I paid $300 to the mortgage balance today. I had hoped to make it more, but for some reason DH went on a post Low Spend Month shopping spree. I'm not super happy about it. Maybe now that he has it out of his system he'll return to his pre- LSM low spending ways.

I could send more to the mortgage balance, but I want to keep a pad in the checking account just in case he goes on another spending spree! If we still have extra next payday, when the mortgage payment is due, I'll send it then.

Oh well. I can't complain about much. The CC is paid in full, the other bills are paid, and we still have money left in the bank. Good living, right?

Oh, and I am planning to file the taxes this week. I think I finally have all the forms. Any refund will go to the mortgage.

$9,722.72. Debt strategy?

February 28th, 2016 at 08:24 am

I'm jumping up and down. The payment hit, and the new mortgage balance is $9,722.72.

Sadly, though, I need to come up with a new payoff strategy. My wishful math projections were off by $3,000. I'm not finished with the taxes, but anticipate a refund of about $3,500 (probably more, but not much. I'm being conservative).

Once that is in and filed, that would bring the mortgage down to $6,222.72.

I'd hoped we could have it paid off by June using this strategy, plus making our normal monthly payments. $1,035 of each payment goes to principal. But now it looks like if I do that, it'll still be six months until it's gone.

I just want to be free!!

I'm trying to come up with a plan B. What strategies have all of you used to pay off a $10,000 debt as quickly as possible?

I thought maybe. Big maybe, if I tried to keep going on low spend month in March and April, I could free up maybe $1000 to $1500 extra to send to the principal.

But there are a lot of maybes. I think we can reign in all the little expenditures and wastes of money, but I also have to pay for DS2s next session in his fitness class ($155), the freezer is empty and I need to call the farm to stock up on more meat ($200). And, we've got five birthdays between March 11 and April 8.

Birthdays

I've told DS1, who is turning 8, that we were going to do a birthday party at the house this year.

It's at least $300 to have a party at a 'place.'
His laser tag party ended up costing an arm and a leg last year, once all the extras were in.

I sold him on the idea of having a video game party with pizza and cakes at our place. Boys love video games. I don't know why. We're going to borrow more game systems and screens from friends, and set up stations around the house with multiplayer sega, wii, and playstation games going.

I hope it will be cheap, fun, and give me the incentive to clear out the other section of the basement and turn it into a tween hangout spot. I've been eyeing it forever. Now I have a deadline!

Trips

We can't do low spend forever though. I'm spending a week in New Orleans in May to visit friends. And, we have to take a family trip to Arizona in June, for DH's parents 50th wedding anniversary. They wanted to do a trip, and it's going to cost us a fortune, but what can I do. It's planned mostly, and it's a family obligation. Argh.

Low spend month/ mortgage payoff progress

February 26th, 2016 at 05:47 am

DH got a bonus today. I'm super thankful.

I was able to send $11,766 to the mortgage (which is our regular payment plus $10,000). I'll update the balance tomorrow when it posts to our account. I'm estimating we'll be around $9,750.

Still, the bonus was about $3,000 less than my wishful math projections, but I'll still take it. I'll just have to rework the plan to see when we can get this house paid off!

Part one of the new plan is to stick with low spending into March. I feel like No Spend February was a great success, even though on paper it looked like a disaster. We had a budget of $150 a week for food, entertainment, etc. We actually stuck to that!

On paper, the month looks worse because DH and DS2 destroyed my $1500 mac laptop that I adored by spilling coffee on the keyboard. $800 to fix it, so I said no, and bought a $500 windows laptop, which I actually do not like, but hey, I can't rationalize spending a whole lot on another Mac in a house with two little boys and a clumsy DH. I can't skip the computer. I need it to work. (I will be deducting it as an expense on my taxes next year!) But that was still $500 cash out that wasn't expected.

Then, the electricity in the kitchen went out. All the outlets only. The circuit in the panel just got old and went bad. We paid our unemployed electrician friend $100 to come fix/replace it. Money out, but still cheaper than the service call alone for our normal electrical company. And obviously, it couldn't wait. As fun as it was to brew coffee on the floor in the dining room, and run an extension cord to the microwave...

Sigh. I'm still sad about the mortgage, but oh well. Part of it is our fault. The credit card spending got out of hand before and immediately after Christmas, and I had to send $2500 to the cc company today. (It would have been much worse if we hadn't done No Spend Month. We paid a huge chunk of it last payday.) I keep kicking myself, but it's done. It's like that every year. I'll try to do better next Christmas!

The good news is it's paid in full with a zero balance, all the other bills are paid in full too, and I have enough left in the bank to pay the next two weeks of expenses in cash. (Barring any more unforseen disasters!)

No Spend Month really helped me hit the reset button. I've had 3 NSD this week alone. I can't remember the last time I did that.

It also threw a light on my time poverty issue. I realize time management is key for me. I only have 2hours, 45 minutes alone every day to work, finish editing my first novel (so I can send it out for rejection. Yay!), and do anything I need to do but can't do with the kids around. So yes. Time is precious! With no spend month, I cut down extra trips and errands--to one a week-- and that did free up a little bit of time each week.

I told DH we're sticking with the cash in the envelope system we used for NSM. He seemed pouty, even after I told him the budget had gone up. I think he just doesn't like the idea of limits, even though he actually isn't a big spender.

Still, if we double the budget to $300 a week, we'd have plenty left each payday to throw at the mortgage. And really, after cutting back to $150 a week, $300 seems like a king's ransom!

Everything that can go wrong...

February 16th, 2016 at 05:44 am

No/low Spend Month was going great. We ended our first two weeks under budget, with $16 left over. I was feeling in control of life again and my urge to spend money was curbed. All was well.

Then, life happened. Dh and DS2 were watching videos of whales eating krill on my computer. Then they spilled a quart of hot coffee on the keyboard and immediately fried it. I hadn't backed up the data in two weeks (shame on me). So I lost two weeks of work on my novel and of freelance articles and interviews. The day before they were due. This was a beautiful Macbook air laptop that I adored. long battery life, quiet keyboard, no crapware. Alas, $2000 down the drain. The warranty doesn't cover spills. Despite my long-standing rules of no eating or drinking near my computer. Garrr...

I tried to disguise my sadness and anger. (You know how it is When you're a mom, you've got nothing for yourself. I just wanted one thing of mine to not be ruined, destroyed or messes with! No luck!). We took it to Microcenter. For $40 they did a diagnostic, to see what parts were damaged and if they could be replaced. The bad news: $800 to fix it. The good? The hard drive was fine. I paid $50 (!) for a 1 terrabyte external drive and they moved all my files to it. They saved it all! The guys at Microcenter were top notch. I'm a fan.

So...then I had to laptop shop. I decided I wasn't going to buy a new Macbook. I cant justify an expensive laptop. I have to think disposable, because I live in a house with three males, two of whom are 7 or under, and it's only a matter of time before one of them does something to the laptop that ISN'T covered by the warranty.

After much agonizing, I chose an Acer Aspire with an Intel 5 something or other and a 1 terrabyte HD . It had the longest battery life and the least clunky keyboard, and cost $479. More than I wanted to spend, but half the price of the cheapest macbook. But boy, let me tell you. I was spoiled. None of these windows machines are as quiet, long-batteried, or nice as macs!

The keyboard on this thing is still way too loud, which sounds crazy of me to mention, until I tell you I often have to work inside federal courtrooms, typing, and you can hear a pin drop in there--unless I'll be there typing!

So yes. Halfway through No Spend Month, and I'm it with nearly $600 out of pocket for a busted laptop. My heart is still sick over it, but there was no way around it.

*****In Other News******

On the bright side. I took my (single) sister to a movie for valentine's day. We saw Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies and you know what? It was way better than I thought it would be! The writers were very clever, and there were a lot of top-tier English actors/actresses in the cast. They did a nice job with what could have been a half-ass schlock movie.

As for the mortgage. In past posts, I've done some wishful math calculations in trying to figure out how to pay the mortgage off this spring, instead of in another 18 months as planned.

The great news is that DH is getting a bonus. It's $2000 less than last year, but that's okay. It'll be enough that we can make a huge dent in the mortgage balance. I won't know exactly how much until it's in the checking account.

I still haven't received two of my freelance 1099s, so I don't know exactly if and how much tax refund we will be receiving. I'm going to call the companies this week. Or company? One was bought out, and I don't think it exists anymore. Ugh. The headache! Anyway, the plan is to put the tax refund toward the mortgage as well. I'm estimating it'll be at least $3000. (Plus a possible state refund?)

In an ideal world, if the bonus and taxes work out, I maybe just maybe might be able to pay the house off by July without taking any money out of savings. Which is the huge part. When I came up with this crazy plan, I anticipated draining at least half the money out of the savings account, but it looks like it might not be necessary! Hazzah! Okay okay I'm getting ahead of myself! I already know how life throws curveballs. Let's hope for no more!

No Spend Month progress.

February 4th, 2016 at 05:09 pm

Here's a quick recap of the first few days of No Spend Month!

Monday
No spend Day, no car day for me, no spend day for DH. (He drives to the gym during lunch hour every day.)

House: I vacuumed and picked up the house. I also began the big job of sorting and organizing the library. We have a lot of books, and a lot of bookcases, but they are in disarray. I'm pulling books out, dusting the shelves, getting rid of some books, and then trying to organize the shelves. It's going to take a few days.

For dinner, we had grass fed ribs, roasted beets, and broccoli-cheese rice, ice cream with caramel sauce for dessert.

Tuesday
No spend day, no drive day for me,and for hubby

Hubby is moping about No Spend Month. He really wanted Mexican restaurant food for lunch. It's weird. He usually doesn't spend much or crave those sorts of things. He's probably thinking about it because he's been told he can't. Oh well. I told him I'd make mexican for dinner on Friday night.

House: I cleaned the microwave and the air hood filter (blech), and the fish tank. I made a batch of all-purpose cleaner (vinegar and seventh gen. dish detergent.) Also ran a cleaning cycle on the HE washing machine with vinegar.

Cool tip: use the dirty fish tank water to water houseplants. It's super good for them. Lots of nitrogen and nutrients in the fish poop!

For dinner, we had meatloaf, mashed potatoes, dinner rolls, and green beans.

Wednesday

Well, the spell is broken. I spent money today. And drove. We were out of milk, a staple for the boys, and needed a few other things from the grocery.

I spent $72.70.

$18.10 was at Aldi's, for cashews ($11), tortilla chips, sweet peppers for Friday's fajita dinner, and vanilla yogurt for DS2's breakfast.

The rest was at Kroger, 4 gallons of organic milk @$24, cat food @ $12, bubble bath and cheese curls, then all the valentines for both son's class exchange next week. (DS2 has a kid with severe allergies in the class, so I was limited in what I could pick), plus two fancy Godiva choco bars for each teacher @$3 each.

I drove 12 miles today, 7 of it taking DS2 to his morning gymnastics class. I tried to get a free vacuum for the car at the place next to the grocery store, but everyone else in town had the same idea, and there wasn't a free spot. Boo.

For dinner, we're having pork chops, sweet potatoes, home-canned apple sauce, and cauliflower. Strawberry jello for dessert.

DH is going to a movie with our friend tonight. (Spent $3 out of pocket because the old $25 gift card I found didn't cover two tickets!)

Thursday
Drove 15.1 miles, taking DS1 to swim classes. I knew it was far. I didn't know it was that far.

Spent : $10.49, Wendy's, usual once a week eat out after swim.
Junior frosty was free because we had a key tag.

We finished DS1's Pinewood derby car for Cub Scouts. It's our first time trying. It looks like something out of Mad Max but he did a huge chunk of the work, so I'm proud of him.

Dinner was creamy chicken soup with homemade drop dumplings and pumpkin muffins.

Random thoughts during No Spend Month

Doing more good in the world. I just realized DH's company matches 100 percent of charitable donations. That means we've left thousands of dollars on the table for orgs we care about these past years. Sigh. HIs homework this week is to find out how we can get the company to match our donations, so we can put more money into the organizations and causes we care about.

No Spend Month Budgeting.

I think the key to a successful No spend month is to spend as little as possible in the early days of the month, when the cupboards and the gas tanks are still full. I'd rather have money in the budget at the end of the month, when the reserves are gone and we're scraping by.

Wishful math-ing, counting chickens.

February 1st, 2016 at 02:10 pm

So, I'm doing wishful calculating, trying to figure out if we can pay off the house this spring. I know know know I shouldn't and can't count on anything until it's in the bank account, but I've been wishful math-ing.

First wish, that hubby gets a bonus this year, and it's close to what it was last year. Sigh. No word on that yet. Last year, it hit on the last paycheck in February. Fingers crossed we hear something soon.

Math wish. IF he gets a bonus and IF it's close to last year's amount, we can put $14,000 to the mortgage, leaving $6,000 to pay.

I'm working on the taxes. It is very frustrating because, although I try my best to keep our tax and financial lives simple, it takes forever to get all of our forms. I'm 1099, and I have gotten NO 1099s. And, one of the companies I work for was bought by another company in JUne, so that will likely slow things down even more. Ugh. So, I used placeholder estimates of my income, to at least see what maybe maybe we will get as a refund. So far, about $3500. Which would put the mortgage balance near $2500. We'd make two regular payments in between those big windfalls coming in, so we'd be at $500.

Which meant if my fondest math dreams came true we could PAY OFF THE HOUSE AND NOT TOUCH THE SAVINGS ACCOUNT. Which would make me die and go to heaven. But as I said, I'm counting my chickens. Fingers crossed.

Hopefully, we'll know something soon!

No spend month starts now!

January 31st, 2016 at 07:52 pm

And I'm totally excited! I'm not dreading this no spend month at all. We have $700 in cash to last us the month, a freezer full of meat and a full gas tank. What more can a family need?

Of course, the prize is in sight, which makes No Spend Month easier: paying off the mortgage much much faster. And, I'm planning to spend more time cleaning,scrubbing and organizing. I'm looking forward to having a cleaner house (fingers crossed it works...)

My only worry: the kids! We have Cub Scout and other events this month that are the most likely to be the budget busters. I'm trying not to stress. I'm going to focus on having as many No Spend Days as possible, especially this first couple of weeks, and then hope that we have enough money left to pay for the kid stuff.

Let the adventure begin!

Prepping for No Spend February, car update

January 29th, 2016 at 06:38 am

February is no (low) spend month. I'm setting the budget for groceries, gas, and all other spending at $700 for the month for the four of us. I'd like to skate by at $600, but the last time we did this, we only had one son and he was 6 months old, and we managed on $400 for the month. Now we have two, and they are 6 and 7, so they need things like food. They drink milk like we own a cow, so that's why the jump from $400 to $700. We'll see how it goes. If it goes well, we might do it again later this year for the same or lower budget.

We're hoping to free up cash to put toward the mortgage. I'm getting antsy and want to see if we can pay it off THIS year instead of next, with a combination of tax refunds (if we get one...) , cash and ef savings.

I'm excited about no spend month. I've lined up a bunch of cleaning and organizing projects around the house. (Hey, cleaning is free!) Hopefully, those will improve the look and function of our house, which always makes me feel better. I'm also kind of looking forward to being home more and being able to say no to things, as in, events and this or that. Every weekend, all we do is run around to this event or that. And granted, I love having friends and a busy social life. But it'll be nice to put that on hold so I can concentrate on all the stuff that gets pushed to the side when we're busy.

Yard Sale!
The kids want to have another yard sale, since they made about $40 on their cookie stand last year. If I can purge enough of their stuff and ours, I'll consider it. Yard sales are a lot of work, but we made more than $200 last year! I could use that!

But Before We Can Start...
Of course, this is a jam packed weekend ahead of no spend month. I'm throwing my sister a birthday party. She has severe anxiety about parties and having people over, but she wants to get over that, so as a gift, she asked me to help her throw a party at her house. This is HUGE for her.

So, I'm supplying the food and booze, music, etc. (This is where it will get spendy, although I think I can skate by for under $100.)

I think the party will be great. I want her to see that her home is her sanctuary from the rest of the world, and you should be able to share that with your friends without freaking out about it. Our bffs are at our house all the time, and it's great. I like that we can all stop by each others places and chat, or have a drink or a snack, and I want my sister to have that feeling too. It's life enhancing. And cheaper than always meeting them out somewhere!

Car Update!
Also, in my last post, DH's car wouldn't start and was kaput in the garage. Well, the darn thing only needed spark plugs. Can you believe it??? Darn thing needed a tune up. Honda knows how to make a car. He's had it since 1997, and all we've ever had to do to it was tires, oil changes and now spark plugs. The darn thing will never die.

Car is dead, plus free home improvement, with pics

January 11th, 2016 at 09:34 am

DH's car won't start. It's got 250k miles on it. (a 1997 Honda). It cranks but won't turn over. Yay. I don't know how much it will be to get that fixed, but it's a big cloud of unknown in my already stretched budget. It serves me right. His dad and I were driving around in it at Xmas, telling DH he needed to fix all the things wrong with it. And here we are. Darn it. Stupid thing couldn't wait to break until after the house was paid for????

Anyway...

I'm trying really super duper hard not to spend money unnecessarily. This directly clashes with being stuck inside in winter, which is the season I want to do and complete house projects. So, I'm been looking for cheap and free home improvement projects that improve the look and function of our house. Thankfully, cleaning and organizing are mostly free.

This weekend, I redid the hall closet. It's tiny, with a tiny door, and the kids are still small, so they just throw their backpacks on the doorknob and their coats on the closet floor and call it a day. Um no... It was a mess, first thing you see in the door.

I hung a lower rod for the kids, so they can hang up their own coats. I installed a few hooks on the inside of the door for backpacks, and sorted all the hats, mittens and sunglasses into a shoe holder on the inside of the door. I also put extra backpacks, lunch bags, and scarves in bins on the top shelf.

It was a free project because I used things I already had around the house. I was already using the shoe holder in the closet. But half of it was empty, so I cut it in half and moved an underused hook from another closet onto the door for the backpacks. The lower rod used to be for the kids costumes in their closet, but they never hung them there, so it was unused. I already had the bins on the shelf. I just added a box from aldi to hold the lunch boxes. Voila. Free. And functional. I might spring for a nice basket for the bottom, though, to hold all the roller skates and winter boots.



My second free project was organizing my dresser. I wasn't planning to, but I saw a short video on apartment therapy about the virtues of storing your t-shirts and jeans vertically instead of in stacks in your drawers. Something about being able to see everything. I thought it was worth a try. Boy. So far so good! It's so easy to find what I'm looking for AND each drawer holds soooooooo many things. I used to have two drawers of pants. Now, everything fits in one! And... now I know I have too many pairs of black pants.

In other unfun house news, I spent the weekend bleaching mildew off of my bathroom walls (the last owner painted with oil-based paint, a big no no in a bathroom, so now it molds. Argh.).