ElysianConfusion

March 14, 2012

Progress over Perfection

Filed under: budgets,debt,mess,money — by elysianconfusion @ 1:06 pm

Now I’m going to do something (again) I dread doing, even though no one actually reads this blog. I’m going to put out the numbers for the debt and the interest rates.

Ready?

Debt Amount Rate Month Paid Off
Visa 0 8.5% February 2011
Bank of America $0 9.9% February 2012
Upromise $0 11.15% March 2012
Citi $12,756.39 9.15% January 2013
Car #1 $0 4.7% March 2012
Car #2 $4417.30 2.9% May 2013
Home Equity Variable $11,638.20 4.0% June 2013
Home Equity Fixed $72,050.76 3.99% October 2015
Student Loan $17,226.39 2.9% January 2014
Mortgage $181,940.65 3.0% March 2019

In November, we were at $319,589.11 – today that is down to $300,029.69. That’s $19,559.42 lower in four months. I just paid our minivan off yesterday – woohoo! In February we paid off a credit card, then moved another to our home equity line for two reasons. First, the rate is less than half, saving us LOTS of interest. The second reason is that we can deduct home equity interest from our taxes, whereas credit cards do nothing for us there despite all the money we send them.

I wish it went faster. I know I should be pleased to see zeros in that table, and I know we are making progress, but it just feels eternal.

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November 18, 2010

Giving Thanks for Every Day

Ok, first of all, today’s grand total is… no drum roll, I think … $352,211.05. Down by $2,274.39.

And what have I accomplished? Feels like nothing much. I did decide to charge $40/hour for copy writing and editing. My husband said $50, another friend suggested $75. The range out there was huge. At the end of the day, I felt like it was my first free lance job and I don’t know how I’m going to do, and it’s my brother in law. So. There you have it.

I’m really wishing I could consolidate my mortgage and home equity loans, but you know what? I really can’t. I don’t have enough equity to be allowed to do it. And because my loans are through my credit union and have no affiliation with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, I can’t do anything like the Making Home Affordable plan. What annoys me even more is that I don’t even want to reduce my payments or increase my terms! I just want to fix the buggers at a low rate so I’m not worried about future adjustments. Seems like I’m totally out of luck on that front. (Can you hear the huge sigh?)

I haven’t yet figured out new 529 plans. I haven’t figured out whether my 401k dollars are going in the right place. I hate trying to figure it out. I’ve read that Index Funds are the way to go but that the ING Retirement Plans have index funds with high associated costs. I also gathered that I shouldn’t look at MorningStar ratings, which is included in my ING account and apparently partly what the people who choose available funds for my account are using. Great.

Anyone want to help me out here?

1164 ING Index Solution 2055 Port Adv:

Operations

Gross Prosp Exp Ratio 1.06% of fund assets

Net Prosp Exp Ratio 1.06% of fund assets

Management Fee 0.10%

12b-1 Fee 0.50%

Other Fee .

Miscellaneous Fee(s) 0.46%

Fund Inception Date 03-08-10

They all seem similar.

Still, with all of this, I’m thankful for my family and my life, and I know we are so fortunate in so many ways.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

February 13, 2010

Owning Your Mistakes

Filed under: budgets,crazy,debt,mess,money — by elysianconfusion @ 3:30 pm
Tags: , , ,

Now I’m going to do something I dread doing, even though no one actually reads this blog. I’m going to put out the numbers for the debt and the interest rates.

Ready? And yes, I know it’s awful.

Debt Amount Rate Month Paid Off
Visa $9,018.87 8.5% February 2011
Bank of America $9,474.75 9.9% November 2011
Upromise $16,672.85 11.15% September 2012
Citi $17,566.20 9.15% March 2013
Car #1 $9,538.98 4.7% June 2012
Car #2 $11,978.64 2.9% May 2013
Home Equity Variable $18,468.68 4.0% August 2013
Home Equity Fixed $63,920.19 6.5% February 2015
Student Loan $20,712.83 2.9% June 2015
Mortgage $194,710.36 3.5% November 2018

So, scary though that might be, here’s something scarier. If we had no snowball plan? Last debt paid off March 2034. And total interest without a snowball $153,130.50. OMG! With my current plan we pay almost $80,000 less in interest. That… that is just mindblowing. We may not pay it back in exactly the order listed…. We know paying the avalanche method would save us about 2k. But it would also take us a year and seven months to pay off the next bill. That’s not much progress (and talk about delayed gratification). And with this plan we’ll have paid our house off in 17 years (instead of 30) and we’ll be under 50 with no debt.

Also, for those thinking why the f*** do they have two car payments, believe me, we tried to figure out how to get rid of them. Basically we could sell our cars for a very slight profit (or possible loss) and then we’d have to go find and somehow pay for two replacement cars that were safe for the kids. If we find a time when we can just sell one or the other (or both) and get a reasonable replacement, we will do that.

Anyway, that’s where we’re at. However, I do think we’ll spend less time getting out of this hole than we took going in! And maybe we’ll get to shave some time off this plan if we get bonuses, dividends, and stop paying for childcare (eventually that *will* happen and that will add another $1,050 to our monthly snowball (currently at $659) and cut our debt much faster).

February 12, 2010

Kicking it to the Curb

YES! Just paid off the second credit card. There’s progress! I’m still working on Matt’s 75%/25% plan, I haven’t actually managed to incorporate that yet.

April 20, 2009: $403,438.14

February 12, 2010: $372,062.35

Difference: 31,375.79

Yes, that’s 9,044.92 down from last month.

How? We used the largest portion of my husband’s bonus to pay down debt. We also got a few things (the snow blower and an HTPC — which is totally worth the $325 or so we spent — we do not pay for cable, so everything is either online or via Netflix ). We also used our tax refund towards debt reduction.

However… and I seriously understand why this might have been a mistake… we also bought stock in my husband’s (privately held) company. Here’s the logic:

1) We’ve always wanted to buy stock but our finances were too muddled to do it.

2) We believe in the company, my husband has been there 15+ years.

3) It will pay dividends which we can use toward debt.

4) We think it will have a higher return than paying off debt.

Is it a mistake? Maybe. We also have funds there via profit-sharing (company contributes on his behalf). You’re not supposed to put all your eggs in one basket, I know. But it’s medical software, which has done pretty well even in this recession, and there are a lot of new requirements out there for hospitals and health care providers. The company is growing (yes, hiring!) and having stock also looks good for him with the company. The money is semi-liquid — he can sell it back if necessary and we’ll get a better return on it than in any checking or savings account.

Is it still a mistake? I don’t know. We’re looking at it as savings and our reward for paying off two credit cards. And in my fancy spreadsheet it only changes the dates by a couple of months…

January 20, 2010

Finance for Women

Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool contributed a new post to Get Rich Slowly about women and retirement this morning.

This should be a compelling topic not only for women but for couples. We need to understand how our earnings differ and how that can impact retirement, and how divorce can impact our retirement plans.

I’ve probably spent too much time worrying about divorce and retirement because my own parents split up when I was 27. I can’t really comment about the divorce itself — I think there’s probably a lot in that relationship that I will never know or understand. However, my parents’ financial situation was a disaster when they divorced and I can’t imagine that that didn’t contribute to the split. When their house finally sold, my mother paid off over $60,000 in credit card debt for both of them. She got the rest of the proceeds from the house and he got whatever was in his retirement account. Because my father didn’t cooperate with any of the divorce proceedings, my mother basically had to go on an old copy of his retirement benefits statement. I know she tried to be as fair as possible given the information she had.

My mother paid off every debt she was aware of and put the rest of the money into a retirement account. That money doesn’t begin to make up for what she lost in social security contributions and any possible retirement contributions she could have made if she’d worked full time instead of taking care of her children and home. (She wasn’t exclusively a homemaker like the woman in this NY Times article, but part time work in spite of getting a Masters in Social Work doesn’t add up to much).

My father, meanwhile, has pretty much spent all of his retirement income and lives on social security. I do not know what it’s been spent on, but I know he has nothing left.

I don’t even consider social security when I look at our retirement — I assume it won’t be there (so I hear — if it materializes, it’s a bonus). But my husband does have a lot more in his retirement fund than I do. I hope that we will continue to share our lives, and I hope that we fully fund our retirement accounts and pay off all our debts. It’s going to take work, but it’s work we’re willing to do, and we’re doing it together. I hope that journey will make us that much stronger as a couple.

Still I sleep easier knowing that I’m contributing to my own 401(k) and that I will have put money into social security if it turns out to still be there in 25-30 years, and I won’t be left with no clue how to handle finances. I’m in the workforce already, so I don’t need to worry about how to get a job after years at home. I have plenty of friends who stay home with their kids. I don’t know what the right path is for them, but the costs of childcare and dealing with commuting and job stress certainly can make both parents working a stressful balance. I believe for my family this is the right choice.

November 17, 2009

Oh the TERROR

Filed under: children,crazy,mess,parents — by elysianconfusion @ 5:29 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I had a bus issue yesterday with my first grader. This is our first year taking the bus, and honestly so far it’s been pretty uneventful. We missed the bus one morning (I don’t know whose clocks were wrong). The bus absolutely will not stop unless they see you there waiting. You must be visibly there for your child to get picked up and dropped off, no exceptions (I’ve had to RUN from the garden to be at the right spot for stopping, and we only have a little half acre).

So, although I was waiting at the end of the driveway for my oldest to get off the bus, the driver (I know he’s a substitute driver this week) drove right by me and down the street. I ran after on foot, but he must not have seen me.

I raced to the school with my youngest in tow to find out where to get the first grader (I tried calling the school but there was no answer). In the school lot there was another driver there waiting with a child, and she said that our sub didn’t have a radio so she couldn’t call him, but the sub *would* bring him back to school and I should wait at the front of the school. When the driver returned, my child wasn’t on the bus. Already, let me tell you, my heart was racing. Even when the bus didn’t stop at our house I was worried. What do we parents do? We dread lost children, kidnapping, molestation and murder. Even though I don’t watch the news much, this seeps in to fill my heart with fear. And I do *not* know this new driver.

Well, the driver said he left my son at my house. “Isn’t there someone there?” he asked. But no… if the child doesn’t get off for any reason you are supposed to go to the school to pick them up. I drove home as fast as I could but the poor child was already crying and locked out and home alone for the first time in his life. I know it was only a few minutes, and I know he wasn’t harmed. But he was scared, I was scared… I showed him where the spare house key is hidden, told him to let himself  in and dial 911, and that he could walk next door to the neighbors as well.

I think the sub of all people should have a radio or some way to contact him? And shouldn’t he have just brought my son back  to school as they are supposed to? And aren’t they never supposed to leave a child without the parent there to collect them? I guess the sub was from a different town with different guidelines. I wish I’d known what he was going to do.

My sensitive eldest boy is quite upset and doesn’t want to take the bus again until our regular driver comes back, which is fine.

What a scary & stressful day.

November 16, 2009

Flu & Other Fun

Filed under: budgets,children,debt,mess,money — by elysianconfusion @ 5:56 pm

I think I had the swine flu. I mean seriously, what a terrible name. Fortunately I didn’t get too sick & everyone else in the family seems fine.

Anyway, I just did something a little, well, maybe a little silly. I just paid an extra 37$ to my mortgage. It’s not my highest interest, or the intended first payoff, but I was SO close to being under 196k, I just had to give it a little extra. I didn’t have enough to pay off the first bill in the snowball plan (but next month! only 345.65 to go!) Now, I realize it’s ludicrous, but now my mortgage is 195,999.13. Plus that got my total under 386k; my total is now $385,965.25.  And that is 3151.92 down from October. Is that right? Wow, that’s kind of a lot for us.  That’s 686.22 more than last month? How’s that even possible? I don’t know, maybe one of my numbers wasn’t updated last month, because I’ve checked and I think I’m right.

That’s 17,4872.89 less than April. Too bad I can’t just not pay other things and do one at a time. They’d go down really fast with a single 4k+ payment.  JD at Get Rich Slowly reminded me today (via post, not personally) that slow & steady wins the race.  I’ll try not to be too impatient.

Now, anyone have any suggestions for Christmas budgets?

October 26, 2009

Insurance is Baffling

Filed under: insurance,mess — by elysianconfusion @ 5:11 pm

Once again I have the returning bill. The insurance company insists that I selected an out of network doctor. I don’t even know what to do yet. How frustrating!

Do I just pay the bill and keep arguing with the insurance?? Do I just submit the receipt for my flex spending and forget about it? My problem really is that if this doctor wasn’t in network, how can I ever be sure that another I pick is in network?

Apparently it’s completely unreasonable that I should think the doctor I selected from their website should be covered. And I truly do not understand that they can’t update their website if it’s incorrect. Why ever not? It’s a database, I’m sure. What a waste of everyone’s time.

October 19, 2009

Where does all the money go?

Filed under: birthday,budgets,children,crazy,debt,family,mess,money,Uncategorized — by elysianconfusion @ 5:39 pm
Tags: ,

I should probably wait more than a month before going back to check our progress. Because for all the money rushing out, it doesn’t feel like it’s going down a bit!

Right now, we’re at 389,117.17

Last month it was 391,582.87.

2465.70 down in a month. I guess it’s progress. Possibly I should add that this month, instead of 71.04 for our snowball, it was 551.04. (Which, ahem, might have been a little over optimistic this month.)

We also had our 4 year old’s birthday party, complete with a dinosaur cake (mine wasn’t this pretty). I was going to post a photo, but the head fell off. There’s a reason I’m not a professional cake decorator. I still find it hard to budget for birthdays, and got into a whole argument with my husband, who went out shopping with the list, but spent almost all the money in the envelope. That was for groceries and the party (I combined two envelopes). But it was also for groceries for the rest of the month. He says he just got the stuff on the list, but I say you have to keep in mind the total amount and decide where to cut back as you shop. You can’t always have everything on the list. Especially if you ever shop at BJs. They kill me every time.  I think the bulk pricing can make things cheaper, but sometimes you just spend all your money there.

So, we’re pinching pennies big time here for the next 11 days or so.  Of course we have tons of stuff in our pantry, and the cars have gas, so it’s really a matter of making it through without spending extra. I’m not entirely sure we’ll make it. I’m always playing catchup from the last month, so I take away from things that are budgeted (because we need them, so my plan was good to budget for them). Not sure where to take away from this month, there’s nothing left to cut.

Still, I got my social security statement on Friday, and I earned more last year than I’d actually ever earned in my life (and 5 months of last year I was working part-time). And my current pay stubs tell me that I’ve already earned more this year than last. So where does all that money GO?

September 15, 2009

Anniversary

Filed under: debt,mess,money,parents — by elysianconfusion @ 3:15 pm

Today is our 8th wedding anniversary. I think we’ve had a great eight years and I still think my husband is lovely most of the time :-).

I don’t know exactly how much debt we entered our marriage with… enough, to be sure. We weren’t doing a super job of looking at it all. Honestly, looking at all the debt is really painful. So… we’ve been sort of ignoring it, which is a terrible idea. So this spring I decided to take a look and add it all up. And added up… it’s truly awful. Because I want to be super terrified by the debt, I include cars, mortgage and home equity line and student loans in the grand total.

April 20: 403,438.14

Oh my god. What the hell have we been doing and where is all our money going?  We don’t make minimum wage here, but I did stay home with the kids for three years. I’m not sure if our debt would have been better or worse if I had continued working full time — childcare costs for the last (nearly) two years are painfully prohibitive.

Just to clarify — we do not take expensive vacations. We haven’t flown anywhere since our honeymoon eight years ago. We do have a little bit of a home-improvement addiction, I suspect. Our house needed a lot of work and that’s certainly *part* of it.

But in April I made a budget and we’ve been pretty good about sticking to it. We both read Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” and saved our little 1k emergency fund, and I’ve been reading personal finance blogs, mainly Get Rich Slowly.

In July, we got to 396,519.24

So 6918.90 in three months and saved an emergency fund. I guess that’s not so bad.

Today I updated our little excel spreadsheet, and it’s 391,582.87.

Since April we’ve paid down 11,855.27.  And next month we’ll go below the 390k mark.

The snowball amount has been low, only 71.04 (hey, that 4 cents counts!) and we haven’t been doing great at snowflaking (adding all those little extras into more payments). I’m hoping this is due mainly to the high cost of child care for the summer and needing to adjust my highly optimistic budget from time to time. If we continued at just this rate exactly, we’d pay off all credit cards and both the cars by April 2014.  If I then proceeded to pay off the home equity, that would be April 2016, and the student loan would not be far behind in July 2016.  And finally the mortgage would follow in February 2020, which would be 18.5 years instead of 30. I’m hoping to speed that up considerably — but I guess we’ll see!

My best recommendation for a debt reduction calculator is from http://www.vertex42.com/Calculators/debt-reduction-calculator.html.

Best budget spreadsheet for us is from Gather Little by Little (http://www.gatherlittlebylittle.com/2008/05/personal-budget-spreadsheet/).

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