March 2016 Progress

 March Madness

Kinda feels that way anyway.  I’m not sure what exactly happened, but we seem to have been a lot more scattered this month and much less disciplined.  We’re hoping to recharge with a little trip to the beach and come back ready to be a little more focused.

We hit another milestone this month with the final payment sent to Mrs. C’s student loan.  We started the year with five outstanding debts on the paydown tracker and now we have three.  That spreadsheet is starting to get a little boring.  I think I’ll keep it that way!

Current Goal Status:
Financial goals:
  • Reduce overall outstanding debt (including mortgage) by 15%.
    1. Debt reduction for the month was 7.56% which puts us on track for a 16.63% overall reduction for the year. Paying off the student loan balance puts us ahead of our goal!
  • Make contributions to investments (taxable and retirement) of 15% of salary.
    1. We have contributed 12.59% of our income to investment accounts including 401k, 529, ESPP, and Brokerage.
    2. This number dropped a bit from last month due to the large influx from the tax refund.
    3. Since we have more free cash flow each month, I’ve increased the amount going to the investment account by $100/month.  I’m confident that I will be able to increase this again this year as well as making a lump sum contribution later in the year.
  • Eliminate outstanding credit card debt.
    1. Outstanding balances eliminated in Feb.
    2. No interest accrued on revolving balance in March
  • Eliminate remaining student loan debt.
    1. We were able to eliminate this balance with our income tax refund.  No more student debt!
  • Make a contribution to an IRA.
    1. No progress here… yet!
  • Generate revenue from a new income stream.
    1. No progress here… yet!
Expense Goals

Expense goals in Feb were not much better than January.  Still, it was a little better:

  • Meet the $800 per month grocery budget
    1. We actually did this.  March grocery expenses came to $738.  Not keeping up with meal planning and actually making it to the grocery store seems to make this an achievable goal.
  • Reduce dining out to $400 per month (2015 – $600)
    1. Ok, so highest dining out month yet.  We spent $924 on restaurants.  I kinda beat myself up on this topic earlier this month, but it’s been a crazy month all around with ‘life’.
  • Reduce entertainment/alcohol to $250 per month (2015 – $435)
    1. This was our highest month for entertainment as well at $548.  We entertained more, had date night twice this month and hit our last hockey game of the season (The Preds make the playoffs, then I’m heading to Nashville for a game!)
Personal Goals:
  • Meditate at least three days a week
    1. I meditated 16 days this month.  Consecutively!
    2. I owe part of this to the Headspace app.
  • Take walks at least three days a week
    1. Down to about 45k steps this month.  Between the cold early in the month and now extreme amounts of pollen, I’m not getting outside as much as I’d like.
  • Spend at least seven days camping
    1. Nothing this month, but plans in place for June and confirmed a trip to Cumberland Island, GA in October.
  • Go kayaking at least one time
    1. Still Brrr (the water still is anyway).  Not yet.
  • Take one family vacation
    1. I’m posting this from the beach.  Shh!
 Net Worth Update for Q1

Capture

Assets up 3.33% in Q1

Liabilities down 7.51% in Q1

Total Net Worth change of +17.04%

March Summary

Even with the frenetic pace of life and a frustrating amount of dining out this month we had a positive cash flow of $870.  With the extra buffer in cash flow, I also set up an additional recurring monthly transfer to our taxable investment account.

Right now, the kids really really REALLY want to head down to the pool.  It’s 65F here at the moment, but it’s sunny and they have unstoppable determination for some swimming.  My guess is that it’ll be a short adventure.  Stay tuned.

Cheers!

-cb3

Spring Has Sprung

One of my Favorite Times

wp-1458852483425.jpgThis time of year, as the leaf bids begin to pop on the trees and the early flowers are blooming is very enjoyable to me.  After the slightly negative tone of my last post, I wanted to focus on the positive and share a bit of what brings me joy and piece.

There’s a certain feeling that comes with the signs of new growth, longer days, and warmer air.  It’s nourishing to my soul and reassuring that life continues.  There’s the buzz in the air of the early pollinators beginning to go about their business.

wp-1458852499788.jpgI take solace in an early morning walk around the garden with a cup of coffee.  The warmth of the cup is a perfect balance to the cool but not cold air.  As I browse through my meager bonsai collection and garden beds, I look for the changes from one day to the next.  Things start to move quickly and I don’t want to miss any of it.

The Comfort of Routine

wp-1458852464306.jpgDuring the morning tour, I mentally take note of the chores that need to be done.  Most days I will need to water after I finish my coffee.  Sometimes my attention is caught by a pest taking up resident and I will need to come back around and spray during the evening.

The bonsai also require that I keep up with fertilizer and make sure that I’m rotating out the organic packets on schedule for optimal health.  I will also need to inspect the wiring on a regular basis to make sure that it’s doing its job and not beginning to cut into the bark of the tree as the branches swell from growth.

wp-1458852491814.jpgI’ve been told that this routine looks a bit ridiculous to the casual observer.  Mrs C’s friends have gotten a kick out of it.  That doesn’t bother me in the least.  The simple mechanical nature of it is almost meditative for me.  You see, plants are very easy going if you treat them right.  There’s not a whole lot of stress here.  It’s the diametric opposite of what I do for my day job.

Growing for the Future

One of the other key aspects that I enjoy about the bonsai hobby is being able to think generationally.  Some of the great masterpieces in Japan have been cultivated for decades and even centuries.  These trees are often cared for by multiple descendants of the same family.

wp-1458852458659.jpgEach year for the past few years, I have been starting seedlings with the intent to cultivate them as bonsai over their entire life.  It’s very humbling to know that this may even exceed my own lifespan.  With some species that I grow, I may never see them as mature bonsai.

Tying it Together

As I got close to finishing this post, it occurred to me that this type of cultivation is very similar to the work we do with personal finance.  We’re not always growing it for right now.  Sometimes, we’re not even growing it for us but for the next generation.

Today, I am focusing on appreciating life.  Despite the clouds of yellow death pollen.

Cheers!

-cb3

We’re Addicted to Convenience

I’m not proud of some of the items in this post. It’s not very frugal and slightly counter-productive but if I can’t be honest about it, how can I make progress?

1180slIt’s an Easy Trap

I’ve had this theory for the past couple of years that occasionally comes up in conversation with my wife or friends.  This theory is probably not an original idea that I had, but I can’t for the life of me remember a source to credit.

This is the idea that there are times when we chose to abstain from responsibility and have someone else do things for us whether it’s necessary or not.  We do it purely out of want.  I like to call it convenience addiction.

What Exactly is the Trap?

The trap is a little different for everyone, however I believe that it’s 100 percent mental. We convince ourselves that we should spend money to have someone else provide a good or service that we are entirely capable of providing for ourselves.

For us, the most common traps are food related. We dine out too often. We order pizza.

Sometimes it’s not food related.  I’m perfectly able-bodied and can take care of the lawn and yard work. That didn’t stop me from hiring a lawn crew to maintain the front yard.

Housekeeping is the other big one for us. It really doesn’t take a huge amount of time and effort to keep things clean. Yet here we are with a bi-monthly housekeeper to come in and do the deep cleaning.

How Do We Fall Into It?

Most of the time we let ourselves believe that the day has just been too much. We’re too tired to cook or clean. We’re stressed and just need to get out of the house for a change of scenery. We got caught up in weekend activities and didn’t get the meal planning and grocery shopping done. You get the picture.

Sometimes we, as partners, try to smooth things over for the other having a rough patch or down day.  Oh, I’ll just order a pizza since she’s not feeling well and I’ve had to work all day (I admit, I’m borderline Enabler in this regard).

These are just a few of the ways that we justify falling into the trap. I think on some level that our society conditions us to allow these rationales. What’s worse is knowing full well that we’re getting trapped and still allowing it to happen.

Why do we do it? I think the biggest reason is because it’s comforting. Having someone take care of us feels good. We do live in a very compressed stressed out society. Having one less chore feels like a win. Here’s the kicker, and the dangerous bit, for us… We can technically afford it.

Dodging the Pit

Here’s the tricky part.  How the hell do we keep this from happening?  Honestly, I’m not so sure I’ve got it figured out but I’ve got a few ideas.

  1.  Stop making excuses – Plain and simple.  We just need to quit excusing ourselves and allowing for poor behavior.  This part will take work since it involves breaking bad habits.
  2.  Establish and stick to a routine – We need to establish exactly when we’re going to do things like grocery planning and shopping and always do it then (with the exception of holidays and vacations, of course)
  3.  Have a fall-back plan for the routine – If for some reason the primary person responsible for a task can’t accomplish it, then we need a backup already planned out.  Coming up with an alternative on the fly allows for wiggle room and slippage.
  4.  Hold each other accountable – This is an area where I think we have some imbalance.  I tend to be more on the lenient/accommodating side (that’s a whole other story) and I think that puts me in a position where I take on more responsibility than I can handle which leads to more stress which leads to more convenience acceptance.

Really and truly, I know this isn’t something that gets fixed overnight.  It will take effort and I’m sure it will be one of those two steps forward one step back deals.  Regardless, right now it’s costing us money and potentially delaying our escape from the corporate rat-race.  This past week has seriously highlighted that fact and I almost dread doing the month-end analysis.  I think we can do better.

What do you guys think?  Who else has been trapped by convenience addiction?

Cheers!

-cb3

Can We Afford It?

Thinking Back

With all of the progress that we’ve made since the beginning of 2015, I’ve been doing some reflecting about how we got into the hole we were in and what’s changed about our approach to expenses.  Planning for our upcoming vacation put a few things in perspective as well.

danger deep excavationI’m not saying we’re perfect and we’ve got it all figured out.  There are still some challenges that we face on a weekly basis, but for major purchases (excluding things like houses and cars) it’s completely different.

We Really Need a…

Inevitably in life there comes a time when you really need (or want) a… something.  Maybe it’s a new dining set, or a replacement laptop, or it’s just time to get the heck out of town and take a vacation.  Whatever it is, it’s probably going to be an expense that you haven’t planned and don’t have a budget for.

The next part of the story is the bit that’s changed for me.  Presented with the need (or want), we have to figure out if we can (or should) afford it.

How it Used to Go

Once upon a time, in the not too distant past, being faced with a new unexpected expense would result in a simple check of the credit card balance.  It was simply a matter of whether we had the available free credit to handle the balance.

That was it.

It was a mistake.

There was never a thought for what that additional balance would mean to our finances.  If the credit was available, it was easy to think that we could handle the expense and things would work themselves out in the long run.  Oh how naive I was.

The New and Improved Way

Now we have several questions to consider when faced with a sudden expense.  I like lists, so I’ll lay the process out like that (though a flowchart may be in forthcoming if I think about it).

Here we go:

  1. Do we have cash on hand in the savings (not the emergency fund) to deal with this?
  2. If not, do we have the free cash flow in the next month to absorb the cost of the expense?
  3. If not, is it acceptable to accrue interest on this purchase if we can’t pay it off in the grace period and how much interest would that be?
    • I do want to say that I don’t plan to answer yes to this question ever again, but sometimes things happen (and that’s why we have an emergency fund)

If we get to point number three and i’m looking at an expense that’s more of a want than a need, then I have to say no.  We can’t afford it.

Also, let’s face it, some expenses come with emotional attachment as we experienced last year with one of our pets.  It was very difficult to say no because of the emotional impact to my wife.  However, having the list of criteria to go through logically made us really take a look at the impact of the decision.  In that case, we had extra money coming in soon enough that we could afford it.

It’s a Simple Exercise

If you have a handle on your monthly cash flow and budget, then this is a very easy exercise to do when faced with these kinds of decisions.  It can help take the emotion out of the equation and help determine the course of action in a thoughtful way.

For us, emotional impulsive spending is how we dug ourselves into a hole.  Getting out of that hole takes discipline and logic.

Cheers!

-cb3

The Taxes are Done, Dude

Filed Away

Another tax season has come and gone for the Canoe Dock household.  I filed a couple of weeks ago and the refund check cleared this past Friday.  I always get a little paranoid when I click the submit button and worry that I’ve goofed something up.  Our Next Life had a great post about emotional responses to taxes.

shutterstock_45292546We Got a Refund

The good news is that we were able to claim some of the daycare expenses since my wife worked some in 2015.  This helped put a little more back in our pockets.  I thought about claiming my home office since I work from home, but thought better of it since I’ve read that it can be a red flag for audits and since I occasionally goof off and work on personal projects in here.

The bad news (and I used to think this was good news) is that we got a large refund of approx. $6500 from Federal and $1700 from State.  In the past, we would have been overjoyed to receive what was perceived to be a windfall and would have immediately made plans for a vacation or project.  Now, I have a much better understanding that I have overpaid on my taxes and could have put the free cash flow to much better use and potentially have reduced some interest accrual.

This year, I anticipated the refund and already had a plan for the money.

How We Used the Refund

First and foremost, I allocated 70% of it to debt reduction and knocked out the last student loan with a $5500 payment!  Boom, no more student debt.  That loan has been with my wife since 2001 from her first degree.  It was from a larger private school so it hung around longer than her second degree which we paid off a couple of years ago.  This frees up $125/month in cash flow.

Second, we put around $1000 toward furniture in the living room.  This is something that my wife has been wanting to do for a long time (have at least one “adult” room in the house) and it did a lot for mental health to complete the room.  I console myself with the fact that the win was bigger than the extra expense.

Finally, we tucked away around $1500 into the savings account in anticipation of our beach trip in April.  I don’t plan on spending that much on the trip since the housing is already paid and we only need to worry about driving, meals, and tourism.  It’s very nice to know that the trip expenses are covered.  The leftover $200 went to the investment account.

What Needs to Change

Obviously, I’ve learned a lot about personal finance in the last year and I believe that I need to optimize my W-4 to reduce the amount of taxes being withheld.  There shouldn’t be a huge difference in income this year, so I plan to adjust it based on that projection so that we receive little to no refund.  I wouldn’t even mind if I had to pay a little.

For now, I’m looking forward to the extra positive cash flow each month as well as getting the garden set.  I can almost taste the fresh tomatoes!

Cheers

-cb3

 

February 2016 Progress

 Month of Highs and Lows

February certainly wasn’t an easy month.  We lost a family companion that had been with my wife for almost fifteen years.  You can read more about that here if you like.  The grieving process definitely had an impact on the weekly routines so I knew our budget would be a little out of whack.

We had two blocks of extra income this month with ESPP shares being sold and my bonus for the second half of 2015 arriving.  The extra money was mostly put toward outstanding debt, but some was used to cover the costs of our DIY project, our upcoming trip to Florida in April, and of course the additional vet bills.

To top it all off, I got a cold on the last day of the month.  Gross!

Current Goal Status:
Financial goals:
  • Reduce overall outstanding debt (including mortgage) by 15%.
    1. Debt reduction for the month was 4.41% which puts us on track for a 8.76% overall reduction for the year. Paying off the last credit card balance with the bonus was a huge boost!
  • Make contributions to investments (taxable and retirement) of 15% of salary.
    1. We contributed 15.83% of our income to investment accounts including 401k, 529, ESPP, and Brokerage.  A portion of the bonus is also put toward 401k and ESPP which puts us on track.
  • Eliminate outstanding credit card debt.
    1. The interest for the balance transfer card did show up on the Feb. statement and cost us $58.82.  I am OK with this since I thought it might happen originally and also because the balance is eliminated!
  • Eliminate remaining student loan debt.
    1. The only progress this month was the regular payment leaving a balance of $5600.
  • Make a contribution to an IRA.
    1. No progress here… yet!
  • Generate revenue from a new income stream.
    1. No progress here… yet!
Expense Goals

Expense goals in Feb were not much better than January.  Still, it was a little better:

  • Meet the $800 per month grocery budget
    1. Grocery planning/shopping  went to hell this month.  Over budget by $350.
  • Reduce dining out to $400 per month (2015 – $600)
    1. Over budget by $140 this month.  This is $50 lower than last month.
  • Reduce entertainment/alcohol to $250 per month (2015 – $435)
    1. This one is also over budget by $200 this month.  While it’s down by $65 from last month, there were extenuating circumstances this month that called for a few more distractions.
Personal Goals:
  • Meditate at least three days a week
    1. I managed one day this month.  Again, things got a bit unraveled this month.
  • Take walks at least three days a week
    1. Down to about 50k steps this month.  Not as good as I would have liked.
  • Spend at least seven days camping
    1. Nothing this month, but plans in place for June and maybe October.
  • Go kayaking at least one time
    1. Still Brrr.  Not yet
  • Take one family vacation
    1. Only five weeks until we go!
DIY Project Update

At the end of six weeks into the project, I have around 75% of the ceiling complete.  We also went and picked out the new sofa from Ikea.  We wanted something a little nicer, but didn’t want to spend a lot on it.  Finally, two new light fixtures arrived.  We switched from the old spot light type to a new hanging fixture.

wp-1457016426843.jpg

Even after two weeks or so of no progress, it’s starting to come together and I expect to have it completed in the next two weeks.  We still need some chairs and a coffee table.  Hopefully we can find a creative way to accomplish that without a lot of additional expense.

 Spring is for Growth

On a final note, I’m really looking forward to March.  It’s the time of year where things start growing again.  I’ve been doing the pre-Spring maintenance work on some of my bonsai and I can’t wait to start seeing leaves and flowers emerge.  It’s also time to play in the dirt and get the garden planted.  I have around 80 tomato plants started.  I will get fresh tomatoes in abundance this year!

Cheers!

-cb3

Do I Backup My Blog?

Backup580The IT Brain

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a poll on Twitter by The Yachtless asking whether folks backup their blogs.  Inside my brain there was that sound that a Mac makes when it powers on.  I’m an IT guy by trade, so this immediately piqued my interest.  I thought to myself, of course I do backups.  However, is my way the best way?

So, here’s a post about backups in general and some different techniques for WordPress in particular.

First Things First, What is a Backup?

Some of you out there may not have ever been exposed to backups or the need for them.  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I have and not always in the good way.  Have you ever had a hard drive fail and lost all your stuff?

Burned_harddisk_secumem_03

Well, no fear.  Backups to the rescue.  A backup is basically a copy of the important data that you want to keep.  We can’t assume that some thing won’t go wrong with the computer where the data currently lives, so we make a copy and keep it safe in another location.

If for some reason your website host ever crashes and loses your data, you now have a recent backup (good hosting companies should too) that you can have restored to the site.  All is well.

Great! Where Do We Keep It?

Before we get into the how’s of performing a backup, I wanted to talk about the choices one has for storing the backup.  Our choice of storage could affect the decision on which backup tool to use.

  • Local Storage – This is probably the simplest choice.  Just download the file directly to your Laptop or PC (even tablets or phones these days) and stick it somewhere that you’ll remember. For most use cases, this will suffice but there’s always the risk that you laptop will crash someday too.
  • Cloud Storage – This includes items like Google Drive, Amazon S3, Dropbox and Box.net.  Most of these offer a limited amount of storage for free with additional capacity available for a fee.  Depending on the size of your blog and the amount of time that you want to hold onto a backup, you may or may not use more than the free allotment.  I also like the fact that most of these have a desktop agent for your PC that can sync your files locally.  Now you have the backup in more than one place!
  • External Media – This is the old school method.  Once your backup is done, you copy it to some type of external media.  This could include a CD-RW, DVD-RW, thumb drive or, if you really want to geek out, a tape library (it’s DoD approved!).  You could do this once a month or so if you want to be extra careful.

How Do We Make a Backup?

There are a couple of different methods of backup depending on what you want to accomplish.  I’ll go through a few of the ones that I’ve discovered and some that I’ve used.  This is by no means an exhaustive list and there may be more out there.

  • CPanel – Up until recently, I had done all of my backups at the hosting level through CPanel.  I have more than just WordPress running on my hosting platform, so I still do this.   There can be some hoops to jump through to perform a restore based on the level of access that you have on your hosted platform.Here are the instructions from Hostgator:
    1. Log into cPanel.
    2. In the Files section, click on the Backups icon.
    3. Under Full Backup, click Generate/ Download a Full Website Backup.
    4. On the next page, select the Home Directory option from the Backup Destinationdrop-down menu.
    5. For Email Address, select whether or not you wish to receive an email notification once the backup is complete. (You may also change the notification email address in the provided field if you wish.)
    6. Click Generate Backup.
  • WordPress.com – The WordPress.com site offers a fee based plan that will enable site backups as well as additional spam protection.  I have not tried this service so I cannot speak to the effectiveness, but the price seems reasonable if you want to put the burden on a third party.
  • WordPress Plugins – There are many plugins available to help you manage backups.  Your choice might be influenced by the storage method that you choose.  I went with UpdraftPlus Backup and Restoration combined with a Dropbox account.  This runs nightly and I have a five day retention period.  At the end of each month, I go in to Dropbox and copy that backup to a monthly backup folder outside of UpdraftPlus’s control.  With Dropbox, I also have the desktop agent which syncs the file to my local PC for extra protection.

Warm Fuzzies

Now that we’ve got all of the backups set up and scheduled, we can head out for a beer!  Hopefully, we’ll never need to make use of the handy backup files but it feels good to know that we have them.

Give me a shout and let me know that you’re covered.

Cheers!

-cb3

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Spreadsheet 101 – Debt Pay-down Projection

Class in Session

I’ll be the first to admit that there are several aspects of life where I really let my nerd show.  Personal finance has rapidly become one of those and I especially enjoy formulating and applying spreadsheets to the tasks of managing finances.

Here and there I will do a post about a particular spreadsheet that I’ve found useful and describe how I put it together and why.  Also, for those that subscriber to the blog (I promise not to fill up your inbox!), you will get an email with links to template versions of the spreadsheets that I use.

The Original

The first spreadsheet that I did for my personal finance journey was one that I originally call ‘Financial Projection’.  This was a little bit of a misleading title since it was a bit more focused on tracking outstanding debts and projecting the year-end balances on those debts.

I’ve made some enhancements over the past couple of years, but I still use this sheet today.

The Layout

The spreadsheet contains multiple sheets with one sheet representing each year.

Each sheet uses the columns to represent months in the year.  There are fourteen columns for data.  The first data column at the beginning of the sheet shows the previous year-end balances for each debt.  The last columns shows the year-end balances for the current year.

Month Columns

At the top of the sheet there are some rows for meta-data.  The top row shows the month and the row below it contains the number of days in that month.  The only update made here is for February on leap years.

The next two rows show the total outstanding debt at the beginning of the month and the percentage of debt that has been paid down so far this year.

Total Debt Percent

These are sums based on the next set of rows which contain the details for each outstanding debt.

The Debt Section

Each outstanding debt in the spreadsheet consists of five rows.  I used the top row to show the projected balance for the beginning of the month (I have noticed that there are sometimes slight variances between my projected balance and the statement balance but I haven’t spent any time tracking down the difference).

The next row contains the statement balance for that month.  This is a value that I manually enter when I go to pay the bill.

The third row is for the payment amount.  Here is where I manually record the amount of money put toward the debt.

The fourth column contains the daily interest rate for the debt.  Not all loans calculate interest daily, but this is used to give me a rough idea of how much money I’m losing by having the debt each month.

The daily interest rate is used to calculate the amount of interest accrued for the month.  This can be a rather eye-opening figure for some items.

Finally, I subtract the payment amount from the statement balance and add back the accrued interest.  This is the value that gets put in the next month’s projected balance box.

Debt Example

Putting it Together

Once I have all of my debts added to the sheet, I use the statement balance from each debt and add them all together to arrive at the total outstanding debt value at the top of the sheet.

The percentage of reduction sheet is calculated by dividing that month’s total debt by the beginning of the year total debt and then subtracting the result from 1.

Since the calculations are all cascading and update when the row values are changed, I am able to project my year-end total outstanding debt and year-end debt reduction percentage.

Year-end

I’ve thought about adding some fancy graphs for a more visual look at the data, but I haven’t gotten motivated to do it yet.  Besides, I also have the Personal Capital dashboard for visual reference.

It really helped me to see how much progress I was making and the amount of interest that each debt was costing me.  Hopefully a tool like this will help you too.  If you’d like a copy of the template, subscribe to the blog.

Cheers!

-cb3

A Bittersweet Week

Happy Valentine’s Day

That is, if you’re into the whole V-Day thing.  We stopped celebrating it several years ago after recognizing it for the marketing event that it truly is.  Besides, with the events of the week, that holiday was the farthest things from our minds.

The Bitter

This past Sunday, my wife had a terrible time sleeping.  Her dog, a Jack Russell that has been with her for 14 years, was up pacing around the bedroom for most of the night.  Mrs. C is a very light sleeper and this kept her up most of the night as well.  By morning, she felt that something wasn’t right and took the dog into the vet.

12716354_10208672590393606_5005754585304639466_oThe dog, we’ll call her K, has had flare ups of pancreatitis in the past and was on a special low-fat diet.  All of the symptoms pointed to another flare up and the diagnostic show an enlarged gall bladder.  The vet was very confident that with a medication and a few days of care that we would be back to normal.

By Wednesday, it was clear that the pain was getting worse instead of better.  The vet tried some additional pain meds but K just didn’t respond.  Based on some additional observation, he concluded that it was most likely cancer.  It was a very difficult decision, but it was time to say goodbye.

The rest of the week has been a very emotional time for my wife as she has gone through an intense grieving process.  This was, in almost every sense, her first child.  They had a very strong bond.

The Sweet

In other news, we had two financial events that I’m very pleased with.  First, I was able to sell my ESPP shares for ~$7900 and a 12.95% profit despite very difficult market conditions.  It would have been a bit higher if I had been able to sell the day they were released, but unfortunately life got in the way and I had to wait an extra day.  That makes for an annualized rate of return of 27.58% on the investment.  I will, of course, have to pay taxes on the ~$900 gain.

We also got the expected bonus for the second half of 2015.  The company calls it a bonus, but it’s been a regular part of my compensation since starting and is only slightly adjusted by the company making or missing its goals.  I do tend to think of it as deferred compensation and not a bonus per se.  After taxes, we got around $10k some of which went to ESPP and some to 401k (Deducted pre-tax).  That left us with an additional $7500 in the checking account this pay period.

Both of those events allowed me to hit a new milestone.  The money from the bonus went to paying off the last balance on the rollover credit card.  That leaves us with a balance of ~$7000 on an unsecured bank loan that was used for debt consolidation in 2014.

CC_Payment While I haven’t quite eliminated all of my pre-2015 consumer debt just yet, I no longer have an outstanding balance on a card!  The only card in use now is the reward card that we use for budgeted purchases and pay down each pay period.  So far, that card has never accrued any interest.

The ESPP money will go towards the unexpected vet bills for the month, the beach trip that we reserved last month, the living room renovation project, and what’s left will go back into investments.

Moving Forward

While the additional expenses were unplanned, it doesn’t look like we’ll have a setback.  My debt reduction projection still show that i’m on track for the year.  Luckily, I had not included all of my variable income in the projection so there was a little wiggle room.

I also know that I haven’t been writing as often as I would like.  Things should settle back down and get into a routine that makes it a little easier to make time for the blog.

I hope everyone is doing well.  Hug your loved ones, even your pets.  A loss sure puts things in perspective.

-cb3

January 2016 Progress

 In with a Bang

To say that I wasn’t ready for the holiday to end and work to being again would be putting it mildly.  I could feel my body getting tense the day before.  Now we’re back to the races and I get a little busier each week.

Of course, with the transition from holiday back to routine we let a lot of things slide.  Grocery planning only got done one week out of the month.  We also tried to cram in social nights with neighbors and friends to try to hold on to a little bit of the break feeling.

We also settled on a vacation for the year and will be heading to the beach during the kids’ spring break.  The condo has been booked and we’re really looking forward to the trip.

Current Goal Status:
Financial goals:
  • Reduce overall outstanding debt (including mortgage) by 15%.
    1. Debt reduction for the month was 0.54% which puts us on track for a 5.84% overall reduction for the year. This is currently below target, but we’re just getting started!
  • Make contributions to investments (taxable and retirement) of 15% of salary.
    1. We contributed 11.90% of our January income to investment accounts including 401k, 529, ESPP, and Brokerage.  This will increase next month since I increased my ESPP contribution and will also increase 401k in March.
  • Eliminate outstanding credit card debt.
    1. I was happy to note that we did not get charged interest on the January statement for the balance transfer card even though the introductory period ended on Jan. 22.
    2. This balance should be paid off in Feb. by a combination of ESPP proceeds and other deferred compensation that comes on the 15th.
  • Eliminate remaining student loan debt.
    1. The only progress this month was the regular payment leaving a balance of $5700.
  • Make a contribution to an IRA.
    1. No progress here… yet!
  • Generate revenue from a new income stream.
    1. No progress here… yet!
Expense Goals

Ok, so January flat out sucked for meeting these goals.  Here’s the damage:

  • Meet the $800 per month grocery budget
    1. We were over budget by $334.  this is partially due to holiday spending and partially due to only planning weekly meals one week out of the month.  Gotta do better.
  • Reduce dining out to $400 per month (2015 – $600)
    1. We didn’t meet this one either, but we were under the 2015 average by $12.  Woo!  Again, a consequence of poor meal planning.
  • Reduce entertainment/alcohol to $250 per month (2015 – $435)
    1. This one is also over budget by $265.  Hosting social night gets expensive.
Personal Goals:
  • Meditate at least three days a week
    1. I managed three days for the month.  Work ramped up and I’m still not back on track for a good schedule.
  • Take walks at least three days a week
    1. This I’ve managed to do and my step count is up to 60k per week.  My average week in late 2015 was 45k steps.
    2. I’m also getting a ton of stairs going up and down the ladder for the DIY project.
  • Spend at least seven days camping
    1. Nothing this month, but plans in place for June and maybe October.
  • Go kayaking at least one time
    1. Brrr.  Not yet
  • Take one family vacation
    1. We booked a condo in St. Augustine where my wife used to go as a child.  We also got a room for her parents to go along.  This added $2200 to our expenses this month, but I know that cash is coming in to cover it.
DIY Project Update

Just a quick update on the progress for the living room renovation.  In the two weeks that we’ve been working on the ceiling, I’ve managed to make it within a few rows of having one side done!  That includes one false start where I made it about 16 rows up and we realized there was a mistake that made one end not align correctly.

wp-1454339807033.jpg

I’m really happy with the way this is coming together.  It looks much better than the stomp textured ceiling.  We’re also going to be replacing the overhead lights and the ceiling fan.  I’m estimating around $300-400 for the new fixtures.

I love power tools!

Get It Together

Ok, now that we’ve gotten over the holidays and have started getting back into the grind, I’m confident that we can do much better in February.  The only thing that my put a little dent in our plan is that I’ve been asked to commute into the office two days a week.  That’s an 18 mile drive which could mean thirty minutes or an hour and a half of driving each way.

Cheers!

-cb3