Category Archives: Goals

Friday Thoughts – Pre-Holiday 2016 Edition

Longing to Hike

I’m going to ramble over a couple of topics again this Friday.  Cabin fever does that to a person.

15095727_664848123692455_6177006826283695876_nIn case you haven’t heard, the southeast has been having a wildfire problem the last couple of weeks.  I was really hoping to get out and hit some trails over the holidays but the air quality in most of the region is terrible right now due to the smoke.  We need rain!

The weather is almost perfect Fall weather.  Cool in the morning and evening, but not cold.  Warm during the day but not hot.  It would be really nice to be able to get outside.

Off-by-One Errors

Yesterday I got a pleasant little surprise based on a couple of threads in the Rockstar Finance Forums.  One of the discussions is on the topic of savings rate.  I’ve talked about mine in several of my progress updates and goals, but someone brought up something I hadn’t considered.  Should I count my 401k Employer match as savings?

It occurred to me that I wasn’t even tracking that as part of my cash flow spreadsheet!  I had been blindly taking the information that comes on my pay statements and copy/pasting into the sheet.  I quickly went to the 401k login and parsed through the statements to get each months match amount.  I had saved almost twice what I thought I had in the 401k.  Bonus!

(I do realize the money was there all along, it’s just nice to actually see it)

Now, after adding in a row for this and adjusting the values, I noticed that my savings percentage went down for the year.  Wait, what?!  It turns out, that I had an error in my spreadsheet where I tallied the Investment column and the formula started one row lower than it should have.  I haven’t been counting my 401k as part of my savings total since I started the sheet last year!  Doh!  Double Bonus.

With the addition of employer match and the correction in the sheet formula, I am now happliy sitting on a savings rate over 20% for the year so far.  That’s up from the 13% that I had previously calculated.

I’m going to go back and re-factor the 2015 results as well as re-visiting the retirement calculator.

Upcoming RSU

At the beginning of December, I will be getting the second to last distribution from my signing bonus RSU grant.  The last bit will come in June of next year which basically means that I will be taking a small pay cut next year unless something new comes in to replace it.

It’s not a very large grant, but since I am still basically new to building wealth the shares would represent about 2.5% of my overall investment portfolio.  The plan is to sell them at vesting and re-allocate the capital in other areas like so:

  • 20% to Savings Account
  • 20% to my IRA
  • 20% to Mrs. CB3’s IRA
  • 20% to 529 plan
  • 20% to Charitable donations

Considering that I am currently on track to beat my financial goals for the year, I think it’s important to give back.  Yes, I could accelerate my plans a smidge more and gain an extra percentage point toward a goal but in light of recent events I believe there are organizations that can use all the help we can give.

Here are the candidates that I am considering for support:

I’m sure we’ll think of more, but those are my top five right now.  I’m also going to see if there’s a way to do it through my employer to get a matching gift.

Also, like I mentioned previously, we will get the kids involved in this.  I want to have them research what charities are available based on their interests and see which one they would like to support.


It seems like this time of year I always start to get the feeling that I’m ready to take it easy for a bit at home while I have the time.  Since I travel some for work, the idea of not having anywhere to be is really appealing.

Of course, with two children in tow this never really works out the way I hope.  There are grandparents and extended family to consider and all of those family events that are ‘tradition’.  <Sigh>.

Thanksgiving is pretty well locked in with no major road trips.  My brother is coming into town so that will be good.  Christmas on the other hand always ends up with us loading the car after lunch and heading off for a two hour drive and several days away.

Don’t get me wrong, it will be enjoyable once it’s happening and I know the children will be creating memories.  One of these days everyone is coming to us!

Gift Giving/Receiving

Speaking of Christmas, we’ve been putting some thought into gifts again this year.  I really like the idea of reducing the amount of stuff that the children receive.  We’ve never really gone crazy, but with three separate grandparent units and a gift exchange at the large family dinner it can add up.

Something you want, something you need, something you wear, and something you read…

This appeals to me.  I think for parental gifts this will do nicely.  I’ve already talked to my parents and they are on board to make contributions to the children’s 529 savings.  I still need to have conversations with the others.

I, myself, would just really like about a week worth of sleep at a cabin in the mountains with no connectivity.  Yeah, that’d do.


Lastly, I want to talk a bit about food.  I may go off the rails a bit for Thanksgiving (Heretic! But seriously, the oldest child won’t even touch turkey).  It’s true that we cook a pretty mean turkey around here but this year I’m craving a dish that I had while I was in Ireland this time last year.


That’s right, lamb shank.  This was probably the most amazing meal I had while I was there.  Many thanks to the Blair’s Inn.  I emailed them earlier in the week and they were gracious enough to send me some tips on preparing this dish.  I’m really looking forward to it (and a few pints)!

I hope that everyone gets to have a good meal with family or close friends at the table over the holidays.  I also hope that we can all put recent politics aside for a bit while we have that meal.  If you have to talk about something, bring up money!

I’ll be back next week with another spreadsheet post (relevant since I just fixed one).



Forks in the Financial Path

Deciding What’s Next (Financially)

Over the past couple of month’s I’ve been mulling over a couple of ideas in regards to the next steps of my financial plan and pursuit of Financial Independence (and possibly Retire Early).  Now that we’re down to a single debt with our mortgage, I need to re-analyze our current state and adjust some of the sliders.  Our Next Life had an excellent post about how their goals changed over the course of implementing their plan.  For me, debt removal was a goal, but not necessarily the goal post.

Hopefully over the course of this post, I can take a look at the current goals as well as the new goals that I’m considering and discuss what I need to adjust to accomplish them.

Here’s where we were…

Debt payoff

When I started really tracking my debt situation at then end of 2014, we had accumulated around $230,000 in total liabilities.  That was a combination of mortgage, student loans, personal loans, and credit card debt.  Once upon a time, I thought this was pretty reasonable although my perspective may have been skewed due to working with so many folks in the SF Bay area.

Luckily I came to my senses and realized I needed to do something about it.  My original plan was to shoot for 10% of the total per year.  2015 was a success and we eliminated a little over that with a 10.65% reduction.  This year, I needed to target 15% of the remaining balance to stay on track.  I’ve closed every balance but the mortgage an we’re on target for a 17.73% drop this year!  That’s a little over $60k worth of debt gone in two short years.

Taking those items off of the balance sheet gives me around $30k of free cash flow next year (assuming no major life changes) that I need to reallocate.  I just need to figure out where to send it.

Here are the things I’m considering…

Home Repairs

This one is inevitable when you own a home.  Eventually, something is going to require a larger sum of money to repair.  It’s really annoying, because it came up just after making all of this super progress.  Chalk one up to Murphy.

The good news is that I can handle the cost of the project.  I’ve got to get some siding repaired (ours is cedar), exterior paint done, and some deck repairs done.  There’s also some cabinetry repair in the kitchen as well as some drywall repair and interior paint touch-up.

The bad news is that the work on the exterior really needs to be done now, but the cash won’t be available until Feb of next year.  I’m going to solve this with a Home Equity Line of Credit with the knowledge that I will be able to re-pay that in a few months.  This will keep the interest payments to a minimum.

That eats up between $10-15k.  Annoying but necessary.

Investment Contributions

In order to make a decision about investment contributions, I need to understand where I am and what my goals are.  Ideally, I’d like to be FI by the time I’m 50.  That gives me eight years to build (I turn 42 this week).  That’s the goal, but where do I stand?

If I look at the statistics for the average American, I see that folks in my age group have a mean savings of around $63000.  Woohoo!  I have a little over $170k depending on where the market happens to land today.  That’s almost three times as much as my peers, but it doesn’t give me the warm fuzzies since I don’t want to wait until 65 to retire.

I need to do a really thorough analysis of what a FIRE life would look like for me.  I’ve seen several examples on other blogs and need to take the time for it.  For now, I’m just going to plug in to one of the simple retirement calculators that one can find through Google.

It was hard to find one that actually let me put in the exact numbers I needed as in how much income I need post retirement (60% of my salary is still too much).  Schwab has a tool that let’s me do just that so that’s where I started.

My current spending per year (that isn’t debt payment) is around 55% of my gross income.  That’s around $85,000 for a family of 4.  I’m planning to reduce that to $65,000 per year which is much more reasonable (this will also free up more cash flow as we move in that direction).  With my current yearly contributions of $21k and planned retirement age of 50, I’m told I have a shortfall of $762,500. retirement1Shit!  That’s a lot of money to conjure in the next 8 years.  Obviously some adjustments are in order.  If I adjust the contributions up to $44k and add an additional four years to make my retirement at 54, then I can get it to the point where I have a surplus.


Now, this isn’t exactly ideal and the tool does make some assumptions about life expectancy, investment gains, and inflation but as a basic starting point it gets the point across.

New goal:  Save at least $44,000 (that’s $23k of my cash surplus next year) per year going forward!

Diving Into Rental Property

I’ve also been thinking a lot about my asset allocation and how it’s almost all in the stock/bond market right now (If I don’t count my home as an asset).  I’ve been including the house in the Net Worth calculation, but don’t really consider it an asset since it doesn’t generate income and I would still take a loss if I sold now considering loan + interest.

It’s not high priority by any stretch, but I know that I could put together the funds to purchase a smaller rental and get started in that market.  I’m currently in research mode on this topic and trying to learn as much as possible before pulling the trigger.

Stay tuned.

Additional Mortgage Payments

This is apparently a hotly debated topic.  Many argue that if interest rates on the loan are low and the market is favorable then money is better allocated towards investments.  Money spent towards extra mortgage payments also ties up capital in an illiquid asset.  Depending on one’s financial health, liquidity may or may not be a concern.

The other side of the coin that I see is the amount of money that I’m spending on interest.  With a somewhat reasonable rate on a 30 year fixed loan of 5.25%, I would end up spending an additional 96% of my original loan value on interest!  That basically doubles what I’ve paid for the house.  Insane!

So far, I’ve managed to get a little bit ahead on the loan.  Over the entire duration, I’ve been spending a little over $6 towards the principal.  Since I paid the car and personal loan off this fall, I’ve used some of the extra cash flow and made almost a full payment extra toward principal (~$1250).

Now, the neat thing about this is when I look at an amortization table for my loan.  With just this little bit extra, I have cut ten months from the loan as well as around $2000 worth of total interest.  That’s OK, but not great.

Now, if I can maintain the extra $500/month towards principal then things get really interesting.  My projected payoff date would move from Oct. 2039 to Dec. 2028 shaving eleven years off the life of the loan!  That also reduces the total interest paid to 66% of the original loan amount.  That would only take $6000 of my free cash flow to accomlish.  Sweet!

College Savings

The last topic is also somewhat of a debate (not as hotly debated though).  We both agree that we want to provide for our children’s education.  The debatable part is how much and to what limit.

We both come from slightly different educational paths but are both college graduates.  My degree took me through four different schools and I sampled both public and private as well as four year university and two year community college.  Her path consisted of two degrees; one from a private university and one from a public university.

My current leaning is to do my best to fund an education from an in-state public school.  Ideally, they can get some credits at a two year school and then move to the bigger school to complete their degree focus.  I have 9-10 years for the first and 13-14 for the second to work on it and I’m estimating around $15k/year which would take $60k for each child under ideal conditions.  I know this is probably going to go up, but I have to start somewhere.

Not counting for investment gains and assuming I’m starting from scratch, I need to put away $6000 per year for the first child and $4600 for the second.  We will also be asking grandparents to contribute to this goal going forward.

Which Way to Head

Well, what would you do?  I’ve obviously come up with more options that the $30k worth of cash flow that I’m freeing up next year.  I’m also assuming that nothing major happens anytime soon to cause a large unexpected expense.  It’s a lot to think about.



Put a little bit towards each or focus on one area more than others?  Let me know your thoughts.


August 2016 Progress

We’re Packing Five Months of Finance…

Into a single post.  I’ll probably switch to doing these quarterly now for reasons that I’ll get to in a bit.  Let’s just say it’ll be fine.

There’s been a lot of financial goodness since the March update.  At the end of March, we were down to three outstanding debts:  mortgage, car loan, and personal loan (credit card balance transfer).

As of today, we only have the mortgage!  Hooray!  Of course, this has had a couple of mental side effects.  First, the Debt Paydown Projection spreadsheet is getting a little boring.  I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but it’s no longer occupying a constantly opened browser tab.

Second, I’ve been in debt payoff mode for the past two years and that has been my main focus.  Now I think it’s time to shift gears into asset building and figuring out what my actual Financial Independence numbers are and the timeline to reach them.  New goal!

Notable Events

April, May, June, and July were pretty much business as usual.  I made the regular payments on outstanding balances.  Nothing to see here.  The real magic happened in August.

ESPP – My ESPP shares were purchased on July 31 and I sold them on August 1.  This was a great period for ESPP.  There was an approximate $34 difference between the purchase price and my sale price which resulted in an 85% gain on the six month period.  I took home around $14k which went straight towards payments.

Bonus – Due to some extra effort (read super long hours and extra travel) at the end of 2015, I was awarded 110% of my bonus for the period.  This yielded around $10k after taxes.

I used the additional income to make an $8k payment to the car loan (Gone!) and a $5800 payment to the personal loan (Gone!).  The rest went into savings, investments, and a new puppy (I know, I know).

All that being said, here’s where we are now.

Current Goal Status:
Financial goals:
  • Reduce overall outstanding debt (including mortgage) by 15%.
    1. Debt reduction for the period went from 7.56%  to 16.08% which puts us on track for a 16.84% overall reduction for the year.  Beautifully sitting above the 15% target.
  • Make contributions to investments (taxable and retirement) of 15% of salary.
    1. We have contributed 12.06% 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 ESPP sale and bonus.
    3. I’m currently working on analyzing the additional free cash flow to decide where I want to allocate it.
  • Eliminate outstanding credit card debt.
    1. Outstanding balances eliminated in Feb.
    2. No interest accrued on revolving balance this period.
  • 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. The only month this worked was June.  The rest of the months have been over $1000 which is where I’m now setting the budget.  It’s just more realistic (due to a number of factors).
  • Reduce dining out to $400 per month (2015 – $600)
    1. April was actually mostly on track with $433 for the month.  The other months have averaged around $900.  I’ve updated the budget on this one to $800/month.  A little depressing, but also realistic given the current situation.
  • Reduce entertainment/alcohol to $250 per month (2015 – $435)
    1. Ummm… Also not happening.  Budget adjusted to $600/month.  This includes babysitting expenses.
Personal Goals:
  • Meditate at least three days a week
    1. I fell off the wagon after our Appalachian Trail hike in June.  Goal for September is to get back to a routine.  Summer totally blew up my routine.
  • Take walks at least three days a week
    1. The only time this has happened have been on the travel weeks for work.  Also on the list of things to get back to now that the weather is getting nicer (Really, nobody wants to go out walking around Atlanta in the middle of summer).
  • Spend at least seven days camping
    1. Done!  Spent a week on trail in June as well as the annual camp Alumni weekend.  Looking forward to more this Fall.
  • Go kayaking at least one time
    1. Almost!  We rented a ducky and went down the Nantahala river the day after we got finished with the AT section.  It was a close second and I got to hear the voice of the river so I’m content until I can convince one of my old paddling buddies to buy another boat.
  • Take one family vacation
    1. St. Augustine was amazing, but April seems so long ago.  I may need to add ‘take one personal vacation’ as a goal too.
Net Worth Update Q2

net worth Q2


  • Up 2.98% in Q2
  • Up 3.92% since Q2
  • Up 10.58% year-to-date


  • Down 1.36% in Q2
  • Down 8.38% since Q2
  • Down 1.36% year-to-date

Total Net Worth

  • Change of +7.31% for Q2
  • Change of +15.21% since Q2
  • Change of +44.70% year-to-date!
  • Since Jan 1. 2015, Net Worth has more than doubled at 106.82% increase (counting the assumed value of the house)!

net worth graph

August Summary

August was a great month for financial progress.  There have been a few domestic challenges over the course of the summer, so I’m glad for school to be back in session and for getting back into the routine for a bit.

I’ve got a few upcoming home repair challenges where I need to figure out a good plan so that we don’t undo the progress that we’ve made.  I have a few ideas that I’ll be running by the community in the near future.

Over the next month I plan to keep the blog moving with more personal posts as opposed to mostly finance oriented.  I’ve got a few ideas that I hope will be well received.  Until then, everyone take care and #getoutside.



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


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.



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!




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.


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!



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.


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.


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.



Where Has the Time Gone?

Almost Two Weeks?!?

Hard to believe that I haven’t made a post in twelve days.  Life sure went into overdrive in a hurry.  The full-time job is back to requiring it’s regular load of hours.  The kids now have an additional evening activity (swim lessons: extra expense but necessary).  We’ve also decided to tackle a little bit of DIY renovation.

Background on the Renovation

Before I get into the meat of this post, I want to set the stage a bit so you understand our current situation.

We’ve currently been living in our home for around six years and most of the furniture either came from our apartment or was hand-me-down.  We have some antiques from family, some craigslist items, and some stuff that came with the house.  The last time we bought new furniture was the dining room set in 2008.

We also have two small children and three dogs (at one point it was four).  Needless to say, the sofas are starting to show the abuse they’ve received.  It’s been mostly OK, but when we came back from holiday visits we found a large rip in the top of the ottoman and a lot of stuffing had been pulled out (Jack Russell’s love to pull stuffing out of things).

It’s time for some replacements.

And That Leads To…

“We should fix up a least one room in the house to look nice”.  Yep, the first thing through my mind was dollar signs.  My wife even said as she laid out her idea that she could tell I was only thinking about how expensive this was going to be.

There are two bits of good news.  First, we had prepared for this a bit by asking family members to contribute to furniture instead of buying Christmas gifts for us.  Second, I’ve laid out the financial projection for the year and I know that I can spare around $1500-$2000 and still make my goals (if everything goes according to plan).  If we’re really good about keeping the monthly budget, there may be more room.

The plan is to put up a plank board ceiling in the living room.  It’s a cathedral ceiling and I estimated around 400 sq ft.  wp-1453215440354.jpgBased on the material she wants to use, that should cost me ~$650.  We’ll also need about $50 in paint.  The second part is to put together some in-wall book shelves (which i’ll probably just hang with French cleats).  I haven’t estimated the cost of materials there, but I think we’re still OK.


We had a slightly serendipitous moment last weekend while having dinner with friends.  I almost didn’t go along but was glad that I did.  One of our friends just moved in with another and had a load of stuff in a storage unit.  He needed help moving the bunk beds to their condo.  He also mentioned that he had an almost new leather sectional with recliners that he wanted gone.  Since we were in the market, I said I’d take a look.

wp-1452565526294.jpgThe couch wasn’t a good fit for the living room, but we also had a dingy old couch downstairs in the den and this one was a perfect replacement.  I asked how much he wanted for it and he gave it to us in exchange for the use of the truck and not having to pay for the storage unit anymore.  Basically, it was free!

Getting Messy

I was lucky enough to have MLK day as a holiday and made use of the three day weekend by getting started on the DIY.  We went and picked up the planks for the ceiling and paint on Saturday.  Total cost of materials so far is $660.

We spent part of Saturday and Sunday painting the planks.  We did 180 total one at a time.  Once we got a rhythm going it really wasn’t too bad.  I think we spent around five hours on painting.

wp-1453215496068.jpgYesterday I took advantage of the project and ran some speaker wire along the ceiling in preparation for some wall-mount room speakers.  I know there are a lot of wireless options out there, but I still prefer a wired speaker to the receiving device.  Call me old school.

I also managed to get a few planks up so that we could make sure we liked the color and that the hanging technique was going to work out.  We’re going right over the stomp ceiling with the planks without scraping any of the drywall clumps off.  I’m using construction adhesive on the back of the planks and a couple of brads from a finishing nailer.

Off to Work

It’s time to go focus on the day job.  Hopefully, I can get back in a routine and post regularly.  I’ve got to keep you guys updated on this project.  We’ve got another lead on a friend that is downsizing and maybe we can score a couch for the living room on the cheap.



December 2015 Progress

 Happy New Year!


Welcome to 2016.  December ended pretty much as we expected.  Work was luckily quiet for the last week and I was able to take a couple of weeks out of the office for the holiday.  We took it easy at home for the most part but did travel for a few days to visit family and friends.

It almost didn’t feel like the Christmas season with all of the warm weather and crazy amounts of rain that we had.  Getting into a festive mood was a little difficult but we managed to push through it and made some good memories for the kids.  Hopefully, we’ll see some cold soon… at least for a little while.

Current Goal Status:
  • Reduce overall outstanding debt (including mortgage) by 10%.
    1. At the end of December, overall debt reduction is 10.6%.  We met the goal for the year!
  • Make contributions to investments (taxable and retirement) of 10% of salary.
    1. Combined saving in investment accounts totaled 10.37%.  We met our goal for the year!
  • Eliminate any monthly interest payments due to credit cards.
    1. December returned us to a no interest month.  That finished the year with 8 of 12 months having no interest accumulation.
    2. The $2200 remaining on the credit card was eliminated by the proceeds from the RSU sale.
    3. Our last remaining credit card balance of $7180 is on a 0% interest promotional offer card that runs out on January 22.  I’ll need to figure out how I’m handling that.  There will be a follow-up post on this topic.

Total expenses for December climbed to $8763 which was right in the middle for the year.  Net cash flow after paying off the credit card balance was still pretty good at ~$800.

I’ve already posted my Goals for 2016 which I may update to include a couple more personal goals for the year.  We’re also talking about making some repairs/changes to the house which could affect that.  More on that later.

Hear’s hoping that you have health, wealth, and happiness in 2016.