Friday, September 16, 2016

September 2016

Well. This isn't pretty.

As I mentioned during the last update, there would be some vacation spending. Boy howdy, was there ever. First up was our two-week road trip. That's about 14 days of hotels and meals. And then gas, too. My husband and I pretty fair about things when it comes to the road trips. We tend to alternate the hotel reservations. And we both cover meals and gas. If he's paid for most of the reservation stuff -- airfare, hotel, rental car -- as he did with our recent getaway to Iceland, I pick up the tab for most of the other stuff. (By the way, Iceland ain't cheap. They're really trying to make up for the banking clusterfuck they had a few years ago.)

Anyway, the vacations have definitely put a crimp in my progress. And there's another trip coming in October. At least the tickets for that have already been bought, so there won't be any new charges for that. We're also staying with a friend and she's letting us use her car, so it'll just be food and any shopping we do.

The figures are over there in the margin. Eeesh.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

July 2016 Update

Greetings!

Things are coming along fine, though August will be a ... well, let's call it a spendy month. The hubs and I are going on our second annual vacation road trip next month, taking in lots of New England with (hopefully) a dash of Canada. We discovered during our honeymoon last year that we prefer to wander from place to place than book lots of stuff in advance. This way, if we really like a place, we can stay a day or two longer. Sure, the risk is that we won't find accommodations, but so far that hasn't happened.

We've done several trips this way, the first one by accident. We'd booked seven days in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic, only to discover that it wasn't worth being there for even three days, much less seven. Unfortunately, our hotel had been prepaid, so we basically paid twice for the same week, as we got the hell out of SD and headed to a few resorts. Building on that knowledge, when we decided to do a road trip through California for our honeymoon, we booked only three hotels in advance -- the one for our arrival stay in San Diego, the one for our side trip to Vegas (baby!), and the one for our final city, San Francisco. We did the same thing when we went to Costa Rica earlier this year. You can talk to locals to find out what the good places are and plan accordingly. We've discovered some gems doing it like this.

Anyway, back to the money part of all this: There will be vacation spending. Granted, it will be mostly for my share of our accommodations and gas, as I tend not to shop much on vacation. I usually try to find something that will remind me of our trip, but it has to really speak to me, otherwise I pass.

Also coming up is my last class in GMU's professional writing graduate certificate program, so I have tuition coming up for that. I've been taking advantage of employer assistance, since the program qualifies, but I still have to pay it before I can get reimbursed. Grrr.

The updated figures are over there on the right. I'm especially pleased with the savings amount. Woot woot!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

June 2016 Update

If I'm back to conquering my debt, I suppose I should get back in the habit of updating every month.

Things are going OK, actually. There was a moment when things felt unsettled, but I think I'm back on track. My plan had been to use one particular credit card for everyday purchases so that I could get the points, but it never seems to work out like I'd planned. Like ... why is it so easy for me to just use my debit card and stay on track but struggle to maintain balance when I'm using a credit card and paying off the balance? Weird. Maybe it's just not for me. Maybe I should be strictly cash-and-carry.

Anyway, the updated balances are off to the right. I'm doing pretty well with the saving, I think. The more I save, the more I want to save. It's always been that way with me. As for the debt, I'm finally below a five-digit balance, and it feels pretty dang awesome. Don't get me wrong: There's still quite a way to go before I'm back at a zero balance. I know this. But it's still good to see a milestone.

In other news, thieves got a hold of my credit card number and went on a bit of a spending spree. Fortunately, Chase recognized the fraudulent behavior and sent me an alert. While I didn't get the email alert till the next morning, they had at least flagged the purchases and in one instance, declined the purchase. So yay for Chase!

OK, that's it till next time. Save early and often!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

It's Been a While.

As they say, the more things change ...

First the awful truth: I currently owe $10,711 in credit card debt. How could this be? What happened? Well, for one thing, I refinanced my condo a few months back. You remember that. (And if not, just scroll down ...) Doing so wiped out a lot of my savings, since I had to pay closing costs. Then came some repairs, including a new A/C unit for one of the bedrooms. I then saw that many of the water lines needed to have some repair work. As they were, in an emergency I wouldn't be able to turn the water off. So I replaced all the valves in each bathroom and under the kitchen sink. And then I had to replace the vanities in the bathroom since some moron had installed some that ran the length of the wall over the bathroom toilet. Basically, if there was a toilet emergency, you wouldn't have been able to get into the tank. And then there were the new toilets.

To fix all these things? Credit cards. Sigh. At the height, I owed almost $17,000. I am still in awe that I got back to that point after all my hard work at getting to zero. Oh well. No use in crying over it.

Now for the good: I have almost $15,000 saved, with the goal of $20,000 by year-end. I could pay off the debt, sure, but I need the cushion. I hate having that debt over my head, but it's reassuring to know that I can pay it off.

Weirdly enough, I seemed to get into more debt after I hired that financial planner. His high fees did not help, either. There was really no reason for me to have continued using him after that initial visit. I don't have the kind of complicated financial picture that warranted his services, and I'm still more than a little annoyed that (1) I wasn't firmer during my initial reluctance to renew, and (2) that he was so aggressive in getting me to renew. I fee like if I had told him about some other financial planner charging me what he himself was charging, he would have advised that I run for the hills. (Complicating things is that he's a friend, and also very good friends with some other friends.)

Anyway, I'm back on track and it feels good. Adding to all the good feelings is the state of my personal life: I got married last year! He is beyond wonderful -- beyond anything I could've dreamed up for myself. I'm renting out my condo and living with him (duh) in a lovely town house in a neighborhood that I feel like an impostor in. How I have received such good fortune is beyond me, and I'm so thankful and happy that my cheeks hurt from smiling all the time.

It feels weird to be back here confessing my financial sins, but also liberating too. That is, I've been here before and I know what it takes to get it done.

See you next month!


Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Closer

For the second time in less than two years, I've closed on my property. That's right: I finalized my refinance today. Woohoo!

I have to say that as with my original purchase, things for the refinance aligned as though it was all meant to be. My timing couldn't have been better -- right after I decided to refinance and completed my new loan application, which locked in my rate, the rates started to inch up a bit. I now have a 3.75 percent rate, down from 5.25, which, let's be honest, was still pretty darn low. And everything went so smoothly.

The closing costs were about $3,900. But I get to skip the June mortgage and I'll get back what was in my old escrow account. Factoring in those two things, it cost me $1,800 to refinance. I'll be saving $92 a month on my actual payment, so the closing will pay for itself in less than two years. And of course I'll be saving a decent chunk of change over the life of the loan.

Mom Week 2012 is coming up in June. I'm trying something a little different this year: a day trip. We're going to the Brandywine Creek Valley. My mother loves flowers and there are a couple of major gardens there. So that's an expense, what with the hotel and the tickets to the gardens. But all in all, it's not bad, and it'll be a nice change of pace from the usual assortment of activities. There will also be a few meals out. And she likes to shop, so there will be that too. But I'll keep my spending to a minimum.

My savings has taken a few hits lately. I'll get it together, though. I have to.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

(Re)Fined

Somehow it seems longer since I've written. I don't know why.

Life is fine. Actually, life is pretty good. I can finally report on something I put into the works last month: I'm refinancing the condo. I started investigating it last month on a whim. OK, so it wasn't quite a whim -- I kept getting little messages here and there, including some "junk" mail. I didn't think it would be for me, mostly because I thought it would be more complicated, and I really didn't want to go through that stress. But I figured, "What the hell?" So I e-mailed my previous mortgage handler. She had me complete the application, and voilá! I'm refinancing.

The interest rate is more than a point lower now than it was when I bought a couple of years ago. To avoid any potential problems with an appraisal -- my mortgage person worried that my place might not appraise for the amount we need, what with the still-unstable market -- I will pay my closing costs. But it's worth it to me to pay a couple thousand now to save several thousand down the road. And lucky for me, I have the savings to cover the closing costs.

I close next month. Oh! And in doing all this, I found out my credit score. It's over 800 -- higher now than it was when I bought my place. This is excellent news.

In other news, I met with a new financial planner today. Our 401(k)s at work are done through Principal. Our employer arranged for a couple of their financial planners to come in and meet one on one with any employee who was interested. For free. They did this last year, but I had already dropped coin on my other financial planner, and it seemed pointless to meet with yet another planner. This year, however, I figured I'd give it a go. It went well. Free Financial Planner (FFP) didn't see any need to make any changes to the allocations Paid Financial Planner (PFP) set up. FFP did recommend that I take advantage of the automatic 1 percent increase in contributions every year, so I signed up for that. Otherwise, things are in good shape.

Which brings me to this: My financial needs are straightforward, so I've been thinking that maybe it's time I stop paying $$$ for financial advice now that my Roth is all set up and my 401(k) is properly allocated. I mean, if my employer is gonna send out planners for free every year, wouldn't the wise financial advice be to cut PFP? I mean, PFP is a nice guy, and I like him personally. But he isn't cheap. In fact, he's not cheap. Right now I'm doing his cheapest plan -- basically one or two visits in one year at half his regular rate -- and even that is expensive.

As hard as it's going to be (I hate hurting people's feelings), I'm gonna have to stop seeing PFP. That money would be better served in a savings account.

I've made a few expensive purchases this month, mostly for clothing items but also for some things around the house -- a rug for the balcony, some plants, etc. I've got to simmer down, though, and start focusing again on saving. My savings cushion should be loftier than it is, considering. I know I've bought things for the house, and for myself, but still. Considering I got the home buyer credit and given my tax refund, my savings should be in double digits. It is not.

I know I can do better: I paid off $20K in debt in three years. And not only did I do that, but I also saved a chunk of change. If I can do that, I can get my savings back in double digits. And that's what I aim to do. Back then, I kept a graph in a notebook. Having that visual was helpful. Time to get more graph paper, I think.

All in all, though, things are going well.