Thursday, December 3, 2015

2016 Savings/Financial Planning

Starting to think about 2016 savings and financial goals.

Definite goals:
(1) Max out 401k for each of us, the limits have not changes for 2016 so that is $18,000 for each of us for a total of $36,000. Automatic payroll debits are in place, I will just need to check them in January
(2) Finish funding our 2015 IRAs - $8900, The 2015 IRAs must be funded by 4/15/16. As such, we will have some heavy upfront savings of about $1110 per pay period between 1/1/16 and 4/15/16.
(3) Fund 2016 IRAs $11,000 for the both of us, this number also is unchanged from 2015.
(4) Baby Sam'college fund, add another $5000 this year.

Tentative goals:
(5) Add to emergency fund, reducing this annual goal to $5000 (this year we saved $10,000)
(6) Save for a nused car for me $10,000.  My car will be 10 years old next year and its got some expensive repairs that I've been holding off on. I replaced my last car after 9 years of life so I'm thinking this car will need replacing soon.

The above savings goals total $75,900.  The highest savings number we have ever hit with our savings efforts is @$64,000 (back in 2013). So, this would be a big stretch for us, especially with our child care expenses for Baby Sam.

Debt killing goals:
(1) Pay off lingering credit card debt in the amount of $6500.
(2) Pay off Mr. Sam's new car, remaining debt $2500.

Above debt totals at $9000.

Also, I'd like to reduce our total debt to under $450,000 total.  At present our debt total is at $484,848 which would require killing the above credit and car debt and also killing another almost $26,000 in debt. I think that is this is a reachable goal since we paid off @$34,000 in debt this year.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

End of the Year Updates

Well it is December 1, 2015 and I still never got my 2015 savings/debt killing Excel spreadsheet chart from Mr. Sam.  It has been that kind of year, new baby, maternity leave, new baby expenses, balancing work with new baby, child care expenses, etc.  We also converted a rental property to a family property which brought along a ton of expenses as well.

These were my goals from May of this year, posted on one of the other personal finance sites:

(1) Max out 401ks: Goal $36,000
(2) Max out IRAs: Goal $11,000
(3) College fund for Baby Sam: Goal $5,000
(4) Add to emergency fund: Goal $10,000
(4) Pay off baby debt:  Goal $0, started with $7000
(5) Pay off Mr. Sam's truck loan: Goal $0. started with $7500
(6) Save for nused car for me: Goal is $20,000. This is two year goal, so this year's goal is $10,000)
(7) Get total debt under $500,000: $519,000 was thestart of the year number, goal is $499,000, difference of $20,000

Savings goal of $72,000 and
Debt killing goal of $34,500.

So let's start with the bad news.  We only put away $2100 for our 2015 IRAs, we can continue to invest for 2015 until April 15, 2016 so we have some time next year to finish this goal.

Baby debt, well it really morphed into debt, we have rental property conversion debt, some baby debt and just other cr_p debt that popped up this year since our finances were pretty crazy this year.  At present, the misc. credit card debt is $6275.  Can we kill it by year end?  Maybe, but doubtful.  But, I am working on it with renewed focus.

Nused car for me, didn't really happen at all this year,  I put away $400 and that is it.  I did spend some money on the car this year, about $1500 in repairs and the mechanic says I have about $4000 in repairs that could be done but were not necessary at the time.  Need to work on this goal in 2016 as the time is coming, car will be 10 years old as of next year.

The good news, we are on track to max out our 401ks by the end of the year.  At present we are at $33,009 and we will complete the $36,000 goal.

College fund for Baby Sam, we hit this goal as well and we have $5,781 in the 529 plan.  About half of that was from us and the other half from family as we have asked for 529 contributions in lieu of gifts for birthdays, Christmas, etc.

Emergency fund, we are also on track for hitting this goal.  We will have an additional $10,000 into the e/r fund by end of year.  At present we have $19,215 in our e/r fund which sounds like a lot, but it really isn't when you take into account our investment properties.  We have been working on rebuilding our fund after buying Mr. Sam's truck (we paid half in cash) and our IVF, pregnancy and birth expenses.  I've never really figured out how much I want in the e/r fund, but I'd be more comfortable closer to $30,000.  We do have $20,000 in other short term, liquid savings, for things like insurance, taxes, vacations, etc.  So that money is also available if we really got in a jam.

Mr. Sam's truck, we are paying $500 a month, 0% loan and at present we have a $2500 balance.  No current plan to pay ahead, but will be paid off early next year.

And as for getting our debt under $500,000, we easily hit that goal with $34,152 in debt paid off (even including the debts we added during the year).  Our present debt number is $484,848.

So grand, estimated, total for 2015 savings will be:  $53,881  (falling short by $18,119 of our 2015 goals).

And, grand, estimated, debt killing total for 2015 will be:  $34,152 (which does not include additional debt payments that I plan to make) so we basically hit that goal.

Thoughts, how did your 2015 financial year go?  What are you planning for 2016?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Updates on Debt

I've recently, as of today, updated our networth debt numbers.  One of our goals for 2015 was to get our total debt load under $500,000 and I'm pleased to report that our debt is now at $489,000.  Since, January 2007, our debt load has gone from $735,054 down to $489,000.  That means, on average we have killed about $30,000 in debt per year since 2007.

On our primary home, purchased in 2004, we have paid off $105,546 in principal.  Since we refinanced our mortgage a couple years ago to 2.75% our payments have accelerated.  We also refinanced from a 25 year loan to a 15 year loan and cut off 7 years from our overall term.  On our three investment property mortgages, as of next month, all three mortgages should be below $100,000.

As for our other debt, I've struggled with credit card debt, pay it down, run it up, pay it down, etc.  I really need to kill it once and for all as its now been hanging around since the baby arrived.  We also have a new debt that is not yet listed, 0% financing on floor tile that we bought for one of our investment properties.  That debt is a couple of thousand dollars.

As for Mr. Sam's new truck, we continue to pay down his truck debt (we paid for his new truck half in cash and half in 0% financing) at $500 a month, so that debt will be gone in seven months.  I really need to be saving for a nused car for me, as my car has been acting up.  Recently it was out of commission for a few weeks with an electrical problem but the fix ended up only costing $250.  There are several other more expensive things wrong with the car, but the dealer says none are pressing to fix as of now.  The dealer gave me a print out of things to fix that would likely cost $4000 which is more than the car is worth.  It was kinda funny as I had started to research my next car.  Since Baby Sam arrived I, of course, want a family car.  But, I'm better off trying to make my car last another year or so as I've only got $400 saved in my nused car fund.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Black Hole

I've entered a deep, dark black hole life otherwise known as being a working professional with a demanding job and also mother to a small baby while also serving as wife, daughter, daughter in law, sister, friend, etc.

There is little sleep here, I tend to run from one emergency to another and feel like I'm spinning my wheels most of the time.  I'm sure there are many out there who have been in my same position.

I just spent three hours in the middle of my busy work day paying bills and trying to noodle out a few financial riddles.

In the process of doing that I figured out that instead of paying our utility bill I paid my tenant's utility bill.  I've got all the accounts set up in bill pay because as the properties revert back to us, in between tenants, we have to pay the utility bill.  I'm sure our tenants will be pleasantly surprised by the credit on their utility account.  No, I'm not going to try and get the money back from them.

I also figured out that in July I paid our mortgage twice and that is why we were so short on cash that month.  The upside, since I've figured that out I don't have to pay November's bill.  I normally would and just stay ahead or ask them to convert the extra payment to principal, but our credit card debt is up to $10,000 so I can put that mortgage money towards that bill.

I don't have a good idea as to where we are on savings goals, my husband who is the Excel spreadsheet guru never set one up for 2015 and we are into Oct.  Hubby's situation is similar to mine except he has been spending his extra time, little that is, turning one of our rental properties into a permanent home for his father.

I know this will get better and being a Mom is such a gift, but right now I feel like I'm doing a mediocre job on everything in my life.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

NetWorth Update

I have updated out networth numbers over on  That site remains wonky and spotty, but I know how to use it and I can do a quick update when it works.

Angie (a reader here) had told me about, and I did create an account and had them port over data, but not all of my data came over.  So I need to spend some time, which I'm perpetually short on these days, bringing the rest of my data over and getting used to the site, etc.

Our expenses have gone way up with Baby Sam which is mostly due to child care costs.  We have also had some cash flow issues since we are converting a rental property.  As a result, we've been relying on our credit card to fill some holes in our monthly budget which I hate to do.

We do have plenty of cash in our savings so its not necessary to do this, but I don't want to take cash from savings.  Its been somewhat circular this summer.  I really, really need to kill the credit card debt once and for all and then cut the card to get us out of this habit.

The positive is that we should be under the $500,000 debt number by end of year (one of our goals).  If I killed the credit card debt we would be below the $500,000 number in a month.  Another positive is that we have stayed above the $2 Million mark (in assets) for a year now.

Otherwise, we continue to struggle with putting money into our IRA 2015 fund, and we will need to work hard on that goal this fall.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Uphill Battle

I'm sorry I've not posted here more.  But, now I understand how busy one gets with a full time job and a new baby.

Financially, we are all over the place.  We can't seem to get back on track post baby.  While our incoming salaries remain the same or better, our outgoing expenses are much. much higher than normal.

Child care is running $1900 a month ($22,800 a year) which appears to be way higher than normal for Florida, but I don't know anyone in my circle paying the Florida annual average of $8300.  Add in diapers, formula, wipes, etc. at $300 a month or so and we are up to $2200 in expenses.  And, we actually don't spend much on Baby Sam, we hit the thrift stores for books and toys and I stick to super sales for baby clothes.  At present, we are also adding $200 a month to Baby Sam's college fund.  So in total, about $2400 a month in baby expenses.

Another challenge, we are converting a rental property from rental to family.  We have, in the past, utilized one of rental properties for our snow bird relatives which was a financial hit.  Now, that we are turning the rental property to a family property, we have had a couple of months where our old tenants have not paid us.  So that also, obviously, impacts our cash flow.

Anyways, we continue to contribute to our 401ks, at max level, and continue to put money into savings, but we need to catch up on our IRAs.

Hope your summer is going well.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Update on Experiment

Earlier, I posted about my experiment.

Almost a month later and I have earned $80 in profit.  I've sold about 18 items (a couple of which were sets).  The least expensive item I sold was $3.00.  The most expensive item I sold was $15.00.  Initially, the first week or so that my items were posted on the web site (they do the photographing and posting), I sold several items that were lower priced.  Then my selling rate slowed down and I sold an item here or there but the items were more expensive.  I have 8 items (include a couple of sets) posted and priced that have not sold.

I did much better selling maternity clothes that I did selling infant/baby items.  In fact, I have only sold one baby item thus far.

At present, I have another big box of mostly maternity items to send off now.  The items I am sending in this time are my high end, business and fashion maternity items.  I also had almost all of these items dry-cleaned so I will need to price the items high enough to recoup my dry-cleaning expenses.   These items will likely be priced at $30 or more to account for dry-cleaning costs of $10 and original prices of $80 - $130 per item (and many were only slightly worn).

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Some Slightly Better News on the Rising Cost of College

Glad to hear that the dramatic rise in college costs is starting to slow down a bit.  As I posted previously, we have started a 529 fund for Baby Sam.  So far, we have contributed $2100 to the fund.

Friday, May 8, 2015

A Windfall is Coming

As you can tell from the title of this post, clearly I'm a Game of Thrones fan.

So, I received news that I'm getting a bonus this year.  This bonus was unexpected for a couple of reasons.  First, I was on maternity leave for more than three months.  Second, I did not believe I was eligible for this type of bonus.

So money is coming our way and it is a decent size chunk of cash.  Of course, after Uncle Sam takes his bite and after the deduction for my 401k, the number shrinks.  But, I won't complain one bit.

My tentative plan for the money is as follows (final plan depends a bit on the amount).  First, 50% will go to our baby debt (which presently is $5421 at 0%).  Second, 25% will go towards our upcoming summer vacation (so, into our travel savings fund).  Third, 15% will go towards our 2015 IRA savings account.  And, finally, 10% is for me to do what I want with (spa, clothes, dinner out, or some other kind of treat).

How do you spend bonus money?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Cars, cars, cars

Back in 2008, the first year of this blog, we saved up $17,000 and I bought a 2006 nused car.  While that feels like a short time ago, its been almost 7 years.  That car has served me well, but last year (and the prior year) it cost me a pretty penny in repair costs.

Now that we have Baby Sam, and I have to wiggle and wrangle that baby stroller in and out of my trunk (even though its very large) and as the car approaches the 10 year mark, I've started thinking that I need a new/nused car.  I'm thinking about a small SUV or cross over type of car.  Something with a larger back storage area (not a trunk) so I can more easily fit the baby stroller and all the stuff that goes along with a baby.

The length of time Americans keep their cars has grown.  On average, a new car is kept for 71.4 months (or just under 6 years).  On average, a nused car is kept for 49.9 months (a bit over 4 years).  In my situation, I've exceeded the average for both data points. since I've been driving my nused car for more than 6 years.

I generally do well with resisting the influence of friends and colleagues, but most everyone I know is driving a newish car.  In fact, I recently got together with a good friend and she has a newly leased SUV.  In the last 15 years she has had 5 cars and I have had 2.  In our family, I was the one with the nice car since Mr. Sam was driving an old 1998 truck.  But, that's not true anymore.

While I'm starting to pine for a new car, our financial situation is stretched.  We have the expenses of the baby, indeed we still have a little baby debt.  We have Mr. Sam's truck debt.  And, we've barely made any progress on our 2015 savings goals (indeed we've hardly started).  We also have child care costs and a college fund to feed.  So, if I can hold off on a new or nused car for a couple of years, we'd be much better off.

As a result, my tentative plan is to start a nused car fund now so I feel like I am working towards a goal.  I need to also spend some money to get my car cleaned and tuned up, oil change, tire rotation, etc.  If I do that, I'll feel like my car is in better condition and won't be so antsy for a change.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Trying Out

I am normally the type of person who simply donates rather than resells items.  For me, my time and effort is generally worth way more than any small profit to be made in reselling items at a garage sale or consignment, etc.

But, when it came time to re-purpose my maternity clothes I gave second thought to donation as my first option.  Specifically, because I work in a professional setting I had ended up investing a fair amount in some very good maternity clothes.  In particular, I had invested in several Seraphine maternity dresses (Kate Middleton is a fan) since I work in a field where I need to look good and present a polished, professional appearance.  And, I had at least three or four dresses that I had only worn two or three times.

I did a fair amount of research regarding on-line maternity (and baby) consignment stores.  First, I sure wish I had known about these sites when I was buying maternity clothes as I would have tried out some of these sites for my own needs.  I had thought about consignment stores when I first started my maternity clothes shopping, indeed I had even tried to find one.  But, I was thinking and looking for physical stores and not virtual.  Dang!  Second, a lot of these sites have very mixed reviews and reputations.

After doing my due diligence, I decided to go with for a couple of reasons.  Importantly, they seemed to have the best reputation based on my research (please note - I've not received anything in exchange for this review).  Also of importance, to me, they do almost all the work. They take the photos, write the description and they mail out the packages to folks who buy.  As I mentioned before, I don't have the time to be shipping out packages to customers since with work and a baby I can barely complete one chore a week.

So, this is how it works.  (1)  Sign up as a seller.  (2)  Order a UPS shipping slip.  (3) Pack up neat, clean and in good condition items and send them off to  You can also bundle items together so they sell as a set. then does the rest, taking photos, writing description, mailing to buyers, sending you the money (via PayPal).

As a test, I sent in a box of mostly maternity clothes (a few newborn baby items) consisting of mainly casual, lower cost items (not my fancy maternity work apparel).  And, I would say that it generally worked as promised.

Communication was good.  When received my package they emailed me.  When my items were ready to price (about two weeks later) they emailed me.  While I am still learning the site, I found pricing to be relatively easy.  An error in a description and classification for an item was promptly corrected after notification.

And, so far, I have actually sold some items and money has been sent to my PayPal account.  I think the fees are generally reasonable since does most of the work and they store the items for months with no charge (there are storage charges after a set time passes).  There is a charge for the in-bound UPS shipping and a $1.50 plus 25% sales commission for each sold item (or set).

With fees and competition, pricing is an art.  I set my prices by looking at what similar items were priced at.  So, I priced maternity t-shirts at $7 and sold several.  Not much of a profit at $3.75 but better than nothing.

I must say it was painful to price a skirt that I wore once at $12 when it cost me $70.  And my super expensive maternity jeans that cost $150 are currently priced at $15 (but they were worn many times).  With my next box, the professional maternity items, I will need to price so I can recoup drycleaning costs (since I had it all recently cleaned in preparation for consignment) and make a decent profit so that will be tricky.

I was somewhat befuddled by what was rejected and they don't really tell you why.  I had sent in a barely worn maternity maxi dress that was in the rejected pile.  You can choose to have rejected items shipped back to you, but there is a charge (of course).  I'm not sure what happens to the items if you donate them (which is what I probably will choose to do).  No idea whether they actually get donated or if the site simply sells them.  Inexplicable rejections was a very common complaint in my research regarding other sites.

I haven't yet bought anything from, but I do plan to try it out for baby clothes.  I already know that with my baby there are outfits, especially the fancy ones, that get worn once (and some not at all).  One trick I've learned about recently is to leave tags on baby clothes until they are worn.  That way, if baby never wears them you can list them as "new with tags".  If you remove the tags, even if baby never wears that outfit, you can only list them as "good condition".  

Monday, March 30, 2015

College Savings Plan for Baby Sam

As I work on figuring out our 2015 savings goals, we know that college savings for Baby Sam is on the list.

We have settled on a 529 Plan rather than a prepaid tuition plan.

The next question is how much to contribute.  $28,000 is the current annual limit if you file taxes jointly, $14,000 if filing singly status before having to do gift tax analysis.

Mr. Sam is in favor of skimping to front load Baby Sam's college fund now and then once Baby is in school dialing back because there is a good chance we will be paying for private school.

I'm not sure where I stand on the issue, but because I manage the finances I prefer more regular and even contributions because its easier to manage.  But, if we contributed $28,000 a year for year one to year five we would end up with $140,000 and that is a huge chunk of money that would then grow over the next 13 years.

Start researching estimated college costs in 2033 and its enough to make your head spin.  $57,000 a year for public, in-state university up to $130,000 a year for private university.  Multiply that by four - five years and you get total costs from $285,000 to $650,000.  Yikes!

However, many experts say that the tuition increases that have occurred in recent years, 5% - 7% increases each year, are simply unsustainable.  So, its quite difficult to know what the real costs will be.  I guess its better to plan high and then be pleasantly surprised, but I don't want to sacrifice retirement savings or other savings to hit an inflated college savings number.  

At present, the 529 plan paperwork is filled out, I've sent off the check for the initial contribution and I have set up bi-monthly electronic contributions at $50.  Not much, but a start while we figure out how much we will be contributing going forward.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Amazon Mom?

After ordering a big box of Seventh Generation wipes and Diaper Genie refills from Amazon, up popped an offer to join the Amazon Mom program.

The Amazon Mom program is a spin off from the Amazon Prime program.  The basics of Amazon Prime are free two day shipping, access to films, t.v. shows, music and e-books as well.  The annual cost for Amazon Prime is $99.

Amazon Mom is part of your Prime membership so it costs $99 a year and includes the above Prime benefits.  In addition, it offers discounts on diapers, wipes and other baby related products.

Specifically you get:

5% off baby wipes. Get 15% off wipes when you subscribe to 5 or more items.
15% off Subscribe & Save:  Save items when you subscribe to 5 or more items.
20% off diapers (15% Amazon Mom discount + 5% Subscribe & Save discount).

Lets talk about subscriptions, that means that you sign up for automatic delivery of certain things, diapers, wipes, formula but also things like soap and toothpaste and non baby items too.  My research indicated that there are pros and cons to subscriptions for baby items including the fact that babies grow and change so you need to manage and update things like diaper sizes and formula preferences, etc.

Amazon Mom used to be a better deal, but I guess folks with fake babies triggered Amazon to close up the extra 5% discount loophole for Subscribe & Save.

I have friends and Mom friends who swear by Amazon Prime, it IS a lot easier to simply order what you need for baby rather than trying to run errands with a baby in tow.  But, Amazon doesn't offer these discount programs or free shipping and then lose money on it.  They know enough about consumer behavior and habits to know that many people will order more items (that cute outfit or toy) such that Amazon will make enough in profits if the shipping is free or if there is a discount.  Certainly there are people out there that are disciplined enough to only order the items they truly need and they make the program work for them.  I also think Amazon Prime probably makes great sense if you are located in a rural area or an expensive area such that you can't get discounted products in a quick and easy fashion close by.

So far, I've not signed up for Amazon Prime or the Amazon Mom program, I'm still thinking about whether it would work for us and whether or not I would truly come out ahead.  Back to my earlier Amazon order, I still obtained free shipping on all the items I ordered without paying for a Prime membership.  

What about you, do you have an Amazon Prime membership, what has been your experience with these discount programs?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Updated Net Worth and Housekeeping

I'm continuing to work on getting our finances back under control. I spent some time this morning working on updating our net worth numbers.  Our net worth is now above the $1.5 million number.

Net Worth IQ web site continues to be flaky, but when its up I prefer to keep my data there.  I've added entries for November 2014 - February 2015 but they are not accurate.  I will be working to add the correct data over the next couple of weeks.

Additional good news, our primary mortgage is now below $220,000.  I will be super excited when its below $200,000 although prepaying the mortgage is unlikely to be something we will be working on any time soon.

In baby news, I opened a savings account at Wells Fargo for Baby Sam for monies received as gifts.  We have been researching college savings plans and at this point we have settled on a 529 plan rather than Florida Prepaid.  More about that research later.

Finally, I am almost done with our 2015 Spending Plan which will influence and direct our 2015 Plan.  More about that later too.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

2014 - Final Savings Numbers

(1) Max out 401k(s) -        $22,588    65%  (goal is $35,000)
(2) Max out IRA(s) -         $11,000    100% (goal is $11,000)
(3) Add to e/r fund -          $10,400    104% (goal is $10,000)
(4) Roof project -              $5,000       100%  (goal is $5,000)
(5) Vehicle replacement -  $5,000      100%  (goal is $5,000)
(6) House projects -          $3,000       100% (goal is $3,000)

Total:  $56,988  83%  (Goal is $69,000)

So, we saved almost $57,000 in 2014.  While a respectable number, we missed our goal by $12,000.  Mr. Sam was not eligible for his 401k until midway through the year and that is one of the main reasons that our 401k savings number was reduced in 2014.

We did have some major expenses in 2014 that are not reflected (entirely) in our savings goals.  First, a new car for Mr. Sam which was paid in part with cash.  Second,  a new roof for one of our properties.  The roof was a savings goal, but also cost more than what we saved and we could no longer put the project off.

We also incurred some debt in 2014.  Mr. Sam's new car was paid in part with cash (about 40%) and the rest is loan.  Second, we added to our family in 2014 (which is why I've been away from the blog for so long).  We had considerable expenses related to the conception (via IVF) and related to the nursery and birth (most covered by insurance, but a big chunk that was not).   We also had a major house project prior to the baby arriving.  We are working on paying down the baby debt and it will be part of our 2015 savings/debt killing plan which I am working on creating.

I've been gone so long

I forgot my password.

But, I'm back.  More about why I was missing in action later.