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Cashed Out PTO

January 13th, 2014 at 08:38 am

I have an extremely rare opportunity with the company that I work for. They actually allow employees to cash out their PTO. You only need to meet the following criteria to do so:
- Must have 60 hours PTO remaining after cash out.
- Must have taken a least 40 hours PTO in past 365 days.
- Max cash out of 120 hours.

So I cashed out 110 hours and will have 60 remaining. This will help out tremendously with some of our newly-accrued debt from buying our home.

We should be picking up keys for the home today. Smile

Owning Up...

December 27th, 2013 at 11:06 am

I have not posted since I was last promoted at work. We have been super busy with new endeavors! My wife and I launched a coffee review web site, and it took off like we couldn't have imagined. This was borne out of our strong desire and drive to be doing anything and everything in the coffee industry and community. It is our goal to open a roaster and shop.

As such, I have begun roasting coffee at home in a small popcorn popper. You'd be surprised by how awesome these little things can be!

With these new endeavors, however, have come new expenses! We have actually been somewhat irresponsible, and have even lost track at a couple of points. It is partially due to the fact that we have changed up our methods, and partially due to not restraining as much as we should. Some of the new methods have proven to not work with us. So we are currently using a combination of old things that worked before, and new ones. Namely, using a spreadsheet to lay-out our budget, while using YNAB to track spending.

Also new... We are buying our first home! We should be closing no later than this Thursday! How exciting! With utilities, fuel for commuting, and our mortgage payment and insurance, our living expenses will still be lower than renting this apartment.

You should be able to notice some changes to the sidebar. Here are some explanations...

Student Loan: Almost paid-off. Will continue making payments, as it is the lowest % rate.
Visa: Used for home inspection.
Amazon Store Card: Used to purchase yoga gear. Will have to make payments on this.
BillMeLater: Used to purchase espresso machine and refrigerator, washer and dryer for the new home. Will pay down as much as possible with tax returns (~$3,900), and make payments thereafter. (OUCH!) BML's interest rate is 29.99%. That is painful!

All this said, I don't have too many regrets. We could have gone slightly cheaper on the espresso machine (~$200). The appliances for the house, however, were the cheapest new machines you could find. Home Depot had an awesome Cyber Monday sale going on that ended up making the appliances we wanted (great ratings, 5 year warranties, etc.) more than $400 cheaper than rebuilt ones from Sears Outlet. We actually saved $950 off retail prices on them.

It will be tight for a bit, but it's nothing we can't handle. Certainly don't want to do it again, however. Especially since we need to look into getting a second vehicle.

All-in-all, it has been a crazy awesome year! I am looking at receiving a fair chunk of a raise this February. The maximum is 3%. However, only three other people at work (of the 15) are due to get raises, so they are talking about giving me 6%. They have to get it approved, of course, but I have faith in their abilities to go to bat for me.

Until next time, all!

Movin' On Up

June 28th, 2013 at 09:54 am

This has been coming for a long time, but last week I finally got official word that it was happening. I am getting promoted at work, and will be getting a raise of $1.89/hr. Not bad, I suppose.

Most of that raise, however, will be eaten up by groceries, as we will be getting off of food assistance! Woohoo! How liberating! We sure are excited about that, even if it does eat up most of our new income. After that, the raise only comes out to about $34 more per month.

So we looked at our budget. We have budgeted $40/mo for kid-related expenses. Seeing as how our little two year old is already potty-trained, a lot of this is no longer required. So we cut it down to $25/mo. We shall see how that goes. Hopefully we can contribute a decent amount to savings each month.

Also, I started using YNAB (You Need a Budget) recently. I was previously using just the iOS app PocketMoney. YNAB seems to be a bit more realistic and easy to work with. Instead of highlighting your total available funds, it highlights your budgeted amounts. Out of sight, out of mind.

So, here we go! Another new chapter in our lives.

Anniv. Trip, Work life, etc.

May 9th, 2013 at 10:29 pm

My wife and I celebrated three years of marriage this past week. We spend one night and two days in a city that, just at the mention of it, our hearts flutter. It is smaller, friendlier, greener, foodier, etc. It has it all for us.

While on vacation there - without our kiddo in tow for the first time in over two years - it didn't feel like a vacation. It felt better. More real. Like just a weekend in the city. As if we lived there. We have had plans to move there, and to open our future business(es) there. Now, we are even more convinced.

When we returned, I found out that I would again be missing out on a promotion, because someone higher on our team hasn't gotten the position he had applied for (if he had, myself and another would have moved up). Oh well. I've spent over a year in this entry-level position, receiving near-minimal wages (pretty rock-bottom for this field), and unable to afford health, retirement or disability insurance. In fact, this year I will be making some $30/mo less on my base salary. With the FICA tax going back up, rent going up by 3% (I live in the company-owned building and receive a small discount), state minimum wage having gone up by $0.11 (thereby lowering the value of my dollar), and adding in my 3% raise, I'm coming out $30 behind. I suppose you shouldn't count the FICA tax, as that was a temporary thing anyway, but it counts in this instance.

I suppose this is pretty typical around the states.

Text is This article full of charts and Link is http://blog.quandl.com/2013/05/07/justifiably-mad-the-plight-of-the-99-in-15-charts/
This article full of charts puts it into context very well.

However, I should try to do better for myself and my family, yes?

What if I moved to another, much larger company? They seem to have decent reviews on glassdoor.com (especially compared to others), and they have properties all up and down this coast. More room for possibilities? My company does not have any properties in the city or state that we desire to move to.

I don't know. I like the people I work with (most of them). It sure is a difficult decision! Maybe I shall apply for that company, and just see what happens?

Little Updates

April 24th, 2013 at 08:58 am

Our car insurance is going up by $20/mo in June, due to a speeding ticket I received. I contested it so that it, and won, but somehow it is still on my record. No idea.

Anyways, we decided to drop Collision coverage, as our deductible was 1/5 of what we paid for the car. We also opted to lower our Comprehensive deductible from $500 to $250 for only $12 more per 6 months. And considering that we have had a couple break-ins on cars at the property this year, this is a good idea.


In less than two weeks, my wife and I are ditching our kiddo with her parents (driving in from out-of-state) for some much-needed us time! Heading down to Portland to enjoy some fine coffee, beautiful scenery, and some vegan/vegetarian cuisine!

Rent On the Rise - Where to Trim the Fat?

April 9th, 2013 at 09:48 am

Our rent is due to go up by $20 in June. I received a $.36 raise this year ($57/mo) and as a result, our food assistance dropped by $50/mo. Makes sense. But now rent is on the rise as well. The $20 won't break us, as I will still come out $80/mo ahead (before including ~$80/mo commission), but it is still a set-back.

Our expenses are almost as bare-minimum as it gets. Prepaid phones (actually, my phone is on a family plan with my parents, but only costs $2/mo more than prepaid), slowest Internet, no cable, only $40/mo in fuel (no commuting), etc. We even slashed our electric bill by about $15/mo by line-drying our clothes inside rather than using the dryer. We only contribute $80/mo of our own cash to groceries ($230/mo for two adults and one child after assistance).

The only unnecessary expense is $30/mo in coffee.

Water/Sewer/Garbage is through the roof at $80-110/mo. No idea how to avoid that, being on a rented boiler system, an having to pay for other residents leaving crap everywhere.

So, that brings me to car insurance. We recently paid off our car, and still carry full coverage at $140/mo. This is the cheapest. We have looked around. If we drop all but the necessary coverages, it goes down to about $65/mo. Our car cost $5,500 at the time. In order for a downgrade to pay for itself to fund another vehicle, it would take six years to save $5,500.

What to do...

Fell off the wagon.

April 7th, 2013 at 10:47 am

March, and so far April as well, we have not done very well in the way of finances. Mind you, we have no troubles paying bills and all, but I have not been mindful about setting anything aside.
I am still paying bills on set days of the month, and have a month's worth of expenses in checking, but we have dipped below that a bit, and haven't made any deposits in savings.
Since March 1st, we have spent $304 in unbudgeted purchases.
$45 of that was for my wife's blog (which has the potential to have an income in the future).
$85 to dining out (no excuse).
$122 was for outdoor adventuring gear (all on clearance - $272 worth).
$26 was for coffee gear ($72 worth - $46 came from credit card rewards).
$22 for photography gear (potential to make money in future).
$4 for audio equipment (trying to fix record player).
Not sure how we got so off-target. The outdoor gear was foresee, but I did not set a savings goal for it when I foresaw the expense last year.
It has to stop. Almost two months of bad financial behaviour. Well, no more! Back on the right path!

When to Pay Cards?

February 25th, 2013 at 07:10 pm

I have three cards that I use. One is due the 5th. Another is due the 15th. And the last is due the 21st.

I would rather make all of the payments at once. When do I make those payments in order to avoid interest? Let's say I make it the 1st. Does that work (assuming they post within two days)?

Debt Payoffs! [Update]

February 18th, 2013 at 01:03 pm

We ended up with $674 after all was said and done (original estimation was $405, if you take a look at my last blog entry). The crib mattress ended up being $50 cheaper, and we had more in Checking than planned.

That went straight to Savings. And we can start contributing more-than-before to Savings starting next paycheck! Smile

---

Questions.

Some of you use the method of having one-month's worth of expenses in your Checking account at all times. I am starting this, and have already made one-half of the month's expense payments.

When do you refill your Checking to the original balance?

Here is what I plan on doing: Once I am paid, transfer it to Savings, less what I need to keep my running balance (not bank's balance shown) at the appropriate level ($1,761). Is this what everyone does? Every paycheck? Or just once per month?

Debt Payoffs!

February 11th, 2013 at 12:32 pm

We received our tax returns today. $4,848. We are doing the following:
$2,318 to payoff auto loan. Woohoo!
$900 to payoff credit card balance from moving last year for new job. (No more credit card balances!)
$445 to payoff BillMeLater for camera and gear I purchased for side-work.
$600 to Checking Account to keep one month of expenses in Checking, while income gets direct-deposited to Savings. (Thanks to the community for recommending this method!)
$180 to IKEA for two dressers, one for wife and I, one for kiddo (currently stacking things on shelves; quite hectic!), and new crib mattress (either from IKEA or Target).
$405 remaining for our anniversary trip to Portland, OR in May.

Paying off these items will free up quite a bit monthly for extra savings. Smile Which is great, because we have a few savings goals that we have yet to start on. They are:
Savings for future business.
Medical care savings.
Future car savings. (We probably won't need one for quite a few years; only have 49,000 miles on our 2007.)
College savings for the kiddo.
Cushion savings!