Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter, etc.

I went to Easter vigil last night. I'm not good st juggling a missal and a lit candle, and now I have wax on a dry clean only skirt. It's in the freezer awaiting treatment at the moment. But the vigil was moving the sermon was good, and Easter is wonderful.

I took my worn out leather gloves to the a Coach store where I bought them. The store's manager was very surprised by the damage and arranged to send a new pair to me. So score one for excellent customer service, and I hope my gloves were simply an outlier.

The other day, the last bit of my commute was in an empty subway car. I think this is the first time that's happened since I moved to New York.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Changes, New Year's Resolutions Checkup

Yesterday was CodeMonkey's last day at Big Bank. He left to pursue a career as a musician and freelancer. I'm happy for him and excited and nervous all at once. This means some changes to our lifestyle: for one thing, we're probably downsizing to a much smaller apartment when our lease ends this summer. I've gone through the budget and slashed it as many ways as I can. This is going to be a challenge, but it's a manageable one.

2013 Goals

1. Meet financial goal. In the interests of privacy, I'll keep the amount to myself, but we are looking to increase our net worth by a certain amount.

Thanks to CodeMonkey's bonus, freelance income, and an unanticipated federal tax refund, we met 57.5% of our annual goal during the first quarter of the year. Given that we will be staying in our more expensive apartment until the end of June and that we will have the expenses of moving during June, I think we will have to work hard to reach 65% of our annual net worth goal by the end of Q2. The second half of the year, with lower expenses and more income streams established, should be easier. I'm pleased to see this goal is still attainable, even with CodeMonkey's career transition, because it was designed to be a stretch, even on his finance income.

We have benefitted from the run up in the stock market of late. As our retirement investments constitute and increasing portion of our net worth, I may have to look at other ways of tracking our financial progress. The markets will fluctuate, but the daily, monthly and yearly ripples are irrelevant over the long haul. I track our net worth to ensure we are meeting our savings goals, and I want to measure that, regardless of what the Dow does. 

2. Go cold sheep. Like cold turkey, only for yarn.
I made one order of yarn this year, when Knitpicks released the new colors of their limited edition sock yarn. That's always a weakness, but thankfully, that's a once a year event.

3. Buy no more than one article of clothing per paycheck.
So far this year I've bought: 1 J Crew wool coat, 1 red cashmere cardigan, 1 red wrap dress, 1 black wrap dress, 1 blue floral wrap dress, 1 fair isle cashmere cardigan, 1 pair white sandals, 1 red sundress. That puts me at eight pieces for the year, more than the six I should have by this point.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Coach Makes Crappy Gloves

On Black Friday 2012, I got tired of freezing cold fingers and bought a pair of Coach black leather gloves. The leather was buttery, the cashmere lining was soft, and we were good to go. My mother always had leather gloves, and I felt Terribly Grown Up with my own pair.

They seemed the sort of thing a sophisticated, together adult lady would have. I am never sophisticated, only rarely together, and curse too much to be a lady, but it's nice to pretend. I have been wearing my grown up gloves walking to and from the subway. It sure beat those $1 one-size-fits-all mismatched acrylic gloves I had been sporting before.

It's now March and several of the fingertip linings on my gloves have worn through completely. This is maddening. It appears that Coach offers a repair service for the "natural life" of some of their items, provided I'm willing to pay $20 for shipping. I'm considering simply knitting my own linings because I don't want to pay for this repair annually. On closer inspection, the cashmere is too fine and too loosely knit to hold up to even the slightest friction.

I have no problem buying expensive things, if they are high quality. If they are high quality. It is outrageous that a $100 pair of gloves which are under three months old are wearing out. I'm annoyed with myself for not inspecting the linings better. I'm annoyed that when buying a high end brand I need to inspect the details. Is it me, or is the quality of everything in mainstream retailers plummeting?

Monday, March 18, 2013

How I Manage Our Finances

I am a little obsessed with budgeting. I visit multiple times a week. I was the only 21 year old I knew with a retirement account (and it was hard to find a Target Retirement Date 2055 mutual fund to invest in). I have net worth projections calculated 15 years out.

I'm also deeply lazy. Here, in no particular order, is what works for us.

-As many bills as possible are auto-drafted so I don't need to remember to pay them.

-I have one financial goal at a time. I keep a list or priorities, and when one is accomplished I move on to the next one. Current priorities look like this.
  1. Pay off the credit card balance.
  2. Keep the emergency fund at 3 month's of living expenses.
  3. Fully fund my IRA.
  4. Fully fund my husband's IRA.
  5. Pay off my student loans in order of interest and then size.
  6. Save up a down payment on a house.
Any income, from any source save my husband's freelance income goes toward these goals, whether it's credit card rewards, tax refunds, overtime, bonuses, or normal paychecks. It helps to focus on one thing at a time. We've never carried a balance on a credit card, so whenever money comes in, I just pay off the balance and then move on. It's been at least 6 months since we've had to touch the emergency fund. My IRA is funded before my husband's because he has access to other retirement vehicles. For a variety of reasons, I try to keep the marital assets divided evenly between us, though it's hard. I kick in extra toward the student loans when we've finished funding one year's IRAs but aren't eligible to fund the next year's. We've managed to fully fund my IRA since 2009 and CodeMonkey's since he was eligible in 2010. My student loan balance is around $8,500, down from $12,000 when I graduated in 2009, which isn't great, but we'll get there. We've never gotten around to saving up to buy a home, but that's just not a priority at the moment anyway.

CodeMonkey's business income is handled separately. I run our budget on the assumption that it doesn't exist, because I prefer not to count on it. Going forward, any money he makes there after expenses and self-employment taxes will be going into a Self-Employment 401k. This will, with any luck, leave his business making no taxable income at all in 2013.

-I track our net worth at the end of every month and have net worth goals I try to reach on an annual basis. Monthly tracking keeps me in line.

-We both have IRAs from previous jobs that I need to roll over into Vanguard IRAs. That's a project for the second quarter of 2013.

-At the moment, all our retirement assets held by Vanguard are in age-appropriate target date retirement funds. Down the road I would like to get more involved in actively managing our investments, but that's not a priority right now and these funds do well enough.

-The whole system probably takes less than an hour a week to manage, so it's very easy.

Weekly Goals 3/16/13

Blogger was being a jerk yesterday and wouldn't let me in, so this is a day late.

Last week's goals:

1. Get rid of 50 things. I think we're moving to a studio in June when our lease is up, so it's time to pare down our possessions. Got rid of 49, with one more being given away when I see my knitting group next.

2. Return things to Brora,, and Lands End. One downside of online shopping is having to mail in returns. Managed Brora, but not the others. Fail.

3. Pack lunch three days this week. Baby steps. Managed once. Fail.

4. Finish Federal tax returns. 98% done; I have one error to be resolved with TurboTax. And we're getting a large refund. Yay!

5. Enter CodeMonkey's business financial information for March into Quickbooks. Not done. Not even started.

6. Make one thing in the Crock Pot for the freezer. Done! I made filling for frozen burritos. Need to assemble them tonight and freeze them for lunches.

This week's goals:

1. Get rid of another 50 things.

2. Read 2 books.

3. Finish one Swedish Fish Mitt, because my mother needs a birthday gift.

4. File Federal and State tax returns.

5. Enter CodeMonkey's March financial information into Quickbooks.

6. Make one thing in the Crock Pot for the freezer.

7. Pack lunch three days this week.

8. Return things to Land's End and

9. Submit receipts for medical reimbursement.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Habemus Papam

Workplace productivity was seriously hindered on Wednesday, not by watching the conclave and its aftermath, but by watching the media watch the conclave, which is way more entertaining. One should be charitable, because most of these people are only on the Popery beat when the last one shuffles off his mortal coil to retire, but it was getting egregious.

Allow me to gripe:

1. The media is shocked the Pope is, in fact, a religious Catholic. Many reporters seem surprised to discover the conclave did not accidentally pick a Unitarian. Rumor has it the Pope also thinks some pretty wild stuff about Jesus. (No offense to the Unitarians. But it's more likely that the Unitarians will start venerating icons and praying in Old Church Slavonic than that the conclave will pick one as pope.)

2. The media thinks Pope is the first non-European to hold the post! No, he's not. Church history actually goes back quite a ways, and in the early church, there were a few from North Africa. Prior to the rise of Islam, the center of the Christian world was not Europe. St. Augustine, one of the Church Fathers was North African. St. John Chrystosym was from modern Turkey. The apostles founded their churches in Turkey, Greece, North Africa and the Middle East. The center of global Christianity didn't really solidify in the West until the fall of Constantinople in the 1400s.

3. Apparently, CNN can not hire a competent Italian translator. The fellow they had translating on the live webstream was awful.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Doing something right

In February, which was fantasmagorically awful, I did two things that made me happy:

1. I paid off one of my student loans.

2. I made myself some fingerless gloves. With strawberries on. I'm kind of in love with them! Even though they're the twee-est thing that ever twee-ed. The yarn is Knitpicks and Lion Brand.

Getting back on the horse

It's been a really bad six weeks. Israel was lovely, everything else was falling apart to one degree or another. My husband has also given notice at his unpleasant, stressful job in finance for anoth gig that allows him mo time to build his music career. My gory and unpleasant medical problems have calmed down and it is no longer dark at 5:00 p.m., so my crushing winter depression is lifting. Things are finally on a more even keel now, so back to blogging.

Goals for this week:

1. Get rid of 50 things. I think we're moving to a studio in June when our lease is up, so it's time to pare down our possessions.

2. Return things to Brora,, and Lands End. One downside of online shopping is having to mail in returns.

3. Pack lunch three days this week. Baby steps.

4. Finish Federal tax returns.

5. Enter CodeMonkey's business financial information for March into Quickbooks.

6. Make one thing in the Crock Pot for the freezer.