Monday 135: What Changes Are Afoot?

changes-afoot

The Sunday Before the Monday, 5 December 2016

The election last month has upset many people and institutions.  The stock market is up over 19000, the President-elect is creating waves internationally and nationally, hate-speech is out in the open, rumors abound, disinformation is everywhere, fake news is being exposed.  The result is that no one really seems to know which end is up or down, and the world as we know it is about to change – or not.  Having followed the election more intensely than any in the past, I wonder what it all means.

Employment numbers are up – so that means the Fed is likely to raise interest rates.  We have had a low-interest ARM, but now we are planning to refinance for a fixed interest rate.  We will be scurrying around to clean things up a bit for the appraisal.  We have a tract home, but it has a lot of upgrades, we live in a good neighborhood in a desirable part of California.  We still have not recovered completely what we lost in the 2007-2008 housing crisis, but at least we still have a house.  In an ideal world, we will get what we want, but we don’t expect that to happen.  It’s a 60-day process.

Student loans for The Student are being consolidated; we expect this to occur in January or February.  We chose the graduated consolidation so as to be able to come in at a lower payment, continue to pay off our credit cards at a fast clip, and then move into the student loans with a good focus.  The credit cards are the most important ones to pay off as they have the highest interest rates; after that we  will focus on lower interest items.

Credit card debt is still being paid off as we planned.  Credit Card #2 is being paid at $1000.00 / month, and in my head (and in my head alone!) I want this paid off by June 2017, and if we need to pull money out elsewhere to be done with it, that may be a choice we make then.  Credit cards need to be paid off in advance of either student loans or the mortgage because their interest is of no help to us on taxes.

Savings is continuing at $1000.00 / month, and this is important so as to save for vacation and property taxes (due in December and in April).  It feels really good to move into saving on a routine basis.

The Conversation was traumatic (see this post) and awful in some ways, but it is paying  off (excuse the pun) now as we are more focused than ever on working as a financial team.  We can communicate more easily about finance, discuss the pros and cons of this and that, and altogether have a better grip on what we are doing.  Delaying projects and purchases is no longer an argument we avoid because we can actually communicate.  In my experience, many times a conversation can be upsetting and even unpleasant, but if the intent is to open doors and the attitude is overall one of “us” not “you versus me”, the end result far outweighs the trauma.

And finally, let’s look at November expenses.  Our food bill was up for our household, mostly because of purchasing a lot more fresh fruit than in the past – dietary changes.  Thanksgiving was also in there, but counted under the category of “holiday expenses” – expected and allocated.  Here is a brief list of our breakdown:

  • Credit Card #1 – $610.00
  • Credit Card #2 – $1000.00
  • Credit Card #3 – $0.00
  • Savings – $1000.00
  • Electricity – $167.00
  • Phone (4 on mobile, unlimited) – $275.00
  • Land line – $81.00
  • Fuel – Gasoline – $94.00
  • Household Gas – $20.00
  • Insurance (life, hazard, auto) $610.00
  • Trash – $59.00
  • Auto maintenance – $154.00
  • Cash – $100.00
  • Clothing – $13.00
  • Dog food – $32.00
  • Gifts – $42.00
  • Groceries – $424.00 (trying for $400 / month in December)
  • Alcohol – $25.00
  • Household / Personal supplies – $103.00
  • Medical co-pays – $62.00
  • Thanksgiving meals – $134.00
  • Dining out – $45.00
  • Hobbies – $56.00
  • Car – $320.00

Household expenses were $4426.00.  Savings is $1000.00.  The mortgage is in there, but it’s high, and I’ll keep that private.  When I look at our major costs, the credit cards are the issue, as always, but every month the amount goes down.  That is our major issue, and our major focus; once these clear up, life will become a lot easier.  We are still on track to pay everything off in this arena in another 18-24 months.  We are not being rigid, because things happen, but we are maintaining focus.  Monthly expenses are high, but family members want high internet and data plans, so they are being accommodated.  As you can see, we do spend a lot of money.  I’ll be happier when the credit cards are paid off, for sure!  Then we can direct it to savings and other things!

December expenses are already mounting up:  property taxes have been paid, and re-financing costs are going to come in as well.  Christmas costs will be light this year as we are focusing on family rather than spending, but meals will add to the food bill, and have their own expense category.

Financial programs are worth the cost if you use them.  Years ago I bought a program called Debt Analyzer 95.  It still works on Windows, even Windows 10.  It projects debt payoff when you plug in numbers.  I use it all the time.  Maybe I should upgrade for more functions???  It still can be purchased in an updated form at http://www.debtanalyzer.com/.  The other program I use is You Need a Budget (YNAB).  I have the yearly subscription.  It’s a great program, and I admit, I do not use it quite like it is designed to be used, but it works for me, and lots of others.  Look for it here:  https://www.youneedabudget.com/.  I don’t care much for others as they are either too complicated or too confusing.

Altogether, being off this blog for 6 or so weeks has been good.  The election was emotional, and made us dizzy.  Our discussion required recovering from it and moving forward in a constructive manner.  Trying to find the time to write became a chore, not a pleasurable exercise, so it didn’t happen.  However, writing is therapeutic and helps maintain focus, so onward we shall continue!

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