Author Topic: Case study: Baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. (UPDATED 2/16/19)  (Read 19185 times)

startingsmall

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Originally posted in November 2014. See February 16, 2019 for most recent update/progress!

Facepunch me gently, as I'm new to this whole MMM thing.  My husband comes from a decidedly non-Mustachian background (his family loves to shop, laments how broke they are on a regular basis, and never had productive conversations about finances while he was growing up).  My family tends towards the more Mustachian, but I've become kind of lax since we got married seven years ago.  Additionally, my husband just started his first full-time job after a lengthy period of grad school and unemployment, so we're making up for a period of lost income and also trying to simultaneously start some new habits.  Go easy on us, please!!

Monthly Income: = $9160/month
My monthly take-home pay:  $5585
Husband's monthly take-home pay: $1420
Reimbursements:  $2155  (husband's housing allowance, health insurance is reimbursed by both of our employers)

Current expenses: = $6810/mo
HOME EXPENSES = $1700/mo
mortgage -1275
electric - 275  (Crazy-high, I know, but we live in a big house!  Trying to work on it, but not sure how much we can reasonably do.)
internet/phone - 75 (Probably cutting home phone soon, esp. now that husband isn't home with our daughter all day.  I was hesitant
          before, because he's bad to let his cell battery die and I worried about what would happen in an emergency.)
trash - 20
Orkin - 45  (will be dropping this when our contract ends in a year, but we had a serious bee issue and were desperate.)
Netflix - 10   
OTHER EXPENSES = $5110/mo
cell phone    - 160  (Verizon.  <facepunch>  Tried to go with PagePlus or other low-cost plan last year, but my husband balked and so
        now we're stuck for another year. Hopefully I can convince him this next time.)
horse rent - 150 (We have two horses, which we are fortunate to be able to board at my husband's parents' house cheaply.)
car insurance - 115
NY Times   - 15
health insurance - 1050 (Almost entirely covered by reimbursements, but I still itemize it in the budget.)
disability / life insurance - 110 (Long-term disability and $500k term life on me.)
daycare - 630
car payment - 310  (Facepunch.  Wanted to find a used Mazda5, but our old car suddenly needed expensive repairs and we couldn't
       find a used one that met our needs.  Bought new Mazda5, but it's financed at only 2.9% and will be paid off early.)
gas for cars - 500  (We commute A LOT. More about that below)
charity- 435 (Includes a monthly deduction to one charity, church contributions, and other charitable donations. Need to increase
      this, but want to get an emergency fund in place first.)
pets: food, meds, etc - 225 ( 2 aging dogs, 2 horses, and 3 chickens,  high number but can't really be adjusted much right now.)
Citibank debt - 380  (Credit card debt at 0.0% through September, on track to pay off before then and this will go towards savings or charity.)
Cash for groceries/fun - 1030 (240/wk) (This is sort of odd, but it's the closest that I've ever come to getting my husband on a
     budget so I'm rolling with it.  Once a week, I pull out $240 cash.  I keep $10 for myself and give the other $230 to him.  He goes
     grocery shopping (he's in charge of groceries/cooking), and whatever is left is used for meals out, entertainment, clothing for us
     and our daughter, etc.  The downside is that I can't itemize any further than "groceries/fun" because he loses receipts.  I'm
     guessing he spends about $130 of that on his weekly Walmart trip - groceries, household supplies, diapers,etc -  and the other
     $100 goes to eating out, toys for the kiddo, clothing, etc... but I'm not entirely sure.  The plus side is that this is way better than
      this time last year, when we would sometimes spend $1000/mo on restaurants alone!!)


Assets:   = $117,517
Roth IRA - $65,955
Rollover IRA - $38,733
Simple IRA - $500
Daughter's 529 - $9829
Checking/savings - $2500

Current contributions:
- My job: 7% of my salary + 3% employer match into Simple IRA = $9660/yr
- Husband's job: $5k/yr into church-sponsored retirement fund
-Since husband getting a job just happened a few weeks ago, the current plan is to contribute $2280/mo to savings as follows:
ROTH IRA   - 25 (Not a focus right now, but I want to get in the habit of contributing.)
Daughter's 529 - 25 (Most money in the 529 is gifts, but we also contribute a small amount. Want to pay 50% of in-state expenses.)
Short term savings (house repairs, car repairs, visits to family, holiday gifts etc) - 500
Emergency fund- 1700  (Will stop when we hit $10k and reallocate this money to car loan, +/- Roth, +/- charity)

Liabilities:
Citibank credit card - $4292 @ 0.0% through Sept (between currently monthly payment & expected tax return, will pay off early)
Auto loan - $16.8k @ 2.9%
Mortgage - $208,769 @ 3.5% (purchased Dec 2011 for $228k, estimated current value $262k on Zillow but more realistically I think ~ $250k)



Specific Question(s):

I'm not okay with our housing and commuting costs. 

When our old house unexpectedly sold after several years on the market, we were looking for a 2000 sq. ft house on 1/2 acre in the $200k price range.  There was nothing in that range that met our needs at the time, so we ended up falling in love with a 2500 sq ft house on 5 acres priced at $250k.  It ended up being a great value, as we were able to get it for only $228k, but we've since realized that it is much more house than we need.  It's nice that we'll be able to accommodate my entire family for a week at Christmas (parents and 2 adult brothers), but unnecessary.  Mortgage payment is a bit higher than I'd like, utility bills are significantly higher than I'd like, time that we have to spend on maintenance is WAY too high (the 5 acres is all grass and needs to be mowed at least every other week in the summer), and I ended up with a job change that made my new commute horrendous.

My current commute is 66 mi/day.  My husband does daycare duty before/after work, so his commute is 38 mi/day.  So we total approximately 105 mi/day, 4-5 days per week.  This sucks.  Unfortunately, we live in a rural area near my husband's family (he's unwilling to move away from them, and being near them  does have it's perks) and there's not much out here in the way of daycare alternatives or job alternatives (he's a minister and I'm a veterinarian, so pretty specialized fields).... so shortening the commute would almost certainly mean selling the house.  Even given that, though, the shortest we could possibly get our total daily commute (if we found a house just off the highway that runs between my job and the daycare) would be 64 miles/day.  Yeah, that's 40% less than now, but I can't decide if that's quite enough of an increase to take the financial hit of moving from a house that we've owned for such a short period of time.  I bounce back and forth, so any thoughts on how to make this decision would be MUCH appreciated!! 

Also, any ideas/suggestions/facepunches on all of the other details I've posted would be welcome as well, but please be gentle!  I think I know what I need to do and it's just a matter of doing it (drop Orkin, cancel home phone, escape from Verizon, etc).... except when it comes to the house, and there I'm completely stumped!

ETA: I'm 35, husband is 30, daughter is 2 :)
Current vehicles - 2008 Nissan Frontier with 145k miles (mine before marriage but hubby now drives it and argues, somewhat justifiably, that we do significant benefit from having a truck, avg 20-22 mpg), 2014 Mazda 5 with 3k miles (avg 26 mpg).
« Last Edit: February 16, 2019, 01:41:23 PM by startingsmall »

Gin1984

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2014, 02:07:44 PM »
Does your state give you a deduction for your 529?

startingsmall

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2014, 02:11:54 PM »
Yes, deductible from state income tax.  (And when gifts go into the 529 from other family, those are checks that were sent to me and deposited into my account and then I turn around and transfer to the 529, so I get the deduction on those.  Maybe that's evil, but my family is in a state without state income tax!)

mm1970

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2014, 02:38:36 PM »
How much time would you gain back if you were commuting 64 miles/day instead of >100?

startingsmall

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2014, 02:49:26 PM »
It's all highway miles on back country roads without traffic, so if we could find something just off the highway we'd gain about 40 minutes per day total.  That would be split somehow between the two of us depending on where along that highway a house came available, or would be further decreased by how far off the highway we had to be.  I guess a more realistic estimate would probably be that we'd save 30 minutes/day (because the chances of finding something right along that road are slim - it's mostly trailers through there)  and therefore I'd get about 20 minutes/day and he'd get about 10.  Every little bit helps, but it's not quite a huge life-changing difference from that perspective.   I dunno, maybe it should be?  I guess it would really depend on the exact location of the house.

Love these questions!  Great food for thought - keep 'em coming! :)
« Last Edit: November 30, 2014, 03:06:13 PM by startingsmall »

startingsmall

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2014, 03:14:25 PM »
Seeing all the facts written out and discussing the actual change in our available time, I think I'm starting to think that moving DOESN'T make sense.  Unless someone wants to play devil's advocate and convince me otherwise :)  Maybe I'll someday be able to find a job closer to our house... it sounds like that would probably be a better plan than trying to move at this time. 

Gin1984

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #6 on: November 30, 2014, 03:46:25 PM »
IMO, your EF should always be a line in your budget, that money can go to a Roth (after five years), cash or taxable account, but you should always be putting money into it.

MDM

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2014, 04:53:57 PM »
$9160/mo take home implies ~$150K annual income.

Any reason not to put $35K/yr into 401k plans, and $11K/yr into Roth IRAs?

You should still have plenty left over....


startingsmall

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2014, 05:20:54 PM »
We're a bit under $150k, but close. 

The plan is definitely to max out my Simple IRA & two Roths (hubby doesn't have one yet, so we'll need to open one).  Husband's plan is a 403(b)9.  We haven't yet received any info about it (except that his employer will contribute $5k/yr) so I'll have to look into that further once we get some info.

Regardless, I feel like I should hold off on that stuff until we get pay off the credit card and have a $10k emergency fund.  Agreed?

Gin1984

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2014, 05:28:56 PM »
We're a bit under $150k, but close. 

The plan is definitely to max out my Simple IRA & two Roths (hubby doesn't have one yet, so we'll need to open one).  Husband's plan is a 403(b)9.  We haven't yet received any info about it (except that his employer will contribute $5k/yr) so I'll have to look into that further once we get some info.

Regardless, I feel like I should hold off on that stuff until we get pay off the credit card and have a $10k emergency fund.  Agreed?
I would not.  If you support yourself on one income, I'd pay off the debt before the Roths but not before the pre-tax accounts.  The EF should be line item but I would not wait to fund your other accounts before you get it to $10,000.

MDM

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2014, 05:43:22 PM »
Unless you have had some amazing returns in that Roth IRA, you have your emergency fund already established: Roth IRA contributions can be withdrawn penalty-free at any time.  The Roth IRA contributions are >$10K, correct?

Rather than use cash for groceries, etc., you could use one of the rewards credit cards instead.  That would save you 1-2%, plus you could download the CC transactions to Quicken (or Mint, or...) so you know where the money is going.  Identifying overspending is the first step toward reducing it.

I don't think you have to wait for the CC payoff to fund the tax-advantaged (401k or 403b) accounts to the maximum allowed by the IRS.  But you should check that with your own numbers.  You can use the spreadsheet template in the How to Write a Case Study thread if you don't have your own budgeting software.

startingsmall

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #11 on: November 30, 2014, 06:07:38 PM »
Okay, so to make sure I'm understanding.... you would 1. max out my SIMPLE IRA and hubby's 403(b) ASAP, drawing that money out of our current EF budget, 2. continue paying off the credit card debt as planned, 3. start funding the Roth(s) up to the max as soon as debt's paid off.  I know that I can withdraw contributions from my Roth and I've read the arguments in favor of not even having a traditional emergency account but instead using the Roth for that purpose, just not quite sure whether it's something I feel comfortable with. 

Previously used a rewards credit card for all purchases, but hubby gets out of control with that.  I'd go back to it in a heartbeat if it was just me, but right now the cash system seems to work better for us.  (Except gas - that we do with the credit card.)
« Last Edit: November 30, 2014, 06:09:09 PM by startingsmall »

Gin1984

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #12 on: November 30, 2014, 06:16:37 PM »
Okay, so to make sure I'm understanding.... you would 1. max out my SIMPLE IRA and hubby's 403(b) ASAP, drawing that money out of our current EF budget, 2. continue paying off the credit card debt as planned, 3. start funding the Roth(s) up to the max as soon as debt's paid off.  I know that I can withdraw contributions from my Roth and I've read the arguments in favor of not even having a traditional emergency account but instead using the Roth for that purpose, just not quite sure whether it's something I feel comfortable with. 

Previously used a rewards credit card for all purchases, but hubby gets out of control with that.  I'd go back to it in a heartbeat if it was just me, but right now the cash system seems to work better for us.  (Except gas - that we do with the credit card.)
Yes, however, I should add one thing.  Cut the 529 contributions until the debt is gone. 

MDM

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2014, 06:21:16 PM »
Okay, so to make sure I'm understanding.... you would 1. max out my SIMPLE IRA and hubby's 403(b) ASAP, drawing that money out of our current EF budget, 2. continue paying off the credit card debt as planned, 3. start funding the Roth(s) up to the max as soon as debt's paid off.  I know that I can withdraw contributions from my Roth and I've read the arguments in favor of not even having a traditional emergency account but instead using the Roth for that purpose, just not quite sure whether it's something I feel comfortable with. 

Previously used a rewards credit card for all purchases, but hubby gets out of control with that.  I'd go back to it in a heartbeat if it was just me, but right now the cash system seems to work better for us.  (Except gas - that we do with the credit card.)
Good point on that potential downside of credit cards.  Seems you understand the trade-offs and you know your situation best.

On your points #1, #2, and #3: yes to #1, and I would do #2 and #3 simultaneously.  At least, I think I would - prior to anything (call it point #0 if you will), I'd use some budgeting tool (YNAB or roll-your-own Excel or the link given above) to confirm that #2 and #3 (and the 529, and some taxable investing) can in fact be done at the same time, assuming #1 is done.

MKinVA

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #14 on: November 30, 2014, 07:52:51 PM »
Get rid of the NY Times just as a matter of principle. You can read a number of articles for free each month. You don't need a subscription. Also, if you have five acres, why can't the horses be on your property? And finally, your husband is losing receipts? Tell him to stop that. He's not a baby, he's a grown up and if he is going to be ministering to a congregation, he'd better get his act together. There will be couples coming to him for advice on just these stresses in their marriage. Ask him to practice what he will tell them.

startingsmall

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #15 on: November 30, 2014, 08:02:15 PM »
I typically go over what the NY Times allows for free, as that is my major source of news.  Point taken, though.

Horses can't be moved to our house at this time because we have no fencing and no barn.  That may happen at some time in the future, but at the moment it seems easier and more cost-effective to have them at the in-laws then to spend the ~$20k on horse fencing, cross-fencing, and a barn that we would need in order to move them here.  (Additionally, they're pastured with my in-laws two horses and the four of them have been together for 12+ years, so there's stability associated with keeping them there.  Stressed horses = colic and injuries, all of which mean $$$$ vet bills.)

Point taken on the receipts as well, but that's not a battle I'm willing to fight.  His family spends money like its going out of style, puts everything on credit cards, and constantly harasses him for the fact that I'm so "cheap."  The fact that he's willing to limit himself to a cash budget is good enough for me.  He'd find a way to save receipts if he felt like it were truly necessary (ie. we will have our house taken away if we do not do XYZ), but his logic is that we're already doing better than 99% of the people in this poor, rural, uneducated small town by even saving 10% for retirement and therefore we should just relax a bit.  It's hard to argue with that, because our finances are combined and therefore its his decision just as much as it is mine.  Would I like to lower that weekly amount even more? Sure. But first I'll need to convince him that we need to stop eating out for other reasons.  (Been making a lot of progress in that department for two reasons - a) we both need to lose weight, and b) now that he has to get up early for work, he's finally realizing why I don't want to make the long drive into town at night just for dinner.  I think I may be able to get him to okay a slight weekly reduction sometime within the next few weeks.)
« Last Edit: November 30, 2014, 08:17:43 PM by startingsmall »

yoga mama

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #16 on: November 30, 2014, 08:20:34 PM »
Congrats on all the great changes you are making.  I agree with others on stopping the 529 contributions.  What you have right now, with gifts from family and compounding, will be a very nice sum by the time your daughter is in college.  Check out MMM post on paying for college.  I'm with you on helping her out with higher education - we plan to do that for our kids too, but I've stopped the 529 contributions.  You can use many retirement accounts for tuition without penalty (don't remember details, sorry). 

Also second maxing out pre-tax accounts, both yours and hubby's.  Start now because there are some accounts that you have to contribute to by Dec 31.  (Some allow contributions till April.) 

Question.  What is your goal?  Do you want to retire?  Work PT?  Accumulate FU money?  Having in-laws nearby is great.  Are they planning to retire any time soon, and would they be willing to cover PT daycare at that point?  Knowing what you're working toward would be very helpful! 

Re: NYT - I love it too but finally cut off the $15/mo because I wanted to use my time more productively.  I stopped reading much news at all and found myself much happier for it.  I read Huffington Post when I just need something to do for a few minutes but I've tried to get away from spending so much time in front of the screen and have found it to be a positive change.

Gin1984

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #17 on: November 30, 2014, 09:06:15 PM »
I typically go over what the NY Times allows for free, as that is my major source of news.  Point taken, though.

Horses can't be moved to our house at this time because we have no fencing and no barn.  That may happen at some time in the future, but at the moment it seems easier and more cost-effective to have them at the in-laws then to spend the ~$20k on horse fencing, cross-fencing, and a barn that we would need in order to move them here.  (Additionally, they're pastured with my in-laws two horses and the four of them have been together for 12+ years, so there's stability associated with keeping them there.  Stressed horses = colic and injuries, all of which mean $$$$ vet bills.)

Point taken on the receipts as well, but that's not a battle I'm willing to fight. His family spends money like its going out of style, puts everything on credit cards, and constantly harasses him for the fact that I'm so "cheap."  The fact that he's willing to limit himself to a cash budget is good enough for me.  He'd find a way to save receipts if he felt like it were truly necessary (ie. we will have our house taken away if we do not do XYZ), but his logic is that we're already doing better than 99% of the people in this poor, rural, uneducated small town by even saving 10% for retirement and therefore we should just relax a bit.  It's hard to argue with that, because our finances are combined and therefore its his decision just as much as it is mine.  Would I like to lower that weekly amount even more? Sure. But first I'll need to convince him that we need to stop eating out for other reasons.  (Been making a lot of progress in that department for two reasons - a) we both need to lose weight, and b) now that he has to get up early for work, he's finally realizing why I don't want to make the long drive into town at night just for dinner.  I think I may be able to get him to okay a slight weekly reduction sometime within the next few weeks.)
That is a good point.  There are things that people on here say are not good, but make my husband happy.  Marriage is a compromise. 

feelingroovy

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #18 on: November 30, 2014, 09:21:41 PM »
Is your husband's commute mileage including taking your daughter to daycare?  What will happen once she's in school? 

And is your husband's housing allowance dependent at all on what you're spending for housing or is it a fixed amount?  Because really, his job is covering the housing costs.

I think given the housing limitations and your husband's wanting to not feel too budgeted, your best bet is going to be to start with things that either affect only you or are painless.  Examples of the latter are replacing light bulbs to reduce electricity or shopping to reduce insurance rates.

The biggest example for the former is your Mazda, which it seems you're commuting in. 26mpg isn't the worst possible, but it's not great.  With your commute, you'd be a great candidate for a hybrid.  If you could get a used Prius for $10-11k it would both reduce car payments and have a huge reduction on the gas.

NinetyFour

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #19 on: November 30, 2014, 09:48:35 PM »
Call up the NYT and tell them you need to cancel.  Then ask if there is currently a sweet deal.  They will usually offer something like 99 cents for a month or $5 for 3 months.  Totally not necessary to pay the $15 per month.

TexasStash

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #20 on: November 30, 2014, 10:20:22 PM »
As a married person, I appreciate having difficulty with discussing money with a spouse. But it needs to be said that your situation appears to be driven mostly by his family history and lack of financial responsibility. The rest of the solutions offered here are basically window dressing until the bigger issues are dealt with. The hard part is seeing them as worthwhile battles. This isn't about a few dollars here or there. This is about whether you will work together as a family unit without family interference and whether he will be responsible with stewarding God's gifts.

I certainly don't suggest you go in with guns blazing but it sure seems like your husband hears all of the negatives of your MMM approach and only the supposed positives of spending. Perhaps you could take some time to think about what your approach will do to set up your family for future success, like "we should do this because it will give us financial independence in X years" or "Daughter's college could be fully funded and she will start her career one day with zero student loan debt".

In the meantime, you be the one to go first (as you are doing) and show him that you're willing to spend less and that it doesn't cost you anything in terms of sacrificed lifestyle.

Also don't forget that contracts don't have to be completed. If it makes more sense to pay an early termination fee than to serve out the contract, then do it! The best day to make a change is today!

Prayers and well wishes as you go about your project of not only changing the family financial situation but overall mindset toward finances!

ClaycordJCA

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #21 on: December 01, 2014, 12:34:45 AM »
Is solar a viable option to reduce electricity costs?  Might be worth exploring a 20 year solar lease.

former player

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #22 on: December 01, 2014, 02:56:39 AM »
You've both been through grad school and have no student loans: big congratulations are in order.

At a rough calculation you will be saving about $40,000 per annum: your job contributions, your husband's job contributions, proposed savings and your mortgage principal.  Not too shabby, that.

Moving is expensive: don't do it unless you have to.  Bringing your husband along gently is essential: congratulations also due on how you are managing that, and don't push too hard too fast - gentle steps will get you to the same place in the end.

Sorry to hear about the commutes: looks like you are stuck with them until you retire or find closer jobs and childcare/schooling.  As your husband settles into and then becomes resentful of all the driving, it will be an added gentle incentive to him to further adopt the way of the mustache.

The only suggestion I'd make at the moment is to adjust the chickens into the pot as and when they stop producing eggs, but as you describe them as pets I can understand it may not be an option.

startingsmall

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #23 on: December 01, 2014, 04:53:54 AM »
Thank you guy so much for all of the great feedback!!  So glad that I decided to suck it up and sit down to write that long-winded post :) To answer some questions....

yoga mama - I can't see myself ever retiring, but I'd really love to go down to part-time sometime in the not-too-distant future (5 years? 10 years?).  I love what I do, just hate the daily grind of it all... and I think cutting back to 10-20 hrs/wk would let me truly love it.  Husband just started his career and therefore has no intention of retiring anytime soon, but pastors experience a high burnout rate and therefore I know that the longevity of a ministry career is often pretty short-lived unless he can find his way into some sort of chaplaincy or nonprofit work, so I'd like to be prepared for that as well.   My MIL is retired from teaching but currently works PT.  Even if she weren't working, I'm not sure that she'd offer much in the way of daycare assistance.  She watches daughter if she's sick or if John has commitments after daycare closes but before I get home from work, but she has other grandkids, has a pretty busy social/church life, and feels that it's really important for kids to be in daycare.  (Our daycare is an excellent and I must admit that our daughter has learned a lot just in the last two weeks).    With this many people chiming in about the NYT thing, I guess I need to take the plunge :)

feelinggroovy -   Yes, his mileage includes taking her to daycare.  Once she's in school, it will go down from 38 mi/day to about 15 miles per day, which is a huge improvement!!  It seems like she'll be in daycare forever, but unfortunately I guess kindergarten is only 3 years away :)  Husband's housing allowance is $1000/month, so we have a little bit of room to decrease our housing expenses before that would decrease. 

NinetyFour  - Will try that idea first, then cancel if I can't get it cheaper :)

TexasStash - We've gone over the Shockingly Simple Steps chart and I do finally have him on board with the concept, we just disagree on how extreme to be.  Given that we're currently saving a pretty big chunk WITHOUT any complaints from him, I'm trying to go easy and not push him out of his comfort zone.  It'd be totally different if we were at opposite extremes, but we aren't.  Appreciate the feedback, though.

ClaycordJCA - We're in NC, which is pretty unfriendly towards residential solar.  (Corporate solar is another issue- our property backs up to a huge solar farm!)  My understanding is that residential solar isn't helpful in this area due to high fees charged by the utility companies, but I'll look into it!  Thanks for the idea!

former player
- 'The girls' are still laying well, but something tells me we'll be keeping them even when they aren't.  Luckily, they're our cheapest pets by far :) 





startingsmall

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #24 on: December 01, 2014, 05:36:46 AM »
Would have bought a hybrid, but I have family that visits from out of state at least every month or two and we often take day trips to the mountains while they're here. Factored in cost of gas and everything, and the Mazda 5 was still cheaper than renting a minivan during their visits. It's the most efficient 3rd row vehicle on the market... If they introduce a third row Prius V here in the United States, I'm on it!
« Last Edit: December 01, 2014, 08:26:26 AM by startingsmall »

A mom

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #25 on: December 01, 2014, 07:32:12 AM »
I disagree about the NYT. They are one of the few decent news sources left and they are struggling financially. I would call it money towards making the world a better place (or keeping it from getting worse).

kib

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #26 on: December 01, 2014, 07:42:13 AM »
What if you gave your husband a debit card instead of cash?  That would force him to be somewhat cognizant of the balance as well as giving you an automatic paper trail.

Your husband sounds similar to mine, and one thing that has helped is giving him more control over money.  I reworked the budget so that he's paying for gas out of his own discretionary spending, and that made a big difference in his attitude toward gas guzzlers. Paying his own verizon bill?  Voila, we now have RW.  For every bill he actually sees as taking away from his enjoyments, there is a corresponding reduction in wasteful spending that is NOT coming about due to nagging.  Yay!  (I bump up his discretionary spending allowance by the amount I feel is reasonable. For example, he had a $75 verizon plan.  I felt that comparable service could be had for $40, so I added that much to his monthly allotment and shifted the bill to his discretionary account. When he felt the bite of $75 a month he decided to go with RW, so he now has a $10 phone bill, he has an extra $30 in hand and our joint account has an extra $35.) 

(Granted, there is a financial reward for him in reducing his waste, that money is still usually being spent on something he wants, but turning it from mandatory spending into discretionary cash is still freeing up some money and making him more aware of the idea that money has to come from somewhere finite, as well as his spending pattern in general, which is a step in the right direction.)
« Last Edit: December 01, 2014, 08:41:43 AM by frufrau »

MayDay

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #27 on: December 01, 2014, 08:01:26 AM »
I think the cash for groceries and other monthly expenses is reasonable.

I think your car's are insane. If it was my husband he'd be getting a major facepunch on the truck and insisting on living so far from your jobs. Pick one. If he wants such a long commute then it's time for a prius.

And why in the world did you pick a Mazda5 with its fairly awful mileage when you have such an insane commute?- just read that, sorry. Although given your commute it still seems you'd be ahead driving two economy cars and just taking them both on family trips.  I'd say the person with a shorter commute drives the Mazda and the other drives a prius, and the truck gets sold.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2014, 08:07:56 AM by MayDay »

starbuck

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #28 on: December 01, 2014, 08:04:56 AM »
Point taken on the receipts as well, but that's not a battle I'm willing to fight.  His family spends money like its going out of style, puts everything on credit cards, and constantly harasses him for the fact that I'm so "cheap."  The fact that he's willing to limit himself to a cash budget is good enough for me.  He'd find a way to save receipts if he felt like it were truly necessary (ie. we will have our house taken away if we do not do XYZ), but his logic is that we're already doing better than 99% of the people in this poor, rural, uneducated small town by even saving 10% for retirement and therefore we should just relax a bit.  It's hard to argue with that, because our finances are combined and therefore its his decision just as much as it is mine.  Would I like to lower that weekly amount even more? Sure. But first I'll need to convince him that we need to stop eating out for other reasons.  (Been making a lot of progress in that department for two reasons - a) we both need to lose weight, and b) now that he has to get up early for work, he's finally realizing why I don't want to make the long drive into town at night just for dinner.  I think I may be able to get him to okay a slight weekly reduction sometime within the next few weeks.)

I'm going to push you on this, because I don't understand why you would refer to this as a 'battle' and sidestep the issue. Since your spouse is in a leadership role, both as a parent AND a minister, I think he needs to step up his game. Collecting receipts is NOT considered a hardship. Stick an envelope in the car and ask him to put them in there. Or some box next to the front door. The data that you can get from tracking ALL (or 90%) of your spending is very very powerful. Since CCs aren't practical, tracking by receipts is the other option.

Let your spouse know that this is important to you, and honestly that should be enough for this small ask. If he's not willing to do it, well then you probably need to explore with him the why behind that. I feel like the unwillingness to collect receipts is a symptom, and it's very very important to uncover the disease. (Not just for financial reasons, but for emotional and relationship well-being too.)

startingsmall

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #29 on: December 01, 2014, 08:33:20 AM »
I feel like the unwillingness to collect receipts is a symptom, and it's very very important to uncover the disease. (Not just for financial reasons, but for emotional and relationship well-being too.)

The disease is a lack of organizational skills.  He'd hang onto the receipts, but they'd end up all over his car, going through the wash in his pockets, etc.  It isn't an unwillingness to collect them, but an unwillingness to get them home in an organized-enough manner to be useful to me.  He can keep his work stuff organized, but when it comes to home he's one of those people whose desk is always buried under a foot-tall pile of stuff.



Husband would be glad to drive a more fuel-efficient car (ie. he'd take the Mazda5 and I could get a Prius), as long as we keep an old 'beater' truck around for hauling hay, horse feed, fencing supplies, yard waste, chicken supplies, etc.  Maybe I need to re-evaluate the math on that, but last I checked I couldn't make it work.  Then again, that was before he had the work/daycare commute, so maybe it would be different now.    (Realized that I hadn't quite made that clear in the initial post, so I went back and edited.  He doesn't need a truck for image reasons, but because he feels that we need it for functionality.  While we don't NEED it, we do use our truck as a truck on a regular basis - ie. picking up multiple truckloads of hay bales for the horses.) 
« Last Edit: December 01, 2014, 08:40:31 AM by startingsmall »

kib

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #30 on: December 01, 2014, 08:44:12 AM »
Just wanted to mention, your mazda 5 can probably tow a $250 harbor freight trailer.  I have a matrix that will tow 1500 pounds and fit an amazing amount inside as well, so a 35 mpg car actually does double duty as a "truck" when needed.

startingsmall

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #31 on: December 01, 2014, 09:45:27 AM »
Just wanted to mention, your mazda 5 can probably tow a $250 harbor freight trailer.  I have a matrix that will tow 1500 pounds and fit an amazing amount inside as well, so a 35 mpg car actually does double duty as a "truck" when needed.

Yeah, I've suggested that but he has pointed out that the Mazda5 (or any car) may not be able to get through his parents' muddy pastures to their barn, along the bumpy treeline back to the storage building on our property, along the deeply-potholed muddy road back to the hay barn at the farm where they purchase their hay, etc.  We live in a really rural area and so our truck does go off-road a good bit.  I know the MMM philosophy is anti-truck, and I get that, but we really do USE our truck more than most people.  Again, I'll have to run the numbers... maybe having 3 vehicles with a 'beater' truck would be justified.

startingsmall

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #32 on: October 02, 2016, 07:55:41 PM »
So, here it is two years later... and we've made some progress!!

1. Our realtor contacted us with a client who really, really, really wanted a house just like ours. He offered us $250k, which we couldn't refuse. So we moved.... resulting in:
  - My commute decreasing from 66 miles/day to 38 miles/day (I still have the 2014 Mazda5, but far less gas expense)
  - My husband's commute decreasing from 38 miles/day to 27 miles/day (he still has the 2008 Nissan Frontier, but far less gas expense)
  - Lower costs and much less maintenance.  We used to easily spend 1-2 days per week on the house. Now we're down to a few hours/wk.
  - MUCH better school district (honestly, our major motivating factor)
WIN, WIN, WIN, WIN!

2. I changed jobs. I went from making a long commute 4 or 5 days a week (alternating) two years ago to now making a shorter commute only 3 or 4 days per week (alternating). I went from working 40 hrs/wk to now working 32 hrs/wk. I took a paycut, but it was well worth it. I'm now much happier and spending much less on commuting. Also, I'm now working for a corporation, so my benefits are better. WIN, WIN, WIN.

3. With my new free time, I've started doing freelance medical/scientific writing from home. Apparently, I'm pretty good at it. My hourly rate is nearly 2x what I make at my FT job, the work is less stressful (partially because I'm doing it from home, partially because I'm burnt out on vet med and enjoying the change of pace), and it fits my schedule. WIN, WIN, WIN.

4. My husband sees the progress that we're making and he's excited. We've struck a balance that results in us being slightly-Mustachian, but really without feeling like we're sacrificing AT ALL. I feel like we're amazingly spendy, but we're making progress so I'm okay with it for now.

So, I figured I'd update here for a few reasons. First, so that I have a place to track our progress. Second, because I want to give up my FT job for a combination of PT work and freelance... but I can't decide when it will be 'safe-ish' to do so.

Income:  $145k-ish
My FT job: $80,500/yr (down from $92,000/yr)
Husband's FT job: $45,000/yr ($25k in taxable income, $15k in non-taxed allowances, $5k into church-sponsored retirement fund... up from $40,000/yr)
My freelance income: $20k this year, maybe???  I just took the decrease in my work hours a couple of months ago, which allowed me to pick up a LOT of additional work with one particular client in
        the last couple of months. I've earned $3000 in the last month and that should continue for many months. My 2016 YTD freelance income is currently at about $14k.

Current expenses: $5430/mo (down from $6810)

HOME EXPENSES = $1625/mo (down from $1700)
mortgage - $1160 (down from $1275)
electric - $200 (down from $275)
internet/phone/cable - $90 (up from $75.... they offered us cable for only $20/mo, so we okayed it. will cancel when the price goes up after one year) 
trash - $25 (up from $20)
Orkin - N/A (down from  $45)
Netflix - $10   
Lawn guy - $140/mo during the summer months only (facepunch away, but we decided that this was well worth it... the savings in gas for our riding mower pay the lawn guy)
 
OTHER EXPENSES = $3805/mo (down from $5110)
cell phone  - $170 (up from $160.... We're with Verizon and I know that we need to look into the low-cost providers, but we're in a rural area with poor coverage and therefore I'm scared to change.
         Need to suck it up and do it anyway.) 
horse rent - $150 (unchanged)
car insurance - $180 (up from $115.... he had an accident and we filed a claim instead of paying out of pocket. I need to call and drop collision and comprehensive on his truck to get the rate back
        down.... adding that to my to-do list right now!!)
NY Times   - $15/mo (unchanged, can't bring myself to give it up!)
disability / life insurance - $110 (unchanged, long-term disability and $500k term life on me.)
daycare - $650/mo (up from $630, but now paid through dependent-care FSA so the actual cost to us has gone down)
car payment - $310 (unchanged, @ 2.9%)
gas for cars - $200 (down from $500!! YAY!!)
charity- $795 (up from $435)
pets: food, meds, etc - $100 (down from $225 following the loss of one dog and giving away the chickens)
groceries - $645
fun money (meals out, purchases, etc) - $400
YMCA membership - $80 (husband started encountering weight-related health issues and lacks motivation to exercise outside of gym setting, so we got a family membership and I'm also getting
    in better shape)

Assets, excluding home: $197,998 (up from $117,517)
Retirement accounts - $160,991 (up from $105,188 - Roth, 401k, husband's pension)
HSA - $4700 (up from zero)
Daughter's 529 - $15,307 (up from $9829)
Checking/savings - $17,000 (up from $2500)

Liabilities, excluding home: $9637 (down from $21,092)
Citibank credit card - zero (down from $4292)
Auto loan - $9637 @ 2.9% (down from $16.8k)

Mortgage - $198,884 on a house worth $235k (down from $208,769 on a house worth $250k)

I realize that there's still more that we could be doing to optimize expenses, but this is where we are right now. It's a comfortable place, where we're both relatively content with no disagreements over money and I'm happy with our progress...

Except that I don't want to work so much.

Next year, my daughter will start kindergarten. (Also, we're trying for #2.) Working four or five full weekend days per month (which is what my current job requires) isn't a huge deal right now, because I can keep her home on a weekday to spend some time with her. Next year, though, that option won't exist anymore. Also, the typical work-until-6-or-7pm veterinarian schedule makes it hard to have evening time with young kiddos, especially given the unpredictable nature of a vet's schedule (sometimes we leave at closing, sometimes it's an hour or more later). I want one of the cushy 'mommy vet' PT jobs, working 3-4 half-days per week (they do exist, though finding one may take some patience).

Cutting my vet work back to 15-20 hrs/wk, I would likely be able to earn about $30-40k/yr. My husband's job will be able to take over providing our health insurance, but we'll lose out on my 401k, HSA, and some other benefits. I'd likely continue to do freelance writing on the side, though, so my actual income if I cut back to PT work should be around $50k/yr, which I think is doable. If I wait until next year, our non-home net worth should be close to $250k.... so if we cut back retirement contributions significantly at that time (to the $5k contributed by his church and my Roth, for example), I think the accounts would still grow to a retirement-worthy level by 'normal' retirement age in the worst-case scenario, right? I'm 37 and my husband is 32, so normal retirement age is 30 years away... we'd like to FIRE earlier, but I'm okay with a longer path if it means more time with my daughter (+/- future kiddo) while she is still young.

Thoughts?

Obviously, finally addressing the cell phones and adjusting insurance coverage on the truck are priorities on the expense side, but is my plan doable? It looks like it should be, but it just seems too good to be true, given where we were two years ago.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2016, 06:18:32 AM by startingsmall »

MDM

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #33 on: October 02, 2016, 09:38:20 PM »
Cutting my vet work back to 15-20 hrs/wk...we'll lose out on my 401k
Great progress - congratulations!

Regarding the quoted line, see Solo 401(k) plan - Bogleheads for some things you might consider....

Gin1984

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How did you get into the medical/scientific writing?  I have a master's in neuroscience and would love to break into that field.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Sent from my SPH-L710 using Tapatalk


startingsmall

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How did you get into the medical/scientific writing?  I have a master's in neuroscience and would love to break into that field.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Sent from my SPH-L710 using Tapatalk

I started out editing for Edanz - https://www.edanzediting.com/   Their pay is decent - they pay by the page (or by the project for specialized tasts) and I usually average around $40-50/hr. They have an unpaid training that they require you to complete... it was time-consuming, but a very helpful refresher.

Once I had been doing that for a while, I landed a few small jobs on Elance (now Upwork) and then eventually applied for an ongoing freelance job with one of the primary producers of educational content for veterinarians. That's the overwhelming majority of my work now, though I still edit for Edanz and occasionally get invited to apply for other random jobs on Upwork.

I'm also a member of the American Medical Writers Association (amwa.org) - haven't found any jobs through them, but I feel like I've learned a good bit through their forums and journal.

Gin1984

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How did you get into the medical/scientific writing?  I have a master's in neuroscience and would love to break into that field.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Sent from my SPH-L710 using Tapatalk

I started out editing for Edanz - https://www.edanzediting.com/   Their pay is decent - they pay by the page (or by the project for specialized tasts) and I usually average around $40-50/hr. They have an unpaid training that they require you to complete... it was time-consuming, but a very helpful refresher.

Once I had been doing that for a while, I landed a few small jobs on Elance (now Upwork) and then eventually applied for an ongoing freelance job with one of the primary producers of educational content for veterinarians. That's the overwhelming majority of my work now, though I still edit for Edanz and occasionally get invited to apply for other random jobs on Upwork.

I'm also a member of the American Medical Writers Association (amwa.org) - haven't found any jobs through them, but I feel like I've learned a good bit through their forums and journal.
Thank you so much!

Cassie

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YOu are giving away 9k/year to charity so this would be a good place to cut. If you were rich it would make sense but it does not in your position.

startingsmall

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YOu are giving away 9k/year to charity so this would be a good place to cut. If you were rich it would make sense but it does not in your position.

We're Christian and my husband is in the ministry, so we feel pretty strongly about giving and this is not something that we are comfortable cutting. I would actually like to see us up closer to 10% of our gross income,  but this is level at which we are comfortable giving right now. We don't do the whole tithe thing (less than half of that money goes to our church, the rest to other organizations) but we do believe in giving generously(ish). We are rich, at least compared to those in our community.

We would decrease the charitable giving if our household took a pay cut (still trying to keep it at least 5-10%+ of income) so that does give us some wiggle room if I go PT, but we will not cut while we remain at this income level.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2016, 03:20:45 PM by startingsmall »

Cassie

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Well then subtract that amount from what your husband earns and that is what he really makes which is going to make a difference if you want to leave your job.

startingsmall

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Well then subtract that amount from what your husband earns and that is what he really makes which is going to make a difference if you want to leave your job.

Huh? I'm counting it as an expense, with limited flexibility in the event of a significant cut in income. It's doesn't matter if I subtract a percentage off our incomes or add it as an expense.

robartsd

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Re: Case study: Need baby steps so I don't scare the hubby. Should we move?
« Reply #41 on: October 03, 2016, 05:10:18 PM »
internet/phone/cable - $90 (up from $75.... they offered us cable for only $20/mo, so we okayed it. will cancel when the price goes up after one year) 
Netflix - $10   
Facepunch for cable (even if it is only $20/month). Only reason to get cable is when the dumb telecom will give you cable + internet for less than internet alone. You could give up Netflix while paying for cable - or go without both and rely on the library for entertainment

cell phone  - $170 (up from $160.... We're with Verizon and I know that we need to look into the low-cost providers, but we're in a rural area with poor coverage and therefore I'm scared to change.
         Need to suck it up and do it anyway.) 
OK, here's the real reason I responded. I've been happy with Page Plus Cellular. It runs on Verizon's network (but doesn't usually roam). IP Daley pulled a recommendation for them when they were bought out by TracFone. No Verizon VMNO currently meets IP Daley's criteria for a recommendation. http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-son-of-the-superguide!/

Since you have a home phone, how much do you NEED mobile communications. For true emergencies, a phone without a service plan will still be able to call 9-1-1 if there is coverage. Of course others wouldn't be able to reach you (and both of your careers sound like there's some amount of being on call).

groceries - $645
fun money (meals out, purchases, etc) - $400
YMCA membership - $80 (husband started encountering weight-related health issues and lacks motivation to exercise outside of gym setting, so we got a family membership and I'm also getting
    in better shape)
All these are areas you could be more frugal - you could easily cut out $300 in expenses here.

Assets, excluding home: $197,998 (up from $117,517)
Retirement accounts - $160,991 (up from $105,188 - Roth, 401k, husband's pension)
HSA - $4700 (up from zero)
Daughter's 529 - $15,307 (up from $9829)
Checking/savings - $17,000 (up from $2500)
That's starting to look like too much cash sitting around in bank accounts losing money (after inflation). If you're already maximizing all available retirement accounts, then it might be time to start a taxable investment account.

$15k for college before starting kindergarten is a nice start at paying your daughter's college expenses - could already be enough to pay for a 4-year state college education when the time comes. Personally, I'd invest in time with your children over money for their college - no need to contribute more here at this time.

startingsmall

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robartsd:

- Cable facepunch accepted. I let myself be talked into it when we moved a few months ago, because they were going to charge me a $40-50 reconnection fee that would be waived if I added cable tv at $20/mo that I could cancel at anytime. But, here it is 4 months later and I haven't cancelled yet.

- Thanks for the feedback on Page Plus. We actually considered going with them a year or two, but we wanted to get some more info from a real-life person. The two Page Plus dealers in our areas were both in incredibly sketchy smoke-filled stores that appeared to be full of stolen merchandise. We got completely skeeved out (and had our daughter with us, who we don't like to  have breathing heavy smoke) and stuck with Verizon. Any tips to get past that?

- We definitely need the cell phones. My husband is on call 24/7 except for his 3 weeks of vacation per year. (And even then, he still needs to be reachable in case of emergency, though he gets the leeway of taking a few hours to respond.) My on call duties are limited, but they are there. We could probably get rid of the home phone, though. When I decided that we needed to keep the home phone, my husband was a SAHD with our daughter (who was just a baby at the time). We lived on 5 acres in the middle of nowhere and I couldn't get past the new-mom anxiety of what would happen if there was an emergency and his phone was dead, or missing (neither of us is a keep-the-phone-on-us-at-all-times person, so sometimes it gets left in a room or sitting in a pair of dirty pants on the dresser), or whatever. Now that our daughter is 4, she spends most of her day at daycare, and we live on 0.5 acres with neighbors all around us, the home phone can probably go.

- We could definitely cut on groceries and eating out. We haven't, because this is the compromise that we have reached, but it's true that we have plenty of room to tighten up if I went to PT vet work and then ended up with a lean freelance month or two.

- Some of the cash (about $3k) is for some planned kitchen repairs happening over the next week. It is true that we keep more cash than necessary, but it's the only way that I'll be able to convince the husband to let me go PT.

- We've only contributed a few thousand to the college fund. The rest is all gifts that she has received (everything since she was born 4 years ago). Now that we're at $15k, I don't plan to make any further contributions.

Thanks for the feedback!

ponyespresso

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about page plus -- you don't have to go to the store. I ordered our SIM cards on their website, and we brought our own phones. You can buy the refills/pins/etc on their site as well. Now we pay about $80 month for two smartphone plans (vs 120 or whatever it was with Verizon.) And of course there are cheaper plans, too, but we like having cell data.

It was a bit of a pain getting it all working at first in terms of automatic payments, but PP seems to have fixed some issues and everything works smoothly now. The only thing I really miss is the visual voicemail. but I have survived.

Villanelle

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If your husband needs the phone for work, then shouldn't work be paying for the phone, or at least part of it?

And yes, call *today* to cancel the cable.  Is watching HGTV (or your channel of choice) more important than quitting your FT job? 

2Birds1Stone

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Great progress!! It's amazing what you can do by making a whole bunch of smaller changes that eventually end up cutting years or decades off your freedom date =)

startingsmall

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If your husband needs the phone for work, then shouldn't work be paying for the phone, or at least part of it?

And yes, call *today* to cancel the cable.  Is watching HGTV (or your channel of choice) more important than quitting your FT job?

I absolutely agree, but he works for a small country church that is very set in their ways. We've been trying to get them to increase his non-taxable housing allowance to cover all of our housing expenses (and even said to then subtract that amount from his salary) but they won't. His pay (quantity & details of how it's done)  is determined by a group of 80+ year old individuals from a farming community. (We're in the very rural south.)

Villanelle

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If your husband needs the phone for work, then shouldn't work be paying for the phone, or at least part of it?

And yes, call *today* to cancel the cable.  Is watching HGTV (or your channel of choice) more important than quitting your FT job?

I absolutely agree, but he works for a small country church that is very set in their ways. We've been trying to get them to increase his non-taxable housing allowance to cover all of our housing expenses (and even said to then subtract that amount from his salary) but they won't. His pay (quantity & details of how it's done)  is determined by a group of 80+ year old individuals from a farming community. (We're in the very rural south.)

Is quitting 100% not an option?  Could be make more money elsewhere and/or could you have a lower cost of living?  What's your #1 priority?  If it is getting you down to part time, then it seems all other things, including DH finding new employment, should be on the table.  If that's secondary to him working this job in this place for whatever reason, fine, but recognize that you are making that choice in your list of priorities, and that you do have more control over all this.  I've found that when I acknowledge that I'm making a choice, even if I'm making it because the other option simply isn't remotely palatable to me, I tend to feel less frustrated.

Also, if your DH is under-compensated, do you take that in to account in your charitable giving?  If I was working for a church (or other non-profit)  that paid me $5000 a year (as an example) less than I could make elsewhere and required me to have a phone but didn't pay anything for it, I'd look at that as a de facto $5500 charitable donation because I'd be donating my skills in a way, and saving the church $5500, which is about the same as giving them $5500.

startingsmall

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If your husband needs the phone for work, then shouldn't work be paying for the phone, or at least part of it?

And yes, call *today* to cancel the cable.  Is watching HGTV (or your channel of choice) more important than quitting your FT job?

I absolutely agree, but he works for a small country church that is very set in their ways. We've been trying to get them to increase his non-taxable housing allowance to cover all of our housing expenses (and even said to then subtract that amount from his salary) but they won't. His pay (quantity & details of how it's done)  is determined by a group of 80+ year old individuals from a farming community. (We're in the very rural south.)

Is quitting 100% not an option?  Could be make more money elsewhere and/or could you have a lower cost of living?  What's your #1 priority?  If it is getting you down to part time, then it seems all other things, including DH finding new employment, should be on the table.  If that's secondary to him working this job in this place for whatever reason, fine, but recognize that you are making that choice in your list of priorities, and that you do have more control over all this.  I've found that when I acknowledge that I'm making a choice, even if I'm making it because the other option simply isn't remotely palatable to me, I tend to feel less frustrated.

Also, if your DH is under-compensated, do you take that in to account in your charitable giving?  If I was working for a church (or other non-profit)  that paid me $5000 a year (as an example) less than I could make elsewhere and required me to have a phone but didn't pay anything for it, I'd look at that as a de facto $5500 charitable donation because I'd be donating my skills in a way, and saving the church $5500, which is about the same as giving them $5500.


Husband staying in his job is the priority right now.  He may leave in the future, but not right now. We're already in a very LCOL area, though our mortgage doesn't really reflect that. (Being in a particular school district was a big priority for us due to cultural factors - 'redneck pride' - at the other schools in our area.)

My husband has also suggested decreasing our charitable giving, for the reasons you outlined. He has a BS in Biology and a master's degree... any other master's degree (other than divinity) and he could be making a lot more. We'd still have to give a small amount to the church and I'd want to give to other charities, but maybe we could decrease a bit. It feels weird, but I'll give it some thought.

robartsd

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- Thanks for the feedback on Page Plus. We actually considered going with them a year or two, but we wanted to get some more info from a real-life person. The two Page Plus dealers in our areas were both in incredibly sketchy smoke-filled stores that appeared to be full of stolen merchandise. We got completely skeeved out (and had our daughter with us, who we don't like to  have breathing heavy smoke) and stuck with Verizon. Any tips to get past that?
Use an online dealer. I haven't used them, but Kitty Wireless has an excellent reputation for customer service. I use prepaidonline.com to get a small discount. Assuming you're not under contract with Verizon, you should be able to use your current devices with Page Plus.

- We definitely need the cell phones. My husband is on call 24/7 except for his 3 weeks of vacation per year. (And even then, he still needs to be reachable in case of emergency, though he gets the leeway of taking a few hours to respond.) My on call duties are limited, but they are there. We could probably get rid of the home phone, though. When I decided that we needed to keep the home phone, my husband was a SAHD with our daughter (who was just a baby at the time). We lived on 5 acres in the middle of nowhere and I couldn't get past the new-mom anxiety of what would happen if there was an emergency and his phone was dead, or missing (neither of us is a keep-the-phone-on-us-at-all-times person, so sometimes it gets left in a room or sitting in a pair of dirty pants on the dresser), or whatever. Now that our daughter is 4, she spends most of her day at daycare, and we live on 0.5 acres with neighbors all around us, the home phone can probably go.
It's worth considering how much of your mobile usage could be moved over to the home phone when considering what plan you need. However, it doesn't take all that much before you get to the point that an unlimited cell plan and no land line is the best value. You can also look into VOIP for home phone service to get the most bang for your buck (see IP Daley's guide).

- We could definitely cut on groceries and eating out. We haven't, because this is the compromise that we have reached, but it's true that we have plenty of room to tighten up if I went to PT vet work and then ended up with a lean freelance month or two.

- Some of the cash (about $3k) is for some planned kitchen repairs happening over the next week. It is true that we keep more cash than necessary, but it's the only way that I'll be able to convince the husband to let me go PT.
As income becomes more variable, the need for cash on hand increases. I don't yet save enough to max out retirement accounts, so I like to remember that Roth IRA contributions can be withdrawn at any time without penalty - that helps me allocate more to tax advantaged savings.