Author Topic: Case Study: Bi-Polar about money...Is there a middle ground?  (Read 6602 times)

soulpatchmike

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Life Situation: Married Joint IRS, 5 children ages 13 to 4, Located in Twin Cities Metro, MN.

Gross Salary/Wages: $7350/mo promotion 7/2015 $8333.33 one income household

Pre-tax deductions:
FICA - $439.06
Medicare - $102.69
Dental - $25.5
Health - $176
HSA - $83.33

Post-tax Deductions:
401k Loan repay - $333.33
Roth 401k contributions - $440.04

Other Ordinary Income(paid once per year/12):
Bonus Avg - $500/mo
Avg IRS/State Tax Refund - $200/mo
Avg Property Tax Refund - $125/mo
Cash back cards - $65/mo

Qualified Dividends & Long Term Capital Gains: NA

Rental Income, Actual Expenses, and Depreciation:
Rental Income - $4615/mo
Depreciation and property expenses basically wipes out all income and nets me close to zero total household tax liability for the past 15 years or so.
Property is handled in its own business account and the investments pay for themselves along.  I have drawn out of the account only 2-3 times in the last 10 years or so.

Adjusted Gross Net Income(In my case, this is ultimately an after tax number): ~8660/month

Taxes:
I don't withhold anything for fed and state, but the rentals, other deductions and that sweet $5000 child tax credit every year still allow me to get a return every year.

Current expenses:
Charity - $175/mo  ~2.25%

Food $1500/mo ~20%
-Groceries - $1100/mo
-Eating Out - $400/mo

Housing $2710/mo ~35%
-PI - $1360
-TI - $400
-HELOC - $550
-Elec $180/mo
-Gas $95/mo
-Sewer - $33/mo
-Trash $17.5/mo
-Water softener salt $10/mo
-Home Maint $60/mo

Clothing $60/mo ~1%

Transportation $505/mo ~6.5%
-Insurance - $145/mo
-Gas - $300/mo
-Maint and other - $60/mo

Medical Care   $575/mo ~7.5%
-Payroll deductions Dental/Health/Disability - $295/mo
-Doctor Avg - $100/mo
-Ortho - $180/mo
-Prescriptions - $10/mo

Entertainment and Recreation   $640/mo ~8.3%
-Netflix $8/mo
-401k Loan(bought camper) - $333/mo
-Gifts avg - $70/mo
-Camp sites - $50/mo
-Karate for 4 kids - $175/mo

Education and Communication    $315/mo ~4%
-Cell phones - $105/mo
-Internet - $70/mp
-Home School Curriculum - $75/mo
-Classes for kids - $65/mo
-Music lessions for kids - $200/mo stopped music lessons 7/2015

Other Goods and Services   $335/mo ~4.35%
-Life Insurance Term(ME1M and DW500k) - $125/mo
-Hair cuts - $50/mo 7/2015 DW has been watching videos on how to do hair.
-Entertainment - $10/mo
-Household/Target spending - $150/mo

Savings/Investments $500/mo ~6.5%
401k - $440/mo updated per new income
401k - $500/mo

Excess   $1100/mo ~13%

As a note, I dont double count payroll deductions above, My Net income number above is net after taxes, but all expenses are defined above as expenses including payroll deductions not related to taxes.

Assets: ~$1.1M
401k - $65k(small cap(30%), mid cap(30%), intl(30%), REIT(10%), bond fund(5%)
Roth IRA - $18.5k(EFTs and REITs)
IRA - $4250(REIT)
Stock - $13.8k(EFTs,small cap and dividend along with some company stock purchased on ESPP)
401k loan - $13500
Suburban - $16k
Mini Van - $4k
Camper - $18k
Motorcycle - $6k
Misc Household - $20k
Primary House - $330k
Prop 1 - $250k
Prop 2 - $210k
Prop 3 - $210k

Liabilities: $865k
-401k loan - $13500
-HELOC - $75k
-Primary mort - $233k
-Inv Prop 1 - $169k
-Inv Prop 2 - $189k
-Inv Prop 3 - $184k
-We have a number of credit cards that are used for rewards only.  They are always paid in full.  I haven't held a balance in ~15-20 years.


Specific Question(s): I feel like a financial failure much of the time.  My wife has a finance degree, but has never had a high financial IQ if that makes sense.  She hates finance, but worked in it before we had kids because it is a well paying career.  She has almost no knowledge of anything posted above.  Not because I keep it from her, but because she just trusts me to just handle it and she doesn't desire to take the time to know anything other that what I tell her.  That is why I called the post bi-polar about money.  My way of handling  money is like riding a horse.  She knows that when I pull in the reigns, she needs to tighten up spending.  When I loosen the reigns, she is more liberal with spending.  It generally works well because I enjoy spreadsheets and financial things in general, but when I can see a deficit coming in a few months(due to overspending) it can get me extremely stressed out.  I would love to have a more consistent relationship with money, savings and spending, but just not sure how to cure 15 years of the current reality.  We still have 15 to 20(or more) years of child rearing left so I cant conceive of much of a life stage change for a while.  I would greatly appreciate both critical and complementary comments.  I haven't noticed too many posts around here about people with larger families...
« Last Edit: July 27, 2015, 11:07:12 AM by soulpatchmike »

MDM

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Re: Case Study: Bi-Polar about money...Is there a middle ground?
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2015, 03:58:01 PM »
I haven't noticed too many posts around here about people with larger families...

For your reading pleasure: http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/mini-money-mustaches/larger-family-forum-how-are-you-doing-it-3-kids/

marty998

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Re: Case Study: Bi-Polar about money...Is there a middle ground?
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2015, 04:42:28 PM »
My way of handling  money is like riding a horse.  She knows that when I pull in the reigns, she needs to tighten up spending.  When I loosen the reigns, she is more liberal with spending.  It generally works well because I enjoy spreadsheets and financial things in general, but when I can see a deficit coming in a few months(due to overspending) it can get me extremely stressed out.

Sounds to me you've tied your spending to your income level.

If we were to pretend that your household earnings were say $5,000 per month, what would you cut to get your spending down to there?

Then try the exercise again assuming your income is $4,000 per month.

This is where we find out what is a necessary expense, as opposed to things we just spend money on.

MDM

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Re: Case Study: Bi-Polar about money...Is there a middle ground?
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2015, 04:44:12 PM »
I would greatly appreciate both critical and complimentary comments.
soulpatchmike, welcome to the forum.

As you were good enough to start with gross income and list pre-tax line items, and have good details on other expenses, I took a swing at putting your numbers into the case study spreadsheet.  Realized, however, that the rental cash flow is both a little too vague and an important part of your picture, so the result was less clear than I'd like.  If you'd like, you could enter your own numbers there and post as an attachment or however you'd like.

You do have high grocery and dining costs.  There is no doubt you could save there, but with you having 5 kids age 13 to 4, I understand that sometimes you and your wife just need a break.  Again, however, you could save there....

Ever considered a good Wahl clipper for ~$30 instead of $600/yr for haircuts?

Probably more but that's a start.  Good luck!

lakemom

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Re: Case Study: Bi-Polar about money...Is there a middle ground?
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2015, 06:11:24 AM »
Large families are challenging (we have 6 but they were spread a little further apart than yours are) so, that said here are just a few thoughts on your spending habits and some food for thought going forward.

You like "toys" and "lifestyle"....dig deeper into the MMM blog and start really thinking about everything you spend money on and decide what things you can lose to improve your financial well being. 

The camper is costing you $334 per month!  You can spend every weekend in a hotel for that without the insurance and repairs expeses.  Plus, you compromised your future (in terms of lost growth/income on the amount borrowed and the fact if you were to lose or leave your job it become due in 60 days).  I'd personally sell the camper (hopefully at least breaking even on it) and buy a big tent and some cots or air mattresses.  Once you lose the camper you can downsize the suburban for another mini van getting much better gas mileage.

Although others commented on the groceries, I think you're doing OK there although there is some room for improvement I'd say a goal of $1,000 per month for food/household combined would be a first steps goal.  I'd also aim to cut the Dining Out down to a maximum of $100 per month.  That doesn't leave much leeway for popping through the drivethru on those busy days BUT learning to ALWAYS having a cooler of snacks and drinks in the car goes a long way to eliminating those convenience stops.

On the kid level you have Karate, Classes, and music lessons equaling $440 per month!!!  That's a LOT.  In our family the kids were allowed to choose ONE activity to be involved in at a time and we HIGHLY encouraged it to be scouts and/or school sports (obviously not an option with homeschooling) that were virtually free.  You could probably cut your kid budget in half if you were to cut back on some of these activities.  I'm not saying it would be easy since they are already involved, but it is a place where spending is excessive in my book.

Finally,  I think your clothing and gift categories are inadequate.  You are probably spending a LOT more than that per month (averaged) and if your numbers came from spreadsheets/banking then the difference is probably lurking in the household/target and grocery spending.  Its easy to throw a package of undies and a couple of new pairs of shorts or a toy or two for the upcoming birthday into the cart when shopping at the big box store and then they end up on the receipt that's logged as "groceries".  If you're doing that when shopping, even though it takes a few minutes longer, separate those items out and do a second checkout.

Just facing the issue is a huge first step.  I'd also suggest that your and your wife sit down at least monthly to go over all your expenses and incomes and make a plan for the upcoming month.  While looking at current income/outgo also use this time to dream and plan for the future and make decisions on how to reach those goals.


little_brown_dog

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Re: Case Study: Bi-Polar about money...Is there a middle ground?
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2015, 08:01:01 AM »
how attached are you to the paid off motorcycle? like a car, the bike is probably just depreciating in value over time. if you aren't that attached and really want to keep the camper for the family, could you sell the bike and use that money to take a chunk off the camper loan? then find a way to pay off the remainder on the camper loan asap - that would free up $300+ a month and reduce your debt.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Case Study: Bi-Polar about money...Is there a middle ground?
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2015, 04:50:10 PM »
With five small children riding a motorcycle is not a responsible choice.

soulpatchmike

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Re: Case Study: Bi-Polar about money...Is there a middle ground?
« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2015, 08:27:31 AM »
I am actually very pleased/surprised by all of the responses.  They are all appreciated.  I will make an attempt to respond to everyone here.

Rental Income:  In regards to rental income, I don't track monthly cash flow for the rentals.  I simply operate such that the property account pays for itself.  The net cashflow after depreciation and is approx ($10k) deduction.  My feeling is that most of the monthly cashflow is allocated to other things like maintenance and vacancy needs.  But every few years I will pull out a couple thousand dollars out of the account.  I dont track it because I would rather it be more like a business account that I can't just steal from.  The big win from the rentals is that I pay almost zero taxes every year and in another 15-20 years when the loans are paid off, that is a pretty huge deal too.  I took a look at the spreadsheet and didn't see anything laying out the rentals other than a total net cash flow/deduction.  You could say that I am saving ~10k+ per year just due to principle pay down...I am a hobby landlord, I dont treat is much like a business and am not very rigid in my planning, but I know that in the long run it will be worth while will minimal efforts.

Groceries/Dining:  This is about the only discussion that my wife and I disagree on with regards to finance.  I think 1000/mo is a good number to shoot for, but my wife struggles with it a bit.  This is something for us to continue to focus on.  Any tips on reigning in grocery spending would be appreciated.  We feel like we just buy the necessities and spend about $700/mo total on 2 trips to costco per month and usually about $100/week supplementing at the local Cub grocery store.  The eating out thing is fully in our own control and is something that we need to just be more diligent about.

Hair Cuts:  This is a good suggestion.  I have considered this in the past, but have never had enough nerve to make it happen.  We do have a decent clipper we purchased when we were first married so my wife could cut my hair.  She was so nervous it would take about an hour or more to do it.  Although it turned out nice, I couldn't handle that long in a chair, so we gave up.  I would be fine doing the kids hair.

Clothing:  My wife looked at the numbers provided and laughed when she saw the clothing budget.  She mentioned exactly what lakemom said, often much of the target bill is clothes...more research to do there.

Karate:  This is a really hard one for us.  This is the only organized physical activity the kids do.  It is very expensive, but they all enjoy it and it is about a mile from home.  We get there 4 times per week.  We have discussed quitting, but haven't been able to justify considering we don't do a lot of other activity other than the occasional bike ride into town for the farmers market.

Music Lessons and other classes:  Music lessons is likely the first to go.  This is another hard one to swallow considering both my DW and I are hobby musicians.  Our 13 yr old is now really starting to excel with her voice and piano.  She even picked up the guitar and learned to play a simple three chord song(singing and playing) she heard on the radio in a few days.  We were amazed.

Camper:  There is a long story about the camper we currently have.  The reality is, the 401k loan was taken out around the time we sold our previous suburban and had our previous camper totaled out by insurance.  The value of both truck and camper was ~$21k.  We purchased replacements that cost ~$36k, so although I attribute the 401k loan to the camper, it is really for both the camper and the 3/4ton suburban necessary to tow it.  I know that doesn't change the recommendation, just for clarity.  My DW and I have talked a lot about camping too.  It is possible that we will end up selling the camper and truck, we need to get through our summer before deciding.  What makes this one difficult is our family uses camping to create memories.  We never camp alone.  90% of our camping is with Gma and Gpa and cousins.  We rarely get to gma and gpas town, but we meet them in the middle 3-4 times per season.  We shoot for 20 nights per year to make us feel good about it.  Based on 12 years of campers buy and sell prices, our avg per night cost of ownership to date is ~$12-15/night of camping.  We have sold both previous campers for nearly the same price we paid.  If we sold our camper today, I estimate we would have a total of ~$3000 in camper costs over the last 12 years.

Motorcycle:  I have had a motorcycle constantly since I was 12 years old.  My children have a small motorcycle that they have each learned to ride within weeks of learning to ride a bicycle on 2 wheels.  We are a motorcycle family.  I purchased my motorcycle new in 1999 the year before I got married and plan to keep it until I am dead.  I may change motorcycles after my kids are grown, but at this point in time, motorcycling is a lifestyle choice that I could/would not give up.  Just like MMM would never give up his bicycle, I would never give up my motorcycle.  It is likely that as the kids get older, there will be more motorcycles in the garage, not less...

Overall, it is pretty clear that there are some lifestyle choices we have made that make up a pretty big part of our budget.  It is pretty easy to see when someone points them out, but when you stare at the same spreadsheet for years, it is harder to be critical.  Any further/followup comments are appreciated.

zinethstache

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Re: Case Study: Bi-Polar about money...Is there a middle ground?
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2015, 11:11:30 AM »
Here are my thoughts:

The 401k loan concerns me, because if you quit or are laid off, it is due in full in 60 days.

I don't see any savings account at all... what is your emergency plan if you don't have any liquid money?

Finally, just a thought to help with that 401k loan... You need to get it paid off, and if you don't want to sell anything, you COULD, dig into your rentals and make them work for you. We own 3 multis and they MAKE money for us, in fact enough to cover well over 50% of our living expenses. To me a rental is NOT something to have if it doesn't cash flow for me. You should make it pay for your 401k - even if it is over time. Another source of $$ to help with that would be stopping music for the kids. If one kid is a star, like your daughter, perhaps you give her a choice of karate or music...

I have no kids so pardon if I am being callous about the music versus karate, but to me your kids have been given alot and as a result you feel stress. There is no reason to NOT cut things back a bit at least until you have 1. a decent emergency fund and 2. that 401k debt paid off. You could then re-evaluate ramping things back up after you have a better financial situation that is less stressful for everyone.

MDM

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Re: Case Study: Bi-Polar about money...Is there a middle ground?
« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2015, 12:15:34 PM »
Rental Income: 
The net cashflow after depreciation and is approx ($10k) deduction. 
I took a look at the spreadsheet and didn't see anything laying out the rentals other than a total net cash flow/deduction. 
The ($10K) is probably close enough.

If you are interested, see attached.  It's a filled-out version of the case study spreadsheet based on your numbers.

In short, it predicts ~20 years to FI if you make no spending changes (and investment returns match assumptions, etc.).  Lots of assumptions in there, so there's a large plus/minus on that estimate.  You can do some "what-if?"s to get a feel for sensitivities.  E.g., what if spending would drop $6K/yr (put -$500 in the monthly Misc category)?  What if investment returns were to go up/down (change cell B139)?  Etc.

If it's not useful to you, no problem - "unusual" case studies such as yours are good for testing the template and help ensure it works for others.  If it is helpful, all the better.  And if you have any suggestions/questions to make it more helpful, fire away.

soulpatchmike

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Re: Case Study: Bi-Polar about money...Is there a middle ground?
« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2015, 08:36:11 AM »
..."unusual" case studies such as yours are good for testing the template and help ensure it works for others....And if you have any suggestions/questions to make it more helpful, fire away.

What makes my case unusual?  I can guess, but I am curious how my situation differs from the average.

I am a bit curious about this spreadsheet.  I understand the goal seems to be to estimate time to get to a number, right?  It might be able to be adjusted to include assumed income increases and more rental property/mortgage calculations/benefits, like principle pay down benefits over time.  I didn't see anything like that in there, but I just did some cursory scanning of the document.

soulpatchmike

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Re: Case Study: Bi-Polar about money...Is there a middle ground?
« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2015, 08:38:22 AM »
The 401k loan concerns me, because if you quit or are laid off, it is due in full in 60 days.

I don't see any savings account at all... what is your emergency plan if you don't have any liquid money?

These are my main source of heart burn as well.  We need to come to terms with our reality and make some hard decisions or decide if we just live our status quo and hope for the best...that is the danger...doing nothing in this case is actually choosing/doing something...

MDM

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Re: Case Study: Bi-Polar about money...Is there a middle ground?
« Reply #12 on: June 30, 2015, 12:08:18 PM »
What makes my case unusual?  I can guess, but I am curious how my situation differs from the average.
If this were a commercial software program it would (or at least should) have a large test suite of inputs to ensure accuracy for version changes.  Instead, we rely on the variety among case studies to exercise various calculation options.  Nothing formal, but it was the combination of detailed spending categorization, rental losses, and large family size that seemed "new" (aka "unusual") and worth testing.

Quote
I am a bit curious about this spreadsheet.  I understand the goal seems to be to estimate time to get to a number, right?  It might be able to be adjusted to include assumed income increases and more rental property/mortgage calculations/benefits, like principle pay down benefits over time.  I didn't see anything like that in there, but I just did some cursory scanning of the document.
The main goal is to help folks make some sense of their current situation, including tax effects.  The primary audience is those who haven't done a lot of financial planning and are coming to the forum for some help.   Said help can come from self-inspection after one gathers and enters the needed information, or from ensuring that forum readers see an accurate portrayal of the OP's situation.

As noted in the instructions, the section to evaluate "how long to Financial Independence?" is very simplified.  For time-dependent analyses, there are many options on the internet.  See http://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Retirement_calculators_and_spending for some.  It is included to give folks a rough idea of their situation regarding time to FI, and the order of magnitude of the sensitivity to various changes.

Thanks for the suggestions - I'll take a look and see what might be doable.  Might fit on the 'Misc. calcs' tab, which is mostly my own scratch sheet but, with some clean-up and comments, could be more useful to others.

meandmyfamily

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Re: Case Study: Bi-Polar about money...Is there a middle ground?
« Reply #13 on: July 01, 2015, 10:24:48 AM »
With 4 kids we are in a similar situation.  We recently were purchasing a new vehicle and starting thinking about getting one that could tow a camper.  We talked ourselves out of it and got another minivan.  We enjoy camping and making memories but we can do it much cheaper out of the minivan with the small flat bed trailer we were gifted.  Selling that would be my suggestion as well.  Otherwise I am following this thread for ideas as well.  Groceries can definitely be less but it takes a lot of focus.  I always do better when my husband helps cook in the evenings and helps me keep an eye on how much we are spending weekly.  Taking cash out for groceries also helps.  When it is gone it is gone!  I feel for you wife.  It can be hard.  I am a SAHM homeschooling mom and little food shortcuts do make life easier.  I find it easier when I have a specific goal to save for.

meandmyfamily

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Re: Case Study: Bi-Polar about money...Is there a middle ground?
« Reply #14 on: July 04, 2015, 03:48:01 PM »
It doesn't seem like there are many larger families on this board.  Anyone else in a similar situation?

MDM

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Re: Case Study: Bi-Polar about money...Is there a middle ground?
« Reply #15 on: July 04, 2015, 05:11:21 PM »
It doesn't seem like there are many larger families on this board.  Anyone else in a similar situation?

See http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/mini-money-mustaches/larger-family-forum-how-are-you-doing-it-3-kids/.

MDM

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Re: Case Study: Bi-Polar about money...Is there a middle ground?
« Reply #16 on: July 05, 2015, 02:52:25 AM »
Quote
I am a bit curious about this spreadsheet.  ... It might be able to be adjusted to include assumed income increases and more rental property/mortgage calculations/benefits, like principle pay down benefits over time.  I didn't see anything like that in there, but I just did some cursory scanning of the document.

Thanks for the suggestions - I'll take a look and see what might be doable.  Might fit on the 'Misc. calcs' tab, which is mostly my own scratch sheet but, with some clean-up and comments, could be more useful to others.

Uploaded a new version that at least has better formatting on the 'Misc. calcs' tab.  Not sure what "principal pay down benefits" you had in mind - there is an "invest vs. mortgage payoff" calculation.  If there is something you think would be of general interest, perhaps we could add it.

The folks over at Vertex42.com have some pretty good spreadsheet templates, e.g., see
http://www.vertex42.com/ExcelTemplates/excel-amortization-spreadsheet.html  and  http://www.vertex42.com/Calculators/debt-reduction-calculator.html.  Those may better fit your needs already.

soulpatchmike

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Re: Case Study: Bi-Polar about money...Is there a middle ground?
« Reply #17 on: July 27, 2015, 11:04:56 AM »
This is all about baby steps, right?

I modified my first post. 
-Got a promotion -income boost of ~$950/mo
-DW has started watching some videos on doing hair.  Should be able to get rid of the hair cutting bill now too - save $50/mo
-Stopped music lessons - save $200/mo
DW has also shown some interest in figuring out other ways to save money, so if she gets the bug in her, we might make a lot more headway in the coming months.

« Last Edit: July 27, 2015, 11:08:02 AM by soulpatchmike »

SandyBoxx

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Re: Case Study: Bi-Polar about money...Is there a middle ground?
« Reply #18 on: July 27, 2015, 11:47:35 AM »
This is all about baby steps, right?

I modified my first post. 
-Got a promotion -income boost of ~$950/mo
-DW has started watching some videos on doing hair.  Should be able to get rid of the hair cutting bill now too - save $50/mo
-Stopped music lessons - save $200/mo
DW has also shown some interest in figuring out other ways to save money, so if she gets the bug in her, we might make a lot more headway in the coming months.


You have already made some big changes - congrats!  Give yourself a few months and you will REALLY see the benefit of these.

In regards to your camping "situation," have you considered selling the camper and pulling a pop-up (tent trailer) instead?  I know lots of our friends pull theirs with minivans...though with 7 people plus gear, you would have to watch your max towing capacity closely.  Just an idea!

Keep up the great work!

Rosy

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Re: Case Study: Bi-Polar about money...Is there a middle ground?
« Reply #19 on: July 27, 2015, 03:25:05 PM »
Congrats on the promotion - hope you can sock away every penny of that:)

With the wife taking some initiative on the budget and with the music lessons slashed you will see real improvement by next year this time.

It is harder when you have kids, but your good income is leveling the playing field:)