Author Topic: Is there any more to be done?  (Read 12197 times)

homeymomma

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Is there any more to be done?
« on: April 23, 2013, 10:14:22 AM »
Hi! Any help from you senior mustachians out there would be so appreciated! I'm a stay at home momma to an 9 month old baby girl. My husband brings in $4100/mo take home. With no benefits at his job, we pay everything out of pocket (retirement, health insurance, etc.). We also have student loans totaling about 16,000. Here's how things shake out each month:

1240 to loans (includes minimum payments)
775 to my Roth IRA (until it maxes, at which point I will open one for my husband, next year I will contribute to each equally to max both)
500 Food (including eating out)
425 Health insurance for all three of us (we have a high deductible plan)
232 Car payment (I know, I know - this is next in line for payoff after the highest student loan is paid off)
150 Shopping (this is our "miscellaneous category," it includes everything from home repair expenses to shoes)
180 Gas (two cars - hubs commutes approx 45 minutes each way)
82 Auto insurance
60 Utilities (just water/sewer)
50 Travel (best friend is going to have a baby - saving up to visit)
45 Christmas (we don't spend at any other time of year, so it's nice to have some set aside for guilt-free gift giving)
40 Gifts (we are at that time in life when everyone is getting married and having babies)
35 Internet
32 Husband's life insurance (I don't have any except a very small whole life policy my grandparents opened for me)
30 Doctor (co-pay - anything that is not covered but instead contributes to our deductible would have to come out of our emergency fund)
22 Property tax (car)
20 Baby supplies (we use cloth diapers full-time)
20 Dentist (no dental coverage - we set this aside until it adds up to enough for one of us to go in and have a cleaning)
15 Car service (we set this aside each month for the occasional oil changes and service needs)
20 Entertainment
20 Cash

We then put $50 towards our daughter's education, $50 towards someday buying a home, and $50 into our emergency fund (currently at 10,050).

Anything that doesn't get spent (i.e. we don't go to the Doctor one month, or we don't take out any cash, goes into Loan payment)

We're scheduled to pay off every single debt by June of 2014! woop!

So, what am I missing? I feel like we're living on a shoestring, but I do try and leave enough happiness in our budget that we feel like we can have friends, and eat good food when we want to. There's also stuff that I know I need to add to the budget eventually, like disability insurance, life insurance for me, and phone plans (we're still on hub's Dad's plan). We need a second car, all of my hub's clothes have holes in them, and our baby is still young so she's super cheap (I'm still exclusively breastfeeding) but she's going to get more expensive. On top of all that, we want to have another baby! (Don't be too mean, we LOVE kids).

Before you all attack the commute/car expenses, we have a very efficient car (hyundai elantra) that hubs commutes in. We live for FREE (including most utilities!!) at my mother in law's home while she is living in another city for about 2-3 years. When we no longer live here, we will expect to pay rent of about 1400/mo, plus utilities. So, moving is not an option. I use my mother's car (a big honkin' SUV, but hey, it's free!) to do errands and such, but she may need to take it back within the year.

My main questions are: 1) what are we missing? 2) what on earth is going on with our retirement? (I use Betterment, but we only have 3,500 saved in there so far) 3) How in the WORLD do you people save up 1,000,000 dollars?

We are very lucky to be expecting a large inheritance from my husband's mother when she passes (a few decades away!!), so I suppose we may have something to fall back on at some point, but if we exclude that things look kind of bleak.

I want to have like 6 kids and live out in the country, growing our own food and biking around with the wind in our hair, but our situation is not like that right now.

Help?! Trying to live the best years of our life while planning for the future!!

THANKS!! :)

Reepekg

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2013, 10:46:04 AM »
Right now, more than a quarter of your income is going to loans. You reach toward a million bucks by investing that amount instead of giving it away each month. Congratulations on your plan for June 2014 and best of luck sticking to it! Once you start saving that loan repayment money, it will add up so fast. $1240 per month would give you $150,000 in ten years before interest/returns/inflation which I'm too lazy to calculate at the moment but will increase that figure.

The other thing you will want to consider is your risk tolerance and emergency fund. To me, $10k is a lot to have sitting around in the bank when you have debt. Maybe it helps you sleep better. It is a good idea if your husband's job isn't stable, but using a fraction of it to pay off loans might be an option to consider if you're looking to do more.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2013, 10:47:58 AM by Reepekg »

AJ

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2013, 10:46:51 AM »
I think you are doing great given your circumstances. But to answer your questions:

1) what are we missing?

Like you said, life insurance for you and disability insurance for your hubby. If it were me, I would put those ahead of eating out and IRA contributions. Also, in your position I would take the $50 that is going to the e-fund and start paying down the loans faster. What do your rates look like?

2) what on earth is going on with our retirement? (I use Betterment, but we only have 3,500 saved in there so far)

What do you mean?

3) How in the WORLD do you people save up 1,000,000 dollars?

I could be wrong, but I think most people here plan to retire on less than 1,000,000. That being said, having six kids is going to put a major hurdle in your savings. Not only is it more mouths to feed/clothe/etc. but it will preclude you from generating an income (part time or otherwise) for a very long time. I'm not suggesting you don't do it, but it will mean being realistic about the pace you can take to FI. Don't be discouraged if it takes you longer than other folks here who have chosen a different path. Anywhere is walking distance if you've got the time.

If your goal is early retirement, the best thing you can do right now is find a way to make an income of your own - and potentially for hubby to find a higher paying job. You have the expenses side reasonably under control. If you're anything like me, you are probably more comfortable trying to increase frugality than increase income, but I think you're at the point of diminishing returns in that department. Increasing your income will give you more bang for your buck at this point.

Reepekg

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2013, 10:55:01 AM »
Like you said, life insurance for you and disability insurance for your hubby.

I'm not sure I agree on the life insurance for her? (Sorry to be morbid but) In the event of her death, there would be some funeral costs to cover, but no income to replace. I guess you could argue that it should cover childcare costs. I would at least prioritize disability for the husband being unable to work first.

Use it up, wear it out...

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2013, 11:16:54 AM »
Like you said, life insurance for you and disability insurance for your hubby.

I'm not sure I agree on the life insurance for her? (Sorry to be morbid but) In the event of her death, there would be some funeral costs to cover, but no income to replace. I guess you could argue that it should cover childcare costs. I would at least prioritize disability for the husband being unable to work first.

Something to consider - if SAHM passes away, how will working father cover childcare? If there's no family nearby to help with the kids, you may (unfortunately) need the life insurance money to pay for child care for some period of time.

MorningCoffee

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2013, 11:19:11 AM »
Quote
Quote from: AJ on Today at 10:46:51 am

    Like you said, life insurance for you and disability insurance for your hubby.


I'm not sure I agree on the life insurance for her? (Sorry to be morbid but) In the event of her death, there would be some funeral costs to cover, but no income to replace. I guess you could argue that it should cover childcare costs. I would at least prioritize disability for the husband being unable to work first.

I second the need for life insurance for yourself. Childcare can be expensive and if something happened to you, someone would need to care for your children when your husband is working. However, just a term policy, enough to cover extra expenses.

Also confused about your retirement numbers. Have you only been contributing to your Roth IRA for a few months? With $775 monthly contributions, that's under 5 months to reach $3,500. If you're paying high interest rates on your loans, you could use that monthly amount to finish them off faster.

sheepstache

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2013, 11:49:47 AM »
You don't need a second car.  You shouldn't even be spending money for gas for the SUV.  Wait until your husband's home and then use the more efficient car to run errands. That will also force you to streamline the errands so you can do them with as little driving as possible.

Quote
We then put $50 towards our daughter's education, $50 towards someday buying a home, and $50 into our emergency fund (currently at 10,050).

I don't understand why you're doing this instead of putting an extra $150 towards debt.

Quote
500 Food (including eating out)

I don't want to sound like a huge asshole since, like, being a new parent is hard and stuff so I get that you might eat out sometimes because you're exhausted, but you need to reconsider that.  You aren't employed, so why can't you cook for every meal?  Or if this is eating out in order to be with friends, why not invite them over?  Often a home-cooked meal for four people will cost less than your half of a restaurant bill.

Also, YOU HAVE DEBT.  As you can see from the MMM blog, that is an emergency and you should be running around screaming like your hair is on fire!  You should be cutting all extraneous spending until that is taken care of.

Also, if you are going to have six kids, you need to be working right now on getting food costs low.  You need to be both awesome and efficient at cooking.  Your commitment to that is going to make a huge difference over time.  Do it like it's your job, because it is.

Also if you are in a house for a little while now, can you garden to bring food costs down?  Even if your MIL doesn't want anything changed in the yard, you could do container planting.  Go to local restaurants and ask for their discarded 5-gallon buckets (you want food grade since you are growing food in it).  It's not going to be the one thing that makes the difference, but if your ideal life style works out, you will be happy you started learning food growing skills now.

Quote
40 Gifts (we are at that time in life when everyone is getting married and having babies)
Like I said earlier, I know being a new parent is exhausting and I have heard from several people that the best gift they could really get is a friend bringing over a dinner they can heat up in the oven or coming over and cleaning the house or something.  Maybe consider gifts like that where they would be appropriate.

Quote
45 Christmas (we don't spend at any other time of year, so it's nice to have some set aside for guilt-free gift giving)
I'm just making sure you realize the irony of writing this right before the statement that you spend 40 a month gifts :)
I'm not really making fun, though, because I know what you mean about everybody getting married and having kids at once.  Just beware though, because their kids will start having birthdays and then graduating school or people will be celebrating their promotions at work or their retirement or something.  Think about how you can economize on gifts or if not doing that is important to you, think of other areas you can cut. 
And $540 on Christmas gifts?  Do the people around you really want that much stuff?  Maybe they do, but since you put it as "guilt-free giving" it sounds more like you feel like you are depriving yourself the rest of the year and just want the enjoyment of buying and giving $tuff regardless of intrinsic value or the alternative value of doing it some other way.  The key thing is to examine and prioritize your lifestyle so you don't feel deprived and so that your are getting your needs met without money where possible.  I just mention this to state the obvious and not necessarily because I don't see that mindset in your post.  You do talk about making sure to have happiness in your life and I see the value in, for example, saving up to visit your best friend.  I'm wondering if there are still some unexamined areas however and would encourage you to kick it up a level.

Sweet Betsy

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2013, 11:51:59 AM »
I would definitely look into the cost of taking out a small life insurance policy on you.  Nothing big, just something to give your husband breathing room if the worst happens. 

You mentioned that you have a high deductible health plan.  Does it qualify for a HSA?  If so, and I were in your shoes, I'd contribute to the HSA first before contributing any retirement savings.  Those contributions are still tax deductible but they will be available if and when you have any medical bills to pay.  Once you are in retirement you can treat your HSA much like a 401K.  Of course check into your specific financial and tax situation to make sure that all of this applies to you. 

Once you have your HSA up to one year's deductible...take that extra money and pour it into your debt.  You need to get rid of all that debt so that you can afford to have your own place once your MIL returns. 

mugwump

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2013, 11:55:50 AM »
If you want to have six kids and live out in the country check out The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyszyn.  It's still in print and your library may have a copy. She did just that and FI'd to boot.  A previous generation, but lots of good tips on managing expenses and kids.

Reepekg

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2013, 12:06:41 PM »
if I should try and spread the savings more evenly among all the goals including the IRA.

At least do this. You currently have little to no retirement savings (but are taking the right steps to fix that!). Basically, money you'd be saving for a down payment would be income you already paid tax on. Money that you save in an IRA or 401k is tax-advantaged and thus a better investment, since you start off from a better position.

Cecil

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2013, 12:10:40 PM »
Good news: You're spending less than $2000/month, which means your savings rate is over 50%. I'm counting debt repayment as savings, because it increases your net worth and when the debt is gone you can continue to save that money.

As far as priorities go, your number 1 should be to get out of debt. Put every spare dollar against your loans until they're gone.

Does your husband have a 401(k) match at work? If so, that's free money you're leaving on the table by not taking advantage of it.

$1200/year in gifts is a lot. Can you find some free/cheap things to do for people instead? Maybe for Christmas do a "giving of experiences" instead of a "giving of gifts". We've done that before and it worked well.

$500/month is a lot for food, assuming you live in the States where food is crazy cheap. How much of that is actually spent hiring other people to make your food for you? You should be able to cut a couple hundred a month from this.

Dee18

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2013, 12:38:53 PM »
Until the debt is paid off, I agree that increasing the income by your working a bit seems the best way to move forward more quickly.  One of my students works one day a week at a grocery and gets 20% off all his groceries in addition to the income.  Something like that might be worth doing. Or you may have skill that would let you work a few hours at a time for great money--can you teach tennis?  tutor high school kids?  The going rate for those where I live is about $ 45/ hour. Perhaps grandmother will set up the college fund, while you put everything toward the debt.  It may also be worth it for your husband to look for a job with benefits. 

Reepekg

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2013, 06:21:49 PM »
Quote
Hubs doesn't have a 401K at work - he's the only employee at his company.

Don't just accept his lack of a 401(k), time to give Hubs an assignment! While 401(k) is the most popular at big companies, there are many types of retirement plans. For example, if he reports his income on Schedule C like I do he can set up a SEP-IRA and contribute something like (read the actual rules) 25% of his income up to $50,000. This would allow you to put more away tax-advantaged. At small companies there is often more flexibility, so they might be willing to set up a SIMPLE IRA, SIMPLE 401(k), Keogh, etc. or even regular 401(k) if he is willing to lead the effort.

If you're maxing out your IRAs and know you will need a place to live, saving for a down payment makes sense if you are debt free and you've calculated that owning is cheaper than renting.

« Last Edit: April 23, 2013, 06:24:45 PM by Reepekg »

sheepstache

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2013, 08:47:02 PM »
I think she would be.  They seem like good candidates for a spousal IRA.

http://www.investopedia.com/articles/retirement/03/021903.asp

travelbug

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2013, 11:14:03 PM »
I would be taking the $50 x3 (house/school/emergency that is already large) and putting it off your loans.

By saving that interest it is essentially free money you are losing out on.

Then, once they are paid off I would start to save for a house or whatever else you prioritise. You have an amazing opportunity to live rent free, definately embrace it and use it as leverage to get ahead financially.

I would also cut food and presents down a lot.

Good luck.

Nudelkopf

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #15 on: April 24, 2013, 07:07:34 PM »
Until the debt is paid off, I agree that increasing the income by your working a bit seems the best way to move forward more quickly.  One of my students works one day a week at a grocery and gets 20% off all his groceries in addition to the income.  Something like that might be worth doing. Or you may have skill that would let you work a few hours at a time for great money--can you teach tennis?  tutor high school kids?  The going rate for those where I live is about $ 45/ hour. Perhaps grandmother will set up the college fund, while you put everything toward the debt.  It may also be worth it for your husband to look for a job with benefits.
I think this is a great idea :)

AJ

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #16 on: April 24, 2013, 07:34:39 PM »
LOVE from AJ: "Anywhere is walking distance if you've got the time."  :)

Thanks, but I can't take credit. It's a Steven Wright joke :)

sheepstache

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #17 on: April 24, 2013, 09:38:59 PM »
LOVE from AJ: "Anywhere is walking distance if you've got the time."  :)

Thanks, but I can't take credit. It's a Steven Wright joke :)

Shouldn't it be "if you've got time and can breath underwater"?


I thought of something else.  If you want to be really serious I would track your "shopping" category.  Not necessarily because the expenses might be extraneous but so you get as clear a picture of your finances as possible.  Otherwise that's $1800 a year unaccounted for.

Seriously, am I the only one who noticed she said they're planning on buying a second car once the MIL's SUV is no longer available?

sheepstache

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #18 on: April 26, 2013, 05:04:35 PM »


Quote
Seriously, am I the only one who noticed she said they're planning on buying a second car once the MIL's SUV is no longer available?

OK, so this is the part of the MMM philosophy that I find so GREAT in theory, but can't find how it applies practically to my life. Hubs commutes from suburban Montgomery Co, MD to Falls Church, VA. A 30 minute commute in NO traffic, over an hour in the usual rush hour. I "commute" to see friends in the same area 1-2 days per week (going together as much as possible, but it does not always work with Hubs schedule). The rest of the days I spend at home, going to the park and playground which are both walking distance.
We drive to a Trader Joe's to do much of our shopping, which is about 15 minutes away, not on bike friendly country roads and definitely not on roads I would feel comfortable biking with a baby on board. That's pretty much all our driving. It's not excessive except for the commuting which is inevitable because we live in the traffic capital of the @#$*ing world, Washington DC. Public transportation would add another 40 minutes to Hubs commute EACH WAY, not to mention about $10/day in ticket costs - that alone would outpace our gas budget immediately.


I apologize if I'm misunderstanding.  I'm not talking about your having a car; I'm talking about the fact that you seem to think you need two cars.  Just because you want to take trips to friends during a weekday once or twice a week?  Surely the cost of public transportation for you wouldn't outstrip the price of a second car.  I wouldn't sweat it as much with free use of the MIL's car, but you seem to be saying you're planning on buying a second second car once you no longer have hers.
As for the hubs' commute, obviously you'll take that into account in choosing your next living location.

secondcor521

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #19 on: April 26, 2013, 10:41:54 PM »
@homeymamma, reading your post about buying soil and buying a compost thingy leads me to think you might benefit from reading the ultimate cheapskate book by Jeff Yeager, especially the concept he has in there he calls the money step.

I'm not sure I'll paraphrase it 100% for you, but the basic idea is that there is a well-worn pathway in most of our minds that goes problem->$$$->solution.  Want to start a garden->$$$->buy soil.  Want to compost->$$$->composter thingy.  It's understandable because we have the entire advertising industry telling us the same thing a million times and places a day.

But Jeff's point is that you can solve problems without using money.  For example, I had a garden for a while, and just used the dirt that was already there as part of the earth.  Works fine.  I compost with a (gasp!) pile.  Works fine (and is in fact easier and better for the environment not to waste my time/money/energy buying a compost thingy that really doesn't do anything for the composting effect.  Stuff composts by itself).

Need a ladder?  You can buy one, or you can borrow one from the neighbor for free.  Need to travel somewhere on a regular basis?  Maybe someone else needs something from the area, and you can barter gas for agreeing to shop for someone.  Want a cat and something to entertain it?  Pick one up from the humane society for almost free and let it play with tennis balls and feathers already lying around the house.

To use an MMM example, want a vacation in Hawaii?  Trade fixing up a rental for a few weeks in tropical paradise.  Want to get fit?  Ride a bike, walk, do burpees instead of a gym membership.

Back to the money step thing, it's not the specific examples of do this instead of that; it's the general idea that creativity and effort can often provide solutions to problems rather than the commonplace path of buying stuff to solve problems.

Hope it helps you.

secondcor521

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #20 on: April 26, 2013, 10:56:23 PM »
One other general idea to add.

Lots of times now it seems that advertisers are not only providing the solution to the problem for money, they're also providing the problem.  Makes sense for them to do this from their point of view.

But another way to solve problems without spending money is to decide that it's not a problem.  I have to be a little careful here because in my case I can take this too far.  But as a man in my mid-40's there are two classes of products that I've just decided I don't need:

1.  Man-skin-moisturizing-products.  Just lately I've seen advertisements saying I need to buy skin moisturizer because I'm a man and I apparently have dry skin according to Neutrogena or whoever it is that advertises this stuff.  I could have been mindless and gone and bought a bottle of the stuff (probably with a coupon to ease the pain of adding a $8 per bottle habit for the rest of my life) and started using it.  Maybe a beautiful woman would enter my life and caress my shoulder as a result like in the commercial.  But I just thought about it for a minute and realized that with using Dove, my skin is perfectly fine as it is, and any woman attracted by a guy using man-skin-moisturizer is a woman with whom I don't share at least one value.

2.  Rogaine/hair restoration/etc.  I've been slowly going bald for the past twenty years.  I see all the ads for the various products that address this problem.  But I decided to solve this problem by keeping my hair super short with a Wahl trimmer that I bought for $20 six years ago.  Saves on haircuts too, of course.  But I'm actually looking forward to going bald -- less time cutting my hair, and it's another way to get the gray to go away, so I get to skip the "restore your natural hair color" products entirely as well.  The only downside I can see to baldness is maybe an increase in skin cancer, which can be solved with a baseball cap from a thrift store for $1.

happy

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #21 on: April 27, 2013, 04:59:57 AM »
The only thing I have to add is to consider whether you need to pay more than the minimum on the 3.5% and 1.9% loans and invest the remainder at a much higher return.  Mathematically this makes better sense, but some folks just want to be debt-free.

As far as "growing your own food" goes... this is a skill and its not as easy as just deciding to do it...I would suggest you start small and practice and try not to get sucked into spending too much on gardening stuff.

pbkmaine

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #22 on: April 27, 2013, 06:16:34 AM »
As far as gardening goes, start with $1 packets of herb seeds. They are inexpensive and easy to grow but expensive to buy. The website theprudenthomemaker.com has great tips on gardening inexpensively.

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #23 on: April 30, 2013, 02:29:08 AM »
In terms of income, you should consider a job.  As an RN, even without experience, you are employable.  I suspect you could find a 1 day a wk job.  Maybe on a day your husband doesn't work, so he can have some independent daddy time with your baby.  You could work shot clinics, home care, phone triage, hospice.  If you don't want to, fine.  But don't think you can't.  And I loved working 1 day a week when my son was younger.  Got me out of the house, interacting with adults.

Kenoryn

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #24 on: April 30, 2013, 10:25:55 AM »
Agree that income is an obvious option - there may be things you can do from home for some income, as well.

Also that your college, emergency, etc. should just be going into debt repayment now. You can save for college later. Also I would definitely put most of your $10,000 emergency fund into your debt. Get something like a line of credit that you could rely on in case of emergency, and you'll definitely come out ahead; if something comes up and you need to put it on a line of credit, you'll only be back where you are now since you'll have paid off that much debt before!

Regarding gardening, it definitely does get cheaper. Save your seeds this year, compost your kitchen waste to add to the garden next year, and you'll have 0 expenses next year. I bet it will pay for itself this year, though. Also, check out seed exchanges in your area. Lots of free seeds to be had! Most towns of a reasonable size have these in Canada, not sure about U.S.. You can build your own composter easily, too, with some scrap wood (try Craigslist if you don't have any) with four posts and some slats. Also, check out environmental groups in your area. I know there are groups here that offer discounted composters and rain barrels and help with starting veggie gardens.

Regarding buying a house: I would consider whether Washington is where you really want to live. Lots of cheaper, nice places out there! You could emigrate to Canada and your healthcare would be free... go to the east coast and houses are super cheap! realtor.ca could inspire you... ;)

Regarding meeting up with friends: now that the weather is nice, have a picnic in the park! Enjoy the sunshine and the birds and peace and quiet, each bring two things to share, and a blanket, I bet that would be more fun than a restaurant.


 

Kenoryn

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #25 on: April 30, 2013, 01:32:29 PM »
Oh, I just had another thought about your income options. You mentioned you want like 6 kids, so you obviously like children! What about offering childcare services from your home for a few children in your neighbourhood? I bet having an RN taking care of your kids would be a real bonus for most people!


Also I meant to add my intro-to-gardening beginner suggestions here. Good soil is everything - most veggies will like a soil with lots of organic matter (e.g. compost), and good compost will save you watering or fertilizing. Add some compost to your soil if you haven't already. Mulch is another great garden tool to keep moisture in and weeds down.
The things I would start out growing that are easy to grow and good producers would be:
- green beans- pole beans are great if you have a trellis or something they can climb. Otherwise, bush beans are great too, just take up more space.
- snap peas - some climb, some don't. Easier to pick if they climb. Easier to set up if they don't.
- tomatoes – a couple cherry tomato plants for snacking and putting in salads, pastas etc., a couple Roma or other paste tomatoes for making tomato sauces. When you plant tomato plants in the ground, you can actually bury part of the stem in the ground, as long as you don’t bury any leaves. (You can clip off the bottom two leaves that are rounded and don’t look like tomato leaves, if they're still there). Tomatoes can actually develop roots right out of their stems.  Burying part of the stem will give them a nice strong root system and protect them against drought, and help keep them from being tall and leggy and falling over. Tomatoes still need support - tomato cages are an easy way to do that.
- Zucchini, and butternut or sunshine or other winter squash: squash are heavy feeders, so give them lots of compost, or fertilize. Squash are happy to grow in straight compost. Winter squash keep forever at room temperature without any special care.
- carrots – prefer cool weather, so plant them such that they’ll be maturing in fall as it starts to get cooler.
- Cucumbers – can also grow up a trellis. Don’t let them get too big on you though!
- Lettuce or spinach – also like cool weather. Plant in early spring, and plant again near the end of summer.
- Garlic - too late for this year, but plant cloves in late fall, around Hallowe'en for my area (southern Ontario), maybe mid-November where you are. Then you'll get garlic scapes in spring, and garlic in summer!
- Radishes - grow really fast. The one thing that prefers poor soil. Likes cool weather - do a spring crop and fall crop.

Put the tall stuff at the north side of the garden, the short stuff at the south side, make sure it all gets full sun, and you're guaranteed success. :)

madgeylou

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #26 on: April 30, 2013, 04:34:51 PM »
Kenoryn, that was an awesome post!

WhatMomWears

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #27 on: April 30, 2013, 06:01:36 PM »
re: gardening, find a corner to put everything and build a pile - we do have ours fenced in but it was easy to do and you can probably get the wood off freecycle. Start with leaves, some dirt and then slowly add the stuff from your kitchen (fyi - don't add citrus). Your pile will slowly grow. You keep it moist, turn it once a quarter and use the compost once a year in the Spring. This may be more than you're willing to take on however since you're new to gardening. And you can purchase bags of compost.
One other bit of advice, try growing tomatoes and beans your first year. They're relatively easy to grow and the difference between store bought and homegrow makes it all worthwhile. Don't get discouraged, we all started somewhere with gardening and we have ALL had gardens that didn't work. I myself cannot grow a darn thing from seed - I have to buy starts (seedlings) from the nursery every year.

racherinh

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #28 on: May 02, 2013, 03:52:11 AM »
A few more ideas from another mostly at home mama (with 3 kids), interested in growing food, and so on. These are a lot of things that I have gradually done that might be valuable for you to think about - I don't mean to suggest a person could instantly do them all at once.

1) Life with one car is very, very, good. I think you said that you are uncomfortable biking with the baby, and with no idea what your roads are like, I would challenge you to keep thinking about it. The time of day you bike is often key - at rush hour, no way, but around lunch time, or 3 pm, things are often very quiet and the road is much more comfortable. It is also important to look at actual safety statistics for your area - the places kids are most likely to get injured are the kitchen and the bathroom in your own home. Seemingly safe toys like the super popular two wheel scooters are responsible for more emergency visits than biking in young kids. I'm just saying, do a little more research before you write it off. Especially if you can borrow or get a trailer used (with a big flag), and you can practice a few times at the right time of day without the baby, you may find that it's fun and you feel more comfortable than you thought.

2) Can your husband negotiate working 4 ten hour days, and/or working one or two days from home? Can he set his own hours, and show up really early or late, to avoid rush hour traffic? This could potentially cut commuting costs and time a lot. Then, if he is home one day, it is easy for all the errands to get done on that day with the one car, and easier for you to get part time work, like the 1 day a week option somebody suggested.

3) On packing lunches, you could try a couple of things. One, it sounds like your husband is worried about feeling deprived, so maybe you could get a little inspiration and start packing amazing lunches. There are entire blogs where people share the healthy, beautiful, and delicious lunches they pack for their families. If you can pack better food than he can buy, then maybe it will be easier for him. This goes for meeting friends, too, meet near the Chipotle, not at it, then you can eat what you bring. One of my favorite books is The Vegetarian Lunchbox - even if you're not vegetarian it has a lot of good ideas. Think of great ways to use leftovers - making chicken tacos in wax paper pouches that can be heated up (pack salsa in a little container) and so on. You can also always ask for a trial month - ask him if he's willing to eat what you pack for one month, and put all the money he would have spent in a jar to save. Ask him what he likes to eat at lunch and then see how you can make it happen. This might help him make the leap.

4) With gardening, I would definitely recommend starting with mesclun, lettuce, chard, etc, as they are easy to grow, and the fancy greens will easily recoup your costs. Green beans, too. These things are also easy to preserve - blanch and freeze. With greens, you can plant a row every two weeks now until the middle of June, and then the Middle of August to the middle of september, and eat your own greens at least six months out of the year. If you get really into it, check out the Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman. Actually, all his books are amazing and inspiring.

The other thing to consider is joining a CSA (community supported agriculture), especially if you can find one with an option to work. I know there are a lot in that area. This would get you affordable, local, organic vegetables, a lot of experience observing and gardening on someoneelses farm, and a chance to get used to cooking seasonally and preserving a little bit. Part of the skill of growing your own food is cooking it and putting it by, so since there seems to be a limit to how much you can grow right now, you can still get really good at those other skills. (Learn 12 ways to cook chard, for example).

5)Check out pick-your-own places for in season fruit. Every fall I go pick about 20 pounds of organic blueberries, freeze, and dry them. The same can be done with strawberries, apples, etc.

6)Check out ethnic stores - I have found they are the best place to get things like rice, beans, spices, nuts, coconut milk, and sometimes frozen meat, as well. My experience with Trader Joe's is that some staples are cheaper, but it's mostly the packaged stuff. You can always eat more cheaply by only buying staples and making things yourself. Dry cereal, for example, is a huge waste of money.

6) If you don't already know, learn to mend and make minor alterations to clothes. Being able to sew on buttons, repair hems, and so on can save a lot of money. Especially with a lot of kids. I just found a blog www.makeitloveit.com, where the author is a master repurposer, and I was so inspired by what she could do with her kids clothes and an ordinary sewing machine. We found that people were constantly giving up baby clothes they were growing out of, so it's a great way to practice - for example if there's a long sleeved shirt that fits your baby but it's summer, in about ten minutes one can chop off the sleeves, hem them nicely, and it's perfect. If there's a stain on a shirt, one can cut out a cute little design, sew it down, and in 20 minutes have a perfectly good shirt. If you don't sew, machines and things are pretty easy to find on craigslist. My husband always has to dress professionally, and when I work I do to, so we buy nice clothes, but being able mend and remove stains (and hanging them to dry) extends the life of the clothes a lot.

In a place like DC, there are also a lot of wealthy people with very few kids, so I bet there are some amazing consignment stores and Goodwill - there is no reason to buy clothes new when living near rich people who wear things once and give it away. Even in my poor town I regularly find like-new high end clothes.

I know I have a lot of food ideas, but honestly, I've been feeding a family of five very well on less than $500 a month (including diapers and alcohol) in Italy, where food costs are much higher (e.g. a liter of milk costs the same as a gallon in America, chicken costs as much as US steak), so I am always really am confused at how much people spend on groceries. I think you could set a goal of $250 a month, and then take five months to get there (cutting $50 a month).

This is probably long enough =). Let us know in a few months what you've figured out, so we can be inspired in turn!

homeymomma

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #29 on: May 06, 2013, 12:40:06 PM »
First of all, Kenoryn, that is an awesome post. I'm going to cut and paste it into a note to guide some of our future gardening. We've already planted lots of tomatoes and peppers, and some beets, carrots, and cabbage. Our selection was definitely not scientific! We mostly looked at the time of year they are supposed to be planted, and just went from there!
I am also talking to my husband about stopping contributing to the college fund, since it's such a paltry amount anyway.

Next year, when we get to the point of maxing out both Roth IRAs and having still more savings to stash away - what is a vehicle you all recommend? I'm considering opening an HSA, but don't know enough about them to be sure. They seem pretty flexible.
I still need to look into other 401(k) type options my husband may be able to ask for through his work. Are there other readily accesible accounts like the Roth IRA that are tax-advantaged? Alternatively, if we decide to use some of that money toward a down payment later, how much of your savings is it OK to put toward a home down payment?

Lastly, I've seen on these forums two interesting opinions:

1) emergency funds are silly and are just for non-mustachians who have no other safety net
and
2) betterment is no good because of fees (even though they are much lower than other places)

It's #2 I'm more interested by - I have Betterment for my Roth IRA, and was thinking is using it for my husband's also. I don't know enough about investing to feel confident doing it myself. All I know is index funds = good. That's the extent of my investing know-how. That's not to say I can't learn, but having to choose funds myself and manage everything personally sounds complex and scary and beyond my level at the moment.

Thank you much to everyone for so thoughtfully reading and offering such great suggestions! I really appreciate it. Even my husband has been asking what that "mustache people" said.

MommaMary

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #30 on: May 19, 2013, 07:02:27 AM »
I'm going to add in one more suggestion.  When I lived in DC and took Metro -- I worked hours that let me skip the peak travel times.  By traveling off-peak hours, you can avoid crowded subways and save $$.  So if your husband can work 10-7 or similar, he can save a bunch over peak fares.  Depends on how flexible his hours are. It may mean that family supper is late -- like 8 pm, but lots of people do that...

DizzyDaisies

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Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #31 on: May 19, 2013, 04:41:43 PM »
Are you planning on never returning to work?  I agree with the suggestion to get a job 1 day a week.  It just seems like such a waste to get an RN degree to turn around and never use it.  It's one of those degrees that isn't going to do you much good unless you use it right away--meaning if you try to get a job in 5 years as an RN who finished school and never worked, I imagine it's going to be hard to get hired.  The suggestion of working at a shot clinic is excellent. 

I get gifts very cheaply by pairing store sales with coupons.  Most of the coupons are printable so they're free to get except for the paper and ink.  For example, Target had a great deal on the Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Puppy.  It's originally $25 and was on sale for $15.  Target had a printable coupon for $5 off and then coupons.com had a manufacturer's printable coupon for $5 off.  I was able to purchase it for $5 plus tax.  I got 4 of them.  They now sit on a shelf in my basement to give as baby gifts.  I did a similar deal at Michaels for Crayola craft sets.  I bought a bunch and now when my kids get invited to birthdays, I have a gift ready to go.  It looks like I spent $20-$30 and I really only spent $5-$10. 

Couponing is pretty easy and you don't have to go crazy with it (although I sometimes do).  Find a website where they match up coupons to your local stores.  If your local grocery store is Kroger, google Kroger coupon matchups and see what comes up.  I frequent livingrichwithcoupons and forthemommas.  I've gotten cheap small appliances (housewarming gifts),a free case of printer paper (Christmas secret santa gift), free greeting cards.  I haven't paid for toothpaste, shampoo or lotion in years.  Toilet paper, paper towels and laundry detergent are all dirt cheap too.  And I buy all my kids next years clothing on end of year clearance at Kohls when I have a 30% coupon.

And don't be ashamed of having people know that you're trying to save money.  If your family and friends are decent people, they'll understand.  It's okay to give a homemade or inexpensive gift.  I made burp cloths for my friend when she had a baby.  They're adorable and she loves them.  And my sister just moved into her own place.  I gave her a 6 pack of paper towels, 6 rolls of TP, 2 boxes of cereal, a bottle of laundry detergent, and some food from my freezer couponing stash. She was very happy with that and it probably cost me $5 altogether. 


DizzyDaisies

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Re: Is there any more to be done?
« Reply #32 on: May 19, 2013, 04:59:18 PM »
Oh, one more thing we do to help with the temptation to eat out is to have "restaurant night" at our house.  So let's say your favorite soup at Panera is the black bean soup.  Google Panera black bean soup copycat recipe and see what comes up.  Then make it so you can have your favorite restaurant food at a fraction of the cost at home.  We do this with Outback Steakhouse.  I make steak, veggies and mac and cheese.  The kids love it!  Incidentally, I made a Panera black bean soup copycat recipe.  It was delicious!  I was at Panera a few weeks later and ordered the black bean soup since the copycat recipe was so delicious.  It wasn't nearly as good as the one I had made at home. 

Also, I cook meals in bulk (make 3 lasagnas instead of 1) and freeze them.  I realize lasagna doesn't work for you since you're not eating dairy.  But you could have roast ham, then have leftover roast ham another night, and then make bean soup with the ham hock and freeze it in 2 serving portions.  It's so great for those nights when I don't feel like cooking and the urge to head to a restaurant is very tempting.  Make a roast chicken and then make stock with the carcass.  My son is allergic to a bunch of foods  (including dairy) so I can empathize with the meal situation.  I'm jealous of my friends who throw together a casserole or a cream of something soup combination in the crockpot.