The first quarter of 2020 has passed so it’s time to check the status for my annual goals and plan my adjustments and/or next steps for this quarter.
(1) Get EF back to 3 months’ basic expenses – on target
For us 3 months of basic expenses would be $10,500. Currently the EF has $5050, which is less than half the goal, but it started the year at $3500 so progress has been made. My focus for unallocated dollars right now is on the soon-to-expire 0% CC. Once that is gone, the EF will be the focus so I still consider it to be on target for the year. The current economic situation illustrates the need for an EF and I wish I were in a better situation with mine. The reason I don’t fret (too much) is that the most likely emergencies that we would have that exceed my EF’s coverage are medical and unemployment situations. For medical, we have an HSA account that would cover costs and for unemployment, I know that my employer has historically been generous with severance pay. Still, I’ll feel more at peace when my goal is achieved.
(2) Adopt a permanent health-enhancing habit each month – on target
Oh yeah – I’m proud of this one. I have started 3 habits and kept them up. I can’t say that I enjoy fasting – it’s hard for me – but one day a month is doable. And in fact it’s really 24 hours so I only miss two major meals. Usually I start the time around 6:30p after an early supper. The current pandemic also illustrates the importance of a healthy immune system so I’m thankful that I made this an area of focus. I feel motivated to continue with my monthly habit additions.
(3) Renew my professional certification by the September due date – on target, maybe even ahead
Renewing my certification involves paying a fee which is not too onerous and earning continuing education units which is a lot of effort. I started the year being 38 units short of being able to renew. I’ve since earned 18 units so I currently have 20 units to go. If I can keep up the current pace I’ll finish in the summer.
(4) Pay no CC interest or fees – on target
In order to meet this goal, I had to deal with a CC balance on a 0% card (and continue to pay off our normal expenditures each month of course). I’ve written another post about my split strategy to move some of the balance to a new 0% CC and to pay the rest off. I currently have around $1900 remaining on the CC that must be paid by mid-May. My projections show that this should be completed in time. Then I’ll cancel that CC.
(5) Spend time with each kid to encourage his current area of growth – okay, but could be better
All-in-all I did fine on this. I helped DS1 create a budget and provided support for his job hunt which was successful though he hasn’t started the new one yet and there may be uncertainty now. DS2’s focus has become more about keeping up since his last semester of college is online now. I didn’t spend the time I’d planned helping him find housing. However, now that he’s closer to the job location since campus is closed (It’s 2+ hours away.) it’ll be easier when he does have availability. Good progress on DS3 as I reported earlier. He’s committed to a college and found a roommate. Now to see how he finishes high school with the school doing a nontraditional online format, possibly for the rest of the school year… I have worked with DS4 on his rank advancement but not enough. He’s so close to achieving the next rank of Star. And ironically working with DS5 has been easier with school off and then online. I’ve just got to keep it up.
(6) Complete identified home maintenance – behind
It’s always been my experience that I can’t have everything going well at the same time. What I have done is to get a quote for the pressure washing. I allocated funds for it so now I just need to schedule it. I requested a quote for the fan/light replacement some time back but the electrician never got back with me. Maybe the job is too small to be worth his effort. I need to look for another company. Most of the painting I’m doing myself (not the ceilings – I’ll hire that out). I moved furniture away from one wall in the living room to prepare to paint several weeks ago and it’s still like that! Maybe this weekend.
Overall, I’m happy with the quarter’s progress.
The first quarter of 2020 has passed so it’s time to check the status for my annual goals and plan my adjustments and/or next steps for this quarter.
A couple of pieces of small positive financial news: While the company has announced that annual profit sharing as it’s implemented now is being discontinued, we did get an annual payment this year. I used a portion of mine to purchase a new laptop. I have been limping along with this one far longer than most would I think – it’s soooo slow and it crashes if I try to view a video. And the already replaced battery is bad so it must be plugged in. I’ve just ordered a replacement and it should arrive next week. I don’t look forward to the productivity curve for a new device but it’ll be nice to let go of the worry that I’ll lose things that are important to me suddenly.
A week or so ago I read a blog (I can’t remember the site.) that had a list of things that could bring in cash. One of them included a link to a site with the unclaimed property pages for every state. I checked our current and former state pages with our name and guess what? I have $20 of unclaimed property from our former state. I have no clue what it is. But I completed the form and just received an e-mail that there is a payment on its way to me.
Rambo, the office helper
Well I purchased Norton Lifelock for my computer’s antivirus protection since it was only $20 and I already have buyer’s remorse. I can’t get it to complete the install – it keeps requesting a reboot again and again – and the online technical support isn’t available because of the coronavirus according to their website. If ever there was a job that was conducive to working remotely, I would’ve thought that online technical support would be it, but apparently not. Needless to say, if I can’t get it working I’ll ask for a refund. I suspect that I may be told (if I ever talk with a live person) that my computer is too old.
We’re still being vigilant about vitamins to stay healthy. And DS1 who still is expected to work in a customer-facing role says that he’s receiving an extra $300 per paycheck for working during this outbreak. He’s taking the high-dose Vitamin D he received in his stocking and so far is symptom-free. We also talked about him using any stimulus money that might come his way to start his new EF.
Mine and boys
Tomorrow I’m invited to a virtual retirement party.
One positive piece of financial news in the midst of chaotic meltdown in our net worth otherwise: I received notice that some stock options I received from the company last year are 25% vested now. When combined with previous stock options, I have a total (only on paper) of $8k. I’m planning to wait 3 years until they are all vested before cashing out.
Our March spending like most others I’m sure is odd. We’ve spent $1200 in my grocery category! That includes toiletries and pet food, but still. Since it’s related to stocking up, in theory it should result in less grocery spending in upcoming months. ‘Kids’ activities’ is lower since sports and Scouts are canceled.
We had another game night – Hearts this time. Good fun! Many of our local restaurants have closed for the duration – no more takeout menus. I hope they’ll be okay.
Work continues as usual but having the kids at home is distracting. I have plenty to do but I feel like it’s tough to focus. DH has been like a drill sergeant, administering temperature checks and vitamins twice a day for us all.
My annual computer anti-virus subscription has just expired. I deliberately paid it with a CC that I wasn’t keeping so they couldn’t auto-renew. I hate that practice and I like to evaluate the purchase each year. Any recommendations?
I was beginning to think our state delayed the payment of income tax refunds because it’s been about a month and a half since our taxes were filed online. But this morning I see that the state refund is direct deposited in the bank account. As planned I directed it to the 0% CC that needs to be repaid by May. The remaining balance now is $2130.
We recently adopted a stray cat and today was its first vet appointment to get checked out and receive immunizations. The animal clinic sent a message a few hours before the appointment to alert us of the temporary protocol in place due to the coronavirus. After we parked the car, we called them to let them know that Bandit (The kids name our pets.) had arrived. I spoke on the phone with the technician to review concerns & health history just like we normally do in the exam room. Then when the vet was ready, we carried the pet carrier to the front door for a hand-off. We waited in the car until the vet called my phone with the exam notes and results. I paid with a CC over the phone then met the technician at the door to retrieve the full pet carrier.
I have to say that it was efficient in addition to being safe. It was strange though not to be with our pet while he was examined.
The total bill was $201. That included the visit, two immunizations, a fecal test, and a leukemia test. They’re only doing medically necessary surgeries for the next 2 weeks so I have to call to schedule the neutering for sometime later than that. We found out that he is about three years old! We guessed that he was less than a year.
The company has sent a memo that there will be no compensation increases this year. It’s disappointing for sure but understandable given the uncertainty of the economy. Now I know for planning purposes to count on my current minimum income.
We had a fun Monopoly game night last night after corn chowder for dinner which was a hit too.
Our state just closed bars and restaurants.
I’m a planner by nature so I’m directing any anxiety about the current situation to our logistics. The boys are off school for at least two weeks. DS2’s college extended spring break so he just extended his visit with our families in the south. He’ll fly home in a week. I’m hoping that travel is safer then with international flights discontinued. He also connects in Charlotte rather than one of the mega-airports. If his college makes a decision to complete the semester virtually and travel becomes more restricted, I suppose he could stay there. DS1’s current job is customer-facing so I do worry about that although it’s not in a big city. Fortunately, my job with the exception of occasional travel being canceled isn’t impacted much. I’m most productive working from the home office and that’s the typical work day for me. I will need to creatively replan some projects that have tasks normally done at the customer site though.
This weekend I’m cleaning. Our house is grubby most of the time. Women who value a pristine home environment would be appalled by our place. But with a crew of boys I learned years ago that I would be a ball of stress if I insisted on keeping the place like a showroom. Usually my cleaning efforts are focused on keeping dishes and clothes caught up with an occasional vacuuming. But this weekend I’m dusting, wiping, scrubbing, and disinfecting door knobs and light switches.
We’ve never had an emergency food stash despite the fact that we live far enough north that a snowstorm could potentially force us to be homebound without power. We once lost power but the snow wasn’t too deep to get out and we moved to a hotel for a couple of days. Every year I say that I’ll make one before the winter arrives and I don’t. Laziness I guess. Knowing that we could be forced to stay home for a month or more, we created a stash now. It includes an extra round of household items we purchase every couple of months – garbage bags, laundry & dishwashing detergents, and pet food. And some healthy food that can keep awhile – rice, beans, applesauce, figs, peanut butter, mixed nuts, carrots, onions, potatoes, and one box of Girl Scout cookies so we don’t feel deprived. I also ordered some organic coconut milk powder. Really I think we’d be healthier is we were forced to fast a couple of days or eat beans & rice only! I’m not saying that I hope it comes to that though.
In addition to the food stash, I created a small cash stash. That’s another thing I’ve always intended to establish. Eventually I’d like to have a month’s basic expenses in cash. Maybe I’ll consider that as a goal next year.
To prepare ourselves for exposure to the virus which may be inevitable, we’re all taking vitamins and an anti-viral herb each day. Last week I also ordered replacement filters for the Berkey water filter.
Since we’re hunkering down, I’d like to plan what to do with boys during their time off. Maybe working on scout merit badges with DS4. Or having a game night. I’ll check out our game cabinet and see if we have all the Monopoly pieces.
My 2020 goal #2 is to adopt a permanent health-enhancing habit each month. I’ve decided that my new health habit for March will be to stop storing food in plastic containers. I’m going to use glass containers instead.
I don’t think it’s unhealthy for food to just touch plastic but I’ve read that temperature fluctuations can cause plastic to leach into the food. I stopped microwaving with plastic containers years ago but the rest of the family will do it if it’s most convenient. My dad personally knew a woman who was taken to the hospital (I forgot the symptoms.) and the cause was her consumption of bottled water that had gotten very hot in the trunk of her car then cooled back down before she drank it.
NEW HEALTH HABIT #3:
Stop storing food in plastic containers.
Prevents consumption of plastic (microplastic) that is toxic to the body
Upfront – $95
Ongoing – zero
The upfront cost is the total for the purchases I made of glass replacements for my plastic containers. I bought a set of Pyrex containers with color-coded plastic lids for leftovers, six canisters for storing rice, pasta, & legumes, and two glass carafes with plastic lids to replace our yucky stained plastic pitcher.
This new habit is easy compared to the others.
2020 health habits so far:
(1) Fast one day per month
(2) Consume fresh organic juice at least 3 times a week
(3) Stop storing food in plastic containers
I’ve just returned from another business trip. It was an experience – especially the trip home. I loaded up on high doses of Vitamins C & D before traveling and used Airborne daily while I was away. Just in case. On the planes, many people were wearing masks and all of us used sanitizer repeatedly. Very few tray tables were used on the planes. On the trips home one flight was 2/3 full and the other about ½ full. I’m happy to say that I didn’t see anyone that appeared sick. The Washington Dulles airport was like a ghost town last night. While I was traveling, the company issued a memo banning all travel through the end of April. So that will be my last trip for a while.
On the financial front, I paid our spring property taxes today: $1300. That represents a 2% discount for paying earlier than the target date. We have two property tax bills – spring and summer. The spring is the smaller one. The summer bill is close to $4000 for us.
I need to go through my receipts and get my expense report submitted now. Also, I received notification from Ally that the online savings account interest rate is decreasing to 1.5%. I appreciate their transparency. They also are offering a 1% bonus for transferring more than $1000 into an Ally savings account before the end of the month. This might be a good deal for someone like CCF who has sizable amounts in a variety of banks. I’m not sure it’ll work for me given their timing coinciding with my paying off a 0% CC.
Last night DS1 finally made the time to come over to create a budget. I have been nagging him so his participation was somewhat reluctant. I asked him to bring his laptop and I started him with an Excel workbook that I created with sample categories populated. I preached my truth about budgets not being restrictive but instead giving control so the funds are allocated to the things we believe to be most important in our lives.
I am cautiously optimistic that the session was effective! He adjusted the categories and evaluated different scenarios just like I do sometimes. The spreadsheet is basic but it calculates totals by month, by category, and year-to-date. He got excited about having a vacation fund and an entertainment category. Once he had the budget balanced to nearly align with his minimum pay, he downgraded his Netflix membership, downgraded his health club membership, and deleted a Doordash app from his phone. I didn’t suggest any of those things!
He created a category for health insurance premiums so he doesn’t forget but the budgeted amount is zero for this year since he can remain on our health insurance plan through December. We also talked about removing comprehensive auto insurance coverage to lower his premiums once he gets his financed 2007 vehicle paid off which he said will happen by summer.
We’ve planned another session on Easter day when he’ll be home to open an HSA account with Fidelity and a Roth IRA account with Vanguard. He’s got budgeted amounts ready to auto-transfer once he gets those accounts established. Before then he’s going to open a savings account at a different bank than his checking for his soon-to-be EF.
My justification for being so assertive in getting him to sit down and work a budget was that I wanted to make sure he paid back his loans to me. That’s what I told him to make him feel obligated to meet. And that is indeed a category in his budget. But my motive was broader – I wanted him to be empowered, to feel like he controlled his finances. I’m hopeful. He did seem to own it by the time we finished. We’ll see how it goes. I think I’ll e-mail some links to blogs with budgets every few days so he can compare his with others. I know I always find that an interesting exercise.