Net Worth & Money News: January 2015

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Change from end of 2014: 1.75% increase

On Money

I’m working away at Swagbucks to earn a bit of extra money for household, Little Bean, and dog things we need. Feel free to join using my referral link if you like!

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I didn’t anticipate having any reason to be pleased pulling together this first of the month net worth summary, but I forgot that my CDs with Ally pay out once a year, so hey! Nice little addition to the bank accounts.

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Had reason to be extra grateful for our health insurance coverage. Not only does it cover all of my prenatal related visits, not only are all the OB nurses much nicer than I expect them to be (I don’t know why I always expect them to be a little mean), the prescription side for the unfortunate plague of spots added up really fast. One prescription would have cost $128! Instead I paid $10.

That’s not to say ALL of them are competent, as I discovered to my chagrin one weekend, but by and large we do ok with the HMO.

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Even with one unplanned burst of generosity, we managed to keep Christmas gift costs down to around $300. This is, I’m pretty sure, a little better than we’ve done in previous years that included last minute panic shopping.

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We haven’t been exchanging gifts between ourselves but in the tradition I started last year, I did treat us to another batch of stocks. Of course, I spent a great deal more on that than, say, $300 for a physical gift but it’s one part of one aspect of our nest egg.

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LB’s nest egg/spending cushion is perking right up: 6,538.34 to date!

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Miscalculations: I made a large payment against the mortgage principal at the end of 2014. We do this every year but cash flow was lower than usual so the lump sum was correspondingly lower. I forgot that the second property tax payment was still coming due this January, though, whoops … What that means is I scraped together a large sum and threw it at the mortgage and left exactly enough for the next month’s regular bills but not enough for the large property tax. I hate digging into savings but it had to be done.

This does come at a bad time of course, I’ll soon be on half salary over the span of several pay periods so unfortunately things will be squeezed for a while yet. For the first time, I find myself thinking PiC’s bonus, expected sometime in the spring, will be awfully handy to bring us back up to a respectable balance.

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Our December Side Money

Craigslist, December 2014: $425
no Item Description Sale Price Total
1 TV cabinet $30 $30
2 Bike parts $10 $40
3 OLD speakers $15 $55
4 watch $20 $75
5 old GPS $40 $115
6 jacket $20 $135
7 jacket $20 $155
8 furniture $40 $195
9 office supplies $30 $225
10 furniture $200 $425

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On Life

As we are more homebound, life revolves around just a few things and everything takes on a surreal sort of haze. Being days away from any life change, whether it’s a job loss, moving, starting a new job, I often wonder aloud what the big deal is REALLY. It’s a poor coping technique, trying to convince myself that change isn’t something to be stressed over.

I like pillows. I like lots of pillows. I like pillow fortresses, pillow moats, pillow rafts, cushions that shore up pillow structures, stuffed plushies that substitute for pillows in a pinch. This isn’t a revelation or anything… I just really like them.

My family continues to frustrate me from afar. I know I can’t change him but I will admit that there was a small part of me that hoped my dad would care enough, if not about me, then about the future grandchild (of which there may only ever be one) to suggest he’d be open to making any changes in how he lives his life. Perhaps smoking a little less, perhaps even just thinking about positive changes that would make it safe for LB to visit. As things stand, he wouldn’t even for a split second consider cutting back on smoking or doing anything about his utterly crap living conditions that include my unpredictable Trainwreck of a sibling I’d never trust around a helpless creature. So I shrug and move on with my day knowing that I can’t do anything about it.

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When a “What If” scenario kicks your ass: the death of a hard drive

Ironically, one of my what-ifs actually happened just as I was in the middle of dealing with insuring against it….

I was in the process of backing up all our photo files and had recently gotten the first phase done: back up to an external hard drive. I’d been haunted by this horror of losing all the important stuff, sowas on a kick to back up everything I could, work and photo-wise, to hard drives and the cloud.

Work was relatively easy once the first full back up was done – that bit took ages but it was done and the back ups run automatically.

Photos and personal documents, though, are scattered across more than one computer so I started with adding them to one unified hard drive first.  This was partly driven by immediate need;  my phone was staggering under the weight of the thousands of pictures and videos stored there and was threatening to kick the bucket entirely.  All those files were actually automatically backed up via Google but I rather foolishly assumed, and didn’t confirm by trying it, that there was a way to download all those stored files easily.

Having pulled all the files off the phone and saved them to the hard drive, I should have also temporarily stored the whole kit and caboodle to my working laptop. Hindsight, ever is it 20/20.

It slipped my mind, so you can just imagine my mini heart attack when I plugged in the external hard drive this weekend and found that it was corrupted.

After 2 hours of Googling, testing and troubleshooting, it was relatively clear that this was a corruption that’d probably require actual professional data recovery. With all the Little Bean expenses looming, though, spending several hundred dollars on this was not an option if it could be helped so I went another route. If I could retrieve all the data then I could just reformat the drive and save a new set of files (which would now also be backed up seventeen other ways!)

Except there was no easy “Download all” button on Google Plus.

!!!

With thousands of precious photos of Doggle that were now only in one, poorly accessible place, I just went into silent FIX IT NOW mode.

Relatively silent.

Tried Google Drive, no love.
Tried downloading albums, but since I’d not organized all the photos into albums, downloading from there was no good as it ignored anything not in albums.
I flipped out a bit on Twitter, which brought the amazing @daNanner to my aid, with suggestions of using Picasa to pull the whole archive off G+, but alas, still no good.
Further Googling was fruitless, so I resigned myself to painstakingly downloading each image one by one. This was a huge pain, to go from oldest to newest, you have to load the entire archive.

Then @daNanner popped up again with another suggestion: Google Takeout. Her Google-fu is strong, this was the answer!

It took an hour to download everything into zip files, another dozen hours to download the SIX 2G zip files, and yet another five to sort them because the archive files were a complete mess but the photos are saved and destined to be saved as many ways as I can think of: two external hard drives, a laptop hard drive, a backup program like Backblaze or Crashplan.

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London, ho!

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PiC and I finally went to London!

It was a short trip but we’d been talking about doing it for years and an opportunity came up that we couldn’t resist. Besides, with LB on the way, I don’t anticipate international trips figure large in our immediate future.

We had a good wander about: we explored Covent Garden, had fish and chips, and visited with some friends we don’t see often. I loved that display of Paddington Bears – for years, as a child who only explored other worlds through books, the adorable bear in a yellow hat represented England.

Due to my very limited energy, we saw a lot of things in passing but didn’t stop in for a full gander: Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, a statue of Abraham Lincoln (???), The British Museum. We waved at the London Eye, feeling too cheap and pressed for time to actually go up, that’ll be for another time when the weather is more certain.

We spent some time in a smaller neighborhood, exploring the local cuisine and shops, picking up more than a few specialty chocolates to bring home. I’d told PiC for years that chocolate from across the pond was different and he was more than willing to indulge in taste tests with me.

Next time – and there will be a next time! – I’d want to do a little bit more than we did this time but it was a good relaxing visit.

Usually when I travel internationally, I make it a point to learn to like a new food but this time was more about sharing my favorites with PiC.

Travel Costs

We flew British Airways coach, and while it was no great shakes back there in coach class, it was still better than our usual domestic airlines by a good stretch.  Maybe not better than Virgin America Main Cabin Select, but we don’t often splurge on airfare, especially on international travel. Someday though, we’ll have enough money that first class won’t be but a drop in the bucket. SOMEDAY!

I tried to use miles for the flight but as it turns out, BA miles are pretty worthless for international flights. They’ll charge a fuel surcharge that is very nearly the same as the cost you’d have paid for the ticket out of pocket. I saved them for another time.

I did redeem a truckload of Chase Rewards points though. I had the option of using them to book flights, hotels and car rentals directly for an extra 20% boost in points but they weren’t any good for our destinations. We weren’t going to drive and none of the areas we’d planned to stay were on the list of redemption hotels.

The best value was to book lower cost hotels and just redeem the points for cash. We had enough bonus and regular points to redeem for a thousand dollars in cash which nicely defrayed some of the travel cost.

Experience-wise, that was the best choice I think, as I picked places with pretty fantastic breakfast spreads. Seriously I think we breakfasted for three hours one morning.

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Organization central: an update

We have progress!

PiC really stepped up under (self imposed) pressure.

I’d set my expectations to “sensible and moderation” when we first started the purging and organizing because we’d started so late and my energy levels never came back.

My internal ideal was that we could eliminate 75% of the crap that was piled up to the ceiling in one closet, but I kept my yap shut because PRIORITIES.

But, perhaps feeling the heat of LB’s impending arrival even more strongly than I, he pushed himself to knock off so much on these seemingly never ending internal lists in his head that this place has been transformed. We had some ruffled feathers for a bit, with those self imposed stress levels, but we’re back on an even keel now so I can feel free to be rather impressive how much has been done around here.

  • We’ve offloaded so much stuff on Craigslist and made back a good bit of money!
  • We donated a ton of good items that we wouldn’t be able to sell in the increasingly short period of time left to us. We found a local homeless shelter that helps families get back on their feet so much of these goods are going there.
  • We received duplicates of used baby gear so we’re just going to keep one of each and donate the rest to the homeless shelter since they’re all in really good shape after 1 child’s worth of use.
  • He actually fixed our wacko fan! We thought it was needing replacement but nope.
  • I’ve picked over a couple boxes of used clothing and we’ve done some baby laundry in advance.
  • My mini-office is all set up with storage and stuff.

We’ve spent a shiny nickel at the Container Store on organization. This involved about a dozen trips, all told, between buying things to try and returning things that didn’t work. After PiC’s first trip, I bought a big gift card at an 8% discount, and combined that with ordering the stuff through ebates for cashback and their 10% off sale.

Total we’ve spent about $300 between outfitting: the kitchen with shelves, hanging organizers in one closet,  and hooks and doodads for both the bathroom and two closets. Everything was on sale at least so that makes me feel better about not maximizing every single possible discount – time was obviously a factor in these projects.

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