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January Wrap-up

February 5, 2018

Net Worth / Money:  

Our net worth is up another 3.4%, mostly in the retirement savings category.  I just updated this over the weekend, so it includes some of the recent flutters in the overheated stock market, but we’ll see what comes next. I’m front-loading my 401k (see discussion about work below), so 2018 mortgage prepayments will wait for our tax refund, for improved cash flow later in the year, and/or for more job security. Our retirement account balance surpassed our mortgage balance some time last year.  It’s not really a milestone that means anything, but it makes me happy.


Groceries were high, partly due to a Costco restock trip and partly due to my focus on trying to stock healthy food and snacks. We’ve started a new ritual of going to the fish market on Saturdays to buy fresh fish for dinner, generally running just under $20 for the fish itself, and we get 4 portions out of it.  It’s super yummy, but more expensive than our typical meals.  I’ve also insisted T take care of himself and eat lunch EVERY DAY, and he has heeded my advice. This is good, but we’ve seen an uptick in the “work lunch” category.  This is OK for now.  I eat lunch at home 99% of the time.

I also booked our property taxes this month (actually paid last month), paid our car insurance, and we had another $500 in various hardware store purchases.  Lots of spending this month!

Charity:  I’m including this section only to keep myself accountable and to normalize the fact of giving.  I’m not bragging that I donate, because we donate far less than we should, given all of our blessings, and  I’m working on it.  I didn’t choose a charity or political giving opportunity this month, so I rolled my budget over into next month.  I did get a much-belated birthday gift from my sister, who took me up one of the charities I put on my Amazon wish list instead of a gift for me.  Yay!

2017 Taxes:  My estimates for federal taxes were super close, but I screwed up my CA tax estimate.  Our refund is still large, but not NUTSO large, which is just fine.  We’ll be filing in a few days – there was some form related to the backdoor Roth that TurboTax said the IRS didn’t have ready for us yet.

House: The bathroom remodel is basically done, but I haven’t updated the page or converted to a post.  We have a shower curtain / tension rod for now, but will be getting the glass shower door as soon as we get back on the ball and contact some places for quotes.  I’ll update this month.

The patio still needs plenty of clean-up work, but I finally got the last of the gravel pile hauled back. We are done laying the flagstone back down. It has progressed far enough that it doesn’t stress me out any more. T has various ideas of how he wants to develop it from here.

Our bedroom still has some minor construction since the drywall was damaged during the bathroom remodel.  We may end up repainting the whole room.  It makes sense to do it now since we have to paint at least one wall – but it sounds kind of overwhelming.  I’m easily overwhelmed.


There is a terrifying cliff of new projects after this August. My main project is somewhat separate from the cliff, but I can tell I’m less valuable to that project than I was in earlier phases. I’m still enjoying my current work and trying my best to add value, but I worry.

Sometimes I’m able to put this out of my mind and trust that it will be OK.  Other days, I’m a ball of anxiety. Our lifestyle very much benefits from us both working so close to home, and it would be a sacrifice for us both if I change jobs.  It isn’t out of the question – just highly highly undesirable.  I have a few actions/moves, but not many, and they are mostly just networking type things rather than things that actually are going to make a difference in the overall picture.  There is also one long shot project I’m waiting to hear back on, but there is maybe a 1 in 10 chance it will materialize. We weren’t selected for the long shot project I was waiting on, so any small hope there has vanished.

From a finance perspective, we could live without my income, and my paranoia has resulted in us having a big cash buffer. Yet, the financial progress we’ve enjoyed the past few years would be slowed until my income was restored.  At our current rate, we could be FI within ~5 years (? <— not a detailed estimate), but that slows significantly without my salary.  So, that’s my career stuff.

T will be submitting his tenure packet this summer/fall, and we should have a good indication (departmental recommendation) within a year from now.  He won a grant that was somewhat important for him to win (although not necessary, it will help a lot), and things look generally promising.  But who knows? We hope he’ll get tenure and we intend to continue making our lives here. Yet I can also see some appeal of taking our lives in an entirely new direction if he doesn’t. Cash out of the high cost area and…. what?  We don’t really have a plan B, but there are options out there, and if the time comes, we’ll chase them.


I had a terrible poison oak outbreak at the end of the month, and I just need to note it here and whine.  I’m on the mend, but needed a short course of oral steroids along with some potent steroid cream. Also, I was on work travel when it first started, so that was super fun.  Nothing else super notable happened in January.  Life is quiet and good and 2018 is off to a pretty good start.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. February 5, 2018 11:34 am

    Even if it doesn’t truly mean anything, the idea of comparing an entire asset category to another always pleases me – I’ll be thrilled when our investment accounts are worth more than double our mortgage balance. Not sure why I like it, but I do.

    We also started adding seafood to our diet more regularly, and it is costly but I think it’s important for our health. I’ll have to see about how to afford it twice a week instead of just once every few weeks like we’ve been haphazardly doing.

    Work stressors aside, sorry you didn’t get that long shot project, I think it’s really cool that you could live on one income if necessary. My fingers are crossed that T’s tenure review goes well!

    Yikes to the poison oak, where did you encounter it?

    • February 5, 2018 12:40 pm

      I’ve been trying to mix in frozen seafood, but it is much harder to get good flavor. :/ I’m still deciding what to do about the job – sit tight and keep pressing on, or start making moves. I’ve been in the “sit tight” phase for well over 6 months, and I don’t love it, but I have good reasons for it.

      Poison oak is literally everywhere in the parks over here. This time, I encountered it in one of our regular hiking places with the dog. We went off-trail through the fields (which we do often) and I must have touched something. In the winter, it is harder to spot because it is just sticks instead of menacing leaves. :/ I had it in early December too, so I need to figure out how to avoid since repetitive outbreaks get worse and worse.

  2. February 5, 2018 1:51 pm

    I think that any milestone that makes you happy means something 🙂

    We also ran into the form 8606 not being ready problem. I signed up for the email reminder and hopefully it will be ready before 2/15! We actually ended up with a sizable refund since we had assumed I would go back to work when we set up the withholding. Oh well, it’ll go nicely into savings.

    Excited to see final photos of your bathroom remodel! I’m glad that your terrible poison oak outbreak is on the mend – that doesn’t seem like much fun.

    I am so thankful that we can live without my income…because that’s what we’ve been doing. I hope that my health problem ends and I can go back to work, but it really helps my anxiety there to know that we are very much fine without it.

    • February 5, 2018 2:52 pm

      My next meaningless milestone to shoot for is investments = house value. Then, perhaps, mortgage is less than half of the house value.

      I didn’t realize you were having a health issue – hope it gets better soon!

      The ability to be OK on a single income does take the edge off the panic, for sure. It still would feel like a huge step backwards, but it gives me a good ability to be very fussy about the possibility of changing jobs if needed.

      • February 5, 2018 5:49 pm

        I was SO excited when net worth = house value. That was a huge milestone! Now we are sitting at about 20% loan to value.

        Thanks for the thoughts about the health issue 🙂

        • February 5, 2018 9:33 pm

          That’s awesome! I’d like to chip away enough that we could comfortably refi into a 15 year (i.e. one income-able). It seems like interest rates will rise by the time we’d be ready for that… so that may not work anyway. It’s nice to think about, though. 🙂

    • February 6, 2018 1:08 pm

      Seems like form 8606 is ready now

      • February 6, 2018 3:08 pm

        Thanks for the update! We are using TurboTax Desktop and it doesn’t seem to have it yet. I signed up for email reminders, so hopefully soon.

        • February 6, 2018 3:13 pm

          Ah, maybe just the IRS has it ready – not turbotax itself. False alarm 🙂

          • February 16, 2018 2:23 pm

            Looks like it’s now available, at least according to the TurboTax website 🙂

        • February 17, 2018 8:57 pm

          Yay, we were able to file today! Refund!

          • February 18, 2018 9:05 am

            No refund for us. 😦 I have a check for 2846.00 ready to go to the US Treasury. I’d have more ready to go but TaxAct doesn’t know how to do estimated taxes for next year yet!

          • February 20, 2018 5:34 pm

            Same! We filed on Saturday. We overpaid on taxes since we assumed I was going back to work when we did our calculations. Yay for a nice start to our joint savings account!

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