It’s official: I got a promotion!

Honestly, I didn’t 100% believe it would happen. Sure, my boss asked if I’d be interested, and I know things were in the works. But I didn’t feel like our parent company would approve things. And I was completely out of the loop on what was going on. I didn’t know when, or what exactly the position was, or if there would be a pay increase, or anything like that.

So on Friday my boss came to me and said that the HR from our parent company might be announcing my promotion later that day. They’re in a rush to get things going, so they can post my current position (Payroll) sometime this week, and work on finding a replacement. My new title will be “Accountant”. Yeah, I know, kind of vague.But, hey, it’s progress. And I finally got a job description, so I know what the new position entails!

Even better, my new position comes with a (slight) raise; I’m being bumped up to $49,250. Not stellar, but on the heels of last week’s annual increase, I’ll officially be making $3,500 more than I did last year. Can’t complain about that! I will be taking some of my current responsibilities into my new position, so they can strip the new Payroll position down to strictly payroll activities (and won’t have to pay the new person as high of a rate). There are still a lot of unknowns to be sorted out, but at least things are moving forward.

I’m not sure when my raise will take effect. I put my annual increase directly into my company’s 401(k), but I don’t think I’ll be doing the same with this raise. Although, given that our 401(k) plan is based on %’s, I will be contributing slightly more each week into the plan once the raise kicks in. I know, planning for retirement is really important. And, at 36 years old, I’m already behind. But I feel like getting rid of debt should take priority right now. Once the student loan and car loan are gone, I can concentrate more on investing.

I still plan on making good use of the money. It would be totally pointless to just stick it in to my weekly spending and watch as lifestyle inflation ate it up. I don’t NEED more spending money. But an extra $20 every week will make a nice dent in my student loan payment. And right now, that’s really important to me.

– Cindy W.

We’re more than halfway through January, and I have to admit, I’m a little concerned. I’ve confessed before that I have a slight obsession with calculating my net worth multiple times a week. Usually I get the rush of watching the numbers creep up slowly throughout the month. This month? Not so much. Each time I calculate my net worth the numbers seem to get lower and lower. I’m already thousands of dollars down from December’s net worth! What?!?

Okay, it sounds really bad. But it isn’t like I went on some serious spending spree. What happened? Well, I updated the value of my Ford Escape*. New cars lose a lot in value over the first 3-5 years, so this wasn’t unexpected. That took about $1,500 off my net worth. Yikes! On top of that, I bought a new garage door for the house ($670), and lent Bryan $500 to help cover expenses. Couple all that with the dropping stock market, and January isn’t looking so pretty.

But none of this was really unexpected. After all, I have money set aside in savings specifically for making improvements to the house to get it ready to sell. And I increased the emergency fund because I knew I’d need to help Bryan out some until he started working again. And, like I said, new cars lose a lot in value over the first few years. I knew all of this was coming, but it still hurts to see it.

On the plus side, things should be looking better from here on out. The garage door was the last big-ticket item on the house, and we should be able to list it soon. Bryan is back to work. I’ll be updating the value of the car again in about six months, but hopefully the decrease will be a little less with each update. And I have a nice chuck of change set aside in savings to be put towards the student loan!

The point is, the numbers may look really bad, but they don’t tell the whole story. I’m actually making a lot of progress! I just have to remember that not everything is immediate. Life isn’t ever going to be a straight line going up. I’m going to have little bumps all along the way. What’s really important is the big picture, and whether or not the steps I’m taking are leading me in the right direction.

So, be prepared: My January Net Worth Update is going to look really bad. But I’m still headed in the right direction!

– Cindy W.

* Yes, I do include the value of my vehicle in my net worth. Some people don’t, as vehicles lose a lot of value in depreciation. However, since I have a loan on the car, I only feel it is right to balance the asset against the liability (I am an Accountant, after all). Also, next to the house, the Escape is one of my most valuable assets. In a pinch, I could sell it. So, I only think it’s fair to include it.

I’m expecting 2015 to be a wild ride. Overall, I think the year will be a good one, but I know that there are going to be a lot of rough patches. There are just too many loose ends that Bryan and I both need to tie up before we can move forward. Luckily, being prepared for the worst tends to make things go much more smoothly.

Since he’s still on layoff, Bryan went to help a friend of ours in another state for the weekend. The weather was nice, and I didn’t have any plans, so I decided to buckle down and get some things done. I painted the inside of the garage. I sanded and stained the new wood flooring in the “Hallway” (it’s a 3 X 3  area between the living room and the bedroom). I had the oil changed on my car (It’s a little overdue. Maybe a lot). Went and got my hair cut (It’s been a year since I last got it cut.).

Of course all that meant that by Sunday, my back was out. Getting older sucks! But, I got to relax a little bit, and spend time with family for my nephew’s 12th birthday.

The floor and the garage knock two big things off my to-do list on the house. Now I just need to clean things up and get it ready to show. Cleaning out the garage is going to be a big undertaking; There’s a lot of stuff in there that I need to get rid of. But, luckily, the space is big enough, and everything is organized enough, that I can be working on that while the house is on the market. The end is in sight! Let’s hope the weather holds out.

Since he isn’t back to work yet, things are getting pretty tight financially for Bryan. I ended up pitching in an extra $500 this month to help cover some of his bills. Honestly, because he’s so stubborn, I’m not truly paying half of our expenses; I pay half the rent, and buy a lot of the food, but he pays all the utilities, and cable, and still buys a lot of our meat. I pulled the money from my emergency fund; It isn’t technically an emergency, but one of the reasons I increased my emergency fund is because Bryan lost his job, and I knew I might be facing increased expenses. So I feel okay taking money from there.

As luck would have it, Bryan is going back to work tomorrow! We were worried he’d be out of work until the end of winter. The company that hired him on in the Fall has several jobs starting already this year, so they called him back up. Since he’s going to be working again, Bryan’s plan is to pay me back over the next few months. So, for now, I’m leaving my emergency fund at $2,500 and will replenish it as he pays me back. That way I can keep working on paying off my student loan. I’ll probably change my mind on that at some point, but for now, that’s the plan!

A few bumps in the road, but overall things are going well!

– Cindy W.

The 2015 pay increases at work were finally released, and will start this week (I get paid weekly, so I’ll see it on next week’s check). First let me say how absolutely lucky I feel to work at a company where annual pay increases are an automatic thing. The job I was at for the longest time out of college, pay increases were a very rare thing (I think the only ones I ever got were when I was promoted). Even working at a big retailer, pay increases were associated with performance reviews, and they did everything possible to minimize or eliminate them. At my current company, I’m pretty much guaranteed a 1-5% raise each year. It isn’t an across the board rate; Everyone’s increase is different, and depends on how the year went, how our parent company feels your current salary falls into the overall company guidelines, and I’m sure performance.

This year was better than last: I’m getting a (almost) 4% pay raise! I was bumped from $45,750 to $47,500. And, as promised, I turned right around and filled out the paperwork to direct that raise into the company’s 401(k) plan. Our 401(k) plan is set up on percentages, so I couldn’t just say that I wanted $1,750 to go into my 401(k). So I rounded things up to the next whole percent, and am putting 4% away for retirement. Taking 4% of $47,500 means I’ll actually be investing $1,900 over the course of a year, which is a little more than my actual raise was. But the difference amounts to less than $3 per week, and since it’s all pre-tax, it isn’t going to be such a big deal.

Of course, we’re already two pay periods into 2015, which means what I contribute to the plan will be closer to $1,800 than $1,900 for this year. Still, that puts me well on my way towards my goal of investing $3,000 for retirement in 2015. Plus, I’ll have an additional 6% of my pay from my employer being invested. Not where I should be at 36 years old, but it’s a start in preparing for my future. And my cash-flow remains pretty close to what it was in 2014, which means I’ll still be able to focus on paying off debt. I’m looking at you, student loan!

All in all, I’m feeling pretty positive about how 2015 is starting off. How about you?

– Cindy W.

I’ve mentioned previously that I’m having the garage door at the house replaced. The one that I have is in terrible shape: The paint is peeling, the windows are broken (did someone try to shoot them out?), the previous owner cut holes in some of the panels… It’s just in really bad shape. So, part of my plan before listing the house has been to replace the door. Bryan briefly suggested that we replace it ourselves. I wasn’t exactly on board with that idea. I’ve always heard installing a garage door can be tricky, especially working with the giant springs, and I tend to shy away from any home improvement project where there’s a chance making a mistake could kill you. Call me crazy!

A little bit of online research showed that my garage door was an uncommon size. I was looking for a basic door; No windows, no frills, just a door. If it was a common size, we could have found one for $250-300. Doors that were closer to our size jumped to $550-600. Yikes! How much more would it cost for a special order?

My Dad suggested a company that he’s used numerous times, both at home and at his business. I looked them up online, and their reviews were great. So, in early November I called them up. The sales guy setup an appointment and came out to give me an estimate. After taking the measurements he explained that there were 3 categories of garage doors: Common sizes that they stocked in their warehouse, less common sizes that the manufacture kept in stock, and custom sizes that had to be specially made. Guess which one my door was? Based on previous orders he’d done, he’d estimate my door (with installation) would cost around $670. But he wanted to get with the manufacturer before he gave me a definite price. No problem! He explained that they typically wanted a 50% deposit before they placed the order, with the remainder due when the work was complete. He said he’d call me by the following Wednesday.

Except he didn’t call me. So, two weeks later, I called him back. He pulled my file, and said yes, the door would cost $670 (including installation). It would usually take 2-3 weeks for the door to come in, and then they would schedule a time to come out and install it. Did I want to go ahead with the order? Yes! I gave him my debit card number for the $335 deposit.

I waited, and watched my bank account for the deposit to go through. One week turned into two, and the deposit still wasn’t ran. Finally, after almost 3 (more) weeks, I called them up. The sales guy seemed a little shocked: Why was I so concerned about not being charged? He told me that he typically didn’t charge the deposit until after he had a delivery date for the door. That isn’t what he told me originally, but fine, so long as the door was on order. He told me he’d probably know the following Monday when the door would be in.

By this point, the Holidays were upon us, and the garage door was the least of my concerns. I still kept an eye out for that deposit to be run through my account. It never was. Then last Thursday, I got a call from their installation guy: Could they come out tomorrow (Friday) and install the door? No problem! I sent the boyfriend to meet with them. The door went in just fine, with a few unexpected adjustments (my ceiling is shorter than the installation crew was expecting). They gave him the bill for $670, and he told them the office should have my debit card on file. They called the office, who confirmed they did.

So, I waited and watched my bank account, curious to see when/how the amount would be run. And yesterday, a charge was finally pending from the garage door company. For $6.70. Seriously people?!?

The charge is still pending this morning. I’m hoping they caught their mistake, and the correct amount will go through in a couple of days. If not, I plan to call them and get the charge corrected. But the whole thing has left me feeling like I’m hounding this company, just to get them to take my money.

But hey, I have a new garage door! Even if I haven’t paid for it (yet)!

– Cindy W.

Edit: The garage door company caught their mistake before the charge cleared, and a separate charge was run for the remaining $663.30.

The temperature is officially dipping into the negatives here, and I am not a happy camper! Every day on my way out the door I look at Bryan and ask “Why aren’t we snowbirds yet?” It’s not that I don’t like winter, it’s just that I wish it would leave with the Holidays. I’d be a happy camper if Spring began on January 2nd every year.

Frigid temperatures, ice, and lots of snow mean that we’re going to be hunkering down at home for the next few weeks. On the plus side, we won’t be out spending money, or driving around using gas. On the minus side, we’re not going to be spending much time at my house, which slows things down on getting it ready to sell. I guess that isn’t such a bad thing though; Taking a little longer to finish things up mean that we won’t be listing it during the worst of the winter weather, which gives us a better chance of selling.

But we aren’t totally abandoning the effort! At the end of last week, the garage door company finally came and put in a new garage door. And I’ve been heading over whenever possible to work on some small things. It’s just going to take a little longer.

I kind of like that January is a little bit slower. After the crazy Holidays, it’s nice to be able to relax a little, and recharge. And the only good thing about the cold weather is being able to cuddle up at home with the one you love.

How are you surviving the winter?

– Cindy W.

I set my goals for 2015 in early December, even before I knew how 2014’s goals would pan out. I spent a lot of time thinking about what went well in 2014, what didn’t go so well, and what I really wanted to accomplish in the coming year. I’m hopeful that 2015 will be a year full of changes and progress. Overall, I did pretty well financially in 2014 (See my December 2014 Net Worth post here). Now that I know how 2014 ended, I can put numbers/details to my 2015 goals:

1) Grow my net worth by $10,000. I ended 2014 with a net worth of $11,696. It may not look like much, but it’s a huge step forward in my financial life. I started 2013 with a negative net worth, and only had $1,216 in net worth at the start of 2014. I’m hoping to end 2015 with a net worth over $21,696.

2) List the house. I really thought that I would sell the house in 2014. But there were so many little things that needed to be done, and honestly, our hearts weren’t in it. I’ve spent the last couple of months coming to reality, and learning to let go; The house isn’t going to be perfect before it goes on the market. It was far from perfect when I bought it, so I’m not sure why I expected to do everything before I sold it. Also, I’m learning to compromise with Bryan on a lot of things. This isn’t my dream house anymore, and if I want it done (and for him to help), I need to learn to let go and let him do things his way.

Right now, I need to finish the floor in the hallway (it’s a 3×3 area, so this isn’t some huge project), get the guys out to install the new garage door, and clean the place out. And then, it’s ready to go! Bryan has apprehensions about listing it in the winter. I agree, it’s far from ideal. But, it is what it is. On a positive note, the friend of a friend who was interested in the house came out to see it, and is still interested! He’s mulling it over; This will be his first time buying a house, which is a big deal, so he’s really trying to think it through. But he’s already been approved for a $100,000 mortgage, so at least I know this is something he’s seriously considering. We’ll see if anything comes of it!

On the plus side, selling the house will likely have a big impact on my net worth, since I’m pretty sure I can sell it for more than I’m valuing it at on my net worth spreadsheet. It’ll be interesting to see what happens there!

3) Pay off my student loan. My student loan ended 2014 with a balance of $4,843. I’m making this my top priority for 2015. And it’s looking like I’ll have a nice chunk of change to throw at it at the end of this month! I want to start this year off with a bang, so I don’t let this goal slip by again, like I did last year!

4) Invest $3,000 in a retirement account. Once the student loan is gone, I’m going to turn my focus to the retirement account. I want to keep my cash-flow where it’s at until the student loan is gone. However, I usually get a raise at some point in January. My plan right now is to direct any increase directly into the company’s 401(k) plan. It’s been anywhere from $1,200-1,800 (annually) in the past, which isn’t a lot, but hey, it’s something! I expect it to be on the smaller side, as our parent company has been trying to reign in our salaries the last few years. Since I’m not used to seeing that money, I won’t ever miss it!

5) Earn $500 in “Side Income”. I’ve had a lot of (random) ideas, but I’m still not really sure what I’m going to do for this goal. Hey, I have a whole year to figure it out, right?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog, and what I’d like to see happen with it in 2015. I’d like to get more regular about posting in 2015. I’m already off to a terrible start on that though! I’d love to get more readers, mainly so there’s more interaction in the comments. I get super excited whenever someone comments on my posts, and I’d love to see more dialogue going on there. Which has gotten me thinking a lot about what sets me apart from other personal finance bloggers. Let’s face it, there are a lot of us out there. I started this blog with the idea of writing from the perspective of being a single girl trying to plan for the future. But Bryan and I have been together for 2.5 years now. We live together, I’m selling my house, and we’re making long-term plans. Even though we aren’t married, and haven’t combined our finances yet, I’m not really a “single girl” anymore.

What is different though is that I’m a thirty-something girl, dating a fifty-something guy. In our day-to-day life, it isn’t a big deal. But in planning for the future? Whoa! The man could retire tomorrow, and I barely have $13,000 in my 401(k)! There are loads of things we have to think about that couples who are closer to the same age never have to consider. We’ve talked about it some, but as our relationship becomes more and more serious, we’ll have to think about it more. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have concerns. And this would be a great place to ponder those concerns.

So, that’s what I’m looking at for 2015. I really do think it’s going to be a great year. What do you think? Do you have any suggestions for me in coming year?

– Cindy W.

Today is officially the last day of 2014. And honestly, I’m more than ready to wave goodbye to this year, and welcome the new year with open arms. I really do think 2015 is going to be a great year for us. While 2014 turned out okay for me financially, it wasn’t such a great year otherwise for Bryan and I. But I expect things to completely turn around during 2015.

So, how did I do this month?

Net Worth update as of December 31, 2014

Net Worth update as of December 31, 2014

My net worth increased by $729 in December. Not one of my most stellar months, but still pretty good. Especially when you consider all of the Holiday spending I did this month! I budgeted $800 for all of my Holiday related expenses, including food for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. I actually managed to come in a couple hundred dollars under budget this year, which gave me some extra cash to toss into my emergency fund. Awesome!

So, did I make my goals for 2014?

Net Worth growth from December 30, 2013 to December 31, 2014

Net Worth growth from December 30, 2013 to December 31, 2014

Growing my net worth by $10,000. Nailed it! I ended up with $10,480 in growth for 2014. Not too shabby! I was a little worried about making it, but December didn’t end up being as rough of a month as I expected. And, as an added bonus, I sold something on Craigslist for $300! Of course, that’s a story unto itself…

Grow my 401(k) by $5,000. Soooo close! As you can see, I only ended up with $4,759 of growth in my 401(k) this year. Of course, there’s a $260+ employer contribution that has already been made, but isn’t showing in my account yet. That would have put me just over my goal. But, even though technically the company that handles our plan is supposed to post contributions to our account within 2 days, I know I won’t likely see that money until sometime after the 5th. It seems a little like cheating to count something that isn’t really there yet.

Pay off $5,000 in debt. This goal ended up being much easier than I expected. In the end, I paid off $6,411 in debt. And I’m really glad I set that goal; Tracking those numbers so closely ended up being really eye-opening as far as paying off debt. I was kinda surprised to see that I paid the most off on my Ford Loan this year. I do pay slightly more each month, but not a lot. In contrast, I was absolutely appalled to see how little I paid off on my mortgage. Because of the way mortgages work, you end up paying mostly interest for the first half(ish) of the loan. Which means of the $4,800 I paid on my mortgage this year, only $916 went to principal. Ouch! Granted, that amount includes taxes and insurance. But still! That’s a ton of money I’m flushing down the drain each month, especially on a house that no one lives in! That definitely reinforces my goal of doing something about the house in 2015!

I also just managed to complete a goal I set after Bryan lost his job: My Emergency Fund (EF) officially has $3,000* in it! Because things are a little unstable right now, I wanted to have a larger cushion to fall back on if something happened. So I temporarily set debt repayment aside, and made the EF my top priority. It isn’t much, but it’s enough to cover most emergencies. I hadn’t set a timeline on when I wanted to reach that goal. But, reaching it right at the end of 2014 works out perfectly: Now I can switch my focus to slaying my student loan at the start of 2015!

Financially 2014 wasn’t too bad of a year. I mostly made all of my goals. And, while $10,480 in one year may not seem like much, it is way beyond anything I’ve ever accomplished before. If you look at the charts above, you’ll notice I started 2013 in the negative ( -$1,754 in February, when I started tracking), and started off 2014 with only $1,216 in net worth. Going into 2015 with $11,696 is such a huge change for me. And, you know what they say about the first $10,000 being the hardest, right? Okay, maybe it’s the first million. Let’s be realistic here!

I’m looking forward to surpassing $20,000** in 2015!
How did your December/Year turn out?

– Cindy W.

* I already had $1,000 in an Emergency Fund, but that amount didn’t seem like nearly enough given our current situation. Once I get my debt situation under control, I plan on refocusing on the Emergency Fund, and beefing it up!

** My goal is to grow my net worth by $10,000 again in 2015, which means my goal is to have a net worth of at least $21,696 by the end of 2015.

image from: indoorchristmasdecorations.net

image from: indoorchristmasdecorations.net

There are a lot of things I feel like I should be writing about. But the truth of the matter is, I’m a little overwhelmed with life in general right now.

It’s my Annual Holiday Tradition to get myself all stressed out. And I must say, I’m doing a stellar job of it this year! I have a huge, important project at work every year that is due before the new year (which affects the company’s ability to work on state and federally funded projects in each state, so it isn’t something that can be put off). There’s cooking to do for Christmas, and cleaning to do for New Years. Despite trying to be frugal in general, I have a tendency to go over-board with the Holiday gifts. I feel like I have to find everyone the perfect, most well-thought-out gift. I try to start early in the Season, but always manage to have a few people left on my list at the last-minute. And, as an added bonus this year, I’m dealing with the boyfriend’s emotional roller-coaster over his life and job situation.

I may have had a complete and total melt down last night. Not exactly one of my finest moments.

Despite it all, I do love the Holidays. I love the decorations, and the food, and the time with family and friends. It is a “magical” time of year. And I will have some time off over the next few weeks, which should help tremendously.

I just have to remember to take a minute, step back, and breathe. Everything is going to be just fine.

Merry Christmas!

– Cindy W.