My Money Story-Ignorance & Denial, Enlightenment & P

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Postby CHB » Sun Jan 25, 2009 11:34 am

guess that last post doesn't look so pretty! Oh well, now I know!

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Postby peachy » Sun Jan 25, 2009 3:44 pm

These expenses are all per month?

I'm impressed your dining has been lowered, but your healthcare and car expenses..yikes!
It's fun to track. One of these days I'll put mine together in some sort of summary form, but for now, I continue tracking.

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Postby CHB » Tue Feb 03, 2009 4:35 pm

yes, those expenses were average per month expenses in '08.

I just did our January expenses, and everything is looking great, except our entertainment expenses. It just so happens that a bunch of our favorite artists who we've never seen live before are coming to town this spring, plus hubs was able to grab some very difficult to get sports tickets. We spent about $600 total on all these tickets, but it will be extremely worth it. We haven't been to many concerts in the past year, and probably won't for the rest of this year either! Plus the sports tickets (about $350 of the total) will mostly be sold (face value) to friends & coworkers, so we'll eventually get that money back.

I still constantly feel overwhelmed knowing we have so many things going on in our lives, with so many things to pay for and save for, and it's hard to know where exactly to put what little extra money we have. Our priority is preparing to pay off our credit card once the 0% interest rate cancels out in September. After that, we have to consider our undergrad student debt, our current graduate school debt, trying to pay as much as possible for my current grad school tuition, trying to save for things way in the future like a new car, a home, babies, and retirement. Not to mention the actual costs of food, shelter, and clothing, plus normalized luxuries, plus my desire to steadily increase our giving capacity. It's just so overwhelming when I think about it all.

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Job frustration = even more desire for Financial Freedom

Postby CHB » Wed Feb 18, 2009 1:20 pm

I have a pretty great job at a pretty great place to work, with good coworkers & bosses, flexible schedule, and great benefits. But I'm having the same problems at this job that I've had at every single job I've ever had - I still feel deeply "yucky" about working there. By yucky I mean, I consistently have negative feelings about the politics, the professional culture, meetings, procedures, the lack of creativity, the energy spent on things that I really don't care about, the "trapped" feeling of "having" to work, not being able to look out a window, having to use dirty & smelly unisex work bathrooms, and most of all, having to get up each morning to get ready for work. I decided to analyze it using the "your money or your life" true salary/life energy calculations.

Hours: 17.5 paid hours, plus 6.5 hours of preparation & commuting = 24 hours
Salary: 22,000/yr (~$24/hour)
-354/yr commuting
-600/yr clothes
Actual Salary: $16.86/hour

It's really not that bad, not that I thought it would be. My negative work feelings just make me want to work even harder for financial independence. It also gives me anxiety about my "dream" job, for which I am now pursuing a degree. I know I won't love it every day, but will I at least love it more than any other job I have? Will I ever get up looking forward to going to work? (this happened to me twice, each time for about two months, mainly because I really liked some particular coworkers). I picked this career because I think it's the most tolerable, noble thing I can do with my strengths as a person until I no longer "need" to do it to live. I really hope it's a better fit than any other job I've ever had.

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Postby CHB » Mon May 04, 2009 6:39 pm

Still dealing with negative work feelings, but trying to figure out positive, productive ways to deal with it, and remain grateful for it and all the opportunities it has for me.

Just did our April monthly expenses, and things seem to be on track for us. I'm looking forward to a couple of reimbursements coming our way soon - one from our FSA for dental and vision expenses, and one for some of my spring tuition. (I work 17.5 hours a week and get these fab-o benefits, including my employer's retirement contributions, which just kicked in! How can I not be thankful for this job?)

We are $1000 away from being able to pay our 0% interest AmEx in full (the money is currently sitting in my ING account). With all the news about AmEx suddenly closing accounts or lowering balances, I wonder about just paying this off now instead of waiting for the 0% rate to expire in September. But I think I'll push my luck and hold out until then.

It also looks like we might be able to pay off my husband's 6.8% federal student loan ($4300 balance) with my fall subsidized loan, which will be 0% until I finish school in 2011. I've always been wary of using debt to pay off debt, but this kind of seems like a no-brainer, right? With my current planning, there's a good chance we'll be able to pay off this debt in full when I do graduate in 2011, and if not, the interest won't be any higher, just the same 6.8%. So worst case scenario, we save two years interest.

For the first time I also started tracking our net worth in January, which has had an interesting journey already at -33k in Jan., -31k in Feb, back to -33k in March, and now at a more satisfying -29k. I see how this can be both a beneficial and slightly misleading exercise - it's helpful for the big picture, but frustrating that it could fluctuate so much in such a short period of time (due to the economy affecting my tiny 403b, and irregular income due to our tax refund and an unexpected but wonderful bonus!)

So savings is going well, but I'm having a spending dilemma - since middle school (when it was "cool" to wear super baggy man-clothes), I have never been happy with my wardrobe (my body neither but that's another issue!) I haven't bought more than two items of new clothing in about a year. I dream of finding my ideal wardrobe primarily at thrift stores, but there are very few in a convenient location for me, and I greatly struggle with searching for and finding likable items in "regular" retail stores. This shopping anxie with the increased choices and patrons ity seems to double at discount stores like TJ Maxx/Marshall's, and quadruple in thrift stores. Clothes shopping has brought me the closest I think I've ever been to an anxiety/panic attack. As for online shopping, I avoid it since I prefer to try on everything (like, twice), and I hate the idea of paying to return items. I'm just not sure how to deal with increasing the quality of and personal satisfaction for my clothing without spending tons of money on a personal shopping assistant and tailor. I basically want to be on "What Not to Wear" ($5000k for clothes and the help of two fun fashion experts) without having to be filmed and aired on TV!

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More freedom = more choices

Postby CHB » Tue Sep 01, 2009 6:11 am

All of my reimbursements came through, and we're in much better financial shape than one short year ago, when our dog got sick. We joke that she'll pull another fun medical issue out of her stocky 45lb frame, but the vet just gave her an excellent bill of health!

We lose the 0% interest on our AmEx in October, and already have the money to pay off the balance waiting in our ING account. They DID suddenly lower our credit limit on us, down to $12,999, on a day that our balance was ~$12,500!! We were SO mad, but we found out just in time and still want to use it for the cash back (which has also been slightly lowered).

We're also going to start a RothIRA for the first time (it's taken long enough - we're 28) and put $1500 of our own "real" money into it. We're also able to use another $1500 to start our first "real" emergency fund. However I'm making the controversial decision to use $1500-2000 of my fall subsidized student loan to put towards my husband's $4300 unsub, now at 6.8% interest. I really want to get rid of this, and will make it a priority over our significant undergrad loans, which are currently at 5.3% interest.

We're also going forward with our wardrobe update, which is REALLY HARD (both the shopping and the spending). But we've NEVER been happy with our clothes, and my old standard of buying really cheap on sale stuff that only sort of fit me is no longer personally acceptable to me (but I'm still going to scour thrift stores in addition to regular retial!)

I also want to earn more interest on our checking/savings. I plan to look into smaller local banks and credit unions, but many of the restrictions and regulations of the high-interest accounts seem kind of annoying (at least one direct deposit, one auto-bill pay, 10 debit card purchases per month, blah blah..)

Our monthly spending is overall under control, though we could always improve on our personal spending, entertainment, and restaurant expenses (in that order). Right now we're spending ~$4500/mo with a $5300/mo gross income. (this probably seems REALLY high, and it's because we live in one of the most expensive cities - we're at the low end of the rental and income average for our demographic).

Overall I'm pretty pleased, though I know it could all change quickly. A friend of ours recently went through a horrible medical emergency, and everything is fine now except they've probably lost any savings they had, and won't be able to put anything aside for a long time while they pay the bills. I've felt for a while that we're absolutely going to meet any and all of our financial goals, unless we encounter a medical issue. That is the ONE thing I always worry about in terms of our finances.

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Postby peachy » Tue Sep 01, 2009 7:52 am

Sounds like things are really going well for you.
I like the wardrobe update idea. Make sure you check out Marshalls, Ross and TJMaxx. They have nice clothes for less (so I hear. I'm not a big clothes shopper). Even if you do go to the mall, it's better to have a few quality staples (shoes, dress pants, nice shirts), and then you can mix your cheaper clothes in for different outfits. Dont' skimp on the staples. Then, when you're ready to update something again, you can buy one more shirt or another pair of pants and do it a step at a time.

Good luck finding high interest on your savings/checkings. It's kind of a catch 22. When people are spending, the interest rates are high, and when people are saving (like now), the interest rates are horrid. But..if you can get into a good habit of saving all the time, it kind of works itself out because you'll get more $$ when the interest rates increase. I bought a CD last December at 4.5% through ING. I can't believe I actually set it up right before interest rates fell. Too bad I only put 500 in there, but it's my Christmas money for my family, so it's going to get spent at the end of this year anyway.

Nice work with the Roth and the emergency fund. That will come in handy if your dog get sick again. It's insurance that you hold not some other company.

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Postby CHB » Thu Sep 03, 2009 1:38 pm

I totally used the wrong number for our monthly gross income - it's more like $4750/mo guaranteed from our job paychecks. The $5300 is including all health and education reimbursements, gifts, and money paid back to us when we used our card to pay for a group social outing or tickets.

Peachy, thanks for your comment! I love TJMaxx & Marshall's (Ross isn't in my area, but when I lived in the south I frequented it!) I also decided to sign up for (free) and submitted measurements to the site to see what clothing and sizes they recommended for me. You can buy recommended designer clothes directly from the site, but of course I took note of some of the designers they most recommended and looked for them in the above-mentioned stores.

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Update & Our experience winning a money makeover

Postby CHB » Fri Apr 02, 2010 7:24 pm

Been a while since an update! It's fascinating to read through my posts to see what goals I had and how they've morphed. First, a listing of 2009 average monthly expenses, since I love tracking so much:
$345 - Groceries
$99 - Household
$134 - Restaurants
$1200 - rent
$50 - Gas
$207 - Car Repairs/Maintenance
$77 - Car Insurance
$80 - Cell phones
$77 - Electric
$114 - Internet & Cable
$68 - Heat
$154 - Clothing/shoes
$18 - Giving
$270 - Travel
$138 - Health
$347 - Student Loans
$205 - Entertainment
$176 - Dog
$118 - Gifts
$924 - My graduate classes (all paid so far by loans & employer reimbursement, so out of pocket is $0)
$207 - Spouse "fun" account
$161 - My "fun" account
$46 - Personal care
$23 - Other (parking & towing tickets, computer virus software, & postage)
$200 - Retirement savings

Overall I was happy with 2009. Here what 2010 will hopefully be: Decrease restaurants to between $100-125, entertainment (includes alcohol) down to $150-175, and slightly lower our "fun" accounts. Unfortunately the cable/internet bill went up and I have no further comment on that. We're still building our wardrobes (a project I posted about a year ago) so I want to boost clothing up to $175/mo. Other than this, I hope things stay about the same.

Here are our current overall numbers based on the last six months:

$4658 - Monthly average income
$4752 - Monthly average spending

Looks bad, but we've also had $1050 average extra income per month thanks to Tuition & FSA reimbursements, people paying us back for stuff, our tax refund, and gifts. How do people track these things anyway, particularly the people-paying-you-back thing? Like if we paid the full amount of a dinner for four of us on a card and we get reimbursed in cash, I consider the full card charge in our restaurant spending category, and the payback as extra income - because there's never a guarantee it'll get paid back, right? But then our restaurant category gets inflated???
On a great note, I just got approved for more hours at my job, which can increase my income $400/mo!

Here's our net worth numbers:
$3000 - checking/savings (just opened a 3.6% rewards checking account!)
$14,200 - Retirement savings
$47,000 - student loans
Net worth:

I opened my first RothIRA as planned in '09, unplanned but good is my spouse started a 401k. In my previous postings I thought I wouldn't need student loans this year, but I was totally WRONG, which is frustrating. I have this fabulous spreadsheet that I use to forecast our income, expenses, and savings, and somehow I didn't figure this out? I blame it on denial.

After recognizing my mistake, I applied for an official, free money makeover from the newspaper, and we got it!!! Approximately $2000 worth of financial advice! Here are the questions and answers:
Q1) Are we doing the right thing by taking out student loans at the same time as we're saving a little, paying down previous student loans, and contributing to retirement?
A1) We are better off having some savings and some low-cost student debt, rather than trying to maintain everything at 0.
Q2) How can I avoid any more student loans? (I know the answer to this, but wanted to hear the planner say it to avoid more denial).
A2) I can finish school without taking out more loans, but we need to stick to our current low spending plan.
Q3) What should our financial priorities be, considering we want to do so much, like finish paying for my grad school, pay off our student loans, save for a house, new car, family, & retirement, all while having a little fun along the way?
A3) Our priorities should be in this order: 1) finish paying for grad school, 2) start an emergency fund (yeah, we've never had an official one, but we've still managed to make it through our share of emergencies on our own). 3) Save for shorter-term expenses like a new car, house, & family, 4) maintain our retirement contributions but do not increase until all of the above are taken care of 5) don't accelerate student loan payments, continue with current plan, which will finish in approximately 2021. On having a life along the way, the planner said it was ok for us to indulge conservatively and intelligently, since our budget reflects discipline and planning. We should also stick to our current budget once I land a full-time job (hopefully in 2011) and watch our savings skyrocket with two full-time incomes to feed them instead of one and a half!

I was SO frustrated about paying off our student loans "on time" and not early! But realistically, I can see that we should concentrate on saving for what we hope for in the next five years: moving (hopefully to own?), starting a family, and replacing our old car.

Another blogger posted our story, and she and virtually all of her commenters were disturbed that the planner did not first and foremost tell us to build an emergency fund. They also thought it was irresponsible for us to take advantage of any type of "indulgences," until our emergency fund was built and our debt paid off. They also made a lot of assumptions, like that we carried credit card debt (apparently the article wasn't clear on that), spent recklessly, and are idiots for pursuing low-paying employment in educational fields and that I should drop out of grad school. They were HARSH! But it was so worth it to meet with a financial planner and get advice on our specific situation. I've been DIYing my finances for so long that I was feeling stuck in a rut, wondering if I was doing it all wrong. This experience helped me see that we were doing most things right, but could still do better!

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Re: My Money Story-Ignorance & Denial, Enlightenment & P

Postby peachy » Mon Apr 05, 2010 4:59 am

Commenters are always a tough crowd to deal with.

I think you doubled up on giving/gifts. You have $118 and $18.
Also, 200/month on entertainment is a lot when you already have internet/cable. What are you guys doing for entertainment every month? hee hee. I'm just curious. Entertainment to me would be dining out with friends.

One other funny is that your dog has more in his/her fun account than you do. What's your dog doing for entertainment? :lol:

I am glad you had a sanity check with the planner. It's free, so why not take advantage of the time you had with them. What else did they give you for your $2000? Answering four questions doesn't seem like a lot of work, and the value doesn't add up.

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Re: My Money Story-Ignorance & Denial, Enlightenment & P

Postby CHB » Mon Apr 05, 2010 5:14 pm

Thanks for your comment Peachy!

The giving was right but I could've been clearer: $118/mo on gifts to others (would like to bring this down to $100), and $18/mo on charitable donations (I'd like to push this up to at least $25/mo - I always want to include this in my budget, no matter what).

Entertainment is divided between a few things: some is on nights out w/ friends, but also ~$50/mo on alcohol (at the store, not the bar - we each average only 4 drinks per week, but don't buy the cheapest stuff). $13/mo on Sunday paper delivery, $9/mo on netflix, and the rest is on a variety of activities (recently including curling classes - 3 weeks for $40ea), movie tickets (always bought w/ coupons or AAA discount = $7.50/ea, average 1 movie every other month), concerts, museums, sporting events, & other shows (theater, etc), which we do only one of these once a month (like a concert one month, sporting event the next - almost never multiple times in one month). In an expensive area, this all adds up quite a bit! It's definitely a spending category we're constantly battling with. We don't "feel" like we indulge in these things a lot, especially compared with some of our peers.

About our doggie - I was surprised our planner didn't question our dog's budget! In previous posts, I mentioned she had serious medical issues in fall '09. These have resulted in life-long treatment in the form of medication and prescription food. Also over Xmas/New Year's we boarded her when we traveled, which is ridiculously expensive (and not fun for our dog). We hope in the future to have friends watch her instead, which is the usual, but no one else was around over the holidays!

Yes, our planner went into MUCH more detail than I posted about, but those questions were what was most on my mind. It was free to us, I guess the newspaper paid for it on our behalf and told us it was up to $2000 worth of advice. The planner told us to take out life insurance now while we're young, move our retirement investments into higher-risk allocations (again b/c we're young), and went into greater detail on our student loan repayment schedule. We're welcome to come back in one more time for free to figure out any more questions.

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Re: My Money Story-Ignorance & Denial, Enlightenment & P

Postby peachy » Mon Apr 05, 2010 6:55 pm

I guess your dog isn't having fun if he/she has to take medications. Sorry to hear..that's sad for pups. My sister has two huskies, and she is ready to move to a diffferent state just so the boarding will be a bit cheaper, but she has tons of friends that love her dogs, so she usually lucks out in the boarding department.

I figured you were probably going to concerts or something, so that is about right, if you go once a month. I'm a season ticket holder for the theater around here, and I guess I forget that it really is a monthly thing, but once I pay for it, it's out of my mind as far as costs go. I usually only have to take 50c for the parking meter and maybe 6 or 7 bucks for a glass of wine+ tip if I'm feeling fancy. hee hee.

That's also good that you can go back to the planner with more questions if they arise.

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Re: My Money Story-Ignorance & Denial, Enlightenment & P

Postby CHB » Sun Jan 09, 2011 10:51 am

Time for an update again! First a report on our 2010 average monthly expenses, which are not as good as we would've liked:

Household =$125.61
Car-Insurance=$151.54 (inflated b/c we switched from monthly to one lump payment)
Charitable Giving=$25.00
Sallie Mae=$80.86
Direct Loan1=$189.40 (Now paid off!)
Education=$1,099.48 (partially paid with student loans)
hubs personal "fun"=$216.27
me personal "fun"=$156.33
Personal Care=$61.32
Other (Moving, Taxes, Etc.)=$81.67 (I bought a new laptop)
Total =$5,844.51

We spent more on:
-Groceries (avg. $75/mo) - I am purposely buying more organic/health foods, and I had a very busy fall semester so we allowed ourselves some food flexibility, but I know we can bring this down!
-Household ($25/mo) - this is a weakness category for me and I need to keep a better eye on it. However we did buy a few bigger things, like a new AC unit, storage cabinet, and printer.
-Restaurants ($10/mo) - again this is likely related to my busy fall semester and should go down a bit
-gas ($13/mo) - gas prices rose and my hubs started a new hobby that requires some driving, this will probably stay higher.
-cell phone ($20/mo) - we upgraded our phones to the most basic smartphone possible but we like it and this cost will stay.
-internet/cable ($30mo) - no comment (this is not my preference!!!)
-clothing ($90/mo) - we allowed ourselves 2010 to expand our wardrobes, but need to reign this back in.
-charitable giving ($7/mo) - fine with me, this will stay
-Travel ($144/mo) - we traveled far for family/wedding purposes three times, and took advantage of an incredible deal to visit S. America. This year we are not spending this much!
-Health ($12/mo) - ugh, no comment again (health scares that were nothing)
-Education ($175/mo) - see "busy fall semester" above
-Personal Care (haircuts, bath & body) ($15/mo) - I slacked on my CVS gaming (again, busy fall).
-Other - I replaced my dead 6-year old laptop with a new $900 one (which I love) - this year my hubs will likely need a new one as well

We spent less on:
Car repairs
Student loans (paid off old $5000 direct loan, will start paying mine off again in June '11)
Both our personal "fun" budgets

Overall we spent about $550 more a month average than last year, which sucks a bit, but our income was fortunately a little higher. Including my student loans, all health/education reimbursements and gifts, our after-tax/deductions income averaged $6500/mo compared to last year's $6000/mo. I think I've said before I still don't know the best way to track my use of student loans, which is why they get rolled into my regular income and expense categories, and I'd like to find a better way.

My biggest goal this year is to land a full time job following my graduation in May, which will vastly increase our income! Even if I can't get a job right away we'll still have flexibility with my current part time job and the lack of tuition payments. I need to start my undergrad loan repayment in June, and graduate loan repayments don't start until November. I will have a tough decision to make then because we have managed to maintain about $3000 average in an emergency savings fund (kept in a rewards checking account at 3.4%), which should grow in the first half of the year. But I'll be tempted to use some of that for student loan payments, because that's where most of that money is from! (all of my loans are subsidized which means they won't start collecting interest until November, so I'm currently gaining as much interest on them as I can).

Our total monthly after-tax/deduction (not including student loans) will likely hover around $4850 until I find a hoped-for new full time job, so we've got to keep our expenses below this. Based on my budgeted monthly expenses for 2011 I am aiming for $4300 monthly total expenses, which leaves $550.

A quick overview of my main financial-related goals for 2011:

1) Find a full time job I like!
2) Spend less on groceries, household stuff, restaurants, clothes, travel and personal care
3) Put $550/mo of non-student loan money into savings (some will meant to be short-term savings in order to buy things like a new laptop for my husband and a rug-cleaning device, since I don't think it's worth it anymore to rent them)
4) Follow through on the advice of our financial "makeover" and put our existing retirement investments into better (more risky) funds because of our youth

It all sounds so simple, right? We'll see how it turns out!

On another note I feel like we're fortunate to be in a pretty flexible position financially right now because we consistently spend less than we earn. However I don't want to get too comfortable since I know if we were trying harder we could be paying our loans off and saving for our big goals (house, baby, new car) even faster. I think we need to talk more often as a couple about these things since my hubs can get more easily overwhelmed than I, which results in avoidance of the tougher, big picture issues. Thankfully though he is totally with me on maintaining low expenses on a regular basis.

One way to tackle this is perhaps to create savings goal spreadsheets, but it's difficult to take this on now since we're hoping/expecting my income to change this year, but we're not sure by how much and due to the economy, this isn't a guarantee.

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Re: My Money Story-Ignorance & Denial, Enlightenment & P

Postby CHB » Fri Jan 25, 2013 6:52 pm

In 2011 I would have hoped I could write today, "A lot has happened in two years!" but really, not much has.

My 2011 goals with followup:
1) Find a full time job I like! - I found a full time job, but not one I like. Am looking for another.
2) Spend less on groceries (no, these increased by $25 in 2011, and another $25 in 2012), household stuff (yes in 2011 & even less in 2012), restaurants (remained almost the same in 2011 & 2012), clothes (yes, 138 in 2011, even less in 2012), travel (less in 2011, more in 2012) and personal care (yes in 2011 and even less in 2012)
3) Put $550/mo of non-student loan money into savings - yes, we managed to average this in 2011 & 2012.
4) Follow through on the advice of our financial "makeover" and put our existing retirement investments into better (more risky) funds because of our youth - this was "somewhat" done, but I had very little confidence in what I was doing or thinking. I still don't, this is an area with huge potential for improvement.

Here's our current financial picture, I tried to pack in as much as possible:

38,568 in student loans from undergrad & grad
Current Debt Payoff:
675/mo concentrating on highest interest loans first (range from 4% - 6.8%)
Aiming for 5 year payoff at most

43,678 in various retirement accounts:
- multiple 403bs
- Roth IRA (I currently contribute about 2% of my income)
- one 401k (4% of hub income goes in for 4% match)
- one state pension (10% of my income goes in) that won't vest for another 9 years but if I left the system I would get all my contributions back
- one random IRA for ~4800 that was "kicked out" of my oldest employer's 403b. I'm considering rolling the IRA into the Roth.

Short-term savings:
21,875 earning 1.8% at a local bank

Net worth (including current bank and cc balances which are paid off in full every month): $25,679

$106,000 gross
$75597 net
$6300 monthly net

Savings Rate:
18.5% gross (8% goes to retirement savings, 10.5% to short-term savings)

Budget breakdown (this is averaged over the past year for all categories - $$$ indicates an area I know we should cut down)

475 - groceries $$$
48 - household (including renter's insurance, small appliances)
145 - eating out $$$
1250 - rent
270 - car maintenance $$$
248 - car gas & tolls $$$
81 - car insurance
106 - cell phones
60 - electric bill
137 - internet/cable $$$ (right now this is non-negotiable in our household)
62 - heat
65 - clothing
25 - charitable giving
119 - gifts $$$
458 - travel $$$
135 - health related (copays, medicine, etc - we do take advantage of my work fsa)
673 - student loans
190 - entertainment $$$ (going out w/ friends, alcohol, movies, concerts, sporting events)
385 - hub "allowance" $$$ (he's on two sports leagues and started brewing beer)
188 - my "allowance" $$$
162 - dog (she has health issues, total non-negotiable for us)
56 - personal care (mostly haircuts, I went gray at 24 and get it professionally dyed 4x year)
81 - "other" $$$ (we owed 2011 taxes, annual membership for consumer reports online, virus software, amazon prime, and we bought an exercise bike)
178 - Roth IRA
536 - short-term savings
6133 Total spending
167 "extra" - I'm tracking something incorrectly here, based on my personal spreadsheet I can't account for the remaining $167, which is really disconcerting. :(

My current commute is a car killer - 28 mile round trip city driving each day plus tolls. We're not willing to move closer to the job at this point, especially because I'd like to find a new job in another area asap.

Some questions that swirl in my head are...
Should we roll the IRA into the Roth?
Should I consolidate other old 403bs?
Should we cool down our short-term savings?
Boost retirement savings?
Boost loan payoff?
Buy a newer more gas efficient car with 10k savings now to offset the current expenses of our old (functioning) car?

Without clear answers to these questions, here are my current 2013 goals:
1) Figure out and take action on the displaced $4800 403b-turned-into-IRA
2) Find a new job I'd like better
3) Build up another $8000 (~$700/mo) in baby/parenting fund (medical expenses, potential unpaid time off work, daycare startup fund)
4) Maintain 10k emergency fund
5) Maintain 10k cash to replace 14-year old car when it's no longer safe and reliable
6) Reduce travel expenses to $4000 annual ($333/mo) - this is mainly travel to see far-flung immediate family and close friends, but some "fun" travel too
7) Start saving for down payment on future home, maybe aim for at least $2000 startup money by the end of the year (no timeline on this, just "someday").

It's nice to get this all out there - we have certainly made progress though it's felt painfully slow. My best moment this year was when we crossed from a negative to positive net worth!

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