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Deck is Done

We had our final inspection yesterday and passed with flying colors – even got a few compliments on how well we did things. We’re still doing some last minute cosmetic cleanup before it’s completely done, but that includes things like painting over where the temporary railing was across the sliding glass door, attaching the post-caps to the post covers, and installing the LED lights on the Sunsetter.

The total cost is somewhere in the 16k range – I need to settle up with my friend who’d stop by Lowe’s on his way over and buy a small thing or two that we needed. Not bad for a very well made deck, not a single nail in it, and includes the Sunsetter (which was $3300 at Costco). We chose high quality screws and fasteners and wood, so we raised the cost on it a bit there (the footings between the wood posts and the concrete are $55 each!)

We’re working on arranging our furniture on it, as it’s smaller than our deck was in Virginia, but we still have the same furniture. I will be buying a new dining table though, as the one we have will not survive the winter winds here.  I’m waiting for the one we want to go on sale “out of season”.

Panoramic of deck








The fancy lights are from Dekor, their Holly rail light in white, and their pyramid post caps.





The Sunsetter is the largest one available, and it’s quite nice – has all the bells and whistles.  The pattern isn’t my favorite, but it’s growing on me.  Because we have blues and grays on the house, Sunsetter only had three colors that would “go”, and the other two were midnight blue and charcoal.  Since we’re going with this to provide shade, to keep cool, the darker colors weren’t acceptable to us, so we ended up with “Sky blue” (aka French Bistro as our friends refer to it).  Where I’m standing to take this picture is the direction afternoon sun comes into the house.  We have the Sunsetter weather breakers to provide more vertical shading.

I’m looking forward to having my weekends back – just in time for our exchange student to arrive!

Building a Deck – There is Light at the End of the Tunnel

All spring, and so far this summer has been all deck work all the time.  We’re making serious progress at this point though.  I just dropped about $4500 on the decking and railing, which will be delivered in the next week.   Here are a few in-progress pictures to review.  We’ve done a lot of work, and all that remains is the larger staircase and guard rail posts from a substructure perspective, and the decking and railing from the finishing perspective.

After putting up one ledger board, we’ve conceded that we’re just going to use a sunsetter for shade for now.  Those are a PITA to put up, and fastening it into the house was difficult enough when we had access to the framing in the unfinished basement.

The two “ledger” boards.  One has the joist hangars, the other is only bolted to the house for about 10 ft, then sticks out the rest of the way as a kind of ledger/joist.  We used it to measure what the height of the far beam should be (with a slight drop for water runoff).




All of the beams up, with joists as needed for blocking to support the cross-bracing required by our municipality.  Those sticks were removed when we had the permanent cross-bracing up.






All of the joists up looking out from the house (the screen door we’ll use to walk out onto the deck).  It was less hard to get the joists up than I expected – and a lot harder to get the beams up (they’re joined beams – and lifting a 2x12x16′ piece of wood directly over your head sucks).





This past weekend we completed the landing.  The landing needs to be complete and decked so that the upper set of stairs (the big ones) will have some place to rest on – and be fastened to.




We can see the end coming – definitely looking forward to having my weekends back, and not working on the deck in super hot conditions.  We did most of the work from January through now, and we’re guesstimating 4-5 more weekends of work to complete it.

Detailed Financial Picture – March 2017

January’s Numbers

As of March 1, 2017, we are $299,544.21 in debt with a mortgage.  We currently have $1,073,633.00 in assets.  Our investment accounts are at $651,159.34. Our Net Worth is $774,088.79,  up from $736,973.30 in January (5.04% increase).

We were able to contribute the full amount we set aside to our Roths and since I had set aside an additional $1834 between January and February (intended for 2017), I contributed that as well – who knows how much we’ll be able to contribute next year – we were literally $400 under the lower contribution AGI limit.  We are on track to have 11k set aside for that purpose next year though, so we’ll see after next year’s taxes.

I’ve ordered the wood for our deck – $2666 of just wood – then we have to buy the decking and the railing (the decking will end up being about $2400, but the railing is looking like $3500 or more)  We’re going with composite and vinyl to save on maintenance costs, but I’m really looking forward to starting on the wood and getting a deck to enjoy this spring and summer.

We’re now paying $324 and some change “extra” on our mortgage, and starting to see the number go down – it will still be a while before there’s any *real* progress on it, and I don’t know how quickly we’ll end up paying it down – we know we’re not going to be retiring in this house (taxes are too high!).


Debt (in the order we’re paying it down):

  • Car loan – Camry (0%): $17,572.00 (-878.60)
  • Mortgage (3.875%): $281,972.21 (-1,579.06)

Total paid off in January and February:  $2,457.66

Growing our Family – Temporarily

No, no pregnancies or anything like that, but we’ve registered and applied to be a host family for a high school foreign exchange student next school year.  We’re looking at being matched with a young woman from Slovakia for an entire school year.  There’s still red tape and paperwork to get through, but luckily, we both already have our clearances thanks to Girl Scouts, so we shouldn’t have any trouble with that part.  Then the young woman gets to read our family and home description and decide if she’s willing to stay with us.

We’re looking forward to sharing our family and neighborhood with a foreign student and at the same time, hoping she can share information and tidbits about her culture with us.  We think it’s an excellent opportunity for cultural exchange, and especially for Daughter Person – she’s already asking us when her “big sister” is coming.  I’ve heard both great and not so great stories about hosting, but most have been either great or ambivalent, and we can survive almost anything for 10 months.  The program has a lot of support if we need it, both emergency and help figuring out solutions to issues, and we’re comfortable with the local coordinator’s ability to match students with host families that generally work together.

From a financial standpoint, we’ll be paying extra for food and gas (transportation), but the students come with $150-$250/mth of spending money, and their own health insurance.  We’ll also get to deduct $50/mth on our taxes as a charitable donation. Feeding a teenager may be more than the extra $100/mth we’re planning, but we’ll approach that as we come to it!

Detailed Financial Picture – January 2017

December’s Numbers

As of January 11, 2017, we are $302,001.87 in debt with a mortgage.  We currently have $1,038,975.17 in assets.  Our investment accounts are at $614,131.46. Our Net Worth is $736,973.30,  up from $721,133.15 in December (2.2% increase).

We’re slowing down on the debt paying, although we are increasing the “extra” principal that goes to our mortgage by a few hundred dollars per month.  The rest of the money is going to investments, college, and our deck.

I sort of did our taxes based on our final paychecks, and it’s looking like we might have a reduced Roth contribution this year, so I’m going to wait until we get our *real* W-2s and 1099-DIVs to make our contribution. The downside is that I tend to not get one of my 1099-DIV forms until the very last possible minute (mid-late Feb)  On the plus side, it’s also looking like we’ll be getting about 2k back from the Feds.  I had my withholding set to “married, but withhold at higher single rate” the entire year, and never bothered to reduce it to “married” mid-year, so a bit more than was needed was taken out.

Debt (in the order we’re paying it down):

  • Car loan – RAV4 (0%): $0 
  • Car loan 2 – Camry (0%): $18,450.60 (-439.30)
  • Mortgage (3.875%): $283,551.27 (-486.68)

Total paid off in December:  $925.98

Detailed Financial Picture – December 2016

October’s Numbers (because it’s too late to bother with November, again)

As of December 8, 2016, we are $302,927.85 in debt with a mortgage.  We currently have $1,024,061.00 in assets.  Our investment accounts are at $601,841.70. Our Net Worth is $721,133.15,  up from $690,272.92 in October (4.5% increase)

Our RAV is paid off! And wonder of wonders, we got the title in less than 3 months – unlike when we moved here and it took 3 months for Toyota Financial to transfer our title to PA.   I started tracking my debt and net worth just a month after the first payment for that car was due in July 2012 – how things have changed!

November was quite a ride in the markets – up, up, up!  We’re over $1 million dollars in assets (again), and approaching a $1 million net worth.  Our net worth has increased 23.41% since January – a good bit of that is contributions, but not all of it.

Our escrow analysis came back, and we owe $200 more per month (some of that’s “make up” money), so that will affect how much our mortgage is paid off.  Starting in January though, I’m adding an extra $300, so the amount we pay down will increase a bit.  Might as well throw money towards the debt that actually has interest (unlike our car loan).  The remaining money that we’re not spending on our car loan will be used for building up a real 3-6 month emergency fund.  We have access to up to 30k if we need it which is more than 3 months of necessary expenses (it’s 3 months of income), but it is currently invested, and we’d rather not touch it.  I should probably start tracking the value of our “cash” emergency fund for some accountability – maybe then it’ll actually happen 🙂


Debt (in the order we’re paying it down):

  • Car loan – RAV4 (0%): $0 (-1,794.66)
  • Car loan 2 – Camry (0%): $18,889.90 (-878.60)
  • Mortgage (3.875%): $284,037.95 (-1010.97)

Total paid off in October and November:  $3,684.23

Building a Deck – footings

I’ve been busy putting in the footers for my deck.  This has been a long and arduous process, but finally complete!  Now, to let it all cure, and then start on the wood part of the deck.  I’m not looking forward to lifting a 2x12x18ft long piece of wood over my head (no matter how many people are helping!).

5 tons of concrete (10,600 lbs in 60lb bags) just after delivery (and it was on sale!)

Holes, ready for inspection.  Those larger ones are 20″ diameter by 36″ deep.  The smaller ones are 12″ diameter and 36″ deep (for a landing)

These holes were probably the most annoying ever – there’s 2ft of gravel around the house covering the french drain.  As we were digging, the gravel surrounding the hole kept falling into the hole.  We ended up practically excavating the entire gravel area to get the footings deep enough.  There’s a reason we used the tubes – to keep the gravel out of the holes.

The work area ready to pour concrete.  We had a mixer that holds 4 60lb bags of concrete, and each hole took between 16 and 20 bags.  Luckily, the majority of the holes were big enough to just turn the mixer into the hole.  I had to use the wheelbarrow and shovel to fill the 12″ diameter holes.

All done – the lighter concrete was done on day 1, the darker was just done that day (day 2).  The j-bolts and support bases are installed according to the plans (ie, perfectly in line with each other and spaced appropriately).  Although, we did discover that our house is not square – it’s off by about 3 degrees, we’ll have to correct for that when we put up the joists and decking.  The cardboard tubing is going to be left in place to just decompose on it’s own, but we could use a hacksaw or circular saw to cut them off at ground level and remove them.  Eventually, we’re going to put something under the deck as a patio, but we haven’t decided what yet, and there’s no rush.

Detailed Financial Picture – October 2016

August’s Numbers (because it’s too late to bother with September)

As of October 10, 2016, we are $306,612.08 in debt with a mortgage.  We currently have $996,855.00 in assets.  Our investment accounts are at $575,673.22. Our Net Worth is $690,272.92, up from $678,032.86 in August (1.8% increase)

It’s now almost mid-October, so I’m just going to combine September and October’s numbers.  Nothing interesting has happened on paying down debt – most of our money has gone to the deck and retirement accounts. We’re on track to pay off our RAV in December, then we may or may not pay down the Camry faster – probably not.

I’m likely to build up a good sized emergency fund (6 months) next.  We only have about two months available right now, so I’d like to build that up.  We can survive on one salary, and we have access to our taxable and a good bit of our Roth funds, so I’m not concerned, but I’d like a little more cushion.  Once you’re done paying down debt, there’s a lot more choices of what to do with your money, so I’m having a hard time deciding what exactly to do with it!

Debt (in the order we’re paying it down):

  • Car loan – RAV4 (0%): $1,794.66 (-1,794.66)
  • Car loan 2 – Camry (0%): $19,768.50 (-878.60)
  • Mortgage (3.875%): $285,048.92 (-1,004.48)

Total paid off in August and September:  $3,677.74

Detailed Financial Picture – August 2016

July’s Numbers

As of August 11, 2016, we are $310,289.82 in debt with a mortgage.  We currently have $988,322.68 in assets.  Our investment accounts are at $570,107.77. Our Net Worth is $678,032.86, up from $667,922.76 in July (1.51% increase)


Our deck plans are done, and I need to get them to the permit office this week.  The expected cost is just over $13k, and I included a 30% “oops” factor into my calculations.   We’re planning on getting the concrete footings complete along with the poured patio (have to be done at separate times because of frost heave) in September, and the deck part done in October.  We may or may not get the covered roof part done this winter, that will depend on weather, but we’ll have the patio and deck done to enjoy this fall and next spring!

These updates may get boring shortly, if they’re not already.  We’ve finished aggressively paying down the debt we were going to, are contributing quite a lot to our retirement accounts, and have generally entered a boring financial period of our lives.  I’ll still be excited when we hit (self-defined) milestones like 1 million in assets (again), 1 million in net worth, cars paid off, mortgage paid off, etc, but it’s not quite the same as the laser focus on paying off debt.

Debt (in the order we’re paying it down):

  • Car loan – RAV4 (0%): $3,589.32 (-897.33)
  • Car loan 2 – Camry (0%): $20,647.10 (-439.30)
  • Mortgage (3.875%): $286,053.40 (-499.81)

Total paid off in July:  $1,836.44


Detailed Financial Picture – July 2016

June’s Numbers

A little bit later than usual this month, we’ve been busy!

As of July 18, 2016, we are $312,126.26 in debt with a mortgage.  We currently have $980,049.02 in assets.  Our investment accounts are at $559,435.67. Our Net Worth is $667,922.76, up from $646,555.06 in June (3.3% increase)

We’ve finally gotten all of Dad’s paycheck woes straightened out.  The local taxes came out (perfect timing too – no more estimated taxes!), the HSA amount was applied properly, the daycare FSA amounts were all straightened out as well.  He finally got through to an HR person, who called me, and we worked out the details.  Turns out *no one* at his company got money into their 401(k) in May – he’s just the first one to notice.  The 401(k) provider sent the check back to the company (they haven’t figured out why last I talked to them, and I will probably never know), so nothing was deposited.  That’s all been straightened out as well.  I’m just really surprised that Dad seemed to be the only one to notice… (OK, so maybe I am a bit anal about the money).

We are going to pay off the RAV this year (barring any emergencies), and in early December, I will be able to mark that as paid off!   I’m still reconciling the emotional hit of paying it off against the fact that it’s “free” money, but we both agree that we’d like to only have one car payment. I could pay it off “right now”, but we’re also saving money to hopefully put in our Roths at the end of the year – this might be the last year we’re able to.

Dad’s paycheck is much larger in the take-home pay department, which has been nice for us, and we’re still putting aside almost as much to our retirement accounts as we were, it’s just not all tax-advantaged.  Again, you’re not seeing a lot in the debt-reduction area as the cars are 0% and the rest is our mortgage, we’re focusing on other items.  You might see another dip into the Line of Credit to complete our deck, but hopefully not.  I want to get that done before next spring.

Debt (in the order we’re paying it down):

  • Line of Credit (9.75%): $0 (-4500.00)
  • Car loan – RAV4 (0%): $4,486.65 (-897.33)
  • Car loan 2 – Camry (0%): $21,086.40 (-439.30)
  • Mortgage (3.875%): $286,553.21 (-498.20)

Total paid off in June:  $1,834.83