Updates – October 2012

We’ve had quite a few new readers on the site lately, so thought it might be worth throwing some updates out there.


Anyone know what kind of flower this is? It’s blooming in one of the neighbor’s yards!

For those of you who have been reading Planting Our Pennies for a while, hopefully this post will give you some insight into what has happened AFTER we posted on a few different events. And for new readers, this is a pretty good primer to catch you up on some of what we’ve talked about so far on the site.


On The Financial Side

We wrote about Prioritizing Our Debt a few months ago in June 2012 and made the pretty audacious goal that we wanted to have our $38K HELOC + $50K Personal Loan + $9K car loan paid off completely by August 2014. Altogether that will be over $100K in debt + interest to pay off in 27 months. So far we are ahead of schedule on that and have paid down $19K of the HELOC balance (that’s HALF!!!) as of our September 2012 Balance Sheet. Fabulous, right?

  • Progress Rating: =)

We also wrote about how we discovered that with a little 401K Teamwork, and changing the employee allocations in our respective 401K accounts, we could earn an additional $1.5K in employer matching funds every year without increasing our overall employee contributions. So far I’ve changed my allocation so I’ll max out next year, but Mr. PoP keeps forgetting to adjust his downward. In the meantime, more money going into his 401K isn’t the end of the world… but I can imagine places I’d rather see that money go *cough* HELOC *cough*. Hopefully this can serve as another friendly reminder to get on that.

  • Progress Rating: =]


Around the House


Upper – old and new screws, Lower – old screws rusted pulled out

Remember when we wrote about How We Decided to Self-Insure our pool and lanai (aka pool cage) when our insurance company changed their policy standards. Since then, Mr. PoP has removed a fair number of rusted screws around the aluminum pool cage and replaced them with ones that shouldn’t rust. And since we now have a truly vested interest in the well being of the lanai (and since we tend to Name Inanimate Objects), we christened him “Lenny the Lanai” and so far Lenny made it through his first cone of uncertainty with nary a scratch.

  • Progress Rating: =D

In one of the first blog posts we ever posted, we talked about the Death of Our Pool Vac, and how we had to re-evaluate and see if it was time to bite the bullet and hire a pool guy. Almost 5 months after hiring the pool guy, it’s been a smashing success. The pool sparkled all summer with zero coupon clipping, special trips to the pool supply store, mixing chemicals, scrubbing tiles, or hopes and prayers on my part. And we actually found out we can lower our pool guys bill even more (something we’re considering), which we’ll talk about in another post sometime.

  • Progress Rating: =)

We also wrote about The Tree, a huge live oak tree in our front yard, that we had to trim to stop it from touching the roof. Welllll… we ended up hiring an arborist to come out and do the job right. $900 for a job he claims won’t have to be done again for 4-5 years. Didn’t the arborist do a fantastic job? However, one aspect of the project that we hadn’t considered was how such a big change might disrupt the delicate ecosystem that our yard apparently is. (Since, ya know, we have had venomous snakes and all.) Anyhow… the ant colonies that were likely walking all over the oak moved to our house when the tree shrank so dramatically. It was insane. We know of at least three different colonies of ants that were cleared out of the house through the valiant efforts of our Truly Nolen guy and a LOT of Terro. I’m still sweeping up ant carcasses three weeks later.


The Tree – Before and After. Looks so great, right?

  • Progress Rating: =D then =( now mostly =\ with occasional feelings of guilt over killing millions of ants – but we do LOVE how the tree turned out.


Friends and Family

My best friend, BF, was having some serious Guilt About Quitting Her Job, and it turns out to have been mostly moot. Long story made short, the company that was trying to poach BF was making verbal promises about limiting the amount of time she’d have to spend overseas, but when push came to shove, refused to put any of those promises in writing. Other coworkers making the jump were expecting to spend between 25-50% of their time overseas, and since BF just got married this summer, that much travel wasn’t something she wanted to jump into as a newlywed. She’s pretty satisfied with her decision and the former boss that wanted to poach her has made it clear the door is open for a little while if she changes her mind.

  • Progress Rating: Mostly =)


Overall Progress: =) =] =D =) =\ =)

More good than bad, and even the bad could have been much worse. So, I guess that’s a pretty good review!


Do you guys remember any of these original posts? What do you think of the progress reports? Did it turn out how you thought? Any other updates from other old posts that you want to know about that we missed?

14 comments to Updates – October 2012

  • Ugh—ant colonies in your house cannot be a good thing! The tree looks good though =)

  • I agree with Holly…ant colonies in the house are never a good thing. Glad to hear your friends job situation worked out well.

    • It did! Sadly one of her coworkers was really sad on his last day before he went over to the new company (he actually cried!) so that reinforced that she made the right call for herself.

  • Congrats on all your progress! Flower picture looks a lot like a canna, not as easy to tell without the side view. Here’s a homemade recipe for the Terro. Works as well as storebought, but A LOT cheaper! 1 cup sugar, 1 Tbls. borax, 1/2 cup water. Combine all and bring to boil in saucepan, stirring for about 3 min, until sugars dissolved. Will thicken as it cools. Store in a jar and use as you would Terro. We’ve had our own ant battles : ) Best wishes for continued success.

    • I just google the canna and I think you’re right! Its been my flower obsession of late.

      And thanks for the homemade terro recipe. I’ll have to pick up some borax and have it on hand if the little guys start to make a comeback.

  • The tree looks great now! I’m a bit worried about this giant tree in the front yard of the house that we are closing on in 3 hours (Yes, 3 hours from RIGHT NOW!). Between your $900 cleanup and various other stories I’ve heard, they can be expensive to maintain :/ A friend’s Dad works on trees so we’ll get his opinion and see what he thinks it will cost us.

    • They can be a bit pricey, but remember that’s about $200-250 per year, which definitely softens the blow – especially if you know someone that works on trees!

      Don’t know where you are, but around here, mature trees can be hard to come by, so it’s part of what makes our house unique and special. Hopefully your tree will add value that way as well.

      Good luck with your closing!!!

  • Congrats on maintaining good momentum towards your goals. Just out of curiosity, Do you think that aggressively paying down the HELOC is superior to the returns you’ll get inside the 401K? I’m assuming that you’re comparing contributions over and above the automatic employer match right?

    • Yes, in the 401K Teamwork post, we went over how we are now maxing out the combined employer match from both of our accounts – so no matter how much more we throw at Mr. PoP’s 401K, we can’t get any more employer match out of it.

      There’s a couple of reasons that we’re being aggressive on the HELOC at the “expense” of the 401K right now.
      1 – for one, we’re actually pretty close to maxing out both anyhow. In 2013, I’ll hit the $17K max, and if Mr. PoP’s income doesn’t go up from last year, he’ll be putting about $11.2K into his (assuming that he makes the adjustment down on his allocation this calendar year). So we’re really only “robbing” his 401K of a max of $5.8K/yr.

      2 – For now, the 401Ks are mostly in Target 2045 funds like the VTIVX, where the 3 yr CAGR has been hovering around 9.5% and the 5 yr CAGR is still near 0%. Subtract off from the 3 yr CAGR future estimated tax liabilities in the 30% range (since these are not Roth 401Ks) and we get really close to the 6% rate that the HELOC is currently costing us. But the HELOC paydown is like a guaranteed “return” of 6% when we pay it down…

      Side note – although the VTIVX has been pretty good to us so far, we’re planning on looking closer at our stock holdings over the next few months and may have some adjustments to make there.

      So that’s our basic thought process on choosing to be pretty aggressive on the HELOC.

      What do you think? Totally open to suggestions!

  • You have very ambitious goals, Mrs. Pop! Great job so far! And don’t hate me…but I think the tree was beautiful in the before picture. I know that it *needed* its haircut though, as it was rubbing against your house and causing other issues that you wrote about. It was and still is a beautiful tree and I’m so glad you were able to maintain it and keep it and didn’t have to chop it down. That would have made me sad! Sorry about the ants, but don’t stop fighting your ant war until they’re all gone.

    • We do have ambitious goals – but we definitely think they are achievable.

      Oh I definitely don’t hate you – the tree WAS very beautiful before. In defense of the “after” pic, the side-by-side pictures I posted aren’t really a fair comparison since they are taken from different angles and different times of day. It’s a world of difference, but everyone who sees it in person comments on how beautiful and how much “younger” the tree looks. Did you ever read the story the Giving Tree? The “before” picture is more like how the tree looks right before it’s cut down, whereas the “after” is more like how the tree is in the middle of the book =) Both beautiful, just different.

      The ants are gone! Hallelujah. We declared victory this weekend after wiping up more little ant carcasses and then not seeing any more come out over the next day to replace them. Soooo glad that’s done with.

  • I love the recap. I do actually read posts and wonder what happened after the fact. Maybe that’s something I’ll do at some point. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, right?

    • Oh yes – imitate away! I love updates, since I often feel like posts get written when the story is about 80% over and readers rarely get to know how it ended!