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End of March Update

April 1st, 2015 at 12:36 pm

Investments lost some money this month, so we are down a little in spite of making contributions.

401ks: $252,528
IRAs: $44,305
Def Compensation: $91,539

Total Retirement: $388,372

Taxable Accounts
SCHB ETF: 2,755
Fidelity: 84,824
Loyal3, TradeKing: $9,963
DRiP/DSPP Plans: $2,275
P2P Lending Accounts: 3,493

Total Taxable: 103,310

Total Investment Balances: $491,682

Total amounts invested this year:

401ks (including match): $4,187
Deferred Comp: $1,443
Schwab ETF Fund: 650
P2P Lending: $885
IRAs: $900
Loyal3, DRiP Plans etc (Taxable): $5,938

Total Invested: $14,002

Planning Ahead

March 17th, 2015 at 06:07 pm

It occurred to me this morning that it is really much more fun to tell other people what's wrong with the way the earn, spend, and invest their money than to sit down and make some of the hard decisions about my own money.

No seriously. Tell me what your next paycheck is going to be and I'll form a 100% correct opinion in the next 20 seconds. My own? Blah.

Next month is EXTRA PAYCHECKS month around here which means some decisions have to be made. This is my thinking so far.

Roth IRA Investment Account $1,000

Car Repair Sinking Fund $1,000 (we totally emptied this out a couple of months ago when all 3 of our cars decided to get sick the same week)

Peer 2 Peer Lending Investments $300 (This Investment Account continues to do quite well for me, still earning a respectable 8%)

Child 1, Child 2 .. $200 Money I'll put in savings in order to handle the next unexpected expense they throw my way

House Repair - $1000 Our Chimney Rebuild has been completed and now we move on to a driveway resurface project

Schwab Taxable Investment Fund - $300

Education - $1000 Tuition money

Total $4800. So a little bit toward several of our goals. No vacation or big spending sprees. Maybe putting it here will make it more committed. But I'll likely change my mind about 10 or 20 more times before we actually get the money next month.

I am at about 2310 Swagbucks. Has anybody else ever noticed how hard it is to earn the last couple hundred needed to cash out? But as soon as I get enough for a $25 Paypal, I'll likely be sending that to my Loyal3 Investment account.

Brokerage Activity

March 9th, 2015 at 05:00 pm

I received an invite last week to open an account at Robinhood - the new brokerage that has been receiving press for no commission buys and sells of stock. I wanted to give it a try, so we transferred money in and bought one share of Caterpillar Tractor stock.

I chose Caterpillar for a couple of reasons. It has a high dividend yield and has been trading near the bottom end of it's one year trading range. It has for a long time been on our lists of "Possible" to set up a DRIP/DSPP plan, but we've always passed on it because it has a particularly fee laden direct purchase plan with set-up fees and purchase fees and we prefer to choose no fee DRiP/DSP plans.

Our plan right now is to buy one share a month of Caterpillar for the foreseeable future, although we have no commitment to do so such as with an enrollment in some DRiP/DSP plans. We could also buy more than one share on any trading day, again with with no trading commissions.

My general impression of Robinhood this far

Advantage:

1. Relatively painless to set-up account, transfer in cash and buy stock. It even allowed me to set a limit on the Buy price which is something our Loyal3 brokerage account lacks.

2. Unlike Loyal3, which only offers an extremely limited number of stocks which can be purchased, nearly any US company that sells stock can be purchased via Robinhood.

3. Real time trading. A few other of the low cost brokers such as Loyal3 and the regular monthly purchase option at Sharebuilder employ batch trading, which means that you might need to wait a full trading day or more to sell your stocks, if you wanted to sell for whatever reason.

Disadvantage:

1. I can only trade on iOS devices. In their FAQ section they mention that an Android and Web Based method of trading is on their to do lists.
This is actually a big deal for me as I personally use an Android phone and tablet. I can only access this account via my husband's iPAD mini, which is often in my husband's briefcase and not readily available for me.

2. Ongoing concern. Many might remember the saga of another no fee brokerage from a couple of years ago - Zecco. They simply were not able to maintain the no fee business model and all their accounts eventually ended up at TradeKing when the two companies merged. Currently this is not a huge concern of mine as I'm only dealing with a small number of shares of one stock and I will not have a significant account balance for quite awhile.

This factor, however, is why I have no interest in transferring my other brokerage holdings TO Robinhood in spite of the fact that I could buy and sell those holdings commission free. If they are still around several years from now and things have gone well with them, I might consider a transfer. Until then I will have to deal with another brokerage, another set of tax forms and added complication of having money in several different accounts.

3. Robinhood does not offer automatic dividend reinvestment, although the website states it is also in their list of possible future benefits. Automatic Dividend Reinvestment is a strategy we often employ with our DRiP/DSP plans and with some other stocks we own such as Lockheed Martin.

4. Similarly they do not offer the purchase of fractional shares, although few Brokerage Accounts do. With our Loyal3 account in particular we often take the $10 to $15 we might have saved elsewhere (such as on the grocery bill) and use that to purchase a small fractional share of a stock such as Berkshire or Apple. The advantage of being able to dribble in $10 at a time is the HUGE strength of the Loyal3 brokerage.

5. No Joint account registration. This account is only registered in my name and not jointly owned by my husband because Individual Ownership is the only option available at the moment. Again, with such a small account balance it is not a significant factor, although I prefer accounts to be jointly owned with clear Beneficiary Designations in order to circumvent Estate issues should I kick the bucket next week. These are advantages to holding investments at the larger, more established institutions such as Fidelity. This is another reason I would not consider depositing large holdings with Robinhood for the moment.

Beyond Robinhood, we also made purchases at Loyal3 today. We added $10 to each of the following stock holdings at our Loyal3 account, for a total of $80: Apple, Google, Hasbro, Intel, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Microsoft, Unilever.

A few of our DRiP/DSP are scheduled for automatic buys soon. Exxon, Pinnacle West and Realty Income.

March is an active Dividend month for many companies. I will be collecting dividends from several stock positions and we manually reinvest those that do not automatically reinvest into new or established stock holdings.

} { This Close!

March 2nd, 2015 at 03:51 pm

Well, we are almost half millionaires. I suppose we probably are if house equity and cars etc were included but I really don't consider either of those "investments" and I don't like to worry too much about market values of assets that are so illiquid that it seems pointless. We don't live in a "hot" real estate market. It isn't uncommon for houses in our area to take years to sell, so it's a good thing we're fairly happy living here.

I also don't consider the college funds we have set aside because it's pretty certain that all that money will be spent on tuitions. LOL

Investment Balances at end of February

Retirement Accounts

401ks: $253,454
IRAs: $43,743
Def Compensation: $91,216

Total Retirement: $388,413

Taxable Accounts
SCHB ETF: 2,633
Fidelity: 91,946
Loyal3, TradeKing: $8,870
DRiP/DSPP Plans: $2002
P2P Lending Accounts: 3,295

Total Taxable: 108,746

Total Investments: $497,160

We have been playing around with several calculators recently trying to determine just how we should structure our money in order to fund an early retirement. In other words, how to pay for those years before we can start tapping our 401k and IRA money. This is the main reason we have been saving so hard outside of retirement funds in recent years.

About the one concrete factor we can agree on is that we'll need a paid off house. Our mortgage is scheduled to dip below $100k balance in the next couple of months so we are strongly considering using a large part of our year end bonus monies to knock it out. With such a low interest rate I'm not convinced it is the best thing to do, but then again the stock market seems to be positioning for another one of those "corrections" so maybe a guaranteed return of debt payoff is better than Investing right now.


February Mid-Month

February 14th, 2015 at 11:25 pm

So far

Non-Paycheck Income

Swagbucks/Perk/Surveys etc $130.06
Credit Card Rewards $60.60
Storage Rent etc $67.97
Stock Dividends $10.46

Non-Retirement Investments made

SCHB ETF $290
P2P Lending Accounts: $260
Loyal3 Account and DRiP Accts: $1047.9
TradeKing Brokerage: $497.15

Balance of Retirement Accounts: $386,014
Balance of Non-Retirement Accounts: $102,039.56
Total Investments: $488,053.71

Note: I am really looking forward to breaking $500,000.

So far in 2015 our Investments have increased by $26,485. Of that $8467 has been from contributions and the remainder from growth.

Organizing DRiP Plans and Purchases

February 10th, 2015 at 06:20 pm

I have a few DRiP/DSPP purchase plans going and the one thing everybody complains about with these is keeping track of your cost basis. That isn't always so easy when you have little fractional amounts of dividends being reinvested every month. I've been doing it all on a spreadsheet but yesterday I started using the portfolio tracker at the CBS MarketWatch site. I spent a couple of hours inputting my history in and ongoing shouldn't be as difficult. Since I'm a numbers geek, that was actually kind of fun and as a bonus I got to put off cleaning the bathrooms because I was busy with important money stuff. I'll see how that goes.

Valentines Day this weekend which really is not my favorite holiday at all. I don't know why, after almost 28 years of marriage my husband and I cannot come to some compromise on this but we are always out of whack. I spend big, he doesn't. He spends big, I don't. Or we both spend big and then I spend the next month wishing we didn't have so much chocolate in the house trying to attach itself to my hips.

But whatever. I got him some sort of "Love Gift Pack" of 3 bottles from a winery and a set of Depression Era Glass Wine Glasses from an antique store. I've seen the credit card bill, I think we're about equal in outflows so hopefully it won't be another "But you didn't stick to the agreement!" holiday.

I received some money from surveys and a rent payment so I sent $110 off to my Loyal3 stock purchase account. This is how I divided it up

Berkshire $30
Coca Cola $30
Apple $10
Mattel $10
Intel $10
Unilever $10
Google $10

I am up to a whopping .1155 Shares of Google stock! I think when it gets to the point of owning one full share I might have the family celebrate with a Pizza Night or something. Woo Hoo we own a full share of Google!

Since our Tax Refund is going to be so much larger than expected, I also took $500 that I had saved up to replace our Furnace and A/C system this summer and bought 20 shares of GE stock in my TradeKing account this morning.

My P2P Loan accounts are going pretty well. Between Lending Club and Prosper I have a little over $3000 accumulated in there and it's currently generating about a 7% return. My returns are lower than many of the people who post at places like LendAcademy, but at this point in time I'm still sticking with the higher quality notes rated A, B and C which mostly return 7 to 10%. I haven't decided when I'll feel comfortable diversifying out into some of the riskier loan pools but likely not until it gets to over $10,000.

Ebates and Tax Estimate

February 6th, 2015 at 08:20 pm

Received $52.90 from Ebates today. Haven't quite decided where to send the money but it will go into one of the investment accounts.

We have about 90% of the paperwork we need to complete our taxes, and all of the major items like W2 forms and our Real Estate Taxes. So far our Federal Refund looks to be around $8k. This is mostly because I was extremely busy last December and didn't have time to look closely at all the numbers, so I had husband's company withhold a huge amount of his year end bonus just to be "safe." I guess I hit safe and then some. I haven't looked at the State yet but I've never gotten a huge refund or owed a huge amount on the State return.

The good thing about this is it should cover our heating and a/c system upgrades planned for this summer. Now I can move on to saving for some roof repairs and fixing up our driveway.

Since 2015 will likely be similar to 2014 in terms of income, I'm reducing our quarterly estimated payments.

Loyal3 Stock Purchases

February 4th, 2015 at 06:03 pm

I finished getting all my accounts reconciled in YNAB and my cumulative under budget amounts for the month of January was $223.

I made the following stock purchases in my Loyal3 account. In case you are unfamiliar, Loyal3 is a new-ish discount broker that lets you buy choose from a slate of around 50 companies and purchase small amounts with no commissions or fees.

They also let you purchase fractional shares. So you can buy a fraction of one stock for as little as $10. For instance, even though just one share of Google costs over $500, I am able to buy a tiny fraction of a share for $25.


Apple $15
Alibaba $40
Berkshire Class B (I hired Warren Buffet!) $25
Google $25
Hasbro $25
Kraft $18
Mattel $15
McDonalds $20
Microsoft $20
Unilever $20

I am attempting with this account to build balances in some strong Dividend Stocks as well as throw in a few Growth and Technology companies.

Some January Numbers

February 2nd, 2015 at 05:38 pm

Amounts Saved:

Retirement Accounts
401K - $1,182.92
Non-Deductible IRA: $300
Employer Match - $591.45
Voluntary Def Compensation: $477.8

Taxable Accounts:
Schwab: $200
P2P Lending: $300
DRiP/DSPP/Loyal3 $1,511

Some Balances:
Retirement Accounts: $368,421
Other Investments: $80,788
Emergency Fund (added $400) - $23,198.79
Furnace and A/C Replacement Fund (just started) - $481.65
Chimney Rebuild Fund - $2147.78

I have applied to start a new DRIP for HCP, Inc. The minimum starting purchase is $750, which I've set aside. However the plan only processes new purchases once a month so my account is waiting for the next batch processing date to fund. I didn't include that in my amounts saved since the money is still in my bank account. But I've already subtracted it from my register.

Unfortunately my husband's company stock has taken a huge hit this year which has reduced our Net Worth. It looks bad on paper but since we had no plans to sell the stock, hopefully it will recover sooner rather than later. The President was golden parachuted away in December and they are now in rebuilding mode.

My husband thinks they will have a much stronger year financially since they just picked up 2 rather huge contracts. There are rumors that the Dividend is going to be decreased next quarter which is important to my planning processes, since we use much of that Dividend money to invest in other places. We'll just have to wait and see what happens. Thankfully I dissuaded my husband from buying more Company stock within his 401K, which many employees have done. They are all kind of nervous now.

I have a 0% Discover balance that is due to start charging interest on the March statement so I will probably pay it off fairly soon. I like to pay those off far in advance so I can be certain the balance is at $0 well before the cut-off date.

For the first time in over 2 years, I don't think we'll have enough Fidelity Investment rewards accrued to cash out for investing this month. But EBATES is supposed to pay this month so I'll get some money there. I received a $25 Swagbucks payment right at the end of January so even with the bonus on the 5th, it'll be a bit of time before I can make a February cash-out.

The Uncertainty of January

January 21st, 2015 at 03:27 pm

This is kind of small in the grand scheme of things but January finances always drive me a bit batty. I'm the type of person that just likes to know in advance and plan and January is just that month of the year that you just don't know …… until you do

Raise
New Health Insurance Rates
Other Deduction Changes

So I never know exactly what the paychecks are going to be until I see them in the account. But thankfully tomorrow is the last paycheck of the month, and then I'll be able to plan all the future paychecks more accurately.

So I've been taking a poll of people around me. In January of this year, our State (Illinois) Income tax rate decreased. This effects everybody in the State who earns a wage.

Basically a couple of years ago our politicians passed an increase and sold it to the Public as a "Temporary Measure to Solve Our Fiscal Crises!" In order to make that look realistic, they put automatic rate decreases into the legislation that unless the legislature voted to extend the higher rate or make it permanent, the rates eventually drop down toward prior levels.

They then raised the state spending by amounts greater than the increase. And of course no politician who wants to be re-elected is ever going to say "I WANT TO RAISE YOUR TAXES EVEN MORE!!!!" to the voting public.

So here we are with even more spending and decreasing revenue, but everybody knows the Illinois government is in huge financial trouble. We don't need a poll for that.

But this is my thing. I have been conducting an informal poll of people around me and so far I've found 16 people who didn't have a clue that their state income tax rate increased, or that they've now decreased ….. and 2 who actually noticed.

Sometimes I think I'm probably overly anal about things like this but sometimes I just want to line the world up in front of me and scream: PAY ATTENTION PEOPLE!!!!

Meal Planning - 1/19 to 1/25

January 18th, 2015 at 09:12 pm

One of my resolutions this year was to try and get a handle on meal planning so we aren't constantly looking at each other around 7pm nightly wondering what we should eat.

And of course it's Jan 18th and so far it's failed, but I have managed to come up with a menu plan for next week. I've also started using the Pepperplate app to organize a shopping list. The helpful thing about using apps around here is that we can all put the apps on our devices and then whenever somebody ends up at the store, they can check to see what is needed.

But here's the menu

Monday - Vegetable and Cashew Stir fry with fried rice.
Tuesday - Crockpot Chicken soup
Wednesday (Son Cooks) - Homemade pizza
Thurs - Sausage Pasta and mixed Vegetables
Fri - Vegetable Fajitas
Sat - Caesar Salad w/ Chicken Breasts
Sun - Slow Cooker French Dip w/ Fries

Mid-Month Update

January 15th, 2015 at 01:53 pm

Non-Paycheck Income

Swagbucks/Surveys Etc: $135.22
Credit Card Rewards: $140.6
Savings Acct Interest: $18.6
Quarterly Company Stock Dividends: $1531.2
Rent Collected: $50
Other Dividends: $0.83

Total 1876.11

Deposits Made

GE Capital Bank: 400
P2P Lending Accounts: $300
Loyal3 Account: $275
Other DRIP/DPP: $550

Total $1525

I am holding some money back because I'm considering starting a DRIP for the stock HCP. This is a Real Estate Investment company which invests in health care properties including senior housing and skilled nursing and medical complexes. It is currently paying a dividend of around 4.5% The minimum initial deposit is $750.

Also, as I said in a previous post, we've had an expensive month around here with things breaking down left and right. I am trying to cut down on our admittedly way too high grocery bill for the rest of the month in order to offset some of the expenses.

The good news is our little dog hasn't had another seizure. He has about another week left on his pills and then we'll need to take him back for another blood test. The Vet says that if that blood test comes back okay, the best course of action would be just to monitor him and hope he just never has another one or at least they don't ever get more frequent than one every 3 years or so that he's had so far.

It is time for Murphy to leave my house!

January 8th, 2015 at 04:12 pm

Uuuugh.

So far this month…and it is only the 8th!!!!!!

$720 for heating and plumbing emergencies caused by cold weather

$150 to fix and seal up a window that developed a leak around the edges - caused by cold weather

$1898 for auto breakdowns (2 cars in the same month)

$190 and climbing for vet bills - Little dog had a seizure. Hopefully won't have another one but needs to go back in 2 weeks for another blood test.

Also had to put down a $1000 deposit to a masonry to have our fireplace rebuilt. They obviously can't do it in the current -2degree weather but they wanted a deposit to order the bricks etc and hold our spot for the work when the weather finally warms up.

Gosh it seems to pile up sometimes.

A Few Investing Purchases

January 6th, 2015 at 05:55 pm

My DH collected $1289 in quarterly dividends from his Employee Stock account. $500 was added to a bit of cash already at TradeKing Brokerage and we bought 5 more shares of Chevron. The rest is in holding pattern while we make a few decisions.

$100 that we collected for renting space in our storage shed to a neighbor went to Schwab Brokerage and was invested in SCHB.

Payment on some Independent Contractor work I did .... $100 to the Realty Income stock purchase plan and $50 to the Pinnacle West stock purchase plan. These are both DRIP/DSPP plans where transactions are made commission free and dividends are automatically reinvested.

$10 from survey income went to the Loyal3.com Investment account to invest in Berkshire Class B. I just set this account up last week so this is the first $10 invested there.

I cashed in $25 in Swagbucks this morning for a Paypal reward. That will likely go to my P2P Lending Investment Account at Prosper.com

Blog Reboot

January 3rd, 2015 at 12:49 am

New Year, New Intents Yada Yada Yada.....

I haven't posted in like, forever - I'm a bad, bad blogger. But no time like January to start anew.

I was thinking about a blog and for now I'd like to concentrate on what I like to call my "Investing Hobby" money.

When I say this what I mean is the amounts that are about to follow are not our Retirement Funds or Emergency Fund or anything like that. These are accounts that I hold using mostly what I like to call found money. Some of it is extra work I pick up doing small business bookkeeping here and there. Some of it is Swagbucks and Survey amounts. Some of it is from when I come under budget in grocery or other items in a month and I'll sweep the difference into my investments. Occasionally life aligns in a manner that we just have some extra money and DH and I will agree to take a small part of it and put it in one of these accounts.

So to start the year, this is where things were at the beginning of January/end of December.

1. Lending Club/Prosper P2P Loans Investment Account. $2,725.86

Back in 2013 I became very interested in the things I was reading about Peer to Peer Lending and I wanted to give it a try. But, I didn't want to risk what I considered "real" (I do know the money isn't fake, seriously) money. I determined that I was going to take what I earned with Swagbucks, Survey sites etc and use those funds. I literally started these accounts with $100 and I just keep reinvesting the interest and pumping new money in as I get it. Some months it is a couple hundred bucks, some not so much.

I will later write about how I choose loans and how it has worked out, mostly good but some bad.

2. Schwab Acct (currently all SCHB, which is an ETF). $2,051.43

This is just a broad US Market ETF that trades commission free. I like it because it reinvests dividends and it is a fuss free way to invest fairly small amounts and keep it diversified. We have several other schwab ETF investments in our retirement account, but this is the only one I hold in a regular taxable investment account. Most of this was bought using money I made from a garage sale and EBAY etc.

3. Individual Stocks. (TradeKing, DRIP Plans, Loyal3) 9,441.92

I'll write more about how I ended up with each of these stocks later. Let me just say I do realize that nearly every intelligent financial advisor on the planet recommends against owning individual stocks in such small amounts. That's why I don't do this with our retirement or college funds or whatever. I've just realized that I LIKE owning individual stocks. Many years ago I was a member of an Investment Club and it was lots of fun, but we moved so I had to cash out. For now I've tried to limit myself to under 10 symbols so I can keep up with them.
I've been dabbling with this for a couple of years, but with the kids not sucking up so much of our income with tuitions now --- money is just a bit more freely available and I get to play with it more.

So this is what I have right now

Berkshire Class B 2 shares
Realty Income Corp 6 shares
Abbvie Corp 6 shares
ATT 16 shares
Pinnacle West 10 shares
Chevron 8 shares
National Healthcare 19 shares
Lockheed Martin 10 shares
Lending Club 125 shares
Disney 1 shares

I will just quickly explain the Lending Club stock as it is a large holding for us and not exactly a fit considering the other companies I've bought stock in, or how I got the money to buy it.

When the company (Lending Club) issued their IPO awhile back, they gave their existing customers a chance to participate. I've never done an IPO before, and I might never again because they are very risky. But I thought it sounded intriguing so DH and I decided to go ahead because the IPO just coincidently matched up with one of his "extra paycheck months."

My gut says that I should probably sell these shares now at a nice profit. But right now I'm still in the Short Term holding period, which means a huge chunk of our gain would just go to the government for taxes and I HATE to pay more taxes. So I haven't done it yet.

Total of the 3 Sections - $14,219

So that's about it for now. I think it would be fun to see if I can get this total to over $20,000 by the end of 2015 while still maintaining our Retirement and other savings goals.

Looking at my sidebar Author Info I really need to update that too. My son did graduate college, we did go on a vacation but I wouldn't mind another one. Our savings account has about $40k in it right now, but I have around $15k in 0% Credit Card balances that need to be paid off in February and March. I'm not sure of our exact Mortgage balance but I do know that 2015 is the year it is supposed to go under $100,000 so that's pretty exciting.


And if you actually read all this rambling, thanks!

Next Month

April 23rd, 2013 at 02:26 pm

I was remembering today a piece of advice I read a very long time ago. I'm pretty sure it was from Jane Bryant Quinn, who was kind of a Financial Advice guru way back before Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman made being a Financial Advice Guru so commercial and popular.

Anyway, she admitted to a habit of using shopping as an emotional crutch -- to combat boredom or stress or whatever. But she said she got into the habit of going to the mall and doing the whole "Find an outfit, try it on, and then decide to buy it" kind of thing. But at that point she'd put it back on the rack and instead of writing a check to the store she'd write a check to herself - we wrote checks back in the old days. She'd then deposit that money into her savings account, given the theory that there was a time when she would have just bought thoughtlessly and she always found the money, so she ~should~ be able to save thoughtlessly and still find the money.

I'm thinking of trying that for a bit next month and seeing what I come up with as extra savings.

----Started the Prosper Account and put in for an initial transfer of $50 from my Allowance bank fund over to Prosper. It has now been five days and the money has gone from my checking account but yet to show up in Prosper. Maybe I'm just too spoiled about seeing money move from point A to point B in 24 hours these days, but so far "Boo Prosper!"

I've identified a couple of loans that I might go for helping to fund, if my $50 ever shows up over there.

My new SwagBucks-Flakes Goals

April 19th, 2013 at 02:52 pm

Every month I have a basic goal of earning at least enough points on Swagbucks to get the 5 - $5 Amazon gift cards. We are saving these up to use for year end Holiday shopping.

After that I tend to stick with the $25 Paypal payments. Last month I think I earned 3 of those. This month hasn't been as great, mostly because I haven't felt very motivated to do as many surveys. Still, I've earned one $25 payment in April.

I've never really had a good plan for this money. It is extra money and I tend to just put it into my bank account until I need it for something. As we all know, bank accounts pay squat for interest anymore.

But today I've opened up an account at Prosper.com and I've decided to start funneling this into Peer to Peer lending. I realize there is risk involved here ... but since I view the money as "extra" anyway I figure this is a good way to test the waters to see if I can generate a good investment return with this money. I haven't actually loaned any money out yet, I'm still waiting for my first bank transfer to clear. But I have been spending considerable time reading various blogs about how to interpret the loan ratings and devise a strategy to choose which loans to bid on funding.

Bad Attitudes

April 16th, 2013 at 01:38 pm

I was reading a Blog on a different site yesterday and the owner mentioned that he was still plugging along with that "Save an Additional Dollar Every Week" challenge. These always catch my eye because I've been participating in it myself (week 16 on Thursday for me). As is usual, he immediately attracted a couple of comments about how "stupid" this challenge is, how it will become "impossible" late in the year, and how there are an infinite number of "better" ways to save money.

It is April now and ever since this challenge hit the blogosphere back in late December early January I have read so many of these bad attitude type of posts. It reminds me of the objections many people have to the Dave Ramsey program .... item after whiney item about how it wouldn't work for them so it will never work for you, how there is a better way to do it, and how they are so infinitely superior for knowing that anybody who would ever follow Dave Ramsey is wrong.wrong.wrong.

And don't get me wrong, I'm not a die hard Dave Ramsey fan myself but the day I ever start going rabid at somebody who expresses a desire to pay down loads of debt and save an emergency fund so they can live a more financially secure life is the day somebody needs to come along and hit me upside the head with the stick of common sense.

So I'm just going to go on record here:

1. Blah. Kill Joys.

2. Maybe there is a better way. Who cares? At least people who are doing it are doing something positive - which is always better than doing something negative and usually better than doing nothing at all.

3. So it might get hard.

4. Yes. It might get impossible.

5. Yes. Participants might fail. GASP. They might Fail!!!! Which means they will only have (some amount smaller than $1400) in their savings account. The horror!

6. I repeat. Who cares?

7. Because at least they tried!

8. Yes, the Holidays will come at year's end and it is hard to save money during the year end spending sprees. We all know that. You are not imparting any great pearls of secret wisdom by constantly pointing that out.

9. Maybe they'll fail by having to spend their tiny little savings accounts on Christmas gifts instead of using their Credit Cards. Oh, won't that be horrible!

10. I really wish people would stop secretly hoping for other people to fail at something only because you decided you can't or won't do it. It makes you look small and petty and really insecure.

Okay, sorry for the ranty rant rant but all that negativity really pushed my buttons yesterday and I had to blow off the steam.


What I've Been Up To

April 15th, 2013 at 03:17 pm

Ever have those periods of time where you feel like you've been super busy but you can't name much of what you've accomplished? That's kind of the way I feel.

I started a new Home Inventory database software and I've been slowwwwwwwly going through our house room by room cataloging all the crap (I mean, treasures) that we own. Digging up receipts and scanning them in. Photographing. I'm a good ways into the process. At this point in time, if disaster strikes -- I'll be ready to take that Insurance Company on no problem.

We went to Mom's house over the weekend. My husband did a bunch of manly stuff around her house .... assembling items that she has purchased and never assembled, hauling stuff out to her trash, picking up large sticks and branches in the yard and getting them into the disposal company approved yard waste bags. He did good.

The kid and I took her shopping to Kohls and Target. She claims we exhausted her but then asked if we would be back next weekend. Things are slowly moving along there. I've been kind of proud of her. I leave her 2 cardboard boxes every time I visit and she fills them with donate/trash item and I haul them away. I think she's sent 6 boxes of stuff out of her computer room alone the past couple of months. You can actually walk around in there and see the walls and floor now.

We have declared our leaky roof/window officially leak free after the recent rains so my husband has hired the company to fix the other 5 upstairs windows too. I hate to spend the money, but I'm glad that they are being fixed correctly.

Have a happy Tax Day everybody.

No News is Good News

April 2nd, 2013 at 09:28 pm

I haven't written much lately because I just haven't had much to report on the money front. Nothing outstanding has happened, but nothing atrocious either. Yesterday was the first of the month and so I moved some more money into our Emergency funds. I need to update my Fund Balances soon.

I have been feeling a bit disgruntled lately and felt myself being swayed by that naughty temptress, EBAY. Buying, not selling. LOL

I solved that by sitting down one day and making a list of things that I really want. A vacation house, a nice retirement, a newly paved driveway and then chanting to myself over and over than none of my real wants are found on EBAY so shut the blasted window down already.

We did get our leaky roof/window fixed ($900) but it hasn't rained yet for me to test it. I'm hesitant to let them move forward with the other windows until I make sure they fixed that one good.

Converting an Old IRA to a Roth

March 25th, 2013 at 01:42 pm

I have an old stinky IRA --- It's terrible that I can't even remember but I think it was at one point a 401K at my very first job out of college??? Anyway, it has just been sitting there in some mutual funds at Fidelity for about forever. I was thinking over the weekend that I should convert it to a Roth. I know I'd have to pay income tax, but otherwise we make too much money to have Roth IRAs so I kind of zone out whenever I hear them mentioned.

If anybody knows of an article or two I could read I'd appreciate it. I'll probably go Googling today.

There is not much else going on. The furnace at my Mom's house quit working over the weekend and we currently have her at a hotel. She's had a lot of unexpected expenses this month, I'll probably have to give her some money.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 ...... It is week 12!

March 22nd, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Here it is the end of March and the only New Year's Resolution I've ever kept for this long is still going. I transferred $12 yesterday from my checking account over to Ally Bank for the Save an Additional Dollar Each Week Challenge.

My balance in there is currently $77.01 because I've earned a penny in interest.

Thinking Ahead For Summer

March 21st, 2013 at 01:49 pm

One of my sons will be living here over the summer and taking summer classes at a local college. I was realizing yesterday what a pain this is going to be for me because he is going to be sharing my car. His class schedule is going to run from 8am until 3pm two days a week, and noon to 3pm two days a week --- with Fridays off.

So I'm going to have to plan for a higher gasoline bill plus a much bigger grocery bill (this kid eats like crazy!). Plus, I won't have my car to drive many days. The campus is fairly close to my husbands work and I'm thinking he can drive in with my husband some of the time -- except my husband usually leaves goes to work around 6:30am. Thankfully it is only for 7 weeks.

The other option is to nudge him toward the online section of one of his classes. He doesn't like online classes as well so he signed up for the on campus section. But if he was online, then I'd only be losing my car 2 days instead of 4 days.

Definitely going to have to plan for the budget and talk to him again.

Finally A Roof Estimate and a HomeDepot Gift Card Question

March 17th, 2013 at 06:53 pm

So the guy finally came back and said they would fix the area around one window that is leaking for $900. Then when that is done and they know how the problem goes they will quote fixing the 5 remaining windows. So the major problem should be fixed next week and it sounds like the entire job will come in under my $6000 hyperventilating point.

Now for my question. I think we've picked out new patio chairs to buy from HomeDepot.com. I'd like to get a bunch of gift cards from Plastic Jungle to get a 7% discount. Does anybody know if there is a limit to the number of gift cards you can apply to an online order because right now there are only a whole bunch of $100 cards and the total is going to be around $1400 -- so I'd have to buy 13 or 14 of them.

Any other saving ideas also welcome but so far I've only found these chairs at Home Depot.

Retirement Savings

March 15th, 2013 at 12:56 pm

An up stock market is more fun than a collapsing one and I've been keeping an eye on our Retirement Accounts lately. 401ks, profit sharing accounts and IRAs are at $243,000 - so we've almost hit the quarter million mark. I know it is only a number but it is a milestone so I'll be happy to see it go over that. Hopefully once it goes over that number it will stay there, but I have a feeling this zooming stock market is going to correct itself fairly soon.

In addition to that, my husband has two defined benefit pension plans which will help to support us in retirement. They both allow for a spousal payment (joint annuity) but one of them pays nothing if DH dies or retires before age 62. Our family joke is always that is the company's method of making sure the spouses don't kill off the executives before their time.

I don't count our primary Investment account which mostly holds DH's company stock bonuses in that retirement amount because it isn't a retirement account. We've been talking recently about cashing some of this out and diversifying into real estate, but selling is kind of tricky due to Insider Trading restrictions.

Mid-Month Budget Eval

March 14th, 2013 at 01:38 pm

Well, we are headed toward over budget on the grocery bills this month. There was the visit to Whole Food earlier which didn't help and just a general over-spending. Also, this fish and vegetable thing the Doctor has my husband on to bring his cholesterol under control is costing more. I will try hard to find some good sales correct this in the second half of the month. I'll be glad when the Farmers Markets get going again and I can get cheap vegetables from them.

Auto Fuel is right on line where it should be. I haven't spent any of the clothing budget but our youngest son will need spring/summer clothes coming up so it will likely either get spent this month or next month. I haven't spent anything from the "Other/Miscellaneous" slush fund I have built up in the YNAB software so I do have a cushion there to cover the grocery bills. I'd just rather not use it.

The good news is that I've received one $25 Swagbucks paypal payment this month and ordered a second one -- so $50 total. I've been cleaning closets and put a few things aside for EBAY sales. No real plans for that money yet. We're looking at patio furniture and I'd like to buy a few tomato plants and other container vegetables once the weather finally warms up. It will likely go to help with those.

Still waiting and waiting on the estimate from the Roofing company. DH says he detects a definite feeling of disinterest from their office people over this job and thinks maybe they are too busy to take on small work. He's pondering looking for somebody else. Crap.

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting

March 12th, 2013 at 01:12 pm

Still no word from the roofing company on an estimate. A man showed up over the weekend who pointed out all the problems and according to my DH his final pronouncement was that the cost would be "not too bad." He was going to submit his papers to the office and they are supposed to contact us with an estimate.

When I asked for a more specific definition of what "not too bad" means in dollars my husband couldn't say.

But my husband did get back the results of some medical testing he had done recently and all his innards are fine and healthy so that was a relief to all of us. I believe he has pretty much wiped out our Flexible Spending Account for the year. We should have funded much more but these things are hard to predict when you fill out the forms guessing what your out of pocket health care costs will be for the coming year. It is much more common for us to guess too high and then we spend November and December trying to use it up.

I have a child home on Spring Break this week so that's kind of fun. I am likely going to take him out to lunch one day - otherwise he seems to be permanently attached to his X Box Controller and headset.

Financially there isn't much going on. I found a quarter in the garage over the weekend and I picked it up and put it in my piggy bank. I am tentatively planning a weekend trip with my Mom in the coming months, but we will mostly use Frequent Flyer Miles and Points so the cost won't be that significant.

Need Good Thoughts for My Leaky Roof

March 8th, 2013 at 08:57 pm

It is a long story but several years ago my husband and I made a very bad choice in choosing a roofer for a major job. He was a crook, and the problems he has caused keep slowly appearing. We hired a lawyer for a consult at one point who came back to advise us that the guy is now in jail on unrelated drug charges and it is unlikely we would ever be able to get any money out of him for his shoddy work. I can really pick them.

So a couple of years ago we bought a REALLY tall ladder and a DIY Roofing book and we have tried to mitigate this disaster ourselves but my husband is apparently throwing in the towel. We are not handy people.

I won't be here tomorrow when the BIG roofing name in town (the guy we didn't hire because his quote was 50% higher than the crook. I know, I know) is coming out to give a repair estimate.

DH must have known how stressful this will be for me because he scheduled it for a time I'm headed to my Mom's and just now told me. By email. LOL

Anything under $6k and we're fine and I can fix it without touching the Emergency Funds. A little over that I can handle because I'm getting a Dividend payment next month and May is a 3 paycheck month. A lot over that and I'm going to be FREAKED OUT.

Learning to Treat Yourself Right, The Right Way

March 8th, 2013 at 03:20 pm

I admittedly have had times when I went a little overboard in treating myself right. After all, I work pretty darn hard and I deserve nice things -- right?

Then I got a handle on our finances and realized that as a family, we were all pretty wasteful spenders and we all together, learned how to put ourselves on a budget. As part of this we were all assigned a monthly "allowance." Some people find that term kind of juvenile for adults but it is what we've always used.

More recently, I've probably gone the other way with my allowance and I hardly ever spend it all. At the end of every month I take what I have leftover and I put it away in our house safe. In the way of Moms everywhere, It almost always ends up going to somebody else in the family. The kids need something or we need something for the house. To be honest, I sometimes do feel kind of resentful that it is alway ~my allowance~ that picks up the tab for this stuff.

This morning was a little different. I have had an EBAY alert set up for over two years for something that I wanted. It isn't hugely expensive but It is pretty rare and hard to find. For two years I've been waiting and this morning my eyes nearly BUGGED OUT OF MY HEAD to see an email saying it had been listed on Ebay with a Buy It Now.

I bought it without hardly thinking about it. It wasn't terribly expensive but after years of things like searching Clearance racks for two dollar sweaters that I can wear to the office, it kind of felt like I had bought a new car.

And then I realized, spending money on myself actually feels pretty good and I probably need to, within the limits of my allowance, do it more often.

So that is my new resolution. Reasonable treats every now and again to remind myself that the line item on our monthly budget dedicated to ME is just as important as everything else.

Some Of These Surveys

March 7th, 2013 at 03:26 pm

I think, like many at SavingAdvice.com, I have a Swagbucks routine which brings in a little bit of extra money every month. I'm not always really comfortable with it however because I sometimes find myself walking a very fine line between honesty and trying to avoid answering questions in a manner which will get me disqualified from the surveys. Hey, I like earning my $1 just as much as anybody else.

In many regards it has to do with the questions. Without violating any disclosure agreements I probably agreed to (I've done so many surveys they are honestly a blur in my mind) I was recently answering one where a common household product was changing it's packaging.

Some of the questions:

After seeing this new form what would you do?

Call Your Friends and Family and Discuss It?
Post on Facebook or Another Social Media?
Visit an Internet Site to Research it Further?

Are they kidding? They were changing the shape of the container of something that costs less than $5! Do people really do that? "Hey Mom guess what? It was round but now it is square!!!!! Yeah, put it on Twitter and Then You Must Go Buy It Now!!!"

There was another one this morning where they were showing me a picture of a label and wanted me to check all the adjectives I felt.

Inspired! Free Spirited! Bold and Active!

Good Grief!

What further bothers me however is the indication of how much these marketing tactics probably do work in our society. There are many times I feel like I'm mired in a constant onslaught of images and words all designed to make me spend money I really don't want to spend. To make me buy things that I really don't want or need, and probably wouldn't miss at all if I didn't buy them.

I have no doubt that our entire economy is mostly built on these empty motivations and the sad thing is, when people turn away and start making their money follow what they truly believe in, then things turn bad for all of us. Because when we don't spend money, the economy is bad and those Recession, Depression, and Economic Collapse terms start to get thrown around.

Just my thoughts from this morning.


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