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End of March Update

April 1st, 2015 at 05:36 am

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 11:07 am

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 10:00 am

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 07:51 am

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 03:25 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 10:20 am

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 12:20 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.

Some January Numbers

February 2nd, 2015 at 09:38 am

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 07:27 am

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!!!!

Mid-Month Update

January 15th, 2015 at 05:53 am

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 08:12 am

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.

Blog Reboot

January 2nd, 2015 at 04:49 pm

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 07:26 am

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 07:52 am

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 06:38 am

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.


No News is Good News

April 2nd, 2013 at 02:28 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 06:42 am

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 05:51 am

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 06:49 am

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 11:53 am

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.

Mid-Month Budget Eval

March 14th, 2013 at 06:38 am

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 06:12 am

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.

Learning to Treat Yourself Right, The Right Way

March 8th, 2013 at 07:20 am

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.

They Weren't Kidding

March 3rd, 2013 at 08:01 am

A Whole Foods store opened up near us a couple of months ago and I've been meaning to stop by, yesterday we finally took the trip.

Oh holy heck was that a nightmare. First, we had to fight like Black Friday to get a parking spot and then it was so packed in the store we could barely move. I've never had to use my elbows as weapons to get to a bag of overpriced carrots before and I can't say I ever want to repeat the experience.

DH pointed out some fish fillets he wanted and I said "Honey, those cost $17.99 a pound!" We finally settled on some fish taco stuff that was $9.99 a pound.

Even with all my horrified sticker shock we managed to spend about $140 on hardly any food at all. I've always heard people joke the place should be called Whole Paycheck and now I see why. I try not to overly judge anybody but

I.just.do.not.get.it!

And I even buy a lot of organic and health food type of stuff. Why in the world is that place so popular????

I cleaned out my purse yesterday and took the $28 that was in my billfold leftover from my February allowance and put it in the safe. I haven't withdrawn any of my March allowance yet. I'll probably use some of that to take my Mom out to lunch next weekend.

Happy Day!

March 1st, 2013 at 06:26 am

I like the first day of the month because that is the day I make transfers from our checking account to various savings account. I hate to sound all corny and everything, but it does give me a feeling of peace to put money into savings. So today I transferred

$405 to Emergency Funds (the $5 is because I have a rule that part of all money in must go to Emergency Funds and I just received a $25 Paypal payment from Swagbucks).

$370 to Repairs and Insurance

$200 to Tuition Savings

Sadly nothing to the Vacations and Gifts fund because I need to keep it in our checking account to pay for the computer I bought my Mom.

I took the world's longest survey on Swagbucks this morning and earned 150SB immediately so the daily goal is met. I also ordered two $5 Amazon cards (daily limit) to put toward Holiday shopping. I have enough points built up to order two more tomorrow so I'll have maxed out the 5/450 point cards pretty early in the month. I'm expecting a big Swagbuck deposit soon from my husband buying dress shoes and a belt last month from Shoebuy.

Not much else going on. I'm very thankful it is the first of the month because that means the grocery budget resets and I can go shopping. Last night was chicken soup made from things I could find in our freezer and fridge. We need groceries BAD.

Happy March Everybody.

Taxes are Done - Yay

February 27th, 2013 at 10:18 am

We came out about even ---- Our refund from the State is about $700 and we owe the Feds about $500. No huge surprises, I always try to adjust withholdings on my husband's year end bonus check to even out the taxes. I went ahead and told the software to pay the IRS now, so I have it all tucked away and finished.

So, our state usually refunds pretty quickly so I'll have $200 to put somewhere in March. I'll probably send some to the Emergency fund and give the rest to DH because he wants to by new outdoor furniture for our patio.

Done In!

February 26th, 2013 at 07:53 am

I've worked our March Budget over about 12 different times this week trying to make the money fit what I want to accomplish. I think at this point I've about guesstimated everything the best I can and now I just have to make the lifestyle fit the numbers. That's the hard part.

I upped our auto fuel budget by $150 to cover my extra trips to see my Mom. That should be about 3 trips if I use my Husband's car instead of my gas guzzler and 2 trips if I use the SUV once. I offset that with decreasing savings to our tuition savings account because I have enough saved in there to pay for everybody's schooling through the end of 2013 and a good chunk of 2014.

I'd like to thank everybody for their kind support concerning the situation with my Mom. Senior social services in her area does not have the budget to assist. They classify her case as "self-neglect" which means they do nothing but put her name on a list of people they'd like to help if they ever get funding. If I or another family member were neglecting or abusing her they'd step in but she is allowed to neglect herself until the cows come home. I did get about a half-hour phone conversation with a Social Worker who recommended that I just continue on and try to be patient with her. My brother-in-law did go over to Mom's house last week wanting to help but Mom refused to let him into the house. Since I'm pretty much the only one who can get in there right now, I'm pretty much the one who gets to clean. Lucky me. LOL

At this point the work just continues. I have the kitchen completely clear and all the food locked up in airtight containers. Convincing Mom to keep the food in the airtight containers remains a problem but there have been signs in the house that she is making a small effort to clean things up. Right now, budget wise, the expense mostly consists of bleach, windex, and garbage bags which thankfully are pretty cheap. I've replaced her computer and I'm holding off on other big purchases in her house while we just clean. The physical and emotional toll of it is the worst part.

I hope to have the house clear enough that I can bring my boys in around May (after their finals) and they can help me move furniture and shampoo carpets. I haven't brought that idea up to Mom yet, I've found that overwhelming her with too many plans at once just makes her shut-down. Last week we agreed the kitchen needed to be cleaned up and now we're moving on to the bathroom.

With the final numbers in, because I don't expect to spend anything over the next couple of days, we finished February $28.10 under budget in groceries, gas, supplies and other similar categories and managed to save decent amount in our emergency savings. Plus, I expect to receive a $25 paypal payment from Swagbucks soon.

Hey, I'll take it!

Wishing My Life Away!

February 23rd, 2013 at 09:30 am

With all due respect to my 8th grade teacher who used to chide us for wishing for Friday with a "Don't Wish Your Life Away!"

BOY do I wish February was over!

What a no good month with all it's grey weather and unexpected expenses. I've had enough February, get your butt out of here.

Now I realize I still have an entire March to experience but I find myself thinking ahead to April. April is a financially interesting month because we are going to receive some stock dividends and I haven't decided yet what to do with them. I expect to receive a little over $1000 after taxes and I'd like to divide it up into the following categories

Our Emergency Fund, I have a rule to put something of all money we receive in here.

Our Car Repair Fund, which only has $149 currently and isn't going to handle a Car Repair at all.

Fund to Handle the Unexpected, which is just about at Zero after the no good February took hold.

So, at least I have something positive to think about in March while I wait for April. May is good too, because that is a 3 paycheck month for my husband.

February, be gone!!!!!!

Dipping Into the Repair Funds

February 19th, 2013 at 08:15 am

and not for myself.

After another weekend trip to my Mother's and the resulting discussion of "You let me help get this place cleaned up or I start calling Social Services because I can't let you live like this......"

I got to work. After 6 hours of cleaning a very tiny house, by the looks it seemed like I hadn't even been there. Frown But I did get the unspeakable job of clearing out her refrigerator done. We are working on sanitizing it now. I had to buy her a mini dorm size fridge and freezer until we can't get that useable again. $231. I took her grocery shopping to buy some fresh food supplies but she paid for those herself. I also bought her some airtight containers to use to store food in until I get the rest of the kitchen cleared and disinfected. She promised to make sure to use them, hopefully I will find that she did when I get back. I also got her a phone with a second unit and got that hooked up (about $60 for the phones) and I got new batteries into the fire alarms and light bulbs all around the house. It was about $30 for all of that.

Further - Mom is going to need all of the following at some point. A new computer, a dishwasher (probably not a necessity but I think it would promote cleaner living), some new dishes (I threw out plenty that weren't cleanable), and some flooring. Her birthday is coming up and I already ordered her a computer because it really does help to keep her connected to the world. She likes to read Facebook of people she knows and visit a couple of blogs. I don't know exactly when her computer died but her disappearance from that was one of our first clues things were desperate.

I think she needs a new mattress for her bed too. I just can't do everything at once. I think Mom can cover some of these purchases herself from social security and her small pension - we'll have to see.

Medically she has made an appointment for tomorrow to speak with her doctor about her depression medication. My sister is sloowwwwwly coming around to trying to help a little. She did agree to go over on garbage day and haul the filled cans out to the curb because they are really heavy and Mom wouldn't be able to do that. I'm not going to insist my sister do more, she needs to get there on her own. My sister lives 10 minutes away and if she'd even just agree to help out by checking in on the house once a week and look things over, that'd be a huge help.

I've decided I need to concentrate on some of the good things.

1. I have emergency and repair savings accounts that I can use to help her here.
2. My husband is being awesome about all of this. He even made the suggestion of maybe we could find a housekeeper to go in and help once I get the house into better shape.
3. My Mom did allow me into the house and admitted she needs help.

So that is about where things stand. All told I think I'm going to have to spend about $1500 total getting her house in better shape. Then I need to rework our budget to account for my travel expenses down there more often. I did bring up the subject of her moving closer to me and she wasn't very agreeable to that, but she said she'd think about it.

Mid-Month Check

February 13th, 2013 at 07:34 am

Tomorrow is 1/2 way through the month so I did a check on some of our budget numbers. Some, like the car repair accounts I just throw an amount into that "bucket" every month and I let it accumulate until we need it. Some, like groceries, we try to stay under the budget amount and then I zero it out and move the money into savings or do something fun at the end of the month.

These are some of the check numbers

Grocery - we have 53% of our budget left
Auto Fuel - we have 53% of our budget left
Clothing - we've used all the budget up
Home Maint - we've used all the budget
Miscellaneous - I have a slush fund of $122 to cover anything unexpected

There's more but I'm feeling fairly solid for the month. I don't think we're going to end up with a surplus like last month but we should stay on budget overall, after moving some amounts from fund to fund.

More on the Mom situation. I have raided my cleaning supplies and put them in a box to take down there. I also bought her a new vacuum because I'm not sure she has a working one at her house. I'm pretty sure the carpets are toast but I have to get it to a point where we can at least get them pulled up and hauled out of there. I'm taking our shop vac the next time I go down there, but it will have to come back home with me.

After I had forced my way in there last week it was obvious nothing has been vacuumed or cleaned in a very long time. I was trying to remember the last time I'd been inside the door and I think it was last summer. I called around to other family members and a neighbor of hers and she's pretty much been keeping everybody out of the house. Whenever anybody goes over to meet her or pick her up for something she meets them on the front porch and carefully shuts and locks that door so nobody can see in. The psychiatrists classify her as a hoarder but I don't agree because she really doesn't "hoard" anything. She just lives in filth and then things start to break but she won't tell anybody because they'd have to come over and see the house for it to get it fixed for her. I'm going to start a list next time I'm down there of everything that needs repaired. After I start making in-roads on getting things cleaner and stabilized, my husband is going to start helping with some of the repair work.

I've been looking hard at some of our savings accounts and I found that I have enough in the Education funds to get son #1 graduated this spring and then pay for son #2 through next winter. That's more than enough to get us through until the next bonus, which should pay for the bulk of son #2's tuition bills for the year after. I've been saving $400 a month into that account and I think we're going to cut that down in order to pay for the increased Mom-care expenses.


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