Tuesday, May 30, 2006

 

A failure and a pat on the back

I said earlier this month that I wanted to do a post a day and I have failed miserably. Part of it is laziness and I think another part is that after staring at a computer all day at work, I don't want to look at my computer when I get home. I kept telling myself that as long as I ended up with 31 posts for the month that it didn't matter what day I posted them. (I'm good at excuses and justification)

Well here it is the 30th and after I'm done with this post I will still owe 12 by midnight tomorrow, somewhat daunting but I'm going to go for it.

In the happier news category, I said that cc#1 would be paid off this month and I'm happy to report that it has been paid off!
 

Cash Strapped Investing

In the Christian Science Monitor last month was an article on investment options for those of us who don't have a lot of money available for investing. One of the items mentioned is simply opening an interest-bearing savings account or buying a treasury bond because these options don't require a huge outlay of cash. Once the money in the account builds up, use it to buy stocks.

If you are using an online broker, look for a broker that doesn't have maintenance fees so that your fees don't eat up your initial gains. And here is something I didn't know: some companies like Home Depot will let you purchase stock directly from them and bypass the broker.

An option for mutual funds is to invest in a fund that will allow you to bypass investment minimums if you are able to agree to automatic monthly investments.

Here is the full article: Christian Science Monitor
 

His Credit Card Offers

I meant to post this awhile ago, I've been extremely lax about posting for which I have no excuse other than laziness. This is a blog I found that I thought was interesting called My Credit Card Offers.

My Credit Card Offers is all about credit card offers that come in the mail every day. Tim has been asked by his employer to actually read all the credit card offers he receives and compare them with the online credit card offers that they index on their site Index Credit Cards. Tim's blog offers other PF related posts as well, but the thrill for me is seeing what Tim gets in his mail since my credit card offers go right in the recycle.

I wish my employer would ask me to blog for them...sigh.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

 

Coke Rewards...I have a toothache!

When you buy a 20oz. coke or a fridge pack you can turn in the code in the cap or box end for points at the coke website. You can then trade in your points for stuff. Just for fun I took a look at the products you can get with your points. For only 20,000 points I can get a 40 inch Sony Bravia LCD HDTV, cool!!! I have 39 points already so I only need 19961. At 10 points for each fridge pack, that works out to my having to buy 1996.1 fridge packs. At an average of $4.50/ea I will spend $9772.91 with tax to earn my points. Once I come out of my sugar coma I will head to the Coke site and turn in my points for the tv valued at.....$3499.99. After the income tax for my new tv, I will have spent around 10g for the tv. I could have bought 2 tvs with my $10,000 and saved myself the coma and the cavities. At one coke/day for each of us it would take 32 years to go through all that coke, eek. Not to mention the dentist bills!

I guess the point (ha) of this is don't buy products (or use your credit card) solely for the points you're earning. Make sure that whatever you're buying is something you would have purchased even without getting points.

Friday, May 19, 2006

 

Do you have too much stuff or a simply a small house?


This was something I posed to the bf the other night: "Do you think we have too much stuff?" Right off the bat he said no, we live in a small house. But then he gave it some thought and said that he has too much stuff. I did think that it was extremely kind of him to say he and not we or even worse say that I have too much stuff.

But I think its an interesting question for us because we do live in a small house, 670sf. In fact I moved out of a larger apartment to move in with him. So yes, I think the size of our house does contribute to my feeling that we have too much stuff. Also, I will admit neither of us are the most motivated of housekeepers. While not slovenly, things do not get put away as quickly or as often as they should.

I think that in order for me to be able to answer my question I will first have to tidy up and get everything in its place. Then I will be able to accurately gauge if we do indeed have too much stuff or not enough space. sigh...

What about the rest of you: too much stuff or not enough space?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

 

Bruce Smith Isn't Apologetic

USA Today interviewed Bruce Smith the CEO of Tesoro about running a company that most people currently have negative opinions about. Tesoro's revenues were up 35% in 2005 and their profits up 55%. If you can set aside the fact that we are all suffering from high gas prices and come at it from a strictly business angle, I can see his point of view when he says (concerning Hurricane Katrina) "We don't create bad news. There's no question that when a refinery goes down, it affects the market. In this case, it was a large disaster and something I hated to see happen to the economy and the people. But for our shareholders, it's good news, and we are in business for our shareholders."

He also gives some tips:
• Don't hide from controversy. Educate the public. Explain your point of view. Be honest.
• Don't be ashamed to make money. That's your job.
• Control costs in good times and bad.
• Expect gasoline prices to remain volatile, but long term, expect them to go down.
• Don't hold out much hope for alternative energy.

Overall I thought the article was pretty interesting, it reminded me of the Godfather when Michael says to Sonny that its just business, not personal.
 

Personal Finance Course at U of Utah


I've been reading in other blogs about how more and more high schools are starting to teach finances and I thought I also read somewhere that a university offered a degree in personal finance, but I can't remember where I read that. After googling, I found that the University of Utah is offering a Personal Finance course which I think is a great idea. The syllabus, class notes, handouts and some of the homework are all available online, its almost like taking the class for free which is very frugal and personal finance-savvy I would think. Topics discussed include budgeting and debt management, credit use, insurance, investing, and retirement planning. In the Resources section there are several sites that I think most of us have visited at one time or another IRS, Bankrate etc. Also in the Resources section is a Personal Finance Planner which is a bunch of excel spreadsheets: saving for goals, daily expenses, creating an income statement and other helpful spreadsheets.

Monday, May 15, 2006

 

Cool Frugal Furniture Made from Recycled Wood


I found a new website today called Treehugger. According to them "TreeHugger is a fast-growing web magazine, dedicated to everything that has a modern aesthetic yet is environmentally responsible." While I was checking out the site, I found this very cool stool and bench that are made of wood scraps held together with a bicycle wheel rim. I really like the look of these and since I have both wood scraps and rim at home, I'm going to give this a try myself.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

 

We Have Achieved a Goal and Our Reward Is...

Pizza!!! Yes we achieved our goal of a month without delivery pizza and our reward is pizza! And not just one, but two. But it was frugal you see, the bf likes the pizza with everything and I like canadian bacon & pineapple. So I thought I'd get each of us a medium and that way there would be plenty of leftovers for lunches. So I dutifully went to all of our normal pizza websites and priced out the pizzas. And I discovered that Papa Johns was having a sale, get two large pizzas for $21.99. One large is the Works and the other was a 2-topping pizza so it worked out perfectly and was about $8 cheaper than getting 2 mediums from everywhere else. This is how I justify it in my mind.

Over the last month I've made homemade pizza several different ways, but there is nothing quite like the taste of delivery pizza, I think its the grease kinda like a fast food burger is different than a home made burger. And now we've decided that since it didn't kill us (but I don't feel stronger), we are going to limit our delivery pizza to once a month or less. So the goal accomplished two things, we saved some money and we learned that we can live without pizza.
 

Punny Money is Having a Blog Marathon

I think this is a fabulous idea, Nick at Punny Money is going to have a 24 hour blog marathon starting the 11th at 6pm eastern. He's going to try to give us a post an hour, but I think the best part is that he's going to donate all his revenues to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation I will definitely be stopping by and I encourage all my readers (all 8 of you) to stop by as well and click those ads!

Good Luck Nick!!!
 

A Picture of My Goal to Keep Me Focused




I thought it might help me work harder for the loveseat goal if I had a picture up to reinforce the goal in my mind. This is called a snuggler sleeper, it'll fit 2 people so its perfect for our tiny tv/computer room and it also has a twin bed inside so it'll be good for guests and movie nights. We'd like to get the ottoman as well because its a storage ottoman and can hold the blankets I like to sit under.

Below is a picture of our current loveseat, I'm a little embarrassed to put it up, I pulled the slipcover up so the original 1980's cushions show. Also its missing an arm, that was an effort to turn it into a chaise lounge. It definitely needs replacing.

Jeez, something keeps going boom in the other room, gotta go see what that insane cat is doing now!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

 

Over for April on purpose, A new timeframe for May

I've changed our budget time period from the 10th of the month to the 9th of the next to a regular 1st-30th budget starting May 1st. What this meant for April was that there were 10 less days in the budget month but we intentionally went over budget because I had to pay a couple bills twice in order to get them on the new schedule.

Goal-wise April went very well, I was able to put some money aside for a loveseat and we have only 3 days to go until we can have pizza. I feel we will make it no problem and I'm really proud that we were able to go 30 days without pizza, we were eating it far too often. Some May goals are mentioned here, I also would like to add more to the loveseat fund.
 

Expense Chart

As promised, here is the detailed breakdown of where my income goes. I use You Need a Budget, Primer version to keep track of everything by category.



monthlyexpenses
 

Credit Card Payoff Chart

This is the chart I use to track my credit card payments and make sure that I am still going to meet my February 2007 pay-off goal. I'm happy to report that CC#1 will be paid off this month, yippee!!

creditcardchart


5/11 Update: Somebody commented and asked for the Excel code I used. I assume you mean the formula, first I want to issue a disclaimer saying that I am a novice when it comes to Excel so there may be an easier way to have done this but here goes:

Using CC#2, in the first row you have the starting balance, then the interest, then your payment. The formula goes in cell 1 of the second row where you have to add the interest to the starting balance and then subtract the payment amount. The formula looks like this:
=SUM(A3 + (A3*B3) - C3) The 3 of course corresponds to whatever row you are currently in.

The formula for the interest column looks like this: =SUM(A3*B3)

Friday, May 05, 2006

 

I'm going naked and I'm sad


Catchy title huh? In the spirit of My Open Wallet and many others, I have decided to go with full disclosure and share with y'all what I make. In a later post I'll chart out where it all goes after I get it.

So here's the naked part of the post: My monthly salary before taxes is $4041, after all the various takeaways, I take home $2962.28. The bf donates $600 of his salary to me because I am the one in charge of paying all the bills, making my grand total of income for the month $3562.28.

And here's the sad part of the post (but only kinda): My whole life I have only had a single goal in regards to my career, I came up with it in high school and its never left me. My goal was to take home $3000/month after taxes. And I am soooo close, it makes me almost teary-eyed! And even worse, in July the State (I'm a state employee) will generously give us a 1% cola increase and my new take home total will be $2991.90, $8.10 away from my monthly goal. So close and yet so far away.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

 

Living Green Below Your Means


Recently I went to a site called New American Dream. I haven't gone all the way through it yet, but it looks like an interesting resource for living greenly which is something I'm trying to work on. I discovered the site through work, my boss and I watched a webinar on incorporating green purchasing practices and the speaker works at NAD. According to their site "The Center for a New American Dream helps Americans consume responsibly to protect the environment, enhance quality of life, and promote social justice."

Living Green Below Your Means is a column I found on the site. Its a semi-regular column about saving money and the environment. This weeks article is on saving costs while planning a wedding. I've never been a bride, but the tips all sounded pretty good to me: prioritize, buy items that can be reused, let friends and family give the gift of time, etc. These were all things that I remember my sister doing when she got married and it saved a lot of money for her. Previous columns were about gardening frugally and using green resources for your utilities.

I also found this on the site:

Six Tips to Help You Simplify Your Life…
1. Make a List of Five Things Most Important to You because you can't achieve a goal if you don't have one.
2. Tune Out, Tune In take short breaks from cell phones, computer to talk a walk, meditate etc in order to refresh yourself.
3. Spend Time, Not Money instead of buying an expensive gift, try gifts of time such as a picnic or a night of board game playing. You'll create memories and save on finance charges.
4. Think Outside the Cubicle regain boundaries over your work life by not staying late, don't take work home and make sure you take that lunch break.
5. Count Your Blessings
6. Join with Others find friends that share your values and join a study group or a book group. Or start a blog!!!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

 

Congratulations and Thanks

No Credit Needed celebrated his one-year blog anniversary in April and that deserves a huge kudos, but what deserves an even larger, possibly extra gigantic kudos is his No Credit Needed Network (see nice green link in sidebar). He does a fabulous job of charting all the network members progress towards their goals whether they be savings goals, debt reduction and even weight reduction. I really appreciate all his hard work and all the motivation he provides all of us. Welcome also to the newest NCN members, I think there have been five in the last week alone.

Congratulations also to Five Cent Nickel who is one year old today! I've learned a lot from reading this blog, the one that really sticks out in my mind is how to buy a new car.

And while I'm in a congratulatory mood, congratulations to myself, my little blog will be 6 months old this month.


 

Updates to Previous Posts

My banking problems with Washington Mutual are finally over!!! Yesterday, 48 days after the fact, the replacement money from the lost checks has finally been removed from my account. I've requested that the account be closed and hopefully they won't screw that up. I did a lot of angry posts about WaMu, here are the most recent ones:

We can't find the error!
Ethical Dilemma
Bad Bank

And the house that was for sale that I thought was overpriced has sold. The original asking price was $339k, it was reduced to $319,950 and it sold for $320k.

House for Sale

Monday, May 01, 2006

 

April was Fabulous!!

Just a quick post cuz I'm at work, shhh! April was a great month for me, I celebrated my 10 year anniversary at my job, and got a promotion with a 7.5% raise too boot!! Yippee for me if I do say so myself. My current plan for the extra pay is to split it between gas and my loveseat savings since one of my goals for April was to start a new loveseat savings fund. I'm also happy to report that we made it through April with no pizza, only 9 more days to go til that goal is met.

My only goal for May is to get back to regular posting, Ive been really lax about this and it bugs me. I think I'll shoot for a post a day. Oh and I do have another goal for May, which is to get my garden planted. Tomatoes, potatoes, onions, chives, and green and orange peppers oh my! They're all little seedlings sitting in my kitchen waiting for it to get warm enough to go outside. Which won't be until at least this weekend because I thought I heard we might have overnight lows in the 30's this week, egad! Anyway thats all for now, I have to get back to work and back to reading everyone else's posts.