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Archive for October, 2005

Financial snapshot, 10/31/05

October 31st, 2005 at 04:06 pm

Kind of a boring post, but it's good for me to get this all down, and what better place than here?

Recent events:
I bought an I-Bond!

Savings vehicles:
I-Bond: $400
Emigrant Direct: $322.21
ING Direct: $30.01
Joint savings: $11939.96
SMB’s savings: $69.23
SMB’s checking (really just another “parking lot” for other savings vehicles): $74.07

Debts:
Chase MC (0% APR): $7000.00

Goals:
Need to find a better place for joint savings—currently getting

Snow!

October 29th, 2005 at 08:44 pm

It's snowing! And sticking! Good thing I worked in the yard early today. I raked some leaves, replanted a hosta that the deck guys had unearthed, gathered up the rest of the wood they left behind, filled in some holes around the posts, and picked up several large rocks that had been dug up when the posts were buried. We began the whole deck buying process last March, but ran into zoning issues and had to get a special permit from the town for "an extension of non-comformity" (don't ask). Now it's completed just in time for the snow. Aieee.

My back hurts now.

Yesterday evening I went to the farm to pick up my final batch of veggies for the season. I'd done the community supported agriculture thing, but I don't think I'm going to do it next year. I'd bought an "alternate week share" which meant I picked up every two weeks. So, one week I'd be swimming in vegetables and the next week I'd have none. Plus, my husband isn't into veggies so it was up to me to eat them all. I put by what I could, but a good amount still went into the compost bin. It was a good experience, and I like the idea of supporting an organic farm, but it just doesn't make financial sense right now. I do prefer to buy from the source, though, and there are plenty of farms around here I can support by buying vegetables when I need them. Still, I felt kind of guilty last night when I saw the farm manager.

I went to K-Mart earlier for gloves, decongestant, and makeup sponges. I left sans gloves but with a 6-qt. stockpot and expandable, stackable shoe racks. While I was there I saw an animatronic, singing reindeer head "on sale" for $95.00. Who buys this stuff? Likewise, at B.J.'s (a Northeastern warehouse club) I saw someone buying an inflatable yard decoration of a snowglobe. The box was about 3'x3', so I can imagine the thing is monstrous when inflated. Apparently it could be plugged in and and the snow inside would blow about. Hello, we're in Massachusetts; we have real snow. I didn't catch the price on that item but am sure it wasn't cheap.

Last night, armed with a calculator, I spent some time--too much time, according to my husband--looking for a cheap source of the dog's favorite treat (Greenies). I got it down to .41/treat, including shipping. I was pretty pleased with myself. I don't think the dog was impressed, though.

I-Bonds are the talk of the financial blogosphere lately. I'm thinking of buying one. Also looking into DRIPs. So much to learn.

my financial picture

October 28th, 2005 at 02:20 pm

I thought I would share my personal financial snapshot and some of my financial goals.

To begin: I’m married. There is a huge discrepancy between my husband’s income and mine (academic libraries typically don’t pay top dollar, but I enjoy what I do). I make approximately a quarter of what my husband does, and the percentage is even smaller when considering our take-home pay. Typically we try to live off of his income and save mine, though we’ve only saved about $11,000 thus far. We’ve spent a lot on home purchases, helping family members out financially, etc.

Despite being married, I’m calculating all of my future goals based on my income only. Why? Because it’s within my control, and being too dependent on someone else makes me very uneasy. I can say I’m in my marriage for the long run, but I realize that’s no guarantee that it’ll last forever. My husband could fall in love with someone else, or he could die. I’ve seen too many women who were too dependent on their husbands only to end up divorced with no money saved and little means of supporting themselves (see “family members” above), and I swore to myself I’d never let that happen to me.

I declared bankruptcy in 1997. (All I can say is that my life and my self were both very different then.) It’s caused fewer problems as the years have gone on and I’ve worked hard to make amends, but I’ll be very happy when it comes off of my credit reports in 2008. There are also two tax liens I incurred during the same period; they were both released and should come off my credit report next year.

I’m 34 now. I want to have close to $2,000,000 saved by the time I’m 65. My top goal is $2,500,000, but to reach that I’d probably have to work until I was 70. According to a few inflation calculators I’ve used, by the time I retire $2,500,000 will be equal to today’s $1,000,000.

I have $7,300 in credit card debt, from LASIK and furniture purchases. The card has 0% APR until 4/2006. I probably won’t have it paid off by then, so I plan on pitting my two credit card companies against each other to see who will give me a better deal. I avoid using my credit cards, preferring instead to use my Amex so that I’m forced to pony up each month.

I started saving for retirement late, when I was 29. Actually, I had saved before that, but had cashed out an earlier retirement account, something I regret. I’m now playing catch-up. I have $20,521.36 in my Fidelity retirement account, and $8,510.92 with TIAA-CREF. My retirement accounts aren’t doing very well right now—no surprise. I put $140/week towards my retirement account, and my employer contributes appx. $34/week. That’s appx. $750/month towards my retirement, or $9000/year.

My credit scores are: TransUnion, 724; Equifax, 718; Experian, 726. Not shabby, but could be better.

Strange, I NEVER talk about this with anyone besides my husband, yet I feel comfortable doing so here—perhaps because you folks are so open about your own situation and goals.

it pays to know a good mechanic

October 27th, 2005 at 04:57 pm

It was indeed the heat shield. He gave it a solid kick and off it flew, and I was sent on my way. That's the second time he's taken care of something minor for me and not charged me anything.

I'm beginning to wonder, though, if my car doesn't need some sort of undercoating. The heat shield was rusted out, as was the B-Pipe and the muffler before that. I bought the car before moving from Texas, where we don't have snow and salt to contend with. The car is paid off and I'd planned on keeping it for at least a few more years, so it might be worth looking into.

Thanks to Russell for the book recommendation. I've heard good things about it from others and will look further into picking up a copy.

I celebrated my free auto repair work by buying some Olay lotion I've been wanting. It's their expensive line and I was waiting for a sale, but I had a $1 off coupon and figured what the heck.

The dog is happy to have me home early.

Cars, self-reliance, and solvency

October 27th, 2005 at 02:51 pm

I had a no-spend day yesterday. Today I was going to blow it by heading with a coworker to Penzeys Spices at lunch, but I’ll be heading to the mechanic instead. I was mere blocks away from work when I switched the Pimsleur CD off (I’m trying to learn Italian) and heard an infernal rattling sound coming from the center of the car. I pulled over, peeked under the car, and oh my—a metal something-or-other is hanging inches from the ground. Based on the description I gave my mechanic (which was better than the one I gave here), he thinks it’s just a heat shield, which isn’t the worst thing in the world and shouldn’t be that expensive. Still, I just had my car in to have the B-Pipe replaced. It had a hole in it that made my Civic sound like a hotrod, which was fun for about a day and then just embarrassing.

I had thought about taking a class this year on basic auto maintenance, but decided against it. Not that it would have helped in this case, but it’s part of a larger desire of mine to be as self-reliant as possible. Part of my idea of self-reliance involves financial solvency, which is why I got on this personal finance kick in the first place.

Recent purchases

October 24th, 2005 at 04:29 pm

I started the weekend off with a $150 (incl. tip) visit to the salon for hair and highlights. It's still cheaper than what I was paying when I lived closer to Boston. I hate spending that much, but I'll never be able to go DIY on haircuts, and I'm too vain to cut out the highlights. At least I can get away with only doing it four times a year.

I spent just over $25.00 at Amazon today and qualified for free shipping. I'd been waiting for a particular book on my wish list to end up in my Gold Box again (I get the same offers over and over, it seems), and it did this morning. Unfortunately, I only saved .50.

Hopefully, I can keep spending down to the bare minimum this week. I've got plenty of frozen soups for lunch in case I don't get around to cooking.

Movies and more

October 23rd, 2005 at 02:12 pm

I learned my lesson last night. I will never, ever go on a Saturday night to another PG-13-rated movie that is likely to attract large amounts of teenagers. There was a constant background buzz of conversation throughout the whole movie, and half of the kids were text-messaging on their cell phones. Groups of girls got up intermittently to go to the bathroom. I shushed the group to my right twice to no avail. I appeared to be the only one bothered by it, so finally I shoved a wad of Kleenex in my ear and that helped somewhat. I don't care if this makes me a crank. Never, never again. A friend once told me about an adults-only theater in a nearby town that shows new releases, and I'm going to ask her for the name in case we get a hankering for another evening movie, though usually we do the early matinee and hence avoid this sort of thing.

Oh, plus the movie ("The Fog") stunk. $19.50 down the drain.

I kept my Amex bill right around $200 this month. Woohoo! Lately it's been upwards of $400. I put a lot of home and dog expenses on it, though, so it's not all me. This month I bought two books from Amazon Marketplace and I purchased my credit scores through myfico.com. I think that was all I spent on myself.

Rolled coin deposits, Coinstar

October 20th, 2005 at 08:06 pm

I was going to be near the credit union today, so I took a few rolls of coins ($21) and a rebate check ($5) to deposit. It seems every time I take coins in, the tellers act puzzled that I'd bother with such a small deposit. And they always assume I want to trade the coins in for cash (so that I can make more coins?). I find the whole thing interesting...and a little telling. Maybe so many people are in debt because they just can't be bothered with making small deposits? Or rolling their own coins?

That said, if you shop at Amazon, Pier1, Starbucks, Linens & Things, or Hollywood Video, CoinStar might be the way to go. If you opt to receive a gift card instead of cash, your coins will be counted for free:

http://www.coinstar.com/us/WebDocs/A1-0-3-1

No-spend days a rarity

October 20th, 2005 at 03:30 pm

Rare is the day that I spend no money at all. I can be good all day, bringing my lunch and eschewing the cookies from the cafe in the library, but then on my way home I realize my tank is almost empty and that I need to stop for gas. Bam; I've spent $25. Maybe I should be happy just with not spending any money on superfluous things. I've gotten much better since I read "Your Money or Your Life" and started calculating how many "life-hours" my impulse purchases cost me. (However, there are days when I want a latte anyway, dammit.)

On a happier note, we're entering the season of cheap eating for me. I love vegetables, and fall/winter vegetables especially. I've been making a lot of veggie soups recently--I'll throw some chopped vegetables (always with some potato, for body) into a pot of chicken stock, boil for about 20 minutes, and then puree the result and season to taste. The other day I made a carrot and ginger soup, and last night I made a broccoli and parsnip soup. It was an odd combination--basically I was trying to use up what I'd gotten from the farm last time I went to pick up my share--but it turned out quite well, the parnips giving the soup a sort of "peppery" flavor. Add a salad and a chunk of bread and you've got a good, healthy meal for hardly any money. Don't forget to make enough so that you'll have something for lunch tomorrow!