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Archive for January, 2014

A Few Money Tidbits

January 28th, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Do you want to hate my guts or what? Beautiful sunny weather here. Barely using the heat.

It's not all roses. Drought drought drought. Our lake is 17% of capacity (it looks fairly non-existent at the moment). The weather is just a mess everywhere, isn't it??? Ask me again in summer when we have no water.

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I did get to move the needle on my savings, after all. $16 savings interest hit this week. I added it to my sidebar.

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For whatever reason, my auto insurance decreased 10%. Woohoo! I just saw the online bill - I will get the detailed bill in the mail. & try to figure out what decreased. What's interesting is we drove the van to Vegas, AND gas prices have been fairly low, so I do not think it is likely to be a "low mileage" thing. We have overall been saving a lot since we have been reporting our actual mileage. But yeah, will see what the bill says...

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Ting Update!!

We should get our second "bill" tomorrow. Still paying with "credits" for a few more months.

Here is how January shook out:

We used way less data and minutes.

I will copy and paste a bit from my last Ting update, and update the numbers.

Sprint Monthly Charges:

1600 minutes (calls to each other were not counted), unlimited text and data

$ 105 for first phone
$ 25 for second phone
$ 25 for third phone
$ 15 for non-smart-phone
$ 20 Taxes
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$190 - Our split was $100 per month


Ting Monthly charges:

$24 for 4 phones
$ 9 for 500 minutes (Medium)**-we used 350 minutes
$ 5 for 1,000 Texts (Medium)**-we used like 150 texts
$13 for 500MB (Medium)**-we used 300MB
$ 3 Taxes
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$54 - Our split is $27 per month

**You can use however many minutes, texts, data you want. There are different tiers, and then reasonable fees if you need more than the XL tiers. Last month, for example, we had used the large "minutes" tier.

73% savings for the month of January

You could maybe call this "100% savings" because dh won a $50 credit this month. Big Grin

I did double check and dh and I would use the same medium tiers for everything, if it was just us, and so we are saving a decent amount going in with my parents. It is only $6 per line to add a line and to share in the same data and minutes.

I think this is where our average bill is going to settle. Vacation and unusual usage, aside.

That is going to be so nice when the kids get cell phones. I have a friend who is probably not a great candidate for Ting, today. (Probably will be eventually). BUT, she was intrigued as far as a "kid's first cell phone." The referral possibilities may be quite huge with having a 10yo kid. I got to rack up those referrals! I imagine it's the kind of thing parents will be talking about too. Our friends tend to be budget minded, so they will be comparing notes on cell phone plans, and so on.

This & That

January 17th, 2014 at 12:20 pm

**I can't believe it - I got a raise! My boss told me two years ago that no one else in office had gotten a raise for years. So I did not expect anything.

In the end, it was the biggest raise I have gotten in 6 years (since economy soured significantly). About 2.5%. What's even more exciting is that I had already covered health insurance increase with other cost savings, and so the raise is pure gravy. Which maybe has never happened since we have had children (our health insurance has gone up in cost 1,000% in that time). I feel like I have always just been grateful that any raise has covered our healthcare costs.

The net increase is $135 per month. With our cell phone savings, I will just round that up to $150/month and add that to our savings.

**Those that are "by the book" will be happy to know that this boosts our retirement savings rate up to 15%. (I've never particularly cared because we have been mostly saving more than we need for retirement, without saving that much. Some of it is utilizing ROTHs - no taxes later - the rest was just starting young and never contributing less than 10%).

We are already maxing out our ROTHs, and so I would like to open a taxable investment account for this money. (Which, for now, we won't be taxed on, due to low tax bracket and some simple tax management). But we are also a little behind on ROTH funding for 2013, so I think I will wait until April and see how things shake out. Honestly, I Was doing the paperwork last summer, to open a new investment account, because things were going pretty well, and then we had the "Great Murphy Year of 2013". I feel like we should be saving TONS at this point, but life seems to have other plans. IT seems silly to contribute a penny to a taxable account until our ROTHs are well funded. But I kind of feel like sometimes things never go right until I just dive in and make it happen. So, for now I will just assume we can get that started in April or May. Will see... At the least I won't open that account until 2013 ROTHs are funded.

To help get some momentum going, will probably divert all snowflakes over to this new account, for a while. Though I would like it to be a general hands-off account, it will have more purpose than retirement. $150/month is a nice match to the college money grandparents are providing ($1k per year, per child). Whatever is not used for college, will eventually go to mortgage payoff or retirement. I don't actually expect to use any of this money for college. Seems unlikely at this point, but just for a Plan B.

I am abandoning the mortgage payoff for the interim. This account will take precedence because my job is a bit up in the air, so this will help us get a good start to some "potential long term unemployment savings". I really don't expect to have to use it for that either, but just hedging our bets.

Of course, the only reason we were hitting our mortgage harder the past couple of years was due to losing equity in our house. Even at the worst, we never went below 20% equity. But it was close, and we took proactive measures. Today we are back over 50%. So, it's fallen lower as far as priorities. {I'd love to pay it off today, but have to balance wants with reality. Reality is I have to get college and employment sorted out first, and crossing my fingers this is just a giant "mortgage payoff" fund, in the end}.

Anyway, the plan is $150/month, plus snowflakes, starting around May. I'd like to be agressive with putting gifts and credit card bonuses and such in this account. Once we get some momentum going on this account, we may consider a 50/50 save/pay down mortgage type plan. Or 70/30, or whatever makes sense.

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I work well under pressure. I did some major mad declutter and cleaning progress, last weekend. It generally would not be my preference to do that kind of big job in the middle of tax season, but apparently it works for me. (I never did as much as I wanted to last year because I got really bored with working and chores all the time - am used to fairly laid back summers and falls, and work was kind of busy too). So whatever, I will embrace it. Any chore I can cross off my list before, "want to relax and enjoy" time.

The problem is I got some major momentum and couldn't stop for a while. It might be okay for January and February. For March and April, I will have to slow it down and put work as a higher priority.

I had a genius idea this morning. I was thinking the downstairs was pretty decently decluttered, except for I have to sort through the piano music. I used to teach piano, and so I have hoards of materials. It just flitted across my mind this morning that I wanted to tackle that nasty chore this weekend. (Something I have just put off and off and off, otherwise). & it occured to me I could probably store a lot of that stuff digitally and be done.

I don't know why I never thought of that before!!! I've just got so many freaking photo copies of music. & part of me doesn't really want to give it up - could always be a nice side income stream. Storing stuff digitally is a good compromise, though I don't foresee "piano teaching" in my near future.

I will have to ponder that as I go through that type stuff in the house (things that can be just be kept on computers). For some things we are well ahead of the curve on that (financial records and photos and so on). But, for other things, we could use some strategizing and rethinking.

I don't expect to tackle all that music stuff this weekend, but I do hope to make a dent.

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P.S. Dh just won $50 in Ting credits. One more month we won't have to pay anything (sharing Ting with my parents and will give them the benefit of the credit too). I am starting to wonder if we will pay *anything* for cell service this year. Big Grin

SavingAdvice Challenges

January 10th, 2014 at 08:20 am

Work is crazy busy and has been for a while. & will be for a while.

Of course, January through April is our most profitable time of year. Too busy to spend, and raking in the overtime. Then I generally have the rest of the year to relax and enjoy.

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This is our January discretionary spending, to-date:

$134 groceries
$ 34 fuel

Exciting stuff!

Actually, about $20 of those groceries were a "Christmas Redo". I was sick on Thanksgiving, and Mom and dh were sick on Christmas, so we got together last weekend to spend some time with my parents. My parents are generally pretty easy and very happy to eat anything we cook, or even just leftovers. But my mom was really looking forward to our "Christmas Pizza".

Dh was going to pick up cat litter on sale today, and pick up a gift for a birthday party.

I did charge $200 for school lunches, on the reward credit card I am working on. (I charge every January, so did nothing different for the reward). I charged up some insurance also. I've got about $350 left to spend. I was expecting a $140 Sprint bill (100% my parents and they will reimburse), but Sprint didn't bill us this month. Ugh!! I thought that charge would be perfect since it isn't even really mine. I checked last years' January and February expenses and can't come up with anything else foreseeable, and so will probably just pre-pay some health insurance this weekend. That reward is going to be $580.

Unfortunately, I have no exciting plans for the $580 but to "clean up the checkbook". After the year we had, it's a miracle I did not have to dip MORE into savings, and so I am happy with the outcome. Could be happier (would make a nice snowball!), but happy enough.

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I am not participating in the savings challenges. We save very aggressively with a "pay ourselves first" mentality. (Literally, 43% of my regular take-home salary goes straight to savings. Plus, we tend to bank and snowball the extras). The idea of having anything extra leftover to save = harharhar. We keep it pretty tight. This doesn't mean we can't make spending decisions out of our savings. It just means I will never ever ever spend less than we budget, in a single month. Has probably never happened. Absolutely nothing leftover to increase savings. I guess my approach is more to "oversave" up front. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

Saving coins is like nail on a chalkboard, to me. So I have to go get more money out of the bank so I can throw it in a jar and let it earn -0- interest? I don't get it and I never will. Even in the early days when we had to use cash more, we'd just spend the cash (change) we had before we'd go and get more. I am reluctant to waste a single penny. If I don't need it right now, it gets saved or invested.

{My kids are big change savers and if I ever find change I give it to them. I think for their age it is appropriate - they are learning that small amounts add up}.

Of course, in regards to the challenge, having to save a certain dollar amount (different) every week, just gives me a headache.

I don't fault anyone who thrives on the games or for who any of the above works. I just blog to say that these things do nothing for me. & so I am sitting it out. (Really and truly - it's important to do whatever works for you).

The declutter challenge? I was excited to see that post yesterday.

Again, I am not really interested in finding a specific amount of items to purge each and every day or week. But, I am embracing the challenge as far as keeping it front of mind and breaking it down into smaller pieces. Trying to make a little progress each and every week. Instead of complicating things with some fixed number, I will just do whatever makes sense.

I personally can not imagine purging 1,378 things from my home, but I have an open mind and will see what we can come up with. We regularly purge trash and broken items so I am not counting anything that I would toss under normal every day circumstances. I've got better things to do than to count every trash item and junk mail item that I always toss anyway. Wink Looking to see what I can improve on, so will only count the "out of the ordinary" purges. We do also regularly purge outgrown clothing, toys, games and kids' things, so not sure how much of that I will count. Will see how I feel about it. I mostly want to acknowledge going above and beyond "the usual". Wondering if I will ever really feel on top of my "stuff". I have been on major purge mode for well over 10 years. I ramped it up last year because we are planning to downsizing our home in another decade. I want to pick up and move what we have and need - and to have the excess long gone by that point. (Why 10 years? I think our house is *perfect* for 4 people, but would prefer a smaller space for when it is just two of us. Kids will be on their own in another decade or so. Dh and I were more than content when we used to live in half the space).

One thing that makes decluttering hard for me is that I detest throwing things in the landfill. We try to freecycle, donate or sell anything possible. This is my "declutter" achilles heel, but I will stick to my guns. Once I get on top of it, it should be easy to keep on top of, know what I mean? It's the "stuff that I didn't know what to do with 10 years ago," that is driving me crazy at the moment. When I stop finding THAT stuff in my house, I will find some peace in this area.

Oh, and I printed up the challenge for work, too. Today I tossed a small trash bin full of old seminar and tax reference books. (Like 2009 - 2011, which is all obsolete by now). I found a fan in my office and no idea why, so moving it to the common area in case anyone has any use for it. I've been here 12 years and I haven't moved offices in a long while, so it's probably time for a good cleanup. {Oh - since we deal with large amounts of paper - we have a recycle dumpster - so everything I purged today will be recycled}.

At home I have done nothing, but dh just gave me two pairs of pants to purge. I've at least got two items for this week.

First 2014 Snowflakes

January 1st, 2014 at 07:51 am

Last I ruminated, I wasn't so sure what to do with mortgage snowflakes. For December I did not make a mortgage payment, so just abandoned snowflakes for the month.

BUT, we got a nice cash gift for Christmas and I was able to fund dh's ROTH with it. I was already leaning towards continuing mortgage snowflakes this year anyway. (IT just works the best psychologically, for us). I was just tempering that feeling with feeling like I should put a screech on all mortgage snowflakes until we got our ROTHs back in order. But as of right now the "screech" seems pretty unnecessary. (My ROTH will be funded with Feb. 1 paycheck, assuming nothing else BREAKS. & I do have until April 15th).

So... Snowflakes it is!

I didn't make the December mortgage payment - will pay it today. (Didn't need the interest deduction last year, so pushed it forward).

These are my December snowflakes (paid to mortgage in January):

$20 carpool saving**
$15 internet bill promo savings**

January snowflakes:

$20 carpool saving**
$15 internet bill promo savings**
$25 gas/grocery credit card reward (I just redeemed)
$180 Visa credit card reward^^

**I don't expect these savings to last forever, so am just making an expense "placeholder" with mortgage snowflakes.

^^On the last one, it's a 1% cash back on our CU visa that we receive every January. The amount is only so large this year because they had a 2% promo for a time. (Usually this reward is more like $60).

OF course, we just shifted those rewards from one card to the other. All this money would have gone to our Fidelity AmEx otherwise - those rewards go to my Fidelity ROTH. This just means the mortgage gets a boost because our credit union ran a nice promo. (All else being equal, Visa is accepted more places and I'd rather give the business to my credit union than a big bank).

Snowflakes 2014: $275

Unfortunately, not expecting to keep up THAT kind of momentum. But it's definitely a nice start to 2014.