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Archive for October, 2014

Some Big Spending

October 27th, 2014 at 07:49 pm

**Dh pulled the trigger on his projector upgrade.

It's a big purchase, so he had a hard time pulling the trigger. I was kind of surprised that he was having a hard time, but we later discussed how this is probably one of our biggest purchases.

As for me, since we decided to buy it ages ago, I could really care less. The money is already spent, the projector is already paid for - in my mind. I guess it just isn't hitting dh so much until he swipes that credit card.

Dh is fairly convinced that this is the last projector upgrade we will ever do. But I won't exactly hold my breath. I am fine though to replace our 10-year-old out-dated projector. More than fine with it!

It seems that time and technology is buying him something much more top-of-the-line than before. (I am guessing our last projector cost about the same as this one).

This is really a present from dh's parents. I am cash flowing it from my salary in November. We jumped on it a little early due to a sale. But his parents have mentioned they will give us $3k for Christmas. So all along I have just considered this a gift from them. (They can change their minds, but I don't think it's an unreasonable purchase if we have to pay for it ourselves. IT will be fine either way).

{We have a relatively frugal movie theater set up in our house. For those who are reading this and have no idea what I am talking about... We have an extra room dedicated to a large movie screen}.

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**That reminds me, I did a tax projection as the year is nearing its end and I have more firm numbers than I did in January or whenever. Our Traditional IRA contribution will net us a $3,000 tax refund. I am thrilled with this number because this is the estimate I have for BM's Japan trip and this was how I intended to pay for said trip.

This Japan trip is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. We mostly plan to use future Traditional IRA tax refunds to bulk up our savings. We are just planning to spend the tax refund this one year. A splurge like this is something we have never done before and can probably handle restricting ourselves to once per decade or so. Wink

We'd stil also like to send dh on this trip. Time will tell on that. Feeling a little cash poor at the moment! But we don't have to decide for a while...

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**I am also going to go ahead and pay the property taxes for the whole year. They went up about $1,000, from $4k to $5k. Our home has been way under-assessed most the past decade or so and even this assessment was still on the conservative side. BUT, certainly more in the realm of where it should be.

{I suppose this is the silver lining to this housing mess? A long period of LOW taxes?}

So I will probably write a $5,000 check for that next week. OUCH! I am kind of rethinking that on one hand, but then I realize I just have to pay it all by April regardless. It's all the same in the end. So I decided to just go through with it. I am also counting on this to help boost my tax refund a small bit.

As long as interest rates are in the toilet I think I will prefer the ease of just paying this bill once per year. My primary motivation is simplicity.

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All of the above aside, I feel like we have been spending way too much money. October was very spendy.

SO... Trying to reign it in and have a low spend November. Maybe low spend November and December. In fact, all of our spending *should* be done for October. (knock on wood). So, yeah, we will cool it for the rest of the year.

Smart Phone $39

October 27th, 2014 at 03:31 pm

http://slickdeals.net/f/7289268-motorola-moto-g-verizon-39-a...

Fry's has in in-store only deal for prepaid Verizon Moto G. I mentioned recently as a good wifi-only phone for tweens or frugies. It's a one-time $39 splurge for a fairly nice phone. Google apps will get you free calling and texts (over wireless). I can see this as a good way to dip one's toes into the smart phones.

This is the phone my 11yo son is using. It's really no big deal to add him to our Ting and to start paying $6/month (his cell and data usage would be so low at this point, I would not expect to pay more than $6/month that we'd have to pay for the new line). BUT, this phone gets him trained in using wireless and conserving data and minutes. Plus, I don't know that he will need more than wireless until he is of high school age. For now, the wireless is far beyond anything he "needs".

**To be clear. THIS phone is not compatible with Ting. It's not compatible with anything but Verizon prepaid plan, as far as I can tell. If you don't activate it with Verizon, you can just use whatever wifi networks that are available to you.**

Retirement Savings Advice (For the Young)

October 22nd, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Excellent Article:

Comparing Three Major Levers You Can Pull On Your Retirement Portfolio

http://www.mymoneyblog.com/retirement-lever-comparison.html

The gist:

--Investor begins working at 25, but saving at 35
--12% savings rate
--50%stock/50% bonds asset allocation
--Salary starts $30k and rises with age

Initial plan, portfolio at 65: $474,000
Change to 80/20 allocation: $577,000
15% savings rate: $593,000

**Begins saving at 25: $718,000**

DING DING DING!!!

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I share because I think this is very important in regards to efficiency and balance. Not helpful if you are no longer 25, but I do share for any young person who comes across my blog.

Our personal average retirement savings rate since age 24 is 12%. I get a lot of comments that we must not be saving enough or will have to work for 50 years. Considering we are well on track to retire at age 50, I am not worried about it.

Of course, we contribute more when we can, and that is important too. I just happened to notice the other day that our "average retirement savings since having kids" was 14%. I think this is counter-intuitive for many. It is most often assumed that our retirement is being sacrificed (with my spouse not working). The opposite is more the case. It's easier to save a bigger percentage of a smaller income. We simply don't have to save as much? (Some years we have put away 20% to retirement; those were our smallest income years, when 20% was just not that much money). That's all there really is to it. But it isn't setting us backwards because the smaller income is more than enough for us to live on and is a fine base for savings percentage.

We personally plan to save more over time. We are savers, and we like to prepare for the worst. That said... I would say that we are pleasantly surprised how well our retirement savings is doing. We've already done the heavy lifting, no doubt about it. Which is kind of ironic because it doesn't necessarily feel like it. IT feels like retirement has been more on the back burner than we care for, due to kids and economy and medical woes. It's nice to look back and see our steady/consistent contributions working for us over the long haul.

Our personal rule of thumb has been to never put less than 10% of post college income to retirement. We started with that, and then got a lot more serious about retirement savings in our 30s. (Maxing out retirement vehicles, around age 30).

P.S. I notice one very important lever left out of this discussion. Fees and costs. MyMoneyBlog has also touched on this point in the past. http://www.mymoneyblog.com/lower-costs-higher-returns-again-...

Tween/Frugie Phone **Correction** Plus Other Doings

October 21st, 2014 at 07:14 pm

**Ooooh, I had really bad misinformation on my last post of this topic. (Which I corrected). Bad information in a good way!

So let's try this again.

Idea for a frugie phone (or good for a tween):

--Verizon prepaids (Moto G) sell frequently for $50 at Fry's. Probably other deals around, but this is the best deal on the west coast.

--If you have Ting or think will eventually use Ting, the Boost Moto G sells for $60-ish at times, Best Buy. The thing about the Boost Moto G is that it is compatible with Ting. (Or if you have a Red Card, just buy at Target and ask for a price match, for an extra 5% off).

We have one of each. The Boost Moto G is still in the box and was bought because my dh has a phone fetish (apparently). BUT, it will be a great first phone for our kids. (Or is a cheap backup phone for us).

The Verizon prepaid is being used by my older son. Has come in really handy for his age range. **This phone has no cell service.** He signed up for a google voice number and can make and receive calls and texts on wifi. So basically, it's a one time purchase and all usage is completely free. As dh said, "There is more wifi than pay phones in this day and age". So it makes sense, for now. He will want cell or data service when he is older, but I don't even know if that will be particularly necessary for a few more years.

Dh thought that BM could not receive phone calls directly on the Verizon phone. So this is the correction. He's had the phone a few weeks and we just figure out that he CAN receive phone calls directly. Doh! (To be fair, it seems like you can't set this up until after you've had your google voice # for a while. Dh felt less crazy after he got himself a google voice # and had the same problem on his phone).

Bonus Idea: If you know someone with Comcast, you can also sign up for Xfinity wifi. We might test this out since dh's parents have Comcast. IT would be interesting to see how much wifi coverage that would give BM.

**We are also able to whittle down our own cell bill a little more, due to recent developments.

Firstly, it was just announced that we will get Wifi at my office. Woohoo! (That's like 90% of our entire data usage, since no one else on my plan is working right now). I presume that will be set up for tax season - maybe in a few months.

All in all, it might save us a whopping $5 a month? Because the data is so cheap to begin with? But I will take it.

Secondly, we installed the hangouts dialer and we can make phone calls through wifi. So that will put a big dent in our minutes. Not as useful for incoming calls and I don't want incoming calls to go to data when I am not near wifi. So we are just using for outgoing calls, but it helps.

Dh went ahead and got a google voice # (which allows for more functionality) and so I picked one up yesterday too.

If our home phone # is 916-xxx-1234, then we each got matching cell numbers. I got the very last "1234" number.

The problem with the google hangouts dialer was that it was just shown as a blocked number when we called other people. Of note, our parents refused to pick up the phone. For their home phones they can now just glance at the caller ID and I think it's pretty clear that it is us, even if they don't want to memorize the entirety of our new phone numbers. The area code and the last 4 digits will always be the same from whichever phone we call.

Anyway, this might also save us a couple of bucks, but we are thinking ahead to when dh might be out of the house more or when we add the kids to our plan. The less we use now the less of a jump it will be to add back more minutes and data, later.

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Other Doings:

**Dh and I went to Napa last weekend for our belated anniversary getaway. We were pretty lazy and did not do much, but enjoyed the quiet time.

I think it was our third trip there and we finally found some good food. Phew! Call us picky, but we just never particularly enjoyed anywhere else we tried. The dinner we did end up enjoying was about $85 (no alcohol, that is all FOOD). MIL slipped us $100 as we left, so dinner was on her. (& the meal was good enough I certainly did not mind spending the money. Yum!!) Otherwise, we just went to the grocery store and ate in for the rest of the time.

**While we were gone, my 11yo informed his Grandma that he is too old to Trick or Treat. This is the first I have heard of this! I guess this a 6th grade boy thing? (I am more than fine with it. Maybe just a couple of more years of the old trick or treating? Little brother is having a hard time with this news).

We all got our monkey PJ/costumes so we hadn't planned to buy any costumes beyond that.

**Today I called AmEx because they decided to start classifying all of my charges as "cash advances". ??? I figured it might sort itself out, but after a week or so I called to be sure. While I was calling anyway I finally asked them to change the due date on my credit card. This means no more driving dh crazy with my endless, "Don't buy that on that card" and "use that card this week". He always keeps it all straight, but I am sure it is annoying. I also fixed the Target card a few weeks back and so both of these are on a more monthly cycle. No more charges on the 3rd or 4th showing up on last month's bill. I should have fixed this *ages* ago but just kind of hate these things and sitting on hold. I am pleased to say I did not sit on hold at all. IT wasn't so bad.

Now we just have to tame our new Citi card. The credit limit is ridiculously low and the card closes on the 15th of the month. UGH! I tried to change the due date online but was denied. So I will let it cycle through a couple of months and then have dh call to fix everything. (It's in his name). I paid some of it off way early because I didn't want to max it out. Yeesh. A $5k credit limit would sound nice at this point.

Meanwhile, the SW Chase card I just applied for gave me like a $22,000 credit limit. ??? I have no idea how they decide these things. Citi thinks we are worthy of a whole $3k of limit. But Citi has always been kind of weird.

**As to the SW Chase, I received it yesterday and threw a couple of month's of health insurance on it. Now I wait for my $500 reward.

**Our promotional rate expired with our internet company but they renewed it with a contract. That is always the catch on these discounts that few seem to mention. We are pretty loyal to our internet company though (little guys) and so we will just take the contract. (Not that they can't get bought out tomorrow - that always happens!) But, anyway, last year we had to call and beg a few times. I am glad they just gave us the deal this time. Phew! I will continue to throw that $15 savings to our investments.

Dh and I had discussed dropping the landline (bundled with internet) if it gave us any leverage. We did not expect that it would. Probably the internet alone costs more. For now the landline stays free with our internet, so we keep it.

This is absolutely the only contract we have right now, besides our mortgage. For that, I still hate having a contract. But I guess mostly it's important not to be up to your eyeballs in contracts. Even in case of job loss I'd probably keep this internet. So I won't lose sleep over it...

**Dh received $35 for a phone survey. This money will go towards that Moto G phone purchase.

Paid $3.04 for gas

October 15th, 2014 at 03:14 pm

What a nice surprise at the pump!

**Filled up the van today, should be the only time this month. Timing worked out well.

I had filled up 3 times last month because MIL requested we bring van down once when her sister was in town. This month, no one drove the van the 6 weekdays I had off from work. So I guess it all evens out.

I usually fill up the van twice a month. I've just been commuting with the van because we have been doing so many longer trips in the gas sipper.

I like the gas prices today considering we are driving to Napa and San Francisco next week.

**Current carpool arrangements (knock on wood)... Neighbor is picking up kids all week and then dh next week, alternating. I still just take BM on my way to work. I offered to take neighbor child as long as he is at our house in time but they have not taken us up on that offer.

This is new for this year since their child is a year younger and was at the other (Walking distance) campus last year. Neighbor keeps telling us he will be working and unavailable but then he is not. Is good for us I guess, but bad to see how unemployed he is at the moment. (They are *awesome* neighbors but their home has shown to be in foreclosure for over a year. Public records. No idea what is up with that. Is the curse of our carpool).

**Reminds me, dh has been helping out divorced (last year carpool) friends with a lot of babysitting. He was assertive that things were not working out so well and it seems they are kind of pissy with us. Whatever! We are not your personal free babysitter. Never minded helping them because they always returned the favor best they could and were very gracious.

Anyway, I hope newly divorced mom was just surprised or feelings briefly hurt and she gets over it. It's nothing personal. Her child is WAY younger which is most of the problem. In a couple of years I don't know that it would matter. Dh is always way too nice about this stuff but always draws the line once it affects the kids. My kids were getting really cranky about it. (I would have been cranky too. I can't say I would have ever agreed to watch a 7yo. But dh has way more patience for kids. It's not just that dh changed his mind. She kept bringing him over 2-3 times more often than she had asked. So, she can't be surprised that dh was getting annoyed).

**Dh got a 3rd and 4th opinion and repaired the crack in our stucco. Final cost? About $4 in supplies, plus borrowed a ladder from a neighbor. Woohoo! I always love it when nasty looking home repairs turn out to be like $10 or less to fix. It happens sometimes.

**Oh, and I almost forgot the best news of all! Did not run the AC yesterday and the weather looks favorable for turning it off for the season. Phew! We have been running the AC every day this month, which is ridiculous.

We usually don't turn on the heat until Thanksgiving. With this crazy weather, who knows...

Southwest Chase $500 Bonus

October 12th, 2014 at 04:35 pm

I've been keeping an eye out for the SW Chase $500 bonus, with the plan to buy a PS4 with the bonus. (The $500 bonus is paid out with gift cards).

I haven't seen anything, but today on a whim I googled a bit to see when they offered this bonus last year and to try to take a guess when they will offer them again this year. It seems like maybe they have just been offering it all along. ?? I found a working link on a July 2014 post! I was a little wary of that one but found another one posted in the last week (linked to the same offer). So, woohoo!

Here is the link:

http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2014/10/09/50000-poi...

What is great about this offer is that it stated in the fine print that you CAN double dip this bonus if you have not redeemed for 24 months. Woohoo! (When dh double dipped this card earlier in the year I heard it was a 50/50 chance that he would actually be eligible for the bonus. I was never entirely sure he would actually get the bonus).

I was hoping to get the PS4 last time, but dh got all weird about it. But right now he seems to be in a PS4 mood. Will see when it arrives. I just want to get the PS4 paid for with free money. It will be a good purchase to go with our planned projector upgrade (any month now).

My plan is to just charge up $2,000 health insurance like the day I get the card. So I can cancel it ASAP to get the $99 annual fee refunded.

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Rewards Update! Surpassing $3,000!

2014 TALLY:

$200 Cash (Citi card, Moi)
$500 Amazon gift cards (SW Chase double dip, Dh)
$500 Amazon gift cards (SW Chase double dip, Moi)
$250 Cash (Chase Freedom, Moi)
$200 Cash (Chase Checking, Moi)
$200 Cash (Chase Checking, Dh)
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$1850 TOTAL *ONE-TIME REWARDS*

+$550 deposit to ROTH (Fidelity Am Ex - 2% cash back; health insurance & misc. spending)**

+$450 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/3% fuel)**

+$ 75 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)**

+$ 75 Visa Rewards (1% cash back - for places that don't take AmEx - primarily dentist/insurance/utilities)**

**Estimates for the whole year

Grand Total = $3,000

***CAVEAT - I absolutely do not recommend utilizing credit card rewards in this manner, unless you are in full control of your credit card spending.***

Smart Phone for $60!

October 10th, 2014 at 02:01 pm

Here is a great cell phone deal.

The Moto G for Boost Mobile sells for under $100. But every once in a while it goes on sale for $59.99.

This phone is compatible with Ting!

So my dh did pick one up. I thought it was silly to get for our younger son (there will be better deals by the time he ever needs a phone with cell service - it will be YEARS). But dh did also like the idea of having a backup phone in case we break one of ours. It's not a bad idea in that regard. We also talked about giving this phone to BM so we can just switch it on whenever he needs cell service and switch it off when he doesn't (very easy to do with Ting). I think in the end dh is probably going to buy another one, next time they go on sale. Then BM can have a phone with cell service AND we can have a backup phone. At these prices, whatever...

Overall, this is an exceptional deal for any tween or teen user, but I think also works well for the frugies. This is the phone I was planning to get, until I went with something much more robust. The Moto G is a far nicer phone than the kids really need. Certainly more than we expected to get them in a first phone. This is also the same phone BM already has. (His was a $50 prepaid Verizon deal that he can not activate on Ting).

The Moto G retails for closer to $200 I believe, and even at $200 is a good deal for how nice of a phone it is.

Dh picked up this new Moto G at Target for $59.99 (plus 5% off with Red Card). Target did not have this price, but he price matched a Best Buy deal.

Best Buy currently has the $59.99 deal. (No expiration noted for this sale. As long as they want to offer it).

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/boost-mobile-motorola-moto-g-no-...

This sale comes around periodically, so it is worth waiting for these deals, even if "now" is not the right time. Just to say this is not a once-in-a-lifetime deal or anything like that. I am sure it will pop up again around the holidays.

Of course, Ting only costs $6 per month for cell service and then you only pay for what you use. Their rates are here:

https://ting.com/rates

Our household has been paying around $30/month for Ting (for two phones). Much less than that if you count all the referral credits and other credits we have racked up.

Here are the instructions to activate the Moto G on Ting:

http://www.reviewtechnica.com/2014/06/how-to-activate-moto-g...

Finally, here is my Ting referral code, if you want a $25 credit for signing up with Ting:

https://z181d126bt4.ting.com