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Archive for August, 2011

Almost Out of August

August 30th, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Well here we are with one more day of August to go. I intend to have a no-spend day tomorrow.

So where are we? Well, my electric bill this month was enough to make me cry. $374. Really looking forward to fewer people in the house. I'm also really, really tired of walking into an empty room or empty garage and all of the lights are on. Groceries aren't too bad this month because everyone pitched in. They certainly weren't cheap, but I think I am on budget there.

When my car insurance was due, I put it on my Visa in order to hang on to the cash a little longer. (I never get any rewards points for my insurance. Humph.) Chase will cut off my billing cycle in a week or so and send me a big fat bill, so I will be parting with the cash soon enough.

Everything is paid for August and I have $1,201.51 in checking. That is less than I would like to have, especially considering my Visa bill will be bigger than usual. Tomorrow is payday, and it is a 12 day pay instead of 11. So that will help some.

I have finally received the rest of summer camp money from my ex-h, so my checking account has recovered from that particular shortage.

I have not one red cent in my wallet. I cleared it out at the bank today. Tomorrow I will withdraw another $60 cash. My Piddly Fund broke $400, and I "swept" the excess to my mortgage. I think $400 is enough in Piddly. Smile I intend to sweep all of my change into the mortgage from now on, the interest from Piddly too. Will that be an incentive for me to spend as little of my allowance as possible? I believe it will.

My EF is not budging as I am sweeping EF interest into CurveBall. I have been thinking about how much I want to keep in CurveBall. I am thinking once I have 2k in there, I will redirect that money towards IRAs if I have not hit 5k for the year. That happy dilemma is still in the future. At the moment, I am just hoping CurveBall doesn't go down in September. I hope I can swing everything in September without dipping into it. I may end up making my budgeted deposit only to pull some money right back out. We will see, though.

How to Use Credit Card to Pay Utilities?

August 27th, 2011 at 04:19 pm

In the interest of racking up rewards points, how does one use a credit card to pay utility bills? I know that some people do it successfully, but how?

Looking at my particular utility companies, I see they will accept them but there is always a fee associated. Or you can use a third party processor, which is very expensive.

I just cannot see a way to do it without the fees outweighing the benefits.


Safe Withdrawal Rates

August 23rd, 2011 at 06:51 pm

I saw this blog post today and found it interesting. This particular blogger has a PhD in Economics from Princeton, so he knows a little bit about wherof he speaks. Wink

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What do those pretty rainbow lines mean? Well, it may be safe to withdraw as much as 5% of your nest egg per year if you have a conservative stock allocation. That is great news for people like me, who expect to have a modest nest egg. (Especially since I sunk a lot of my capital into a house which promptly lost half of its value. But I whined about that yesterday, so I don't want to whine about it two days in a row.)

He ran monte carlo simulations for single men and same age couples, but I wish he had run them for single women too. And he used mortality rate tables, not a ballpark guess as to how long your retirement might last.

I have never seen this idea laid out quite this way. A 5% withdrawal rate is only slightly more risky than a 4% withdrawal rate! Yay. Still, I doubt I will start with more than 4%. If I am lucky enough to have good returns the first 2 or 3 years of retirement, I may seriously consider a bump up to 4.5% or 5%.

I can't help but notice that his simulation showed a 100% stock portfolio with a 8% annual withdrawal rate (the very scenario recommended by the very popular Dave Ramsey) has a 40% failure rate for men, 50% failure rate for couples. Failure being defined as completely exhausting your nest egg while you are still alive. This is precisely why I view his investment advice as so terrible. Being flat broke in my 80s is just not my goal. I wish he (Dave Ramsey) would just stick to what he is great at (motivating people to get out of debt and get their finances on track) and not give subpar investing advice.

Edit: I had originally written that DR recommends a 10% withdrawal rate. That was incorrect, he recommends an 8% withdrawal rate.

More Wonderful Housing News

August 22nd, 2011 at 03:49 pm

I saw this article this morning:

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This is the sort of article which makes me think I should strongly consider buying another house and let mine go into foreclosure.

If I were to buy another house worth 125k (roughly what mine is currently worth), put down 20% + closing and take a 15 year mortgage @ 3.75, my PI payments would be $727.22. Currently, I have PI payments of $1060.23 and have 26 years to go. That is a HUGE difference.

50,000 Bonus Rewards Points

August 20th, 2011 at 06:15 pm

My Chase Sapphire statement closed yesterday, and I have an extra 50,000 bonus rewards points. I am not planning on cashing them in right now. Instead, I plan to use mine towards a plane ticket (extra 25% if you use your points this way) when we go on our trip to Hawaii next year.

Have I mentioned that a lot of family members have gotten on board? My Mom says she will go. My cousin to whom I am close (and with whom I went to China) and her husband want to go. Cousin's son and his wife and daughter want to go (their daughter 1 year younger than my son). Cousin's daughter and her husband and their 2 kids are considering.

I am a late life baby, so I am roughly the same age as the generation after me. My cousin's son is 1 year younger than me. Most of my nieces and nephews were born when I was in grade school.

Yesterday I received a $20 credit cards reward check which I have already transferred to my mortgage. This month I have chipped $21.85. I am already thinking I will not chip my expected $150 bonus for opening a checking account. I am thinking I will stash it in my Roth instead. I have in the back of my mind that if I hit retirement with more than my Roth goal of 150k, I will be willing to use it towards my mortgage. You know, if I have one at that point. I am still up in the air about what exactly I will do. I may sell my house, take my equity and move elsewhere. At least, I certainly hope I have some equity again at some point. Maybe I am being presumptuous. So anyway, overshooting my Roth goal will not be bad, but missing it will be bad. So if I overfund my Roth, I can always use the extra towards my mortgage later.

I spent some money last night which I shouldn't have. BF and son and I had been invited to dinner at my ex-nieces house. (She was married to my nephew at one time, they have a daughter together.) Something came up in the late afternoon with her son (she is remarried) and they had to cancel. So there we were, all dressed up and no place to go. On a whim, I suggested we go out to dinner. We went to Applebee's. Afterwards, we decided to go see Cowboys & Aliens (we really liked it). When that was over, we decided to see Rise of The Apes (loved it). So it was an expensive night. I paid for everything. BF and I have a policy that s/he who suggests an outing pays for it. We have been together almost 2 years now, so are past the point of "dating". The first few months he paid for almost everything, but then I said that it was silly that one person should always pay. For awhile, we would tussle from time to time over who was paying. At this point, we just go with the person who suggests also pays.

At Applebee's, I had pineapple glazed shrimp served on white rice with a spinach salad on the side. It was delicious and only 310 calories! Applebee's has quite a few low calorie entrees.

Chase Begs to Give Me Another $150; I Deign to Accept

August 18th, 2011 at 08:44 pm

Chase just cannot give enough money away!

I have had a Chase Freedom card for years, and often receive an offer of a $100 bonus if I would but open a checking account. I have never accepted, because part of the offer is I must sign up for direct deposit. Problem: I have nothing to direct deposit. My employer will not cooperate and neither will my ex-husband (child support). So I merely sigh and toss the offer aside.

Recently I opened my Chase Sapphire account.

Today, I got an e-mail offering me $150 if I would pretty please open a Chase checking account and there was no requirement about direct deposit! I read through carefully, I must keep the account open for 6 months or they will take the bonus back. How much will the checking account cost me? $10 per month. So still a net gain of $90. I read further and I learn that if my balance does not fall below $1500, they will waive the $10 fee. For $1500 to earn $10 per month equates to an 8% return. That is better than what I am getting at Ally, so I could move some money over and avoid the $10 monthly fee too! Right back to a profit of $150. Smile

Five Cent Nickel

August 17th, 2011 at 08:13 pm

There is an awesome blog post today over at Five Cent Nickel. It eloquently sums up why investing costs matter.

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Asset Allocation Changes

August 16th, 2011 at 02:38 am

I decided to make a minor adjustment in my asset allocation plan. While using Morningstar portfolio tools, I was noticing that my target retirement funds are holding more foreign stock and less small cap stocks. Therefore, I decided I would compensate a bit for this by adjusting the holdings in my traditional IRA. My traditional IRA is the only place I don't use target retirement funds.

This is my new asset allocation:

35% Total Stock Market
10% Small Cap Value

25% International

20% Total Bond Market
10% Tips

I like the idea of more small value anyway. It holds a lot of reits, so it is a way to get more reits into my mix without buying them directly. Small value is a good diversifier to a total market fund, behaves similarly to reits, but a small value fund holds reits as well as other sectors, so is less concentrated. I like that. Smile

First Day of High School

August 11th, 2011 at 03:03 am

My son started high school today. It was bittersweet. Smile He has a 0 period class, which means he starts at 7am! We have to be in the car leaving by 6:30 at the latest. This morning I dropped him off, went to get gas and have my car washed, and still arrived at work at 7:20! They aren't going to know what to think, lol.

I had to buy son's student ID card ($25) and gym clothes ($20) last week. Also a monthly pass for the city bus ($31). Over the weekend, I stocked up on filler paper, pens and pencils at the dollar store. This morning, I gave him a check for his lunch account ($40). After school today, we went to pick up some required items. He needed a flash drive, some dry erase markers, a protractor, and some index tabs ($18).

I haven't really bought him any school clothes, he is still wearing his summer clothes for now. I did get him a wallet ($10), he didn't have one.

EDIT: I also had to pay $25 to the photographer so that son's picture will be in the yearbook. All in all, a spendy few days!

I have been busy lately, trying to study at least some each day. Some days I get in a lot more than other days. Wink

Vacation Day :)

August 3rd, 2011 at 12:43 am

Tomorrow I am taking a vacation day! It is my first one all year, so I am a bit excited! I will be taking my son and a friend of his to a local water park, where I will spend the day floating in the lazy river.

Instead of buying tickets at the door, I Googled coupon codes and was able to buy them online at $20.99 each instead of $29.99. We will pack a nice picnic lunch and skip the expensive, greasy park food.


Just Logged on to Wells Fargo....

August 2nd, 2011 at 06:27 pm

...and guess what I saw? My mortgage interest last month was $795.84, a full $.07 less than I calculated.

Why do I care? Because it means that the tiny extra principal payments I made didn't just sit there in suspense as I had thought they would. Nope, they reduced the interest which accrued in July! I can't believe it.

It's not a rounding error. If my calculation was $.01 off, that could just be rounding. But not $.07.

From now on, all of my mortgage chips will be applied the moment I have the cash, no more waiting until the next regular payment is made.

I will have to edit the spreadsheet "snip" in my last post.

Mortgage Payment #40

August 1st, 2011 at 06:18 pm

I had 3 small chips this month totalling $16.53. Not a huge impact, but I have reduced payment #358 down to $142.19.

July 2011 Budget Report

August 1st, 2011 at 04:53 pm

This is how I did in July:

As you can see, my grocery bills were HUGE. Part of the overspending is from 2 additional people in the house, part is from the additional cost of NutriSystem foods. I will not be purchasing more NS food, and my expectation is that the 2 extra people will be gone before August is. Let's all keep our fingers crossed!

Everything Else this month included my vehicle registration ($142) and my required smog inspection ($46).

Other than those, nothing else was too awful.

August Will Be Hard on My Checking Account

August 1st, 2011 at 03:27 pm

Here we are in August. My utility bills are huge. My grocery bills are huge. My car insurance is due. My son goes back to school next week.

No matter how you slice it, August is going to be very rough on my checking account.

On the plus side, my ex-h has finally coughed up $100 towards his half of summer camp.

Yesterday we found a second hand bike for $75 for my son to use for transportation. His last bike was stolen from our front yard. I didn't want to buy another new one. The bike we found has new tires and tubes and is in good condition.

I was able to get an inter-district transfer for my son to our city's best high school. This means no school bus service and it is too far for him to walk or ride his bike. The father of one of my son's friends who lives less than 1 mile from the high school invited me to leave my son's bike at their place, drop my son there in the morning, and let the boys bike to school together. After school, I can pick son up there. On rainy days, the boys can catch the city bus and ride that. This sounded like a great idea to everyone, so that is what we are going to do.