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Never ending soap bar redux

February 10th, 2017 at 12:21 pm

In the past I pointed out it seemed like I would never have to pay for soap again. I had built up quite a stockpile from CVS when they were having freebie sales some years ago, and since then I had been finding more ways to get soap for free that my stockpile barely budged. Well that hasn't stopped since I wrote on this last time. Last year that didn't stop as I got soap for free from various places (in free boxes at estate sales / yard sales usually) as well as a large cake of soap used by someone for "soapmaking" along with a book on how to do it - it was the end of the day and she just wanted it gone. Also going through the SG-GF's items we found more bars of soap she wasn't going to use, so that added to the lot. And then whenever we go on trips, we get soap bars wherever we stay. So by the end of the year I think I had more soap than at the beginning of the year.

A new year and it has re-started already. Someone cleared out their desk at work, and left out for anyone travel bars of soap and shampoos. Well now I am stocked up with another month or two of supplies before I have to start on my original stash. Who knows when the next lot will fall into my lap - it seems like it always happens.

Yeah, it probably doesn't save a ton of money, but my stocks of soap, shampoo, deodorant, even dish detergent, have barely budged since I don't know when. But it all counts - waste not want not - and that extra money helps to bulk up my savings for a rainy day (or to use with the SG-GF for various enjoyments in life).

Helping Friends for the win

February 7th, 2017 at 11:13 am

I have a friend at work I try to be extra friendly with (ok, not overbearing or anything, but I can be a bit aloof, so being friendly is above and beyond for me). If he needs help, a ride, whatever, I try to do it for him. Nothing extraordinary, but I do what I can. I will often find something cheap at yard sales for a fun Christmas present for him (usually no more than $3 or so). This year he even commented how he likes mine the best, that anything else he gets is usually boring.

Anyway... come up to last week just before the Super Bowl. I have joked in the past about how old & small my TVs are and I don't care. I would rather save money than get the latest gadgets. So he comes up to me and says would I be interested in a new TV (as long as I don't sell it). Ummmm.... well... sure I guess (Ok, most conversations don't start out this way so I am intrigued). Turns out he bought something before the holidays (not sure what, I wasn't concentrating on that part of the story), and as part of the store's "sale" the buyer would get a free 32" super duper does everything imaginable LCD flat screen TV. Somehow he ended up with two of them ... but... he already has fancier and larger TVs and these would be downgrades for him. (He is always amazed at how much I have saved, and then buys expensive electronics, new cars, and well you get the idea)

So the unopened TV made it home last week and I set it up Sunday. Turned out my old tv was 20", so this was a major upgrade. I spent the day setting up various functions on it, and even one channel that would not come in with the old digital converter box now comes in great with this digital ready TV. Go figure.

So now I have a great TV out of the blue. Not saying I did the things I do for him expecting any payback, but its nice to think I was appreciated (or pitied for my poor existence - take your choice Smile ) and its great to upgrade for $0.

2016 Final Numbers & '17 Roth IRA Funded

January 7th, 2017 at 04:11 pm

Well 2017 is here and the numbers are doing well.

I won't list the 2016 numbers as they are basically the same I had listed in my prior posting. As it stated, my overall ROI was in the 16% range, so I am very happy with the year. The market wavered all over the place, and basically ended where they were at mid December when I posted. I have added some to the numbers in the "About Me" section, though I do keep them a bit low as I expect there to be a little pull back in the future and I don't want to feel too bad about it when it happens (silly I know, but it is what it is).

One quickie note: I just got the monthly report from the 457 plan provider, and I see the yearly numbers for the two small-cap funds that have probably 40% of my overall 457 funds had returns for the year of 18% and 27%. I think I see now why my 457 numbers were so great for the year!

As for 2017 I already put in my Roth IRA money ($6500). Also got my first paycheck with my 457 money taken out. Now my paycheck is less than half of what it was in December (yikes!). Oh well, with the higher amount I will almost be done with my yearly contributions by the end of July so I should be happy about that.

As for the year coming up, I need to invest my cash in the IRA & brokerage in something, question is which stock.

On a frugal note (I figure I should include one) I got a backup shaver at the Goodwill outlet two weeks ago (by weight it cost maybe $1.50?). Its an expensive Norelco and a twin to what I currently have. It only needed new blade heads, so online I found I could get a new set for $9. But for another $7 I could get a second set, so I am upgrading both shavers to give me a like new shave for $17.50 for two shavers (costs about $70 for a new shaver). So lets hear it for the GW outlet. (PS: Why do I have two shavers? I keep one in my car to use on the drive in each work day, as I have a car adapter for it!)

Hey, lets have a great year everyone!

Year End Analysis (* Early December Edition)

December 11th, 2016 at 07:14 am

I was reading different forum posts discussing how their investments / savings / net worth was doing this year. And with some time available at work to put together my numbers.... well... I figured, hey why not put something together now as my other financial items to blog about here are just same old / nothing new. So with that intro I have here my....

[ALERT: Boring Analysis Follows]

*** 2016 Year End Financial Analysis (pre end of year edition) ****

OK, so where do I start? First these numbers are rounded to get approximate performance. Ok, so how about looking at my different savings vehicles and see how they performed? OK, lets start there...

*My 457 plan (401k equivalent): Started the year at $373k now, and is now $460k. I put in $24k, that leaves $63k growth - almost 17% growth after backing out contributions. Overall that is a 23% increase.

* My ROTH IRA: Started the year at $94k, now its over $113k. I put in $6k, leaving growth of $13k. That's almost 14% growth and an overall 20% increase.

* My Brokerage: I Started the year at $38400, now $57500. I put in $12,500, leaving growth of $6600 - 17% growth, and overall 49% increase.

So maybe a ~16% growth year to date? And overall a 25% increase. (Yes, I didn't work out my DRIP numbers as I don't have numbers for them, plus I wasn't adding anything to them this year - except for my trash DRIP). I really need to get stock certificates from them so I can transfer them to my brokerage (or sell them - not sure which makes sense).

Sooo.... how about my savings rate? OK, I am going to give percentage numbers here versus my gross...
Payroll taxes are 25%. Property taxes are 3.5% How much did I contribute to 457/Roth/Pension/Brokerage? Those contributions were close to 50% of my gross. Insurance costs (health/house/car) + child support was another 9% of my gross.

My savings account is right what it was at the beginning of the year, so that means I am living off of what is left over. That would be... 100% - 50% - 25% - 3.5% - 9% = 12.5%

So I am able to live off of 13% of my income (with a nice subsidized health insurance - lets not kid myself otherwise). While I am happy living at this rate, I know its not sustainable. I will need to upgrade the car in the coming years (hopefully not for a while), do some work on the house ($$$), and who knows what else could come up. Still, not too shabby.

Last interesting note... what I live on versus what my savings earned... I could live for a numbers of years on what my investment earnings were this year. If only I knew what my future expenses would be... sigh.

New Arbitrary Retirement Milestone(tm) reached

November 23rd, 2016 at 12:06 pm

In the effort to get to new milestones, I just noticed I/we hit a new milestone. The SG-GF's retirement account, added to my combination of 457/IRA/Brokerage/DRIPs/Savings has just crossed $1.5 Mil. Ok, its not all my money, but still... dayum. And its just an arbitrary amount. But still, I see so often people saying they will retire at this amount (and I know they're referring to a couple), that wow, its hard to comprehend. Mostly because I am not retired I suppose, but its great to think about anyway. We'll see if the market takes it away in the coming months or not. Once the SG-GF can retire.... its gonna be hard for me to stick it out to my retirement date Frown .

On a fun note, we made our yearly trip to Florida a few weeks ago. A really peaceful trip even with a day at Disney, a day at Seaworld, and a day at Cape Kennedy. I think we were able to pull it off for less than $400 for the two of us - not too shabby!

Ugh, is it 49 weeks until we go next year???

I'm a success story (maybe?)

September 27th, 2016 at 08:08 am

I was thinking about retirement today during some down time (OK, I do that too much I fear), and I was looking at the balance in my 457 retirement plan. I started to think that about how expectations change over time. 10 years ago I would have been ecstatic having my current balance, especially with a pension and other investments and a paid house, and I started to think back at how things looked then. And then it hit me...

About 10 years ago I watched a PBS "Frontline" video they made about our retirement system in the U.S. Basically discussing the 401k retirement system and how it was inadequate (I don't agree, but that that's not my point). In it they talked to various people from a company that never had a pension plan but very aggressively tried to get employees to save, save, save in the 401k plan for their retirement. The main two retirees talked with was one guy that didn't save nearly enough, and another was a fellow that had saved a fairly good amount and while he said he had wished he had saved more he thought he didn't do too bad. The fellow with the large amount lived in a nice house and seemed fairly relaxed about his retirement (and the narrator talked of him as a success story). And today it hit me.... the amount they showed for his 401k balance... it was almost identical to what I have saved in my account now. And that account was for both him and his wife (If I recall correctly). So am I a success story??? Hmmmm....

These days I go online and I see people with a million or more saved, and it makes me think I should do more. Yet I need to remember that I'm doing good and there is really no need to stress on this any more. I'll be in great shape whatever comes down the pipe at this point. (that doesn't mean I am going to go crazy spending however!!!)

Saving money & helping family - Win/win

August 4th, 2016 at 08:01 am

Saving money is always good, but helping family is good too. Usually the two don't intersect, but when they do, its almost always a good thing. Even if its not the most optimal solution. At least that's my opinion. To that point....

Two summers ago I was able to re-shingle my mother's house. In doing so I was able to save her tons of money and that helped me save lots of money (via free use of her times share for quite a few years). Great to save money for myself, but it helped her too, so a definite win all around.

That leads to events this past month. I had a coupon for a free oil change at a nearby dealership. Of course it was for them to review my car and come up with all types of work that needed to be done on my car. Which I knew going in, but whatever. Before letting my car go the mechanic comes and points out everything I had left go for some time and how much it would cost to do. And oh yeah, I had to wait for hours to just get an oil change, but now that they are looking at my car, this work could be done quickly. I don't know the going rates, but I declined, figuring any place else would be better (especially after seeing how much they wanted for each piece of work). (Plus I was disgusted having to wait 4 hours for the car to be done as I used their online appointment service before going there!).

The next day thinking on it I remembered hearing about the SG-GF's son and how for the past few months he was running his own "on the go" mechanics service. I thought perhaps this would be good work for him and I might get it done for less. Actually I would have liked to have the work done for free as "family", but he is trying to start a business and deserves all the business he can get. He said he could do the work, and while visiting her for vacation with my son, he was able to do the work, and for maybe $100-$150 less than the dealership. Could I have got it done less somewhere else? I don't know, but really it doesn't matter, as getting a good enough price and helping him was certainly worth more to me than saving an extra $10-$20 elsewhere (if that was even possible).

Just ruminating I guess, but while saving money is good, there are other things to consider in life. Now I'm wondering if he can do other things on the car when I am there next time. Hmmmmmm....

10 years later...

August 3rd, 2016 at 01:41 pm

Well I have been away for a while, still working on my savings, being frugal, and my personal relationships (not necessarily in that order).

However for today I am looking back 10 years, only because I have been on here in one form or another for that amount of time.

Looking at my numbers for 2006 in August, 10 years ago
* All my investments added up to about what I still owed on my mortgage. Maybe the equivalent of one year's take home pay.
* I was in the midst of working out a divorce with my wife.
* I was only to year 3 of my current job, and wasn't even vested yet in the pension plan.
* I was turning my life around, but it had a long way to go.
* My saving accounts fluctuated between $100 - $2,000

Now its August 2016, and
* My house has been paid off since 2011
* My investments are now about the equivalent of 10 years of take home pay (though maybe 25 years of expenses).
* I'm happily divorced and happily have a girl friend who is great.
* I'm finishing year 13 at my last job, still going strong, and have a nice vested pension amount at this point.
* My life has long been set to a new compass direction, and an excellent one at that.
* My savings accounts now fluctuate between $20,000 & $25,000.

Getting the ship going the right direction can be a pain, but once there, you can really make headway. Not sure I would have believed it would work out this well 10 years ago, but it has gone well.

Coming soon to an airspace near you (X2)

October 29th, 2015 at 07:37 am

There's a title to an old movie "The Gods Are Crazy" (or something like that). In the past few days, it seems that way.

What's been up? Well...

The "birthday fund" at work is supposed to supposed to reimburse expenses when we are tasked to bring in a cake. Well, I did that, and brought in the receipt to the person that has the funds. My bill came out to $20 exactly. Great, I can give her the receipt, and we don't have to worry about making change - I'll just get a $20 bill. Easy, or so I thought. I walk to her desk and she tells me she doesn't think she has the change for this. I point out its $20 exactly, no change is required. She opens up the envelope and all that is there are a few $1's and a $100 bill. Sheesh, really??? I got my money the next day (I brought in $80 and got the $100 bill), so no real problem, but come 'on folks.

Election time is here and we're getting the various big glossy card for various low level politicians. I got one the other day, and the SG-GF looked at it and immediately says "Is that Abe Lincoln running for your local supervisor?" I look and sure enough, the guy looks like he is Abe's twin (but dressed in modern day clothes). And it wasn't a joke photo, all the cards that have arrived for him look similar to that one. He may be a great guy, but really, that's the look you're going for?

And for the airspace items.....

First comes this: At work we get occasional offers for computer sales via Dell (we're supposed to get some type of extra deal buying through our employer). On Monday came our offers for November. Well, for the first sales offer came this: "Buy a computer ($500+), get a drone free". Oooooh, my effing head. Great now anyone can buy a computer and become the total bane of the neighborhood. As if we don't have enough idiots around, now we need to encourage them. Frown All I can say for this one is where can I get my giant drone swatter???

And then this: Yesterday a military blimp escaped and headed into PA. As it got lower its dragging cables started to take out power. Well..... it ended up going right next to my old high school (the school was mentioned in some news stories), not far from my mother, and I heard from her last night that the power was out in the area for over an hour due to the craziness.

Just when you thought the sky was safe, guess again!

Forgot to renew your policy? Congratulations!

September 29th, 2015 at 12:49 pm

Just like stores, where the errors always seem to fall in their favor (shocking!), so too does it work that way with insurance companies (even more shocking!).

To wit... this month the SG-GF forgot to renew her renter insurance policy. Soooo... the company informs the apartment complex, who then complains to her that she needs to get this re-activated. So she goes and finds out she can't get it reactivated, but has to apply anew (usually that means more money for them). Sounds bad, but guess again. Her company finds out that her credit score increased so much since she first set it up (I understand their logic using a credit score to price out renter insurance... nonetheless don't get me started on how stupid I find that to be...) they'll now give her the same policy at a much reduced rate.

Very convenient that they didn't lower her rate when her score went up (without this intervention). I'm sure if credit score went down there would have been a rate increase for her. The real solution is for her (and anyone else) to live in a way you don't need to spend money on such .... lunacy.

I like my money working for me, not the other way around. And I plan on keeping it that way.

Changing of the seasons

August 27th, 2015 at 12:36 pm

And, no, I am not talking about summer into fall (though I won't mind it when it arrives!).

Instead as Lucky Robin pointed out this month, once you get all your debts paid off, finding that push to keep you going forward is harder and harder for some. It is/was for me as well (check my 2/20/2014 entry). Instead I have decided to work on other pressing items. In my case, one of them has been my mother and her finances. A widow now, the only person to work with her on her finances will be me (only child), and now is the time to do it while she still has all her faculties (and is amenable to doing it).

So in that vein, in the past few months I have been working with her on taking care of things she has left go for way too long. Things like updating her will, removing her deceased husband from all her accounts and title to house and cars, getting me access to her accounts (in case I need to pay bills for her), rearranging her IRAs (from a bank to a brokerage), getting her paperwork in one place so I know where it all is, finding out who was going to be her estate's executor (She had me listed as such - Thanks mom for not telling me! Frown ), setting up power of attorney, and the list keeps going....

Its nice to see that while she isn't rich, it looks like she shouldn't ever be in poverty either. She's healthy, and given the age her mother died, it should be 20+ years before I will need to use alot of what I am setting up now. But knowing that things have been taken care of will certainly help going forward.

OK, I've taken care of her finances, dealt with the girlfriend's finances.... what do I need to work on next? Hmmmmmm.....

100% Pay Raise? Not really, though it feels like it.

August 10th, 2015 at 12:49 pm

I was going to call this "the most wonderful time of the year", though that seemed a bit pretentious...

This year, just like I have been doing since 2008 (or did I start in 2009?) I have been front loading my retirement plan contributions at work. This has been done with the assumption that more often than not the funds in my 457 plan will be lower at the beginning of the year and this will allow me to save even more for retirement. I know this worked well for me in 2009-2012, since then its been sorta iffy.

In any case, originally to make this be less painful I would back end my tax payments to try to equalize my take home over the year. Since I have paid off my mortgage, I've decided to cut back on this technique as I don't need as much to get me through month to month.

That all said, the past few years I have contributed at such a large percentage, that sometime in September my contributions usually stop (that is I have maxed out for the year), and my take home increases dramatically for the remainder of the year. This year is no different, my last bi-weekly paycheck in August (21st) will have my last contributions for the year (well.. there will be about $100 remaining, but lets not quibble). So how much will my take home increase? Well lets put it this way, my last 9 paychecks for the year will total slightly more than the total for the first 17 paychecks of this year. That's 100% more take home from here on out! Par-tay.

From the first 17 paychecks I was still able to save a nice amount and put that in my brokerage. Now for the last 4 months? Its time to enjoy a week vacation with the SG-GF and her son, a few long weekends together, and enjoy the remainder of the year. And time to start adding some serious coin to my brokerage account.


Hey, that all said above doesn't mean I stopped being frugal (or will stop going forward). Far from it. Yard sales have still been good to me (though last weekend was abysmal). Lots of finds from hobby related items to keep and sell, household items that are serious upgrades, and lots of other things I can sell online have been coming into my hands this year. My withdrawals from Paypal have been $1,300 year to date, and I have lots more to list this week. $200 of the profits went to my SG-GF as some items were her's, but still its been going good.

I haven't reviewed my expenses, but I know they have been staying low. I made mulberry jam this summer, and am looking to do the same with the pears building up on my tree right now. And then there is the various food stocks I brought back from my visit to my mother. Canned meat she over bought, and other staples, that should feed me for my lunches for at least a few months.

And visiting with her there is a nearby "surplus outlet" where you can sometimes get very discounted food. I returned home with a dozen boxes of multi-grain chocolate cheerios for $0.79 each, a bag of whole grain flour for $0.25, a jar of mayonaise for $0.25, and some other odds and ends. Seriously, how can you beat those prices???

My investments have been so-so this year, but hey, you can't have everything, right? Though there will be more on that in my next posting....

Looking forward, not back, and a quickie review YTD

June 14th, 2015 at 03:39 pm

Something I try to keep in my GF's mind... that she shouldn't stress over things that have happened (though learn from them), but try to make things better going forward (that is: "look forward, not back"). (Not that I forget the past, but I don't let it keep me from moving forward.) Anyway, in that vein, I tried to cheer her up a few weeks ago on a down day for her and sent to her the following list of things I am looking forward to:

* In less than two months I will be taking off two weeks to be with my son.
* In two months I will be getting slightly larger paychecks (about 1%, but hey, it counts)
* In three months we are going to an out of town social event we look forward to every year.
* In three months I will have completely funded my 457 retirement plan for 2015. That means larger paychecks going forward through the end of the year for me to invest (or whatever).
* In five months we will be on our way to Florida.
* And after that we have various work holidays through the end of the year.

Nothing earth shattering there, but its keeping my eye on the ball (so to speak) that helps me through the hard days. She felt it was good for her to read them and remember the good times we had and the good times to come for us.

eBay Sales
I have slowed down on my sales, though I did bring in about $60 earlier this month. As an approximation for my sales, I checked for how much I transferred to my saving from Paypal for this year. Just over $1,000. That's not too shabby. And in the past 3 weeks I have picked up some very nice hobby items to sell, maybe make another $100-$200 if I am lucky. Now I just need to test them and get my sales going again!

Well I have been doing worse than the market so far this year. (BOOOOO) My 457 plan has risen (after contributions) about $20k, maybe about 6%. My Roth IRA I think is flat for the year after my yearly contribution (maybe up 1-2% depending on the day I check!). I knew there would be years like this. I keep telling myself that's ok. Hopefully I will remember that.

My brokerage is doing well, but only because I have been adding lots this year. Growth has been minimal. But a year ago it was about $12k, now its at $38k. That's a great start. My DRIPs are some days up, some days they look flat for the year. At least the dividends are increasing!

Other savings are holding steady, which I am fine with. I have over a year's worth of expenses in my savings/checking accounts, I see no need to increase them.

I think my expenses have been lower this year than last, if such a thing is possible, so I am very happy there. I'm not checking the numbers, so maybe I am deluding myself. But the checking account is doing better than last year, and the only difference I can think of is the extra from my sales and a single savings bond redemption. And I have already paid for our get away over Labor day, my son's plane ticket, and my home and car insurance. All I have is possible car repairs and house taxes to get me through this year. I even made some mulberry jam this year (though not too much, the tree isn't producing like it used to). And maybe a month ago I went to CVS and using coupons, and sale items I got a bottle of laundry detergent and 5 bottle of dish detergent == $0.29. And I paid for that using my CVS gift card. In fact many purchases of late have been with gift cards. And I just completed another credit card bonus, and am getting another $200 of gift cards -- sweet Smile.

Hopefully nothing will surprise me going forward.

Everything is holding near steady. Its good when you have a groove going forward.

A Massively Good Financial Week

May 5th, 2015 at 12:20 pm

There are times when nothing happens financially and then everything hits at once. Well this is one of those weeks when everything is coming together very nicely.

In this week...

* I got a check for $3.50 from one credit card. I wasn't using the card, but got an offer for $10 to sign up for e-statements. I used $6.50 on the card and I guess they wanted to get the remainder off the books. Sweet, free money.
* This Sunday I went to CVS to get a few things cheap. Well, due to some inadvertent purchases and returns I not only got mouthwash, body soap, and 3 bags of pretzels for free, I walked out with $5 more than I went in with. Pretty cool.
* Today I went and cashed the first of my maturing savings bonds. Hard to believe it has been 30 years since I bought them. A little over $200, so my wallet is now heavier.
* And when I got home from cashing in the savings bond, I see my federal tax return arrived in my checking account. Almost $800, added to the savings bond I will be getting over $1k.
* And then on Friday my last CD is maturing at the credit union. Almost $6,000, there is no way I will renew it with the pathetic rates currently available. Probably it will go into my brokerage, but with the constant warnings of a market correction, this has me worried. Well nothing to do for it, I will survive one way or another.

Not a bad week. And with my pay checks from work arriving last week, and next week, that makes 3 weeks with nice deposits. Its a shame my car insurance will be due later this month. Still, its a great start to May.

One-Third Year Check-in

April 30th, 2015 at 07:49 am

I haven't been posting anything since things are pretty much going on autopilot lately (which is GOOD). Given that, you are warned the remainder is fairly boring, but that's the way it goes sometimes.

So lets see...

In addition to my previous free finds (and then sales of free items), two weeks ago I picked up a toy train motor for free. I have already sold it for over $12, so a nice easy profit. Picked up two other toy train sets (yeah, a specialty of mine) for $12, they were both really nice. I should be able to sell them this fall for over $100 combined (they're not the type I like or I would keep them), so I just store for a few months and sell - easy. My other ebay sales have gotten pretty slow - maybe $100 in sales in the past 2 months, but that's ok, I needed the break. But getting more stuff out the door would be nice (and I listed a few things last night).

Yard sales have started, and other than the trains, I have picked up some classic cookware, and though I haven't tried to sell any, I know I could make a decent profit if I tried ($10 purchase of plates would go for ~$60, $6 dish normally goes for $30-ish, $4 casserole that would sell for $25, and a few other items really cheap that are more for restoration than any other reason). I will probably keep all of it, but you never know. Yard sales are fun to go to, as long as the weather is nice.

My finances are doing well so far this year. I've put over $11k into the 457b plan that has gone up $30k to date. My brokerage has gone up $7k (though $5k is from my deposits of cash) Then there is the $1500 I've had to contribute to my pension. Since my savings have held steady, that means I am saving around 55% of my gross earnings, a healthy rate I want to keep if possible. As far as overall amounts, the retirement account went up $30k so far (that makes $19k of growth!) and the Roth grew only $1,500 (oh well) Frown

As for CC Signups - $200 & $50 from a savings signup. Its hard to find any good ones any more. I've had to close some accounts so I can get a chance to sign up again in the next year or two (I hope). If not, that's ok, I still have plenty of credit if I need it.

My health is doing ok, I have kept up with my daily workouts, modifying it some to see if I can get even better results. I did tweak my knee a few months ago, I hope to get over the residual pain soon (it hurts off and on). The SG-GF is doing much better, her health is improving with a new diet and other tweaks, and she is looking healthier. Its great to see her happier about her health.

Spring is here and its only a half year until our yearly (& nearly free) vacation to Florida. Life is good.

More Recycling for Easy Money

February 27th, 2015 at 12:44 pm

Not much in ebay sales for the past 2 weeks (I guess I needed a break) though I have a few ending this weekend. Anyway, I went to recycling last week with my papers and cans and bottles, and looked for boxes to send out items (I used alot of my supply in the past months). Well, wouldn't you know it, I found more things new in the original shrink wrap. This time it was 3 packs of a folder indexing kit and I brought them home. I listed them that night, and while it is ending this Sunday, I already have an opening bid of $11. Looking at similar prior sales, I wouldn't be surprised if it gets up to $20, but I will be happy with the minimum bid, if that's as far as it goes.

That will give me for the winter sales of 2 books (net of $80), pair of sandals (net of $40) and folder supplies (net of $10), for a total $130 profit just by taking my recyclables to the local bins like a responsible person.

Easy peasy money. Gotta luv it. Big Grin

Can I keep this up for the year???

February 19th, 2015 at 07:00 pm

So far this year I have been on an ebay selling tear. I have resolved to not let things pile up, but to list them online. I have discovered that things sell much better when you list them (shocking - I know!). So far this year I am over $800 in sales. I know, I know, its profits that matter. Well.... I figure if I back out the ebay fees (sheesh, they charge enough), sales that belong to the SG-GF, and the expense of buying some things this year.... hmmmm... well I come up with a little over $550 of profit for me. Its been work, but a good kind of work. Although I am getting burned out for the moment.

My expenses have so far been crazy low too. Yes, the heating bill is relatively high, but if I add up the utilities (gas, electric, phone, water, internet), they've probably cost me only $300 so far. A good thing, right? Well... yes it is, but... I am trying to spend enough on my latest credit card to earn the bonus of $100. I still have a month, and need to spend another $250 by the end of March. I may need to pre-pay some more bills if possible. Or buy more gift cards. Or... I don't know, maybe prepay at the dentist? Its a crazy problem to have.

I've spent quite a few weekends with the SG-GF. Lots of driving to and fro, but its a good life, and going strong. Nothing I can complain about, that's for sure.

Thankfully nothing has broken down lately. I was thinking every week I was going to have something new to fix.

Life is doing good, at least for now. Big Grin

More sales, More Fixes

January 21st, 2015 at 08:18 am

After some more sales finished this week online, I noticed that my sales for the last 2 months is over $530. If I back out the items sold for the SG-GF, the ebay fees (boooo), and my cost of the items, I am probably netting almost $400. A nice extra paycheck to invest in stocks or in my hobbies, though for the past year that was about $125 for a 90 year old restored train, and maybe another $100 for classic kitchenware I let the SG-GF use when she visits. I need to keep up this pace in the coming year.

And then the last weekend visiting her I picked up a lot of "Cars" movie based toy cars and track for $8. Looking online, I expect I can sell them for maybe $75 if I split it into separate sales. Yeehaw.


As for fixes, in the past week I replaced my car's brake light switch. It cost $20 for the part online, and maybe 15 minutes of work under my car's dash. With a nice markup for the part, and the labor cost, what would that be, maybe $100 to make the repair at the dealership (not to mention the time and driving there to get it done)?

And then last night I fixed my furnace. Darn thing would only heat for maybe 15 seconds and then cut off. After an hour of cleaning and observing the mechanism in action, I spotted the on the side the listing of the LED indicator light codes (There is a LED on the circuit board inside that was flashing). Turned out the code could apply to a number of problems, but only one made any sense. And it even had next to it the most likely way to fix it. A quick hand sanding of the furnace ignition sensor (oxide buildup) and now I have heat in the house again. While aggravating to figure out, at least now I know what to do if this happens again. And no charge for a repairman to come and look at it.


And finally I am working on my latest credit card for a $100 bonus. I forget who mentioned the AARP credit card here, but thanks for the info!

That's a "Service Deal Special"???

January 9th, 2015 at 05:49 am

Over Christmas the SG-GF got both of us replacement cabin air filters for our cars. She had been threatening to get new ones for a while, and she finally did it. Well after looking online for how to do it, I spent about 4 minutes replacing mine, and 2 minutes to replace it in her car. No tools required. She was saying "That's it?" after it was done. Yep, that was it. "They wanted $60 to do that!" Now you know why dealerships are so shiny.

Anyway, today I got an email from the local dealership promoting various "specials" (*cough, cough*). Yeah, they're "special" all right. For $50 they have the special to replace the filter on my car. I checked online, and the filters cost less than $10 each, and I am sure the dealership pays less than I do for the filters. I know they have overhead, but give me a break. Charge me $30-$40 for 5 minutes of work, and then review the car to find other things you recommend to be "fixed" at your "cheap" rates as well? Ugh.

Can anyone understand simple math nowadays?

December 23rd, 2014 at 08:10 am

Went to the local Family Dollar store last night with a Family Dollar store coupons for a can of veggies ($0.50 after FD coupon), and for a case of coke cans for $2.75 (after FD coupon). I also had a $3 off manufacturer coupon. With all of that, I should just have to pay for the can plus tax (maybe $0.60 - right)? Well you would be wrong. Their system insisted after all the coupons I needed to pay over $1.50. I immediately said this can't be right and I got a lost look from the cashier. Instead of saying something like "Well our system voids out the other coupon when you use yours, we can't change it", all I got from the person at the register as well as the manager that came over was "No, it didn't void the coupon, that's the right amount. See the computer says so." I left with my coupon and the can of corn - sheesh.

The computer says so???? So if the computer says you are getting paid only half of what you expect that is ok, because "the computer says so"??? People, you are getting paid poorly because you are clueless, and you will remain that way for the foreseeable future. And I won't feel sorry for you.

Sorry, but it just had to be said.

Free vacation to Florida & Recycling for easy money

December 22nd, 2014 at 11:48 am

====================== Florida Vacation ======================

Well its been over a month since the trip to Florida, and its well past time to report on the cost, or lack thereof, for the trip. Well I am happy to say that my expenses for the trip were under $300. Now this doesn't take into account the expenses that were exclusively for my girlfriend (the SG-GF), as this time we brought along her son, so her expenses were higher than she was originally planning.

As for me, I spent $170 for a three day pass to Universal, $30 for a dinner theater, $15 for a ghost tour in Savannah, and $50 for a present for her son (a belated birthday present). How come no more costs? Well we stayed at my mother's timeshare for free (in exchange for re-roofing her house), A stay in Savannah was free using CC sign up bonus points, gas was free (via gift cards she got with Swag bucks), food was... well not free but we spent maybe 1/2 our normal on food (my mother wanted to cook for us a few nights) and we went out to eat one night, so I figure that nets out to a normal week's food expense. We did buy a few other things (maybe $100 total between us), but none of them were touristy items, so no sense in counting them either. And in addition, I just happened to get a $300 bonus on the paycheck awaiting me when I returned. And.... I also picked up $70 for a timeshare tour and hard sales pitch (I pity the poor woman that had to work with us - we were hard on her!).

Sooooo... the total cost due to the trip for me was .... about $270. And I got extra that pay period... $370. So I ended up with a wonderful vacation with SG-GF & her son, and got my normal paycheck + $100. Woohoo, what a way to live. (OK, bragging I guess, but I was very happy with it Smile)

================= Recycling ======================

As is my usual concern for the environment (as well as allowing me to not need to pay for garbage pickup), I have been continuing to go to the local recycling center with papers and glass and cans, etc.... Well the last two visits (and some prior) I have been looking for good small boxes to pick up for shipping ebay sales (I won't get into how great that has gone the past two months - other than great Smile ). Crazily enough, even that has now been a great money maker for me. How so? Well the last time there I picked out a box and it felt like something was inside. When I opened it up, there were high end leather sandals still with the packing and tags. Not my size, I decided to check online, and I find that these sell on ebay for about $50 a pair new (mine's new!, and they sell retail for about $90). I haven't listed them yet, but what a deal!

And the prior time I went there I tried to pick out a storage box from the recycling bin, and I found inside a pile of brand new books. I didn't know what they went to, but I figured I would take them home and see - maybe I would get lucky. I found out they go to a very specialized advanced class for non-profits. Well I listed one on half.com, and it just sold (3 weeks). I will net over $40 for that one book, and I have a pile of 6 more identical I need to list yet! Woohoo, easy money - I luv it. Big Grin

A great weekend to save money

August 20th, 2014 at 05:48 pm

At least it was for me this past weekend. The SG-GF visited for the first time in a while and it seemed like we were off to the races doing things which were fun, yet saved us lots of money.

===== Some random this and thats from the weekend follow =======

Of course we had to start with the yard sale loop on Saturday. Not too many buys, maybe $10 spent between the two of us. Next she went to Aldi's to save on her groceries (nothing like that where she lives).

Ok, then what? Oh lets see, I got this month's gas bill in the mail. It was all of $7. I think I can handle that Wink (almost no usage, and a state mandated refund of a few dollars accounted for this).

Later we went to CVS so I could use some "ExtraBucks" I got from a CVS online survey before they expired. I combined it with coupons I was able to find here and there, and was able to walk out mouthwash to last me 6 months, a 2 liter soda, and $10 in extrabucks. Only cost me an extra $4 from my CVS gift card I got for free from my credit card sign ups. And I see I can go and spend another $5 and get $5 extrabucks. So more for free - I can handle that.

Then the big money saver, the SG-GF asked that I help her color her hair. Ooooh, a challenge. And if I screw up, well... it could be fixed I suppose Big Grin. Anyway, it was fun, worked great and she was very very happy with it. Of course now it looks like I will be doing this in the future - ruh roh! Not sure how much that saves, but she said it was lots-lots.

Another big item was my washer stopped working - ugh. So back online I went and tonight I took that monster apart and fixed it - cost was $0 and an hour of my time. $#@!#!!! cheapo Sears brand washer. Oh well, at least it happened to lots of others, and youtube showed how to fix it.

For our trip to Florida, we each got another $50 gas card last week - I think we already have enough! But I'm not complaining - more is better (at least I hear that on TV the few times I turn it on). And I got a new credit card. A small signup bonus but a large bonus once you use it at their branded motels. Well it so happens we're going to one for Labor Day weekend! Great, we'll use it there, and then use the points to stay at motels on the trip down and back up in November. Hey, another win-win. Big Grin

Oh, and she helped me fix some toy train cars when she arrived (I need three hands to do this!). And some items sold on ebay and half - one was a small toy train engine I got in a box of lots of trains for $20 - this one I didn't want sold for $25 - yep, I like my hobbies for free.

Whew, what a great weekend. We had other adventures that she said she really enjoyed as well.

Halfway point for 2014 - how am I doing so far?

July 7th, 2014 at 01:51 pm

Just a financial update here for the half year mark....

After backing out contributions so far this year, my retirement accounts have gone up ~$34,600. If you add in my contributions, they would be up ~$57,500. Add in increases in savings accounts and brokerage, and I will be near ~$62k. Even with this sorta flat year in the market, this is great considering I have taken home only around $14,000. With all this talk about a bubble occurring, it makes me wonder if this increase is just funny money, or the real deal. Hopefully I will be able to keep it long term. We'll just have to wait and see.

Keep on investing...

A weeklong vacation for $0???

June 23rd, 2014 at 06:58 am

This fall the SG-GF (Single Guy Girlfriend) and I are going on our yearly weeklong vacation to Florida. After this spring/summer of working on my mother's roof, my mother is going to let me use the timeshare for free this year (and hopefully some future years - yet to be negotiated!). As the SG-GF has started with the credit card signup bonuses (following my lead), she proposed an interesting idea to me this weekend.

Her idea is this... Since we have the timeshare to use this year, perhaps we can make this a weeklong vacation costing $0. At first I thought this was a nice idea to cut down our expenses on the trip, but I am now thinking this might be a possibility. Here is what I see as our expenses and how we could cover each for free.

* Lodging: Already covered above.

* Amusement parks: SG-GF pointed out we could sign up for Disney branded CCs that would give bonuses to use at Disney parks. I'm not sure how much this would cover, but it could cover a majority of that expense. I still need to research this.

* Transportation: We're driving, and the SG-GF is a big Swagbucks user. She thinks we can cover the cost of gas with gas branded gift cards we can get from there. I don't remember the prior years' exact costs, but $200-$300 seemed to cover our gas purchases, and I know she can get lots of gas cards, so this may be doable as well.

* Food: I have some restaurant gift cards from prior CC sign ups, so those should cover any eating out while we are there.

* Miscellaneous: I know we can get money from the time share by going through one of their sales presentations. I'm thinking it was $50, but I may be wrong there. In any case, it should cover a lot of our random expenses.

Hmmmm... could we make this work? I am thinking it could happen. If nothing else I will have to track our expenses closely this year and see just how well it works out. Free vacations... I like it Big Grin.

Is it 3/4 full or 3/4 empty?

May 2nd, 2014 at 02:49 pm

After spending the past week barely in the office (6 hrs in one day and another day teleworking) due to a bad flu (for a while I thought they might have to put me down), today is pay day. Nothing too special there, but it gets you to think. I would like to retire early, and I certainly haven't changed that attitude, but being out sick, moping about the house, and just feeling like you could die at times.... and yet now I am getting better and know I will get paid for these days just like if I had gone in to work. It makes me appreciate having that office just a (little) more then I did a week ago. So that office job, is it a 3/4 full or 3/4 empty situation? Hopefully it can stay on the 3/4 full side.

PS: My apologies for those that don't get paid sick leave at your jobs - I know that sucks big time. BT-DT.

Saving money can be painful

April 21st, 2014 at 06:54 am

Last summer my mother looked into getting her roof replaced. Her home is only one story high, and the roof is relatively flat, yet the estimates came in from $13,000 to $18,000 (!). And this wasn't for new plywood or even new roofing felt, just putting new shingles on. I told her that amount was crazy as while the roof is large, its very safe and easy to get up on. So I offered to do the work, if she helped as she could.

So last fall the shingles were delivered and put onto her roof (lifted with a boom, and I placed them on the roof).

Jump ahead to this spring and I have spent two of the last three weekends working on her roof. Ugh. While its easy to get up and stay up, that is still a ton of work. Well, with her help we are about 40% completed, and the parts we did were the harder sections. The rest should be more straightforward (thankfully). Of course my body is all sore and will take a few days to recover, but at least my exercising is coming in handy.

Who knew saving money could be so painful?

I'm a Half-a-Millionaire!

April 1st, 2014 at 07:25 am

Just like the famous Horace Vandergelder, today after adding up all my investments, retirement plans, savings, bonds, etc.., (and not including house, car, other physical items) I'm now a "Half-a-Millionaire", at least for a day!. (Ok, for those that are wondering of what I speak... look up Hello Dolly!)

My look at my retirement accounts is encouraging. According to what I read, the various indicies went up 0.5% - 2% for the first quarter of this year. After backing out my contributions to date, my 457 plan went up 3.9%, and my Roth IRA went up 4.7%. As before, am I lucky or smart? Hmmmmmmm.

Expenses are doing well, I just got paid for an other ebay sale (phone bought for $0.50, sold for $23, will probably net $20). I have interest in a classic coffee mug I bought for $1 on Saturday, and am looking to sell for $15, so hopefully that will sell too. Now I just need to list more items for sale, lord knows I have enough.

And after a rediculous cold winter, has spring finally arrived? I sure hope so, I am certainly primed to get out to yard sales. And to plant items in the garden. I have lots of plants growing inside just ready and raring to get outside and get lots of sun.

Things are good (until I try to do my taxes this coming weekend!!!)

When the debts are gone, what do you use to keep yourself pushing forward?

February 20th, 2014 at 01:51 pm

The title is probably a question most people wish they had, but as I was looking at my latest paycheck, I realized I don't have the pleasure I once did when it came to seeing each paycheck, taking the numbers and entering them into my custom spreadsheet, and watching myself come closer to, and then passing, each goal.

I don't remember each one, but here are some I worked towards, and kept me motivated to keep coming into work.

* Get to where more of my mortgage payment went to principal instead of to interest
* Build up $20,000 in CDs (that was good only when CD gave you real money)
* Have more in my retirement accounts & savings than all my debts (mortgage / car / whatever)
* Have more in my retirement accounts than my mortgage
* Have more in my savings than my mortgage balance (I sense a trend here)
* Have all my debts paid off
* Have more than $400k in my retirement accounts (That was for late 2015 and I already passed it!)
* Have more in all my savings and liquid accounts (brokerage / DRIPs / etc...) than my yearly take home amount (I realized today I was past that as well)

Now I am at the point of "now what?". Any financial goal I make now really is long term. Dividends come to mind. Watching my dividends grow is soooo slow (It takes $10,000 to add just $400 to a yearly dividend amount - assuming 4% dividend which isn't likely). So using dividends as a short term goal isn't the best.

So I don't know. Not complaining (how can I?), but I don't want to be doing the same thing "just because". Intellectionally I know this is probably the best thing to keep going forward at the job for now (and probably until I can retire with a pension).

But still having something short term to work on knocking out would be a help. Do I want to make it "I want to have more than two years of take home pay"? That seems sort of arbitrary. "Have enough to buy XYZ car"? Well... I'm not a car guy, so that's no incentive. "Have enough for a cross country trip"? While that sounds interesting, that's a nebulous amount, and anyway I doubt neither I nor my girlfriend can take enough time off to make that happen. So for those that have gotten past the owing money point, what short term goals do you use, if any?

Just some run-on items for the year to date:

On non-financial areas so far this year:
* I have been able to easily take time off to take care of my girlfriend during medical issues
* My car is running well
* I'm keeping up with my daily exercises.
* I had physical exams so far this year for people over 50 and everything came out great (you can fill in the blanks there!).
* We even spent a couple of days in Florida in January having a good time.

In other financial areas I have:
* Sold on ebay over $150 this year. Half of the sales were hers, mine probably gave me a profit of $50 after expenses.
* Another $20 of Half.com sales, and $50 of sales on Craigslist. So I'm getting items out of here I don't need (though there is plenty more of that).
* Shoot, I even upgraded some of my clothes for cheap already this year (great estate sale three weeks ago).
* And we've been getting great things for extra cheap at Goodwill outlet stores this year. (and already resold some)

A new year, but the same old

January 14th, 2014 at 08:09 am

The first paycheck has come and gone (so to speak), and here I am back in the time of year where much more of my paycheck is going to the retirement accounts than to my wallet, so to speak. 40% of my gross earnings are going to the 457 plan (1/2 Roth, 1/2 pre-tax), 5% to my pension plan, and after taxes / insurance I get to take home only 32% of my pay. Sigh. Oh well... its good for me, right? Its not like I am short of money or anything.

I've already put in the limit for my Roth IRA for 2014 ($6,500), and I put in for three limit orders to spend that money. One has struck so far, we'll see if the market forces these other companies down to my price.

Already got the $100 CC bonus from a card I signed up for last year, now I'm finishing up the Discover spending for that bonus, then its onto the Chase/Amtrak CC and its bonus.

And life goes on (but a good life, right?).

A fast 2013 financial review

January 1st, 2014 at 08:02 am

Time for a quickie review of my finances at the end of 2013. This was another crazy year when it came to investments as the market is going crazy up of late. You have to wonder if it can even hold its own for the coming years. Hmmmm.... I'm not worried, at least not yet (though more than this time last year). Anywho... here are some numbers that I quickly put together this morning...

Retirement (457) / Roth IRA / Brokerage / DRIPS total: ~$445,000 (an increase of $128,000 from the end of 2012)

Other savings (CDs / checking / savings / saving bonds) Total: ~$34,000 (an increase of $15,000)

Gadzooks, that is crazy, the increase ($143k) is much more than my salary, way more than I spend in a year (now without a mortgage try 4-5 years!) And my pension is looking better too. Not much to say other than here's to a good 2014.

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