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Archive for April, 2006

Catching up on life

April 28th, 2006 at 08:53 pm

Well I was away from the blog for a bit, so what has been happening?? Lets see....


I went yard sale-ing two weeks ago. I found a very good replacement vacumn for $18 and it works much much better than the junker I have at home. It is bagless which I like. Plus I got a Samsonite carry-on roller luggage piece - like new - for $5. Tomorrow is another day of yard sales - great!
I got my new credit card, and according to the web site after confirming the card, I'm supposed to be getting my 0% $0 bank transfer to do some rate arbitrage. Hopefully this money will appear soon.
Went with my train hobby club for 3 days to do a major display, and boy, was I tired when it was all over. Glad I did it, and will be happy not to do that for some time. LOL
My clothing expenses so far this year - $3.00. Two shirts for a $1 at a thrift store closeout, and another shirt at a yard sale. I don't know how long I can keep this up, but when I open my closet I still see shirts and pants like new just waiting. Its nice to see this excess clothing not go to waste. (and putting the saved money to use for me)
I finally cut down how much I am paying on my mortgage, but I hated to do it. There is nothing nicer than seeing that number drop faster, but I realized cutting my extra payment down could help me buy other investments and help me more in the long run. Intellectually I know it, but emotionally I hate it.
I have my one-third of a year progress report on my net worth (should it be called "one-third annual report"?). My home equity is up almost $3K. DRIPs are up about $2K, and my retirement numbers are up almost $10K. Alot of the increases are due to investing savings, but the market has done well this year. Other savings (MM, CDs, checking) are down slightly, but not a major amount. Hmmm, if I can keep this up I will get an increase of $45K for the year. I could live with that. Wink

Percentage-wise the increase for the three months is less than 4% which looks bad, but that is due to my net worth being heavily weighted by my home, and I haven't tried to re-estimate its value. I am using $400K for its value, though I know identical homes have sold for over $450K near by in the past year. Removing my home from the calculations, the net worth increased about 14% over four months. Now thats a pace I could enjoy seeing for some time.

Do pets need to be expensive?

April 17th, 2006 at 08:06 pm

I have read off and on how expensive pets are. You know the stories, those that say they can cost almost as much as a child. Seriously, I just read this stuff and wonder what in the world are they doing.
Anywho, in the theme of this blog (that is - savings!), here are my thoughts on ways to save with pets (and btw, I have a dog and cat, so that is where my history lies).
And one more thing, these are my thoughts on the subject. Don't take this as gospel or an expert's opinion. Take what makes sense to you, and if you think its out of line, ignore it! YMMV

Remember they may be part of the family, but they are dogs or cats. They don't look at the world like we do. They have sympathy, feelings, and all that, but really, all they want is warmth, companionship, fun, food, and a nice place to curl up. Oh, and perhaps some excitement once in a while. (and maybe a nice mouse for your cat to play with?)
They don't need expensive toys. For dogs, find used tennis balls at yard sales or near tennis courts. Dogs love them. For other toys, look at yard sales or thrift shops for cheap, but solid stuffed animals. If there is a little something wrong with the toy (a small stain perhaps), you can get it for less than a dollar usually. And the dog will love it. Just amke sure the stuffed animal is solidly sewn together, so it will hold up to rough-housing.
For cats, just try strings. They usually like them. My cat will amuse himself with tie bands from loaves of bread. I would try to buy him a toy for a dollar or two, but he kept going back to the tie band. I finally gave up, and he will play with them for hours.
For food, you can supplement their food (dry or canned) with certain types of scraps from meals. Especially dogs, as in the wild they will eat most everything of an animal if they are hungry. Of course use common sense here.
Check with your city or county to see if they have discount veterinary service. This is usually once or twice a year, so be ready to go when its available. For me I got a rabies shot for my dog a month ago for $10. But it was available for only 2 hours, so it was then or else, and I got us packed up and in the car when we needed to go.
Buy food in bulk (within reason)(and with a coupon). There is a site you can get a free food coupon. Go to: http://www.purinaone.com/30day_landing.asp

Take a few minutes and play him/her. Its free, you will make them happy, and it should make you happy. And isn't that why you got a pet in the first place?

OK, these were just a few thoughts. I haven't tried to come up with the costs for my dog and cat, but thinking it over, I would estimate they cost me maybe $250 last year. And people keep saying how good mannered they are, so I don't think I have made a mistake in how I care for them.
Again, YMMV.

Making your hobbies less expensive

April 12th, 2006 at 08:01 pm

Everybody needs a hobby, right? Even me, the super frugal guy has hobbies. Of course I try to keep it as inexpensive as possible.

This is just some ideas for your hobbies, as always YMMV. For those curious, I am currently into toy trains.


Find ways to make the items you collect, instead of just going out and buying at current retail. As for me, I buy old toy trains that need love and repair on ebay, especially pre-war metal trains. I get the pride of building my train cars, and having a little more invested emotionally into those train cars.
Find a local organization to join. For me, I joined a local modular club. We set up at many non-profit events during the year. Now I get to go to all of these things, enjoy myself, and I can enter these events for free! Of course there is work involved, but so what, it beats paying for a ticket at the door.
Be sensible. I mean, really, who needs 100s of {fill in the blank}. Even for me, while I like trains, I try to keep the collection sane. And in doing so, I keep my expenses down.
Find something similar to what you like. I used to be into baseball cards big time. Thankfully I didn't drop too much money into them. Anyway, I found a lot of fun with sports pocket schedules. They're similar to cards, and the cost is minor compared to cards. For other hobbies, maybe there is an inexpensive substitute?


OK, those were just a few ideas, I'm sure there are more out there.

And now a lil bit of good news: I was reading various financial forums, and someone wrote about a good tax deduction I was probably able to take in 2003 and didn't. I need to pull out my paperwork and see if I would qualify. It looks like if I did I should be able to get a few hundred back. Well that would certainly be nice for a change!

The power of compounding

April 11th, 2006 at 07:36 pm

I'm sure most everyone here has read about the power of compounding, but sometimes when you see it in action, it really is surprising.

I write this after reviewing my first quarter numbers for my four retirement funds (ok, I know thats probably too many, but it was six different a year ago, so I look at this as progress!). Two of them are old accounts that I am letting stay where they are. In comparing those two I have one account that has been going gangbusters with a return for the quarter of about 10%. The other has been ok but nothing great, returning maybe 4-5%. But the great account was at about $10k at the start of the year, whereas the so-so account started the year at $25k. Since these are old retirement accounts, there are no new investments.

I compared the difference between the two accounts at the beginning of the year, and at the end of the quarter and found the dollar difference between the two barely budged, maybe a $50 change.

So what is this showing? Well with the head start of $15k, even with superior performances from the smaller account, it most likely will never catch up to the bigger account. This just falls right in line with what all the beginner's investing articles say, that investing early is very important, and compounding is certainly your friend.

And now... I'll return to cursing at my computers, as I am down to using backup number two (a $15 machine I got for the heck of it last year) to get onto the internet. Frown

Taking control of my finances

April 1st, 2006 at 05:23 pm

This isn't a story about controling your spending (I feel I already do that), but instead I was like most of the masses and didn't really keep that close track of how each asset I had was doing.

This past week I have been setting up online connections to each of my assets and trying to put together an overall worksheet with my net worth. (As an aside, I did have this already set up for my retirement funds and mortgage payments, everything else was tracked based on monthly statements.) Its amazing how some sites are so easy to work with, and others were made by some tech geek without a clue - BTW I am a tech geek, but with a clue!
Anyway, ignoring my home, car, and physical furnishings, my net worth looks to be over $111K at the end of March. Based on my memory (my official spreadsheet is encrypted on my computer at work), I started the year at about $101K, so thats a $10K increase for 3 months. Of that about $3,000 was due to investments in my retirement acct. Still, not bad.

Other news & notes:
I opened my fourth DRIP this past week. I got the opening statement for my Heinz account. It was only the minimum you could start with, but I wanted to get a foot in the door. With it, my total DRIPs come up to almost $8,000.After reading online about investing, and so many philosophies about it, I went today and bout my first investing book. It is Rule #1 by Phil Town. I make no claims about how good it is, but everything I read about it came across as a practical book for investors. Perhaps after reading it I can give my opinion of it.I am still touchy-feely when it comes to paying bills, but I am trying to learn. This week I set up my second bill (natural gas) to be paid online, saving me postage if nothing else. Today I got my water bill and noticed there is no way to pay online Frown . Oh well, perhaps someday.And perhaps my biggest accomplishment, I got a co-worker to start putting money into his reitrement fund at work. He kept saying he couldn't afford it, but after seeing me these past few months tracking my funds, he finally admitted this was something he needed to do. Now he wasn't being that dumb about this, our employer doesn't match the 457 savings plan investments, instead it puts in a large amount into a pension plan instead. I can view this amount added by the employer at work, and so far they have put in at about a 6% rate. This rate changes every year based on actuarial calculations. I heard it is going to change to about 9%. In any case I have 2.5 years to go before I am vested into the plan.