<< Back to all Blogs
Login or Create your own free blog
Layout:
Home > Archive: June, 2006
 

Archive for June, 2006

They gotta make it difficult, don't they?

June 30th, 2006 at 06:28 pm

I arrived home and after dinner looked at the advertisement from Safeway. There was a promotion for spend $10 on 4 twelve-packs of Pepsi, get $10 back with a mail-in rebate, and the same offer from Coke. I live a mile from the store, so I head over, and pick up the needed items. Of course instead of rebate forms available, they are supposed to print out on the coupon sheets that print at the register.

Well of course this register the machine is in such disarray only one side of the prinout works, which makes it useless. OK, Safeway prides themselves on the best customer service, I'm sure they'll see my problem and fix it. At the service desk I get a "sorry, but we can't print these out again. And we have yet to get any forms from either of the distributors. Call the number on the receipt (Customer Service) and they should help."

At home I call the number and get put on infinite hold. After 10 minutes the dog goes beserk as someone is at the door, and of course I hang up the phone. Solicitation, ugh.

After this I decide to hook up my phone next to the computer, and get online and do work while I wait. I call, and get put on hold again. This time 15 minutes go by, then I am abruptly disconnected. Well this is fun. I call again, only to get a message that the service number is now closed for the day.

Hmmmmm, I don't go to Safeway very often, and at this rate, it could be some time til I go there again.

Very Frugal Saturday.

June 24th, 2006 at 03:15 pm

I don't normally discuss my expenses (I usually don't do anything thrilling), but today I think came out very well indeed, so I'll write it down.

I started the day with yard sales:
Edging for around the flower beds: $4 (should be enough to do the whole yard)
A sit on / ride on / holds garden tools rider: $3
New sneakers (Nike): $2
Old toy train track: $1 (I checked for this type online, it would sell for about $25)
Toy lawnmower that blows bubbles for a child I know: $0.50 (its like new)

Then I went and set up a CD at my credit union - 3 years at 6% (pretty good rate)

Took my renter to the airport after this, and he gave me $25 for the ride (I told him he didn't need to but he insisted).

Went to McDs afterward, and with coupons I received 2 weeks ago got a large drink and quarter pounder for $1 total.

Next went to book store and with store credits, buy 2 get one sale, and an additional 15% off coupon, got 3 seasons of TV series (regular price $130, I paid with my credit card $1.76)

Next went to see a movie, paid $0 (free movie coupon online courtesy Johnny Walker liquors)

After movie went to McDs, had more coupons like above, again paid only $1.

When I got home I had my quarterly dividend check in the mail (electric company - was only $23 - but still it was nice).

OK, I'm staying home from here on out today, I don't think I can improve my finances after all of this.

"I only wanted to spend less, not more"

June 24th, 2006 at 04:49 am

You can tell the refinance market for mortgages has gotten soft, now the mortgage companies are calling you out of the blue. It used to be you would request to refinance a loan, and they were too busy for you.

This came to mind last week when I got a call on my cell phone. I don't give the number out to anyone, so I thought this might be important. I didn't know the number, but I answered anyway. (Highly one-way conversation follows.)

...

A hello, and she started to ask how I was and if I was enjoying the weather. That type of start to a phone call is never a good sign. Did I apply online to refinance my mortgage? Why yes I did, but that was over a year ago when rates were much, much better. You can refinance my loan? Well thats swell, but with rates having gone up, I don't think you can beat the rate I have now.

OK, I pointed out why this wouldn't work up front, now time for me to get the sales pitch. Am I looking to take money out when I refinance? No, not really, I just was looking for a lower rate. No, I wasn't looking to lower my monthly payment either, I can handle the payment I have. (she went back and forth between these two options for a few minutes until she realized I wasn't kidding or just gave up.) How long have I had the loan? Eight years. How much is left? Perhaps five more. You can refinance my remaining loan balance for 15 years at the rate I have now? Why would I want that? It will lower my monthly payment? Yes, I understand that, but if I do that I will be spending more money over a longer time (not to mention I will probably have to pay a fee to refinance as well). I only wanted to spend less money, not more. Really, if you can't give me a better rate (at least 1%) I'm not interested.

...

Trust me, this is much shorter than the real conversation went. She kept telling me it would save me money and I would pay less. I guess that might be so if I could take the difference in payments and invest them at a higher rate. But do you know of anything that makes, oh say, a guaranteed 10%? (My loan isn't 9%, but if I would do this, I want to make it worth my while). Nope, I don't either. Does having someone tell you that you can pay less now, but pay more over the long haul entice you to refinance?

Don't take this as frustration, I kinda enjoyed the conversation and laughed about it later with a friend.

More nice savings

June 16th, 2006 at 07:06 pm

Afraid I was working too much the past week. Every night I got home too tired to blog. Also, not much was going on. Anywho...

I had my phone and internet service changed to the local cable TV supplier this week. Their promo rate, which lasts a year, is for the combination at a savings of $10/mo compared to what I had. And now I have cable internet, not dial up. So much faster speed, and costs less. Yep, I can live with that. LOL More money to go into savings, that works too.

Just how do you compute your retirement savings rate?

June 7th, 2006 at 11:55 am

As I have read other personal finance blogs, there is often a discussion about what the "experts" feel a person needs to save to have a secure retirement. I'm not going to link to the specific articles referenced, it's easy enough to find some out there. (Actually I will reference one that is very interesting: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/retirement/view/) Anyway, as I had some time I was trying to see how I measured up against these metrics. And what I determined is that, for me, this isn't as easy to determine as you might think.

The reason for this is multi-faceted. First let me say I usually read that experts refer to what you need for retirement in one of two ways. Either you need to save a certain amount each year (usually they say in the 15-18% range) for 20-30 years, or you need a certain amount when you retire (I've read everything from $500K to $2Million - I guess it depends on when you retire).

Since my retirement time frame is about 25 years out, I prefer to look at the amount I save annually and see how I am doing compared to the benchmark. In its simplest form, I am saving 10% (my 10% + 0% match) into my 457 plan (a gov't 401(k) plan). So at first glance it looks like I am not saving enough.

But I have a pension at my current employer (I still have two years before I vest in the plan, but I think its worth considering the numbers). I have to contribute 5% to the plan (this is refundable to me should I leave this job), and my employer contributes a varying amount to fully fund it. Currently it is contributing about 7% (next year should be upped to about 9%). Now I know this money isn't mine per-se but will be used to make a guaranteed payout. Still..., to figure out what I am saving towards retirement, I think these are good numbers to use. OK, that brings my total up to 22% (all of it with pre-tax dollars).

"But wait, there's more..."

However, there is also the fact I am paying a mortgage. Now I am not going to get into what the value of the house has done (it's gone up, up, up) or will do (prolly flat line), thats not important for this discussion. What is important though is that in each payment a certain amount goes to pay down the principle borrowed. Since the more that goes toward the principle, the more I would get when I sell the house, I think I should be able to consider this as money towards retirement. (To see why, consider that if I was renting, I would not be getting anything for the money paid when I stop renting, so it does help my net worth, just like any retirement account does.) Now each month I pay a varying amount towards principle, but it is currently paying down the principle at about 17% of my gross pay (that is, I'm paying with post-tax dollars). If I add this amount to the previous amount, that comes to 39% saving. (I could add the tax savings of the interest paid, but that probably is only a net of 1%, so I will ignore this factor)

"And if you call today..."

I am curently paying my wife monthly as part of a divorce settlement (yucky story). This will be completely paid off as of October of this year (yahoo!). Anyway, this amount is also post-tax money, at about 18%. As this money is in effect going towards her part of the estate (that is, increasing my worth by buying her out), this money should be considered as contributions to savings as well. Also, once the payments are done, this money *will* go towards higher savings in other areas. Add this to the prior amounts, and I come up with 57%.

"And if you call in the next fifteen minutes..."

One last thing. I have started trying these 0% Bank Transfers using credit card offers. Currently the money from these is earning me another 1% (that is: an amount equivalent to 1% of my monthly salary), and have another one in the pipeline that will give me another 1% if it goes through. Adding that higher amount in, I now come up with 59%. And this isn't even considering Social Security (trying to add that in will only muddy an already cloudy calculation!).

So, what am I saving towards retirement? 10%, 15%, 22%, 39%, 57%, 58%, 59%, something else??? Personally I think it should be 59%, as all the amounts really do contribute to net worth.

Egads, looking at that number is really astonishing. If I kept up this rate, and had the mortgage and divorce done with, I would be truly putting over half my pay into savings. Somehow I don't think I can keep this up forever (other than the BTs, I have been doing this saving rate for about the past year), but hopefully if I can do it for a few years, I will have set myself up so that even if my savings rate drops significantly, there should be enough to grow to a decent nest egg waiting for me when I retire.

Paying online - how frugal can you get?

June 2nd, 2006 at 06:34 pm

As I was balancing my checkbook this week I noticed a major change to how the check register looked. That is, I now pay so much online, that I am writing very few checks each month. This transformation has taken place over the past three months, and now I can't imagine having to back and paying everything through the mail. Its so easy. Anyway, as I considered this, I figured this had to be saving me money. Here is a general overview of my online transactions.

Monthly:
Utilities - electric, gasCredit cards (Currently
four)MortgagePhone bill (land & cell)

Other periodic bills:
Water Bill (quarterly)House Insurance
(annualy)Car Insurance (semi-annually)Buy more DRIP
stock (about once a month)PayPal (hopefully not too
often!)Rebates (ok not a bill, but I file for one online about every month now)

Other things:
Direct deposit of payHalf.com sales are deposited
directlySet up Certificates of Deposit via direct money
transfersTax refunds are deposited directly

Looks like I am averaging about 12 stamps saved each month. That makes $4.50 saved right there. And no extra effort is involved, its actually less. Gotta like that! BTW, I didn't forget cable, as I don't have any. And by paying online I don't have to worry that my CC payments are on time, so no unexpected fees. So overall a definite plus to my finances.

More frugal & just plain free.

June 1st, 2006 at 07:22 pm

More of my frugal throughts, ideas, and just plain goings on...

This week my mulberry tree out back has started producing way too many berries for me to get at. I now have a few quarts in the fridge, and I suspect I will have another gallon easily by the end of the weekend. And there is so much that just falls to the ground and goes to waste. Oh well, my cereal will have fresh fruit for some time. Cost - el zippo.

As I do research online for deals and offers, I find there is so much available for free, it truly is amazing. I thought this type of thing went away with the dot-com implosion. Of course now its not so dramatic as back then, but there is still good stuff available. Tonight I signed up for a free movie ticket. Don't know if it will be my choice of movie, but who cares, I go out so seldom any movie will be new to me.

Now that I have done two 0% credit card bank transfers I am getting more of these offers than I ever did. They must really like me! I know there are people out there that do so much more than I would consider, but this is easy money to earn, how can I pass it up? (FYI: the first two should earn me ~$900 by next May) I've got the monthly payments setup online, so as long as I don't get amnesia, I'm all set safe and secure.

My co-worker was telling me about going out to the movies over the weekend. As he went over his expenses I joked how I understand why I don't go out to movies, they are soooooo expensive. Then he laughed and said I am making him think about his retirement more, and that when he saw how much he was spending at the time, it made him think he could have used the money for retirement instead. Hmmmm, its a start. At least he is thinking about retirement, he will make better decisions in the future, I'm sure.

Oh, one last thing. I got an email, and Barnes & Noble is having a buy two, get one DVD sale for the coming month. Now I know their DVDs are too expensive, and this sale only puts the prices down to what other stores charge. But I have store credits to use (due to my ex-wifes profligate buying books and not reading them - so I returned them). So I have been waiting to use the credits at the best time. Well that time has arrived. This weekend I will be passing by a store, and I'll be making a list!