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Archive for May, 2006

Retirement funds after the dive.

May 30th, 2006 at 02:44 am

As I sit here recovering form cutting branches out of my oak tree (oak is really hard wood!), I took a quick look at my retirement fund balances. A few weeks ago I said the amounts had crossed the 100K amount. Well if you do any following of the market, you can guess what happened next. As they say in the war movies on a submarine, "dive, dive!"

When I looked last on Friday, the total had went down to around 97K, quite a precipitous drop. For some I know that is a terrible time to follow stocks, but I know I have over 20 years 'til I retire (unless I get lucky somewhere!), so this drop is really insignificant. In fact, as my latest retirement contributions were made at the close of Friday, that means I got more for my money. Perhaps next time it gets back up to $100K, I won't say anything - I think I jinxed it when I talked about it last time.

I had also sent some money in for a DRIP I have alomst 2 weeks ago, but the purchases are done only once every two weeks. Well the purchase was to be done this past Friday, so hopefully that worked to my favor as well.

Not much of a moral to the above, other than perhaps to say if you want guaranteed returns, work on being frugal. When you save money, it always goes right into your pocket.

Random Frugal Ideas

May 29th, 2006 at 04:09 am

These ideas are things that work for me, and they bounce around in my head and I mean to write them down here from time to time. Sorry, there is no overriding theme to this post, I just wanted to write these ideas up while I thought about them.
I have seen on some newsgroups where people ask how to save on water. If you want to be really frugal with water, take a shower with a bucket in the tub. It can catch a fair amount of the water being used during a shower. You can use that to flush the toilet. Depending on what your water rates are, that can make a minor or major savings. Also, where I live the sewage is based on your water reading, so less water in is less dollars out for sewage as well.
Look into doing mystery shopping work. It is a little hard to get started, but once you do, it is nice extra money. I do it for one restaurant, but not too often, and only when I want to. Ignoring the free meal (which is the best part of doing this), I get $25 for doing one, but the amount of work it takes to type everything they want (usually 3 hours) means I am making barely above minimum wage. I guess the point is do it if you like to do it, not to make a living, because you can't.
Go to yard sales. Of course if you live out away from lots of people this may not be practical. But if you're like me, and there are dozens of sales within 10 miles every saturday, go to them if you have nothing special to do! Or if all you would do is go to the mall, go yard saling instead. This past month I have bought clothes for a tiny fraction of their cost (a few were even new with tags still on them!), toys for kids (including a few still unopened at about a 75% discount), a couple tools (including a bench grinder for $5), and of course other things. I have a co-worker that says he just can't use clothes someone else wore. Of course the guy (while nice) is worse off financially than me, and he won't ever be able to catch up with me with that attitude. Oh well, to each their own.
Don't feel bad about going super frugal for a time, if the time is right. I mean, I *know* I am doing some things to save money that I know others wouldn't do, and thats ok. And I won't do them forever. But I'm living alone for the moment, so I can do it now, but I understand things will change sometime in the future. Thats ok, because I will have saved money now, and invested it, and will be doing great later.
OK, another frugal idea. Do you work someplace where you have a ton of paper towels available to just dry your hands and throw away? Well, you can just take what you use to dry your hands back to your desk and put them in your work bag to take home(assuming you have one), and then use them at home for things like cleaning windows. I was doing that today, and I used up the stockpile I built up the past few weeks. Its better than paying for paper towels, and better for the envirnment too (less waste).

Hopefully some of these thoughts / ideas can help someone out there.

Credit card bank transfers, Part Deux

May 26th, 2006 at 03:29 am

Well some time back I stated I was going to try to do a credit card transfer at 0% and invest the money. I was sort of incredulous that a CC company would accept such a large overpayment, and then refund the overage. I called ahead of time, and they insisted they would. (Well someone on the phone *said* they would). Anyway, it all worked so easy I was amazed.

I now have the money in a bank making good CD rates for nine months. I make enough money to pay the monthly payments without a problem (they're 2%). And already I have signed up for a card where they will give you a $100 bonus for signing up, and it came with a 0% transfer check. I don't even have to move it through another credit card first! If I do this one (and I think I will), I will not put most of it in a CD, but leave it in high interest online bank accounts instead. While cutting down the earned money slightly, it will increase my liquidity immensly.

For anyone reading this and considering doing it yourself, make sure you understand all the ramifications (credit scores, investments should be super safe, liquidity issues, and more). And don't use the money for something else and then not have it to pay it back!!!! This isn't for everyone, but if you control your expenses correctly, it can work for you. Oh, one more thing - try to make sure and pay your monthly CC statements online. That way you are sure you have made every payment on time, otherwise you can lose your 0% rate very easily!

The best method to learn something...

May 26th, 2006 at 03:17 am to teach it. This thought came to mind today. In the past I have taught courses on statistics, computer seminars, and other sundry classes. Its been a while since I have done it. I am not an extrovert, and I like sitting at a desk working on solving a software problem, which thankfully I get paid ok to do.

That said, the past few months I have been learning all types of things about finance. I was not totally clueless before, but this year I swore I would learn more about my money and do better than just being frugal. I would make sure I would make my money work hard for me.

As I have done this I have been giving impromptu lessons to a co-worker. I wasn't sure he was interested, but he keeps coming back for more, and today he said he was learning more in the past months then he knew for years (about money anyway). And I realized I was doing with him what I had done for years. I was teaching, and in doing so what I had learned was becoming solidly imprinted in my mind.

Its also nice to help someone while I am helping myself.

My frugal weekend

May 15th, 2006 at 02:41 am

Hmmm, this weekend I did so-so on the yard sales. I picked up new work slacks for $1, a toy train set (my hobby) for $3, coaxial cable for free (looked like 25 feet), 6 old matchbox / hot wheel cars for $0.25 each, insulating foam in a can for $1.50, 2 lunch containers (to take lunch to work) for $0.50, and some other odds and ends. I think the total ended up about $12. All in all pretty good.

I ended up having to go back to the store (Staples) I got some software earlier in the week. The store charged $20 more than they were supposed to. After some looking about they realized there were two versions of the box with the software, and the one I got was for some reason bringing up the wrong price. No problem getting the money back, but one less trip would have been nice.

I returned my a book my ex-wife bought to the bookstore and used the store credit to get a DVD of a show by the BBC. While a lot of British TV is just plain weird, their documentaries are top notch. Its the 3rd documentary I got by them and I haven't been disappointed yet.

And I finished my latest toy train rebuild. I made a nice custom box car. Hey, it keeps me outta trouble!

Another milestone passed today

May 10th, 2006 at 03:33 am

Just a quick note here today for me. The items I add up on my spreadsheet as retirement money (includes retirement funds, pension contributions I can recover, bonds, CDs, and stocks(DRiPs), but not liquid savings and checking) passed $100K today. I know its an arbitrary number, but its nice to see my efforts starting to pay off. Especially after watching my retirement accounts dropping like a rock in 2002-03. And being job-less for a year thereafter.

I actually went out and spent some money today, but never fear, it was with coupons and on many of the items there are rebates. All the stuff had a regular price of about $160, and if they give me rebates like they promise, my cost will end up being $15. Now that I can handle.

The check arrived

May 9th, 2006 at 02:20 am

Previously I wrote that I was trying to get money at 0% from a credit card offer and use it to invest (ok, put into a high interest CD) and make money. After reading how others do it, I thought I should experiement with this as well. Today the refund check arrived from the other CC company I had the money transferred to. It wasn't the amount initially transfered, but less about $150. I suspect that was my outstanding balance on the credit card. As far as I am concerned, that's a wash, so I really don't care about it, though I will check my account online to make sure.

Now I need to do some research on local banks and their CD rates so I am ready to move on Saturday. I know there are a couple banks giving about 5% nearby.

I'll be happier when I am not carrying this check around anymore. Then I can just watch it earn interest.

Life's a [fill in the blank]

May 6th, 2006 at 03:23 am

I believe life is what you put into it. I really do. Yet... there are times like now where the saying above really fits. While I don't have as large circle of friends and relatives as many do, of those I do have, perhaps the nicest relative died of cancer a few years ago, and now I am visiting this weekend the nicest friend, who looks to be suffering the same fate.

I know, "nice-ness" shouldn't determine who has to suffer this type of fate, but #%$# it all, it just ain't right. Neither one led any type of life that should have led to something like this. I guess you need to say to yourself at least I had people like this in my life for as long as they were.

A very frugal day

May 3rd, 2006 at 09:01 pm

I had some idle time today (always dangerous), and started thinking of what I was wearing yesterday, and then after adding up the cost, I expanded the thought, and went through most of my expenses for the day. I was mildly surprised at how well I had kept the costs down for the day. Perhaps this will encourage someone that it is possible to live very frugally.

With that introduction, here goes.
What I was wearing:
Shoes: Italian made dress shoes - $1 (yard sale)
Pants: Nice dress slacks - Free (thank you Free Cycle)
Belt: Nice leather one I have used for past year and still looks new - $1 (yard sale)
Shirt: Decent dress shirt $1 (Thirft Store)
Socks: Top of line dress socks - $0.50 (JC Penney)
Undies: Top of line (no more detail, sorry - lol) - $0.50 (JC Penney)
Glasses: Wal Mart - ($90 with insurance - but with flex spending account my after tax cost was about $65)
Beard Trim & haircut: Used home trimmer with hair attachments - Free
Skin moisturizer: Free (Thanks to Wal-Mart samples)

And then other expenses during the day...
Lunch: Drink ($0.17 for can from Aldis, Precooked meal I made from kit with added veggies & tuna ($0.75), navel orange ($0.25)) Total of $1.17
Gas to get to job: ~$3.50 (44 miles with my car getting 35 MPG)
Gym for mid-day workout (+ daily shower): $0.40 (rate is $8 for a month)

Salad (spinach, carrots, olives, mushrooms, dressing - $1),
drink (free - gift of a couple of cans of fruit drink from person I helped move over the weekend),
turkey sandwich (included free cheese from same person above - $0.50)

Online Bill pay: Paid two bills - Saved $0.78 in postage.
Heating / cooling at home: $0 - spring time is nice, isn't it?
TV viewing: $0 (no cable - Watched DVDs I got for free via trade-in of unread books)
Trash: Dropped off trash & recycleables at county transfer station on way to work - Free - Saves $30/mo. fee of pickup company.

Note: JC Penney sends out a great coupon each Christmas for $10 off any purchase, so I get myself top of the line items for a little over $10, so thats how I can get them so cheap.

Whew, ok, there it is. I don't feel like I deprive myself. Some may say so, considering I don't have cable, but I really didn't watch much TV anyway, and I'm happier right now without it.