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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.

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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.

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eBay Sales
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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!

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Investments
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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.

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Expenses
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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.

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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.

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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