Monthly Archives: August 2007

Storage UnitThis past weekend we spent a few hours over at the storage unit we’re renting for around $140/month.

Earlier this month, I vowed to clear it out this month so as to stop paying for it. It’s really the only sizable monthly expense left that hasn’t been cut.

Well, it became apparent that, this late in the month, it’s not going to happen before the September rent is due. Even an amount like $140 in the wrong direction hurts when you’re trying to pay down the credit card debt like crazy. Grrrr…

We did, however, make *some* progress. Three full contractor bags worth of stuff went to the dump. The storage space is still filled to the ceiling, but that was still quite a step for me.

One of the stranger things I threw out was a box with piles and piles of Columbia House and BMG catalogs from the late eighties and early nineties. Vanilla Ice on the cover of one, Shanice on the cover of another. They were all stacked neatly — like I treasured them. Seriously, why did I hang on to stuff like that? Ridiculous.

Also thrown away were tons of computer programs on the old 5.25inch floppies. Sure, I’d like to go back and play the original Space Quest again, but in the 20 years since I last played it, it hasn’t been enough of a draw to actually do it. And so, into the garbage it went.

One suggestion my wife had, for things that should really be thrown out but still brought back memories, was to bring a camera and take pictures of the items before tossing them into the garbage bag.

I’m not quite there yet — maybe when I go through the boxes a second time to lighten the load even more before bringing it all back home.

Looks like we’ll be paying for another month. Sigh.

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Al Gore - An Incovenient TruthSo, Saturday night, being ever so frugal, we watched the free movie I received from BMW.

Politics aside, Al Gore’s environment movie isn’t that bad. Not nearly as preachy as I’d expected. In fact, it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch to call it entertaining.

One thing that stuck a chord with me was when he mentioned that the “Surgeon General” warning appearing on cigarettes didn’t put any sort of dent in the numbers of smokers.

In my life, I’ve noticed the number of smokers under the age of 35 is relatively small. I won’t say its due to the warnings on the package suddenly having been acknowledged. The new laws over the past few years restricting where you can smoke has a little to do with it, I suppose, but I think it’s due more in part to the taxes put on cigarettes. They’re expensive. Really expensive.

That brings me to his environmentalist point. He thinks that if everyone does a little to help, the global warming problem will solve itself. I agree.

Things like making the auto makers manufacture more efficient cars — sooner, rather than later. Weaning ourselves off of using coal based power. (The movie stated that the United States gets 49% of it’s electricity from coal-based power plants… Seriously, the US is practically a third world nation in that respect.)

His biggest point was that it takes more than public awareness (or a little warning sticker like on the cigarettes) to get the ball rolling. The government has to get involved with laws or taxes or whatever.

Anyway, one of those little things are the CFB light bulbs, which honestly, I think have caught on, just based on public awareness. In our house, I’d say 75% of our light bulbs are the new CFB kind. Probably 15% are still normal bulbs because the fixtures won’t accomodate the new style.

It has definitely saved us (noticeable) money each month on our electric bill — but this is where the government steps in.

In our home state, the power company — now pulling in less money from it’s customers due in part to the popularity of the CFB — has gone to the state DPUC and requested a rate increase. And you know what? The state will accept it.

So, while we saved some money by cutting out electricity use, the government is going to give a thumbs up to the power company, so that they can charge more.

One step forward, two steps back.

I guess we’re back where we started.

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Sorry, it’s been a few days since I last posted — smurf berry harvest going on right now, you know…

Anyway, now nearly mid-way through the month of August, it’s looking like I’m back on track with my debt repayment plans.

Credit card balances are falling fast again and I’m keeping spending to a minimum. The dentist bill that I mentioned last month turned out to be about half of what I expected and, for whatever reason, all of our utilities bills were down too. Woo-hoo!

The only thing jeopardizing a month headed in the right direction is the rollercoastering stock market. Up $1k one day, down $2k the next. And so it goes.

A co-worker also made me aware that August happens to be a three pay check month as well. Not sure that has much of an effect on my budget, it never has in the past, but it will allow me to get a month ahead on the mortgage again… and that’s a source of comfort for me.

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Harry PotterIn an effort to figure out where my “missing” money is going I went over last month’s credit card statements to try and see if I’ve been charging more than I’m aware of.

According to my records, last month, I sent $2021.65 to the credit card companies. That number is a lot higher than I expected, actually, so I feel pretty good about that.

But that large payment only brought my total balance down by $944.41. That’s disappointing.

What did I spend the difference of $1077.24 on? Well, here’s the breakdown:

$400.00 – Auto Insurance Deductible
$200.00 – Dentist
$140.98 – Storage Unit
$128.49 – Gasoline
$ 74.98 – Finance Charges
$ 54.14 – Personal Business Expenses
$ 42.39 – Target Shopping Trip
$ 20.76 – Business Expenses
$ 15.50 – Movie w/wife

The top two expenses, the Auto Insurance Deductible and Dentist that total $600, are both one shot deals, not something that will come up month after month. Just omitting that from the total and it all makes sense. If I’d had to guess how much I spent per month on the credit card, I think I’d have said around $500.

Going line by line from there, the Storage Unit *has* to go — that’s a wasted $140/month. My wife and I have made it a goal this month to spend a weekend or two clearing it out. We’d originally taken it out as a temporary storage place to replace our attic storage while we were having the roof done back in December. Well, it’s August now.

There isn’t really anything I can do about the Gasoline, but that is about $30 higher than normal. I think it’s because I burned an entire tank of gas re-acquainting myself with the car after it came back from the Auto Body. Hey, it’d been over 60 days since I’d driven it…

Finance Charges…well, at least they’re dropping. Again, not much I can do about that except continue to pay down the debt.

I also can’t eliminate the Personal Business Expenses. They’re usually hosting and licensing fees due each month. The $54.14 last month is actually on the low end; at times it swells to over $300 in a month. But that’s the price of doing business and though it can get expensive, I’ve always run a profit.

The additional $20.76 of Business Expenses was for my day job. I had a project I was working on and the company didn’t have the supplies needed on hand so I had to go out and purchase them myself. An expense reimbursement form has been submitted, so now I’m just waiting for the check.

Home Hair Cut The $42.39 expense at Target was for one of those hair cutter clipper sets. My wife gave me a “home hair cut” last weekend and it turned out alright. One more haircut, and they will have paid for themselves! Woo-hoo!

And the last line is the $15.50 I spent to go see the Harry Potter movie with my wife. That requires no explanation.

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401k Nest EggToday was payday and I more than doubled my 401k contribution last week so I was, as a result, prepared to take a major blow to my take home pay but… it only knocked off $110.

I was ready to have it drop nearly 3 times that much?!

If I were thinking clearly, I’d submit the form to the the plan administrator to double (or triple) it right now for the next pay check, but I’m not going to because I really want to maintain the streak I’ve been on when it comes to paying down credit card debt.

This lesser blow makes that very do-able and I can stratch most of what I laid out last week.

Once the credit card balances are under 5 figures, I’ll be sure to up my contribition again.

In the meantime, it’s nice to know that I can throw an additional $160 or so towards my 401k each paycheck and only suffer a $110 hit to my take home pay. That’s a great return. Tack on the company match, and it’s like getting $100 for free every two weeks.

I’ve seen calculators online that let you play around with your contribution amount and how your resulting take-home pay will pan out, but I’ve never found one to be very accurate. It’s a pretty complex calculation when you toss taxes and insurance into the equation — and it would be different for each state and tax bracket, which is probably why I’ve never come across an accurate one.

Some number out there makes you the most while taking the least — it’s just a super pain to find out what that number is. Any ideas?

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August 2007 Net Worth Update

As expected, another month headed in the wrong direction. Both losses come on the assets side this month — the tumbling stock market is having an impact on my 401k (like everyone else), and though the chart indicates that I only dropped 2.26%, if you were to just take the second half of July, the losses are closer to 4%. Ouch.

Good thing I’m still young and in it for the long haul. At the same time, it also appears that I’ve timed the market perfectly as I just increased my 401k contributions last week.

Okay, that might be a stretch… I’m not actually expecting it to have a large impact in the short run.

The other sizeable loss came in my checking accout; due almost entirely to the siding project. With that behind us, and just a small electrical project on the horizon, the home improvement expenses are done.With that, the ship will be righted in August as there are no large looming bills, besides a dental bill that might actually fall in September, but in comparison to the renovations, it’s a negligible amount.

Unfortunately, the trend of increasing value on my daily driver (it actually went up $25 in June!) did not continue this month. I didn’t really expect it to, but it was nice while it lasted.

On the liabilities side, it was all good news. All balances, credit cards, auto loan, and mortgage dropped in July. The credit cards didn’t fall as much as I would have liked, but they’re still falling and now, again, with the siding bills paid, my income can be directed at them more aggressively.

Can You Dig It?