Monthly Archives: April 2009

4 2008

That’s been my experience, anyway…

The following is a modified net worth chart that only includes my checking account, my savings accounts, my credit cards, my auto loans, and any other debts that I’ve carried besides the mortgage dating back to July 1, 2007.

Modified Net Worth Chart

Really, this is my “actual” net worth not including all of the stuff that I have little or no control over.

The 401k isn’t included, the equity in the house isn’t included, the value of my cars aren’t included — I’m not even including the value of my private plane!

In essence, if I had to get my hands on some money on a moment’s notice, this is what I have to draw from.

So, at the end of July in 2007, I was around $22k in the red and it took me 12 months to break out of the red in July of 2008 when I finally had more available in my “pocket” than I owed on my debts.

Twelve months to erase $22k in debt is pretty impressive.

That’s averaging over $1800 per month.

But that number is slightly skewed as I barely made any progress for three or four of those months so I’m going to go all 10th grade geometry on you and drop in a slope line.

Modified Net Worth Chart with Debt Repayment Slope

See that?

If everything had stayed on track after I broke out of the red, my wealth should be growing at an alarming rate.

I mean, it literally should have been “off the chart” back in December 2008.

That didn’t happen.

I continued on the right course, I just leveled off…

Take a look at the slope of my wealth building:

Modified Net Worth Chart with Wealth Building Slope

Sure, it’s still not bad but…it certainly isn’t “off the chart” either.

(By the way — these charts looked a lot cooler in my head… Hey, at least they’re better than the last time I worked slope into a post.)

So why is this?

I think it’s because I had a hard target to meet while paying down the debt. The goal was a balance of $0 and I did everything I could to hit that target.

Once the target was met, yeah, I tried to keep the ball rolling but I didn’t really have a set goal.

And I still don’t — and coming out and saying something like, “Yeah, I think I’m gonna shoot for $25k ASAP” just doesn’t work.

It’s too fuzzy.

Maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, I’m not really sure what to do about it (though tracking my expenses will surely help), I just thought it was interesting how my pace leveled off just as I found myself in the black (or green).

Coincidence?

I doubt it.

10 1894

Grateful Dead Tie Dye T-ShirtLast month I proclaimed that I would keep my expenses for the month of April under $2500.

I should have been more specific but, even still, I’m happy to report that my expenses for the month totalled exactly $2500.00.

I’ve put my wallet away until Friday so this is where the number will stay.

Here’s the breakdown for the month April:

  • $1653.90 : Mortgage
  • $153.59 : Natural Gas
  • $124.01 : Business Expenses
  • $112.91 : Electricity
  • $109.26 : Cable/Internet
  • $99.99 : Frivolous eBay Purchase
  • $66.05 : Phone
  • $66.04 : Gas
  • $47.67 : Smurf Dolls
  • $40.00 : Cash
  • $26.58 : Grateful Dead T-Shirt

So, after just three months of paying attention to my spending, I’ve taken my expenses (that were previously an unknown grey area) from $4133 all the way down to $2500.

That’s a difference of over $1600!

Basically, I was blowing $400 per week on non-essentials… and thought I was doing a great job.

And really, even this month, I *still* managed to “blow” roughly $175 on Smurf dolls, some eBay junk, and a tie dye t-shirt.

That means that there’s still room for improvement…

3 708

Moo!Every now and then while at work, I have to hop onto the internet to “look something up”.

Seriously, I’m not making this stuff up. It really is part of my job.

So, today, I happened across a website — the one I was looking for, actually — and was horrified by what I saw.

Here’s the link.

Check out their “featured” products at the bottom.

Don’t be fooled by the little link to the shoe-shining machine… (Besides, do people even have their shoes shined anymore? Seriously…)

Plain and simple, and I don’t care how they sugarcoat it, they manufacture torture equipment.

They even have video?!

More frightening, the company isn’t that far from my house…

Yeah, that’s right… There’s actually company not far from my house that boasts a product line with items with names like “Spinal Cord Remover” and “Kill Floor Robot”.

Yikes!

Now before anyone goes all anti-PETA on me, I think there’s something that I should clear up.

I’m a meatatarian.

No doubt about it, cows are delicious.

See, I’m fully aware that all of my favorite foods come from animals with cute furry faces.
I know that.

But after watching a couple of the videos, well, honestly, it made me feel sick to my stomach.

There… I’ve given you fair warning.

Really…

Don’t watch the product videos.

For the record, I’m still having a 100% beef hot dog for dinner tonight. Maybe I’ll even eat two.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Pants in a Can Bovine Factoid:
The eighth annual Strolling of the Heifers parade in Brattleboro, Vermont is fast approaching! This year it will be held on Saturday, June 6. That’s barely more than a month away!!!

My complete recap of last year’s, ahem, “Cow Parade” can be re-read (assuming that you read it the first time) here.

4 1277

I’m never really certain.

Back in 2005 I started making monthly I-Bond purchases, you know, under the impression that I was making a low risk but profitable financial move.

The routine lasted for over two years before I realized that the returns were terrible.

Now, though, I look at the little bit that I still have stashed there and it’s currently earning 3 to 4 times as much as the much larger pile of money that I have tucked away in an ING savings account.

So now, 4 years after the fact, they’re looking like a great investment. It’s almost a shame that I have so little in there…

So, this morning, I find myself with an extra $350 burning a hole in my pocket (a pleasant occurrance — due entirely to an increased effort to cut my spending — Thanks DD!) and I think I’ve decided that I-Bonds are the place to go…

Sure, the fixed rate for anything I purchase before April 30 is only 0.7%currently half that of ING — but with the wacky variable rate that the government resets twice per year added to the equation, the rate is actually 5.64% for, at the minimum, the next 6 months. Read about it here.

The only downsides, that I’m aware of, are that I can’t get at the money for at least one year and if I cash out before the 5-year mark, I lose a couple of months worth of interest as a penalty.

Thing is, we’re only talking about $350 here.

Let’s be realistic… I can certainly survive a year without it and if I cash out before the 5-year mark, well, the lost interest is negligible.

And do you wanna know what’s really sad?

The biggest reason I’ve leaning this route this so that my I-Bond balance is 4-figures in the next net worth update, you know, to make that row look a little bit meatier…

And I can honestly admit to the fact that I’m utterly confused as to how the interest rates are calculated — even having “invested” in them for nearly 5 years now…

I figure that it’s better that I do this with the money instead, I dunno, of going hunting for something silly (yet expensive) on eBay…

The alternate plan tossed around (very briefly) was to buy some Ford and General Electric stock but I just don’t feel like $350 is enough to even bother with — especially with the associated fees involved…

I think I’ll just wait until I have $1k burning a hole in my pocket for that sort of thing…

– – – – – – – – – –

Pants in a Can Factoid:
An I-Bond is an inflation-indexed savings bond available for purchase from the US Treasury Department.

They have a fixed rate of return plus an inflation premium. The fixed rate and the inflation premium are adjusted every May and November by the Treasury Department but the fixed rate assigned when you buy the bond is good for as long as you hold it.

In my case, the .7% will be fixed for as long as I keep it. The inflation premium rate, however, will reset next month but I will continue to receive the initial inflation premium for the next six months and then it will reset to the rate that is to be determined next month. (See — this is the part where it gets kinda messy.)

The inflation premium, in theory, ensures that you don’t lose the purchasing power of your investment over time.

Still not making sense? Click here for all of the details!

    2 917

    It’s almost wrong of me to continue a series of posts called “photo of the week” when I haven’t actually posted one since early February…

    But this occurrence, a homicide of sorts, right in my back yard, was too much to ignore…

    Homicide in my backyard.

    When I arrived home from work last night — the first warm evening of the year — I spent some time out in the garage preparing the BMW for it’s first car wash of the season.

    It’s been in storage all winter.

    As I backed the car out of the garage, I couldn’t help but notice the number of crows in the trees above causing a commotion.

    Looking up, there were certainly a lot of angry birds milling around and thought it was a bit unusual, strange enough that I even walked around the entire garage trying to figure out what the big deal was…

    And then I saw it… standing on top of a telephone pole.

    Bird near a wire.

    That’s no robin!

    I went inside to get the camera (to take all of these pictures).

    By the time I returned, a dog-walking neighbor had stopped to admire the bird. He called it a hawk.

    Big BirdAnother neighbor, joining the crowd (yeah, this is probably the most exciting thing to happen on our street in well over a year), thought it was a falcon.

    I just thought it was a big bird — and not the yellow variety.

    Seriously, does anyone out there know what kind of bird this actually is?

    So we’re all just standing there as the crows dive bomb this magnificent bird on the telephone pole until we finally lose interest.

    My wife and I get in the car, put the top down, and drive away.

    When we return, maybe 45 minutes later, the crowd of neighbors is gone. The cawing crows are all gone too. Things seem pretty quiet — back to normal.

    And then I see that our bird friend just so happens to be peacefully eating dinner — a poor squirrel — right in the center of my backyard…almost exactly where that giant mushroom grew last year.

    I won’t describe everything in detail, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are some of the more interesting ones…

    Big eagle hawk thing.

    I think I’ve been spotted… Thankfully, I’m a lot larger than a squirrel. But really, if this bird wanted a piece of me, I’m pretty sure he could get one.

    Big eagle hawk thing.

    Mmm… that meat looks about as well cooked as a burger from Chili’s.

    Big eagle hawk thing.

    For this next one, I’m just taking full advantage of having loads of professional equipment

    Big eagle hawk thing.

    Best of all, when he was finished, the bird cleaned his plate.

    I won’t even have to pick up a carcass before I mow the lawn (possibly this weekend)!

    0 606

    ScaleWay back in September, I mentioned that the Biggest Loser was a guilty pleasure of mine.

    I’d originally become hooked to the show due to a pseudo celebrity crush that I had on one of the contestants — but that was three seasons ago and I’m still watching it each and every Tuesday night.

    Now I’ve never been very heavy — never even hit the 200 lb mark — so I can’t really claim to be able to relate to the contestant’s demons but, thinking about it now, it’s almost funny how I became a fan of the show just as my own waistline was swelling right before my eyes.

    Five “new” inches on my waist and an extra 50 or so pounds.

    In the span of a year…

    Yeah, I was well on my way to becoming a potential contestant…

    The good news, though, is that so far in 2009, I’ve dropped nearly half of that extra weight.

    No, it wasn’t a new year’s resolution.

    And, no, it’s not because I’m exercising or eating right.

    Please… that’s not my style.

    I’ve lost the weight just by going to work everyday.

    Yep, I lose weight and get paid pretty handsomely to do it. It’s as simple as that.

    Could it get any better?

    Actually, yes.

    The weight loss is entirely due to stress…with a pinch of unhappiness too.

    I haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly what it is at work that’s suddenly (and for the past five months) taking its toll on me — no, it’s NOT the economy — but if the side effect is getting my “stick” figure back, well, I guess I shouldn’t complain…

    4 1014

    Two!Wierd that it falls on April 15. Total coincidence, though…

    It’s amazing how much things can change in the short span of two years, not just from a financial aspect, but all-around.

    For now, though, I’m going to stick with the financial stuff.

    When I started, I had $7215 in credit card debt, owed $4014 on a high interest personal loan, and I still had $9700 to pay down on one of my cars.

    Total non-mortgage debt was $20929.

    Though I said then that I could see the light at the end of the tunnel of debt, now, I can’t fathom how I was so comfortable with my finances.

    My head was apparently in the clouds…and had been for quite some time.

    Just a few months later, though, my credit card debt alone would swell to over $20k.

    Talk about moving in the wrong direction…

    But this site kept me in line. Just posting the numbers each month, even if no one was reading them, forced me to hold myself accountable so I kept at it…

    Amazingly, at the one year mark, I was well on my way to being 100% non-mortgage debt free and proclaimed that by this anniversary/birthday, I would be.

    Guess what?

    I am.

    Let’s hope that year three brings even more success.

    And that I continue to feel shame everytime I overspend on something silly…

    3 5711

    I *so* hope that he looks like this...As we’ve come to learn, when you’re having a baby, you seem to get a lot more junk mail than usual.

    The number of individual diapers and/or canisters of Similac that have come in the mail over the past few months is just crazy…

    Of late, as the big day grows closer, we’ve been receiving countless glossy inserts in the mail heralding cord blood.

    More specifically, “banking” umbilical cord blood.

    For those that don’t have a pregnancy in the family (or haven’t in the past decade), the idea is that blood collected from the umbilical cord shortly after birth can cure diseases that may come up in your child’s earlier years so, in marketing-speak, it’s in your best interest to “bank” it for the future.

    A surprising number of companies, at least ten, offer this seemingly sci-fi service and they’re all vying for my business.

    The pitch is always the same.

    They use guilt to sell their product.

    It’s pretty creepy actually…

    The most recent, which arrived yesterday, is from a company called ViaCord.

    The photo on the front is of a baby on the floor where an electrical outlet “should” be. In the picture, the outlet is about 6 feet up on the wall with the caption, “Protect baby. That’s what mommas do.”

    One sec, I’ll scan it…

    Cord Blood Ad Slick

    Okay, fair enough.

    It’s kind of creative, I’ll give them that, and certainly more appealing to the eye than, say, an umbilical cord oozing blood or something.

    Inside the fold, they claim that saving your baby’s cord blood is something “you’ve just got to do.”

    Bluntly, all of the advertisements sugarcoat the exact same message, “If you don’t do this, your baby will DIE!” followed by an evil laugh.

    In their words, it protects your baby (and apparently other family members too) from “over 70 diseases like Leukemia.”

    Forgive my ignorance but I had no idea that there were 70 diseases like Leukemia.

    I’m pretty sure that’s not how they meant it to be interpreted. Or maybe that was their plan.

    Maybe there actually are 70 diseases just like Leukemia? I just don’t know…

    The text continues, “In addition, cord blood is emerging as a treatment option for Type I Diabetes and Cerebral Palsy.”

    Your baby’s cord blood is priceless.

    Hmmmmm… funny that they don’t list what they’ll charge you to harvest it and then bank it…

    I guess the real way to think about it is as insurance — a new-age kind of health insurance, of sorts.

    I’m still not sold on it.

    Neither is my wife so it’s very unlikely that we’ll invest in it when the big day arrives in a matter of weeks.

    Furthering my confidence in our decision is the fine print:

    The odds that a family member without a defined risk will need to use their child’s cord blood are low. There is no guarantee that the cord blood will be a match for a family member or will provide a cure. Autologous cord blood stem cells will not guarantee suitable treatment for all inherited genetic diseases.

    Um… so why would I pay hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars to do this?

    It costs money but doesn’t guarantee anything…

    Seems a little like snake oil to me…

    (Or insurance, frankly… The kind that doesn’t actually cover anything.)

    Can You Dig It?

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