Monthly Archives: September 2009

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Autumn in ConnecticutIs it just me or did September come and go in the blink of an eye?

I can’t believe that we’re just hours away from October — and all of the things that go along with it like hockey season (woo-hoo!) and raking leaves (boo!).

So after two months of grossly overspending, I tried a different approach this past month. Basically, I stopped my extra weekly mortgage payments and trimmed my transfers into savings.

For some reason, I thought this would be a step in the right direction, and while it did keep my spending down, it didn’t really help me at all when it comes to the big picture.

More specifically, my mortgage balance didn’t go down as much as it usually does, my savings balance didn’t go up as much as it usually does, and my checking account, well, it didn’t seem to sway one way or the other.

In short, I think this financial strategy failed. You’ll see what I mean in tomorrow’s net worth update.

On to the numbers:

  • $1450.00 : Mortgage
  • $758.28 : Hockey Jerseys
  • $271.51 : Hilton Hotel
  • $160.00 : Cash
  • $155.23 : Gas
  • $125.35 : Electricity
  • $109.26 : Cable/Internet
  • $82.69 : Business Expenses
  • $52.42 : Phone
  • $36.07 : Natural Gas
  • $20.94 : T-Shirt
  • $8.99 : Diapers
  • $8.16 : International Transaction Fees
  • $2.00 : Hartford Parking Authority

All together, that’s $3275.99.

Still a lot of money but A HUGE improvement over August and July

The most obvious problem with my spending is the hockey jersey hobby. I had a pretty good run earlier in the year where I kept it under control but $750+ in the span of 30 days is far too much to be spending on a hobby.

It’s one of those things where every now and then a great deal comes along — and then 5 more come right at the same time.

Now that I’m not carrying any consumer debt, when a flurry of deals come along, I have the flexibility to take advantage of *all* of them. Hopefully, though, for my wallet’s sake, there aren’t too many more deals to be had for the rest of the year.

Irregular expenses this month are the Hilton stay (a result of the family reunion that we attended), the $160 cash withdrawal (for spending money while on the road), the $155 in gas for the car (to keep us on the road), the international transaction fees (also a result of the reunion), and the Hartford Parking Authority charge.

That last one is because Hartford, CT recently installed new parking meters that take credit cards. I’d never had the opportunity to swipe my card at a meter before so I gave it a try.

My conclusion?

Definitely more convenient than making sure the ashtray is full of quarters.

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I always open all of our mail — even the stuff that’s just blatant junk mail – and here’s the reason why:

One dollar bill in my mail.

Yep, the fine folks from Arbitron mailed me a genuine $1 bill.

No catch. That dollar is real and it’s now officially mine.

In short, it’s just a cold marketing tactic.

You’d think that it’d be a rather expensive method — essentially costing nearly $1.50 per piece mailed — but in reality, turning a cold prospect into a hot prospect (or even a customer) for such a low sum can be extremely profitable even with a failure rate exceeding 95%.

And it’s that high failure rate that makes me wonder how many folks out there are just tossing their $1 bills into the trash with all of the other junk mail.

At the very least, be sure to open any mail from Arbitron… There’s a buck in that envelope!

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Family ReunionOkay, okay, okay…

In my last post, after spending *so* much more than I ever should have, I claimed that I’d right-the-ship this month.

So far, so good.

With all of my bills for the month of September already paid, I’ve only spent $2574.

That’s pretty good especially when you consider that it includes a few nights in a hotel room (for that family reunion in the picture) and, yes, even a hockey jersey. Or two.

But in the process of keeping my spending down, I haven’t been chopping into the mortgage like I have been for the last few months.

And, oddly enough, my savings rate hasn’t increased either.

So… I’m spending less but I’m not improving my financial standing any…

Weird.

I’ll give it another month but if I don’t see enough positive movement, both on the mortgage end and the savings side, I’ll go back to my tried and true weekly auto-transfers and spend as freely as I have been all year…

Seems that it’s one of those “all or nothing” situations…

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Ignoring the very favorable net worth updates of late, and just concentrating on my spending, I can’t help but wonder if I’ve just been spinning my wheels lately…

I know that I can get by on as little as $2500 per month — I did it in April — so why have I been so far over every month since?

September and October will be different — I’ll calling it right now.

Here’s how August shaped up:

  • $2170.00 : Mortage
  • $897.20 : Allstate (Auto Insurance)
  • $477.00 : College Hockey Season Tickets
  • $347.99 : Hockey Jerseys
  • $138.20 : Electricity
  • $116.48 : Business Expenses
  • $109.93 : Water/Sewer
  • $109.26 : Cable/Internet
  • $104.93 : Hilton Hotel
  • $85.71 : Amazon
  • $85.00 : DMV
  • $60.00 : Cash
  • $55.09 : Gas
  • $49.36 : Phone
  • $36.81 : Natural Gas
  • $8.50 : ING Direct

The list doesn’t look very long but it adds up to a sobering $4851.46!?

So one month after spending nearly $8k, I “improved” and only spent almost $5k… I guess it’s progress but, well, it’s still crazy?!

To my credit, for the second consecutive time, I paid my entire auto insurance premium up front just to get it out of the way.

The $477 season ticket expenditure was less than we spent last year because we didn’t reserve seats for the women’s team this year. My wife just couldn’t get into the women’s hockey thing… Understandable.

I’ll still go with Duncan and buy tickets at the door though.

Eitherway, this is pretty much our entire winter entertainment budget paid for, again, up-front.

Business expenses are what they are. They seem a little high to me each and every month but I’m still making a hefty profit so I’m not going to dwell on them.

The water bill is quarterly. The DMV bill was for my car registration and I think that’s an every-other-year type of thing.

The Hilton Hotel is pre-payment for one of the rooms we’ll be staying in when we go to that family reunion that I mentioned a few weeks ago. I booked a few more hotels in advance but, for whatever reason, they haven’t hit my card yet.

The Amazon spree was for a bunch of random things I’ve been wanting to buy for a long time but never have — sort of an extension of my online shopping spree last month.

For $85.71 ($22 of which was shipping — I HATE Amazon for that…) I picked up a couple 4GB CF cards for my cameras, a Weezer t-shirt, a couple of Canadian flag stickers, and a DVD of “The Gods Must Be Crazy“.

I plan to torture Duncan with all of my favorite kid-friendly movies someday. Already made him watch “Batteries Not Included” and “Teen Wolf“.

The last purchase that needs a little explanation is that $8.50 charge from ING Direct. I bought a t-shirt from their online shop. It’s pretty nice too — and they didn’t charge anything for shipping!

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September 2009 Net WorthIt doesn’t feel right to come out and say that I had a down month when my net worth increased by so much but I truly feel that August was a down month for me financially.

I kept pace on the mortgage and broke through the 6-figure threshold — that’s the best it got.

My savings pace is way down partially because my checking account is drained. My checking account is drained entirely because I spent too much.

How’s that for an excuse?

I haven’t yet posted August’s spending report but it was out of control. Again.

Anyway, before I start going off on some unrelated tangent, here’s the latest net worth breakdown:

Cash:
Can you say depleted? For some reason, I just can’t seem to shake the paycheck-to-paycheck type routine — working my checking account down to around $1k on a regular basis.

I keep telling myself that I was $5k to be the ‘new’ $0 but I just can’t seem to get there.

Savings:
The money just wasn’t there this month to keep the aggressive weekly transfers up. In July, I was adding over $400 to this per week. At the end of August, that weekly transer was down to $15.

I’m going to right the ship in September though — details on that farther down…

Gov’t Bonds:
Another seven bucks. Woo-hoo!

401k:
Another great month. That makes it six in a row!!!

Home:
Not that I even came close to being “underwater”, the value of my home is comfortably higher than what I paid for plus all of the expensive renovations I’ve had done.

Best of all, my loan-to-value percentage is nearly 52%. That means I “own” more of my house than I “owe”. Sadly, though, I’m still stuck paying PMI. Boo.

Auto 1 & Auto 2:
Seems that 2005 Scion xA’s are worth as much as they used to be…

Mortgage:
Nearly identical to last month, I’m still on pace to have the house paid for in less than 4 years.

That said, I’m seriously considering easing off the accelerator a bit in favor of padding my savings account. See, I can’t stand the first floor of my house. I want it gutted. Badly.

I know, that’s a total flip-flop from what I said just a few months ago but I’m thinking that if I put off the HUGE mortgage payments for one year, I can pay for a first floor renovation without having to finance much of anything.

Then, next Fall, I’ll pick up where I left off on the mortgage *and* have a house that I’m not ashamed of — and one that a toddler can safely crawl around in.

Wishful thinking, perhaps, but it never hurts to have a huge pile of money tucked away in savings…

Can You Dig It?

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