Monthly Archives: October 2009

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Dunco's overpriced school photo.Another month passes and I’ve again managed to lower my spending. That’s the good news.

Unfortunately, though, it’s also that time of the year where the utility bills tend to increase by measures of nearly 100% each and every month so I don’t really feel like I took full advantage of the summer time weather that’s now in the rear view mirror…

I think I feel that way every year…

Anyway, here are the numbers:

  • $1450.00 : Mortgage
  • $439.51 : Business Expenses
  • $245.86 : Baby Stuff
  • $109.26 : Cable/Internet
  • $105.23 : Gas
  • $104.07 : Electricity
  • $89.97 : Clothing
  • $76.00 : Hockey Jerseys
  • $71.19 : Natural Gas
  • $68.95 : Phone
  • $40.00 : Cash

All together, that’s $2800.04.

The mortage expenses were the same as last month. I haven’t been overpaying it like I did earlier in the year because I’m trying to boost my savings balance.

The business expenses were definitely a little out of control but I’m proud to announce that I’ve added a pretty substantial client in the meantime as well. Of course, this means nothing in a spending report post but it should pad my income quite nicely for the next six months or so.

My wife usually pays for most of the “baby” related stuff but the high chair purchase a bouncy-chair exersaucer thing (the high chair was actually last month) and his school pictures went on my credit card.

Why, you ask, would a professional photographer buy his kid’s school photos and not just take his own?

Yeah, don’t ask.

I’m not real happy with them — weird facial expression and some horrible colouring — and it makes me sad that I paid so much ($112) for such poor work but whatever…

(On a whole separate rant — since when is it customary to have school photos taken of 5-month olds? Perhaps this is a market I should look into…)

As I mentioned earlier, the utility bills are starting to creep up. It’s unlikely that my natural gas bill will be under $100 (or even $300) again until at least April. That makes me sad.

I spent a bit of money on clothing this month — a rare occurance — but I think I got a pretty good deal.

The hockey jersey collection was kept under control too. Last month, I spent over $750 in this frivolous category. This month, I spent less than $75.

Still frivolous, but hardly budget breaking…

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PIAC LogoI read an article somewhere that said something to the effect of “Saving is for Suckers” — I wish I could find it. It was just a few days ago…

Anyway, it wasn’t a broad stroke sort of thing — obviously saving isn’t for suckers — but, right now, with rates hovering just over one percent, well, it’d probably be a wiser strategy to put the money to use elsewhere.

As things currently stand, I’m saving like crazy so much so that I’m genuinely excited to post my net worth update.

Unfortunately, that also means that I’m a sucker.

I know it’s stupid — I should be paying down my mortgage at 6-something percent instead. Though I’m nearly 10 years into my mortgage, big payments now still make a much larger dent than payments of the same size 5 years down the road.

It’d be in my best interest to hit the mortgage hard right now while my savings are earning so little.

But on the other hand, there’s a lot of comfort that comes with a big number in the savings account. And I’m really trying to save up to get that much needed renovation (started and) paid for. Right now, I’m guessing I’m about 25% of the way there.

Now I know what you’re thinking, here he goes again… I’m not flip-flopping again — just re-evaluating my options.


I just want it all

Maybe I’ll go 50/50 in the new year? You know, throw half towards savings and half towards the mortgage…

I can’t believe I even said that — my own personal history in debt reduction clearly indicates that financial moves like that get you nowhere fast…

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Levi'sWhen your site’s name is “Pants in a can”, it’s only natural to talk about something relating to pants every now and then…

Last May, I talked about how I bought my pants on eBay.

Long story short, so you don’t need to click on the link, the GAP stopped offering the style of jeans that I’d been wearing for years and eBay came to the rescue — at a MAJOR discount. It was all good.

Now, though, it’s been nearly 3 years since the GAP offered my style… The result?

Slim pickens on eBay.

So, since I’m now in near desperate need of a few new pairs, I had to find something more practical — and because I’m not longer of the mind set that jeans need to cost big bucks to fit right (or perhaps I just don’t care any more), I went to Macy’s.

Yep, fifteen minutes and $89.97 later — I had 3 new pairs of Levi’s 569 jeans.

I used to pay more than that for one pair of jeans!?

Simply put, for under $100, my lower half is all set until at least 2011.

Money for nothing...and the checks for free...As we stumble into another election season here in the US, the fact that the senior citizens are generally the largest voting block (and dictate who actually wins) is really starting to scare the crap out of me.

Whether it’s my parents, my friend’s parents, or even the interactions I’ve had with the dinosaurs that attend our imaginary government meetings (the meetings aren’t imaginary, the government is — it’s complicated), I can’t help but notice how differently they see things and how, well, out of touch they are with how things work these days — simply because they don’t need to stay in touch with how things work.

The first thing I think they’ve lost touch with is this whole healthcare issue that has been in the news for the past few months. Yeah, yeah, I know they’re all over the whole medicare side of things (for their own reasons) but they can’t understand why the “younger” set is by-and-large upset with the wacky costs associated with health insurance.

In my own situation, I’d consider myself pretty well off. My wife and I both have full time jobs and both offer health insurance. It sounds like a pretty cushy situation but we’re still paying around $15000 per year for insurance — and this isn’t for some special elite plan. I don’t think the average senior realizes that it’s that high of a number — it wasn’t during their working days.

Yep — using an average household income of $50,233 (2007 numbers), healthcare is costing us nearly 30% of our PRE-TAX income. You can’t deny the percentages — the average American household wasn’t blowing 30% of their pre-tax income in the 1970’s and 1980’s unless, of course, they were a really unhealthy family.

The crazy part in my own personal situation is that I haven’t been to a doctor in over a decade. Do the math… Yep, I should have an extra 6-figures in my pocket. It’s highway robbery. It really is.

Now I’m not saying that a government plan is the best option (even though I am Canadian and do, in theory, support such an idea) or even a solution, I just think that there’s a HUGE segment of the voting population that are completely unaware of what the younger folks are paying, not for services, but for just-in-case insurance. It’s not right.

The next thing is the whole concept of a 401k plan. I’ve heard two or three people over the past couple of months someone say along the lines of, “Yeah, well you don’t need pensions because people your age have 401ks…”

I don’t know about you but there are an awful lot of companies out there that don’t even offer 401k plans — I’m pretty sure that most of my friends have nothing of the sort. And even if they do, good luck finding a company that *still* offers a match — sometimes I even have to laugh that employers call it a “benefit”.

Using my own 401k as a real life example : I’ve been contributing to it pretty heavily for a dozen years to receive the largest possible employer match (from when they were *still* offering a match). You know, basically making the most of it that I possibly could.

My total balance right now is right around $79000. Fourteen thousand of that is from my employer — or a little over $1000 per year over my 12 years of contributing.

You can throw phrases like “compound interest” or “tax deferred” in there all you like, there is NO WAY that anyone can claim that $1000 per year over a 25-30 year career (if you’re lucky) is going to be enough to “retire” on.

AsparagusThe fact is — employers aren’t going to take care of their “former” workforce like they used to and calling a 401k plan a “retirement” plan similar to a pension is, well, like comparing apples to asparagus. One tastes like crap.

That’s right Mom, I still don’t like asparagus. I think, at this point, it’s safe to say that I never will.

So, from my employer’s contributions to my 401k, I might end up with a $200 check each month for a few years once I retire… And don’t forget — I’m at that unfortunate age where I won’t be getting any social security checks on top of it all either… Ouch.

And on the subject of fixed incomes and social security checks, what is up with the seniors getting all upset about not getting a “raise” in 2010

Are they as out of touch as Wall Street?

Maybe my job sucks but I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone — I haven’t gotten a raise since 2003. It might even be as far back as 2001 but plain and simple, right now, I’m certainly not expecting a token raise anytime soon, you know, just because…

Really, everyone’s cost-of-living has gone up (I personally haven’t noticed) but those still lucky enough to be part of the workforce aren’t seeing the “adjustments” that the seniors have come to expect. It’s messed up — the seniors need to get in touch with reality on this one.

Again, like the 401k/pension thing, that isn’t how things work anymore — people don’t get token raises just because…

But in the end, it’s really funny to me as I can’t deny that I’ve jumped the bandwagon before and said stuff like, “Yeah, the bratty Gen Y’s out there just expect everything to be handed to them…” but now I’m seeing first hand that AARP members are just as expectant of handouts.

Weird how perspectives change… or fail to change… Seems that every generation can fall into that often mocked me-me-me category indicating that one thing is for certain — we’re not all in this together.

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With as much disdain as I have for CountryWide, you’d think that I’d be thrilled to see the note that they’re currently displaying on their website:

So long

Yeah, it brings me some satisfaction that their name will no longer exist (though their business practices won’t change a bit). I’ll admit that much.

So long — good riddance.

But this message also brings me a little bit of anxiety. Back when Bank of America took over MBNA, MBNA’s old site had a message very similar to this — so when the day came that I had to pay my credit card bills on Bank of America’s website, it wouldn’t let me log in — even though they’d said it would be a seamless transition.

The problem?

Yep, I’m one of those people that uses the same username for ALL of my accounts. The passwords vary but the user name is always the same.

Yeah, yeah, don’t give me that identity theft lecture…

Seriously, accounts that I’d had with 5 different institutions are now all under the same umbrella — that’s an identity theft risk in and of itself, no?

Anyway, at the time. I couldn’t use my MBNA user name to log in to Bank of America’s website because I already had a checking account with Bank of America using that exact same user name.

See the problem?

Same thing happened a few years later when BoA combined their Business site with the Personal site — I’d log in and see my checking account, my BoA credit card, a couple of MBNA credit card accounts, but no sign of the business account.

Both times, the issue resolved itself after a couple of months and a few *very* confusing phone calls.

“Thank you for calling Bank of America. Account number, please?”

“Um, Jenny Jenny 867-5309.”

“Okay, sir, you should be able to log in — I have that as a valid account number.”

“Nope, still not working, when I log in, I can’t see that account, just my other accounts.”

“Well, sir, you need to use the login information you used while you were with MBNA to access that account.”

“I can’t — it’s the same as the login information I’ve been using for Bank of America.”

Thankfully, I’ve never encountered a rude BoA customer service person on the phone. Not once. They haven’t always been able to help, but they’re not jerks about it either.

So I guess that on November 9th, we’ll see what happens over on I’ll either be able to see just my mortgage account or everything but. I’m not too worried about it — I just find it annoying.

Oh yeah, and you know what’s really lame? Even though *everything* is Bank of America now, I still can’t make same day payments or transfers between accounts. Sometimes it *still* takes three days…

What’s up with that?

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A snowy gourd I found on flikr.We had our first snowfall of the season here in Connecticut this afternoon — pretty early for us too. I mean, I haven’t even started raking leaves yet?!

Last year it didn’t snow until Decemember 7th

Anyway, there isn’t much in the way of accumulation (it’s still snowing) but it’s as though the people on the road have *never* seen snow before. I hate how that happens.

Really, tonight my three mile commute home from work took…50 minutes!?. How ridiculous is that?

In my prime, I could *run* that distance in under 16 minutes. In fact, I could’ve walked home faster.

Apparently, according to the local news, this isn’t the earliest snow we’ve ever had. Way back when we had a significant snowfall during the first week of October. I’m shocked that I don’t remember it but that’s probably because it was right around the time that I would have been too busy memorizing things like ↑, ↑, ↓, ↓, ←, →, ←, →, B, A, Select, Start…

Someone out there will know *exactly* what I’m talking about…

I hope.

PIAC Post Extension:
I titled the post Chicago-style commute because I’ve never encountered traffic worse than that of greater-Chicago. Three miles in a little under an hour seems about right. It’s no wonder that my dad took the train to work when we used to lived there.

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I can't wait for this day...Hey, what happened to paying off the mortgage before your kid is even in school?

Well, I’ve been on pace now for over a year to have my mortgage done and paid for in early 2014 — not that far away — but I’ve decided to take a different route and here’s the reasoning…

The primary reason is that we *need* to renovate the first floor. While I can envision having my main entry way looking as it does for another 40 months or so, I don’t want to.

The other reason is because I’m afraid that if we don’t do the renovation now (or I’m guessing in the next 18 months), we’ll run the risk of never getting it done.

See, I’ve come to the conclusion that in a worst case scenario (a major job loss), we could keep up with the mortgage as it stands now on just my wife’s income.

Now say, for instance, that worst case scenario arrives before we’re able to renovate the first floor…

See where I’m going?

Yeah, we’d be strapped for cash *and* be living in squalid conditions.

Seeing the ends are nearer for a renovation than they are for a mortgage payoff — and the benefits of a renovation far outweigh, well, the alternative (a worst case scenario = nothing), this is the wisest plan that I’ve come up with so far…

Seriously, I thought about this for like 5 minutes straight…

So I’m going to institute my “Mortgage Ladder” plan in November and start saving like a mad man.

Notice, though, that I did *not* say that I’d curb my spending

One thing at a time…

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LadderWow — it’s been awhile since we last talked shop… I mean, this place really is turning into a Mommy Blog.

Recapping financially, I’ve pretty much been on autopilot since the start of the summer…not really focusing on one thing over another, just kinda going with the flow.

It’s all good — debts are falling, assets are growing — but I’m sure I could make better use of the money that I fortunately have at my disposal.

So after a long conversation with my wife over the weekend, I think I’m going to try something new regarding the way I pay my mortgage.

Truth by told, the conversation only lasted around 15 seconds, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

See, I find myself with an entire year’s worth of minimum mortgage payments saved up. I call that piece of mind.

I know how I got there — but I still can’t believe I actually did it.

Now I’ve often complained of late that the monthly mortgage bill is a budget buster. I mean, a four-figure bill can’t help but get in the way…

So, what I’m thinking of doing is automating my monthly mortgage payment to be paid from my savings account — the one that has 12 months worth in it already.

My checking account will then be absent of the peaks and valleys that come each time a paycheck comes in and a subsequent mortgage payment clears.

All the while, though I’ll have that comfortable buffer of 12 months, I’ll continue to top-up the savings account on a weekly basis so as not to deplete things too drastically.

Make sense?

Basically, I’m taking my monthly mortgage payment from the forefront to the background and, over time, I’m hoping that it starts to feel like I’m not making mortgage payments at all.

That’s the plan anyway…

Can You Dig It?