Monthly Archives: February 2010

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Double Gold for Hockey CanadaSure, February’s the shortest month of the year but I’m still inconspicuously patting myself on the back for a job well done.

This isn’t the smallest sum that I’ve ever reported but it’s pretty close.

In short, I think that this is about the best I can do without pinching pennies to the point that our standard of living takes a dip *and* still overpay on the mortgage by such a large amount.

This also marks the 12th month that I’ve been reporting my spending. I’m not so sure that it’s opened my eyes to anything new but I do think it’s helping me keep my free-spending a bit more under control as I don’t want to shame myself online at the end of each month…

Anyway, here’s where the money went:

  • $1850.00 : Mortgage
  • $274.13 : Natural Gas
  • $177.34 : Electricity
  • $175.82 : Business Expenses
  • $113.02 : Taxes
  • $111.50 : Cable/Internet
  • $101.32 : Water/Sewer
  • $76.95 : Gas
  • $49.33 : Phone
  • $40.00 : Cash
  • $20.45 : Cough/Cold Medicine
  • $8.61 : Humidifier Filter
  • $1.25 : Vending Machine

That adds up to $2999.72.

Pretty good — but we’ve got some big ticket purchases on the horizon for March…

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Roberto LuongoOkay, I’m ditching the goal of finally getting a Roth IRA account set-up and fully funded in 2010.

It isn’t that I can’t afford to do it… It’s just that a good old fashioned incandescent light bulb finally lit up (powered by knob & tube wiring) and I re-remembered why I’d never opened an account in the first place.

The big hurdle that I don’t want to have to confront is all that business about access to the money.

Specifically, it’s the lack of access to the money — even with a Roth — that turns me off.

My 401k already has over $85k tied up that I can’t touch for the next 26 years. That’s a really long time. And it sure feels like an awful lot of money too…

A Roth IRA on top of it all would just make more of my money inaccessable — when I kinda need it.

Now I’m not going to stop contributing to my currently match-less 401k or anything. I’ve toyed with the idea but haven’t acted on it and I’m not planning to.

But I’m also not keen on the idea of locking more of my income away where I can’t get at it.

A decent selection of plain Jane mutual funds would probably suit me better. Same risk with full access.

(The tax implications, or ‘advantages’, are, as far as I’m concerned, minimal.)

And that’s the key — if I need the money before my knees are completely shot (which I will), I can get it.

For now, though, the money that would have gone to fund the Roth IRA will be probably be split very unevenly between savings and mortgage overpayments.

Sorry — you just can’t convince me that having your house paid for in your mid-thirties is a poor financial strategy…

To me, eliminating the biggest monthly bill forever is financial freedom.

Oh, yeah, and GO CANADA!

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2009 Taxes FiledI’ve been *so* behind with posting over the last few months so much so that I didn’t even do my annual “I Filed my Taxes Today” post this year.

Cutting to the chase, I filed my taxes back on February 13. It was a fun filled Saturday morning spent in front of the computer telling TurboTax that, no, once again, I did not earn any income working on a farm and I don’t have an illegal alien working as a maid and living under the basement steps.

Seriously — you spend far too much time answering questions that only apply to a tiny tiny tiny slice of the population but good luck finding where to enter how much you paid in property taxes…

Or how to get your $1000 credit for making a person? I checked the box but I didn’t see my refund magically go up $1000… Whatever…

Anyway, 2009 was a bit of a step backwards in the Smurf household. We earned around $10k less.

That’s okay though — unlike a lot of folks my age, I’m fully aware that my top earning days are behind me. I neve expected my income to continually rise the way it did through my twenties and I’ve definitely run into a plateau of sorts.

Maybe 2010 will be better but I doubt it. Some might blame the economy, or whatever, but the fact is, at a certain point, you just level off. I’m cool with that.

The good news is that we didn’t owe this year like we did last year. I wasn’t sure *how* that was the case last year but we took steps to make sure that it wouldn’t happen again.

Making $10k less didn’t hurt our cause either.

In the end, as you can see up at the top, we received $2585 back Federal and $1262 back from the State for a grand total of $3847.

No small sum but I have to admit — I really thought we’d be getting more.

I’m glad that I wasn’t counting on it but I almost feel naive for actually thinking that having a kid would “aid” me in my taxes in a get-rich-quick sort of way.

Right now, it sorta feels like that “buy a house and you’ll get tons of money back on your taxes” myth. I fell for that one too.

Gee — borrow over a hundred thousand dollars, pay thousands upon thousands of dollars in interest and then we’ll give you $30 back on your taxes for your troubles. Such a deal!

Maybe it’s just me…

Oh, and I’m pretty sure I ranted about this last year but I’m going to rant about it again this year cause it really rubs me the wrong way…

In the mail, I received a Form 1099-G from the State of Connecticut indicating that I “earned” $1258 from them in 2009 and that I had to report it as income on my taxes.

Okay, so I was over taxed in 2008 by $1258. Then, in 2009, they refunded me the $1258. And finally in 2010, I need to pay taxes on that same $1258 that I overpaid in 2008.

So, wait, why again do I have to pay taxes on my refund?

I already over paid taxes on it once — the state gave it back to me — and then I had to pay taxes on it again?

Double taxation, no?

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See it over there?

That little chart right above the coffee cup all but begging you to subscribe to my feed?

Well, the last time I used a progress chart was back in 2008 — the year that I plowed through just about every single goal I’d set for myself.

Then, in 2009, having accomplished so much, I got a little fluffy and failed to accomplish much of anything.

I didn’t use a chart in 2009 and I think it might have been partially to blame for my lack of progress too…

So it’s back.

And hopefully it’ll work.

I’ve got a looooonnnnggggg way to go — roughly $26,266 — to accomplish my goals for 2010.

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McDonald'sI’ve recently rediscovered my love for McDonald’s hamburgers.

At one point in high school I was convinced that I could eat two McDonald’s hamburgers for every meal indefinitely.

Not to date myself too much but back then a McDonald’s hamburger was 59 cents. Two of them came to exactly $1.25 including Connecticut sales tax.

That meant that the quarter that I pocketed each weekday from the lunch money my mother gave me was enough to buy a late night weekend meal with my friends after an evening spent at the video game arcade.

Okay, if that doesn’t date me, I’m not sure what will…

Seriously, how did video arcades survive into the 1990’s?

Anyway, for a few years there in my twenties, I was starting to think that maybe my father might have been correct in avoiding McDonald’s like the plague during my childhood while repeating something along the lines of “Someday you’ll stop wanting to go there…”

I still visited McDonald’s now and then — usually because their fries are the best around if you’re lucky enough to get a fresh batch (a rare occurrence) — but I really hadn’t ordered a hamburger in quite some time…

So a few weeks ago, I had a craving for a McDonald’s hamburger… Wow — I’d venture to guess that I had my very first hamburger there in the late 1970’s and today, in 2010, they taste exactly the same.

There’s just, well, I don’t know what to call it, but there’s something about the texture of those bland and flavorless little onion bits and the piping hot pickle and the less than fresh bun that looks like it’s been stepped on.

It’s like peculiar form of perfection.

They’re not 59 cents anymore but they’re still a pretty decent bargain.

So last weekend I introduced Duncan to McDonald’s:

Here’s to hoping he continues to enjoy their signature item for years to come…

…and avoids the cheeseburger.

That thing tastes like cardboard.

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Well, I fared better than I did in December but I didn’t exactly keep my spending in check as closely as I’d wanted or even expected to.

That said, there were a few budget busters at fault for my breakdown — most notably that unplanned but definitely necessary fileserver that I purchased along with all of it’s related accessories.

The high utility bills certainly didn’t help either…

Anyway, here’s where all of the money went:

  • $1850.00 : Mortgage
  • $1134.51 : Business Expenses
  • $335.24 : Natural Gas
  • $233.67 : Electricity
  • $120.00 : Cash
  • $111.50 : Cable/Internet
  • $66.93 : Gas
  • $57.77 : Phone
  • $34.20 : Clothing
  • $8.00 : Car Wash
  • $3.75 : Vending Machine

All together, that adds up to $3955.57.

I suppose I could pat myself on the back for keeping the sum under $4k even while dropping over a grand on the previously mentioned business expenses… but I’m not going to go that route.

I still spend far more than I *need* to.

Sure, I guess I could make the argument (to myself and with myself) that I can *afford* to spend this much, I mean, my net worth still went up, but, really, I think my true expenses (minimum payments across the board) only add up to around $2000 per month.

I routinely spend double that?!

On the success front, though, you might notice something absent in this month’s spending report — or you might not… The hockey jerseys.

Usually a staple in these reports and, more often than not, they’re in the second or third spot too. Not this month.

So far, that’s the only goal for 2010 that I’ve adhered to.

It’s still early though… ;0)

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Sorry it’s nearly a week late.

I’ve been a combination of tired, sick, busy, unmotivated, overworked, and underpaid.

Par for the course in the middle of the winter, I suppose, but now that I’ve run the numbers I’m feeling alright.

January didn’t really “feel” like a positive but somehow it turned out to be.

My 401k didn’t bail me out this time or even an upswing in the value of my home — the big movers were the contributions to my savings account and the extra payments I made on my mortgage — two things that are 100% dependent on me.

That’s pretty reassuring, you know, knowing that it’s still me in the drivers seat and that I’m making sound decisions.

Anyway, here’s the breakdown:

I feel like I’m living paycheck-to-paycheck but somehow I managed to keep this about $2000. I think the main reason is that I got paid right at the end of the month — I’m not a fan of when biweekly paychecks land on the calendar this way. I always feel like I’m short on money when the bills come in…

And because I felt short on money (and those nasty utility bills caught me by surprise), I had to ease off of my pace here — and even take a bit from savings to cover some of my expenses. In the end, I still ended on a very positive note.

Gov’t Bonds:
Okay, it’s official. I don’t understand government bonds at all. I didn’t earn ANY interest in January. Not one dime. Now I realize that the current rate on some of the bonds is 0% right now but I’ve got a handful that I’ve had for years that have a fixed portion that is, well, it’s not zero. So, yeah, I haven’t got a clue and for all the research I’ve done, well, it still doesn’t make sense.

Well, it couldn’t last forever, right? I think that this downturn is just the tip of the iceberg — especially after the performance this first week of February.

I’d talked about lowering my contributions — and even stopping them — for 2010 but never made the move. Now, with things falling, it’s even more unlikely for me to change anything.

Hooray! I just felt like saying that.

Auto 1 & Auto 2:
My daily driver, Auto 1, really needs an oil change. And a belt or something to be tightened. If I don’t warm it up, it squeals like a pig.

The BMW has been sitting in the garage pretty much since Duncan was born. Each year I tell myself that I’ll drive it more but I never seem to.

Hey, at least it’s not losing value and, really, now that it’s over a dozen years old, it can’t be much longer until its value starts to increase. Right? Please?

Credit Cards, Auto Loans, and Other Loans:
Zilch. Zero. Nada.

I just want this thing paid off. It’s the white elephant in my pile of bills. And, yes, the mortgage is supposed to be the white elephant but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Can You Dig It?