Yearly Archives: 2011

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December 2012 Net WorthIn these unstable times, I’m perfectly happy with modest $773 gain. Especially with all of the holiday spending, though, I suppose I shouldn’t make a final judgement until next month’s update.

There’s no real strategy here at all. I get paid every two weeks and I’ve got automatic payments pulling from my checking account right down to the $2000 balance level (to avoid bank fees). It’s like auto-pilot.

I withdrew $600 from here early in the month (to pay off a credit card balance) but managed to replenish it almost 100 percent. Unfortunately my property taxes are due this month so it’s going to drop off considerably but that’s what I set the savings account up for — property taxes.

Gov’t Bonds:
Month after month I question why I still have these. The return is just so much better than a savings account that, for some reason, I just can’t part with them completely…

It’s up. It’s down. It’s…whatever…

It’s worth far more to me but the mortgage payment says otherwise. It’s a total win-win.

Auto 1, Auto 2, and Auto 3:
Just this month I realized that we have four “older” cars (my wife owns one that isn’t reported here) that all have insanely low mileage. It doesn’t really mean anything, I suppose, but I’m starting to think that when you have a mini-fleet of cars to choose from, they all last longer.

Credit Cards:
I’m kinda shocked this went down, actually. That week after Thanksgiving turned out to be pretty expensive but I guess I didn’t charge quite as much as I thought I did. That’s a good thing — we’ve got to get this slate wiped clean by May 2011.

For the record, nearly the entire balance is on a Chase Slate card. See what I did there? Pretty cool, huh?

Auto Loans and Other Loans:
Nothing to report.

Just another minimum payment.

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HenrikNovember just flew right by — I don’t even remember finding the time to spend *any* money but according to my reports (have I mentioned that I finally replaced my beloved Micrososft Money with Moneydance yet?), I certainly spent freely:

$922.22 : Day Care
$618.97 : Christmas Presents
$501.30 : Business Expenses
$498.72 : Mortgage
$398.65 : Gasoline
$360.00 : Cash
$164.65 : Electricity
$145.57 : School Pictures
$137.78 : Cable/Internet
$129.14 : Finance Charges
$122.82 : Vacation
$114.37 : Water/Sewer
$92.69 : Natural Gas
$85.24 : Groceries
$13.02 : Clothes

That totals $4305.13.

The daycare at the top is really starting to wear on me. That’s actually only half of the total bill as my wife pays the other half (as well as for 99% of the groceries and eating-out expenses.)

I mean, just over two years ago we somehow had nearly $2000 worth of extra disposable income per MONTH?! Now I’m not saying the kids aren’t worth every penny — they are, which is why I want another one — but if you haven’t had kids yet, starting thinking about doing something intelligent with your “extra” money before the kids come along.

I’m just sayin’…

The holiday season is upon us. I almost wanted to wait and combine the November and December spending to showcase how crazy I went with Christmas this year. Christmas was all but cancelled last year following the death of my dad (while decorating for, get this, Christmas).

While trying to remember what the “big” gift for Duncan was last year, I was coming up blank. Reason being, we didn’t get him anything last year. Sure, we had Christmas (there’s even a picture) but it was pretty low key.

Now, with Henrik in the fold (and in the picture at the top of this post), I wanted to make up for it.

Tomorrow morning is going to be smurf-tastic.

Business expenses were high in November too but it was mostly on hardware and equipment, you know, real things that’ll serve a purpose for years to come. Most importantly, I added two terrabytes to my fileserver which is something I’d been dragging my feet on for, well, forever.

School pictures are a rip-off. We even got ripped off worse as they took one picture of both of our kids like it was a 2-for-1 special or something. I’d have much prefered individual sittings, though I suppose then it would have cost me twice as much…

Yes, I still want three.

Vacation in November? Well, sort of. We spent a night in a hotel following our awesome Thanksgiving feast. I’m not usually a fan of big sit-down type meals (burger and fries are more my thing) but there was plenty for me to hunt-and-peck at — and then not have to drive for two hours to get home, well, totally worth the expense.

Honestly, though, seeing my two boys and they’re three cousins running wild for a few hours was worth the room rate all by itself. Can’t wait until they’re all a bit older….

And those pesky finance charges… Argh!?

Well, great news on that front too — it’s going to drop like a rock.

A year ago now, I wrote about Smart Credit Card Strategies and, once again, I’ve followed my own advice and made a wise money move.

After years of being debt free and then suddenly finding myself paying over $200/month in finance charges again (as recently as August) as the 0% offers expired, I’ve transfered the balances again to a more manageable offer where I’ll have the balances paid off in full long before the offers expire.

Just taking advantage of the tools in my wallet…

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Duncan's 2011 School PictureBet you were starting to wonder if I’d ever return…

Yeah, I know, it’s December 24th and I’m just now posting my spending report for the month of October. No excuses.

But worry not! After all these years, my finances are practically on auto-pilot. Occasionally there’s some turbulence but never anything too extreme.

Here are the expenses from October:

$922.22 : Day Care
$498.72 : Mortgage
$450.00 : Auto Insurance
$276.52 : Gas
$271.78 : Clothes
$260.00 : Cash
$150.52 : Electricity
$135.43 : Finance Charges
$131.85 : Groceries
$128.06 : Cable/Internet
$80.16 : Life Insurance
$54.47 : Business Expenses
$49.09 : Natural Gas
$24.75 : Toys
$14.00 : Bank of America Maintenance Fee
$5.00 : Car Wash

That all adds up to $3452.57 which, while high, is the second lowest total all year. Hooray for me!

I’ll spare you the line-by-line analysis since, well, all of this spending occured months ago and there isn’t really anything terribly unusual or hard to comprehend on there…

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Angry BirdI hope they, the buttons with resistance, don’t go the way of the record player.

In the 1980’s, while I was honing my own typing skills playing games like Sierra On-Line’s King’s Quest, I used to cringe watching my dad type on a keyboard while doing whatever it was he actually did on the computer — both index fingers fully extended hunting and pecking away on the keys.

He was pretty fast but, still, who uses their index fingers for every single keystroke?

Things like Ctrl-Alt-Del were always a challenge for those utilizing the two-finger methodology.

Fast forward a couple of generations…

Of late, I’ve noticed that my 2 year old, Duncan, already “expects” a touch screen interface.

A few weeks ago he got to “play” Angry Birds on a friend’s tablet, you know, flat glassy looking thing without any buttons.

He “played” for no more than 5 minutes, max, before losing interest.

But since then, I’ve caught him, on more than one occasion, touching the television screen and flicking his finger as if that’s how we change the channel.

He even does it with my wife’s non-touchscreen cell phone. Pretty much anywhere that there’s a digital “display”, he thinks it’s for touching and quickly sliding an extended finger across.

Yet, he has zero interest in a keyboard and only a slight fascination with the mouse — though I’m not sure he yet realizes that the pointer on the screen is directly related to the mouse…

Won’t be long now, I’m sure, until he shows interest in that controllerless Xbox Kinect thing I keep seeing commercials for.

And twenty years down the road he’ll probably get a good chuckle out of how dad even owned a button-smashing Punch-Out arcade game

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iPhoneIt was all over the news today — about how seniors are 47 times wealthier than they’re under-35 counterparts.

Statistics can be tricky.

And they can easily be groomed and spun to suit whatever you want them to.

That said, I think the disparity may have something to do with the under-35 crowd spending over $1000 on new cell phones and their associated “plans” every year.

Just something to think about before you pick up the next i-whatever from Apple.

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November 2011 Net WorthLoving these huge swings up and down.

I mean, just look at the last year’s worth of updates and all of the movement has been huge…

Here we go…

Still tight. I think I even inadvertantly went under the “threshhold” this past month. Booo…

Nothing new here — just where Iā€™m tossing $135 in per week to cover my property tax bill (due in December) and anything else unexpected.

Gov’t Bonds:
Treasury Direct’s login process just switched again. They claim that it’s easier but I’m finding it even more annoying than ever. If I weren’t earning nearly 6% on what I have left in there, I’d sell out in a heartbeat.

Months like this are why I don’t support the whole Occupy Wall Street movement.

A big snowstorm and tons of tree damage apparently had an impact on the value of my home. Or maybe it was a coincidence.

Auto 1, Auto 2, and Auto 3:
Not much movement here.

Credit Cards:
Not as much progress here as I’d have hoped but still over $1000 wiped out. I was really hoping to have it under $10k at month’s end

Auto Loans and Other Loans:
Nothing to report.

Just another minimum payment.

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My DadSo it’s now been exactly a year since I last saw my dad. It was November 3rd that he came with us to that creepy 3D ultrasound of the then un-named Henrik. I think he really enjoyed that.

Later that day, he and my mom drove back home to Florida.

Recently a couple of acquaintances have had deaths in the family — both happened to lose their dad — and it got me thinkin’…

One was older than any human being should possibly get and the other had been in and out of a sedative state for months.

In both cases, I heard the news on Facebook.

I like to think that I can relate since my Dad died just last year but I’m finding it really hard to find common ground.

It’s funny, thinking about it now, shortly after my dad died, another friend (that isn’t strictly relegated to Facebook communication) came up to me and gave me the awkward exchange that people typically give you when someone close dies.

The thing is, for him, his dad had died just a couple of months prior (in his 80’s and of cancer) so I kinda thought he was one of the few who knew firsthand how I felt — freshly.

His comment — and his brother’s comment too, “No way, man, yours was way worse. We saw Pops going…”

That kinda stuck with me.

And you know what?

They were wrong.

My family’s loss wasn’t worse.

Sure, in some ways — like the actual loss of a family member — it was exactly the same but the way it happened for us was, well, better.

I think it was better.

We didn’t have a long waiting period.

We didn’t get the chance to ponder when?

We never had to make any hard life-or-death decisions.

It just happened.

Out of the blue.

Sure, it sucks to never have had the chance to say good bye.

The last time I saw my dad, just after that ultrasound appointment, we were out looking for liquid garlic (very tough to find), we discussed not giving the baby-to-come a name that ended in ‘-ie’ or a single syllable name and tested out all kinds of terrible suggestions (none being Henrik, which my dad propably would’ve hated), and complained about how the soda at our local 99 Restaurant tasted musty that day.

The last thing I talked to my dad about, just days before he died, was a free frame replacement on my wife’s Toyota Tacoma. Neither of us are gear heads — what a stupid final conversation.

But if it had been any other way, what would we have said?

I mean, really, what do you say?

Talk about uncomfortably awkward…

There haven’t been a lot of deaths in our family. It’s not that we live forever — it’s just not that big of a family.

I can think of three deaths and technically, only two were ‘real’ relatives and I can only really claim to have ever made a connection to one of them.

The first death was my grandmother in…I think it was in the fall of 1987. I was in 5th grade — that much I’m sure of.

She’d had a heart attack and we made the 9-hour trip to the hospital to go and see her.

She seemed perfectly normal — she gave me a dollar bill to “buy something in the gift shop” as if anything could be had in a hospital gift shop for a dollar. Even in the 80’s… Sheesh…

I still have that dollar, though. Pretty cool too since it wasn’t long after that paper dollars were taken out of circulation in Canada.

Anyway, all seemed well from a 5th grader’s perspective besides the fact that she was in the hospital.

We drove back home and life resumed.

It was about a week later when I had a friend sleeping over that my Dad poked his head in the door and asked if he could talk to me for a sec.

That’d never happened before.

I got up, went out to the hallway and he led me into my parent’s bedroom and said, “Gram died this afternoon.”

I just stood there.

I remember thinking that my dad was really big that day — like, tall and imposing but not in a threatening way — a trait that really isn’t accurate to my dad’s physical stature.

Especially on what I now realize would have been a very very weak day.

I didn’t cry or anything, said I was okay, and just went back to my room, sat down in my red pleather bean bag, and kept on playing Atari (yes, I’m *that* old) with a stunned look on my face the best I could so as not to let my friend in on the news.

I never did get the real story — I’ve always just assumed it was another heart attack.

And speaking of all this, new in next month’s spending report…life insurance premiums!

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Loosely Related Tangent
Back when I was in university we used to play stupid games like who could stand on one foot the longest, or drink a coke the fasted (way harder to pound a Coke than a beer), hold a hand over a candle closest, or hold your breath the longest. That sorta thing.

One of the variations was who could “bust a tear” first.

One guy used to pull out nose hairs to well up. It certainly worked, but I still beat him every time.

Funny, cause he was an artsci fartsy drama major.

I’d just think about “Gram” telling me to put her dominoes away and my right eye would start to spout.

Takes about 2 seconds.

I’d be really awesome at that game now.

3 1169

I wish I could claim that my lack of posting were due the to widepsread power outages here in Connecticut but that’d be a half-truth.

Halloween Obstacles

Anyway, after four freezing nights without power or heat and a pseduo gas crisis (gas stations can’t pump gas without power…), I almost miss the expectation of spending another cold night with the entire family huddled into one dark (and cold) room now that the power is back on and I’m 12 inches from two flat screen monitors with iTunes blaring out some random rock hits from the early 1990’s.

There are a lot of irate local politicians here calling for the power company’s head. Earlier in the week, 87% of Connecticut was dark. Halloween was even cancelled.

We’re talking totally dark.

No traffic lights. None. Not even blinking yellow or red. They were off.

Just think about how crazy that’d make the roads? For nearly a week?

On top of it, the temperatures were dipping into the 20’s at night.

In my house, we could see our breathe. Yeah, it was cold.

So the politicians might have a point. Sorta.

But my PIAC persona was thinking about things differently.

Electricity is a bargain!!!

My average electric bill is around $150 per month. That’s five bucks per day.

Our utility provider is routinely criticized for having some of the highest rates in the country. I don’t know that this is a fact — perhaps just something that an angry politician is throwing out there just before election day next Tuesday — but I do know that I’d have gladly paid $5 for just one working outlet for a few hours as my family froze each night.

Yeah, electricity for my entire house is just $5 per day.

I’m not going to bash Connecticut Light & Power for offering such a great deal.

It’s a miracle that electricity is so cheap.

Can You Dig It?