Monthly Archives: January 2012

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    Duncan's GuitarI can’t tell you how awesome it is that Duncan can now draw something totally recognizable.

    Sure, it might look a little like a leg of lamb or one of those giant turkey legs you see at Disney World but he called it a guitar and my wife labelled it as such.

    As proud as I am, though, and as truly excited I am to soon see those horrific family drawings in the near future (you know, where everyone has a huge head, crazy hair, and no legs), in an odd sort of way, I kinda wish he’d drawn an instrument, you know, that all the cool people in high school play(ed).

    Like a tuba or something.

    Maybe next time…

    – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    In other news, my total credit card debt balance is down to $7045.14.

    Not too shabby — that’s $1350 lower than it was at the start of the month.

    Winning!

    Oh, and yes, I played the tuba.

    And I was tres cool.

    I’m just sayin’… the tuba is really cool.

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    As a professional photographer, it’s sad to see Kodak’s coffin apparently on the verge of being nailed shut permanently.

    They filed for bankruptcy protection today and if memory serves me correctly, this has been a bit of a recurring occasion for them over the past few years.

    I think at one point they even demolished a number of their buildings on their historic campus in Rochester, New York simply to save some money on property taxes. You know you’re in rough financial shape when the situation is so dire that things like that begin to appear as solutions.

    Though I rarely used Kodak film during my days of shooting with a film camera (in favor of, im my opinion, the far-superior FujiFilm) and haven’t even considered purchasing a roll of film since my switch to digital over a decade ago, I still use the phrase “Kodak moment” from time to time.

    It’s going to become outdated quick — if it hasn’t already — like saying something like “Tommy Gun” or “Chicago Typewriter”.

    My uncle says stuff like that and had I not sat and watched Geraldo’s anticlimactic primetime opening of Al Capone’s vault, well, I’m not sure I’d even know what a tommy gun is.

    Obviously it’s a gun, duh, but for those that are completely lost, a tommy gun was the drive-by shooting weapon of choice from 1920 through, hmmmm, probably the mid-1940’s. Simply put, it’s an old school machine gun.

    Anyway, back to the present, at less than 50 cents per share now, I almost want a piece of Kodak just to say I had it. Maybe even frame it and put it on the wall.

    Do they even issue paper stock certificates anymore?

    Probably not.

    That’s too bad.

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      PJ20 in Toronto -- September 2011Sure, I could look this up but my first thought was to ask frequent contributor DD (the inspiration for my spending reports)…

      So, when I started the car tonight on the way home from work, Even Flow by Pearl Jam was just starting on the radio.

      I nodded my head and uttered, “Good tune” even though I was alone in the car.
      Yeah, that’s how I roll.

      Even Flow came out on, like, the same day that I started grade 10. Everyone was all into the first single, Alive, because it had a music video but the song before it (Even Flow) on the cassette (yeah, I bought it on tape) was, in my opinion, far better.

      It totally rocked.

      And I’m not ashamed to admit that I don’t think I’d even heard the most popular tune to come off of that album (or ever from the band), Jeremy, until it was released as a single like 6 months later.

      You know, back then, it took effort and time to fast forward. Jeremy was the last song on side A — not a great spot. Basically, I’d play Sega in my room while listening to the first four songs, hit rewind, and play again. If you’re under 30, this paragraph probably doesn’t make any sense.

      Anyway, I like to think I’ve got a pretty good ear when it comes to music.
      I hear everything. Even without headphones, I pick up on the small stuff like taps on an open hi-hat on the upbeat of every third bar — you know, stuff that you wouldn’t normally tap your foot to.

      So, tonight, as I’m rocking out to a Pearl Jam song that I “think” I know pretty well, I notice something different.

      More guitar, like tons more layering, and even the solos faded gently in and out instead of being layed on top like some ridiculous Eddie Van Halen “I think I’m so awesome, let me play 200 notes in 4 seconds with some help from a synthesizer” post-production afterthought.

      There were even extra Eddie grunts — so much so that I began to question my version of the lyrics and, um, grunt noises and I really began to listen more carefully.

      This *was* different.

      Not a live cut or some crappy bootleg with audible heavy breathing — still a studio recording but…less polished.

      Simply put — it was better than what I have at home here on iTunes. I did a test listen, with headphones. The “original” almost sounds cheesy in comparison.

      So, DD, is what I heard today the version that you paid like $1000 for a couple of years ago?

      If so…I take back what I may have said then.

      It was probably worth it.

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      While perusing through the archives of this site, I’ve found that my posts used to be, well, more frequent, yes, but better too.

      Lotsa fun charts, neat comparisions, goofy photos, and some over-the-top rants all mixed up into one and somehow still connected to my financial task at hand.

      Now, though, it’s like it’s practically a formula of efficiency. Picture up top on the right, a few bland single sentence paragraphs, a rhetorical question that I answer anyway, and couple of links to past postings before I click “Publish”.

      I’m trying to break that habit.

      Honest.

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      Jar of CoinsAs with December of 2010, I once again finished off the year with a load of expenses.

      What do they have in common besides Christmas? Well, the culprit is at the top of the list.

      $2324.17 : Property Taxes
      $922.22 : Day Care
      $722.57 : Christmas Presents
      $498.72 : Mortgage
      $350.99 : Gasoline
      $310.00 : Cash
      $225.39 : Auto Insurance
      $201.86 : Electricity
      $138.11 : Cable/Internet
      $134.68 : Natural Gas
      $71.74 : Business Expenses
      $68.29 : Finance Charges
      $40.08 : Life Insurance
      $21.27 : Cell Phone
      $13.02 : Wicked Cool T-Shirt
      $12.00 : Hockey Tickets

      That totals $6055.11.

      For those that haven’t read super closely in the past — and I would never expect you to — the lines in red are infrequent or unusual expenses.

      When you omit them, my spending starts to look a lot more reasonable. Sadly, though, it takes real money to pay for those infrequent or unusual expenses.

      Anyway, property taxes come along twice per year. Most folks have the property taxes on their home (along with the insurance) built in to their mortgage so that they never have to worry about them.

      When we re-financed back in 2010, though, I opted to take care of those myself so as to ensure a *much* lower monthly mortgage payment.

      The downside is that twice a year, I get hit with a HUGE tax bill. It’s okay though — I budget for it.

      The only other line worth nothing in this month’s report is the $68.29 in finance charges.

      In November, I paid $129.14 in finance charges.

      In October, I paid $135.14 in finance charges.

      In September, it was $196.20 and prior to that it was over $200. Ouch.

      In today’s report, it was just $68.29.

      What does this signify?

      Well, first, I think it shows that I’m doing an awesome job of achieving my goal for 2012 but also that I’m utilizing all of the options available to me when it comes to credit cards.

      Someone is *always* offering an outstanding promo rate.

      You just have to have a zero balance (and a high credit limit) on the card that has that rate. I’ve been fortunate to have this occur repeatedly allowing me to make some pretty large purchases (like a $40k renovation) at a difficult-to-believe rate.

      Fine — I won’t tap dance around it anymore. I was offered a balance transfer offer that I couldn’t turn down and it’s already saving me money.

      Lots of it.

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      Having done this a few times now, I’ve learned that it’s not so much about how large a balance you’re carrying but how able you are to make constant and consistent payments while keeping the credit cards in your wallet.

      Here are the three puzzle pieces that determine success or failure: Payments Made, Interest Charged, and Purchases Made.

      The total balance doesn’t matter one bit. $20 in the hole or $200k in the red, it doesn’t matter.

      In hockey terms, it’s a lot like a player’s plus/minus rating.

      For those that don’t follow ice hockey, the +/- is a statistic that doesn’t take into account how many goals a player has scored. If you’re on the ice when your team scores a goal, whether or not you’ve influenced the play at all, you get a plus one. If you happen to be on the ice when the opponent scores a goal, you get a minus one. Pretty simple, huh?

      Well, sometimes the most valuable player on a team is the guy with the fewest points. Some players are just “good luck charms” for those around them and the +/- rating is what showcases an otherwise un-noticed talent.

      Brad McCrimmon, who sadly died in that hockey team plane crash a few months ago, has always been the “stud” of this statistic.

      He was a defenseman who never once scored more than 13 goals in an entire season. Thirteen goals isn’t very many.

      Casual fans thought of him as a, well, just a generic and totally replaceable player. I know I was never “excited” to see him on the ice — really, just a boring player among the likes of an offensive lineman in football or the guy who bats eighth in baseball.

      Simply put, no one was chanting his name.

      But when you took into account the +/- statistic, well, he was second to none. It became crystal clear that his team scored often and the opponent pretty much never scored while he was on the ice.

      So, even though he wasn’t on the score sheet very often, he was, in a technical sort of way, the best player on the team. By far.

      Back to finances…

      So, first and foremost, my payments for the month (goals for) must exceed the sum of my expenses and the finance charges (goals against).

      It’s really that easy.

      I don’t even need to address the total balance — as long as the above holds true, I’ll always be headed in the right direction.

      Duh?

      I know, this isn’t rocket science but so many people somehow manage to lose track of how simple it all is…

      So far, in January, I’ve charged $399.06 and I’ve submitted $1473.95 worth of payments. There have been no finance charges as of yet.

      That means that my plus/minus rating is plus $1074.89.
      And we’re less than halfway through the month…

      Winning!

      (I know, I know, I’m 6 months late with the Charlie Sheen references…)

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      January 2012 Net WorthStarting the new year off right with a net worth just north of $250k.

      Yep, that’s right, I’ve reclaimed my status as a quarter of a millionaire.

      Cash:
      December was a three paycheck month for me so there’s a little bit of extra padding here.

      Savings:
      Oh no! What happened? Well, property taxes came due. That’s okay, though. It’s totally built into my budget that when they come due (every six months), I’ve got enough in savings to cover it… no matter what.

      Gov’t Bonds:
      Will I hold on to these for the entire year? I doubt it. But while they’re still in my asset tank, I’ll gladly take the six or seven bucks for nothing each month…

      Home:
      Zillow.com currently lists my house as the most exensive on my street. This makes the roof of my mouth nice and warm. I know it’s not really true — but it’s still nice to see.

      Auto 1, Auto 2, and Auto 3:
      With no movement on the BMW or Land Rover, I’m thinking that their values may have bottomed out. I can’t tell you how awesome it’s not having to pay a car payment for almost four years now

      Credit Cards:
      Crazy considering all of the Christmas expenditures but it’s on like Donkey Kong. Yep, I got started on my Goal for 2012 already.

      Auto Loans and Other Loans:
      Nothing to report.

      Mortgage:
      Just another minimum payment.

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      I’ve been farting around without any “real” financial goals for two years now.

      As a result, my finances have been, well, farting around. They’re okay, sure, but I’m not moving in any kind of direction. Just kinda treading water.

      In 2007 and 2008, I was on a mission to eliminate my thousands upon thousands of dollars of car and credit card debt and I did it…quickly. Total success. Cheers all around.

      In 2009, though, I got sloppy and set goals having to do with imaginary numbers from dream land. Save for “this” and “that” which don’t have pricetags attached to them. There wasn’t anything concrete.

      It’s like the, “I’m saving for college” line you hear so often. I always want to follow-up and ask, “Any idea how much you need to save?” knowing full well that what they’re saving will barely put a dent in what they’ll actually need to spend.

      Sorry, a few hundred dollars tossed into a 529 plan each year won’t add up to anything.

      In 2010, I started to paydown all of my new found debt resulting from “this” and “that” which I didn’t save enough for in the previous year but I never really got serious about it.

      Sure, the balances were falling all year long but it was a lot like a 529 plan — my payments weren’t getting me very far.

      I could have done better. I should have done better.

      I should be debt free again already…but I’m not.

      I’ve been like a broken record player for two years now. It’s time to replace the needle.

      (Where would one but a new needle in 2012?)

      My goal for 2012 is simpleto be debt free and able to realisitically convince my wife that we *need* and can afford a third smurfling.

      Here’s how I’m going to do it:

      • Weekly $300 Auto-Payments – I’ve been doing this for months now and it’s what’s always driven all of my debt paydown efforts in the past. This is nothing new.
      • End-of-Month Lump Sum Payments – This is what went by the wayside after I first cleared all of my debt. On the last business day of each month, I used to make as large a payment as I could afford so as to “pad” the numbers reported each month in my net worth updates.

      The second bullet point is key to the success of the plan — I must-must-must start doing this again.

      This site (the net worth updates) held me accountable to myself and even motivated me as I saw progress, real progress, each and every month.

      Once I achieved my original goal of becoming debt free, well, that kinda stopped.

      D & H

      As for the third smurfling side of things, having kids has certainly forced me to cut my out-of-wallet spur of the moment spending drastically.

      Before we had kids I used to hear people talk about how much formula costs, and doctor visits, and clothing, and this-and-that relating to having kids.

      I haven’t found those things to be terribly hampering — it’s the daycare costs that kill you financially.

      Did you know that we pay four times our mortgage payment for daycare?

      That’s the crippling part. And it’s also the part that has us on the fence about a third.

      Can we afford it?

      Right now, the answer is no.

      But when you take out the $1300 I’m autopaying to the credit cards to get out of debt each month, the answer leans more towards yes.

      Can we get a new kitchen too?

      Well, I wish but that puts us back to no.

      And while I’d really like a new kitchen to match the rest of the renovation, when I look at my two angry birds, I know without a doubt that they’re the best thing I’ve ever done and they’re the best thing I’ll ever have.

      So much more rewarding than a new kitchen.

      So I’m getting greedy — I want another.

      I just have to get my finances in order pronto.

      And then we’ll start “saving” for that kitchen without a “pricetag”.

      Can You Dig It?

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