Finance

Wow, this place fell apart, huh? So, seems like the site was “hijacked” a few months ago, redirected to all kinds of unusual foreign sites and subsequently de-listed from Google so…there probably isn’t anybody reading this post but that’s okay. I’m writing it anyway.

So, first things first, I’ve eliminated the issue where someone was nefariously stealing my traffic and reputation. A few years ago, I’d be all bent out of shape over something like this — we were pulling in nearly 8000 visits per day for a while there — but now that I’m old, eh, I can let it slide. I’ll take the 35 visits per day — 34 of which are probably me — for now.

Google finds good content and I still think the site is overflowing with good content, good advice, some great typos, and some pretty silly remarks that are timeless. We’ll be listed again soon, I’m sure.

Now, I know that this place kinda transitioned from a Finance blog — which were all the rage a decade ago when I started — to more of a Mommy blog (even though I’m a dude) but that’s what happens when you have kids. In my case, three of them.

For real, they take over your life. Even financially.

So, just to get everyone back up to speed, I feel like I should re-introduce myself.

My wife and I live in central Connecticut and have three kids, born in 2009, 2011, and 2015. If you’re interested, I’m pretty sure I documented their arrivals pretty thoroughly in the archives of the website.

Since the start, my finances have been the main topic covered — specifically paying down debt while also building wealth.

Through the years, I’ve come to realize that I’m really, really, really good at paying down debt but not so great at growing savings.

Living debt free is so much more appealing than being rich. They seem like they’d be connected…but they’re more different than you’d think.

I suspect the reason behind it — my preference of “being” in debt — is that it’s easier to set, and work towards, a goal of “not owing anybody anything” than it is to just have the most commas and zeros in your accounts.

For that reason, as of right now, I find myself deeper in debt than I think I was way back in 2007 and 2008. I’ll give everyone an update on where my finances are with a long overdue Net Worth report shortly.

Another topic I covered quite frequently were home renovations. My house is over 125 years old and, subsequently, has required some, ahem, updating. Costly updating.

For years and years (and YEARS!), I went on and on about the 3-car garage I imagined on my property. Well, guess what?

During my hiatus, we built that garage! Hooray!

It’s not done yet — still needs interior painting, a new driveway, and a bathroom to be finished — and it hasn’t come without it’s own set of drama…but it exists.

Pictures and updates on that are also in the pipeline.

In more recent news, and related to my finances, my trusty 2005 Scion xA died on me a few weeks back. Mustered 142k miles out of it before I was forced to abandon it, err, sell it to CarMax three states away from home.

I’ll have to share that story here as well which, as it was happening, caused me great anxiety but now it all seems pretty funny.

My spending habits have also changed, I think, since I last reported. Sure, I still spend stupid amounts of money on that dumb hockey jersey hobby but NOTHING like I used to.

That spending has been replaced by spending money on hockey tuition for my kids. Good investment? Terrible investment? Is it even an investment? I have a lot to say about that, as well.

And on the front of always trying to add little bits of passive income here and there, I’ve started using those peer-to-peer lending websites — Lending Club, specifically. No, not to borrow for myself, but to lend to others.

It’s been an learning experience, now nearly two years into the process. I can see the value in it but I went about it all wrong at the start so I’m just barely breaking even.

For real, would it kill people to pay back their loans?

I’m far to naive in thinking “most” people pay their debts back. So, yeah, I’ve gotta cover that too.

I guess I’ll leave it at that, for now.

Oh, and if you read this, please leave a comment just to let me know you’re out there!

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November 2015 Net Worth ChartOnly a few weeks late with this…

Pretty good month that was greatly swayed by the recovery of the markets that caused my bottom link to tank last month (and the month before).

That (out of my day-to-day control) nonsense aside, I had a good month.

Granted, it was also a month with three paychecks which also swayed the numbers, I still spent less than I paid back on all of my open credit car accounts — one of which I paid off.

I’m thinking I should resurrect my monthly spending reports to really make myself more accountable for my spending.

Really, shame is a great motivator. I truly hate having to explain my frivolous expenditures when, deep down, I know exactly how frivilous they are…

I also want to show off how much fast food I’ve been eating.

It’s crazy.

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networth201509Yeah, so last month I was pretty confident that I’d turned a corner and was well on my way to building wealth again…and then I ended up down another 8 grand…

Granted, the markets continued to tank so my 401k kind of acted as an anchor of sorts but I also spent a TON this month.

Back in August, I mentioned that my oldest son would be trying out for a travel hockey team. Well… he made the team which is so awesome as he’s “playing up” (basically playing at a level above his age group) but with that come some pretty hefty expenses…you know, to the tune of $3000.

On top of that, my middle son’s hockey season is another $500. Yeah, this isn’t like the $60 town league soccer program…

So that was the main budget buster, though much of it is hidden in this update as I paid down the balances prior to the end of the month — as much as I could, anyway.

We also purchased a new mattress from Casper.com. I’d heard enough good things about them and knew that, since our staircase is so narrow, we needed something that we could get up into the room without causing all kinds of damage to the walls and ceiling.

It came in a box that was manageable in size and enlarged once we cut it open. Pretty cool. Pretty comfy. And, thankfully, a purchase what we’ll make maybe once per decade.

Outside of that, it’s business as usual around here…

Oh, have I mentioned how nice it is not having a car payment again?

Yeah, that’s pretty sweet.

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September 2015 Net WorthWhat a month!

Now, usually, I’d be pretty upset about falling nearly $10k in the span of 31 days but not today.

I haven’t really set financial goals since, hmmmmm, probably 2008 (which has probably been a HUGE mistake) but back in April of this year, I set a goal of paying off my remaining $11k balance on an auto loan by summer’s end.

On August 7th, I did just that.

So, while my credit card balances are a little out of control and the savings balance is below the $150k I think I’ll need to fully finance the garage project, my auto loan is gone.

That opens up a lot of cash to pay down the loans and bloat the savings in a hurry.

And, on the bright side, had it not been for the market woes at the tail end of the month, I’d have actually had an increase this month.

Pretty good feeling considering that I kinda felt I’d stretched myself a little thin…

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Lawn ChairYouth sports are funny. On the sidelines, as parents, in our cheap folding chairs, we’re all pretty much equal.

Sure, there’s some judging going on based on the vehicles we drive up in but, for the most part, even a relatively new Nissan runs around $40k.

A hefty price tag for, well, a less than luxurious ride.

It’s once the Facebook connections start to take hold and the inconsequential birthday invitations start coming in that you get a glimpse that some of these folks are, well, “living the life”.

You know, tennis court in the back yard, kitchen that could easily seat 30 people, and multiple staircases…to their 3rd floor library.

In fact, lately, while it’s hardly true, it still feels like we’re the only ones who lack these things…

A classic “not” keeping up with the Jones’ type of deal.

One kid, whose parents I went to high school with, lives in a $6 million dollar home. I can’t even imagine.

Anyway, while driving around aimlessly last week with the kids killing time until swimming lessons started, I stumbled into a neighborhood of homes that, when I’m not dreaming of living in a 5000 square foot Victorian home from the 1800’s full of secret passages, was full of McMansion style houses that I picture myself in when I’m in my 40’s and raising my kids.

Newsflash… that’s just a year away. Ack!

Yeah, I could live here.So I scoped out a couple of them on local real estate sites to get a glimpse of what the interiors look like and, yep, as expected, they’re all really nice. Duh.

Price tags hover around $650k.

No, not 6 million dollar homes but, really, who needs a full blown movie theatre or bowling lanes in their house? Not me.

Again, I can’t imagine.

A $650k mortagage, excluding taxes and insurance (like my current mortgage) would run around $3200 per month.

Yeah, I can’t swing that.

But… if I were to sell my current house for $200k (maybe a stretch, maybe not) and come out with $130k (subtracting out the outstanding mortgages) and apply that as a downpayment, well, the monthly mortgage payment would then drop to under $2500.

Considering I’ve been paying that amount on a CAR PAYMENT — alongside two mortgage payments — with relative ease, well, now things are becoming a little bit clearer…

Financially, we could totally afford to move to a new home that’s double (or even triple) the size of our current one.

In fact, once we’re done paying daycare bills, gasp, even a $3200 per month mortgage payment would be totally do-able.

Am I really convincing myself that I should/could trade up from my first home (that I paid $141k for) all the way up to a $750k+ home?

Yeah, kinda.

I mean, I wouldn’t need to build that 3-car garage anymore cause, well, the new house would already have a 4-car one.

And even though we already have enough room in our house for each kid to have their own room…if we moved, they could each have their own bathroom (and staircase too)!

All kidding aside, though…

It’s the brief moments of weakness like this that I feel I do need to “keep up”.

Thankfully, reality always sets in (along with my own incredibly high-end personal “vision” of myself) pretty quickly, and I’m happy with where I am.

I know I could have a $750k house if I wanted to…

Perhaps it’s not the wisest financial move (not investing in real estate in a upward fashion) but I can’t say I’ve had a sleepless night over money for over a decade now.

It’s pretty comforting knowing that I “could” pay off my mortgage pretty much anytime I’d like.

Moreso than the comfort a $750k house could give me.

Most of the time, anyway!

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Swagger WagonAhhhh…that awkward period when you’re paying off a loan and you either go over by a few cents by paying that final payment before the final due date or come up short by a few cents cause the lender tacked on a few more finance charges right at the end…

Daily interest charges and waiting for payments to clear always gets tricky.

I think it was when I paid off the BMW, my monthly statement provided a “Payoff Amount” and as I was nearing the end, I sent them that exact amount.

Turns out, since I paid it when I received the bill and NOT when the payment was due, I’d overpaid by a few dollars.

No joke, it took over two months for them to refund me my over payment and send the title too.

My assumption is that before they give up the title, the books need to line up…and they didn’t.

Of course, this was all way before bank websites were as e-friendly as they are now.

And, as luck would have it, my auto loan and my checking account are both with Bank of America.

The site claims that I can make same day payments but anytime I do that, it’s far from “instant” and still takes a day or two to show up as having actually happened on both sides.

Usually they take my money out of checking first…and then a day later apply it as a payment to the loan.

Same day. Yeah, right…

Probably some sort of federal banking oversight loophole that allows that kind of crookery.

Anyway, the remaining balance on the loan, as of today, is $2001.03 and that falls within my red zone.

It was payday today so I’m paying it off in full — using the currently listed “pay off amount” of $2001.35 (an extra 33 cents) and “borrowing” from my savings to cover any potential shortfall before I’m paid again.

BoA_Auto_Loan

Anyone want to be that then this all clears, though I paid within the listed “payoff good through” date window, that I’ll still owe them a dime or so?

History repeating… but, ahhhhhh, it feels good to own all of my cars again…

Too bad I’m on the verge of purchasing another one

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New Worth 2015-07I often say that “Data Don’t Lie” but sometimes it’ll really surprise you.

The fact that I squeezed out a positive number last month is quite shocking to me as it was a month when my property taxes were due and I guess I kinda felt like I was spending…and spending…and spending some more each month.

So, just a few explanations on the movers and shakers…

The savings dropped so much because, as I mentioned, my property taxes were due. I don’t have my real estate property taxes built in to my mortgage which basically means that my mortgage payment doesn’t have anything going into an escrow account.

The upside is that my mortgage payment is under $500 per month and stays the same regardless of whether taxes go up or down. The downside is that, twice per year, I need to pay my taxes myself — out of pocket.

If you’re pretty good with your money, it might be something to look in to. I love it.

Connecticut, the state where I live, also applies a property tax to automobiles so those were paid too.

On the liabilities side of things, I’m thrilled to report that I knocked another $2800 off of the auto loan.

The downside is that when I started rapidly paying that balance down (from $11k), I had pretty much zero credit card debt. Now I have over $7k owed at a relatively high interest rate.

It’s okay, though. (I’ve explained my reasoning in the past)

A few more weeks down the road when the auto loan is gone, the credit card balances will start to fall quickly.

I’m on the right track.

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Car LeaseIn the past I’ve gone on and on about how leasing a car is a terrible idea from a financial point of view.

I made the mistake, once, almost 20 years ago now.

I went so far over the mileage limit (auto leases usually put a limitation on the number of miles you can put on the vehicle each year), I had no choice but to purchase the car as the lease was expiring.

In the end, it worked out for me as I probably should have bought the car right from the get-go but didn’t have the funds for that to happen (or the credit history — requiring my dad to co-sign)…which is why I went with the lease option.

Fast forward to today and, well, things have drastically changed.

I have the funds available to purchase pretty much any vehicle I’d like — all the way up to an entry level Lamborghini.

So here I am, in the final days (yes, days), of my most recent auto loan — and I’m looking at my currently daily driver (a 2005 Scion xA) and thinking, hmmmmm, will I get through another winter with this thing?

I’m not certain.

While it hasn’t let me know…yet…it also fails to give me that “reliable transportation” feeling lately. I’m often quite prepared for it to just, you know, die at the next stop light.

Another shortcoming, and really the biggest of them all, is that in 2005 I was a single guy. Now I have a family of five…and a car that can only seat four comfortably.

With that forcing my hand, I need a bigger and more reliable ride…sooner rather than later.

And that brings my back to my finances…

With it still fresh in my mind (from the loan I’m eliminating now) that a roughly $25k loan equates to a $450 payment and my complete disdain to, you know, continue making $450 payments (weekly, no less) seemingly indefinitely AND the fact that, deep in my heart, I know this next vehicle will simply be a stop-gap until I can get the car I’d really like, well, the lease offers out there are really, really, enticing.

New car with a smaller payment than what I’m paying now and…no huge new debt taken on.

Financially, today, for me, that sounds pretty great.

Hang with me here, I’m trying to convince myself that it’s okay to lease…

Now, about those mileage limitations…well, I don’t foresee those being an issue.

See, when I was in my early 20’s, it wasn’t out of the ordinary to, you know, drive to Ohio for lunch or whatever.

In the last decade, I haven’t driven 500 miles for lunch…yet.

Further, I now live less than 2 miles from the places I visit most often (work, elementary school, and daycare) so clocking under the mileage limit shouldn’t be an issue. And…I have two other vehicles that I OWN should I start getting close to making it cost prohibitive.

So, here’s what I’m thinking off of the top of my head right now.

The “new” car has to be reliable. Duh.

It has to fit my entire family and an assortment of hockey equipment comfortably.

And it has to cost me less than the Swagger Wagon has been costing me.

Notice that I did not say it had to look cool. Or fit in the new garage I’ll be having built. Or last a long time.

Stop-gap, remember? Once this thing is gone and my kids are out of their enormous car seats, I can go back and get another Land Rover like I really want.

For now, though, I’m leaning towards the Ford Transit.

A what?

Sure, you’ve never heard of it but, trust me, you’ve seen them. They look like delivery trucks. Plumbers and electricians use them. Florists. Kind of like the modern day version of a panel cargo van — somewhere between a regular old school van and a full blown box truck.

But here’s the thing — you can also get them with windows and seats in the back making them look more like handicapped vans or shuttle buses.

Ford Transit Titanium

Hardly cool — for real, it’s another Swagger Wagon — but way, way, practical.

And amazingly affordable too…

Hmmmmm….

Can You Dig It?

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