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5 2654

Finally getting caught up with these Spending Reports

They’re invaluable because they keep me honest — and I kept the past two months offline because, well, I knew the report wasn’t anything to be proud of.

So I’m just going to come out and say it — April will be my last month of total financial stupidity in 2011. I’m done.

Here are the numbers:

  • $1937.90 : Hockey Jerseys
  • $498.72 : Mortgage
  • $271.65 : Gas
  • $239.45 : Allstate Insurance
  • $169.01 : Natural Gas
  • $163.77 : Electricity
  • $126.79 : Cable/Internet
  • $79.45 : Business Expenses
  • $77.27 : Babies-R-Us
  • $44.50 : Toys-R-Us
  • $40.00 : Cash
  • $10.00 : Car Wash
  • $3.00 : Bank of America Check Image Service Fee

Together that’s $3661.51.

Better than March.

Far better than February.

And still completely inexcusable…

I can’t justify the hockey jerseys. They’re a want, not a need. I wanted them and I bought them.

Stupid.

Take them out of the equation and I only spent $1723.

That’s a number I’d be proud of.

The rest is what it is… My auto insurance has climbed with the third vehicle on my policy and I’m obivously spending a lot more on gasoline drving the Land Rover instead of the Scion.

Granted, the gas expenditures in April were extraordinarily high and far from the norm — I can’t deny that the latest car is costing a lot more to operate than I’d expected. I guess that’s what happens when you’ve been getting 40 miles per gallon for years and years and years…

5 3199

erpentine BeltOkay, I’ve been putting this off long enough. The original reason for not posting March’s numbers was because Henrik was born on the 31st.

When I finally had the time to sit down and put the numbers together, I was so horrified and ashamed of my findings that I just didn’t want to post them sooooooo…I didn’t.

But here they are now — better late than never.

  • $1139.68 : Auto Repair
  • $1075.00 : March of Dimes
  • $498.72 : Mortgage
  • $483.67 : Hockey Jerseys
  • $224.87 : Natural Gas
  • $210.00 : Credit Card Transaction Fee
  • $189.45 : Gas
  • $159.14 : Electricity
  • $156.35 : Allstate Insurance
  • $123.96 : Cable/Internet
  • $92.38 : Business Expenses
  • $40.00 : Cash
  • $23.50 : Cool T-Shirt
  • $21.20 : Cell Phone
  • $20.91 : Magic Jack
  • $10.25 : Airport Parking
  • $6.58 : Finance Charges
  • $3.00 : Bank of America Check Image Service Fee

Add it all together and you get $4468.66.

The top two expenses are what killed me.

It didn’t take long for me to learn first hand that Land Rovers are, um, incident-prone.

The dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree mid-month and it cost me over a grand to fix it. Something about a green serpent belt (pictured above) and a thermo-something. I don’t know… Take my money and make my car go. Thanks.

Obviously, I’m not a gear head.

The next item doesn’t look like anything to apologize for. Well, in some ways, there is something crooked about the March of Dimes…

Did you know that the mission of the March of Dimes is to cure polio? I’ve never personally met anyone with polio and I’m thinking that it’s probably because there’s been a cure for polio for nearly 60 years now?! The March of Dimes, though, is *still* running strong and collecting money…

What’s up with that?

Okay, okay… Their mission these days to collect money for premature babies or something, and that’s great and all, but this “donation” was really a hockey jersey purchase that I had no business making.

For charity or not, it was still an ill-advised purchase.

The rest of it is pretty self explanatory.

The Credit Card transaction fee was for the convenience check I wrote to myself to pay for the Land Rover back in February.

The cool t-shirt is, well, totally cool. It has Abraham Lincoln fighting Big Foot on it and it’s awesome. I’ve gotten a great reception from the folks in Toddler Room 3 while wearing it.

I found it interesting that we’ve been with MagicJack for an entire year now. I have to say that it’s been one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.

We’ve saved so much money and haven’t noticed a difference in service from when we were with AT&T (and paying over $70 per month).

If you’re on the fence about MagicJack, well, get off the fence. It works and it will save you a ton of money. Oh, and telemarketers will never find your number either.

And I don’t really want to talk about it cause it makes me angry but, as expected, Bank of America dinged me with that $3.00 fee again.

Argh?!

0 1752

Wow — only 8 more days to go until we add another smurfling. Where does the time go?

Well, February was supposed to be an extra frugal month but it turned out to be the complete opposite.

One thing came up. Then another. You know how it goes…

Same old story.

That’s okay. I’m cool with it.

Here’s where the damage was done last month…

  • $11971.10 : Land Rover
  • $498.72 : Mortgage
  • $300.96 : Natural Gas
  • $214.39 : Business Expenses
  • $201.00 : Dentist
  • $184.34 : Babies-R-Us
  • $183.63 : Electricity
  • $172.70 : Gas
  • $156.00 : Hockey Jerseys
  • $135.64 : Allstate Insurance
  • $123.96 : Cable/Internet
  • $113.02 : Taxes
  • $112.21 : Water/Sewer
  • $104.97 : Macy’s
  • $80.00 : Cash
  • $30.34 : Finance Charges
  • $10.00 : Bank of America Transaction Fee

All together that’s $14592.98.

Hardly frugal.

But if you take the car purchase out of the calculation, it was pretty much the same as January and I’d consider that month pretty frugal.

I think I’m off to a pretty good start this year…

Okay, breaking down the irregular expenditures: the car has been covered, the dentist is pretty self explanatory (since we’re not carrying insurance anymore — a wise move), we have a baby on the way which explains the Babies-R-Us spending spree, the hockey jerseys are my vice, I went to Macy’s for new jeans cause I’ve lost tons of weight since my last denim purchase, and the transaction fee was for getting a cashiers check to pay for the car.

Wrapped it all up in one sentence this month. Maybe I should start tweetering instead?

You may have also noticed how much I spent on gas this month. No, it isn’t because the price of gas has gone up — it’s because this new car drinks gas the way my wife drinks Diet Coke.

And speaking of Diet Coke — did you know that it recently took the number 2 spot in soda sales (behind regular Coke) knocking out regular Pepsi?

Yep, Coke is it.

3 6097

Dunco in the DiscoOkay, so it’s hardly news around here that I recently purchased a used car.

I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m on the side that thinks that having more cars than drivers in a household is utterly ridiculous — yet, we have four cars and only two drivers.

The main reason that we didn’t trade a vehicle in while purchasing the latest is because we feel that all of our cars are still worth more to us than we’d received in exchange for any one of them.

All of our cars are paid for so the only expense involved in keeping them all are the insurance costs and the registration renewals — relatively small stuff.

All four vehicles are also pretty unique and serve a unique purpose as well. I think I’ve said it before — it’s not like we have four Honda Accords in the driveway.

That would be truly ridiculous.

The 2-seat BMW convertible is a fun summertime weekend car. I bought it at a time when it was more practical. It’s not so practical now (with a family of four in a few weeks or so) but it’s worth more to me — and will always be worth more to me — than what I could sell it for.

The 2-seat Toyota pick-up truck came as part of the package when I married my wife. Same deal — a two seater isn’t really practical for a family but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thanked my lucky stars that we have a pick-up truck.

The Scion xA, while compact, can actually fit two adults and two car seats. We can even squeeze a stroller into the trunk. Best of all, it gets over 40 miles per gallon for us.

The Land Rover, as it’s set up now, can fit three adults, two car seats, a stroller, and a whole host of other things. It’ll be our road trip vehicle — and ensure that if one person is home with the kids, well, we’ll have at least one vehicle in the driveway can fit them all at any given moment.

That’s the low down on our fleet.

Now, for why we (I) selected this Land Rover and not something else — well, price, mileage, size, and condition…

We wanted to be able to pay cash which, naturally, reduced the number of options available to us. At the high end, the price tag had to come in around $10k.

I wanted low mileage on a car that has a reputation for going well beyond the 100k mile mark. This narrowed the field even more.

It had to be able to fit all of us — and maybe end a third car seat in the future should the car last that long. So much for sedans…

And lastly, it couldn’t be a gross used car. Once you dip under a certain price level, well, things tend to get a little messy. I was looking for a diamond in the rough.

Initially I had it narrowed down, in descending order of price, to a 2006 Honda Odyssey with 80k miles, a 2004 Land Rover Discovery with 50k miles, and a 2006 BMW X5 with 70k miles.

At the end of the day, I settled on the Land Rover Discovery because it won out on mileage and size.

The price was in the middle — the Honda was actually the most expensive and the BMW was the least expensive.

The condition was in the middle as well — it’s exterior has a few dings here and there but it just looks “right” on this type of vehicle. The interior is immaculate — previous owner obviously didn’t have young children. Same couldn’t be said for the Honda.

The BMW, well, it was nice but it just wasn’t big enough. And I didn’t like the colour. Okay, yeah, I admit, colour mattered too.

The final pricetag was just shy of $11k — before tax, registration, and all of that other nickel-and-dime junk that gets added on the back end.

Now, I know what you’re thinking — Land Rovers are notorius for being in the shop all the time…

Perhaps, but there are still an awful lot more of them on the road pushing the 200k mile marker. I don’t think the same can be said for your run of the mill minivan.

I suppose that only time will tell — it could die a few months from now and end up in the shop and I’ll have made a poor decision…

If it does last even just 50k more miles, though, it’ll have been one of my better moves.

To pay for it, I took a bunch from savings, a bunch from checking, and essentially the entirety of our tax return refund to the point that we were able to pay cash for the car. No lienholder. No car payments.

In addition, though, since that pretty much tapped me out financially, I wrote one of those credit card checks to myself for $7000 just to cover this month’s expected expenses and any unexpected expenses as well.

It was a zero percent offer that’s valid through Decemeber — and there wasn’t a transaction fee! When was the last time you saw an offer without a fee attached? Woo-hoo!

To pay it back down, though I could technically just send the money right back, I’ve set up an autopayment of $175 per week.

On that schedule (which kicked in yesterday), it’ll be paid in full before any finance charges accrue and I won’t be backed unto a shoestring budget at any time.

Now I just have to cross my fingers that there aren’t any super costly repairs between now and then.

4 3495

A couple of weeks ago I let everyone in on a decision we were facing — we needed a bigger car but couldn’t really afford one.

In our fantasy land where money was no factor, we’d pretty much set our minds on a brand new Swagger wagon — ‘specially after Angie’s glowing review.

Then, when reality set in, we started to look at used alternatives like what Scud recommended.

Able to find plenty within our budget, I still struggled to find anything that I could imagine myself driving. I’m not anti-minivan — I think they’re cool, seriously, but in the price range that we were looking at, well, let’s just say that most of them left something to be desired if even I was only judging them based on pictures posted on the internet.

So I went back to the direction I was originally leaning…used but high end. Connecticut has consistently been among the richest states in the country so we’re overflowing with snob-tacular used car lots.

I aimed lower than originally planned, skipping the Rolls Royce and Bentley places, and instead looked at the places with Jaguars, BMWs and Mercedes on the lot.

You’d be surprised at how quickly luxury cars lose their value, I mean, I was just talking to my mom the other day and my BMW is worth less than my Dad‘s Mazda Miata.

We bought them within a year or two of one another and one cost over twice as much as the other — it’s hard to fathom. I’m not knocking either car — I think they’re both great even when they’re over a decade old but still.

Anyway, so on Wednesday I locked a vehicle in my sights. Thursday, I took it for a test drive. Friday, I moved a bunch of money around. And Saturday, we officially became one of those Connecticut families with four cars.

Two drivers and four cars. I know, it’s ridiculous. The driveway looks like a parking lot.

Anyway, from the financial aspect, we paid cash for the car — no lien holder and no car payments — and I “borrowed” $7k (at 0%) from a credit card just to give us some wiggle room in case sudden expenses come up over the next month.

Here’s what we bought:

Not the actual vehicle or color — we got a few inches of snow last night so it’s currently buried in the driveway.

I’ll take a picture eventually and probably further explain the thought process that landed this in our fleet of vehicles…

1 2119

September 2011 Net WorthIn a complete reversal of last month (where I moaned about a $17k gain), I’m ecstatic about this month’s $2700 loss!

Yep — it’s not always about the bottom line but where the money actually falls.

Here we go:

Cash:
A nice cushion here. I’m going to do my best to keep it far away from the $1500 floor where Bank of America will start charging me fees.

Savings:
I tapped this in August, obviously. Partially to fund a vacation, partially to fund the car repairs, partially to purchase a new computer, but most importantly, to pay down credit card debt.

Gov’t Bonds:
I’m taking a new path now. Sold off most of these to, again, pay down credit card debt and cover some unplanned expenses last month.

401k:
Not as bad as I’d have expected based on the market volatility. In related news, I halted my contributions for the time being to focus more on, again, credit card debt.

Sense a theme?

Home:
My house was supposed to be destroyed by Hurricane Irene last week. Seriously, based on the forecasts, it was supposed to go right down my street.

My house survived but it’s value went down because I apparently live in the new hurricane alley.

(it just rained for a few hours. seriously…)

Auto 1, Auto 2, and Auto 3:
Nothing terribly earth shattering here.

Credit Cards:
Hell, yeah! Now I know some out there doubted me here but look at that… I knocked $13k off. Hooray for me!

After farting around for an entire year essentially treading water, I think I’m back on board and on the same rails I was riding for most of 2007 and 2008.

This debt is going to disappear.

Quickly.

I’m definitely on the right track and off to an amazing start.

Auto Loans and Other Loans:
Nothing to report.

Mortgage
Just another minimum payment. Have I mentioned how great it is to have a sub-$500 mortgage bill?

4 4523

Money HoardingComing this Fall on the PIAC network…

So I suppose having hoarding tendancies could be considered a good thing when money is one of the things you hoard.

As my finances clearly show, my “condition” isn’t too bad. If I were totally insane, I’d be swimming in cash like Scrooge McDuck.

But I do have some “investments” that aren’t really performing (and never will) that I’m reluctant to let go of — even when I fully understand the money could (and should) be more wisely used elsewhere.

I’m talking about the I-Bonds.

Sure, my bonds are earning over 4% right now — a lot more than most — but I don’t own enough of them for that high earnings rate to amount to much of anything.

On the flip side, though, I’m carrying almost $25k in credit card debt. And as of last month, nearly half of it is at what I’d consider an obscene interest rate.

One could fund the other.

A few weeks ago, I took a baby step and sold off around $1200 of the bonds to help pay for the auto repairs and a family vacation that we took.

It felt…okay, I guess.

I’m kinda sad cause I really wanted to hit the $10k mark for some reason and now that seems a bit out of reach.

But it’s time to cut the cord.

Frankly, I was never terribly fond of the TreasuryDirect website with its early 1990’s interface and ridiculous login procedure.

There gone.

I’m sellin’ ’em.

Okay, most of ’em.

(You can’t expect me to part with *all* of them so suddenly!?)

0 2254

Vote Yes!If you’re living in the United States, you’ve no doubt noticed all of the political lawn signs littering nearly every other house’s lawn.

Though I live in a traditionally “blue” state, so it’s not much of a surprise, it’s difficult not to notice that Obama signs outnumber McCain signs 10 to 1.

Though, given Connecticut’s presidential voting record over the past 10 elections, well, that’s not really unexpected.

But the more interesting signs are the more local “Vote Yes!” or “Vote No!” signs.

In some towns, it’s a referendum on whether a Walmart or Home Depot should be built in town. For others, it regards a new town swimming pool, or the formation of a dog park, or reduced City Hall hours.

At the state level, it’s usually about something boring like labeling organic food differently or something controversial like gay marriage.

It’s these signs, the Yes/No ones, that I’ve noticed the most this election year.

In my town, without going into the specific issue — it doesn’t really matter, “No” signs outnumber “Yes” signs at least 20 to 1. At least.

In a neighboring town, with a different issue on the ballot, their “Yes” signs outnumber the “No” signs in a landslide.

In both towns, it doesn’t seem to matter if you’ve got the Obama/Biden or McCain/Palin sign out front.

The local issues are seldom something decided down party lines.

But how are they decided?

See, in both instances, the more popular sign is the one that’s short-sighted and, well, wrong. Progress inhibiting, for sure.

That puts me at a total loss… Or does it?

My theory is that most of these folks don’t really know any of the details of the side they’ve decided to support and, then, showcase proudly on their lawn.

Just plain ignorance, really.

Using the Walmart example, the biggest opposition when it comes to a new Walmart always seems to be the added traffic each store brings.

In the 90’s, the town I grew up in voted on a “Walmart” type of issue. Simply, “Yes” to Walmart or “No” to Walmart.

At the time, the “No” signs heavily outweighed the “Yes” signs. Traffic, as it often is, was the issue.

A little back history first…

In the 1980’s, my home town had two regional department stores — Bradlee’s and Caldor. Just up the road, there was an Ames.

If you needed something, every one of those store would most definitely have it.

But, as everyone now knows, Walmart emerged from seemingly out of no where and went national putting pretty much every competing department store out of business in the process. Bradlee’s, Caldor, and Ames included.

CaldorSo, here in town, we had three vacant “big box” stores. All at the same time — for years — and then Walmart came knocking.

Not to build a new store, but to take over one of the vacant buildings and restore an eyesore of a plaza back to it’s former glory.

Sounds like a good thing, right?

Well, the people in town, obviously swayed by the sea of “No” lawn signs voted it down. Citing traffic or some such silly reason.

Walmart was not coming to town.

It didn’t take long before people started to realize — hey, if I need a 90-minute Memorex cassette or something, we don’t have any stores that sell that sort of thing anymore.

Where do you buy something like an alarm clock? Coffee maker? Cheap jewelry? Socks? Head phones? Shower curtain? School supplies?

I know!

You could buy all of that stuff 25 miles away where they put a Walmart into an old shuttered Bradlee’s!

Voting “No” was stupid.

It was wrong.

It was shortsighted.

Now, 15 years later, of course, a Walmart occupies that former Caldor building. Bradlee’s was torn down to make way for an expanding grocery store and a new movie theatre. Ame’s former location is now a Tractor Supply Co.

But for 3 or 4 years, all three buildings sat vacant. And people in town had to travel to neighboring towns to buy, well, all of their dry goods. All of them. We had grocery stores and car dealerships. That’s it.

Now that’s how to drive a local economy…into the ground.

Remember, the most vocal are usually the least informed.

So, come November 4th, when you’re filling in the circles on your ballot, be sure to select the option you saw the least of during your drive to the polling station.

Chances are, that will be the wiser decision.

Can You Dig It?

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