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Archive for February, 2008

More to $20

February 27th, 2008 at 06:30 pm

Yay! I added $67.29 in Google adsense profits from my Web magazine to the Tiki $20 challenge.

2008 Total: $560.25, $939,75 to go!

I also paid an extra $143 this month on my student loan, bringing the balance to about $16,140. Down from $40,000 in 2001!!

I have long had an "accelerated" payment plan for the loan. When I work full time, I have used any money I've made as a freelance writer to pay extra on the loan every month. It's really sped up the pay-down.

I know it has a low interest rate and all, but it's our last outstanding debt, and I want it paid off. I totally hate debt.

"Automatic Millionaire" and finally getting ahead

February 22nd, 2008 at 08:23 pm

I'm a financial journalist, so I think I do a decent job managing my finances. But, every week at the library I load up on 4 or 5 personal finance books and read them all just in case. I call it job research, and usually it's no big deal.

But last night, I read the Automatic Millionaire by David Bach. It was great. So simple. And,even though I do a good job staying on top of the cash as family CFO, it made me realize we weren't paying ourselves first and we could do so much better.

We hadn't "paid ourselves first" since Hurricane Katrina threw a wrench in our plans. But that was almost three years ago. I guess that kind of financial/emotional stress makes you even more conservative, to your own detriment.

So, this morning, I hit the computer and automated our savings.

I set up bimonthly transfers to our stock brokerage account, my hubby's Roth IRA, the high-interest online savings account, and the 529 college savings plan for our soon-to-be-born baby.

The money will be taken out on the Monday after each payday and will be enough to max out our personal savings goals for 2008, and then some.

I hope it will also instill more discipline because now we REALLY only have what's left over to spend.

Today was also great because my hubby's annual bonus finally came through. Although taxes cut it in half (love those taxes), it allowed us to pay off the new windows we just had installed. I had used the credit card as no-interest loan for them, so that's now paid (And I get rewards on top of that...)

I also socked away the "monthly payments" I should have made to the above accounts in January and February, so we will be on track for the year.

I boosted the reserve in our checking account, too. I had run the balance razor thin since Christmas, in part because of the holidays and the window expense. I wanted to pay for all of that with normal cash flow, not savings, even though they were larger, partly unplanned expenses.

And we still have a little left over. I think what's left will (hopefully) be enough to cover any out of pocket expenses we'll have to pay the hospital when our baby is born this Spring. Of course, it's nigh impossible to read the mind of the insurance company...

$5 more to the Tiki $20 challenge

February 17th, 2008 at 12:43 am

A friend sent out lotto tickets in her thank-you cards. I won $5, so that's going to the Tiki $20 challenge.

Total for the year: $492.96

Signed up for the farm co-op today

February 16th, 2008 at 05:00 pm

I believe your money is your vote. So for the second year in a row, I'm voting for locally grown pesticide-free produce from a local farmer. Last year, we joined a farm co-op for the first time, not knowing what to expect.

Basically, we paid $275 a season for bags of vegetables from this farm. The season is from May through Oct. and we pick up once a week. The food was so good last year. Much better quality than what you get in the grocery store. And it turned out to be a lot of food for the money, so it was a lot more and better than what we could have bought at the grocery store.

(We supplement this with what we grow in our garden. We didn't buy one veggie at the store last summer.)

Throw in that our farmer is super nice, and at the beginning and end of the season gave us tons of hanging baskets, flats of flowers and pumpkins for Halloween. Heck. Why not sign up again?

So I filled out the form and am mailing the check today.

I know it seems like a lot of money up front, but it's well worth it. I'd rather have my grocery money supporting a local farm than a multinational grocery store chain any day.

If you have a farm co-op in your area, I highly recommend it. It's a much better way to buy veggies.

A little more into the Tiki fund...

February 15th, 2008 at 10:44 pm

I got to add $9.51 in profits from Amazon marketplace sales and $3.40 in profits from a sale on my Web site to the tiki bar fund.

Tiki "$20" challenge: $12.91
Total this year: $487.96

Yay! A bonus!

February 14th, 2008 at 08:58 pm

Turns out the hubby is getting a bonus this year.

I don't know how much it will be after taxes but I am pretty sure it will be enough to pay off the last of the new windows we bought this month (around $3,000 left to pay) and to fund at least part of his Roth IRA for 2008 ($2,000 to $4,000).

It feels really great to be so close to meeting those 2008 goals and we're only in mid-Feb. Plus, it'll free up money to help us meet the rest of the year's goals, including maxing out the 529 college plan and adding $5,000 to our liquid savings.

With a little one on the way this is like pennies from heaven!!

Slow progress...it's disheartening

February 14th, 2008 at 06:02 pm

Well, the tiki fund isn't growing as much as I'd like it to this month. Seems like I just can't get moving. Sales on my Web sites and on Amazon have been slow, and I haven't dedicated any time to crafting more items to sell.

I guess this is the trade off. My normal professional life has been busy-- I have a new, potentially lucrative freelance gig that only lasts for the next 6 to 8 weeks-- until this baby pops out.

And of course add in that being very pregnant is exhausting, and I'm not much of a go-getter at the end of the day.

I am happy to have an assignment that will help me max out my IRA for the year and contribute to the household budget. But that doesn't get me much closer to the dream!

Selling on consignment?

February 10th, 2008 at 03:11 am

Well, looks like a local store might be interested in selling some of my handmade bags. A friend of mine went in there wearing one, and the store owner totally loved them and asked me to call her.

I've never sold consignment before. But, I am familiar with the store and really like it and what they stand for.

Usually, I only sell on the Internet. I get to keep more of the cash, minus Paypal and shipping fees. With in-store consignment, I'll only get 55 percent of the purchase price but it's good exposure to a new audience who might not otherwise find my Web sites. What to do...

I think I might go for it. I did the math and even at 55 percent, it will still be a profitable venture, just not as profitable per item as I am used to.

But if it boosts sales, that just means more money in the Tiki fund. And that's the goal right?

Have any of you sold on consignment before? Anything I should look out for?

Our $1,200 tax "rebate" going to...

February 9th, 2008 at 12:22 am

Well, looks like the stimulus plan is going to make it through. I'm really not a fan of the idea, but I guess it's time to at least entertain the idea of what to do with the money.

Bush won't be happy. It won't stimulate the economy.

Looks like we're in line for $1,200 as a couple.

With a new baby due April 4, we've decided to put all of it into junior's 529 college savings fund. We'd planned to contribute $2,000 this year (that's the max for the state income tax deduction). So we'll only need to put in $800 after that to reach our goal.

Hey, I don't know how expensive having a baby is going to be, so it does feel good to not have to think so much about scraping together the money for that future college education!

Self-employment tax and IRA contributions

February 8th, 2008 at 11:20 pm

Another check from a freelance assignment came in the mail today, so that's another $225 toward the IRA goal. I'm now up to $2,199 out of the $5,000 I want to contribute for 2008.

Here's the rub. I was reading the IRS guidelines on IRA contributions (yes, I'm a geek) and it appears that I have to subtract half of my self-employment tax from the amount I am allowed to contribute. .

If I have a good year, this won't be an issue, as I will have enough freelance income to max out the IRA and then some. But if I make less than $5,000 this year, I won't know exactly how much I can put into the IRA, due to the SEP calculation.

What to do.

I guess these are the challenges facing the self-employed.

At the moment, I've just been putting the entire freelance check into a reserve bound for the IRA account. I guess I can wait and see how much I have in it at the end of the year and do a quickie calculation.

Any other ideas?

Watch your Bank of America credit card

February 7th, 2008 at 05:37 pm

I just ran across this article in BusinessWeek. Apparently Bank of America is brazenly raising interest rates on many of its credit cards. Those affected received notice in the mail, and instructions on how to opt out, but in a letter that was most likely tossed. Some folks are seeing their rates go from 9 percent to 29 percent for no reason!

So if you have a BofA card and carry a balance, keep your eyes peeled.

Here is the article

http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/feb2008/...

Winter house work= huge savings

February 5th, 2008 at 06:32 pm

When we bought our house two years ago, we knew it needed three things-- a new furnace, a new roof, and new windows.

We finished the furnace in September and didn't honestly think we'd be able to afford a house full of new Energy Star-rated windows for at least another year. (We pay cash for home improvements, no loans).

But one Saturday in Jan. we decided to just shop around and see what kind of windows were out there and how much they would cost us, so we could plan for savings. Boy, were we shocked. A reputable local company was having a 35 percent off sale if you had the windows installed by the end of Feb.

I had no idea windows could be installed in the winter. shows you what I know. And, the windows were a lot less expensive than I thought they would be.

So we went for it. We paid about $5,731 to replace all of the windows in our ranch house. (The regular price, had we waited until summer, would have been $8,817.)

And the big surprise: with some careful budgeting, I've been able to pay for the windows out of regular cash flow, not from savings.

Installation began yesterday. Half the house is finished, including all of the bedrooms. We were rained out today, but I expect the whole house will be finished by the end of tomorrow.

From now on, I'm going to try to schedule our "house" work during slow periods for contractors. Looks like they're a lot more willing to wheel and deal in winter!

The Fed rate cut and my savings account

February 1st, 2008 at 02:59 pm

I am so mad right now. I knew the Fed rate cuts would eventually affect my savings accounts. Today it finally hit. My Emigrant Direct account was yieding 4.65 percent (APY) last week and is now down to 4.3 percent (APY. 4.05 percent interest) Argh.

It's like the Fed is punishing those of us who did everything right-- we save money for a rainy day and what do we get? The stock market and housing tanks because people were overzealous with debt and yet the responsible people end up suffering.

I know, it could have been worse. I really expected my savings account interest to drop closer to 3.5 percent, given the current Fed rate, so by comparison 4.3 still isn't bad. The whole thing just makes me mad...