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Archive for September, 2008

Our solution to the stock market drop: Throw in another $11,000

September 30th, 2008 at 08:06 am

After the hubby and I were left scratching our heads yesterday after the 777 point drop, we woke up today with a new plan. Well, an old plan really.

Yesterday, we didn't know what to do. We weren't going to be dumb enough to sell stock and seal our losses. But we wondered if we should be tightening our belt more and stocking up on our cash reserves. Or, if we should be buying more stock. We just didn't know.

Hubby and I decided to stick with our original investment plan. Several months ago we had discussed a plan to eventually get out of individual stocks and into all Vanguard mutual funds. We based our portfolio on some of those in the "Lazy Person's Guide to Investing" (A great book, by the way).

"When I woke up today I thought, what better time than now to buy some more Vanguard mutual funds?"

Cruising through our accounts, I realized we had $10,900 in cash in various accounts. Just sitting there. I have no idea why. I guess with the Baby Bean we forgot about it and just left it there to earn like no interest.

So, I bought mutual funds on the cheap today.

Our portfolio is a 10 Vanguard fund model, for maximum diversification. large cap, small cap, international, emerging, and bonds, basically.

Today, we diversified with some VIVAX, VISVX and NAESX. (All funds we had planned to buy but hadn't yet.)

I guess, in times of turmoil, sometimes the best plan is no change of plans at all.

Hard not to freak out right now

September 29th, 2008 at 02:02 pm

I am usually Ok when t he stock market tanks, because I view it as an opportunity to buy stocks for cheap. But today, on top of everything else? even the hubby and I were asking, "Well, should we do something?" Start hoarding more cash? Buy more stocks, What? For once, we had absolutely no answer. What are you planning to do?

Financial stock risk: spoke too soon!

September 29th, 2008 at 12:07 pm

The stock I bought for cheap wasn't cheap enough. I was up 40 percent last week, and I am don 50 percent today. Oh well! The price is down to about $1.44 a share. So what did I do? I just put in an order for 100 more shares. I'm willing to risk another $150 on 100 more shares. What the hell right? Market dips = stocks on sale!

I also bought 100 shares of Sallie Mae. I'd been waiting for them to dip to $10 a share and today they did. Down from $60 a share last year!

My money pit is finally paying off

September 27th, 2008 at 05:47 pm

My money pit- the used hot tub I bought on Craigslist. FINALLY works. after 1 year and almost $2400 extra spent on electrical wiring and repairs I am FINALLY going to get to sit in it tonight. And the weather is perfect. It's nice to finally have a payoff for the outlay of wasted cash!

Had a nice cheap "faux" date last night

September 25th, 2008 at 04:33 pm

The hubby and I rarely get much time together these days, thanks to work and the bean but last night we had a nice cheap faux date. We broke out the air popcorn popper, got some free DVDs from the library, and stayed up late watching movies together, snuggling on the bean bag chair. it was nice, and it was cheap!

Also, I looked at one of the bars that was for sale today. Definitely NOT the right one for me. It was a nice, cheap building, but it wasn't right for me. It would be a great neighborhood Cheers-y place, but not a Polynesian Tiki Palace!

Nov. will be no spend month

September 25th, 2008 at 06:26 am

I was talking to the hubby about this blog post:
http://smallnotebook.org/2008/07/01/july-is-no-spend-month-w...

And he surprised me. Let's try it! Sounds interesting. Of course then he tried to talk his way out of it, but I committed him and us to only spending $250 or less in November (that doesn't include utilities, bills, savings, etc ).

I put it on the calendar. So we'll see. I am intrigued to see if we can do it, and what it will be like.

We didn't do october because his parents are coming to stay with us for a WHOLE MONTH. (Don't even get me started on that...)

Revamped money goals and revamped tiki challenge

September 24th, 2008 at 01:42 pm

Finding those two bars for sale has really been a kick in the pants. It's true that chance favors the prepared, and it's time to REALLY get prepared so that when my dream tiki bar location goes on sale, I will be ready to jump on it.

So, I'm revamping the savings strategy and the tiki bar fund strategy.

From now on, any money I make from jobs or freelance will be divided as follows:
50 percent to the family savings account
25 percent to extra on the student loan
25 percent to the tiki fund

My goal is to save $40k to start the bar and buy a building, without significantly impacting my family's finances.

This new system will allow me to compile the money faster, while still padding the savings account and paying off our one debt. It will allow me to save without hurting the family money and while getting ahead.

All of this is predicated on us accomplishing the overall savings goals
outlined on my sidebar.

For instance, if we haven't met our goals for IRAs, 529 contributions, etc., then no deal, and the money will flow to those first, and to the tiki last.

I have about $1150 in the tiki fund this year. Obviously way short of the goal, but as this was the first year, it was more of an experiment to see what could be done by saving little bits. And all of that money came from money I made not from my usual line of work.

I think this new system will also motivate me to track down more freelance money and more odd jobs. It may even help me get my photo business up and running, as that pays well.

Motivation has a cascading effect: the more I make for the tiki fund, the more I am making for my family. What better motivation is that?

I am also thinking of going on a "seriously trimming down the consumption" kick for me and the hubby. We seem to spend a lot of money but not really buy anything substantial, so it's time to slow the leak.

Boy, I am feeling the burn of inspiration.

Found a bar for sale!

September 24th, 2008 at 10:32 am

I found two bars for sale, both include the building and the liquor license. One is $224k, the other $130k. The second is what I want, with rentals above to pay the note. These are very inexpensive, so I am doing a drive by later to check out the areas. The $224k one would work, but doesn't have rentals, so isn't quite what I am looking for. (Both would save big bucks on getting the license and not having to buy all the bar equipment).

My plan is to open the bar in five years, but it can't hurt to start looking now so I can identify a good deal when I see one.

Took a chance on financial stock that actually paid off

September 23rd, 2008 at 07:18 am

several months ago I noticed that two Ohio bank stock prices had plummeted to $3 or $4 a share. I know these banks, and I was convinced that this was really a rock bottom price, so I bought several hundred shares.

I looked today, and on one stock I am up $539, basically doubling my original investment. And on the second, I am up $174, or about 50 percent on my original investment.

I know, you don't really win until you sell. But I paid so little for these stocks, that I feel comfortable hanging on. I am sure they will be back up to $22 or so a share in a year or two...

The stock market seems scary right now, but we do need to stop and think about it as a giant clearance sale for stocks. Now is the time to buy.

Inching back to savings

September 23rd, 2008 at 06:11 am

Finally, we are slowly getting back on track with savings. The padding is reemerging in the checking account and finally I've been able to resume transfers into the savings account and the online brokerage account. We really fell off the bandwagon in July, when my dad died, and after paying for a roof and other unexpected expenses since then, it seemed like we'd never get it together.

Grocery challenge month 1

September 21st, 2008 at 06:42 pm

Well, the grocery challenge wasn't too bad. We finished $11 over budget for the month. Not too bad considering our goal was to cut food expenses by 25 percent AND we had an unexpected week-long power outage that wiped out all the food in our freezer and fridge.

Frugal fun for book geeks

September 20th, 2008 at 10:24 am

Today is the day my hubby and I look forward to all year: the 25 cent book sale at the local fairgrounds. It's very exciting. We love books and we love a bargain!

We bought 53 romance novels for the MIL, and about 39 books for ourselves. Most were for me, as I collect vintage craft books for the ideas. $23 spent. Not bad.

Then, we took the bean to the park, where he had his first ride in a swing. He loved it. Then, as he napped, the honey and I ate out at one of our favorite restaurants. And the bill only came to $11, for more food than we could eat.

It has been a good day and it's only 1 p.m.

I am about to go work out in the yard. I'm digging giant flower beds and landscaping the front yard, which became a neighborhood joke last summer when some sink holes magically appeared in the sod. It's going to look nice one of these days, I promise! The neighbors just shake their heads.

The hubby also made $1,000 in extra money working during Hurricane Gustav, so that money will go into savings to replace some of the $7200 we spent on a roof last month.

It feels good to finally be back on track.

UPromise: Is it worth it?

September 19th, 2008 at 08:39 am

Has anyone had any luck using UPromise? I have about $1.38 in the account and I opened it 2 years ago. hardly seems worth it. I also tried to link it to my bean's 529 plan but my state's plan was not listed as an option, so I am wondering if there is any way, should the balance go up, to get the money out.

Just might win the grocery challenge!

September 18th, 2008 at 09:11 am

Despite losing all of our freezer and fridge food in a 4 day power outage, it looks like we might actually meet the grocery challenge this month.

My goal was to reduce my grocery bill by 25 percent, to $715.47 a month. Which is about $238.53 less a month than we had spent on groceries and eating out each month in the past 4 months.

Yes, I know that's a huge food bill for two people and a 5 month old.

From August 20 to Sept. 20 is the first month of the challenge. So far we have spent $622.19 on food. That leaves us $93.28 left until Saturday.

We just might make it!

The long-term goal is to reduce the bill by 50 percent, to about $500 or less a month.

Thinking about getting a bartending gig

September 17th, 2008 at 10:48 am

I'm thinking of applying for a part-time bartending gig. It'd be two nights a week. Probably the same nights. This would get me out of the house and provide some fun money to put toward the student loan and the tiki fund.

But, it might be rough working two 12-hour days then waking up and taking care of the bean, and it would take some schedule rearranging to make sure I get there on time for my shifts.

The hubby is against the idea. Not sure why. He says we don't NEED the money. I say we can use it.

Not sure what to do yet, but the window of opportunity is closing.

Ike blew out our power- 1000 miles from the coast.

September 17th, 2008 at 07:49 am

Well, we just got power back at our house. The remains of Ike blew through here at 75 miles per hour plus Sunday night, and knocked out power to all of central Ohio. Even I was surprised. Our power just came on this morning.

I'm upset because I had just stocked the freezer with homemade pasta sauce from my garden, shredded fresh garden veggies, a whole lasagna I was planning to make later. Basically, my grocery budget and grocery challenge are blown this month because of this storm.

We had to drive 40 miles south to find an open restaurant yesterday, then we camped out at our sister's, who has power, for dinner. I have been living on bananas and peanut butter with crackers and water since Sunday. I'm over it.

It reminds me that I either need to get a generator OR I need to get a gas stove so I can still cook when the power is out.

How do you save with rewards cards and discount cards?

September 10th, 2008 at 07:44 pm

I am conducting an unofficial survey. How do you use rewards programs to save money?

And if you do use them, do you use more than one at a time to save even more (i.e. use a grocery discount card, and pay with a rewards credit card?)

And, how do you decide what rewards cards, coupons and discount programs to use?

Work Baby update

September 10th, 2008 at 12:05 pm

I posted earlier about my work-baby dilemma. (http://thriftorama.savingadvice.com/2008/09/03/tired-of-24-h...)

Today was the first day my friend came over to watch the Bean for four hours. It was great. My friend and the Bean had fun together and I got ALOT of work done. We are doing it again next Wednesday.

I am paying her $10 an hour for four hours one day a week. Money well spent!

$1050 to the Mexico vacation!

September 10th, 2008 at 06:05 am

Yay! A small success. I got paid for my August freelance gig, so all of that money, $1050 is going to the Mexico vacation fund.

Hubby and I agreed that money from this project (it is long-term) will max out the vacation fund first, then be used 50-50 for savings and paying down the student loan. I already used $5,000 of it to max out my IRA for the year.

The vacation fund is up to $4,922.53. The goal is $6,000 by Feb. 2009.

Three years since the Hurricane. Lessons learned.

September 9th, 2008 at 07:38 am

This post by Monkey Mama got me thinking about anniversaries http://monkeymama.savingadvice.com/2008/09/06/six-years-and-...

It's been about three years since the levees broke in New Orleans, forever changing our lives.

When it happened, we had a house with a $2,000 a month mortgage payment. This is the house:



We had some money in the bank, but didn't know if our house was even still standing or what if anything our insurance company would pay for. So we went to work. Literally.

First, let me say that Citibank, who bought our mortgage from our favorite local bank, gave us no relief from mortgage payments. Remember when Bush insisted that lenders give borrowers in New Orleans two to three months break from payments? Citigroup pretty much said screw you. I still hate them.

That said, as soon as the levees broke, our resumes went out. Hubby got a job right away, and I got a freelance gig writing for the local newspaper. Phew. Money to pay the mortgage. Now the real work began.

We moved into my sister's finished basement in Ohio for 6 months, paying $300 rent plus the gas bill and groceries.

Then, I set up an office and spent at least 5 hours a day every day on the phone trying to reach our insurance company and our adjuster. Adjusters kept quitting and each person I talked to in the claims department told me something different.

I also had to hire a contractor to fix the damage to my house so we could sell it. No easy task.

We had decided to stay in Ohio,and we couldn't really move on until we sold our house. Which meant we couldn't afford to wait 6 months or more for our insurance claim to be paid before we started fixing up our house.

I went to New Orleans in November of 2005 and spent 1 month fixing the house. I paid $18,000 out of pocket for everything from roof repair, fixing a balcony that was knocked off by a FEMA truck and rebuilding a concrete block privacy fence that was uprooted by a tree. I also did some "Designed to Sell" HGTV magic by painting the inside and outside of the house. And scrubbing everything to make it look fabulous.

Two contracts and some termites later, the house finally did sell, on my birthday. March 13. It was a miracle. And it came just in time. We had just got the new bill for our homeowners insurance. It had tripled, costing about $600 a month just for insurance. We wouldn't have been able to afford our house if we had stayed in New Orleans.

If we had lived paycheck to paycheck, we would have been so royally destroyed financially by this hurricane. We would have had to pay $2000 a month mortgage for a lot longer, and would have had to delay starting our lives over again while we waited for an insurance company to pay up. We would have missed the window of opportunity to sell our house. People were buying 6 months after the storm, when we were ready.

Here is the financial picture. We paid $225,000 for our house in June 2003. Sold it for $325,000 in March 2006. (Because it didn't flood, our house value went up a lot). We had $30,000 in equity already.
After real estate commissions, etc., we had $90,000 in cash free and clear to buy something in Ohio. Here is what we bought. Much more modest:



So we bought a 1957 ranch for $145,000. The experience of worrying about how to pay the mortgage after the storm, and our not so good experience with Citibank (having your mortgage sold to a company you did not choose to do business with) really changed our perspective.

We stretched to buy our first house, which is what the conventional wisdom is. It was a mistake. Too much house payment= too little freedom and to little wiggle room when something goes wrong. So we bought a more modest and cheaper more manageable house the second time.

My MIL didn't like it one bit. Many times she told me that we were supposed to always trade up, trading down wasn't the way it was supposed to work. She's never been through a disaster, and she and my FIL also live very different lives than me and the hubby want to. We agree to disagree.

Then, hubby and I set about finding a way to pay off the remaining $50,000.

When we finally got our insurance check for $18,000 (6 months after the storm!!), that all went to the mortgage. When we were both settled in to full-time jobs, we made the decision to liquidate $32,000 in stock in a taxable brokerage account to pay it off completely.

We ended up making one real mortgage payment. Then, we began depositing the amount we would have spent on a mortgage payment into the brokerage account to replace what we cashed out.

Some financial people would say that paying off the house isn't the right move. I disagree. There is a freedom and peace of mind that comes with owning your home outright. I remember my grandparents' mortgage burning party. We should all get back to that mindset. That a house is something to be paid off.

After we sold the Nola house, we set about really getting a hold of our financial lives. A natural disaster really drives home the need for savings. We had no idea that our paychecks would be gone virtually overnight. You can't live one paycheck away from financial insolvency. It's a recipe for bad things.

Many of our friends who didn't have money in the bank JUST finished their hurricane repairs. Three years later. One couple finished just in time for Gustav to come along. Thankfully it missed.

Having the house paid off has allowed us to not only sleep better at night, but also max out 401ks, IRAs, and Roth IRAs, every year, fully fund a 529 plan for the bean. And pay cash for all of the major home repairs to our new house.

It has allowed me to work as a freelancer instead of a full-timer so that we don't have to pay for daycare. It really has changed our life.

The current housing advice has it all wrong. Don't stretch. Find a modest house you can pay off ASAP, and find one you can fix up to make nicer. We really did buy the worst house in a good neighborhood, which means we are really improving the value with every project.

Thanks for listening to my ramblings. I get a little sappy every Katrinaversary.

Failing at saving recently! ARGH!

September 8th, 2008 at 07:40 pm

I have really fallen off the bandwagon these past few months. My savings have basically ground to a screeching halt.

Part of it was expected, as I knew I would have to raid the savings account to pay for our new roof ($7200).

But there have been some other unexpected expenses.

For instance, this week we spent $1,000 for a back-up server. We needed the extra space to make sure our Gustav clients had their info backed up in case disaster struck. We will be reimbursed for this, but god only knows how long that will take, and in the meantime, I had to take $1,000 out of savings to cover the CC bill for it. Argh.

On top of that, I feel like we are spending a lot of money, but I don't even know on what. It just seems like bills are rolling in and the checking account is at the minimum.

Caveat: I had to buy gifts for two baby showers this month, and I still need to buy something for a wedding shower this Saturday. So many showers! And my husband decided to buy like 10 CDs without telling me (all used, but still) and to donate $150 to a presidential campaign (at least he's being an involved citizen!)
And I did spend $90 on mulch and peat moss for the gigantic garden beds I am currently digging.

I think I answered my own Q. This is where all the money is going!! Time to cut back.

I am currently trying to lower our grocery bill, but I don't think that's the problem.

I had also planned to do a stone wall around all of the new flowerbeds I am digging. I had budgeted $600 for stone. I may have to wait until spring.

I was doing so well meeting my savings goals. I don't want to end up missing the mark!

Grocery challenge a bit shaky!

September 7th, 2008 at 04:24 pm

I'm officially 2 weeks through the first month of the grocery challenge. Goal, to reduce grocery bill and eating out by 25 percent, to $725 a month.

Two weeks to go. And EEK, we only have $244 left in the grocery budget. Eating out has really killed us this month.

Every time my mom babysat, we went out to eat as a date, plus throw in some restaurant breakfasts for hurricane evacuees, and then a MLS soccer game that cost us $34 in concessions, and well, you see how it adds up.

The good news. The challenge is kind of fun. It's given me something new to think about financially and it's made me focus more attention on what we're eating and whether or not it's good for us.

Tonight, I made two eggplant / spinach lasagnas, and I froze one for later. This week, I also froze 2 2-cup bags of zucchini (for bread, this winter) and made and froze 3 large bags of homemade spaghetti sauce from the roma tomatoes in my garden.

So, on the food front, all that is positive.

At the grocery today, I actually did pass up a decent meat sale, with steaks and pork chops deeply discounted. We're tyring to cut back on meat, and I still have 3 roasts in the freezer and a pack of chicken from BOGO sales. I figure we should eat those first.

Feels good to have a plan.

September 5th, 2008 at 08:16 am

It feels good to have a plan now, even if it only means having a babysitter 4 hours a week so I can do some freelance work. Already the ideas are flowing, and I am attempting to manage my time and accomplish little tasks so that I can make the most of my 4 hours.

My goal is to get 4 articles published by the end of the year. The money will be split 50-50, with half going to savings and half going to pay extra on my student loan. That should help me meet my goal of paying an extra $1,000 on my loans before year end.

Hubby and I also talked a bit about what we want to do with our lives. We agreed that in a few years when the bean is a little older, we'd like to live overseas for 6 months or a year, so we'll both start looking for jobs and see if anything comes up. It can't hurt to try, right?

Also, I'm thinking of rooting through the basement closet to see if there is anything I can list on eBay. I also have a vintage 1950s bathroom vanity and a 1953 O'Keefe and Merrit stove, which works and was in my last house, to sell. I was thinking of saving them for the yard sale next summer, but I would like to clear out the space.

Maybe I could either post them at a fixed price on eBay with pick up only, or on Craigslist. Although, I have had them on Craigslist and none of the people ever showed up to look at them.

That's the news.

Gustav folks heading home today

September 4th, 2008 at 11:10 am

My New Orleans friends left this morning. It was great to see them. We made beautiful meals at home, stayed up late talking. All that good stuff you do with friends.

It got me thinking about what me and hubby want to do with our lives. They are heading to France for a year. The wife has a fellowship to study 19th century French ghost stories and write a book about it. She is a published horror author, as well as an academic. The hubby is going along and making documentaries.

Ah, That's the life. So my hubby and I were talking about what we want our life to be. We wanted travel, adventure and excitement, and instead we have a baby and a 1957 ranch home. Which is great, don't get me wrong, but is there a way to inject some adventure into that??

I guess that's what we're going to have to figure out, and soon.

we are planning to visit this couple while they are in France. And hopefully do the Mexico trip all in one year.

Can I have a work life and a baby?

September 3rd, 2008 at 06:45 am

I love the bean. He is a sweet kid. But frankly I am really tired of taking care of a kid 20 hours a day. It's mind numbing. The hubby helps out a lot.

I am just really tired because he still doesn't sleep and the sleep training is hit or miss.

But even though I am tired, I want to do work. I feel compelled to make more money and contribute more to the household.

I like my field, and I like making money, I find it fulfilling. So how do I make it work with a baby?

My mother works full time and can't babysit during business hours. I already import my MIL for weeks at a time when I have a huge project to do that requires a lot of hours. But those projects only happen 2 to 3 times a year.

I want to fill in the rest with some part time work, either from home (as a freelancer, which I did before the bean ) or at an office. The only problem with freelancing is I can't have him crying in the background while I am on the phone,and his nap times are so sporadic that it's near impossible to schedule calls when he is asleep.

Is there any way I can make it work? There is no part-time daycare here for babies Beaner's age. And I am not comfortable with full time. (Nor would it work financially)

I could possibly ask two friend to babysit once or twice a week, but I would be limited to the hours their children are in school. And how much should I pay them? I have no idea.

HELP!!!

I need to do something soon.

$138 on groceries today. Eek

September 1st, 2008 at 10:17 am

I spent $138 on groceries today, mostly so I have meals to cook for the New Orleans folks who are camping out here until Gustav is gone. They'll be here about a week. This is going to be a budget buster, but I feel like there isn't much I can do about it.

I am cooking a spinach eggplant lasagna, sweet corn from the farmer's market, and grilling chicken out on the grill. I also have fixins for a gourmet spinach salad.