Thursday, March 29, 2007

Progress against the budget

Well, I am into the third month of my budget, and I decided to see how things were going. Things look OK, but here are a couple of areas that have varied from the goal. (but the net-net is good)

1) The budget for Pennachuck Water is $75 per month, and the January bill of $124 really shocked me. But this was a bill that included all the water used by all the people who were here after the funeral. The Feb bill was down to a nice $49.93 and March came in at $43.67. It looks as though I might have over budgeted there.

2) Verizon Wireless was a similar thing. I have $115 per month on the budget, and the January bill came in at $124.77. That worried me, until the February bill came in at a reasonable $95.86. It was the combination of several things. Increased calls in January after the funeral. Then I forgot that we would be returning a phone and therefore lowering the monthly bill by $20.

3) The Vonage bill came out the opposite. I had initially thought I would junk the service and stick with the cell phone only. Well, I have kept the Vonage so the $17.95 level rather than the Skype $1.55 per month cost.

4) I actually had one unanticipated house expense in repairing the hot water heater for $100. Actually, it was in the budget as I have a $50 a month of house I suppose it was in budget.

5) Fuel for the car was a big problem for the budget. I had $117 in the budget and spend $251! Yikes, fuel did go up in price, but I am not sure what happened since last month I had spent $98.00.

Those are the big differences....I will keep the budget as it is for now. A few more months will tell.

BTW: I think I am saving heating fuel but can not tell because I am on a fixed budget. Time will tell with that.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Rules of Money...Book Review

I went to Barns and Noble bookstore tonight and I came across this book. I flipped through it, and thought it was a very interesting book.

It isn't written like a typical chapter book as it is written as "100 Golden Behaviors" for gaining and using wealth.

The rules I flipped through seem to present a very common sense approach...yet there are so many who don't have that common sense as their base. A reference book like this might be ideal.

I am going to Amazon and ordering it as a used book. It looks interesting.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sears Scratch and Dent in Manchester

It struck me a couple of years ago that the "scratch and dent" sales business seems to have gone away.

There used to be a place in Salem NH that would sell all kinds of appliances with minor damage at fantastic savings.

We boug several appliances there and they were great. one of them was a refrigerator that had a scratch low on the left side....well, we happen to have the refrigerator agains the cabinets to the viola, no problemo!

Ditto for a washer/dryer we bought once. Since they were hidden behind a set of accorrdian doors, we didn't care much that they had a scratch.

Well, there seems to be a place like this in Manchster NH. It is the Sears parts center, and they happen to sell slightly damaged and refurbished goods. Everything from gas grills to washer/dryers...TVs, refrigerators.....lots of things.

The prices seemed pretty good to me. The only thing I am thinking of is to replace our current electric stove with a gas stove. But I am not in any sort of rush.

Anyways, this store is up on Brown Ave...just past the airport on the left as you travel north.

They don't have everything all the with any scratch and dent, things are hit or miss.

Check them out.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Zenni Optical Order is in.....NICE! (I like the results!)

I wrote a BLOG entry a couple of weeks ago (3/6/2007) about my going to Zenni Optical for some new Glasses.

Well, they came in...and I am very pleased.

I actually write about this in my Live Journal, so rather than cut and paste I would rather just link you over there! (it's all about linking...right :-)

I highly recommend low-cost eyeglass purchases on the net...and I recommend Zenni Optical.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Easy Saving - Dump Picking (Think of it as recycling)

My first thought is to recoil at the thought to admitting to the average person (you all reading) that I was having issues with my kitchen computer mouse and found a replacement at the "recycling table" at the dump. my town doesn't really have a dump. It is actually an there is no climbing over piles of trash to get these treasures.

No, we have a very clean and fairly orderly operation. In fact, we have these large tables that people drop things on. I think the idea is that these things are supposed to be functional, but there seem to be a number of people who don't seem to get that. So it is hit or miss when you pick something up.

Well, I have picked up much more interesting and expensive things for use. From monitors to FAX machines to laser printers. I have also dropped quite a few things off there too.

I guess this is the 21st century version of dump picking....and you know what, this is the way we should treat a lot of our things.

So many things get discarded before their life is through. Monitors being swapped for LCDs. Computers being discarded because of newer computers. All sorts of things like this all the time, yet there are often people who could benefit from the discarded unit who will never see them.

So today I not only saved myself 5 bucks, but I saved the fuel it would have taken to go to the store and the result of the high blood pressure I would have had trying to find a space! (just kidding)

Do the world a favor....go out and use recycled products....."Dump Pick Your Next Treasure!"

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Finally picked the high yield CD: 15 month @ 5.60% APY

I had some money that I needed to find a place to invest. My first thought was whether I wanted this to be risky money, or something solid.

About 2 months ago I rebalanced my portfolio from 70% stock to 50% stock....but other than some EE and I bonds, I still don't have any real safe investments.

On the other hand, this money was sort of money I did not expect to have....certainly not a huge amount, but perhaps money I could afford to take risks with. (I is not earmarked for any particular expense)

But given my shift to a more conservative portfolio, it made no sense to me to take risks.

I thought a bit about Gold because I have nothing in any sort of precious metals.....but I thought that maybe gold was a bit high and that there was as high a chance of losing as making....what's the point.

I was also considering the possibility of investing in say a savings bond of another country. This way I would not just get the interest, but get the advantage (or disadvantage) of any currency movements. (I think the dollar will continue to slide over time...but I am not any sort of expert, nor do I have any inside is a hunch)

So I went with the safest bet....a 15 month certificate from my Credit Union, US Alliance. It pays 5.60% APY for a 15 month term. It has a single bump-up option, and it's in there now. (I wasted weeks trying to decide and I lost interest in those weeks!)

I actually like all the rates of my credit union. They have good CD rates, good home equity rates, and great credit card rates with a 7.99% Visa Gold card. The do most of their transactions online with only a limited number of branches. I think Branches are expensive!

As for the CD....when the 15 months are up....who knows what I will do. But for now, I am happy with the safe 5.6%....slow and steady wins the race!

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Tax time, no tax free EE Bonds for me and I'm looking for high interest safe place to park savings money...

I never look forward to tax time. We have actually gotten money back more years than not over the last 10, but I still have the thought of wondering.

Well, I am at that point now. All my paperwork is in to my accountant, and he is crunching away. I never took care of taxes before, being the more natural job of my wife. (who actually went to school for accounting but hated it and never held an accounting position)

Well, so far the accountant has only asked for clarification or more detail on three items, which I feel is a real victory for me. I figured I would leave out all sorts of things in this.

The only thing I am pretty sure I have not passed on was the information on the value of the 1993 Dodge Dakota that I donated to the American Heart Association. It was old, and in an it isn't worth very much.....and they have not given me a receipt as of yet, so I will have to make up some sort of reasonable value I guess.

My mother had bought me and my kids savings bonds for Christmas presents over the years. The idea is that they would be used to pay for education, and they would be tax-free for that purpose.

Well, this is the case for my daughters bonds, but the bonds in Cheryl and my name are another story. I might be able to transfer them to my daughter, but if I cash them in and pay for their education, I would be subject to the salary means test, and I would fail it!

The cap for married people is $124,700...but this year as a widower, I am considered single and my limit is now $78,100. I'm out of luck in either case!

Well, I think I have decided to just take the money to my credit union, They have a special 15 month CD paying 5.45% (5.60% APY) and since I am a member there already, it is an easy thing to set-up. I just have to go into the branch which is not all that close to home. (bummer)

But right now I am letting the money sit in a checking account and pull in NOTHING for interest....that is a stupid move!

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Low-Cost Internet Eyewear Sales to the Rescue!

I have VSP (Vision Service Plan) at work and my eye doctor contacted me to remind me that it was time to get my eyes checked.

So I went in and it turns out my left eye has gotten a little weaker, and I am now in the range where I need bifocals (or a progressive multi-focal lens) So I sit down, pick a frame and the whole bill comes out to about $150. (including $25 co-pay for the exam, and $25 co-pay for the frames)

The next day (Friday) I get a call from a worker at the doctors office telling me that made a mistake with the date of my VSP coverage. It turns out I would not be covered for frames until January 2008, and that this would cost me another $150!

I really wasn't excited to spend that kind of money so I decided to cancel the glasses all together and wait until January.

But when I got home that night, I decided to go online and search out inexpensive eye-wear, and I found several sites that claimed to have some really great deals. They noted $9.00 and $8.95 I took a closer look.

Well, I figured the prices were OK, and I would take a risk on the frame and lens quality. I would simply throw the glasses away if they were not that good. (besides, it is sort of exciting to take a risk...albeit a cheap, low cost no-brainer)

So I ordered a pair of single prescription $8.95 stainless steel frames, and a $51.95 set of fancier progressive len frames also in stainless.

What the heck....$65 for two pair of glasses. Less than half of what I had paid for the one on Thursday.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Why do I Blog about Personal Finance?

I have NOT been tagged, but I decided to try to answer the question: Why do I Blog?

I Blog about money and Personal Finance because it lets me focus on these topics myself. It causes me to think about it each and every least to the extent that I have to in order to post.

The personal finance topic helps me think about my own spending, and my home budget.

My posts about the economy and investment allow me to think about topics that help me focus my retirement and savings money into places that better enhance the growth of these.

I'm not a day fact, I am a buy and holder, but I do follow the principle that I need to re-balance my investments every year.

The thoughts in my BLOG help me with this re-adjustment.

Now for the $69,000 question....does this extra focus help me actually make better decisions?

So far, the jury is out on that.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Where do you think the market is heading?

If you asked me this about 3 months ago, I would have told you there would be a correction. How can I prove that....well, I did move from an 80/10% equity to bond split to a 50/50% split back then.....and I was sort of kicking myself for the past few months.

Last night I felt like Einstein.....

I'm not totally sure what suddenly spooked people. The idea that the American economy was slowing....that's not a new concept. The fact that the Chinese economy can not sustain an 11% growth rate.....heck, they even said that many months ago too.

These are some of the things that spooked me, along with China's position to sell some of their dollars and the whole world sort of getting skittish about the dollar. We have also experienced a number ob bubble or bubble-like situation from the .BOMB crash in 2001 to the housing meltdown currently under way.

This notion of a soft landing always struck me as odd....sort of like seeking a slow core meltdown of a nuclear reactor as opposed to an uncontrolled fusion seems much worst than the other, but neither is at all pleasant!

So now I watch oil prices sliding up....I see record numbers of people going bankrupt....I see housing sales in the toilet with the nations largest builder explaining away a 70% drop in profits.
I see jobless numbers looking ok, but also knowing some of that is bogus because people fall off the unemployment rolls and then cease to count in the statistics.

So I'm happy with my 50/50% split for now. I had some money coming available that I was going to place in a more aggressive instrument, but I think I have decided that slow and steady wins the race!

Onward and upward!

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