Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Of could I forget the "Garage Sale" Option?

I have a basement (and attic) full of "stuff" that really needs to be gone through and gotten rid of...and I have been doing this for several years...a little bit at a time.

Our only point of sale for these things has been the yearly Flea Market trip. We did this because the local Londonderry Gardens Flea market has a great deal where they give you your first sale day for FREE. (so long as you stay between the hours of 9:00am and 3:00pm)

The combination of weather and poor time management has not given me the opportunity to plan my trip to the flea market.....besides, I don't have my truck any longer so getting things over there will be harder in the van. (and it will probably take more than one session to sell all the stuff I have)

It just occured to me that I could put things out and have a yard sale (or garage sale...or tag sale if you are from the DC area)

This would be a weekend that I might allocate to staying home and doing yard work....I can set everything up in the morning, put out the signs and go about my daily work waiting for people to come and buy.

I normally sell things at crazy "this thing must go" prices....because I basically want to get rid of this stuff, but still feel it has value and would be a shame to throw away.

So I think the Yard sale is I just have to figure out how to set it up and advertise it properly.

NOTE: I will of course take photos and BLOG about my experiences!

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Monday, May 21, 2007

The Perfect Storm - Checking Account Style (or, it's all about cash flow!)

I suppose I have gotten a pretty good handle on my finances over the past 5 or 6 months, so my charting in spreadsheet and log form has pulled back to a less difficult rate.

Because I have tuned my IRA and stock plan contributions to pretty close to "peak" my contributions, I have to be a bit careful with my cash flow. (my budget supports the expenses, but only if they come in sort of staggered and not at the same time)

As with any budget, you have to be careful with spending since your current savings account is probably higher than you expect given some of the expenses that were "baked in" but that have yet to be realized. (like real estate taxes that hit once a year, or car insurance which is the same)

But once you get the total income / spending budget in balance, you still need to watch monthly cash flow. One of the levers you have to "fix" this is your credit card....not by pushing things off to the point of paying interest....but to decide to pay something now or defer it for a month.

But be can not defer things for ever.....this is a once in a while way to push payments out.

So the way I do this is to have a mental picture of all my expenses, current and future. I then have an idea of the amount of money I have in the bank, and how money is flowing in and out. (is the total increasing or decreasing over the next couple of months)

If I see a situation cropping up where I am short some money in a month...I might choose to defer a payment by slapping thing so on the credit card. (again, only if I know I will not be creating another "bubble" a month from now when I have to pay that)

Well, everything was going along fine until I ran into an expense I forget to consider. That expense was my own school tuition.

I forgot because "most" of my tuition is picked up by the place I work. But this only happens after I submit my grades. I generally choose to have my tuition bill deferred by the school until after grades are that is as easy to do as giving the school $100 and showing them that the company I work for has a tuition payment plan.

So I did that last semester (about $2600), and the bill is due June 2ND. I then received the bill for this semester, which I have decided NOT to defer....and that is for about $1300.

I had planned on paying for Kristen's field School (about $1800) and Kimberly's summer classes in Copenhagen. (about $9800) with the former being paid by check and the latter a deferred payment of my AMEX card from last month.

I screwed up.....I still have the normal payments like my mortgage and car payment coming due early next month, and now I have to go in and really sharpen my pencil and check on a day by day basis. (to see when my paychecks are going to hit the account and so forth)

In the long term, this is not an budget is a good one, it is mostly a matter of cash flow. (actually, last month I had planned on needing to take money from long-term savings/investment....but an unexpected profit sharing bonus at work made that requirement this really is just a cash flow issue)

I need to perhaps create a cash flow spreadsheet to make all of this easier to track. Cheryl used to do this by simply listing it all out on a month by month basis on paper....I sort of do it in my head now....which is obviously not good enough!

Oh and learn!

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Friday, May 18, 2007

My Investment Style is like Reagan - Trust but verify

I suppose we all look at our investment style and consider how we might change. I have always been pretty consistently a "let it ride" sort of investor.

That is, I will analyze a situation, look for areas to invest and then pluck money in there for the long run.

In fact, I only invest for the long run....I mean that's what I always attempt to do anyways....but I am always "looking over my shoulder" looking to pull out if it gets uncomfortable.

Yes, I am mostly a long term "buy and hold" guy....but I'm NOT the "set and forget" type. Nope, I am more of a "Trust and Verify" person.

I have heard that Warren Buffet is the type of investor who "doesn't like to lose" money. Not that he never takes risk, but that if the risk begins to falter, he is out of there before his investment goes to zero.

I am the same type....I sort of "look over my shoulder" every week or month and make sure things are going at least the right way. (not negative.....and if it does, I am ready to pull the trigger and get out.

But I don't pull the trigger all that often.....I do have patience and I do understand risk.....I am just not ready for my money to go to zero.

Take my most recent year with some "Mad Money". I had initially bought $3000 in Vonage stock....something like 100 shares....I forget.

Anyways, we know what happened to Vonage....and it was right after I bought that things began to go sour. The price of Vonage was sinking, and I wanted out.

I first sold half of it for about $1000 and invested in China Mobile. About two months later, Conage had gone down and then back up....where I sold the other $1000 in stock and bought a Hong Kong ETF.

Well, I would peek at these prices for the last few months....and I am happy to say that my initial investment of $5000 had fallen to $2000 but as of today (5 months later) it has grown to a bit over $2830! Pretty good!!!

So that's my investment MO....."buy and hold" with a fair bit of "Trust but Verify

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

I'll take my simple life in NH thank you......

I have been in San Jose California for work this past week, and my initial observation was how nice the weather is here. It has been hot, but very dry and comfortable.

But my next observation was how EXPENSIVE things are here! Yikes, and these guys seem to have taxes on taxes too. Everything has some sort of tax, and even without that, everything is erxpensive.

I've gone to Safeway stores to buy myself various snacks and little things for lunch, and wow have I found things to be expensive. My little block of cheddar cheese that I get for $2.50 per pound is like $3.75 per pound! Raisins are about $2.75 for the same package I buy for about $2.25 in NH.

Cashews I buy at home for $8.59 are running about $10.50! Then, forget about gasoline....I just shopped around and found Regular at about $3.59 per gallon.

People who work for Sun in California have a slight location differential on us on the east coast....something like another 3%...but I don't think it is really worth it. I like NH, our "low tax" mentality, and while we don't have the lowest cost of living in the country.....the wage to cost of living ratio is great.

Besides....beautiful weather 365 days a year is a bit over-rated anyways!

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