Thursday, January 26, 2006

Personal Update: [30] Days Without A Financial Meltdown

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , , , ,

I’ve been so busy offering up some of the best financial content ever to grace the intrawebs that I’ve neglected to share our personal pocketbook progress. Let’s rectify that. Rectify!

I’ve updated our net worth data to include the latest figures fresh from the bucket of receipts and deposit slips on my desk. Somehow we went from $30,341 to $32,288 in one month. Where’d that $1900 increase come from? Well…

  • Savings up about $900. Between my paycheck and Tegan’s, we managed to sock away a bit of cash into our EmigrantDirect savings account. ED just bumped up their interest rate to 4.25% APY, so our money’s staying put for now. I considered transferring everything into our ING Direct account which has a 4.75% promotional rate on new money until mid-April, but since I don’t have the two accounts directly linked, the money would have a short stay in Bank of America Land (motto: “We thank you for your free money”). We might’ve ended up making a few dollars more rate-chasing, but I’m just not yet comfortable constantly moving around $20k like it’s a decorative vase. That said, I’ll probably put the next month’s worth of extra cash into ING for a bit.
  • 40l(k) up around $500. The automatic 8% payroll deductions and 50% employer match continues. As for my investments’ performance–up 1.35% since January 1st even with that rather nasty market bump last week. This doesn’t include the performance for today which was likely pretty spectacular thanks to some awesome 4th quarter earnings being reported by my employer. Yay for my ESPP!
  • Car loan down another $500. I don’t like this stupid loan. I’m tempted to just pay it off right now, but my money will make more being invested than it will avoiding the relatively low interest payments on the car. Still, I can’t wait until that “Debts” column goes to zero … and then I’ll want it to go higher again to reflect our eventual mortgage on our eventual house.

Despite suffering from Frugality Frustration, we’ve found a few new ways to save some more money or increase our quality of life at little or no cost.

  • Smarter grocery shopping. I’ve been taking my own advice to help cut costs around the house, especially in the food department. We’ve been planning out the week’s dinners on Sundays and then shopping only for what we know we’ll need. I was hoping to also plan breakfast and lunch, but we usually just stick with a few options for those meals, so I didn’t see as big of an opportunity planning those meals. As a result, our fridge isn’t quite so full of stuff that might expire before we get to it.
  • Smarter eating. Along with planning meals, we’re also wising up about our nutritional choices. We’ve dropped our meat-eating from six or seven days a week to four or five, and hopefully that will go down to three or four soon. The money we’ve saved on meat has been going to things that are better for us: delicious salads and soups, and even a few powerfully tasty yet inexpensive recipes.
  • Finally used our vision insurance. I’ve been paying a few cents a week for it for nearly two years now, so I figured it was time to put that vision insurance to use. Our provider gave us a nice variety of places around here where exams would be fully covered. We opted for the local LensCrafters and its “independent doctor of optometry.” The doctor was very pleasant and she told me I had 20-15 vision. Apparently I can see through walls my vision is so good–and this despite a decade of ridiculous computer use. Tegan, who wore glasses as a child but not since I’ve known her, was given a prescription for corrective lenses to be used as needed. It’s not a strong prescription at all, but we got it filled while we were there. We only paid a few bucks out of pocket for the part of the eyeglass frame that insurance didn’t cover, and Tegan reports a big improvement (especially in her videogame scores). As an added bonus, our bedroom life is better than ever now that she sometimes plays the role of the “sexy librarian.” Too much information? You bet!

I also have some goals for February ready to go…

  • Eye those grocery prices a little closer. I plan to put together a grocery price book to help track prices for our common purchases. Thanks to The Frugal Homemaker for this idea.
  • Plan our in-house food production. This mild winter already has us thinking about planting some porch produce in a couple of months. Jane Dough has me considering a miniature lemon tree or maybe a more practical lime or orange plant. Really, I’d love to ask our apartment management to consider opening this one patch of land on the property for a community garden, but who knows if that’ll ever happen. If you’re passing through the area this summer, you should be able to spot our apartment; it’ll be the one with the jungle on the balcony.
  • Don’t overspend, but still have a good time. Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and while I hope to make it a special one for my wife, I’m going to do so without spending an insane amount of money on flowers that die in a week. I think she’d be perfectly happy if I just got her a ten-pound block of chocolate, but I’ll figure out something a little more romantic and less artery-clogging. The other big event for February is our annual trip to Katuscon, a Japanese anime convention in Washington, D.C. While we’re close enough to commute daily, we’d rather just stay in the hotel where the convention is being held for convenience and to spend more time with friends. We’ve got a few of those friends to room with us, so the room price will be fairly reasonable for a couple of nights. The real place we need to watch our wallets is in the convention itself with its vast vending rooms full of the latest anime products. We’ll probably also load up on food to take with us so that we only need to eat out for dinner. All in all, it’ll be a nice three-day vacation for just a few hundred dollars.

Uh-oh. Here comes the sexy librarian. I’ve gotta go … check out some books. Goodnight!

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