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Archive for August, 2011

Roof Savings

August 31st, 2011 at 05:51 am

I get paid once a month, on the last day of the month. So, today is pay day! Indeed, my favorite day of the month. The direct deposit happens at 12:00 midnight, so I wake up on the morning of the last day of the month with a nice surprise in my checking account.

I've blogged before about how we've been saving for a roof. The strategy I've taken for roof savings is to take whatever is left at the end of the month, and transfer that into our savings account. Just moments ago, I transferred $429.84 into savings. We now have $4,620.26 in our roof savings account. "Just" $2,879.74 left to go.

Year to Year Interest Comparison

August 30th, 2011 at 05:51 am

I was clicking around on the website for one of my credit cards - the big one with the $8,500+ balance. I found a page that listed the amount of interest I paid last year - $1283.46.

The page also listed the amount of interest I've paid year-to-date - $714.40. That prompted me to project the amount I'll pay for the remainder of the year. I project another $251 in interest - if I only pay the minimum due. Totalled together that's $965.40.

Or $318.06 less than last year on that card.

Or 75.2% of what I paid last year on that card.

Two things have happened with this card: 1) of course, I've been paying down the balance, and 2) the interest rate dropped from 12.9% to 8.9% in June.

Of course - reality is that I'll still have paid a thousand bucks in interest on this card by the end of the year. That sucks, but things are moving in the right direction.

More Financial Ratios

August 29th, 2011 at 06:09 am

Here are a couple more financial ratios that I've calculated.

The first is the minimum payments for all non-mortgage debt (credit cars plus van loan) that we owe divided by monthly (after tax) income. So, it's not necessarily what I pay, because I've been paying more than minimum, but I's what a bank would calculate if I went in for a new loan. My non-mortgage debt payment to after tax income ratio is: 13.7%.

The second is the same calculation, but I include my mortgage debt. That ratio is: 33.4%.

I would feel a lot better if that first calculation was less than 9%, and the second calculation was less than 30%. Actually, I would feel a LOT better if the first calculation were 0. There are, of course, two ways to improve those calculations - boost income or reduce debt (or stretch out payments, but I don't want to go there).

I've read that mortgage companies will approve loans that make your total debt to income ratio up to (and even beyond) 40%. That's scary. Things would be pretty tight if 40% of our income were going to debt repayment.

My Life Expectancy

August 23rd, 2011 at 11:42 am

I did some thinking today about what I'll to have saved before I retire. Part of that equation is life expectancy. The on-line tool I used calculated my life expectancy at 84 years. Don't ask me what site I used. I just googled "life expectancy calculator" and used one that looked good.

The 84 years result sounded OK. My maternal grandfather lived to 71, maternal grandmother, 79 and both paternal grandparents lived until they were 89. Actually Grandma was within a week of her 90th birthday. So, good genes on Dad's side and not as good on Mom's. Actually, it was probably lifestyle choices as much as anything, and I'm probably a blend of both.

I'm still not sure what I'll need to have saved to retire. It's still 20+ years away. I've heard 25 times salary. If I figure modest pay raises, that comes to about $1.9 million. Not sure that's going to happen. I've also heard that you'll need funds enough to cover 70-80% of your pre-retirement income. But, I'm not sure what kind of withdrawal that figures.

Like I said, I'm still looking at a horizon of 20+ years, so this is something to consider, but not obsess over. For now, I'll concentrate on reducing then eliminating debt.

Fuel Tank is Full!

August 22nd, 2011 at 08:05 am

I bought fuel oil for home heating. Over the past couple of years, we have struggled to keep payments up for our heating fuel. We generally begin heating the house in October (we live in Michigan, where it cam get cold!). It seems like we usually wait until the tank is nearly completely empty, call to have it filled, and have the bill paid off just in time to get it filled again. We need to fill it three times per heating season.

Well, since we had some extra money in our account, I decided to have it filled in August, and I paid the bill right away. It felt good to be able to do that. I figure we have enough fuel to last through December.

I'm hoping that the fuel will be a bit cheaper than if I had waited until late September, when everyone else will be filling up, but that may be a pipe dream. Regardless, we have a tank full of paid for fuel oil!

My Credit Card

August 19th, 2011 at 06:00 am

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about getting a new credit card. The main reason for the new card was to transfer my very high (16.99% APR) rate card to take advantage of the 6 mo. introductory 0% rate.

I've started using the card. Thin ice - I know. But, I'm resticting purchases to gas, groceries, and work items for which I will get reimbursed. I will pay off all purchases each month plus the predetermined amount to pay off the transferred amount over the time-frame I've set up.

The reason I'm using the card is so that it will remain active, and help boost my credit score for credit utilization.

So, I'm using a credit card again, after a three-year fast. We'll see if I can discipline myself this time. I think the chances are pretty good.

The walnut tree

August 11th, 2011 at 05:44 am

We have a black walnut tree behind our house. It drops walnuts on our house, and they tend to be very loud. Also, the tree has grown enough that the branches are now scraping against the roof, and that is annoying. My wife has let me know that it is time to take action.

So, I borrowed my dad's chain saw yesterday, and brought it home. With chain saw in hand I looked at the tree, and I looked at the house. I looked at the tree, and then the house again, and quiclky came to the realization that the likelihood that I would damage the house if i cut even a branch off the tree was probably 80%.

It would probably cost at least $300 to hire a professional tree company to take care of the problem. So I opted for an interim solution - hire the Amish guy who lives down the road. Yes, I have an amish guy that lives down the road. Actually there are three Amish families that live within a mile of my house. This particular Amish guy cuts down trees, and cuts lumber for a living.

The problem is ... he will most likely refuse payment. Which would be fine if I had an in-kind service to return to him. Amish tend to be fairly self sufficient. I'll try to offer him $75 or something like that, but if (when) he refuses, I'll be indebted to him. I'll try to come up with something in return, but I don't know what it will be.

Sorry ... I can't help it

August 10th, 2011 at 08:23 am

I keep looking at my retiremt fund balance. Once per day. As you know, it's like looking at a yo-yo, that doesn't seem to return back to the hand each time it's dropped.

I know that there are crazy weird things happening right now, and today's balance will have little in common with the balance 6 months or 6 years from now. But, it's kind of interesting to see what I hear on the news translated directly into my own retirement fund.

My CC Debt to Retirement Savings ratio ... again

August 9th, 2011 at 05:55 am

After yesterday's post, I found myself fixated with my debt to retirement fund calculation. I ran a projection. I assumed my monthly contributions to my retirement fund plus modest gains (thanks again, congress) plus my projected decrease in CC debt.

I project that by March 2012, my ratio should be 14.6%. Of the three factors I mentioned, (contributions, fund growth and CC reduction), I have control over two of them. My contributions are pretty much fixed at 15% of salary. I could increase contributions, but I probably will not. I have absolutely no control over the market. The one factor I can really work on is CC reduction.

Let's see if I can continue to whittle down on CC debt, and meet my short-range goal of a 14.6% CC debt to retirement fund ratio.

My CC Debt to Retiremt Savings Ratio

August 8th, 2011 at 05:43 am

This isn't a real financial benchmark ratio, as far as I know. But, 5 years ago, it was about 100%. In other words, I owed about as much on credit cards as I had saved toward my retirement - $30,000.

I calculated this ratio again, and it is now 20%, even with the pathetic performance of my retirement fund over the past several weeks (thanks, congress). Or, for every dollar I have saved towards retirement, I owe twenty cents in credit card debt.

Of course, my goal is to have that ratio down to zero.

Went to see Harry Potter Last night

August 3rd, 2011 at 06:14 am

We had a night out. We took the girls to see Harry Potter. My mom stayed home with the boys. The tickets cost $21 for the four of us (I live in a rural area, and ticket prices are cheaper). DW bought popcorn and drinks, not sure what she spent. Plus I got a 50 cent refill on the popcorn.

We rarely go out to the movies. It was fun, we all really enjoyed it, plus the break from the younger children.

Disposable Diapers

August 2nd, 2011 at 06:04 am

If you look at my info bar, you値l notice that I have two kids plus two foster kids. Our oldest is 9. We used disposable diapers with her until she was about two. Then we switched to cloth diapers. The switch was for a myriad of reasons, including cost. We found cloth diapering to be cheaper, chiefly because my wife is a seamstress, and she made them.

When DD#2 was born, she was nearly exclusively cloth diapered. The only disposables we used with her were given to us as baby gifts. We used them for some nighttime diapering and when we were on long trips.

Enter foster child #1. He came into our care, March 2010, when he was 19 days old. We continued the tradition of cloth diapering. Because he was a foster child, and had twice weekly visit his birth mother, we did need to have a supply of disposables around.

Foster child #2 came into our lives this past April. He was nearly 3. Because of the situation he was in prior to foster care, potty training is not even yet on the radar screen. Four kids is a lot. Did I mention that the two foster kids have special needs? Anyway, we have found it nearly impossible (actually strictly impossible) to keep up with the three or four times a week laundering schedule that cloth diapers demand. We live in rural Michigan, so a diapering service is not an option. We have switched back to disposables for both boys.

As far as cost goes, my wife orders them on line for less than a quarter apiece. We also receive a foster care stipend that makes covering the cost less of an issue. Cloth diapers are better for the skin, more comfortable and better for the environment. But right now, they are not an option. But, boy do the disposables stink!

August Debt Update

August 1st, 2011 at 06:04 am

Beginning of the month update on my debts.

Mort 1 - $104,748 $738/mo. 6.25%
Mort 2 - $70,000 $0.00/mo. 0.00%
CC 1 - $8,553 $176/mo. 8.90%
CC2 - Balance transferred to CC6 @ 4% balance transfer fee.
CC3 - $3,092 $140/mo. 5.25%
CC4 - Paid in Full
CC5 - $2,639 $195/mo. 5.32%
CC6 - $2,172 $60/mo. 0.00% through January 2012
Van Loan - $7,111 $210/mo. 4.02%

Difference from last month - $997.