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Archive for March, 2007

Housing: Why I Bought

March 22nd, 2007 at 07:08 am

I've been seeing a lot of talk lately about objectively reviewing whether renting or buying is best for your financial situation. While pretty confident in my choice to purchase, I wanted to run the numbers just in case.

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BEFORE
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Rental
900 sf
$650 per month for rent
$ 75 per month for storage building
$200 per month average gas & electric
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$925 per month

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AFTER
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Owned Home
1800 sf
$493 per month for mortgage
$--- per month PMI (not required for our loan)
$ 55 per month for homeowner's
$ 55 per month for property taxes
$100 per month average electric
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$703


OK, so right off the top I'm saving $222 per month. Interestingly enough, that is exactly equal to the 6% of my gross salary I set aside for retirement, but I digress...

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MONEY INVESTED IN THE HOUSE
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$4246 5% down, half of closing costs
$2600 tree removal (bought knowing this was needed)
$ 350 dishwasher and drain pipe replacement
$ 500 various vixture & outlet replacements
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$ 7696
$59600 owed on mortgage
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$67296

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CURRENT TAX ACCESSOR'S VALUE
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$72000

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CURRENT ZILLOW VALUE
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$91000


So at this point I have 67k invested in a house that I could turn around and sell for 75-80k after 9 months of ownership, plus I'm saving $222 per month in 'operating costs'.

As a side note, the tax accessor's value was 56k and the appraised value was 75k when we bought last July. The house was assessed at 56k in '01 and jumped to 72k in '06, a 28% increase in 5 years.

We intend to refinance this fall with my credit union, getting a better interest rate and pulling approximately 10k in equity out of the house. At that point we will upgrage the heat and air system, put a new roof on the den (an addition from the 60s), and possibly update the kitchen and bathrooms. If we hold it another 5 years, we should be able to about double our money...

OK, I feel better now! Big Grin

When it Rains, It Pours (and a Lingerie Store)

March 17th, 2007 at 07:00 am

Literally and figuratively.

It rained pretty much all of yesterday, and went from 78 earlier this week to 32 last night. ACK! But we needed the rain, and now the world look sbright and freshly scrubbed.

On the figurative side, my last post was about trying to generate income outside of my job. I know it was long, sorry 'bout that!

Anywho, I got an email from my former boss yesterday, the one that left the company in January. He asked me to help build a website for a friend of his who is selling her real life stores and moving to the internet so she can spend more time with her kids. Cool. Since she already has a client base there's a lot of opportunity here to design business cards, postcards, T shirts, etc. for the new site.

The business? They're (ahem) lingerie stores, more Freddie's than Vickie's if you know what I mean. Personally I don't have a problem with it, but it does take some explaining when I'm browsing around trying to find a comparable layout I like online! Not to mention I've been having a bear of a time finding a good font and color scheme: everything clashes no matter what I pick.

Oh well, when the going gets tough the tough apparently have to browse online lingerie shops for inspiration. Boy is my life weird!

Catch Up

March 15th, 2007 at 01:34 pm

Good grief, where is March going?!? Well, let's start at the beginning and play a little Catch Up, shall we?

The Week of Birthday
Long story short, I ate so much my pants started to fit properly again! Things are settling back down to normal and the pants are reverting back to 'too baggy' like they were before, but it was nice while it lasted. The highlight of all my meals was an appetizer called Hell-Fire Shrimp served with cilantro sour cream. YUM! Birthday gifts included meals from friends and my father, a pot of daffodils from my mother, car seat covers from DH (which I asked for, don't down the gift!), and $45 in cash. Woohoo, best haul in years! Big Grin Rumor has it I'll be getting a gift card from my SIL and her boyfriend, which is a very unexpected suprise. Since the things I actually want are a bit on the pricey side (a $900 camera, $85 tripod, and $100 wide-angle lens), DH suggested they get me a gift card, and I think me told them to make it for office supplies. Alas, that is my guilty, shameful pleasure: the clearance aisle at Office Depot! Who knows what goodies await me!

Money Happenings and $20 Challenge
Today is payday in Tina-land, which is always fun. I get paid 2x per month as opposed to DH's every other week, which means he gets the ubiquitous 'unbudgeted extra paycheck' twice a year. This month will be the first one, and it's going straight to the Slush Fund (aka a mini-EF in the world of others). He and I have re-discussed how much we want to have readily available for actual need-cash-now emergencies, and we've decided we're comfortable with a couple of hundred. It's enough to get us out of town, pay for a car repair, pay for new tires, or pay our medical co-pays if we both had to go to the emergency room and get prescriptions. After this month's extra pay-check, the Slush Fund should be sitting pretty.

In related news, I also have the money set aside for us to pay Uncle Sam his due in April. Bah! I'm holding onto that money until the very last minute to earn as much interest as possible, dag nabbit!

Since it's the middle of the month, I also took in my personal money for the $20 challenege. This time I took in paper only, since I'm all but out of coin wrappers. No worries, though: my bank gives out wrappers for free so I left with an envelope full! YAY! The nice teller even gave me the paper strips you wrap around bundles of bills. Guess that's what happens when you deposit 92 bucks in ones!

Here's the breakdown of this month's action:

$92 in ones
$10 in leftover allowance money
$45 in gift money
$30 in incense sales
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$177 total in 28 days. Not too shabby!

My Challenege (challenged?) account currently stands at 453.59 - 145.97 in purchases = $337.20. Remember, I'm trying to use my money to make money, so the Challenge(d) Account is what I use to purchase materials or items I use for freelance stuff. Purchases so far are a backpack photographer's bag, a hard case for my memory sticks, my web hosting, and incense supplies. As mentioned above my wish list is a bit pricey right now, but I might go ahead and get the wide-angle lens and tripod as these two items will make it easier for me to get involved in real estate photography. My other option is to sell my current camera, 2 memory sticks, macro lens, telephoto lens, and filters for about $500 and combine that with my saved money to get the camera I want. Sadly, that would leave me without a decent tripod, telephoto lens, macro lens, or wide-angle lens, or even compatible memory, which means I would be back at square one. Cannon DSLR, I love you but you're going to have to wait a while... *sniff*

Apparently a 9mm is 'My Gun'
What a title...

Last Saturday DH and I went to his parents' house to pick up his skeet thrower as he will be skeet shooting with friends of ours tomorrow or this weekend. He wanted me to go skeet shooting with them, which might be fun except for the fact that I've never shot a shotgun, much less at a moving 4" diameter target. Talk about setting yourself up for failure! Anywho, his parents live in a rural area on several acres and they have a 100 yard shooting range on their property. Price, BA, I thought of you as I typed that sentence! He had me shoot the shotgun to see if I would be comfortable enough to shoot skeet, and *begin sarcasm* suprisingly enough I wasn't *end sarcasm*. Yeah, seriously: who's going to be comfortable shoot a shotgun the first time? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone want to try a moving target their first time? Duh....

While we were there he wanted me to shoot his 9 and his 45 so I'll at least know what I'm doing if push came to shove. Believe me, this is a whole 'nuther conversation in and of itself so I'll just drop that subject and proceed to the results. Apparently I'm quite good with a gun, but as someone who'd only shot a handgun once before I don't know if that's true or not. The first shot with the 45 was pure luck and hit dead center in the target at about 10 yards. HA! The rest with the 45 were nothing to write home about: it's too big for my hand and as a double-action trigger is just hard for me to shoot. The 9, however, was a different story. Out of 20 shots at 10 yards, all were within the 8 ring and about a quarter were within the 9 ring. I'm told this is good, but if you know please chime in!

Other Things Eating Up My Time: Generating Income
I've been focusing on my goal for the year of coming up with ways to make money on the side, in the event my job situation goes south. That's the lovely part about working at a small tech company, you see: it's like playing Russian Roulette with your paycheck.

Well, most know that I'm slowing working on getting the photography bit up and running. So far I've receive no responses from the emails I've sent, but our weather is starting to perk up and I think that will offer more opportunities for pictures. I'm debating about making some prints to see if those would sell or not, but I'm still on the fence.

I've made and dried 600 sticks of Dragon's Blood incense and sold half of them in bulk packs already. I also tested the 12 other sample fragrances I got in the mail: only one will work well for incense, so I'm going to try to think of something easy/cheap/sellable to do with the rest. Unfortunately, that's the way incense works: just because an oil smells good in the bottle doesn't mean it'll smell good burning, and the only way to test is to buy an ounce and go for it. If it doesn't work out, you're left with an ounce of stuff and nothing to do with it. Or, in my case, about 20 ounces between this batch and the last batch of testing... Something else I'm on the fence about: selling incense on Etsy.com... There are only so many places in South Carolina to sell the stuff!

I was invited to become a Cha Cha guide (thanks Autumn!!!), which might wind up bringing in some money down the road. I've gone through some of the training, but need to finish it before I actually begin earning money. We'll see how it goes!

Another avenue I'm persuing is 'crowdsourced software' development with Cambrian House. Basically, it's kinda like Saving Advice for computer geeks Big Grin If you have an idea for some neat kind of software, you post it there and people vote on it. If you get enough votes, you're entered into a monthly challenge (IdeaWarz). If you win the challenge, you win $10,000 and a tee-shirt EEK! WOW, a tee shirt! Seriously, you get to keep a grand of the money, and the other 9k is used as 'seed money': you pay the other members of the site to help you build your project. When the project is built, Cambrian House markets it and you and the other developers earn royalty money (and of course the website makes money off of it, too). Better built projects sell better, earning everyone more royalty money... It's a long shot, but I submitted an idea anyways because I think it would be a useful, useable service, not to mention I want to win 10 grand! I've since been invited to work on someone else's project doing high level strategy and product development. For the uninitiated, that's tech speak for I get to tell them what I would want the software to do if I were a user, then they build it that way! Too Cool!

Yes, my name is Sucha Dork...

Add to this some ongoing research for the articles I'm writing, and TADA: that's what's been eating my time. Hopefully some or all of these ventures will pan out and result in some additional income, maybe even some passive income in the form of royalties. Hans Gruber said it best "by the time they figure out what went wrong, we'll be sitting on a beach earning 20 percent". Wait, maybe that first part isn't good when talking about developing software. Unless your last name is Gates Wink

Coolest Thing I've Found In AGES!!!

March 13th, 2007 at 08:50 am

When you get a chance, please check out the article I wrote on The Robinhood Fund over at Jeffrey's PFAdvice site. It may or may not make it to the forums, so as always I'm giving a heads up here.

This site is without a doubt one of the most interesting, unique, and even inspiring concepts I've seen on the web in the 15 years I've been online.

Read the article, visit the site, and keep the address in the back of your mind the next time you or someone you know runs into a difficult time.

Spices and Coupon Ethics

March 11th, 2007 at 03:55 pm

First on spices: most know that I rant and rave (ok, not exactly) about buying spices in bulk versus getting them at the dollar store, etc. I promise you, they definitely taste better. Moreover, chances are you will STILL get a better financial deal, and today I have proof!

I usually buy Italian blend herbs in bulk from my favorite natural goods store. They no longer carry it, so I was looking at having to buy it online Frown Before I did that and had to pay shipping, I decided to try Whole Foods.

Long story short: they will not replace my normal natural store (yay, local business!), but they do have the Italian seasoning I want. Specifically, I bought a pre-packed quarter pound of herbs for $2.29 before tax, which works out to be about 57 cents per ounce. Check the bottles you buy from the dollar store: I'm willing to bet a quarter that they're a buck for about half an ounce, aka 4 times the price!

The picture below is to give you an idea of just how much 4 ounces of herb actually is. I'd already refilled my spice jar when I took this picture, too! Assuming I just use this to cook, rather than making gifts with it like I normally do, this will last me more than a year.



And now, coupon ethics. My grocery store has a setup where you scan your own groceries as you shop, then go to self checkout, scan your coupons, pay and leave. Pretty nice! I scanned a coupon today that rang up fine, and I looked at it and it expired yesterday. ACK!!! So, if the self checkout will accept expired coupons, do you think it is OK to use them, or should I just trash them? Opinions, please!

Boy, I'm a Slackard!

March 9th, 2007 at 07:26 pm

For those that are curious (since I've been a slackard talking about my challenge) I am still saving my ones and my coins from my allowance. I'm not counting as faithfully as when I was tracking the 'Change and Buck Bucket' at the end of '06, but from my monthly deposits I'm still averaging about $100 per month.

And yes, my $25 birthday money went straight into the can for the challenge Big Grin

In the spirit of the challenge, I'm using this money to pay for my photography enterprise. It's covered expenses for the website like domain name and hosting, and I'll use it to buy business cards in the next week or two. I have also bought a new camera bag and case for my digital memory sticks with my challenge money, for a total so far of about $100 spent. Next on my list is a wide angle lens, tripod, and lens cleaning kit. Actually, I have enough stashed to get these and still have some left over even without next week's deposit, which is kinda nice.

I guess the most impressive, at least to me, is that I've actually been spending my allowance somewhat willy-nilly and have still been able to save about 25% of it. Last month I bought a new pair of heels and a new pair of boots to the tune of $50 (12.5% of my total allowance) and saved about 30%. This month I bought myself a car charger and case for my cellphone as a birthday splurge from my allowance and am still on track to have money left over when the mid-month replinishment comes next week. What this boils down to is, while I am still buying lunch and breakfast out sometimes, I'm apparently spending significantly less on the daily 'grind' because I am able to treat myself to some nice splurges and save the same amount or more as I was before. Cool!

Seriously, I need to get better about keeping the blog posted with this. Again with the 'anonymous' accountability, although now that I'm publishing articles I guess it's not so anonymous as before. Doh!

New Article Series: Friday Freebies

March 9th, 2007 at 07:44 am

Sorry to be MIA, but The Week of Birthday is almost over and things will settle down!

Just wanted to let ya'll know I'll be doing an ongoing series of articles on nifty free things in the online world called Friday Freebies. Jeffrey is posting them on PFAdvice.com, but I don't if they'll make their way over to the forums so I wanted to give a heads up here. Check it out, there might be some neat stuff you never knew existed Big Grin

The Week of Birthday

March 5th, 2007 at 07:26 am

It has officially begun!!!

Despite the title, I promise, I'm not an ego maniac. See, my birthday and my sister's birthday are 4 days apart. Technically, 2 years 4 days, but we're talking a standard calendar here. So ever since we were little, this has been the week of birthday in my household. Lot's of family time, silliness, and FOOD!!!

This year, The Week of Birthday is just perfectly timed. Mine is today, my sister's is Friday, and we each get a weekend wrapper. Woo Hoo!!!

A family friend from Manchester, England was in town last week for business. Saturday he took me and my mom out to lunch at Red Lobster. John won't let anyone pay for meals, so score my first freebie! I spent the rest of the day at the cigar store with my mom, dad, DH, and a variety of customer's. We watched the eclipse from the parking lot, which was just too neat.

My parents have arranged to take us all eat at the restaurant next door on Wednesday (right between the 2 birthday's, see how the timing works?). Around 6:30 my mom and I started looking over the menu to decide what we'd order on Wednesday. Turns out our lunch had worn out and the menu was just taunting us, so we ordered 7 appetizers for me, DH, the parents, and the customer in the store (also a family friend). YUM tasty, and at a discount to boot (it pays to be friends with the chef and order through the back door). Score another free meal!

Yesterday, my sister called and offered to take me and DH out to the German buffet in return for using the truck to carry a load to their house from Home Depot. More free food!!!

Today I'm on a vacation day. Who wants to work on their birthday? Today's plans are up in the air, but I'm pretty sure it will involve lunch with my mom. DH asked what I wanted for my birthday, and me and my practical self asked for car-seat covers. Once a frugie, always a frugie!

George Clooney's In Town

March 5th, 2007 at 05:39 am

Yup. George and Rene Zeilweger (sp?) are in town filimg a movie, have been for the past month or two. DH saw Rene downtown at Starbucks and called me. Know what I said? "Why were you at Starbucks?" Big Grin

Part of downtown was blocked off yesterday so they could film there. Don't ask me what a historic Westin hotel has to do with a football movie, but there they were. Which means they were about 1 mile from my house.

Wonder if I'll get 'discovered'? Odds are probably better than the lottery! Maybe they'll want to do a Laura Croft 3 and Angelina will be too expensive, so they'll accept a shorter slightly pudgier alternative Wink

Guess What I Ate..

March 2nd, 2007 at 08:00 pm

I caved. I saw a sign, and I fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

Krispy Kreme in my area is now offering whole wheat doughnuts. Yes, you heard me right. Whole. Wheat. Doughnuts.

Deep Fried Health Food!!!

We drove through Krispy Kreme intending to get a decaf and a free hot'n'now using our Valentine's Day Krispy Kreme card. We left with the coffee and a mixed dozen of regular and whole wheat doughnuts.

And you know what? They're GOOOOOOODDD!!! Have kind of a brown sugar flavor to them. Wonder if they're whole grain? Any idea of the fiber content of a whole wheat doughnut?

Article Updates and Ideas

March 1st, 2007 at 11:10 am

First I wanted to thank everyone who so kindly responded to my first request for help regarding the articles on computers, technology, and saving money. You all ROCK!!

Secondly, I wanted to go ahead and post a link to where the articles are being stored on PF Advice. I know Jeffrey is posting some in the forums, but there are different comments on the original articles than are on the forums, and I thought that some of you might find those useful as well.

Thirdly, I'm thinking about doing regular articles on neat places or tools online. What do you all think, would that be something to consider? If so, do you have a neat place or tool from the web that you'd like to see included?