Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I Hate Grocery Shopping

I have never ever enjoyed grocery shopping.  In fact, grocery shopping is my least favorite chore.  As a result, I generally refuse to grocery shop and that chore has become Mr. Sam's responsibility.  He has learned over the 6 years of marriage and the 8 years of cohabitation that if he wants to eat he has to do the shopping.  Similarly, I've learned that Mr. Sam hates to pay bills and if I want the bills paid I've got to pay them.  Marriage - divide and conquer.

Being that Mr. Sam has been deep into renovations and projects at Rental # 3, he has been slacking on his grocery responsibilities.  And, being that it is Halloween, I figured I needed to at least swing by the grocery store and pick up some candy for the kids.  And, if I was stopping by to pick up candy, I might as well pick up a few things.

Reason # 1 that I hate the grocery store, a few things turns into a $150 in groceries.  And really, I only picked up a few things, fruit, salad stuff, milk, juice, cereal, bread, bagels, cheese, sandwich meat, peanut butter, cream cheese, butter, a few frozen dinners (for my lunches), yogurt, beer and the aforementioned candy.  Honestly, I have no idea how a few things, plus Halloween candy, can turn into $150.

I'm sure if I were a regular shopper I would have a better handle on what things cost or should cost at the grocery store.  And, I further recognize that it is certainly cheaper to buy my lunches at the grocery store than order in at $10-$12 on a daily basis.

Reason # 2 that I hate the grocery store, it is close to impossible to be an informed shopper.  It is difficult and time consuming to compare prices among similar products.  The prices on products change from week to week.  The sizes for items are not standard, you have to study the little per ounce shelf tags to try and get a realistic sense of pricing.

Reason # 3 that I hate the grocery store, the pricing game.  There are special prices for people with savings cards and the like.  Ugh, I hate those cards and I don't use them.  If I shop at Publix, which I prefer, then I don't have to worry about the preferred shopper game.  But, I was at Winn Dixie which utilizes a customer reward card which just adds a whole extra level of pricing complications.  As I mentioned, I'm not a fan of customer cards, I don't use them but Mr. Sam has a Winn Dixie reward card and I figured I would take advantage of it.

Now, I don't go out of the way to buy certain products because they are on special, but if I was already buying a product I might opt for the one that is on special and that is what I did last night.  I am a fan of the  Chobani greek yogurt and I often eat the non-fat varieties for breakfast or afternoon snack.  I noticed Winn Dixie was running a special, buy 10 Chobani yogurts and they would be a $1 each.  I made sure to select 10 to get the deal.  I also opted for a buy one get one free on bagels and a three for something special on the sandwich meat.

And, therein lies the problem, by the time I get to checkout I can't recall or keep track of the various specials I'm trying to take advantage of.  The only specific special that I remembered at checkout was the yogurt and can you guess what happened at check out?  The cashier rings them each through and I'm watching and seeing that the ring up at $1.34 each.  I'm thinking that maybe the price will be adjusted when all 10 are rung up since the special required me to purchase 10.  And, drum roll, nope didn't work.  So then I'm that person telling the cashier that I'm not getting the special price and she has to call a supervisor over, she has to void all 10 and then just ring them through as a flat $10.

I find the whole process extraordinarily annoying, and I have no idea if I was charged the correct price on the bagels or the sandwich meat.

One of our general goals for 2012 was to reduce our eating out and ordering in costs by doing more grocery shopping.  I can't say that I have been particular successful this year, because I can't seem to improve my grocery store experience.

How about you, who does the shopping in your home, do you have a system for making it less painful, do you have a deals and savings system?  Please share, I need to learn your tricks.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Refinance Update - Part 12

As I indicated earlier, our home mortgage (recently refinanced) has been sold to CitiMortgage.  I just spent 20 minutes setting up an online profile with CitiMortgage.  And while I have reviewed each and every FAQ, each section regarding payments and payoff, there is nothing on the CitiMortgage web page about how to prepay principal except for their own "Biweekly Advantage Plan" which of course has a charge associated with it.

While I am disappointed, I'm not surprised because Citi makes more money off of us if we don't prepay our mortgage.  So my plan is to make our first regular payment and then I will call about how to set up principal prepayments.  Its important that Citi know that I'm going to be making principal prepayments so that they properly apply them and so they don't assume I'm making some partial regular payment.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Happy Days - Part II

Earlier, I posted about a recent raise that I received at work.

I have decided that I will take 2/3 of the retroactive pay and put it towards my art savings account.  The extra funds from my retro pay to my art account should mean that I can pull the trigger on the art purchase prior to the end of the year.

The remainder of the retroactive pay will go towards our 2012 IRAs.  The extra pay received in my pay check will be allocated towards current expenses and our 2012 goals.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Happy Days

Good news, I  received a 5% raise yesterday at work.  And further good news is that the raise is retroactive for a few months.  Whoo-hoo!

So, since today is pay day for me, I received my newly increased paycheck via direct deposit and a check for the retroactive pay.  Eyeing that retroactive pay, we could use it towards funding our 2012 IRAs or towards paying down our mortgage.  We are behind on both of these 2012 savings goals (behind $2371 in funding our IRA, and behind $1461).  Or we could put it towards expenses related to turning Rental #3  (which Mr. Sam is working on as we speak).

But, what I really want to do is put it towards the art work that I've been saving for since Memorial Day.

What would you do, put it towards 2012 saving goals, put it towards current rental related expenses or spend it on something fun?  As an aside, I already have $110 in my art account so I only have $515 to go before I have sufficient funds to purchase.  This piece of art would be my Christmas present to myself from myself and Mr. Sam.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Net Worth Number Crunching

I am in the office today, supposed to be working but ended up getting sucked into analyzing our 2012 net worth numbers at

Overall this year, since January, our net worth is up $92,851 which I must say impressed me.  Most of the growth can be tracked directly to the growth of the stock market since $42,911 of our increase in net worth comes straight from growth in our 401k accounts.  Plus, we have contributed $30,565 to our 401k accounts, so all together our 401k accounts are up $73,476.

The other big area of movement is in our debt load.  We have reduced our debt (all mortgage) from $594,056 to $574,735 for a total of $19,321.  Between the grown in our retirement accounts and the reduction in debt our net worth is up $92,000+, maybe by the end of 2012 it will be up over $100,000.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Refinance Update - Part 11

We knew at closing that our mortgage would immediately be sold from the broker to another lender.  Yesterday we received notification that it will be CitiMortgage.  While I own stock in Citi and we have one of our rental mortgages with Citi, I can't say they are my favorite company when it comes to levels of customer service.

But, I keep telling myself 2.75% and 15 year term, and we are saving $180,000.  I look forward to getting an electronic account set up and getting back to paying our extra $415 in principal each month (one of our 2012 savings goals).

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Importance of Reviewing Statements

I am pretty good at paying attention to the documents that arrive by U.S. Mail.  While I do most of the management of our personal finances by electronic means, I prefer to receive paper bills for review and tracking purposes.

Last night I was sitting on the couch opening mail, and we get quite a bit from day to day, and I started reviewing our joint Fidelity statement.  Fidelity is where we keep our individual IRAs and also where I have an old 401k and Mr. Sam has his current 401k and a roll over IRA.

The statement that we receive in paper form just covers our individual IRAs (traditional and Roth) but not any of our work related retirement accounts.  I spent some time pondering how each of our investments is doing (or not doing).  Since we utilize our individual IRAs for stock investing, reviewing individual stock performance is more exciting than following fund performance.  For example, I've done really well with Apple since I bought it in early 2009, up over $8000.  But, when I was looking at my performance for 2011 I was surprised to see that I have $3000+ (out of $5000 contributed) just sitting in cash and not invested in anything.

I was stunned that I had this chunk of cash just sitting in cash.  I really have no idea what happened.  Did I forget to invest it? Was I researching stocks and never circled back around to effectuate a buy?  Did I put in a limit order that expired and I forgot to put in another order??

Ugh, I am mad at myself, since the market is up 9% from January 1st of this year and up 17% from this time last year.  As such, I have likely missed out on a positive return by letting this money sit in cash.

The morale of the story, I should be paying more attention to the statements we receive from Fidelity.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

2012 Goals - October Update

(1) Max out 401k(s) - $30,565 (90%)(goal is $34,000)
(2) Max out IRA(s) - $5529 (55%)(goal is $10,000)
(3) Add to e/r fund - $8000 (80%)(goal is $10,000)
(4) Pay down mortgage - $2490 (50%)(goal is $5,000)
(5) House projects - $900 (18%)(goal is $5,000)
(6) Trading account fund - $50 (1%)(goal is $5,000)

Total - $47,634 (69%)

At present, we are approximately $7,000 behind on our 2012 goals and the gap is widening each month.

The good news, Mr. Sam has maxed out his 401k for 2012 and we have completed savings for one of our IRAs.  Other good news - we are on target to complete our emergency fund savings goals.

The bad news, principal prepayment is on hold at 50% due to our refinance.  We don't have any prepayment penalties or restrictions on our new loan, so, in theory, we could complete this goal once our mortgage payment is set up with the new company as of November.  But, we would have to scramble to do so.  Of course we spent $3,000+ on the refinance but (I've decided) we can't really count that as principal prepayment.

As for our house projects and trading account, those both continue to lag behind.  The plan was that once Mr. Sam maxed out his 401, which he has now done, to reallocate those funds towards some of these goals.  But, as noted in my earlier rental posts we have been spending money on various house projects from our regular funds.  We also have to see if we owe the IRS any money (which we normally do).  I will know if we owe Uncle Sam this week.

Between the principal prepayment goal and the house/trading account goal, I'm leaning towards focusing on principal prepayment first, after the IRA savings is completed.  I'd also like to end the year, although it will be difficult with the holidays and the rental expenses, at least ahead of last year so we need to save at least $61,000 (which is short of our $69,000 goal).

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Rental Update

Earlier, I posted that two of our rental properties were vacant.

Rental #2, as I indicated before, has rented with an increase of the monthly rent by $5.  We had the property tented for termites which cost $800 and we also had a small electrical issue addressed which cost about $200.  Both expenses would have been necessary regardless of the tenant turnover.

Rental #3 is a work in progress, Mr. Sam was over at the property all weekend working on cleaning up the exterior of the property and having the interior painted.  So far we have spent $600 on labor and supplies.  We hope to have the property ready to show by mid-month, but obviously we are not collecting the rent for the month of October.

Due to the refinance of our primary property, we did not have a mortgage payment this month which means we have been able to utilize that money for all of these projects rather than dip into our rental property escrow savings accounts.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Charitable Giving

A while back, I posted on charitable giving - who gives the most and to what organizations along with information regarding our own giving.  Today we had our appointment with our accountant to prepare our 2011 taxes, we filed for an extension  so we are rapidly running out of time to get our taxes done and in by October 15th.   **As an aside and to help me stay honest, I'm declaring here that I'm determined not to file for an extension on our 2012 taxes.

In my earlier post I under-estimated how much we are giving, in 2011 we gave $1,800+.  More interesting to me, is that from 2010 to 2011 we doubled our charitable giving since in 2010 we gave $900+.  I am only counting cash contributions, not our in-kind contributions (i.e. clothes to Goodwill) or our contributions of time (which are also significant).

While 2012 is really almost over, I hope that we exceeded (or will exceed) our 2011 giving.  Since I gathered up our 2012 tax documents as I was gathering and organizing our 2011 documents, I plan to add up our year to date giving for 2012 and see where we are at.  As I previously posted, I would like to increase our charitable giving each year since my individual charitable giving decreased after we got married and we got super serious about killing debt and increasing our savings.