Thursday, January 23, 2014

$300 Rule & $100 Rule

As I have previously posted, I have a long standing goal to have plantation shutters installed in two bedrooms in our home.  But, since plantation shutters are very expensive I decided that I would update my plan and just get some new, nice shades for these two bedrooms.

I have done quite a bit of research, measured the windows, priced out my options and then I settled on a plan which will run about $800.

But, in our home there is another step I had to take and that was to discuss the project, the expense, the source of the funds (we have this money sitting in our house project account) with Mr. Sam.  We have a rule that anything over $300 has to be discussed and agreed to between us.  Most of the time we reach agreement pretty quickly, but not so this time around.  I've talked to Mr. Sam about this project several times, gave him the pricing, told him about my research, but he thinks it is silly to spend this kind of money on custom shades.   If we can't reach agreement then we don't go forward that is our rule.  We imposed this rule back in 2007, because we were trying to throw every extra dollar at our debt.  But, we have kept the rule because we believe that we should be in agreement that expenditures above $300 are necessary or a mutual want (vacation) or one of us convinces the other.

We did finally agree or he finally gave in, but we did reach agreement.

The other rule we have is the $100 rule.  When we are spending more than a couple of hundred dollars we have to wait a day for each $100 of the purchase.  So in this instance, if we are spending $800 on custom blinds we have to wait 8 days before we actually make the purchase.  This waiting period prevents expensive impulse purchases.

I haven't yet ordered the blinds because of the waiting period rule, but will do so next week.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Wrap Your Mind Around These Numbers reports that the richest 85 people in the world now hold the same amount of wealth held by 3.5 billion (yes, B - billion) poorest in the world.  Said another way, half of the world's population, the poorest half, holds the same amount of wealth as the 85 richest individuals.

Mind is boggled.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Florida Unemployment Compensation - Follow Up

During Mr. Sam's unemployment, I posted about how difficult it is to obtain unemployment compensation.  It took several rounds to just get through the application process and we were amazed at how it seemed like the State was making it almost impossible for the unemployed to obtain benefits.  Mr. Sam, with a MBA and a reliable internet connection almost could not obtain benefits.

Well, the unemployment system in Florida was replaced, on October 15, 2013, with a new system.  But the new system has a whole host of problems.  Well now the Department of Labor is heading back to Florida to investigate the new system.  The DOL estimates that Floridians have lost $20 million in benefits due to the faulty new system.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Target Moves

Early I posted about a recent Phishing email I received at work.  As I previously mentioned, I shopped at Target during the time of the data breach (which seems to be growing each day).  I already canceled and ordered a new debit card and I have checked my credit report using the free credit report site.

Today, I signed up for Target's free credit monitoring.

Last week, I put in a limit order for Target stock. If the stock drops enough, I'll take advantage of the discount.

Monday, January 13, 2014

2014 Savings Goals - First Update

(1) Max out 401k(s) -        $1,346    (goal is $35,000)
(2) Max out IRA(s) -         $2,825    (goal is $11,000)
(3) Add to e/r fund -          $400    (goal is $10,000)
(4) Roof project -              $5     (goal is $5,000)
(5) Vehicle replacement -  $5     (goal is $5,000)
(6) House projects -          $100    (goal is $3,000)

Total:  $4,681  (Goal is $69,000)

I don't have my new 2014 Excel spreadsheet set up, so I've not calculated all the percentage complete for the various goals.  I did calculate total and I estimate that we are presently ahead on our 2014 goals by about $2,000.  I still need to set up auto transfers for the roof and vehicle accounts.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Here Fishy, Fishy

So I just received a phishing email  here at work.

 Email came addressed to me from  So a series of six numbers, which I'm not including here in case those phishers track the numbers they use to target victims and the is a real web site and I assume it has nothing to do with the phishing.  The email had the subject line "2013 Tax Return Information".  Of course, the first thing I think is that my HR department is sending me my 2013 W2 and that's what those horrible phishers want you to think.  But, the .pdf attachment that was enclosed had both my name and my husband's name in the titling of it which seemed suspect

And, to gain access to the .pdf attachment I had to hand over the last 5 digits of my Social Security number.  Whoo-whoo, siren going off, red-flag going up.  Never give out personal information to someone who send you an email or calls you on the phone.

The first thing I did was send it to my helpdesk, because they track spam, scams and phishers.  That way they will investigate and add the email address to the company blacklist.  The second thing I did was google the email address, but I didn't find anything.  The third thing I did was forward it to the IRS via  The fourth thing I will do, from my home computer, is to order one of my three free credit reports to make sure there has been no suspicious activity.

I don't know if this phishing scam is related to the Target breach, but I did shop there during the respective time (I already canceled the card and have received a new one).

Here are some helpful hints if you receive a suspect phishing email.

2014 Additional Goals - Update

posted earlier of my multi-year goal to update the widow treatments in our home and my plan for 2014 to make progress on this goal.

Well, I've done all my measuring for the bedroom windows, there are six, and I've priced out my options.  I  have selected a roman shade in a natural material (bamboo, grass, etc.) with a dual lift system.  I have not figured out color yet, but I have ordered free swatches of the natural material so I can make an informed selection.  A dual lift system means that the shade can be raised from bottom to top (traditional) or dropped from the top.  This means that we can have the shades partially open from the top which will let light in but maintain privacy since we are in a dense area.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Cash Money

We have new tenants in Rental # 3 and they prefer to pay their rent in cash.

The upside of cash is that it is cash.  I know there is not going to be a bouncing check issue and when I deposit the cash it is instantly credited.

As an aside, have you seen the new $100 bill?  It has a 3-d security ribbon and a liberty bell hiding in the ink well.  There is also more color on the front and back.  I had several new $100 bills, which were new to me, a couple of the 1996 $100 bills and one 1990 $100 bill.  After I got over my amazement at the new $100 bill, the old school 1990 $100 bill really looked fake to me.

The downside of cash is that I have to go to the bank to deposit since, sadly, there is no remote way to deposit cash.  The other downside of cash is that it is hard to keep track of.  With checks, I have an image of the check for my records.  So, we have come up with a system.  First, we give the tenants a receipt so they have a record and we have a record in the receipt book.  Then when I deposit the cash, I am keeping an ATM receipt and putting that in my records in place of the check image.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

2014 - Additional Goals

Previously I posted our 2014 savings goal numbers, I have a couple of other goals to list as well.

Back in March 2012 I posted about wanting to install plantation shutters in our front, first floor bedroom.  Well, almost two years later, we've not made any progress on this goal, although we have accomplished other house projects.

So, for 2014 my goal is to replace the cheap plastic blinds (that have been up since we bought the house almost 10 years ago) in the front bedroom.  You will note that I've not renewed the goal to have plantation shutters installed.  While that is still a goal, I recognize that plantation shutters are both an expensive and time consuming project.  I will, eventually, have plantation shutters installed, but for now my plan is to order blinds to replace the crappy plastic ones.

I've settled on a blind company.  But, I have not decided on whether I'm going to order blinds or roman shades, much of that will depend on pricing.  Many of our windows that need replacement window treatments are the same size, either as a single window, group of two or group of three.  Off the top of my head, I have 6 bedroom windows, 2 study windows, 2 laundry windows).  As a result, the blinds that I order  now can, at some point, be moved from the front bedroom (after I get my shutters), to the back bedroom, to the study, etc.  Said another way, even though I still plan to get shutters the blinds/shades that I plan to order now will not be wasted when I want to upgrade to shutters.  Even at $100 a window (a high end budget), $400 in blinds will make me very happy (plus we've saved that money in our house account).

Also on the agenda this year is an office upgrade.  We are going to do an Ikea cabinet and bookshelf built in hackplus new paint and our budget is $1000.

Finally, a debt goal.  At present our debt load is @$538,000.  I would like to get our debt below $500,000 in 2014.  I have no idea if that is a reasonable goal or not.  I've got to do some number crunching since we did not include any additional mortgage prepayment in our 2014 goals.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Sam's Plan for Killing Debt in 2014 - Step # 1

It is the new year and many people want to get their financial house in order.  This my guidance on killing debt and gaining control of your finances.

Step # 1 - face the music.

This is actually one of the hardest steps of paying off your debt, you (along with your spouse/partner) need to gather up your statements and figure out how much you owe.  Look at your credit card statement, student loan statement, car loan information, other loans, etc.  Find the statements or go online and determine your balance, interest rate, regular payment, term for each loan (I would exclude the mortgage for now).

Create a documents, whatever format works best for you, with each debt listed, the interest rate, the term, and the monthly payment, along with the due date.  We used an Excel spread sheet when we started our debt killing journey in 2007.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Red Lobster and the Middle Class

Interesting article from about the impending demise of Red Lobster and the continued squeeze of the middle class.

Reading the author's experience about going out to eat at Red Lobster as a kid, I thought back to my own experiences.  While I was raised by professionals, college professors, and we had a vacation home (cabin), we actually had very little free money growing up.  I think that was due to the fact that my parents income was somewhat sporadic in that Dad was paid only 9 months out of the year and Mom's income was based on then number of courses she taught.  We also probably spent more money on housing and recreation than a normal family in that we had a house on the water, the vacation cabin, and my parents prioritized experiences over things.  So, we did lots of camping, sailing, skiing, traveling and that all cost money.  They also were doing the right things with money, putting it away for college funds and their own retirement.  As a result, we didn't have free money for eating out.  Eating out was for super special occasions and mostly when Grandpa was in town for business.  I can remember Grandpa taking my brother and I out for dinner.  As a family, I remember just a few times going out to some kind of all you can eat buffet (I also remember getting sick b/c I ended up eating too much or the foods were too rich).  Mostly though if we ate out it was never at a chain restaurant.  As a result, I don't have the fondness or nostalgia for chain eating.

Today, we eat out quite a bit (an issue I am always working on) but we still hardly ever eat at a national chain.  I much prefer eating at mom and pop places.

Did you have a favorite chain restaurant when you were a kid?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Years Resolutions

I am a big fan of new years resolutions, goal planning, goal tracking, etc.  I've started to put together my list of resolutions for 2014 and I'm up to 12 so far and none of those resolutions relate to finances.  Eight of my draft resolutions relate to health and fitness.

I learned back in psychology that it takes 4 weeks to develop a new habit.  Indeed, one of the reasons rehab is 28 days is based on the 4 week new habit model.  Today, I read an article over on that it actually takes closer to 66 days to establish a new habit.

So, if today is day 1 of a new behavior, stick with it for a couple of months and it should become an actual habit.

Here is to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014.