Monday, March 30, 2015

College Savings Plan for Baby Sam

As I work on figuring out our 2015 savings goals, we know that college savings for Baby Sam is on the list.

We have settled on a 529 Plan rather than a prepaid tuition plan.

The next question is how much to contribute.  $28,000 is the current annual limit if you file taxes jointly, $14,000 if filing singly status before having to do gift tax analysis.

Mr. Sam is in favor of skimping to front load Baby Sam's college fund now and then once Baby is in school dialing back because there is a good chance we will be paying for private school.

I'm not sure where I stand on the issue, but because I manage the finances I prefer more regular and even contributions because its easier to manage.  But, if we contributed $28,000 a year for year one to year five we would end up with $140,000 and that is a huge chunk of money that would then grow over the next 13 years.

Start researching estimated college costs in 2033 and its enough to make your head spin.  $57,000 a year for public, in-state university up to $130,000 a year for private university.  Multiply that by four - five years and you get total costs from $285,000 to $650,000.  Yikes!

However, many experts say that the tuition increases that have occurred in recent years, 5% - 7% increases each year, are simply unsustainable.  So, its quite difficult to know what the real costs will be.  I guess its better to plan high and then be pleasantly surprised, but I don't want to sacrifice retirement savings or other savings to hit an inflated college savings number.  

At present, the 529 plan paperwork is filled out, I've sent off the check for the initial contribution and I have set up bi-monthly electronic contributions at $50.  Not much, but a start while we figure out how much we will be contributing going forward.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Amazon Mom?

After ordering a big box of Seventh Generation wipes and Diaper Genie refills from Amazon, up popped an offer to join the Amazon Mom program.

The Amazon Mom program is a spin off from the Amazon Prime program.  The basics of Amazon Prime are free two day shipping, access to films, t.v. shows, music and e-books as well.  The annual cost for Amazon Prime is $99.

Amazon Mom is part of your Prime membership so it costs $99 a year and includes the above Prime benefits.  In addition, it offers discounts on diapers, wipes and other baby related products.

Specifically you get:

5% off baby wipes. Get 15% off wipes when you subscribe to 5 or more items.
15% off Subscribe & Save:  Save items when you subscribe to 5 or more items.
20% off diapers (15% Amazon Mom discount + 5% Subscribe & Save discount).

Lets talk about subscriptions, that means that you sign up for automatic delivery of certain things, diapers, wipes, formula but also things like soap and toothpaste and non baby items too.  My research indicated that there are pros and cons to subscriptions for baby items including the fact that babies grow and change so you need to manage and update things like diaper sizes and formula preferences, etc.

Amazon Mom used to be a better deal, but I guess folks with fake babies triggered Amazon to close up the extra 5% discount loophole for Subscribe & Save.

I have friends and Mom friends who swear by Amazon Prime, it IS a lot easier to simply order what you need for baby rather than trying to run errands with a baby in tow.  But, Amazon doesn't offer these discount programs or free shipping and then lose money on it.  They know enough about consumer behavior and habits to know that many people will order more items (that cute outfit or toy) such that Amazon will make enough in profits if the shipping is free or if there is a discount.  Certainly there are people out there that are disciplined enough to only order the items they truly need and they make the program work for them.  I also think Amazon Prime probably makes great sense if you are located in a rural area or an expensive area such that you can't get discounted products in a quick and easy fashion close by.

So far, I've not signed up for Amazon Prime or the Amazon Mom program, I'm still thinking about whether it would work for us and whether or not I would truly come out ahead.  Back to my earlier Amazon order, I still obtained free shipping on all the items I ordered without paying for a Prime membership.  

What about you, do you have an Amazon Prime membership, what has been your experience with these discount programs?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Updated Net Worth and Housekeeping

I'm continuing to work on getting our finances back under control. I spent some time this morning working on updating our net worth numbers.  Our net worth is now above the $1.5 million number.

Net Worth IQ web site continues to be flaky, but when its up I prefer to keep my data there.  I've added entries for November 2014 - February 2015 but they are not accurate.  I will be working to add the correct data over the next couple of weeks.

Additional good news, our primary mortgage is now below $220,000.  I will be super excited when its below $200,000 although prepaying the mortgage is unlikely to be something we will be working on any time soon.

In baby news, I opened a savings account at Wells Fargo for Baby Sam for monies received as gifts.  We have been researching college savings plans and at this point we have settled on a 529 plan rather than Florida Prepaid.  More about that research later.

Finally, I am almost done with our 2015 Spending Plan which will influence and direct our 2015 Plan.  More about that later too.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

2014 - Final Savings Numbers

(1) Max out 401k(s) -        $22,588    65%  (goal is $35,000)
(2) Max out IRA(s) -         $11,000    100% (goal is $11,000)
(3) Add to e/r fund -          $10,400    104% (goal is $10,000)
(4) Roof project -              $5,000       100%  (goal is $5,000)
(5) Vehicle replacement -  $5,000      100%  (goal is $5,000)
(6) House projects -          $3,000       100% (goal is $3,000)

Total:  $56,988  83%  (Goal is $69,000)

So, we saved almost $57,000 in 2014.  While a respectable number, we missed our goal by $12,000.  Mr. Sam was not eligible for his 401k until midway through the year and that is one of the main reasons that our 401k savings number was reduced in 2014.

We did have some major expenses in 2014 that are not reflected (entirely) in our savings goals.  First, a new car for Mr. Sam which was paid in part with cash.  Second,  a new roof for one of our properties.  The roof was a savings goal, but also cost more than what we saved and we could no longer put the project off.

We also incurred some debt in 2014.  Mr. Sam's new car was paid in part with cash (about 40%) and the rest is loan.  Second, we added to our family in 2014 (which is why I've been away from the blog for so long).  We had considerable expenses related to the conception (via IVF) and related to the nursery and birth (most covered by insurance, but a big chunk that was not).   We also had a major house project prior to the baby arriving.  We are working on paying down the baby debt and it will be part of our 2015 savings/debt killing plan which I am working on creating.

I've been gone so long

I forgot my password.

But, I'm back.  More about why I was missing in action later.