Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Variety of Thoughts

1. The End of the Month financial report is not good. Instead of a deficit reduction, I actually increased my debt by $433. My excuses are many and pathetic--one granddaughter's college tuition; another adult child's counselling (Trust me, this is a GOOD expense meeting a need that has existed for a long time!); Co-pays on TWO (Count'em, TWO) auto crashes, neither of them my fault. The first, which I mentioned in an earlier post, occurred during my June vacation when someone sideswiped my parked van. Four weeks later, a suicidal deer jumped in front of the same van. Each time I had to pay the deductible so there went $500. OK, so my total debt, including my mortgage is $91,695.

2. My quarterly net worth didn't fair any better--it's down $12,637 from last quarter (which had gone up almost that exact amount from the first quarter of the year, meaning I'm back where I started in January) But at $550,117, and given the vagaries of the real estate market, not to mention the stock market, I'm OK with that.

3. Bob Lowery often comments on this blog, and I have had his Satisfying Retirement blog in my blogroll for some time. But these days, he and his family can be found gracing Money Magazine as well.

4. Speaking of blogrolls, I regretfully removed Mein Taglich Brot from the list because Julie called it quits only a year and five months into it. Too bad because I enjoyed her perspective as a woman my age forced into an earlier retirement than anticipated as well as a bankruptcy.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Why Grace Shoulda been a Luddite

I love Science Fiction which you'd think would put me on the cutting edge of technology. But without the funds to buy into all the new technology, I've been content to wait until at least the second generation.

Maybe my electronics know they are second best?

Because all at once, they have bought the farm. Or at least vital parts of them have.

First my power cord to my laptop bent, then broke off--goodbye battery power!

Second, my Kindle, the casing of which I'd managed to crack during the first month I had it (over two years ago) suddenly wouldn't allow its power cord to charge the machine.

And finally, my landline which I get through my Comcast internet account stopped working.

Buying a power cord for the laptop was a trip. Locally, it would cost me at least $60. But on Amazon the range is from $2.99 to $80. Wow! $2.99? Well, maybe not, since the reviews kept mentioning how that particular adaptor caught on fire!

Ultimately, I spent $19 for an adaptor that included a 1 year warranty and generally acceptable reviews.

The telephone is still up in the air--meaning Comcast is sending out a repairer to figure out what's wrong and whether it is my fault or theirs. I'm thinking it's theirs, since I tried a couple of different phones, including a corded one, with no better results. If I'm wrong, it will be $60 for the house call.

And the Kindle?

Apparently no one repairs a Kindle. Which is a shame because I love my e-Reader. I may call in one of my daughters who, as a child, used to haunt garage sales, buy electronics and take them apart for fun. She still has a good record of 'figuring out how to fix things.' I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Saving & Budgeting--Two Entirely Different Things

I had a bit of an epiphany as I was setting out new goals for myself (because, as I said before, September always feels like the beginning of a new year to me). For the first time, I realized that I cannot 'budget' my savings. To do so is to virtually guarantee that I will fail to save anything.

Usually, I try to 'give every dollar a name' as Dave Ramsey famously tells us
when following his budget instructions. I set out all my expenses and whatever is left over is labeled 'Savings.' The trouble is, somewhere between paying the bills, putting money into the envelopes and seeing what remains, those remains, the 'savings' portion, gets smaller and smaller.

But I do know there's a better way.

Two years ago, as a way to get a 'free' savings account from Bank of America (by which I mean, an account that does not need to have any particular minimum balance in it to avoid an annoying $3 per month charge), I agreed to have $50 a month transferred from my checking account into the savings account.

There was no penalty for immediately transferring the money back to checking, so I figured this was a no-brainer method to get a fee-free savings account. But a funny thing happened on my way to transferring the money back--I often forgot to do it. $50 was a small enough amount that I didn't really miss it in my budget, yet it was a large enough amount to give me $600 a year for my Christmas account.

So Grace's particular epiphany? The way to save money is to take it off the top and get it out of my checking account. If it stays in my checking account it WILL get spent, and that's irrespective of all my good intentions NOT to spend it. The surprise is that once I do get the money out of my checking account, a certain inertia sets in, and even though I could easily move the money back, I tend not to.

So my first September resolution is to up that transfer to $75. It may be a mind game but for me, it's one that works.

Friday, September 2, 2011

EOM Miscellaney

1. I reduced my total debt by only $253.90 in August. To make myself feel better, I went back and checked how much I've knocked off my indebtedness since the first of the year: $6091.48. There! I feel better already!

2. I have a post (the one about mothers, daughters and money) in the current Carnival of Personal Finance, hosted by Stumble Forward (love that name for a financial blog!). Does anybody besides me actually read the Carnival? I do because I find new-to-me blogs through it. But in checking my Sitemeter stats, I don't see that being in the carnival has brought me even one reader.

3. Chase Flexible Rewards is offering free balance transfers and a 2.99% interest rate through 1/31/2013. So Grace joined the credit card shuffle, moving balances from cards charging 13.24% and 12.24% interest. It doesn't exactly save me money each month, but it does ensure that more of my payment goes toward balance reduction.

4. For whatever reason, and notwithstanding that its been 34 years since I was last in school, Labor Day always seems like the beginning of the year for me, and a time when I'm up for making new resolutions. Sadly, however, and much like the resolutions made in January, they don't always last. But never one to give up, I'll be spending the week-end working on them anyway.