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Net Worth Review: August 2011

money update

It’s the beginning of the month, which means it’s time to examine last month’s finances and see how it’s affected our net worth. It’s a great exercise to help us see where we’re doing well and what we can improve on.

Our Spending Habits in August

Here are our 3 biggest expenses last month:

  • Medical Expenses: $2,237.17
  • Housing: $1,140.75
  • Food: $372.88

As expected, medical bills for labor & delivery were the big expenses. As for food, we’ve had to fill up on groceries. With the new routine, preparing dinner hasn’t always been a priority and so we’ve had some food ordered or picked up.

Checking & Savings

Our account went down significantly, but it was expected. We received our hospital bill for the baby and the bill and the obstetrical care. It was over $2,000 out of our pockets for the arrival of our lovely baby girl.

Hopefully we’ll get some of the money we paid reimbursed from my husband’s employer. While I would love to include this in our budget (the company has a wonderful track record), as a matter of habit I don’t count it until it’s in our hands.

My wish is that next’s month net worth review includes that money back in our accounts.

Retirement Accounts

It looks like our retirement funds took a bit of a hit last month. Nothing drastic, so we’re not going to change our asset allocation or anything. We’re still not planning on making any changes to our retirement contributions this year. We really wanted to focus on more immediate goals of getting ready for the baby.

I believe once we have some idea of how we’re going to handle our finances as new parents, we’ll look at our retirement accounts and contributions some time in 2012 and adjust accordingly.

Our Cars Expenses

We had my husband’s car repaired (much cheaper than the first estimate) and we’re happy that it’s good to go for now. We hope that it lasts a few years longer. Our goal is to build our car replacement fund for the next vehicle. We hope to get a car sometime next year, our current car is barely sufficient in size for our family. I believe the Jetta can handle until then, so we can sell it for additional funds.

In case you’re wondering how I calculate the vehicles’ values, I used Kelly Blue Book. Every quarter I’ll update the values to account for depreciation.

Student Loans

We have one student loan between us. Right now we’re continuing with the automatic monthly withdrawals for the student loan payments. This gives us a slight discount on the interest rate as an added bonus. It’s been relatively easy to keep up with them; we just confirm payments have been made each month from our joint checking.

If we have any savings in December after reaching our other financial goals for the year, we’re hoping to pay it down. Since this is a reach goal, I’m shooting for $2,000. If we don’t make it we won’t be disappointed, but if we do, it’ll be icing on the cake.

House and Mortgage

The mortgage payments are chugging along. As part of our usual routine, our automated extra principal payment (now $175) was sent in on the 15th of the month. When deciding on how much we were going to send in to our lender, our main focus was creating something sustainable and had some impact with the mortgage.

Here’s where we stand today with the mortgage:

  • Total Loan Amount: $109,760.30
  • Interest Rate: 5.00%
  • Loan Term: 30 years, fixed rate

Our goal is to pay off our mortgage years before we retire.  Right now our timeline is about 15 years, instead of the 30 years we signed up for. We wanted some wiggle room in case we ever hot a financial speed bump. Once our mortgage payoff is accomplished, we’d love to be able to direct that money into other interests and goals of ours down the road.

Monthly Summary

Now that everything has been summarized, it’s time to look at the numbers. Here’s our net worth from the spreadsheet:

Net Worth (as of August 31, 2011): $60,028.57 (-$777.23)

While we’re not happy to see how our net worth decrease, it wasn’t unexpected. I’m hoping that next month we’ll have the following done:

  • Get my husband’s old 401(k) moved into a Roth IRA
  • Get our deductible money reimbursed and back into our family fund

Your Net Worth Update

I shared my progress; now I’d love to hear from you. How are you doing with your finances? How are you doing in 2011 so far?

Photo Credit: The Cleveland Kid

The Penny Hoarder Interview

the penny hoarder interview on couple money

As a member of the personal finance community, I’m amazed at how many people are a part of it. Unfortunately that often means that I can’t always keep up with everyone. It’s a shame because there are some wonderful bloggers with their stories and advice on handling finances responsibly and with fun.

To counteract that and get the word out on other bloggers, I’ve started the Sunday Blogger series. It’s my hope that you’ll discover some new voices in the series.

This week I got to know Kyle from the Penny Hoarder; fascinating how he manages his money. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did.

The Penny Hoarder Interview

Why did you start The Penny Hoarder? the penny hoarder

I think I’ve secretly been a “penny hoarder” since birth. As a kid I remember setting up my own mock bank and stock market in the living room. We would often have neighbors come over and I would try to convince them to become an investor in my exchange. Sigh…LOL!

My penny hoarding continued when I started college. I started ebay-ing, mystery shopping, entering contests – anything I could do to make money for that pesky tuition bill. Along the way I came up with some really weird ways to make a buck and I wanted a way to share them with others.

How long have you’ve been blogging?

I’ve been blogging for less than a year. The Penny Hoarder launched on December 12, 2010.

You must have some favorite posts that you’ve written on The Penny Hoarder, which are they and why?

Oh, most definitely. There are a million blogs/websites that talk about ways to make extra money so I really pride myself on finding unique jobs to share with my readers. I love it when I get a comments or emails from readers about how much they enjoyed a post or even better, when I get emails telling me that they tried something I mentioned and were able to make a few extra bucks.

A few of the posts that come to mind are:  “I Get Paid to Buy Beer” , “Get Paid to Spy on Mailman“,  and “NASA will Pay You $5,000 Month to Lay in Bed“.

How do you handle your own finances? Do you have a formal budget or a more informal system?

I’m a formal budget kind of guy. When I first left home I made a million money mistakes and it took a long time for me to fix those mistakes. The thing that really helped me was to get all my finances on Quicken.

My partner and I also have a unique way of budgeting our miscellaneous budget. In addition to our main checking account, we both have our own personal accounts, which we refer to as our “Me Accounts”.

At the beginning of the month, we transfer an equal amount of money over to both of our Me Accounts. That’s our fun money. We use it for date nights, buying presents, hanging out with friends, etc. It works for us because it not only gives us some independence, but it ensures that there are rarely surprises in our checking account. It makes planning so much easier if your miscellaneous budget is planned for.

What’s the biggest financial mistake you’ve ever made? What did you learn from it?

Oy. It sounds so cliche, but I really messed up when I got my hands on my first credit card. I’m not sure what my 18-year old brain was thinking, because within a few months I maxed it out without any ability to pay it back. The experience definitely made me understand the idea of planning ahead. D’oh!

What are your goals this year with The Penny Hoarder?

This past month has been extremely exciting for my blog and I’d really like to build on it. Recently, I was asked to be part of several local news stories and then last week ABC Nightline flew a crew down to my house for an interview. It was so exciting and nerve wracking at the same time!

For this next year, I really want to increase the community aspect of The Penny Hoarder. I’d like our readers to have the ability to get more engaged and even have an outlet to share their own stories about how they made extra money. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to do that – whether it be a forum, more social networking, or even potentially a job board where readers could share “gigs” that they have found in their area.

==

Thanks to Kyle for the wonderful interview. I hope you take a few minutes today to check out The Penny Hoarder and chat with him on Twitter or Facebook.

Joining the Sunday Blogger Series

If you’re interesting in being interviewed as part of the Sunday Blogger series, I have a few requirements.

  • You’ve been blogging for 3 months.
  • You’ve publish genuine content. I want to connect to genuine bloggers, not linking to a spam site. I review all the sites before sending out interview questions.
  • You’re willingly to promote other bloggers in the series. I don’t expect you to tweet  ever interview, but I would like interviewees to spread the word on their favorite bloggers. By the way, I don’t want others to just promote the posts, please share posts from your favorite interviews. They are some wonderful bloggers out there.

 

Financial Mentors and iPads

ipad 2

Who’s Your Financial Mentor?

I’m running a post next week on financial mentors and I’d like to get your feedback. Who’s your financial mentor and why? It can be a financial guru like Dave Ramsey or it can be a family member or friend. I’m curious to see how others have affected it with our money views.

Please leave your picks below in the comments.

iPad Giveaways!

I have to mention 2 wonderful contests this week. If I don’t win, I hope a Couple Money reader does :)

Best wishes to the sites – I think it’s wonderful when a blogger goes all out for their readers!

Personal Finance Posts to Catch Up On

If you have some free time this weekend and want some tips and information for your finances, be sure to read some of these wonderful posts.

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did. I also recommend checking out my blogroll to pick up some great personal finance blogs to follow. Please also let me know what are some of your favorite blogs that you enjoy reading on a regular basis.

Have fun this weekend with your family and try to stay cool!

Photo Credit: Tsubaki Kaworu

 

My 7 Links at Couple Money

seven links

There’s been a meme floating around the blogosphere lately–7 Links. The goal of this is to have bloggers revisit their old posts and provide a retrospective in 7 assigned categories.

I’ve been tagged by Out of Your Rut and so I’m sharing my own 7 Links with you.

Your Most Beautiful Post

Ironically my most beautiful post is one where I needed time off to grieve from my grandmother’s death last year. It gave me an opportunity to reflect on lesson learned from both grandmothers.

I’m extremely grateful to my family for their help and wisdom.

Your Most Popular Post

After checking with Google Analytics to verify, my most popular post is How to Pay Off Your Car Loan. I think it struck a chord for many people because i wrote about how we did it with our car.

Your Most Controversial Post

I don’t really go out of my way to write controversial posts. It’s just not my style. However there are some topics in personal finance that people feel passionate about. My post on paying off the mortgage early had comments on both sides of the aisle. Some people believe in investing the money instead of paying down the mortgage faster.

Your Most Helpful Post

Looking at the traffic, it looks like my Debt Reduction Guide was helpful for visitors and readers on Couple Money. I shared how we paid down debt, but I think what really enhanced the post was other people’s strategies. It enforced to me that sharing different perspectives with finances can help people find what works for their own circumstances.

A Post Whose Success Surprised You

I really didn’t think it would be popular, but my post on Costco Membership Benefits seemed to be really useful for many readers. I was inspired to write about it because even though you hear about warehouse clubs being a good deal, that isn’t always the case. At the time we were a couple with no kids, so we were wondering if it was a good deal for us or should be not renew our membership.

We ended up showing that the membership more than paid for itself and we continue to be Costco members.

A Post You Feel Didn’t Get The Attention it Deserved

I really wished that Living off of Cash, Not Credit?would’ve been seen by more people. It came out a couple months after I started the site, so the audience at the time was pretty small.

While I’m not a hardcore anti-credit card blogger, I do feel that too many people depend on the ‘credit lifestyle’. Living on a cash basis is better for many people as they get their finances in order.

The Post You Are Most Proud Of

Tough one – there have been several posts that I’ve put a lot into. Picking one of them, I’d go with Budgeting More Giving. It’s not my most eloquent post or deepest analysis on the site, but it’s a heartfelt one. I think that helping others with your resources is important.

I was a part of Free Money Finances’ March Madness this past year and was able to raise money for one of my favorite causes – Charity: Water.

My Nominations

The next part of this is I’m supposed to pass this along to 5 other bloggers.I’m nominating some members of the Yakezie community:

 

Photo Credit: melanie_hughes

 

10 Kitchen Appliances You May Never Use

kitchen appliances not useful

Wouldn’t it be great to have a specific machine or gadget for every task in the kitchen? When you’re improvising this may seem like the ideal, but it is really not.

There are a couple of kitchen electronics we use every day (coffee maker and toaster) while the rest are used occasionally. Our condo has the smallest kitchen we’ve ever had making counter and cupboard space a premium and only for the must-haves.

Then there is the cost factor. $20-$50 sounds inexpensive until you multiply it by number of appliances. Of course, the price could be even higher depending on features and brand.

Least Used Kitchen Appliances

Here are ten items I’ve had or considered that were eventually deemed unnecessary. Most likely, you don’t need them either.

1. Baked Potato Cooker. We got this as a Christmas gift. I appreciate the thought but we never used it and finally donated it after storing for a couple of years. I prefer the taste of oven-baked potatoes. If we don’t have the time or want to heat the kitchen, I just microwave them.

2. Electric Wok. At one time, I used the wok every 3-4 weeks, but the footprint of it required a lot of storage space so it was downsized along with our home. Now, I use a large multi-purpose skillet and it works just fine.

3. Cappuchino Maker. My oldest son wanted one of these for a holiday present years ago. We gave it to him and I think it got used a handful of times. He liked the drinks but wasn’t willing to go to the trouble to make them regularly. Not too much later, it was at a garage sale.

4. Ice Cream Maker. This may be the most controversial machine on the list. I remember how much time electric makers saved homemade ice cream lovers when they first came out. However, most households just don’t use them enough to justify the storage space.

5. Rotisserie. Chicken broiled on a rotisserie is one of my favorite meals. I get a 3-4 pound broiled chicken for only $5 at the nearby big box store. Just the thought of cleaning the machine, let alone paying for and storing it, turns me off!

6. Sandwich Press. Who doesn’t love a grilled sandwich or panini? But you don’t need a separate machine. I have a counter-top grill with 5 types of inserts so I can make hot sandwiches, waffles and grill meat all with the same appliance.

7. Wine Opener. If you open a bottle of wine nightly, then maybe this gadget wouldn’t be a bad deal. For box wine or infrequent drinkers, a manual corkscrew is just fine.

8. Ice Shaver. Hawaiian shaved ices are refreshing on a hot summer day. What do you do with the machine the rest of the year? I think it’s cheaper in the long run to buy the occasional shaved ice instead of getting the machine and ingredients.

9. Egg Cooker. When I think about the hundreds of years people have been cooking eggs, an electric egg cooker seems very unnecessary. Don’t limit yourself to cooking them one or two styles. Use a skillet or pot (for boiled eggs) and follow a good cook book. You’ll be making perfect eggs in no time.

10. Quesadilla Maker. We love quesadillas, but it seems silly to have machine just to make them and warm tortillas. That multi-purpose skillet is the perfect size for burrito size tortillas and my husband makes a mean chicken quesadilla!

Take a critical look at your kitchen? Do you have machines and gadgets that are rarely used? Lighten the load and sell or donate them. What is the kitchen appliance you never use?

photo: Some rights reserved by jbcurio