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Net Worth Review: May 2011

pile of money

It’s the beginning of the month, which means it’s time to examine last month’s finances. With June here, we’re inching closer to the arrival of our baby girl next month. I think it’s hitting us a bit more that we need to stay focused on our finances now. Once our daughter’s here, we’ll be spending our time and energy getting adjusted as parents and getting to know. Being prepared now will give some peace of mind with the transition (baby expenses!) coming up.

Our Spending Habits in May

Boy, oh, boy, we spent some money in May. Here are our 3 biggest expenses last month:

  • Home (Mortgages, Extra Payments, HOA Fees, etc): $1,140.75
  • Food (Groceries, Restaurants, Etc): $482.87
  • Bills/Utilities: $361.30

As you can see, housing is our biggest expenses between the essentials and the extra principal payment we send in. I’m happy that our food bill decreased significantly this month.

Checking & Savings

We transfered some money from savings to checking and after my husband pointed out some inefficiencies, we’re going to make some changes with the accounts. Hopefully with next month’s review I’ll be able to point out the increase with our savings and a steady buffer in our checking account.

Retirement Accounts

We’re still not planning on making any changes to our retirement contributions this year. We really want to focus on more immediate goals of getting ready for the baby. I can’t anticipate the future, but I believe once we have some idea of how we’re going to handle our finances as parents, we’ll look at our retirement accounts and contributions.

My husband’s 401(k) has steadily been going up and it’s bumped up our assets a bit this month.

Our Cars

The automated deposits are coming along as planned and if everything continues as it has this year, we should reach our goal of socking away $5,000 more into the car replacement fund in 2011.

Both cars seem to be doing well. We’ve had no repairs to do, we just need to take care of our fluid levels on the vehicles. 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

Nothing exciting or new, we’re just chugging along with the student loan payments. Payments have been automated so it’s been relatively easy to keep up with them; we just confirm payments have been made each month. We switched the payments from the end of the month to the middle of the month to break the expenses between our deposits.

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: $110,890.76
  • Interest Rate: 5.00%
  • Loan Term: 30 years, fixed rate

Our goal is to pay off our mortgage way before we retire.  Right now our timeline is about 15 years, instead of 30 years. Once accomplished, we’d love to be able to direct that money into other interests and goals of ours down the road.

Monthly Summary

Here’s our net worth from the spreadsheet:

Net Worth (as of May 31, 2011): $52,389.44 (+$1,634.68)

Your Net Worth Update

How are you doing with your finances? How are you doing in 2011 so far?

Photo Credit: borman818

Love Drop: The Aubin Family

love drop join

Another month begins, so that means it’s time to get ready for another Love Drop! I wanted to help spread the word, so let me share this family’s story:

This month we’re coming together for the Aubin family (Sheila and her three children), who are going through a tough time right now with the loss of Keith, their husband and father.

He passed away in April after a long battle with multiple health problems, but he left behind a powerful legacy – donating many parts of his body so that others might live a better life.

Sheila and the kids are under financial pressure right now, and we want to raise at least $3,600 to pay their rent for the next three months, allowing them to focus on everything they need to take care of without fear of losing their home.

I don’t know how J and Nate do it, but every month they find fantastic families that truly deserve a Love Drop. If you want to be involved with Love Drop, please sign up for membership to donate $1,$5, or even $20/month. When your donation is combined with other contributions, some wonderful results happen. You can also make a one time contribution.

Love Drop is a great project and I can’t wait to see what the team is up to next!

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. There are some handy tips this week to help you out.

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 a wonderful weekend with your family!

4 Ways to Tackle Job Stress

handling job stress

 

Many people lost their jobs during the recent recession.  Those left often had to assume an additional workload.  This factor along with project deadlines, office politics and lack of control over your day can add up to a great deal of stress.

Stress can adversely impact your health with headaches, stomach problems, depression and more. Since most working adults spend half their waking hours at work, it’s important to deal with stress to avoid these consequences.

Get Enough Rest

Not getting enough sleep impacts mental performance.  It is even harder to meet the demands of your job when thinking and moving are slower than normal.  Memory is affected and  I am some people are more irritable.

Get yourself to bed in time to get a good night’s rest. Try sleeping without an alarm clock and let your body get as much rest as it needs.  Except for early morning trips, I haven’t used an alarm for years.

Exercise

There are several positive results of exercise that contribute to decreasing stress.  Exercise releases endorphins in your body which contributes to happiness and a sense of well being.  The increased blood flow to the brain aids enhances thinking.

Moving your body with exercise helps release muscle tenseness.  Ironically, exercise also helps you sleep better so you’re making the most of your rest time.

If exercise is not part of your current routine, check with your physician before starting a new program.

Diet

A lot of people respond to stress with changes in their diet.  Some can’t eat when they’re stressed out. Without fuel, our bodies (and mind) can’t perform as well.

Others, like me, overeat for comfort with salty or sugary foods.  Although this may provide temporary respite, the behavior can lead to weight gain and is often unhealthy.

It is important to follow good eating habits especially when under stress.  Don’t skip meals and do try to eat at the same time every day.  When tempted to grab that comfort snack, distract yourself with a quick walk or a piece of gum.

Environment

Sometimes the work environment itself is causing stress. Figure out what about your surroundings is causing distress.  Is it noise, seating, smells or some other factor?

If you can’t resolve these issues yourself, then work with your manager or human resources department to improve the situation.  If they can’t eliminate the distraction there may be other ways to tackle it.

One possibility is relocating your workstation.  Maybe you don’t like being near the lunchroom, but a sociable person might.  If noise is distracting then maybe your position can be performed with headphones.

Another option is telecommuting.  Not only would this resolve any office distractions but some people are less stressed by removing the commute and having more autonomy.

These steps can help with most job stresses.  If all else fails, you might consider finding new work.  Take steps to makes sure you don’t end up in the same situation at the new workplace.

How do you fight job stress?

Photo: Attribution Some rights reserved by alancleaver_2000

Getting Diapers at a Discount – Possible?

discount diapers for baby

Babies are not cheap. As our baby’s due date approaches, we’re becoming more and more aware of the financial costs of our new family member. As we’re preparing, I’ve been asking family and friends for their advice and their opinions on what we need to get ready.

The one item that kept getting mentioned to us is diapers. Every parent I spoke to told us that we’ll be surprised at how many diapers we’ll be going through and how much it will cost us. How much money are we talking about? The Bump has these estimates when it comes to diapers:

Newborn babies use an average of 75 diapers per week and up to 320 diapers per month. At about $.25 per diaper, that adds up over the year. Tack on two boxes of wipes per month ($3 each), and baby soap, lotion, powder, oil, and diaper rash ointment (about $14 month) and you have an additional $240 per year. Cloth diapers will save you money, if you plan to do the laundering, however using a diaper service costs about the same as disposable diapers.

For our sake and for others, I decided to looking into this further and see if its possible to find a way to get diapers at a discount.

Diapering Options

The good news is that parents do have choices when it comes to picking their diapering method. As far as I could see  it boils down to three options for parents:

  • Disposables: A popular choice for families that I’ve seen around. It can quickly add up and their environmental effects of the diapers in landfills bothers some parents.
  • Cloth Diapers: More and more people are looking at this option not only for environmental reasons, but also to keep costs in check.
  • Diapering Service: This option is supposed to allow parents the best of both worlds – reusable diapers that are cleaned outside the home.

Some parents have decided to mix it, but many still choose one method and stick with it for the most part.

Disposable Diapers

According to the estimates, parents can expect to pay around $72/month ($864/year) for the baby’s first year with disposables. While highly convenient for parents, it can quite a burden to keep forking over the money for more and more diapers.

Saving Money on Disposable Diapers

Shop in bulk. I’ve found that the cheapest option is getting your diapers in bulk for discount. If you’re a warehouse club member, you can get some big savings, especially when you consider how quickly you’ll go through them.

Online sites can be your friend. They are some great deals on diapers with online sites. Two of the big ones are diapers.com and Amazon (which offers additional discounts with Amazon Mom).

Join the a mailing list of your favorites brand. Baby Cheapskate shared how you can get some coupons simply by signing up as a member for one of the big disposable diaper companies:

Cloth Diapers

This seems to be the most frugal option with an estimated $19/month ($228/year) in diaper costs. However you also have to consider the cost of cleaning the diapers yourself. There is also flushable diaper inserts which can help some parents move towards cloth diapers. You have to check to see if your toilet at home can handle them as I’ve read from other bloggers that may not always be the case.

It seems that there is quite a few options for parents when it comes to cloth diapers, with several ‘big’ brands to choose from like bumGeniusFuzziBunzHappy HeinysgDiapers,and Rumparooz.

Saving on Cloth Diapers

Ask around to find the right brand for you. With so many more options now, it pays to see what system fits your lifestyle. I also noticed that cloth diapers can be pricey or they can be fantastically cheap.

Shop in bulk. While you don’t have to buy diapers as frequently as disposable, getting a big pack can be much cheaper than buying them in 2 packs.

Reuse. If you’re looking to save significantly, there are sites like Diaper Swapper that allow parents to sell their gently used cloth diapers. Some parents may not feel comfortable, but it could be an option for others.

Do It Yourself. Unless you’re skilled or have the time to make your own diapers, I’d pass on this. I saw some sites that offered instructions on how to do it, so if you want to I’ve included a link to one of them.

Diapering Service

BabyCenter reports that it’s about $76/month ($912/year) for parent to use a diapering service. Since prices can vary greatly according to where you live, please see how much it will cost you.

I don’t have any tips on saving with diapering service. I would just recommend looking around at all of your options in your area. If you use a diapering service, please share your average costs. It could help other parents to figure out if it’s a practical option for them.

Thoughts on Finding Diapers at a Discount

I’ve found that some parents have done variations of cloth and disposables based on their own baby’s needs. While we’re putting disposable diapers on the registry, we’ve haven’t ruled out cloth diapers. I’d like to get your thoughts and opinions on how you handle diapering.

How many of you are already been through or are going through the diaper stage? What tips do you have for new parents trying to keep to a reasonable budget? Please share your costs and savings with diapering too. We could sure use the perspective!

Join In the Baby Expenses Series

Are you a parent or a parent to be with some helpful advice or stories? Please go ahead and join in on the fun, there are 4 ways you can be a part of it:

  1. Leave your tips in the comment section. I  love reviewing thoughtful comments from readers. Some topics have several ‘right’ answers and I think sharing different view points can be helpful.
  2. Submit your stories for future posts. As you know, baby and expenses can cover a variety of topics. If you have a short story or some tips you want to share, please submit them. If you’re a blogger, please share your site’s address with the email so I can credit you if you want.
  3. Write a blog post about your experience. Please include a link in your bio for your site and if you have a relevant post on your site, please link to it in your post.
  4. Share you favorite posts with friends. If you have a favorite post, please share them with your friends who are expecting. I’ve included share buttons for Facebook and Twitter to make it easier and you can always email them your favorite posts as well. If you think it’s a great for them, please encourage your friends to sign up and receive updates through RSS or directly to their inbox. It’s free and an easy way for them to keep up with the latest posts on Couple Money.

If you’re expecting or raising a newborn, I wish you and your family the best!

Photo Credit: Sellers Patton

Go Insurance Rates Review

car insurance

You may have noticed a new partner on my site – Go Insurance Rates. I wanted to take some time and explain why I signed up with them and how their service can really help you save a lot of money on auto insurance.

Go Insurance Rates – Shop Around From Home

If you’re looking for a great deal on car insurance, then shopping around and getting quotes can be a very smart move for your budget. I highly recommend comparing rates because that how we able to cut our auto insurance premiums, simply by switching providers.

I checked online and all my memberships to see if we could lower our insurance bill. We were both good drivers, so we wanted to get a better premium without sacrificing our coverage. Along with getting some better coverage, we now also get free towing and jump starts included. That saved us some additional money as we allowed our AAA membership to lapse. (If you travel extensively, AAA has some additional services that are worth the costs.)

Every so often we review what we have to make sure it’s still a good deal. Go Insurance Rates offers you an opportunity to quickly get quotes from big insurance companies such as Progressive and Allstate.

Tips to Saving More Money on Auto Insurance

If you’re looking for more ways to trim your auto insurance premiums, here are some additional tips that can help.

  • Ask About Discounts: You may be able to get a non-smoker discount, a professional discount, a student discount, a good credit or financial stability discount, renewal and loyalty discounts, and a myriad of other discounts if you simply ask for them.
  • Embrace Safety Features and Devices: Safety features, such as airbags, anti-lock brake systems, and anti-theft systems, can help you save money on your auto insurance.
  • Don’t Buy Too Much Insurance: Although you should never skimp on insurance, it pays to be conservative and really think about the type of coverage you need before purchasing a policy. You don’t need duplicate coverage.
  • Raise Your Deductible: Raising your deductible will lower your monthly insurance costs. Of course, you will be on the hook for the deductible if something goes wrong. But if you have an emergency fund, you can easily self-insure and get your investment to pay off in a year or two.
My personal recommendation when you’re comparing car insurance companies is to have a copy of your current policy to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. If you decide to go with an auto insurance company, see if you can find a current customer of theirs to make sure you’re getting a good value. Just looking at the cheapest options isn’t always the best move. I hope you can use Go Insurance Rates and find a better rates for your car insurance!

Thoughts on Shopping for Car Insurance and Getting Better Rates

I’d love to get your thoughts on saving money with insurance. How often do you shop around for auto insurance? Have you’ve been able to save money? How much? What tips do you have on getting additional discounts?

Photo Credit: jmv