Friday, July 29, 2011

alternative living - part 1

Previously I posted about retirement planning and lowering cost of living options.  Here is a further look into one of the alternative living arrangements to lower the cost of living:  RV or mobile homes.

Here are the pros and cons to living in an RV:
Pros:
- RVs are a lot cheaper than homes for the most part.  We are not talking about getting million dollar RVs.
-There is no property tax because you don't own land.
-you can live where ever you want
-you can travel as much or little as you want
-there are ways to provide for your utility needs without being on the grid
-keeps you from owning too much junk
-no yard work

Cons:
-these isn't a lot of space
-you can't always park it where you want
-you have to know a little about maintaining the vehicle
-your guests any really stay over
-water usage has to be monitored well
-if you stay at a place that you can hook up to the utilities there, you still have to pay rent for the site, but it costs a lot less than a house rental
- you might develop a reputation as "the man that lives in a van down by the river"

The cost of living in a RV is a lot lower than in a house.  The down side is the you have to live kind simple. With the Internet and cellphone coverage being so great and getting better, communications isn't a problem.  Same with TV and other entertainment formats.  TV and electronics are getting smaller and more energy efficient, that having them around doesn't take up a lot of space.  Though you may not fit a 50" TV in your RV(and you could if you really wanted to), you wouldn't need it.  With the prevalence of solar panels, and other solar base ideas, your utilities will also be lighter.  For those who are extreme minimal in owing things, space isn't an issue. 

This would be a great way to travel both North and South Americas.  Depending on the cost of shipping and conversion, not a bad way to travel Europe and Asia as well.

There are a couple of site that will detail cost, how and why of living in a RV:
http://cheaprvliving.com/
http://www.your-rv-lifestyle.com/

Of course,  in the meantime, we can still take a page from the RV life style book on lowering the cost of living.  Habits like not owning a lot of stuff and monitoring your energy are good ideas anyway.  For me personally, I would love to install solar panels on my house.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

job vs job

I have been looking for a job close to home for a long time.  Nothing has ever popped up where it would be close to home, and I mean less than 30mins commute by car.  At least not for what I do, which is in the graphics arts area.  I have job that I like.  The pay is good.  The only thing is the commute is longer than I would like, especially for having kiddies.  I spend about 1hr each way on the train.  Driving is not really an option. 

I didn't want to leave my old job, but they were moving to an area that would mean 2hrs commute each way.  My current job has a slight shorter commute than my old job, but better promotion potential.  I was grateful that I found my current job before my old job was moved.  Since I got my current job almost a year ago, I stopped really looking. I still get the email for the search results and read them occasionally. 

What did I get  in my inbox yesterday?  A search result that has a job opening 10mins drive from my house.  OMG, I want to on apply.  So why am I hesitating? 
1. Well, the job is not what I am currently doing exactly.  It is what I was doing 7 years ago and I am not sure if want to go back to doing that.
2. Salary wise, I am almost topped out at what they are offering for salary, while I am still go up 10-20% were I am now.
3. I know spending time with family is important, and should be important.  BUT, do I want to be doing this job when my kids are in school? in 5 years, 10 years?
4.  the time I spend commuting, I get to enjoy a little quite time.  I read or watch TV episode on my media player.  I feel like if I were close to home, I'd spend all my time with my kids and go crazy not having some self time, which is what happens on the weekends.
5.  The pension system is that I get an average of my highest paid few years.  I wold have better retirement if I stayed where I am.
6.  I don't want to look like an @$$ if I only stayed less than a year at a place where they really like having me around to go to do some job that I am not sure I want to do.

Reasons I should:
1) 2 hrs more with my family - the list should really just end here with me applying to the job.
2) with the money I am saving on transportation it would not seem so bad without the high salary increase, at first.
3) we are already comfortable with our current income without the salary increase, inflation might change that soon

In the end, I feel like I am being selfish if I don't apply, regardless if I can get the job or not.

all you have to do is ask

While I was poking around the giant online store that is Amazon.com yesterday, I looked at what I bought for my mom last week.  Holy crap-o-la!  The item I bought just went down in price.  I was a bit annoyed.  It had only been 5 days and the price dropped $8+ dollars. I know, this is penny pinching at its best.  I got annoyed over $8.  But it's only been 5 days. 

So I called Amazon.com.  I asked the person if they will honor the new lower price and give me the difference.  They said yes so I got the money back.  yay!!!

Then, I figure I give another company a call like that as well.  We got some LEGOs a few weeks back.  While we thought we got the free shipping promo, there was a $17 shipping charge on the invoice.  I called LEGO and asked.  They clarified there because there was another promo on the order the free shipping for bumped, but they will credit me this time because of the confusion.  2 for 2.

Recently, we got some work done for the house.  When we called Costco for the quote, it took them 2 weeks return the call.  By then, their promo was over.  We got a quote with a different promo, which was not as big a discount.  However, I asked if we could get the 1st promo since we did call while it was going on, and not our fault that the call was returned too late.  I was expecting just one promotion being honored, but they decided to give us both promotions.  3 for 3.

Some times, it doesn't hurt to just ask.  The worst is the answer being NO, which is not really a big deal if you don't EXPECT to get it. 

Now, I will go ask the powers-that-be to give me that $74million Mega Millions jackpot ticket.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

planning for retirement - part 2

Last post I concluded that if I had $1million in the bank, then I could retire if I live in a very cheap area.  Now, what if I don't have that in the bank?  I think there are a few alternative ways of living that would be affordable on low/restricted income.

1) living aboard - the cost of owning a boat and living on a boat seems to be less than owning a house, plus mobility
2) living in a RV/mobile home - not like trailer parks of yore.  Some mobile homes are really nice, especially if you don't own a house, you can put that money into the mobile home
3) long term travel - you can travel extensively and live in other countries for much less than in the States, rent out the house we own to generate income.
4) reverse mortgages

Of course, some of these require that I am in good health or some of these will have set date of stop, like the reverse mortgage.  I'll look into the pros and cons of each in my future posts.

Monday, July 25, 2011

planning for retirement - part 1

I was reading RB40's post about $1million not being enough for retirement.  I got to thinking, what if that was enough?  Where and how would I live if that was what I had?  Maybe I sure plan for that.  Let's take a look at what retirement would be like in about 25 yrs:

1) kids would be out of the house - I really hope so!!!
2) house would be paid off and downsized
3) investment/rentals would be paid off or sold - hopefully paid off so it just generates some income
4) cars - will probably only need 1 and would be paid off
5) smaller house = smaller utility expenses
6) health and other insurance will rise
7) food cost will be the same per person, but only 2 people in the household.
8) more money spent on hobbies
9 taxes will still be about the same

Over all, the expense is dramatically lower in 25 years than now.  So if I am in the habit of living frugally will $1 million be enough? If I get 1% interest like the current saving rate, that's $10k /yr, and $600 after tax.  My rentals/investments will have to generate additional 2-3x that for me to live where I am living currently, which is a pretty expensive area.  However, if I am living in a lower cost of living area, my rentals will only have generate another $600 net for me to live well.  So the aim should probably to pay off all debt first, which include mortgages of personal use and investment.  Then comes savings.  And I should choose a lifestyle that will fit my then earnings, and not my earns to chase after a life style.  But isn't that what we started with anyways with frugal living?

P.S. I am also not counting Social Security because 1) I don't know if I will get to see it 2) if I do, it would just be travel money.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

keeping up with tech

Recently, I started looking into getting a new cellphone plan.  While I compare the plans from different companies, I also have to look at their phones.  Why?  Because there is no one standard for the various networks, and the companies can't/don't want to flash phones over.

I found a plan that I liked (can live with the cost).  Then I started to look at the phones.  These were smart phones (because the plan requires them and because that plan was better than the non-smartphone plan).  I always worry that if I bought the phone, then something new will come out and I will have to buy another one soon (in less than 2 years)because they will stop supporting it or it can't keep with the network. 

I always worry about that when I am buying anything electronic.  I don't want to spend money on technology that will be obsolete, which is inevitable.  It's even more worrisome when you are looking at new technology.  Remember the battle between HD DVD and Blue Ray?  No?  It's because BlueRay won and no one buys HD DVDs now.  Of course, I'd never buy the newest thing then it first comes out, even though I really want to.  I get all geeked up when I see something new, like all-electric vehicles.

I remember when I didn't really worry about spending some money every 2 years to upgrade.  I must be getting old or something because I am starting to think that spending money on  new tech every 2 years is getting to be too much.  I want something that will last me at least 3 or 4 years.  That's asking a lot since Wirth's law, Moore's law, and Kryder's law basically makes everything obsolete within 4 years or less.  I would like to get the best or close to top of the line, so I can wait longer between having to upgrade. The longer I wait, the worse it seems get. It's a love-hate relationship I have with technology.

Monday, July 18, 2011

cellphone plans are ridiculous

Recently,  I took a look at my cellphone bill.  What a shocker.  I was on a very old plan that I shared with my mom.  The cost of the plan is a little ridiculous consider in that neither of us has a smart phone and I only recently started to use texting - yes, I lived under a rock for several years.  This plan wasn't the most expensive, but with all the surcharge BS, it's expensive for the amount of talk you can do without overage charges.  These giant telecom companies are just legalized robbers, IMO. 

I poked around a bit and discovered that some of the pay-in-advance or pay-as-you-go plans are much much cheaper than signing the 2 yr contracts, even if you have to buy your own phone.  I guess these no contract plans don't have the latest and the greatest phones, but does anyone need the latest and the greatest?  I am guessing that most PF focused people with think not.

But what about the coverage?  Most of the no-contract cellphone companies are own by one of the big telecom networks.  So the coverage of the no-contracts use the network of the biggies.

The only down side I can see is that most no-contracts' unlimited plans are just as expensive as the contract plans, and the minutes plans don't have free nights and weekends or free mobile to mobile - every minute counts.  My answer to that: Google Voice!   I love this little free call forwarding service.  I am contemplating on porting my current number to Google Voice, which is $20.  After that I can just make sure to set up my forwarding, with the time and phone # presets.  Also, this way I can use any cellphone company and not have to worry about a new number.


PS.  I think Google maybe become SkyNet when it becomes self aware. =)

Friday, July 15, 2011

sugarbabies: the new gold diggers

I was flipping channel last night when I stumbled upon MTV's Real Life: Sugar babies.  The show followed 3 people as they try to catch a sugar daddy or sugar mommy to fund their expensive life style that they can't afford.  All three are around 21 or 22 and fairly attractive.  All three want things that they don't have money for.  All three said they think it's awesome if they can get someone to buy them stuff.

It seems like these people are chasing life styles  they can't have.  One girl wants a singing career, but have not been very successful so need some funding to continue her pursuit.  The other girl like jet setting, partying, dinning and shopping at expensive places, things.  The guy moved to a affluent area and wants to keep up with the Joneses while working as an entry computing job.  They all want these things, but don't want to work for them.

As I started watching the show, I thought to myself "WTF? This is like prostitution!"  The girls said they don't want the relationship to get sexual.  Really?  Some guy will just pay for everything for you because they want to hangout with you?  Even if the guy doesn't say he wants that on the first date - one actually said he expects it at some point -  all of them may just want that eventually.  I would think even the cougar will want it eventually.  These young people are in it for the money.  Trading companionship for money or material things.  Isn't that prostitution?  How is this different from the high priced escorts?  Well, the life style that these young people want but not to have to earn it, they are working for it but they just don't know it.

Maybe I am just jealous that I can't get off my moral high horse and see that this is a good way to get stuff?  This seems like a slippery slope kind of life. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

the cost of commute

Just how much does getting to and from work cost?  Around where I live, it's about $15 a day, and that is the cheapest.  I work downtown and live in the suburbs.  I don't live in the city because the schools were I am now is better than in the city.  Mr. LLF's job gives some perks for living where we are, and he has a sweet commute, which is good for taking care of kiddie stuff.  Living closer to the city means more expensive house, which we can not afford at the moment.

Why does it cost so much?  I drive to the train station (20mins).  It take 2x times as long to bike there.  The train cost close to $5 a trip, plus parking which is 3.50 to 4.75, depending on which station I go to.  So the gas, plus train, plus parking is about $15/day x 5days.  So my cost of commute which is $65-75 a week.  My employer subsidize $100 a month, so that covers about a week and a half(no complaints there).  That is only if I take the train.  If I drove, it would be more gas, plus $12-15/day parking, downtown.

To reduce cost of the commute, I worked four 10 hr days each week.  Which great because I had 3 day weekends every weekend, and 4 on holiday weekends.  However, that means leaving at 6am and not getting home until 7pm.  This is not a problem for singles and married with no kids.  Since I would like to seem the little LLFers(..haha.hmmmmm) I work only five 8hr days.

Adding to the equation is that I started a new job 8 months ago, and was told that someone up the chain didn't like the telecommuting idea because there was a bad precedence once a few years ago.  I did not want to push the subject, being a new person.  Now, that someone has retired, and it will be 1 year for me in 4 months, I will ask again for the telecommuting 1 day a week, to start off.  Maybe withs some luck, I can eventually get to 2 days a week.  Here to hoping for the best!

Monday, July 11, 2011

wardrobe pieces to save money on

My last post was about items to splurge on.  Here is a list of item that I would spend less on, but still make my wardrobe updated and fun.  These items will and should not cost a more than $50 a piece(usually 20).

blouses - this includes dress shirt, short or long sleeves, any top that is not a tee shirt.  Keep it colorful or basic.  These will change your trouser or skirt and make it for the office or night out on the town.  These you can update once or twice a year to keep your colors and designs current.

cardigan sets - just one or two is great form office to PTA meeting to afternoon tea.  Also the cardigan can be used separately for your dresses

dresses - a nice cotton sheath dress will also go office to PTA meeting to afternoon tea pair with a cardigan, a drapier dress can be office appropriate with a blazer, or night out with a shaw/wrap.  Target's Merona brand has surprisingly good quality dresses for around $30 (just have to make sure they fit is correct) Just be sure the length is appropriate for age and setting.

slacks/jeans-  These are great for every day wear.  Just one or 2 will get you a long way.  Plain front and slight boot cut is the most flattering on every body type.

Tee and tanks - these can the most fun, go for a couple of glam ones to dress up your jeans or layer under blazer for a edgier office look. 

skirts - these are fun to have, and one or 2 will get you a long way in maxing up your looks for both work and weekend wear.  Again, be sure the length is appropriate for age and setting.

accessories - jewelry don't have to expensive to look nice.  Scarves and hats will change up you outfit quite a bit.

Friday, July 8, 2011

5 basic wardrobe pieces worth splurging on

In my effort to sort out my closet, I took a look at what I wear the most, which is work clothes.  I work in a business causal and sometimes business attire environment so I have some flexibility.  I find these pieces to be stables and can fit both formal and causal work environments, so I think they are worth spending a little extra.  

Trousers - a couple of pairs of trousers in black and gray are essential.  I would leave brown or tan to slacks.  These will have to work with the blazer, which I will talk about.  It would be nice to get machine washable wool, so you don't spend a ton on dry cleaning.  A good fitting pair of trousers will can also be a part of of night out outfit.

Pencil Skirt - I would also get one or two pencil skirts in gray or black.  One of them should be the same material as your trouser and blazer.

Blazer - One good blazer will take your trousers or pencil skirt from business casual to business attire.  Make sure that it's the same material as one of your skirts and trousers - this way you have 2 suits without buying 2 suits.  A single breasted, one or two button blazer, with minimal hardware details will stand the test of time.  Make sure to have the sleeves hemmed.

Coat - Depending on you local climate, you will want a coat with the right weight.  A good coat will  last you a long time so be sure to  get one in a classic cut and color.

Bag - Same as the coat.  Better to spend a little more and get more year out of the bag then spend less and having to get a new one every year.

They don't have to be a designer label or be very expensive.  Usually, places like the Limited, BR, J. Crew, Ann Taylor have sales that can get you at least first 3 of these for less than $500 total.  Of course, this list to taking into account that you don't our grow the size of these clothes.  More reason to stay in shape. =)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

to insure or not to insure

I am talking about life insurance.  It's kinda of a morbid game insurance companies play with you.  They bet that you won't die, you bet that you will.  If you die,  your beneficiaries win.  If you don't the insurance companies win.  Very depressing, but kinda necessary. 

The basic term life coverage is pretty low cost, and only goes up drastically as you reach 60+.  With that, you get a very small amount that just pretty much covers the expense of you funeral.  This is worth the small payments so your loved ones don't have to dig into their emergency savings. 

However, if you have debt that your estate can not pay, your loved ones will be inheriting that elephant.  So getting a little more than basic would be good. Right?  How much?  Do get coverage equal to your salary of 1 year, 2 years, or a set amount, like equal to your mortgage?  These extras will start pushing the premiums up.  So at what point do you say I have enough coverage?  Or do you say I can afford this much $$ per month so I'll get as much I can for that?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

something worth celebrating

This is my first ever financial check up, and it's a rough estimate.  I like to keep it at a conservative rough estimate because I don't like to depend too much on the house equity to blow up my number.  Here we go:

Liabilities:

House Mortgage - 336,629.45
Rental #1 Mortgage - 140,000
Rental #2 Mortgage - 300,000

Assets:
Liquid assets - 22400
House value - 590000
Rental 1 value - 220000
Rental 2 value - 310000
Investment - 50000

Net worth - 415770.55

Hopefully, the rental values will not plummet further in the next year.

Friday, July 1, 2011

budgetting for leeches

This is a continuation of the previous post  regarding the friend, the friend's significant other, and the friend's SO's financial habits.

The friend's SO had children from a previous marriage that will hit up the SO for money.  Large sums of money for things they can't afford, but want or feel like they need.  When these children's demands come around, they really throw a wrench in the new and responsible financial plans that the SO is trying to follow.  My friend was fuming at the fact the SO cannot change his way of saying yes too often to these children, or teach them to be more responsible.

So I suggested to her that maybe he should budget for their leeching.  They both know that these children will come around from time to time.  They also know that the SO has a hard time saying no to the kids.  Well, why not set aside some money for them? This way, the SO can say yes to them, but does not ruin the personal plan for other things.  When these accounts run dry, the SO can tell them so.  Maybe over time, the SO can learn to say no or at lease prioritize the yeses.

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