Wednesday, September 28, 2011

bicycling BS

Recently, there has been a push to go car free.  The alternative is bicycling around town.  This is a great thing for the environment, the wallet, and health.  I am 100% behind this movement. 

However, I got a bone to pick with the bicycling culture.  It's about the basic of bicycling that people either are not familiar with or forgot. 

1) get a bell/horn -  I don't understand why bicycles don't come with one.  Every bike sold should have one.  It warns drivers and pedestrians that your are coming.  I don't know why every person on a bike expects both drives and pedestrians to watch out for them, but not the other way around.  GET A BELL AND USE IT!!!

2) follow traffic rules - so many times I have seen bikes on the road or on the sidewalk and not follow either set of rules.  When you are on the street, safety should be your priority, and the responsibility on the biker as well as the driver.  When you are on the sidewalk, be nice to pedestrians.  People on bikes seem to want everyone to get out of their way.

3) get a basket or rack for your stuff - I don't understand why this is not part of the commuter bikes as well.  If you are going to buy stuff, put it in the basket in front or rack on the back.

Where I grew up (until I was 10), these things were very common because biking was how everyone got around.  However, it seems that the biking community in the US still has a lot to learn.

Monday, September 26, 2011

tracking your mortgage

J$ has posted about paying off his mortgage with a plan.  He used a calculator for  looking at how much he can save interest by putting extra month every month.  I am much more of a spreadsheet addict.  I track my mortgage payment with the mortgage amortization spreadsheet.  This way, I can look at how much extra i put in and when. 

At the top is your basic numbers from the loan.  However, some the spreadsheet is protected.  I would unlock it and put in extra cells, one for the amount of interest I would pay if I don't pay extra principle, and one for the interest I am saving with early payments.  I do this with my investment mortgages as well.  When I refinance a loan, I would copy the old spreadsheet and change the numbers in the new one, so I have a record of what interest I paid already on one house.  Seeing the numbers is a encouraging way for me to put in the extra payment.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

cost of extras

Remember when life was simple?  There was once upon a time, not long ago, when life was not run so much on electricity.  There were very few television stations, so TV watching was limited to a couple hours, same with music.  There were not personal music players, no cell phones, no GPS, no laptop, no game systems. 

I really think living in that environment would be a lot better for the mind and the pocket.  Think about how much money we spend on these "extra" thing.  They are extra because we can live without the, but have to learn to accept it as must haves.  Things like cellphone, Internet access, entertainment, and etc. 

The Cost per year:
This is the basics if you don't include all the accessories and peripherals.
cable TV: $1000
Internet access: $400
cellphone plan: $500
cost of phone: $100 (because these phone are slow and obsolete in a bout 2 years, and a 2 year contract will get you the next one)
TV: $100 (because we are expecting the TV to last about 5-10 years, so cost/years is about this)
game systems: $50 (again how long before the new one comes out and make this one obsolete)
computer system/laptop: $300 (same principle above

Total: $2450

Now add on to that the additional cost of games, apps, accessories, and not to mention the electricity bill. The cost of these extra things in modern life is about at least $3000/year. 

I not am saying that we should ditch all of these, but $3000/year is a nice chunk of change in my pocket.  I know, I know, I gotta live a little.   But do I really need all of these?

Monday, September 19, 2011

expect the unexpected

For the past year, I have been looking at my expenses.  For the alst 3 months I have been tracking them on a spreadsheet.  Every month, I notice that there is a one-off expense.  By these one-off expenses, I mean appliance replacement holiday shopping, house maintenance, or refinancing costs.  Most of these are not recurring every month or year.  However, they seem to occur more often that I expected.

Before I tracked them on a budget spreadsheet, I used to tell myself that my expenses will reduce next month because I don't have this one-off expense.  However, every month, I see the same high expenses and wondered where my money was going.  So I put them on a spreadsheet.  These one off purchases are $300-$1200. While the $300 purchase is not a huge deal, the $1200 is, but both are necessary.  

I was pretty shocked at how often they come up, and it seems like every 2 months on average. Now, I don't go and buy new appliance unless one is on the brink of breaking.  It seems about every 15 years, the house needs some major maintanence, and it's well pass that time.  So fro then next 2 years, I will be budgetting an extra $400 a month for maintenance.  If it doesn't get used, it goes to the savings.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

get a f****** job!!!!

This is a rant so I apologize in advance if I am going to be offending those who don't have a job right now.

Recently, my sister graduated from college and is looking for a teaching job.  Over the summer, she went to a few interviews, but did not hear back from those places.  I asked a couple of people that I know who works as teachers about the hiring.  I was told that the school will still hire as the school year begins.  The school year has now started and she's still without a job.  Meanwhile, I hear from others that principals have hired people as soon as they meet them.  

I asked sister what she has been doing while she's not working?  She mentioned that she's taking classes to be able to teach Montessori, which is great. 

However, I looked at the postings on the county sites.  There are still spots open, and quite a few.  I am beginning to wonder how hard has she been working on getting a job?  Did she expect to just send in her resume and wait?  Did she call the HR dept. to ask about her status?  Did she call the schools directly and ask if they have her resume?  The answer is likely no.  WTF?  If you really want a job, you'll pursue it persistently right?  Am I crazy to expect her to be more proactive about it?

I can understand too that the current economy is not great, and lots of places are cutting positions.  But if the listing is up there, you bet they are thinking about hiring.  I expect no less than calling one school a day and ask if you can send in the resume, can calling back after a couple of days to see what they think.  Worst case is that they don't like what you have or you after the interview, but you can still get feedback for you next one.

This is not the first time that I have seen it happen.  I had friends who decide they want to go for a career in some field.  I am all for supporting them in getting into something they want to do.  However, when I ask what they are doing about getting into the field, they usually answer "I gotta get through this and that first."  OK fine, but in the meantime, what are you going to prepare?  Are you surrounding yourselves with the right people, people who working the field, who has experience and connection?  Or are you waiting for the opportunity to come?  A year later, these people are still not in the field that they said they want to be in, and still getting through the this and the that.  Seriously, WTF?  If you really want it, don't wait for it, go get it. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

college shouldn't be for everyone

This post is not to discourage anyone from going to college or to get education.  However, I don't believe that college should be for everyone.  I would be the first to tell you that learning and education should be the priority of anyone who is under 18 (age people who usually graduate high school).  Continual learning through a lifetimes is and will always be a personal value.  What I don't believe in is that kids are expected to go to college and get a degree.  I understand that a lot of companies look for grads with some sort of degree.  It is tough to compete with someone who has one if you don't.  However, I often wonder if these degree are really helpful? 

First of all, are the grads working in a field they studied in?  Some yes, a lot no.  Yes,  college is a go place to find out what you do best and what you enjoy, but it also costs a lot of money.  Do you need to spend so much to discover yourself?  Some kids are pressured to go to school because that's what is expected of them.  When they are done, sometimes they work in the same field, and sometimes they choose other fields.

I would prefer that instead of college, there be more trade schools.  The current workforce is starting to become academic heavy, so heavy that they can't find a job with their degree.  Trade training is in decline.  While trade school does not have the same prestige, trade professionals earn as good a living as "degreed" professionals, some times more.

So for all those who are considering going to college, but also dread it at the same time, trade school would be a excellent place.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

what's wrong with this picture?

Last week, I was reading some financial news and came across an article for Tiffany's quarterly earnings report.  It was up 25%+ every quarter the last 3 quarters, domestically and worldwide.  With the domestic and world economies in near crisis every other week, how is that possible? 

There are only a couple of possible explanations
1) the truly rich people are unaffected by these economic problems, and are spending as they like
2) the not so rich are aspiring to live like the rich, in which case is just sad that they think this is truly how the rich lives.

Seriously, one would think that luxury brands like Coach or Movado will not be raking it in because of the poor economic growth,  but they are.  J$'s guest's post  points out that aspirational spending, and I agree that the practice is just asinine.  Are people still chasing that luxury life style that brought the housing market and large financial institutions to their knees?  Did they not learn?  Apparently not as much I think they would.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Recently, the mortgage interest rates have been very very low.  We decided to refinance out home loan, because the broker we know can get us a deal for no cost.  Awesome!!
There were 2 options

1) 15 yrs fixed @ 3.75%

2) 30 yrs fixed @4.125%

The total interest for the 15 years loan would be less than $100k, while the interest of the 30 yrs will be $200k+.  However, the month payment of the 15 yrs is twice the amount of the 30 yrs, which reduces the "left over" money to about $1000.  By "left over" money, I mean after all expenses, and which we put into savings.  We don't usually have a savings budget because we didn't need to budget that in. 

Other family members feel that we should get the 15 yrs loan and pay off the mortgage ASAP.  However, with only $1000 in savings every month, money can start to get tight if we need to use it for emergencies.
Along with possible pay and benefit cuts for Mr. LLF, and no promotion/pay increase for myself (because of congress, not me), inflation, rapid rise of cost of living, and possible consideration of private schooling, the $1000 left over could dwindle fast.

Another note that Mr. LLF made was "we gotta live too!"  Mr. LLF made note that while he is fine with not traveling, dinning out, or spending money on entertainment, I will want those things even if I can hold off for a couple of years.  15 years is too long to go without those things.  I know they are luxuries, but they are important to me.  I would be unhappy and burnt out on saving if that's the case.

So in the end, we opted for the 30 yrs loan for some peace of mind and a better balanced life.  In the event that we want to travel, we can afford to, though we don't do it very often.  At the same time, I could take a big chunk of "left overs" and put it in the mortgage if we're so inclined.

Friday, September 2, 2011

September Check up

There is huge gain this month.  I had "loaned" some money to family and now some of the money is being returned.  Yay for returns!

Here we go:

loan from mom - $20,000 (nothing has changed, I know I really should pay that off  and soon)
House Mortgage - $336,182 (mortgage has not come out of account as of yet)
Rental #1 Mortgage - $138,727
Rental #2 Mortgage - $298,930 (mortgage has not come out of account as of yet)

Liquid assets - $82,000
House value - $590,000
Rental 1 value - $250,000
Rental 2 value - $315,000
Investment - $53,457 - this is only person's 401k

Net worth: $496,618 +12.57%

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