Tuesday, March 24, 2015

500 Dollar Bill and eBay Bucks

I have no idea what made me want to own a $500 bill but I went ahead and picked one up on eBay last week. The thought of having 500 dollars in a bank note seemed cool at the time but spending close to $1,000 for a piece of paper may not be my wisest choice lately. Is it an investment? probably not but I can make a little bit of money by re-selling it in the future. Was it maybe to boost my feelings of self-worth? I doubt it, it was probably more just to say I own one... anyways this is what I purchased:


The date on the note is 1934 which at the time had a value close to 8,000 in today's dollars. The average yearly salary for that year was $1,368! Not sure why the government was printing such high denominations at the height of the great depression but owning one now does feel like I own a piece of history. It will probably not stay with me long, I will probably put it back up for sale soon. Like I said, I'm not really sure why I had to have one, it felt more like an impulse purchase.

When I purchased the note above I also got a ton of eBay Bucks. eBay bucks are sort of like credit rewards, they give you cash back on purchases. I buy and sell a lot of stuff on eBay but I usually use the bucks on minor purchases. This month I'm up to $66 so just for fun I'm going to see if I can purchase a $50 bill. According to eBay, Bucks have no cash value and cannot be redeemed for cash or its equivalents but a lot of people sell brand new currency for a little bit over face value. I'll get the certificate in 10 days:


HS

Friday, March 20, 2015

Work Updates

Happy Friday everyone! I still don't have any work. I was last staffed on a project on January 31 so at this point if I don't find anything in the next couple of weeks I will probably get the ax and be let go. A lot of people are in the same boat as I am, it looks like the price of oil is making a lot of companies cut back here in Houston. Why upgrade a system this year when it still works and it will probably continue working for another couple of years? In the past the thinking was let's make it better but with so much uncertainty today, it seems like companies don't want to change the 'Status Quo'. There's a lot of fears that price of oil could continue dropping but hopefully demand will pick up by summer when everyone starts driving more. Remember the phrase back in 2008 'Drill Baby Drill' when gas prices passed $4 per gallon? Well it seems to have worked, now that prices have dropped it is largely the result of the U.S. drilling, and then drilling some more. Now have too much oil in the markets and we are running out of space to store it.

Thinking ahead and like I've said before the only thing I don't want to lose is my health insurance but I'm already pricing coverage through the wife's employer. I cannot afford to pay COBRA rates to keep my coverage so it looks like we may have to make some sacrifices and move everyone over to her plan. I would go without health insurance for a few months until I find a new job but with the Obamacare tax penalties it makes no sense to do that. As far as severance goes, I think it will be two months of pay and I have six weeks of vacation so that's another month of pay after taxes. Around June if I still haven't found a job then we would need to tap into our savings. The savings account balance is close to $27,000 so that could potentially carry us through September but things could get tight, we really like to spend money. Lifestyle changes can be challenging so I may also cut back on things we really don't need like cable TV and maid service.

At the same time there's still a little bit of hope and faith that I find something soon. I really like my company and I enjoy the work / life balance I have with them. My company even made it to the Forbes best 100 companies to work for (under 50) and I really have enjoyed working for them, I can't complain about anything other than the usual 'I should be making more money' but I'm sure everyone says that throughout their careers. I'm going to step up my networking and see if I can find something next week. One minor advantage that I have is my performance for the past 3 years has been Above (highest rating) so that should buy me a little bit more time.

Next project here I come!!

HS

Monday, March 16, 2015

Lost My Drone and My GoPro

Grrrr! It happened to me! You may remember I decided to buy a drone after watching a video on YouTube and got a great deal on it. It came with a GoPro camera so this past weekend I decided to get it out and get some aerial footage at the beach and accidentally left the wireless on the camera! That's a huge no no in the drone community and I knew about it but totally forgot to check for that setting. As soon as my drone took off it went out towards the ocean and started getting really high, I tried to lower it and it went down very fast then it went up again next thing I see is a splash about half a mile out from the beach, no way I could have gone out there that fast and it was too cold to swim.

I was about to sell the whole thing in a couple of weeks and now I'm out $600 dollars!! I still have the case and batteries which will probably get me $150 back. What I really want back is my memory card with all my videos on it. It was a 32GB SD card so that's another $30 or so lost. Somebody will find it eventually, the current should push it back to shore over time. I hope whoever finds it tries to look me up but I doubt it will happen, if you found a $300 camera would you try to find the owner?

Here's my exact same drone with the exact same issue, user left WiFi on, check out the video:


HS

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Doing The Unthinkable!

Hey everyone, not much going on here, I'm still looking for work with no luck. Hopefully something comes up soon. I wanted to do a quick update on a couple of other debts that we have. One of them is the student loan that my wife has and the other is my very crappy Hyundai Elantra I purchased back in 2012. I've done a couple of posts on the student loan in the past and since that first post the balance has gone down $2,800. This the amount that we owe as of this morning:

This student loan seems to go down about $1,000 per year and around $280 went to interest last year. It is the kind of debt that has a very low payment and a ridiculously low interest rate as you can see on the pic. It makes no sense to try to pay this down but at the same time it is a debt I no longer want to pay every month. The current payment is $125 and I don't pay any extra on it. You know us well and any extra money lately goes to credit cards. The plan is to let this one linger for another year or so and once I get under $9,000 then try to pay it off, for now I will just continue paying $125 per month.

On the other side of the debts that annoy me we have my Elantra car payment. The amount on this one is $407 but I pay $430 every month. I should be sending more money to this debt every month but I don't like my car! I really don't have a good incentive to pay it off. In my mind if I pay this off, I'm just going to turn around, sell it and get something I like. At the same time, responsible ME thinks if I pay this off quickly, I can have an extra $430 to play with or save every month and a vehicle that's fully paid off. Dave Ramsey would be so proud of us. Here's the amount I owe as of today:

With all that said, I have decided to do the unthinkable! If I get a project / job soon I plan to pay off my current Hyundai Elantra and keep it until it reaches 100,000 miles! It is currently at 42,000 miles and it has been a good car, I should not hate it so much. it works perfectly with the little ones and it gets great gas mileage. It is a car I can 'trash' for the next few years and not worry about a car note. I figured that should be four more years with this car and in four years my wife's car should be paid off as well. I can then get the car of my dreams which will be a BMW 5 Series :)

I have been adding numbers in my head all day and we are currently sitting on $30,000 dollars in cash (savings, cash at home, emergency fund) so it makes no sense to have all that money. If I pay off my car I won't have to worry about making a $430 payment every month and I can use that money for other things or simply save it.

Of course, I'm only doing this if I have work lined up otherwise that $30,000 becomes my emergency fund when I get laid off. Please don't let that happen. I'll keep everyone posted if I get work and then do a post when I pay off my Elantra.

HS

Friday, March 6, 2015

Citi Annual Account Summary

This morning I noticed that our Citi Thank You card has a Annual Account Summary for the year 2014. You may remember I got the card around August 2014 to take advantage of the rewards but I may drop it soon since it does have a high yearly fee and they are changing the points structure around April (less rewards). I was surprised to see the things we spent money on but hopefully we can learn from this account summary and spend less. Below you can see what we charged to our Citi Thank You card over a five month period:


Broken down by month:


By Category:


Yikes, we charged $18,353 over 5 months! As you can see we like to buy stuff and we like to eat out. You can also see why I hate the month of December so much, that's the month we charged the most. Air travel you see there is for the wife and her brother's trip to New Mexico. I'm guessing the Health Care charges include CVS and Walgreens, we do have both close to home and do purchase a lot of stuff there. I'm sure the Organizations charges are for my running events and I bet those are tax deductible, need to check on that. Vehicle Services must include gasoline and oil changes, that's really all I've put into both vehicles, that number does seem a bit high though. 

I did not see an annual account summary for the Citi Forward card but it's probably worse since I did take a trip to Nashville, had a newborn baby and then summer happened which typically means lots of spending in our house.

Crazy I know! We need to change our habits!!

HS

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Work, New Mexico and Rodeo Run

GRRRR! I'm out of work again! The client did not approve me so after 3 days of sitting around and waiting (billable) I am back to looking for projects. No fun but it is what it is. This means I'm back home this morning playing 'house wife' and already have laundry and grocery store on my to do list. I hope I find something quick, if not I may be let go and have to really start looking for work. Like I've said before what worries me the most is losing our health insurance so I can't let that happen.

Credit cards- back up and a little bit over $4,000 dollars! Didn't I just make a payment for $5,000? Wife probably spent $1,500 on her trip but her brother is supposed to pay  for some stuff so that should bring the balance down a bit. I am going to pretend like we don't have any savings and let the balance ride for a while but come May I may have to take some money out of savings if the amount keeps going up. I can save and save but we charge and charge so I'm not really sure why I'm saving if I'm just going to turn around and send money back to the credit card. Here's the balance as of this morning:



Couple of pictures from her trip to New Mexico:



That same weekend I ran in the Houston Rodeo Run, the event was a lot of fun and I recorded most of it with my GoPro camera. I love running with a selfie stick, everyone smiles behind me and wants to be part of the action. Since I record most of the event, I don't have a lot of pictures but here you can see me with my GoPro at the finish line (sorry I hide) and having a beer with it after the event:



Can you believe I ran this thing back in 2012:


And also last year:


That's all the updates I have for now, wish me good luck finding work...

HS

Monday, March 2, 2015

Back To Work!

Short post today- I am happy to report that I'm officially back to work as of this morning. I found a project that will last 6 to 8 months helping to test business software with a local client which means no travel! I'm excited and it was about time. I stayed home all of February and basically became a 'house wife'. I picked up and dropped off the kids at daycare, I had dinner ready every night and managed to keep up with all the laundry. I am totally going to miss some of the freedoms that I had like going running at lunch and alone time but I much rather be working. I bet all the stay at home moms will probably miss me on my weekly grocery shopping trips since I was the only guy ever there on a weekday but I'm sure they'll get over it quickly. My new project is downtown which means I get to take the bus and save money on gas!

Life is good again!

HS

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Credit Card Update and Trip to New Mexico

Quick update on all our credit card debt and an upcoming trip for my wife this weekend. Below you can see the current balance on all our credit cards, I think I'm doing pretty good managing the balance but unless I dip into savings I won't be able to bring the amount down to zero. I do love the fact that February is a short month so we should be able to make another large payment next week. The only problem is when you use your credit card for everything the balance goes up and down which makes it hard to see any progress. Here are the latest numbers as of this morning:


The Citi Forward card is linked to Amazon, eBay, water delivery and our auto insurance. I made a payment last week for $400 to cover some stuff on Amazon (wife wanted another Diono for baby boy) but I had drained my PayPal account buying stuff on eBay so the tiny balance you see on there are shipping fees for a couple of items I sold last week. The Citi Thank You card is where everything else goes but I may cancel it soon since they changed the rewards program (less points). I also don't like having two credit cards, I liked it better when we had everything on one card, made things a lot easier to manage.

Trip for wife: This weekend my wife and her brother are heading to New Mexico to spread their father's ashes in his desired location. His wish was to be in the mountains around snow and he loved native American culture so that's where they're taking him. I purchased the tickets on United for them back in January and the total cost was $550, round trip for both. Her brother is supposed to pay me the other half so hopefully I see that money soon. They are staying in a fancy hotel for two nights which will cost around $249 per night. I'm hoping they split the cost there but I can guarantee you the hotel charge will end up on my credit card. He also rented a car so I'm not sure how they will split that or who's credit card that's going to end up on. Wife also needs cash so I will probably send her with $300 but most meals and drinks will go on the credit card. I'm looking at this as a mini vacation for them, I know she needs a break from the little ones so hopefully she gets some good R&R. I have arranged the grandparents to watch over the little ones for the weekend so I'll also be taking a break from everyone. I've lined up my 'boys' for a guys night out Saturday but I promise it won't be a repeat of this :)

HS

Friday, February 20, 2015

This Is Really Cool!

This year I changed our tax refund to deposit directly into our Discover Savings account and this morning it finally arrived. I logged in to check the balance and we have close to 27K in there! The funny thing is a lot of that money in there is last year's tax refund and I remember sending my entire bonus last year to it as well, sadly this year all of my bonus payment went to debt. I know we took some money out to cover my wife not working when we had the baby last year and the balance way went down but then I started saving like crazy again. This is the amount in the account this morning:


Just for fun I went ahead and sent 46 dollars to it just to be right at 27K. Interest will hit at the end of the month and the wife should get a $50 credit for the new account by the end of March. The first pension payment should also hit the account on March 1st but I haven't gotten any confirmation about that in the mail, not sure if it's all setup. I would love to see this account get to $30,000 but but but we spend money like there's no tomorrow so I may even need to take some of this money out and send it back to our credit card!! Not matter what I do I can't seem to get our spending under control.

The credit card- when you have been living on credit for the past seven years it is not easy to quit. I have tried the cash route but we still spend money on the card. I have tried the debit card method for things like gas but I hate having to worry if I have money in the checking account. We cannot change, we are addicted to our credit card so I need to find a way to control the spending and use the credit card more carefully.

Whatever happens I will not let this account get under $25,000 unless of course I get laid off or something crazy happens.

HS

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

No Work, Sick and Life

No work! I have been sitting at home for 2 weeks and 3 days applying here and there but I haven't seen a whole lot of projects out there, I'm hoping things pick up soon. I did get a call from a Senior Executive last Friday about some roles with a banking client but I'm still waiting to hear from him. Not going to work means I've become Mr. Mom. I wake up early and make the baby bottles for day care and pack the kids bags. I wake up baby and daughter and get them ready. I make breakfast for mom and get cereal ready for baby girl. I clean up and wash all the dishes and do laundry. I do all the grocery shopping and other errands. I have become a 'housewive' and I don't like it!! With that said, I did do most of those things when I was working but then I would head to the office and have adult time. Let's just say I'm ready to go back to work!!

Over the past couple of weeks I've also gotten sick. It's a combination of a cold- runny nose, coughing and my throat hurts. I can assure you it is because of me not going to work. For some strange reason stress and work seem to keep me healthy so now that I'm not working it looks like my body has an excuse to get sick. I hope this goes away, I need to run since I have a 10K race coming up at the end of February (Houston Rodeo Run).

Not working also means I've been preparing for the unthinkable which would mean getting laid off. I can probably stretch not having a project for 2 months but after that I will get laid off. They can't continue paying me if I'm not making them money. That's how consulting works, I make them $200 per hour and they pay me $50. They will keep me for a while knowing that eventually I will be back to billing.

While I would really miss my company, pay and job the thing I'm most worried about is losing is our health insurance. We could still have coverage through my wife's employer but the cost would be significantly higher and we would have more out of pocket expenses. Let's just say our current plan is gold and her plan would be more like bronze- see this link if that didn't make sense. I'm hoping it doesn't come down to that but I always have a plan B in the back of my mind.

IF I were to get laid off I would probably get a severance package and vacation paid out. From what I've heard, severance could be 2 to 6 months of pay but I really don't want to check with HR on that. I'm going to base it on 2 months of pay so that would get us all the way to May. Around June we can drop the day care and wife and I would keep the kids until September. I have exactly $25,000 in savings so that should keep us going until September. If can't find a job from March to September than I have other problems to deal with.

Back to plan A, let's hope I land a role with a good client this week :)

HS