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

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

February 2015 eBay Sales

Crazy last couple of months on eBay, I had a lot of stuff out there for sale but nothing was moving in January but as soon as we got in to February things started selling. My guess is people don't like to spend money after the holidays. A lot of the stuff for sale lately is personal stuff I don't use. I put the Chromebook I purchased a while back up for sale, a GPS watch and a Samsung camera. A couple of things there are garage sale items I bought locally. One of my neighbors had a Mac mini from 2005 that I bought from her for $20 and was able to resell it on eBay for $100. Most of the other stuff is the usual buy sell things like watches and currency. As you can see I made well over $1,000 over the last 6 weeks or so:


Fees and shipping will probably take $150 out of that amount but that should still leave around $900 to play with and buy other stuff. I am going to sell my drone purchase soon and I think I can easily get $350. I still have 5 other items listed but they are priced high, if they sell I should make a nice profit but I'm not expecting them to go this month. I also still have tons of vintage $100 bills which I really wanted to sell but sadly I've picked up 3 more so now I have $1,700 worth of old currency which I really can't spend since it is worth a lot more than face value. I know, I know what you're thinking- you probably think I'm a dork and I need to get a life BUT I make a lot of money doing this so I'm OK with it if you're thinking 'loser' LOL

HS

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Worried About Our Tax Refund

I went ahead and filed our 2014 taxes last night. Like I've mentioned before, all the data was already there from the previous year so it took me about 30 minutes to input all the new numbers. As I was putting in all our data the refund amount kept going up and up. You may recall last year we got $4,250 which I was happy with and most of it I still have in our savings account. This year the refund amount is way too high, it has to be incorrect! This is the final number I got when I was done:


We made less money last year since my wife was out of work for a few months but even most of that amount was made up with my variable pay at work. I was expecting the refund amount to be a little bit under $5,000 since we did have a baby in 2014 but I was never expecting close to $7,000. The only other thing that seems to push the refund amount up are the daycare expenses which I think came out to $600 per child. Apple and Discover paid us some money last year but even that was no more than $200 in taxes so I still can't figure out why this amount is so high. I compared all the data from previous year and the numbers are very close. Even our itemized deductions like real estate taxes and interest paid were $2,000 less.

I refuse to pay a professional to look over my return, I'm pretty sure everything is correct. I went ahead and e-Filed with the IRS and it was accepted. I think it will get approved quickly and the refund should be here in a couple of weeks. It still bothers me that the amount is a bit high. Money is money and I will take it  but I don't want Uncle Sam knocking on my door a year from now asking for money back. We have no plans for this money at this time so most of it is going in to our savings account which will put us well over $25,000.

I know, we probably have too much tax withheld but I have no problem lending the IRS our money for a few months. I much rather get a large refund than spend the same amount over a year.

Anyone else have the same issue?? Refund too high this year?

HS

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Pension Payments

I finally got some information about the pension that my wife will be receiving as a result of her father's passing (I miss going to see him). I went ahead and sent in all the required information. Turns out I was right on my calculations and it will be exactly $152 payable once per month for the next 10 years. This is what came on the letter, first payment starts March 1st 2015:


Of course there are taxes on this money so I tried to do her Form W-4P where it withholds close to $25 but we haven't gotten the first payment yet so I'm not really sure of the exact amount she will receive. I don't feel like this is my money so I went ahead and setup her own Discover Savings account like I had mentioned on this post. I can't say this is 'found money', it feels more like strange money that we are not suppose to have... for now the plan is just to save it and forget about it. If she doesn't touch any of this money for the next 10 years, she should have close to $15,000 with interest. I will let her make all decisions on it but for now she said to just send it to savings.

When I split the accounts I did add myself to her account as a joint owner so now I can manage both accounts from my profile. I split our current savings down the middle so now we each have around $11,000 in our accounts. I still need to to add beneficiaries to both accounts in case one or both of us kick the bucket. This is what the accounts look like now from my profile, I can see both accounts:


Going forward I think I will continue funding one account only which will become OUR savings so we can still keep things separate from the pension stuff. I hope I did the right thing since this money still doesn't feel right.

HS

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Thank God for Life Insurance...

Remember when I said our Citi Thank You credit card went way up? The plan, as usual was to pay it down asap but on another post I mentioned that we were getting $5,000 in life insurance and said that we would use that money to pay down this balance (and learn our lesson). I wish I could tell you that January was cheaper but the credit card kept going up, it got as high as $6,300 but I recently got that number down a bit. Yesterday we finally got the check in the mail and I quickly did a bank deposit with my iPhone, this morning the money had already cleared. I went ahead and applied the entire amount to our credit card. Citi now credits the payments right away and as you can see below, the balance went way down:

As usual we are not at zero! will I ever hit that magic number?? Nope, we need groceries, daycare is due soon, we need a new car seat and baby girl's birthday is coming up. No matter what I do I can't seem to control the spending but the plan going forward is to use cash as much as possible. I already drained my rewards account so it would take close to $25,000 in spending to get the same amount in gift cards, I am not playing that game anymore!

I am very thankful for this money but I wish my father in law was still with us. I really miss him and my daughter is always asking where grandpa is, for some reason she thinks he's just going to be at his house next time we visit. Part of me also wishes we could have saved this money and done something nice in his honor but we did acquire a lot of expenses as a result of his death. My wife really wanted me to put this money in our savings account but when I told her we have a spending problem and she had just spent $165 at Carter's for the kids, she smiled and said go ahead and send that to the credit card.

Not sure if you remember that we also have a tiny pension coming to us as a result of his death, I'll save that for another post.

HS