Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Citi Thank You Card Update

We have officially stopped using our Citi Forward card and switched over to the new Citi Thank You Premier card for all purchases. The card is nice,  for some reason it seems really light, feels like its not made out of plastic? It also has a chip on it so that means at places like Walmart you can't swipe the card, you have to leave it in reader until the transaction goes through and there's no signature required! The balance officially went over $2,000 so that means we already got 20,000 Thank You points. Here's what the balance is this morning:

There's a couple of charges still pending but that number you see is all of our credit card debt at this moment. I  paid off the Citi Forward card and hopefully it stays at zero (Savings down to 14K). We have our auto insurance and EZ Tag (tolls) linked to this card so I'll pay those as we go and keep the cards at home. Everything else will go on this new Citi Thank You card at least for year so see how it will impact the rewards. I also have that yearly fee to think about so I may be closing this account before that happens but for now this is our main credit card.

We are still living without my wife's paycheck but that will change the first week of September. I need to create some sort of budget and plan for the daycare expenses. I would like to start saving money again and hopefully with the sale of her car I can be back at $20,000 in our Discover account. I'm still waiting to see what my bonus will be at work and with tax returns in the spring hopefully we can be at $25,000. I still can't believe we have spent so much money over the past few months. We had travel expenses, doctor and hospital bills and stuff for the new baby and less income. Most of that is behind me now and I feel like we survived but more expenses lie ahead. We are already talking about other trips we want to take and the pricey holiday season is just around the corner, I swear the spending cycle never ends!

HS

Friday, August 22, 2014

August 2014 eBay Updates

Great month on eBay but I seriously need to find a better hobby. What keeps me going is that I make a lot of profit on eBay. I hate doing it, I want to quit but next thing you know I'm still buying and selling stuff. I think I've asked this before but is there such a thing as eBay rehab?? August has been a great month and I made close to $400 in profit, here are the payments I've received so far:



One of those items was my Nexus 5 phone, it actually sold for $152 with a cracked screen. You could say I lost a ton of money on it since I paid close to $400 for it but my previous iPhone 5 before that sold for $300 so hopefully it all evened out. I actually paid for the Nexus out of my Citi card so that $152 is just PayPal money. All my eBay money stays on PayPal, occasionally I'll transfer a few hundreds to my checking account and convert that money to $100 bills at the bank. 

I still have a lot of items that haven't sold yet. I have them priced a bit high since I don't really NEED to sell them, I'm trying to make some money with them. If someone wants them really bad, then they will have to pay my asking price. I have a lot of watchers for these items so it's just a matter of time before they go:


And I swear I'm not making this up, as I was writing this post this morning I got a notification on my iPhone that another item just sold (not in the list above). As you probably know I'm buying and selling a lot of currency lately and I just sold a $5 bill from 1934 for $150! For this particular item I paid $80 back in May:


After shipping and fees that's a quick and easy $50 in profit and got my $80 back. Now you see why I can't quit, free and easy money...

HS

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Goodbye Frozen Embryo

Those of you who have been with me over the years (started this in 2007) know that we really wanted to have a baby. There was the frustration post back in 2010, the post where I thought we would add a ton of debt for IVF and the post where we finally conceived. There was also a post about the cost and then a bill to freeze the embryo after IVF. Our daughter took a lot of money to create, lots of hormone injections, invasive procedures and me going on a cup many times. Our son on the other hand only took a 12 pack of Corona beer and us not even thinking about another baby, he was our 'accident'. This week I got another bill in the mail to keep the embryo frozen for another year but we have decided not to pay it. We have made the decision to discard the little cells. When we did IVF we got 3 good embryos. We transferred two and one became our daughter, the other didn't make it. The one we are discarding is the frozen one, this is what our embryos look like on paper:


For a while we always thought this frozen embryo would become our other child but once we got pregnant with our baby boy the thought of having a third child is completely insane. Yes, I would love to have more kids but I don't have the patience to raise another child and I don't think my wife wants to go through all the infertility stuff again. She also does not want to go through another pregnancy and all the complications that could come with it. We feel we are very lucky to have two very healthy and beautiful children so our plan is to quit while we are ahead.

Things we could do with this frozen embryo:

Donate: We could donate this to another couple and it could have a 50% chance of becoming a baby but thought of having our child out in the world is a bit creepy. What if the other couple raises that kid better or completely neglects it? My wife does not feel comfortable with this option but I would be open to it if I met the couple and knew more about their story, I guess it would be no different than giving a baby up for adoption? Also, I believe some clinics require more than one embryo to transfer to other couples.

Donate to Research: This one is even more creepy, more than likely they would thaw it out, wait four to five days and then poke the cells for stem cell research. While I'm all for the science and research I just don't feel comfortable donating what could be our next baby. This would also completely destroy the embryo once they take the cells they need, I just can't do that.

Thawing Without Donating: Not even sure if our clinic has this option but basically it means thaw and see what happens. More than likely it may not make it but if it does then you have the first two options above so this is also a NO.

That's basically it, the other option is to simply discard so that's what we are doing. We don't want to keep it since it will cost another $500 that we don't have and we can't afford any more children. I don't want to know how they will dispose of it or what they will do with it and its probably better I don't. In a way this it, there will be no more babies or children for us. Now if we ever change our minds again, we could do another round of IVF since wife had her tubes tied but she's also approaching 35 which is then more high risk. I could also find another wife that wants kids and have a baby that way but sorry ladies, that is NOT happening LOL.

HS

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sold My Apple Stock!

I finally sold my Apple stock yesterday! You may recall I was looking to buy Apple back in June when they did the stock split. I purchased 107 shares around $92 and told myself I was not going to look at it, get obsessed with or sell it early but I'm human and kept an eye on it every single day. I felt like I was gambling with some of that money since our income was cut over the summer but in the end it paid off and I ended up selling yesterday after the stock went over $100. I made a nice gain of $700 dollars. I went in with $10,000 and now have a little bit over $10,700:

Somewhere in there I also picked up a dividend and you may remember I was also trying to sell the stock a few weeks ago. In the end I sold a bit higher and I'm happy with the outcome. I'm not sure what to do with all the money now. Part of me wants to send it back to our Discover savings account but I may keep it with Scottrade and trade other stocks I follow like Facebook, Chipotle and Tesla. I may buy in right before the earnings, try to make a 2-3% gain and then sell. I don't really need this money right now, there's still some funds in the savings account to cover the auto purchase.

As of this morning Apple is still trading at $100 (pre-market):


A lot of people think it could go higher, some even think it could go as high as $115 or $120 but I just don't have the patience to wait and watch it go up and down. I think it will go higher but if the next iPhone is not revolutionary or if they don't come out with some kind of wearable device (iWatch) I think the price could drop. I may still buy and sell but I won't leave it in there long term. History should be a lesson though, if you had bought $10,000 worth of Apple stock back in 2001 and left it in there, you would have around $1,000,000 today!

Now just for fun, if you had invested or bought one share of Berkshire Hathaway A back around 1967 at $20.50 per share and with the stock price passing $200,000 per share last week you would have a TON of money today which is why I would like to invest long term but I need a way to just put the money in the market and forget about.

HS

Monday, August 18, 2014

Day Care Costs

My wife officially went back to work today and of course that meant we had to keep the kids somewhere. We've never used an actual day care company, we prefer to keep the kids in a in-home day care. Our baby sitter or nanny (not sure what to call her) is licensed by the state, follows all regulations, keeps records for tax purposes and was really good with our daughter when she was a baby. I also like that the state checks in  on her regularly to make sure she's following all regulations and standards. Everything went very smooth today but our baby boy may still need some time adjusting. I think he will do fine. As far as supplies, I already brought over enough diapers and wipes to last a few months but we send the baby bottles (formula). The state actually provides her with a small budget to feed the little ones and for milk, so we don't have to worry about food costs for our daughter.

After dropping the kids off this morning she told me the rate for 2 children will be $250 per week. Not bad, I think I can manage that but as of this morning I was out of cash in my regular checking account. For the first time in years, I had to dip in to my emergency fund ($1,000 at Bank of America). I swear I have never been under $1,000 for this account. I also had to take $55 out for a check that my wife wrote (school stuff). Here's what my emergency fund is down to:


I'm not going to worry too much about bringing this account back to $1,000. I still have a lot of cash at home so if something crazy happens I can always use some of that money. I feel bad about using this money but I told myself that the money is there for times like this. Is it an actual emergency? Not sure but I needed the cash and with limited pay this was really my only option. The problem I have is that my wife will not get paid until the first week of September which means I will need another $250 next week! I will get paid this week and can probably afford $250 out of my paycheck but a lot of that money is supposed to go to the credit card. I may dip in to this 'emergency fund' again, I need to keep the credit card balance low. This account my go even lower but hopefully my bonus can bring it back up to $1000.

How many weeks until Christmas break? 20?? I'm not really counting but that means I'll be sending her at least $5,000 until the end of the year. That's a lot of money but there's not much I can do. I have to keep my wife working, I just don't make enough money right now for her to stay home and keep the kids.

HS

Thursday, August 14, 2014

August 2014 Updates

August 2014 and it is hot here in Texas! I don't mind the heat so much but living in Houston with 100% humidity is not fun. Not a whole lot going on down here so I'll do some quick updates. We officially need a bigger car so the wife and I are looking. In the past we talked about getting a used Infinity QX56 for around $42,000 with 32,000 miles but one of my friends said to get a brand new Nissan Armada Platinum for $46,000. I went and looked at it yesterday and it has everything we need. It comes with the entertainment system for the little ones, third row seating, extra cargo room, navigation, Bluetooth and Flex Fuel. Basic things we want if we are going to keep this for the next 7 years. Here are a couple of pictures I took:



The car is great and the price is around $46,000 but I'm trying to get them to pay for my TT&L which is another $2,700. I don't want to pay anymore than 46 so I have a few dealers around town fighting. The only bad thing about this car is the gas mileage, it gets somewhere around 12-13 in city but luckily wife works 2 miles from the house so we're not to worried. I plan to put down $7,000 and finance around $39,000. We have around $13,000 equity in her current car so the plan is just to put that money in savings and take the monthly payments out of there for a year or so until I can get a better view of our income with daycare in the mix. Stay tuned for the car purchase! 

Speaking of daycare, our little baby boy goes in next week. He is doing great and already 3 months old! I still can't believe I have a baby boy at home. He has been wonderful, here's a little collage I made with my phone the other day, I present you Baby HS:

PIC REMOVED AFTER 36 HRS :)

Cute but he's going through a can of formula a week. Each container costs around $30 so I try to buy them in bulk from Amazon. I'm hoping he likes football, running and golf but whatever he likes I will always be supportive.

On to the money, we still have $17,000 in savings ($10,000 on Apple) but I need to send some of that money to the credit card and use some of it for the down payment. My wife starts work next week and she will get paid the first week of September. She also got a 5% raise at work so I'm waiting to see what her paychecks will look like for the fall. I'm still waiting to see if I get any raise at work but I'm more concerned about getting a bonus, if everything goes as planned it should be somewhere around $5,000. I'm also still saving cash at home, I now have close to 20 vintage $100 bills and I'm building my regular cash back to $1,000. I'm currently at $600 so far:


The vintage bills are good and bad. I really can't spend them and they each average around $125 to $175 so I would have to re-sell them on eBay or locally and that's what's a pain! The plan is working as expected, I wanted to save money and not spend it but the bad part is I can't take that cash and use it for the down payment on the car. Liquidating that cash may take some time and money (fees) so I think as soon as I reach 25 bills I will stop. Not sure what I will do with them but the plan is to not save any more vintage money after that. A lot of times when I look at that money I'm like what was I thinking...

Now on to me, I'm signed up for a couple of 10K races in the fall which set back $100! I also need to look at better running shoes which will probably be another $100. I'm still trying to lose 10 pounds so this is what my lunch looks like every day:


I get these at Randall's for $3.99 so I feel like I'm not spending a lot of money for lunch and it gets me out of the office. I don't eat the crackers, I try not to eat any carbs for breakfast or lunch but fruits are fine. I have to stay from the bread and potatoes. That's really all that's going on in my life. I'll leave you with a picture I took of my favorite car (which I can't afford) and I love the license plate, it is a TESLA check it out:



HS

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Going back to iPhone

I tried it, I wanted to like Android, I wanted to have a giant phone but it didn't work out. You may remember I picked up a brand new Nexus 5 last year and got rid of my beloved iPhone 5 which I got in New York's Grand Central store back in 2012. I've tried Android in the past but the reality for me is that Android sucks!! There's just nothing I like about it. I even had to sign up for a stupid Google+ account which I do enjoyed for a bit but never really use, overall I just don't like Android. The Nexus phone had the latest and greatest software from Google without any pre-installed software and I still hated it. Even simple tasks always took longer and more time to figure out. I know a lot of you like Android and Google, I respect that but I have to go back to the Apple ecosystem. You may also recall that I destroyed my Nexus phone but continued using it. Long story short, someone in the family had a brand new iPhone 4S that they didn't want and so I got it for free:


I love it, I am happy! Everything works. All my contacts are there, my Gmail works, my apps all work flawlessly and don't crash, my camera doesn't crash, my GPS is quick (Nexus would take 2-3 minutes) and with iTunes Match all 20,000 songs I own show up in iTunes. It works with my Apple TV, it syncs with the Mac and it also works great in my car, I love my iPhone! This phone was going to be temporary but it is fast and does everything I need. If the next iPhone is 'revolutionary' I may pick it up. My wife still has her white iPhone 5 and she's happy with it too, she said there's no need to upgrade hers.

The cracked screen on the Nexus is pretty back but I packed it all up and already have it listed on eBay. I saw similar phones with cracked screens selling for $150 to $170 so if I get anywhere near that I will be happy. I have it set for bids so hopefully people fight over it. This is what the screen looks like on that phone:


Another incentive for selling this thing is eBay is offering a $25 credit if the phone sells. I got a message this morning with a coupon so I went trough that link to make sure I get that $25. By the look of the coupon, I think it is a $25 shopping credit so I will most likely pick up some vintage currency (love these notes from 1929), re-sell the items and pocket the cash on PayPal. This is what the coupon looks like:


Not bad, I got a free iPhone, I'm back to using a phone I like. I can re-sell my crappy Nexus 5 and get some money back (originally paid close to $400) and also get $25 back from eBay. I can also probably re-sell this 4S when I'm done with it or keep it as a backup, phones are not cheap.

So tell me which kind of person are you? Android or iPhone?? This link may also help you decide if you don't have a smartphone yet:


HS

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Citi August 2014 Statement

Yikes! I got our Citi statement for August 2014 and as usual things don't look so good on paper. The previous statement balance was not bad, around $3,000 and I even managed to make a huge payment on the account thanks to our savings but then it seems disaster struck. We managed to charge 4,350 dollars! Here's the latest statement balance:


Things are out of control but there's not much I can do. My wife needs to get back to work asap. Staying home is not healthy for her or the kids. We spend way too much money. Looking through the statement I see a lot of charges for groceries, eating out, gas and alcohol. We are both out of control and no amount of counseling will fix it. I know it, she knows it. If I bring up financial stuff I get compared to other friends, I get told that I'm cheap. She doesn't want to hear it and I get in trouble for bringing things up and reminding her she's not getting paid. It F-ing sucks!!! As usual I will try to keep things going, pay what I can and let the bleeding continue. At the same time life still happening, her dentist wanted $500, the baby needs diapers and formula, the 2 year old wants a new toy, the dog needs food... ugh you get the point. I'll stop now since I am getting angry as I write this. Wife will go back to work soon and things will be better. I need her paycheck and hopefully we both get a raise and a decent bonus for me at work this year.

Last week I was complaining about the Citi Thank You points which led me to get a new credit card but on this statement we managed to get another 6,456 points ($50). I have no idea how they are calculating the points but I'll take them. As you can see this year alone we've already hit 49,968 which is almost $450 in gift cards or Amazon cash. Here's the latest points summary for August:


There you have our summary of spending for August 2014. Hoping the September statement looks better but with no paycheck, back to school stuff and daycare on the horizon I see another month of $3,000+ charges.

HS

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Citi ThankYou Premier

I decided to go ahead and apply for the Citi Thank You Premier card and I was approved. The application was quick and easy, probably because they already have most of my information from of my other Citi card. The credit limit is $10,000 which is good for everyday stuff. The plan is to close the Citi Forward card but I still have a lot of bills linked to it so I may keep it just for that and pay it off every month. This is the email I got yesterday:


The reason why I got the card was to try and get poins:

Now you have access to great card benefits¹:
Earn 3 ThankYou Points per $1 spent on purchases for DINING at restaurants and ENTERTAINMENT
Earn 2 ThankYou Points per $1 spent on purchases for AIRFARE, HOTELS, and TRAVEL AGENCIES
Earn 1 ThankYou Point per $1 spent on OTHER PURCHASES

Only issue is that yearly fee of $125 so I will probably call next July and see if they will waive it again for another year. I've read online that's how most people avoid the fee. Some people also said if you try to cancel they may offer you more points and even cancel the fee. I have a whole year so this is not a big deal but I don't want to get hit with the fee next year, seems a bit high.

HS

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Winner For Guessing How Many Pennies Is...

I was going to do the count of how many pennies on August 1 but didn't realize it was a Friday so I went ahead and did the count last night. On the post I said whoever came the closest to guessing the actual dollar amount in my bottle would win a $20 gift card. The bottle is 750ML and it only contained post 1982 pennies which are made of 97% zinc and 3% copper. The pennies came from change I got when using cash and the occasional pennies found on a parking lots or when I go running. Any penny with a date prior to 1982 I save in another location, supposedly they are worth more since they are 95% copper but I don't think that's going to make me rich anytime soon.

On to the fun stuff, here's the bottle before:



The bottle was pretty packed and it took a while to empty, the top was a bit small. Once I emptied it, this is what it looked like:


I took 50 pennies and put them in to a coin tube and measured that on a scale to do a quick count. The tube with 50 pennies was exactly 4.75 OZ so after that counting them was a breeze:


Every 4.75 ounces was then grouped in to 50 cents getting us closer to the actual dollar amount:


After going through all of them we have a total!


The exact amount of pennies in the bottle was:
$11.60

The person who came the closest was Gwen B she guessed $11.74 but she did not leave her email. Gwen if you see this, please reply to your comment and leave your email. If Gwen does not reply in the next few days then it will go to the next person which was Kim, she guessed $11.11.

After doing all that work I went ahead and put all the pennies in rolls, no sense in keeping pennies at home which have no numismatic value. I keep a box of rolls at home and every time I get to $25 I take them to the bank and get a roll of $25 in dollar coins. I save the rolls at home and eventually trade them in for $100 bills. Putting the pennies in to rolls was quick and easy since I had them separated:


The remaining 10 cents went back to the bottle so we can do this again in 6 months:


Thanks everyone who submitted a total, this was fun and I may do it again but I will probably change the bottle size to make it a little harder to win.

HS