Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Project Done, I'm Back Home!

The project I got last month came to an end on Friday. I knew it was a short term role and I was fine with it ending as I didn't really like the client that much or the clunky desktop that they required me to use. I also couldn't get on eBay or Facebook on that machine so that made it seem like the days would never end. As of Monday I'm back home and I will admit, I missed being home. I get lots of quiet time since the kids go to daycare and wife still working. I get all our errands done and I can do all the grocery shopping. I also love to cook so I can get dinner ready and I keep the house clean. I know I have to go back to work soon but I'm going to enjoy the next few days and just take it easy.

Yesterday I had an interview with a client downtown for a long term role doing what I love which is trading products and testing the software that handles those transactions. I think everything went well so I'm hoping to hear from them today. The manager also said they would bill me at a higher rate so that would mean I can easily get promoted in December. The only minor issue is they go with the open-office trend which means everyone can see your computer and what you are doing. This is exactly what it looked like but not an actual picture of the client:


I don't mind these type of work setups but I'm the type of person that works very fast and gets everything done in 2 to 3 hours so then I tend to 'play' a bit and take it easy the rest of the day. The other issue I have is everyone knows exactly what time you came in and and when you leave. I'm the type that comes in at 9 and leaves around 4:30 PM and take my hour lunch so I can't really get away with that when everyone is looking at you. At the same time I don't mind, I adjust quickly but at my previous client I got spoiled to my own little space away from everyone and could come and go as I pleased. Again, all of this is minor, I really want this role and I want to get promoted so I hope I get call today.

Today is National Running Day so I have to go running this afternoon!! Have a good day and go for  a run!

HS

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Appraisal District Protest and Settlement

You may remember I had an issue with our 2015 appraisal of our home. I got a notice in the mail that our house was valued at $207,000 but in reality that number was way too high so I filed a protest with them right away. In that protest I said the actual value should be $185,000 and they agreed with me. I got an email this morning asking me to accept 185,000 offer which I did right away. It may not be much but a dollar saved is a dollar made right? Here's the confirmation:


Houston home prices continue going up and up and up. There is no bubble, houses sell quickly with bidding wars and with people paying way higher than asking price. This has been going on for the past five years! Homes in the million dollar range are doing even better. Don't ask me who has all this money, all I know is I can't afford higher taxes which is why I had to protest. I love the fact that we don't have a state income tax in Texas but hate the fact that we have to pay property taxes. That means if you want to own property you will always have to pay taxes on it, there's is no paying it off and you're done. For example if I was to pay off my house I would still have to pay $6,000 per year in taxes! and as you can see, that number would continue going up. If you rent you don't have to pay any tax but with rents so high, you're basically throwing money away. With that said, I'm all for getting rid of property taxes and just having a higher sales tax on all items, maybe something like 15 to 18 percent but of course that's probably never going to happen.

HS

Friday, May 29, 2015

New Savings Strategy and Trading

A while back I promised you I would do the unthinkable and pay off my current car but I really don't like my car so I'm probably going to hold off on that idea for a while. I probably owe around $10,600 on it and could probably sell it for $13,000 but if I keep paying on it I won't have to use my savings. I haven't had any luck with my savings lately since stuff keeps coming up but I do have a new strategy going forward. You may recall I keep some money on our Discover savings account and I also have money on my Scottrade brokerage account. Here's the latest balance on Discover:


The new plan going forward is to pretend this is all the savings I have and get into 'obsessive compulsive mode' about saving money and bring this amount up to $20,000. I know I can do it if I really set my mind to it so I will try it over the summer. Most of the money will come from daycare since we will not have that expense the next couple of months. Wife will be home keeping the kids but I'm going to pretend that I'm still making that weekly payment so that should get me to close to my $20,000 goal by August. I'll also throw in any found money and I may even bring some cash from my PayPal account once I start selling more stuff over the next few months. Again, the goal is to pretend this is all the savings we have and forget about the money on the Scottrade account.

Now on to the brokerage account. Below is the current balance on my Scottrade account:


I will NOT lie to you and say that I made a ton of money over the past month trading so here's the truth. As usual I was all in on Apple but the stock took a dive after earnings so this balance got all the way down to $9,500! I was hoping to be at $10,400 after earnings but my plan did not work out as it usually does. Apple is always up after earnings but this time around selling millions of iPhones didn't seem to impress Wall Street so I lost a good $700. From my experience and knowledge I knew Apple would come back so I waited, picked up the dividend and got out this week when the stock was back around $131. I'm pretty much still $200 higher so nothing's really changed since I last posted this balance. The plan going forward is to continue trading and see if I can make $200 per week. I will only trade the stocks I like such as Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Salesforce. If I make that 2 to 3 percent gain I will be happy. I will not trade options, I know I can make way more money doing that but from past experience I know I can also lose a ton of money doing that.

That's my new savings strategy, you always hear people say don't put all your eggs in one basket so hopefully now that I have two baskets I can make more money.

HS

Thursday, May 28, 2015

401K Update

About a year ago I did a post on my 401K balance, you can find that post here. I did a quick check on the balance again this morning since I really don't check it that often. I probably log in every 3 months or so to take a look. As of this morning my 401K balance is close to hitting $100,000. Last year when I did that post the balance was around $80,000 so if my math is correct the balance went up $17,300 in one year! Here's the latest balance as of this morning:



I would like to see this balance go up a little bit faster so the plan in the Fall is to increase my contributions by 2 to 3 percent more. I would love to see this thing go up $25,000 every year but most experts are expecting a correction in the market so it may not go up as fast. Most of my asset allocation is on the more aggressive end, if I remember correctly 100% of my 401K is invested in stocks so if the markets go down I can also expect the balance to go down. Since I don't look at this on a daily basis I really don't have to worry about it too much but I will admit it's nice to see the balance up when I do log in. 

My employer counts their contributions as income which makes my salary look way better than my actual pay. According to my employer I'm making over $90,000 per year, but believe me it's more like $50,000 after taxes and other stuff. Here are my Total Rewards:


I'm finally happy with my pay, company and job. I really don't work that much so I feel that the pay and benefits are good for what I do. I also get a lot of time off. Any work that I do get I quickly automate and so I'm able to do things way faster which allows me to take more time off. My employer gives me 5 weeks of paid vacation per year and I really do use most of it so I can't really complain when it comes to pay. I'm finally making decent money, saving money and have good work life balance. At the same time I hope I can keep this all up, you may recall I was out of work for 3 months and that could happen again.

HS

Friday, May 22, 2015

When It Rains, It Pours!

Hey, remember me? Yup I'm still around after a crazy couple of weeks. Starting a couple of Sundays back baby boy started getting a fever  so after a day or so we took him to the doctor and it was the usual ear infection. Soon after that baby girl started getting a fever and she also had an ear infection. A couple of days later baby boy got Roseola and then last Wednesday both kids ended up with strep. More meds, more trips to the doctor and wife and I had to miss a lot of work. Then last Thursday I got strep with fevers up to 103! I rushed to doc and got the meds but it was painful. This past Monday we thought everything would be back to normal only for wife to start throwing up all night on Tuesday and then by Wednesday we all had it. Long story short it was 2 weeks of sickness and it took a hard hit on my wallet.

Did you know some doctors don't take cash?? I tried to pay the kids doctors with cash and my doctor and both said NO. They will take credit, debit or checks but no cash. Not that it matters that much since I ran out of cash by last weekend and had to dip in to our emergency fund. I got that account down to $500 since I also had to cover some medical bills that we got from the wife when she went to the doctor and some older medical bills her dad had. I have not touched our regular savings and hopefully the next few weeks are not expensive and I can recover. I swear if feels like anything out of the ordinary like getting sick throws my finances off. A lot of the medical stuff ended up on the credit card as you can see below:


Some of these charges I didn't really have money for or budget so this morning after getting paid I went ahead and paid off all the cards. The plan as usual is to not use them and got back to cash only, cash only. To meet my cash only goal I went by the ATM yesterday and got $200 so I should be good for the holiday weekend. Here's what the credit cards look like as of today:



My question to my few little loyal readers is this: What do you do when you run out of money from your paycheck? In the past it was easy to keep charging but now that I'm doing cash only and run out of money I'm like what do I do?? Do you use your credit card? Do you keep $1000 at all times like I do and call it emergency fund? I went for the emergency fund this time but now I'm going to have to build that back up again which means I can't save or get any traction after going cash only.

I swear if feels like we can never win with money but at least the credit cards are back to zero.

Have a good weekend!

HS

Monday, May 4, 2015

New Role and Cash Updates

Howdy! Sorry for the lack of posting but I have been busy with my new job. I joined a project with a large chemical company to do a software assessment of all their IT applications for manufacturing and refining. What does that mean? There's a lot of software that chemical plants use to control production so we are looking at 300 to 400 different application around the world and see where the client needs to do upgrades or consolidate software to save money. We are hoping this also leads to new software implementations in the future which could mean I get to stay here longer. The client is located in downtown Houston so I ride the bus to work. I got an office with a window view so I can turn to my left and get a glimpse of what's going on in the outside world. The only thing I don't like is they gave me a desktop! I have old clunky, ugly, slow running computer that looks like it's from 2003 with a DVD writer! Our company is currently in the process of moving us to Apple laptops but our client says we must use their ugly machines so there's not much I can do. Other than that everything is going good and if  we sell new work there's a chance of a promotion down the road.

Credit cards are still at zero but I have a gasoline charge pending. I find it hard to purchase gasoline using cash since I can't really estimate how much it takes to get to a full tank. In the old days you could pump first then go inside and pay but now a days almost all stations required you to pre-pay. I paid for $40 the other day for our SUV but only got in $38 so I lost a couple of dollars (can you get a refund?). With my car I only put in small amounts so that's not a big deal but I like to keep the wife with a full tank of gas as much as possible. Yesterday I used the credit card to get her gas and the amount was $48.89 so I will have to pay that back.

Another thing that does not accept cash is my bus pass! I have been adding value at the Park and Ride lot and those machines only take credit or debit. Someone told me that the machines at the rail stations take cash so I will probably try those today, there's a station a block from my new office. I would like to go 100% cash so I'm learning as I go.

Everything else this past weekend was paid for with cash. My wife is actually making fun of me for it and telling our friends but I don't care. We are going cash only, cash only as much as possible. I'm hoping she gets used and on a positive note she is happy that our credit card stays at zero.

That's all I have for now, enjoy your day!

HS

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Did Not Get Laid Off! Happy!

After months of looking, calling, applying, networking and even begging I'm happy to report that I am going back to work this coming Monday. Thank god I did not get laid off. Yesterday I got a call around 8:30 AM from a local number but chose not to answer it. I checked my voicemail and it was a local manager I had worked with on my previous project and he wanted to check and see if I was available. We had never met in person but he remember my name since I used to send out all the daily metrics to leadership and to the project. He thought I would be a good fit to help him out. We both start with a new client on Monday and I will be helping him out for the next few months. All it took was a 5 minute call and my life is back to normal.

This was my song yesterday:


I know, we're all sick and tired of this song but I truly felt like a room without a roof . Just for fun, jam with me!

Here come bad news talking this and that, yeah,
Well, give me all you got, and don't hold it back, yeah,
Well, I should probably warn you I'll be just fine, yeah,
No offense to you, don't waste your time
Here's why... Because I'm happy!

LOL

Since I don't start until Monday I'll probably do some golfing today and a 5K run tomorrow. I'm sure the new job will bring new challenges and a few expenses but I can deal with all that later on.

HS

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cash-Only Rocks!

What a feeling! I can't tell you how good it feels to pay with cash only everywhere I go. You've heard it before and it is true, you truly do spend more when you use credit cards. I could even use my debit card for purchases but I don't even want to see or wait for the charges to go through. With cash its more like spend it and forget about it. The best part of cash only is that I can truly control and keep the credit cards as zero. Sure, I probably can't rent a car or a hotel room with cash (or Amazon) but mostly everything else can be paid with greenbacks.

Happy happy happy! This is the balance on all our credit cards as of this morning:


As you can see I have all this credit available but I will not use it. I have no desire to use it or to chase the rewards. I no longer care about points or gift cards, I am much happier sticking to cash only. Below you can see another trip to the bank, this time I got 4 brand new $100 bills:


Anyone else cash only? 

Cash is king! I hope will keep this up!

HS

Monday, April 20, 2015

eBay Anniversary



I got an email this morning from eBay congratulating me on my 15-year anniversary with them. That means that I've had the exact same account for 15 years! I wish I could get a breakdown of all the stuff I've bought or at least a total amount of money on purchases but I cannot find anything like that. The most I can get on purchase is 3 year history and it doesn't give me actual dollar amount, I would have to add it all up. I also wonder if I could get a total of all the eBay fees I've paid, I know that number has to be well over $10,000. I did add up some of them last year on this post. Keep in mind there's also a PayPal cut that they take, I wonder how much they've charged me on those fees.

As far as my seller account goes, it does give you a nice total of all sales on the Seller Dashboard page. As you can see below I've sold over $25,000 and have made tons of profit on eBay. This has become a bit of a bad habit since I'm pretty much on the app 24/7. Another downside is I'm constantly looking for merchandise to sell which does take a lot of time. I visit a lot of pawn shops in my area and if I see a garage sale in progress more than likely I will stop and take a look. Garage sales are my favorite, most people are just looking to get rid of stuff and will take any amount you offer them. I've found many items at garage sales for $10 to $20 and I'm able to turn them in to $50's and $100's on eBay. Here's the total amount of all my sales:


This coming year should bring that total sales number up to $30,000. I've become more of a risk taker now and don't mind spending over $1,000 on a single item if I know I can some money on it. I hope I can keep this up since this is where most of my 'play' money comes from. If I need or want some new toy or electronic I order from eBay and don't have to worry about using our credit cards or cash since I do keep most of my profits on my PayPal account.

HS

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Where The Money's At

Still employed, pray that I find something quick. With that said and a possible layoff coming in the next few weeks I should probably keep better track of where all our money is at. From my previous post you know that the credit cards are under control and should stay that way for a while. I had a couple of items I was not expecting (wife) so that messed things up bit but with my raise I should be able to keep things at zero on the credit cards next time I get paid. For now the goal is to track how much money we have left and to not touch it anymore. In the past, I was saving a lot of money but at the same time I would use a lot of those savings to pay down our debts. I hope we're done doing stuff like that and from here on we can save while spending within our means. I will continue using cash to meet those goals and hopefully my wife will do the same.

If you been keeping up with me over the past couple of years you may have noticed I have become obsessed with saving money. I wasn't always like that, there's proof of that all over this blog. Keep in mind I started writing 8 years ago and a lot has changed over the years. I'm hoping as I continue to get older I keep these new habits and we don't find ourselves back with close to 9K in credit card debt like this post from 2011.

Here's where all our money is at right now:

Bank of America: Checking and Emergency Fund. The accounts payable is how much cash we have left until payday (6 more days) and the Savings is the Emergency Fund which always has $1,000 in it. The emergency fund has saved me a few times in the past. I got the idea for it from Dave Ramsey 7 years ago and I still keep $1,000 in there no matter what happens:



Discover Bank: This is our main savings account now which pays us close to 1% in interest every month. We have 2 accounts with them but soon I am going to close the one I got from eTrade a few years back which I've been using as our main savings. I'd like to just keep the one I opened for my wife a few weeks ago to handle her pension payments. The current balance on this account is a little bit over $15,000 as of this morning:



Scottrade: If you keep up with me you know I love to trade Apple stock. Over the past week I took $10,007 from our Discover Savings balance ($7 is the commission fee) which had close to $25K and bought $10,000 worth of  Apple stock. I have made a ton of money in the past with Apple so that's probably why I did it again. As of market close today I am up $194 but keep in mind if I sell I will have to pay that $7 fee again. Here's the current balance as of 4 PM EST time today:

Cash at Home: You may remember that I have this strange habit where I love to keep money at home. As of this morning I have close to $3,000 in U.S. currency, mostly in $100 bills but a lot of it is vintage! It is worth way more than face value but I have so much of it that I can no longer keep up with it. For now I'm back to buying and selling other things like watches but if I make a profit I mostly buy $100 bills to add to the cash at home. Below is what my collection looks like, most of the bills are old but I do keep some of the newer ones as well:


That is all of our available cash for now. We also have my 401K which has gone up close to $13,000 over the past year but I will save that for another post. 

Anyone else saving money or I'm I the only weird one out here on the blogosphere?

HS