Thursday, October 29, 2009

Emergency Fund

I know we are not the best at managing money and we continue to use credit cards but I'm proud to say I finally have the Emergency Fund in place. I got the idea from Dave Ramsey who teaches to have at least $1,000 in emergency savings at all times. I took it a step further and created 4 emergency fund accounts:

Checking Account Emergency Fund: $1,000
Primary Emergency Fund: $10,000
Secondary Emergency Fund: $1,000
Job Emergency Fund (Unpaid Vacation 4 weeks): $4,000

The purpose of the Checking account emergency fund is to have cash ready with our bank. If something comes up I can easily transfer the money online. The cash sits in our savings account with no interest. This account is fully funded and has $1000 in there right now.

The Primary emergency fund is money we got from our insurance company back when hurricane Ike hit the Houston area. We never really used this money, I had it in stocks for a while and made close to $700 with it. The money is back in our FNBO Direct savings account and the interest rate is 1.50%. The primary purpose of this money is to cover home related emergencies like the roof or appliances going out. This account is fully funded with $10,000. The interest payment last month was around $15.00.

The Secondary emergency fund is not funded yet. This money will be paid out by my employer with the November paycheck. It is a yearly bonus payment and the spouse and I have decided to stash the money away in our HSBC savings account and forget about it unless we need it for a rainy day. As soon as the money is in my savings account I will transfer it to HSBC Direct account.

The Job Emergency fund is money I keep saved up in vacation at work. My employer provides 25 days of paid vacation. Normally I only use 8 to 9 days of vacation per year. The purpose of this emergency fund is to continue making our mortgage payment for 3 to 4 months in case I get laid off or fired. The money is paid out once I become terminated.

This is our emergency fund in a nutshell. There's a small issue we have, instead of taking money out for emergencies, we continue to just put things on credit cards! For example last week, my car battery went out and it cost $110 to replace. I should have taken money out of my checking account EF but instead I put it on Citi. I think the wife and I need to sit down and define exactly what we mean when we use the word "emergency".


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Our Bills - AT&T U-verse

AT&T U-verse is the provider for cable and internet in our home. We currently get over 260 channels, 60 of them in HD! The internet speed is 6 mpbs down and 1 mbps up. The service also includes wireless internet, 3 HD receivers with 1 DVR which can be accessed by any TV in the house.

We pay $98.32 for the service every month, the amount never changes. HD service is an additional $10 per month but if you bundle tv and internet, they waive the fee. We've never had any issues with AT&T or the U-verse service. The internet is fast and the HD picture is very good. I can also access my DVR using my iPhone (there's an app for that) and over the internet.

I wish they offered a HD only channel lineup. Most of the popular channels like ESPN and TLC come in HD and all our TV's in the house are able to receive HD broadcasts. I don't think we ever tune to the other 200 channels.

Below are the billing details:

What do you use for cable and internet? I'm always looking for options to save some money.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Our Bills - Electricity

Gexa Energy is the electricity provider for our home. The electric industry in Texas is deregulated so we can pick from a list of over 20 providers in our area. I use Gexa Energy since they give us 1 One Pass mile for every dollar we spend on electricity. We locked in our rate for 12 months at 13.1 per kWh back in January 2009.

The air conditioning unit in our house was constantly on all summer. My wife had the thermostat set to 77 and we never really bother turning it up or down. As of today, it is still set at 77 but the house temperature is around 75 so I don't hear the fan running as much. Below are the last 7 months of bills, the hotter months in Texas:

April 2009: $77.44

May 2009: $130.44

June 2009: $154.03

July 2009: $295.35

August 2009: $236.45

September 2009: $198.62

October 2009: $151.69

Below are the bills for the 5 colder months in Texas, these numbers are from 2008:

January 2008: $81.92

February 2008: $73.70

March 2008: $67.74

November 2008: $102.36

December 2008:$77.58

Gexa Energy is not my favorite company. They don't have ebills and won't accept payment using credit cards. They don't have an address for automated payments from Bank of America so my payment with them takes 5 days to clear using ebill. The customer service is not very knowledgeable about their products and last year they send us a letter telling us a previous employee stole personal data. They refused to pay for credit reports and credit monitoring. Switching providers is a big hassle since they all want to do credit checks, some also want deposits.

Electricity is one bill I don't like!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Our Bills - Natural Gas

CenterPoint Energy is the provider for natural gas in our home. We get a monthly bill through ebills from Bank of America. We usually have about 30 days to pay it. We don't use a lot of gas in our home, it is mainly the water heater and the heating system in the winter.

Our bill this month was $16.73:

I've never had any problems with this company, but I doubt they actually come out and do readings. It seems they just estimate use based on time of the month. In the winter the bills average $40 since it does get a bit cold here in Texas. This bill might go up a bit in the future since I'm thinking about replacing our stove with gas. I love cooking over fire, I'm not a big fan of electric.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Our Bills

I'm starting a new section called Our Bills. For the next month or so, I will post about all the bills that we have, so others can compare and make suggestions. I will try to post as many details as possible. The goal in the end is to use all that information and start working on a budget. I will include things like cell phone bill, electricity and mortgage.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Discover 12 Month Summary

Some interesting numbers from our Discover Card. I pulled our 12 month summary and it looks like we put $10,450.30 on the card since October 2008. Below you can see where the card was used, seems like the bulk of that spending was merchandise and retail. I'm amazed to see how much money we have wasted, believe me I have nothing to show for 10k!

I also found our cash back rewards summary, looks like we cashed in $130.00 worth of rewards last year. I still have $10.79 left, but I refuse to use Discover again. I don't want to deal with multiple credit cards. Citi is already out of control this year, last thing I need right now is to worry about another payment and debt.

I'm starting to think there's a pattern of bad behavior causing a lot of our unnecessary spending. I think the wife and I have issues we need to work out. I hope we don't end up in marriage counseling but the reality is that we need to change, I'm just not sure how... more on that next week.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Forgotten Rewards

One good thing about spending money using credit cards is the rewards! I had forgotten about my Thank You network account, so I logged in tonight and I was surprised to find over 20,000 points! that's almost $200 on gift cards but still not enough to get a new Ipod Touch, those are going for 23,500 points.

Not sure what I'm going to do with these points. I would like to get a cash reward but they want 16,000 points for $100. I should probably take that deal and just buy 20 shares of Citibank stock (closing price was 4.52 on Friday), hopefully I can get more money from then that way :)