Monday, January 30, 2012

GBU Today

In honor of Mysti, I am doing my own GBU today- The good, The Bad and The Ugly. Since January is finally coming to and end, I figured this is a great time for a GBU:

The Good :-)
  • Nursery is done. I painted the room, added a fan and put a valance on window.
  • We ordered the nursery furniture and it should be here in a few weeks.
  • Our parents paid for the nursery furniture- tgf parents!
  • The house is clean and the laundry is done. 
The Bad :- /
  • $60 dollars left in checking account until pay day on Friday.
  • Spent $100 on paint, $140 on fan, $40 on valance for baby room.
  • My weight was down to 181 until I decided to do a lot of drinking this weekend, up 4 pounds.
  • Check engine light came on the 4runner, codes say emission system? Ugh $$$!
The Ugly :-(
  • NOTHING! - I refuse to let bad things happen. I have nothing but positive energy.
There you have it, my first GBU! Like Mysti says, you know the deal what are your GBU's this week?

HS

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thank You Points Earned

A while back I did a post about redeeming Citi Thank You points. Last year we cashed in over $500 in gift cards from Citi just for using the card. A couple of people emailed me asking how I was able to get so many points. This morning I got the statement for my Citi Forward card and noticed we are close to getting another $100 gift card. As you can see it's all about the Bonus points:


So last month we charged $577 dollars but with the Category Bonus and the Card Member bonus we got a total of 2094 points. You need 3000 points to redeem a $25 gift card, 6,000 for $50 or 10,000 for $100 gift card. Most of the time, I try to save the points and go for the $100 dollar reward. You can get gift cards to major stores like Home Depot or Walmart, restaurants or you can also redeem for actual merchandise. I've found the prices a bit higher for actual merchandise so I always go with the gift cards.

The Citi Forward card gives you 1 point per dollar spent but you can earn five ThankYou Points for every dollar you spend on purchases at (1) book stores, (2) record stores, (3) restaurants, including fast food restaurants, (4) motion picture theaters, and (5) video entertainment rental stores ("qualifying merchants"). That's where the Category Bonus points come in.

Also, if you are a new customer I believe you can get close to 10,000 points if you sign up for paperless statements and spend $250 in the first 3 months. You also get 100 Card Member bonus points if you pay on time every month and don't go over credit line.

If I remember correctly this card also used to lower the APR every month for 6 months if you paid on time and didn't go over the credit line. I remember my initial APR was 14.99% but now it's down to 12.99% which is actually not bad for a credit card these days.

There you have it, easy way to get cash back BUT be very careful. They know people like me overspend and how's how they make their money. Only play this game if you can pay your balance in full every month.

HS

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Discover Card Balance

Quick update on the Discover Card, the balance now is only $700 dollars. It is nice to finally be under $1,000 on this account. Back in July the balance on this card was close to $4,600 dollars.


If nothing crazy comes up and we don't have any emergencies, I should have this paid off the first week of February. If everything goes as planned then Best Buy will be paid off by March 15. That would leave the Citi Forward card with a balance but I plan to send our tax return to that account. That should put me at zero credit card debt by May or June at the latest.

Planning is easier said than done. I know stuff will come up. The baby will need something. The mother to be will need new clothes. Friends and family will have birthdays. Friends are also having babies and I will probably want to buy something I don't need. The plan to get as many gift cards as possible to offset some of these purchases. I already have a collection of gift cards to stores like Macy's and Kohl's. I also get mini rewards at work, usually $100 dollars that I can exchange for gift cards. The goal is to use up all these gift cards on things we need and not charge them to Citi.

I can do this, I will be out of credit card debt!

HS

Discover an easy way to compare and enjoy Discover card reward programs.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Baby Furniture

We are now starting to look at baby furniture but can someone please tell me why everything is so expensive when it comes to babies? Every decent looking crib we've found is at least $700 to $1,200 dollars. Sure you can pay more and add all the extras so they can use it until they are older but I just feel guilty spending that much money on a crib.

You don't believe me, take a look:


I'm guessing we should budget $2,000 for baby furniture. That will probably include the crib and some kind of dresser. I'm hoping the wife doesn't want one of those high end chairs I've see to nurse the baby. I swear we've never paid that much for any of our other furniture in the house.

Have a good weekend!

HS

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Best Buy Reward Zone

Another great perk we got when we bought the new refrigerator from Best Buy was the rewards. Yesterday morning I received a certificate for $30 in my email, just for buying the fridge with them. I’m not a big fan of these certificates since they expire and you have to print them out but I will say I’ve cashed in close to $200 in rewards over the past year:

















The program basically gives you 1 point per dollar spent. When you reach 250 points they send you a $5 dollar certificate. You can chose to bank your points which is how I got the $30. When I signed up I put the little key tags on my parents and the wife’s parent’s key chains. I told them anytime you shop at Best Buy, please scan the card. I also offer family and friends to help them upgrade their TV’s or appliances and I will go pick up the items for them. Last year I bought 3 HDTV’s from Best Buy for family. I normally put the purchase on my Citi card, get Thank You points and also get the Best Buy Reward Zone points. They write me a check and I pay Citi back. After spending a certain amount of money you can also become a Premier member which means you get 1.25 points per dollar spent.

This certificate for $30 will expire in August. There’s nothing I really need from Best Buy at this time so I will just add it to my gift card collection and set a reminder on my phone to use it before August.

HS

Find out why Best Buy credit cards are best for shopping for electronics.

Oppose SOPA Today

Millions of Americans oppose SOPA and PIPA because these bills would censor the Internet and slow economic growth in the U.S.

Please tell congress NO, you can sign Google's petition to congress here:

https://www.google.com/landing/takeaction/

This impacts all bloggers!

HS

Monday, January 16, 2012

Chevron Houston Marathon

This past Sunday I helped out at the 2012 Chevron Houston Marathon. I was part of the finish line team and we handed out medals to 30,000 people who ran in the events. The Houston marathon consists of 3 different races. There's a 5K race, a half marathon race and the full marathon. Below are some pictures I took of the event, you can click to enlarge the images.

Here is the medal for the full marathon finishers:

















Here is a picture of runners finishing up the 5K race:

















Here is a picture of the finish line where we distribute the medals:














Picture of a couple of ladies finishing up the full marathon. Notice the person who ran as Big Bird in the background:

















Picture of the half marathon finishers:













The finish line is very emotional and very hard on some people, a big Thank You to the medical staff:

















This runner had amazing six pack abs. I'm hoping this picture inspires me to get fit in 2012:

















This is the back of the finish line, you can see Minute Maid park in the background where the Houston Astros play. The back of the finish line is where runners take pictures with their medals:













There you have it a few pictures of the Houston marathon finish line. I pay a lot of attention to details and found some pointless facts for you:

Most popular running shoes: ASICS, nearly every runner was wearing this brand of shoes. The next most popular brands I noticed were NIKE and MIZUNO.

Most popular music player: Nearly every runner I saw had Apple's iPod. It was amazing to see every color, size and shape of the popular mp3 player. Of course that meant most of runners had the white ear buds.

Most popular GPS: Most of the runners I noticed had a GPS watch on their wrist. The most common brand I saw was GARMIN. I think is standard equipment if you love running.

Most popular sunglasses: Oakley Flak Jacket. This is the model I talked about in my Wants post last week. I was amazed to see the majority of runners wearing the same model of sunglasses. Both men and women wore them in every different color combination you can think of. Here is a picture of Mr. HS sporting his own pair in white:












There you have it, a quick recap of the 2012 Houston Marathon. I will probably help out again at the finish line next year but the finish line was very emotional. There were a lot of tears from the runners and it made me want to cry with them. There's also a lot of stuff I don't want to talk about. A lot of physical stuff that happens when you run 26 miles. It was great to be there and be a part of event. My favorite part of the event was putting the medals on the runners.

Have you ever ran a marathon?

HS

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Our Debt for 2012

New year, new goals, new debt. Below is all our credit card debt for 2012. I'm hoping these numbers will only go down this year. I'm done playing the credit card game. I always think of all the things I could do with all that money I'm sending back to our credit cards every month. At the same time we rely on our credit cards for a lot of stuff. I think a lot of the baby expenses will end up on the Citi card this year. I need to find a way to balance things out, I find it easier to charge a purchase and pay for it later.












There you have it. Best Buy is the new debt but I already made a payment for $124 to bring the balance down to $1500. Next you see our Citi Forward card. This card seems to have the same balance every month. Discover still on the list but lower, the balance is now only $1500. The goal is to get rid of Discover as soon as possible and continue making payments to the other accounts.

The good news about all this debt is that I'm still under $10,000. The total added up is only $9,788.61.

HS

Friday, January 6, 2012

Discover Card Update

I know the 2011 holidays were a total disaster when it came to debt and spending but somewhere in there I never lost focus on the Discover card. I got the latest statement this morning and I was proud to see that I made $560 dollars in payments for December:















I'm also happy with the lower interest charged to the account for this month. If you recall on this post back in August 2011, I was paying almost $50 dollars in interest. In a way that means I saved $30 dollars this month. I know it's money I will never see but at least that's $30 dollars less to pay back. I can't wait to get this balance down to ZERO and forget about this account. I like Discover and love their customer service but I hate carrying a balance and paying interest on it every month.

HS

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Wants, Not Needs

I need to be good this year, I need to get it through my head that I don't need stuff, I want stuff. Already last night I was surfing for items on the iPad, getting ideas and making excuses. I even tried giving myself a reward- pay off Discover and you can have x item. So, today I've decided to post my wants here to remind myself that these are things I don't need.

New Television:












This is totally a WANT. I would love to replace my current 42 inch LCD TV in my bedroom and go with a 47 inch LED model. The TV in my bedroom works just fine. I don't NEED this. This is 100% a want, not a need.

New Running Shoes:










Nike Shox Turbo 12, $125. This is one is sad. I actually own these exact same shoes in Yellow but I like them so much that I also want them in Red. I love color matching my work out outfits and I figured these would go great with my red Nike shirts and red sunglasses and hat. That brings us to our next want below.

Oakley Sunglasses:













Oakley Flack Jacket, $220. This one you may think is STUPID. I actually own 8 other pairs of Oakley sunglasses with close to 12 different lens colors. I figured I could get this new Black and White combination to match some of my golf outfits. Alright, this shouldn't even be a want or a NEED, like I said STUPID.

Apple MacBook Air:











Our last WANT not NEED for today is a Apple MacBook Air. This is simply the most amazing laptop I have ever seen or used. If you haven't seen one go to the Apple store and play with one. The model I WANT is only $1399! Almost as much as the new refrigerator we just bought. This  is something I really don't NEED. I already have a personal Windows laptop at home and I carry a couple of laptops for work. I also have a couple of working Mac desktops at home. Do I really need this? NO NO NO!

There you have it. The things I was looking at last night. Things I don't NEED. It felt good writing this and this will help to remind me that these are things that I really don't NEED and would only bring more debt in to our lives.

What are some of your wants and not needs? I wonder if I'm the only who has a problem.

HS

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Our Spending Is the Problem

Happy New Year! 2011 was a very expensive year. I just added up the last 6 months of charges for our Citi Forward card and I’m shocked. Since the middle of June 2011 we charged $10,259. I was not able to look up the other 6 months of charges but I estimate we charged close to $20,000 in 2011. We have to change, we need a lifestyle change. The good news is we paid back most of charges. I think it’s the big items that keep us in debt. Below are all the payments I made back to this card for the last 6 months:

















Below are some of the most expensive Items I can recall for 2011 with links back to the posts. This is more for me but if you are bored feel free to look back:

Tires for our vehicle, February 2011: $1,100. Post here.

Air conditioning coil replacement: $2,000. Post here and here.

Vacation in Las Vegas, March 2011: $3,000. Posts here and here.

Infertility: around $4,000 with doctor bills, post here and here.

My birthday: $1,000. WTF was I thinking LOL, post here.

Various birthdays: Lots of posts about birthday expenses, found this post here, $700.

Wife: $300, random purchase here.

Refrigerator: $1,600, last expensive item for 2011, post here.

There’s a lot more spending for 2011. A lot of it was document on this blog but I can’t possibly document every single expense. A lot of other crazy purchases did not make it here. YES, WE HAVE A PROBLEM. I’ve known this and I want to change. I’m going to make myself a promise for 2012: No More Spending. Unless I really NEED something, I’m not buying it. No more clothes, no more shoes, no more sunglasses. I have everything I need. Not only do I have everything I need, I don’t need 4 different pairs of running shoes in different colors to match my 8 different pairs of sunglasses in various colors!

ALSO, I need to focus on the baby. As most of you know our IVF treatment above was a success and we are expecting a new addition to the family in 2012. This new addition will be here very soon. For some reason when it comes to finances I seem to think everything will be the same. For now, I am taking it one day at a time…

Happy New Year.

HS