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Archive for July, 2014

Chase Freedom Rewards

July 15th, 2014 at 07:52 am

The Chase Freedom Rewards points came through today. My estimated is that we'll get about $50 per month in rewards, and this month was pretty close at $55.17. The 5% category this quarter is gas, which hits at a good time because there are two weekends in the quarter where I drive about 450 miles in three days. (Normally I drive 25 miles round-trip for work each week, and maybe 10 additional miles the rest of the week, so 450 miles is a lot for me! S has a company car so they pay for his gas, so it's only me and the lawnmower that use the Chase card for gas.)

Starting Balance: $514.11
Ending Balance: $569.28

Gift Fund
Goal - $500
Balance - $500.00
Remaining - $0.00

Movie Card Fund
Goal - $100
Balance - $69.28
Remaining - $30.72

The movie card should be finished next month. I was considering using 50% of the rewards to bulk up the gift fund, and 50% toward the Mega Savings Challenge, but the way my snowflakes have been going, I might just add it all to the Challenge! I think I'll just play it by ear, and use the rewards to round out the Challenge if they're needed.

52 Week Mega Savings Challenge Update

July 8th, 2014 at 08:33 pm

It was a slow week for snowflakes last week, and will probably be even slower this week! I did join Pact so made $2.12 for the various pacts last week, and I won $39.98 in my DietBet. I got a $5 account credit at my bank for enrolling in paperless statements, $0.60 interest in my ING account, and "keep the change" rounding in the checking account for the month of June totalled $13.10.


52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 27 [started late, now on my week 22]

Snowflakes
ING Interest: $0.60
Pact: $2.12
Paperless: $5.00
Rounding: $13.10
DietBet: $39.98
Total Snowflakes: $60.80
Rounding (to reserve): $0.80

Beginning Balance: $1795
Deposit: $60
Ending Balance: $1855

Reserve: $2.05 + $0.80 = $2.85

I sometimes feel a little bad that these weekly amounts are so small -- I see the Mega challenge weekly goals in the $150-250 range and get a bit discouraged -- but then I realize that I've made it to $1800 savings almost entirely from passive snowflakes, and that's no small accomplishment! Of course something always comes up to keep me busier than I expect to be, but I should get at least a little bit of relatively quiet time soon, and I'm hoping to find some more active means of snowflaking when I do, to hit those 'big ticket' weekly goals and get closer to the challenge goals.

June Look Back / July Look Ahead

July 7th, 2014 at 04:55 pm

The look back/look head is just my way to try to keep myself on track with my saving and spending. I have an Excel spreadsheet I love for tracking my debt paydown but it doesn't translate well to saving and spending; I find I'm more about words than numbers for those areas.

June
The good news for June was that my $625 client bill finally got paid! (I posted about it in my last 52 Week Mega Savings Challenge update.) I still haven't received the $200 refund from the physical therapy place, so I'll need to give them a call.

Our vacation went well, I made turtle brownies for the reunion that were a big hit so now I'm "in" with the family (this was the first time I'd met most of them, and only the second or third time for the rest). The critters didn't give anyone too hard of a time, which means they'll probably be allowed back if we try to get away together again.

The air conditioner at the rental is working perfectly (knock wood!) so hopefully it won't need replacement this year. I've started diverting the money I had saved for that to the other repairs that are needed. I had a good talk with the tenant, too, and we're on the same page about what needs to be done and spacing it out a bit so that it's not too much of a financial burden in any one month.

Our garden is in and already doing better than last year, which is promising. Still not as well as some of the more experienced gardeners', but we're still learning. (We're also trying to be less chemically inclined, so for example while lots of people use Sevin dust, we're using diatomaceous earth.) My biggest thrill is that a few of the tomatoes I started from seeds seem to be coming along. Of course the day we were planting the seed pods got all mixed up, so I have no idea what variety they are! Most of the seeds I started were heirloom, so if we end up with tomatoes I should be able to figure out what kind they are from their appearance.

On the financial front, I paid off $2,398 in debt, paid $810 in interest, and diverted my extra $149 from my avalanche card to the small balance I posted about a while back, so that card is now Paid In Full! Yippee! Smile One less payment to make, and an additional $23 a month to avalanche!

Oh -- Social Security apparently paid attention to the letter I sent in May, and at the end of June finally requested back all of the deposits they'd made to my MIL's account. (It looks like the money hasn't actually left the account yet, but I do see the request.) Government efficiency at its finest!

July
The first half of this month is focused on my career, for a change. My boss wants me to take a licensing exam, so this week I'm in review classes and then take the test next week. It's apparently a very intense test, and a significant number of people don't pass it the first time, so I'm nervous about it but also open to the fact that I might need to retake it. (I'm not sure if that's going to be more or less helpful to my studying, but it is what it is at this point!)

Once I pass this exam, there's another that's a bit lower-key, and then I've been told I'll get a bonus and an increase in pay. (We'll see how that shakes out, of course!) The long outlook is that once I'm licensed, I'll be able to take over (buy out) the business when my boss retires/dies/becomes disabled, which is a win-win all the way around. Not that I'm hoping for anything to happen to him, but he's 82 years old (but in excellent health) so it's definitely something he's thought about.

At any rate, the rest of July should be pretty laid back; it's a slow time at work and nothing much going on socially or with the family except my mom's birthday at the end of the month. I'm looking forward to having some time to relax again!

Irritated

July 2nd, 2014 at 11:11 am

S has a very small rollover IRA at Fidelity. ($2300) We just recently rolled an old 401(k) into it, so now we're ready to invest in something other than a money market mutual fund. I figured Vanguard's Total Stock Market Index would be the way to go, but unfortunately Vanguard raised their minimum investment to $3000, even for IRAs. So, after some searching and finding almost *no* funds that have less than a $2500 minimum, I figured I'd invest in the Vanguard STAR fund and then, once it hit $3K or greater, exchange into the VTSMX.

Except when I tried to do the trade, I kept getting an error that the fund has a $2500 minimum. So, more research, and I combed through the 10,000+ funds that Fidelity offers as open to new investors, and couldn't find any with a minimum of less than $2500. Fishy. I checked the IRA account agreement, and it says nothing about minimum investments, except that you must meet the fund's minimum requirement. I contacted Fidelity and sure enough, the only mutual funds you can invest less than $2500 in through their accounts are money market mutual funds.

I'm not entirely irritated with their policy, but I'm irritated that a) it's not mentioned in the account agreement anywhere, and b) both the account agreement and the trading platform give the impression that it's the fund's minimum investment requirement that matters, and not Fidelity's. (In fact the trading platform specifically states, "The selected mutual fund has a minimum investment requirement of $2,500.")

So I have a few options: 1) I can leave the money in the money market mutual fund; 2) I can contribute an additional $200-700 to bring the account up to $2500-3000 and invest in one of the Vanguard funds; 3) I can invest in an ETF or stock; or 4) I can transfer the IRA to a new Vanguard IRA and follow the STAR-to-VTSMX plan.

Number 1 is least desirable, because the money is earning almost no interest and since this is long-term retirement savings, I'd rather maximize earnings as much as possible. Number 2 is not much better, since we don't qualify for a deductible IRA and I'd rather use the $200-700 to pay off debt at this point (plus honestly I chafe at feeling compelled to contribute to an IRA simply so that I can invest in a product that might actually make money!). Number 3 is doable, Vanguard has a Total Stock Market ETF with essentially identical performance as the mutual fund. Number 4 is attractive primarily because of my pique at Fidelity.

Actually number 3 is probably the best choice, now that I've listed them all out, because it will get me invested in the better-performing fund from the start. (The STAR fund has been significantly underperforming the Total Stock Market Index for the last couple of years.) In my still-irritated state, though, it would be satisfying to tell Fidelity to stuff it. (Although a) they probably would never know or care why I transferred the account and b) S's current 401(k) is at Fidelity and is a much larger account, and of course we can't move that one.)

So I guess I'll stay at Fidelity and buy the Vanguard ETF -- but I might wait a day or two until I'm less irritated about the whole thing!