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Viewing the 'Savings' Category: LivingAlmostLarge's Personal Finance Blog
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Viewing the 'Savings' Category

credit card rewards 2019

January 9th, 2020 at 07:04 pm

So I was trying to calculate all our CC rewards.

Discover $61.34 cash
Costco LAL $326.46
Costco DH $74.49
Chase Sapphire $300 Travel Cash Back
Chase Rewards $2115
Alaska $2550 (35000 * 5 + 30000 miles redeemed at a valuation of 1 cent per mile which is low. These were all redeemed at a higher cost. Plus the $500 on companion fare for card for hawaii ticket).

$5427 in rewards. It's actually higher because discover I use to get gift cards for restaurants and I regift them to people like teachers for starbucks. Hey $45 for $50 is a 5% extra cash back. I also get 2% on costco for executive membership that pays for $120 membership and then a bit more.

I normally do not redeem so much in flight miles and currently have used pretty much all our miles. We also have a bunch of bonvoy points from opening card which I need to use.

I think a more typical year is $3k in rewards. Not bad just for using a CC. Free money.

10 years of finances - thank you

January 3rd, 2020 at 11:26 pm

So I feel like I have grown a lot with many of the people on the board. My life has gotten significantly different and changed and I'm thrilled to have read about your lives as well. It's amazing to see people's lives and know that though we haven't meet I feel like I've been given a front row seats to important events in your lives. Anyone who reads this certainly has been given a front row seat to my life. Anyway thanks CCF. I have read about your girls since 2006ish and I cannot believe you have one ready to graduate college. It brings a tear to my eyes. Disneysteve I recall reading about the planning in his daughters baht mitzvah and now she's a young adult working. It's been quite a ride. Monkeymama had two small monkeys who are rather large now! I've read many of you getting married, moving, divorced, and joys and sadness. Thank you for sharing it with me.

Things have changed a lot for me. 10 years ago I was 8 months pregnant and eagerly awaiting the birth of my first child a girl. DK1 was born end of January but was due end of February. I was about to defend my thesis but had been mommy brained and lazy. I finished my thesis and defended in June of 2010 (yeah me!). Notice my biggest thrill this decade was becoming a mom? Anyway having a child changed my DH and I a lot. We lost 1 income and still haven't gone back to 2 full time incomes 10 years later. We added a second child in 2012, moved cross country, changed careers (both of us to entirely different fields), and didn't work or have income for an entire year! 8/2015-8/2016. OMG!!! If we had we'd likely be further ahead but we wouldn't be as happy as we are now. Something I tell people, we took a sabbatical in the the middle of our life rather than retiring a year early.

Finances 2010
LAL Roth IRA - $21,820
DH Roth IRA - $74,170
DH 401 - $100,378
Total - $196,398

Taxable Assets excluding home - $5k

DH has just finished his MBA which we cash flowed and he had NO LOANS. We spent $85k on this MBA. Our Net Worth was $201k. We took out a loan in 6/2010 to buy a subaru outback. And I think at that time we probably had $200k in home equity. We had maxed out the IRA and 401k since 2006 for $98,500 contributions and had $100k in gains.

Finances 2020
LAL IRA - $146,988 ($78k contributed)
DH IRA - $346,776 ($78k contibuted but some rolled over and paid taxes from old 401k)
DH 401k - $542,361 ($258,500 contributions from 2006)
Total - $1,036,129

Taxable accounts - ~$422k. So about $1.4m not counting home equity. So increase of $1.2M in net worth not counting home equity. Not bad for 9 years of savings and spending $100k that year for living. $60k living, $20k DH's course, and $20k for moving and expenses. It was crazy that we managed to break even 2015 and 2016 with investment income and savings from DH starting a new job.

2020 goal hit $600k in taxable accounts. I think in about 5 years we will hit $1m. I'm still on the fence with buying an investment property. Still looking.

Happy to read about everyone else! Have a wonderful 2020. I am soon celebrating DK1 10th birthday and I don't know where the time went. How can I be 40?

I certainly didn't expect my life to take these turns!

$4500 tax refund

March 25th, 2019 at 06:17 am

It's been a long time since we got a tax refund. It's a bit surreal. Anyway we got back $4500. I know it was an interest free loan to uncle sam but I thought we were going to be owing so it was surprised.

Now what to do with the money? I don't have a clue. Guess just pay our bills.

I know doing taxes a lot of people were surprised both ways. Some were shocked by how much they owed. Mostly because the IRS changed the withholding tables. So people who didn't change anything owe a lot unexpectedly. Then there were those expecting to owe and getting larger than expected refunds. People who normally owe so they kept on paying.

I think all these new tax laws changes shocked people.

poor and stuck

February 11th, 2019 at 02:51 am

So for about 3 months DH and I lived in a ghetto. I hate to use that word but I don't know how else to describe it. I found a rental online and had no idea about a new city. It was cheap and month to month, close to my work, took dogs, and we didn't have many choices. We hoped it would be short term and it was. It was pretty much our first and only time living in a city. Previously and since we never have and have made a conscious decision to live in suburbia and further out because we hate city living. I can't sleep, the noise, the closeness of people, I don't care to walk everywhere. It's not us. And while I grew up lower middle class it was more rural/small town. Never had I lived in a city like this.

But back then we were young and crazy. So we moved into a neighborhood we certainly stood out. The people were very nice. Our neighbors talked to us, more than one actually warned me to stop walking my cute white dog (bichon frise) alone even during the day. She said "you're that girl with the white dog. Everyone is talking about you. You should be over in that other neighborhood where you would fit in." This was probably true.

So I stopped walking the dog. One day across the street from us a dog was impaled on the spokes of the fence. Another time there was the home invasion, probably looking for drugs according to the landlord. It was not a safe place.

But what did I learn? Buses don't stop in poor neighborhoods. You have to jump out in front of them and wave but they just keep going. You stand under the sign and they aren't full but they keep going. There aren't many bus routes and they don't seem to run late, unlike richer/nicer neighborhoods. A lot of people are always waiting for the next bus that never shows up because it's breaking down. Funny how it's the buses to the poorer area that seem to break down more. There are less train/subway lines as well.

The gas station had a cashier behind bars and you had to prepay cash for gas. The gas was also ridiculously over priced at this small gas station versus going down the road to even the big 76 or chevron or shell in another town.

The local grocery store was still about a mile away from where we lived. The food was disgusting. It was like all the going to spoil meat, fruit, veggies from every other neighborhood had been sent there as a last stop before being thrown out. The store itself was also more run down and not as clean. It was constantly packed even though the food was more expensive than driving 15 minutes to another nicer neighborhood same chain store.

DH and I made an effort to only shop at costco 40 minutes away and grocery stores in the neighborhoods we were looking for a townhouse 20 minutes. We noticed a huge difference. But I mean realistically I wonder how many of our neighbors could afford to drive outside the neighborhood and get better food for less money? At the same time if they did they could fill up for less money since gas was about 30 cent more per gallon.

Because of this we definitely rushed a bit picking our next place than we might have. But it also 10 years later affected how we shopped for apartments. Instead of me picking a place again online, we drove into the city and rented a hotel room for 1 week. We drove around and saw all the places first. This time we decided we weren't going to take the same risk of picking a place we didn't like.

But this short experience made me realize that many people don't have the same opportunities. That people in a lot of these situations are stuck. The only thing they know are being poor. I can see an EF being helpful. But there are also these roadblocks that make it really difficult to get ahead. How do you know that driving means you can get cheaper gas and better food? That it might be cheaper to live further out in a nice neighborhood with better schools? But how to do you afford the car that won't break down and gas to get to your job? How do you know to get job in suburbia that is similar to what they have now.

But how do you change the system?

staying in poverty

February 9th, 2019 at 01:49 am

So I have to further explain to CCF how hard it is to get out of poverty. It really is when people are always telling you no and not helping you.

So my grandfather wanted to be a engineer. His dad said no way. No money and go get a job to help support the family. Lucky for him he was born number 9 out of 13 kids. He got to finish high school. His older brother finished 6th grade and got jobs for money to help support the family. This is why I always give a $1 to every salvation army bell ringer I see. I make my kids because my grandpa always did. He got their Holiday Baskets growing up. Wearing rice bags sucked since they couldn't afford clothes, good thing hawaii was warm.

Anyway he had dreams, but the dreams were beaten down by his family who said why bother with education? Go work. You don't need to study. Make money. The example was to drink and gamble. So it wasn't exactly encouraging. So he gambled and worked and had 4 kids. Lucky for them the Ob/Gyn said Mrs C you can't afford more kids lets sterilize you. THANK GOD or my mom would have been really poor. Yeah I don't think Dr are supposed to do that and now they would be sued.

But my grandparents were fun, young, caring parents. When he went on a gambling winning streak there was money and food. That's when you pay rent, shoes, clothes, and food. They didn't have a checking account until the 1970s when all their kids had checking/savings accounts and my uncle helped them.

My uncle at age 14 went to work and started paying the bills. He took each younger sister and taught her how a checking account work. How to pay using checks, how to be frugal. He said it was something he heard about from others not within our family. The rest of the family well they weren't exactly model citizens on my grandpa's side and my grandma's side was just poor.

Her father passed shortly after she left home and left a single mother with 6 kids at home. My great grandmother needed all the kids at home to work and help her financially as she cleaned homes, museum, and took in laundry and sewing and her mom lived with her. My aunts aunts on that side also learned after leaving home from their husbands. They lived in the country so they had very little and no way to help.

So it's not like people sit there and teach you how to budget. They also don't encourage you to save money. I guess they knew but there was never enough money.

Like I said I always feel bad my mom went into debt for us to go to Disneyland. But she said she never regretted it. We took out a personal loan from the bank. I mean when she got divorced from my dad she cut up all her CC and never charged what we couldn't afford. But what we could afford was meager. The real problem was we had a hard time saving. But things got better.

But by the same token my DH came from middle class. His parents both worked but they had no idea how to navigate this country when they arrived. They worked stereotypical immigrant jobs like delivering chinese food/driving a cab, bakery/dry cleaner. Again they had no idea how to manage money but DH's uncle, the one who died, he came first and fortunately smart guy sent money home to the rest of the family and helped each of his siblings come over and figure out how money worked. DH's dad grew up in a shelter and went to boarding school because they were smart and couldn't afford to live otherwise. So it was really hard to get ahead without the one person who quickly learned how to survive. His uncle always said it was luck.

So I think we need more education programs to help people learn about having more. Otherwise all they hear is they can't do anything. They can't figure out without help how to get out of their situation. But nowadays it just seems harder than ever. Wages have stagnated. No more pensions. Instead you have to save for yourself. A lot of these low-middle income people could retire because you didn't have to save or know how to save or invest (like my mom). Instead you work 30 years and there is your retirement! Presto!

I know it's not feasible but I think pensions help lower income people by far more than higher income people who usually know how to manage.

Have you seen people able to get out of lower income levels? Have you done it? If you have, how did they do it?

reflecting back

February 8th, 2019 at 02:26 am

I've been reflecting back lately on a lot of people talking about the government shutdown and how people are paycheck to paycheck. I do feel bad. Yes I understand they should have planned better. They should have not been living paycheck to paycheck. Hopefully they learned their lesson. Doubtful but maybe.

Doing taxes I see a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck and just trying to make the rent. They take out an advance against their tax refund to make ends meet. I want to shake them. I want them to make better decisions.

Truthfully I feel awful for those working poor. I don't know how you get ahead. It's so hard when you barely make enough that you can't repair the car. You can't buy the bulk packaging because you don't have the cash.

That was me. I grew up definitely like that. Looking back I didn't know any better till I got older, and I'm sure my mom and grandma knew better but we just didn't have the money to do it.

We had food stamps so we bought what we could with them. Stuff that wasn't food stamps we only bought when on sale and what was on sale. We couldn't buy the biggest size for the cheapest price because sometimes we didn't have the cash for it. And I remember the days of waiting for the food stamps to come and it was a great day to go shopping. It used to be this little coupon book that you tore out and you had to be really careful on what you bought. But when we got it we almost always bought steak for a steak dinner. End of the month and no food stamps? Lots of rice and tofu and poi. Of course sometimes we killed the chickens or my grandfather went hunting and we had wild pig.

So I get it. Saving $1000 was a huge deal. I remember my grandfather would often trade work for repairing the car with friends. He'd help doing a home repair or something and he'd get free mechanical work. And the cars we had sucked big time. They were constantly needing work but that was the real problem with cheap second hand cars. We even had second hand tires.

So people think it's easy to tell those living paycheck to paycheck to save. It's really not. One stupid car repair, one medical bill and you are wiped out. It's impossible to get ahead. You can't even buy clothes on clearance because you don't have money. Goodwill and hand me downs are the way to go. I had a lot of hand me downs from my boy cousins. I wore a lot of blue and green until age 5.

When I compare myself to now I realize boy have I changed a lot. I have gotten extremely priviledged and i'm a little shocked. Shocked by quick the turn around happened. I admit I'm nervous too. My kids have no idea. They were born to us when we had lots of money comparatively.

I guess that's why I feel bad when people talk about living on a budget and saving. I know how hard it is. I guess like is more like the conners/roseanne than people admit. And it's a lot less easier to climb the socio-economic ladder than people think or imagine.

I can tell you talking with my mom. When you don't know any better like how to maintain a house, maintain a car, what is a stock/bond/cd, how to balance a check book, what is a savings account, that even that "middle" class lifestyle is beyond what you can imagine or try to do.

Did you experience the same thing? Have you changed your circumstances so drastically?

2018 recap

January 8th, 2019 at 01:21 am

I finally have time to write about our 2018. I still have to rebalance our portfolio. I should have probably have done it in December but I was so busy I didn't have time.

Well I already maxed out our 2019 Roth IRA contributions today. I had it transferred and will roll it into the Roth IRA next week. I also interesting made DH's company match be after tax dollars into his 401k. I will discuss with DH the ESA contributions for the girls at $2k each.

So we are in a conundrum in 2019. Should we contribute more to the 401k after tax? And roll it into our Roth IRA? Or should we do taxable investing? Hard choices.

We increased our net worth for 2018 by $27k. Mostly by paying down our debts.

We lost around $1000 on our retirement savings after contributing $36k including the company match. UGH. So we lost $37k on our retirement accounts.

Our taxable accounts we lost $21k in value. So we were down $58k in our investments. Our cash decreased $12k for the year. So how did we increase our net worth?

Paying off our debts. So we officially saved $28.5k to retirement and everything else went to debt. We paid off a ton of debt. Our car on lease we bought out $18k, but started year with $21k in December. Paid our home renovations $35k the 2nd half that we had started paying 9/2017. We also paid off $10k I owed my mom for college I had forgotten to pay for years. She had my written IOU. We also paid private school tuition $7800, $5000 braces for DH and DK1 and our mortgage went down $20k and $5k on minivan through regular payments.

Since the stock market was wild and down for 2019 I obviously A LOT of bang for our buck paying down and cash flowing all those debt. Perhaps long term we might have done okay investing close to $75k cash but we also would have lost say 10% or $7500 this year and had to have made it up somewhere. This way instead we have a paid for car, a forgotten student loan paid, and all medical bills free and clear.

All in all I am satisfied with 2018. My goal for 2019? Bulk up our savings and not spend all that money we used paying off debt to pay off more debt

snowflaking success!

January 14th, 2018 at 10:49 pm

So my new floor mats? Well I have found $65 in snowflakes so far. $45 bonus at work on prepaid CC which I'll use to pay another bill. And a $20 rebate from Black friday pillows. I am debating counting coupons I use.

I also am very excited we finished Roth IRAs for 2017, 2018 and kids ESA for 2017, 2018. Very solid beginning.

Next time I am going to move the Kids ESA to the same place we have our Roth IRAs even without a bonus that I've been waiting for. Because it's a pain to have accounts all over the place. I use TD Ameritrade and they are good.

Third I am opening a savings account at our local credit union for the kids. They pay 6% for kdis accounts up to $500 and DH hates the idea of more accounts, but we just became members because they offered me 2.24% on our 4 year car loan $24k. So i figure we already have an account why not?

Besides the kids will have fun seeing a real bank book and real bank to deposit money. All the rest of their money we have online somewhere. I think they are both doing pretty well. DK1 has $28k for college and Dk2 has $18k. They also have about $2k in savings. Not too shabby. I have been talking to DK about earning money and investing.

As soon as they start babysitting I'm going to have them start to save into a Roth IRA. Right now I told my DKs anything more than $5 gift they should save 50%. Then 50% to spend

Bought a minivan and 2017!

December 31st, 2017 at 06:03 pm

We bought a 2015 Toyota Sienna AWD Limited minivan. I love, love, love it. I can't say how nice it is to have the space and ease of a bigger car. The car was $28k plus taxes and fees and we borrowed $24k for 4 years at 2.24%.

We are giving my mom the 2010 Subaru Outback. I do feel guilty about getting rid of a car so new, but the minivan I think will be good for 7 years. The plan is to evaluate it when it is 10 years and decide what we need at that time. My mom is getting rid of a 21 year old 1996 Toyota Avalon. And she could buy a new car but refuses so my used car is perfect. Sigh. Trust me I was trying to get her to buy a new car.

2017 wrap up. Our retirement accounts were ridiculous. We started at $626k and contributed $29k. We ended up with $790k today and approximate 21% return for the year.

We started the year with $435k taxable accounts and ended the year with $294k and $250k home equity we put down. Up $109k for the year. Guessing not as much saved as we should have but we did pay a lot of expenses this year.

Overall our NW went up $263k. Our kids have $22k and $14k in college. Plans to discuss this month pay off the car, how much for driveway/drain repairs this summer, roth IRA $11k, $20k taxes, and how much we plan on front loading the kids college.

I think we should earmark $10k per kid this year and see how the year goes. Then with the continual $2k/year per kid we could do another $10k in Jan 2019. I think this should cover 4 years of college?