Tag Archives: money

Cost cuts and budget updates

One thing I did over the weekend was to re-reun my financial modeling software (this is software I developed over a period of 10 years that projects every single financial transaction I will make into the future based on a given starting point, and that I use in place of things like Quicken) which is something I haven’t done in quite some time. There were some adjustments that needed to be made.

1. I wanted to add more to my retirement accounts.
2. I wanted to increase the amount of money I donate to charity.

I’ve been pretty bad at the latter this year. As it stands, I donate about 2.5% of my income to charity. I’m trying to get that up to 5%. As far as retirement goes, I’d cut back on how much I was putting into retirement in order to pay some big bills. Now that the big bills have been paid, I’m upping my contribution to $400/paycheck ($200/week). This is still a few thousand dollars short of the maximum allowed for tax deductions, but I’m getting there.

I put together a budget for charitable donations for the rest of this calendar year. Next year I’m looking to increase the amounts and within 2 or 3 years, I hope to be at my 5% mark. Some of the bigger ticket charitable donations this year:

  • Isaac Asimov Memorial Lecture: $500
  • UC Riverside Annual Fund: $350
  • AOPA Air Safety Foundation: $200
  • WETA President’s Circle Membership (my local PBS): $150

There are a number of smaller ticket items and it looks as though I have a little left over so if anyone has suggestions for good causes, let me know and I will look into them.

Finally, I need to do a little cost cutting. I started today by cancelling my NetFlix subscription. NetFlix is a great service, but I find that I hardly use it anymore. (The movies I have out now I’ve had for a couple of months.) The $240/year that I will save on NetFlix, for instance, completely covers the AOPA Air Safety Foundation donation.

There is more cost-cutting to be done, but I’ve got to take a closer look at my model to see where I can do it.

Big find!

I ran over to Rite Aid this morning because I needed more milk and was too lazy to go all the way to the grocery store for it. I picked up my milk and made my way back to the cashier, and right there, in the middle of the greeting cards aisle was a $100 bill.

At first I didn’t think it was real. It was folded in half and I thought for sure it was a fake. Prior to this, the most money I’ve ever found just laying around was a $20 bill that I found in a coffee shop on the UCR campus. This was 5 times that amount. What luck! I stuffed the bill in my back pocket, paid for my milk and then asked for the manager.

When the manager came, I gave her the $100 bill and said, “I found this in the greeting card aisle. Here it is, in case someone comes looking for it.” She thanked me and said she’d lock it up in the office. And I came home to have my breakfast.

There was never any chance that I would have kept that $100. I got an adreneline rush just finding it, but there is more to the phrase “finders keepers” than meets the eye. For one thing, the area around where I live has it’s share of lower income people. The $100 bill was folded in half and chances were it slipped out of someone’s pocket while walking through the store. Chances are good that the someone whose pocket out of which it slipped is someone who can ill afford to lose a $100 bill. So it was my duty as an honest person to give the money to the store manager, in the hope that whoever lost it will come looking for it and be reunited with it. It is not up to me to question the honesty of the store manager–who seemed very nice. I believe I did the right thing and I hope I would do it again in a simiar situation. After all, if I lost a $100 bill, I would hope that someone would do what I did today.

It does make me wonder about the limits of my ethical behavior. Regarless of circumstance, the right thing to do was to return the money to its rightful owner. As it turns out, I am not in dire financial straights and could well afford to return to the money. But what if that money would have helped to pay my rent for the money, or help to pay the electric bill? Would I have the same moral courage under those circumstances, as I did today?

I hope I would, but I don’t know.

Free money

Back in April, I opened a CD with my credit union which was paying a high interest rate at the time. I pretty much forgot all about it. Today, when paying a bill online, I took a look at the CD and noted that as of August 31, I have earned $101 in interest from that CD. I have the option of adding up to my initial deposit before the CD matures, and I think I’m going to do it. $101 bucks for doing absolutely nothing is not bad. By the time 13 months is up, I could have another $200-300 in interest. Of course, interest tends to be taxes at a higher rate so I plan on using the money for various charitable donations. But still, that’s pretty cool!

And to be honest, I can’t believe I forgot about the CD, as it’s not an insubstantial amount of money. That’s just not like me to be checking it at least once a month, let alone once every five months.

FOLLOWUP: New York City on $2/day

Following up on yesterday’s post, I counted all of the change in my desk drawer this morning, and instead of being twice what I had it was home, when I eliminated all of the pennies, it was about half of what I had at home. But that’s still not bad. Here’s the breakdown:

Quarters $26.00
Dimes $17.00
Nickels $9.00
Total $52.00

With the $117 from home, that brings the grand total to $169.00. I’m a little disappointed because I thought it might be more, but there were a lot more pennies than I realized, and I wasn’t going to count them. Even so, $169 is plenty for a good meal and some drinks.

Also, it is a great relief to finally be rid of all of this change. My desk drawer here at work looks so empty now. I guess I’ll have to start filling it up again for next year.

New York City on $2/day

This weekend in NYC, I planning on having a fun time; at least one nice dinner with jen_ashlock and Jason, and who knows what other good times. Jen and Jason have put themselves on a no-eating-out budget in the month of July, but I have a plan that will allow us to still have at least one nice meal out (maybe drinks too) without putting the slightly dent in their wallets.

It’s New York City on $2/day.

You don’t beleive this is possible, do you? Well…

Read on, fellow skeptic…

Where’s George?

I got a $5 bill in change for a purchase on Sunday, and stamped on the bill was a “See where this bill has been. Go to wheresgeorge.com.” I’ve always wondered where bills travelled and how long they took, and so I went to the site. It’s pretty cool. I put in the bill’s denomination, series, and serial number and was able to see it’s history. I also added an entry for the bill.

If you are curious, you can see where this bill has been.

Small change and large

Small Change
I just finished rolling about $40 in quarters and $20 in dimes for the next time I go to New York. Commerce Bank has free machines to get money for your change and the last time I went to the branch in Astoria, I brought about $100 in change. I’ve also got a desk drawer full of change at work that needs to be rolled at some point.

Read about Large Change

Easy money!

My credit union is offering a great deal on certificate accounts (5.05% on 13-months) and I could ignore it no longer. In addition, you can add to the balance up to the opening amount. Tonight, I opened an account. It took less than a minute to do online and that one minute’s worth of time will turn into an extra $550 or so 13 months from now.

Not bad for one minute’s worth of work.

The world of high finance

I have stock in an energy company. Energy companies (gas, electric, etc.) are supposed to be very stable companies in which to invest and this company has been very stable, with steadily increasing stock prices, right up until the time I obtained my stock. Since that time, the stock price has fallen (plummeted would be a better term) by nearly $8/share, or nearly 17% of its value.

Today I received the annual report for this company. Seeing as how I own a small part of this company, I feel obligated to try and read these reports when I get them. It is my understanding that most people do not try this, and I can see why. These things are impossible to understand.

Granted, I never did well in economics (I received a D in macro econ in college, even while I read the text book and attended every lecture. It was a mental barrier I have never been able to overcome.) You would think these things would be written in a language, as Living Colour would say, that everyone here can easily understand.

The main part of the annual report is some 50 pages long, with lots of tables. What is incredible about this is that the “footnotes” to the annual report are some 26 pages long, making the whole thing close to 80 pages of very small print. Reading it is bad enough, but I feel sorry for the person who has to write these things.

The annual report that I received today was the first one I’ve ever received that had a reader card in it, the way magazines do. The card asked several questions about how I enjoyed reading the annual report and how much time I spent reading it. Did I read it at work or at home? Well, to be honest, the time that I spent reading it so far was in the bathroom (multitasking). Interestingly enough, there are no questions about the clarity of the report.

I say all of this as preface to the fact that I believe I just wasn’t made for the world of high finance. Gross incomes, net incomes, operating expenses, pre-tax operating income, nuclear fuel tax credits; it means nothing to me. The entire document could be written in South Martian for all the sense I can make out of it. As someone who feels he is a reasonably intelligent person, my inability to understand a document such as this tears at my ego. But it is nonetheless true; try as I might, I simply can make no sense of the annual report.

They also sent some paper work asking me to vote on something which I also don’t understand. I don’t mind doing that for two reasons:

1. It’s the American Way to vote for something for which you have no understanding.

2. I always vote against what I think the majority wants. It’s my feeble act of spiteful rebellion against their stupid annual report.


UPDATE: Since posting this, my stock closed nearly 2% higher today, it’s single highest one-day gain since I’ve held it. I need to bitch and complain more often.