Thursday, November 29, 2012

Black Friday at Belk and Miscellaneous Stuff

The wife and I decided to go out last Friday to Belk. They had some pretty good deals on dress shirts and ties, so we figured we would go check it out.

First of all, even though it was at 10:30, people were crazy. The store looked as if a bomb had been dropped inside of it with clothes thrown everywhere. The lines to check out were unbelievable. I really considered not even buying the two things I had in my hand, but I liked what I found a lot and we had saved our Christmas gift cards from the year before.

So, as we were checking out, the cashier has to ask if you would like to sign up for a Belk credit card and save 15% on your total for opening the card. The couple in front of us had not spent a lot of money. I think their bill was $60. But, to our disbelief, they obliged and opened the card! I was shocked. I couldn't believe they had opened a credit card with Belk to save $9 on their bill! I wanted to shake them and ask them what they were thinking. Is this the problem with America? People will open a credit card account at the drop of a hat to save $10 on their bill? I might would sympathize with someone spending $1000 or more because the 15% might be worth it, but I would not do this. If they think think about it, even for a second, most companies will charge interest around 25% (some way more) on their cards. So, of course they offer an upfront incentive, they will make so much more off you in the long run so that the initial 15% means nothing to them.

We have a credit card that has a $9,000 limit on it. We only have this card for emergencies. We never use it for regular purchases or for any other reason than an emergency. It is not our Black Friday shopping card or our weekly meal out to eat card.

On another note, that same Friday, we put up our Christmas tree! We love Christmas, a lot. It is a very happy time of the year. In years past, we have sponsored a family of 4 for Christmas, but this year we decided to "adopt" a family in Africa. We donate to them through World Vision and correspond with them regularly through the mail. They are a beautiful family from Niger and both of the parents are subsistence farmers. They have two children 10 and 7, both who go to school and help in the fields. We are going to send them an extra monetary gift in hopes they use it better than we would (*Cough* Chipotle *Cough*). When I have a bad week, I find myself constantly thinking about them and how lucky I am, student loans and all!

Hope everyone finishes their week strong!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Hi guys! So sorry for the lack of updates on the website. We took some time away to enjoy Thanksgiving and do some things around the house with our week off.

It was certainly a busy week. We had the family over to our new home on Thursday for lunch. That required a lot of work to get the house ready, but it it was worth it!

We have noticed that our house is extremely drafty. I am not too happy about this. I just see dollar bills flying out of the window. In the summer, we had spray foam put in the attic to help control this, however, it is cold downstairs. Not too sure what to do about this. I would love to have an audit done, but I think those are $200?

Anyway, Rebekah and I had to put new tires on the car yesterday. We spent $252 on two new front tires! Ugh! I really do not enjoy the upkeep of the car. However, it is a lot better than having a car payment. Hopefully we are in the clear on the car for a while except for the $20 oil change probably in January.

We were also able to put $1,000 in savings! We did not pay any extra on debts this month because we want our savings to go up a little bit. We now have a little over $6000 in there. The furnace in the house is 17 years old, so I am wanting to stash some money away just in case we have otto replace that this winter. I think $6000 is pretty comfortable, so we should be ready to begin getting rid of some debts.

I will be posting a Black Friday observance post in the next couple of days. We saw some wild things when we went to the Belk down the road on Friday.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I really do not like cars

We took our car into the shop the other day and found out we have to replace the catalytic converter, $400. And, we have to buy two new front tires, $250. Why do these things have to be so expensive? We just spent $600 on it in September. Now, two months later, we have to spend another $650. Then, he started saying the new car phrase. It has got me a little scared. We sold our other car because this one was supposed to last us to at least 200,000 miles (@ 119,000 now). There is no way we can accrue more debt, especially a car payment. We have been working so hard. We will start to put a little money into a fund each month and pay cash for a piece of junk car to avoid going into debt.  However, this should still be a couple years away. We do not have to replace the converter yet, but he said it will be within a year or two. So, it is something we have to start accounting for. 

I am really looking forward to the week off coming up. I feel like I am running myself into the ground. Thank goodness for Thanksgiving!

 Hope everyone ends their week strong! 

Friday, November 9, 2012

I am not lovin' it

In 2009, I bought stock in several companies for a total of about $300. Since then, that money has grown to $2,500. I bought in at a good time and was able to reap some rewards so I sold this stock ahead of the fiscal cliff. 

Since then, I have been looking into getting some dividend stocks. I went and checked out a list of dividend aristocrats. These are companies that have raised their dividends over a period of 25 years or more consistently. With the looming fiscal cliff, I am trying to hedge my positions with some companies that are not going anywhere and will not fluctuate with the market. 

The other day, I bought $1400 worth of McDonald's stock; I got 16 shares. I figure this is a pretty safe investment and this company is certainly not going anywhere with a market share of $88 billion. However, they, of course, had their first decline in sales in 9 years so the shares have plummeted about $2.50 since I bought in. Just my luck. I am going to hang on to this for the long run because it has consistently returned 10% a year. Not to mention the dividend is 3% and looking to be increased, hopefully. 

In addition, I had about $300 left over from the MCD purchase, so I bought into a small company called Diana Containerships. It is a small global shipping company that has a whopping 20% dividend! I bought 44 shares of this stock at roughly $6 a piece. I am looking to hold this position for a while and see what happens. Hopefully they will not decrease their dividend and I can get some decent growth out of it.  

I think I will continually update you guys on my positions. I also have some other stock in Sirius XM. I bought 250 shares of this in '09 when the stock was $.05 a share. It currently trades around $2.80. I have made quite a bit of money off this one, but I am going to hold this one because I believe their debt is increasing and Liberty Media (bailed them out before bankruptcy) is looking at a share buyback program. Hopefully I will be able to make some more money off of it. 

I will keep you up to date on how these stocks are doing regularly. Hope everyone has a great weekend! 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Doing Some Research

After writing my last update, I decided I would take it upon myself to do some research on tax write-offs related the home. I was particularly interested in interest on a mortgage. When we bought our home, I was told by our mortgage officer we could write off the interest on the loan each month. They should send us a form 1098 in the mail come new year to let us know the interest that was accrued on our loan. We will definitely be able to write off our interest this year, but the tax breaks are set to expire at the start of 2013 apparently. This was a big incentive for us to buy a home in addition to the low mortgage rates which we locked in at 3.75% (will not change; fixed, woo-hoo!). After reviewing a couple of websites, it seems that neither presidential nominee (and now President Obama) was looking to extend the tax break. As we near this "fiscal cliff", I am worried about the prospect of having this break renewed. I really do not mind paying taxes. I appreciate what they go towards such as schools, parks, roads, and plenty other privileges. But, I do mind when our tax dollars are not spent well. I do not like paying legal fees for lawsuits within my county or country and plenty of other topics that would be better-suited for another blog. I am worried that if this tax break is not renewed, we will have another fall in the housing market. I do not think it has recovered enough to get rid of incentives. In Atlanta, there are still a number of foreclosures, and homes are just starting to sell here. Without some type of reward, people will be less likely to buy a home. For us, we would have never bought a home if we knew would not have been able to write off the interest on our home. 

In addition, I discovered we are also able to write off the PMI on our loan. If you do not know what PMI is, it is abbreviated for Private Mortgage Insurance. Homeowners who are not able to put down the conventional 20% on a home will have to get PMI. It protects the bank in case you default on your loan so they do not lose their money. Banks get the great end of the deal because the homeowner has to pay for it (we pay nearly $200 a month for this). So, this PMI will stick around until you have paid roughly 20% of the  loan premium, which, on average, is 5 years for the homeowner. At that point, the bank is required by law to automatically cancel the PMI. It is a major pain to have this PMI. It is an added expense that you will never get back. It would seem to make sense if the bank did not charge this PMI fee, their mortgage holders would have an easier time making payments on their loans. I am not sure they understand how much $200 a month is on top of the mortgage. However, being able to write this off is going to be nice. I could not find any articles on this break expiring anytime soon. I sure hope it does not!

So, after this research, being able to write $8,400 from the interest and $2,400 from the PMI will decrease our taxable income a ton! I will be so looking forward to paying off some of this debt with that money. It should be a sizable chunk we get back. If you want to check out a good article on the mortgage interest, here is the article

Monday, November 5, 2012

Post-Halloween Updates

Halloween was crazy. We had roughly 1300 pieces of candy and they were all gone by 7:30. The kids could start coming in the neighborhood at 6. Wow! We just turned the lights off and went inside after. I have never seen anything so crazy. There were parents walking around asking for candy in addition to their kids! I of course, told them all no, but I was still amazed to see that parents will go trick-or-treating!

We just went to Sam's Club and bought the cheap generic stuff. We got all that candy for roughly $60. Not too bad I guess, but still $60 that was not spent on debts...

Onto the dryer...we bought a dryer box and our handy man installed it for us and it worked! Hallelujah! I was very worried about this. All together it cost us about $190. I guess that is not too bad, but it was certainly an unforeseen expense. I am not too sure how much I enjoy owning a home. We had a fireplace company out the other day to check out our fireplaces (2). It was $199 for them to come clean and inspect the fireplaces! I thought this was a little ridiculous because all they did was vacuum and sweep them out. I think I could have done this on my own. However, the gentleman that did come over told us that our fireplace in the living room had an open vent. So, this apparently means if we use this fireplace, we will spread heat out through the chimney and cause a fire. The only way to fix this is to get a new chimney!! I asked how much that costs and he said a very rough estimate would be $4,500! Needless to say, we will only use one of our fireplaces and pretty much never fix that one. One of the major reasons we bought the home we did was because of the two fireplaces and the coziness it would bring during the winter months. Ugh! It never ends.

Since this is our first time owning a home, we are unsure about the interest on the loan. Will we be able to write this off on taxes? I believe so. But, is this one of the tax breaks that is set to expire come 2013? If so, which president will push to renew this bill? I think the interest on our loan is $700 a month!! If we can write all that off on taxes, we are talking about an $8,400 tax break. This is a big deal to us. We are talking about a significant debt reduction if we can get somewhere around $10,000 back on taxes.

We are getting ready to pay some more on debt soon, so I will post an update when we make those payments. Have a great week everyone!