Monday, January 12, 2009

Renter Updates

Well, K moved out on Friday and we have a new person moving in tomorrow. K also made several bad choices before he left, including:

1. Giving some of his valuables to one of the roommates instead of trying to sell them himself and pay us back, or giving them to us to sell for him to cover what he owes us.

2. Instead of having the title for his vehicle on his possession, it is in New York. He ended up giving his vehicle to a mechanic and said basically the guy can have the vehicle if it costs too much to repair.

3. Due to not taking care of things prior to the last day, he took a train to downtown Chicago in the afternoon and slept in the train station waiting for the morning train to Michigan.

We also had been "babying" our two roommates by having little tins for them to put their rent money in. One of them has an issue with anyone seeing them giving my wife the rent money (they don't even want me to see it), which is why we started the tin method. I have gotten sick of us "babying" them and expressed my frustration about this to my wife. I'm afraid I expressed my frustration too much to my wife, but we resolved it. I don't feel it is a very secure method with the chance of someone saying "Well, I put $100 in there yesterday, I don't know where it is now..."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Considering Cable

We've been without cable for a couple of years now and have been using an antenna I installed in our attic. It should be installed on our chimney and may need to be even larger. I'm not going to climb onto our roof with it though, due to my ability to work is more important. We get 5 channels OK, though a little static at times. With the DTV box though, we get 0 channels.

My choices are:

1. Hire someone to move it, see if the current antenna works and possibly install a larger one. This could cost up to $200.

2. Purchase basic cable from Comcast for $10/month for a year, then at that point decide if I want to do the antenna option, go to a higher cost package, or cancel.

3. Do nothing and make it hard to watch shows. My roommates may not like this option.

I'm leaning towards #2 for now. I called Dish Network to see what they had to offer and the best they could do was $25/month for basic channels plus their 100 channels, which with taxes and a 2 year agreement would come out to over $700. I'm not up for purchasing a car at this time.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Changing Life Insurance Policy

The past 3 years we have had a pretty pricey term life insurance policy. For both my wife and I to be covered, we have been paying $95/month. The coverage for her was $186K and mine was $350K. The main reason we got that policy was that my wife worked for that company for a while and it was best for her to be using the companies policy. I have been urging her for over a year now to investigate a different company and plan, but she has not been in the mood to do so. Well, with money really tight for us over Christmas and knowing that we were paying another $95, she decided to do some shopping around.

The plan we were quoted will be a bit under $40/month total for her coverage at $200K and mine at $350K. Her coverage is lower and costs more due to her pacemaker. We have physicals this weekend to go through in order to make sure we can truly get the $40/month estimated price, but even if it's $50/month, that will save us $45/month or $540/year.

The next expense that we need to trim out of our budget is the cell phone, which the last payment will be in March. After that, it's getting these debts out of the budget.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Trading Tips For Coworker

One of my coworkers is getting the "stock trading itch" and asked me at the end of the day what I thought about eTrade. I'm going to talk him out of it, explaining that 80% of the professional traders do worse than the S&P500, with them spending their full day working at it. If that does not work, I'm going to give him these suggestions of places:
  • Zecco - I've heard of them a bunch, 10 free trades/month if your account asset value is at least $2,500 and have IRA account available (though $30/yr fee and $30 to close IRA account)
  • SogoTrade - I've never heard of this one prior to this morning, but found them from searching around. $3 trades, $50 to transfer account out, no minimum balance
My general suggestions for him are:

1. Make sure he has an emergency fund of at least 3 months of living expenses.
2. Make sure he is putting 3% into our work's SIMPLE IRA for 2009.
3. Make sure he has put away $5K for his 2008 IRA.
4. Hold off maxing up his 2009 IRA amount, since our employer may or may not match his 3% until the end of the year.
5. Don't trade any money that you will need in the next 3 years.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

2009 January Garden

It's official, my wife and I our planning for this year's garden. I received some cash from my in-laws in the mail and my wife went to Menards to pick up some lumber. She is going to build me a 7 foot shelving unit for me to start plants in. I purchased a light last year and rigged it to work in our bay window, but it was too cold there. We'll be taking out some furniture from our living room in order to make room for the shelving unit.

I'm also making a list of seeds that I need to keep an eye out for (Cucumbers, Eggplant, Peppers, Kentucky Wonder Green Beans, Cilantro, Zuchini, Sugar Snap Peas, Onion Bulbs, Spinach, Radishes, & Basil). I already have Dill, Tomato, Lettuce, & Celery Seeds. Our Strawberries, Asparagus, chives, & some local onions are in the ground right now.

For most of our new seeds, I'm going to see if Walgreens is going to have $0.10 packets this year (I missed out last year). If they don't do it this year, I know Walmart got some in the spring which I'll use for my warm-weather crops. For the cucumber seeds, I'm going to look for a hybrid that is mildew resistant, since that is what caused most of my cucumber problems last year.

We also have 5 stumps that in March we want to have removed in order to help the garden grow better this year. We are hoping to tear up part of our driveway as well to make more room for the garden, which will be dependent upon the roommate situation. We're also hoping to get some rain barrels as well to reduce some of the leaking in our basement.

We'll also not rush to put out plants before their time this year. We put out our tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants out too early last year and they kind of just sat there and watched us. We'll put a lot more cool-weather crops in first and when we're ready to plant the warm-weather plants, we'll just pull out the cool-weather ones.

Last of all, we'll produce less pumpkin and apple pie filling this year. We've been enjoying them when we have them, but my waist does not need me eating pie every day. I would say 12 of each should be enough for us. On the other hand, we'll need to at least triple the amount of apple juice we made this year. We made 16 quarts of apple juice, which we are watering down to 32 quarts, but our daughter is drinking over 2 quarts a week and we'll be running out by the end of this month. We also are on our last bag of brocolli since our spring brocolli did not turn out well last year.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Roommate Eviction Update

Here's the latest information I have:

K - Was unable to get money from his parents, asking for an extension but owes $960 and it will be growing by another $350 in a week. I'm going to see what I can do to help him pack up this weekend and bring it to his brother's place.

D - She has been paying like crazy this past week, paying almost $600. She is almost current, but will need to keep it up for another 45 days.

C - She has been paying right on her payment schedule, though concerns about paychecks bouncing is forcing her to quit. She asked indirectly this week for an extension, but we were firm on our decision.

We have someone lined up for the room K is in currently and once K moves out, the new guy will move in. He has steady work and my wife feels comfortable after talking with him. He will probably be someone that just comes to the house to sleep and shower.