Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Frugal win of the week: saving money on our internet bill

*after 12 months, your bill goes up to $64.99!

Frugal win of the week (FWOTW)!  Our Spectrum internet service promotional rate of $44.99 a month for 100Mbps internet for the first year just ended.  Suddenly our internet bill was about to go up $20 a month to $64.99.  Our internet service was under my wife’s account.  She called to try to get customer service to reset our monthly bill down to our previous rate.  The rep wouldn’t budge, even when she threatened to cancel.  The lowest the rep said that they could go was $49.99 a month, $5 more than our previous rate.  When asked why my wife didn’t want to accept the new offer, she said “why should I pay an extra $5 a month more than necessary?”  She cancelled the account.  I’m so proud of her for sticking to her guns.

5 minutes later, I called up Spectrum and signed up for the new member promotional rate for $44.99 a month.  Our internet was down for 30 minutes while I drove to the local Spectrum store to return the previous modem (free with service) and pick up a newer modem for my new account.  This is the second year we’ve had to cancel and re-sign up for new service to keep our rate down.  It really is a shame that many companies care more about adding new customers than trying to retain their current ones.    
I hope everyone reading this takes the time to negotiate their bills whenever possible.  If we left everything alone, we would end up paying an extra $240 a year.  We would rather save and invest that money instead!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Milestone reached: over 250K invested in my 401K

I just hit a new milestone in my 401K: my investments have surpassed 250K in value!  It’s been amazing watching the account value grow over the years.  I started contributing into my 401K in October 2011, when I joined a new company almost 7 years ago.  I started off with the default 3% contribution from my paycheck.  Then I slowly ramped up my contributions, just 1% every few months.  We modified our lifestyle to adjust to the decreased take home paycheck.  I finally started maxing out my 401K in June 2014 (maximum was $17,500 per year then).

A 401K is a retirement savings plan sponsored by your employer that allows you to contribute part of your paycheck towards your retirement before taxes are taken out.  Contributions into your 401K lower your adjusted gross income, which may lower your tax liability.  For more information regarding 401Ks, read this Investopedia article.

When I first started contributing to my 401K, I could not even fathom that it would grow to this amount.  Through market ups and downs, I just stayed the course making regular contributions into my account with each paycheck.  When the market pulled back, I was able to pick up more shares of index funds for less money.  When the market reached all time highs, I picked up less shares at a time. 

There were times I thought about moving my investment balance into safer funds like bond indexes or fixed value portfolios.  Fear mongers have predicted stock market crashes over the last 5 years; I am glad I ignored the noise and stayed the course.  Even if you only invested at market peaks, staying the course with your investments and not panicking when the stock market has a crash or correction, you’d still end up fine. 

More often than not, the stock market will be at new all time highs.  There is no way to accurately time and predict when the next crash or bull market will occur.  Time in the market is much more important than timing the market.  Investing in a 401K consistently puts money into your account with each paycheck, whether the market is up or down.  This bull market has really helped boost our investment returns.  When a balance gets this high, it’s not uncommon to have greater investment returns in a day than my paycheck after 2 weeks of work!  The opposite is true as well.

If your employer offers a 401K, I highly recommend contributing to it.  It’s the best way to consistently invest on autopilot.  And since your contributions are taken out of your paycheck directly, you won’t miss the money when you get paid.  If your company offers a match, definitely contribute to it.  Saying no to a 401K match is turning away free money.  Match contributions from your company do not count towards your maximum individual contribution amount.  Even if you can’t max out your contribution, try to increase your contribution rate by 1% every few months. 

My 401K is 90% invested in 3 funds designed to mimic VTSAX, the Vanguard Total Stock Market (71% S&P Fund, 6% Vanguard Mid Cap, 13% Vanguard Small Cap Growth) as well as 10% into a Vanguard Health Care index.  

No matter how the market does, I will continue to max out my 401K contributions.  Our financial freedom depends on it.  Are you investing in your 401K contributions?  

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Side hustles August 2018

The great thing about doing side hustles to generate extra income is that you can hustle on your own terms.  The more hard work, time, and creative effort you put in, the more extra money you can make.  You can hustle as little or as much as you want, whenever you want.  It’s your extra money, and you can choose how you want to spend it.  Instead of focusing on what ideas don’t apply to you, try focusing on different side hustle ideas that you can implement to work for your situation.

Once a month (usually on the 1st), I like to post a short summary of our personal and financial situation for the previous month.  Here I’ll share some of what’s been going on with our lives and our side hustles. 

Welcome to September!  How was your August?  Time is just flying by so quickly here in our household.  In between our work, caring for our kids and dog, it seems so difficult to make time for each other and ourselves.  I guess this is how so many people feel like life is just “passing them by.”  We try to enjoy the little things and appreciate all that we have.
One of our latest traditions is to go grocery shopping together as a family to Aldi every Saturday morning.  We find prices on groceries to be excellent value here.  Our son loves running up and down the aisles. 
Every morning, I’ve been taking our daughter with me to walk Abby.  Our daughter loves looking around at the trees and flowers.  
She’s really bonding well with our dog.  She just turned 8 months old and growing so fast!
Earlier this month, my wife snagged this sweet car ramp for $10 off the Facebook Marketplace.  Retail price is $97.99!  
We enjoy buying toys and household items used when we can.  This saves us tons of money and creates less environmental waste.  Buying toys used is great since our son can be so fickle and lose interest in things so quickly.  He can have more fun running around the neighborhood and holding our dog’s leash than playing with toys. 
Here’s our monthly summary of side income that we have generated in the previous month of August.
Cash Back
On 8.5, I received $20.46 deposit in my Discover Cashback Checking account.  This is a 1% cash back on my mortgage payment for our rental property mortgage, which allows for debit card purchases.
On 8.15, I received a $10 statement credit in my AMEX SimplyCash business credit card.  The 10% cash back on purchases made at Staples is still going on (up to $100 in total statement credits until 11.30.2018).  I used my credit card to buy $100 worth of Amazon gift cards.
On 8.23, I received a $10 statement credit in my AMEX SimplyCash business credit card for purchases I made over the last two billing periods. 
On 8.25, I received a $5 statement credit in my AMEX Blue Cash Everyday credit card from AMEX Offers.  This promotion was 10% cash back on purchases made at office supply stores for up to $5 in cash back.  This was an easy AMEX offer to redeem.  I just purchased a $50 Amazon gift card.

Survey Income
On 8.21, I received a $35 Virtual Visa gift card for doing a survey on E-Rewards Medical
On 8.27, my wife received a $20 Amazon gift card for doing a Amazon Preview survey.
On 8.31, my wife received a $15 Amazon gift card for doing a Amazon Preview survey.
On 8.31, I received a $45 check for completing a medical survey with M3 Global Research

Rental Income
On 8.5, we received a net profit of $430 from our rental property.

Side Jobs
On 8.15, I received a check for $162.50 for teaching at the local university. 
On 8.29, I received a check for $500 for providing fill in work at a colleague’s office. 

Website Income
On 8.29, I received a $11.42 deposit into my checking account from Amazon Affiliate sales through my website.

Miscellaneous Income
On 8.24, I received a check for $150 for a class action settlement with 24 hour fitness.  I signed up for a lifetime membership plan that was supposed to be $49 a year.  A year ago, they raised my annual fee to $99.  I still keep it since $99 a year is quite a low fee compared to other gym membership rates.
On 8.29, my wife received $10 for selling some baby stuff online. 

Monthly Totals:
We earned $45.46 from cash back
We earned $115 from survey income
We earned $430 from rental income
I earned $662.50 from my side jobs
We earned $11.42 from website income
I earned $160 of miscellaneous income

All of this totals $1,424.38 from our side hustles for the month of August.  This has been another nice month of bringing in extra money towards our savings and investments.  Are you doing any hustling on the side?
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