Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Glut of Money, Hopefully Allocated Wisely

At this time of year we get our income tax refund, and the bonus from Grump's job.  This year they totalled a little over $9,000!

Rather than do something stupid, (like go out and buy more crap we have to maintain and/or cart around), we exercised some discipline this year, and applied a bit over $3,000 to our ridiculous credit card debt.  It didn't kill that debt off, (it was just too huge), but it did put a sizable dent into it.  Now we should have credit card debt close to $2,500, and if we exercise discipline we should have it paid off in three months or so.

$5,000 went into an account we use to pay off our car loan, and keep money in should our rental condo suddenly become unoccupied.  We receive almost $650/month in rental income from that property, so should the tennent move out we have not only that loss of income, but then also the mortgage and utility payments for the condo to cover.  So, we have to keep a large chunk of cash set aside for that unforunate inevitability.

The final $1,000 went into a seperate emergency fund to deal with anything else stupid that comes up.  For exmple, our cars were very nice to us last year, so one, (or both!), is overdue to throw a fit and generate a bunch of large repair costs.

Other than controlling our spending, there isn't much we can do at the moment to improve our painful cash flow problems.  Because Dodong is still so young, we have decided that it is not a good idea for Sweetie to try to get a job.  As for Grump's latest attempt to make money online, namely affiliate marketing ..... well, let's just say we hope we doesn't spend too much money on it!

If all this works out, then maybe, just maybe, NEXT YEAR we can actually do what clever people do, and sock away a large portion of our early spring windfall into some long term savings, rather than using too much of it to dig out of debt.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

We Got Listed on the Net Worth Tracker!

Is this cool or what?  We just got listed on the Rockstar Finance Net Worth Tracker!  Woo hoo!

Go to , scroll down to around $360,000, and there we are, "Working Class Hero"!  Ta da!

"But I thought you said your net worth was around $450,000?"

Uh ..... yeah, it is.  And here I have to point out something weird that I never knew about.

Apparently Blogger creates a "Canadian mirror image" of its blogs?  That's the only thing I can guess that is happening here, because in addition to this site that you know and love,, there appears to be a copy of every post at its Canadian twin, .  If J. Money hadn't linked to the Canadian site, I would never have know it existed.

Spooky, huh?

UPDATE:  I emailed J.Money, and he fixed our Net Worth listing to $450,000.   And it does appear that ALL Blogger blogs have a Canadian counterpart.  For example, a music blog I created under another Google ID,, has its Canadian twin, .

Anybody know why this is?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Another Year of Savings Flushed Down the Toilet!


That is me, wailing in sorrow and anger.  Sorrow over the recent death of Lolo, who was a really cool dude and all round decent guy.  Anger over the wreckage that has become our current cash flow / debt balance, yet again, for four years running!

We just sent Lola back to the Philippines, to deal with the funeral for Lolo, her husband.  We also paid for a ticket for Sweetie's sister to fly from Manila back to Mindanao, and for various other expenses associated with this tragic event.  My guess is the final cost to us will be close to $3,000.

The reason this is hitting us so hard is that we have long ago tapped out our emergency fund.  In fact, we were already carrying about a $3,000 balance on our credit card.  We are due to receive the annual bonus that Grump's employer gives out around this time of year, and we were hoping to wipe out that stupid credit card debt.  Ha!

Now the credit balance is soaring up to $6,000.00, with no end to the bleeding in sight.

I know the problem is that we SHOULD have had a substantial chunk of loot set aside to cover emergencies like this.  At one time we did, but year after year problems have cropped up "back home", (the Philippines), that have financially hammered us.

It all started those four years ago, when we were still living in South Carolina, with some expensive, recurring medical problems my wife's sister had.  Then someone else would get sick, then the sister would get sick again, then someone else, and on and on and on and on.

Three years ago we moved from Columbia, SC to Macon, GA.  The move was expensive, and stretched our finances to the breaking point.  No sooner had we begun to settle in than we received the news:  Sweetie's sister was in need of medical help yet again!

A year later, after paying off all the preceding nonsense, we stretched our finances once more to purchase a house.  Guess what happened?  Did Sweetie's sister require urgent medical care again?  No ….. well, yeah she did, but a few other family members contributed to the "sick rolls" this time.  Oh man!

To pay off that craziness we had to sell off some of Grump's retirement investments.  We pounded down the debt, then set some money aside for emergencies like this.

So all was well for a few months, until the antics of The King.

If you don't know, The King is/was Sweetie's sister's lazy ass husband.  In her village, he seemingly was the ONLY man who did nothing all day but sit in his father-in-law's chair and watch TV.  Even Sweetie's uncle with one arm did more work than this clown.  His whole contribution to the family was to siphon off funds from the money we would send home so he could buy himself expensive snacks and drinks the rest of the family couldn't afford. 

Lolo didn't like this sluggard, and on more than one occasion tried to run him off, until The King suddenly claimed to be interested in going to Taiwan to "get a job".  This was an expensive proposition, as The King had no funds to get there.  This was the one and only time Lolo asked us for money, to send The King to Taiwan.  We stretched our finances once again, and scratched up the money to send him on his way.

If you're curious about how The King's "trip to Taiwan" fared, you can read about it here: .  Suffice it to say that he left nothing behind but broken promises and debt.  How  much debt?  Would you believe over $3,000, much of it borrowed from friends of Sweetie's family!  Now The King is gone, and of course Sweetie's sister has absolutely no way to pay back that amount of money.  GRRR!!!!

I can't wait for Lola to get back home!  Once she does, maybe then our battered finances can start to recover!

Friday, February 13, 2015

ClickBank University and a KickAss Finance Blog

While we've been massively unsuccessful in obtaining any online income, (our last payment from online activity was 17 cents  -  yes, "cents", not "dollars"!  -  back in July of 2014), we're getting pretty good at SPENDING money in an effort to generate an online income.

Our latest expense was $47.00 for access to ClickBank University:

ClickBank University

Digital Product: Website Membership, Software, Video
Price: $47.00

GA 31210
Product Subtotal: $47.00
Tax: $0.00
Order Total: $47.00

Should you decide to signup for ClickBank University, please be sure to carefully check the options on the payment screen, else you will be signed up for "monthly support" at an additional montly cost.  Unless you've got DEEP POCKETS, I wouldn't do this.

I'll keep y'all informed on this blog as to how CB U is working out for us, and whether I think it is worth the money or not.  I've never been a huge ClickBank fan, so I'm curious to see if they have products that I would feel comfortable promoting, and if so, whether I can actually ever make a sale.  I have tried to promote ClickBank products in the past, for example in this old post, but as with most of my online money making ventures I have been spectacularly unsuccessful.


Another subject: whilest surfing thru various personal finance blogs, I came upon this one, , which I think is about the greatest finance blog I've ever read.  I really like Mr. Money Mustache's style, and his message of watching your spending as much, or even more, than your income, is one that resonates very well with me. 

As for his attitude towards debt, I think he even out does the esteemed Dave Ramsey: .

So go check Mr. Money Mustache's blog out.  I think you'll enjoy it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Cash Flow Problem, Part Two

In case you've ever wondered, I think I have just given a graphic example of why a written budget is necessary for all of us.  When writing out our monthly expenses yesterday, I somehow went temporarily senile and left out ALL OUR MONTHLY UTILITY COSTS!

You, me, our Mamas, and our crazy Aunt Ethel ALL NEED A WRITTEN MONTHLY budget if we ever hope to be financially stable.  Trying to figure out your expenses off the top of head, (or the seat of your pants), won't cut it!  If you don't believe me, read this post, then reread my attempt yesterday to quantify our monthly spending.

Yesterday I had estimated our average monthly expenses to be $4,500 .  Let's assume that the figures I pulled out of the air for the costs I identified are more-or-less accurate, and add in all the average utility costs which I somehow completely overlooked:

19. iPad internet connection (Verizon)  -  $30

20. Cellphones (AT&T)  -  $140

21.  Satellite TV  -  $100

22.  Internet access (AT&T)  -  $60

23.  Water  -  $50

24.  Garbage tax  -  $20

25.  Natural Gas  -  $50

26.  Electricity  -  $200

27.  Terminex termite treatment  -  $50

Add all these guys up, and I get $700.  So we need to add $700 to $4,500 to come up with a more accurate account of our monthly expenses.


This is much closer to our average monthly income of $5,300, and in fact gives us a "float", or margin of error, of only $100.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Cash Flow Problem

If you read our last post describing our "net worth", you may have noticed that while our assets/liabilities ratio is pretty decent, I believe we have a problem with cash flow.

Here are the numbers, (AFTER TAX dollars):

1. Monthly income from Grump's job  - appox. $4,400 .

Grump takes home $1,900 every two weeks, (he's paid bi-weekly), plus he usually gets a yearly bonus of $4,000.  $3,800  +  $300 ( $1,900 / 6 )  + $300 ( $4,000 / 12)  =  $4,400 .

2. Monthly rental income  -  $500 .

We get about $600/month rental income, but if you're a landlord, you need to factor in some vacancy.  I assume two months of no rents, so $600 / 12  =  $500 .

3. Income Tax Return and Misc., (selling stuff, gifts)  -  $400.


That sure seems like a lot, huh?  Understand first of all that there are five of us living here, and this income stream is not consistent.  (Some months are very lean!)

Now let's look at our monthly expenses:

1. House Mortgage  -  $530.

2. Condo Mortgage  -  $400 .

3. Condo Association fee  -  $210 .

4. Weekly Food/Shopping Expense  -  $800 .

5. Money to the folks back home in the Philippines  -  $200 .

6. Car payment  -  $400.

7. Dental nonsense, (stupid teeth)  -   $80.

8. Eating out, (I know, I know  -  Dave Ramsey would be VERY disappointed with us!)  -  $400 .

9. Clothing, (mostly kids)  -   $50.

10. Charity, (woefully inadequate amount, by the way!)  -  $100.

11. Doctor's visits and medicine  -  $100 .

12. Gas and Car repair/maintenance  -  $150.

13. Furniture and home decor  -  $200.

14. Miscellaneous entertainment  -  $200.

15. Not sure what to call this without irritating my wife and Lola.  How about "the sister" fund?  (DON'T ASK!!)  -  $150.

16. Diapers, wipes, baby food, breast feeding pads, tissue, paper towels, and some specialty food stuff not included in #4 above  -  $300.

17. Condo maintenance  -  $80.

18. House maintenance  -  $120.

I come up with an expense total of $4,470.  Now I'm sure there's an expense or two I've forgotten and/or underestimated, so how about we round this up to $4,500.

Note that, just like income, expenses aren't necessarily fixed, and vary from month to month, with the big nasty expenses inevitably falling from the sky onto our heads in the very months we have less income.  The universe just works like that!


(10/Feb/2015 update: the monthly expense figure is actually WRONG, because I somehow forgot to include all our average monthly utility costs.  The true figure, as shown in part two of this tragedy, is more like $5,200.)

Darn, Dude!  $4,500 is less than $5,300.  So what's the problem?

Well, the problem is that, as I stated above, our monthly income is NOT consistent.  In fact some months last year we received less than $4,400.  (For two months after our tenant moved out.)  We also got hit with a TON of expenses at the same time, so we had to put some expenses on our credit card which we are still paying off.

March tends to be a GREAT month for us, as due to various factors we get flush with cash for brief time.  This causes another problem: for the last two years Old Grump has gotten excited with all the money and put large extra principle payments on our mortgages, which means when the lean months roll around, we don't have the cash saved to cover our costs.

So really it all boils down to our inability to come up with a budget to control our fluctuating expenses based on our fluctuating income.  Sloppiness and laziness, really, and we should be ashamed of ourselves!

Our goal this year is, once we finally knock off the silly Amex card debt, to STAY OUT OF DEBT FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR!!  Can we do it?  Do we really have the discipline?

I hope so, but to date our behavior has been the opposite.  Wish us luck!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Our "Net Worth"

I've recently discovered that tracking your family's net worth is kinda a cool thing.  (Check out if you don't believe me!)  So .... not wishing to be left behind, here is a slightly foggy stratospheric bird's eye view of our "net worth".

We calculate our net worth to be $450,000.00, based on the following:

1. Assets (the GOOD stuff):   $600,000.00 (Yippee!)

This would be a combination of our various IRA and 401K accounts, (mostly invested in stock mutual funds), money in tax free municipal bonds, (the bonds themselves, NOT bond funds!), and a little bit left over in regular, taxable mutual fund accounts.

Note that this figure is just an estimate, and the actual value of our accounts is a bit higher at the moment, because the stock market is up.  As you know, stocks go up and down in value, sometimes dramatically, so this figure could be off by 20% in either direction when you read this. 

2. Liabilities (the BAD stuff):  $150,000.00 (Boo!  Hiss!!)  

2.a.  Our House  -  we owe $80,000.00 on our house, which is our primary residence.

2.b.  Our Condo  -  we owe $50,000.00 on a condo back in Columbia, S.C., which we currently rent out.

2.c.  Our 2nd Car  -  we owe $15,000.00 on a car we purchased last year.

2.d.  Our RIDICULOUS, NEVER-ENDING American Express Credit Card balance  -  $5,000.00.  Through absolutely no fault of American Express, we seem unable to stop the bleeding due to our inability to stop spending more money than we earn.  (Yes, we have a CASH FLOW PROBLEM!)

So there you have it  -  $600,000.00 minus $150,000.00 equals $450,000.00, which is our net worth.

Now before you think, "Wow!  $450,000.00 is a whole lotta loot!", bear in mind that, as noted above, almost every month we actually are SPENDING more money than we are EARNING.  The only way we have been able to keep this silliness afloat has been to cash in non-IRA savings year after year, for the past three years.  We have burned through $60,000.00 that way!  This year will be an interesting one, because we have resolved not to cash in any savings to subsidize our spending.  Wish us luck!

And finally, we have been lucky regarding the balance of our assets, because despite our cashing in funds to pay for our excesses, our net worth has mostly remained constant these three years, thanks to the upwards movement of the stock market.  Relying on a continually rising stock market is a foolish plan, so we had better brace ourselves for more bearish times ahead, and plan accordingly.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Online "Income" Statement - January/2015

First of all, it takes a HUGE stretch of imagination to call this silliness "income", even using parentheses around the word income.  We haven't even received a penny, (or, in the case of LinkBucks, a half-penny), from any of these folks yet, because we haven't hit the minimum payment amount.

Notwithstanding that cold slap of reality, here is what we currently have in our accounts that we've earned via our webpages:

Adsense  -  $4.46

AdFly  - 5.5 Cents   (Yep, that's correct.  Not even a dollar yet!)

LinkBucks  -  Half a .... Cent!   (This is BEYOND PITIFUL!  NOT EVEN A FRIGGIN' PENNY YET!)

Woo hoo!  Step right up folks and make BIG MONEY on the internet.  All you need is a blog or two.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Links of the Week, 01/Feb/2015 - Let's Be Rich!

So you wanna be rich someday?  (Who doesn't?)  Amongst all the hype and jive of the internet, are there some webpages with VALID advice?

Despite the overabundance of complete garbage out there, YES, good websites do exist that can help guide us on our path to wealth.

We could start with the end in mind, and jump straight to the Eventual Millionaire, ( ).  Jamie Tardy has built a following by interviewing folks who are already rich, and trying to discern what they did to cause their success.

If we need inspiration, we can go to Dan Miller's site, 48 Days, ( ), where you will find your passion and how to best act on it.

If we're stuck in debt, and we need help getting out, probably no one can better help us than the ever popular Dave Ramsey,  ( ), who has helped millions turn the corner on bad spending habits and start accumulating wealth.

Want to follow a test case?  How about checking in with J. Money at Budgets are Sexy, ( ), for some progress reports and reality checks.   

Once you have some money, you'll need to learn how to hold onto it.  Do this by checking in with Kathryn Cicoletti, the MakinSense Babe, ( ), and you too will be able to avoid the parasites of the "financial profession".

Now that you can judge who is reasonable, and who is speaking nonsense, head on over to Jim Puplava's Financial Sense, ( ), IMHO the best financial advice website, and judge for yourself the sanity of the advice given by "financial experts".

Finally, if you're ever really, really hard up, and need a way to just scratch out an extra $50, here are 50 Ways to Make a Fast $50 , ( ), some of which are more practical than others.

Good luck!

P.S.  -  Please don't lose sight of what really matters in life, else you'll be like those sorry folks in this saying: "Some people are so poor, all they have is money."