FInancial Weaknesses

As I’ve said before, I’m not a personal finance blogger. Still, I read them and every once and awhile a post comes up that I find myself wanting to respond to. My Dollar Plan put up a series of financial weakness self-analysis questions, that I’m going to explore below.

1. What is/are my weakness/es?

books
comics
lunches
soda

2. How many weaknesses do I have?

4 currently

3. How big are my weaknesses?

Small time.

4. How much money does my weakness cost me per year?

Books – if I go into a bookstore I come out about $100 poorer. I’d say that on average, I go to the bookstore about four times are year now. So, say $400-500/year.

Comics – About 40-90/ 3months. I have subscriptions to several comics and graphic novels. I pick them up about every three months. Depending on how many I have it’s 120-270 dollars/year.

Lunches – About 200/month for lunches, snacks and the occasional dinner out.

Sodas – $0.50/day = $182.50/yr.

5. How hard would it be to eliminate my weakness?
6. If I eliminated my weakness, would I be happy? (I’m combining 5&6)

The books… I’m getting better at going to the library and only buying the ones I really like or need for research. And I try to buy more used than new books. Giving these up all together would make life pretty freaking miserable for me.

Comics… Cheaper than cigarettes, but just as addictive. Again, I don’t have many vices, but reading in all forms is my biggest one.

Lunches out… I could give this up. I’ve done it before. I just don’t really like it. I have to be to work so early that the only things I could really make ahead and sandwhiches and I outgrew those in high school. I average about $5-8 for lunch every day. By cutting them out I’d save a significant amount of money.

Sodas… If I gave these up it’d be better for my health and my pocketbook. It would be hard though. The caffiene headaches only last a little while right?

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What Would I do if I won the Lottery?

Can I Get Rich on a Salary was idly wondering what he’d do if he won the lottery. He discussed Shaq’s unique business ventures and how he’s created seveal streams of income to keep him going when he retires.

That sparked my interest. Now, I don’t play the lottery. I don’t like the odds. I would love the money though.

So, if I won a small lottery, say, a net of 10 Million US after taxes what would I do with it?

First, I’d throw it into a bank account that earned interest. Even a simple APR of 1.5% would be enough to live on. I’d pay off the house and my debts which would take a big snap out of the money, but there wouldn’t be any “we have to move” BS going on.

I’d put as much as I could into a tax-protected accounts every year for retirement. I’d increase my monthly stock investments. I’d put about 1 million of it into a “blow me” account. I want a Maserati Spyder and that would be the first thing to come out of that account.

Beyond that? I’d probably quit my job and write full time. Yes, I’m serious. I would not close down the bakery. I’d quit my day job. I’d also write my heart out. Not a blog mind you, but my actual novels. The series of 7 I’ve got started. I need to finish the first book, but I’ve got it all plotted out. I just need time.

Huh. Who knew? I thought I had more pie in the sky dreams for the money. Guess I’ve gotten conservative in my old age.

Well, and 10 million is worth a whole lot less these days.

Why I dumped BUD

I invest in pure stocks with Sharebuilder.

Last week I dumped by Anheiser-Busch stock (BUD).

Why? Well, it all has to do with why I bought it in the first place. Anheiser-Busch was a family run company. It brewed and processed its beer in the USA. It has an excellent conservation foundation that it supports. And it has a fun theme park.

InBev has done a hostile take-over of the company and has pushed to oust the entire board (ie the family that made it good). I say, goodbye, have a nice life.

The reason that I felt it was a strong company was the family’s loyalty to the product and their ability to run the company. I don’t think InBev gets it and if they were willing to perform a hostile action to take it over, I don’t trust them not to screw with the management and the factory and the theme park.

I’m not saying that anything bad *will* happen, just that I don’t trust it *not* to happen. After the trade, I still made a couple of dollars on it.

Good luck BUD and thanks for all the frogs.

5 Budget Busters Meme

Debt-Free Revolution did an open-tag on this meme. Basically, you list the five things that drive you over budget, keep you from meeting your budget, or otherwise make you spend your money when you don’t need to.

For me?

Number 1 has to be books – Whether they’re graphic novels, hardbacks, or paperbacks, I love books. I have manga subscriptions. I have an ever-growing list on Amazon. The only mitigation I can see is that I’m going to the library more often and I’m now selling books on Amazon as well as buying them. It doesn’t keep me from wanting more of them though.

Netflix – I don’t always watch my three movies a month and so I’m probably over-paying on this. I just refuse to give the service up. It keeps me from buying three movies a month and having them gathering dust in a corner. I know people keep crying about cutting out subscriptions, but I just can’t give this one up. It’s still cheaper than going to the movies or to Blockbuster. I haven’t seen a movie in the theater since Pirates 3 came out.

Buying my lunch – I hate taking my lunch to work. I forget it, don’t want it, or I forget to bring the things home to wash them. (I can’t conscience using completely disposable things for lunch when I have the option of using real silverware.) So, I buy my lunch. It’s built into my budget. Still, I could save a lot of money by bringing my lunch every day, so it’s definitely an indulgence.

Traveling – I love to travel. My family (my parents and myself) take at least one if not two trips per year. We end up spending money in Disney or Vegas or somewhere else all because we just can’t stand being at home for one more minute. I’ve got a case of wandering feet that I have to slake or else I’d probably sell almost everything, but the rest in storage, quit my job and take off on a road trip doing pick up work, writing books and articles, and generally saying F-off to the world. (Only to be cruelly reminded that I really like the house I’m living in right now and I like having a steady paycheck.)

My Alice in Wonderland collection – If I see something, I usually get it because it’s incredibly hard to find things for this. I do try to keep it within reason. A five dollar purse or a ten dollar figuring as opposed to the two-hundred plus dollar Toby mugs that I really, really, want to get.

So, really, that’s it. And how I ended up posting two personal-finace articles in a row as opposed to clearing out my Boing Boing feed and bitching about the TSA, I have no idea.

Consider this an open-tag to any non-Personal-Finance bloggers out there. Leave me a comment and a link if you decide to take me up on it. I’d love to see it.

My take on pure stock investing

Okay, this isn’t a personal finance blog. I’m in no way a professional in terms of finances. To be most accurate, I’m a practicing amateur. However, I do invest. I tend to invest for the long term. I have a 401(k) through my day job. I have a Roth IRA I started when I was working several part-time retail jobs. And I have a Sharebuilder account where I invest in pure stocks.

Now, I’m not talking about investing thousands of dollars at once and day trading and all of that BS. I spend about 150 dollars a month on three stocks. (50 a piece). I change those three stocks whenever I like.

I decided that if I’d be willing to spend 150 at a Roulette table, I’m perfectly willing to take some chances on stocks. I think of stocks invest as akin to gambling. It’s something I’m comfortable doing and I find it as enjoyable as playing with my chips at the table.

I’ve made some good choices. I’ve made some bad choices, but at least I’m doing something.

What do I hold?

Well, I have stock in Tootsie Roll. (For the sole purpose of being able to go to one of their shareholder meetings and get free samples.) This has actually worked out fairly well. They have a regular dividend (which I reinvest automatically) and their stock is fairly stable.

Anheiser-Busch was a stock I bought into once and now just let the dividends reinvest. I’m not all that hyped on increasing my holdings with them. I’m just seeing where it takes me.

I used to have Harrah’s stock, but I got bought out when they did. I haven’t been able to reinvest in their stock because it’s not available through Sharebuilder and I’m too cheap / lazy to get a broker to do it for me.

I’m nibbling away at getting a share of Berkshire Hathaway. Why? Because I want the chance to see Warren Buffett in person at the shareholder meeting. I need to think about going to next year’s. It’s a billion dollar business and I don’t have to be Warren Buffett to get the benefit of his experience. 🙂

I have Goldman Sacks in my portfolio because they get a percentage of most of the mergers that happen. Thus, I get a percentage of them and I also get to cheer when it’s announced that they’re handling a deal.

I bought into the Knot IPO and I’m glad I did. The stock’s gone up fifty percent since I bought it and looks to be fairly stable. The wedding industry makes billions and I used to be a professional wedding planner as well as a “consultant” at David’s Bridal. (That really means that I sold wedding dresses and tried to push brides into buying a heck of a lot more than just a dress.)

I have, to my dismay, XM and Sirius stock. They’ve gone down precipitously since I bought them. I’m just waiting for the merger on the hope that I’ll get bought out and won’t have to pay to sell off the pathetic stocks.

I have Bally’s Technology stock. They make slot machines. I did mention that I consider stock investing like gambling right? That makes the other parts of my portfolio understandable too. I have Las Vegas Sands and Wynn resorts on my list.

I also have stock in Pfizer. The stock is a reasonable price and they have an excellent dividend program. Drug companies have a strangle-hold on the world right now and I want in on it.

Starbucks got added to my list because I watch all the fools who go in and buy it. They can’t live without it. Personally, I think the coffee tastes like crap, but they treat their employees pretty well and half the folks in my office are addicted to it. *shrugs*

Hmmm… I think that’s it. I might have missed something, but it doesn’t matter too much.

After all, it’s just a roll of the dice.

Book Review: The Total Money Makeover

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey is a personal finance book that I’ve seen referenced over and over and over again in blogs. I decided I should read it.

Nothing in the book is revolutionary, but all of it is logical and will work. I heard about debt snowballing from a completely different source several years ago and started working on it. This book is 2003 and I started hearing the term “snowballing” in 2000 or so. I don’t know which came first and I’m not going to get into that here.

He outlines a fairly simple plan for anyone to be debt free. The plan is simple, following is not. That’s why it’s called a “makeover.”

Step 1: Establish an emergency fund of $1000
Step 2: Debt Snowball and live below your means
Step 3: 3-6 months of living expenses in your emergency fund
Step 4: 15% into retirement funds
Step 5: College funds
Step 6: Pay off the mortgages
Step 7: Build wealth

Mr. Ramsey is a very personal writer and writes the way he speaks. He is motivational by nature and the book is therefore not bogged down by incredible numbers of charts and boring statistics. It’s all testimonials, instructions, and Bible verses.

There are a lot of inspirational stories included. (Letters from readers.) I read about half of them before I started skipping them. I’d rather read the blogs of the folks out there who have started implementing his technique. (They’re better written.)

Personally, I could do without the Christian slant, but that’s just my bias. I didn’t find his inclusion of them overly intrusive and it’s readable on a non-Christian basis. The information is sound and the psychology of it is perfect.

All in all, I think it’s a book that will help a lot of people. I just don’t think it’s something I need to run out and buy. If you’d like to, however, here’s his website. And here’s the Amazon link: The Total Money Makeover

Why I started driving the SpeedLimit Or, how I learned to love cruise control

This is not a preachy article. I’m not going to blather about being a lawful citizen or any of that BS.

Nope, I started doing the speed limit because I remembered why they were introduced.

Back in the seventies, there was this little, let’s call it “The Energy Crisis.” There’s been a lot of references to it lately since gas prices are shooting up again.

During this 1970’s crisis, scientists discovered that if you did approximately 55 MPH or lower, you increased your fuel efficiency. They made it a requirement on all major highways in order to decrease fuel usage.

So, I now do the speed limit. I use my cruise control to keep me on speed because, let’s be honest, I’d be keeping up with traffice at 10-20 miles above the speed limit if I didn’t use it.

Still, there are a few adjustments. Like trying *not* to wince and speed up when some alpha-hotel comes roaring down the street behind you in the right lane and gets pissed because you’re doing the speed limit in the right hand lane. It’s not like I’m trying to make other people do the limit. I’m just trying to get out of the way of the Prius and the Hybrid Escape with the Terrapass sticker….