In case you haven’t noticed
I happen to be a financial nerd. When normal people go to Costco to buy some shampoo, they usually pick whatever brand they prefer or whichever smells better. I, on the other hand, start instantly calculating the amount shampoo units that can be acquired per dollar thus finding the best deal. Not really because I want to save money, but I want to compare things in financial terms as opposed to brands. Heck, I’ve calculated how much money I’ve spent on cigarettes back when I used to smoke and how much it cost me overall. I’ve even calculated return on investing into a shaver and shaving my hair as opposed to getting my hair cut every month (13,940%, risk free).
So, with our 5-year mortgage term coming to an end and going through a process of refinancing, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t calculate what was more beneficial to us - renting for 5 years or putting money down on our own home.
Rent vs. Own is one of those topics people will never get tired of discussing. Just like movie buffs keep arguing whether or not Han Solo shot first and truck enthusiasts keep knocking Ford against Chevy, people interested in personal finance will never get tired of discussing buying your own place vs. renting.
But discussing things in general ain’t no fun. It’s also quite pointless because everything depends on your own situation. So, I’ve actually crunched some real measurable numbers using these five years as an example to figure out whether or not we’ve lost money on our home purchase.
DREAM Savings account marches on!
So, last year I’ve decided to open DREAM Savings account. While it sounds fancy and posh, it’s just another savings account where I’ve decided to deposit money made from occasional work on the side, selling some of my possessions, local kids’ lunch money, etc. The goal is to save up and spend it on the long list of goals and dreams I have without using any of our work income.
The idea is simple - to have money that I won’t feel guilty spending. I am a bit of a tightwad when it comes to spending money (huge understatement), so is Mrs. Financial Underdog. So, this is a way to trick ourselves into spending money that will make us feel good without using any of our work income. Cause our work income is earmarked for boring stuff - like investing, paying off our mortgage, and feeding ourselves.
DREAM Savings Account
It’s been a few months, so it’s time for another fiscal update!
You know what really grinds my gears sometimes?
It’s when you drive by a car dealership and see a kick-ass car on display with a huge sign - “Easy payments of $199! *”.
I’ve noticed - any time you see an asterisk (fancy way of saying “star symbol”), it means you’re about to step into a mine field. It might as well have a skull and bones in it. Watch where you step, and read carefully whatever is on the bottom.
Of course, in much smaller print it says “bi-weekly, on approved credit”.
Consumers have been fighting stores, corporations, and dealerships trying to outsmart each other for a long time. I must say, sadly we’re losing. Bi-weekly car payments is just another type of ammunition they’re using against innocent consumers with devastating results.
Bi-weekly car payments
Here are some interesting stats for you:
- Average American spends 3 hours/day watching TV for a grand total of 90 hours/month
- Using your mobile device comes at 30 hours/month - talking, texting, playing games, etc.
- We spend 13 hours/month playing video games (obviously this number is much higher for younger people though some seniors might be addicted to Tetris, you never know).
- Exercising only takes around 9 hours/month for most people
- We socialize for almost 20 hours/month (including online and in person)
Rest of the time we spend working, sleeping, and eating. I could not find studies showing how much time we spend standing in front of the fridge pondering about food (at least 4 hours in my case) or arguing with your spouse whose turn it is to take the garbage out (none in our family - it’s ALWAYS me).
It’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog, and I do apologize for that. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not exactly a professional blogger (heck, my blog looks amateurish even compared to amateur bloggers), and I work for a living. Things in our sleepy town of Kelowna, BC tend to be very seasonal, and sometimes it catches me by surprise. All of sudden work got busy, and writing things on my little blog became a lesser priority. Life happens, you know.
Recently, I’ve received an email from one of the readers asking me to describe my philosophy when it comes to money. After coming to terms with the fact that I have a philosophy, I have spent a couple hours of trying to figure out what it is and how I can translate it into text.
Personal Finance Principles
Ever since I’ve decided to get better at personal finance, I’ve been calculating net worth for myself and later for two of us. Of course, during first couple of years it was mostly negative because I borrowed too much and had a tendency to spend every dollar I’ve made.
In fact it was just sad:
My assets: $124.45 on my checking account
My liabilities: $12,400 in student loans + 9,700 on credit cards
Net worth: - $21,975.55
(These are my actual numbers circa 2004!)
Of course, now our net worth statements look much more positive (check out our net worth update from 2014).
But I believe you should be calculating net worth even if you’re broke. You might say - heck, why should I? Net worth statements are for rich people who have money, stocks, and flying cars. Why should broke people bother with this?
Net Worth Update - 2014
Following example of many personal finance bloggers, I publish our annual net worth update every year. Given my utter laziness and nature of some of our investments, I only do it once a year and don’t see a point of doing it more often. For the most part, I only check our investment balances once a year and don’t sweat monthly changes.
The main reasons for publishing net worth update is keeping us on track and somewhat accountable for our actions. For example, I am very opposed to having consumer debt, and I’d like to show that we put our money where our mouth is by not having any.
Only major items are included in our calculations. I know some people put everything under the moon in their net worth update including value of coin collections, car values, insurance policies, and spouse’s jewelry. This sounds like way too much work (see my comment on my utter laziness), and these numbers would not be significant anyway. Value of our car almost doubles every time I fill it up with gas, and the only coin collection I have is the spare change stash for an occasional secret trip to Burger King.
Net Worth Update
Old Russian superstition and attracting money
Personally, I’m not a superstitious person. My wife isn’t one either, but we do share couple of superstitions between us which we stick to for some reason. Perhaps we’ve inherited them from our parents. After all, kids do what parents do without questioning it.
My wife’s superstition is somewhat cool. If she ever gives somebody a wallet as a present, she always puts money into it. Some people consider giving an empty wallet a sign of bad luck - if you give an empty wallet, it will stay empty. At the same time, if you put some money into it and hold on to it, this money will be attracting money for you and making you wealthier as the time passes. So, she always puts $5 or $10 dollars inside a wallet before gifting it.
I’ve received two wallets from her as a gift over the years, and both contained money. For the last 4 years since she gave my current wallet as a gift, I’ve been walking around with a $20 bill tucked away inside of it. She laughed a little when explaining it to me the first time, and said it’s all stupid, but her mom has always been doing it, so she does the same thing now. Monkey see, monkey do!
How did we do on our New Year Resolutions?
Last year, I’ve compiled a list of goals and resolutions for 2014 to hit by the end of the year. Some of the goals were financial, and some personal. Now it’s time to revisit them, and find out if we did in fact hit our New Year resolutions this year!
1. Invest 30% of our income - HIT!
Our goal was to save 30% of our after tax income towards investing. Basically, every month we were to move 30% of our paychecks into special savings account and invest these funds. Also, any of the dividends or investments cash flow were to be reinvested - moved into the same account and not be touched for consumption. Basically, we wanted to live on 70% of our income.
I’m glad to say that every single month we did this without failing once. In fact, we’ve bumped it to 33% halfway through the year just to keep things a bit more challenging. On top of it, we’ve managed to increase our mortgage payment by 10% and to set aside money for a car in case our car decides to call it quits on us.
What really worked for us is budgeting our monthly expenses, avoiding frivolous spending, and sticking to the plan. While we didn’t live like monks, we always thought twice before pulling out the bank card.
2. Update my blog on a weekly basis - HIT!
I’ve been rambling about money online for over a year now. Every week I feel the urge to post something. Sometimes rather philosophical, something instructional hoping it will help somebody who is in the similar situation. The subject of money is considered taboo for the most part and people don’t freely talk about it. Online though you can talk about anything you want with like-minded individuals all day long, and I’m glad I can contribute to the global conversation about personal finance.
And now for something completely different…
As you know, the main theme of this blog is personal finance and relating with money. But sometimes I get questions sent to me about something completely different. For example, the other day somebody emailed me and asked if people celebrated Christmas in Soviet Russia.
While I’m not an expert on Soviet Union, I was born in Soviet Union and lived in Soviet Union till my teenage years until the country fell apart and became Russian Federation (or Russia for short). Few years later, our family decided to move to Canada where I lived ever since then. But I still remember my Soviet Union childhood rather vividly, and sometimes it’s fun to sit around and talk about how things used to be. So, why not?
Did people celebrate Christmas in Soviet Union?
Not quite. As you may or may not know, Soviet Russia wasn’t a religious country. While nobody would send you to jail for believing in God, it was regarded as something outdated and silly. Churches had their fair share of parishioners, mainly senior citizens. But younger people for the most part were non-believers. For example, I grew up in a atheistic family. Neither my mom nor my dad ever mentioned God to us outside of saying “Oh dear god, what have he done this time?” while talking to my school teacher.
Instead, celebrating New Year on December 31st was promoted. By far it was everyone’s favorite holiday. New Years holidays usually meant time off school and time off work. New Year celebration also meant eating a lot of food and spending time with your family and friends.
New Year is all about saying goodbye to the past year and the welcoming of a new one. It’s focused on celebrating happiness, love, prosperity, relationships.