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Sushi for 20

January 28th, 2008 at 08:37 am

We had a dinner party yesterday. Here's the bill...


1 lbs of Sashimi grade Yellowfin (Ahi) Tuna - $20
1 lbs of Imitation crab - $6
4 Avocados - $7
2 Cucumbers - $3
2 Bunches of Asparagus - $5
5 lbs of sushi rice - $6
30 sheets of nori - $6
1 tube (20 servings) of Miso - $6
1 tub of firm tofu - $4
1 bunch of green onions - $1
$64 or about $3.20 per person.

Other things you need
Soy Sauce
Chili Sauce
Mixed greens/lettuce
Rice Vinegar
Ginger Root

20 cups of Miso soup
10 California Rolls (Spicy optional)
10 Tuna Rolls (Spicy optional)
10 Veggie Rolls (Spicy optional)
12 pieces of Tuna Nigiri

* Mix 2 parts mayo with 1 part chili sauce for spicy mayo.
** We only had 14 people, and we ate about about 16 rolls.
*** Since I am not an expert at making sushi rolls, we ended up with relatively *thick* rolls with a lot of rice.
**** California rolls are the *safest* way to go for people who are not familiar with sushi.

House losing value: 8% in 19 months

January 28th, 2008 at 07:52 am

So I haven't been updating the value of our house on my net worth balance sheet. The value of our house has dropped from $174.9K to $160.9K over the last 19 months (According to Zillow). Which is, off the top of my head, 8% or so. Or about $750 per month! I will devalue the real estate on my networthiq balance sheet by $750 each month until it is on par with Zillow's home value estimate.

Heck yes, I'm refinancing

January 24th, 2008 at 11:16 am

My current mortgage is 30 year fixed. I pay $908/yr (+$400 taxes). I've had the mortgage for 19 months, and my payments are $133 principal and $775 interest. Now I can get a 20 year FRM for $957 with an initial payment of $316 principal and $641 interest. So basically, for $50/mo I can cut more than 8 years off my mortgage. I'm waiting until a couple days after the next fed meeting to see if the rates drop even more. After that I'm off to my Federal Credit union to refinance. In all I'm looking to save about $130/mo (money I lose through interest). So there are so upsides to this economy.

Organic is expensive

January 21st, 2008 at 08:31 am

This might not be a revelation to some of you; but eating organic vegatables for dinner each night is not much cheaper than eating rib-eyes each night. From now on my wife is eating an organic-vegan diet (I'm definitely not). In any case, our food bill will go up by about 50% from now on...Oh well. We've been shopping at an organic/fair trade store called *food for living* lately. We'll see how it works out in the long run.....

**disclaimer**. I am in no way an advocate of organic growing and consumption practices (including "free-range" practices). There are both advantages and disadvantages to producing and eating organic foods. It has been proven that using copious amounts of fertilizer significantly increases the yield of farm land (as is performed in Europe). It is expected that both nutritional value, and "taste" may suffer from these practices, but it can be argued that intensive farming's improved yield is a better use of our land and a more responsible way of life for our ever expanding population.

"High Yield" no more

January 11th, 2008 at 07:31 am

I have a "high yield" savings account at Citi. When I opened it, it had a 4.75%APY. The rates have tanked, and they are now 3.75APY. Now I wished I'd have gone with some other high yield account which still have rates from 4.50 to 5.25.

I like to watch my monthly interest climb as I add more to my savings account. But over the last half year it hasn't climbed at all, even though I have been contributing $500 to $1000 each month.

The fed is thinking about dropping the prime rate even lower. That sucks for savers, but it's good for people in debt. (Maybe I should refinance my mortgage from 6.75% to 5.75% that is offered right now by my credit union to offset the "losses" in my savings.)

Anyway, I have started buying up short term CDs (3 to 6 mo) at 4.50% APY at citi (even though other places have them as high as 5.25%).

A Look Back on 2007 Finances

January 2nd, 2008 at 07:59 am

2007 was an "ok" year as far as finances were concerned. Our wedding/honeymoon took a huge chunk out of our intended savings. In all it cost us about $10,000, on top of the $15,000 that was funded by our parents. (a total of $10,000 for honeymoon, $15,000 for wedding).

A short overview:

Net Income: $65,653
--- Wife: $21,036
--- Mine: $39,541

Expenses: $58,389
---Mortgage: $15,412
---Wedding: $10,143
---Clothing: 5,518
---Groceries: $4,641
---Lunch/Dining Out: $3,771
---Household: $2,913
---Utilities: $2,836
---Leisure/Hobbies: $1,941
---Automobile: $1,936

Saving: $7,264

Do you have an emergency fund?

December 21st, 2007 at 11:53 am

They say you should have X months worth of income saved up for tougher times or emergencies. I have just started saving last year, and I have not contributed anything to retirement because all my savings have gone into an emergency fund first. My goal is to save up $12,000 and put it in a high-yield savings account. After that I hope to start saving for retirement. I still have to work a few more months at my job (been working there 2.5 years now) before my retirement benefits kick in anyway. Do you have an emergency fund? Is it fully funded?

Holiday Spending

December 21st, 2007 at 06:42 am

My wife finished our holiday spending. Our combined spending has hit about $500. We bought yearly National Geographic subscriptions for 3 gifts at ($15 for 12 issues bought from their online store). Other gifts include: a coach wallet for $80 (was $150), a 8gb ipod nano for $179 (was $199), 3 t-shirts for $15 ea., gloves for $18, 12 heirloom veg. seedlings for $6 ea. and a $25 gift certificate. I would have liked to have spent less than $500 but I think we did ok considering we're not really part of a non-spending family anyway. Besides, the ipod doubles as a birthday gift as well. Best of all, even with buying the holiday gifts, we still spent less than any month this year. It must be that we have everything we want!

I'm not the most responsible...

November 8th, 2007 at 09:01 am

...as far as money is concerned. But if you take my fiscal irresponsibility and magnify it by a billion times, you will probably about equal the fiscal irresponsibility of our government. Well, technically not MY government 'cause I can't even vote. But why do voters sit idly by while our congress and president are making a mockery of our public account. Did you know that over 2/3 of our discretionary budget are military/national security expenditures? That's equal to $717,000,000,000, or about $3,000 per tax payer. We're also paying about $1,000 per tax payer on debt interest. Furthermore, to fill the budget deficit gap we need to pay about $1,000 per tax payer, or reduce our spending by the same amount. My question, however, is, who's going to pay our debt? If we're not doing it right now, our children will have to. And is that really how we want to treat our future? Our government certainly thinks so.

Check out this graph:


My question is: Do we want to be fighting wars, or do we want to pay more taxes? Because we can't just decide to go fight a war and not pay for it. Moreover, if we didn't have any debt, we probably WOULD have enough money to go fight wars whenever we feel like.

My parents are great

November 7th, 2007 at 07:16 am

Great savers that is. If I had the discipline they've had I would be rich already. In any case, they just sent me $2,000 to help with my wedding payment. On top of the $15,000 they paid last year for my house down payment. Well, they always say it's all being subtracted from my inheritance. Somehow I'm not worrying about that right now - my parents are in great health.

I got a new appointment at the University for 50K at 70% time. That's a 3% drop from my previous rate, but I get better benefits...I think. We'll see how that goes. Also I'm foreseeing a raise in the future, my boss is anyway (he told me so), because I will be taking on more responsibilities at work. I'm counting on it....

Back from Hiatus

November 6th, 2007 at 10:53 am

Got married in July. Now I'm getting finances back in order. We went over budget. A LOT over budget, and it is hurting. Well..., not literally, but it wiped out at least half a year of savings. Luckily we were able to spread out the pain thinly over the year, so it didn't seem that it was hurting us too much. I've been not spending any money on anything frivolous over the last two months, and it has paid off...somewhat. But then came last month. (We) did some major spending:

New Luggage: $300
Purses: $300
Laptop for my wife: $1200
Wedding Album, Last Payment: $900
Wedding Family Loan Payment: $1000

I always allow myself to buy something "big" each year:

2004: New Computer - $1100
2005: New Laptop - $1300
2006: 40" LCD TV - $700

This year I think I'm passing on that.

Why I don't pinch pennies

May 9th, 2007 at 03:26 pm

To me, penny pinching is not just about saving, it's a mindset that money is all important.I do not micromanage my budget because it makes me unhappy. Constantly thinking about saving a dollar here or there would make me depressed. To me, if I buy something and it makes me happy, it's much more important than the exact price. Don't get me wrong, price does matter, but only in a larger sense. I have a certain price threshold above which I'm reluctant to go, if an item is priced equal or less than I am willing to pay for it, I will have no regrets paying that price for it.

I also try not to buy stuff "because it's on sale" or "because I have a coupon". Before I walk into a store I know what I want to buy; I do not walk into a store with a "get $10 off $20" coupon and browse the store for something I like of $20 or more. On the other hand, I hate shopping, so I rarely walk into stores in the first place....

Here's the general plan I follow for saving:
1) Set a goal (weekly, monthly or yearly) for saving as a whole (.ie. save $500 this month).
2) I plan a budget to fit that goal
3) During the saving term I keep my eyes open for significant overspending
4) I analyze my spending in relation with my budget and savings goal at the end of the saving term.
5) In response I either tweak the next term's budget OR savings goal. I try to take into account both financial viability and my personal happiness.
6) I consult my fiance about the new goal and, if necessary, changes we need to make in our lifestyle to accomodate the new budget.
7) I also project a long term savings trend to keep us on track towards financial independence at the end of our careers.

Where Have I Travelled?

May 8th, 2007 at 07:33 am

Here are the states I've been in

And here are the countries I've been to:

My honeymoon will bring me to Africa, and I would like to cross South America off the list within 5 years too!


May 4th, 2007 at 02:37 pm

It seems so trivial when I'm talking about saving $xxxx and spending $xxxx when people die of hunger all over the world. Although I understand that we cannot remedy all injustices in an instance, there are somethings we can do to make it better. Right?

My question is, what is the best relief agency out there? I am currently member of "Food for the Hungry" (www.fh.org), but are there better organizations to donate to? Why did I choose this organization? It seemed like a reputable organization, it seemed to specifically target hunger, their donation options are automated and flexible and you can specify where your money goes.

Well...I didn't do much, but I have a recurring donation of $10/mo. I might increase that after my wedding finances are settled. The $10/mo. is about half the interest I make on my saving accounts so I thought it was a good place to start.

What I also wanted to know, are there any secular non-governmental agencies out there that do relief work? If you know one, please let me know. Thx.

Turned the heat off

May 4th, 2007 at 07:07 am

Today's high is 71, last night's low was 40. Even though the evenings are chilly, I decided to turn off the heat on tuesday. The temperature indoors has dropped to 63F this morning, which is bearable. I calculated, that with the heat on (5AM-8AM,5PM-11PM), and with chilly nights, it would cost us about $3/day, so it is defenitely worth it. This winter's coldest bill cycle cost us $7.24/day with an average temperature of 16F. In all it was a very mild winter with only that cold bill cycle having an average temperature of less than 29F. The next coldest were: 29F, 35F, 37F, 42F and 42F. The total heating cost for the winter (and therefore the entire year) was $794 (over 7 month), with an expected $30 for our last bill. We are lucky we live in a well insulated house! Our AC season will be from June to September and last year we spent no more than $40/month on cooling. Our July cycle was $90 while our latest (April cycle) electricity bill was $70! On the other hand, we have an electrical water heater and stove, that's where our winter electricity goes! In any case, we hope to be holding out as long as possible without AC this summer...

I love to see things grow

May 3rd, 2007 at 01:46 pm

I'm not a patient person, but I love to see things grow. That's why I love to tend to my finances. That's also why I love to grow peppers. Why peppers? Because you can put them in a pot, and put them on your desk at work. You start in March with a 100 seeds, you have 50 seedlings in April. And if you're lucky, you'll have 10-20 nice plants in may. And if the weather is good, you'll have plenty of Jalapenos, Bell Peppers and Cayennes from July to October. Last year, my office pepper got destroyed by aphids, this year I hope to have more luck (if not, I will release some lady bugs in the office). I have about 50 seedlings sitting in the sun at home, hoping I'll have a nice office plant once again when June rolls around.

Get Quicken or MS Money (if you want to get serious about personal finance)

May 3rd, 2007 at 01:17 pm

I was told by one of my friends...And I am glad I've started using this software. I paid $40 for MS Money, and it works great. It saves me so much time in tracking my finances, setting my budget, watching my spending, and planning for the future.

Now, I do concede that it takes a while to set up and learn. But once you have established a setup for connecting to your banks (electronically) everything is just a piece of cake. I track both my 2 checking accounts, 2 savings accounts, 2 credit cards, and all my fiance's accounts.

Since we charge most our purchases on CC (no cash). It automatically knows the payee, and it will (95% of the time) put it under one of the many categories. The other 5% of the time you may have to specify the spending category.

It is also great for setting and tracking your budget, since everything is already broken up into categories. So I strongly recommend that anyone who is serious about tracking their finances get either Quicken or MS Money. You won't regret it.

Catching Up

May 3rd, 2007 at 09:36 am

I meant to start this blog when I bought a new house, almost a year ago. So here is a "catch up" entry for the last 10 months.

Jessica and I bought a house in East Lansing . It's a 1400 sqft with no basement and a detached garage. It cost us $175,000. We got a 30 yr mortgage with 20% down. We got the seller to pay $3000 of the closing costs, and our current balance on the mortgage is about $138,000. We decided to escrow and autopay for convenience, and our total payments are $1280/mo.

In August Jessica got accepted to a PhD program at Michigan State University, here in town, and she gets a nice stipend of $1750/mo (before taxes). We use that income to pay off our CC's.

Our first payment was Sep. 1, 2006, which gave us over a full months without any rent or home payments, which allowed us to save over $1700 in the month of august.

In October, the delayed payroll income of Jessica's old job continued while she started her PhD, and we were able to save over $2000.

Since then we've had good and bad months. We did all our furniture shopping at IKEA, and we may have spent $2000 there. Also, I allow myself to buy 1 *big* thing a year. It is usually electronics. in 2005 it was a new laptop ($1400) and in 2006 it was a 37" LCD TV ($600 on sale). This year I might skip it, because of the cost of our upcoming wedding/honeymoon (but of course we are getting help from our families too).

I put $500 a month into my *no touching* account at citibank. It earns about 4.50% in interest, which is about $14/mo right now. This is essentially our rainy-day fund, and I'd like to grow it to about $20,000.

I do not micromanage my spending. I like to look at the months end spending, especially at: clothing, groceries, eating out, household, home improvement and entertainment categories. If they exceed my expectations (budget), I will look closer at them next month, otherwise I don't worry about them. My budget is not very stringent, however, if I go over two month in a row, I either make a budget adjustment, or I conscientiously start spending less money in each category. I don't like to go to a place and order/shop specifically for a dollar here or there.

In april, I pre-paid part of our honeymoon, and that's why our net worth declined over the period. I haven't started an IRA yet, nor have I invested in stocks. I hope to start in early 2008, when I hope to have a decent cash pile to start investing.

About Myself

May 3rd, 2007 at 08:47 am

Before starting my blog, here is a little personal finance information about myself

DOB: 1981
Location: East Lansing, MI
Employer: Michigan State University
Occupation: Research Assistant/Engineering
Personal Finance Short Term Goals: Getting through my wedding/honeymoon with no debt.
Personal Finance Mid Term Goals: Saving 20% of our net income over the next 5 years. (About $50,000 over 5 years).
Personal Finance Long Term Goals: Mortgage paid off in 15 yrs. Start my own business by age 35. Retire by age 50 with $2M in assets.
Personal Finance Weaknesses: $10 Lunches
Personal Finance Strenths: No impulse buys

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