Woohoo! A combination of benign market performance and just crazy savings made this month a banner month! It even made up for last month's drop!
So, what's next? Well, August looks to be spendier. There may or may not be some major expenditures coming up. We'll have to see. I'm hoping not because I'd hate to have worked so hard one month, only to lose it all the next.
Oh yeah, I also keep track of my cellphone minutes, and I've had one of the busiest months so far. Total usage was about 127 minutes, or about $11.43 in cost. That's actually over-budget. But it's still dirt cheap for a cellphone.
Cellphone aside, if I can just have ten more months like this....
Archive for July, 2009
Woohoo! A combination of benign market performance and just crazy savings made this month a banner month! It even made up for last month's drop!
Just got rid of my Wells Fargo holding. I came out with only a tiny profit (due to my bad timing on the buy), but when it's time to sell, it's time to sell. Why did I sell?
I am skittish about the state of commercial real estate, which unlike residential real estate, has yet to "burst". Knock on wood, it will not because the ramifications to the entire market is huge. If that's not bad enough, Wells Fargo itself has a large holding in commercial real estate as well, which puts me at a much greater risk exposure than I am comfortable with. Plus, the stock has only been holding lately, and yet, the dividends have been cut. So... there was simply no reason for me to stay and all the reasons to leave.
Now, mind you, I still think Wells Fargo is a solid company. It's not that. It's just that, from a trading point of view, the bottom line is, "Are you going to make money with that or not?" And the answer that I am coming up with is, "Right now, I really doubt it." So, today, at a 9-month high, it seemed as good of a time to bail as any.
Now to search for my next buy... if any. I am leaning towards either REIT or select corporate bonds. Thoughts? Suggestions?
Haven't posted for a while because there is simply nothing to post about. My life is booooring. To give you an idea of how booooring it is, I recently reduced my Netflix plan from 2 DVDs at a time to just 1. It turns out that I just don't "consume" enough to need 2 DVDs at a time. I still like having Netflix around though, so I'm not canceling it.
But yeah, there's nothing going on in my financial life, but that's not surprising considering my plan for this entire month was to simply save like crazy. Fatten the piggy bank. And... that's what I'm doing.
Net worth update is coming up, and I think the numbers are going to look pretty good. We shall see.
Well, last night was a momentous night where I transitioned back to DSL! Yes, I am an internet junkie, and I must have my broadband!
My cable was doing just fine though, so why the switch? Well, basically I finally got dry loop DSL (which is a fancy term for DSL without them trying to sock it to me by requiring a land line bundle that adds nearly $20 more per month). Now, the DSL still ended up costing more than cable, but for basically $8 extra a month, I'm getting double the speed without having to share it with the neighbors.
Yeah, I know. Paying more seems counter-intuitive, but I really do think this is the best value deal for me. Even if it costs more. This is an especially big deal since I don't have cable TV, and rely on Hulu and Netflix.
And in my defense, there are speeds that are much faster than what I just got, but of course, they also cost more.
The amusing thing about this is that the cable jack is located on one side of the room, but the phone jack is located on the other side. So, I actually spent the entire night moving and rearranging the entire room so that my desk would be located next to the phone jack. And if I am doing that, I might as well clean, dust, and vacuum while I'm at it. So, that's what I did all day yesterday, but it sure is nice to have a clean room!
Again, because I am running a room AC this year instead of the central AC, I am keeping an eagle's eye on my electric bill.
The electric bill finally came in this morning, and the total was $69.75.
To me, that's really high, but 2008 cost $108.43, and 2007 cost $83.07. So, there has been some savings, but not as wide of a gap as last month's bill.
This, despite the fact that I also have a small home theater setup now, which means I've personally consumed more electricity than in the previous years. Apparently though, that's still not as demanding as running central AC.
I think context is a highly under-rated and extremely powerful concept. One that should be constantly studied and scrutinized to the best of our abilities.
To take it a step further, context helps us see the truth hidden in lies, and see the lies hidden in truths.
To give you a simple example, I've-- well, I don't want to say "chastised", but commented upon-- in more than one occasion for salting and peppering foods before I taste them.
They will share a rather interesting parable about how Henry Ford would take prospective managers out to dinner, and if he sees that they salt their foods before they taste it, he will not hire them.
The moral of the story, of course, is that it is wise to test something before changing it. That and don't salt foods before tasting when dining with Henry Ford.
I love this parable by the way. I agree with the general logic, and I have no problems with it... except the context in which it was given.
You see, in all the occasions that it was brought up, it was at dining places that I've frequented for years. In fact, the one place where this conversation came up was at Golden Corral, the big daddy of assembly line foods. Therefore, if you consider the context, you could say I've already "back-tested" there dozens upon dozens of times.
Perhaps it's still a bad idea to salt first, but come on, putting salt on my mushrooms shouldn't turn into an allegory questioning my managerial potential or even my ability to grasp simple cognitives.
If I was at a less familiar place, of course I would taste my food first before adding condiments. I'm crazy, but not that crazy!
Of course, it doesn't just relate to foods, but it also relates to everything else we do in life, including money. One example of this is our sense of financial savvy. It's just that, there are a lot of people in my real life anyway, that swagger and boast about how they "know money". But honestly? Their financial life seems like a mess to me.
Oh, I know I'm not one to talk, but at least I acknowledge that my own financial house is far from complete. And I honestly do worry about that....
On the other side, you have a lot of people on here for example, who are extraordinarily financially savvy, and yet, I don't even know if they realize that. It blows my mind that there are even some, whom I think are good enough to host seminars, would still ask questions!
Context really is an amazing thing. But more than anything, I hope that people will also consider not judging lest ye be judged? Because life is short, and I will salt my mushrooms any way I see fit!
* So, I'm planning to move back to DSL. Found Dry Loop (internet without landlines) for a competitive price. In fact, for roughly $7 a month more, it's basically twice the speed and not having to share with the neighborhood. It is worth it to me.
* I'm still having trouble with my darn personal finance software. There is one recurring transaction in PocketMoney up that for some reason I can not delete! And yes, I'm doing it right, hitting the big, red "delete" button. In fact, that works for other recurring transactions.
According to their website, it most likely has something to do with OS 3.0 not playing nice with the application. Seriously, this is turning out to be a huge headache.
* Have you guys noticed that the VIX is dropping? Even "stable stocks" are starting to behave like... stable stocks.
Oh, but I think this recession is far from over. In fact, the weather has worsened a bit since May. Still, at this point, I'll take whatever I can get.
* Completely non-financially related, but do you dream in sound as well? I do. It's weird. When I am deep enough in sleep, I also hear music. And it doesn't sound like gibberish either. Usually, it's pretty catchy, and they're all original works. The range varies too, anywhere from elevator music to full symphonies, all the way to deep jazz. Did I mention that they're all original works?
What is seriously interesting is the "quality" of the music since I have upgraded my speakers a little while back. Now my dream music sounds like that too! Very wild. I wish there was some way of recording that music.
Ever do something that you just know crosses the line between frugal and cheap?
A few days ago, there was a vendor show at work, and they brought us a bunch of yummy delicious sandwiches. I stuffed myself silly!
So, yeah, this is a bad habit of mine. Often times, I would gorge myself so I would not have to spend more money on food later. Or if I do eat, it tends to be unhealthy junk food. And when it comes to buffet restaurants, it's actually not as hard to do as it sounds.
I don't know, I'm going to try to space out smaller meals throughout the day, even if it ends up costing a bit more. So, care to fess up anything you do that you know is cheap as well?
I am often times amused at just how "knowledgeable" people in real life are about the aspects of money, particularly with frugality. Everyone knows that you should "spend less than you earn". Yes. It's true that frugality isn't conceptually difficult to understand.
And so, it's very easy for many, especially in this hard economic times, to say, "Well, I know what to do." But, like so many things in life, it always seem that to actually DO it is the hard part.
Oh, but I am no holier than thou when I talk about this. True, I do exercise frugality, but I'm not as frugal as I could be. I am also just as guilty when it comes to diet and exercise. I KNOW I should eat better, but I don't. I KNOW I should exercise, but I don't.
What I wanted to point out is that I think there is a danger when people fool themselves into thinking that they are able to do something, or that they're even doing it, but in reality, little to nothing is actually being accomplished. These types are much more dangerous than even the wide-eyed doey types that AT LEAST acknowledge they may not be doing anything. You know what I mean?
For example, I remember a co-worker once that can go into the technical minutiae of dieting and carb counting, but in the end? He doesn't do anything about it. For that matter, I can talk all day long about money matters, and even post blog entries, engage in forums, pull up charts and whatnot, but if I am not actually saving and investing, then even if I manage to fool everybody, including myself, I will still be no better off tomorrow.
My point is, whenever we face an issue, the first place we should check for problems is in the mirror. We have to make sure that we are not lying to ourselves about our situation. We have to make sure that we are genuinely and honestly making a difference in our lives. Otherwise, we will only wake up older, but not any better off, and wishing we could do things differently.
I am writing this to remind myself more than anything, but I hope that you too will choose to lead an examined life. It may not be the easiest path, but I believe it is the surest way towards a better, more fulfilling life.
I'm off the soap box now.
It originally started out as quickies, but ended up not so quick....
I don't want to get too much into this, partly because it's been nothing but a well of negativity, and partly because I don't think this the end of it, but rather, it's only the beginning. Suffice to say, she was extremely nasty to me over the weekend....
Seriously, she'll say something like, "Oh, you just don't like people changing something on you." and I'm like, "No, I'm only upset because I don't like being lied to." And she'll keep going, "No really, come on, you're just upset because you don't like to change." Huh? I'm standing there telling her the truth about me, why won't she believe me? Change happens, and it had nothing to do with why I was upset.
And she even insulted my parents this time! Calling them (including me) "a bunch of money grubbers"! The honest truth? My parents helped pay for her college tuitions and even our mortgage when we were struggling! Yes, it's embarrassing for me to say that, but it's true. We were really bad with money once upon a time. My parents only demanded money back for a loan they gave her a long time ago for her upside-down car, but that's only because they found out that she was cheating on me. And for that, they're called money-grubbers?
And when I later confronted her about why she was being so nasty, rather than an actual apology, her excuse was, "I was really stressed out." I said that I understand, and hope that things went well with her family. But seriously, still no apology? And why the hypocrisy where I am blamed for all eternity for things I've said or done out of stress, stuff that I've already repeatedly apologized for, but is still used as the reason why I am such a terrible person that she had no choice but to... commit adultery?
I used to just gripe about her, but then let it go, but honestly, she really has gone too far this time. Especially about the remark about my parents.
I think she has finally decided that rather than ignoring me, she wants to fight now. Good. I'm tired of trying to work with her. I really am sorry that my heart has to blacken like this, but from here on out, I will not stop fighting until she stops treating me like dirt.
Oh, I keep forgetting about posting this, but there is a local frugal meetup that seems to come and go. It went, then came back with a new organizer, and now, she's gone as well and the group is probably going to be disbanded again.
They had one meet, which from what I understand, included an actual SA member! (Not a regular, but I've seen her post once in a while.)
So, why didn't I go? I completely forgot about it. Yeah, sad. Oh well, they were just swapping coupons anyway....
I just checked my credit card account, and I can't believe that only NOW did they finally charge me the annual fee on my credit card.
This is July! I don't remember them charging me this late before. I also like the way they tack it on the very end of my statement, so it's harder for you to see it.
I checked my previous statements to see if I got double charged, but as far as I can tell, I haven't. Hmm....
No Spend Day
Yesterday was a NSD for me because a few vendors showed up at work, and they brought a lot of sandwiches. So, I stuffed myself silly and didn't have to eat for the rest of the day.
Ah, I know this is unhealthy, as I tend to gorge myself and then not really eating the rest of the day. Yeah, I kinda do this on a regular basis.... Or, if I do eat later, it's junk food and that's not good either.
I don't know if anyone else here have those certain places where they actually cross the line into the land of the cheap, but that's definitely my flaw here. Whenever I see foods, especially buffets, I have a tendency of eating as much as I can so I don't have to pay more for food later.
Yeah, I know it's not healthy.... So, does anyone else have any unhealthy money habits they want to confess?
* Google recently announced Chrome OS. Oh my, talk about fighting back at Microsoft. Anyways, it's based on the idea of "cloud computing" or that most of the stuff you want to do can be done online, and the OS itself should be more like a lightweight shell. Unfortunately, it's not slated to come out until late next year. However, it should be free!
* Speaking of tech, I've been staring at tech stocks. From well-known names like MSFT to lesser-known ones like FDS. You know what though? Tech is just... too volatile for me. Even AAPL, which is suppose to be Wall Street's tech darling, it's all just too much for me.
* Speaking of stocks, I've been looking over Berkshire's 13F (Q1 2009 holdings), and I have to say, for a stock picker, he's actually very diversified. I mean, he's holding 40 or so companies.
But what about industries?
The bottom that got cut off is suppose to say, "Consumer (non-cyclical)". Anyways, I find it interesting that I thought he had a bigger stake in financials than this.
Of course, it isn't just what he holds, but when he bought it as well. As a value investor, most of his capital is coming from stuff he bought when it was still cheap.
* By the way, I'm also looking at Medtronics (MDT) as my next buy. Anybody want to comment on this? It seems like a great company, and most are complaining that it is greatly under-valued. In fact, here's a reuters article where the CEO is complaining it's under-valued, and yet, he has to defend why he is giving low guidance. I'm sorry, what? Isn't it usually the other way around? Wow. What is the opposite of "hype"? "Buy"?
This entry is probably going to sound like gibberish, but this is the issue-of-the-moment that's confounding me right now....
Anyways, you'd think that I would have my personal financing software nailed down by now, but wow, no, I guess not.
I don't want to bore you guys with a laundry list of gripes, but suffice to say, Pocketmoney's budget view turned out to be wonky looking, Spend doesn't do transaction tracking (not really), Checkbook's transfers doesn't work quite right, and I still have Splashmoney, which is what I had weird glitches in the first place.
I'm not asking for much, but what I do ask for is admittedly very exacting! But it has to be because it's also how I track my entire personal finances so....
Basically, I'm down to two options. Either I hack my own budget into Pocketmoney (by turning some accounts into budget line items), or I split certain budget items into certain accounts. I've decided to do both and let time tell me what ends up working better....
Please skip if you're not into this.
So, I've been trying to make sense of Robert's Schiller's PE theory. The basic, layman gist that I am currently understanding is that if the market always regresses to the mean, then it's a matter of calculating how far the market is currently off from the mean right?
Now, Schiller is a smart guy. I don't deny that. It's just that... well, there's a lot of controversy surrounding the question of HOW effective this sort of back-testing is. Could 10 years, or 20 years, or 30 years of historical market performance give us an insight as to whether the current market is over-bought or over-sold? (Remember me talking about a serious investment troll? Yeah, that's what this is about, and I hope he doesn't find me here.)
Ignoring the issue of what exactly does "predictiveness" mean for a second, I came across a study that suggests that while PE/10 (/20, /30) has some predictiveness, there is another measure, Tobin's q, that is much more predictive.
Now, if you do buy into this, both Schiller's PE and Tobin's q suggest that the market is supposedly, as of the month of June, over-valued at somewhere around 15%. Not exactly beaming news for traders. (I'm still buying and holding though.)
On the lighter side of the investing news, I just found out that there is an index that measures the consumer sentiment of millionaires and the "affluent" (those with net worth greater than $500k). Known as the Spectrem Millionaire Investor Index (SMII) and Spectrem Affluent Investor Index (SAII). You can find their June graph here.
Hehe, I guess there is an index for everything.