Why make things easy, when you can make them complicated?


Let’s get right to the point today shall we? I go out of my way to ensure my personal finances are significantly more complicated than they should be. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that I sleep better at night because of it. No, I haven’t lost all my marbles, I just hate the idea of automating my finances.

I know I’m probably in the minority here, seeing that numerous personal finance blogs preach the wonders of automating your finances. I won’t try to convince you my way is better (even though it is), but allow me to at least explain myself further. First, I’ll list off all of the regular recurring payments I have each month.

  1. Mortgage
  2. Cell Phone
  3. Car Insurance
  4. Credit Card(s) – Varies depending on monthly balance (usually around $1,500)
  5. Charitable Contributions
  6. Utilities

I may be forgetting one or two other bills, but for the most part I think that about covers it. I could theoretically set up an automatic withdrawal from my checking for each of these bills, allowing the companies access to my checking account. As the bill comes due, the company would pull the money from my checking account.

Now, I don’t know about you, but that totally freaks me out. Getting married and sharing a checking account with Girl Ninja was scary enough, I couldn’t imagine giving a bunch of random strangers access to my account as well.

I’ve read horror stories about people who thought they set up a $200/monthly payment and were shocked to find out $2,000 was withdrawn instead.

Or how about the person that had their car payment scheduled for the 8th of every month. Well it just so happened that on the night their account was to be debited, their bank was beefing up security protocols and restricted all customers accounts for a few hours. As a result, the payment never processed. But because it’s suppose to be automatic, you never think to check and make sure everything went smoothly. Thirty days later you are dealing with an angry Toyota representative hounding you for being one month past due.

No thanks. Automatic payments don’t sound worth it to me.

To be perfectly honest, I actually enjoy manually paying my bills. It reminds me how much money comes in and out of our account each month, but more importantly it makes me want to continually shop around and make sure I’m getting the best deal possible. I mean how many of you having been paying the same cable bill or car insurance bill for a couple of years? That’s insane, every year I shop around, and every year I find better deals than what I currently have. Un-automating my finances keeps me intimately involved in our personal finances. And I need not remind you, making love with money is my favorite kind of romance.

Do you automate your finances? Why or why not?

WE ARE not FAMILY

I have some tragic, tragic news to share with you today. Girl Ninja is cheating on me. With two guys AND two girls! I would be wallowing in self pity if it weren’t for one minor detail….I condoned this infidelity. Does this make me some kind of pimp?

For the last nine months of our marriage Girl Ninja has been on a Verizon cell phone plan with her family, while I’ve been on an AT&T iPhone plan with my family. If you didn’t already know, family plans are limited to a maximum of five lines. Since Girl Ninja’s family rolls six deep and there are five in the ninja clan, we couldn’t simply hop on to one another’s plan.

Looking back to our 2011 Ninja Budget, you will see I made the assumption Girl Ninja and I would spend $180 per month on our cell phone bill, knowing that ultimately Girl Ninja’s circa 1982 Motorola brick phone would eventually crap out and be replaced with something more expensive.

Sure, $180/month doesn’t sound too bad, but when you run the numbers out over the typical two year contract requirement, we are looking at a $4,320 commitment. Do you know how many California Burritos I could buy with that money?!

Two of my close friends work for Wells Fargo. This qualifies them for some pretty decent discounts on Verizon cell phone plans. Last week, they pulled the trigger and started an iPhone family plan together (with their wives too) which left them with one open slot. They asked if Girl Ninja or I would be interested in joining their foursome.

At first the thought of mixing three families on one cell phone plan seemed like a big headache, but after many conversations decided their 26% monthly discount was too darn good to pass up (I could have only gotten us a 15% discount) so Girl Ninja joined their plan. All in, we’ll be paying $60/month for her line. My parents said I could stay on their plan as long as I pay $50/month.

Needless to say, our cell phone situation is complicated. We are not only on different cell phone plans, but on completely different carriers. I’m still mooching off my parents. And we now have to remember to write two checks each month instead of one. Complicated? Yes. But well worth a $70 monthly (or $1,680 total) savings. Girl Ninja gets an iPhone and I get to save money. Win, win? I think so!

Do any of you have any funky cell phone situations going on? Are Girl Ninja and I the only married people lame enough to not be on a plan together? What are some crazy things you’ve done just to save a buck?

How much do you cost per day?

daily cost

If you’re like me, you know how much your household costs to operate monthly. According to the Ninja budget we are looking at roughly $3,400 in relatively fixed expenses. This works out to about $40k each year.

I’ve always looked at my expenses on a monthly or annual basis, but I thought we could change things up a little bit on this beautiful (at least beautiful here in San Deezy) Monday morning and see what our daily operating cost is.

Here’s what expenses I’m considering in my initial calculation…

Rent: $1,500/mo
Tithe $600/mo
Food: $500/mo (we like good food!)
Cell Phone: $180/mo (don’t pay this bill yet, but will begin in February)
Car Insurance: $140/mo
Gas: $200/mo
Health/Dental/Vision: $300/mo (pre-tax)
Debt payments: $0/mo
Utilities: $0/mo (our landlord pays em all)

There ya have it. $3,400 in relatively fixed expenses. Now on to the uber technical formula I used to figure out our daily cost….

daily cost equation

Boom. I gotta come up with $111/day to make sure the wife and I are taken care of. If we added all the variable expenses in to the equation (entertainment, household. clothing, etc) we’d be at about $124/day and if we get all realistic up in hurr by adding the (Roth, 401K, and taxes), we are looking at $204/day.

It’s important to remember these number are DAILY. Like 365 days in a year daily. You know why that’s important? Well, because most of us full-timers, are only getting paid for 260 days of work. That means there’s 100 days a year we cost money, but make nothing. Crazy!

I think the ultimate goal for most of us would be to maximize our daily income and minimize our fixed costs. This allows flexibility and freedom, and last time I checked, most people like freedom (no offense to those of you in communist countries).

So, reader, how much do you cost a day? What’s your daily ‘fixed’ cost (expenses you can’t really avoid or flex much)? And If you’re feeling really math-letic, what’s your ‘all in’ cost per day (taxes, savings, and anything else you spend money on)?

Net Worth: Ocotber 2010

So the first full month of marriage is in the books, and the results aren’t pretty. In fact, it may be the worst net worth increase I’ve had this year. With a bunch of furniture, household items, and some tickets to Seattle for Xmas, we knew it wouldn’t be pretty.

Here’s what went down…

Assets:

Checking Account: $4,561, +$921. You know I’m still rocking that joint checking account with the Wifey and it’s been great. It works perfect for us and we have no plans to change anytime soon. We’ll keep the checking account balance stacked with a few thousand dollars for now, until we figure out each others spending patterns a little better.

Savings Accounts: $17,787, +$1,216. Asked Wife Ninja if I could send another $1,200 towards our savings and she gave the green light. Am I the only person out there that gets a little “high” off of transferring money to savings? It’s like my cocaine.

Roth IRA: $14,645, +$999. I love it when the markets go up. But to be honest, I kinda wish they went down for a little bit, so I could buy in for this years Roth IRA contribution. Is it only up from here, or are we looking at a double dip recession?

TSP (401K): $16,878, +$1,569. The standard 5% contribution heads this direction each month. I also get that 5% fully matched. I invest in virtually the same funds in both my Roth IRA and in my 401K so they generally perform the same. Pretty boring stuff if you ask me.

Right now you are probably thinking things look pretty sweet. After all, our assets were up $4,705 from last month. How could we have a minor net worth gain, with a major asset improvement? Answer: Credit cards. We’ve had a ton of charges over the last month. But, as my blog title suggests, Wife Ninja and I will punch the Credit Card debt in the face (or groin) and be rid of it before any interest accrues. Why put it on the credit card in the first place, you ask? Airline miles baby!

Liabilities:

Student Loan: $0. Sallie who? Oh that’s right. The $28,000 student loan debt I had when I finished college in 2007. I love looking over a copy of my old credit report and seeing the account status as CLOSED! Makes me smile every time.

Credit Card: $3,904 -$3,904. What can I say? We bought a lot of stuff last month. Some of our biggest expenses were $600 on vehicle registration for two cars. $300 on an entertainment center (GO MANCAVE!!!), $550 on groceries/dining out (looks like we gotta figure this one out), and a bunch of $50-$150 purchases. We probably spent more than we needed, but hey it’s a learning curve andΒ  ya gotta start somewhere.

Even though our Net Worth gain of +$1,100 was below average, I’m still freaking ecstatic! Wanna know why? We broke the $50,000 threshold and are sittin’ pretty at $50,269. It’s a pretty huge milestone, considering my net worth was under $20,000 this time last year. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for big things over the next 30 days.

**I chose not to include possessions (including our cars) in our NW calculations, which would probably increase our worth by about $18,000.**

Monthly Expenses: January 2010

If the rest of 2010 is as good as January was, I’ll be a happy camper. Tutoring really gave my discretionary income a sexy little boost and I also brought home some blogging income. These side hustles are turning out to be a wonderful thing. Here’s where my money went last month…

My Income:

Blog: I don’t plan to become an advertising whore, my primary focus for blogging is on not sucking, but I’m not gonna lie and say a little income doesn’t hurt.

Salary: This income is after tax. I’m only a few paychecks away from my $12,000 pay raise! I bring home just under $1,400 every two weeks, but it should be closer to $1,650 once that raise comes.

Tutoring: January is finals week for all my high school kids, so they are desperate for some tutoring. Being knowledgeable in Algebra and Geometry is pretty much awesome. Tutoring is the easiest money I’ve ever made.

My Expenses:

Auto: How much do you spend on gas each month? I bet it’s not under $41, like I was able to get away with. Having a work vehicle is simply amazing.

Dining/Groceries: Eating is freakin’ expensive. I have a goal to spend no more than $250 and am proud to say I managed to stay under budget. I’ve always wondered how much I would spend each month if I was girl?

Interest expense: I have been making only minimum payments on this pesky loan for the last couple months. With a wedding and honeymoon pending I’m hoarding cash and holding off on the student loan accelerated payment schedule. I do plan to pay this beast off soon, but that time has not yet come.

Travel/Reimbursement: I have an airlines credit card that I get double rewards points on when I buy airfare. Last month I bought quite a bit of airfare for my family members and so that is what the reimbursements are. I wish I was planning on going somewhere, but I’m not, I just buy tickets for other people πŸ™‚

The other categories were too unimportant or self explanatory so that is why I didn’t cover them. The overall total at the bottom is the cash I had leftover after all my expenses. I walked away with +$1,814 in January, and that kinda turns me on. I hope I can stay in the green once I get married.

* Are you wondering why I post the previous month’s expenses a couple weeks late? I use quicken to track my spending and I have to wait until the end of the billing cycle before I can download these transactions. I know I could manually add each expense as it comes, but I am entirely too lazy for that. Thanks for checking in and if you got any comments, tips, or advice I’d be more than happy to hear it. *

Monthly Expenses: November 2009

If I could only use one word to describe November, it would be, bleh. Mediocre at best, at least it felt that way after last months RADICALNESS. I guess I shouldn’t be complaining ’cause I still brought home more than I spent, and when that happens, life is good. Here’s where the money went…

My Income:

Salary: My take home pay from the day job. I should have only brought home about $2,700 last month, but I got paid out for the last of the overtime I worked in October. It’s gonna be depressing to watch my income drop. Oh well, in February I get a $12,000 raise! YAY!!!

Gift: Mom Ninja’s hooking it up with some money to throw at my student loan. Everyone should say nice things about Mom Ninja down in my comment box, haterz not allowed πŸ™‚

My Expenses:

Auto: Looking at my Auto expenses make me want to throw up. My car registration was due, so that was $220 gone. Another $180 came from one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done (car mirror vs fence = fence wins).

Dining/Groceries: Fudge! I broke my grocery/dinging budget for the first time in a REALLY long time. I have a goal to be under $250 total for food each month. Unfortunately I broke that by $26.74. I went out to eat quite a bit last month because I had been on a business trip abroad for six weeks and wanted to go out with my friends πŸ™‚

Interest expense: Good ol’ Sallie Mae. Brought the old hag down another $1,600 last month which ain’t to shabby if ya ask me. Especially considering my minimum obligation is only $230.

Travel/Reimbursement: These were all costs/reimbursements related to my business trip to the Marshal Islands. Nothing to exciting here.

The other categories were too unimportant or self explanatory so that is why I didn’t cover them. The overall total at the bottom is the cash I had leftover after all my expenses. I ended up having $1,670, which I put in to my savings account. I’m foaming at the mouth, waiting for that raise to come so I can have even more options with my cash flow.

Is it bad that I’m not excited with over a $1,000 do-whatever-the-crap-I-want-category? Don’t answer that. Are these monthly expense reports even entertaining for you to read? I’m imagining in my head right now, all of my readers hating these updates. If that’s the case, I’ll stop πŸ™‚ Let me know. THREE MORE DAYS TO CHRISTMAS!

* Are you wondering why I post the previous month’s expenses a couple weeks late? I use quicken to track my spending and I have to wait until the end of the billing cycle before I can download these transactions. I know I could manually add each expense as it comes, but I am entirely too lazy for that. Thanks for checking in and if you got any comments, tips, or advice I’d be more than happy to hear it. *