Christmas 2009 Is In The Books

Christmas is always a great time of year and this year was no exception with the addition of Baby Beagle to the fray.  He made it a lot of fun even though he really had no idea what was going on.  Still, when we took him to see Santa, he gave Santa one look and then broke into the biggest smile, which won over Santa and everybody else that was in the area.

This past season, we created a budget and we also used money towards Christmas that we had started saving back in January.  I contributed an equal amount every month that was ‘earmarked’ for Christmas gifts.  In the past, we always paid our Christmas bills off, but we could handle a bigger bump in expenses for the month because both my wife and I were working.  Now that my wife is staying at home with Baby Beagle, we have less wiggle room for big fluctuations in our monthly spending, so the monthly contributions worked great.

I’m happy to report that, in addition to Christmas being over at our house (the decorations came down this past weekend), we have paid everything off.

How’d we do?

Pretty good!

We had crafted a budget prior to Christmas, and the overall number that we spent was pretty close.  There are always a few tweaks here and there but in the end, the final numbers came out to the amount we had budgeted.  This meant that we had enough in our ‘gift’ fund to cover the payments in full.

And, I was pleased to see that our payments to our credit card to cover the costs cleared last night.  Even though we always pay everything off, both my wife and I do most of our Christmas shopping on credit cards, simply so we can earn the 1-2% cashback rewards from our Citi Dividend Platinum cards. 

So, Christmas in officially in the books and I am very pleased!

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Treadmill Warranty Going S…L…O….W….

A couple of weeks ago I discussed how I had purchased an extended warranty for our treadmill that we purchased a couple of years ago.  The treadmill stopped working and a mis-aligned frame led the repair tech to determine that a replacement was required.

I had called on December 18th to find out what the next steps were.  They told me that they would need to gather all of the information from the tech and would then send me a packet outlining my options for replacement.

So far, I had heard nothing.  The warranty was from Universal Technical Services, or as they are more commonly known, UTS.

I called today, knowing that things were most likely slower for the holidays, but still hoping to get this moving.  I miss working out in the morning.

They told me that they had received all of the information but had not yet gotten to the review of replacement claims.  They said that it should happen soon, but the person I spoke to was unable to give me a better indicator.

I have a feeling that they are stalling to some degree. Although everybody is extremely pleasant and they are acknowledging things as they should be, the lack of action is starting to raise an alarm.  For now, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt, but if I still don’t hear anything in the next week, I will become a lot more concerned and more vocal.

Stay tuned…..

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Review of 2009 Financial Goals / New Goals for 2010

I track our net worth, and the components that comprise our overall net worth, on an Excel spreadsheet.  At the end of each year, I put in ‘goals’ for each category for how I would like the upcoming year to play out.

Since December is the last month, and I’ve already done our net worth analysis for the month, I can look back at the last twelve months and see how we did.

Away we go!


2009 Goal:   -5.1%

2009 Actual:   -11.6%

2010 Goal:   0.0%

Comments:   Based on the performance of the housing market, I had estimated that the value of our home would continue to fall.  I had hoped it would ‘only’ fall around 5%, but unfortunately, it fell quite a bit more than that.  The encouraging thing is that the rate of decline has slowed over the past few months, so I’m hoping that things level off.  Therefore, I will be happy if the value of our home stays the same over the next twelve months, and have set that as my target for 2010.

2009 Goal:   +25.4%
2009 Actual:   +43.4%

2010 Goal:   -8.2%

Comments:   I had planned on purchasing a car, which we knew would be necessary once we had Baby Beagle.  Therefore, I was counting on the value of our cars to go up for the year since we would be replacing our least valuable car with a more expensive car.  This took place.  I don’t anticipate any change in what we own in 2010, so I simply anticipate regular depreciation.

2009 Goal:   +14.6%
2009 Actual:   +33.9%
2010 Goal:   +4.7%
Comments:   I had hoped for somewhat of a rebound in the stock market, and this was answered….and then some.  While the overall value of our investments are disappointing compared to what we paid for them, we saw a recovery of a good portion of our 2008 losses.  I think that the upward trend of the stock market will slow down or even reverse slightly in 2010, so I’m setting a conservative goal for this category.


2009 Goal:   +17.8%
2009 Actual:   -3.3%

2010 Goal:   +11.6%
Comments:   I didn’t have any real reason for forecasting an increase here except for possibly being too optimistic.  I knew that we’d be purchasing a car which would reduce our cash holdings.  This happened, and explains a slight decrease for the year.  We are not currently planning any major expenditures for 2010, so I’m hoping to boost our cash savings by a modest 11%.

2009 Goal:   +53.0%
2009 Actual:   +77.1%

2010 Goal:   +18.8%
Comments:   I was more aggressive in forecasting our retirement savings (compared to the Investments category), but there were several reasons.  First, is that I am making regular contributions.  Second, I had anticipated that my employer would continue matching those contributions.  Third, because retirement is so far away, the investment classifications are overall more aggressive.  All of these played into a substantial gain for the year.  This would have been more, but my employer cut their matching contributions in early summer.  I’m forecasting an 18% gain, which would basically happen if there was a modest gain in the market and we continue our rate of contributions.  Should our employer start kicking in again, this could be higher.


2009 Goal:   -1.5%
2009 Actual:   -1.4%
2010 Goal:   -1.7%
Comments:   This is probably the most boring category, as we simply make the minimum payments on our 30-year fixed rate mortgage.  Eventually, within a couple of years, I’d like to start paying this down more aggressively, but for now, the numbers are pretty self-explanatory.


2009 Goal:   $0
2009 Actual:   $0
2010 Goal:   $0

Comments:   I didn’t do percentages here because you can’t divide by zero.  We didn’t have any car loan debt coming into the year, and it was my goal to not add any new debt in this category.  Mission accomplished, as we paid cash for our upgraded car.  Since we’re not planning on making any changes to our car ownership this year, our goal for 2010 is simply to keep the $0 balance here.


2009 Goal:   $0

2009 Actual:   $0

2010 Goal:   $0

Comments:   Actually, the same goes here as in the car loan category.  While we do use our credit cards, we pay off our balances every month, and this is reflected here.  Our goal for 2010 (and forever) is to keep this at $0.


2009 Goal:   -29.3%
2009 Actual:   -25.4%

2010 Goal:   -26.0%
Comments:   Any extra payment we have towards debt goes towards two student loans that we have.  We are paying the higher interest one off first, and were able to lop off 43% of that balance.  The minimum payments on the second, lower interest loan, allowed us to pay off 8% of that balance.  Overall, we came pretty close to meeting the target.  While we won’t be able to put as much towards them in the upcoming year (since we’re a single income family now), the percentage paid off is actually targeted to be about the same as last year.  This is because the beginning balance is lower. 



2009 Goal:   +39.4%
2009 Actual:   +40.6%
2010 Goal:   +20.7%
Comments:   Even though the value of our house was a major drag, the stock market recovery offset this so that we were still able to meet our goal.  I’ve been tracking net worth since 2001, so this is the eighth full year I have to compare, and the 40% increase is the biggest percentage increase I’ve noted since I started tracking.  While this is nice, it’s still dampened by the fact that the 40% increase follows a 42% decrease that took place in 2008, showing that our personal recovery is still a long, long ways off.

However, the fact that we recovered so much was a bright spot.  The other bright spot is that, although the overall number is way down from all-time highs, the main reason for that is the value of our property.  I actually keep track of our net worth excluding real estate, and that number is at an all-time high!  This shows that our strategy of investing in retirement while paying down debt is working for us, and that while the real estate market is slowing us down, we’re still headed in the right direction.

Since we slightly beat our overall target goal for 2009, I’m extremely pleased.  Of course, now the focus is meeting (and beating) our goals for 2010, so as I said earlier….

Away we go!!!

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Senior Discount

We went to Kohl’s and did some shopping to finish off a few gifts.  I wandered off because my wife had some items to get for me that I couldn’t see.  After she paid, we got back together and went to a few different stores.  Later on she looked more closely at the receipt, and discovered that in addition to the 15% off coupon that we used, they gave her an extra 10% off for a ‘Senior’ discount.

My wife is a beautiful 27 year old!

She laughed about it, and we noted that it’s our first experience receiving a senior discount.  Hopefully the next time will be quite a few years away, though it was nice getting a few extra bucks off!

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