Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Somehow it seems longer since I've written. I don't know why.

Life is fine. Actually, life is pretty good. I can finally report on something I put into the works last month: I'm refinancing the condo. I started investigating it last month on a whim. OK, so it wasn't quite a whim -- I kept getting little messages here and there, including some "junk" mail. I didn't think it would be for me, mostly because I thought it would be more complicated, and I really didn't want to go through that stress. But I figured, "What the hell?" So I e-mailed my previous mortgage handler. She had me complete the application, and voilá! I'm refinancing.

The interest rate is more than a point lower now than it was when I bought a couple of years ago. To avoid any potential problems with an appraisal -- my mortgage person worried that my place might not appraise for the amount we need, what with the still-unstable market -- I will pay my closing costs. But it's worth it to me to pay a couple thousand now to save several thousand down the road. And lucky for me, I have the savings to cover the closing costs.

I close next month. Oh! And in doing all this, I found out my credit score. It's over 800 -- higher now than it was when I bought my place. This is excellent news.

In other news, I met with a new financial planner today. Our 401(k)s at work are done through Principal. Our employer arranged for a couple of their financial planners to come in and meet one on one with any employee who was interested. For free. They did this last year, but I had already dropped coin on my other financial planner, and it seemed pointless to meet with yet another planner. This year, however, I figured I'd give it a go. It went well. Free Financial Planner (FFP) didn't see any need to make any changes to the allocations Paid Financial Planner (PFP) set up. FFP did recommend that I take advantage of the automatic 1 percent increase in contributions every year, so I signed up for that. Otherwise, things are in good shape.

Which brings me to this: My financial needs are straightforward, so I've been thinking that maybe it's time I stop paying $$$ for financial advice now that my Roth is all set up and my 401(k) is properly allocated. I mean, if my employer is gonna send out planners for free every year, wouldn't the wise financial advice be to cut PFP? I mean, PFP is a nice guy, and I like him personally. But he isn't cheap. In fact, he's not cheap. Right now I'm doing his cheapest plan -- basically one or two visits in one year at half his regular rate -- and even that is expensive.

As hard as it's going to be (I hate hurting people's feelings), I'm gonna have to stop seeing PFP. That money would be better served in a savings account.

I've made a few expensive purchases this month, mostly for clothing items but also for some things around the house -- a rug for the balcony, some plants, etc. I've got to simmer down, though, and start focusing again on saving. My savings cushion should be loftier than it is, considering. I know I've bought things for the house, and for myself, but still. Considering I got the home buyer credit and given my tax refund, my savings should be in double digits. It is not.

I know I can do better: I paid off $20K in debt in three years. And not only did I do that, but I also saved a chunk of change. If I can do that, I can get my savings back in double digits. And that's what I aim to do. Back then, I kept a graph in a notebook. Having that visual was helpful. Time to get more graph paper, I think.

All in all, though, things are going well.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Fool's Day?

Holy crap, it's already April! Where did the time go?

I've made my travel arrangements for Paris to the tune of $2,000. I'd originally hoped to stay between $1,500 and $1,800, but when I started pricing the trip and deciding where I wanted to stay, I figured it was worth the extra money to be where I wanted to be. I wanted to be in St. Germain, and as luck would have it, I found a charming hotel in the heart of that arrondissement. It's not far from the Seine, so I'll be able to walk to Notre Dame and to the Louvre. I go in September.

In other news, I've upgraded my cellphone ... finally. I went with a smartphone (no surprise there), and I haven't looked back. I love it.

I've bought clothes and knickknacks. I've eaten out more than usual. I've spent on random things, big and small. There was the deductible for my accident back in February, as well as the cost of the rental car. There was my trip to Richmond for an art workshop, and then down to Virginia Beach to visit my parents, where I also spent on random things.

All that to say this: I've been spendy. I don't like it when I'm spendy. I have to do better.

I'm still saving the same amount. However, because I've been spendy, I've been taking savings out to cover it. Sigh.

Old habits die hard.

There is another possible financial thing, but it's too early to mention right now. It can be a good thing. Stay tuned.