The American Dollar
OUR FAMILY. OUR MONEY. ONE PERSONAL FINANCE BLOG.
One industrious American family's focus on a financial goal of freedom. Through worldly personal finance education, here is our story.
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Our Story: Both my wife and I are 27 years old and have gone through financial hell and back. Now we are on track to financial freedom, however we are not financial advisors or professionals, just everyday people. Share our journey from a negative networth and email us if you have questions or comments! :)



RECENT POSTS

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Plan on quitting?

If I plan to leave work permanantly and go back to school fulltime while we have a child, what should I plan now? We are going down to one salary for a family of 3, which we can manage since we will have no debt but our mortgage. We should be completing the last payment to student loans shortly. We will carry all of our insurance under the spouse who continues to work and will contribute to their 401k and max our IRAs out. So the question remains is how much should I keep aside in an emergency fund or just extra cash fund saved up before I do this venture for 2 years? The ONE salary will cover all expenses in the home with very little to none going to our savings after insurance and retirement accounts. My guess is around 30-40k? We are currently paying down the mortgage, but will now have to stop the extra payments. My plan is to rejoin the workforce in 2 years and then finish paying off the mortgage which will be 3 years MAX to do.

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Happy Chinese New Year! I hope this year brings everyone happiness, health, and wealth. Bringing in the new year with a bang!

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Too Much Stuff!

Today I started my morning routine: woke up, took a shower, kissed the wife goodbye, ran out the door with a prepared bag lunch. As I shut the door I realized that wow we have a lot of stuff. I mean not as much crap like my next door neighbor who saves everything, but a good amount of stuff. I'm contemplating going through and doing an ebay/goodwill house sweep. There is also a local online community that I use frequently called Freecycle. Basically instead of sending good items to the landfill, you can post the item/s and meet in a public location to swap. There is no money exchange (they are really strict about this).

I wonder sometimes if all these purchases were necessary because all they do is collect dust. I mean its ok to have a sensible collection. My wife collects figurines of angels or anything angel related but we do have a limit and again its sensible. We are definately not packrats, I know the feeling because I was one. However I seiously need to curb my spending. If you ask my wife, I don't spend enough UNLESS I goto Home Depot or Costco. I am seriously considering purchasing a power washer, but that's another.story. So I'm wondering does everyone have a soft spot for where they spend their money? And how does one conquer that urge to spend at that place?

Ultimately we need to sell or give away all these items with no need. This weekend I have 2 chores, finish painting/remodeling the master bathroom and doing a clean sweep.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Personal Finance Podcasts and taxes :P

I came across the world of podcasts today. Its so intriguing to actually hear others talk about personal finance, mainly because in my area we dont have any personal finance shows or anything related to such. I love the alley; Podcast Alley, in which there are so many different podcasts. I believe anyone with a microphone can have this. Here are a few of my favorites that I just started getting into, No Credit Needed, Money Blogger Podcast, and the Debt Podcast. I love how they are all different and show different perspectives on money. There aren't enough hours in the day to really sit and listen because I work 8-10hrs a day, but I'll try. If anyone has any other suggestions of good podcasts, let me know! :)

Finally, we got my work's W-2s in the mail so I labeled a manilla folder '2005 Taxes' and put all of our goodwill contribution slips in there with my Trowe Price investment statements. My tax program is HRBlock for federal free filing. Then I use the state filing free from their website. Ughhhhh.... tax time.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

My Overvalued Home?

According to a recent article on CNN Money , it states that most home prices today are overvalued? The bubble has obviously been getting smaller or it has remained stagnant in certain areas. The question however is how long is this going to last? I mean some fortunate ones were able to cash out when they could and sell their home for sometimes two or three times (or more) than what they originally paid for. I believe these people timed it correctly and got out when they could. Still there seems to be some growth in certain areas that will account for most of the next year's trend articles stating 'The bubble is not over!'. I mean who wants the bubble to be over? This is great for homeowners and as a homeowner, I have seen a double digit percentage increase in the value of my home.

That leads me to the next question which is, Is my home overvalued? Given the area that I live in which is predominantly a well rounded suburban community, I can say that we can still have growth or at least right now a slow period. Because lets face it, the younger generation will find it harder and harder to get a place of their own if prices are rising near half a million for a home. I believe this will ultimately lead to more debt and bankruptcies.

TANGENT~!So how about this idea: we start to build little affordable communities that are priced between 100-200k for these new fresh work-bound 20 and 30 somethings to live in. I mean we have PLENTY of apartment complexes and people rent all the time (which rent is going nowhere but UP), but I truly believe homeownership is something that everyone should experience. Next question is where? Location is key. Around my area, its booming with high end businesses as well as mom and pop merchants. Can a banker or anyone tell me how much financing would be needed lets say on a 20 home community with around 3-4 bedrooms and 2 baths (Im guessing these are around 100-200k) ?? Im curious to know the actual price of putting something together from scratch, if the land is already purchased? The wood, materials, man hours, legalities, etc. Whats the bottom line...

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

The weekend splurge

Its been a while since I went splurging. I mean I just had a check put into the account on Friday and we acted like a bunch of teenagers who just got money in their pockets! We spent it! (However I did get my bills paid and I had some extra money set aside, and we were shopping for items in the house). We bought a couple new fixtures to the bathroom at Lowes. She wanted a towel bar in the bathroom that wasnt a towel ring bar, but a hand towel bar. I still dont know what the difference is in use. We spent about $300 upgrading the master bathroom and just adding some personal touches (things to decorate and MORE candles, thanks to target and yankee candle).

I do though have a quick question if anyone out there knows, but does anyone know if there is a site dedicated to improving the value of your home. I mean I've seen articles at bankrate.com and home improvement sites, but nothing that really tells you what other little things can boost the value. Most of the suggestions were basic, like add a new garage door, change appliances, powerwashing, etc. but I'm always looking for fresh new ideas to make sure I'm maximizing my dollar when I go to home depot or lowes? Savings up 5% today; added some money to ING after paying the rest of the bills.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

ING = WOW



Received this email yesterday. Wow take advantage of this. Its only for a few months but since the rate is better than any 3 month CD, this is where I will be packing the savings.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

My Savings Defined.

Saving for tomorrow. The financial actions that we handle today, within this hour, this minute, will affect us for the rest of our lives. I wasn't brought up in this world knowing about compounding interest or saving for the future. My parents (not my spouse's) were just making ends meet and we had 8 people living under a 3 BR house. They probably didn't have time for the financial principles talk, because they were too busy working. We must have an understanding that savings isn't inherited but rather a learned action.

Our savings goes through a rigorous budget "washing" before it goes into its designated account. Here's how I see it: Every month we set aside what we need to live throughout the month including birthdays, holidays, other gifts, food, etc. I derive a maximum amount needed in those 30 days. All bills are already paid for in advance and because there are only a couple I need to really be aware of (mortgage, school loans), that is already budgeted. Since we put the max in our 401ks, we don't see that in our bottom line paychecks. Net income after 401k, Roth IRAs, and monthly budget, equate to the amount of savings we can allocate every month. We then filter the savings to what catagories need to be fulfilled. Simple budget and it takes us no more than 30 min a month. Saving for tomorrow allows us to have the freedom for later. Ahhh blissful savings! I really need to pick up the savings though because we are spending our holiday bonuses like crazy and its almost gone!

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

SLump...

With financals being one of my favorite things to talk about, I find that I go through slumps. Such as today where my accounts are in correct order and I have already planned for next weeks paychecks, I find that, yes, I am in a slump. I'm always looking at better interest rates and what's best for my money and right now, I'm content (normally I'm not). It's one of those, I throw up my hands in the air and wonder well, good job, is there anything else I need to do?? There is that threshold of when you've analyzed something so much and so far that you feel like you've beaten a dead horse. Well I'm there and its not so much a depressing state but rather pondering the 'what ifs' and had I done it all correct; and backtracking again.

Wait... something new> I filled out some 5 minute survey and got my starbucks $5 gift card for answering their questions. Of course these were all anonymous questions, and for all my hard work I will be enjoying ONE morning a nice venti mocha. Dont get me wrong, I normally have a brew at home and I love my brew at home. Sometimes I cant make it out of the house without coffee. There has to be a way around waking up without coffee? or is it just that I am addicted?

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MTD Jan 06

Updated MTD Totals for all accounts:
(will be added to networthiq)

CF & Invest -
Checking $323.05
Home Savings $400.00
RD Savings $150.00
Emergency Fund $3,948.55
ROTH IRA1 $4,156.84
ROTH IRA2 $4,239.53
401k $12,103.03

Property -
Home appraisal (8/05) $148,000
Car 2001 $4,750.00
Car 2004 $11,500.00

Debt -
Credit cards $0.00
Car Loan $0.00
Student Loans -$21,990.09
Mortgage -$75,000.00

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Dare to lead


Life is like a dogsled team. If you ain't the lead dog, the scenery never changes.- Lewis Grizzard

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Weekend Warrior!

Well it seems that I was a weekend warrior. I felt I was on one of those bob villa/ home edition makeover/ road house warrior (don't know if that is a real show), but it was a busy weekend. I completely stripped the 4 layers of stuck wallpaper to the master bath. The previous owners thought it would be sooooo much easier to just put layer upon layer upon layer of wallpaper everytime they got bored with the current pallet. Needless to say the job took approx. 20 hrs total this weekend. That includes stripping previous owners wallpaper, scrubbing excess glue on wall, prepping wall for paint (sanding, filling in holes), putting up a white coat of paint, and of course clean up. I did have some snags like taking off the towel bar and working around the toilet, but I'm glad it worked out. Total cost: $6 for 4 cups of coffee. I had all the tools and supplies, so I made it without a home depot/walmart trip. I enjoy home projects like that bc I also didn't think about money all weekend. Its a mindless refresher or it could have been the paint fumes. Now its back to the grind Monday and I'm in full financial swing. Updates on accounts coming later today...

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Water Cooler #1

Why is money so powerful? Are there places that money doesnt matter and no one cares about the dollar value of anything? I know that we can all block this money-thing out and be in a dreamy state where love and peace over run our hearts and minds. However, after that sinks in, there is a deafening sound and that is reality. I believe money controls all because if not there would be chaos all around us. We literally do things for money. We are slaves to money and its in that idea that we have to break away and begin the journey; yours and mine. Its exciting to see so many bloggers on a PF train that it saddens me to see that there aren't millions of people riding the same wave to a brighter future.

Today, one of my coworkers said this afternoon that his landlord (property owners) are raising the rent again to keep up with inflation, the cost of living in the area, whatever. The girl next to him said, 'I hear you and I think you need to go out and get a second job to pay for that.' We all laughed of course because they ONLY raised it $100. I thought in my mind the second job was a great idea, but I didn't want to be rude. So I asked him if he was happy living there in his 2 bedroom apartment with his wife and 2 children. He told me that both him and his wife have credit problems and can barely make ends meet now that he couldnt fathom even buying a house or even move out. I believe my coworker will be stuck there in his apartment; stuck in the same position at work and the same routine... for the rest of his life. My heart goes out for him and his family, however its not my duty to take care of him. I basically let him believe what he wants to. I feel that if I interject with a comment like, 'well you can change all that. here are the steps you need to take', that would be like a punch in the gut. He is already set in his ways and doesnt need help from a 25 year old "kid".

I have read several books on personal finance, investing, retirement planning, etc. but I have found that without applying that knowledge and sharing what works best for me, that Im really just stuck with a bunch of words on a page; like this blog. Whomever steps across this blog has the idea to leave the words on the page or take whatever they want, strip it to its bare and utilize it. I give you permission. I know it sounds remedial but truthfully I have grown everyday learning new things about my personal finances and simply... life. I enjoy sharing my coworkers stories because its interesting to see how other people deal with their finances. More water cooler stories to come...

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Monday, January 09, 2006

Confirmed: Jan 2006 Savings

At least for this month, Ive decided to postpone the extra $2000 house payment towards principal because it is going towards the previous year's Roth IRA. I want to make a concious effort to get 2006 IRA maxed out (after I max out 2005). Seeing those compounding tables and realizing that "the earlier you start, the more compounding that will be done later" made me wake up to the fact that the mortgage will be around at least for the next few years. Since my wife and I are 25, thats plenty of time for other investments like the tax free ROTH IRA contribution to grow. Plus we are both filing jointly so it helps in getting another tax credit as well.

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Sunday, January 08, 2006

Plan Ahead Now


The shortest recorded period of time lies between the minute you put some money away for a rainy day and the unexpected arrival of rain.
- Jane Bryant Quinn

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2005 Roth IRA

Transfered $200 into each of our IRA accounts today online. Spoke with a customer service rep over at T Rowe Price where our IRAs are held. He informed that we both had approximately $3,000 remaining each (contribution levels are 4k for 2005). I am halting paying off the mortgage for 2 months to max out the Roth for 2005. I will then start paying down the mortgage in April with the extra income. Since I have maxed out the 401k this year I have neglected the Roths this entire time. That is why contributions into the Roth for 2006 will be automatically deducted at the beginning of each month out of the checking.

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Move Cash to ING Direct

Moved remaining excess cash $3500 to ING direct today. Emergency fund is almost half way to $10,000. Currently have a reserve fund of $400 (designated for the very small emergencies that must be replenished) I also wanted to mention that Im building a rainy day fund for the forseen purchases (ie. car, vacation, etc.) Plan to build this fund to about $5-10K by the end of the year

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Birthdays vs. Savings?

Am I crazy? Seriously after reading all these pf blogs and doing financials, I think more and more that we as saving individuals are a rare breed. Honestly if I'm saving approximately 73% of our take home pay to reduce debt and invest, I find it more difficult to break away from the saving routine. Not to say that its a bad thing but let me explain the situation. This week we had a birthday that was a huge hit to the savings funds. The debate was that since it was a very very close friend that we should spend a bit more on a gift, however our monies (AFTER savings) would not cover this. I explained that the disciplined saver would find a way to stretch the money we did have for the gift instead of dipping into our ritual savings. The wife stated that we can adjust our budget for next month. I necessarily don't agree with that bc I hate being off track and "adjusting". Its the pricing on my good friend's gift that was unforseen. In the moment, we purchased the gift and attended his party. Am I crazy for spending for a lavish gift or am I just being stingy? The cost of gift: $200

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Quote #4




It is not economical to go to bed early to save the candles if the result is twins.
- Chinese Proverb

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

All are welcome!

If you are new to this blog, welcome. When I started this blog a few months ago, I was eager to track my finances and grow with the rest of the community. At first I was a bit hesitant to show my financials to the world, but have found blogger's comments very encouraging. This has allowed me to stay focused. As such, I'm pleased to say that I have now turned the comment section ON for every user to comment. I insist on feedback from the PF community and I would also enjoy sharing comments on your blogs as well. If your site would like to be added to my other blogs. (Pref. PF) simply email me at myamdollar@yahoo.com. Also visit our sister site as well at http://thedebtfreegeneration.blogspot.com

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Monday, January 02, 2006

Set Goals and Follow Your Path


You have brains in your head. Your have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.
- Oh, the Places You'll Go! Dr. Seuss

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Resolutions already!

I have been searching several PF blogs and have neglected to write extensively about what my concrete resolutions are. For 2006 here is what I plan to accomplish after finding what my wife and I can afford to do:

Goal #1: At the end of 2006, we will have a $50,000 mortgage principal amount. Paying off the home in 3 years means we need to chop a third of it off our debt plate. $2100 a month should suffice meaning approximately $1600+ towards principal.

Goal #2: Emergency fund totaling $10,000 liquid. Assets are to be in an interest bearing account that is easily accessible. Im thinking of putting it in Emigrant or ING Direct. So far we have $4,500 but with $100 a week, we can bump that up.

Goal #3: Max out our ROTH IRA for myself and my wife: $75 per week to both accounts should cover the amount that will max it out on the $4,000 limit. This will be done by automatic deduction on Saturday.

Goal #4: Make a couple home improvements purchases a)new countertops; these are fairly inexpensive since we are not going to purchase marble in a $140,000 home. Add new insulation to the attic, which desperately needs to be redone because the heat goes out the top in the winter and the AC goes out in the summer. Finally get new plumbing done in the bathroom, less than $1k job. This will be paid out of pocket.

Goal #5: Start a rainy day fund. This rainy day fund will provide for a myriad of purposes. I would like to have one because I know in the future I will be needing to purchase a new vehicle or for a second home down payment or just because we deserve a vacation once in a while. I plan to save as much as I can in this fund outside of the other goals but I will not neglect my basic needs either.

So there you have it. Goals for one year; 365 days and taking it one day at a time. Fellow PF bloggers, I will be posting some of my favorite blog sites soon. Thanks for the great suggestions and look forward to hear everyones financial accomplishments this year!

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Sunday, January 01, 2006

2006 Financial Outlook

Our outlook for 2006 is positively optomistic. I noticed the new year brings good ideas of financing as well as setting new goals. A definate observation is that in 2005, I never had to make an additional budget outside of our savings and debt. This stems from the belief that if I am doing the correct 401k percentages, maxed our Roth IRA contributions, increased savings into our emergency fund, and actively stocking away more money to decrease our mortgage principal amount, with no cc debt or car payments and decreasing the amount on our insurance by having less bloated premiums, then I am satisfied with whatever we spend extra money on. Honestly, smaller purchases don't bother me as much and we don't clip coupons or gouge on expensive restaurants. Although, we do occasionally go once or twice a month to our favorite staekhouse, its not going to kill our budget. Currently we are saving $500 a month for the $2000 fence in May. I am devising a way to deal with extra income after we have made our additional pricinpal payment to our mortgage ($2000/monthly payment); which will allow us to pay off the house in 3 years. What should I do with the extra $500? Well I'm going to put it away in the savings account outside of the emergency fund so that we are able to save to make bigger purchases such as when we need to get another car or pay for a new central heating unit or a new copper plumbing job. All in all, 2006 is going to be a year of savings and fun! :)

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www.AMDOLLAR.com is here!

Emergency Fund
40%
$25,000
2007 Roth Contributions
$8,000 Total




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