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

Sunday, April 30, 2006

YTD Percentages

According to my 401k portfolio and ROTH IRA numbers, YTD is holding at 8.9% on investments. There was a couple slumps during the month however it seems that the funds have recovered in the past weeks, especially on my international funds. Tracking networth - 5.9% gain overall from April to May 2006. This gain due to cash savings and an increase in home valuation appraisal. I will be tracking our home upgrade progress on here shortly.

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Weekend Work


I write this from my desk at work. Its a Saturday, I know but I need to get some things done and Im a little bit of a clock puncher (ie. need the money). I love to come in on the weekends because the building is next to empty and its a calm relaxing kinda feeling. Empty desks, dim lighting, and just being alone in my own thoughts once in a while has a calming effect in this hectic workplace. I brought my own lunch, a sandwich and a bottled water, so I wont go hungry. Well its back to work work work!!! Enjoy the beautiful day outside because I know I wont be :(

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Friday, April 28, 2006

Going for an MBA


According to the report by CNN's Money, I should be getting my MBA. It seems that in 5 years of working for whatever industry, you will be earning in upwards of 6 figures...sometimes as high as half a million. I would like to go back to school for an MBA however, we are taking the very very slow steps of making sure we can pay for everything with cash and be debt free in the process. However I dont want to be so old that I wont retain any information when I get into those tough classes! I also want to go into the MBA associates workforce with some hair left on my head! (my wife found some white hairs on my head the other day!! ahhhhh)

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

End of the Month Review


In the past couple months with our budget, we have allowed ourselves to get the monthly cash out and physically distribute it into the budget envelopes that we have made. I know its not much of a deviation from this but before we take out the cash, we are going to put it down on paper first, then take out the money and distribute. This process also helps us when we take out all $20s and the budget envelope requires $350... so we have to get enough $10s too.

Diving into the final days...Yesterday we had hot dogs and macaroni and cheese for dinner and the fridge is pretty bare. Giving us only crystal light, milk and water to drink. On a positive note, we have realized that we are not wasting any food for April and had to make only a couple side trips outside of the normal grocery budget. Side trips this month for bread or a birthday cake. Today in our checking account, we have $7.50 after a 3 gallon gas fill. If we are this close, I know that we have been living off the budget correctly and on our way to pay off this final student loan monkey! I laugh in the face of the Starbucks and Burger Kings! HA HA!

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Dreams...


Quote of the Day-
Dreams are renewable. No matter what our age or condition, there are still untapped possibilities within us and new beauty waiting to be born. - Dr. Dale Turner

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

End of the month BLUES


Its ALMOST the end of the month and we are stretching pretty much every dollar now. With 3 business days til we do the budget weekend again, it seems that we barely scraped by this month. First off, the gas fund has been utilized to the max and then some. Plus we ran into a couple unforseen items in the budget, I decided to get a needed haircut because of a job interview, and we went to see my wife's parents which we always decide to eat out and the gas turned out to be one of the biggest expenses up there. We are planning to bump the gas budget for May to $250. Also we had to call our A/C guy to come and do his spring maintenance in which he said we needed to add about 3 lbs outside which costs us $90 dollars out of a fund we didnt have.

Over the next 3 days we are on a strike! This means we are cutting to the bone and not spending anything. We will be eating from home and taking our lunches. Gas isnt an issue because the fund is dry after our last fill up. There shouldnt be any reason why another dollar is coming out of this household til May! Isnt budgeting fun? :)

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Suggestions on Cox Cable? + Wedding Updates


I have cox cable in which they charge me around $100 each month for their cable internet as well as digital cable throughout my home on 5 tvs. Even though its just the two of us I dont know why we have that many, but thats not the point since the cost is the same. Since they pretty much have a monopoly in the area that I live in, its hard to actually haggle with them about their pricing since there is no competition in the area. Until there is, I guess Im stuck with being overcharged or maybe this is just a luxury item that we have to suck up. I really dont care as much as the wife since she needs her oxygen and lifetime. We actually still use an ancient thing called a VCR for recording her "shows" when shes at work. Im curious about getting TIVO, who has a 19.99 special or maybe the digitial recording boxes Cox communications offers.

In other news, its the season for marriage and we have about 3 or 4 couples that are getting married. We are thinking about spending between $50-100 on each couple, so we are trying to make it work in our next months budget. However we still have to buy a dress, shirt and tie and also in one, Im a best man so I have to pick up the tux rental which will set me back about $145.00. Maybe if I had less friends in HS and College this wouldn't seem so costly :)

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Hiring help for your home


Unless you are a trained home mechanic that can do it all, you will at least once in your life have to call upon the assistance of a specialist. Mrs. Dollar and I had to do several upkeep repairs to our home when we first bought it.

http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/homeimprovementguide/DIY1.asp?caret=4

In the article, it mentions to assess your skillset and evaluate what you can and cannot do. A friend of mine helped me with my airducts in selecting the correct size, shape and how to complete getting rid of the 25 year old ones in the home. It wasnt that tough when he broke it down and explained it to me. On the other hand, something like plumbing.... simply greek to me. I hired a very reputable guy in the area who has been nothing but a blessing as far as knowledge. I always love to hang around and try to soak in as much info as possible. Most contractors or maintenance workers dont want to be bothered or interrupted. Those hired hands will in fact not be the ones I call back.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

NEW Job in my sights!


I have a job prospect lined up for next week at a competing branch but in the same field of work. I passed the first phase of the interview a couple days ago with flying colors. They called me to schedule the final interview involving a panel. I'm excited about this prospect for a couple reasons. First off, I would get more pay; almost double what I currently make. Second they provide you with more flexible hours and less hours worked (36 per week). It also helps that it is closer to home so the commute is about 25 minutes less, saving on tons of gas and time.

Of course I may be counting my chickens before they hatch however I know there are certain factors that make me more than qualified. One of my coworkers that has less experience and less education in the field got a similar position. I don't want my basis to be off my coworker, because he may know someone inside or may have a rabbit pulled out somewhere I don't know about... But he tells me that if he got it I "definately" will get it.

I'm not what they call a "job mover" either. If a company treats me well, I have no reason to leave. I don't do month to month jobs, I stay for years. I've been working for my current company for about 4 years now and because of the "restructuring", now would be the perfect time to leave. On the money side, we will be able to complete our yearly goals by late October. My current job will allow me to finish Feb 07. On that note, I'm hopeful of the outlook, but again if I don't get the position, I will say that I tried my best. Note to self to take Monday
the 24th as a paid sick day.

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Easter Celebration at the Park!


We had a great celebration at our local park hosted by the college in town. The wife and I went with a couple of friends that have little ones. I was excited because they always give me the camera to take the photos! They had an egg hunt, face painting, 2 bouncy castles for the kids to jump in, easter basket giveaways, cotton candy, ice cream, popcorn, several local elementary school choirs, etc. They had all the characters there too: The Easter bunny, Dora+boots, Spongebob, Scooby Doo, a Pirate... it was a lot of fun for the kids (and us too!) Best part was the cost: $0. So I guess it is true that many of the best things in life are free :) Enjoy your egg hunts everyone.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I'm a VICTIM of PETTY THEFT!



I always thought it happens to certain people and I could never be one of them. However this morning I came to the conclusion that I was a victim of petty theft. I was doing my normal morning routine when I came out of my house and jumped in my car to head to work. I noticed that my drivers side back door was not completely closed. I didnt think anything of it because Mrs. Dollar went out to get her coat she had left in it yesterday and I occasionally leave the doors unlocked. When I sat down and started driving I also noticed that my glove box was open. NOrmally I keep a few napkins and scheduled maintenance records in there. I was thinking why would Mrs. Dollar need to go in there? I closed it and moved on with the drive. Then it hit me... my ipod charger! I called my wife thinking she might have taken it with her that morning. She didnt have it. Piecing the puzzle together, my ipod charger was STOLEN! Mind you, we live in a very safe neighborhood with a patrol car right down the street and very rarely does this ever happen. I also want to add that nothing else was taken from the car, I had a phone charger, clip, sunglasses, an expensive travel mug, a couple library books and a DVD to return to a friend. None of those were touched. Rightfully so, I called the police to file a report which they said it has been logged for the area and patrols happen in my neighborhood, so it probably was some bored kids. BORED KIDS???!? Yep, "they are all out of school on spring break", but that shouldnt matter! Maybe this is extreme but I want justice! When I was a bored kid, I made up a game or played with my siblings, not go into peoples cars and take stuff. Anyway, charger loss for the ipod was about $25, however Im still a little ticked today. GRRR

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Monday, April 10, 2006

GRR BLOGGER

Apparently when going through trying to spice up my web blog, I LOST well pretty much everything minus my content (thank God). Well it will be back to square one on the HTML board. Hopefully I will get the main stuff up by the end of the week. Maybe Ill think twice before I try to overload the "extras". K.I.S.S. Maybe Less is more?

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Ughhh.... Ebay Listings


Finished with some Ebay listings today. I find that it gets more difficult for me to find things to list on the site. A couple months ago, our family was so passionate about removing debt that we sold about $1200 worth of STUFF we didnt need. Mostly electronics and items that we kept around that we never really used. Today, I was certain to put a few more items up for auction. The dilemma that presents itself is a simple profit/cost ratio.

Heres what happens... for example, lets say I have a recent DVD that came out and I want to list it for auction on Ebay. First I do a search to see if its "worth it". I have a decision because I know I bought this DVD retail for about 19.99 + tax. On Ebay I show its going for about $9.50 + $2. Im at the point where Im willing to take the loss and just list it. In another example, lets say the same $20 DVD shows selling on Ebay for $1.99 + $2 SH... a total of $4 gross. I have a decision to make...Is it even WORTH IT at that point??? I would be doing more running around and the hassle factor, listing costs, shipping expenses will outweigh my couple bucks profit. So I dont list it and keep it. I learned to focus on the major ticket items, but again they are far and few between. The power of the internet has the individual user competing for your business. Its a great day and age for the consumer!

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Why I Choose ING Direct...



A fellow reader asked me why in the world would I go with a bank like ING Direct? Their bright orange colors and lower than BIGGER BROTHER Emigrant rates should be able to deter me, right? WRONG! When I believe in a product, I represent it. But first you have to prove to me CONSISTENTLY that you are the best and why. I tried out a couple banks including my local credit union, HSBC.com, and Emigrant before I settled down with ING. Reason being... Emergency Fund only. I wanted to pull straight from the account whenever there was an emergency and it would be safe, secure and in a timely fashion in my checking account. I ran into the problem of shopping for the lowest bidder in the market. Emigrant... when I did this a couple months ago, I ran into the problem of their horrible customer service, site interface, and TIME DELAY!

Heres the brief breakdown: My belief is that 'Customer Service' is as important to a company as its product. Over the phone, its not that I dislike talking to foreigners and "outsourced" representatives, but when they are disgruntled and dont care about you or your problems and keep you on hold for gobs amount of time, its tough to get anything done. Calling ING is fast, friendly, and if you dial their 888-ING-0727, you will reach an American based call center in either Los Angeles, CA, St. Cloud, MN, or Wilmington, DE. I also like the fact that their new IVR states what position you are in the "queue" before your call is answered.

Site Interface. I dont want to have to go search out where my money is on your website. I want a clear cut simple outlook of where my money is and what options I have to move them. There is such a thing as TOO much interface. On the flipside, if they havent changed in the past month or so, Emigrant is bare bones and I cant stand it. Its dry and looks like something out of my middle school web programming class. ING has a great medium and doesnt bombard me with ads or millions of links when I log on or doesnt leave me back in the 80s interface days.

Finally and more importantly TIME, which can seem more valuable than money. Take for example, about 6 months ago, I needed to pull about $1k from the emergency fund to take care of a house repair gone bad. Plugged in my ING account that Monday morning and it was in my checking account available on Wednesday. Same idea but different situation 1 month later but this time my money was in Emigrant... 4 COUNT THEM 1, 2, 3, 4 BUSINESS DAYS LATER. Meaning Monday to Friday... I waited and waited... NOTHING. As a business person and also a CONSUMER!, it only takes ONE MAJOR screw up and our business is done. I can understand the little things here and there but... like a quick cell phone analogy... Stuck on the side of the highway in the middle of nowhere... dialing... dialing... no signal. WHY DO YOU HAVE A CELL PHONE? Just trying to make a point here. To summarize, if I had a choice between one or two tenths of a percentage point in interest higher and gaining that extra few dollars at the end of the year, I choose who treats me RIGHT. Thats why I choose ING. **(To ING: I expect a check in the mail next month. Thank you) :)

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Your Life. Your Path.


Reflections Note:

Its good to have a goal. It gives you a purpose other than living day to day, month to month and showing nothing has been gained or lost. You are alive! Wow! (Little sarcastic). However because you are alive and living and breathing air, you need to have a goal and stop being wasteful... wasting money and TIME. The cliche goes, life is short and you only have one life to live... This doesn't mean you have to be spontaneous and splurge like it is your last week to live. Many people interpret it that way. Think for a minute no debt including you house, emergency funds in place, kids college funded and ready for retirement. After your regular budget, whatever is left is basically yours to do with. There are endless possibilities. J wants a Nissan Murano, I said after the private sale of her car now, we save for 2-3 months depending on year/options, and pay cash. How simple! I truly believe that everyone is made for a purpose, so set your goals high. Your path may not be the same as your friend, family member or neighbors path, but its YOURS. Step onto the path of where you are headed and MOVE MOVE MOVE. You CANNOT stop. I know this has been all just words but really, life doesnt move without making a decision. Know where you are going and GET THERE.

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Monday, April 03, 2006

MARCH COMPLETE!


MARCH COMPLETED! The monthly envelope budget was done over the weekend and again we made it another month living on ONE salary.... We are still stashing my income away like crazy and believe me it makes it go by much faster knowing that you have a goal in your sights.

Heres how April's budget got broken down for CASH this month (again expenses like Mortgage, Water, Electric, Cable, are being auto debited from the checking account/ this is CASH only):

GROCERIES - $320

HOUSEHOLD - $150

RESTAURANTS - $120

MEDICINE/HEALTH - $10

AUTO MAINTENANCE - $30

CLOTHING - $100

HOME IMPROVEMENT - $0

BIRTHDAYS - $25

HAIRCUTS - $45

ENTERTAINMENT - $30

I mentioned briefly in our budget meeting that this is only for the month of APRIL and doesnt mean we are going to stick to this budget every month. As we have evolved into this cash budget, I'm beginning to see a better overview of how we spend our money and how it affects our bottom line savings. Coming soon.... More Water Cooler Stories!

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www.AMDOLLAR.com is here!

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




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