The High Cost of Vending Machines

Oct 31, 2006 @ 10:48 am by EMS

I’m pretty much addicted to Starbuck’s Frappucino.  I swear they put crack in as one of their ingredients.  The problem with this is that that the stuff isn’t cheap.  It generally goes for at least $2 in convenience stores.  I’m guess I’m lucky because I can get it for only $1.50 at a nearby vending machine.

Well, today I forced myself to do some math that I’ve been dreading.  Given that there are 22 work days in October, I found that if I indulge every day like I have been doing, then it’s going to cost me $33.  Not such a big deal I say to myself.  But then I multiplied that by 12 to find out an estimate of how much I spend per year and was a bit shocked – $396. That’s close to what I pay yearly for Internet Service, about 2 or 3 months of gas, or about 6 months worth of cable TV!!

My solution – I don’t think I can give up a “treat” during the work day, so I went to the local Sam’s Club and picked up a case of “upscale” hot chocolate packets at a price of $10 for about 50 packets.  This will be a heck of a lot cheaper alternative to the Frappucino, but I think it will suffice, and save me about $300 a year.

Custom Personal Finance Web Search

Oct 24, 2006 @ 12:41 pm by EMS

Google announced Google Co-Op today, so I thought I’d give it a try. Co-Op allows you to create a custom search form and gives you the ability to limit what sites Google gets results from. My search bar is at the top of the left hand sidebar of this blog and searches through some of my favorite personal finance blogs. If I missed some that you feel should be added, please list them in the comments section!

First Late on Prosper.com

Oct 23, 2006 @ 08:54 am by EMS

I’ve been an active lender on Prosper for about six months. I am intrigued by the idea of person to person lending and have found that I can get pretty good returns from the system. However, last week I received notification that my one of my loans was “late”. I have a total of 16 loans that I fund on Prosper for about $1,000. Assuming all of the loans are paid back, my current interest rate is around 13%. But having even one of these loans not paid totally destroys any return at all. I usually spread my risk around by bidding in $50 amounts, but the loan that is late was one of the few that I had bid $75 on. To compound the issue, the late payment is the first payment due on the loan, which tells me some sort of fraud is taking place. It will be interesting to see how the collection agency aspect of Prosper works if and when they become involved.

Here are some rules that I use when bidding on Prosper:

  • I try to bid on folks who are trying to consolidate debt. There are a lot of listings for business funding, but I’ll try to avoid those unless I can truly understand their business model and agree that it could be profitable.
  • I won’t bid on HR (high-risk) loans.
  • I’m trying to keep my interest rate between 11-15%. That’s the range that I feel I can make the most while accepting an acceptable level of risk.
  • I’m starting to put less stock in the credit ratings. According to Prosper data, there is a sweet spot in the C’s and D’s, and just because someone has A credit doesn’t mean he or she is guaranteed to pay it back. In fact, the owner of my one late payment had an A credit rating.
  • Go onto the message board and feel free to ask questions. Get the user name of some of the more active posters who seem well respected and see what auctions they are bidding on and then bid on those ones.
  • Up until just last week, the group concept in Prosper seemed worthless. However, now that they have collected a fair amount of data, the site ranks groups in regards to how many loans a group has and how many of them are current, late, etc… This seems like it could turn into an invaluable tool to use when deciding what loans to fund.
  • Use Eric’s Credit Community to check on Prosper’s stats so you can know what to expect.
  • Bid in low amounts to spread risk. The fact that the late loan that I have is for $75 has convinced me to stick with $50 bids.

Update:  When I logged on this morning, there was a payment in transit for the late loan, so hopefully it was just a technical glitch.

Adjusting Philosphy for Oil Changes – Savings of $108/year

Oct 17, 2006 @ 12:35 pm by EMS

Asking a room of 10 people how often you should change your vehicle’s oil will yield you 10 different responses.  I have always been in the 3,000 miles/3 months camp, but decided today I’m going to change my philosphy on it.  After doing some legwork, I found that pretty much the only people that say you need to change your oil every 3,000 miles are the ones that profit directly from it.  Even the vehicle manuals these days recommend at least 6,000 miles before changes unless you are doing a lot of stop-and-go driving in a dusty environment.

I used to take my vehicles to oil change places like Jiffy-Lube or Wal-Mart, but have been changing it on my own for the last two or three years.  I find that I don’t really save a whole lot doing it myself, not to mention the time it takes, but I find a certain “manly” attraction to doing it.  I’m certainly no expert when it comes to matters of automobiles, but once I demystified the oil change experience, I found it to be a relatively painless experience (except for that time when I didn’t check for the gasket on the filter which resulted in a garage floor covered with oil).

The oil and filter for a car change currently costs me about $18 ($14 for oil, $4 for the filter).  I’m going to adjust my maintenance routine so that I’m only changing oil every 6,000 miles on both vehicles, which will basically halve this cost and save me about $108 year.

Our Starting Point: $145,786

Oct 11, 2006 @ 02:47 pm by EMS

I did some fine-tuning of the numbers last night and found our net worth to be $145,786 as of September 30th. Coming to this number wasn’t too difficult. I had some accounts that I took some time to figure out how to categorize. For instance, I have been a user of Prosper for several months now and had to determine how to categorize that account. I placed it under Accounts Receivable, along with the balances of our flexible dependent care and medical expense accounts that I have through my employer.

I’ve used Quicken to track my finances since 1999, so most of the data was easily extracted from there. I also posted numbers for the previous two years as comparison.
September 2006 Net Worth

Welcome!

Oct 10, 2006 @ 03:19 pm by EMS

Welcome to FinanceTravels.com! The goal of this site is to share financial goals, tips, and suggestions. I will also be using this site to keep track of my family’s net worth through monthly financial updates. But for now, I need to get started by getting all of our numbers in order at which point I’ll be able to post some figures.

In the meantime, check out some of my favorite financial blogs:



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