JoeNCA's ERE Journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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Post by KevinW »

Agree with S, when you own a car you have no reason to look for alternatives, so it's natural to conclude that alternatives don't exist. Once I started looking earnestly, I found a lot: walk, bike, bus, train, informal carpool, organized vanpool, car sharing (ZipCar), car rental (Enterprise etc), taxi, airport shuttles, tourist shuttles, doing business online.
@S Have you considered cross country skiing? Kind of a compromise between walking and biking.

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Post by JoeNCA »

@George the original one - yes there is taxi service, but expensive. Hospital service is about 8 miles away and is a bit of pain to get to. Also public transportation is not available after 10pm for school (I take night school for leisure). But other than these, most other things can be covered - I'm sure I'll find out as I go along.
@S Thanks for the encouragement, I feel like I've succeed already! :)
@S, Ralphy, KevinW I think I will try the parking strategy first, in order to find out how it will play out. Thanks for a great idea.

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Post by JoeNCA »

Update 1/6/11
I've finally decided on a place to stay - signed a 1 year contract to lease a studio apartment 12 minutes walking distance from my work. Rent is $610 per month which includes heating & garbage. I pay electricity only.
The apartment is also about 10 minutes walking distance from a major grocery store. Also found out that there is a farmer's market every Tuesdays during summer time only 3 blocks away.
I just didn't know enough about RV's to make an informed decision. I plan to research more about them for the next year to enable making intelligent decision(s).
Decided to give my car away to a relative. As a result, my insurance will drop by 45% from $2,000/yr to $1,100/yr. Refinanced the truck to a lower 3.5% APR and a new 60 month term at $300/mo. I will be using my truck for the next few months in the new environment and will evaluate whether I really need it or not. Nonetheless, I had the truck appraised at CarMax and it was appraised at $18,000. I owe $16,000 on the truck. (It's a 2008 Toyota Tundra, which I enjoy very much.)
Will be cutting mobile broadband internet ($60/mo.) and going to home-based internet ($30/mo.). I will be looking for ways to extend this to my work as WI-FI since it's only 6-blocks away - this will be an interesting project.
The $150 monthly commuter bus pass will be reduced to $35 monthly lightrail and bus pass.
In lieu of a bowling alley, there is 24 hour fitness which I belong to, 10 minutes from the apartment. I've been paying $100/year for this thing but rarely went due to proximity. Now, I can literally go and live out there.
I do not cook and I have been eating out on most workdays, but since I live so close now, I can just go home and eat. I will be joining cooking classes to learn how to cook and will be cooking at home from now on. I used to spend close to $600-$700 a month in eating out. I have budgeted $400 a month at the new place.
I used to budget/spend $1,000 a month for misc. items, including car maintenance, unforeseen expenses, buying electronics, buying clothes, travel expense, going out to movies, going to a basketball game, concerts, whatever. I've decided that for the next 5 years, I'll be "recycling" my existing "stuff" to fund these activities and have allocated "$0". That means selling things on craigslist, ebay etc. Luckily, I have plenty of things to sell, which will be the subject of my next post.
Total monthly expenses should be as follows:
Rent - $610

Electricity - $20

Car payment - $300

Car Insurance - $95 ($1100/12)

car registration - $35 ($420/12)

Transportation Monthly Pass - $35

Gas - $80

phone - $40

Internet - $30

Gym membership - $9

Food - $400
Total: About $1,700 / mo.
As things stand, I'm saving $1,100 more per month now from about $2,800 per month lifestyle that I used to live in, when including all other expenses. Not bad.
I will be seriously looking at the transportation issue moving forward, and if viable, I will stand to gain additional $300 or so more per month in savings by dropping the truck and renting a car instead.
Next on the agenda will be the rent. If RV'ing a year later makes sense, then I can gain additional $150 a month there.
Then I will be looking at food. If I can shop intelligently and make that dollar last, I may be able to squeeze out another $100 here as well.

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Post by AlexOliver »

Joe, wow! Sold the car, moved to a cheaper much in such a short time! Congrats.
I'm curious as to why you're going the cooking lessons route, instead of DIY? The cooking classes I've taken always seem to show you how to make really fancy stuff that I would never eat normally. Why not learn to make one or two dishes you love, from scratch?
Also, if you live within walking distance of so many things, why is the bus/light rail pass necessary? And the truck I guess too. What do you use them for?

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Post by JoeNCA »

@AlexOliver - Thanks Alex. Actually much of this has been in the works since October of last year, now finally being put to place. I will be moving in at the end of January. So much to prepare for!
As for cooking, honestly I've no clue. Essentially I need to find and attend the "basics" class for the clueless. One can only stand so much of peanut butter and jelly sandwich and hungrymen microwaveables. So I need a good class that will lead me TO the basics.
Bus/light rail pass is useful for connection to hospitals, cheaper grocery stores, specialty shops, malls, restaurants etc., especially if I do decide to let go of the truck. (I'm sure I will be utilizing more on-line services than ever before.) It also connects me to Amtrak and the airport, should I need access to them - i.e. it will act as my main "car" - especially the light rail, as it covers many of the locations around the new neighborhood. I plan to try out this approach for the next few months in order to make the final decision in going car-less.
As for the truck, honestly, I just enjoy driving it and taking it to the Sierra's once in a while. It serves as semi-commuter vehicle but now I guess it's more of a luxury item. I do take evening classes at local community colleges and transportation at night can be an issue. So perhaps it will be relegated to that duty now as car rentals will cost more.

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Post by AlexK »

You could buy an older truck that isn't depreciating so fast and still have fun in the mountains. In a way my 1998 Tacoma is more useful than my friend's newer trucks because I'm not afraid to get scratches on it.
When you said Northern Ca before I was picturing someplace small like Redding or Eureka. I assume you are in the Bay Area or Sac since you have light rail.

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Post by JoeNCA »

@AlexK - I may end up doing just that - getting a new used truck to replace the existing. There is always a warm-up period for changes and I wanted to dip into it slowly (a few months).
As to the location, that is correct. You caught me there. :)

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Post by runrunruneateateat »

Your progress is amazing--congrats! Reading everyone's journals is really inspiring for me. I've been researching cheaper apartments this weekend after reading your post. Thanks for sharing!

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Post by JoeNCA »

@runrunruneateateat- My pleasure and thanks for your encouragement!

I would also be interested in reading about your journey as well - have you considered starting your own journal? :)

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Post by jacob »

Going great!
Most of my tool purchasing are funded by "recycled" books I've been getting rid off.
Finding the right RV is definitely a journey. Knowing what we do now, we would have gotten a different kind(*). On the other hand, it's hard to learn this stuff from books. The right fit is quite individual.
(*) To be specific, we would probably get a shorter travel trailer (28' or so) and just rent a truck or pay someone with a truck and a hitch $100 to move it to the next place. This seems to be a better solution for someone who is parking 99% of the time. As it is now, we're paying registration and insurance and the cost of an engine for a "system" we rarely use. On the plus side, the RV paid itself back in terms of saved rent about a year ago (after ~14 months).

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Post by JoeNCA »

@Jacob - much thanks for your support and encouragement, and for keeping this site up!
After hearing back on your RV experience, I realized that I just didn't know enough about them and it would take some time to be familiarized with them.
Despite paying "only" about $600 per month in rent for an apartment, it's still $20+ per day! If this could be reduced to even half the amount, savings realized over several years would be sizable. (i.e. $300 x 60 = $18,000 - enough to pay for a brand new car)
Alas, a $300 room for rent is hard to find nowadays and having one's own "space" is obligatory along with age. :)

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Post by JoeNCA »

Update 1/18/11
need vs. want
2008 Toyota Tundra 5.7L V8 Double Cab 6.5'
Factory towing package w/ supplemental transmission cooler and 10,400 lb tow capacity, 4.300 rear axle ratio, Heavy-duty 150A alternator, Tow hitch receiver and Trailer brake controller pre-wire, ABS brakes, Traction Control, Electronic Brake Distribution, Auto Limited Slip Differential, Front and Side Airbags and Curtains.
Sliding rear window, Outside rear light, 60/40 split fold up rear seats, cd/mp3 player with Aux. input, privacy windows, Bench seat option for seating 4 adults and 2 children, Dual Zone Climate control, Detachable and Lockable tailgate, 18 inch factory alloy wheels, Chrome bumpers.
Factory Back Up Camera / Factory Fog Lights / TRD Rear Sway Bar / Factory Deck Rail system / Rhino Spray-in bed liner
RIP - you were a beaut.
A few days ago I sold my beloved truck. It basically came down to the fact that I didn't need it. Yes I love going up into the mountains. No, I don't need a truck to do this. The bottom line is, most of the places in US worth going to, are paved (There are many and I've been to plenty). Yup, even a Yugo could make it.
I never towed nor hauled anything in my truck. It was babied and well cared for. It served me for my pleasure and as a back up commuter.
But the cost was too much - starting from $40 oil changes every 3,000 miles to $400 yearly "commercial" vehicle registration and the $80 per fill-up 26.4 gallon gas tank - not to mention $1,000 for a new set of tires.
For what I was using it for, the benefit to cost ratio wasn't there. I knew this. I "justified" keeping it because it was a big, safe vehicle on the road - good for long distance travel. But now that I am moving closer to work...? And how often do I take a month-long vacation away from work...?
Instead I will be keeping my already-paid-for, boring, plain-old-vanilla but reliable, easy-to-240,000-miles commuter car now sitting at way less than 150,000 miles. I know it will last because I'm the original owner and I maintain my cars. (Many are on the road today with 300,000+ miles on them, same vintage) Can't get any better than that.
Eliminated car payment. ($300/mo)

Reduced vehicle registration ($500/yr to $100/yr)

Reduced gas expense (from "easy" $250/mo to $80/mo estimated)

Reduced insurance (from $2,000/yr to $600/yr)

Reduced vehicle maintenance (by at least 50%)
I feel lighter already.

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Post by JeremyS »

Smart move JoeNCA! Congrats.

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Post by Ralphy »

Cutting $600/mo+ off of transportation expenses, very nice!

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Post by JoeNCA »

Well after being on a hiatus from journaling for about 10 months, I've decided to update as events unfolding have led me to a full circle! Go figure. :)
I will be focusing more on the financial aspect of ERE now that I am poor again - i.e. less ERE capable? :D
* On a side note, I wish well to Jacob and his future endeavors. Thanks for all the help and insights that you've shared with us all.
Current status:

Excellent. Probably one of my best accomplishments in this ERE journey thus far. I've suffered some minor injuries while strength training recently but it too shall pass and I've learned a bit about the body as a result. I really enjoy being fit.

I need to re-define and set new goals. I've strayed from the path due to taking on too many roles and responsibilities.

Boring as ever. While I'm grateful that it exists, I no longer feel fulfilled by it.

Some major set-backs here. I've spent about 50% of my networth to purchase a future promissory note.
I have decided to make detailed finance status updates on the journal to keep my focus sharp. More to come.

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Post by sshawnn »

Just read through your journal for the first time. Journals for all to see is good, motivating stuff. They certainly put things in the right perspective. Mine has been going for about a year and it is cool to reread it from time to time. Nice to see you rejournaling after a year. Im interested to see what you have got yourself into after seeing the light and straying from it.

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Post by ExpatERE »

Welcome back! You made some huge strides in a relatively short amount of time. Looking forward to hearing how you do going forward.

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Post by JoeNCA »

Thanks guys. I really think part of what makes ERE'ing fun is in sharing the journey with others with similar interests and pursuits.
It's great to be back with you guys - let us continue toward our success and most importantly, let's have fun while we're at it :)
My current financial snapshot - 12/2011
Money Market equivalent: 8k

Savings: 18K

Retirement: 75k

Retirement-annuity: 100k
Current Monthly Net Income: $2,500
Monthly Expenses:

Rent - $610

Car Insurance - $65

Gas - $120

Utilities - $25

Phone - $70

Food - $500

Misc - $500
Total: $1,900
Many changes since the last update..
First, my workplace relocated about 2/3 way into my 1 year lease. As a result, I'm commuting again - about 20 miles round trip. The move was unexpected (damn you Murphy).
Now that my 1 year lease is almost up, am looking for a new place. It's a toss up between renting vs. owning at this point due to sub 4% mortgage interest rate.
It is very certain that workplace will stay at least 5 years or longer at the new location. The downside to this is that the neighborhood near workplace is not all that desirable. Of course the upside to this is that housing is cheaper to own, but unlikely to rise if economy improves next 5 years.
Food prices have been steadily rising in the past year and it costs at least $100 per week on food even with minimal dining out.
Per event cost for miscellaneous incident averages to $100: i.e. - need to replace a car battery? $100. Need a decent pair of sneakers? $70. A dinner and a movie for two? $90 You get the idea. I average at least 5 such instances per month (at least once a week).
Lastly, my income has dropped by half due to purchase of additional years in an annuity. My cost was $100k, a significant portion of current net worth. I've elected to pay partial lump sum and remainder in one year.
As it can be seen, there aren't that many places left to cut - especially after 50% drop in monthly income.
My current thoughts on improvements are:
* Eliminate monthly phone and move to pay as you go phone service.

* Find cheaper rent.

* Move closer to work *again* and reduce gas cost.

* Don't eat? :)
I will be taking snapshots monthly from now on.

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Post by JoeNCA »

We've lot to learn from the greatest generation... =)
'Poor' Woman Leaves Close to $2 Million to Salvation Army ... -news.html
She was taught by her mother to never waste a thing. She never purchased a dryer, hanging her laundry on a clothesline in the backyard. She painted her home when it needed a touch-up and mowed her lawn until she reached her early 90s. She refused to go to restaurants, the movies or pay for cable TV.
It could be said she took frugality to a whole new level.
Needless to say, it was a shock when a check for $1,731,533.91 from the estate of Elinor Sauerwein was presented to a California branch of the Salvation Army last Christmas Eve.
"It was a surprise and a blessing," Capt. Michael Paugh of the Salvation Army in Modesto told ABC News.
Paugh was getting ready to head home for the holidays when he got a call from John Bullock, Sauerwein's longtime friend and financial adviser who had power of attorney over her affairs. Bullock was on his way over to present the freshly printed check to the charity.
"She said every dollar I save is another dollar that could go to the Salvation Army. Her goal for years and years was to amass as much as she could so it would go to the Salvation Army," Bullock told ABC News. "She did an excellent job at it."
Sauerwein grew her own fruits and vegetables in her meager backyard, and even at the age of 90 would climb to the top of a ladder to pick them. The extreme frugality certainly paid off: At the time of her death, Sauerwein had amassed almost $2 million in savings.
Taking the early advice from her mother to heart -- or some might say to extremes -- Sauerwein rarely splurged. She went on one vacation only once in her entire life, dragged to Hawaii by a friend, said Bullock. Once she returned, Bullock said she continued to justify her "spending spree" to him for months to come.
"Most people around her thought she was poor. Sauerwin's friends knew she had money, but they just didn't know how much," Bullock told ABC News.
In the late 1930s, after she'd graduated from college, she taught in a one-room schoolhouse in Crookston, Neb., traveling to her job on horseback. When she arrived, she'd light a fire to warm the room for the schoolchildren, teach, clean the room and hop back on her horse for the ride home.
She soon met her husband, Harold, and they married in 1945 and moved to to California, settling in Modesto, where Sauerwein cooked for ranch hands on the ranch where her husband found a job. She later worked at LM Morris business machines, according to the Modesto Bee.
Harold Sauerwein became a contractor and built their two-bedroom home with his own hands, said Bullock, who served as Harold Sauerwin's financial adviser. Harold, said Bullock, was just as conservative as his wife when it came to spending money. When Harold Sauerwein died in 1994, Bullock promised him he would "look after Elinor."
Elinor Sauerwein continued her husband's investments - which started with discounted loans, according to the Modesto Bee. She continued to make money, but no one would ever guess it by her lifestyle, said Bullock.
"She lived like she was poor," he told ABC News.
When Elinor Sauerwein died on Oct. 30, 2010, Bullock started compiling her funds for the big donation that she'd planned for "years and years." By December 2011, everything was in order. The only restriction on the money was that the Salvation Army had to use it in the Modesto community. This posed no problem, said Paugh, and the charity was happy to comply.
"The money will stay in the community. The neat thing is we stick it in an endowment, and her gift will be helping people 50 years from now, even 70 years from now," Paugh told ABC News.
"Her gift will keep on giving for years to come."

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Post by JoeNCA »

My current financial snapshot - 2/2013
Retirement-annuity equivalent - 125k

Retirement: 85k

Money Market equivalent: 25k

Savings: 25k
Debt: 2.5k
2012 has been a difficult year to make strides.
One positive light has been the annuity-equivalent, which is steadily earning risk free interest well above market rate (> 4%).
Because both bonds and stocks are at the peak, I've been concentrating on reducing cost and socking away as much as I can into savings.
Despite increasing food and gas prices, I've managed to add a little into both pre-tax and after-tax positions.
I've completed my move next to work, which is about a mile away. And live next to a big chain grocery store that's open 24 hours.
Goal for the year is to maximize after tax position.
I'm a bit disappointed at the slow progress, but hopefully, I will see it blossom in the next 4-7 years.
Oh, the 2.5k debt - bought myself a present. :)

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