What We’re Grateful For This Week

On this week of Thanksgiving, every member of the PoP family has been made ridiculously grateful for an inanimate object that normally occupies very little of our brain power (but has required far too much attention as of late). The object – Lanai Screen. And though it would seem a ridiculous topic for our blog, in actuality lanai screen has found itself caught in the center of a venn-diagram of the three main topics we like to muse on here: Money, Happiness, and Kittens.

Me, putting my feet up relaxing in our lanai (the big screened enclosure).

Me, putting my feet up relaxing in our lanai (the big screened enclosure).

Our lanai (as they are called in Florida – I’m not sure if they exist anywhere else or go by another name) is a large screened enclosure that houses our pool and back patio. Think a large room (with a pool in the center) where all the walls, doors, and ceiling are all made out of window screen. Lately our lanai been doing triple duty as a favorite relaxation spot, a project space where I can build cabinetry, and a storage spot for Sunny while we wait for more available free time when we can start restoring a 40+-year-old Mercedes Benz.

This aluminum structure (if it’s really fair to call it that) is hugely important when it comes to maximizing our enjoyment of our little house, after all, the lanai is about the same size as all the interior square footage of our house! And the screen that makes up the walls and ceiling of the lanai is a large part of that, keeping mosquitos and other biting bugs out (though lizards often get through to provide Kitty PoP with endless entertainment), and keeping Kitty PoP in! Though it is designed to LITERALLY fade into the background, the screen is a really integral part of our day-to-day existence. But it wasn’t until recently that we learned to be truly grateful for it.

Our History With Lanai Screens

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I Called And Raised Our Cable Bill

Yes, you read that right. I did pretty much the opposite of what every personal finance blog will tell you to do. Time will tell if we think it’s a good idea, but here’s why I did it.

Our Complicated History With The Cable Bill

Since moving into our house 6.5 years ago, we’ve never had a tv or a home phone (we use Ting on our cellphones). But unlike some our neighbors that drive to Panera and McDonalds for their internet access, paying for reliable in-home internet access is pretty non-negotiable for us.

That said, we subscribed to the lowest speed available when we moved in – 1.5Mbps – because it was the cheapest available ($33 at the time) and it did enough for us, especially for the first couple of years. By the time the slow speed was starting to be noticeable to us (like when we both wanted to stream something), we had somehow ended up with a bill that was ridiculously low. Through a discount that was supposed to be one-time, but wasn’t, we were paying about $13/month for our internet access in 2012-2013.

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An Open Letter To Chase

Dear Chase,

For a week last month, you suspended access to Mint.com for Chase customers. We could not access our Chase accounts through this free and widely used financial aggregation service. It was ridiculously annoying!

When I wrote you about it, I received a form letter in response describing the suspension for “security reasons”, which I consider highly suspect. The thing is, just a couple of weeks earlier you had sent me a marketing email touting your new Chase Mobile App. It’s interesting that your security priorities for account holders seem to mesh so well with your own proprietary (and no doubt profitable) app development. How convenient for your bottom line!

Since, dear Chase, I’m not sure you understand where you stand in my financial life, let me clear some things up for you. I’ve been growing increasingly unhappy with you for some time now.
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Please Tell Us About Your Kitchen Appliances!

It’s getting to be that time in our kitchen remodel where we’re starting to look hard at what appliances we want (the space is finally ready for them and prices are starting to look good with holiday sales*!). Although there have been many times when I wanted to punch someone in the face for offering unsolicited advice on our remodel, right now I want to hear what you love and hate about your kitchen appliances!

Before you start dispensing with your wisdom, here’s where we’re coming from.

First, They Must Be White!


The stainless dishwasher at our office shows every smudge and water mark!

I don’t like the look of black appliances in general (I think for the same reason I don’t like black tvs prominently displayed), and stainless often shows far too many fingerprints and smudges (and seems to be headed out trend-wise, anyhow). White appliances will go well with our new bright, open kitchen, and will hopefully appear relatively timeless and easily matched in the future when one inevitably breaks while the others are still going strong. Bisque, Almond, and Avocado may come and go, but there will always be white appliances. Right? =)

The downside to white is that I will need to be diligent about keeping their handles and everything clean since that shows. But there are some places where I’d rather *know* it’s clean than assume it’s clean because I can’t see it… and areas of potential food contamination like a fridge handle seem like a good place to have that assurance of being able to have a visual confirmation of “clean”.

Second, We Need An Over-The-Range Microwave

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PoP Balance Sheet – October 2015

Welcome to our October 2015 Balance Sheet!

We use the structure of a monthly income statement and balance sheet in tandem to make sure we are keeping our expenses low and planting our pennies wisely. If you’re not already tracking your finances using these two methods, go to mint.com and get started today! If you have any questions about how we do this just post a comment and we’ll be sure to help!

You’d think that after two straight months of booking a drop in our net worth that we’d be happier about seeing it pop (spoiler alert!) over 5% this month.  Instead, as I closed the books for the month and saw that we had $8,000 that we wanted to throw in our taxable account this month, I bemoaned the fact that the S&P500 climbed over 8% during the month and I would be buying fewer shares with that money than I could have gotten last month.  First world problems, eh?

But yeah….  The stock market shot up last month and our equities portfolio was one of the many boats to be lifted with that rising tide.  At most recent values, 99.9% (for real, I just calculated it!) of our brokerage holdings consist of broad based mutual funds and ETFs.  (We also own 4 shares of BRK.B, mostly in order go to the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting every year.)  And since our brokerage holdings are now more than half of our asset base, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that where the market goes for the month is more than likely where you’ll find us.  Mostly.  We are still putting money away, so we can off-set a bad month in the stock market to a certain degree.

To us, this means the top line of these updates is starting to feel less meaningful than they once were since it’s harder to connect OUR financial actions for the month to our net worth.  On the bright side, it means that the graphs that we track at the bottom of these posts, where we track the number of years of savings we have accumulated and our potential early retirement locale for the month feel that much more meaningful and that’s nice since we can “feel” the direct impact that increases or decreases in our monthly spending have on those numbers.

That said, on with the numbers for the month!

  • Our total assets up by $44.8
  • Our total liabilities went down by $0.8
  • Net worth went up by $45.6K 
  • Total net worth as of the end of September is $947.2K, which represents a 5.06% increase this month.

And for the details…

Continue reading PoP Balance Sheet – October 2015