2016 Adieu / What’s to Come in 2017

Photo credit: t-miki via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Dear Readers, I am grateful for your encouragement and input though out this inaugural year of Frugal, Wealthy and Wise.  Starting with the initial post in May, thirty-three articles have been published, not counting the 59 Proverbs of the Day. (Browse through postings using the ‘Categories’ and ‘Archives’ searches on the right.)

My hope is that Frugal, Wealthy and Wise makes a personal impact – that you have discovered new ways to cut costs and save money. Are becoming savvy consumers. Growing more mindful about your finances. And taking actions today that lead to a more promising financial future.

In no particular order, here are some topics planned for next year. And as always, I want to hear from you about your most pressing financial questions and quandaries, as well as ideas for upcoming articles.

  • Save money with informal co-ops – cooperative efforts among neighbors and friends can take many forms, including: babysitting, pet sitting, sharing tools, etc.
  • Do-it-yourself auto maintenance – while modern cars do not require much hands-on maintenance, there still remain a few tasks that you can do on your own and could save $50 – $100 a year in the process
  • Selecting and working with an auto mechanic
  • Why Roth IRAs are a such beautiful thing
  • The order for funding retirement accounts – 401K/403Bs, conventional IRA’s and Roth IRAs
  • Funding children’s college education
  • Seven Deadly Sins of Lawn Care – common lawn care practices that are actually harmful to your lawn, your pocketbook and the environment
  • Saving money on household water consumption
  • Save on utilities by selecting your suppliers (28 out of 22 states allow you to select electric and/or gas providers).
  • Uber experiences – the good. And not so good
  • Never, ever pay an ATM fee
  • To cash or not to cash; that is the question –pros and cons of paying with cash vs. credit/debit cards
  • Want to spend less? Shop less!
  • Beware: The Lifestyle Inflation

There’s one other up-coming article series – Trash Pick Finds. Once we wrap up the Proverb of the Day series, I’m planning a series on Trash Pick of the Day – please email me your best trash pick find, with a photo if possible. (Preview: our best trash pick find to date is a Weber gas grill!)

Have a Safe, Happy, Frugal, Wise and Prosperous New Year! I’ll be in touch …next year.

Yours, Paul

© 2016 Paul J Reimold

 

 

 

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Take These Five Actions Before Year-End

2017-calander
My 2017 Dollar Store Calendar ($1.06 with tax) It’s the Muscle Car theme.

We are now in the last few days of 2016.  Here are five Frugal and Wise actions you should take before the year’s end:

  1. Stock up on holiday merchandise for next year. Take advantage of the post-Christmas deep discounts on holiday decorations, lighting, greeting cards and wrapping paper. Do not pay full price for the same items next November or December. (But please exercise some restraint in your post-holiday purchases.)
  1. Pick up your 2017 calendars at the dollar store. OK, the dollar store calendars are not as nice as the on ones sold at book stores or Staples for upwards of $8.00. But are the calendars from Staples 8 – 15 times better???
  1. Make last minute charitable donations – if you itemize deductions on your federal tax return, additional donations can reduce your 2016 tax bill (or increase your refund). Typically, those with middle class incomes are in a 25% tax bracket. That means that every $100 donated to charity could reduce your federal income taxes by $25. To qualify as a deduction for 2016, mailed donations must be postmarked no later than December 31st. Donation by credit card or electronic fund transfer must be initiated by the 31st.
  1. Gather up unwanted clothing and household items to donate. This week could be a great opportunity to reduce household clutter and get a tax break to boot! All that stuff no longer being used can be carted off to the Salvation Army, Goodwill, Purple Heart or similar organizations. Be sure to get a receipt for your donation. As a rule, your donation is valued by what it would cost to purchase similar items in a thrift store (Thrift Store Value). Donating $100 worth of clothing and household goods (not all that difficult to come up with) could reduce your tax bill by, say, $25.
  1. Bump up your retirement plan contribution by a percent or two – at a minimum, you should be contributing enough to your 401k or 403b to get the full match from your employer;  failure to do so means losing out on a huge sum of money over a lifetime. Every year, try to ratchet up your contribution just a bit more: 1 or 2 percent each year? Such a small reduction in take-home pay likely will not be missed* but could significantly accelerate your retirement savings. See my posting You can’t spend what you ain’t got: Why You Need to Automate Your Savings.
*Example: If your annual salary is $60,000, one percent is $600 or only $50 per month. If your contribution is pretax and you are in a 25% tax bracket, your take-home pay is only reduced by $37.50 per month. Over a 30 year period, assuming a 7% annual return, these extra 1% contributions would accumulate about $56,000 in additional savings!

Wishing you a Happy and Prosperous New Year! Cheers, Paul

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My Favorite Things Part V

trainsThis is the final installment of the My Favorite Things series. Admittedly this episode has a definite home electronics bent. But then, with the Northern Hemisphere in winter, it’s a great time to stay home, listening to good music or catching up on shows and movies.

Note: most of the items below are discretionary purchases, not necessities. Please treat them as such in your budgeting.

  • Klipsch Speakers – in general, it’s hard to beat BIC speakers for their bangklipschs for the buck (refer to the BIC DV62si bookshelf speakers mentioned in My Favorite Things Part IV). However, Klipsch speakers are definitely a step up but still provide excellent price/performance. I happen to own ten Klipsch speakers: 5 for the home theatre, 2 for the living room stereo, 2 for the home office and this nifty KMC-1 portable Bluetooth speaker (atop the big speaker). kmc-1The KMC-1 is an incredible value at $130, outperforming other, more expensive, name-brand Bluetooth speakers.

Below the KMC-1 is my pride and joy: the Klipsch RF-5’s. Real cheery wood veneer, made in Hope, Arkansas, not imported. A pair of RF-5’s go for $1500 retail. I got mine on eBay for $450.

Fugal and Wise Take Away: save big on home electronic items getting them used on Craig’s List or eBay. Take advantage of all those audiophiles and techies who are continually trading up to the latest and greatest. Or snag an item the is being discontinued by the manufacturer at a discount.

  • Roku Streaming Players – I like Roku for three reasons: (1) They are ‘content agnostic’ unlike Amazon, Apple and Chrome/Google offerings. (2) Roku offers the largest variety of video content sources (3) A great value throughout the product line. Prices are comparable to Amrokuazon Fire, but a fraction of what cost Amazon TV costs. Meanwhile, Roku offers models which stream 4K Ultra High Def content, which Apple TV does not.

Cons: The Roku user interface and remote can be a bit clunky. 4K programming choices are still limited (but growing).

Fugal and Wise Take Away: Streaming players are a great alternative to costly cable services – refer to Cut the Cable! Cut the Costs!

  • yamaha-subYamaha YST-SW012 Subwoofer – the best subwoofer to be found for under 100 bucks! Mine is in the home office, rounding out the Klipsch RB-41 bookshelf speakers. The Yamaha provides that extra kick, whether you are listening to Copeland, Coltrane or Coldplay. Or Bach, Basie and Barry White.

Cons: Best in smaller space, may be under powered for larger rooms. No controls for cross-over or polarity, just volume (not a big deal for most folks)

  • A Patio Sound System for under $200!: Yamaha NS-AW150 outdoor speakers & Blue Fidelity Model 300 amp. yamaha-outdoor blue-fidelityFor being so inexpensive, this combo makes a pretty awesome patio sound system. I’ve received a lot of compliments on how great it sounds. The Blue Fidelity unit receives music via Bluetooth streaming from your phone, tablet or PC. Though only the size of a deck of cards, it puts out plenty of power – the neighbors occasionally ask me to turn it down (luckily, we share similar tastes in music.)

Cons: If I were doing it over, I’d get the Yamaha speakers in black rather than white so they’d hide dirt better.

  • Mazda 3 – we have a 2012 Mazda 3 sedan with the 2.0 liter Skyactiv engine and 6 speed manual transmission. It looks like allmazda3 the other nondescript compact sedans out there. But wait until you get behind the wheel! This is a driver’s car. Zero to 60 in 7.9 seconds. Top speed of 123 MPH, limited only by a computer chip. And how it corners! It pains me greatly to say this, but it actually handles a bit better than my 1996 Mazda Miata. Zoom. Zoom.

Cons: It takes a while to get over the 2012’s smiley-face grill (the 2013 and later models have better looks). Seats are not terribly comfortable for long trips. Around town mileage is so-so in the low to mid 20s in miles per gallon. And I really wish the redline was 500 – 1000 RPMs higher.

Frugal and Wise Take Aways: New, a 2012 Mazda 3, like ours, listed for just under $20,000. We bought ours used in 2015 from a private owner for $10,500. That’s a substantial savings even though the car had 43,000 miles on it at purchase. Another point: you don’t have to pay vast sums of money to own a car that’s fun to drive. A step up from the Mazda 3 but still on the reasonable side is the Honda Civic Si (although the Si requires premium gas.)

  • Lionel Trains – I saved the best for last. As I write this, there are sixty year-old Lionel trains circling the Christmas tree. trains2-2Prices for vintage model trains peaked in the early 2000’s. Since then, pricing on all but the rarest items have been steadily declining. Why? Model train owners are an aging demographic. More train collections are getting downsized or sold to settle estates.

Here’s a link to my trains in action.

Frugal and Wise Take Aways: With prices being more reasonable, this is a great time to get into the hobby. Check offerings on eBay or a local train meet. Here’s a schedule of train meets around the country – just put in your zip code to find events near you. But another point: don’t get caught up in a ‘collectables’ mania. Model train prices peaked about the same time as the Beanie Baby craze and the dotcom bubble: a cautionary tale indeed.

In closing, here’s the link to the last version of My Favorite Things: this time covered by Luther Vandross. Enjoy! luther-vandross

I wish you all Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Happy, Frugal, Wise and Prosperous New Year!

Cheers, Paul

 

 

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Proverb of the Day #59

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.  Proverbs 24:3-4

Photo credit: KOREphotos via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
Photo credit: KOREphotos via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Proverb of the Day #58

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.  Proverbs 23:4-5

Photo credit: KOREphotos via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
Photo credit: KOREphotos via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Proverb of the Day #57

Do not be one who shakes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you.
Proverbs 22:26-27

Photo credit: KOREphotos via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
Photo credit: KOREphotos via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.