November 11 was my 1-year anniversary of writing a blog at Savings Advice. The date snuck up on me, so I decided to take a peak back in Quicken to see how my financial state had changed since joining this community.
Wait, is that for real?
Youíd think that because I keep track of things in Quicken I would be watching my progress over the past year- but I wasnít. I diligently added in everything spent and everything earned, but I wasnít watching the change in net worth. In part this was due to opening a Roth and high yield CDs causing the money to be spread across a number of accounts. Plus, my old (2004) version of Quicken no longer supports automatic downloads so I it had been some time since my ROTH and 401(k) were updated.
Drumroll, please: From 11/11/06 to 11/11/07 I increased my net worth by $12,346.85.
My take home pay from the University during this period was $20,760.19 (this includes by stipend plus the additional pay I received for teaching courses in the summer). Like most people, I pay rent, utilities, and a small car payment. When I started on this adventure, I never would have guessed I could increase my net worth by so much in a year. My objective was truly just to try to spend less and save some money.
So, how did I do it? Hereís my retrospective analysis:
1.) I looked for additional income streams (+ $3675.77)
For those of you that have been following my Challenge, youíll notice that Iíve earned just shy of $2700 in the challenge. My Challenge includes only new income streams since 1/1/07, but I have other income streams that were not new in the New Year that you'll see represented here. The bulk of the non-Challenge income came from my personal chef gig where I delivered homemade meals to a professional couple. That job ended in Spring when they had a baby and the woman stayed at home.
Personal Chef: $950.00
Ride Share: $90.00
eBay sales: $507.91
Half .com sales: $294.91
Garage Sale / Classified sales: $262.00
MINUS -160.05 for eBay fees and shipping for eBay and Half.com
TOTAL ADDITIONAL INCOME: $3675.77
Looking back at this makes me realize how lucrative the personal chef gig was. On the flip side, I feel like I baby sit all the time and the amount is still relatively small. Cooking was exhausting, babysitting is generally pretty relaxing and fun. I plan to keep on doing it. I was also able to earn a respectable amount by selling stuff I didn't use and didn't value through eBay, Half.com and a garage sale. When I move in 6 months, I'm sure I will appreciate the head start on de-cluttering.
2.) I re-balanced my 401(k) (+ $1,148.00)
I had a 401(K) from a job I worked at between 2000-2002. Shortly after leaving that employer, the employer switched wealth management companies. They moved all my investments into a money market account and told me I needed to re-balance. I did nothing for three years. This is something I kick myself for now. Anyway, around December of this year I re-balanced have seen $1,148 in growth. This was probably the single easiest thing I did that helped increase my net worth over the past year.
3.) I opened high yield savings accounts and CDs. ($495.82)
One of the first pieces of advice I acted on from the Savings Advice community was to open high yield savings account. In late November of last year, I opened accounts at both ING and Emigrant Direct. Although ING doesnít have the highest interest rate out there, its rates are competitive and the $25 new account bonus plus $10 referral bonus for new accounts more than made up the differential for me. In the past year, Iíve earned $360.82 in interest in all my accounts, $110 in referral bonuses at ING Direct, and $25 for a new account bonus. In other words, I earned $500 just for letting the right banks hold my money.
When I think back to my financial life prior to November 2006, I feel frustrated with myself for letting my money sitting in a checking account earning squat in interest. If youíre reading this and donít have a high interest checking, get one today! If you leave me your email, Iíll email you an ING referral and weíll both benefit: youíll get $25 if you open an account with $250 and Iíll get another $10 referral bonus.
After I opened my high yield checking accounts, I diligently transferred any odd job money I earned immediately from my checking account to my high yield account so I could earn as much interest as possible. As my savings accounts grew, I started moving the money into CDs. Currently, I have savings account at ING and Emigrant Direct (at 4.2% and 4.75% APR, respectively) and CDs at Emigrant Direct at 5.2% and 5.1% APR)
4.) I started a ROTH IRA (+$306.87)
In January 2007, I moved money from my high yield savings account to open and max out a Roth contribution for tax year 2006. I also started regularly contributing to a Roth for 2007. By July 2007, I had the 2007 Roth maxed out. I achieved this by contributing $150 monthly plus the income I earned over the University for teaching summer school. My Roth is currently in the Vanguard 2045 Target Retirement fund. Itís a topsy turvey market lately, but as of 11/11/07, I had earned 306.07 on my $8000 contribution.
5.) I embraced frugality and tracked my spending.
How many times have you been at the grocery store and looked at receipt afterward and thought, ĎHow did all those $1-$2 items add up to so much?Ē
I canít quantify how much I saved through watching the small purchases, but the little things do add up. Furthermore, if your income isnít very high to begin with, (like mine), the total percent of those little things can easily become overwhelming. By using Quicken, I was able to watch my monthly expenses and make sure a few dollars here and there wasnít usurping by paycheck. In addition, as I become more involved with my money, I found myself far less tempted by impulse purchases. I did a lot of
In sum, I feel happier and more empowered. Prior to joining Savings Advice I felt nervous anytime I saw an article in the newspaper about money and personal finance. Now, I know where I stand. I have more work to do before I can achieve some of my financial dreams like buying a house, but I do know I can have a rich life without a lot of money. This gives me freedom and confidence