Fanatic Fans Fork Over Finances!

First, lets all just take a moment to appreciate the phenomenal alliteration that was just dropped on you by that title! Eh, eh?

Outside of my mad grammar capabilities, I tend to be somewhat of a sports enthusiast.  After the NFC and AFC Championship games Sunday, it occurred to me that both teams playing in the Super Bowl in New York are from the western side of the country.  So what does that mean for fans of the two franchises?  It’s gonna be one expensive experience!

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not condemning those that are about to spend thousands of dollars to see their team play in a Super Bowl. Denver hasn’t been there since 1998 and while Seattle was there in 2006, it’s only the franchise’s second appearance ever.  The point is, you never know when your team is going to make it back.  So if it’s important to you, enjoy it!  But my understanding attitude doesn’t mean I’m not cringing at the final figures for the trip.

Let’s break it down shall we?  My assumptions are as follows:

  • Because this is likely a once in a lifetime event, I’m going to assume that most fans are going to fly into New York on Friday, spend Saturday sight seeing in the Big Apple, and then go to the game Sunday.  They’ll fly home Monday.
  • Fans will be as frugal as possible during their visit (yeah right)
  • Fans will go with a friend (who in their right mind goes to the Super Bowl alone!?)

Tickets: As of today, the lowest tickets I can find available are going for a very reasonable $2,550.  That’s assuming you want to experience your team in the Super Bowl from the nose bleed seats in the end zone.  Unequivocally, the worst seats in the house.

Air Fare: Every Super Bowl is expensive, but given the distance fans of these two teams are going to have to travel, this will be the killer.  Seattle fans can make the trip for around $670.  Denver fans have a slightly lower $515 payout.  Neither of these are nonstop flights though.

Hotel: Amazingly, there are several hotels in the vicinity of the stadium with rooms available. They’re not even as badly priced as I expected them to be. You can get a nice 3-star hotel room for $395 per night.  You can bump up to a swanky 4-star hotel room for $415.

Meals, Drinks, Etc.: I’m going to go all CPA on you for a minute. There is really no way to guess what people are gonna spend on meals when they’re in New York. So for the purposes of this, I’m going with the IRS per diem rate in effect as of the Super Bowl, which is $71 per person, per day. So assume $213 per person for the trip plus whatever you spend actually inside the game.

So what does all of this beer drinking, football watching, sight seeing fun cost over a long weekend?  A Denver fan can expect to pay at least $4,563.  Seattle fans will lighten their bank accounts at least $4,718.  So it looks like Denver fans win just slightly. Ironically, I predict (you can’t talk about the Super Bowl and not make a prediction) that Denver wins the game as well.  I’m going with Broncos 28 Seahawks 17.

My only hope is that if you’re making the trip, you’re not charging the whole damn thing on a credit card that’s going to cost you 18% interest.  Hopefully you’ve got a little saved up, hopefully you’ve got some friends or family that can help you out.  I encourage you to take the next two weeks to really think about how you’re going to pay for the once in lifetime opportunity!

If anybody’s going I’d love to hear about it! Or if you’ve got a great super bowl party planned let me know!  If you can find a way to save some money on it you could be featured on Bean Counter by Day.  That’s even better than your team winning the Super Bowl!

Super_Bowl_XLVIII_logo

Push Yourself: 2014 Goals

I read time and time again that there is a significant impact on your psychology by writing down goals and placing them somewhere that you see them every day. Typically, I do pretty well at meeting my goals, but for 2014 I’m going to really push myself! First, a picture of my list attached snugly to the refrigerator so that you can see that I practice what I preach :)

2014 Goals

And in case you can’t read my outstanding handwriting, here are the goals that I am shooting for in 2014:

Pay for the Entire Wedding with Cash:  This one is numero uno and is non-negotiable!  I refuse to go into debt for the wedding. So far, we’ve done well at this and we have about $10,000 saved up, which should easily cover the expenses that we have left. But this goal doesn’t just include the wedding, it includes the honeymoon as well.  Optimism of achieving goal: 100%

Reduce Credit Card Debt $6,000:  Girl Bean Counter has about $7,500 in interest-bearing credit card debt.  I cringed when she told me.  I cringe every time the bills show up.  I have another $3,500 in credit card debt which I used for some furniture and the appliances in our new house. However, my debt is completely interest free for well beyond what I calculate needing to pay it off.  My goal is to get us both down to one credit card by the end of 2014.  Optimism of achieving goal: 85%

Emergency Fund to $7,500: I mentioned above that we already have about $10,000 in savings. We put, at a minimum, $500 per month in savings and usually a good bit more.  So given 6 months to continue saving before the wedding, I’m pretty confident that we should be able to walk away in June with an Emergency Fund of at least $5,000, giving us a great chance to meet the goal in the last 6 months of the year.  Optimism of achieving goal: 95%

Complete a Major Home Renovation:  We have a list close to a mile long of things that we’d like to do to this house. We already accomplished a fantastic re-painting, if I do say so myself!  Two more projects that we’d love to get done sooner, rather than later, are to replace all 4 different flooring materials with a uniform hardwood floor and to upgrade our shower situation in the master bathroom.  Each of these projects looks to be in the $2,000-$2,500 price range.  I have promised myself that I will borrow nothing to complete them, so we’re definitely looking at late 2014 if at all possible. Optimism of achieving goal: 35%

Who else has got big goals for this year?

Why You Shouldn’t Blindly Pay Student Loans

It’s one of the first things you hear from most personal finance advisors: Pay off your student loans as quickly as possible! It doesn’t matter that if you’ve financed an entire degree with student loans your payments can be upwards of $400 per month.  It doesn’t matter that for the first time in history, a college degree guarantees you nothing once you’re out in the “real world.” The smart thing to do is to pay it off as quick as you can.

Except, for a lot of people, there are other options.  Personally, I have a very small amount of student loans, but Girl Bean Counter has a decent amount, and the largest recently came out of the forbearance period. When I first looked into the loan, I realized the payment amount was going to be $476 per month! I mean holy crap!  You could finance a brand new Infiniti or BMW for that and have it paid off in 5 years.  Student loan schedules are typically over 10 years.

So I started diving into the fine print.  The first thing I realized is that she was eligible for an Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR). Basically, if you’ve got $40,000 in student loans and make $38,000, the federal government is smart enough to realize that a $500 monthly payment is going to put you in the poor house pretty damn quick!  So they take your reported Adjusted Gross Income from your tax return, compare it to the federal poverty line, and make you pay 15% of the amount that exceeds the poverty line.

For example, if you graduate and can’t find a job paying more than $25,000 per year, you are earning $13,500 over the federal poverty line. So you’re payments would be $13,500 x 15% divided by 12, or approximately $168 per month.  That payment remains the same whether you owe $15,000 in student loans or $50,000 in student loans!

Disclosure: This method on it’s own WILL cost you more money in the long-run.  But it’s worth using for the first few years in the job market so that you don’t go bankrupt trying to pay them back.  As you make more money, and pay off your other debts, you need to start putting more and more toward the student loans.  The idea is still to pay them off as quickly as possible, but it needs to be as quickly as reasonably possible.

Armed with that information, I saved Girl Bean Counter more than half of her stated monthly payment! Now the fun part.  She also teaches for a public school system, so she’s eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program!  In this program, they forgive whatever balance is left after 120 payments!

Based on my calculations, if we just make Girl Bean Counter’s $476 payment every month, we will have the $42,000 loan paid off completely in 9 years and 3 months. However, if we pay her IBR payment for 10 years, it will cost us about $25,000 in total over 10 years. Now, we will have to file Married Filing Separately over those 10 years to keep my salary from being included in her IBR payment calculation, so that is going to cost us a little in tax savings, but over the loan payoff period we stand to save roughly $10,000 by taking this route!

There are several other ways to have your student loans reduced or forgiven.  PLEASE look into this and save yourself some serious stress!  For starters, check out a few of the below!

Brand New House, Fraction of the Price!

I’m going to admit it…..I’m an HGTV and DIY Channel junkie. Before I decided to cut back on my television watching to up my rich habits, I watched them religiously. I have a list about a mile long of things that I would like to do to our current house, but given that there’s all this debt and a wedding in the way….I’m calling that my “long-term” plan.

However, we did happen to make a colossal transformation of our downstairs areas recently, and we did it for a fraction of the normal price!  The first thing we decided to do was paint most of the downstairs. The paint scheme from the previous owners wasn’t exactly our taste, and definitely didn’t match our furniture.  So I set about my research.

We moved in during a pretty hectic time for me at work, so my first thought was just to have some one come in and paint before we got all our stuff unloaded. I made a few calls and quickly realized that my wallet was not going to accommodate this plan.  Apparently the average price for 2 coats of paint and trimwork is about $1.40 per square foot!  That would’ve been fine if we were just painting one room, but with at least 4 to do we were looking at well over $1,000!

So I decided to roll up my sleeves, and do it the old fashioned way. I’ll admit, the first couple of rooms flew by because I was having so much fun.  However, the fun quickly turned to work, and the rest of the unfinished rooms just mocked me every day.  Today I’m glad to share with you guys the finished product! I’ve got a few before and after pictures below just to give you a good idea of the effort involved.

Living Room:

Living Room Before

Living Room After

Living Room After

Kitchen:

Before

Before

Kitchen After

Kitchen After

Dining Room:

Dining Room Before

Dining Room Before

Dining Room After

Dining Room After

So the damage?

  • 7 gallons of paint: $250
  • Paint rollers, tape, etc.: $100
  • Pillows/Art to tie in blue from kitchen to living room: $125

Clearly, my $475 and lots of elbow grease was a better investment than the near $1,200 it would’ve cost for a professional!  The walls might have looked slightly better, but I’m pretty happy with the way they turned out. Now, please don’t grade the decorating too much because we still have countertops, backsplash, floors, etc. on the to-do list.  But you can check out how how I upgraded the appliances and simultaneously decreased my debt by $3,000 here!

Trip of a Lifetime!

If there is even a small part of you that dreams of being a startup success, there is a contest that you must know about!

General Assembly is offering a trip for two to experience a Silicon Valley dream come true!  All you have to do is sign up here with a valid email address!  The contest is open until December 27th, and the winner will be notified via email on or before January 3, 2014.

THE PRIZE PACKAGE

One lucky winner and a companion of his/her choosing will receive:

  • Trip for two to San Francisco
  • Round-trip airfare from anywhere in North America, Europe, or Australia to San Francisco (SFO Airport)
  • Three nights of accomodations at an Airbnb property
  • Personal tours + meetings with hiring managers at Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Airbnb
  • Career mentoring from talent masterminds at GA and InternMatch
  • One-on-one coffee meetings with a handful of Silicon Valley VIPs
  • Free car transportation for the duration of your trip

 

Giant Debt-Free Step!

Today I am writing with amazing news!  We have officially paid off Girl Bean Counter’s car a full 9 months early!  We actually paid it off a couple of weeks ago, but the title arrived today which means we are officially full owners.

We celebrated:

Dancing

Click Me!

But besides just paying off the car, I’m really excited because it’s sets us up to use that $312 payment to pay off her other debts in a timely manner.  I have two major plans for the extra cash.  First, based on my latest debt snowball, by adding that car payment to other bills, we’ll have paid off an additional $3,000 in debt by the time we’re married!  That my friends, is cause for celebration.  Second, I estimate that we’ve got a good 3 or 4 years before serious maintenance becomes an issue.  So we should easily be able to use that money to get a good down payment on the next one! It just feels good to pick up some momentum on this!

Of course, I’m still working on Girl Bean Counter to get her into the debt diminishing spirit.  She actually looked at me last night and said “You know what you do when you pay off a car?  You buy a new one!”   ….Face, meet palm.

Despite that minor setback, she seems content to let me make the financial planning decisions for now, and I’m riding super high today!  Who else has some good financial news?

Competitive Investing

I read The Millionaire Next Door a few weeks back, and it brought up a term I had never heard before.  The term, you ask?  Competitive Investing.

A little background:

The authors of the book hypothesize that in order to be considered wealthy, your net worth must be at least (Your Age divided by 10) x (Your Annual Gross Salary).  Obviously, there are those who don’t come close to this.  There are those who believe it to be an attainable goal.  And, there are those who are already looking at this number in the rear-view mirror.  What the authors pondered, however, is that if you found out that someone your age, making your salary, was closer to this number than you were, would it affect how you approached your finances?  Their research suggested that in fact, there were people that this information would motivate to better their financial position.

My Conclusion:  Absolutely, hell yes, I am this type of person.

I have an almost unhealthy competitive drive within me. My motto is “Second Place is First Loser.” I don’t like to come up short, although I do want to emphasize that I am NOT a sore loser. But if I found out that someone near my age and salary was investing more, saving more, and getting a head start on their financial freedom….you best believe it would affect how I went about my finances.  Fortunately for me, I’m that guy most of my friends are chasing :)  But my competitive drive is so healthy, I find that I compare myself to those who have had longer to put money in retirement and those who make 10-15% more than I do.

The way I figure it, competitive people have a 50/50 shot in the world of finance.  Half of us, get caught up with the Joneses. We see our neighbor pulling in the driveway in a new Lexus, and boom, our competitive juices kick in and we start crunching numbers to see how we can get a nicer car. The other half of us, somehow avoid the materialism, and end up competing in terms of net worth and retirement savings.

Hopefully, everyone reading this has realized that those competing for the nicest “things” are really just racing into financial hell.

In the spirit of today’s topic, I thought I’d end with a little game.  In separate locations, you and several of your friends go to CNN’s Millionaire Calculator, type in the inputs, and see which of you is on the fastest track to wealthy!  There are enough inputs and different interest rates that you could never calculate how much each of you currently has, which takes away all the possibility of envy.  But if you’re a competitive person, this little exercise is all but certain to get your butt in gear.

Oh, and give me a shout with how long it’s going to take you.  Maybe it’ll give me some more motivation!

Tickle Me Elmo – Take 2!

It’s Tickle Me Elmo all over again!

elmo

Sure there are other examples, but this is the first time since Elmo that I’m seeing the same kind of insanity. Weeks before Christmas and another hot product has hit the shelves.  You have essentially hit the lottery if you happen to come across a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One in a retail outlet. They cannot be found.  Why is it that products like this bring out the absolute ugliest side of capitalism?

By ugliest side of capitalism, I mean those individuals who can’t be satisfied by stumbling upon the item, but must purchase all they stumble upon and then resell them at markups exceeding 100% in some cases!  The retail price of a PlayStation 4 is $400. At the time of this writing, the average price on Ebay for a single console is $600.

My question is this, do you agree with people doing this type of thing?  Personally, I think it’s horrible.  I don’t see how anyone can rationalize profiting solely at the expense of others. At the same time, I have many friends who believe if people are willing to pay $600 for a PlayStation 4 then it’s their own fault and you should be the one to profit off of them.

I guess it comes down to personal preference. Personally, I’d like to believe I made my side income in a not-so-quite questionable manner. What do you think?

Rich Habits!

So I stumbled across THIS website a couple of weeks ago. It’s pretty good for some motivation if you ever need it. My favorite post is one where he details out the percentage of wealthy vs the percentage of poor that participate in certain activities.  I’m proud to say that I already do several of these, but I will be devoting significant effort to achieve more of the 20 items.

1. 70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day. 23% of wealthy gamble. 52% of poor people gamble.  I’m gonna give myself a 50/50 on this one.  What exactly constitutes junk food?  I have bologna sandwiches at work every day for lunch, but then I come home and Girl Bean Counter has made a lovely dinner.  So, all in all, I’m eating healthier than a bachelor would be :)

2. 80% of wealthy are focused on accomplishing some single goal. Only 12% of the poor do this.

3. 76% of wealthy exercise aerobically 4 days a week. 23% of poor do this.

4. 63% of wealthy listen to audio books during commute to work vs. 5% for poor people. CHECK!  I’m almost through my second audio book.  And I didn’t even wade my way into it with a James Patterson novel or something. I jumped straight into the “get your crap together!” books.  Any of you looking for a good “audio” read, I highly suggest Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

5. 81% of wealthy maintain a to-do list vs. 19% for poor. CHECK! In fact I have 2 separate to-do lists. One for work, and one for me.

6. 63% of wealthy parents make their children read 2 or more non-fiction books a month vs. 3% for poor.

7. 70% of wealthy parents make their children volunteer 10 hours or more a month vs. 3% for poor.

8. 80% of wealthy make hbd calls vs. 11% of poor

9. 67% of wealthy write down their goals vs. 17% for poor CHECK!  We currently have 3 financial goals written down and attached to the refrigerator.  One is very close to be crossed out, and everybody knows how exciting that is!

10. 88% of wealthy read 30 minutes or more each day for education or career reasons vs 2% for poor. CHECK! I love to read, so this one was pretty easy.  30 minutes before bed is something anyone can do.  My personal preference is to read after I get home from work to help me unwind.  Nothing good comes on TV before 8pm anyway!

11. 6% of wealthy say what’s on their mind vs. 69% for poor. CHECK! Although sometimes it can get me into trouble :)

12. 79% of wealthy network 5 hours or more each month vs. 16% for poor.

13. 67% of wealthy watch 1 hour or less of TV. every day vs. 23% for poor

14. 6% of wealthy watch reality TV vs. 78% for poor.

15. 44% of wealthy wake up 3 hours before work starts vs. 3% for poor.

16. 74% of wealthy teach good daily success habits to their children vs. 1% for poor.

17. 84% of wealthy believe good habits create opportunity luck vs. 4% for poor.

18. 76% of wealthy believe bad habits create detrimental luck vs. 9% for poor.

19. 86% of wealthy believe in life-long educational self-improvement vs. 5% for poor. CHECK! I get called a nerd all the time by Girl Bean Counter. I love to learn. Having too much knowledge has never been a problem for anyone!

20. 86% of wealthy love to read vs. 26% for poor. CHECK!

So, 7.5 of 20 isn’t horrible I don’t think.  Especially since 3 are referring to teaching children, which isn’t quite applicable yet.  Public enemy #1 for me is to get back working out again in the mornings before work.  I did it once, I can do it again!  I might even be able to parlay that one into 2 by waking up 3 hours before I have to be at work.

How many items can you check off the list?