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Archive for September, 2005

DRPs explained

September 30th, 2005 at 06:00 am

from debtfreeme: how do you buy a stock one at a time?

I first learned about buying company stock and dividend reinvestment plans (DRPs) from my DH, who bought me my first share of Coke 7 years ago. Here's the deal. Many blue chip companies that pay a dividend offer to sell company stock to shareholders through a transfer agent who operates like a bank (most transfer agents are banks). You then send money to the transfer agent, who then buys however amount of shares with the amount of money you gave them. In addition, dividends that your stock generates can be sent to you or can be reinvested to buy more stock. Many of these plans are free, or nearly so. The ones I have officially charge a fee, but the company pays the fee for me.

To read more about them, here are some links...

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The biggest hurdle of DRPs is starting a DRP and getting that first share of stock. You actually have to own that share, it has to be in your name - its different than actually buying that share from a broker, who buys it for you but the broker owns the stock and tacks your name on it. A broker will transfer a share into your name for a fee. If you have a friend who owns a share of a company you want you can ask them to transfer a share to you. Sometimes you can inherit shares and convert them.

After you get the share, you have to send that share to the company's transfer agent with paperwork. That's time, hassle, and other fees. Smile
That's why I used The Temper Enrollment Services for my other two DRPs, here:
Text is and Link is Click on "DRIP search" in the top bar. Its a great place. You can type in a company symbol and it'll tell you a bit about the drip.

For the price of a share + 10% of the share (in case the price goes up!) + $30 to $50 on-time-only fee (depends on whether its a big popular DRP or not), Temper does the whole thing for you - buys the share, contacts the transfer agent, has the transfer agent set up the DRP. In my mind, its money well spent. It just takes awhile to set it up.

After Temper sets it up, they leave and you just send money to the transfer agent. Depending on the DRP, you can send big amounts too.

Dome Burger

September 29th, 2005 at 05:39 am

No heiress letter yet, emailed sister to ask whats up.

Had the urge for another bad-for-your-health-life-affirming lunch. Hit Dome Burger for the first time in three years. All their burgers are fresh, the fries were hot, and all the condiments you could want. I had a meeting today so I didn't load up on the onions. Took me back to high school and college; Dome Burger decor reminds me of a college dorm. Prices had gone up about .50 from last I went.

Bought a $300 I-bond today. You buy those at the end of the month because the issue date is set at the first of the month. Buying at the end of the month means instead of a year's wait before you can redeem them, its 11 months.

My $40 bought a 1/2 a share of 3M, so I have 19.66 shares of 3M. Tomorrow $50 will be taken out of my savings account to buy Coke. I should have 61.50 shares of that. (FYI - Dome Burger has a Coke fountain. Ka-ching!) On the first day of October the $35 I sent to Wisconsin Energy Corp should buy another share of that. I should have over 10 shares of that. Compared to my 403Bs, these stocks are a small proportion. I just thought I'd quietly add to my positions, reinvest the dividends (all pay a reasonable dividend and cost nothing to invest in their DRPs). Investing $40, $50 at a time feels way different than plunking down a $1000 at a time - it feels nice, like I'm sending my money away to earn money for me.

Waiting for the paycheck to come on Friday.

Spending log - 1.65 coffee (paid w/change) + 6.00 lunch + 2.75 bubble tea
Saving log - 4.00 tip box + 300 savings bond

Downtown where everyone's waiting....

September 28th, 2005 at 03:54 am

The second of grampa's savings bonds is in my online manifest. Four weeks. That took a little longer but I guess the US government has a lot on its mind. Still waiting for the second, heiress piece of paper. My job evaluation is on Friday. The job itself is starting to get into its busy season - I'm keeping up and I have a high capacity but the screws are starting to tighten.

The second day of all the Seattle buses being diverted from the bus tunnel and going through downtown Seattle. Third Avenue looks kinda cool. Bus, bus, bus, bus, bus...all of them zooming. Once in awhile a car goes by that will get stopped by the cops for $101. A *lot* more people on the streets waiting for their bus; each stop on each side of the street had at least 75 people waiting for something coming by. I never knew. I used the tunnel during lunch so it was always deceptively quiet to me, but it turns out that 40% of downtown Seattle commutes by bus.

Sept 26
Spending log - 1.65 coffee + 6.00 lunch + 2.50 snack

Sept 27
Spending log - 1.65 coffee + 5.00 lunch

The very definition of optimism

September 26th, 2005 at 03:30 am

Found a deal on the cat food cat likes - .50/can - so I stocked up. I have an 18 yr old cat so if he eats it and its a treat, who's it gonna harm? Of course stocking up for an 18 yr old cat is the very definition of optimism.

Found a good deal on bubble bath Saturday. I'll save the shampoo trick for later. I had been eyeing a stainless steel olive oil dispenser for a year now. My old one is soldered at the bottom and after years of use, it leaks and produces a ring of olive oil whenever I use it. I love my old dispenser, though. Its got a cool Italian lithograph on it.

Because I'm too frugal for cable, Smile, but like The Sopranos, I made the trek to Blockbuster. To be honest, I hate the new no late fees policy. No one brings DVDs back. Here it is, 4 months from when season 5 first came out and no vol 3. And the library's worse. Oh well...eventually.

Sept 24
Spending log - 7.86 coffee and breakfast + 46.72 grocery store (includes bubble bath and that olive oil dispenser)

Sept 25
Spending log - 7.00 coffee and breakfast + 7.62 canned cat food

A little story about self worth

September 24th, 2005 at 06:21 am

I skipped the bubble tea for lunch and to reward myself for my frugality, I put in 5$ into my tip box. My total in the tip box came to $48, so I deposited my squeezings in my savings account. And then I turned around and took out $40 from the lobby ATM. On paper it looks like I only saved $8, but since I don't apparently like to spend my emergency funds, it feels like shielded 40$ from spending. Smile I guess that's what saving feels like to me...protecting slices of my money from my nefarious spending purposes.

I submitted my 6 month job evaluation to the COO, who is my substitute boss. He'll be the one to evaluate me.

I have to tell you this story. 7 months ago I applied for this job (which was a promotion) as an interior applicant, was interviewed, and got the job. I set a price for myself, which was on the high end but in the salary range on the application. However during the salary negotiation (which was done in my cubicle over the phone, sheesh), the VP of HR basically low-balled me, citing that I was going up 2 pay grades, and that the only "fair" thing was the low end, which as a bone to throw, they bumped up to the lower third. Since they put their cards on the table, I put mine down and told them what I wanted. The VP of HR said, "no way you're getting that." We're talking a difference of about $1,500.

I talked with my would-be boss about this, who talked to his boss, the COO. They agreed that they had the budget for my price and both went to bat for me. HR and the CEO wouldn't budge, so I politely declined the offer. (The VP of HR said to me, "you're very calm about this.") The office atmosphere was pretty odd for awhile. Eventually a deal emerged; I would get the salary I wanted if my evaluation (this particular one) was above a certain level. I asked for it in writing and I got that, so I accepted this job.

The reason I'm telling this tale in this journal is that I had a secret weapon while I was negotiating. At the time, I had savings of about $10,000 (the kiss my a** fund, savings bonds, some stock). No wonder I was calm! And right now its over $14,000...that'll only make me calmer during my evaluation.

I mention this now because I came across an article on how you might not need an emergency fund, but that you really need "financial flexibility" in the form of credit cards and a HELOC.

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In the narrowest sense, "they" are right - you have a pile of money that has to be kept liquid, earning lowish interest and away from the consumer-industrial complex. And you are losing that opportunity cost! But after I got done wiping my eyes from laughing so hard from reading that article, I can personally attest that the safety of my emergency fund gave me my calmness. A HELOC would not have worked.

Opportunity cost be dammed.

Produce advice

September 23rd, 2005 at 06:48 am

Paid $350 on the credit card; now I have $280 of debt left. Chipping away at it - my only purchase on it last month was a Katrina donation. I shudder to think that I'll be making Rita, Stan, Tammy, Vince and Wilma donations, too. Baring all that death and destruction, I should be able to clear it next month.

Popped the signed waiver and consent in the mail. Sister told me that the next piece of paper was a certificate that I'm a legal heir(ess) to the estate, to be signed in front of a notary. We have a notary at work, so its a hop up some stairs. Now all I have to do is find the time.

I made some comments on another frugal blog about grocery shopping and how to select produce. One thing led to another and suddenly I was part of an email interview about how to keep vegetables fresh. If you're curious, here's the link:

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Spending log - $1.65 coffee + $7.00 lunch (bought enough for dinner, too) + $3.00 bubble tea + $350.00 credit card
Saving log - $5.00 tip box

X-mas in September

September 22nd, 2005 at 05:03 am

We sat together, my lawyer friend and I, as he looked at the papers. The consent is that I agree that the bank is to be the executor, am satisfied with the will and am not going to contest it. By signing it, I help send this into informal probate, which as sister's lawyer explained, consists mostly of signing stuff. My lawyer friend added that since everyone gets paid after the estate is settled everyone has a stake in getting things moving.

Yesterday I cheaped out on lunch in order to at least make my ATM withdrawl last 3 days instead of two again.

One of my DRPs is 3M. In the mail today, I got a shareholder offer for a Christmas pack of products for $9.75. There were a couple of things I wanted to try (shoeshine wipes sound interesting in a weird 3M-y sort of way), so for giggles and grins I bought a box.

Sept 20
Spending log - 1.65 coffee + 5.00 lunch
Saving log - 3.00 tip box

Sept 21
Spending log - 1.65 coffee + 8.00 lunch + 9.75 christmas box
Saving log - 40 3M DRP

A mom named Robert

September 20th, 2005 at 04:45 am

Tonight I got the waiver and consent from sister's lawyer, who is going to assist the executor (the bank). We're starting with the paperwork by entering the will for informal probate, and by signing our consent allowing the bank to become the executor. Wheels are grinding slowly and infinitely fine. The first casuality: they've shaved off an "a" from my mom's first name. I expect my lawyer friend, a gay man, to enjoy the joke.

My bank transferred back the 200$.

This week the Seattle police are cracking the whip to get cars off of Third avenue during the 3 hour afternoon rush hour. Big "do not enter" signs. Cars are being turned off at every intersection on Third by four officers, two cars, and large flashing signs. Its kinda cool actually. No exhaust, no honking, no stereo bass.

September 18
Spending log - 10.00 coffee/brunch + 3.00 bubble tea

September 19
Spending log - 1.65 coffee + 7.00 lunch + 3.00 afternoon juice
Saving log - 5.00 tip box

Lots of little failures

September 18th, 2005 at 02:26 am

I heard the mental sound of a buzzer several times in the last two days.

So much for my project of stretching out the time between ATM visits. DH and I went to Hakka* chinese last night. DH hasn't done this in awhile, but he used to have one annoying, frugal-busting habit. At the end of a meal, he would announce, "I'm a little short this week. Can you help a little more?" I thought I weaned him of it by saying in a couple of different situations ..."Funny, so am I. All I can afford is mine." I was surprised, so I flipped him a twenty. And that meant 2 days between ATM visits, not 4. And another round of weaning. Smile

I was going to ask DH for a bit of payback for the sewer/water/gas which was $105. If he shows the annoying habit at dinner, he's gonna whine about this. I held my tongue; I'll extract the guilt tax on him later on.

Weather turned cool, so the grocery bill went up. I'm cooking a pot roast bought from grocery 1 as I type, which should last us most of the week. Grocery 2 had a wicker sale - some storage baskets of the type I was looking for were 50% off. A saving failure but a spending success.

The bank transferred $450 out into my savings account this month, which was normal from the last year, but I thought I changed this online to $250. A couple days of confusion as I transfer it back to checking.

A weekend of sighs, I guess.

September 16
Spending log - $1.65 coffee + $5.00 lunch + $105.82 utility bill + $350.00 credit card + $20.00 dinner
Saving log - $3.00 tip box

September 17
Spending log - $1.80 coffee + $102.68 grocery1 ($40 of this was ATM) + $37.34 grocery2
Saving log - $250 (at least that was my intention)

*Hakka, according to the owners, is northern chinese and roughly translates into "soul food". Lots of frugal dishes made with preserved foods; I had the spicy beef and sour cabbage - delicious, but my palate got confused. Was it chinese or german?

Stuff to sign is coming soon

September 16th, 2005 at 04:56 am

Got my paycheck. $3 more than I thought I'd get.

At work we are probably getting personal time off (PTOs), a change from sick days and vacation days. I'm not sure but, apparently one of the advantages is that we can cash them out - take cash instead of having to use them. I'll have to figure that out.

Sister is now talking with the executor and asking questions about what she should do and how to proceed. Whew. Her lawyer told us that he is about to send us both waivers to sign. I'm guessing that its to give them permission to proceed from their end - post the estate, allow the creditors to come, allow the bank to sell the land and bits. One of dads friends got one of the tractors started, so that immediately means that its worth more. More good news.

The reroutes downtown are interesting. Third avenue, where the buses go, had a great drop in car activity. But it means that First, Second, and Fourth Aves are car infested nightmares.

Spending log - 1.65 coffee + 5.00 lunch + 3.00 bubble tea.
Saving log - 0

The velocity of money

September 15th, 2005 at 04:31 am

For today and yesterday:

Sept 13
Spending log - 1.65 coffee + 15.00 lunch (okay, I had a sushi craving)
Saving log - 2.00 tip box

Sept 14
Spending log - 1.65 coffee + 5.00 lunch
Saving log - 35 - DRP

So much for routine, eh. Didn't write yesterday because I had to get to work early so I had to hit the hay early. I did manage to catch the last 15 minutes of Oprah with Dave Ramsey on. Wow. How did that girl manage to get her fiance to buy her a car? I wouldn't have the nerve. I guess that really shows the finance in the fiance.

I'm going to set myself a fun little task and slow my spending. I always get $40 from the ATM and it always seems to last 2-3 days, or 5-6 times per paycheck. I'm going to see if I can get it to last 3-4 days, or about 4-5 times per paycheck. Turns out that economists talk about the velocity of money, or how fast it moves through one's possession. Spenders have a high velocity of money, savers have a much lower velocity. And the no-spend days are infinitely slow. Smile

Pay day tomorrow.

Proudly routine

September 13th, 2005 at 06:48 am

Read over some of my journal articles. Without the journal, if someone would have asked me, I would have said same ole ole. I've done quite of financial manuevering without really realizing it.

But really, my life is a bit on the routine side. Weekdays are coffee, work and work with lunch in between, then a walk up 7 blocks of downtown Seattle, then a 40 minute bus ride, surfing the net, then sleep, then repeat. Weekends are a bit looser, with sleeping late, errands, groceries, cooking meals to last the week for the DH and me, and a bit of shopping.

I think a routine is my secret weapon for saving money. If you have a physical routine, you also probably have a mental routine, and with those two its got to be much easier to have a spending routine, and then with a spending routine, its a whole lot easier (and more pleasant) to figure out your budget. It also means that if I have to save even more money, I can figure out an even cheaper way to go through my routine. (Lunch, sad to say, would be the first to go).

If I'm shopping, I can keep an eye on the price of something and come back next week. Just the thought that I will be back next Saturday to get that item means that I eliminate the "I gotta get it, I won't be back again" spending. If I want the item, I can think about whether I can really use it all week. When I go back, its either still there and probably on sale. If its not there, I've dodged a spending bullet.

Spending log - $1.75 coffee + 9 lunch (I've got a punch card from this place, next one's free)
Saving log - $4.00 tip box


September 12th, 2005 at 03:48 am

Well, we all have our triggers - places where we lose it and can't bring our credit card. For me, its the office supply store. Something about pens and paper and binders and 1Gb flash drives. For these places I have the ten minute plan - get in, buy my thing, and get out.

I went in to Staples with DH to get PDA screen protectors. My PDA is a Handspring Visor Neo, so I had to make a best guess. Ten minutes later, I caught up with DH who was still looking, which meant I was screwed. Smile I wandered the aisles in a weak state. Cute leopard print pencil cases? Lovely. iPod shuffles and cases? 1 Gb flashdrives for 89$? I grit my teeth. Notebooks? I have two at home that I have *not* written anything in. Stop.

I did pick up a file tote with a cover and the handle. This afternoon I put all my financial papers in it, so it was organized and when the big one hits Seattle, I can tote it away from the hot water heater. Smile. Seriously, it can go in the car, but with an earthquake that's not predictable, where are you're going to drive to?

Spending log - $1.75 coffee + $5 breakfast + $33 groceries + $37 office supply store + $3 bubble tea.

Being poor

September 11th, 2005 at 05:32 am

I read this essay/prose poem in the middle of last week, and there's a thread on it on this site. The link is here:

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I've been thinking about it all week.

Most of the essay above was in an urban setting, but the connotation carried it; reading it brought back a flood of memories. Sister and I grew up on a farm, as a matter of fact, the farm that we now inherit. Our family had no money, just cows and crops and land. Times bounced around from being bad to being really bad.

Being poor is more than just a lack of money. Heck, being frugal means you either have no money or you have less money than you'd like. Fifteen years ago, as a grad student, I lived on $600/month. While it truly, truly sucked, and yes I was poor, and yes I despaired about it, it felt different than being straight poor like in my childhood.

Being poor is also a state of mind. Its despair, its depression, its the pessimism of the same dark grayness, and that grinds on you more than the lack of money does. Being poor means you think that the future is going to be the same as the present - gray and terrible - and that you deserve only what have and what life and fate throws at you.

The dividing line between poor and not poor, I think, is optimism. During grad school, I was working toward a goal, and was optimistic that I would succeed. Being frugal is also a sign of're saving money for a plan, a purpose, for something better in the future. If you have a lack of funds, being optimistic means that you accept help when you need it, and allow people to help you. Most optimists are aware of choices, ask about them and go after them. You believe you have a better future.

Before you start thinking that I'll spout the take-responsiblity-freemarket republican line, I want to let you all know that I'm, if anything, a yellow dog democrat. (It used to be that a yellow dog democrat would vote for a yellow dog in the road before voting republican; truth be told, that yellow dog is looking good all by itself.)

a day not even worth a journal title

September 10th, 2005 at 03:47 am

Ate at the New Orleans Restaurant at lunch. They were collecting donations for their namesake, to be donated to the Red Cross. Dropped $5 in their jar. It might go to New Orleans. It might go to the next disaster which will unfortunately occur. We're never far away from suffering.

Online, I changed the mid-month transfer of money from $450 to $250 so I can hike up my credit card payment. I found out that Looney Tunes volume 3 is coming out in late October. Its only 45$, but be strong, defer gratification. Wait, at least get a month of no debt before I ride on that horse again.

Got taken out for a $3 chai in the afternoon.

It'll be interesting on Monday. Seattle is revamping the bus tunnel to accomodate light rail, driving all the buses up on 3rd Avenue, one of the main streets downtown. Cars allowed only for a couple of blocks. They're doing the reroute in a couple of weeks, but to show every commuter they mean business, they are doing the reroute early. No cars on 3rd Ave starting Monday. Being a bus commuter and pedestrian, I like it.

Spending log - 1.65 coffee + 9.00 lunch + 5.00 charity + 8.00 takeout
Saving log - 1.00 tip box

One bond converted

September 9th, 2005 at 05:54 am

So I looked in my online Treasury Department account where I have my online savings bonds.

I filled out the paperwork and made a manifest on Aug 25. I see it on the website, so its been converted. Yay, it worked! Not that I've been biting my knuckle, but they did it in about 2 weeks. For government work, lightening fast. Wink. I did the manifest of the second bond Saturday, and mailed it Monday, so now I know that it works and how much time it will take.

I wanted them all online so I can keep track of them and I wouldn't lose them. Plus, clutter worth a lot of money is still clutter.

Sister has loosened up and accepted the executor's deal. She asked me for advice on what to do next, now that the house is mostly clean. This is a new world for me too so I couldn't really give her a decent answer; the only thing I can think of is that its time to make up the household inventory - how much of what is in each room. I suggested that since she has her lawyer working in tandem with the bank that she ask him what to do next from her (and my) end. And I'll ask from my end.

And I reminded her that its only been 6 weeks since dad passed. We don't get brownie points for speed. Perhaps a couple of weeks of not thinking about estate stuff might be refreshing.

Spending log - 1.65 coffee + 7.00 lunch + 1.45 sbux chocolate chip cookie
Saving log - 2.00 tip box