Sunday, May 5, 2013

Low Spend Weeks

I have decided to make the first two weeks of this month low spend. Low spend for us will mean keeping our variable expenses down to $450. This is half than we normally allow for this same period of time. This set of time will be a little easier with my husband working out of town. All his expenses will be covered there. Our regular bills and investments have already been accounted for.

I started this self challenge on May 2. So far we have spent $55.72, this included a small grocery trip and a $1 vending machine purchase. I feel fine with that amount so far. I hope it doesn't get too hard, but just tight enough to have the difference applied to some overspending we have done in the last few weeks.

I expect I will need to put gas in my van. There will be one more trip to the grocery store. My daughter came home with an order form to her yearbook, due this Friday. I will pay that out of this spending amount. It is twenty dollars.

I will spend tomorrow making a meal plan for the three of us. I will shop our freezer, fridge, and cupboards first in order to keep as much money as possible in our pocket. I will also make our meals out of inexpensive and healthy ingredients. I will not buy in bulk, stock up, or buy extras while on this challenge.

I think it is a good idea to take a spending break for several weeks a year at times that make it the easiest. Do you think you could take on a low spend week or some type of other challenge to make up for your overspending? Have you done a no spend challenge? How did it work for you? Do you have any advice or tips to share?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Time to Consolidate Investments

I recently realized that I really would like most of our money at Vanguard. You really can't beat their low fees for investing. Right now, we have money in four different places, between college funds and retirement. I would like to get it down to two. Vanguard and my husband's TSP.

The first one I will be dealing with is Fidelity. We only have Fidelity because that is where my husband's previous 401k was and we simply rolled it into an IRA and even moved most of it to a Roth IRA. Currently, Fidelity holds 15% of our total portfolio. And sadly, about 31% of that amount is in cash (which is 5% of our entire retirement portfolio).

My first step is to determine where at Vanguard I want to move the money. Since this is a small portion and we do not have any international investments, I think I will suggest to my husband we put it into the International Stock Index. Most of that will be in a Roth IRA, but about $5K is in a traditional IRA. The nice thing about moving retirement money around, is there is no tax implications...unless we convert the money from the IRA to the Roth. I don't think that is currently in the cards.

I will end up doing most of the work for this change, hopefully online. I will likely need a signature from my husband. And if he can agree to the change tonight or tomorrow than I can get any paperwork done this week, otherwise, I will need to wait until his annual training is over.

We have about $10K at American Funds. This is a loaded fund, which means you pay the broker/dealer every time you make a purchase into the fund...usually 5.75% of your purchase. The fund has to be doing pretty well to offset those kinds of fees! Luckily, we did not pay the fee on these, since at the time my father in law was the broker and he was able to invest us at NAV (Net Asset Value). We have a UTMA account for each of the girls and a Roth for my husband there. We haven't been adding to these accounts, so I think it is time to get them moved, too. I will work on these once Fidelity is completed. I need to think about any tax implications on the UTMA, each of them has less than $1500 there.

A new goal to work on, I'm excited!! Oh, and right now I'm thinking half of our down payment in a CD paying 1.2% for 15 months, and the other half in Vanguard Dividend Growth Fund (VDIGX). If we put less in the fund, we have less exposure to market risk, but still an opportunity to benefit from the market. If we lose money, it could change our plans for housing, but it isn't a huge deal at this point for us. We will be accumulating more cash in the mean time too!

Do you have your investments in one place? If not, how many different companies do you do your investing with?