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Wednesday, July 13

Save Big Money on Groceries: Wal-Mart's Yellow Labels

50% off Pecan Pie:  Why Not?
One of the ways I save a ton of money on groceries is by looking for reduced prices at Wal-Mart.  In the grocery department, these discounts are spotted easily by the large yellow stickers.

I can almost always find discounted items, but have had more luck visiting mid-day on weekdays.  First, the bread rack:  my local store hides this in the dairy aisle, far away from the rest of the bread.  Most items are marked down 50%.  This includes pies, rolls, loaves of specialty bread, and cookies.  For some reason, the Cuban bread is 70% off.  I get a long loaf for $.30.  Cream pies are also marked down 70%.  In the meat department, I can always find different types of meat that have been marked down.  Meat is only marked down 30%.  The advantage here is that I can freeze the items I won't be using right away.  Today I purchased ground turkey, sausages, and boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  There were several other deals I didn't take advantage of, including steaks, seasoned Angus patties and pork chops.  Finally, prepared items are marked down by half.  Going just after lunch is a good time to catch these items.  Cooked pizzas, rotisserie chickens, chicken wings, and deli sandwiches are regularly marked down 50% if they don't sell fast.

Wal-Mart is a great place to find discounted groceries.  Another place I go to is Aldi.  Aldi typically discounts special items that don't sell by the time the next circular comes out.  I've got my eyes on some LED lamps right now that I hope will get discounted.  They also discount their bread, refrigerated items like yogurt, and shelf-stable limited time goods, like cake mixes and special potato chips.  Occasionally I will find frozen merchandise like pizzas or ice cream at a discount.

Monday, July 11

My Frugal Miser - Investment Performance Update

From time to time I post an update about how my stock market investments are performing. I am a value investor, and I believe that most people can outperform the market by following a few very simple rules. My investing philosophy is simple:
  • Minimize trading costs and taxes by sticking to a "buy and hold" program.
  • Buy when everyone else is scared to buy.
  • Focus on 1) smaller companies that are growing at a reasonable rate.
  • Focus on 2) companies whose stocks have declined due to what I think are temporary problems.
  • Preference goes to dividend paying stocks.
In 2016 I have sold just a few stocks, all but one at a gain.  Although I generally buy for the long-term, one of my investing strategies is to lock in fast gains and then re-buy the position at a lower price.  For example, I made a $1,200 profit in three weeks on Vereit in a non-taxable account.  I repurchased those shares five days after I sold them for less than the initial transaction's cost. The shares I repurchased are currently up 37%.

How am I doing?

7/1/2016 (Year to Date)
S&P 500: up 2.89%
Roth IRA: up 8.05% 
Taxable Account:  up 18.39%
Rollover IRA: up 20.02%

I am not an investing genius. What I am is a realist. I know not to get caught up in fads - that's why it's so easy to outperform the markets. A large part of "the market" is made up of mutual funds whose managers are chasing after each other. There is very little original thought out there because managers are scared they will make a mistake and lose their job. This fear leads them to follow the pack. It's hard to lose your job when your performance is similar to everyone else.

Investing can be really easy, especially if you do buy and hold like I recommend. Personally I spend about an hour or two each week catching up on news pertaining to stocks I own or would like to own. That's it. 

Simple is good.

Saturday, July 9

My Frugal Miser - June Expenses: $4,417

Overall June was a frugal month.  I bought $2,500 in Carnival gift cards to redeem on our cruise next month, so my actual spending in June was only $1,917.  Almost half of that was the annual premium for my homeowner's insurance.   Food expense was low, but not because I was consuming the Nutrisystem food I bought in May:  those items are sitting in a drawer as I haven't started the diet yet.

June Expenses:  $4,417

$461 Auto ($81 gas, $0 repairs/maintenance, $380 depreciation)
$0 Bank Fees
$7 Clothing
$0 Computer
$46 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$140 Food
$0 Gifts Given
$867 Homeowner's Insurance (12 months)
$0 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$52 Health and Dental Insurance
$0 Investment Expense
$167 Interest Expense*
$0 Medical/Dental
$2 Miscellaneous
$0 Personal Care
$0 Subscriptions
$0 Taxes
$64 Uber/Lyft Expenses (excluding fuel and depreciation)
$119 Utilities
$2,500 Vacation

*Interest expense includes student loans and the loan on my car.  As both rates are below 2%, I am completely comfortable paying the interest each month and investing the money that I would otherwise use to pay off these loans.  In June I paid $124 to E*Trade for "hard to borrow" interest on a short sale of Sears Holdings stock. 

Thursday, July 7

My Frugal Miser - June Income: $2,445

In June I sold shares of Rent A Center (RCII) at a loss.  Absent that, my income was still down.  However, it was a very busy month and in July I will report the income from all my work.

I currently have two vacant properties, but one is owned by my IRA and is not reflected in my monthly reports.  The other has been empty since April.  I'm disappointed that the management company hasn't been marketing the unit properly.  A third tenant only paid half the rent she should have paid in June.

I haven't been assigned any hours with Amazon.  I only drove a limited amount for Uber and Lyft as the hospitality and mystery shopping work consumed me last month.

On a more positive note, American Express refunded some of the interest charges I had earlier this year.  When I was charged the interest I was caught off-guard as I didn't realize the promotional period was ending.  Apparently they made a mistake in their offer, and the interest was automatically corrected when they caught the error.

June Income $2,445

$1,049 Mystery Shopping and Hospitality Jobs
$225 Uber
$129 Lyft
$0 Amazon Deliveries
$5,520 Rental Income
$0 Dividends and Interest (Investment Accounts)
($4,918) Realized Gains (Losses) on Investments
$441 Other Sources

  • I don't include transactions in my retirement accounts.  This includes rental income, dividends and capital gains and losses.
  • I include merchandising and hospitality work in the mystery shopping category since the companies that I shop for provide this extra side work. 

Tuesday, July 5

Plans for July

July and August are the slowest months for hospitality work in Florida.  The threat of hurricanes, combined with the heat, keep most conventions from coming.  Last year I signed up to drive for Uber and Lyft during the slow time.  I will most likely do some of that this summer.  The rates are lower this year so I have to focus on the busier dayparts only.  I am starting July with a decent mystery shopping/audit route.  The stores are all local and I will probably finish the entire route this week.  I had a very large audit route in June that I completed before I left for Las Vegas.  That will be a healthy check when I get paid.

I would also like to do some work around the house in July.  This week we are painting the ceiling (or popcorning, not sure just yet) in the living room.  I still have a little work to do where the kitchen and dining room meet.  Right now there is a gap in the floor and the walls as the kitchen was not part of the original house.  I need to cut some molding for the walls and find a transition piece for the floor.  The next big project on the list is remodeling both bathrooms.  I probably won't start on that anytime soon, but who knows.

In August we are taking a cruise from Barcelona.  I need to focus on income this month since we will be out of the country for more than half the month.

Sunday, July 3

Back From Vegas

I arrived home early this morning from a week in Las Vegas.  This was the second year I worked Call Center Week.  After paying my flight and car rental, I earned about $700 for the five days I worked.  It isn't a ton of money but more than I was paid last year.  Since my hotel stays and virtually all my meals were free, I was able to keep my travel expenses low.

Working the conference was mentally and physically tough, but I enjoyed it.  The client gave me a ticket to see the Beatles Cirque du Soleil show, Love.  The Beatles were before my time so I never got into them much, but the show was fabulous and I enjoyed it enough that I will go again.  Since I was exhausted from working every day I didn't do much gambling.  I ended up winning about $100 over the entire trip.  I also "won" a movie pass and t-shirt for playing, so I got to see the new Purge movie for free.