Picking up Nickels

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

2007 Grocery spending up 6%

The annual rite of passage of importing my final 2007 credit card data into Microsoft Money is now complete, and it came as no surprise that grocery spending continues to be our second largest annual expense after our mortgage payment. I've worked for years to reduce this number via my grocery shopping strategy, but price increases and limited deal availability have contributed to my 2007 cost increases.

After seeing that I was facing a surprising 14% increase in grocery prices through August 2007, I challenged myself to try to reduce that number with strategies like more aggressively purchasing coupons on ebay, making more frequent stops at Walmart for bread and dairy items, participating in more store and manufacturer promotions and rebates, and cutting back a bit on discretionary purchases (bummer, less steak). Even with my increased efforts, the final tally for my 2007 grocery spending still increased by 6% over the previous year.

Now, despite my grocery spending increasing by only 6% in 2007, continuing price increases like the recent 16% bump in the cost of Organic milk at my local Walmart combined with fewer good deals and coupons have really depleted my stockpile of non-perishable goods. The biggest impact for us was having less food on hand to donate for Thanksgiving and Christmas food drives, although we do supplement that with a cash donation to a local food share program. I'm trying to be more proactive this year and have already accumulated a decent supply of Ragu pasta sauce and Peter Pan peanut butter for a great price that is earmarked for the next food drive.

It should be interesting to see how the slowing economy, decreasing corporate profits, high fuel costs, and continuing inflation will impact the cost of groceries in 2008. Hopefully I'll continue to be able to keep our costs under control and the donation pipeline to the local food pantry flowing.


Friday, January 11, 2008

January 2008 Financial Asset Roundup

Here are my current financial assets as of the market close on January 10th, 2008:

Asset December 2007 January 2008 Change
Checking 420 509 89
Money Market 36,945 37,629 684
Savings Bonds 4,638 4,653 15
Treasury Bills 0 0 0
CDs 96,467 97,921 1,454
Brokerage 112,346 109,325 -3,021
401k 109,760 103,553 -6,207
Roth IRA 35,006 33,012 -1,994
SEP IRA 184,724 175,481 -9,243
529 Savings 38,157 37,020 -1,137
Credit Card 0% Balance Transfers -18,275 -18,075 200
Total Assets $600,188 $581,028 -$19,160 (-3.19%)

We've seen a market correction taking place since my last update, with the S&P 500 index falling by 6.31% during that time:

(chart courtesy of msn.com)

Recession fears, continuing FOMC rate cuts, and overall economic malaise make this an uncertain time for all Americans. I will continue to stay the course with my savings and investments, and will jump on deals like the recent Patelco CD deal as they pop up. My concern is that before long I will be looking at 3% APY CD offerings as an attractive place to stash short term cash.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Lock in CD rates now: FOMC rate cut looms

Today's announcement of the rise in the unemployment rate for December is just the latest indicator that the Federal Reserve will aggressively continue to cut rates when they meet on January 30th.

If you've got any cash hanging around, now is a pretty good time to lock it in at current interest rates while you still can.

Old favorite Penfed is offering decent CD rates for longer terms (5 year 5% APY/7 year 5.25% APY), although these rates aren't as competitive as their January offerings from previous years.

I had a little bit of cash available to lock up for a shorter term, so I decided to bite the bullet and join the Patelco Credit Union since it has switched back to NCUA Federal deposit insurance as of January 1st. Patelco is a solid credit union that has been around since 1936. And although the name sounds like it is derived from the Indian surname Patel, it is actually an acronym for the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company, whose employees it was initially formed to serve.

I've already opened a 7% APY 1 year CD ($1k max) and a 5.5% APY 9 month CD at Patelco. These CDs can be funded by mailing a check or electronically via ACH, although I would think twice about funding by check (for more details, please see my comment in the post at the Bank Deals blog).