Picking up Nickels

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I spent $1200 (again) on groceries yesterday

Just like I did last May, I went to Shaw's Supermarket last night and took advantage of their Refund Rewards Program:

Under the refund rewards program, customers who purchase grocery gift cards in either $250 or $300 increments will get another $20 or $30 added to the card, respectively. The refund rewards program is available March 15 through April 15, 2009, at the following SUPERVALU stores: Acme(R), Albertsons(R), bigg's(R), Cub Foods(R), Farm Fresh(R), Hornbacher's(R), Jewel-Osco(R) and Shaw's/Star Market(TM).

Once again, Shaw's made the process pretty simple. I went to the service desk and said that I wanted to do the refund rewards gift card promotion in the amount of $1200. The cashier asked for my Shaw's reward card, filled out a form, loaded (4) gift cards with $330 each, charged $1200 to my Penfed Visa Platinum Gas Cash Reward card, and then handed me my gift cards.

This deal means that I basically prepaid $1200 for $1320 worth of future grocery buying power at Shaw's (a 10% tax free return on investment), which should take me about five months to spend based on my experience with the similar promotion last year.

Once again, I think this is a great deal that everyone who is eligible should take advantage of. And while you're at it, check out some of my grocery shopping strategies for some additional ways to cut grocery costs.

One interesting side note: I received a "routine security check" voicemail this morning from Penfed's (apparently outsourced) Cardholder Security Department asking for a return call at (888) 918-7313. After seeing that this was a legit number (from "Contact Us" at penfed.org), I called them back and verified the last few purchases I made on my Penfed VISA. Apparently, my spending $1200 at a supermarket triggered some sort of potential fraud alert and they followed up accordingly. I'd expect nothing less from a solid institution like Penfed.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Overheard at the RMV

This is an actual conversation I heard recently while waiting in line at the RMV:

20-something woman #1: What does that sign say? UV-free tanning? How can they afford to offer tanning for free?

20-something woman #2: It's not tanning for free, it's tanning with no ultraviolet light.

20-something woman #1: But how come the sign says it's free? That's false advertising!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Have you done any estate planning?

I've been following the South Florida Estate Planning Law blog, an (apparently) new endeavor by South Florida attorney David Shulman. What I like most about Mr. Shulman's writing is that he discusses potentially confusing estate planning issues in layman's terms.

For starters, here's his take on why you should have a will:

Don't let the state decide how your property is disposed of upon your death

Shulman follows up with a nice overview of a Durable Power of Attorney, a Designation of Health Care Surrogate, and a Living Will:

Estate Planning is about Planning for disability as well as death

I'll certainly be keeping an eye on sofloridaestateplanning.com and look forward to more information on what the average person should know about creating an estate plan.

Fortunately, Mrs. Frugalson and I already have our estate plan in place. A few years ago, we met with an attorney to set up a plan that would help ensure that our financial and family-related wishes would be met after we die. We were each advised to set up a Last Will and Testament, a General Durable Power of Attorney, and a Living Will and Health Care Proxy. We also set up a Revocable Trust and a Declaration of Homestead.

Of course, we will need to review our plans as tax laws and our personal situation change over time. Fortunately, we're in good shape for now.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

March 2009 Financial Asset Roundup

Here are my current financial assets as of the market close on March 10th, 2009:

Asset Feb 2009 Mar 2009 Change
Checking 337 579 242
Money Market 34,182 20,233 -13,949
Savings Bonds 15,135 15,198 63
Treasury Bills 0 0 0
CDs 103,787 118,212 14,425
Brokerage 77,770 67,692 -10,078
401k 58,002 51,921 -6,081
Roth IRA 24,761 22,417 -2,344
SEP IRA 134,758 134,257 -501
529 Savings 30,211 27,781 -2,430
Total Assets $478,943 $458,290 -$20,653

Investors continue to suffer as the S&P 500 index has dropped 13.00% since the last update:

(chart courtesy of msn.com)

Unemployment continues to rise and is now up to 8.1%. The stock market did rally a bit yesterday though as a internal memo from Citibank gave some hope that banking sector may be showing some signs of recovery. I sure hope so...

Moneywise, I rolled my maturing 7 month Bank of America CD @ 4.11% APY into a 9 month Bank of America Risk Free CD @ 2.50% APY as rates on many online savings accounts have plummeted below 2%. I'm also considering putting a few bucks into I Bonds next month, which would have roughly a 3% tax equivalent return over the next year (a 5.64% rate for the first six months and likely 0% over the next 6 months with a negative inflation component).

Business-wise, I have fully funded my 2008 SEP IRA contributions and have finished up with my 2008 tax returns for my S Corp. I'm also working on a contract extension with my largest client, so I'll hopefully continue to bring in consulting revenue throughout 2009 and not have to tap into my cash reserves.