Picking up Nickels

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

To everyone out there, thank you for stopping by. I would like to wish all of you a safe and happy holiday season.

For my family, the next couple of days will be a frenzy of spending time with family, eating great food, and giving gifts to our loved ones. For myself, I've found that there is nothing like enjoying Christmas through the eyes of my children. If only we didn't lose that joy and excitement as we grow up.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Grocery price inflation update

My how time flies... It's been about a year since my last grocery price inflation update.

It appears that the recession-induced 13.6% decrease in grocery spending I experienced through November 2009 was a temporary blip as I had speculated, as those savings have been virtually erased by the 13.0% increase in spending I have experienced through November 2010.

The slowdown of manufacturer/retailer promotions in the second half of 2010 has made great deals pretty much non-existent. I haven't had a good haul of free/cheap items that I'd actually want to buy for several months and high value coupons and rebates have continued to dry up (like the annual Kellogg's Fuel for School rebates good for 30+ boxes of free cereal every Fall). This trend was particularly evident during the Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping seasons, where baking items (flour, sugar, butter, chocolate chips, etc.) can usually be had quite cheaply, yet the supermarket sales seemed to only bring their prices in line with everyday prices that I see at Walmart year round.

Fortunately, one annual avenue for savings did not disappear in 2010: the tax-season 10% bonus for buying gift cards at Shaw's Supermarkets. While this deal has been around for three years now, I wouldn't be surprised to see it discontinued for 2011 since Shaw's parent company Supervalu has been hit with declining revenue of late.

All in all, I think we're looking at the pre-recession climb in grocery prices to resume and continue for the foreseeable future. Even though we're in a period of low inflation as far as the government is concerned, profits are down, commodity prices are rising, and one out of every ten people is unemployed. If the current situation continues, I figure that I will see another double digit increase in grocery spending for 2011, eclipsing the recent high water mark we established in 2008.


Monday, December 13, 2010

December 2010 Financial Asset Roundup

Here are my current financial assets as of the market close on December 10th, 2010:

Asset Nov 2010 Dec 2010 Change
Checking 1044 670 -374
Money Market 60,507 60,951 444
Savings Bonds 36,486 36,582 96
Treasury Bills 0 0 0
CDs 83,332 83,681 349
Brokerage 95,334 98,243 2,909
401k 97,699 98,298 599
Roth IRA 43,899 44,418 519
SEP IRA 237,907 239,438 1,531
529 Savings 50,076 50,030 -46
Total Assets $706,284 $712,311 $6,027

The rise of the S&P 500 still has legs as the index has crept up another 1.78% since the last update:

(chart courtesy of msn.com)

The unemployment rate for November rose to 9.8% with job growth lower than expected. Oil prices have been pretty steady as they hover around $89 per barrel. It should be interesting to see if the new tax cut deal will have any positive impact on the two former points (I'm not holding my breath).

On the financial front my asset levels have continued to rise along with the stock market, once again surpassing my all time high from November 2010. As far as money moves go, I need to start planning for 2010 Roth IRA contributions for Mrs. Frugalson and myself as well as my 5% APY CD reservation at Penfed due in January. I also wonder if Penfed will be cooking up any other decent CD deals for January 2011?

Between work, Christmas prep, EOY planning for my S Corp, and yet another home improvement moulding install project (crown moulding this time around), I've been keeping pretty busy the past few weeks. One point of note is my S Corp revenues, which are officially down 7.3% for 2010 on top of a 8.8% decrease in 2009. That's a noticeable hit to my bottom line, but I guess it could be worse considering that one out of every ten people is out of work right now. Other than that, I need to work on a 2010 grocery inflation update, finalize my 2010 charitable contributions, and hopefully enjoy a relaxing Christmas with my family.