Picking up Nickels

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 2012 Financial Asset Roundup

Here are my current financial assets as of the market close on March 12th, 2012:

Asset Feb 2012 Mar 2012 Change
Checking 1,104 1,511 407
Money Market 45,013 44,474 -539
Savings Bonds 62,737 62,934 197
Treasury Bills 0 0 0
CDs 67,197 67,440 243
Brokerage 98,177 101,501 3,324
401k 101,246 102,954 1,708
Roth IRA 57,332 57,856 524
SEP IRA 285,763 306,412 20,649
529 Savings 61,138 62,727 1,589
Total Assets $779,707 $807,809 $28,102

The S&P 500 had an overall rise since the last update, rising 1.43% during that time:

(chart courtesy of msn.com)

On the jobs front, the unemployment rate for February remained flat 8.3%, with a better than expected 227,000 jobs added. Oil prices have risen to almost $107 per barrel, reflecting the rise in gasoline prices I've been seeing over the past couple of months.

On the financial front, thanks to my 2011 SEP IRA contribution and some cooperation of the stock market my asset levels have once again reached an all time high, surpassing the previous peak from February 2012. I remember stetting the goal of getting my asset levels up to $500k 5+ years ago, so reaching $800k is a nice place to be as I gradually climb toward the million dollar asset level (yikes!). I'm also pleased to note that my 2011 S Corporation and personal tax returns are now complete, and I am due a refund on my personal Federal tax return which I've opted to receive the majority of in the form of paper Series I Savings Bonds. Once again, I found myself in the 15% Federal tax bracket which gave me a 0% tax rate on the long term capital gain from the Procter & Gamble (PG) stock I sold in late 2011. Depending on Mrs. Frugalson's employment prospects (and resulting income) after she finishes graduate school in the next couple of months, I may have an opportunity to sell some more stock in 2012 and once again not owe the feds any tax on the gains.

As for all things non-financial, I am once again looking at the impending expiration of my existing contract with my largest client. I'm hopeful that we will be able to work out yet another extension, but I'm not counting on that happening until I have a signed agreement in my hot little hands. And as for my recovery from the arm surgery I had nearly a month ago (has it really been that long already?), I've been healing nicely and have actually been able to get my arm moving around a bit over the past few weeks. The road to recovery is a long one, but having the surgery a month behind me makes the months of healing I'm looking at seem a bit more manageable. At this point, I just long for the day when I'll feel "normal" again and I can do things like tie my shoes or make myself a sandwich without the difficulties that I am currently experiencing. Baby steps...

Monday, March 05, 2012

Peapod Online Grocery Delivery: Color me impressed

During my last monthly asset update, I mentioned that we were going to try the Peapod by Stop & Shop grocery delivery service since I wouldn't be able to do the grocery shopping myself due to having surgery on my arm. We've had two Peapod deliveries so far and I wanted to post an update on what the service is like and how our experience has been so far.

First and foremost, I used a referral link from a neighbor that uses Peapod which provided us with a $10 discount off our first order as well as a $10 reward for our neighbor. For anyone using Peapod for the first time, I would recommend finding a coupon code online or from an existing customer to save yourself a few bucks (I have a referral link here if anyone is interested). Second, after your first order is placed Peapod will provide you with a coupon code (
FREEDELIVERY in my case) good for free delivery on orders of $100 or more for the first 60 days after you receive your first delivery.

Once I had created an account, I found shopping at Peapod to be quite simple. Fortunately, they had a good selection of most (but not all) of the food items that I typically buy when shopping at Stop & Shop brick and mortar locations. One nice feature that I liked was that once I entered my Stop & Shop rewards card number at peapod.com I was able to see all of the available items that I had purchased in Stop & Shop stores over the past three months with an easy way to add them to my virtual shopping cart. Another nice thing I found was that many items that were on sale in the Stop & Shop sales flyer were also on sale online (a "special" in Peapod lingo), which makes it possible to stock up on items that are attractively priced much like I would when visiting an actual grocery store. Even better, Peapod accepts manufacturers coupons, including doubling coupons under $1 just as Stop & Shop does with in-store purchases.

One of the things I was concerned about was the quality and freshness of the produce, meats, and dairy items Peapod would provide since I wouldn't be able to pick them out myself. With both of the orders we've placed so far, I've been pleased on all fronts with the quality of the produce (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, strawberries, etc.), meat (chicken breast, deli meats & cheeses), and dairy products (organic milk & yogurt). One thing I was disappointed with was that we did have one item that was "out of stock" (organic mushrooms), which we didn't receive and weren't informed about until our order was delivered. Peapod is supposed to make substitutions of similar items when that situation occurs, but for some reason that was not the case with our organic mushrooms. I think this is definitely a process that could be improved, perhaps with something along the lines of an email alert with a chance to authorize a substitution before the order is loaded on the truck. We also had a missing item on our second order (a bag of frozen vegetables), but a two minute phone call to 1-800-5-PEAPOD resulted in an easy credit to our account.

As far as the actual delivery, Peapod has a nice feature where you get a "Your Peapod delivery is next" email when your order is about to arrive at your home. For both of our deliveries, the driver was at our house within 15 minutes of receiving this email. Once here, each driver promptly unloaded our order (bagged in plastic Stop & Shop bags) from the truck and placed everything on our kitchen counter. I tipped each driver $5 for their service and we put our own groceries away just as we would with any normal shopping trip.

All in all, I have to say that I'm very pleased with our Peapod experience so far. This service will certainly help us out quite a bit until my arm has healed enough to resume shopping for groceries myself. While I may be paying more for the same items overall, it is certainly worth the extra expense when I think of driving to and shopping at multiple stores with my right arm in a sling. :)

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