Personal Finance Round-Up: Issue 2

Welcome to another Round-Up here at Planner At Heart! I’ll be posting an article each week with summaries and links to the finance stories we enjoyed from the previous one. I hope the wisdom and tips in these articles are helpful to you in your own financial journey.

If you missed my announcement about this new section, hubby and I have challenged ourselves to see how we could ‘FIRE by Fifty’ in a high cost of living area (HCOLA). We’ve been doing a lot more financial reading and “night work” as my 8-year-old likes to say! Here’s what financial topics and tasks we’ve been focused on lately. 

A Baseline for 2021

At the start of a new year, one of the things we did was calculate our net worth as part of our FIRE plan. If we want to grow it we gotta actually track it, right? Have no clue how to figure out yours? Just Start Investing makes it so simple! They explained it in 3 steps:

  1. Add up all of your assets
  2. Add up all of your liabilities
  3. Subtract your liabilities from your assets

It’s a great place to start the new year and think about your total expenses, total debts, total income and total spending. Goal planning can def start here!

Planning for 2021 Big Purchases

So how can we balance increasing our net worth in a year where we are also planning on replacing at least one of our cars and going on a big trip to Greece for our 15th wedding Anniversary?

We’ve been focused on finding money within our existing spending as well as travel hacking opportunities. In the words of our very “Jersey” accountant, “a peanut here, a peanut there, and you got a bag of peanuts.” I hope you read that with an NJ accent 😉 

2021 Big Purchase #1: Greece Trip

We are timeshare owners, hence the section of this website, so when we vacation flights are really our biggest expense. If you’re confused about how that is, we can exchange our ski timeshare for a room at 4,000 resorts around the globe – including 20+ in Greece! We think the Timeshare Exchange concept is amazing, not to mention a really cheap way to travel.

I know that my timeshare week costs me $660. The crazy thing is that I only have to use half my timeshare week to get a week at the stunning Greece resort below in September. I price checked their website for the same week and my cost is 50% of theirs. #TravelHack

We are still working on our Greece itinerary and haven’t booked anything yet due to the pandemic, but Santorini is really high on our wish list. I’ll definitely be checking out Aimee @Snap Happy Travel’s Seven things to Do in Santorini article.

Wyndham Timeshare Resort in Crete Greece

I’ve had an airline credit card ever since college ( wait, how did I even qualify for that??) and we put every single expense on the card. We always paid the balance off every single month. I’ve used frequent flier miles to secure tons of free flights: 2 first-class tickets to Hawaii for our honeymoon, a flight to Paris so hubby could join me on a business trip, and endless visits back to the east coast when we lived in Los Angeles. 

So this trip, we are hoping to cover our flights with miles! I’m watching the United website because there are so many deals to be had for booking future travel right now. Can we score two first-class NYC to ATH tickets with our miles?

We could always pay our stomach-churning, super high property taxes on an airline credit card to rack up the miles, as suggested by The Frugal Tourist. If you have big expenses coming (wedding, summer camp, even preschool tuition) and love to travel this is a great suggestion!

2021 Big Purchase #2: A Car

We have been saving for a new car for a while, but are toying with investing the money instead since car loan interest rates are so low. If banks are practically giving money away for free, let’s use their money for a car instead! 

But wait, why would we choose to create debt for ourselves? As MoneyLogue mentions, there are so many perks to a debt free life. We only have debt in the form of a 15 year mortgage for our house. Therefore, we don’t feel like it would be so much more that it would dramatically change our lives – – or our emotional state.

We currently have two 10+-year-old cars and our family has grown to the point where having all sedans isn’t working. We were going to try and wait until Fall 2022 to buy one car replacement because my youngest would enter public school. The monthly preschool tuition budget line item could just be reallocated for a car payment.

Well, we haven’t figured this one out exactly yet. In thinking and talking about it, it’s been helpful to look at The True Cost of Car Ownership over the 15-year life of a car. Especially since we are trying to FIRE in 10 years.

One of the ideas we are tossing around is buying a gently used SUV because our kids will destroy the car in 1.5 seconds anyway. Do you think driving a new car off the lot drives down the value of a car? Try Cheerio dust being embedded into car floors.  As Money Saved Money Earned points out in their article :

“Despite the fears of many, buying a used car doesn’t have to be a shot in the dark. Especially in today’s world, there are many tools available that significantly reduce the risk of you buying a lemon.”

Money Saved Money Earned

Saving for These 2021 Big Purchases

At the start of the new year, there were so many articles published that gave great advice and strategies to save. The Loaded Pig said, “If you have a savings goal you are working toward, savings challenges can give you focus areas and ideas to make it a reality.”

The Financially Independent Millennial came out with great tips on how to save $5,000 in 2021. We are saving gas money and corporate cafeteria lunches since hubby’s been working from home during the pandemic. Another article suggestion, cutting down our food waste, is something that we’ve worked on for a couple of years and gotten better at.

For example, two weeks ago I made too much meat sauce. In past years I would have put it in the fridge to use another day, but I’ve learned that I never do and it just goes to waste. So instead I put it right into the freezer. Well, tonight I pulled it out of the freezer along with a pack of frozen ravioli from Costco and frozen spinach and made dinner. If you find yourself ordering in on busy days, the Freezer Meals approach can help save you money!

If you’re looking for freezer meals, crockpot recipes or easy dinner ideas, Robyn @ A Dime Saved has a great article on Easy Soup Recipes. Def check it out for meal planning ideas!

Have you ever gotten paid to try products? When my daughter was a baby, we did market research for diapers. We got free diapers for three months AND made $200. Check out more proven ideas like this from SurveyExaminer that don’t involve having to return garbage bags full of dirty diapers to a company 😉

Thanks for joining us on Our Journey and taking the time to read what we’ve been up to! Have any questions on what I mentioned or want to see a specific topic in next week’s Round-up? Send me a note at [email protected]. I promise I don’t bite