Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Year end stats

I don't have a year-end breakdown of my expenses because I never tracked them. Big mistake I know! But I do have a savings account where we managed to accumulate 40% of our take home pay this year. That figure is inflated because neither of us contributed to a retirement savings plan. Yes that was another big mistake, but neither of us were eligible to participate as we were both newly hired in 2008.

According to the US Department of Commerce, the personal savings rate for 2009 is around 4.6 (averaging the monthly figures) So I'm quite happy with what we managed, but we could have saved more. Over the next year, I'll be looking for ways to trim our expenses while investigating alternative income sources. From what I've read on other blogs, it's a good idea to have specific goals in those areas. But I haven't yet decided how much I'll cut as I'm kind of new to the game. I do know that my wardrobe budget will get slashed, as well as my eating-out budget. I'll also look into at least 2 alternative sources of income. (Stay tuned if you're curious...) My goal for 2010 is to at least maintain my current savings rate.

What do you think? Is 40% a good number for a PF newbie? How much have you saved this year? What are your savings goals for 2010?

Monday, December 28, 2009

My first post!

I did not intend this to be my first post. I wanted to begin my brand spankin' blog by posting something catchy and witty and more finance oriented. And definitely more upbeat. But good intentions don't always materialize...

This morning, our car got stolen. It was a 2009 model purchased at the end of last year and paid for entirely with cash. Cash we had saved up for a long time in a savings account that was thereafter depleted. It also contained a car seat, 2 strollers and a GPS system.

Panic and chaos ensued. We determined that the theft occurred during a 45 minute window between the time I left for work and when hubby discovered it missing. I was already at work when I got the news and needless to say that was the end of any productivity for that work day. After many phone calls, a police report and in insurance claim later, the police called and let us know that our car was mercifully found over in the next town.

What will this whole incident cost us?
* $200+ towing fee

* More $ to repair damage to a side mirror and hubcap (actual amount to be determined later, but at most we will end up paying the $500 deductible)

* An increase in our insurance premium

* $200 -$400 to replace stolen GPS

* $10 to replace stolen license plate

* A lot of stress

So in the grand scheme of things this was just a scratch on the surface (pun intended), although it has shaken us badly. If it hadn't been found so soon, we would have had to pay for a stroller and a car seat as well as a rental or alternate transportation because even though the insurance policy would have partially covered a rental, that wouldn't have kicked in until 48 hours after the claim was made. And in the event our car was never found, I don't know how much of the original purchase price we would have recovered through our comprehensive coverage.

It is 2am and I'm still up (see last asterix above) making sure that our car is still there, parked in it's regular spot. Hopefully sharing this experience will have a cathartic effect on me and I'll be able to catch some Zs.

What did I learn and can share with you from this ordeal?

* ALWAYS carry comprehensive coverage no matter how beat up your clunker is because you won't get any money back without it.

* Never assume your neighborhood is safe because an intruder does not have to be from your neighborhood to steal your belongings.

* Report a theft as soon as possible because the likelihood of finding your car increases if the thieving lowlifes haven't driven it out of state already.

* Put identification markers in or on the car, such as a small yet conspicuous bumper sticker that will help identify your car in the event your tags are removed or changed. (It doesn't have to be big or wordy - ours just contained 2 letters)

* Never leave mail or other documents containing personal information which the thieves can then use to steal your identity.

* Invest in a theft deterrence and/or recovery system if you can afford it (and especially if you paid your hard earned cash for your car)

* Have an emergency fund of about $2k to cover the incidental expenses while you wait for the insurance to kick in.

* Last but not least, don't invest all your hard earned cash on one single item and certainly don't pay for it all with cash if you won't have a monetary cushion left after that purchase. (And it seemed such a financially smart thing to do at that time!) has these tips and has even more tips on how to burglar-proof your vehicle:

Got any other tips on preventing auto-theft? Have similar sob stories you'd want to share? I'm all ears!