Tuesday, July 4, 2017

2017 YTD Quarterly Dividends


It's Independence Day here in the U.S., and this is AIMC's first posting of quarterly dividend income!

 I have been meaning to do this, as I am inspired by other FI bloggers who post their numbers. Although I don't have much dividend income yet, it is continually increasing, and sharing it here will help build momentum (like when you know you're going to weigh in in front of others in a weight-loss challenge).  Any stream of income takes us closer to financial independence and away from the rat race. 

As this evolves, I'll probably include share prices and number of shares owned, too. ALL dividend income is currently reinvested.  I welcome your comments and feedback. Thanks for visiting!

                                       
                                       
Symbol
Q1 2017
Q2 2017
DUK
 $               38.23
 $            39.68
INTC
 $               11.35
 $            11.98
EWZ

 $              2.25
MATW
 $                 5.58
 $              5.60
VWO
 $                 0.71
 $              2.53
ENB

 $              9.53
Retirement Accounts


FBIDX
 $               35.71
 $            36.72
FSITX
 $               63.89
 $            64.14
UPS
 $               83.65
 $            84.26
TOTAL DIVS
 $              239.12
 $          256.69
Increase (Decrease)

7%

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Rewards Program- who’s getting the big reward?

As part of my frugal nature and quest for financial independence, I use company rewards cards whenever possible (if I am interested in the reward, that is). I have gotten gas for as low as $1.04/gallon (recently, not in 1980) using my reward from grocery shopping at Giant, and an 84% discount on items at Kohl’s using my rewards in combination with sale prices and coupons.

Being a single (divorced) woman, I have from time to time thought about the possibility of dating again, although a few attempts at online dating have proved amusing, irritating and altogether fruitless. So, I’ve started trying to “put myself out there” as I’ve been told by many people that I’m not going to meet anyone in my living room. Against my frugal nature, I have started going out a little bit, which brought me, laptop in hand, to Starbucks this Saturday morning to do some work for my “9-5” rat race employer, write for the AIMC blog and possibly see or be seen by viable single men.

I’ve been to Starbucks before, but this is the first time I considered their rewards program. What I find interesting is that their Rewards Program, unlike any of the others to which I belong requires the purchase of a gift card (pre-payment), and subsequent re-loading of funds on the card – quite a revenue stream for Starbucks, huh? I wonder how much money Starbucks has in these pre-payments and how much more money those funds are generating for Starbucks. I only put the required $5.00 on my card to activate it, but I know several people who reload $25.00 onto their card for the convenience of having it there and to be able to just debit down as they go. Multiply this by the number of people in the rewards program, and I imagine that comes to quite a handsome sum for Starbucks. Kudos to them. Let's heed this mindset and continue to implement everything we can to increase our own net worth!

To note, one could simply put a very small amount on the gift card to cover that day’s purchase and get stars, and I fully appreciate that Starbucks is involved in many Social Impact programs, community outreach programs, etc. The point of this posting is to identify the unique twist on their program that undoubtedly rewards the company greatly.

It looks like I’ll need to spend $150.00 in a year in order to earn 300 stars which will get me a free drink or food item: not exactly a huge reward for the customer! My frugal self will likely never get to that reward level, but I’ll still get a reward on my birthday, and I think I’ll be eligible for free refills. Maybe my real reward will be finding that special someone who also gave up on finding someone in their living room.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Personal Chef

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The news that, in 2015, for the first time, the amount of money Americans spent on eating out surpassed the amount spent on groceries is quite disturbing to me.

I realize, however, that I bear witness to it every day and the “lifestyle” is not limited to the millennials in my life.  Concern about the health issues associated with a diet of restaurant and fast-food/take-out meals is fodder for another post.
When and why did eating out become so commonplace?  The person who helps with my tech support on this blog, we’ll call him “Bob” (who is a frugal millennial), recently had an interaction at work that made us both laugh, if only at the absurdity of today’s mindset:   he mentioned to a co-worker that he brought leftovers from the last night’s dinner for lunch. The co-worker asked, “Where did you go for dinner?”   Bob replied “we cooked dinner at home”.  What a radical idea, dinner at home.  Who DOES that??
When approached by some younger people at work or my own kids at home about what they can do to better their financial situation (which happens fairly frequently), I’ve asked if they can afford a personal chef.  They always say no, and then I tell them that every time they order take out, or pick up a breakfast sandwich, or a smoothie from a trendy health food place they are, in effect, hiring a personal chef: someone else you are paying to prepare your meals.   
I work with people who come in to work with their take-out coffee and breakfast sandwich, and who order their lunch out EVERY day.  So, between the breakfast and lunch, they are spending $13.00- $17.00 per day just on breakfast and lunch.  If they ate breakfast at home and packed a lunch, that cost would be around $5.00- $7.00 per day, a savings of 60%!    That $9.00/day difference X 20 days/month = $180.00, and that’s not even counting the money on dinners out or weekend meals.   
I can think of a lot of things to do with an extra $180+ a month.  
You all read articles and tweets ad nauseum about the latte factor or the benefits of brown-bagging, so I won’t go on about that.  I just want to open some eyes as to the importance of small everyday decisions and the impact they have on our finances and health (and therefore our goals, dreams and freedom).
Do you want fries with that? Is that for here or to go? It all boils down to priorities, people.   If you don’t know what “boils” means, you’re probably not spending a lot of time in your kitchen.
No need for feedback from or regarding people who live in food deserts, etc. This post is intended for thoughtful consideration of those that are fortunate enough to have choices and options.  I fully appreciate that not everyone has frequent access or transportation to a grocery store.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Observations from my Seasonal Retail Side Hustle

Happy New Year, everyone! Well, my seasonal gig at a national retailer is winding down (although they are apparently willing to keep me on as a part-time associate due to my exemplary performance and attendance!). I thought it would be apropos to share some observations from the experience.


1. Retail is dirty. If you don’t already do so, I highly recommend washing all clothing, towels or sheets that you purchase before wearing or using them. I worked at the Point of Sale for the season, aka a cashier at the checkout. Merchandise is being returned and being put back onto the sales floor. You don’t know if the item you’re buying has been tried on or worn by someone else, or if it was in their home (what condition is their home in?). The items are also often placed in shopping carts that are a breeding ground for dirt and germs. Lastly, at check out your items are being handled by a cashier who has been handling cash and coins (also dirty), as well as the mobile phones of customers using apps and on-line coupons. Pass the hand sanitizer, please…


2. Why are you shopping? OK, I get that the gist of “seasonal” employment means that most of the customers I waited on were purchasing Christmas or Hanukah presents, or clothing to wear to holiday parties and events. But, I found it very troubling when more than a few people came to the checkout and had to try multiple credit cards in order for the purchase to go through. One person tried 4 different cards and all of them “declined” a $47.00 purchase. Sad. People need to realize that giving “stuff” doesn’t make you the best parent, Aunt, Uncle, friend, etc. If you are living that close to the edge financially, you seriously need to evaluate your finances, your priorities and the reason behind the spending. I doubt that many people in that position are reading Personal Finance blogs anyway, but maybe with the advent of the new year this message will reach someone and help them begin to turn the tide in their lives. Stop the madness that comes from an out-of-control life.


3. The clock in/out habits and mentality of the low-wage hourly worker. At my “real” job, I earn a salary that more than pays the bills because I live below my means. I also have health, dental and vision insurance benefits and a 403B plan. Working at this side gig, we are paid a very low hourly wage ($9.00/hr). I was amused, saddened and angered to see most co-workers who come in for their shift clock in when they arrive, then hang up their coat and put their lunch in the refrigerator before heading out to the sales floor. I hang up my coat and put my lunch in the fridge before getting on the clock. Then at the end of their shift, the same people go to get their coat put it on, check the schedule for next week, etc, and THEN they clock out. Call me old school, but I consider this stealing time from the company. I clock out as soon as I leave the sales floor, before I get my coat, etc. I manage a staff of 32 people at my day job, and thought I could recruit any viable candidates that I met at this job. Rest assured, anyone that I saw clocking in and out this way was immediately removed from consideration for any recruitment to the better position that I could offer.


4. As a customer, no, you DON’T have to come back. Discipline and self-control are hugely lacking in many people. Many retailers, including the one for whom I work, offer coupons at check-out for discounts on a future purchase. So many customers who receive the vouchers offer the lament, “Oh now I have to come back; I can’t let that go to waste.” The reason for the negative connotation is that they inevitably spend more than the amount of the voucher/award. Newsflash people: you DON’T have to go back to the store OR, if you do go back you can purchase the minimum amount of the award and leave the store. If you aren’t disciplined enough to do that, you CAN stay home. How much stuff do you need? You can also consider giving the voucher to someone else: a random act of kindness. Pay it forward.


While, I have enjoyed the additional income from this side hustle, and have put all of it into either additional principal payments on my mortgage or into dividend-paying stocks, I have found the materialism that it represents and promotes to be contrary to my new-found minimalistic voyage, and will likely not stay on. Wishing that everyone finds their own personal peace in this new year.