Mint SIM

I just paid $170.28 to cover the next year of DW’s cell service.  That’s $14.19 pcm for 2GB LTE and unlimited talk/text/2G data.  How?  By using Mint SIM.

Mint SIM is an MVNO – which is basically a service reseller.  They sit on top of T-Mobile’s network – which is pretty good – and offer dirt cheap plans.  There’s no contract, but they do offer discounts for pre-paying for longer periods of time.  You can see their plans here.  If you’re looking to save money on your cell phone bill, I’d recommend you do what we did and get their three-month plan (currently $35+fees – ours was a total of $41.49) to try it out, then pay for the year if you end up liking it.  (Once you have an account, the renewal is on sale, but that’s not shown on the public page.)

If you need more data, they also have 5GB and 10GB plans.  (Most people don’t need this much, but you can check your phone or your bills for historical usage to figure out what you’re likely to use.)

I just asked DW how she likes her service, and she said that she’s happy not to have to track her data anymore.  (She was on Project Fi with me before the switch.)  Her only complaint is that Mint SIM doesn’t support visual voicemail, which is a neat feature she had with Project Fi.  (She doesn’t get that many voicemails, though, so I don’t see that as a big deal.)

Let me know in the comments if you like a different service better.  I know there are dirt cheap options if you don’t really use your phone, but we use them frequently, mostly for data and texting.  I try to keep my usage below half a gig a month, but DW is on Pokemon GO more than I am and likes the freedom of the 2GB plan.

 

Note:  I have no relationship with Mint SIM except as a customer.  I’m not making any money through them or getting any discounts from them; I just really like their service, and I thought you might, too.

March Stats

Welp, guess I let this fall to the wayside a bit.  Let’s dive into the current stats!

INTEREST RATE REMAINING BASE PAYMENT EXTRA PAYMENTS
Student Loans 3.86% $22,043.02 $183.54 $0.00
Mortgage 3.50% $296,835.70 $2,259.03 $0.00
Total $318,878.72 $2,442.57 $0.00

In interesting news, a bunch of fraudulent American Airlines charges started appearing on my credit card, so thanks to Citi for flagging that and letting me know!  Got contacted Friday and had a new card on Saturday.  Should be a week or two for them to verify that it’s fraud so I won’t have to pay for the charges.

I also had an interesting experience at work.  I get paid on the 15th and last of every month, and I got my bonus on March 8.  I tried to set up my 401k deductions to hit 50% for the March 8 paycheck and then go back down to my normal 6%.  Turns out, 401k deduction changes only take place on the first of each month.. so I’m putting 50% of my paycheck into my 401k for the entire month of March.  Luckily, the rest of the bonus check covers a little more than what I was expecting from my normal checks, so I don’t even have to touch the emergency fund (which is currently woefully underfunded).  I’ll also be upping (though technically lowering) my 401k contributions to 8% starting April 1, since that’s when my 2% cost-of-living increase will hit.

I’ve got our taxes just about ready to go out.  I’m trying out Credit Karma Tax, which is the first software I’ve ever used to fill out taxes, so I want to verify it against a manual calculation to make sure that it’s looking right.  Looks like we’ll also be putting $2,000 into a Traditional IRA to take some advantage of the tax credit.  (Was planning on maxing it, but don’t have the funds; see above.)

Funding Planned Parenthood

An estimated one in five women in the U.S. has visited a Planned Parenthood health center at least once in her life.

Since we’re coming up on the near-inevitable defunding of Planned Parenthood by the current Congress, I decided to look into what that actually meant.  In 2014, Planned Parenthood received nearly $554 million in Medicaid reimbursements for services.  This is a bit more than 40% of their total $1.3 billion yearly revenue.

That’s very important money, but it’s actually.. not that much, comparatively.  There are about 325 million people in the US.  If one out of every 10 people in the US gave an additional $17 to Planned Parenthood per year, we would replace the entirety of the government funding that Planned Parenthood receives.  That seems pretty reasonable to me!

I gave my $17 a few days ago; what are you waiting for?  #17forPP

January Stats

It’s been a hectic month – during which I apparently haven’t written anything at all (despite having my best day for views and visitors a couple weeks ago).  I had a week off in the middle of this month, which was amazing; I got to rest and clean and take care of some home projects, and then I got the house ready for eight people staying with us for the Women’s March on Washington.  I meant to write during that week, but I just wasn’t able to get to everything.

This week back at work, I’ve been feeling much more refreshed and much less stressed.  I haven’t had a good break in a long while, and my brain is functioning much better now.  I’ve rearranged some vacation time to have another week-long break in April – I’ve started adding four days to weeks where I have holidays in order to get nine days of break out of four days of vacation.  It’s pretty great, since I have limited vacation time.

When I started tracking my stats a year ago, I declared that I would be debt free by the time I turned 40.  I now intend to do that in a very different way than I did then, but let’s see how I’m progressing anyway:

INTEREST RATE REMAINING BASE PAYMENT EXTRA PAYMENTS
Student Loans 3.86% $22,264.75 $183.54 $0.00
Mortgage 3.50% $299,610.08 $2,259.03 $0.00
Total $321,874.83 $2,442.57 $0.00

The mortgage is under $300k, which is pretty cool.  We’d been paying too much into escrow, so that’s been adjusted and has brought our mortgage payment down.*  The interest rate on my student loans has gone up again, but less than I anticipated, so that’s also cool.

All told, I have paid off $16,618.77, which is 4.91% of my debt when I started tracking.  Not 1/10 of the way there, but I always anticipated paying more after 2016, so that’s okay.

I’ve been getting monetary gifts from my parents and grandparents, but I’ve been donating them to causes in which I believe rather than keeping them.  This is partially because the causes need support and partially because my family won’t take no for an answer when I tell them that I don’t want gifts.  This seems to be a good middle ground.

 

* Not shown in this chart, since I don’t include escrow in the mortgage payment here.  That’s just a recurring expense, not debt repayment.

December Stats

Super quick post, since it is late and I am tired and have to work tomorrow.

INTEREST RATE REMAINING BASE PAYMENT EXTRA PAYMENTS
Student Loans 3.80% $22,373.53 $183.54 $0.00
Mortgage 3.50% $300,991.22 $2,259.03 $0.00
Total $323,364.75 $2,442.57 $0.00

Happy holidays!  Can you believe it was about this time last year that I started this blog?

Dad’s Latkas

This is actually my interpretation of Dad’s recipe, as I’ve modified it a bit over the years.

Latkas

Ingredients

1 very large onion (or 2 medium onions), peeled
5 lb russet potatoes, peeled
3 eggs
Salt
1/3 lb matzah meal (or unseasoned breadcrumbs)
Olive oil

Directions

In a large bowl, grate the onion and the potatoes.  Break the eggs into a small bowl and whisk together, then add to the potato mixture.  Salt to taste.  (Though, don’t actually taste it.. I mean, there’s raw egg in there.)

Add the matzah meal and mix together.  There shouldn’t be a lot of liquid left at this point.

Place a paper towel on a plate and prepare a stack of additional paper towels.

Cover the bottom of a large pan with oil and heat over medium.  Give the oil a minute or two to come up to temperature, then add a heaping tablespoon of mixture to the oil.  Use the back of the spoon to flatten out the mixture.  Fry until you can see the sides browning, then flip over and fry for another minute or so.  This is your taster – make sure you have enough salt.

Making sure to mix to reincorporate the liquid before each batch of latkas, continue frying latkas until you are out of mixture.  You will need to add oil between every couple batches.  Place the latkas on the plate when done, adding a new paper towel between each layer.  (This allows the oil to drain into the paper towels rather than pool on the plate.)

Enjoy warm with sour cream or applesauce.

Notes:
Use a grater with large holes.
If the mixture is too liquidy, add more matzah meal.
Place the mixture against the sides of the pan to make oval latkas.

Bonus:  Sufganiyot!

Recipe here (though I didn’t know that at the time I made them and just rewound the video a bunch).  A note to make this easier, though:  the dough is super sticky, so make sure to flour everything thoroughly:  your hands, your counter, your rolling pin.  This also makes it a lot easier to pick the sufganiyot rounds up once they’ve risen; if they stick to the counter, they’ll become misshapen and not rise much during the frying part.

Also, I wasn’t able to get my deep fryer up to 350 for some reason, but they turned out perfectly around 310, so don’t stress too much.

Value Averaging

I introduced the concept of value averaging in my how to invest post at the beginning of July, and we started investing a few days later.  Today is our monthly investment day, and I want to delve into value averaging a bit more with you, now that I have some actual experience with it.

So, first, let’s take a look at what our actual investments have looked like over the past five months:

 MONTH CURRENT TARGET VALUE INVESTMENT
July $0.00 $3,000.00 $3,000.00
August $3,122.04 $6,017.50 $2,895.46
September $6,065.26 $9,052.60 $2,987.34
October $8,895.42 $12,105.41 $3,209.99
November $11,690.20 $15,176.02 $3,485.82
December $16,024.37 $18,264.55 $2,240.18

These numbers target a $3,000 pcm investment with a 7% pa return (spread out over 12 months, so ~0.57% pcm).  You can see that the actual investment we put in has varied fairly significantly, and that’s just with the small numbers we have right now.  However, the target investment out of pocket so far has been $17,818.79, which is less than the $18,000 that we were targeting to invest.

For comparison, let’s take a look at what the numbers would be if we had just done standard dollar-cost averaging.  Since we’re 100% in VTSAX (originally VTSMX), we can easily calculate the monthly gain/loss percentages:

MONTH PREVIOUS CURRENT CHANGE
August $3,000.00 $3,122.04 4.068%
September $6,017.50 $6,065.26 0.794%
October $9,052.60 $8,895.42 -1.736%
November $12,105.41 $11,690.20 -3.430%
December $15,176.02 $16,024.37 5.590%

Applying these percentages to the what-if scenario, we get these numbers:

MONTH CURRENT INVESTMENT FINAL
July $0.00 $3,000.00 $3,000.00
August $3,122.04 $3,000.00 $6,122.04
September $6,608.13 $3,000.00 $9,608.13
October $9,441.33 $3,000.00 $12,441.33
November $12,014.60 $3,000.00 $15,014.60
December $15,853.91 $3,000.00 $18,853.91

Let’s take a look at the progress side to side:

MONTH CHANGE VA VALUE DCA VALUE VA INVEST DCA INVEST
July $3,000.00 $3,000.00 $3,000.00 $3,000.00
August 4.068% $6,017.50 $6,122.04 $5,895.46 $6,000.00
September 0.794% $9,052.60 $9,608.13 $8,882.80 $9,000.00
October -1.736% $12,105.41 $12,441.33 $12,092.79 $12,000.00
November -3.430% $15,176.02 $15,014.60 $15,578.61 $15,000.00
December 5.590% $18,264.55 $18,853.91 $17,818.79 $18,000.00

So, what do we see so far?

  1. DCA has almost $200 more invested but has almost $600 in additional value.
  2. VA is investing less when prices go up and more when prices go down, as promised.

This is obviously not enough data to draw real conclusions, but it doesn’t seem super promising on its own.  I’m wondering if VA really shines in comparison to DCA when heading through a recession.  I think I will look for VTSAX values in the 2007 to 2010 period and create a similar comparison.

Stay tuned.