Checking Account Coupon Codes

I received a coupon code from chase, giving me an extra $300 dollars if I open a checking account. It looks too good to be true so I carefully read the fine print. Please, if you do receive one like this, read the fine print. There are very few banks that do not charge service fee, and chances are you’re signing up for one. Here’s the cost associated with opening a checking account:

1. I need to sign up for direct deposit – cost $0

2. I need to keep the account open for 6 months. At an interest rate of .01% APY, keeping $15,000 means that I’m foregoing $12 of interest every month if I keep it on my savings account at Capital One 360 at 1% APY. Total cost is $60.

3. I need to keep a balance of $15,000 in chase account or have an automatic payment to chase mortgage account, otherwise I will need to pay $25 for service fee. My mortgage is not from chase so that is not an option. Total fee for 6 months is $150.

Rationally, the best way to avoid the fee is to move money from my savings account to checking account. As long as interest rate keep at 1%, I’m better off opening a new bank account and hold on to it for less than 25 months or close it after 6 months.

For customers signing up without $15K, or mortgage from Chase, I will translate this marketing to this “Get $150 as a new Chase checking customer and make sure to close the account after 6 months”

This marketing scheme just didn’t work for me. I’m not a fan of multiple accounts and it is just not worth the hassle.

If you truly want a free savings and checking account, I recommend, Capital One 360. I’ve been a customer since 2006, when it was ING Direct. Capital One eventually acquired them. They lack physical location, but have an awesome interest rate. You can withdraw from any AllPoint ATMs. These are usually ATMs located in the gas station, 7-eleven, grocery stores, restaurants and bars — yes, I mean bars.

Monthly Spending – September 2016

September is a pretty average month. I don’t have any big spending and it’s been consistent month over month. On average I’m spending a little more than $3K per month since I started tracking my spending every month. This month, I even purchase a “new to us” furniture for the house which led me to projects I wrote in here and here. Even with that, I didn’t really spend much. It was my sisters birthday month, so they also received some present. I used some gift cards to purchase that.

I did notice that I bought snacks 3 times this month – all the same large hershey milk chocolate bar. It’s not expensive, but I didn’t realize that I’m eating that much candy every month. The bar is only $1.79 per bar (the largest one) but I’m eating that whole thing almost every week. That’s a lot of sugar intake. This is one of the benefit at looking closely on your spending, regardless how little it is. I’m not against eating candy, but if I think about the times that I bought one, it acted more of stress reliever than me craving for a candy. As I said, I took on a new role and I’m still trying to navigate what it means and ways to handle stress. It’s good to see this pattern, so I can stop it.

My spending is just a little below August. I used mint and download it on excel. From there, I look at every line item and check if there’s something unusual. This month, I even spend $3 for an ATM fee – oops.

DESCRIPTIONAMOUNTWHAT ARE THESE?
Mortgage & Rent1800This is where I choose to spend my money
Furnishings523.17Some new to us furnitures and supplies
Student Loan200
Groceries185.69A very low Costco trip
Internet66.1
Restaurants47.24This is mostly brunch
Cash & ATM40This should be all restaurant spending too
Mobile Phone33.88
Shopping33.56part of the decor
Gas & Fuel26.22
Gifts & Donations25Donations
Gift22Sister's present
Home Improvement10.95part of the house furnishings
ATM Fee3oops on this.
Grand Total3016.81

Monthly Spending – August 2016

This post is late. One month late. August has been a whirlwind. New opportunity came in at work and that took some time. A lot of time which warrants a longer post. So, let’s just say that August was all about work.

At that same month, my sister went to college and we went on a good old road trip and drop her off. It was a fun trip and brought back all the memories back when I moved in to my dorm room. Our gift to her is a new laptop, which was split between my sister and I. She paid some part of it, since she decided to get a higher end.

img_0063Our fur baby also had her annual exam. We were lucky enough to find a vet that is walking distance. Reviews were pretty good and I was happy with the new doctor. Fur baby got all her immunization and the doctors recommended that she lose a couple of pounds. Fur baby was definitely spoiled by her grandparents when we’re gone, but she’s back to normal now.

I didn’t hit my spending goal this month. I think I lapse a bit for the last two months and didn’t really track my spending. Despite of this, I was surprised that aside from the gift, I was actually on track with my spending. This just let me know that I should also budget for gift.

So here you go – my spending for August (September to come next)….

DESCRIPTIONAMOUNTWHAT ARE THESE?
Mortgage & Rent1800This is where I choose to spend my money
Gift363Laptop and some other donation
Student Loan200
Utilities184.59Decrease from the previous bill (yay)
Travel141.8Hotel. We stayed overnight when we drop off my sister and I paid for the hotel.
Veterinary133Fur baby's annual exam + immunization
Internet66.1
Restaurants46.39
Furnishings42.13I started re-decorating my place
Fast Food34.77
Gas & Fuel33.91
Mobile Phone33.88
Rental Car & Taxi9.36Lyft
Coffee Shops9.21
Groceries3.58Our last trip to Costco on 7/31 lasted us for a month 🙂
Grand Total3101.72

 

Stock market and my way of investing

I recently read an article stating that majority of millennials (under age 30) don’t invest on stock market. In fact the survey suggested that only 26% own stocks. The market rallied the past 6 years and most millennials missed this opportunity.

Reading through the article, 53% of survey partcipants don’t invest because of lack of funds. I was not surprised there, given that our generation suffered from the financial crisis and had a hard time getting employment. What surprised me the most is the lack of knowledge about stock, with 23% citing this as a reason for not investing. Given that we are generation who grew up with information on our hands, I expect that millennials will have a way to know this. I can understand that millennials don’t trust the market or don’t want to take the risk. This is my reason for not investing and here’s how I overcome it.

Keeping it simple and calculate the risk you can take

My advice to my fellow millennials is to keep it simple. Unless you’re really serious with investing, there is no need to know about derivatives, stock options or other financial products.

If you’re employed, start with a tax deductible investments. This will limit the amount of research you need to do and hopefully, signing up is easy. Here’s how I allocate my money.

401K – I started investing through my company’s 401K. This is probably the easiest and most simple way to invest if your employer offer this. Investments can be limited. I started by looking at the cheapest ETFs and allocate my contributions evenly. I think of this investment as “money I never had” — hence lessening the perception of the risk. After a year, I saw my investment grew, I started getting excited which lead me to maxing out my contribution the following years.

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) – After maxing out my 401K, I started contributing to an IRA. There are two types of IRA, traditional and roth. Traditional IRAs are tax deductible while roth IRAs are not. The amount of deductions for traditional IRAs phases out depending on your income. I started out with traditional IRA and now contribute to Roth. I do pick stocks on my Roth IRA. I take more risk on my Roth IRA and consider this as my emergency fund. The principal is not taxed if I need to withdraw it. If your company don’t offer 401K, you can still contribute to an IRA. Mad Fientist wrote a really good article, comparing Roth and Traditional IRA. I have my Roth IRA through Fidelity. I like that I can pick my own stocks.

Health Savings Account (HSA) – Another way to invest is through your HSA, if your company offers high deductible health plan. Individual contribution max out to 3,350 in 2016 tax year and is tax deductible.

Legos
Legos – investment?

Taking a bit more risk

Now, after maxing out your retirement account and you are more comfortable with investing, you can even try investing using an after tax dollar. I still keep it simple and here’s how I invest.

ETFs – After maxing out on tax deductible investments, I started buying ETFs. I chose Vanguard ETFs since the expense ratio is the lowest and it’s free to trade if you have a Vanguard account. I obviously have a Vanguard account. I chose 4 ETFs  and I contribute every month and buy it at market rate. I buy it every second Tuesday of the month. The process of investing every second Tuesday of the month started when I was in college. I signed up for Sharebuilder (now own by Capital One 360) and it cost $2 per trade if you trade every second Tuesday of the month. My initial investment was Apple, IBM and Costco. There was no minimum amount to invest at the time. I no longer have a Sharebuilder account but I continued with this process. I don’t even try to beat the market. I took the timing out of the equation, hold to my investments and make sure that it is diversified.

Choose a product you believe in and invest in the company – This only applies if you can handle the risk. I don’t read the annual statements but looked at the product. Some of the stocks I owned that performed well: Apple, Costco, FB and Amazon. I also lost quite a bit on Real 3D. I really thought that 3D was cool after watching Avatar, but I have to sell this at lost. Sometimes, instead of buying ETFs, I replaced it with stocks and invest on it for that Tuesday.

If you really don’t want to invest on stock, at least open a CD or a high percentage savings account. I like Capital One 360. But seriously, try out investing on stocks through retirement accounts. Think of tax deductions as gains  right away.

 

 

Monthly Spending – July 2016

Spending is finally going back to normal with all the wedding detail behind us. Marriage life, so far is a bliss.

I’m starting to see some effects of tracking my expenses line by line – instead of looking at the the total. For example, since the man and I can carpool to work and I can walk/take the bus back home, I don’t drive to work anymore and no longer have to pay for parking. I’ve been walking quite a bit now, at least 2.5 miles every weekday and it’s been part of my routine. The biggest advantage of this is actually not the savings, but the fact that I can incorporate exercise on  my daily routine.

I also made a trek to ikea this month. It’s quite a drive, so I combined a visit to my parents and a visit to ikea. My sister also wants to go and we made a day out of it. I enjoy the design in the showroom, though I’m not really a fan of their products. I returned some wedding items that were not used and got a frame, which sadly need to be return.

This month, has definitely been interesting. Despite of our trip to costco twice, the last one being July 31st, I still hit my spending goal. I didn’t really cut on anything. I even went out and forgot my lunch twice this month.

 

DESCRIPTIONAMOUNTWHAT ARE THESE?
Mortgage & Rent1800Property tax increased this year
Groceries326.72
Student Loan200
Gifts & Donations98.03
Restaurants87.14Ate out twice this month
Home Supplies70.89toiletries
Internet66.05
Wedding Expenses34copy of marriage license and fee for preowned wedding dress
Gas & Fuel31.36
Tolls30Added more on tolls
Furnishings21.89ikea trip which will need to be returned
Personal Care12.74hmm.. can't remember
Rental Car & Taxi13.29I tried a new car sharing service for fun
Snacks0.69Chocolate bar

 

 

My thoughts on lending money to family or friends

My recent conversation with a very good friend made me realize that I have a very different view on lending money to family or friends. I don’t believe in it.

I’ve been on a couple of situations where a family member asked for a loan. The first one was from an uncle that I haven’t seen for years. I was really surprised when that happened. My grandma approached me and asked if I can  loan my uncle some money. I flat out said no. I didn’t put thoughts to it. I was even annoyed since I haven’t seen my uncle for years. I’m not closed to him. I was a recent graduate, saving to buy a place. I’m not comfortable parting from my hard earned money. To this day, I am really glad that I stick to that decision. It also set the tone to my family.

The second time was a bit more difficult. I am pretty comfortable financially. My brother needed a car and my father is helping him find one. They found one and I got a phone call from my father asking if I can put a downpayment. Hmmm… this is different. This is for my brother. I want to help out, but I don’t necessarily want to give a loan. So I ask for more information about the purchase. He wants to buy a sports car. I know he needed a car, but heck he doesn’t need that kind of car! I told my father no, I can’t lend the money. I didn’t give any reason. I can tell that he was surprised. That evening I searched craigslist for a reliable car and I send him the details.. well he decided that he doesn’t want my “taste”. Eventually, my father co-sign a car loan with no downpayment.

Looking back, I know I made the right decision. My sister lend my brother some money and I can tell that it’s so awkward when he brag about his business, making some dough… and he can’t even re-pay my sister. More so, when he needed some money, he will “borrow” from my sister. My sister then eventually stopped. Lessons were learned the hard way.

I try to think that I’m generous when it comes to my family. I’ve been very lucky with my situation and I owe them that. Instead of lending money, I actually just give it. I can tell if my parents are on a difficult situation — they don’t need to ask for my help, it’s always there. But I also don’t like to enable a purchase decision that I know is not good in the long run financially.

I will probably assess every situation differently, but I know that I’ll be more comfortable not loaning the money than asking for it back.

 

Monthly Spending – June 2016

June, June, June.. I will never forget you. This is the month I got married and went to Dublin and Greece with the man. I was basically out for most of the month traveling after the wedding. Before that my in-laws were in town to helped us prepare for the big day. I was surprised to see that my spending was actually lower even with the travel expenses.

Most people will be surprised that I don’t have a budget. I never did. I just don’t spend on things that will not make me happy to begin with. I make sure to maximize the utility of every dollar and for it to serve me well. I’m not against budgeting. In fact I even told my parents that they should try it out since they can’t seem to control their spending. My method started out of necessity, when I don’t even have any money to begin with and I have very little to spend. It just rubbed on for years, and now it is just second nature to me.

What I do is track my spending. In the last few years, when I looked at my annual expenses, I looked at the top 5 and asked myself if it’s worth it. This year, I’m tracking every line item through mint as it goes and monthly through here. My hope is to keep on finding ways to optimize my spending.

DESCRIPTIONAMOUNTWHAT ARE THESE?
Wedding Expenses1779.2Mostly honeymoon expenses, hair and makeup and flowers
Mortgage1600High, but worth it.
Shopping-83.16I canceled my prime membership. I think it is worth it
Student Loan200My parents took some student loan for me and I offered to pay it for them. I could pay this right up front, if I want to.
Utilities 196.30WSG. Next project is to figure out how to decrease this.
Internet + landline66.05This is the cheapest I can get from Comcast
Restaurants57.95Take out when we had visitors
Mobile Phone33.88Monthly phone. I have unlimited data and text and 100 minutes from T-mobile
Groceries7.11Unusually low. Since we know that we will be out, we ate what we had here, and in-laws took care most of it.
Incidentals2.73Unnecessary expense. I forgot my contacts container and have to buy one from the airport (brain fart!)
TOTAL3860.06
without wedding expense2080.86This is extremely low and I don't expect it next month

 

Monthly Spending – May 2016

Holy cow, I spent a lot! May is typically a big month for my spending even in the past. This is usually the month where I will book a trip or go on a trip. Birthdays are also celebrated this month. That said, I have a couple of things going on this year with the wedding and electronic purchase. I’m hoping that this is really just a one time expense.

My goal is financial independence. This doesn’t necessarily mean early retirement, but more sense of fulfillment. I like what I do now, but I don’t like the feeling of being tied to it. My first step is to determine my spending. In my opinion (and only mine), I already live a pretty frugal life. I do have one big luxury which is the biggest line item you can see below.

So folks, here it is. For those that are willing to comment and provide some insights, I’m all ears.

DescriptionAmountWhat are these?
Mortgage & Rent1600This is my biggest luxury. It took more than a year until I found the house. It's expensive, I know.
Electronics & Software1094.9A replacement for my 9 year old macbook
Wedding Expenses831.12Aaahh .. wedding. A family drama took place and I offered to flew my brother out in here for the wedding. This is basically the cost of the plane tickets, few things for my flowers and bachelorette dinner and drinks
Veterinary683Remember that emergency vet clinic?
Student Loan200My parents took some student loan for me and I offered to pay it for them. I could pay this right up front, if I want to.
Groceries138.18Very low... there's a reason for this. My partner paid our costco trip for this month.
Shopping112.94Prime membership got renewed and the cost of watch bands and batteries for my wrist watch (going strong after 15 years!)
Clothing106.08These are all bras! I went to Nordstrom and got re-sized and found out that I've been wearing the wrong size all these years. I got my corset and bra, but later return and got it from Amazon. I then got 3 more from Nordstrom Rack. Considering I got 4, this isn't bad.
Entertainment82.08blog cost - this is actually a 3 year hosting fees.
Parking80Monthly parking at work
Internet66.05Internet + phone. It is cheaper to get the bundle than just the internet... insane!
Restaurants55.78Brunch and birthday dinner
Gas & Fuel38.6Not bad, but can be better
Mobile Phone33.88Monthly phone. I have unlimited data and text and 100 minutes from T-mobile
Doctor21.62Some test that was billed after my annual exam.
Alcohol & Bars16.47Wines from Trader Joes. A monthly routine for me.
Gift3.5My gift to my partner, a tall boy beer, with the take out mexican food 🙂
Snacks3.48My cravings for chocolate needs to stop.
TOTAL5167.68
Without wedding expense4336.56

 

 

Let’s see how I can optimize it this year. My goal is to reach about $3000 on average (including mortgage).