Friday, September 28, 2007

Cost of Fixing the Car Shelter

Princess and I have to replace the tarp of our car shelter, and this is going to cost us more than expected. We were planning about $500 for this, but it looks like it will cost us twice that.

When we bought our house three years ago, we also bought the previous owners' car shelter. Although it was paid seperately from the house and wasn't new, it was still a deal at $100.
Now, after patching it for two years, the tarp is so old that it's tearing up in multiple places. Princess' brother, who used to work in that sector, had told us it would probably cost us something like $300-$400 to replace it.

Turns out he hadn't realized how large our shelter is. It's big enough for two cars comfortably, and we've even managed to squeeze in a third small one when we had to. When I asked for a quote from the original company, as well as a second one referred by the brother, the amount was pretty much the same -- around $800. I figure that after we ask for a few modifications, replacing a few of the missing anchors for the legs, and taxes, the total bill will be pretty much $1000.

This had me questionning the necessity of having a car shelter for the winter. I've thought about shoveling the snow for one winter, but I must admit that the prospect is far from appealing to me. We will probably end up replacing the tarp, but it was a shock to realize the amount of money we will have to spend on this. Convenience has it's price!

The money will come out of my emergency fund. I will make sure to plan better for this in the future.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Investing Principles and Exercise

In the last two years, I have been spending (or rather investing) a lot of time improving my knowledge of personal finances and investing.

One of the principles that I have learned, and which I have been trying to integrate into my investing habits, is that quality, consistency and persistence win this race. You have to have a good plan, and stick to it.

I have decided to apply it to another area of my life -- health.

You see, my day job is that of a computer analyst. So I work in front of a computer most of the day, formulating solutions to problems and typing quite a lot. This requires a lot of concentration and mental energy. As a result, when I get home I don't have a lot of energy left and usually just sit in from of the television, or reading. As you can imagine, this is not good for me or my waist line.

I have tried to exercise on before, but the major problem I have hit is that I usually have dinner right away when I get home. The thing is, once I've had dinner, it is almost impossible for me to exercise. Call it a lack of will if you want, but the fact is that exercising on a full stomach is not good!

So, I have decided to exercise as soon as I get home on weekdays. I will spend 30 minutes on the threadmill at least 5 times a week. I will take this one week at a time. Slow and steady.

I call this my personal health investing project.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

An Experiment in Credit Card Arbitrage

In recent weeks, I have been reading on credit card arbitrage. Basically, this is borrowing money using those 0% offers from credit cards on balance transfers, and using it to invest in a safe, fixed-term investment. At the end of the 0% offer, you pay back the money you borrowed and keep the interests you made on it. Since you are borrowing the money for free, even a 4% interest rate translates into free money.

So, I decided to do try this to see if it is worth the effort. So I signed in for a new credit card from Citibank, which is offering 0% interest on transfers until August 2008. I did this on September 16th. I am still waiting for the card and transfer cheques.

I will keep you posted on my progress on this experiment.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Net Worth Update

As of September 1st, my net worth was $45 984 (up 4% from $44 195).

If I exclude house-related assets and liabilities, my net worth is $34 671 (up 4% from $33 330). So, percentage-wise, my house's net worth change is keeping pace with the rest of my finances.

Assets ($117 089, up from $115 384)
  • Bank Accounts $6 252 (up 80% from $3483)
  • Emergency Funds $2 825 (down 44% from $5 018)
  • RRSP Accounts $28 213 (up 1.4% from $27 828)
  • Non-Registered Investments $3 641 (up 16% from $3 121)
  • Home $75 600 (stable)
Liabilities ($71 105, down 0.1% from $71 188)
  • Credit Cards $3 380 (up 20% from $2 813)
  • Student Loan $3 399 (down 6.7% from $3 642)
  • Mortgage $56 994 (down 0.2% from $57 098)
  • Heat Pump Loan $7 293 (down 4.5% from $7 635)
In almost the opposite from last month, when the change was a decrease in debt, this month's change is almost completely due to an increase in assets. My investments partly recovered from the down markets in July, while my credit card bills increased enough to offset the payment of long-term debts. Note that Princess and I made an additional $500 payment to the heat pump loan, which is our highest interest loan.