Net Worth Update: October 2015

networthupdateWell, the tenth month of the year was much kinder to my dashboard than the previous two. It’s interesting — my portfolio is the vast majority of my net worth, since I don’t own real estate (and especially now that a big chunk of my previous cash savings are in a taxable brokerage account.) Therefore, big swings really matter to my bottom line now, where they didn’t even a year ago. Like I said earlier this month, when I put the drop of the last two months in perspective, there was nothing to worry about. But it was definitely less fun writing the September update than it is doing this one 🙂 To the numbers! Continue reading “Net Worth Update: October 2015”

Health Insurance Decisions, Round 2

I want to thank everyone who took the time to comment on my last post about my upcoming health plan choice. A number of commenters inspired me to sit down and do some actual math. (This is pretty rare around here, so trust me, you were really motivational.)

Continue reading “Health Insurance Decisions, Round 2”

Financial True Confession Time

As previously reported, we here at The Single Dollar are totally committed to anonymous transparency, but seeing as how we’re anonymous (at least, kind of), that relies on we — well, me — actually reporting the numbers correctly.

And lately I…haven’t quite been. Continue reading “Financial True Confession Time”

Homemade Apple Butter: The Only Post You Need

zero food waste challenge 2015There’s no grocery list this week, because I’m away visiting some friends over my university’s fall break. Instead, I’m taking this opportunity to write up the results of my big apple butter experiment. And because I did so much research, reading, and batch-testing, I’m declaring this The Only Post You Need to Read, because I’ll tell you all about what I learned reading everyone else’s :)How big, you ask? Well, this is a picture of the apples I brought home from the farmer’s market:

IMG_20151010_105403525The egg carton is for scale. That’s a half-bushel of apples, which is, uh, a lot of apples. Many, many, many apples. The thing is, the entire bag cost me $6 — yes, six American dollars — and it was perfect for making butter: it was a mixed lot, and it was full of seconds, which are apples that are totally fine except they have some minor cosmetic flaw or else are a little bruised. As long as you cut out the bruised parts, they’re totally great for cooking. Continue reading “Homemade Apple Butter: The Only Post You Need”

The Savings-to-Self-Respect Feedback Loop

Finally, I get to write a post about an emotional benefit that saving has had for me! I’ve been complaining ever since I paid off my debt that saving doesn’t feature that same high that comes when you throw $2000+ at a loan on a single day. I used to feel like a warrior making those big payments, and socking cash away just doesn’t carry the same excitement on a month to month basis. It mostly made me feel like I was running on some kind of Sisyphean treadmill, looping around every month between direct deposit and savings account with nothing interesting, like a debt-free letter, to show for it.

However, I think I’m starting to “get it.”

Continue reading “The Savings-to-Self-Respect Feedback Loop”

Why I haven’t been seriously upset about the market downturn

[ETA: Kate at Goodnight Debt made one of my favorite comments of the year on this post: “TL;DR: Zoom out. It’s fine.” So if you don’t feel like looking at all my charts, you can just stop right here.]

Like everyone else, I “lost” a bunch of money during the recent (possibly ongoing — I doubt we’re out of the woods) stock market “correction.” Reporting my net worth numbers has definitely been way less fun the last couple of months, but it’s kind of interesting to measure my emotional reaction based on what chart I’m looking at in Personal Capital. (All these screenshots are from September 15, and Personal Capital doesn’t capture all my accounts; just the savings and investment ones. Thus, the numbers I report on the blog, which do include my checking account, tend to be a bit higher.) Continue reading “Why I haven’t been seriously upset about the market downturn”

Zero Food Waste 2015, Week 41: Pack It Out, plus Twice-Baked Miso-Curry Squash

zero food waste challenge 2015(In case you were wondering, I googled “what week of the year is it?” and then subtracted 1, since I didn’t start this project until the second week of 2015.)

I want to share a picture of my fridge shelf (I have roommates, remember, so this is my portion of the fridge only) from Sunday night last week: Continue reading “Zero Food Waste 2015, Week 41: Pack It Out, plus Twice-Baked Miso-Curry Squash”

Help Me Pick a Health Plan!

So, my university is changing its entire health plan around and we all have to do open enrollment next month. To be honest, as I did a little research (primarily asking friends how much their premiums are) my major conclusion so far is that I’m really lucky to work here. By the standards of American health care, all the plans are a very reasonable cost, especially for single people like me (premium costs go up significantly for families or even for just a spouse.)

I have two options (there’s another one, but these are the two I’m considering). One is a “high-deductible” plan, and one is the same PPO I have now.

In both cases, I continue to have access to the faculty-staff health center at the university, which is a small but full-service clinic that does general health stuff and has a great doctor in residence that I really like, plus an on-site pharmacy. It’s an amazing benefit. In the 15 months I’ve worked here, I’ve only been anywhere but the clinic twice: once for an eye infection, and once for a gynecology exam. There’s a $15 co-pay for each visit to the clinic, regardless of what insurance plan I choose. Also, I’m generally very healthy and am only 36. So we’re really talking about situations where I break my leg or get cancer, not about managing ongoing chronic health issues.

OK, I know you were waiting for the numbers. Here they are [each premium is reduced because I already completed a health screening to get a discount]:

  • High-deductible plan:
    • $11/month premium (!!)
    • $1500 deductible
    • out-of-pocket max of $5000
    • university will put $500 in an account to help cover the deductible; this will roll over year to year if I stay with the university, but it’s not a HSA; I lose it if I leave the job. Functionally though this means it’s really a $1000 deductible.
    • If I go anywhere but the health center, I have to pay the full cost of the visit until I meet my deductible, so if anything does go wrong and I need to see off-campus doctors, this could get expensive fast.
  • PPO plan
    • $55/month premium
    • $400 deductible
    • out-of-pocket max $1950
    • All visits to off-campus doctors (if they’re in network) covered except for $30 co-pay.

I was leaning towards the high-deductible plan when I first looked through the info, because hot damn, just look at that monthly premium. And the out of pocket max is just not all that high, in the grand scheme of things, so if disaster did strike I’d survive, financially. But now that I look at it more, hmm. I’d take home about $450 more over the course of the entire year (after taxes.) If I stuck to visiting the health center all year, that would work out just great. But if I had to start seeing off-campus doctors for whatever reason, that $450 savings would vanish quickly as I’d have to pay the full cost of the visits up until the deductible is met. Is it enough of a take-home bonus to make it worth the risk?

What questions am I not asking? What would you do? Is it worth doing the high deductible plan if I don’t get an HSA to go with it? (I can still contribute to an FSA, but that’s a use-it-or-lose-it account so I’ll only put enough into it to cover the cost of contact lenses and a few clinic visits.)



Zero Food Waste, Week — I’ve totally lost track! Plus black bean soup.

zero food waste challenge 2015A little surprisingly, given how much else about my life has been out of control the last couple of months (again, mostly in good ways), I’m still on the zero (or rather very little) food waste track. The only things I can remember throwing away recently are half a bundle of mint that I didn’t get around to drying, and two chunks of feta cheese that went bad before I used them. I had some minor victories, too; I opened a can of pureed pumpkin to use for cupcakes a couple of weeks ago, but only needed half of it. I ended up using some of the leftover in lieu of apple butter in a scone recipe I made, and stirred the last of it into this week’s oatmeal — which is the first oatmeal of fall! I’ve been eating cereal or toast or fruit for breakfast all summer. But now that it’s chilly, I’m excited to make oatmeal again, now with the addition of blueberries I picked myself in June and froze. Continue reading “Zero Food Waste, Week — I’ve totally lost track! Plus black bean soup.”