The Power of the Sun – May 2014

Each month the PFG family presents the current power that our solar panels are producing. We give an update on how many kilowatt hours our system produces each month and the financial impact this has for our family. To read more about how we got solar power, click here.

A Little Late
Ideally, we would like to give this update as close to the first week of every month but this month Mr. PFG started a new job and is trying to get settled.

The Numbers
Now for the numbers. For the second month in a row, our system is providing a lot of energy that goes back to our energy company and gets banked as credit for us against what we use each month.

Below is the monthly graph for May of what we produced.  Please note that there are some days where there are no results being presented.  Our system wasn’t correctly responding with the monitoring service but we were still producing energy on most of those days.  There were also three days where the system wasn’t working and we had to have maintenance on the system to turn it back on.

May Solar

 

In May, our system produced over 849 kilowatt hours (see note above) and in a little over two months, our system has provided 2,316 kilowatt hours of energy.  Last month alone we banked over 330 kilowatt hours for our reserves!  Knowing that we are helping the environment and saving some extra money has made this whole experience even better!

If you are interested in learning more about how you can install solar panels, help the environment, and save some money, please let us know and we will tell you more!

Financial Friday: The Power of the Sun

We love to live in Colorado.  The mountains.  The outdoors.  Being close to our family.  And the sunshine.  300 plus days of sunshine!

Okay, maybe not 300 days but in actuality in Denver about 70% of the days have sun putting it in the top ten cities in the United States for sunshine.

So as a frugal family and a family that worries about the environment, we wondered how we could get the sun to do more work for us.  For years, we had heard about putting solar panels on our roof to provide electricity to our house.  I remember watching news stories about how the cost of the solar panels was in the tens of thousands and that you had to have large batteries to store all of the extra electricity.  This didn’t include all of the water needed to make sure the system remained cool.

Yes, this was the way of the past when many people wanting to install solar did it themselves.  But could the PFG family really get solar without breaking the bank.  We knew we didn’t want to purchase the panels ourselves because the cost and maintenance would be out the roof.  We also didn’t want to have to put up a lot of money to install them on our roof.

Then I read a post on a friend’s wall about a company where you paid for the power of the solar not the panels.  We reached out to her and were connected to SolarCity and to a representative who met with Mrs. PFG and I to talk about the benefits and costs of working with them on installing solar on our house.

The entire initial meeting put many things at ease for us.  We would never have to do any maintenance on the panels, the installation would be done over a couple of days, SolarCity would contact our current electric company to transfer over the service, they would be in charge of all of the city and energy inspections, and the cost of the service would be locked in every year with a minimal increase every year (compared to an ever changing increase from our current energy company).

The best part of it was that there were no up front costs and right off the bat we would have the potential to save money every month over what we were currently paying.  From our initial meeting to the time that the solar panels got installed was a good three month process but a lot of this had to do with the winter, inspections, and design of our system.

Additionally, we had an issue when the system was first installed and within two business days, they had someone out to fix the problem.

The Numbers
Now for the numbers.  starting today, we are going to share with you every month how much energy our system is providing.  For us, our system is providing a lot of energy that goes back to our energy company (not SolarCity) and gets banked as credit for us against what we use.  For any energy we produce that isn’t used, that amount rolls over to the next month.  So for example during the summer when there is more sunlight than energy we use, we will be banking that energy for when in the winter there is less sunlight.

Below is the yearly graph so far of what we have produced since our system was turned on in April.  Moving forward we will share this at the end of each month.

Solar City - May 9

In a little over a month, our system has provided 1,062 kilowatt hours of energy.  Last month alone we banked over 270 kilowatt hours for our reserves.  Knowing that we are helping the environment and saving some extra money has made this whole experience even better!

If you are interested in learning more about how you can install solar panels, help the environment, and save some money, please let us know and we will tell you more!

PFG April Financials

Welcome to another edition of Financial Friday.  A series of weekly posts where we share some of financial gold with you on our personal finances, savings, and investing.  Once again, these are just things we have done ourselves and might not work for you, but it doesn’t hurt to try a new way to pan for your own financial gold!

Financial Friday

The Monthly Recap

April 2014 was a pretty quiet month on the financial front.  We did have some expenses that we couldn’t budget for including graduation gifts, renting a tux for an upcoming wedding, dress alterations and a couple of other unplanned items.

Additionally, we paid off some of the unexpected expenses from March including the furnace and dental work.  While the work was done in March, the bills were due in April.  April was also the first month of a new side hustle for myself.  I am helping a company that runs mobile silent auctions.  This is something that I really like doing and the technology being used is amazing.  I look forward to working more events for them and will share that experience here soon.

Our Spending
This month was overall a good month on the financial front.  We did have those bills come due but the money is coming from our refund check which we got in April.  This once again reminded us of the need for an emergency fund.  The refund check is being used for this purpose right now and will help us pay down some additional debt.

Below are the percentages we spent on each category with a note if needed.  In April 2014, we spent around $4,000.

  • 29% – mortgage (interest, principle, and home insurance)
  • 17% – auto related (gas and lease payment)
  • 9% – groceries, dining out
  • 7% – preschool
  • 7% – travel fund (we put money in quarterly for a family reunion)
  • 6% – utilities (includes garbage, internet, cell phones)
  • 5% – health & wellness; this included the dental bill
  • 5% – shopping
  • 5% – student loan repayment
  • 3% – gifts/charity
  • 7% – miscellaneous

As we continue to track the financials, we will highlight any major drops.  This month’s largest drop from March was on our mortgage and food.  Both of these saw a significant drop because of the addition of health and wellness expenses this month.

Our Debts
With the new reporting, we want to be clear that when we talk about debt that we are being up from with what our “true debt” is.  Like most Americans, we have a mortgage and student loans.  In our past reports, we have listed credit card debt but this was never debt since we pay off the balance each month.  For our purposes moving forward, we will only talk about debt as our student loans and mortgage.

In April 2014, the payments for both of these areas remained steady and the percentage of these didn’t change from March.  We paid off 0.15% of our mortgage and 0.45% of our student loans.  Not a great reduction but we are looking at how the side income can lower these amounts over time.

How was your April 2014?  Did you have any unexpected expenses?  Did you make extra income?  

FF14: PFG March Financials

Welcome to another edition of Financial Friday.  A series of weekly posts where we share some of financial gold with you on our personal finances, savings, and investing.  Once again, these are just things we have done ourselves and might not work for you, but it doesn’t hurt to try a new way to pan for your own financial gold!

Financial Friday

This month, we are changing things up.  Based on some feedback and a great book that I read, we will not be providing the exact numbers of our “net worth” anymore.

While we… actually just Mr. PFG… wants to show transparency,  we believe that the net worth we were presenting was both not final (since we didn’t present our investments) or valuable to our readers.

When I first set out to write a blog about our financials and life lessons, I wanted to share relevant information with the readers.  Does anybody really care that our net worth went up a percentage one month versus another?  Probably not and why do people need to know our net worth anyways?  We don’t need people to feel pity for us or for them to judge us for what we post.

Rather than highlight this “invasive” information, what we will do in these monthly recaps is talk about our debt repayments and our average spending.  We will no longer give a dollar amount (except for the total amount we spent each month) but a percentage to highlight what we did month over month.

As things arise in our lives, we expect this blog to continue to evolve.  Currently the majority of readers are our friends and family, so any feedback or suggestions will be greatly appreciated so that we can change the blog to interest our readers.

And Now the Monthly Recap
In March 2014, we changed the date of our main credit card to be in line with the first of the month.  As Mr. PFG is only paid at the end of the month, we believe this will help us budget and track our money more appropriately.

This month did see some unexpected expenses arise with a problem with our furnace and some dental work for two family members.  This brings us to our new financial endeavor which is to set up an emergency fund.  While we are not sure initially how we will fund this, we are currently looking at opportunities for “side hustles” where we can make additional money.  This additional money will be used for two purposes with a percentage going towards an emergency fund and the rest going towards debt repayment.

If you know of any part-time opportunities or writing opportunities, please let us know.

Our Spending
Besides the unexpected expenses with the furnace and dental work (note: these expenses actually won’t show up until the April credit card statement), this month was overall good on the spending front.

Below are the percentages we spent on each category with a note if needed.  In March 2014, we spent around $3,700.

  • 34% – mortgage
  • 16% – auto related (gas and lease payment)
  • 13% – groceries, dining out
  • 11% – preschool; this was abnormal as we had to pay registration for next year this month
  • 9% – utilities (includes garbage, internet, cell phones)
  • 6% – shopping note: this category will be split up more accurately in the future to show a breakdown of kids items (diapers, formula, etc.)
  • 6% – student loan repayment
  • 5% – miscellaneous

Starting next month, we will give a comparison on how these change and the percentage change each month.

Please note: while our mortgage payment is higher than what is recommended, we have cut our overall expenses down a lot and by cutting expenses elsewhere, the percentage spent on our house went up.  

Our Debts
With the new reporting, we want to be clear that when we talk about debt that we are being up from with what our “true debt” is.  Like most Americans, we have a mortgage and student loans.  In our past reports, we have listed credit card debt but this was never debt since we pay off the balance each month.  For our purposes moving forward, we will only talk about debt as our student loans and mortgage.

In March 2014, the payments for both of these areas remained steady.  We paid off 0.15% of our mortgage and 0.44% of our student loans.  Not a great reduction but all that we can afford currently.

How was your March 2014?  Did you have any unexpected expenses?  Did you make extra income?  

FF13: Teaching PFG Boy About Money

Financial FridayWelcome to another edition of Financial Friday.  A series of weekly posts where we share some financial gold with you on our personal finances, savings, and investing.  Once again, these are just things we have done ourselves and might not work for you, but it doesn’t hurt to try a new way to pan for your own financial gold!

Kids are fascinated by many things and for each child it could be completely different.  For some it might be toy cars while others love empty boxes.  Others love playing with dirt and some cannot get their hands dirty.  But there is something that all kids seem to love and that is money… well specifically coins.

For PFG boy, this is no different.  From the time he was two and his grandparents started giving him coins for charity or giving him the change from a purchase at the store, he has been hooked.  When he was younger, he would call all coins his monies and would try to see how many coins he could hold in his chubby hands.

As he grew up, any coins he saw were his monies; even the spare change dish at my parents house.  The funny thing about kids is that they don’t discriminate about money.  Any coin for them is magical and it doesn’t matter the true value of the coins.  They just want more and want it all… I have heard this doesn’t change when they get older either.

As PFG boy has gotten older, we have thought about new ways that we can teach him about money with some successes and some areas where we probably need to wait until he is older.  Below are two examples of things that have worked so far.

Experiencing Money at a Young Age
In Colorado, we are lucky to have an amazing bank specifically for kids.  This bank called the Young Americans Bank is run by the Young Americans Center for Financial Education.  The bank is specifically set up for kids to learn how to set up their own bank accounts, apply for loans to start their own businesses, learn how to serve on a bank board, and much more.  While PFG boy is still on the young side, Young Americans Center has other opportunities for him to participate.

This December, PFG boy and I attended an entrepreneur fair hosted at Young Americans Center.  Kids of all ages where selling products that they had made and showcasing their creations.  For PFG boy, who was 3 at the time, this was great.  He could run around and try out new things.  But as is the case with most 3-year-olds, he wanted everything; especially all of the cupcakes.

As we walked around, I took out five dollars that he “earned” and had kept in his piggy bank.  This was the money that he could use to buy items for himself and for gifts for Mrs. PFG for her birthday.  While he didn’t understand the true value of a dollar, he was so proud of himself when he handed the “sales person” the money and asked for a receipt.

This small experience in a safe environment allowed him to buy things that he wanted and he gained the knowledge that money is not endless.  We have done this in other places like Target where he purchased a new toy.

 

Note: As an elementary school student, I participated for a number of years in a program they host called Young Ameritowne where you learn how to write checks, go to the bank, run a business, earn a paycheck, and shop at stores.  Local businesses sponsor these storefronts where you gain life lessons that cannot happen in the classroom.  

Going Beyond the Regular Piggy Bank
While at the Young Americans Center, we were given a brand new piggy bank for PFG boy to use.  This piggy bank unlike others has slots for saving, spending, investing, and donating.  Initially, PFG boy was so excited to fill up all of the slots and emptied his piggy bank into all slots without thinking where the money was going.

However, he quickly grasped that he wanted to fill the slot where he could buy new toys.  As he continues to get older, we will work with him to understand the real value of each slot so he understands that some money should go into each slot.

Additionally, we have started the 52 week challenge with him where he puts money each week into the savings slot.  He will be able to use this money at the end of the year on gifts for the holidays.  Each week he is putting in a penny per week so he is on 13 pennies this week.

We look forward to continuing to work with PFG boy and PFG girl to learn the true value of money.  As they get older, we will have them set up accounts at the Young Americans Bank where they will be able to participate in the many programs and services offered.  If we can teach them when they are young, we will help set up a healthy way to look at money for the future.

How do you teach your children about money?  Are there tools that you use that are better than others?

FF12: Saving $45 at Target

Financial FridayWelcome to another edition of Financial Friday.  A series of weekly posts where we share some of financial gold with you on our personal finances, savings, and investing.  Once again, these are just things we have done ourselves and might not work for you, but it doesn’t hurt to try a new way to pan for your own financial gold!

For the last few weeks I have been receiving numerous blog posts from a great local coupon and deal website called Mile High on the Cheap.  Most days, there are four or five deals and they range anywhere from free items to buy one get one free.

At first, many of the deals felt like they didn’t relate to us or would be useful to us since we have completely dropped the number of times we go out to one or two times a month.  Additionally, some of the deals we would see after they had already expired or were for dates we were not available.

However, last week we saw one that was right up our alley.  For every $40 you spent on their store brand Up and Up products you would receive $15 off of your total order.  Having gone strictly to using Up and Up for our diapers and wipes for PFG boy and now PFG girl, we jumped at the opportunity.

Initially, we thought about just using the coupon once but then Mile High on the Cheap suggested purchasing $80 worth of products and splitting it into two.  So there we are on Saturday afternoon (the last day) going around Target to find $80 worth of Up and Up products to receive $50 off.

We found that the first $40 was easy to spend ($25 for a package of diapers and $14 for a package of wipes) but then we noticed that there was only one box of diapers available.  So we decided to purchase four bottles of baby shampoo, fifteen packages of baby “mush”, a bottle of lotion, and another box of baby wipes.

Basically in our first order, we had bought all of those items and received the two boxes of wipes for free which will mean we don’t have to buy wipes for the next six months (especially since PFG boy is using the toilet all of the time!)

As we were leaving the store, I grabbed another Target flyer with another coupon.  Who knew, maybe we would have time to stop at another Target to get an extra box of diapers?

Later that night, we stopped at Target one last time where I purchased a box of 225 diapers (the next size up) and six more packages of baby “mush.”  For the whole activity, we spent a little over $80 for more than $125 worth of merchandise.  

We now have diapers to last us for the next three months (at least), enough baby shampoo to last us the year, enough baby food for the next two months, and we have the piece of mind knowing that we also saved money!

We look forward to continuing to look at the deals Mile High on the Cheap publishes and we will share some of them with our readers.

Do you use any discount websites?  What are they?  What is the best discount you have ever received?

 

FF11: What’s Next… We Want Your Financial Stories

Financial FridayWelcome to another edition of Financial Friday.  A series of weekly posts where we share some of financial gold with you on our personal finances, savings, and investing.  Once again, these are just things we have done ourselves and might not work for you, but it doesn’t hurt to try a new way to pan for your own financial gold!

For the last 10 weeks, the PFG family has shared with you our personal finance journey.  We have enjoyed giving you a monthly update on our net worth (look for the monthly report to change shape for March), sharing with you some of our own saving methods, telling you how we save for our kids, and much more!

However, we know that there must be other families that are going through savings challenges themselves or have stories to share about their own financial journey.  Maybe you have a savings plan that you would like to share with the readers of Pure Family Gold.  Maybe you use the envelope method for your budgeting each month.  Maybe you have paid down 54% of your debt in two years.  What ever your story, we would love to help you share it.

We are looking for people to share their own financial journeys with us and with our readers.  One of the biggest reasons we started Pure Family Gold was so that people could learn and grow alongside us.  We know that your stories will help us grow and help our readers explore different ways to look at their finances.

If you are interested in sharing or highlighting your own success story, please contact us today.

Please note that we will not publish any names on the Pure Family Gold blog.  If you want ideas on how to share your story, let us know in the comment section of the contact form and we will help you.

FF10: The Donation Account

Financial FridayWelcome to another edition of Financial Friday.  A series of weekly posts where we share some of financial gold with you on our personal finances, savings, and investing.  Once again, these are just things we have done ourselves and might not work for you, but it doesn’t hurt to try a new way to pan for your own financial gold!

As the PFG family has grown, it has been important for Mrs. PFG and I to continue to give back to our communities through charitable giving.  This practice started for both of us with the Jewish tradition of giving tzedekah (charity).

When we first got married, we gave money pretty freely and didn’t map out what organizations we were going to give to each year.  As the years have gone by, we became more aware of the amount of money that we were giving and to what organizations we give to.  We now have three or four organizations that we give the majority of our charitable giving to and a handful of other organizations that receive other donations from us.

In addition to changing the amount of money that we give to charitable causes, we also decided that it would be better if the money didn’t come from our regular bank accounts.  About four years ago we decided that setting up a donation account would allow us to put aside the money we wanted to give, keep us on track, and limit our giving to the amount that was available in this new account.

How We Fund It
Each paycheck, we put aside a percentage of the total paycheck into this account.  We base this percentage on the amount of money that we already know is going to be given.  I serve on a board and give a certain amount each year.  We also give a certain amount to our synagogue.  After that we put aside additional money for extra giving each year.  Additionally, if we use cash, we put the change into this new fund to give to charity.

Why We Like this New Fund

In addition to keeping us on track, this new fund allows us to keep giving to charity without worrying about paying our other bills.  It also allows us to use this fund to teach PFG boy and PFG girl the power of giving.  As they get older, we will help them set up their own charitable accounts.  We will also set aside money from this account that we will as a family decide where the money should go.  This will be like our own little family foundation.

Do you have a separate fund for your charitable giving?  How does your family give to nonprofits?

FF9: PFG February Financials

Welcome to another edition of Financial Friday.  A series of weekly posts where we share some of financial gold with you on our personal finances, savings, and investing.  Once again, these are just things we have done ourselves and might not work for you, but it doesn’t hurt to try a new way to pan for your own financial gold!

Financial FridayMonthly Recap
February 2014 was very uneventful on the financial front for the Pure Family Gold.  We did not have any large expenses or additional income that came in.

We still have one more payment for the backyard fix which will be paid in March.  After this payment, our credit card “debt” will be back to normal.

Note: While we list credit card debt, we pay our credit cards in full every month on the 15th.  We do not carry a balance on this.  Additionally, we are looking at changing the due date of our main credit card to be in line with how we get paid.  This will help us budget more accurately.  

Our Assets
Below is a list of our assets as of February 28, 2014.  We will give a monthly overview on or near the last day of the month.

  • Cash: $7,427; Change: 4.01%
  • Home: $267,728 (we update our home value based off of Zillow every quarter; last update was Jan. 2, 2014)
  • Car: $10,300 (we update the value of our car once a year using Kelley Blue Book; last update was Jan. 2, 2014)
  • Lending Club Account: $330; Change: 0.61%
  • Total Assets: $285,785; Change 0.10%

Note: We have an additional $2,000 in cash that will actually be used to pay off the rest of the backyard fix.  In March, we should have a more accurate portrayal of our cash moving forward.

Our Debts
Below is a list of our debts as of February 28, 2014.

  • Home Mortgage: $185,743 (at 4.125%); Change: (-0.15%)
  • Student Loans: $31,775 (at 2.25%); Change: (-0.44%)
  • Credit Cards: $3,120; Change: -62.17%
  • Condo Personal Loan: $4,500 (no interest); Change: 0%
  • Other: $2,052; Change: (-1.17%)
  • Total Debts: $227,190; Change: -2.44%

Notes: As you can see our home mortgage, student loans and other debt all had a decrease.  For February 2014, we paid off $548 towards these debts.  

Our Net Worth
To date our net worth is $58,595 which is a change of 11.35from January 2014.  Overall a good month!

How was your February 2014?  Did you have any unexpected expenses?  Did you make extra income?  

FF8: The Brand Name Game

Financial FridayWelcome to another edition of Financial Friday.  A series of weekly posts where we share some of financial gold with you on our personal finances, savings, and investing.  Once again, these are just things we have done ourselves and might not work for you, but it doesn’t hurt to try a new way to pan for your own financial gold!

For the last four years, Mrs. PFG and I have played the Brand Name Game.  Now you may wonder what the Brand Name Game is.  I bet there are times that you have also played this game without even knowing you are playing it.

brand namesHow is the Brand Name Game is played?
You walk into a supermarket, drug store, large box store, clothing store, etc. and you go down the aisle looking for a specific bag of chips, toothpaste, meal helper, soup mix, makeup, cheese, and milk.  For some “game” players, there is only one brand that you will pick for each of these items.  And some of these items were passed on from your parents.

When you grow up there are certain products that your parents buy that become staples in your life.  While there are “alternatives” to these products, your parents always buy the “name” brand.  The one brand that makes the “best” or “only” product for your family.  

As you grow older, you believe that these brands are the only ones that exist and you too only buy those items.  For other products, our society has gotten to a place where the name brands become the name for that product.  These items include Band-Aid, Kleenex, Coke and more.  For me, these products include my Crest toothpaste and my Speed Stick deodorant.

The Generic Products
However, there are other game players including myself… and slowly Mrs. PFG who have begun looking past certain name brands.  For the last four years, I have looked at many items in the grocery store that actually have a store brand item that has the same ingredients, same calories, and same flavors as their name brand counterparts.  And many of these items are a lot cheaper.  Additionally, many of these generic items state on the packaging (especially in the pharmacy) that they have the same ingredients as the name brand.

These game players have made the switch to the store brands for many of their everyday products and the stores have begun to take notice.  King Soopers, our grocery store of choice, has even begun releasing more and more organic store brands under their label Simple Truth.  In the last month, they have released an additional 100 products under this label alone.  Additionally, they have thousands of other items under their parent company, Kroger.

For the PFG family, there have been numerous products that were easy to make the switch (ie. Kirkland Paper Towels, toilet paper, potato chips, almond milk, cheese, ibuprofen, bandages, tissues, cleaning products, diapers) while other products have been harder including cereal.

Cost vs. The Quality
At the end of the day, we are saving $50-$150* each month on everyday products by buying the generic items. But there are still some name brands that Mrs. PFG is still “loyal” to and will never make the switch.  And there are other items that we have tried that just aren’t close to the same quality.

*Note: The biggest savings for us currently is on diapers, wipes, pull-ups, paper towels, toilet paper, and tissues  We buy generic brands at Target and Costco where we are saving $4-$5 per package which adds up on the savings very quickly.

For the PFG family right now, we are willing to play the brand name game on certain products to save some money but we will also go out of our way and pay more money on certain items that make us feel better, taste better, or are just made better.

What about for your family?  Do you play the brand name game?  What are some of the products that you wouldn’t ever switch?  Where do you find the best generic items?  Leave your answers by clicking on the comment button at the top of this post.