The car now been fixed - one reconditioned Japanese gear box and a new clutch installed for a total cost of around $1510. Hopefully the car will now last for another 5 years or so (by which time it will have done around 150,000 km) and we'll then replace it with a "new" 2nd-hand vehicle.
Viewing the 'Expenses' Category
The car now been fixed - one reconditioned Japanese gear box and a new clutch installed for a total cost of around $1510. Hopefully the car will now last for another 5 years or so (by which time it will have done around 150,000 km) and we'll then replace it with a "new" 2nd-hand vehicle.
Our car is now 9 years old, although it's only done 78,000 km. Yesterday it developed an intermittent steering problem - every now and again when doing a LH turn it would "fight" against the left turn, before the resistence suddenly dissappeared with a bump. I took it in to the garage close to our workplace and during the day they changed the a ball joint on hte front LH wheel. Unfortunately the problem was even worse when the mechanic took it for a road test just before I was due to collect the car, so I drove it home and planned on dropping it back in for further work today (maybe an CV replacement?).
Driving home was very tense as the car would suddenly want to drift off to the right, and would then suddenly try to lurch to the left with a bit of a bang and a bump. Crossing the Sydney Harbour bridge was a white knuckle experience!
When we got home I decided to borrow my parent's car to drive to work today, and my Dad dropped our car off at a local garage for repair. It turns out that a couple of teeth were broken off the gears in the gear box, which will need replacing. $700 for a new gearbox, plus around $300 labour, plus maybe a new clutch (it still has the original clutch, which is probably quite worn out by now).
I was enjoying a nice relaxing afternnon at home when the phone rang. The nextdoor neighbour of our rental property asked "Do you know that there's a big tree fallen on top of your house?" [our rental property]. It was news to me. So, we all jumped into the car and drove over to our property to inspect the damage. The tree was bigger than the house and had just missed landing on the house and flattening it completely. As it is, few large branches have gone through the roof, and the lounge room was full of debris.
Luckily the tennants weren't home at the time - they usually park their car where the trunk of the tree landed. As no-one was home at the time I'm a little disappointed that the tree didn't drop two metres further to the left, in which case it would have entirely demolished the house. The house is insured for aroung $385,000, which would have gone a long way towards building a nice, new house on the block. As it is, I guess that the house is probably repairable, so we'll just get the inconvenience of getting repairs done and end up with the same 50-year old house as before.
Apparently the tree fell over in a strong wind gust around 2pm this afternoon. All the heavy rain in the past month has made the ground very wet and spongy, so any strong winds are likely to make lots of tree uproot. When we got to the property at 4:30pm and saw the damage I called the local State Emergency Service (SES). The SES volunteers arrived within 15 minutes and will clear off the branches embedded in the roof and cover the gaping holes with a tarpaulin (to keep out any rain).
When we got back home at 5:30pm I called our insurance company to lodge a claim. The assessor should inspect the property tomorrow and let us know if the tenant can stay there while repairs are made, or has to move out, and the extent of the damage. Our insurance also covers loss of rent, but I've no idea what happens if the tennat decides to just give four weeks notice and move our (their 6 month lease expired last month).
I'm also not sure if the insurance will cover the cost of getting the main body of the tree removed, or just the actual house repairs. Best case we'll be out of pocket for the $100 excess. Worst case we'll also have to pay for getting the tree removed, landscaping the damaged rockery, lose some rent while the property is getting repaired, etc. etc. That's why, since no-one was home at the time, I'd have preferred the tree to land square on the house and demolish it completely.
DS1 is on school holiday for the next two weeks. I booked him in to a "bridge building" course which will be run next Monday and Tuesday afternoon at the NSW University by their GERRIC (Gifted Education Research Resource and Information Centre) department. The course only runs for a total of 6 hours, and costs over $100, but could be money well spent if it stimulates DS1 to do well at school. I'm not even sure if DS1 is "gifted" as such - he started independent reading when he was just turned 4 and is doing well in his reading and math as school even though he's one of the youngest in his class. But on the other hand we had an "assessment" done by a phsychologist at GERRIC when he was three (when he'd started reading), but at that age he was very shy and didn't assess as particularly exceptional. I'd get him assessed again (now that he's older and more confident with strangers), but at $500 an assessment it's too much money to waste. Anyhow, it can't hurt to expose him to a group of kids his age that are gifted - it may motivate him to excel. And if nothing else, spending a couple of afternoons designing and building model bridges sounds like fun.
I don't know if was the fact that I lost almost $3,000 trading forex in the last month, or because stock market and real estate gains had boosted my net worth by around $90,000 in the past two months (at least on paper - the recent stock market downturn may change things a bit!), but in the past week I've suddenly decided to go out and spend significant amounts of money on some "nice to have" items that have been on my wish list for several years.
Item #1 - a new TV antenna/mast for $780:
I'd bought a digital TV USB adapter at Aldi for around $100 before I'd bought my new Dell PC. The new PC had enough 'grunt' for the Digital TV adapter to work (it hadn't worked on my old laptop), but our TV signal at home is rather poor (the analgue CRT TV has a lot of 'snow' and ghosting) so the Digital TV adapter could only lock in on signals for channels 7 and 28. The other free-to-air channels (2, 9 and 10) were not being picked up at all. So I arranged for a TV antenna specialist to drop by on Friday and quote for a new antenna, 14' mast and patch panels in our lounge-room and breakfast room. All up a new antenna installation will cost $780. Which is a bit more than I'd hoped, but not too bad if I amortise the cost over ten years (only $1.50 a week). The TV software running on the PC allows me to record HD digital TV shows, so we'll probably get a lot of use out of this setup.
Item #2: A $1,200 water bed mattress:
I had a water bed in my 20s and 30s and it was very comfortable, with no pressure points and constant temperature all year round. When I got married we needed a matress for the Queensize four-poster frame I'd bought (but never setup), and DW was adamant that we get a standard mattress. After 8 years it's now time to replace that matress and we've decided to go with a water bed matress this time. The main reason is that my eczema has been getting worse for the past few years, and a recent visit ($200!) to a specialist confirmed that a water bed would be a good way to minimise exposure to dust mites (which I'm highly allergic to). The tricky bit will be getting the water bed mattress to fit inside the four-poster bed frame. Although the wood slates can be removed so the water bed pedestal and base board will fit inside the frame, the frame is 155x200cm internally, and the water bed matress is 154x204 cm. I'm hoping that the baseboard can just have a few cm lopped off the end and the water matress will quish in to fit OK. We'll see how this works out when the water bed is delivered next weekend...
Hopefully that will be the end of "big ticket items" until I replace the pool fencing in the Spring.
We had a set of photos taken at our local Pixie Photo studio when DS1 was a baby. Although we have plenty of photos taken by family members. the ones taken in a studio have a certain something that comes from good lighting and professional posing. At the time a "package deal" cost around $100 for a set of various photos and sizes.
Now that DS2 is around the same age we again went to Pixie Photo for the same sort of photos for our enlarged family. The special offer this time was just for one basic photo for $10.95. While we were there we had a series of other pictures taken of the two boys. In the end we selected several of these extra photos in various formats, for a total cost of $490 !!! This really is a lot of money for half a dozen photos, but you can't compare the quality of these photos to your regular snapshots. I figure that you have to spend your money on something, and as a "once off" expense it's worth it for something that will become a family keepsake.
The Dell PC I ordered a couple of days ago is "expected" to be delivered next Wednesday. It will have a wireless keyboard and mouse so I can sit in comfort in our lounge room, with the 20" LCD screen sitting next to our TV (which also happens to be a modest 20" CRT TV). I had been thinking of moving the current cable modem box from my computer table in the next room (where it's currently attached to my Toshiba Satellite notebook) into the lounge room, and then running an ethernet cable from the desktop PC to the notebook. However, I've decided to have a go at installing a wireless network, as there are some instructions on how to do this on my ISP's website (Optus), and Dell offers a Belkin wireless router and USB adapter, so they must be compatible with the PC I've ordered.
I was going to check if I could add the router and adapter to my existing order (as the Dell website says that accessories are shipped separately anyhow, and if they're not part of a computer system order they get charged shipping). However, I didn't have my order number with me at work today, so I searched the internet for an alternate supplier (and to check pricing), and found that I could order a package deal of the Belkin router and a USB adapter for less money ($101 plus $11 shipping) from Mitec.
I ordered the Wi-Fi router this afternoon (payment using a Paypal eCheque from my linked ING online bank account), and it should ship in 4-5 days, so will probably arrive around the same time as my Dell PC. I worked as a computer systems administrator several years ago, and networked PCs and macs using thin ethernet cabling, so hopefully setting up the Wi-Fi and getting the cable modem to work with the new PC and being accessible via the USB network adapter on my notebook PC won't be too much of a hassle.
Ideally I can use the desktop PC while relaxing in the lounge (ie. I can keep an eye on my forex trades while watching the cricket or "Lost" on TV), and can also use the notebook at my computer desk for uni assignments, or even while sitting next to the pool or having breakfast in bed.
I got $36.35 in dividends from Alinta today. However, I also spent $200 for DW and DS's dentist visit. Purely by coincidence I was also booked in for dental work today (with a different dentist). I'm getting a crown done for a molar that previously had root canal and a couple of fillings. I still have another appointment to get the crown fitted (today was just the prep work and mouldings), but the dentist charged for both sessions today - $1,450!
I also finally decided to buy myself a new PC today - a base model Dell with some extra RAM, bigger HDD, slightly upmarket graphics card and a 20" "ultra" LCD monitor. Hopefully it will be OK to edit my digital home videos with - although running Vista it could be a struggle with 2GB of RAM. Total cost was $1802.90 - it didn't sound so bad when I worked it out as costing $1.65 a day over three years. I'll mainly use it for maintaining my investment records and doing my university assignments, so the depreciation will be tax deductible, reducing the "out of pocket" cost further. Dell phoned when I got home to confirm the order (and try to sell me a four year extended warranty for an extra $165 - no thanks), and advised that the computer should arrive within 10 business days.
Anyhow, if I manage to quit drinking 4L of diet coke each day as planned, I could afford to buy a computer like this every 9 months
Total net spend for the day $3,416.55. Oh, and we also bought a roast chicken for dinner and did some grocery shopping on the way home - call it a round $3,500.
The bill from the plumber arrived today for clearing out our blocked sewer pipe. I'd initially expected it to cost a couple of hundred dollars, as he'd done the job before and I think it cost around $400 that time, which had included installing a new access pipe to "make the job easier next time". I started to suspect it wouldn't be all that cheap when I initially talked to him via mobile after he first arrived at our house. When I mentioned the access pipe he'd installed last time, he said that this time the blockage was in a different spot connected to the other bathroom. He also asked for the drainage diagram, which is never a good sign for a supposedly simple job.
It turned out that the diagram we had from the house purchase was out of date, and didn't include changes made after the house was built. So after digging around the back of the house looking where he thought the pipe might be, he went away and promised to come back after looking up a copy of the new diagram. When I had a look the next evening after he'd finished, I noticed the neat new cement work where he'd added in a permanent access port to the pipe he installed last time, and also the repair job he'd done to the paver he'd dug up looking for where the pipes might be. When I commented to DW that the cementing was very neat, but I hated to think how much it would all cost, DW replied that "Oh, that shouldn't cost anything as he guessed wrong about where the pipe was" - I didn't say anything, but....
Anyhow, the bill came to $832.15 (!) - $50 service call, $65 plant hire (don't they have their own gear?), $573.50 labour, and $68 materials (some cement and a new garden tap).
The funny thing is that the job sheet shows that the blockage turned out the be immediately upstream of the Inspection Opening that he'd installed last time - which I mentioned to him when he first arrived. But what would I know, I'm not a plumber.
While I was home sick yesterday the plumber finished his second day of working to clear out our blocked sewer pipe. Apparently there is no accurate plumbing diagram for our house available (it was build about 40 years ago, and had some additions done before we bought it four years ago) so he had a few false starts digging around to find the sewer pipe. He said he'd send the bill, so I've no idea how much it will end up costing. I did opt for him just clearing out the blockage (tree roots) and coming back when/if needed again in a few years - the alternative was to reroute part of the existing sewer line outside of our house (for some reason it runs underneath our house), but this would cost around $1,500 and wouldn't guarantee we wouldn't get some more roots blocking a different section of the existing pipework anyhow.
I was back at work today and had an appointment with the dentist at lunchtime to repair a tooth that lost a large chunk out of it last week. The same tooth had root canal done a few years ago (around $1,000), and later on a repair job to fix a chunk of tooth that broke off the back of the tooth a short while later. This time a different part of the same tooth had broken off the front. The session cost $300 - $60 for two x-rays (my other teeth look fine, except for another molar on the other side that also had root canal done a few years back), cleaning, descaling, and fluoride treatment. Plus the actual repair job which "only" cost $90. Unfortunately the dentist recommended getting a crown done for the tooth asap, as it is badly cracked and won't last very much longer left as it is - this means the $90 repair job is only going to be used for a couple of weeks. I think she said the exact same thing two years ago when she made the last repair, so decided that it's time to "bite the bullet" and get the crown done. I've booked in for the two sessions required for the crown - it will cost around $1,400 for one crown! They have a nice, realistic tooth-like appearance, but at that price I almost expect solid gold like the "good old days".
We only have basic private hospital cover, with no dental cover, so this is all "out of pocket". I will get a 30% tax rebate for the amount of total "out of pocket" family medical expenses this tax year for any amounts above $1,200 or thereabouts. I may look into the cost of adding dental cover to our health plan, as the other molar that had root canal a few years ago apparently will also need a crown eventually. Plus DS1 has started getting loosing his baby teeth and has an overbite - so he may need braces or something later on. And DW doesn't have the best teeth in the world either...
I'll have to do a cost-benefit analysis based on the expected annual cost of the dental cover vs. likely dental work. I won't pay for dental insurance just on the off chance of needing some major work, as any emergency work (eg. from a car accident) would be covered by medicare in the public hospital system, and I've no interest in any "cosmetic" dental work that might be covered.
A couple of dividend statements arrived today - $403.23 from Foster's Group and $324.08 from Australian Pipeline Trust. The Foster's dividend is fully franked (ie. carries a tax credit for the 30% company tax that has been paid), so on my tax return I'll declare both the dividend and the franking credit as income, but get a tax credit for the amount of the franking credit ($172.81). This basically means that I'll only have to pay additional personal income tax on this dividend if my marginal tax rate ends up higher than 30% (ie. in the 40% or 45% range). As I usually reduce my taxable income considerably via the tax deductible interest paid on my margin loans, I'll probably not have to pay any additional tax on this dividend. If my marginal tax rate was lower than 30% I'd get a tax refund for the excess franking credit.
The Pipeline Trust dividend was actually a combination of unfranked dividend of $185.76, a capital return of $69.66 which is not taxable (but which reduces the cost basis of the shares when they are eventually sold and capital gain is calculated), and a trust distribution of $69.66 which gets reported under a different tax item from dividends and has different tax treatment - I don't know exactly what, the details will be in the end of financial year taxation statement from the trust. Overall I prefer the simplicity of a straight dividend to trust distributions, even if they have favourable tax treatment!
I filled in an online application for a self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF) account with esuperfund.com. As its nearing the end of the 2007 tax year (30 June 2007), and a SMSF has to report each year to the tax office, eSuperFund has an offer of $0 annual fee (as well as the usual $0 establishment fee) for the 2007 fund paperwork. This is good, as it lets me get the fund established this financial year and have everything in place to transfer most of my existing superannuation account balance into the SMSF asap. I'll probably leave a small balance in my existing super fund with BT Employer Superannuation, just to keep my existing life and TPD insurance in place. I may even leave my employer 9% SGL contributions and salary sacrifice amounts going into the BT account as the 1% admin fee on these small amounts will not be material. I can always transfer additional amounts into the SMSF later on. My wife will probably transfer her entire balance and arrange for future contributions to go into the SMSF as she has a smaller balance and won't be doing any salary sacrifice while working part-time for the next few years (until DS2 starts school).
Finally, I didn't do much spending today - $39.64 for some grocery shopping, and $26.60 for petrol. I normally fill up the car on a Tuesday as that is generally the bottom of the weekly price cycle, but as there is often an early increase in petrol prices immediately before the Easter long weekend, I decided to fill up today instead.
I collected DWs mobile phone today - I'm glad the repair report showed that a short-circuit in the speaker had been found and the speaker replaced. There's nothing worse than dropping in electrical equipment that has an intermittent fault, only to get it returned a few days later with the dreaded "no fault found" message. The warranty doesn't run out 'til next monday, so it didn't cost anything to have it repaired. Hopefully both our phones will last for several years.
The dentist didn't have a vacancy until next Tuesday, so it's lucky that my molar with a large chunk of tooth missing isn't hurting. Upon reflection maybe this shouldn't be a surprise, as this is the tooth that previously had root canal -- so there won't be any live nerve left in that tooth? Dental costs aren't covered by medicare, so, unless you have a comprehensive private health insurance plan (we just have basic hospital cover to avoid the extra medicare levy) it is normally an out of pocket expense. It does count towards our total non-reimbursed medical expenses for the year - anything over the threshold (around $1500 I think) gets a tax rebate (of around 30%). If you can't afford to pay, and don't have private insurance, there is free public dental care available from the State government. But it's got a limited budget, so there are very long waiting lists for anything except emergency dental work.
The bathroom plumbing has been playing up - taking a long time for the bath and toilet to drain sometimes, and making strange "blup, blup" sounds. DW arranged for the plumber to drop by and clear out the waste water pipes with an 'electric eel'. Unfortunately this is a different pipe to the one he cleared out last year, and he couldn't find the access point. The drainage diagram that was attached to the documentation we got when we bought the house doesn't show much detail - and I think it shows the original plans, without some additions that were added to the house later on. The plumber had to leave to locate some more detailed plans - hopefully he'll be back tomorrow and the total bill won't be too high. I have a new flush valve assembly to install in the toilet - I'll have a go at doing that myself, but I draw the line at clearing out blocked sewer lines. I'm quite happy to spend my money for someone else to do THAT job!
While I was collecting the wife's mobile phone at lunchtime I dropped into the Aldi store closest to my workplace. They had a USB high-definition DVB-T received on sale this week for $79. Hopefully I can just plug it in to my laptop and watch TV - I'm not 100% sure it will work as the specs say it requires a 64MB Video card, so it may not work on the laptop. I'm also not sure if we have any reception of terrestial digital TV signals where we live (it's in a bit of a valley). Sigh -- another $79 that would probably have been better spent going into my retirement fund, or one of my kids retirement accounts ;0
The market was up 39 points today, which approximates to about $3,500 profit "on paper". I ignore such ups and downs in my daily net worth figure (although I like to plot the chart) - if I let how my investments were going affect my day-to-day outlook on spending I'd alternate between days of buying big-screen TVs and days of eating leaves and water. I find it relatively easy to stick to my "budget" for spending, and just treat by investment performance as an intellectual curiosity. I find that doing this also helps me to stick to my long-term asset allocation when, for example, the market crashes or is in a prolonged slump.
Yes, I know, that isn't news to anyone. But my annual notice from my health fund arrived today letting me know exactly how much my premium is rising this year. After announcing that they paid a record amount in claims last year (up 8.5%) they got down to the nitty gritty and let me know that my monthly premium for basic family hospital cover is going up to $151.45 per month (including the 30% Federal Government Rebate). This is only an increase of 2.0% from last years $148.40 a month. BUT, there's also a change in how the 'excess bonus feature' works. Instead of getting a $100 cash refund at the end of each year if you haven't made any claims, this is now being replaced by up to two excess free same-day or overnight admissions per year. Although the benefit seems similar, it's actually not much of a benefit to us as we've any made one claim in the past five years. Instead of getting $500 worth of refunds, under the new rules we'd have just saved $100 for one excess payment. Adding in the loss of the $100 refund each year, the actual "out of pocket" increase in premium is 8.1%.
If we didn't have private hospital cover we would have to pay a 1% medicare levy surcharge when our combined taxable income (with 2 dependants) iss above the $101,500 threshold for any year. We would probably have been under the threshold this year as DW spent a large part of the financial year on unpaid maternity leave, but most years our combined income would be over the threshold, so we'd end up paying at least $1000 in extra tax. The net cost of having the private hospital cover is therefore only around $68 a month, so it's probably still worth it in case any of us ever need 'elective' surgery - which is available in the public system, but can have very long waiting lists.
Although there are plenty of figures around to calculate depreciation rates for appliances regarding tax deductions for rental property investments, when it comes to working out how much you actually need to budget for replacement of common household appliances the figures can be harder to work out. CNNmoney.com has published some data by Bank of America Home Equity and conducted by the National Association of Home Builders that gives real world estimates of the life expectancy of a variety of home components. To save you flicking through the 13 pictures on the CNN site, here is a summary of the life expectancy of common household appliances:
Applicance Expected Life
Gas Range 15+ years
Refrigerator 13 years
Dishwasher 9 years
Cabinets 50 years
Masonary 100+ years
Counter tops 20+ years*
Wood decks 20+ years
Electricals 10+ years*
Plumbing 15 to 50 years
Flooring 25 to 100 years*
Roofing 20 to 50 years*
Siding 20 to 50 years*
Windows 15 to 30 years*
* depends on quality/material
If you divide the purchase cost by the life expectancy that should give you a guide as to how much "depreciation" to save up each towards the items eventual replacement. Scaling up the amount each year to allow for inflation would also be a wise move.
I took a day of work last week to have a medical test done - a couple of hours of "day surgery" was involved. The bill for the procedure was around $500 for the specialist, with the medicare "scheduled fee" being $295.40 for this procedure. This would mean that without insurance I would have had to pay around 15% of the scheduled fee plus the difference between the scheduled fee and the actual amount invoiced. ie. around $250 plus an extra amount for the anaesthetist.
As it turned out my basic hospital insurance policy covered the entire amount, so it ended up costing nothing for this procedure (the test result also came back "normal" which was also a *good thing* . And how much does the insurance cost me? Well, the monthly fee charged to my CC is $148.40 (the amount is reduced by a federal government subsidy for private medical insurance) or $1780.80 pa for my family policy. However, the actual "out of pocket" cost is less than this as there is a medicare levy surcharge of an extra 1% of taxable income if an individual's taxable income is over $50K ($100K for a family). This tax year we wouldn't be liable for the surcharge as DW is on maternity leave an will have little taxable income, so our family income will be below the threshold. However, in most years our family income is high enough to be liable for the surcharge if we didn't have basic hospital cover, meaning that we'd be paying an extra $1250 in tax. So, the "real" cost of having the policy is only around $530 pa ($10 a week). Well worthwhile, especially if any of us ever need elective surgery in a private hospital, such as a hip replacement. (The waiting lists for elective surgery in public hospitals are very high to constrain costs, to private hospital insurance can be essential).