2million - My Journey to Financial Freedom

A Personal Finance Blog      ANNOUNCEMENT:2million has moved to www.2millionblog.com.     

Monday, July 24, 2006

Get Multiple $50 Sharebuilder Bonuses

I have been able to confirm that you can take advantage of multiple Sharebuilder promotion codes for the same person for more free investments.

I established a Sharebuilder account last year with a free $50 bonus and have been happy with it to date. I also consolidated my holdings from my Etrade account to my Sharebuilder account because I was so satisfied with the account.

Recently I decided to see if I could take advantage of other Sharebuilder promotion codes to earn free bonuses. After all, Sharebuilder currently has no account fees or maintenance fees in its Basic Plan, so you can just fund the account with $50, invest it and earn a $50 bonus, then take that money back out of your account so you net a free $50 investment. If you buy the right investment, you could set it up and forget about it for 20yrs.

I have been able to sign up for a total of 3 accounts for different $50 bonuses for each account.

Here step by step instructions:
Step #1: Go to Sharebuilder and click on the "Get Started Today button".
Step #2: Select your account type (I have only selected Individual Account so far) and then click "Get Started".
Step #3: Select "No I don't have an account" and fill out the owner information and username/password information. Click "Next".
Step #4: Fill out the rest of the form. Click "Next" to fill out second form. Under Promotion Code enter one of the promotion codes listed below.
Step #5: Select "Sharebuilder Basic Account" (Don't select Standard or Advantage as those programs have monthly fees).
Step #6: Deposit $50 from your checking account, Fund your account with an Electronic funds deposit from savings or checking account .
Step #7: Enroll in a one-time purchase plan for $50 is whatever security you want. If you don't have any investment ideas, consider a Index ETF such as Vanguard's Total Stock Market ETF (VTI).
Step #8: Wait, bonus money is usually deposited in 3-6 weeks.

Current Sharebuilder Promotion Codes that I am aware of:
Promotion CodeAmount

Friday, July 21, 2006

Opportunity Cost on Discretionary Expenses

Here is a great post from Jeff at pfadvice that to me really gets at the heart of your opportunity cost when you buy something.

I have gotten in the habit of everytime I make a discretionary expense I ask myself if its worth it. I always think this $50 that I am about to spend could buy a couple shares of a company and pay me a dividend of 4% or so (with opportunity for more) for the rest of my life. That dividend is all about freedom - with enough money invested I could someday buy myself out of the rat race.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Latest Investments in My Portfolio

I just completed a couple investment purchases. Some stocks are looking very attractive to me and I wish I had additional cash on hand ready to make purchases. Here is what I have recently added to my portfolio:



Cost Basis*






IBM (in 401k)












*Note: I have included transaction fees in my cost basis

Monday, July 17, 2006

Airfare Shopping Tips

While I have traveled a fair amount for my employer, I will now be flying home to NC on my own dime on a regular basis.

This calls for a different routine to purchase flights as I want to keep the total trip cost as low as possible and want to make sure I am getting the best deal possible. I have already purchased a couple of tickets so far and have learned a great deal so far.

  • SideStep is now the 1st place I go to get a baseline cost for a trip. Unfortunately you won't be certain you are getting the best price unless you check out every site possible, but SideStep gives you the biggest bang for your time and scours most of the travel sites I would go to anyway.
  • Once I find a flight that is a possibility I always go to the carriers web sites (such as AA, Delta, Southwest, etc) to see if I can get the same flight for cheaper. 3rd party sites tend to reveal the better flight prices compared to the carrier web sites, but the 3rd party sites tend to have booking fees. If you find a flight, go to the airline's web site you can usually get the same flight for the same price without the booking fees.
  • SeatGuru is a must have site to help you pick out the right seat on your flight. I highly recommend checking it out while you book your flight to make sure you are not stuck in a bad seat.
  • FareCompare helps you get a baseline price for a seat of a flight over time and sometimes gives you insight if fares are going up or down (by looking at the price charts)
  • FareCast - A beta site that is of no use to me yet because it only looks at flights from Boston, MA or Seattle, WA. However it looks like it has great potential - they will look at the data available and suggest to you where you should buy your ticket now or wait because the ticket price is trending down or up. Hopefully they will be expanding to other cities soon.

Anyone have other suggestions to add?

Friday, July 14, 2006

My House Notebook

A lesson learned from my 1st house conversion to a rental property is to get organized now as I buy new house. I have realized I need to keep everything that affects the cost basis of the property in case I decide to sell it or convert it to a rental property.

I have put together a 3-ring binder for this property that will track all the expenses that could potentially affect the cost basis.

So far I have included:
-house contract (I don't think I need this, but seemed like a good place to put it)
-invoice from the home inspection
-Invoice from the pest inspection
-HVAC inspection invoice
-HUD statement
-survey (I found out this can be useful to measure size of landscaping such as driveways, fences, etc)

Anything that I do to the house that may adjust the cost basis will also be added:
These include capital improvements such as:
-bathroom/kitchen remodels
-new appliances,
-new roof
-new windows
-new HVAC

Basically anything that MAY affect the basis (if I don't know I will add it just in case) will go into this notebook. Then when it comes time to convert or sell the property I have everything together in one spot to make it a less painful process.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

$150 in Gift Cards and $26.5K Balance Transfer for One Year

Last month I realized that the 2 0% Balance Transfers that I was taking advantage of to earn interest in savings accounts were expiring and needed to be paid back in full. However, I was in the middle of purchasing my next property and didn't want to risk problems with obtaining financing by signing up for any new balance transfers until after the deal was complete.

As soon as I closed on my new property I started the process of signing up for a new balance transfer. I had been stock piling credit card mailings to review to see if I could find a good offer - there were plenty to choose from. However, one caught my eye that seemed very lucrative.

I discovered that my existing Citi Diamond Rewards Credit Card (from a previous balance transfer) offered a 5,000 point bonus (5,000pts = $50 gift card) to refer a friend to sign up for the card. The offer was include on the last page of the statement with my referral code.

The Citi Diamond Rewards Credit Card offered 10,000 points with your 1st purchase on the card and a 0% Balance Transfer for 12 months with no balance transfer fees.

So I began to think that I could try and refer myself to take advantage of all the potential bonuses. I used the referral code on my credit card statement to refer my self to the card. I then filled out the credit card application and sat around and waited for several days.

The new credit card showed up with a $10,000 credit limit. Not bad. I immediately activated the card and went to the store and made a small purchase with it. I then added the card account to my online Citi account so I could see the card activity and make payments online.

About 3 days later the transaction showed up on my account and I immediately made a payment to my card to pay off the amount I charged (yes, even without waiting for the bill). I hope this will qualify me for the 10,000 bonus points (10,000pts = $100 gift card) with my 1st purchase.

2 days later my payment cleared. I called up the Citi customer service and requested they move $16,500 of the credit limit from my old card to my new card which put the new credit limit at $26,500.

I then went back online to my Citi account and requested a balance transfer check for $26,500. The check showed up about 1 week later.

Things are looking good, I am still waiting for all the points to show up so I can redeem them for the gift cards. As long as all the points show up this will be my most profitable 0% Balance Transfer deal yet!

Monday, July 10, 2006

June 2006 Net Worth Update (+$433)

Here's my net worth update for June as of 6/30/2006. I am disappointed that I was only able to eke out a sub $500 increase. Declines in IBM stock price (ESPP) and the transaction costs associating with the closing of my new property were largely responsible for the below average monthly net worth increase. However, my net worth change was still positive so I can't complain too much.






Cash & Savings

$ 32,290.90

$ 32,217.00

$ (73.90)


Taxable Brokerage Accts

$ 41,848.04

$ 40,958.00

$ (890.04)


Roth IRA

$ 24,374.99

$ 24,629.00

$ 254.01



$ 82,136.49

$ 83,304.00

$ 1,167.51


Stock Option

$ -

$ -

$ -



$ 35,311.38

$ 32,961.00

$ (2,350.38)


House #1 - Rental

$ 160,000.00

$ 160,000.00

$ -


House #2 - Primary

$ -

$ 128,225.00

$ 128,225.00


Receivable (Payable)

$ -

$ -

$ -


Other Assets

$ -

$ -

$ -


Total Assets

$ 375,961.80

$ 502,294.00

$ 126,332.20





$ -


Credit Card Balances

$ (2,549.06)

$ (28,297.88)

$ (25,748.82)


House #1 Mortgages

$ (123,727.20)

$ (119,977.20)

$ 3,750.00


House #2 Mortgages

$ -

$ (104,000.00)

$ (104,000.00)


Rental Deposits

$ (1,000.00)

$ (900.00)

$ 100.00


Additional Tax Liability

$ -

$ -

$ -


Other Liabilities

$ -

$ -

$ -


Total Liabilities

$ (127,276.26)

$ (253,175.08)

$ (125,898.82)


Net Worth

$ 248,685.54

$ 249,118.92

$ 433.38


Highlights for June
-All credit card debt (except current month's purchases) is in the form of 0% APR balance transfers earning interest in my savings accounts.
-I just finished completing a new balance transfer and will be posting the details shortly.
-I finally completed the purchase of my 2nd property which resulted in significant closing cost expenses during the month of June.
-I am in the process of going to NY for a temporary assignment and recognized some assignment expenses this month (such as plane tickets).
-I finalized my temporary living arrangement while in NY and determined I will spend a net $500 /month.

Additional Stock Investments for June (Outside of 401k & ESPP):
$200 in Roth IRA
$130 in Pfizer DRIP
$500 in Medtronic DRIP

Note: I have introduced a new format for my net worth statements this month. I hope the new format will provide improved transparency into both my assets and liabilities. Let me know what you think.