2016 Year In Review

Every year it is fun to look back and see the bird’s eye view of the past financial year.  Mint.com makes that especially easy to do.

Our spending was heavily weighted by the down payment for an apartment building.

Spending by Category

Taxes normally dominates our spending followed closely by Kids (aka childcare).  This year Travel made a big splash because we took two international trips.  You can read about those trips here and here.

Our asset allocation has also shifted quite a bit over the past year.  Our primary residence and apartment building now make up a significant portion of our assets.

Assets by Account Type

We still have the majority of our assets invested in the stock market under tax advantaged accounts (401ks, IRAs, 529s).  We also have maintained a healthy liquid cushion should life throw us any curve balls.

The apartment acquisition also put us back into the debt game.

Debt By Type

Credit cards balances are still being paid in full every month, but the ‘Loan’ is the mortgage for the apartment building.  At 3.5% for 30 years, I would consider it ‘good’ debt.  We currently have no plans to make any accelerated payments.

Overall net worth (assets – liabilities) trended upward for 2016.

net worth (primary residence not included)

The upwards trend is a good sign that we are living below our means.

In some sillier number comparisons,

we used more water this year than in 2015.  There are likely two reasons for this:  1. Frugal Boy is using more water than when he was a baby and 2. I replaced a super low flow shower head with a medium flow head.

~ 600 cubic feet more water used

Electric usage is also up this year.  There are more gadgets and gizmos in our house.  I also ran power tools quite a bit this Fall while working on the basement remodel.

electric usage

Natural gas usage has remained inline with previous years.  Insulation efforts have not yielded any major changes in efficiency.

natural gas usage

We used approximately 1.3 TB of internet bandwidth this year.

That is a lot of Netflix!

Odds and Ends for December

The weather has been frightfully cold.  I know because I spent 20 minutes changing a flat tire this morning in a parking lot.  Before you travel for Christmas or New Years, double check that your spare tire is in good shape, a jack, and tire iron are included and in working order.  It is also a good idea to have a blanket in the car.

On a different topic, Shae and I enjoyed watching the movie The Company Men, starring Ben Affleck and Tommy Lee Jones.  The movie follows several white collar workers who face downsizing during the 2008 financial crisis.  It offers a great cautionary tale of living above one’s means.

Finally, after three and a half years, we have furnished all three bedrooms in our house with mattress sets and frames.  The last acquisition was a $85 Craigslist bed frame made by the now defunct Cochrane furniture company.

Upgrading a 2010 Macbook’s RAM and Hard drive

You may have heard of Moore’s law, in simple terms it was an observation made 50 years ago that computers would become twice as fast every two years.  For the most part, this ‘law’ held true for the past fifty years thanks to scientific and manufacturing advances in semiconductor technology.  Companies such as IBM and Intel were able to cram more transistors onto a silicon wafer by shrinking down the transistor size.

Over the past few years, Moore’s Law has been proclaimed dead or failed a dozen times by pundits.  The real laws of physics seem to have caught up with transistors and they simply cannot be shrunk down any further before the electrons traveling inside start to do funny things, like teleporting.  The result is a stagnation in computer CPU performance.

For example, consider the 2010 Macbook and its 2016 descendent.  According to benchmark tests, the 2010 laptop scores 1536.  By Moore’s Law, every two years, that score should double.  You’d expect the 2016 to score 12,288, but it actually only scores 3221.  So a six year difference only amounts to a doubling in CPU performance.

So why would you bother buying a brand new laptop if it is not leaps and bounds faster than a six year old machine?  Well, typically because other components are leaps and bounds better.  The two biggest areas are in Random Access Memory, RAM, and storage space, i.e. hard drives.  Usually, both of these items are user upgradeable, so you can take that six year old machine and make it very competitive with a brand new machine.

The 2010 Macbook comes with 2 GB (gigabytes) of RAM, and a 250 GB spinning disk hard drive.  For $100, you can upgrade that to 8 GB of RAM and a 250 GB solid state hard drive (SSD).  A solid state hard drive is faster, lighter, and more robust than the traditional spinning platter hard drives of old.  The computer will boot up faster, apps will start quicker, and the whole feel of the computer will be ‘snappier’.

Doing these upgrades on a 2010 Macbook is extremely simple.  Use a philips screwdriver to undo the bottom cover screws.


You can see the blue RAM chips in the right side of the picture.  The silver hard drive is in the bottom right corner.

The two RAM chips will pop right out from the motherboard.  The hard drive has a couple additional screws holding it in place.  Installation is the reverse.


After replacing RAM, it is generally a good idea to run a test.  MemTest86 is a free piece of software that will do an exhaustive battery of tests.  The setup instructions are a little technical, but once you have made up the flash drive or CD, the test itself is incredibly easy to run.


TADA!  You now have a cheap laptop that is almost as good as a brand new expensive one.  What a great deal for an ‘obsolete‘ machine.