It’s Almost ESPP Time

Every Six Months

At the end of January and August of each year, my attention is brought back to the company Employee Stock Purchase Plan.  I’ve gotten my email reminders that the window is open to make any adjustments for the next period.

It also makes me excited because the last period vests on the 31st and shares are purchased on my behalf with the amount that I’ve contributed.  Cool!

What is ESPP?

Here’s the definition from Investopedia for anyone who isn’t familiar with an ESPP:

DEFINITION of ‘Employee Stock Purchase Plan – ESPP’

A company-run program in which participating employees can purchase company shares at a discounted price. Employees contribute to the plan through payroll deductions, which build up between the offering date and the purchase date. At the purchase date, the company uses the accumulated funds to purchase shares in the company on behalf of the participating employees. The amount of the discount depends on the specific plan but can be as much as 15% lower than the market price.
Read more: Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP) Definition

Why I Like It

My company’s plan does use a 15% discount on the purchase price of the stock.  It also selects the purchase price from either the first day of the period or the last day of the period, whichever is lower.

That means that I can sell the shares on the day they are available in my account and make around 15% profit for a six month investment at minimum!  Those returns are really great.  Yes, I will pay short term capital gains on the profit (difference between purchase price and sale price) but I’m still getting better returns than most investment options.  Remember, this is for a six month period.  That makes for a 32.25% annualized return.

Now, if the purchase price from the beginning of the period is used and the current price is higher, returns will also be higher.


Let’s say, for the sake of example, that my company’s stock price at the beginning of the last period was $75 and is currently around $40 (It’s been a tough market for a lot of stocks the past nine months).

So, my purchase price this go around will be $40 minus the 15% discount which gives me $34.  Let’s also assume that I’ve contributed $3400 this period.  I will be purchasing 100 shares at $34.  The next day when me shares are available, the stock is still sitting at $40 and I sell immediately making $600 profit (minus brokerage fees)!

If the situation had been reversed and the period had started at $40 and ended at $75, I would still be buying 100 shares with my $3400 since we select the lowest of the two prices and discount it.  Now, however, I’m selling at $75 for a $4100 profit!!

Potential Downside

Now, one of the drawbacks can occur if you decide to hold your shares.  Let’s say $75 was the purchased price after discount and you held.  Now the stock moves down to $40.  It may or may not ever recover and you have taken a loss on the position.

My personal belief is to sell the shares immediately if the value of the purchased shares is greater than 1% of my overall investment portfolio.  I want to be diversified and not holding a large percentage of company stock.

If the holdings are less than 1% of my portfolio, maybe I would hold for a bit if I believe strongly in the direction of the company.  Who knows, I haven’t gotten there yet.  Besides, I have debt to eliminate!

How I’m Using My ESPP

In the past, I’ve used the gains from the ESPP investment to go toward debt reduction.  Then I take the amount of the original investment and roll it back into my long term investment account to reallocate.

Since I am trying to pay down debt and I haven’t been accruing any interest on credit cards, I’m actually contributing more to my ESPP than I am to my 401k.  I know most finance gurus may argue against this, but it’s a short term approach and I will be increasing my 401k and IRA contribution once the consumer debt and smaller loans are gone.

This time around, I may actually take the amount that I contributed and also apply it to debt reduction.  This would effectively reduce the amount that I contributed to investments in 2015 since I would basically be making a withdrawal to do so, but it might be worth it to see those debt balances disappear.


It took me several years to figure out the best approach for leveraging ESPP.  At my last company, I just held it all until we need to make a downpayment on the house (some of the shares were underwater as I described above).

Now, with the sell immediately plan, I feel that I can take full advantage of this powerful tool.  In fact, I just increased my contribution to 8% which should maximize the amount that I can contribute this year.

Like a good friend once said, ‘never turn down free money’



Where Has the Time Gone?

Almost Two Weeks?!?

Hard to believe that I haven’t made a post in twelve days.  Life sure went into overdrive in a hurry.  The full-time job is back to requiring it’s regular load of hours.  The kids now have an additional evening activity (swim lessons: extra expense but necessary).  We’ve also decided to tackle a little bit of DIY renovation.

Background on the Renovation

Before I get into the meat of this post, I want to set the stage a bit so you understand our current situation.

We’ve currently been living in our home for around six years and most of the furniture either came from our apartment or was hand-me-down.  We have some antiques from family, some craigslist items, and some stuff that came with the house.  The last time we bought new furniture was the dining room set in 2008.

We also have two small children and three dogs (at one point it was four).  Needless to say, the sofas are starting to show the abuse they’ve received.  It’s been mostly OK, but when we came back from holiday visits we found a large rip in the top of the ottoman and a lot of stuffing had been pulled out (Jack Russell’s love to pull stuffing out of things).

It’s time for some replacements.

And That Leads To…

“We should fix up a least one room in the house to look nice”.  Yep, the first thing through my mind was dollar signs.  My wife even said as she laid out her idea that she could tell I was only thinking about how expensive this was going to be.

There are two bits of good news.  First, we had prepared for this a bit by asking family members to contribute to furniture instead of buying Christmas gifts for us.  Second, I’ve laid out the financial projection for the year and I know that I can spare around $1500-$2000 and still make my goals (if everything goes according to plan).  If we’re really good about keeping the monthly budget, there may be more room.

The plan is to put up a plank board ceiling in the living room.  It’s a cathedral ceiling and I estimated around 400 sq ft.  wp-1453215440354.jpgBased on the material she wants to use, that should cost me ~$650.  We’ll also need about $50 in paint.  The second part is to put together some in-wall book shelves (which i’ll probably just hang with French cleats).  I haven’t estimated the cost of materials there, but I think we’re still OK.


We had a slightly serendipitous moment last weekend while having dinner with friends.  I almost didn’t go along but was glad that I did.  One of our friends just moved in with another and had a load of stuff in a storage unit.  He needed help moving the bunk beds to their condo.  He also mentioned that he had an almost new leather sectional with recliners that he wanted gone.  Since we were in the market, I said I’d take a look.

wp-1452565526294.jpgThe couch wasn’t a good fit for the living room, but we also had a dingy old couch downstairs in the den and this one was a perfect replacement.  I asked how much he wanted for it and he gave it to us in exchange for the use of the truck and not having to pay for the storage unit anymore.  Basically, it was free!

Getting Messy

I was lucky enough to have MLK day as a holiday and made use of the three day weekend by getting started on the DIY.  We went and picked up the planks for the ceiling and paint on Saturday.  Total cost of materials so far is $660.

We spent part of Saturday and Sunday painting the planks.  We did 180 total one at a time.  Once we got a rhythm going it really wasn’t too bad.  I think we spent around five hours on painting.

wp-1453215496068.jpgYesterday I took advantage of the project and ran some speaker wire along the ceiling in preparation for some wall-mount room speakers.  I know there are a lot of wireless options out there, but I still prefer a wired speaker to the receiving device.  Call me old school.

I also managed to get a few planks up so that we could make sure we liked the color and that the hanging technique was going to work out.  We’re going right over the stomp ceiling with the planks without scraping any of the drywall clumps off.  I’m using construction adhesive on the back of the planks and a couple of brads from a finishing nailer.

Off to Work

It’s time to go focus on the day job.  Hopefully, I can get back in a routine and post regularly.  I’ve got to keep you guys updated on this project.  We’ve got another lead on a friend that is downsizing and maybe we can score a couch for the living room on the cheap.



Considering a Balance Transfer

Food for Thought

As I mentioned previously in my December report, I have a balance on credit card with a 0% interest introductory offer that expires on Jan. 22.  A bit of background is here in my flashback post to some items that lead up to the blog.  I thought this would be a good time to write a post about one’s options in such a situation.

Option 1 – Transfer to another 0% intro card offer

This would be my preferred option if I can find one with 0% intro and a $0 transfer fee.  According to Nerd Wallet, it looks like the only option is a Chase Slate, which I already have since the 2014 transfers.  Since I’m already an account holder I would pay a 3% transfer fee which lines up with all of the other offers.  That would cost me $215.40 in transfer fees.

The only option we may have would be for my wife to apply for the Chase Slate and put the card in her name only.  Her score is also in good shape and she hasn’t applied for anything since March of last year.  Since we’ve been in aggressive pay-down mode, we also have a low credit utilization.

 Option 2 – Transfer to personal loan

This is an option that I haven’t explored fully and honestly it’s because I don’t believe we’ll go this route.  For due diligence, it’s here since it is technically a viable option.

I’ve received several of the pre-qualified mail offers from local banks and most appear to be offering unsecured personal loans at around 5.99%.  There’s probably a loan application fee associate with this and I would end up paying around $40 a month in interest.

There are also several sites such as Lending Club and SoFi where I’m sure we could get a competitive offer over the banks.  However, I would still be paying interest on the balance each month.

Option 3 – Do Nothing!

As crazy as it may sounds, I may do nothing.  The reason that I’m thinking along these lines is due to a couple of extra income items coming up in Feb.

First up is ESPP purchase on January 31.  Based on the spreadsheet that I use to track it, I’m estimating around $1200 return on the six month investment.  My current plan for ESPP is to use the gains to pay down debt and then to roll the base investment amount back into my investment account.  The base principal was counted in last year’s total invested cash, so I really don’t want to cut into money that has already been counted as invested.

Good thing the second event is our first half bonus.  This should infuse an additional $9000 into our cash flow.  Normally I don’t like to count on money that hasn’t hit yet since this value could be adjust based on company year-end results.  I’m fairly confident we’ll still get enough to clear the entire balance.

Are There More?

I’m sure there are options here that I haven’t considered.  I am by no means an expert when it comes to this type of thing, but I’m learning.  I will say that no matter what happens, I can’t wait to get rid of this balance.

What other ideas would you consider?


Sunday Fun Day – Smithgall Woods


Last Hurrah of the Holidays

It seems like the holidays had come and gone in a blur.  Hard to believe I’ve been away from work for almost two weeks.  We had plenty to keep us busy with family visits, dinners with friends, and hosting a small New Year’s Eve with neighbors.

The one thing we were missing was a little outdoors time.  We’ve had a ton of rain around here for the past couple of weeks and have been pretty much indoors the whole time.  Luckily, the weather cooperated and cleared up for the last day of the break.

With the Christmas decorations packed away with scary efficiency, we set our sights on a hike and looked for a destination.

Where to?

When we look for a day trip destination, there are two resources that we like to use for our area.  I’ll paste links for those here:

50 Hikes in the North Georgia Mountains

This is a great resource for those looking to get away from the city and head up into the mountains.  The trail descriptions are great and the difficulty assessment is very handy for us since we have younger children.

[amazon asin=1581571453&template=iframe image2]

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Atlanta

Another great resource that we use when we’re looking for something a little close.  There are a lot of local parks and great trails listed.  There is an entire series of these written detailing a lot of areas in the US.

[amazon asin=0897327098&template=iframe image2]

Outward Bound

We settled on entry number 32 in the 50 Hikes in the North Georgia Mountains book.  It’s listed as the “Martin’s Mine Meander at Smithgall Woods”, but there are several other loop trails off of the main trail.


The entrance listed in the guidebook (and in Google Maps) is no longer the main entrance to the park.  We had to double back and follow the state park signs on the highway to get there.  It looks like they closed to old entrance and converted the road into the main trail through the property.

Since we had the children with us and also had to get back home in time for dinner with another friend, we opted to only hike the main trail as far as the covered bridge.  The first hill from the visitor center was a little strenuous, but the rest of the hike was pleasant.

We arrived at the covered bridge with mostly no complaints and the children enjoyed playing down on the bank of the trout stream for a bit.  Our daughter looked for rocks and found a couple of pieces of micah.  The boy decided to dig a hole.


All in all, it was a really good day for a hike.  It was a little cool at first, but as we got moving it felt good.  It was nice to be out of the city and back into nature if only for a couple of hours.  The kids were champs and we completed 3.09 miles round trip.  Total hike time was 1 hour 47 minutes.

To top it all off, we got to come home to the pulled pork that I had smoked the day before (maybe a future post on that).  It was delicious!


I’ll leave you guys with about 30 seconds of river Zen.




I’ve used a couple of affiliate links in this post because these are products that I really enjoy and want to share.  The only time you’ll see me use affiliate links is when I have something to share that I’ve used and have first-hand experience.

December 2015 Progress

 Happy New Year!


Welcome to 2016.  December ended pretty much as we expected.  Work was luckily quiet for the last week and I was able to take a couple of weeks out of the office for the holiday.  We took it easy at home for the most part but did travel for a few days to visit family and friends.

It almost didn’t feel like the Christmas season with all of the warm weather and crazy amounts of rain that we had.  Getting into a festive mood was a little difficult but we managed to push through it and made some good memories for the kids.  Hopefully, we’ll see some cold soon… at least for a little while.

Current Goal Status:
  • Reduce overall outstanding debt (including mortgage) by 10%.
    1. At the end of December, overall debt reduction is 10.6%.  We met the goal for the year!
  • Make contributions to investments (taxable and retirement) of 10% of salary.
    1. Combined saving in investment accounts totaled 10.37%.  We met our goal for the year!
  • Eliminate any monthly interest payments due to credit cards.
    1. December returned us to a no interest month.  That finished the year with 8 of 12 months having no interest accumulation.
    2. The $2200 remaining on the credit card was eliminated by the proceeds from the RSU sale.
    3. Our last remaining credit card balance of $7180 is on a 0% interest promotional offer card that runs out on January 22.  I’ll need to figure out how I’m handling that.  There will be a follow-up post on this topic.

Total expenses for December climbed to $8763 which was right in the middle for the year.  Net cash flow after paying off the credit card balance was still pretty good at ~$800.

I’ve already posted my Goals for 2016 which I may update to include a couple more personal goals for the year.  We’re also talking about making some repairs/changes to the house which could affect that.  More on that later.

Hear’s hoping that you have health, wealth, and happiness in 2016.