Sunday, December 30, 2007

January Budget & December Net Worth +$6,097

December Net Worth:

It didn't feel like it at times with some frivolous spending this past month, but financially it was a great month. We were able to take care of the Discover card balance and still come out of the month with cash in the bank. I added deposits we have with 2 of the utilities since they are pretty large. February will be the next time we'll have our net worth go up as much.

January Budget:

This one was hard to do a bit on the income side, since it was a moving target. I've also decided to count the bank carry-over from the previous month into the budget since we are planning on building a reserve in the housing bank account.


Bank Account $470
Rent Income $1300
Day Job $2916
Computer Repair Job $150
Programming Job $350
Mystery Shopping $125

Total Inflow: $5,241


Mortgage 1127
Natural Gas 77
Electricity 89
House Phone 30
Water 45
Car Gas 240
Groceries 160
Cell Phone 50
Life Ins 95
Mrs. Fun $ 30
Mr. Fun $ 30
Toiletries 30
Dining Out 60
Babysitting 10
Scheduled Debts 400
Bible Study Books 15
Housing Acct. 575
Car Repair 400
Entertainment Books 30
Debt Acct. 1748

The dining out doubled since we have been doing a fair amount of restaurant mystery shopping the past month and we're trying to schedule one for this week coming up as well. The scheduled debts are $300 to Home Depot (settling in February) and $100 to Capital One. My wife has a bible study starting up soon, so the money is for her books.

The Housing Account money will be the carry-over into January. The plan is that 2 of our roommates pay near the beginning of the month consistently, so we take their checks and the carry-over to cover the mortgage at the beginning of the month and most of the utilities. The other 2 roommates then pay out on a weekly basis, which we'll put most of it in the bank account for carry-over to the following month.

The $400 car repair is for both of our cars to have service on. The entertainment books are a gift for a high-school friend of mine as well as one for us (we gave ours as a gift to one of the roommates that was wooing over ours). The rest goes into our debt snowball savings account to settle with Home Depot in February with.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Additional Jobs

Well, the past couple of months my on-call computer job has been slow. I'll be getting a $30 deposit on Friday, second one in the past 6 weeks. ($30, $120, $30) This has helped me push myself to start changing my gears towards what I'm wanting to do, which is programming from home. I'm going at it a couple of ways:

- Increase certification. I've got a fair amount of programming experience, but I know having the extra sheets of paper showing I know my stuff will help. I've got 2 exams I am studying for right now.

- Small projects. I've looked at some of the rent a coder type sites, with too much competition for the work. I ended up finding one this past week on Craigslist that I will be meeting with this morning to review their project and most likely start helping them here and there.

The biggest thing I've learned about work through the past 2 years of chaos and change is this: Jobs are like investments, you don't want all your income from one source. It's just like you wouldn't trust your entire nest egg on one penny stock.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Transmission Leak

This week has been a bit busy and I haven't posted. My car on Wednesday lost so much transmission fluid that I was unable to change gears. I suspect it's a simple repair due to when I put in some more fluid, I was able to drive just fine home. We have been blessed to have a second car to use, so we have not needed to make a rash decision on the repair. Here's how our logic has gone regarding the repair:

1. Bring to our normal repair shop - OK idea, but are they the best people for the job?

2. Local transmission shop - did some research and found one that has been in business 50+ years right down the street with one of the original owners still working there. If the job was a big one that someone else can't take care of, I'm going there.

3. Roommate - He works at an oil change place and thinks if it is something basic, he might be able to repair it. He's checking with his boss and will let me know if he can bring it into there to look at real quick.

Hopefully this won't take much to repair, the car we bought for $400 8 months ago.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

2008 Goals

I am not one into making new-years resolutions, but here are my goals for the year and when I plan on reaching most of them:

Specific Times:
Transfer to pre-paid cell phone plan by 1/20
Settle Home Depot CC for $3.1K by 2/20
Settle Menards CC for $2K by 3/20
Settle Capital One CC for $4K by 5/20
Increase our "Fun Money" to $100/each/month by 6/1 (and include dining out, vacation, & Christmas in there)
Professionally remove trees in yard by 6/20
Settle misc debts for $3K by 9/1
Reinstate tithing by 9/1
Chimney lined and fireplace installed by 9/14 (our wedding anniversary)
$3K Emergency Fund by 12/31 ($1K/month from Oct, Nov, & Dec)

Not specific time:
Go on a missions trip for 1 week during the year
Take 3 Microsoft certification exams and pass
Increase day job salary by 10%
Triple the size of our garden
Move daughter into her own room and lose 1 renter (she is in our room right now)
Go out on a date with my wife every month

None of them seem unrealistic to me. The financial goals would be messed up if I was out of work for a long period of time, but based on our year-end work party, things are looking good at my work.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Checking Out Second Fridge

With so many people in the house, it was just a matter of time before we'd need a second fridge. The couple with a newborn have been on food stamps recently and so they are getting more food, causing our fridge and freezer to be stuffed to the brim. My wife is going to hopefully go check out a fridge today I found on Craigslist, just a few months old with the plastic still on it for $450. I couldn't get the exact model details from the person, but based on the description and my research it looks like it goes for $800 online.

If this one doesn't pan out, I'll keep an eye out. I'm not willing to spend more than about 60% retail for the fridge. Any more than that and I'm just better off getting one from the store. At the same time, I don't want to get an older one that will take more energy to run and cost us more in the long-run.

Overall, it's going to be a budget buster when we get it, but we'll make it work.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How I've Spent $125 Gift So Far

A few weeks ago I posted about receiving a birthday/anniversary gift from my in-laws for $250. My wife and I couldn't decide on something together to get, so we decided to split it. Here's what I've spent so far:

$20 Vintage RISK game with the wooden pieces
$6 UNO Wild Tiles - I used to play this as a kid and loved it, brought to a Christmas party that my small group at church had and we had a lot of fun
$10 Finance - Old board game similar to Monopoly.
$21 - MCTS 70-536 book to study for the exam, I'm wanting to get certified more

That leaves me with $68. The reason I'm doing the math is to keep myself accountable, since I can easily just feel like I have all the money in the world and spend beyond the $125 without even thinking about it. The other reason is that I just got a $100 American Express gift card from work and now almost back to the same dilemma. The choices have changed a bit:

- Wood Stove: This will get us ready for the installation in the summer. I'd hold off the purchase until the sales in February. I'd be looking in the $150-$250 range.

- KitchenAid Mixer: My wife has for the longest time wanted one of those mixers on a stand. We have a hand mixer, but it has limitations (which we hit a bit of this weekend when trying to make dinner rolls). It runs for $150.

- Certification exams: I'm planning on taking at least 3 exams this coming year to get myself certified, I don't know if this should be taken from my fun money or if we need to setup an education fund. Items like this will help my career and future income. Each test will run about $125 each. I've got all the study materials I need.

I'm leaning towards the exams as choice #1, mixer as #2, and wood stove as #3. What do you think?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Living At The Poverty Line

I am aiming toward the poverty line, not away from it.

I had never thought one of my financial goals in this way, but something clicked recently. If you consider our net expenses after our roommates pay us, we're running around $700/month of basic living expenses. The poverty guideline for our size of family is $1,430/month. Our finances changed this way out of necessity (we were below the poverty line for part of the year, including roommate income) as well as our goals to get out of debt. Our basic living expenses can't go much further down, so our basic goal now is to keep an eye on the non-required expenses and boost up that income as much as we can.

If my only goal was to work minimally, I'd just have to find enough work to bring home $700/month. My goals right now are not just that, but getting out of debt, so I am focusing on the short term of increasing income in order to win long term.

Grandmother & Grandson

I had my eye exam last night and I got talking to the associate about my unique housing situation (6 roommates, 5 adults and 1 infant). She told me a bit of her situation and it doesn't sound good:

- Recently bought a 3 bedroom house, new construction
- Only her and her grandson live there
- Was praying about the housing situation just that day and considering getting renters.
- Concerned that she might foreclose on the house
- Just came back from vacation.
- Doesn't buy her grandson expensive toys.

I talked about 20 minutes about my situation, left her my number w/ my wife's name on it and the name of our church. If she doesn't change her ways soon, I wouldn't be surprised that she loses the house. She is in the same boat I was in, spending too much on the big items and little on the little items. I prayed for her this morning and she'll be on my thoughts for a while.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Misc Saving & Spending This Week

We'll, our daughter is now almost 7 months old and we're getting ready for the next size up in diapers. That means at our house hunting around for material and my wife sewing for a few days. We went to Walmart recently and the one near us is moving down the road and turning into a Super-Walmart, so they had their fabric on sale big time. We picked up a lot of the liner material there for $1/yard.

This Friday we'll be going out to dinner at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant and getting paid $25 for our expenses there. We enjoyed it a lot when we did it in August and the report for the mystery shopping wasn't too long.

This Saturday we'll be going out to dinner for a work party at a decent Italian restaurant. We had a church Christmas party to go to at the same time, but I'm wanting to meet some of my co-workers that I never see (it's from my night job).

As mentioned before, I'll be doing an eye exam tomorrow as well paid for.

My wife applied recently for the $100 from Bank of America for opening an account with $100. They said it would take a couple of business days to approve the account, we had settled all the past problems with her bank accounts so it should be approved.

We decided to split the $250 we received from my wife's parents and each spend the way we want to. I've decided to grow our board game collection a bit, still leaving me with about $90 to decide what to do with.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Free Vision Test This Week For Me

This year my wife and I have gotten into mystery shopping big time. Last month both of us got oil changes, which we'll be getting paid for at the end of this month. This week I'm going for an eye exam, where they'll pay me for the exam as well as $10 extra. I have been delaying on getting glasses for myself due to the costs of an exam and glasses would have cost me in the past around $150. My vision is not so bad that I can't operate without them (been 2 years since my last pair broke), but I get awful headaches sometimes and have a hard time reading street signs.

Once I get the exam with the prescription, I'll order off of Zenni Optical a pair of glasses for around $18 including shipping. In the end, my total costs will be $8. I love it!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Reviewed My Credit Report

It has been 6 months since I've checked out my credit report, so I decided to pull my Equifax report. Found 4 errors on it, which were:

- My name misspelled, they have the correct spelling listed as my previous name.
- 1 store credit card still open, closed 4 years ago
- Another store credit card still open, closed 4 years ago
- One creditor I paid in full in July it is showing that it had been charged off, but not settled.

Overall, not too bad for 39 page report. When my wife wakes up, I'll see about pulling hers as well to make sure nothing horrible is on it.

What got me wanting to do it this morning was some friends of ours from church had their identity stolen. It was not to the point of charging credit cards, but someone used their name/address/phone # to sign up for coupon programs online that charge to your house phone bill. They suspect it was due to their resume being put up on recently.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Entertainment Books $10 Off w/ Free Shipping

The Entertainment Books are out at great prices again this year, my local area one is $15 with free shipping after the $10 discount. We go out to eat 1-2 a month, so it will easily make up the difference. Some of the coupons I can get from other sources (eg: house phone book, incoming mail, on-line searching), but they end up being about the same as in the book. It saves me time as well, so that I don't have to hunt for a coupon when I have it on hand.

Next year I'll include a tally on the right of how much I saved from the Entertainment Book. It'll be interesting to see how that goes.

Downside: Purchasing them online now will probably mean you won't get yours until after Christmas unless you pay for shipping. I'm not giving it as a gift, so that's not a problem for me.

Disclosure: I do get a commission if you purchase after clicking the link above. I bought a book myself today.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Best Time To Buy Used Toys - 2 Weeks Ago

As we get closer to Christmas, one thing I'm noticing is that the items I was searching for on eBay prior to Thanksgiving have gone up considerably. I suspect that now we're past Thanksgiving, people are realizing they need to do some Christmas shopping so that they can receive it by Christmas. The demand is probably outstripping the supply. It'll be interesting to me to see how it is in January when I'll do some more toy shopping. I suspect the supply will be outstripping demand, with everyone trying to find a way to pay for the CC bills they put Christmas on (or gifts they got they didn't want).

In the past I would always buy my Christmas present in December, since I wouldn't have budgeted. This year I spent $60 including shipping last month and got my wife 7 presents. All but 1 were off her wish list.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cheap Fun Last Night & Other Updates

My on-call job has been really slow this past month (I'm considering at the end of December if it continues to find something with more steady work, total pay is landing at $80 vs average $300). I was home, so we ended up watching a movie in the living room with two of our roommates and I made peanut butter cookies for everyone. One let us know we're stuck with him another month, which is fine by us.

We're also having another roommate joining us today, his name is Trent and he was born on 11/26/07. One of our roommates has been expecting a baby and it finally came! That brings the total people in the house up to 9 (7 adults, 2 infants). Some days it feels like we have that many around, other days it's like we're alone in this house.

Friday, November 23, 2007


Part of my fun money this month went to getting a new video card for our computer, which has caused me to re-evaluate the MMORPG question. There are many games out there that are online games that you play with others, but the vast majority of them charge you a monthly fee of around $15/month. My old-self would say that's not too much, but my new-self looks at that as 1/2 my fun money and $180/year. That's not including any other future upgrades to video cards to improve display. For that much money I could buy one of the following:
  • 15 video games for our GameCube at $12/each, or
  • A PlayStation 2 and several games for it.
  • 12 fruit trees at $15/each and have enough fruit to last us the whole year.
  • Countless other options!
The way I've decided to fulfill my MMORPG fix is to play Anarchy Online, it's a free one that I've played before because my old video card could just barely handle it. I can always do trials of the other ones if I'm wanting a little variety.

December Budget & November Net Worth (+$3,034)

November Net Worth:

This month was a good month, we had a full house of roommates and no new expenses. We were able to take care of an old cell phone bill that was $1592 as well as start the settlement for our Discover card. The net worth went up by over $3,000. Next month will be even bigger!

December Budget:

Here it is and then I'll discuss the details:

$1127 Mortgage
$240 Car Gas
$30 House Phone
$89 Electricity
$45 Water
$77 Natural Gas
$160 Groceries
$95 Life Insurance
$30 Mrs' Fun Money
$30 Mr's Fun Money
$30 Dining Out
$30 Toiletries
$150 Christmas
$50 Cell Phone
$10 Babysitting Fund
$300 Home Depot CC
$100 Capital One CC
$1233 Discover CC
$690 Debt Snowball

One item people missing out of this budget is the tithe. I know in the past I had written about my feelings on the tithe, but with creditors threatening taking us to court, etc, I'm not cheerful about giving our $. We've been working at serving more at our church, providing to those in need in other ways (eg: In November, we put our tithe to the cell phone bill of all the other people on our plan in October since one of them is in jail, the other 2 are not responding to our calls.) Once we get the CC folks off our back, I'll be feeling much more willing to give.

Cell phone should now be just $50/month and we're going to work at using less minutes before we move to a pay-as-you. Hopefully in January we'll move to the pay-as-you-go. The Discover CC payment is the final part of the settlement for the $5333 balance we had with them. The debt snowball will be for us to do a large settlement in February on the Home Depot or Menards.

What to do with $125?

My wife talked to her mom this week and found out that we were mailed back in September a check for $250 for our birthdays (we're 12 hrs apart). We totally missed the check, we just opened the cards sent in the same envelope. The check is now recycled by the city and probably part of the insulation I put in last weekend. I suspect she's going to mail us a replacement one, so here's my quandary:
  • My wife bought me what I wanted for Christmas (extra hard drive for our computer).
  • I have enough clothes to last me until 2010 at least.
  • There's nothing really pressing right now that I need.
Here's the options I'm mulling over:
  1. Pay off debt - Probably not the best use of a gift and it would only be a portion of a debt.
  2. Garden fund - In the spring we'll be needing more sturdy supports for our tomatoes, a handle at least for a broken shovel, a few more seeds, maybe a dwarf fruit tree if I talk to the city about planting one near the street.
  3. Fireplace fund - This year it wasn't an option with trying to get out of debt, but we're planning on next year lining our chimney and getting a fireplace put in.
  4. Investing - I've been doing a small amount of investing with some of my fun money on Prosper, mainly to learn more about debt and investing. I could always pump it into there. Other option is to finally open an IRA for us (planning on next year as a minimum).
  5. Stained Glass fund - I haven't worked on this for a couple of years now (because it's not a cheap hobby like gardening), but I have most of the tools, just need some more supplies to continue working on it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Settling on Discover Card

I got a very pretty blue envelope yesterday in the mail and it contained the following offer: "Our client will accept $2133.22 to settle this obligation."

The total balance due is currently at $5333.04, so I talked it with my wife and we're going to hold off on the Menards balance and tackle this one instead. I paid half of it last night and they will do the remaining balance on 12/3. I was thinking that it was going to take $4,000 to settle this one. This bumps up my aggressive settlement goals as follows:
  • Discover on 12/3
  • Home Depot on 2/5/08
  • Menards on 3/20/08
  • Capital One on 5/20/08
  • Other Misc Debts by 8/31/08
We'll be free of all this by our birthdays in September!

Monday, November 19, 2007

What I Am Thankful For

Thanksgiving for me has always been a great time of eating, spending time with those I love and having a 4 day weekend. There have been the simple things I've been thankful for in the past. This year though I'm so much more thankful than I've ever been before:
  1. God has provided me with plenty of work and roommates to abundantly meet our needs. There was a point in February where I had 5 possible jobs to choose from. I am at 2 right now and that is enough for this point in my life.
  2. My beautiful daughter that is full of laughs. One concern I had was that some babies I see just look around or are crying all the time, making me think that's how most babies are. It's been a long time since my sister & brother were babies, so it was hard for me to remember how they were. My daughter does have her grumpy times, but it's mainly due to when she is tired or scared.
  3. Over $20K worth of debt taken care of this year, with next month we'll be hitting $25K for the year. My numbers on the right with NetworthIQ do not include January, but there was a nice chunk taken care of in January before I started tracking.
  4. My wife has been healthy this year with no visits to the hospital besides delivering our daughter. She has a pacemaker, which makes life a little interesting. It's taken me time to learn to read when she is pushing herself too hard or not taking care of herself, things that have put her into the hospital in the past. "Day of rest" and "Plenty of Fluids" are big at our home to keep us healthy.
What about you?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

$100 Insulation Project Complete

We needed some insulation under our kitchen as well as some more added to the attic, so today's fun is as follows:
  • Drive to Menards at 8 AM, find out the last person didn't return the blower yesterday.
  • Receive call from Menards at 10:15 AM that the blower is back in.
  • When loading the blower, they can't find the new hose for the blower and give me one they were throwing out that has at least 7 cuts on it.
  • Leave Menards at 11:30 AM with 1/2 the insulation and the blower.
  • Second load from Menards at 12 PM.
  • Setup broken hose at 12:30 PM.
  • Spent an hour trying to get the broken hose to blow insulation.
  • Call Menards at 1:30 PM, they are having the new hose being brought back to them, they will call me back.
  • They call me back at 2:15 PM, the person is going to deliver it to my house.
  • The new hose gets to my house at 2:30 PM.
  • We blow insulation until 5 PM.
  • Equipment is dropped off by my wife and one of my roommates.
In the end, it cost us about $100, well worth it to keep our house a little warmer. Much better than the large quote we received to do the same work.

My Bigest Reason To Be Debt Free

There are quite a few reasons for us to work at being debt free, but sitting right next to me is one of the biggest reasons for me.

It's my baby daughter.

She is a morning person like myself, so we get together at 5 or 6 AM, have breakfast, read some news, talk to each other, sing songs (she does most of the singing). I cherish our mornings together because my evenings when extra work comes around, I don't get home until she is already asleep. When she smiles because she sees me after being away for a while, all the work to take care of her is worth it.
  • I want to be able to spend even more time with her with no worries about creditors calling us daily
  • I want to make sure her needs are met (and a couple of wants)...
  • I want to be a good example to her of a wise steward.
  • We are heavily considering home-schooling her, which will require some of my time.
I have noticed that ever since I knew we were going to have a baby, it was put upon my heart to fix the bad situation we are in. If I believed in coincidences, I would say it was. I know it is God working on refining me to be the man of God he wants me to be.

Old Cingular Creditor Paid

Yesterday I took care of an old Cingular creditor we had from almost 2 years ago, settled for 35%. It was a pretty easy process, told them that I had received an offer letter a couple months ago and was wanting to know if the offer was still available. It was, I offered to pay in full, they tried to charge me a processing fee for my debit card, had that waived and I was pretty much done.

Our NetWorthIQ listing is pretty accurate for where we'll land at the end of the month, the only uncertain is exactly where the cash will be landing. If our roommate keeps paying us back like they are the next 2 weeks, we'll hit the $1K. If the other cell-phone folks pay us back, we'll be even higher.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Last Bit of Cell Phone Problems

I suspected this would happen to us, but it still hurts a bit. Late last month we got the cell phone plan finally split so that the other people that had phones have taken over their portion of the plan. There was an amount due last month for September's service and then we got the final bill with October's service that covers up to the end of us being together. The way it had been working was we would send them a text message at the beginning of the month with their share and they would pay by the end of the month or the cell phones would get disconnected (we were always a month behind).

Without the threat of being shutoff (because my wife and I paid the past due and their phones are no longer on our plan), the 3 adults (in the age sense) that have the other phones did not pay at the end of last month, we sent them another text message a week ago and they haven't responded one way or the other. We have decided to pay it all and just consider it our act of service to God. If they pay it, great, if not, we are at least free from being chained to them.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

80 lbs of Potatoes = $8

Our local grocery store has had a sale on potatoes the past 2 weeks, so I went ahead and picked up 80 lbs of potatoes. With roommates in the house wanting some of our food sometimes, I figure over the winter we'll get through these pretty easily with french fries, baked potatoes, cheesy potatoes, mashed potatoes, etc. The only comment the cashier made was "Having a party?"

We also spent a lot of time today using up the last of our green tomatoes. We made a huge batch of green tomato salsa, filled many small jars for Christmas presents to our friends from church and neighbors. Including the jar, each gift is going to cost us ~$0.85 ($0.75 for the jar, $0.10 for the items we did not have from the garden). I'm planning on getting a sheet of the labels and printing on them, asking for the jars back when they're done.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Details on Our Debts

I had a reader ask for the details on our debts, so here it is in all it's glory:
  • $308 - Dish Network, 1 & 1/2 years ago my wife got it for me because I was wanting access to Angel Network. We shouldn't have signed up because at the time we didn't even have enough money to cover all our expenses, so it was disconnected for lack of payment.
  • $368 - Chiropractor bill, several years old, I don't even remember when but it was for my wife.
  • $400 - Foot Dr bill, several years old, my wife needed new orthotics in order to walk, but we haven't paid for them yet.
  • $401 - Ambulance, 2 & 1/2 yrs ago my wife was really sick at work and they called the ambulance to take her to the hospital.
  • $435 - Pacemaker checkups, 2-4 years my wife has a pacemaker and we had her going to one place for checkups but haven't paid them yet.
  • $517 - Hospital Emergency Visit, uncertain details, probably from the ambulance above.
  • $685 - Hospital Emergency Visit, 3 years old, my wife was getting dizzy spells big time, we were concerned it was her pacemaker, problem was dehydration.
  • $2187 - My Stupid Mistake, 1 & 1/2 years ago with money being very short I decided to give plasma for money. I had done it before in college and it hadn't had any bad effects, but the day I went in April '06 I did not eat & drink enough beforehand, so I blacked out at the place and went unconscious. For a couple of hours I lost a week of my life. I had tests done, no permanent damage but I should have pursued the place for negligence to take care of the bills (they didn't take me to the hospital, they just put me on a bed to rest).
  • $804 - Bank Fees for closed account, 1 & 1/2 years ago during a time I lost my job and finances went crazy, we had several items on auto-draft and checks floating, which caused our account to go negative. They kept adding more fees until we could bring it current, which we were not able to due to no job.
  • $1591 - Cingular cancelled account balance, 2 years ago. This was where we went from a bad situation of 3 phone plan to 5 phone plan after my wife had just a few month prior bought a $500 phone with Cingular. She and her friend were having calls dropped with Cingular and they both were trying to work at Primerica, so they were needing to go to a different carrier. Her friend worked at Verizon, so they changed it to that. We'll be taking care of this next week.
  • $3629 - Menards, 2-3 years ago. This is a couple of mistakes all put together, partially kitchen remodeling to our old condo when we couldn't afford it (I made a promise I shouldn't have to my wife before moving into there and felt obligated to keep it). The other part was spending excessively to help my father get out of a bad house he bought and was facing foreclosure. We got it sold in time, but nothing out of it.
  • $5333 - Discover, 2-4 years ago. This is one of those that we just kept putting amounts here and there on it, I don't even know exactly what it all was.
  • $5774 - Home Depot, 2 years ago. We put part of the kitchen remodel mentioned above onto it, but a large chunk was a bay window at our current home that was damaged by neighborhood kids. Instead of taking the homeowner's insurance money and paying a fair chunk of the bill, we lived off the money instead.
  • $6919 - Capital One, 2-4 years ago. This is in the same category as the Discover, I don't have much to show for it besides being here today.
We had a whole bunch more before on this, a Chase & Bank of America CC spent on who knows what, a CarMax loan on a worthless car, various small debts, 2 months behind on the mortgage and utilities. It's hard to get an exact number, but so far for this year alone I'm looking at us tackling ~$19,000 worth of debts ($1860 mortgage past due, $12,000 CC, $3,400 non-CC, $1600 CarMax loan).

The main point of this post is not to point fingers at who did what, but it is to learn from our mistakes and not make them in the future. I have no ill-feelings regarding the choices my wife made, for I was making bad choices at the same time and not leading the way a husband should.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Another Full House Month

We've been blessed this month again, we have a full house of renters still and it looks like it won't change next month either. What this means is we'll be going gangbusters against our debts. Here's what's currently planned:

$300 - Already paid yesterday to second highest CC to keep them at bay
$100 - To be paid to highest CC to keep them at bay mid-month
$554 - Old, old cell phone termination balance that was $1591, but they're willing to settle for less. Will take care of on the 16th.
$X - The rest piling up so that we can settle our smallest CC bill ($3600) for something like 70% on 12/3.

The insulation project is looking like it will take less than we budgeted, as well as the car repairs won't be that bad. We'll know by the end of next week what the $X amount will be and see if the 12/3 goal is realistic.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

$10/Gallon Gas & Other Future Concerns

My wife and I have random discussions sometimes like "What happens when gas becomes too expensive to buy?" and two guys in my small group at church are feeling the effects of downsizing at their respective jobs (there's only 4 guys in the group). Here's some ideas of where I'm looking at getting prepared (it sounds crazy even to me, but I'm getting ready):
  1. Gardening: Besides my own yard, in 2 years I'll be looking to start some community gardens in my neighborhood. I live in an older part of Joliet, IL where there are several empty lots that the city owns from buildings torn down but have never been built on. Some reasons are due to the neighborhood, some are due to the lot sizes are too small to build something these days.
  2. Root Cellar: The excess we'll be growing needs to go somewhere. I'm planning on making one in our basement to handle enough food to feed my family for the winter.
  3. Car: I'm working on learning more and more web programming at my current job with my hope to be able to telecommute in the future and not drive as much. I'm researching making my own Ethanol/Biodiesel or making an electric car.
  4. Heating: Next year or the year after we'll be installing a wood-burning stove into our home to help with the heating costs and my eventual goal will be a wood-burning furnace (don't know if we'll need to go that route...)
  5. Retirement: I'm looking at us possibly purchasing 5-10 acres out in Missouri or another country completely and building a family farm or enclave. Wherever we are, we plan on serving others in need.
Besides building up your investments, are you doing anything physical as a backup plan if your investments go south with everyone else's? Have I gone nuts?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Time of the year for manure

Those of you planning to garden next year, it's that time of the year to get some fresh manure from your nearby farm so it has time to age over the winter. This past weekend we picked up a truckload of it for free and piled it up in the back yard so we can use it for expanding the garden next year. My neighbor down the street she has horses, llamas, and chickens and it costs her to have it hauled away (small lot in unincorporated part of town, so no room for a farm).

We also planted our garlic for next year, it was hard work to get the soil loose down 8-12 inches, but only an hour and will be well worth the 30 heads of garlic we'll have next year. For the amount of time spent and to be spent (minimal), I would recommend garlic to any budding gardener that likes garlic. (which I'll be doing on Friday, giving some cloves to a friend that loves cooking with garlic).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

November Budget & October Net Worth

Here's our budget for the coming month:

$1127 Mortgage
$240 Car Gas
$30 House Phone
$89 Electricity
$45 Water
$77 Home Gas
$160 Groceries
$450 Tithe
$95 Life Insurance
$30 Mrs' Fun Money
$30 Mr' Fun Money
$30 Dining Out
$30 Toiletries
$25 Mrs' Chiropractic
$150 Christmas
$300 Insulation
$235 Oil Change & Repairs
$50 Cell Phone
$1323 Debt Snowball

Our mortgage lender messed up on the escrow calculations, so we'll be back down a bit to $1127. Our groceries are going up due to Thanksgiving coming around (as well as we totally bombed this past month's goal of cash-only for groceries, made several bad purchases). My wife is starting chiropractic treatment, so we set aside some for her. Our Christmas budget is $300 total ($100 for each of us and $100 for family), so we'll do $150 this month and $150 next month. I really need to finish up the insulation project, it keeps getting delayed due to money problems, about half done. The $300 is an estimate, I suspect it will be lower. My wife's car needs some repairs, which we are having a friend that works for a parts supplier repair for us. Cell phone came down a bit as discussed before.

Debt Snowball:

Here's the fun part! Where it is all going:

$300 Home Depot - Minimum
$100 Capital One - Minimum
$100 Menards - Minimum
$200 Discover - Minimum
$623 Cell phone Debt - Old plan we cancelled a long time ago (long story, not the brightest point of our lives) and other debt on our existing plan (my wife is going to look into our current phone plan, they sent us a bill with too high of an amount due).

October Net Worth:

It was a catch-up month for us after we recently settled on our Chase account. My wife had some chiropractor expenses this month too that wiped away our emergency fund. The coming month will be better!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Our Wedding Present: Marriage License & Court Costs

A couple that moved in a month ago has been engaged for a while, he's making minimum wage and she is due with their first child in a couple of weeks. I got out of my comfort zone and asked him what was the hold-up on getting married and he said it was the money issue (eg: he's driving on no insurance right now). My wife and I talked it over and decided to give them the funds to take care of it. For the county we live in, it's only $33 total, but that's $33 they don't have right now.

They took it very well and it's just a matter of two days off for them to get the paperwork and go to the courthouse to get married. Hopefully it will be soon, I'd hate for their little boy to come into the world with unwed parents.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Declined for BC/BS Coverage

It's a first, I've been denied for individual insurance coverage by BC/BS. I suspect it's due to some recent chiropractic treatment I had done to correct bad neck posture. They're probably worried about surgery ahead. Even my father with two knee replacements has insurance, but not me...

What this means: My employer is going to look for other coverage for me, they are the ones footing the bill for the insurance. If they are not able to find one, I'll see about getting catastrophic insurance in case I'm in the hospital (hasn't happened in my life yet, but could happen). The rest I'll pay out of pocket and negotiate.

This is a very rough thing for me and I'll be doing a lot of thinking this weekend. This is going to change my future goals big time.

The Price of Unlimited

One commenter asked us how we'll be getting our cell phone down to $12.50/month. The math part of it is this: Net10 is $0.10/minute (no other charges) pre-paid cell phone where you can buy a 12 month card for $150. $150/12 = $12.50/month for 125 minutes.

The psychological part of this:

When you have a contract for X number of minutes where X is a large number and if you use less than X, you lose them. What do you do? You use minutes as if they are unlimited. Sometimes you'll go over X and pay a bit more, beat yourself up for it, bring yourself back down a bit, but then go right back up to X, because "I can't waste what I'm paying for already." The price for this unlimited is a large set monthly expense that you can't adjust. If every minute you use is costing you a set amount, you'll pretty quickly (unless you don't care about the $$$) limit your usage and can adjust it based upon circumstances (e.g. job loss).

The way we plan to manage our phone usage is this:

Land-line (purchased for multiple reasons, DSL line, medical reasons): $20/month for phone portion, $10/month for DSL portion.

Long Distance on Land-line: $0.025/minute interstate & $0.019/minute intrastate with Uni-Tel Communications

On-the-road emergencies & work-related: $0.10/minute as discussed above.

Total Phone/DSL Expenses: Approximately $42.50/month.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


That's what my wife screamed when we got home a couple of minutes ago. She was responsible for 5 phone lines up to a couple of hours ago, which required our cell phone budget to be $158/month. Due to the changes done tonight, we are down to 1 phone and it will only be around $50/month instead. We'll be canceling the 1 line soon in order to go with a pre-pay phone with Net10. That will bring our monthly cell-phone expenses to be $12.50/month.

Your probably wondering where the other 4 lines went to? We gave them to the other people that were using them and Verizon required no deposit for them. We didn't think their credit was good enough to take any of the phones and were suspecting that we would have to make a deposit. It was only by the grace of God that we were able to get out of this sticky situation.

We'll spend the next month working at using the phone as if we have 125 minutes/month and once we get that down pat, we'll move to the pre-pay.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Frugal Gardening

With today's temperatures in the upper 70's near me, I'll be doing some cleaning of the yard to get it ready for next year's garden. I'm tripling the size to be around 450 sq feet, this year's was 150 sq feet. Here's some ways I've been keeping and plan on keeping expenses down on this:
  • Borrow one-time needed equipment. A gentleman from church has a farm nearby us and has offered if I need to borrow anything, just let him know. I'll be tilling the areas that have grass, so I'll borrow a small tiller then.
  • Organize your plans on paper or in an OpenOffice spreadsheet. I made a map of the garden with each cell a square foot and will make a timeline map of every 2 weeks of what is being planted/harvested during that 2 week time period.
  • Go organic. Another neighbor has llamas and horses, which I picked up free manure from (and thinking of contacting again soon so I have some for the spring ready to use). My garden this year grew better than the pesticide sprayed one across the street. Kill the bugs by hand the moment they come around and they won't have time to tell their friends.
  • Buy a tool only when your going to use it that day and you have nothing that is similar around your house. We converted plastic bottles into cloches to protect the plants during the cold, a large spoon from the kitchen to dig up potatoes, a small decorative basket for gathering up our crop.
  • Don't grow food you won't eat. I have 24 different plants planned for next year, all of them we use on a monthly basis around the house or enjoy when they are in season.
I'm not expecting at all for my garden to make me money in comparison to the work I'll be putting into it, but the pleasure of being able to go out front, grab a few herbs and vegetables, then go to the kitchen and cook them is well worth it. It will also keep me out of the stores as much as possible, since I'll have plenty to take care of.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Minor Car Problems

My wife's car started making noises near the left driver tire last month when we were on the road and it disappeared, but came back again last week. She brought it in, we're looking at the front hub assembly needing to be replaced. There is a couple in our church struggling financially (husband's employer was bought out and they have demoted him twice with pay cuts but expect him to be a manager at a cashier pay rate), so the husband is going to see about getting the part and doing the repair for us and we'll pay him instead of an auto-shop.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

My Biggest Financial Achievement

Get Rich Slowly is asking everyone to write about their biggest financial achievement. This is a hard one for me since this year alone I have had several achievements (multiple income streams, passive income, etc). Here is my biggest financial achievement:

Spending Less Than I Make, No Matter What

I used to know this rule before I got married, but somewhere I lost it due to wanting to please my wife, believing that my income would grow, that the credit card companies keep giving me credit so it must be ok. Then the little extra expenses of gas or utilities would come into the month and we'd have to put a little on the old credit card. There was a point when the only bill I had was my student loan (of $12K) and $6K in the bank.

Flash forward to today, I estimate we spend about 2/3 of our income on average on normal expenses with 1/3 of our income going to take care of our debts from years of bad choices. It took a big boulder of being out of electricity for 3 weeks, no running water for 2 weeks, working at Taco Bell in order to bring some money in while I searched for a better paying job for me to wake up from the fantasy that I could spend more than I make. We're seeking at the end of this month to cut out our cell phone plan to bring the amount going to debt even higher.

By spending less than we make, my whole point of view on money has changed. I see my coworkers with $40 in the bank and spending a whole day on the job looking for someone with cash so they can buy equipment (that would be reimbursed) and see where I used to be. I look at my beater of a car as I pull near a $30K car and remind myself I have the title of mine, who knows if they have the title of theirs. I see my roommate that has no debts, $10/hr job, $300 covers all housing expenses complain about not having money and I see someone that does not have the motivation yet to live a life of spending less than they make.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Radical Environmental Tips

Note: These items are for the Blog Action Day regarding the environment and are not prescribed for those with weak hearts.

Be Homeless:

By being homeless, you can save on rent, electricity, water, gas, trash bills, home repairs, furniture, etc. You will be closer to the natural world and it will help you appreciate the ecosystem that we live in. Need a bathroom? There's always the national park toilets that use no water you can use, plenty of restaurants, or the good old trusty log and hole in the ground. Need a shower? Many truck stops have showers, the local gym has one and there's always a stream or lake one can use. Besides helping the environment by consuming less, you'll be saving lots of money.

Have No Children:

How much of an environmental footprint does each person leave? One sure way to reduce the number of people leaving an environmental footprint is to not have children. This will also free your time up to go out and plant trees, clean streams, and protest the latest polluters. Being homeless is not the best place to raise children anyways. If you really want to have a child, there's always adoption or foster care.

Don't Produce:

Working at a job producing widgets? Does your company recycle as many widgets as they produce? Most places don't and they don't worry about them filling the environment, that's "somebody else's job". Leave that place and change careers into one of many jobs that do: Waste Water Specialist, Sanitary Engineer, Farmer, eBay Seller/Buyer. You'll be bringing the world back to it's natural state instead of filled with widgets.

Note 2: I don't follow any of these tips, but I do many of the common environmental tips (recycle as much as possible, compost pile, CF bulbs, reduce heat, turn lights off, consume less, drive high MPG vehicle, drive little, organic garden, reuse stuff, shared housing, cloth diapers, second-hand shopping). Enjoy these radical ideas and have a great day!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

$4 of 2.4 lbs Grapes & $12 of 30 lbs of Chicken


I went grocery shopping yesterday and normally my wife does it (some of our roommates were needing to go and I made it an official no-work-for-wife day). I got the items she had on the list and decided to go to the fruit market nearby to pick up some bananas and any other fruit that was on sale. I picked up the bananas and saw some grapes for $0.99/lb, which I thought I picked up, but I picked up the $1.69 grapes. Due to the roommates wanting to get out of there, I didn't look at the receipt, but I did think it was high, but I had picked up other stuff. Lesson learned: Check the receipt no matter what.


The other stuff was 10lbs of chicken at $0.39/lb. I went back today to make sure they didn't charge me wrong for the grapes, which they did not. I ended up picking up 20 more lbs of chicken for $8. I'm marinating now 3 lbs of it skinned, we skinned about 12 lbs of it and have 15 lbs with skin in the freezer wrapped in twos. The skin, some fat cut off, carrot, celery, salt and pepper are cooking up to make stock right now. One of the ways we are seeking to keep our food budget under $120/month for the two of us.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Long Term Goal: Retire at 42

To some people, their idea of retirement is traveling the world, playing golf, etc. For me, it is the option of getting out of the rat race with my family being provided for still. It means being able to serve with Habitat for Humanity for 3 months if I choose to do so, teaching my children at home, growing a beautiful garden, reading, talking with people.

Here's a short list of the time line I'm looking at:

Age 28 - Where I'm at right now.
Age 29 - Pay off Credit Card and Misc Debts, only student loans and mortgage remaining
Age 30 - $10K Emergency Fund & $10K IRA
Age 33 - Student loans paid off, leaving mortgage remaining
Age 37 - Mortgage Paid Off, Tons of Cash going to IRA & other Investments
Age 42 - $500K in various investments earning 10%.

The amounts and dates may change as we look into business opportunities along the way. If I just stay with programming and work at increasing salary by changing positions and increasing skills, these are where the estimates are landing. I know some may say to use the money that would go to paying off the student loans/mortgages to invest, but my home is a business of it's own generating gross income of $1300/month and I psychologically don't want to have those debts living in my life. Your mileage may vary.

My expense calculations looking at our existing numbers, excluding debt, would run us around $2500/month to retire today (health expenses included). With 3% inflation, those costs would be $3800 when we're 42. If rent continues with the 3% inflation, we'd be looking at $1500/month approximately on the conservative, meaning our investments would need to bring in $2300/month or $28K/yr. A $500K investment nest egg returning 6% would give us $30K/yr. I may still choose to work for brief periods of time doing consulting work, but it won't be required.

All of these calculations point to I would much rather have a lower standard of living and spend time with people not working than have a higher standard of living but keep working for 20+ more years.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Tithe Question

I figure I need to make a full post about it since whenever I have it mentioned in a budget, I get what I call the "Tithe Question". It comes in many forms, but the basic one is "Can't you just hold off the tithe until your out of debt?"

Mathematically, the tithe while in debt does not make any sense in a worldly way. The math says to pay off the debt that is charging you interest first, then the money you saved on interest could be given to the church. I will agree math wise that it is a bad idea to tithe while in debt.

One problem with that viewpoint is when should I exactly start? Should I skip tithing until my mortgage is paid off (6% interest rate there)? With $6K/year of a tithe, I would wipe away $360 of interest in the first year alone (and $360 every year after that). What if I could do an investment that brings in 10% annually? That would be $600 more I could give at the end of the year. Won't I have more to give later on then? When do I give then?

Tithing is about making me more like God. He gives us breath every moment, graces us with still some more time to accept Jesus as our savior to forgive our sins. Tithing is a continual reminder to us that God is in control of our finances and our lives. "'A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD." Lev 27:30

I don't know how long I have to live on this planet. I could die right after typing this or I could be blessed with 80 more years of life. I struggle with the tithe question all the time, I've been able to convince myself at times that the math viewpoint is correct, but the problem is that I don't really track how much I need to give in the future. By myself, I am selfish. With the LORD in me, I am giving and caring.

The other problem with the math question is that there are real needs today, not in the future. Some people may feel that their local church is squandering the money given to them, but there are many churches changing lives today. I know I would have been out of electricity for a couple of months a year ago if my church didn't step up and help. I would have also been out of running water for a while (or used my mortgage payment that was already 2 months behind) if my church didn't help. These were times when I wasn't tithing (so please don't discuss with me about these are examples of why I shouldn't be tithing now).

My major goal right now is yes, get us out of debt, but I don't want that to be the only thing said at my eulogy. I'll cut the other expenses, drive a little less, work a little harder, yet still seek to tithe.

"Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God." Ex 23:19

Saturday, October 6, 2007

'07-'08 Budget To Pay Off $20K

I've been mulling this plan for a few weeks now, but I had put in my head that we should have the goal of taking care of our non-student loan & mortgage debts by the end of next year. I figure we'll need about $20K in cash to negotiate on the $30K (as well as my student loans will need to start being paid). Something I've learned the hard way is if you don't plan with plenty of detail how that is going to happen, it probably won't. With my current numbers, we are short by about $5K. Here's the big picture (click to view) and then I'll explain:

Natural Gas - We have a $400+ credit with them so that the winter bills won't be so high. They brought our budgeted amount from $145/month down to $77/month. I'm expecting after the winter, we'll be bumped back up to $100/month based on our yearly usage averaging that.

House Phone - DSL is $10/month for 6 months and bumps up to $20/month for 6 months. Best deal we could get last month.

Groceries - Higher at Thanksgiving/Christmas time with dinner parties at our home.

House Maint - This November we need to wrap up the insulation project by blowing in (ourselves) insulation under the kitchen and in the attic. In April we have to take down at least one big tree in our yard, if not all the big ones. I cut off as much as I could on my own, we'll need someone with a bucket truck to come and cut the rest down for us (I'll take care of it on the ground).

Clothing - Our baby will need another set of cloth diapers near the beginning of the year, which my wife is sewing to save $$$. Clothes everyone is good for a while (including her).

Med Expenses - At the start of the year, we will need to start paying for coverage for my wife and daughter (getting off of Medicaid). For our daughter, IL has a cheap program for kids, so we'll be doing that. My wife with her medical conditions though it will be $300/month for the $2.5K deductible plan with Illinois CHIP.

Vacation - We'll be doing a small camping trip during the summer as well as me serving on a missions trip.

Gifts - Christmas we budget $300 total, my birthday and my wife's is in September, our daughter is in May, $50 for each of us.

Other Income - Mystery shopping mainly.

Rental Income - That fluctuates, but I'm estimating we'll have 3 out of 4 rooms rented on average, that's where the $1K comes. November we should have a full house at $1300.

Options For $5K Shortfall:
  • Stop or reduce tithe, this for us is a last resort option.
  • Drop cell phone coverage. I know our bill is high (part of that covers someone else on our plan in case they don't pay). It's a complicated situation, hopefully we can act on it soon (that's what this table is all about).
  • Life insurance. Search for a cheaper quote than we have right now (the one we have is with my wife's previous employer and we went with it because it would be bad for her to be promoting something if she didn't carry that something herself).
  • Increase income. I haven't been looking much, but once I get a huge project I've been working on for my employer live, I'm considering using it to either find consulting projects on the side that provide more work than my on-call computer repair job or find a better paying full-time job. My current job gives me a lot of flexibility that I'm uncertain I could find with better pay.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

$6 Coffee Pot

This Saturday my wife is hosting her women's bible study at our house and most of the ladies drink coffee. My wife is a tea person, so we don't make coffee and don't have a coffee pot. When she was at Aldi's this week doing our grocery shopping for the next 2 weeks, she saw a $6 coffeepot. Because I was driving home and she had the cell-phone, she could not call me to discuss (since it would have changed our budget), so she did not get it.

We talked about it some on and off the past couple of days and I'm glad she didn't just buy it. That $6 comes out to about 1/2 hr of me of "real hourly wage" after expenses. I'd much rather be with her another 1/2 hour than having to work for a coffee pot we'd use once and put in the basement to collect dust. I've been seeing how everyone wants the dollars in our pockets more and more...

In the end we'll probably borrow one from a roommate or have one of the ladies bring their coffeepot with them on Saturday.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Full House of Renters

Last night made it official that we are back to a full house of 4 renters. The last ones moved in last night, we did a budget with them for the month ahead (to make sure they can afford the room) as well as discussed alternative methods of payment until they get payments from old employers outstanding and start their new job later this week. I wrote up this morning a detailed list of activities and explained that we just need a full day's worth of work on the list to take care of a week of rent. They felt that was a fair trade. I figure my "real hourly wage" (after work expenses) is around $12/hr and the guy of the couple doing 8-10 hours of work is cheaper than me taking a day off of work to do the activities around the house.

One of the roommates that was considering to move to a cheaper place with co-workers told us he checked out the place, it's a bit farther of a commute for him, uncertain if he is going to live there, will let us know later in the week. I'm holding the discount card until we get more time to talk, he came back home when we were talking to the new couple.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

October Budget & September Net Worth

Without much ado, here's our budget this month:

$500 Tithe
$2008 Chase Debt
$1150 Mortgage
$240 Car Gas
$30 House Phone & Internet
$6 Electricity (State forced them to give everyone a credit this month for overcharging)
$45 Water & Trash
$77 House Gas (Called, renegotiated our monthly set rate from $145 since we now have a credit with them of $425, enough for most of the winter).
$120 Groceries (Yes, for 2 people.)
$158 Cell Phone
$95 Life Insurance
$30 Mrs. Fun Money
$30 Mr. Fun Money
$30 Dining Out
$30 Toiletries
$100 Mrs' Chiropractic Treatment
$150 House Repair (More insulation, dehumidifier for the basement)
$400 Emergency Fund Rebuilding

Some of our income numbers are a bit up in the air this month regarding 2 of our renters (and my on-call job has been quiet for over a week now). The slack will be in the last two items. I am also generating a spreadsheet for the rest of this year and next that will show us exactly how we're going to get rid of the CC & medical debts by the end of next year. Once I get some more feedback from my wife on certain items, I'll post it all for you to see.

Our "net worth" has had another plateau month in September. It wouldn't have been so flat if we had been tracking the student loan debt monthly and how much interest is on it. All the more reason to motivate us to get the CC & medical debts taken care of by the end of next year so we can then beat up the student loans.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Housing Market Effect On Room Rentals

My wife and I had a short chat this morning, it appears that the housing glut in our area and the adjustable mortgages is causing more people to go the route we've been going for over a year, which is renting out rooms. This came to be a realization when last night one of our roommates wanted to give us a heads up that he may be moving out next month. One of his coworkers offered him a room to stay at for $200/month (I'm assuming utilities included, because that is our arrangement at $350/month for him). Math wise, the person must be desperate for money, if you consider utility costs alone for a person come out to about $60 (water, electric, heat, internet) in a shared housing environment (based on our experience). We are going to offer him $300/month and see if he is willing to stay, he was going to check out the place first before accepting the $200/month.

Another item we have noticed recently is several people from our church have independently asked about how we manage it, how much we charge, how we find renters, etc. They probably are going to be doing the same as us, but probably not at our scale of 4 rooms. I did a search this morning on Craigslist for under $300 in the Chicagoland area and I found a lot more than I have found before. Now some of those probably don't include utilities, but I found some that did.

We also decided to make our base rent be $300/month. The new roommate coming in after his first month, we'll bring him down to $300/month (he has the smallest bedroom). The couple moving in at $400/month, we'll bring them down to $350/month (largest bedroom). Our roommate that has been here for a year we will keep her at the $300/month. My goal for the coming year is that we average about $1K/month, which means we won't be able to have a vacancy every month.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Going Down To 2 Jobs

After a long time thinking about it, I'm going down to 2 jobs after this coming weekend. The tutoring job has been very few hours (3.5-4/week) and they haven't been all in a row, so between time and gas driving there and back, it's been coming down to taking home $5/hr. They were not too happy, but I figured they wouldn't be. I found out another one of the tutors was leaving as well at the same time.

Besides the time away from home and the money, the other issue is the control they have had on my schedule. Because the students change their schedules often, one week I may be Tues & Sunday, the next it would be Thur & Sunday. It reminds me too much of my days being a kid with divorced parents, not able to plan things too far in advance because I didn't know where I would be in the future.

Labor for Week of Rent

Well, the couple that we met yesterday is still needing a place to stay and the guy has picked up a job near us and will get his schedule at the end of the week. They are right now bouncing from friend to friend to save some money they don't have, but this weekend they're going to be running out of options. I talked with my wife on this because we don't want to see anyone homeless (let alone someone 7 months pregnant) and we decided to offer them a short-term deal:
  • In exchange for a full day's work around the house on various projects, that will be equal to a week's worth for rent ($100). With me working several jobs, projects around the house have been piling up (mow lawn, insulation, gutter covers, etc)
  • They will also need to sit down with my wife and plan out a budget for October, so that everyone is on the same page of when it's ending and how everything will be taken care of in October.
I spoke to the girl and she seemed very willing to do it, but needed to talk to her guy first to see what he thought as well as find out his work schedule. I'm hoping by Friday we'll know one way or the other. No matter what on Saturday I'll be home working on projects.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

One More Creditor Happy (For Now)

One creditor has been auto-calling me daily for a long time, so I decided to pick up this time. I must have shocked the computer or something, because they ended up hanging up on me before speaking. I called them back, it is one of the 4 credit cards outstanding and they of course wanted $1944 to bring the account just current and around $4300 to settle the ~$6K balance. I ended up making a $300 hardship payment to keep them satisfied for the month and we'll see at the end of next month about making a $300 payment then. The collector actually disclosed a fair amount of information to me, such as they accept 70% as settlement, that the payments made can be used in negotiating a smaller settlement, etc. I know, it's not in writing, so don't believe everything you hear.

I've got two more credit card creditors to contact this month to see if we can put them at bay so we don't have them go to court like Chase's hired creditor wanted to.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Chase Creditor Chasing Us

I knew the creditors would start coming after us harder, but the one that bit this time I wasn't expecting. We had a Chase credit card and due to bad financial situations, we have not paid it. The debt for it has been sold a few times now and the newest owner decided to send it to court. It was a surprise because this is our smallest credit card balance, I was hoping to tackle them in November, but they've changed the timetable.

I called the local attorney's office that is handling the case, they offered either $200/month until it gets paid (with interest) or paying it all off. I spoke to my wife this morning and looked at our budget last night, we're just going to tackle the $2208.25 balance by 10/2 instead (court is on 10/3). There will need to be some tightening going on, including:
  • We are going to have to push heavily on getting her student loans deferred for a bit longer.
  • We have a credit with our natural gas company and they read the meter wrong the last time they came out, so I'm going to call them and see if we can hold off this month paying them. Our credit is about $350 and due to misreading should be around $500.
  • Our house phone we have been paying right when the bill comes in, we'll delay paying it until it's due this time (next due date 11/10).
  • Check when we get back the $200 deposit we did with our electricity utility back in the spring (we were behind for a while, so they required more from us as a deposit).
  • Delay additional insulation until mid-October (we've been having warm weather that has been helping).
  • Keep in touch with the possible roommate from last week. Last we heard it was pretty certain he had a job in the area (doing drug test for it), so now it's a matter of him starting it and them moving in.
  • Mortgage will get paid on 10/12 after 1 roommate pays their monthly $350 and consulting job pays on that date.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Love Offering for Our Pastor

We received a letter in the mail this week about our pastor. His family has been fighting medical bills for a while for their children and now it has come to be that their septic system is dead and needs to be replaced. The total cost is somewhere around $15,000-$18,000 mark. Our church is going to do a love offering for the pastor. If I had the money, I would do it all myself, but I know others will be helping and it's not the job that God has given me. This church helped us with $1,000 at the beginning of the year to replace our water line (not a fun week) while I was unemployed. Any amount we do give will be taken out of our debt snowball (which next month we'll have around $1800).

My question is (to God and all of you), how much should we give? We've been tithing for most of this year when we could (well over the $1K we were given). Our church is about mid-sized (300-400 people) and knowing our church members I suspect that we will meet and exceed it. We've been going to this church now almost 2 years.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Insulating to Save Future $

In order to save some money this winter (and future winters) with heating costs, I'm putting in a bunch of insulation. My home is from the turn of the previous century, has had work done to it by many people, but insulating was not something they spent much money on. We've had some cold winters that we've been here, resorting to space heaters and electric blankets. Our basement walls consists of field stones right next to the dirt, so it gets really cold down there and it flows through the house. I'm working on changing that this year.

This morning consisted of wrapping all of the hot water pipes in our basement with insulation so that we don't lose heat along the way to the faucets. They were $0.99/12 feet. I'll be picking up a hot-water blanket as well ($7.99), but uncertain how much that is going to help (our hot-water heater doesn't feel too hot from the outside).

I also started putting insulation in the basement rafters (not 100% up to code, but it will reduce the drafts from the basement), which wore me out a bit. Those of you looking to insulate, Menards has a rebate for the major brand they sell of insulation, for every $100 you spend, you'll get $25 back in store credit. It's only good until September 30th. I'm only using that brand for areas where I can't blow insulation (eg: the rafters I discussed above). I have more to do during the week.

For the best bang for your buck when DIY insulating, I've researched and decided to blow my own insulation into the attic next weekend. Menard's has a special near me (at least the last time I checked into it a month ago) where if you buy the blow-in insulation from them, you can rent their blower for free. Depending on how much you buy determines how long you can rent it for. Math wise, the blow-in is 50% cheaper if the blower is free to rent. The attic needs additional insulation and the floor beneath our kitchen is inches away from the ground, so I"ll be filling in that space as well.

Besides doing insulation, I also purchased storm doors this year. I figure it will help build a barrier for the wind as well. I also picked up aluminum foil tape today and am sealing all the leaks of the ducts. The tape wasn't cheap ($12), but I figure it will help in the long run. My neighbors are recommending the plastic over the windows, but I view them as too tacky and not really solving the problem (drafts). The last thing we'll be doing this year is insulating the
heating ducts, but I want to make sure I get all the leaks first with the foil tape before I cover up the problem.

Next year's big project will be putting in proper windows in the basement. Right now we have plywood, which isn't too insulating, but it's going to have to do until the $$$ shows up (and when we're closer to being out of debt).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Possible Roommate

Last night we met a possible roommate, though they're going to have to find a job near us in order to make the decision to move. It is a couple that is soon to be married and soon to be having a child and they need to move away from family. This is part of the reason we rent out rooms in our home (the other is to get us out of debt). They applied to a bunch of places for work and if they get something near us, they'll be moving in. The job is for a short time until they get paperwork resolved for the guy to join the Navy by Christmas.

If they do move here, it will be a great opportunity to teach a new couple about finances. They've experienced some bad stuff with trying to find a place to rent (paying fees to apply for a place) and maybe we'll learn stuff from them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Salespeople & Creditors

Most days I don't have to deal with talking with creditors or salespeople, but yesterday was one of them. And as I've been learning, their goals are pretty much the same, to get the money out of my bank account.

One creditor I called yesterday on a 6 year old $90 debt to confirm it was still outstanding (and mail them a check) went into 20 question mode after being friendly. She wanted to know where I lived now, was I married, where I worked, phone numbers, wanted my check over the phone right away (and it was FREE!). I ended up just hanging up on her once I found out what I needed, which it was still active. Sent the check out.

AT&T also sent me an e-mail recently that my DSL contract was ending and that they were going to make it month-to-month for me, for the low low price of $5 more a month or I could sign up for an even more expensive plan. I decided to give them a call and see what we could get. Ended up with a plan costing me $10/month the first 6 months and $20/month for the following 6 months. That will bring my total phone bill down to $28/month for the next 6 months. As we were wrapping up, he started going on how the bundles are great starting at $85/month where you get TV included and that he could offer DISH network to me for only some amount a month. I almost laughed and told him I still owe $300 from the last time we had DISH last year.

Lastly, I called our marriage counselor's billing person and it took a little time but I got her after 5PM. She first apologized about not calling, it had been a busy day for her and she just came back from a trip in Italy. I did my "we're in a financial pickle, anything we can do to pay a lump sum for less than the total?" and then she went on like a recording about how it's tightening up for everyone these days. As if going to Italy is tightening up, maybe she had to give up the month-long trip around the world for just 2 weeks in Italy. We settled for 50% of the outstanding bill.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tackling Debts Today

Today at our house we're tackling a couple of debts. Here's the list:
  • Very old medical bill for my wife under my father-in-law's name (when she was on his insurance before our marriage). It's $90, but she was a bit ashamed for having it outstanding. Going to call them today and see if it's still outstanding and see about settling it.
  • $600 marriage counseling bill. It's been about 15 months since we were there and we tried to fight with our insurance to take care of it, they keep saying they have everything they need and will send it back for reprocessing, but it never happens. The counselor must be hit up for $$$ because we've been sending them $10/month and he called us saying that it'll take us 5 years at the current rate and asked if we could pay more. In the past he had his billing office call us about starting to pay (which is why we pay $10/month). I'm going to offer them $300, which is more than fair if you consider that insurance would only pay them 50% and have them write off 50%.
  • Mrs' student loans, we've been trying to get a continuance of the forbearance on them since she's not working, but she's been having the hardest time getting the last paystub from her previous employer. Tonight we'll need to look over the budget and start paying on them.
One roommate is back to paying us something, she is currently $500 behind in rent (with her rent $300/month). We're still on the hunt for 1 renter at $400/month (large room in Joliet, IL)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Goodbye Debt's Priorities

This past weekend the Mrs. and I went camping and it gave me some time to do some thinking:
  • I'm going to drop my tutoring job. The hours have been low (3-6 hrs/week) and if I add in driving, I'm making less than $8/hr after taxes. It's not worth the time away from family and I could be producing more than the $8/hr.
  • Next month I'm going to just go full-throttle and update our home computer with the items I've been waiting on for a year. I figure I have spent more time drooling over the exact same items, that I could have just worked and paid for them during that time. We're talking a total of less than $200 to keep our computer chugging for another couple of years. That consists of 500 GB hard drive, 1 GB RAM, newer video card.
  • I need to be consistent on my Chiropractic exercies. I don't want to be in the pain my parents are in with their backs.
  • I have enjoyed growing food in our garden. It does not make financial sense to do it, but the flavor and enjoyment is well worth it. It also gives us the opportunity to share food with those in need (e.g. a family of 5 in our church that had a major job change due to restructuring we've been giving them carrots, tomatoes & lettuce from our garden)
  • I will be consistent with our tithe. I have heard all the arguments for & against tithing while in debt and if I'm going to believe in God, I have to believe that he will provide for me. If I was to be on my death bed tomorrow, I would rather know that I was consistently trusting in God to provide than to think I could have been X days sooner out of debt by using the tithe to pay off debts.
  • After the insulation project going on at our home, I'm going to save up money to have a professional take down the trees in our back yard. Hopefully in the spring we can have enough to do that. I have been able to cut a fair amount down, but we're getting to the height that I am unable to do. I am going to request that they just bring it to the ground and I'll take it from there.
  • I am not going to take the folks we bought our stackable washer/dryer from to court. I am going to let God be their judge (they lied to us on the age of the stackable and the dryer motor needed minor service to work properly).
There is a lot more, but this is just the start.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Missing My Wife

This week has been a hectic week for working. Here's a taste of my week:
  • Sunday: 1-3 PM tutoring, 1/2 hr drive each way = 3 hours
  • Monday: 9-5 PM day job, 7-8PM Night job, 3 hours of driving = 12 hours
  • Tuesday: 9-5 PM day job, 6:30-8:30 PM Tutoring, 2.5 hours driving = 12.5 hours
  • Wednesday: 9-5 PM day job, 6-8PM Night job, 3 hours of driving = 13 hours
  • Thursday: 9-5 PM day job, 7-9PM Night job, 3 hours of driving = 13 hours
This above doesn't include my washer/dryer woes. I'll talk about them in another post once the woes are done with. To put it nicely, I may be taking someone to small claims court over false advertising.

I can't wait for tomorrow. We're getting away for 3 days camping and no work. No cooking, just spending time together.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Fun Birthday Weekend

This weekend is our birthday's (Mrs is the 8th, mine is the 9th). We had a fun nearly free weekend, here's how it went:

Friday Night: Free "Point of Grace" concert that my wife loved so much. There she is to the left with our little daughter. Afterwards, we went to Baskin Robin's and had a free scoop of ice cream for our birthdays.

Saturday: My wife had a high-tea party with several close ladies of her and I helped serving at the party. One of the items served was homemade tomato soup from our garden.

Sunday: Free burger & fries at Red-Robin near us. Very yummy, have plenty of leftovers. My wife is cooking potatoes from our garden so we can have mashed potatoes this week.

Menard's Free or Nearly Free (After Rebate)

Well, I did a little shopping on my birthday at Menard's, here's my shopping list you can take with you to do your own shopping:
  • 4 - 4 oz Candles, $1/each before rebate, free after
  • 14" Toolbox, $3.99 before rebate, free after
  • 2 - 2" Painter's Collection paint brush, $4 before rebate, free after
  • 8 daffodil bulbs, $2 before rebate, free after
  • 14 tulip bulbs, $2 before rebate, free after
  • 2 - Bracket Shelfs, $1.49 before rebate, free after
  • 1 - Brush/Roller Combo, $4.44 before rebate, $0.44 after
  • 2 - Backpacks, $5.99/each before rebate, $0.99/each after
The only requirement was that I spend $10 there, which I needed to get a piece for one of our toilets I've been delayed on for a while. The backpacks I did a few weeks ago, but they're still available with the rebates. Excluding the backpacks and my $10 purchase, all the other items come up to $2.25 of taxes and then $0.41 for the postage to mail the rebate. Not too shabby!

Friday, September 7, 2007

10% Raise & Health Benefits

This afternoon I had my 6 month review at my current job, it went well as I was expecting (though one can still be nervous about it). Normally they don't give out raises after 6 months, but because of my circumstances they decided to go with a 10% raise. It brings me up to $39,600, just $400 short of the $40K I was hoping for. I'm glad though that this is just 2/3 of our income (rest being rental income of $12K/yr and other jobs I have of $7K/yr).

In addition, I'll be getting my health benefits being taken care of 100% as an individual (but not within a group), but that means we'll have to start planning for my wife and daughter's benefits. That's not going to be a fun activity, but we'll have to make it happen. My daughter I'm not too worried about, it's my wife's insurance that is going to be the problem (has a pacemaker). More about that fun in the coming weeks probably.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Washer/Dryer Update

Well, we picked up a used one for $350 in the end, the previous owners told me it was two years old but I suspect it's more like 5 based on one of the manufacturing stickers (year was encoded, so I'm uncertain). None the less, I've got it home, the old one hauled out (had to take it apart, my father-in-law is a magician and got a 27" wide stackable through a 27.25" doorway with no real scratches on the wall a year ago) and got the new one in the closet.

We've got to change the water hoses since the newer one has too short of hoses, we're going to reuse the ones on the old one. In addition, I stripped working parts off the old one and plan to sell some of them and keep some of them in case we need them for our current one (eg: dryer belt, filter, temperature shutoff sensor, water pump, control circuits). I figure I bought the sensor and the filter off of eBay, I guess I can go back around and sell them for someone to buy...

Saturday, September 1, 2007

September Budget & August Net Worth

Here's our September Budget:

$383 Tithe
$1150 Mortgage
$240 Car Gas
$145 Natural Gas
$20 House Phone (had $20 credit)
$50 Water
$89 Electricity
$158 Cell Phone
$95 Life Insurance
$30 Mrs.' Fun Money
$30 Mr.'s Fun Money
$30 Dining Out
$30 Toiletries
$10 Ongoing Dr. Bill
$300 Insulation
$30 Mrs.' Birthday Party
$20 Anniversary Vacation
$100 Mr.'s Chiropractor Visits & Equipment
$200 Car Insurance
$10 Babysitting
$60 Groceries
$605 Debt Snowball

There is a lot here this month, so I'll try to be quick. I had back problems in August and now seeing a chiropractor 2x a week, he has some equipment for me to buy to use at home for strengthing of my neck while he works on adjusting it into place. My wife will be joining a women's bible study during the week and they are collecting an offering to the lady that will be babysitting during the study, so my wife will be giving $10. We're going to start having a grocery budget, we've been having excess on food stamps and they will be running out this month. Based on the past 2 months of groceries, we spend about $120/month for us and we have $60 left of food stamps. Our 6 month car insurance premiums are due this month, it comes out to $200 for 2 cars of just liability only coverage, I feel that's pretty good for 6 months ($33.33/month). Both of our birthdays are this month, but we celebrate one of us each year, alternating. This year is my wife's year and she's doing a tea with the ladies. It's also our 4 year anniversary, so I'm taking her camping for a 3 day weekend from the 14-16th. Shhhh, she don't know what we're doing. Our home needs more insulation (and this morning lets me know that fall is coming), so I'll be putting it in on the 22nd-23rd.

August Net Worth & Budget Results:

Our Net Worth went up as we were expecting, but did not receive a roommate, so our insulation project was put on hold until this coming month. The car repairs were put on hold as we took care of my back instead. We felt our emergency fund was higher priority than the repairs or insulation and it is. I'm proud that since February I feel that we have made big progress of tackling over $13K of net debt, though I know it's been larger since we've been battling interest at the same time. This month I'm going to need the encouragement of a couple of "small" debts taken care of to keep me going though.

New vs. Used Washer/Dryer

We had a dilemma this week in regards to deciding to go with a new or used washer/dryer. Here's how our train of thought went:
  • Our washer's motor is dead and it would cost around $200 to repair it. It's quite old though.
  • "Oh no! We have to replace our stackable washer/dryer! What to do? What to do?"
  • Let's look on Craigslist for one...There's some for $200 that are 5 years old but they may die soon on us.
  • Let's look at new ones...Ugh they go for about $1000 on the low-end.
  • Let's buy the new one with a 5 year warranty so we don't have to worry about it dieing soon.
At that point, I decided we needed to sleep on the decision at least a night and if we were still into going with a new one 2 days later, we would go out shopping for one. I then the next day thought about all that I have been reading in the personal finance world and here's what kept coming at me: "Rich people buy items that appreciate. Poor people buy items that depreciate."

You may ask how does that apply to my washer/dryer issue. If I bought the $1000 new model and considered current used prices as indicators of how much one of these depreciates, we're looking at about $160/yr depreciation of a new one after 5 years (($1000 - $200/5 = $160). Let's pretend I "bought" a used one for $1000, but $200 going to the seller and $800 going into an investment making 10% a year. What would my $800 investment look like?
  • Year 1: $880
  • Year 2: $968
  • Year 3: $1064.80
  • Year 4: $1171.28
  • Year 5: $1288.41
That means if the used one lasts me 2 & 1/2 years with minimal repairs, my replacement would be "free" (using the income to replace it). I did research and what I found was that they last about 10 years normally. So if my 5 year old used one lasts for 5 years after I buy it, not just will I have money to replace it, but enough to buy 2 of them if I wanted and go out to a nice dinner as well.

That's all great math wise, but are we going to invest it? We are by paying off all our credit card debts, that's 20% APR, can't beat that! It means we won't be dipping into our emergency fund much and can still tackle debts this month instead of rebuilding our emergency fund.

Long Time Gone

This month has been a busy month, as usual. Here's a quick update:
  • Had our yearly really bad storm in the middle of the month. 20' limb fell off one of our trees, nothing damaged. I took down a 25' limb that was damaged but didn't fall, got more to take down this weekend and cut up.
  • Washer motor is dead. Will be locating a used stackable for $200. Will put in another post the details.
  • One of our roommates has had a lot of medical problems and visits to the hospital. She is doing better, but has been behind paying us rent. We will be doing a budget with her for September to help her get back on track.
  • 1 vacancy for the entire month, have someone ready to move in at the end of September, but waiting for check in the mail from them to reserve room.
  • 1 roommate moved out with minimal notice. He had mentioned a few weeks ago he was interviewing for City of Chicago police force job, but uncertain if he wanted it or not. We found a note saying thanks and that he had moved out. Posted at several stores in the neighborhood as well as Craigslist.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Revamping our August Budget & Shopping for Value

Tonight we'll be needing to revamp our August budget (or at least see where we stand). We went over a bit on our planned spending this weekend, but most of the items were coming from categories assigned to them (eg: House Maintenance, which I bought a ceiling light & fan for our dining room we were lighting with candles for the past 2 years). My next big house project is insulating our basement

I've also swung from buying the cheapest to buying quality items. I used to look for the cheapest item and go with that, but as those cheap items start rusting away or breaking at our house (we've had a couple of kitchen items go bad recently), I'm going away from that route. As an example, I spent $4 on one whisk that has a lifetime warranty by Oneida and can be washed in the dishwasher vs. spending $3 (again) for a set of 3 whisks that are hand wash only and rusted on us. I am also making sure items with warranties are on their own receipt, stapling the receipt to the paperwork that came with it, and filing it in a folder based upon where it's used (eg: Kitchen, Living Room, Outside, Bathroom, Whole-House Appliance). For larger items, I'm putting a label on them for when the warranty expires, so that when that time gets near, we can make sure it's working properly.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Nice Mystery Shopping Date

Last night the wife and I had a great "Mystery Shopping" date. The movie theater that we visited has improved it's service from last month, though there were still items of improvement. They paid for our tickets, our food, and $5 extra. We also went to the Texas Roadhouse and had $25 off our meal at the bar. For couples ever wanting to go to a busy place like that on a weekend, I'd really recommend just eating at the bar. We had no wait (vs. the 40 minute wait for a table), the service was quick (your server is always just a few feet away) and at least at the one we went to it's an open floor, so you got as much smoke as you would anywhere else in the restaurant.

In the end, our date was a net loss of $5, because we went a bit high on our food bill at the Texas Roadhouse. It was well worth it and we'll probably do another date like this in the future.

Friday, August 3, 2007

$100K vs. $45K pay

I just talked to one of my roommates and he's got a bit of a dilemma. I don't even know what I would choose 100%, so I thought I would toss this out here. He's been working for almost a year now as a security guard at a county jail nearby, racking up 80-100 hours a week. Some of that overtime he converted to vacation time (he has 3 months available paid vacation), but the rest now he is pocketing and estimates he is getting $100K/yr gross including the overtime. Most of that money he is saving up to buy a home outright and take care of bad debts from times when he was unemployed.

He also has been interviewing in the city of Chicago to be a policeman, going through all the tests, etc. I found out about it because one of the interviewers called me yesterday about him. He was first interested in it because it's the next logical step up from security guard, but now he is a bit uncertain since it's unlikely that he would get overtime as a police officer. That would mean a pay cut down to $45K and he would probably have to move (which he enjoys our home). The fun part of the interview process too is that they may hire him in a couple of weeks, but they may call him up in 2 years offering a job.

If I was him, I would probably stay where I am as long as I physically can and then take the police officer job after that. I don't know how that man can work 80-100+ hours a week, week in and week out. If I was in the same situation (with wife and daughter), I would jump at the police officer position so that I could spend more time with my wife and daughter.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Spent $375 to make $35!

Well, we just wrapped up 2 mystery shops this evening, where we had to spend a total of $375 in order to get paid $35 ($20 for one and $15 for the other). We'll be having them refund our card this weekend, so the money spent isn't lost, but it's pretty funny to think of it as spending that much just to make 10% back.

Now one of the purchases was for sunglasses. I don't know who buys sunglasses for $275, but I pretended to be one this evening. There must be enough people that do so, otherwise the store couldn't stay open at the mall. They are nice, made of titanium, but not worth as much as my car almost (paid $400 for my car 3 months ago). I'm normally a dollar store type sunglass guy, I figure if I lose them, I won't be that upset. And lose things I do!

The other purchase was for a sofa. I don't understand that people pay $700 for a sofa or $2K for a whole living room set, but there must be folks that do that and then donate their old sofa to me =) The only piece of furniture I've bought was a bed for $300 that had drawers underneath it and made of solid wood. I don't use it as a bed anymore, but the drawers are used as tool storage in my basement. The rest of my furniture has been hand-me-downs from others no longer wanting the furniture.

One last positive thing was we were able to sell one of our gift cards that we received from the baby shower last month for a store we feel is too expensive for clothing. 2 more cards for Kohl's to sell!

No More Clutter, What To Do?

The past few months I've been using the excuse of cleaning out the house so that we would not go out and spend money. I figured it would be good to get rid of the clutter and see how much money we really wasted on things. Well, it's been a week now that I feel our house is pretty much uncluttered and I don't know what to do. It feels weird sometimes to just sit around the house and read a book, go for a walk around the neighborhood, or watch a movie we own.

I think the problem is that I've been associating my identity with being cluttered and always just moving it around in circles, that without the clutter I'm at a loss. My wonderful wife has been planning dinners with guests (2 this week). I'm tempted to go back to work so that we can tackle more debts, but she has asked that we spend some of the summer at least just enjoying each other's company.

Because of that, this coming month I may not be posting much, but I'll probably have some posts on:
  • DIY Roof Repair - Worth It?
  • Insulating My Home
  • Gardening & Giving
  • Value of Spending Time With Your Spouse

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

August Budget

I had posted last week about our July net worth updates, here's our budget for August (this one my wife put the numbers together and I just gave her current balances on things):


200 On-call Computer Job (so far, we have $100 guaranteed, the rest is uncertain)
$1050 Rental Income (3 roommates)

$350 Possible Rental Income (new roommate)
$2698 Day Job
Total: $4298


$430 Tithe
$1150 Mortgage - This went up this month due to taxes and homeowners insurance, will be our monthly payment for the next year
$240 Gas - This has gone down from $300, with me using a hatchback to get to work and back, we're saving gas and a second vehicle allows my wife to stay home instead of taking me to work when she needs the car
$145 Natural Gas
$140 House Phone - They came out and repaired our Internet, which cost us. I REALLY need to argue with them since it was their fault the modem got fried (not grounded outside).
$50 Water
$89 Electricity
$158 Cell Phone - Yes, I know, high.
$95 Life Insurance
$10 Small monthly debt payment
$30 Her Fun Money
$30 My Fun Money
$30 Dining Out
$30 Toiletries
$500 Home Maintenance - We need insulation everywhere, I'm going to do the parts I can this month and in September we'll have a professional do within the walls. In addition, I have some work to do around the chimney (convincing myself to go up there and do myself) as well as install some gutter guards so I don't have problems this fall with leaves.
$250 Car Maintenance - My car needs a radiator flush as well as a connector from the engine to the muffler pipe. I'll be doing the flush on my own, I'm going to see if I can get a friend to do the connector.
$1000 e-fund - We're down to $100 in it right now, so we're going to need to build it back up this month.

As you can see, this coming month there is not much attacking the debts, but if we don't take care of these problems now, they will cost us a whole lot more later on. The insulation seems more like a "want" than a "need" to most, but they haven't lived at our house for 2 winters. I don't want to lose any renters due to the cold, so we need to invest in the insulation.

One item I leave out (which maybe I should include) when I post my budget is that this is just the outline. We also generate a second version where every check is allocated based upon the first budget. That way, when we get a check we go "OK, time to pay X" instead of trying to guess as we go along which one should be taken care. It's mainly been the 1st and 15th we take care of the basics (mortgage, utilities, gas, etc) and the other checks through the month take care of that month's goals (e-fund, maintenance, debt snowball). That way if one of the smaller checks is delayed in any way (which happens almost every month), we're not relying on it for a basic.