Saturday, April 28, 2007

3 Jobs Today, No Waiting

I had one hectic of a day with a variety of jobs:
  1. 9AM-12PM: Tutoring a student on Chemistry, I'm certain he'll pass the test with flying colors. $30
  2. 12-12:30 PM: Documented the stores at a strip mall nearby for an online company. $5
  3. 1:30-8:30 PM: Setup 2 servers at someone's home business, lots of little things to be done to get them ready. $152
Today's total income is looking at $187. Tomorrow isn't looking too bad, I have one that will pay me $47 to see which computer piece is bad with their home-built computer. Hopefully I can just be away from home for 2 hours on that one and rest the rest of the day.

Cheap Gas - For A Price

I was driving around today to my many different side-jobs (worked 3 today) and saw a Shell gas station selling gas for 15 cents cheaper than the cheapest gas station around, so I decided to fill'er up there (the red light was on, telling me I had to stop or else my car was going to stop for me). I started to wonder why it was so cheap and then I saw him.

The credit card hawker!

He was an elderly gentlemen, kind of that "grandpa" look to him in the sweatpants and short-sleeve shirt. He was helping people with the crazy amount of cars that were stopping for gas, but he was using the time people were filling up to promote the Shell credit card. I actually watched him go to a guy that hadn't used their credit card, pointed at the $25 the pump showed the guy had paid and was talking about "You could have saved X amount of money by using this card.". He came up to me asking if I was interested, I told him "I don't do credit." He tried to explain about the savings but could see it in my face that I was not an interested customer and walked off to another unsuspecting soul.

I just think about that they have to be making money off of having the guy out there (he's not doing it for charity work) and the way they do it is you get the card and then forget to make a payment, or they forget to post a payment, or you run out of cash to make the payment. Then your in that vicious cycle of being bitten by the APR rattlesnake. No more for me.

April Budget Review

Here's a review of how things went with April's budget:
  • Unexpected Expenses: My wife received a speeding ticket ("Baby Brains", forgot to watch the speed) and I had to buy some equipment for work (will be reimbursed). Also had a bank charge due NSF.
  • Unexpected Income: My wife has a few more Mystery Shopping payments that are a bit overdue, she will be working with them on Monday to check the status. They were allocated to Savings anyways, so it's not that big of a deal. My on-call computer support job has been picking up and received a $200 bi-weekly check recently.
  • Auto Gas: It has been tight this month even with $300. The main reason I think is a mix between the prices going up and my on-call computer support job picking up. We also near the beginning of the month had a big trip to visit an older relative that took almost a full tank of gas. We are planning on bumping it up $30 to make it not so tight and don't have any major driving trips this month planned. Once we get a second car in the next month or two it will actually go down since my wife won't be driving me to work 2x a week.
  • Household Supplies/Toiletries: We decided earlier this month that we end up spending this every month, so instead of just lying to ourself about it that we won't a certain month, we will have a fund for it of $30/month. This includes garbage bags, laundry soap, toilet paper, tissue paper, cleaning supplies, etc.
  • Cell Phone: We share a plan with other people (I know, bad idea) and one of the people on it we haven't been able to reach to pay his portion, so we're taking care of it. We expected though for him not to pay, so it didn't affect our budget much.

Friday, April 27, 2007

May Budget

Here's where we're looking at for our May budget:

$396 Tithe
$990 Mortgage
$300 Auto Gas
$145 Home Gas
$40 House Phone
$40 Water
$235 Electric
$158 Cell Phone
$95 Life Insurance
$60 Previous employer Chargebacks (done this month!)
$10 Dr. Bill
$30 Wife's Fun Money
$30 My Fun Money
$30 Dining Out
$75 Baby/Wife Clothing
$30 Toiletries
$40 Toll Device Replenish (my jobs are having me drive more)
$1000 Savings
$256 Debt Snowball

Total: $3960

We have about $110 left to be caught up with the Electricity, then the bill will be a normal amount each month. The only two non-recurring items this month is the clothing money (my wife is making cloth diapers for our daughter and my wife will need nursing bras) and the toll replenish. This budget is pretty much our ideal budget, with $2379 going to normal monthly expenses, $115 to non-monthly recurring expenses, and the rest going to debt or savings.

OfficeMax: $10 off $20 Purchase

I don't know if others have been receiving these recently, but at our house we're now getting one of these coupons in the mail about once a month. This past month I used one to stock up on 4 reams of computer paper and some blank DVDs. Next month I'm looking at getting a cartridge for our label maker so that we can use it to organize things better. You can't beat 50% off office supplies!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Life has been busy with my work weeks running around 60+ hours/week. Here's the latest update:
  • Dryer: Last week it had gone out again, had thought it was the belt but it ended up being that I didn't tighten two of the screws enough in the back. Found replacement screws around the house and tightened it up. My wife did a bunch of laundry yesterday and no problems. We're going though with smaller loads now.
  • Computers: I just worked with a customer last night that lived in a very expensive house (everyone in the neighborhood had a swimming pool in their back yard) and the lady of the house was saying that she thought computers should last more than 6 years. Her system had a short on the motherboard and was causing the system to crash. I didn't say it to her, but that's why the manufacturers give 3 year warranties at best.
  • Redbox: I've been using Redbox the past few days. I knew my relatives had it out in Colorado, but didn't think it had come to Illinois. I guess I was wrong, there's a few in my neighborhood. If you sign up on their site your cell phone #, you'll get a free rental every Monday night until about mid-May. I just did one last night and had another free one from a promo code on their site.
  • The Corporation: I just recently watched this movie, I knew it was biased against corporations, but it's still interesting to watch documentaries like that. It's made me look at companies a little differently.
  • TigerDirect: Had one of those "look at differently" experience when I was shopping there. When you buy from there at their outlet stores, they want to know your phone number. I declined to provide it. When you return something, they say they are required to get your address. I was tempted to lie, but I gave it to them and asked them "Your not going to be sending me anything, right?" And they were like, "Um...I don't know." and they checked with another associate and told me they'd send me a catalog. They ended up marking my account as "Do Not Rent" which means a whole lot more than just their catalog. It means them selling personal information left and right.
  • Shopping: I asked my wife a question when we were shopping at the hardware store "Do we have something at home that would also work?" She was wanting to work in our garden and was wanting one of those knee pads so that the ground isn't so hard while she was working. She ended up coming up with the idea an old towel and it worked just fine. That little question saved us $5 and one less item in the house.
  • Breadmaking: I haven't done a cost analysis of it, but I think there is something so much more valuable in it. This weekend I made a whole bunch of bread and to me it tastes a whole lot better than store-bought bread. I feel it similar to the feeling of driving a fully-paid car or walking through the grass of a fully-paid home.
  • Tree-cutting: I was planning on doing it this past weekend, but I couldn't borrow a ladder. This weekend coming up I'm going to try again and save the wood for our future fireplace. I'm going to do some research on how much firewood is needed to keep our house warm.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Messup - NSF Bank Charge

I confess, I messed up this week. Two of my jobs needed computer parts this week, so I went shopping and picked up 2 switches and 1 GB computer memory. I got though the wrong kind of computer memory and was trying to get the machine taken care of with 1 visit, so I went to the store and used my debit card like a credit card to buy the correct memory.

I would have been fine if the next day I had put cash into the account, but I didn't and thought I had enough funds from other sources transferring into the bank account, but I didn't look. In the end I got a $30 NSF fee charged to the account. Right now we're back to square one with our emergency fund, I'm hoping in the coming month we'll get that thing fully funded. The lesson learned though is that cash doesn't have any fees.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Don't Be Lazy

This week has been busy between my day job and my computer repair job. For my computer repair job, the customers I work with about half the time could probably do it on their own but would much rather pay someone to do it. And pay they do ($85/hr).

The financial lesson I give here is don't be lazy, it'll cost you. My dryer recently is an example (which I have to work on again this week, I didn't tighten everything up I guess tight enough and the belt came loose). To have it repaired by a "professional" would probably have cost me upwards of $200. And they would probably have had the same problem I'm having now, where the belt went off 2 days later, causing them to come back out a second time.

The job I worked on today on someone's laptop will in the end cost them around $250. The basic problem is that soda spilled on the keyboard in the middle of the night and soaked in very good. This person is very knowledgeable about desktop machines and was a programmer. In the end though, they decided to first turn down our recommendation of getting a replacement keyboard before I came out. Second, all it is going to take me to replace the keyboard is about a dozen screws and patience. Parts will only be about $30 of the $250.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Water Leak $10/month

Recently I figured out why our water bill went up by $10/month. I had thought originally that it was due to us having another roommate, but the last time that we had a new roommate it only went up by a couple of dollars. The new roommate we have now is only at our house 4 nights a week, so I didn't think it was him.

It came down to our downstairs toilet lever is sticking sometimes. I went down into our basement and heard running water, but knew no one was running the water. Went upstairs and the lever was stuck. This weekend I'll be replacing the lever and hopefully in a month or two we will see the benefits of it on the bill. Right now our bill is at $40/month for water & trash service, which is pretty good still for 5 adults taking showers and 4 adults using the washer (1 takes clothes up north on the weekends to his other home).

Monday, April 16, 2007

$500 Forgiven

I was planning on paying back a friend that we had borrowed $500 and wrote them an e-mail a week ago to let them know. They had previously told us to hold off paying them back until we have our emergency fund built up. This month we had built up an emergency fund, so it was about time to start paying them back.

Besides forgiving the $500 they had borrowed to us, they are looking at giving away one of their cars to us. Their family has grown greatly in the past year (2 kids, 1 is adopted) and are seeking to get a discounted van from their work. We haven't decided whether to accept their offer or not. In one respect it will help us get out of debt 2 months sooner. In another respect, I don't want to feel even more indebted to friends, even though it's a gift.

It all reminds me of Acts chapter 4 in the Bible, where all believers shared with each other what they had and no one was in need. It's hard though to be the one in need and receiving blessings.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Summer Plans

I've pretty much decided for this summer I will be pulling out of one of my many jobs. My first child is going to be born in 5 weeks and I want to be able to spend Saturdays with her and work on our home. The math side of it works like this:
  • Income reduction of $200/month for not working Saturdays and occasional weekdays.
  • Income increase of $400/month for 6 months with 1 more roommate.
The part I love, tutoring 1 on 1 will be dropping down quite a bit due to the students have taken the ACT and the new ones have a year until they need to take it.

I know this is an emotional decision (want to be able to enjoy a little bit of summer and my daughter) where if I was super gazelle intense I would just work the extra hours and know I got myself in this mess. On the other hand, I'll be going down from 3 to 2 jobs for a short period of time and replacing that income with twice as much. It will also give me time to work on some much needed projects (locating free fencing, free swing set, cutting down trees in our yard, insulation, dejunking our home).

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Whittling away cookbooks

Last night we started working on a "family cookbook" at our house to help with reducing the amount of stuff we have at the house. The plans are to scan in all the pages of our favorite recipes from our current cookbooks, get rid of the original cookbooks, print out kitchen copies after we have it fully organized. Therefore we have a hard copy to work with in the kitchen, but if anything gets dirty, we can always print out a new copy.

The mindset I'm trying to help my wife learn is that if we're wanting to ever look at a "pretty book" (a nickname) that shows yummy food, we can always go to the library or check out the million different cooking web sites. There were cookbooks that we hadn't even made a recipe out of, some of them we had made 1-2 recipes, others we have used heavily. My goal right now is just for us to get rid of the first two categories, leaving the third for another time (if ever).

Along the same lines, my wife saw an ad that came in the mail showing a 3 movie series she is wanting to watch and said "I'd love to own that!" I reminded her that our library has that series and we already "own" it by having a library card.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Misc Income

My wife sent me an e-mail about mystery shopping at a hardware store nearby for $14 and uncertain if it's one to go after. I came up with an equation for us to use when deciding if one is worthwhile: 7t + 0.3d = M where t is the total time commitment in hours, d is extra distance in miles beyond normal route, M is the money they are paying. There are 3 coming up that my wife will be doing, which are a total of an 1.5 hrs, almost no extra miles, and the money is over $19. Those make much better cents.

After looking at someone else's web site and doing some thinking, I think we need to set some goals for "misc income". This would include things like mystery shopping, trial offers, point programs, etc.

I think I'm going to set our goal to be $300/month. This is about how much my wife was making at a very part time job for a video store, which she left a month ago. Here's where I'm initially looking for a year's worth:
  • Speedway: $50/yr
  • Mystery Shopping/Stocking: $1800/yr ($150/month)
  • Other Point Programs: $120/yr ($10/month)
  • Trial Offers: $1630/yr ($135/month)
So far this month we're looking at $100 for setting up a coffee advertising, $29 for trial offers, $150 for mystery shopping, $25 Speedway Gas Card, bringing us to $304. I'm going to start looking at bumping up our trial offer efforts and help my wife only pick the best "fruit" of mystery shopping (free food, oil changes, basic stocking, very good paying).

A tough question I have been thinking about is if by doing a trial offer to get money back, is it morally wrong? I know last year during the summer I did something that I feel was a bad moral decision (local casino was giving away $5/visit on Wed & Fridays, they were 3 miles away, would drive there so I could have gas money to keep searching for a job). I feel that was taking in the end from people with an addiction. But what about signing up for an online music site and getting paid $5 for trying it out?

Getting Rid Of STUFF

Last night was my breaking point. We have too much stuff. I am sick of tired of living like a spoiled kid, hoarding stuff when people are in need in this world. In the coming weeks and month we are going to do some serious cleaning of the house. Here's my current list of things to go:
  • Cookbooks: I know my wife is going to struggle a bit against this one, but how many do we really need? My plans for this is we start heavily on creating a family cookbook, copying the recipes that we enjoy out of the other books and then say goodbye to them. If we're needing new recipes, there are so many on the Internet and at the local library, we shouldn't need to have them in-house.
  • Movies: I'm thinking of going the route of a "Top 10" or "Top 20" to reduce our shelves. I'm counting 15 shelves worth of videos right now. Can't we just rent a movie again if we want to watch it again? If we sign up permanently with Blockbuster or Netflix, we're looking at $240/yr for them to manage our video library. I don't know if it's as much as we spend right now on movie entertainment, but it sure would reduce our stuff level.
  • Bowflex: Received as a gift from a business client, we used it probably 20-30 times in 2 years. It would be helpful for our health to use it, but we're not. It's a high-level model, so we could probably sell it for a good chunk of change, then use that to go to a gym membership fund for my wife (I prefer the outdoors, biking, swimming, etc.).
  • Snowblower: Received from my dad's junk, we have maybe 50 feet of sidewalk to clear, not worth having this huge hunk of machine in our house (or building a "house" for it outside).
  • Hardware odds and ends: 2 years ago we made a foolish choice to help my father out by fixing up his house to sell it. I bought lots of random things to help with the project but didn't keep receipts and didn't return the unused items. They've been a burden and we just need to get rid of them.
  • Teas: We have probably 40 different kinds of teas and they're just rotting away in the drawer. Teas aren't supposed to be kept forever, we've got some that are 10 years old. When buying a tea next, we will look at as "Are we going to drink this twice a month, every month for the next year?"
  • Nick-nacks: I don't want to go to heaven and when asked "When I was hungry, where were you?" and I'll say "I didn't have money to give since I bought all those lovely nick-nacks."
It all comes down to priorities. What are my priorities with the money that God has entrusted me with? Is it the widow, homeless, those in need or is it building a larger container to fill? I hope at the end of my life I can say that my priorities were with people, not with the stuff I bought.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Saving on Gas

We got another $25 in free gas today. We don't use credit cards to get the free gas, but use Speedway's rewards program. It took 17,500 points to get there and we get 500 points for buying a $50 gift card (for $49). They reduced their benefit program this past week, you only get 10 points per gallon of gas. It used to be 10 points per $1 spent on anything, which would get you 23-28 points per gallon based upon the price of gas.

My math shows that when we buy $1250 of gas using $50 gift cards, we get a total of $1275 worth of gas for only $1225. That comes out to a 3.9% discount on gas. I know there's other options with credit that can do better, but we can't get any credit at this time.

One last trick I found by accident last week is that Speedway lists their afternoon gas prices on their web site in the morning. What I plan to do is the morning before I plan on filling up, I'll check the prices to come and see if the current price is better or if I should wait until they adjust the live prices.

Dryer Report

The final report on the dryer is that the hi level thermostat got so hot that it burnt one of the wires, thereby the heating element wasn't turning on. Here's how I tackled this problem:
  1. My father-in-law repairs washers/dryers, so I gave him a call.
  2. Removed the vent pipe.
  3. Disconnected the power.
  4. Removed the front cover and found hidden directions on the schematics & where all the parts were.
  5. Normally you can get to the heating element, thermostat, shutoff switch from the back but for my model you had to take the drum (the thing that rotates) out to get to that stuff.
  6. Visually inspected the 3 parts back there, found the burnt wire for the thermostat.
  7. Used Ohmmeter to test the resistance on the different components. Heating element should start with some, the thermostat shouldn't (which it did for me). Sometimes the heating element breaks as well, but that should be visible.
  8. Did a search on Google for my part. Didn't find too many matches for my part that weren't wholesale suppliers.
  9. Looked for the manufacturer of the part and did a search for "Hi Level thermostat" for them, starting to see if I could find an image of one that had the same part number.
  10. Found one on eBay for $18.49 after shipping, was shipped out at 2:30 AM today.
The total effort for this project was about 2 hours so far, when the part gets here it'll probably be another 1/2 hour. The lessons learned though are so much more valuable than me just going out to buy a replacement or calling a professional to take care of it for me.

Thankfully, I knew someone that was a professional willing to teach me. I would recommend anyone trying to get out of debt to get to know someone that does different repairs (eg: Tuckpointing I need to learn this summer, but need to get to know someone who does). In the short-term it'll cost you time, but in the long run it'll save you time and money.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Hi, My Name Is Murphy - Tax Man

I wonder how many parents name their children Murphy these days, with everyone's view of "Murphy's Law". I know there must be one at the IRS. From 2003-2005, we always received a refund due to high medical bills we were paying and donations made through the year. Last year though was a roller coaster and we overcounted on exemptions, so it's looking like we're going to be needing to send the tax man this year around $1300. I'm double-checking all the numbers before we mail it in on the 17th.

In addition, it seems like Murphy decided to visit our dryer this week as well, causing it not to dry anything. My father-in-law knows how to repair these, but he's in Colorado and I'm in Illinois so he's going to step me through it over the phone on Sunday to see if we can figure out what part needs to be replaced. The part probably won't be over $100, probably closer to $25.

Through it all, since we were working on building our emergency fund this month, we'll do like "rich" people do: Find the way to pay the least overall and then just pay it. No need to worry about it, get upset over it all, whine, cry, etc.

Friday, April 6, 2007

My Home IS an Asset

Those that prescribe to the Rich Dad/Poor Dad point of view would argue that normally one's home is not an asset (since it doesn't produce income), but for me they would say it is. We currently have 3 roommates that pay us $1100 total/month and our total housing expenses are $1500/month (maintenance included). We have 1 bedroom that has been storage the past 6 months, I'm considering renting it out for $400/month, making it "free" for us to live at the house. We'd do this probably for 6-12 months until our newborn is getting bigger and needing her own room.

Those of you thinking I'm nuts to have that many "strangers" living in my house, the 3 roommates work and spend so much time out of the house that it's like no one is living with us. My wife and I went to bed last night at 9:30 PM and noticed that no one else had come home that evening yet (1 works second shift, 1 works 2nd and 3rd shift as a workaholic, 1 works 9-5 but sometimes works late and goes out of town every weekend).

I wish the room we have was on the first floor, a lady in our church brought up the need of a woman living in her car with medical problems that needs a place to stay. She would though need something on the first floor, which we don't have available.

Gardening = Personal Finances

As we start working on getting our garden ready this year, I am seeing a lot of parallels with our personal finances. Here's a list of what I've seen so far, I'm betting there are a whole lot more:
  1. Picking seeds like you pick goals for your finances (eg: wanting to have fresh tomatoes during the summer, just like wanting to retire comfortably).
  2. Emotionally wanting the results NOW, not having to wait for them. I've had that feeling with future goals in retirement and gardening.
  3. Remove all the weeds from the yard before starting. This also applies to cleaning out your finances as well, resolving any items that don't cost money to take care of (eg: canceling services you don't need to live).
  4. Put down a good manure to help your plants grow. In personal finances, this means making sure your income is where it needs to be to get your finances turned around.
  5. Planting at the right time so that they don't get frost-bitten. This goes back to needing patience, but also comes about knowledge of when to plant. In the same way, you need to grow your knowledge of personal finances in order to handle things at the right time.
  6. Water and care for the plants constantly. Your finances won't go anywhere if you ignore them for weeks at a time, such as making a budget and then ignoring it.
  7. Picking the results when they are ready. This goes back to patience, but also points to recognizing when you reach your goals. We do this by posting them up on our wall to remind us of what we've done with God's help.
I always wondered why my plants never grew well, these items have helped me see better why they have not. Hopefully this year I will be dedicated to our garden and use the lessons I've learned from personal finance as well.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Value of Entertainment

I don't remember what book I read it from, but I remember learning how to measure the "value" of entertainment. The way it goes is:
  1. Look at the cost of the item you are considering.
  2. Compare it to the alternatives that are cheaper.
  3. Decide if the item you are considering is X times more enjoyable.
It works mainly for larger items, at the smaller items it's a little harder. For example, my wife and I went to Wendy's tonight, splitting a large fries & frostee, each getting a burger. Total bill = $9. At the same time, I'm bidding on some video games that I know would bring us hours of fun (Lego Star Wars & Mario Sunshine for the GameCube). One of the games I'll be able to get probably for $5. That game's entertainment "value" will be a whole lot more than the meal we ate. I wouldn't have done it normally, but my wife got a speeding ticket yesterday and sacrificed her fun money to pay for it. I wanted to do something to cheer her up, so the value for it today far outweighed the amount.

On the other hand, we were considering going to visit my in-laws over Thanksgiving, but due to my new job and no vacation time, we'd have to fly out there instead of drive. The cost if we bought the tickets now for the 3 of us would be $700. Now compare that to camping for 7 weekends this summer instead. I think 2 weeks of camping would be more enjoyable than 3 days with family.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Modified "Ramsey" Plan

I had a reader via NetworthIQ ask me if I have heard of Dave Ramsey. The answer is yes. I have been listening since the beginning of the year to his show through daily free MP3's (1 hour's worth).

My wife and I are following something similar to Ramsey's Total Money Makeover plan (which is also very similar to Crown Financial Ministries' plan), but have modified it to our situation. Here's the details of our modifications:
  1. First goal was just get the house stuff current (mortgage & utilities). Our credit cards are so behind that we can't get them current. We are about done with this step.
  2. Save $3K initially. I know both plans say $1K, but we have no credit at all available to us if anything beyond $1K came up. We also know that we are going to need a car in the next few months that we are looking at $2K to spend. Once we get the car, it will stay at $1K
  3. Pay $10/month on the bills that provide us other services at this time or may soon in the future (eg: Chiropractor, marriage counselor). It shows to them that we do want to pay them something at least.
  4. Make a big pile of cash to tackle our smallest debt that is building interest. For example, we have a credit card that we owe approximately $1500. We will gather up $1200, offer them $1K to settle the bill, if they don't like that, we'll counter-offer with $1200.
  5. Repeat step 4 for 18-20 months until all credit card debt is taken care of.
  6. Repeat step 4 for 12 months on our non-interest debt (hospital bills, etc).
Our plan is in the next 3 years (36 months), we can get rid of ~$42K of debt. I have years of experience of negotiating in the medical billing field, so I will be using that to get us out of these debts one by one.

I know the best method is to tackle our highest interest first, but we are needing the monthly psychological boost that things are progressing, while at the same time keeping cash away from our grubby hands as much as possible. In our finances, the emotional side is what got us in this mess and the emotional side is what is going to get us out.

March Review

Here's March's accomplishments:
  • Paid 3 months of our mortgage, bringing us current. That was over $3K alone.
  • Paid 2 months of Water bill, now current.
  • Paid 2 months of Electric bill, only 2 months behind (they added an old residence of ours to our current bill).
  • Paid 1 month of Natural gas bill, only 1/2 month behind (thought us getting to the payment plan would even it out, but they still want 1/2 month more)
  • Had an unexpected $131 car repair we took care of.
We have a white board at our house near the entry way, our financial goal listed on it now is $3K in savings. If it wasn't for taxes, we would be able to get about $1300 this month for it, but we're going to have a large tax bill (currently at $1200, still reviewing it for any errors).

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Lemons in My Yard, Time For Lemonade

This past January we had to tear up a 45 foot long trench in order to replace our water line. From the dig, we have a whole bunch of river rocks that were buried that are now on top. I could have looked at these in one of two ways:

1. They are something I need to pay someone to get rid of and make it look the "right" way (green grass, no rocks, nice paved driveway).

2. Consider them as free landscaping material to work with, to have a unique front yard.

I chose the second one. Near our front door there used to be a nice 6'x6' square of grass, though it got torn up by the backhoe. Instead of trying to plant grass there again, I moved the large rocks from there and made a mini-wall around it so we can plant a garden there. I'm taking the smallest rocks and using them as my driveway, which it's starting to look like a small riverbed. The medium rocks I'm putting near our front steps, where weeds used to just grow. I figure I'm saving hundreds of dollars just spending 15-30 minutes a day on it, getting a good free exercise as well.