Sunday, December 28, 2008

$125 Electrical Repair Complete

We had an outlet go out in our kitchen a week ago and I tried to fix it myself (got a replacement GFI outlet, wired it up based on how I read the directions, still did not work). We also noticed that a light to our basement was acting up as well on the same circuit, so I tried to remove that one to see if it would fix everything. That did not work.

One of our next-door neighbors is doing a major remodeling of his house. It had been split into 2 units and the other person moved out in the fall, so he is rejoining the 2 units. One of his friends is an electrician and was working next door, so he came over yesterday morning with my neighbor and they got it all fixed in an hour.

The total costs were $125, which included 3 new GFI outlets at $12/each. I know if I had to of gone through the phone book, the project would have easily been a $300 project. In the spring, we'll look at doing some other electrical projects.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

2008 & 2009 Goals

2008 was pretty busy for us, here are the key items from the goal list that we succeeded at:

- Chimney Lined & Fireplace Installed: We didn't get it at the exact time we wanted, but we were successful.

- Professionally Removed Tree: We had these removed earlier than we had originally planned due to wanting the room for our garden

- Triple Size of Garden: We were successful at that and are still enjoying the fruits of our labor

- 1 Week Mission Trip: I was able to go in June

- Move daughter into her own room: She has been in her own room and the financial consequences have been felt minimally.

- Increase day job salary by 10%: This one we were the most successful at, by increasing it over 50% in 1 year's time.

- Settle debts: We settled a fair amount of our debts and have just a few remaining

One's we were not successful at: $3K emergency fund (due to debts not completed), reinstate tithing (due to debts not completed), 3 certification tests (only 1 taken), & settle misc debts.

Now onto 2009 Goals:

Financial:
Pay off final CC & misc debts by June
$1.5K SIMPLE IRA by end of year
$8.5K Emergency Fund by end of year

Career:
Increase day job salary by 10%
Take 2 Microsoft Certification Exams

House:
Install windows in basement
Install fence to block driveway
Install rain barrels to collect water
Remove large portion of driveway to expand garden
Replace upstairs bathtub

Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Best Christmas Present

My wife gave me this morning my best Christmas present ever. Underneath the wrapping paper was a pregnancy test with the date October 21st written on it, which was the day she got off of birth control (an IUD for those curious). She promptly took the test and found out we're pregnant with child #2!

We had been discussing for a while that we would be waiting until February of next year to start trying, but I've been itching to start early. She secretly had been wanting to also start early, so she went to the doctor on October 21st and had the IUD removed so that we could try again.

Our estimates for the due date is July 31st, a week before the period of the summer we call "Tomato Hell", which is when we start hauling in 20-30 lbs of tomatoes a day into the house for a few weeks. I'm hoping he or she comes early! If not, we'll be sure to be recruiting help.

What this means for our finances:

1. With my current employer, I am going to not push too hard at getting a huge raise in March at my yearly review. In order to continue on the HMO insurance plan we have, I am not going to consider the possibility of changing jobs.

2. Our savings is going to be even more important and am going to go for the lofty goal of $10K saved by the end of next year.

3. The pregnancy costs should be minimal with the HMO and already having pretty much everything we need from our first one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Eviction Update

In case you are wanting to know the current scores on our 3 roommates and their evictions, they are:

K - Will be asking his parents over Christmas for money to pay us back, he's the most likely one to be moving out by the end of the month. He's been looking for work for months and has been unsuccessful. If I was betting, I would say the odds are 1 in 10 of him staying.

C - She paid her 1st of the 8 weekly payments, though our concern is that her employer check bounced earlier in the month, making future paychecks suspect of not being good. If I was betting, I would say the odds are 1 in 2 of her staying mainly because this is her second eviction notice from us and she worked hard to pay us back last time.

D - She just received this past Friday her 60 day eviction notice and we've been answering questions every day. Our latest discussion last night was her letting us know she did the math and believes she will be able to make it. January 15th though will be the day she makes the final decision, dependent upon how many hours she receives from work before then. If I was betting, I would say the odds are 1 in 3 of her staying.

So who is going to stay and who is going to go? Will post my next update once we hear back from K's parents and what K decides.

Christmas Bonus Plans

Yesterday I received my first Christmas bonus from my new employer and boy was it nice. First off, right after lunch he handed me a card with 5 pictures of Mr. Franklin. Then when I was heading out the door at the end of the day, he asked me into his office and gave me 2 more pictures of Mr. Franklin off his desk. I asked him what the extra 2 were for and he told me that I have been helping him a lot and he wanted to show it. He also said for me to make sure I got my wife and daughter something nice this Christmas, which I told him I had already gone shopping for my wife and that for my daughter we are just saving for her college fund.

In the end, the grand total of $700 will go towards:

$100 - Our church, we have not been tithing. My wife and I are doing our yearly financial bible study and the key item it hits on is our money is not our money, but God's that we have been entrusted with.
$100 - Daughter's education fund
$300 - Kitchenaid Professional Mixer, present for my wife. Started at $430 after tax, then had 20% off coupon that brought down to $350, then received a $50 mail-in rebate)
$100 - Repairs on kitchen outlets I tried to fix but suspect I made the problem worse
$100 - Next month's expenses

Overall I believe that is a good mix of gifts and going to needs we have.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

More Recent Savings

Our natural gas bill came in recently and I calculated we have saved $140 this past month by using our wood stove instead of the natural gas. That brings our total savings this winter to $165. We also have secured a large pile of wood that we'll be picking up in the spring from friends in church. We've been going through the wood faster than I thought we would and we will probably run out in mid-February.

In addition, we did a mystery shop for an oil change on my wife's car that will pay for itself at the end of this month. It's been a while since the company we had used has had them available. My car next month will need an oil change and I'm keeping an eye out for it.

The past month we've also been visiting the library every Saturday, picking up books, videos and CD's. This has helped us while things have been tight financially.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Evictions & Renters

My wife and I have been having some deep discussions the past couple of weeks about our renters and have done the following:

- Gave a 30 day eviction notice to one roommate now 3 months behind in rent ($1050 owed). He has been struggling trying to find work and he is going to see if his parents can pay his rent.

- Rewritten our house handbook to include our mission statement, roommate expectations (eg: consistent paying of rent), as well as the eviction process.

We are also heavily considering setting into play the following:

- Require 2 other roommates to become current in 60 days or be evicted. After Sunday, both of them are 2 months behind in their rent. If they do not become current in 60 days, they will need to move out.

- If at any point a roommate is more than a month behind in their rent, they have 30 days to rectify the situation or they have to move out.

- If we have to provide 3 eviction notices, the third one is their request to move out.

The problem we're having is that it feels like we're helping them every way we can and they don't view it important that they pay their rent on time. One of the roommates that is behind 2 months just went on vacation for a week to Texas to see relatives. After Sunday, the roommates combined will owe $2200 in rent due. The way we're looking at it is like we're borrowing them $2200 when we barely have enough to pay all of the bills and keep the debt collectors at bay.

Are we being unreasonable?

Debt Status

Last Friday I went to court with my wife at my side and Capital One received a judgment for the full amount owed plus court costs. We paid $2000 last Friday and are looking at doing $1500 in January and the remaining $1500 in February. We should not have purchased the wood stove until this was resolved and are paying for it dearly.

In addition, we have 1 large debt that I've been ignoring from a foreclosure a few years back, but now don't want to have the same problems I had with Capital One. They sent us a letter recently offering a payment plan or settlement amount. I called them and have setup a monthly payment plan of $275/month through April and we're going to do everything in our power to take care of it in April through settling with them. It took a 1/2 hour to convince them I could not do a settlement and that I wanted the monthly payment plan written in the letter they sent. I'll be updating our net worth statistics to reflect this debt and the true balance of the Capital One.

We also received 2 letters about medical debts that are still outstanding with them offering a 50% discount for the next 60 days if we pay it off. Once we are closer to January, we will look at our budget and see if we can fit them in. Our original hopes were to have this all taken care of by the end of the year, but it looks like it will be closer to May of next year.

Monday, December 1, 2008

December Budget & November Net Worth +$1,801

Budget:

For December, we are going on a shoe-string budget. The main reason is the court case on Friday with Capital One. We will be paying all essentials except for the mortgage, which will be paid in January. The natural gas bill was paid early in November, so it is not on this list.

-$150 Food
-$50 Car Gas (we have some cash leftover from November)
-$95 Life Insurance
-$40 Daughters Health Insurance
-$40 Weight Watchers (Been coming out of my wife's fun money, still keeping it)
-$30 Dr. Visits
-203 Mrs Student Loans
-69 Mr Student Loans
-50 House Phone
-55 Cell Phone
-50 Water
-110 Electric

Net Worth:

It went up quite a bit, mainly due to 2 of our roommates starting to catch up on paying us back as well as settling on 2 mid-sized debts (which I wish I hadn't done, so that I would have had the money to settle on Capital One). It had been months since we had settled on a debt and I was getting itchy for not doing so.

We also opened up a "Bright Start" account for our daughter with change that we were collecting for a while. We figure if anyone asks us what to get our daughter for Christmas, we'll tell them to give to her college fund. She's at 18 months old right now and a scrap of material works as a fun toy to play hide & seek for her.

Not Following Good Advice...

I know the good advice is to keep in touch with your creditors, but it can be difficult when they call you so many times. Our Capital One debt that we were going to try to take care of over the summer (but a consulting gig did not pay me for work performed) has filed a small claim in court, which I need to appear on Friday for. I am contacting today a company that helps to mediate before court and seeing what we can do before Friday. We have $2500 in the bank to work on this, will let you know the results.

Next week I'll contact one other large creditor that I've been ignoring (so much that they're not in the net worth calculations) since they sent me a letter this weekend.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I Love Deflation! (Currently)

Today I got to benefit from the deflationary environment the economy is in right now. On our way home from church, we put a half a tank of gas in my wife's car for $10. The price at the station was $1.69. It's crazy when within the past 6 months we had easily paid $4/gallon. We're still limiting our driving as much as possible, but it's nice to not have to shell out $50 to fill up.

In addition, we stopped at the fruit market and I ran in and got:

23 lbs of chicken quarters at $0.39/lb
3 lbs of grapes at $0.33/lb
12 lbs of watermelon for $0.29/lb
3 lbs of onions at $0.50/lb
2 lbs of oranges at $0.99/lb

The total after tax was $19 and some change. We removed the skin, cut the thigh and drumstick apart, wrapped in plastic wrap and put them in freezer bags. We also recommended to one of our roommates to do the same, which she picked up 10 lbs of chicken and followed our example.

I put (Currently) in the title because I know at work the sales staff has been slowing down on closing of sales. I've been told this is normal for this time of year, I'm just praying that it doesn't continue in January. I am fairly secure in my position (no one else does what I do and the work I do has brought a lot more projects to the company), but there is always the chance of layoffs.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Dead Malls & Lack of Jobs

One of our roommates has been looking for work now for almost 2 months and it's not looking pretty out at the malls. He was telling me last night that there are very few people out there these days and even less people hiring. He doesn't have his college degree yet, so the best jobs he can pick up right now are minimum wage type jobs.

He's been hitting 5 different web sites for job postings and is telling me about how there are very few new posts out there. He's also been stopping at the various fast-food places around with no one hiring. For 2 weeks he was also going to one of those "work today paid today" places and they have yet to have enough work for everyone that comes, so he hasn't gotten any work there.

I know at my own job that sales have been a bit slow, but that is normal for this time of the year for the business I'm in. I'm going to see what I can find for him in the area. If he doesn't get himself caught up rent wise in December, I'll need to ask him to leave and I would hate to do that.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Why I Turned On The Furnace Last Night

As you may know, I've been trying to heat my house with wood this winter and not turn on the furnace. I gave in last night and turned it on. The reasoning behind my giving in to the big machine is the following:

- We have 3 other adults in the house that are not fans of it getting really cold in here. I know one of them has used a space heater already and another has an electric blanket. If it was just me, my wife and daughter, I wouldn't have last night.

- Without us putting in wood through the night, it gets pretty cold in here. Due to me not switching the switch on the furnace itself, it got down to 56 degrees at the thermostat this morning. Farther from the thermostat I wouldn't be surprised if we were in the 40's.

- My wife has been cooking quite a bit the past week tackling the pumpkins (they are complete except for 2 we are saving for later on in the winter). That warmed up the house quite a bit, but we're not going to be doing that every day.

The new gameplan is that the furnace is set to turn on at 60 degrees. This allows the wood stove to keep us warm through the day and part of the night, but helps when the wood stove is not going. We will see as the winter progresses if we need to set that base 60 degrees up more. We also learned a trick last night where if we have just coals remaining in the wood stove, we can open the door up on it and not have any smoke come into the house.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Recent Suprise in the Mail

Due to the newspaper article a few weeks back about us, we had received a greeting card with a Wal-Mart gift card attached. It was sent with no return address, but we are very certain it's from someone in our church. We figured the card had $25 or $50 on it. My wife put it in her purse and life went on.

We went this past Saturday over to Wal-mart to pick up a few food items (and hunt around for a presser cooker to can these pumpkins). At the checkout, my wife took the gift card out and looked at the back of the card to see the value of the card. I wish I had a camera on her at that time, as she was shocked to find out it was a $250 gift and it showed on her face. I was also quite shocked.

Her first comment in jest was "Let's go on a shopping spree!" I joked back saying maybe I should hold onto the card instead. We discussed it some more and we decided it will go towards the Christmas shopping we were planning on cash-flowing next month. That way the cash we were going to spend can be put to our debts.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

2 More Debts Paid Off

I made some calls today and was able to get 2 more of our debts settled on. Here are the details:

- Hospital bill started at $1301.63. It was from a few years ago when my wife was having pacemaker problems and we had to bring her to the hospital. Our insurance coverage at the time was not very good and had a large deductible. I was able to settle with them for $700. I had an even older letter from another collection agency for the same hospital, which I called first. They had deemed it not collectible, so they returned it to the hospital and the hospital added another visit to the balance. In the end, I'm glad it's done with.

- Bank NSF bill started at $804.49. It was from when everything started tumbling down in 2006, job lost, electricity out, etc. Automatic items started bouncing left and right and I was hiding from it all. I was able to settle with them for $603.37. There is still some work to be done on this one, as they messed up in their computer systems and have a balance for the same bank NSF in two different departments. The other department was not in the office today, so I will have to call on Monday to get that resolved.

The lessons to be learned is always keep your paperwork, question who you really owe and how much you really owe. In addition, don't ignore your problems, otherwise you will have to pay for that mistake in the future. I'll be calling one more small creditor on Monday to settle with that is the cardiologist bills from the same time as the hospital bills.

Friday, November 14, 2008

How to Handle 17 Large Pumpkins

I walked into the house last night and found 15 large pumpkins bathing in our sun room, 1 on the kitchen floor, and 1 in the oven. We had talked about trying to pick up a few more pumpkins after Halloween to make some pie filling, but not this many. Our church was using them as decoration and they were cleaning them out this week. They had even more than the 17, these were the remaining after everyone else took what they wanted. My wife was able to load them into her car (with the baby and car-seat as well) in just 1 trip.

Here's the breakdown plans:

1. Puree and freeze as much as we can fit. Our freezers are pretty packed already, so it will take some work but I think we can handle a few of them.

2. Cube and can some of them. I'll see about picking up some more jars tomorrow and we have some clean empty ones.

3. Keep a couple in the basement to be used later. I'm reading they can last 6 months, so in January once we've cleaned out some of the stuff in the freezer, we'll have room to freeze more.

4. And most importantly, we will puree and be giving it away on Sunday for families in need wanting to make their own pumpkin pie.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Little Bits of Savings

Our latest natural gas bill came in and I did the math, we saved $25 this month by using the wood stove. I did the calculations by looking at our usage last year, figuring the difference in usage and then what that difference would have cost today. It's not much, but I hope the coming months will be more valuable.

We also did mystery shopping that will pay for our $25 meal we spent. I have 2 mystery shops scheduled for tomorrow night for a total of $36. JiffyLube appears to have started doing mystery shopping again, so we'll be watching out for opportunities near us.

Overall, every little bit helps.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another one bites the dust..

It's been too long since I've called in to pay off a debt, but did so this morning. It was for $400 for orthotics my wife had gotten several years ago. I figured we just threw them out on Saturday, we should probably pay for them right away.

When I called the debt collector, I explained that I wanted to settle the balance. They were more than willing to take the full amount, but I asked them if there was a way to negotiate a smaller amount to settle. Janice (the debt collector), spoke to her manager and was able to bring it down to $320. That was fine with me, though she then wanted to charge me $12 for an "expedited payment" so the debt would not negatively affect my credit. I told her it's already on my credit and asked her if I could pay online or by check without that fee. I was able to online while I kept her on the phone, saving the $12.

Overall, it feels good to say goodbye to one more debt! My wife's latest orthotics that we picked up on Saturday were "free" since they are covered by our health insurance this time (as well as my orthotics).

Monday, November 3, 2008

Homesteading

Our journey to get out of debt is leaning us more and more towards homesteading. Our weekend activities now include:

- Gathering & cutting wood for next year's winter. It takes a year for the wood to dry out, so now is the time to be looking for it. A house nearby had 2 trees taken down, so we were removing some of the wood yesterday. In addition, we're keeping an eye out for any wood elsewhere.

- Baking bread. My wife has not wanted to make bread due to the kneading doing a number on her muscles, so I decided this weekend to take care of it for her and will continue to do so. Now is the time to stock up on your yeast as well ($.79/3 pack at our Aldi's).

- Gardening. The weather was very nice this past weekend, so we dug up flower bulbs that needed to come in, chatted with a fellow gardener down the street and received some wild onions from her that will survive the winter, planted the onions, and picked some broccoli leaves for dinner last night. Next weekend I'm hoping to get my father out by us to help me with getting manure to put down in the garden.

I was a vegetarian for 3 years and even I am looking at hunting, fishing, raising & slaughtering animals. I'm going to call Joliet city hall this week and see what are the legal requirements for chickens (In Chicago you can have unlimited chickens as long as your raising them as pets or for eggs).

Friday, October 31, 2008

November Budget & October Net Worth

Here is our budget for November:

Expenses:
$1065 Mortgage
$50 House Phone
$55 Cell Phone
$28 Natural Gas
$108 Electric
$40 Water
$250 Food
$200 Car Gas
$140 Dental
$200 Fun Money
$220 Mrs. Student Loans
$70 Mr. Student Loans
$40 Daughter's Health Insurance
$95 Life Insurance

Base Expenses: $2,561

Income:

$3580 Salary Take Home
$1000 Rental Income

Total: $4580

The difference between our expenses and our income will be going into savings to pay off debt. I suspect some of our creditors are getting hungry with the economy not doing so well, since the number of calls this past week has picked up.

Our phone bill went up due to the price of our Internet plan went up and someone had used 411 at the house twice. We have changed our Internet plan as well to the next higher plan to help with me working from home more and watching Netflix (which comes out of my fun money).

Net Worth:

This is the first time in over a year it has gone down. I decided to write off the bad debt owed by someone I had done programming work for. I know I am in the right for the balance, but the fight to get the money is not worth the stress and morally I should not have been working for them while at my full-time job. In addition, I did an accurate check of our mortgage and student loan balances.

We're planning in the coming month to build up the cash position of our net worth, so that we can get back on track paying off debts.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Roommate Given Notice

One of our roommates was given notice yesterday that she has until the end of November to pay $600 of her back-rent (2 months) or move out. On Nov. 1st she will be $900 behind in rent. She and my wife had a 2 hour discussion about it, mainly the roommate responding that she felt it was unreasonable, that she is trying everything she can do, and trying to get out of my wife that we want her to leave.

Here are my views on those 3 points:

Unreasonable/Reasonable: If we were like other landlords, we would have already petitioned the court for eviction and she would be moved out. Based upon my research, if you are 1 day late in Illinois, you can receive a 5 day notice. If you don't pay that, then the landlord can take you to court to evict you. If she did not pay her cell phone bill for 3 months, it probably would be turned off as well. We are being reasonable.

Trying Everything: I disagree with this one. She told my wife she thought she had to pay us at least $100 at a time, which in the 2 years she has lived at our house has never been a rule or followed. Trying everything includes giving $20 towards rent instead of ordering pizza.

"We want her to leave": This is a lie that she is trying to believe so that it's not her lack of payment as the reason we are having to do this, but that it's our fault. Being behind in rent is not our fault, it is caused through choices she had made. And from those choices, there are consequences. We would love to have her stay, but when the mortgage and utilities need to be paid every month, we need her to cover her portion.

50 lbs of Apple Juice & Sauce

My wife just got back yesterday afternoon from visiting my great-aunt north of us. With our daughter drinking quite a bit, we did not think we would have enough apple juice in our pantry and my great-aunt always loves to have us visit, so my wife and daughter went up there Tuesday morning with jars and a juicer. Our daughter was well-behaved and sat at the counter all day (except for nap time) watching my wife working away in the kitchen and running outside to pick apples.

I did not count all of the jars, but my rough estimate is 24 pints of apple sauce, 18 quarts of apple juice, and 6 quarts of apple sauce. We'll be giving away gifts of apple sauce this Christmas. In addition, my wife brought a box of fresh apples for recipes in the coming weeks, as well as some squashes.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Roommate Financial Success Story

I want to cover one of our roommates. Sometimes it does not feel like we're really helping our roommates improve their lives (financially, spiritually, mentally, etc). Yesterday though through talking with one of our roommates it appears we're having an effect at improving her financial know-how and career.

She had been working at a job that she liked but did not like her co-workers. The two ways to handle it are to just deal with it or look for another job. She asked us for some tips and we suggested the phone book to start calling businesses that she would enjoy working for and seeing if they have openings. She did and found a pet grooming place not too far from our house, paying her more than she was making at her last place and doing what she loves.

She also recently opened up a checking account. She was previously taking her paychecks to a currency exchange, having to pay a fee every time. The reason she did not have a checking account was because she had messed up one years back by not keeping an eye on the balance and was afraid of doing the same. For now she's only going to use it for cashing her check and to learn how to balance a checkbook.

She's still making mistakes along the way, but is learning from them. She quit her previous job in anger over her paycheck missing hours, which my wife and I explained will make it very hard to get that resolved. We also explained that whenever you are working hourly, you need to keep your own record of what your working, just in case of problems like this.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Welcome Chicago Tribune Readers!

Thank you for visiting my blog from our story. I hope you will find some interesting items in this blog. We're currently planning on getting rid of the credit card and misc debts by February. If you want to help us a bit, click on the paypal link below to donate a $1.


Please post your questions about getting out of debt and I will answer them to the best of my ability.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Heating with Wood Update

I've learned quite a bit the past couple of weeks with us using the wood stove. Here's a few of them:

- Always on the lookout for more. It's like an addiction where your always looking for your next fix. I've added to my Google Reader a watch from Craigslist for firewood in my area. In addition, as I drive home I watch out for wood I can put in my trunk. What I pick today though won't be good to be used until a year from now.

- It's going to take a lot of wood to keep us warm. Today we did not use any wood until the evening, but we're using on average 10-15 pieces/day and we're not into the coldest times yet. I don't know how long what we have will last, even though we got a lot.

- There are so many little tricks with starting and keeping a fire going.

- The blowers they sell are not worth it, a ceiling or box fan does just fine. We did not buy one, but the only positive items I've heard about them are from the people selling them. If it was an insert, then it would be useful.

Any other tips you have?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What I've Learned From PF Blogging

I'm being interviewed tomorrow for the Chicago Tribune, so I figured I would write up what I've learned from PF blogging and reading other's PF blogs.

Increase my income

In the past 8 months alone my salary has increased by 43%. This took planning on my part (focusing on an area of expertise that pays well) and being willing to ask for more (told my current employer the amount I wanted to make when I started and negotiated a 6 month review for more money). I don't think I would have gotten where I am career wise without PF blogs causing me to think about these things.

Besides my salary, we increased our income by taking in roommates. A little over a year ago we had 4 rooms rented out, bringing in $1,400/month. That's like working a full-time job making $8/hr. We're down to 3 roommates at $1,000/month, but even that is $5.80/hr full-time.

Decrease my spending


We still need to do some work on this, but have streamlined our budget quite a bit. For a while our entertainment budget was down to $30/month. If we lived in a smaller place that we couldn't rent out rooms, I would have had us move closer to my job(s) to cut down our gas costs and housing costs.

We've been learning how to garden in order to reduce our grocery bills. We also started canning big-time in order to do the same. This year it was a bit expensive due to needing to get equipment, but next year our costs should be minimal.

The wood stove, insulation, and storm doors were also done to reduce our heating bills. We will see this winter if we were successful and if we need to make more changes to cut our costs.

Learn from my mistakes

I've made quite a few mistakes over the years (hence the reason we're working our way out of debt). Those lessons though have helped me make less damaging mistakes. For example:
  • I looked at where our debts came from and what can prevent them from occurring again. That taught me to pursue health insurance options, use cash when we notice our spending getting excessive, and not buy on credit.
  • When I shop for something that is going to be in our house for a while, I study it to see how durable it is. When picking out tools for our wood stove, I picked the ones that were single pieces of metal since those with joints can break easily. We started our research on the wood stove 6 months back.
  • I review how close we were to the previous month's budget and make a new budget based on that.
What have you learned from my PF blog or other PF blogs?

Cheap Menu for 1





















With roommates that are just learning how to shop for themselves, my wife created a sample 1 week menu for them. The concept behind it is low cost, easy cooking in large sizes so that they will have leftovers to take to work, as well as having a basic breakfast of cereal with milk or OJ. Most of the prices are from our local Aldi's, but chicken is cheaper at the local fruit market by us.

The following items wouldn't be bought every week, but could be stretched:
  • Milk (depends how much you drink each day)
  • Cereal (stretch to 10 days)
  • Rice (stretch to 3-4 weeks)
  • Laundry Soap (depends how many clothes you get dirty)
Optional additions:
  • Fresh/canned fruit
  • Margarine
  • Spices
  • Ramen Soup instead of Canned Soup
Recipes:

Spaghetti & Veggies:

- Cook spaghetti following box directions
- Warm up can of veggies on stove or in microwave
- Add sauce to spaghetti
- Use slice of bread to clean your plate

Food Groups: Starch, Vegetable

Mac & Cheese, Chicken & Veggies:

- Cook mac & cheese following box directions
- Warm up can of veggies on stove or in microwave
- Cook chicken in a pan or in the oven, using salt/pepper or Italian dressing if available.

Food Groups: Dairy, Starch, Vegetable, Protein

Stir Fry:

- Cook rice following directions on package
- With a little margarine or oil, fry your frozen/canned vegetables with some soy sauce
- If you have chicken, cook with your vegetables

Food Groups: Starch, Vegetable, Protein (optional)

Soup & Veggie:

- Cook soup following directions, but add some of your frozen vegetables to it to stretch the soup out.

Food Groups: Starch, Vegetable

Monday, October 13, 2008

October Budget

We drafted our budget a bit late this month due to the wood stove project consuming our time (and money). Here's where we are sitting:

Expenses:

$1130 Mortgage
$125 Car Gas
$125 Food
$240 Utilities
$220 Mrs. Student Loans
$70 Mr. Student Loans
$95 Life Insurance
$40 Daughter's Health Insurance
$250 Dentist Visits
$60 Fun Money (remaining of mine, my wife used hers up and I used part of mine)
Total: $2355

Income:
$1650 Day Job
$750 Rental Income
Total: $2400

Our dentist amount is an estimate, we have not been taking care of ourselves properly and have needed some deep cleanings and cavities taken care of. The rest of the expenses are pretty self-explanatory.

Regarding the rental income, that number is very up in the air. Currently every roommate is behind on their rent almost 2 months each. One started a new job today getting paid better than before (and more hours), so she will be able to get caught up by the end of the month. One quit her job last week and does not have anything currently in sight (we're concerned that we may have to ask her to leave). The last one didn't budget his money well over the summer prior to moving in with us and is struggling, but is working hard to catch up.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Garden Results




The judges are still out tallying everything and we have a few last-minute stragglers, but here are the highlights:

Freezer:

- 35 lbs of green beans
- 50 peppers worth (some whole, some cut)
- 1 & 1/2 gallon worth of breaded eggplant (which is disappearing fast)
- 6 gallons of whole tomatoes (for stews)
- 1 gallon blueberries

Basement:
- 32 qt Spaghetti Sauce (number fluctuates based upon use and production)
- 29 qt Tomato Soup
- 12 qt Apple Sauce + 10/2 qt for Christmas gifts
- 1 1/2 qt Grape Leaves
- 4/2 qt Mulberry Jam (gave a fair amount away during the summer, have some in fridge)
- 9 qt Pickles (also disappearing fast)
- 1 qt Blueberry Syrup
- 22 1/2 qt Tomato Juice (remains after making Spaghetti Sauce, use in place of vegetable broth)
- 3 qt Apple Juice
- 11 qt Misc Soups (Celery, Vegetable Broth, etc)
- 27 qt Apple Pie Filling (We were up to 30, but been using them)
- 5 + 4/2 qt Salsa

Items Learned:

- Less tomato plants and more other plants (eg: Eggplant & Cucumbers).

- Put apple sauce into pint containers instead of quart. We don't go through it fast enough and we had 1/2 a jar go bad already in the fridge.

- Next year we'll be getting a de-seeder for the mulberries so we can harvest more and make more jam.

- During the time your jarring and 2 weeks afterwards, check your jars every other day to make sure none lost their seal. I just checked and I think we lost a jar or two of the misc soups put down last week.

- Don't be afraid to pick the grape leaves in the spring. We were not successful growing grapes, so I'm just going to focus on growing leaves instead and see about picking grapes from a neighbor that let their grapes go to waste.

Now that we have plenty of jars and shelves to hold them downstairs, next year's costs are going to go down.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wood Stove Installed, Total Project $2,200


Our garden is almost done with, so I'll be coming back very soon. In the meantime, here's an update.

This past year we had 5 trees in our back yard. They prevented us from growing any food in our back yard and were a safety hazard to our house. We had them removed earlier in the year and split the wood and it's been sitting in our back yard. With all of the wood, we needed a wood stove or fireplace insert.

The original quotes we got were in the $4-5K range with them doing everything. Our budget couldn't afford that, so we found ways to do it cheaper. We had a chimney sweep clean our chimney (cost $110) and let us know if the project was feasible (wood stove yes, insert no). We bought a liner and wood stove from Menards (total cost $1,200). We also purchased slate, firecode drywall, mortar, and grout for the floor (total cost $200) and my wife installed the flooring. I tried to get on the roof to install the liner myself, but my fear of heights prevented me from doing so. We called the chimney sweep and he installed the liner & patched the chimney for $550.

Items learned:

- If the chimney sweep had bought the liner from his suppliers, we could have cut a bit off in the price. It can't hurt to ask, even if you think it will be more.

- Having the chimney sweep install the liner was well worth the cost (possible injury would have been more than the cost to have him install it, plus there were difficulties that only he would have known how to resolve).

- When getting quotes for services, make sure you get a set cost. When we were calling around for a chimney sweep, several of the quotes said the price could change based upon how difficult it was to clean. We went with the one that provided a fixed cost, so we could know exactly how much we were going to spend.

- Will keep track of how much wood we use exactly this year so that we can purchase/locate enough for next year's winter.

- Will be looking for a supplier of wood that will keep our costs below those of natural gas.

- I'm estimating it will take us 3-4 years to recoup our costs, but there is a value in enjoying a nice fire when it's cold outside.

Expected Criticism: I know with debts outstanding, we should be focused on that instead of having a wood stove installed. This winter it should reduce our heating costs by $500-1000 and additional reductions later. We will be keeping an eye on our expenses the next few months and start hitting the debts hard again. Sometimes life is a little more than just getting out of debt...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Garden Purgatory

If I believed in purgatory, my garden would be pretty close to it. It is what has been keeping me away from blogging this past month (as well as work taking me away). Every day we pick at least a pound of green beans, a pound of cherry tomatoes, enough basil for cooking and 15 pounds of regular tomatoes. Every week we've been picking some eggplant, peppers, cucumbers & broccoli. Almost every night we've been making either spaghetti sauce or tomato soup or just freezing them.

Our lettuce I've decided to just let die, with all of the tomatoes it's been hard to keep up on them. Our chives didn't do too well this year, enough for a little bit of flavor but nothing beyond that. Our corn did not do too well either. Cantaloupe produced a little bit, but I've been having problems with neighborhood kids stealing them. Celery and leeks are doing well. We've got some new Kohlrabi growing and will be ready in a few weeks.

I think the hardest of it all has been the cherry tomatoes. We planted way too many of them and they are the most time consuming since you can't just let them sit for a day, otherwise they start bursting on the vine. Next year we will do 2 or 3 plants only of cherry, not the dozen or so I did this year.

My favorites have been the peppers & eggplants & basil. They have just needed a bit of watering, can survive a few days being ignored. Overall, the garden has been a success and we've learned a lot.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

July Net Worth +$1239 & August Budget

July Net Worth +$1,239

It was a slow month on the net-worth front. We took care of 1 small debt outstanding. We built up our cash reserves so that we can tackle 1 last credit card remaining (I can't wait for the day, it seems like it's dragging on forever). We consolidated my student loans down to 4.375% as well, which will help in the coming years. It is now lower than our mortgage, meaning we'll pay down our mortage before it. The unplanned expenses this past month includes some co-pays, oil change, and some maintenance supplies for the house.

August Budget

We're trying to go bare-bone this month so we can take care of 2 items soon (if the court case goes quickly). We're itching for a fireplace insert in the living room and getting rid of the last credit card.

$1130 Mortgage
$250 Car Gas
$250 Groceries
$232 Utilities
$200 Fun Money
$55 Cell-Phone
$40 Health Insurance (Daughter)
$220 Student Loans
$95 Life Insurance
$20 Oil Change
$75 Anniversary

Sunday, July 6, 2008

I've Been Gone A While...

I have been avoiding a major issue, which has been taking someone to court for $2100. I just finished printing out all the documents related to the case so I can file this week. Out of my avoidance of that, I've been avoiding my blog.

Things have also been busy over here with me out of town for a week on a missions trip and our garden in full force. I've been having a salad almost every day since Memorial Day weekend, plenty of green beans & peas, large Kohlrabi, spinach, radishes and onions. Right now we're in green beans, onions, wrapping up peas, lettuce, cucumbers almost ready and tomatoes in a week. We also made a gallon of Mulberry jam.

In addition we had some problems with our city complaining about all the firewood we had in our yard. We rented a splitter for 2 days and stacked it. We now have it all covered in tarps and in nice piles, which has satisfied them.

I had a few slip-ups with one bank account we haven't been using much, which I closed yesterday so it wouldn't happen again. Most of the fees I was able to get reversed.

We haven't yet fully taken care of the Capital One due to the issues of the $2100, but we finished up our Menards (and a small $300 one) this weekend. Here's where we're standing on getting things resolved:

8/1: Capital One ($2800)
9/1: 1/2 of our misc debts (medical mainly)
10/1: Fireplace installed for the winter. We're looking at a high-efficiency model to replace most of our heating needs this winter (5 trees worth of wood split)
11/1: Second 1/2 of our misc debts

If we get the settlement soon, then everything will get moved up a month. I'm also looking at a raise in September (just had one a month ago, but with the cost of health insurance, it ended up breaking a bit below what I had before). I'm pushing at expanding the marketing material at work to focus on specific industries, developing standard tools to automate the development of solutions, and improving my sales skills to better help close the larger projects.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Troubles in Consultant Paradise

Remember that great-paying consultant gig I had last month? This month it's not so great. At the beginning of the month I quit it, which I posted on about here. I was first told on the 4th he was going to mail the payment that week, then on the 9th was told the check was on his desk and his wife was in the hospital delivering #4. Nothing then heard from him, so I e-mailed on the 15th.

I get a response on the 17th that one of the controls that I had worked on did not work and he was not going to pay thousands of dollars for a control that did not work. After further discussion, he did not try it out in the past 2 weeks. I did not say it, but the payment was for the hours I had put in working on a dozen different controls.

Yesterday we came to an agreement that once that control is working that he will pay me through Google Checkout by credit card (and pay me the fees associated with it). I e-mailed him this morning the specific features that the control needs to meet in order to be considered working and that after it meets those requirements and he has reviewed it, payment would be sent and work between us is complete. Once I get his confirmation, I'll wrap it up tonight and hopefully we'll be done with this by the end of the week.

Oh the joys of doing everything you can to get out of debt!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Garden Update

Wild fruiting tomatoes growing in my yard: Last year we had a tomato sprout up in our back yard that we didn't plant and it fruited, they were nice small round fruits. This year I have probably 50 of them sprouted up all around my yard. I first thought they were weeds, but the leaves are tomato like. I let some of them grow and I'm starting to have fruit growing. I'm keeping the seeds to these babies! If you have an idea for a name for a tomato plant that fruits naturally by Mid-May in Chicago weather, let me know.

Rest of tomatoes: We still have 32 plants, but only enough room for maybe a dozen more. I'm going to see if neighbors want them and then put the rest on Craigslist.

Beans: Sprouting everywhere! Bug eating them, suspect it's the flea beetle I've been fighting elsewhere in the yard

Radishes: Still fighting the flea beetle, going to mail in a request for a refund on the bug killer spray.

Hardening Off: I've learned this year how important hardening off is, otherwise I get plants that lose leaves outside from the shock. I'm hoping I have an OK garden this year.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

IRS Rebate Received & Waiting for Other

I checked our bank account this morning and it has been received ($1330). It is going straight to Capital One next week for our settlement payment with them. Can't wait to say on the 21st that they're no longer in my wallet taking my money.

The one thing that may put a hamper on settling is I am waiting on getting paid for the programming work I had done on the weekend. I spoke to the guy a week ago and the check was on his desk waiting to get mailed (his wife had just had a baby, so he wasn't in the office for 2 days). I haven't heard from him since and been checking my mail daily, e-mailed him on Thursday night and no response yet. That check is for $2100.

For now it's nice to see our bank account at almost $3K. Too bad it'll be back down to $0 in a couple of days.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Garden Update

I'm having a wonderful day over here, been outside since around 8 AM playing in the yard. Here's what's been going on with the garden:

- Finished putting up fence, need to put in a couple of posts but overall it's up.

- My mother-in-law is visiting and she purchased for us 105 tomato cages for the garden, I have put out about a third of them already.

- Planted 30 tomato and 8 dill plants. I'm only starting to see what 150 tomato plants will look like and I'm getting scared. Even spending just a minute on a plant every day will be 2 & 1/2 hours. I'm thinking I'll have to plan a rotation and visit each plant every 3-5 days.

- Planted rest of the peppers and finished tearing up the front yard.

- My mother-in-law also bought us some strawberry plants since I killed most of the ones we had planted due to not having mulch around them. The ones she bought have a bunch of leaves and should take hold. Planted them and put down mulch around them.

- Spinach looks like it will be ready in 2 weeks, getting bigger every day.

- Been fighting flea beetles on my radishes, sprayed with insecticidal soap.

- Peas and green beans have been doing great.

- Grapes are starting to form fruit, pulled some off so that we get nice-sized fruit this year (haven't taken care of it before, so it only produced leaves).

- Onions are at green-onion size, I'm suspecting we'll have plenty once the tomatoes are ready to be picked (if not sooner).

- Planted cilantro outside.

- Started some cantaloupe and parsley inside. The cantaloupe are almost breaking through the soil already.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I Quit (High-Pay Night Job)

The past month my weekends have been rough helping a startup with a web application for their first client. The project is such a mess that only this past weekend I found out that 4 other developers quit working on it in the past month, leaving just me and the manager. Basic items such as being able to identify who the currently logged in user is are broken. Other problems included the manager breaking items I had worked on every week.

All of this means I'm back to working 1 job, though my garden can be a job at times (fighting flea beetles). I did take the first certification test for MCTS and passed this past Saturday. The next test will be harder and I have already started studying for that as well.

The pay was great for the job, but I've learned well through this that sometimes all the money in the world don't make a job worthwhile to do.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Shopping for Cookware

I knew it would happen sooner or later, I was hoping for a September time-frame. My wife was cooking a couple days ago and the handle came off while she was cleaning the sauce pan. Another sauce pan is now leaking at the handle and I suspect it's going to have the same fate.

Here's our choices:

1. One of our roommates has a set in their room they brought with them, we all use in the house (but I'd hate to damage their set).

2. Purchase a couple of cheap pieces to tide us over. Our current set we bought 3 years ago from IKEA.

3. Purchase an entire set with 10 year warranty. I'm looking at the Simply Calphalon Stainless 10-Piece Cookware Set for $139.99. They are the 18/10 stainless steel kind I've heard recommended, though they have the aluminum core versus copper.

4. Purchase a high-end set with a lifetime warranty. These normally are in the $300+ range, have the copper core instead.

For now I'm leaning toward a mix of #1 and #3. If I get paid for my work this weekend quickly, then I'd be looking at us purchasing #3 at the end of the week. If they're slow at paying, I'd be looking at #3 next month and we'll go with #1 until then.

One interesting item I did comparing the 10 year warranty and the lifetime warranty was saying "If I had $300 today, what would be the best purchase in the long run?". I took the difference between the two options ($160 on the low end), decided to put it toward something making or saving 6% (i.e. my mortgage) and figured out how much I would have after 10 years. For the Saving 6%, I came up with $96 after 10 years (and my original $160). For the investing at 6%, I came up $126.54 (and my original $160). At a higher investment rate (8%), I could buy another set every 10 years without touching the principal and having extra leftover ($45).

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Garden Update

Our garden is coming along very nicely. The peas have grown nice and healthy, the spinach looks like it will be ready to eat in 3 weeks, the green beans and radishes sprouted, Brussels Sprouts and Kohlrabi and Celery took well to being transplanted. We even had the asparagus try to produce a head (very small one, but a head still), though we cut it so we would have better production next year. Some of the onions are 6 inches tall already. The pepper plants that were mushy have taken well to being outside.

Planted This Past Week: Quite a bit has been planted this past week, just this morning I planted some basil, 3 types of cucumbers, and 2 types of beans.

Planting This Week Outside: 4 Broccoli plants (stragglers of the group), Dill, Tomatoes (both did not get outside due to concerns of frost).

Still to Plant: Parsley, Cantaloupe, Corn, Peppers, Eggplant (probably all around Mother's Day)

Work To do: Our front area has about 25 sq feet left to be torn up, will be working on today and Sunday. Our fences are up in the front, will be putting up the fence for the back probably on Sunday. We're almost to maintenance mode for the garden/farm.

Problems: The lettuce crop pretty much is decimated from the frost we've been having, I'm using it as a learning experience and I'm just planting more seeds every week to see who will win.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Update: Details on Our Debts

About 6 months ago, I posted details on our debts. I figure it's about time to see which ones are still remaining and which ones are taken care of since then (or about to be).

Remaining:

$308 - Dish Network
$368 - Chiropractor bill
$400 - Foot Dr bill
$401 - Ambulance
$435 - Pacemaker checkups
$517 - Hospital Emergency Visit
$685 - Hospital Emergency Visit
$2187 - My Stupid Mistake
$804 - Bank Fees for closed account
$3629 - Menards (started settlement, will be done by 7/3/08)

Taken Care Of:

$1591 - Cingular canceled account balance
$5333 - Discover
$5774 - Home Depot
$6919 - Capital One (in 3 weeks will be taken care of)

As you can see, I haven't been doing the Dave Ramsey method of tackling debts. I did that initially (hence nothing smaller than $300), but these bigger ones have been more of an annoyance (and higher potential for going to court). If I keep working on Saturdays, we'll see everyone above done by the middle of July, a month and 1/2 sooner than I had originally wanted.

May Budget & April Net Worth +$1,827

April:

The one budget-buster this past month was the car. We ended up not settling on Capital One and put the money towards the car. In the end, it was an ok month with us having a few NSF fees as well (bad communication).

May:

Income:

1330 IRS
1000 Rent
3434 Weekday Job
3000 Weekend Job

Total: $8764

Expenses:

200 Mrs. Student Loans
110 Mr. Student Loans
1130 Mortgage
77 Natural Gas
50 Water
41 AT&T
120 Electric
200 Car Gas
200 Toiletries & Groceries
55 Cell Phone
95 Life Insurance
200 Our Fun Money
130 House Cleaning
860 Menards (1st payment, two more to go of $760 each on June 3rd & July 3rd)
5100 Capital One
146 Savings

Total: $8764

The items that are different this month are the last 4 items. We decided to go with a once a month cleaning for the harder stuff (vacuum/mop/etc) so that I can work on the weekends. Menards we have made payment arrangements for a settlement. Capital One we made a starter $100 payment yesterday and the rest will be on the 20th. Cash-flow wise, everything is looking good, we're just going to have to focus on communicating.

Monday, April 28, 2008

"Free" Landscape Hooks

I started putting down landscaping fabric in our back yard to help with weeding our garden and read the directions about needing landscaping hooks in order to secure it down. I didn't want to spend the money on something that will probably be flimsy plastic clips that will break or come up, so here's what we did at our house:

1. Grabbed 50 old metal hangers from a previous roommate (there's the free. Often you can find someone trying to get rid of them on freecycle as well).

2. Using a pair of wire-cutters, cut right below the twist on either side so you have the hook removed.

3. Cut in the middle of the bottom half.

Now you have 2 landscaping hooks! The best way to use them is to put the non-straight edge in first as far as you can, then put the other part in as far as you can. Depending on your soil, you may end up with a few inches of the metal showing, so make sure to space their entrance into the material far apart enough. This can be done while watching one of your favorite shows since it requires very little brainpower.

Friday, April 25, 2008

First Draft May Budget

I need your help on my May budget. It is looking like such a crazy month (on the income side), I'm going to put up a draft here for you to look at and then I'll post another on Wednesday at the end of the month. Here we go:

Income:

1330 IRS
1000 Rent
3434 Weekday Job
3000 Weekend Job

Total: $8764

Expenses:

200 Mrs. Student Loans
110 Mr. Student Loans
1130 Mortgage
161 Natural Gas
50 Water
41 AT&T
120 Electric
200 Car Gas
200 Toiletries & Groceries
55 Cell Phone
95 Life Insurance
200 Our Fun Money

Total: $2562

Debt Snowball: $6202

Menards: Start settlement of $640 per month for 3 months.

Capital One: I would have started this one this month, but $1500 was delayed coming from my weekend job, so it's coming in May instead. I'm going to see about settling with them for $1000/week for 4 weeks.

Padding: $1562 as padding into savings.

In June we'll be starting to tackle our smaller debts (those under $1K). Those are the debts listed as Other on our NetworthIQ profile. What do you think?

Bank Fees This Month

These past 2 weeks have not been good on the amount of money we have in the bank. With problems at the post office of returning checks and miscommunication between my wife and I, we have had a NSF charge on 2 bank accounts. We're going to have to probably increase our cushion (this month there was almost none) to prevent problems like this. We also resolved the communication problems, I had been keeping a fair amount in our primary account, so my wife assumed it was OK for her to charge the things in our budget on the debit card.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Garden Update

Here's where we're at:

Sq Feet with plants: 157
Sq Feet prepared for plants: 63
Sq Feet to prepare and plant: 566

What's Planted: Strawberries, Lettuce, Spinach, Peas, Onions, Chives, Leeks, Asparagus, Peppers, Garlic, Green Beans, Cilantro, 4 Tomato plants in pots

Planting This Week: Peppers, Onions, Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, Tomatoes, Dill, Flowers

Planting Later: Carrots/Radishes, Eggplant, Celery, Basil, Kohlrabi, Cucumbers, Flowers, Cantalope, Tomatoes

What's Growing: Peas have sprouted up, spinach took very well to the ground, lettuce is taking root, chives and leeks made it through transplanting.

Decisions to make: It's been hard to find time to meet with the guy from church that has the tiller, my schedule is packed (even on Saturday). I'm thinking of using a shovel for the front 90 sq feet remaining to tear up and then just laying down landscaping fabric in the back.

Money spent: We're back to spending, purchased fencing to enclose areas from neighborhood animals (and kids). Spotted a possum checking out my strawberry bed on Saturday morning. Also purchased landscaping fabric for the back.

Item Missing: Wedding ring is in the dirt, small area we were working in last night, going to contact friend that has high-end metal detector for their help. Always remember to work with gloves or take any rings off.

I'm waiting for next year's garden, it will be a whole lot easier!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

New Work, New Decisions

It appears that my temporary work from a week ago is going to be regular work. They just received major funding to continue on the current project and another big project, so they're going to need someone and are liking my work. I'm planning on doing it every Saturday for 8-10 hours and then during the week for emergency fixes only.

The reason why the new work is causing new decisions is because of the pay. It is more than double my normal day pay (and when we worked late this past Sunday night, it was 4x my normal day pay). That is where the new decisions come in...

When you are able to bring in $65-100/hour, is it worth it every week to spend 3-4 hours cleaning the house yourself? You could have hired someone to do the house work while you worked 1 hour. What about ordering that $5 pizza so that you or your wife don't need to work in the kitchen every so often?

We decided on the following:

- No more chicken stock making: It has become time consuming saving up bits of chicken, keeping them organized, then making stock out of it. In the end it probably doesn't save much either.

- Housecleaning: My wonderful wife some days tries to be superwoman and get more done than her body can physically. She has bad feet, a bad back and a pacemaker, so it's not a pretty sight to see when she has pushed herself. We have decided for now it is worthwhile to hire someone to do some of the heavy cleaning once a week (vacuum the house, wash the linoleum floors, scrub the tub and toilet). Most of these have been my responsibility, but with the second/third jobs I've had in the past, it's been hard to get them done.

- Ignore price on fresh fruits & vegetables: My wife has been working at losing weight, but the challenge has been getting fruits & veggies that she likes being on sale. My view on it is that one of our priorities should be our health, so if something is 2x the normal sale price, get it if it will help you.

We know this is a season of our lives and that the increase in pay should not cause us to spend more. If spending a little bit more though will truly increase the opportunity for us to spend time together and doing the work God has put us here to do, I'm willing to consider spending a little more. It though is something to always keep an eye on.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Garden Update

Today's the day for lots of planting (for my wife). My work is taking me away for this beautiful day, but I've given my wife a list of plants and where she can plant them. She also spent several hours yesterday moving rocks out of a bed next to the house (sitting most of the time).

Planting Today: Spinach, Lettuce, Leeks, Chives, Peas, Thyme

Planting This Weekend: Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Kohlrabi, Peppers, Eggplant, Onions, Tomatoes, Dill, Asparagus, and possibly others

Work This Weekend: Hopefully the guy I know that has a tiller will be free to come over soon (and that we'll have enough dry time to do the tilling). Otherwise I'll have to look into doing it with the shovel and pitchfork, which will not be fun (did about 50 sq feet a week ago).

Problems: Some of the pepper plant leaves started getting mushy, I think it is because they are on the edge of the lighting and we've been watering them too much. I'm hoping that getting them outdoors will help them. I'm also having troubles figuring out who are Brussels Sprouts and who are Kohlrabi. The problem is they are both cabbage-like and I've planted so much. Same situation with the leeks & chives. Next year each tray will get 2 labels (#R, #L) and all info will be put into a spreadsheet.

Successes: It appears that the plants are growing very slowly, but it helps when I'm not paying attention to them every day. Our leeks & chives are over 6 inches tall and an inch away from the lights. The Roma tomato plants we started early have many leaves.

Financial: I'm deciding now whether to sell some of our plants or not. I'm thinking of try to plant everything we can with the space we have, then selling the excess. I have been good staying away from looking at more plants, since I've got so many already.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Weekend of Work Blessing

Last week in the back of my mind I had been mulling over our car purchase and how I would be able to settle with Capital One. Friday morning I looked at the numbers hard and it didn't look like I was going to be able to give them much this month unless some cash appeared out of nowhere. I logged into my local Craigslist site and searched for some computer gigs, found one that needed help for this past weekend and applied.

They accepted me, 22 and 1/2 hours worth of work over 2 days will bring us around a net of $1400 by the end of this week. Once the check is received I will be calling the Capital One creditor to settle with them. I consider this a blessing from God and has helped me even more to trust in Him for all my needs.

My Ethical Viewpoint

A reader recently questioned indirectly my ethics, especially due to me making choices recently to tackle other items ahead of debt payments. Here's the points in no particular order:

- Tree removal versus Debt

Yes, for most situations removing trees in your property are luxuries. Here's our reasons besides the "nice to have done" point:

1. Safety: We had 2 trees that were within 15 feet of our house (and our neighbor's house). Like clockwork every July we have had huge limbs come off the trees (20+ feet). They had missed the houses in the past, but the only ones really left were aimed for the houses. I don't need a 5-10K repair bill because I wanted to stay focus on our debt obligations.

2. Timing: The better times to cut down trees is when there are no leaves on them. It speeds up the process, less brush, etc. That prevents us from paying more money.

3. Time of year discount: During the summer months, tree cutters are a lot more busy because that's when everyone thinks of their outside projects. By doing it now instead of right before the storm, it prevented us from paying more money later.

- Replacement car versus Debt

Yes, we are a 2 car family even though I'm the only one that goes to a job during the week. Here's the main reason we decided to replace my car instead of paying more to debt: My wife's emotional well-being. I know my wife, we have fought a couple rounds of depression together. I know that when she does not have a car at the house, she fights loneliness, feeling trapped, unable to get together with others. Say what you will, but my wife comes before any debt.

- Fun money versus Debt

Theoretically, our fun money should be at $0 since we made prior obligations to our creditors. It's a great idea, but in real life it doesn't work too well.

1. We need to keep running the race. I tried the $0 fun money, it was not worth it. I'd much rather work an extra hour or two than be in that situation.

2. Our "free" entertainment items break down sometimes. My wife has her sewing machine that has brought her many days of entertainment, I have my computer. In the past couple of months we have had a power supply need to be replaced on my computer and some parts replaced on her sewing machine. The money came from our fun money.

- Debt settlement

I view it ethically ok to make settlement offers. Here's when:

1. When the alternative is bankruptcy. Almost 2 years ago I lost my full-time job and started working at Taco Bell. They don't pay much, but we had a whole lot of debt. Everyone was saying I should file for bankruptcy since I was unable to pay. I'd much rather give them something than nothing.

2. The debt has become "old". During that rough period of time when we couldn't pay, most of our creditors ended up selling our debt to collectors. The collectors paid pennies on the dollar in the hopes of collecting something more in the future.

3. They are offering settlements or are willing to listen to one.

4. Bringing the account "current" would be equal to the settlement amount. Because of the many months we could not pay anything, the amount to become current kept growing. At this point in time, if I asked them how much to be current, they would pretty much say as much as the settlement amount.

5. You don't have the money in the bank to pay them everything they want.

- Not making monthly payments on all debts

1. To be current is impossible: We went through a time where we could barely pay the mortgage, let alone any debts. Because we couldn't make payments back then, the amount to bring these accounts current is astronomical.

2. What we could give them would not be enough: This goes back to #1 regarding being current. I've only had 1 creditor be reasonable regarding paying them something monthly until we could do more, which we have done fairly consistently the whole time I've had this blog (except for 1 month, which was really tight).

PS: I've been mulling this post over for over a week, there's probably more I could have put in, but I'm wanting to get this up.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Garden Update

I've been a bit reluctant to post about my garden, since things have been going VERY slow with it (my sprouts have seemed to stop growing). Here's the updates:

Planted Recently: 2 types of cucumber seeds last weekend indoors.

Failures: My sprouts seem to have decided to stop growing. The only item I can think is that the bay window I have them on is not warm enough, while having them above the vents and in the laundry room was. We have been now putting a small amount of fertilizer on them. The parsley did not sprout (learned I had to put boiling water on them to crack the seeds, will do so when I plant outside). I also attempted pansies, but they failed big time (had little sprouts and then they wilted). My peas were a bit old, so I only had 8 out of 130 sprout. I also tried cumin, but did not sprout at all (from my kitchen).

Successes: Last year I had a hard time with cilantro, until I read you need to crush the seeds in order to make them grow. Did that this year and they have grown great. My oregano that I started around Christmas time is a huge bush about a foot tall and a foot wide. The only problem with that success is that it thinks it's fall/winter, so it keeps flowering.

Outside: We planted tulips last fall and they are starting to come up. It was a pleasant surprise when my indoor stuff is just standing still.

This weekend: We are still working on the tree situation, I had them leave the brush in order to save money on them chipping it as well as to have wood chips for our garden. My father is over for the weekend and we're about done with that. Afterwards, we will be tilling the ground so that I can start planting some stuff outside (additional peas that I bought this year, spinach, some tomato plants, lettuce, carrots, onions, strawberries, asparagus). My wife has been picking up the trash and moving rocks out of last year's garden bed.

Bought: I'm still in crazy buying mode, bought strawberry plants, asparagus, cucumber, and peas. The only items left to really buy this year is tomato support which I plan to do at the end of the month.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Sister's & My Car Situation

I knew this would happen again, but didn't know when. My family has problems with cars, they buy too expensive of cars, they buy ones that they crash in a matter of months, or they buy ones when they don't even have a driver's license.

I called my sister yesterday since my dad had said she was not doing too well with her new position regarding pay (became a hair stylist at an upscale shop, was an assistant before). When I got her on the phone, she let me know her car was gone. I thought it first was stolen, but she explained that she was negotiating a payment plan since she was behind on the payments, had made a plan and was paying, but they came and took the car anyways. She owes about $8K on the car, it's worth about $3K and was starting to have problems.

I wish there was some magic smart pill I could give my family, but there is not (yet at least). Here's the advice I gave her:

- Buy a beater of a car for $500 (all she has in the bank).
- Save $200/month for 6 months. By that time the beater will be dead.
- Buy a better beater of a car for $1200 (from savings).
- Keep up the $200/month savings for a year, repeat cycle in a year for a $3000 car (from savings and selling the previous car).

I doubt she'll listen, but I tried all I could.

Regarding my beater, it is dead. The brakes are shot and it's not worth pumping more money into this thing. We haven't made a decision yet, but I'm leaning towards us holding off Capital One a bit longer and us buying a $2K car with 75-100K miles on it. For now, I'm driving my wife's car to work and back, while she stays at home.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Surprized Bank Teller & Local Crown Seminar

This past Saturday when I stopped at the bank to make a deposit and withdraw some cash, the teller looked at the check I was depositing several times. It was a $750 check from some programming work I had done. I had held onto it for a few weeks since I had not had a chance to stop at the bank.

She commented about the check being a month old based on the date on the check, a little surprised. I responded back that I hadn't needed the money and I had stopped living paycheck to paycheck. That response surprised her even more and the tone in her voice was a little wishful to be in that place. She ended up mustering a "Well, that's a good thing."

It's still a little weird not being in that situation of living paycheck to paycheck. On April 12th I'll be helping fellow members of my church (Harvest Bible Chapel of New Lenox) through a 1 day seminar with Crown Financial Ministries to learn about God's way of handling money. If you know anyone in the southern suburbs of Chicago that would benefit from it, I am willing to pay for 3 people to go ($20/person includes lunch).

Saturday, March 29, 2008

April Budget & March Net Worth +$6

We are just squeaking by with $6 positive growth. There are several reasons to that...The tree removal ended up being higher than budget for 1 ($1500 total after including $200 to have someone else cut up the wood to smaller pieces). My wife's sewing machine needed some long-needed repair, so we got that taken care of this month as well. I also have only been working 1 (one) job. You heard that right folks, I brought myself down to 1 job.

April Income:

$2150 Bank Accounts
$1000 Rent (2 roommates at $350/month, 1 at $300/month)
$3434 Day Job

April Expenses:

Mrs. Student Loans 200
Car Gas 200
Mrs. Fun Money 100
Mr. Fun Money 100
Toiletries & Groceries 190
Natural Gas 77
Cell Phone 55
Mortgage 1130
Water 60
Home Depot 1180
Capital One 2500
Mr. Student Loans 110
Electric 105
Life Ins 95
Wood Chipper 200
Vet Visit 150

This month will be the last payment for Home Depot. Woohoo!

We'll be starting on making a major payment to Capital One as well this month. I'm going to call them on Monday to negotiate a settlement probably around $5K, where we'll do half in April and half in May. It's pretty nice to be able to live off our savings and rental income, therefore send all my paychecks towards the debt.

I'm bouncing around regarding chipping the brush from the trees taken down last month. The tree folks of course were willing to cut all the brush up and haul it away, but I was wanting to keep it so I could have chips/mulch for my garden this year. I'm going to go look at a used chipper this weekend as well as price around renting one.

The vet visit is new this month as well. For a couple of weeks we had a cat hanging around our house because the kids in the neighborhood were feeding him. It was snowing last Saturday morning and I couldn't leave him out there in the cold. He was someone's pet at one time I suspect. We decided to keep him (even though I'm allergic), so we need to take him to the vet to get checked out.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Home Depot wants me back...

And they're itching for my current e-mail address. They sent the account to collections and we are about 2/3 of the way paying them off (next month is the last 1/3). I received in the mail over the weekend a short letter from them saying that they want to e-mail me, but the address they have on file is not valid. No description of what was in the e-mail, just asking me to spend my time logging into their site so I can update it and they can probably start sending me junk.

Just what I want!

At the end of next month, I'll be calling them up to make sure they cancel my account. Seems like even if you stop paying them, they will want you back once your current.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Few Paths To Choose

With this year pretty much on auto-pilot for our finances (know the order debts are being paid off and when, income set for the rest of the year unless we add a new revenue stream), I've been thinking big time what is the path we go on after these CC and misc debts are paid off and we have $9K in our emergency fund. It's still a year away, but I figure now is the time to start planning. Here's the paths I see available:

- Pay down student loan and mortgage debt: This has a guaranteed return on investment of 6% overall. I know I really want to get our mortgage under 80% to get rid of the $71/month PMI, which will take $10K

- Invest in the stock market (eg: S&P 500): I forget the exact long-term average for S&P 500, but it's like 10% in the long-term.

- Build a business: We've got several ideas floating around over here that would require some, but not much money to get started. The chance for losses and gain are large.

- As my wife describes it, go back to our old ways and splurge. This has a guaranteed return on investment of 0% to -30%.

It's probably going to end up being a mix of the first 3, just finding the right balance will be the hard item. Our goal is retirement at 42, though theoretically I'll be halfway to retirement in a year (currently living off 50% of my day-job income, the other 50% is going to those debts right now).

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Garden Update

Lots going on over here since my last garden update, here's the latest:

3 trees brought down: We have a huge pile of brush for me to work on next weekend with a wood chipper and the pieces need to be cut into smaller pieces for our fireplace this coming winter, but they are now on the ground. Total cost to bring them down: $1300. It was a tough choice to do while we are trying to be gazelle intense about our debts, but if our garden in the back yard is going to go well this year, we needed them cleared out. This will help accelerate my plans in starting a garden business.

Planted Indoors: We planted the cilantro, cumin, and lettuce we had decided before. We also planted several varieties of tomatoes for us to try to sell in 6-8 weeks (250 plants).

Transplanted: Finished most of the transplanting, the only ones left to transplant are the lettuce from last week. Once they have sprouted, I'm stopping with transplanting. It takes too much work starting seeds in one container to move them to another container for not much benefit.

Looking Ahead: The next few weeks are going to be yard cleanup, most of the plants we can start indoors have been started. The rest we either need warm weather outside or plant directly in the ground. We should be getting some nice weather after today (40's and 50's).

Friday, March 7, 2008

Down to 3 Roommates

This week has been a busy week for me with a new job (and I'm enjoying it a lot). We had decided a couple weeks back that a couple that has been living with us had to leave and they left at the beginning of this week with almost no warning. They didn't leave in the best of ways, but we are done with that chapter.

We also decided we are going to stay at 3 roommates only. This is a bit sooner than I was hoping for (June was my personal goal), but after this bad experience, we're going to limit to 3 roommates. This will allow us to have our daughter out of our bedroom and into her own room (she's almost 10 months old).

Last of all, one of our other roommates is moving out today, but we already have a semi-permanent replacement moving in on Monday. After she moves in, it's looking like we won't be changing roommates for another year. This will help with the sanity of the house. Our total rental income will be $1000/month ($350/m from 2, $300/m from 1).

Friday, February 29, 2008

Garden Update

Last weekend was pretty busy for the garden, here's where we're at:

Planted Indoors: 131 Bush Peas, 5 Lettuce, 20 Leek, 20 Sweet Peppers, 20 Basil, 20 Brussel Sprouts, 20 Spinach, 20 Basil, 20 Dill, 20 Chives

Sprouted This Week: Spinach, Brussel Sprouts, Chives, Sweet Peppers

Purchased: I picked up some more seeds (it's an addiction I tell you), some seed sprouting mix, 4 more trays for the tomato plants I'll be selling.

Outside: We've had a lot of snow come down this week, hopefully we had the last of it. We're supposed to get warmer this weekend and melt it.

Transplanted: 19 lettuce plants transplanted successfully, already have 2 true leaves on them. Hope I can plant outside in three weeks with shelter.

Looking Ahead: Planting indoors 10 cilantro, 10 cumin, 5 lettuce seeds. Removing trees this week from our back yard.

March Budget & February Net Worth +$2,465

February's net worth was lower than I anticipated. The item that reduced it was I worked less for a client than anticipated. In the coming months though it will grow even better with the new job I start on Monday.

March Budget:

I'm not going to list income here, because a problem we've got is that it is pretty unknown what it's going to be. we've got the last check with vacation time coming from my current job, we've got my next check from my new employer but don't know when that's coming, we've got 2 roommates moving out next month (we've got one possible replacement coming tonight to check out the place). All of those variables make the income situation uncertain. I know enough will come in the month to cover the expenses with enough time for them to cover it, so I'm not concerned.

Expenses:

Mrs. Student Loans 200
Car Gas 200
Mrs. Fun Money 100
Mr. Fun Money 100
Toiletries & Groceries 190
Natural Gas 77
Tree Removal 1300
Cell Phone 55
Mortgage 1130
Car Insurance 200
Water 60
Home Depot 1180
Capital One 100
Mr. Student Loans 110
Electric 150
Life Ins 95

The tree removal is new this month, we have 3 trees in our back yard that are a danger to our house and our neighbor's house. With spring coming, I'm wanting to do some more planting out back, but the trees need to go in order for us to do that.

Our fun money has been bumped up to $100/person, due to me spending more for garden-related items and my wife is wanting to purchase tickets for her parents to come visit at Mother's Day. We are very close to the prize of getting rid of this credit card debt and it's been hard on $30/month for entertainment. We did get rid of the dining out, which is now included in our fun money.

Our car insurance comes due this month, so it is included as well. It was $200 before, I suspect it will be either that much or lower. That is for 2 cars for 6 months, the best I have been able to find.

My student loans are going into repayment now, so they are included as well. I'm planning in July to lock their rate to a lower rate, saving us some on the interest.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Getting Tired of Other's Money Complaints

I'm talking about "I can't afford..." or "Things keep getting more expensive..."

The first one, I can't afford, we hear from one of our roommates. Something my wife has taught me is that the word "can't" causes it to be true. You don't look for ways it can be done. As an example, my roommate was needing to get her prescription checked out and probably get it changed, but she only had enough for the week for food and rent. I offered to her that she could get the prescription done free if she did a mystery shop and she could get glasses online for pretty cheap. Her response: I want to keep my frame. She never asked me about the mystery shop and I don't believe she has gone yet because of the money issue.

The other one, things keep getting more expensive, I hear from many people. I'm sad to say it, but it's just like saying that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. When the SOP (standard operating procedure) is inflation, things cost more and more every year. You can choose to either complain about it or find a way to work around it. For example, food has gone up considerably. My solution: Grow a garden. Next, gas prices keep going up. My solution: Invest in the oil & gas industry, drive a car that is not a gas guzzler, reduce your driving, find alternative ways to get places.

The best solution I have for anyone complaining about any money issue: Be creative and make more money or cut your expenses. I went from working at Taco Bell to making $50K/yr in a year in my day job (yes, I had a degree that helped). At the same time, we have been working on multiple income streams over here (rental income, selling garden plants, mystery shopping, sewing services, custom programming, medical billing, etc). We've also looked at our expenses and cut them down dramatically.

If your able to do those two things, everything else in personal finance is easy from there.

Monday, February 25, 2008

4 Tree Quotes

Here's the 4 tree quotes we have received to take down 3 trees in our back yard:

* $2700 turned to $2600: This was the first quote, the guy was originally starting at $2700 to take the brush but leave the wood, $2600 to leave everything. I told him for $100, just leave it. He offered then to take it away for the $2600. Was not very professional.

* $2400: This was the second quote we received, much more professional, though they would have cost more for them to leave the wood (they make money by chipping the wood and selling it).

* $1300: This one I talked with the owner of the business (he owns several businesses) in person on Saturday, we've been trying for a week to get his tree person to come out but the guy has been really sick. The $1300 is them just bringing it down to the ground, leaving it for me to cut up (or hire someone else to cut it up).

* $1900: This would be taking it all away.

I'm thinking of going with the $1300 route for getting it down to the ground (my main concern) and then I can probably hire someone for $10-20/hr to cut it all up and pile it alongside the house. For the stumps I'll rent a stump grinder for $100/day and take care of 5 stumps I have in the back yard (3 from these trees, 2 from trees I took down last year). In all, I think we can do this all for under $1700.

The removal of the trees will allow me to expand our garden plans to be around 800-1000 sq feet and get rid of some dangerous trees close to our house (and our neighbor's house).

Friday, February 22, 2008

25% Raise This Week

I am scheduled to end my current day job next Friday, though my current boss talked to me and wanted to keep me on as a independent consultant for at least until they get my replacement, helping from home a couple of hours a week. My current pay there is $20/hr and when we first talked, that was the rate he was going to pay me as a consultant. I did some thinking on it and decided to be bold and talked to him today about wanting more money since my new employer will be paying me around $24/hr before benefits. We settled on my consulting rate of $25/hr. I know that's low for an independent consultant, but it was hard enough to get up from my existing wage of $20. If I had come in from no-where, I would have charged him at least $30/hr.

Here's to me still working 3 jobs, no one wants to get rid of me...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My House Value

Something I haven't changed in my NetWorth IQ data in the year I've been blogging has been my house's worth. This can be a hard thing to judge and for now I'm going to keep it at it's current level and maybe change it in a year's time. Here's why:

- Zillow.com says my house has dropped over $15K in the past year. On the other hand, it shows my zip code has had just minor fluctuations.

- Sold price in my neighborhood have been in the 130's for houses with less bedrooms/bathrooms for the past 6 months. (As shown on Zillow.com)

- Based on the income the house produces for us and the improvements planned for this year, I feel the house is still marketable at $131K.

I'm not planning on moving until this place is paid off (probably in 7 year's time) and we have enough cash to pay for another place. If this year's tax bill goes up because they think the value of the house has gone up, I'll get an appraiser to come over and see if the property has truly dropped in value. Otherwise, game on.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

1 Year Anniversary = +$28K Net Worth

This past year has been wonderful for our finances. Having a blog has helped me stay on track and accountable. Here's a play-by-play of the past year:

Work Income:

- Worked at Taco Bell looking for an opportunity to come last year in Jan.
- Started new job at the end of February making $36K/yr
- Got a raise in September up to $39.6K/yr
- Got a new job starting this March 3rd for $45K/yr for 90 days, going up to $48K/yr after that.
- Also juggled a computer repair job, picked up mystery shopping, my wife became a stay-at-home mom, and a few other random jobs here and there.

Rental Income:

- Started with 2 rooms being rented out
- Now up to 4 rooms, with all of them rented the past 6 months

Debt:

- Over $25K worth of net debt taken care of and out of our lives
- Many of those being settled on due to being so old
- The end of CC debt is right around the corner by June

Assets:

- Actual money in our bank account equal to a paycheck! No more living paycheck to paycheck!
- 2 cars that are in pretty good shape (after we spent $1300 the past 2 months repairing them)

Here's where I see us in a year's time:

- $8-10K in an emergency fund
- No credit card or misc debts
- $750/month going into a retirement fund (15%)
- $750/month going toward our mortgage to get rid of PMI.
- Daytime salary at least $52K/yr.
- Reduced down to 3 roommates due to our daughter having her own room.
- Putting the excess into savings to start an urban farm business in 2010.

Garden Update

I've been forgetting to do garden updates, so here's the latest:

- Spent $10 on seed starter soil and potting soil. I'm mixing the two since I few the seed starter soil is a little to light for my 3" pots (and a bit expensive).
- Spent $5 on more seeds. I'm thinking next year I'll just buy all my seeds at once and be done with it. The more I look, the more I want to plant.
- Working on getting bids for the trees out back to be removed, had 1 quote at $2600, which is way too high in my opinion for 3 trees. At that price, I'll hire an old friend from out of town that does this work to do it, much rather give him the money and spend some time with him. I'm wanting more area to grow, so that's why we're removing them (and safety)
- Lettuce and broccoli seeds have sprouted, our tomato, eggplant, celery, & cauliflower have not yet, so I moved all the plants to a warmer spot near an air vent.

I'm also going to this year start weighing the crop coming in and when it comes in. I'm going to set my goal to produce about 2,500 pounds from our garden this year. About half of that will be from tomatoes (which we eat quite a bit of throughout the year w/ pasta & salads). About 1/4 of what we grow we will be giving to our church to give to families in need.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Picked up $125 Fridge

I decided to bite the bullet last night as well and pick up a fridge for $125. The gentleman worked for a rehab company that was rehabbing an elderly home and so had a lot of fridges. It is in great shape and looks about 5 years old. We're good on the appliance side of things for a while.

I didn't haggle with him about the price because it was in such good shape and that was a good price to begin with. On the other hand, I did haggle with the freezer guy since it was much older than I thought it was going to be and he had the posting up almost a week with no buyers. Was able to negotiate $30 off the freezer from the asking price.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Bought Freezer = $95

I've been getting tired of us not having any room in the fridge or freezer, so I picked up tonight a freezer for $95 from a fellow Craigslister (my own word) that I had help me in the past. It's a bit old, but it works really well at keeping things cold from what I've felt of it running for just a few minutes. I'm on the hunt for a fridge as well in the $100-$125 range, I've got one in my sights I'm considering trying to pick up tonight.

I'll keep you all posted, these were not in our budget, but with new job coming and I'll be getting some vacation pay, we'll be all right. I'm not at least buying that extra hard drive space I want...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Decided To Take New Job

I did a lot of thinking and this new job will be the best thing for me and my family. My wife is going to need health insurance and through the state it would be a bit over $300/month with a $5K deductible. I have not had coverage either due to chiropractic work I had last summer done and my current employer only does individual plans, not group plans.

The extra salary will be helpful as well at us getting out of debt and saving for the future. We'll also be to the point where if we did not have renters, we would be able to save for retirement and meet our needs. We're going to keep renters though for quite a while until we need the space for additional children or we move out into the country.

In addition, my responsibilities at work have been expanding into maintenance of a major site, which I've been trying to juggle without success. I have been asking for help for a couple of months now, but it has been limited.

Monday, February 11, 2008

New Job Opportunity Decision

I received today an offer for a new job, which I am leaning toward taking, here are the details:

$45,000 starting salary, $3,000 increase after 90 day probation
SIMPLE IRA matching 3%
Group Health Benefits W/ BC/BS
2 Weeks/year Paid Vacation after 90 days

Overall, it's a $10K raise for me with an additional week of vacation time. The work would be just programming versus my current job being a mix of everything. I'll update more later tonight when I make the decision.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Taxes and Trees

We finished up our taxes over here last night and our IRS tax bill was $30. We will be getting back $571 from the federal. With our home being our business (4 roommates) and it netting us negative income, it adjusted our gross income. We also have 1 child, standard deductions and EIC.

On the other hand, we'll be paying $98 to the state. My wife and I worked a few jobs that did not pay much hourly last year, so they made the assumption that was how much we'd make for the year and we did not pay enough state taxes through the year.

We were planning this summer to have some trees removed, but I'm going to call around and see if we can get it done this month. One place in the phone book advertises that they discount during the winter (probably b/c it's a slow time for them). If we can get them to do it for under $700 for 3 trees (that I've cut a fair amount off already), that will be great. I'll be starting to make those calls over the next couple of days and see about getting estimates by this weekend so we can decide then who (and have the funds).