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.


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:

- 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

- 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


- 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


- 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).

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Busy 24 Hours

The past 24 hours have been pretty busy:


Afternoon Car repair bill for my wife's car -$850
5 PM JiffyLube Mystery Shop +$15 net income
6-7:30 PM On-call computer support +$38 net income


9-11 AM Meeting w/ Assisted Living center regarding software I've been making for them, $800 due from them from 40 hrs work
1-3 PM On-call computer support +$60 net income


Finish up taxes, $431 net income

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Raised 1 Roommate's Rent

We made a hard decision last night, but it is complete now. We have 1 couple living with us that we were giving a discounted rent due to us believing it was going to be a short-term situation until the husband joined the Navy and would be making more. That was supposed to happen by December, but December has come and gone. Our electricity expenses have also gone up considerably since they have been at the house (almost doubled) when we have 5 other adults at the house. Winter it normally goes up a bit (since we're using lights more), but this is much more than normal. They also have the largest bedroom in the house, yet were paying less than the person with the smallest room.

Our current renting situation is 3 rooms are rented at $350/month and 1 room is rented at $300/month. The lower one my wife will be meeting with to discuss her finances with and make the decision whether to raise it to the $350/month of the others or not.

This will help us reach the goal of getting the CC & misc debt taken care of by 9/1/08. So far it seems like we're right on track. It will also help us cover the growing expenses of the house.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Garden Plans - Feb 2nd-9th

We're planning at our house to grow a lot of our food this summer (with the eventual goal of growing most of our food). Here's what's in store for this week:

- Purchased workbench lamp to grow plants under ($25)
- Hang lamp in bay window
- Picking up 2x3 inch planting pots to grow the plants in.
- Planting in bay window the following: 75 tomato, 10 lettuce, 10 celery, 15 cauliflower, and 15 broccoli seeds

I figure not all of the seeds will grow into something, so I plant a few extra. Last year we had 8 tomato plants and then the rabbits ate 3 of them the first day I planted them outside. We'll be making a lot of spaghetti sauce and tomato soup with those tomatoes. The batches we made last year were gone before Halloween. I'm hoping we can stretch them out to April or May.

I'm also thinking of selling some of the plants to cover some of my supply costs. Still deciding on this...

My Ideal Budget

This past week I've been thinking that I've become too much like my blog, all about saying goodbye to debt. Here is my ideal budget for the coming September when we only have student loans and the mortgage:

Percentage of Income:
Tithe 10%
Retirement 15%
Debt/Retirement 25%
House 28% (Mortgage & Utilities)
Needs 15% (Food, Car, Insurance)
Wants 7%

Looking at the House/Needs, this is where we are approximately already. The rest of the categories have been all about debt (and will be for a few more months), but I want to be able to enjoy a bit of life. I know 7% doesn't seem like enjoying life much, but at $5K/month income, that will be around $400/month. We're planning on $100/month for each of us and then $200/month for projects around the house (eg: fireplace, removing trees, basement windows & door, driveway repair, fence repair, flooring repair).

To reach our retirement goal of 42 (14 years from now), we'll need to increase our income by $5K/yr. That will give us enough in retirement to live comfortably for us, even adjusting for inflation.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Tax Time Over Here

I've been meaning to wait until March to do our taxes, but I was getting anxious to do them. Here's what I'm looking at right now as a rough draft:

Income: $34,540
AGI: $34,540
Itemized Deduction: $12,430
Credits: $1023
EIC: $114
Refund: $431

I need to make sure we have all deductions & credits correct, but so far it's looking pretty good for us. This is even after having 9 exemptions at work. I'm not going to be adjusting the exemptions, so next year we may need to pay something.

And to think we increased our net worth by $25K last year on that much income (our rental income cancels itself out due to expenses).