Tuesday, December 22, 2009


The past 3 years have been a great adventure at saying goodbye to our debts. We learned a lot about spending less than we earn, increasing our income, settling debts and starting to save.
We haven't gotten rid of all of our debts (we are still carrying our student loans and mortgage), but we are at the point in our life where the debt is under control and not keeping us up at night.

Because of this, we are going to say goodbye to this phase of our life as we proceed into the next. The next 3 years will consist of us building up an urban farm business, investing some and saving all that we can so that I can leave my 8 to 5 day job. We're already ahead on the payments for our debts and by summer we will be putting 20% of our income to our IRA's and 20% towards the business. We'll still be updating our NetWorthIQ.com account as shown to the right as we reach our next goal.

We also have been building our children education funds so that IF they decide to go to college they will not have to carry as many debts as we have. College opened many doors for me that I wouldn't have had access to otherwise, but I don't know if the same will be true in 20 years. I hope though that we may be able to teach them well enough so that they do not have to spend 3 years getting back to square 1 as we have.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I Fought the Tax Man & Won

Back in July I received a letter in the mail that nobody likes to receive...An audit letter from the IRS. They had looked at our 2007 tax return and found some differences than what was reported to them, so they asked us to clarify them. Here is the details:

1. There was a large amount on a 1099-C from forgiven debt that they did not see within the income portions of 1040.

2. There was $1 of interest received on a bank account that we had not received a statement on. The $1 of interest did not affect our amount of tax owed.

Because we were insolvent at the time, we had filled out the proper form electronically to inform the IRS that the forgiven debt should not be considered as income due to our insolvent situation. It appears though that the information did not transmit to them properly. What we did to fix the problem was we provided a copy of the form that was submitted electronically, provided a net worth statement based upon the date the amount was forgiven, a letter explaining the situation, and a form they included with the audit letter filled out. We were able to provide the net worth statement due to my thorough tracking through NetWorthIQ.com.

A couple weeks after we had mailed in the information we received a letter informing us they had received our information and were reviewing it. Last week in the mail a letter stated that they had reviewed the information and that they corrected their information and we owed nothing. We're saving that letter with our 2007 taxes as a precaution. In addition, our 2009 taxes will be mailed in on paper so that we can make sure the information is transmitted correctly to them for the forgiven debt.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Why File for Bankruptcy?

I spoke to my father just a few minutes ago and he has been toying for years to file for bankruptcy. His credit was trashed back in 2002 when my step-mom passed away and he hasn't had credit cards since at least 2005. He is going out of the country for 6 months this winter and was considering filing for bankruptcy next summer. The question I asked him is "Why File for Bankruptcy?"

Personally, I seek to pay off all my creditors, but for him he does not want to. He also does not plan to buy a house in the coming years, he is on social security disability payments and does not own anything of value. He also does not have any retirement money put aside. Due to his health, all he wants to do is rent a place to live, have a basic car to drive places, and spend time with friends and family.

His concerns was that people were telling him that they can potentially pull money out of his bank account or take his social security benefits. I let him know at least in Illinois that they are not able to do so since he does not receive wages and all of his income is from social security. At the end of the call, he agreed with me and is considering not filing.

How many others out there in the foreclosure fiasco will be like my dad in 5 years and realize that all they really want out of life is a place to lay their head, a car to take them places, the ability to spend time with friends/family, and a tv to entertain themselves when no one is around?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Why Am I Focused on My Finances?

Yesterday was a rough day at work, I got reminded about how I really can't take much of a vacation due to no one else there to take up my slack and I had a disagreement with a co-worker over e-mail that my boss ended up being on my side (I was focused on our lack of customer service for a client, my co-worker was upset I spoke up on his project). It got so bad that I called my wife in the afternoon saying "I'm about ready to just leave this place!"

She as the sensible woman she is calmly reminded me of why I am there and the reason we've been working on our finances the past couple of years. She said "This job is a means to end right now so that in the future we can reach our goals." and then reminded me of some of them. I have probably listed them in past posts, but here they are:

Retire at 42: I don't want my kids to grow up with the concept that Dad goes to work for 12 hours a day, comes home, eats dinner, then goes to bed. There are things beyond work that I want to do with my wife and kids that "retirement" will make happen. My definition of "retirement" is more along the lines of financial independence, where I will probably still be involved in money-making projects, but it won't be me worrying if we'll have enough for the next month or even next year.

Trip Around the World: Once my kids are high-school age, I want to take them on a trip around the world with my wife. We would spend at least a year visiting a variety of locations, both the standard touristy locals and the places in the world with need. I believe this will help them understand different cultures better and give them an appreciation for everything they have. I also pray that they may come to Christ during that trip if they have not done so yet.

Missions Work: I want to be able to take 3 months and go help with Habitat for Humanity, building homes for those in need. I have a heart for meeting the basic needs of others (food, shelter, water) that is hard to listen to when my own family has troubles with those basic needs. I want to build water pumps where people are walking miles right now to get fresh water. I know I can currently send small amounts of money to organizations involved in such programs, but I want to be the hands and feet of God and involved in the work myself.

Create Companies to Create Jobs: We officially started this process on my birthday this week, incorporating our urban farm business. We will be hiring at least 1 person next year with the possibility of 2 or some temp labor. My feeling on unemployment is that people have forgotten that jobs are created, not found on a "hunt". For example, instead of complaining about not having a job, one can look at their skill set and say "How can I use these to create a business that meets people's needs or wants?". One person sees a 1/2 acre back yard as something they have to spend money to upkeep in mowing and watering, while I see a gold mine just waiting to be utilized to grow local vegetables.

What would be on your list of reasons why you are focused on your finances?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Surprise at Work

Things have been rough at work this past month with 2 very large projects and I have been putting in a lot of extra hours. My boss, the owner, earlier in the week had invited all of the "production" team out for lunch to have some pizza. He's also been wanting our largest project completed this month and I'm the only one working on it. The pressure from him has been too rough for me to handle and the way I deal with it is just work as hard as I can.

After a meeting this morning, I let him know I wouldn't be able to go to lunch with them as I needed to spend time working on the project. I was so wanting to get away and join them for lunch, but I had stayed at work until 8 PM the night before and did not want to do that again. While they were at lunch, our sales manager asked why I hadn't gone and I broke into tears. I explained the pressure I've been feeling, working as hard as I can and ending up not seeing my daughter yesterday due to getting home after she was in bed.

My boss brought me pizza when they got back and then sent me an e-mail a couple minutes later letting me know that he very much appreciates my work ethic and is going to give me a 10% raise. I was very surprised to say the least. We've been having pay raise freeze for the past 6 months. I'm very certain the sales manager did not speak to him, so I don't think it was because of my conversation with her.

It took me a little bit of time to get the courage to go talk to him in person, but when I did I thanked him for the raise and it's nice and everything, but the thing I need is more support through asking me such questions as "How can I or we help you get the project done?" Even if there is no answer to the question, just the act of asking the question would help me very much.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Looking to Refinance

I recently called my home mortgage lender (Bank of America) to see what options we have to refinance our mortgage. We bought the house almost 4 years ago and with interest rates as low as they are, I figured it couldn't hurt to ask. My credit as I suspected is not too hot and they were not able to help me directly with a Bank of America loan, but they did say they could refinance me with a FHA loan.

Here's the pro's for going with the FHA loan:
  • My monthly payments will go down about $75/month.
  • We'll lock a lower interest loan while rates are low
  • There are no closing costs or points required to get the rate I am qualified for
Here's the con's regarding the FHA loan:
  • Stuck with PMI even if I have a less than 80% loan to value balance remaining. The only way out of it would be to refinance again in the future when my credit is better.
  • Bank of America requires a $400 deposit in case the appraiser does not value the house high enough. If they value it high enough that I can do the loan, I'll get the $400 back at closing.
We're going to talk to a realtor friend of ours to get her opinion on the value of the house before we make the decision. I'd hate to throw $400 down the drain...

There is also a very tempting option for us to look at, the HUD 203(k) loan. From my brief reading, it would allow us to pay for some improvements on the house (total must be at least $5K) and that will be added upon the refinanced loan. There are items we would like to do on our home (fix first floor flooring and put in hardwood, put tiles in the kitchen, fix the driveway, replace our fences) but are holding off so that we can build our business. I know when I started this blog I wanted to say goodbye to our debt, but this is something that I am struggling with.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Everyman Sleep Schedule

With my son born and us having feedings at random times in the night, last week I figured I needed to adjust my sleep schedule some. I did some research on different sleep schedules and decided to go on the "Everyman" sleep schedule. For those that don't know what it is, it consists of a 3 hour core sleep time (12-3 AM for me) and then 3 naps for 20 minutes each during the day (7:40 AM, 1 PM, 7:40 PM for me). I used to be able to sleep 6 hours a night with no problem and this schedule brings me down to 4 hours a day. Before I started this sleep schedule, I was sleeping 8-9 hours a night because that is what my wife sleeps.

So far, the new sleep schedule has worked very well. My second night on the schedule I slept too much due to taking my evening nap too early and then not having activities scheduled to do. I'm able to fall asleep faster every day when I nap and I have been able to function pretty much like normal. From what I have read, it will take some time for my body to adjust to this schedule. I am willing to go through the adjustment period if it provides me with more time to reach the goals that God has given me.

With my extra time from a couple of days I have scrubbed down the inside of the stove, done some canning of vegetables from our garden, laundry, and painted one of our bathrooms. I'm planning on trying to do more of my blog posts, write up and research for our new business, work on other house maintenance projects and continue to help my wife with the cleaning and our son's feedings. It feels good to be able to work on these items.

Besides the physical adjustments to the schedule, there is a feeling of loneliness since I am pretty much by myself from 10 PM-12 AM and 3 AM-7 AM. I am combating it by putting music on, keeping myself busy, and spending time with people when they are awake. Another negative is the potential "sleep debt" I may be building up over time. My plan to handle that is to take 1 night a week (probably Friday nights) where I don't set any alarms and sleep as much as my body wants to. I won't be starting that until my body has become accustomed to the new schedule (which it is getting closer every day).

In the end the new sleep schedule is like have an extra day and a half each week or almost an extra week every month. That extra time will help me get out of this debt and reach my goals.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Career Planning

I've been nervous to post anything work-related out of fear of my boss reading it (I was in the Chicago Tribune last year and he knows I blog). I'm just going to have to get over that fear and write anyways.

This past month my highest-paid co-worker put in his 2 week notice. He was the project manager for the design department. He decided that now that his wife has had a job for a few months (nurse) that he wanted to try to start his own web design company. He's planning on staying small, just enough to cover his personal expenses. We were all shocked in the office to say the least. He did sign a non-compete agreement, but it limits it to 30 miles from our office, so he is going to try to find work outside of that area. The one item that it did prepare me for if/when I leave is to make sure I have used all my vacation time before I give my notice.

Before he had done that, I was working on some career planning of my own. I know the next few years I want to stay in web development, so I have been looking at job postings to see their requirements. I have spotted 2 certification tests that I need to take in order to apply for some of those positions and I have started studying for 1 of them. It has been rough going at the studying the past month though because I've been a bit busier at work and I get home tired. I'm not actively looking to go somewhere else, I'm looking to protect my family in case my current employer starts cutting people. I'm also looking at showing my current employer that I am staying current within the industry.

On that subject, the owner (my boss) recently took 4 months of no pay in order to keep everyone on staff and reduce the losses. With my 1 co-worker out of the picture, he is going to start taking a paycheck again. I look though at the amount of work we have in the pipeline and it doesn't make me feel too comfortable. I do have some projects that are keeping me busy until September, but after that I'll be really slow.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Starting A Business

It's official, we've been out of credit card debt for a little while now and are able to look beyond that debt. We still have some medical debt to be taken care of, but they are not pursuing us, so we are going to put them on hold for now. Our priorities are now the following:

1. Be at least a month ahead on our usual expenses (meaning 1 month emergency fund at $2500).
2. Start a business

Back in college I started a software company with a friend from high school, but things did not turn out well with that business. Since then I have wanted to create a new one that becomes successful, but one thing or another has occurred. With all of our debt, it has been difficult to consider starting one, but we feel we can now.

We're going to start an urban farm and sell the produce at farmer markets, through CSA's, and to restaurants. An urban farm utilizes multiple back yards in an urban/suburban setting, reducing the land costs and bringing the food miles down significantly (the distance the food travels to the consumer is called food miles). We are looking at farming a 1/2 an acre, which is about 20X what we have been doing at our home the past 2 years. Out of that 1/2 acre, our financial goal for gross income is $50K. We will be utilizing bio-intensive methods to produce a lot more than what can normally be produced on 1/2 an acre. We will be hiring an agriculture college student on an either part-time or full-time basis during the summer to assist my wife with the manual labor. We plan on starting at 1 farmer market that occurs on a Saturday and expanding to a second one if needed.

The first year of the business our main goal is to break even with our expenses. Our stretch goal is to have a net profit of $20K on $30K of expenses. All of the expenses will be cash-flowed from extra cash in our monthly budget and then the income from the business. We don't want to get into debt for the business as that will mean monthly payments and interest expenses. We are writing up our business plan that will include such things as a 3 year plan, our exit strategy, marketing, pricing, and crop schedules. Half of the profits will be going towards our debts with the rest going towards expanding the business.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Newborn Son & Financial Effects

It has been such a busy week this past week that I did not post about my son being born on Monday morning at 6:05 AM at 6 lbs 5 oz. Baby Jack is very healthy and eating up a storm. The financial effects that will be felt (or not) in the months ahead include:

Clothes - Another couple in our bible study at church has a son growing out of clothes, so we received a lot of clothes. We also kept clothes that were unisex from our daughter for him. We should be good for a few years and then we'll probably get more hand-me-downs from others.

Food - We have some formula from when our daughter was born which should last us a little while (it hasn't expired yet). My wife is breastfeeding as well, but he's a voracious eater. My wife did purchase some additional tools to help her gather excess milk which have worked well. The total cost for those was $25.

Bed - We received a bed from someone we knew that no longer needed it. We had lots of blankets from when our daughter was little, so we didn't need to buy any.

Health Insurance - This will be the biggest expense for a while at $40/month with the Illinois All-Kids Care program. Our daughter is signed up for it as well and it has worked well. The only item we have to be careful is that they only cover 1 dental visit per year.

College Fund - In order to keep the two kid's college savings accounts at equal footing, we'll need to start putting at least $25/month into an account for him. We are not planning on paying all of their schooling, just enough so that they have to put some sweat equity into it without the work affecting their grades.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Knowing My DIY Limits

Last night I got started on the latest big project around the house, replacing the bathtub. I was leaning towards possibly doing it all myself and have one of my handyman neighbors review my work, but I'm leaning towards having the installation part being done by a professional. Here's what has happened so far:

1. We spent a couple of hours at Menards last night, picking out the tub and the walls for the tub. Since we're doing the tub, I also had us pick up paint for the bathroom since the area above the tub walls will need to be painted anyways.

2. I spent an hour last night starting to do demolition. The first step was removing the existing tub wall coverings. While removing them, I first was worried that I found support beams behind some of the walls, but they were not.

3. This morning I started tearing out the beams that had been setup to bring the ceiling down and box in the bathtub a bit. I'll be spending a couple hours today removing those.

4. One of my roommates has a truck, so we picked up the tub and walls this morning. That took 1 1/2 hours between going there, picking up the stuff, tying it down, bringing it home and hauling it upstairs.

In a little bit I'm going to start making some phone calls to find someone to do the actual installation. I figure by putting in the sweat equity of getting all of the supplies and removing the bad stuff I can save some money. I probably could spend the time doing the tub installation, but I would rather have the job done right the first time.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

August Budget & July Net Worth +$1244

I know it's a bit late, but here is August's budget:

$1074 September Budget
$200 Food
$26 Replacement Plates
$220 Car Gas
$53 House Phone
$43 Natural Gas
$11 Cable
$100 Mrs Fun Money
$40 Daughters Health Ins
$203 Mrs Student Loans
$10 Glasses
$100 Mr Fun Money
$250 Car Brakes & Oil Change
$20 Doctor Visits
$75 Porch Railing
$1383 Bathtub Replace & Front Door Replacement
$40 Water
$70 Electric
$15 Mr. Life Insurance
$69 Mr. Student Loans
$300 Savings
$48 Security System

Unique Items:

- My rear plate fell off recently, so we had to replace the plates. The cost was/is $26.
- I have needed replacement glasses, buying them this month
- Car brakes & oil change, my car needed the hydraulic pump for the brakes replaced as well as an oil change.
- The doctor visits are for my wife's thyroid that has been a problem during this pregnancy
- Porch railing is the remaining part to be built on the new back porch.
- One of our bathtubs is losing it's enamel, so we are going to replace it.
- Our front door needs to get replaced as well, it does not seal well.

July Net Worth: +$1244

Most of the growth was due to an increase of our emergency fund and our retirement/education accounts.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Is Canning Financially Worth It?

I just finished canning some pickled zucchini and figured I would pose the question here, is canning financially worth it? Here are some of the costs:

Main ingredient being canned: For this batch, it's zucchinis from our garden. There was cost for the seeds to plant, but they were minimal ($0.10 packet) and I'll be using the seeds in the future. I was watering them often with rain water, but found out I was over-watering so I just let them be now. They did take yard space, but if I had grass there I would have had to mow it.

Vinegar & Spices: I used about 1/2 bottle of vinegar (2 cups), 1 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of salt and a bunch of spices. The only free spice was dill that I grew from seeds from last year's plants. The other spices were peppercorns, mustard seed, and celery seed. The costs there I will estimate at $1.50

Jars: I picked up a 12 pack of jars for $4 at Menards last week (that is the price after rebate). I used 4 of the jars, so the cost was $1.33 in jars (they can be reused though in the future).

Heat & Water & Equipment: There is the pots, the bowl that they sat in brine for a couple of hours, water, etc. No easy way for me to measure the costs but I consider them minimal.

Time: My active time canning consisted of 1/2 hour total (cutting, preparing brine, canning).

Overall my financial costs this year run about $3 for the 4 jars of pickled zucchini and 1/2 hour of my time. I know the jars can be reused, which if one estimates you can reuse the jar 5 times before they break, the cost comes down to a little under $2 for the 4 jars, not counting my time. If we counted my time like I was at work, the jars would have cost $12 more ($24/hr I get paid).

Overall, for me the cost doesn't matter. I'm not doing it to save money, I'm doing it to have food I know where it came from and can't buy anywhere else (eg: How many stores do you see selling pickled zucchini?). Am I crazy to think that way?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Garden & Food Update

The harvest of food is starting to grow. Yesterday I used a 12"x36" tray to bring everything in due to how much I had to pick. Here's a sampling:

Kohlrabi: Still bringing in about 2/week. I need to plant some more so that we can have some this fall.

Cucumbers: 4 in yesterday, I'll probably be bringing in many more in the days ahead. Most of the plants have been doing an excellent job, I have had a couple have the leaves wilt with no explanation I can find.

Snap Peas: I thought I would be done with these plants by now, but I still brought a large serving size worth in the house yesterday

Basil: It had been coming in small amounts, I just brought in a sandwich container of basil

Cilantro: It is doing well this year, I'm picking it as I am going to use it.

Zucchini: These plants are growing like crazy. I gave them 5 feet of space originally and some are currently 10 feet long with more to grow. I have brought in about 5 18" ones and a bunch of small ones. I over-watered the plant initially and they had blossom rot from it.

Green Beans: They have been slow this year due to me planting them late (and the cooler summer we've been having). I started harvesting yesterday and should continue to have more in the days ahead.

Dill: These have done wonderfully this year, they are about 4 & 1/2 feet tall and have beautiful flower heads.

Tomatoes: We've been having enough cherry tomatoes for salads so far, they have turned out well

Broccoli: I was concerned about planting broccoli this spring due to last year's crop taking all year to form some heads, but they turned out really well this year (again due to the cool weather). I have pulled out half of the plants and am almost done harvesting the rest.

Turnips: I don't believe I've eaten turnips before, but had some on Sunday and they tasted great. My wife enjoyed them so much she wondered why they are not more common in the stores. I planted some more this past weekend so that we can have a nice fall crop.

Lettuce: I believe we're going to have a crop all summer long. I have slowed down on my picking of it as we have been having a hard time eating all that I am bringing in. I planted more this past weekend to take us through the fall.

Grape Leaves: We canned 3 jars worth this past weekend so we can make a favorite appetizer in our house (stuffed grape leaves with rice, meat, and spices. I like mine with lots of lemon juice, my wife likes very little).

Other interesting items going on in the garden:

Asparagus: We received 8 more asparagus plants that someone dug up out of their garden. They planted them this year and did not like how they looked in their yard, so they gave them to us.

Pumpkin: I didn't mean to plant pumpkin this year, but we had 17 pumpkins donated to us last year and I threw some seeds into the compost pile by accident. The largest pumpkin we have so far is about 4 inches across.

Peppers: I picked a jalapeno pepper a couple weeks back since it was so small and I wanted the plant to focus on growing bigger, but we should be having banana peppers coming in this week as well as maybe some more jalapeno. I actually enjoyed putting the lone little pepper into nachos this past week with it cooked a little bit.

Eggplant: This cool summer has been rough on the eggplants. They really like those 90 degree days and we haven't had much of them. This week for example the evenings are supposed to be in the 50's for the most part and during the day in the 70's. The normal low/high is 65/83 which we are very off this year. Maybe those ice caps melting is messing with our weather here.

Overall the garden has been bringing down our food bills this year. We're spending right now about $25-35/week on food, which consists of sugar, flour, milk, cereal, cheese (a big expense for us), butter, snacks, and misc cooking supplies. My wife makes bread for us, we have a fair amount of homemade jam & syrup, homemade spaghetti sauce, canned applesauce & other apple items, etc. As an ending note, I'll leave you with my breakfast experiment from this past Sunday in order to use up some of the vegetables we have:

1 Tbsp Butter
1 Kohlrabi Bulb, tough skin portions removed, sliced into french-fry sized pieces
6" Zucchini cut into 1/4 circle shapes
6 Turnips at 2 to 3" each, sliced and left as circles or 1/2 circles
Fresh Dill (to taste)

Add butter to pan, cook kohlrabi first with some dill, then add turnips 2 minutes later. Once the kohlrabi starts to soften up, add the zucchini to the pan with some additional dill and cover until the zucchini is fully cooked. Serve with toast or eggs.

Monday, July 6, 2009

July Budget

I know we're a few days already into July, but we went on vacation this past weekend and just got back.

$1074 July Mortgage
$200 Food
$210 Car Gas
$216 Utilities
$60 Camping
$11 Cable
$9 Netflix
$48 Home Security System
$40 Maternity Dr. Co-pays
$22 Dentist Bill
$40 Daughter's Health Insurance
$203 Mrs. Student Loans
$20 Mystery Shopping
$15 Mr. Life Insurance
$69 Mr. Student Loans
$1074 August Mortgage
$300 Savings
$200 Chainsaw

This month has a few changes than our normal month. We have $60 for camping ($30 for 2 nights, plus the $30 for incidentials). We purchased a home security system last month and the monthly rate is $48 (and we're signed up for 39 months). I know the price is quite high for a monthly rate, but that's the way that company spreads out the equipment costs. I did a fair amount of calculations and I wouldn't have saved much more DIY. The $22 dentist bill is for my daughter, which should have been covered but our dentist did not know that the state only covers 1 visit/year. We will be changing dentist as that is something they should have known. The $20 for mystery shopping is for 3 different shops I'm doing this month for fun, we should be getting around $60 at the end of the month for previous shops we have done. We're looking at getting ahead in our mortgage payments this month as well. We're going to put some to savings and the chainsaw is so that I can start splitting and preparing wood for the upcoming winter(s).

On the income front, things have been pretty slow. We finally have a second roommate moving in today and have 1 bedroom still available. My day job has pay raise freezes in effect, so I'm not expecting my salary to change.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Financial Goals for Upcoming 18 Months

Since we're over with the credit card and home equity line of credit debt and only have another month's worth of misc medical bills, I'm looking at the next phase of our financial journey. Previously I had thought about holding off any projects on the house so that we could have the money to invest in a business, but after making some improvements on our house, I want to continue doing so. Here is the summary of what I'm looking at us reaching in the coming 18 months:

$6K Emergency Fund
$15K Home Improvements
$9K Mortgage Reduction
$2K Debts
$3K Pay My Dad Back

With how slow work has been recently, we are going to need the emergency fund. If we can get the house full of roommates soon and I was laid off, we could live off the $6K for 6 months with me not working any of that time. I would though find another job that pays minimal while I looked for work, as well as I would hope I would get unemployment.

The home improvement list is pretty huge, but my hope is that we spend the money and it will either convince us to stay here longer or will help when we try to sell the house. The projects include hardwood flooring in 3 rooms on the first floor, tiles in our kitchen, replace the tub in 1 of our bathrooms, replace the driveway, repair the fences, replace exterior doors, install an AC unit, replace our dishwasher, and removing the drop-ceilings in our living & dining rooms.

The mortgage reduction is so that we can stop paying $70 in PMI a month. When we bought our house we put 5% down due to that is what we could afford at the time. Once we get the mortgage down to the 80% LTV level, we won't be paying it down more except through our normal monthly payments.

The $2K is going towards the medical debts we have outstanding. They haven't been calling or writing us, but I consider them our responsibility to pay. We're not going to rush to pay them though, since I would rather have some money in our emergency fund instead.

The $2K in the SIMPLE IRA will be done through normal additions from my paycheck. We won't be adding more than the 3% in order to get the potential matching.

The $3K of my father's is a story I don't want to discuss much, but he has asked us to keep the money for him until May. We'll have the money ready for him then.

Overall it comes out to about $2K/month, which is feasible if we get some roommates in the house and I hopefully get a raise in the coming 18 months. Our priority will be paying back my dad, emergency fund, and home improvements. Once the emergency fund is built up, we'll work on the debts and the mortgage payback.

Investment Review

Through my work I have a SIMPLE IRA that I have been contributing 3% of my paycheck, in the hopes that my employer at the end of the year will match the money. So far, it's looking like my co-workers will be lucky to keep their jobs, so we're probably not going to have the 3% match. The IRA is managed by Edward Jones and I decided to have them purchase C shares of funds. The fees I don't feel are worth the advice that I receive. Every month he calls me with what he recommends and so far I have gone along for the ride.This past week I met with my account manager and here's what we discussed:

- When we started, I told him I am aggressive on my investing due to not needing the money for 30+ years.

- He has me on his idea of aggressive, which basically is a balanced portfolio of 26% income, 29% growth & income, 18% of growth, and 27% of aggressive. The title of the report he gave me says "Growth Focus"

- The report does not have a year % increase, it only displays the percent change from amount invested, which is 5.22% when they started investing for me on 2/18. Since Tuesday, the portfolio has gone up even more and the % is now 7.45%.

Items I learned:

1. I am going to ask him to e-mail me his recommendations instead of calling me at work. The past few months when he has called and made his recommendation, I have been too busy to just stop what I was doing, research his recommendations and make a decision. Because of that, I got a balanced portfolio that I do not want.

2. I am going to ask him to not recommend income options. This account will not be my only investment vehicle. For example, we plan on building an emergency fund of $6K and the income options are basically bonds earning the rate of inflation. If you count the fees as well, I'll probably be losing money on them. Their recommendations for the "Growth Focus" is 10-20% in income and I'm currently at 26%.

3. I'm glad to be learning these items with "small" potatoes of under $700 instead of a $100K portfolio.

My daughter's college account has been growing steadily due to my father adding $50/month to it and presents received for her birthday. For the next 18 months, we have shorter-term goals to work on instead of her college fund, so we won't be putting much into it ourselves.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Our garden is doing great! With the rain we have been having every couple of days and the cool days (until recently), my cool-weather vegetables have been performing well. We're now averaging about 10 hours a week in the garden, with about 1/2 of that time harvesting and the other 1/2 weeding. We have some wild garden plants that we are waiting on results from, they include tomatoes, cilantro, dill, and possibly pumpkins or cucumbers.

Coming into the house this week:

1/2 lb sugar snap peas/day
3/4 lb lettuce/day
1 cup regular peas/day
1 head of brocolli/day
last of the spinach
Cilantro as needed
Tops of Lemon Basil
Couple of cherry tomatoes
Grape Leaves
2 Kohlrabi/week
Various Radishes (did not do well this year, I suspect the seeds I got do not like our region).

Will be coming in soon:

Zucchini (we have 5 plants and they are taking over, each has 1-2 zucchini)
Cucumbers (plenty of flowers, haven't had ones form yet)
Green Beans (plenty of flowers, haven't had ones form yet)
Jalapeno Peppers (got 1 about an inch long)
Parsley (as needed)
Oregano (as needed)

We have had a lot of stir-fry the past week working through some of what has been coming in. The lettuce we have been giving away to friends in need. My wife pickled some of the sugar snap peas and froze a fair amount as well for future stir-fries. She also canned some grape leaves and I'll be needing her to do some more soon.

In mid-July, I'll be starting indoors some Brussels sprouts so that we can have a nice fall crop of them. I planted 20 Endive the past couple of weeks that we will harvest in the fall.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Money is so tight...

Money is so tight for us this month. I had committed us to making a final settlement payment this month and knew it would be tight if we did not have new roommates. We're here in the middle of June and still having only 1 roommate. The main reason for the lack of roommates was the broken front bay window for a month. We brought down our rent to $300/month all utilities included this week to see if that will help us get some people in the room.

The other big item that I decided to do this month was replace our back porch boards. We have had plywood as our porch deck since we moved into this house 3 & 1/2 yrs ago and the steps were not installed properly, so they were starting to rot and sway when you walked on them. I went with cedar, which is more expensive than pine but I feel will last longer. The costs for the project went much higher than I expected due to additional support structure needed for the stairs and placing boards over the stair openings so our children would not fall through them.

Here's what we have left to take care of this month that we can't push until next month:

$78 Car Sticker for the license plate
$10 Dr. Co-pay for my wife and the baby to come
$15 My life insurance policy
$40 Water bill
$69 My student loan
$40 Car gas to & from work
Total: $252

We're holding off paying for my daughter's health insurance ($40) until the 1st, electric bill ($70), and my wife's life insurance (and my old policy of $95). We're still a bit short on cash with $228 in the banks and cash on hand. I'm planning on taking 1 extra board back to Menards ($8), my dad owes me $30 for Cubs tickets I will be going to tomorrow, plus I have a $20 rebate check from Menards that I may use to buy an item I purchased for the porch with cash and then return it to get the cash back.

On the positive side, we have plenty of food in the house and our garden is producing a fair amount of food. The settlement payment is the last of our over $1K payment we will need to make to a debt, the rest of our misc debts are $400-600 range medical bills. Next month's goals is to just build up a cash reserve. I will be doing some patching of our basement walls next month, but that should only cost $5 a bag and I'll probably be using around 10 bags.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

P2P Lending Status

I've been ignoring my P2P lending accounts at Prosper and Kiva this year and decided to finally look at them. Here is what I found:

Prosper: One of the reasons I have been ignoring Prosper is because they are in their "Quiet Period", which means basically no new loans. The other reason I had been ignoring them was because 1 of my 2 loans on there had defaulted and not paid. That loan has now been paying consistently since December and my other loan has been paying pretty much like clockwork (there was one failed payment, but resolved 2 weeks afterwards). Those 2 loans from almost 2 years ago have taught me lots. I am pulling my money out of Prosper until they get out of the "Quiet Period" and currently have $71.21 outstanding.

Kiva: I have 1 loan that is delinquent by a couple of weeks, but my other one is not. I decided to use the money I had sitting in Prosper & Kiva to purchase 3 more loans on Kiva, bringing my total amount invested to $100. I know that I don't make interest on these loans, but the benefit of knowing I am helping others with their dreams is worth it.

Next month I may look into lending on Lending Club...Maybe I should change the name of my blog to "Goodbye MY Debt!".

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Garden Update

Our expenses and time this year for the garden have gone down dramatically. My schedule now consists of spending a 1/2 hour in the garden in the morning, picking what is ready to be brought into the house, and picking weeds out as I am harvesting. I utilize a tray with compartments in it to make the cleaning process go quicker. Once they are brought in, they are washed and put into their appropriate containers in the fridge or made into a salad for lunch. I also spend an hour or 2 on the weekends doing an overall scan for weeds and removing them with a hoe.

Harvesting Currently: Snap peas, lettuce, brocolli raab, radishes, spinach, strawberries, chives, green onions

Finished Already: Asparagus & arugula (have just a couple plants left to remove)

Surprises: We have wild tomato, cucumber, and pumpkin plants growing in and around our compost pile. We also started tomatoes in 4.5" containers this year on Valentine's Day and have tomatoes forming in the garden already. I will be doing the same next year for our tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers.

Problems: We have still 3 & 1/2 trays of plants under lights since we were going to help a home for single mothers-to-be, but the spring has been really wet and when it has been good, we have not had the equipment to till the soil. We will be looking for homes for them later this week. Our green beans are having a late start this year due to having to redo our back yard garden, but are coming up nice now.

June Budget & April/May Net Worth +$2891

June Budget:

$1074 Mortgage
$200 Food
$200 Car Gas
$43 Natural Gas
$53 House Phone
$40 Dr Visits
$50 Dining Out
$79 Car Registration
$2192 WaMu HELOC
$40 Water
$70 Electric
$40 Daughter's Health Ins
$203 Mrs Student Loans
$69 Mr Student Loans
$15 Mr Life Insurance
$45 Mrs Life

We finally got my life insurance plan changed to a cheaper policy. We were unable to get my wife's changed due to her being pregnant. At the end of the year we can reapply and get her brought down to $15-20/month.

We also are making the final payment on the HELOC from our previous home. Once that is done, the only items we have left for this year are some misc medical bills from 3+ years ago. We'll be taking a short break from tackling debts in July so that we can get a couple important items done (eg: dress pants & glasses for me, some house repairs).

The other items in the budget include $50 dining out, which we will be reimbursed for since they are mystery shops we are doing. We currently have 2 dinner shops setup and 1 movie theater shop scheduled and am trying for a third dinner shop. My wife's car is needing new stickers, so we're taking care of that this month.

April/May Net Worth: +$2891

I did not do an update on our April net worth, so this month is a mix of the 2 months. It has been a bit slow increasing since we only have 1 roommate currently, as well as the drama we had in March with a roommate taking both of our cars. Our bay window is damaged right now and we believe it is causing people to not be interested in moving in, so we are holding off renting the rooms until that is resolved. June we should see a better increase if we can get at least 1 more room filled.

Monday, June 1, 2009

May Housing Drama

I am so glad the month of May is over with. We have had a lot of drama occur this past month and I am hoping we are over it:

- Beginning of the month some kids threw a large piece of marble through our bay window. The glass was supposed to be "unbreakable", so Home Depot Home Services is going to replace it for free. This is a feature I would recommend to anyone in a bad neighborhood with a large bay window. It has been on order for 3 weeks now, supposed to be installed this week we pray.

- We suspect the ex-roommate that caused problems in March has come back around and stolen a few things out of our house. The items include jewelry of my wife's, our video camera, and 1 of our laptops. These occurred at 2 separate times and the second time my wife was in the house upstairs and did not hear them come in or out. We now are locking the doors and windows like crazy and considering moving in 2010.

- We had a roommate move in and then inform us that her family did not want her moving to Joliet, so she had to move out. We gave her the money back so she could get a truck to move her stuff out. She left several items and we have not heard from her since Wednesday. I will be putting the items on the back porch tonight and taking out to the trash on Friday.

Financially, we'll survive through these problems.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Garden Economics

Since my garden is almost into maintenance mode, I've been thinking about the economic side of a fruit and vegetable garden. I know that for some a garden can help reduce their food expenses, while for others it does not. The difference between the two is how much time and money they spend on it. Buy mulch every year to prevent weeds and there goes your profit margin. I believe more than just the generic concept of time & money, the plants they choose should be looked at. Below is a list of plants that I have learned are not bad choices:

Strawberry: Once you have your initial investment in plants, they'll take over the bed you put them in and keep coming back every year. We put ours in last year near the house with a sidewalk as the border to prevent them from taking the whole yard. The only items I've done this year to the bed were remove some covering I put on it on the fall (which actually killed most of my plants, this fall they won't get as much of a covering) and then take the rake through it once the weeds sprouted. The strawberries are already forming and I should be having strawberries in a couple of weeks.

Asparagus: This is another annual that once you have planted, the only real work is keeping the weeds away (which you can do with plastic over the area). We started them last year and this year had about a side-dish for 2, but expect more next year. We did not plant them in the ground properly, so that is why our crop was a bit low. A friend of mine nearby with a large farm has them growing wild on his property and harvested 2 pounds a week ago.

Onions & Garlic: These are ones that you also put an initial investment into, but they'll keep producing year after year. One of my neighbors has a garden FULL of onions so much that she gave us some bulbs last fall and they are already starting to form flowers in our garden this spring. If you space them close enough and plant them at the right time, the weeds won't have much of a chance.

Spring Lettuce: For my garden, the romaine lettuce is the winner of easiest spring vegetable. I'm still learning how best to do this one, but I've learned the best way is to plant your lettuces real close to each other. The benefit is the lack of weeding that you will need to do. You won't get as large of a head as you do at the grocery store, but the focus is to reduce your time and costs. We have been picking leaves off for the past 2 weeks and have been enjoying them. (We started them off indoors).

Peppers & Eggplant: These don't produce the quantity for me as much as my tomato plants in the same family, but what they do is slowly produce some great vegetables that I can take my time (for the most part) to pick.

Below are some that are bad choices on the time aspect:

Green Beans: We grow lots of them, but they will become your daily chore if you have even just a couple of plants. The key thing is to cut the green beans before they get too big. They'll easily produce new ones from flower to green bean in a day at the peak of the season. For us, the season went from late June to late September. That's 3 months of hunting for beans.

Peas: They are not as bad as green beans, but they will be a daily chore for 3-4 weeks. They produce their pods pretty quickly, so you have to catch them before they get too big.

Below are some that are bad choices on the money aspect:

Starter Plants: The easiest way to get ahead is to start your own plants. When I hear about people spending $3-5 on a tomato plant, I think to myself that they have already lost the war. For the same price I was able to start 18 plants in my house (though I had to put some more time into them).

Potatoes: From the seed potatoes I see at the garden places, it is another one that you have lost the costs war just buying the seed potatoes. I've seen the price of regular potatoes this past week at $0.16/lb, while the 1 lb of seed potatoes was at $5/lb. To just break even one would need to make at least 32 lbs of potatoes from the seed.

Let me know what I missed!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Long Time Away

My life as usual has been pretty crazy (I type this as my wife cleans up a broken window). Here is what has occurred:

- My wife and I went on a short vacation to Colorado to visit her family in March and took a train there. It was beautiful, relaxing, and no pat-downs from airport security.

- One of our roommates took both of our cars while we were on vacation, used one in a hit & run, the other got a flat tire. Both were impounded by the police. I flew back the day after I found out and took care of getting the cars back & the locks changed ($1K of expenses)

- There has been a decrease of things to do at work, my active project pile is at 1 day's worth of work (meaning if no one finishes their part for me on Monday, I'll be having to go around looking for work on Tuesday). There is about 6 months worth of stuff in the pipeline, but the problem is that it relies on others to get their job done.

- Our garden has been half planted, we have been getting asparagus and lettuce so far. We'll be getting radishes & brocolli raab soon. Our strawberry patch is doing great. We're waiting for the soil to dry out enough for us to rototill the back yard.

- We have attempted to sell rain barrels, but it is going slow. We may have our first customer today. I have been discouraged a bit due to some leaking.

- My wife picked up a bunch of vacuum cleaners for free. She is going to clean them up and sell them on Craigslist.

- We have started getting involved with neighborhood watch starting up in our neighborhood. It has been good to meet some of our neighbors and feel like we're going to start improving the neighborhood (one of the reasons we moved to where we are).

- Our front bay window had a large rock thrown at it last night. The police have their suspicions of the kids causing the problems, but they're building their case. We had purchased a high-end window for The Home Depot At-Home Services the last time this happened 3 & 1/2 years ago and so they should cover the replacement for free.

- We'll be paying off our home equity line of credit next month, we're going to do half this month and half next month.

More detail to come in the future.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

March Budget & February Net Worth +$2,240

We're FREE from Credit Card Debt!!!

Just had to start off this status update post with that. We still have a few more debts and months to go before we'll be consumer debt free (everything but student loans and mortgage). Onto the details:

March Expenses:

200 Food
200 Car Gas
214 Car Insurance (6 month premimum)
55 Cell Phone (LAST ONE!)
95 Life Insurance (story in itself, will discuss more soon)
50 Water (estimate)
120 Electric (estimate)
69 My Student Loan
380 Train Ride

March Paid Items:

1073 Mortgage
203 Mrs Student Loans
40 Natural Gas
51 House Phone
11 Cable
40 Daughter's Health Insurance

We have removed Netflix from the monthly budget, as we have been using the cable more than Netflix and have run out of stuff on DVD we want to watch. We no longer have a cell phone and are awaiting the final bill in the mail to pay it off. Our car insurance for 2 cars is due this month (though they haven't sent us a letter, so we'll be calling them this week). The train ride is a 2 week visit to my in-laws in Colorado with my wife and daughter. I'll be working part-time remotely when I'm out there. The March paid items list are items we already paid that were due in March. My father has given/lent us $2K to keep safe for him until the end of the year, which we used to prepay items (I know, not the best thing to do).

February Net Worth:

Did I let you know we paid off our last credit card? That was a large chunk of our net worth increase this month. We also paid down on our mortgage, student loans, and HELOC. We're continuing to put $128/mo into a SIMPLE IRA at my work. Next month's net worth increase will not be much unless we get 2 rooms filled with renters.

Renter Update

Since the renters affect our ability to get rid of our debts, here is another update:

- 1 renter/roommate still with us, she is current and is working on this month to get herself ahead in case of problems in the future

- 1 renter/roommate finished up his work project and left early February

- 1 renter/roommate moved out at the beginning of Feb due to not being able to pay her rent. She had been with us over 2 years, it was a little hard to see her go but it is done.

- We had somone lined up for the beginning of Feb, but she got in an accident, car junked and had her license revoked.

- We had someone stay with us for a week as charity so they could get out of a bad situation, but they lied to us almost every day in regards to their son (was told originally the son was with his father, then "new" details were given about his whereabouts and his criminal past). They no longer are with us.

So right now we have 2 rooms available for rent, we've brought the price down to $375/mo the past week to see if we could get them filled quicker, which did not happen. The price includes all utilities, washer/dryer, & wireless Internet. I'm moving the price down to $350/mo this week to see about getting the rooms filled ASAP.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

February Garden Update

Our shipment of seeds came in the mail today, so I figure it's time to post an update on our garden. We have planted 3 trays worth of seeds, with each tray having 50 inserts. The list includes:

15 Green/Purple Peppers
5 Jalapeno Peppers
5 Lemon Balm
10 Broccoli
10 Eggplant
5 Artichoke (trying for my wife)

20 Tomatoes
10 Banana Peppers
10 Rocket
10 Broccoli Raab

10 Lettuce
10 Leek
10 Celery
10 Kohlrabi
10 Chives

We have them placed above our dryer to keep them warm and assist with sprouting. The total cost so far has been $60 ($42 for seeds, $8 for starting soil, $10 for tray inserts). Other expenses in the coming month we expect are 2 more lights ($15/each) and probably $10 more in tray inserts. After that, the only expenses we may have are some additional posts outside.

Regarding last year's garden items, we're still working through green beans, frozen celery, frozen peppers (pretty mushy), spaghetti sauce, tomato soup, apple sauce & filling, pumpkin pie filling (which my wife made more filling today), pickles, and jam. We'll see how productive our garden is this year.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Redbox is great, except...

When I first heard of Redbox, I thought it was a great idea. For those that don't know how it works, you get new releases for $1/night out of a vending machine. There is a touch screen that you can select what movies are in the machine, swipe your credit or debit card and out spits your selection.

Here are my reasons though for it not being a great idea:

- Location of boxes. In my area they are starting to get more and more boxes with one a mile from my home, but it's still 2 mile round trip drive to do if I'm not passing by one during the day (at $0.50/mile expenses on my vehicle, that $1 rental grows up to be a $3 rental).

- Waiting in line to return. At the "old fashioned" video store, I can just drop my rental in a slot and they take care of the rest. With RedBox, I have to wait in line often behind someone that is renting. My trip to return a movie on Saturday night took 20 minutes from getting my shoes on to taking them off, with at least 5 minutes of it waiting for someone trying to find a movie that wasn't available.

- Limited selection. What they mainly have is new releases, which is expected when they're going for volume. The problem is that my wife and I watch maybe 10 new releases a year. I know the legal and physical limits, but that's why we have our Netflix membership still.

The first 2 reasons are the main reason I dislike using Redbox. I've used them the past week, but that is because I love my wife and know there were a couple of new movies that she was wanting to see and Netflix had a long wait for them. What are your reasons for not liking Redbox?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

February Budget & January Net Worth +$1,159

I know it's a bit late in the month to put up, but I've not been in the best of moods.

February Budget:

1073 Mortgage
200 Car Gas
200 Food
234 Natural Gas
51 House Phone
265 Electric
50 Water
37 Cable
9 Netflix
10 Garden Supplies
100 Mrs. going on women's retreat in March
55 Cell Phone
20 Oil Change
95 Life Insurance
40 Daughter's Health Insurance
20 Dr. Co-pays for pregnancy
1585 Last Capital One Payment
275 Home Equity Line Credit
203 Mrs. Student Loans
69 Mr. Student Loans

It's another very tight budget, March should be a lot better. Part of the problem is that I committed to making the large payments to Capital One, which blocked off a large portion of our income. The other part is that we are down to 1 paying roommate at this time. God has blessed us with some help from my father in the form of money to buy a dryer this month and money so we can help him file for bankruptcy.

The cable bill is new this month, it will be going down to $12 next month. We also brought Netflix down to the 1 at a time plan and I'm considering letting that go in a couple of months. The problem we've had is the new releases end up having a long wait time and with cable available, there is less of a need for Netflix. My wife has been planning a women's retreat at our church the past couple of months and it is coming up next month, so we're taking care of the payment for it this month. Next month will be our last monthly cell phone bill!

January Net Worth:

We made a large payment on our Capital One CC bill and a small payment on the home equity line of credit. 1 of the roommates has been paying us back, which has helped in that area. We also have been building up our daughter's education fund which included some Christmas gifts. We plan on adding more once we are out of debt, as well as my dad has offered to start putting some away for her.

Last CC Payment!!!

I've been fighting some down mood the past month, though I think I am starting to get out of it. One piece of good news is that our last credit card payment will be withdrawn from the bank on Monday! It's been 6 years since my/our balances on them have been $0. We have been so late on paying them that we do not have any active that we can use. That will indirectly help us to not use them again.

The question you are probably asking is "Will you ever use a credit card again?" and at this point of our lives, I will have to say it'll probably be many years until we even consider it. I have seen the benefit recently of having one to smooth out bumps during slow cash flow (we had no dryer for 3 weeks while we waited for funds to become available). Our goals though for the end of the year is to have enough emergency funds to smooth out those bumps instead of risking the chance of holding onto credit card debt.

From here on out, we have a home equity line of credit outstanding and then a bunch of small debts to take care of. Unless we have problems with renters paying, we'll be looking at getting it all taken care of by mid-summer. I can't wait!!!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Renter Updates

Well, K moved out on Friday and we have a new person moving in tomorrow. K also made several bad choices before he left, including:

1. Giving some of his valuables to one of the roommates instead of trying to sell them himself and pay us back, or giving them to us to sell for him to cover what he owes us.

2. Instead of having the title for his vehicle on his possession, it is in New York. He ended up giving his vehicle to a mechanic and said basically the guy can have the vehicle if it costs too much to repair.

3. Due to not taking care of things prior to the last day, he took a train to downtown Chicago in the afternoon and slept in the train station waiting for the morning train to Michigan.

We also had been "babying" our two roommates by having little tins for them to put their rent money in. One of them has an issue with anyone seeing them giving my wife the rent money (they don't even want me to see it), which is why we started the tin method. I have gotten sick of us "babying" them and expressed my frustration about this to my wife. I'm afraid I expressed my frustration too much to my wife, but we resolved it. I don't feel it is a very secure method with the chance of someone saying "Well, I put $100 in there yesterday, I don't know where it is now..."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Considering Cable

We've been without cable for a couple of years now and have been using an antenna I installed in our attic. It should be installed on our chimney and may need to be even larger. I'm not going to climb onto our roof with it though, due to my ability to work is more important. We get 5 channels OK, though a little static at times. With the DTV box though, we get 0 channels.

My choices are:

1. Hire someone to move it, see if the current antenna works and possibly install a larger one. This could cost up to $200.

2. Purchase basic cable from Comcast for $10/month for a year, then at that point decide if I want to do the antenna option, go to a higher cost package, or cancel.

3. Do nothing and make it hard to watch shows. My roommates may not like this option.

I'm leaning towards #2 for now. I called Dish Network to see what they had to offer and the best they could do was $25/month for basic channels plus their 100 channels, which with taxes and a 2 year agreement would come out to over $700. I'm not up for purchasing a car at this time.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Changing Life Insurance Policy

The past 3 years we have had a pretty pricey term life insurance policy. For both my wife and I to be covered, we have been paying $95/month. The coverage for her was $186K and mine was $350K. The main reason we got that policy was that my wife worked for that company for a while and it was best for her to be using the companies policy. I have been urging her for over a year now to investigate a different company and plan, but she has not been in the mood to do so. Well, with money really tight for us over Christmas and knowing that we were paying another $95, she decided to do some shopping around.

The plan we were quoted will be a bit under $40/month total for her coverage at $200K and mine at $350K. Her coverage is lower and costs more due to her pacemaker. We have physicals this weekend to go through in order to make sure we can truly get the $40/month estimated price, but even if it's $50/month, that will save us $45/month or $540/year.

The next expense that we need to trim out of our budget is the cell phone, which the last payment will be in March. After that, it's getting these debts out of the budget.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Trading Tips For Coworker

One of my coworkers is getting the "stock trading itch" and asked me at the end of the day what I thought about eTrade. I'm going to talk him out of it, explaining that 80% of the professional traders do worse than the S&P500, with them spending their full day working at it. If that does not work, I'm going to give him these suggestions of places:
  • Zecco - I've heard of them a bunch, 10 free trades/month if your account asset value is at least $2,500 and have IRA account available (though $30/yr fee and $30 to close IRA account)
  • SogoTrade - I've never heard of this one prior to this morning, but found them from searching around. $3 trades, $50 to transfer account out, no minimum balance
My general suggestions for him are:

1. Make sure he has an emergency fund of at least 3 months of living expenses.
2. Make sure he is putting 3% into our work's SIMPLE IRA for 2009.
3. Make sure he has put away $5K for his 2008 IRA.
4. Hold off maxing up his 2009 IRA amount, since our employer may or may not match his 3% until the end of the year.
5. Don't trade any money that you will need in the next 3 years.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

2009 January Garden

It's official, my wife and I our planning for this year's garden. I received some cash from my in-laws in the mail and my wife went to Menards to pick up some lumber. She is going to build me a 7 foot shelving unit for me to start plants in. I purchased a light last year and rigged it to work in our bay window, but it was too cold there. We'll be taking out some furniture from our living room in order to make room for the shelving unit.

I'm also making a list of seeds that I need to keep an eye out for (Cucumbers, Eggplant, Peppers, Kentucky Wonder Green Beans, Cilantro, Zuchini, Sugar Snap Peas, Onion Bulbs, Spinach, Radishes, & Basil). I already have Dill, Tomato, Lettuce, & Celery Seeds. Our Strawberries, Asparagus, chives, & some local onions are in the ground right now.

For most of our new seeds, I'm going to see if Walgreens is going to have $0.10 packets this year (I missed out last year). If they don't do it this year, I know Walmart got some in the spring which I'll use for my warm-weather crops. For the cucumber seeds, I'm going to look for a hybrid that is mildew resistant, since that is what caused most of my cucumber problems last year.

We also have 5 stumps that in March we want to have removed in order to help the garden grow better this year. We are hoping to tear up part of our driveway as well to make more room for the garden, which will be dependent upon the roommate situation. We're also hoping to get some rain barrels as well to reduce some of the leaking in our basement.

We'll also not rush to put out plants before their time this year. We put out our tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants out too early last year and they kind of just sat there and watched us. We'll put a lot more cool-weather crops in first and when we're ready to plant the warm-weather plants, we'll just pull out the cool-weather ones.

Last of all, we'll produce less pumpkin and apple pie filling this year. We've been enjoying them when we have them, but my waist does not need me eating pie every day. I would say 12 of each should be enough for us. On the other hand, we'll need to at least triple the amount of apple juice we made this year. We made 16 quarts of apple juice, which we are watering down to 32 quarts, but our daughter is drinking over 2 quarts a week and we'll be running out by the end of this month. We also are on our last bag of brocolli since our spring brocolli did not turn out well last year.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Roommate Eviction Update

Here's the latest information I have:

K - Was unable to get money from his parents, asking for an extension but owes $960 and it will be growing by another $350 in a week. I'm going to see what I can do to help him pack up this weekend and bring it to his brother's place.

D - She has been paying like crazy this past week, paying almost $600. She is almost current, but will need to keep it up for another 45 days.

C - She has been paying right on her payment schedule, though concerns about paychecks bouncing is forcing her to quit. She asked indirectly this week for an extension, but we were firm on our decision.

We have someone lined up for the room K is in currently and once K moves out, the new guy will move in. He has steady work and my wife feels comfortable after talking with him. He will probably be someone that just comes to the house to sleep and shower.