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.