Junk by Any Other Name is Still Junk

Storage Units?! Really?

You have so much crap that it won’t fit in your house and you have to pay to have it stored? (I’m not talking about people in the process of moving and between homes, or those in the Mob who need places to stash bodies, guns and drugs. Storage units are great for those needs.)

Paying $100-$400 a month (the going rate around here for a storage unit depending on the size) to store your material excess is insane. Sell the junk on eBay, at a garage sale, on Craigslist. Donate it to Goodwill or some other group. Throw it in a freaking landfill. Just quit paying all that money to store your grandmother’s “antique” furniture she left behind. It was cheap then and it is junk now. Your grandmother wasn’t a Rockefeller, she was a tightwad. She is rolling over in her grave and cursing your name that you are paying a small fortune each month to house her Montgomery Ward catalog furniture. Just let it go.

Are you really gonna use that Bowflex or thigh-master 2000? Will you ever fit into your clothes from college and are they even in style anymore? Your bobblehead collection of the characters of Joanie Loves Chachi? Get rid of them.

On the other-hand owning and renting them might be a good way to make a buck. So many people have so much stuff. It’s probably a good business to invest in.

We have a ton of junk too, but it’s all in our attic, closets, garage, shed, and every room in our house. But that’s an issue for a separate post on detachment.

Pros and Cons of Homeschooling

Pros of Homeschooling:

  • Parental control of what kids are taught and how it’s taught.
  • Get to teach your value system to your kids, not the government’s “values”.
  • You can teach to your kid’s learning style. There are no learning disabled kids, just teacher disabled adults.
  • If you want to spend all day learning about how caterpillars become butterflys or how to conjugate verbs you can.
  • Better socialization skills (home-school kids being un-socialized is one of the great lies). Our kids interact with kids and adults of all ages, not just with kids their own age. This is of particular importance for boys.
  • Lots of time and freedom to pursue other activities. Homeschooling allows them to do much more if the parent so chooses.
  • Takes about 1/3 of the time of regular schooling. My kids, if motivated, are done school in 2-3 hours tops. The lazy ones can take all day.
  • Can do school in your pajamas.
  • Don’t have to get up super early to meet a carpool or the bus.
  • Lots of time to play outside and just be a kid.
  • No getting dropped of at 7am for before-school care and picked up at 6pm from after-care.
  • Lots of one on one time with parents. Builds better relationships with parents and siblings.
  • No busywork and filler in the classroom.
  • Kids learn at their pace not at the pace of the slowest kid in the classroom
  • Costs are very low, much lower than private school and about the same as public school. We spend less than $200 to school our k-8 kids (high-school homeschooling costs more and will be covered in a future post). This assumes you aren’t using some expensive curriculum package. My bride does up her own curriculum. But even the packaged curriculum is affordable for most.
  • Safer – we have had no bomb threats, school shootings, stabbings, drug use, bullying…well ok, my kids do bully each other. But we prefer to call it “Life Lessons”.
  • You can take vacation whenever you want. We get to go to the beach when it’s the off-season. Beaches aren’t crowded and the rents are a lot cheaper.
  • You are there to help you kids through the “big issues” in life and can decide when they learn about them.
  • The person who loves the child most in this world is also their teacher.

Cons of Homeschooling:

None. Well none for us. I hear other people comment on the downside of homeschooling but this has always been from people who have never tried it. I have no time or patience to deal with these objections and people any more. We’ve been doing this for over 20 years and have heard it all. If you have problems with the idea of homeschooling try sitting down with a veteran home-school mom (like my bride) and talking about it. We have dealt with all the objections over the years. Or better yet give homeschooling a try. You can always ship them back to the public school, they would love to get their meat-hooks back into them.

Results so far – My oldest graduated college 2 years early and got her masters in a year. 2nd oldest graduated and his working. 3rd just finished Grad school with a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree and has started work. 4th has graduated and been working for a year. The 5th finished undergrad and is heading to Grad school in a few months. The next 2 kids are in college currently. All of our kids have finished high school either 1 or 2 years early. 2 kids are doing high school currently. 1 is middleschool age. 3 are elementary school age.

Breast Feeding

Breastfeed if at all possible. I mean if you’re a dude you can’t, but if you are women you should be equipped to give it a whirl and see if it works for you.

Breast milk = FREE

Formula for a year = $1,200-$1,500 (more if you use the fancy-pants stuff) depending out which formula you use*

* this doesn’t include the cost of bottles and nipples. Nor does it factor in the health benefits (for baby and mom) and the time savings of breastfeeding. 

 

  • Breast-fed children are more resistant to disease and infection early in life than formula-fed children 
  • Breast-fed children are less likely to contract a number of diseases later in life, including juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and cancer before the age of 15 
  • Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop osteoporosis later in life, are able to lose weight gained during pregnancy more easily and have a lower risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer

 

12 of our kids got the boob-jucie (#13 was a foster baby) for the 1st year of their lives. I figure we saved between $14,400-$18,000 over the past 23 years, probably towards the lower end of that range since we would have bought store-brand formula…in bulk…when on sale…cause we are cheap that way.

Over the Top Birthday Parties

Warning: Getting on my SoapBox.

The following rant was prompted by an article on kid’s birthday parties that I recently read.

Kid’s birthday parties should cost under $50, actually they should cost under $25 but I’m feeling generous.

What is it with parents taking kids to places like; build-a-badger, laser tag, bowling alleys, gun clubs, fashion shows etc…Did they have such deprived childhood’s that they have to live through their kid’s? Are they guilty about something? Wusses who can’t say no?

These are the same people you hear complain about never having enough money as they are heading to the mall in their leased cars to shop. Well, duh. Waah, waah waah, someone call the waahmbulance.

Party-bags?! Really? We just fed and entertained your sugared-up brats (sorry about all the sugar) for 3 hours and now we have to give out a party-bag! What’s that you say? You gave my kid a gift? Well no kidding Sherlock, it’s his birthday. But you know what? We don’t really need any gifts; we have enough junk in our house already. But if you want a party-bag for your kid filled with dollar store crapolla, then fine, enjoy. I hope that in the middle of the night you step on some small plastic pieces while walking around barefoot.

So tell me what’s the deal with inviting tons of kids? I hear of parents inviting their kid’s entire school class so no one’s feelings get hurt. Hey kid, you were not invited because my kid thinks you are a booger-eating-goober. Get over it, that’s life. Thank God my kids are homeschooled. My kids get a party from ages 5 thru 10. And that’s it. And they get to invite one friend for each year old they are.

Social media like; Facebook, Instagram and Vine just make matters worse. People post all their self-indulgent pictures and videos of events like birthday parties. They are just showing you a small slice of life. The good life, through a rose colored internet. They want you to think that everything is all peaches and cream. When underneath the peaches are rotting and cream is curdling. Guess what? You might be fooling others and even yourself for a while, but you ain’t fooling us.

Gift registries for kid’s birthdays, really? I’m speechless.

Some of the more outrageous themes in the article: ice sculptures, snow machine parties (for backyard sledding), karaoke bar, live animals, spa parties (yes at a spa). In that light hauling a bunch of kids to the bowling alley or Chucky E. Cheese is kinda quaint, still stupid, but quaint.

Be careful. You give your little girl a 5th birthday party that costs $500 and you are gonna have a helluva bill when the princess gets married. And you sure aren’t doing your future son-in-law any favors.

Kiss More

  • In the average lifetime, most people spend 20,160 minutes kissing.
  • Passionate kissing burns 6.4 calories a minute. A Hershey’s kiss contains 26 calories, which takes five minutes of walking–or about four minutes of kissing–to burn off.
  • The longest kiss, recorded in Thailand in February 2013 by Guinness World records, lasted 58 hours, 35 minutes and 58 seconds.
  • Approximately two-thirds of people tip their head to the right when they kiss.
  • Kissing is good for teeth. The anticipation of a kiss increases the flow of saliva to the mouth, giving the teeth a plaque-dispersing bath.
  • The mouth is full of bacteria. When two people kiss, they exchange between 10 million and 1 billion bacteria.

Go Small To Get Big

Small Steps x Lots of Time = Big Results.

Like training for a marathon, the actual race (the end result) is the fun part, getting there is tough and takes baby steps. You might start out running 2 miles the first time and work your way up to running more. At first the 2 miles will seem like it’s gonna kill you, it’s not. After a few years 2 miles will seem like nothing and your weekly long run could be 20 miles. When you were just starting out the 2 miles was tiring and you felt like quitting. You never thought you’d get to the point where you could run 20 miles. But if you keep at you will get there.

It’s the same thing when dealing with money. You might think that skipping going out to lunch and saving $10 isn’t going to help. But do that every day and over time magic happens.

What would happen if you stopped going out to lunch daily or gave up the cigarettes or stopped drinking? Besides the obvious health benefits, the financial ones are awesome.

Let’s look at some numbers:

By discontinuing eating out during the work week and investing the money: after 10 years you’d have $36,000 and after 40 years you’d have $698,000. I’m assuming $10 a day, 5 days a week and an 8% return in a no-load stock index fund.

Give up that 6-pack of daily beer: after 10 years you’d have $38,000 and after 40 years you’d have $735,000. I’m assuming $7 a day, 365 days a year and an 8% return in a no-load stock index fund.

Quit that 2 pack a day smoke habit: after 10 years you’d have $65,000 and after 40 years you’d have $1,255,000. I’m assuming $12 a day, 365 days a year and an 8% return in a no-load stock index fund.

So give up the smokes or beer or eating out. Or whatever your equivalent is. Find something that you waste $10-$12 a day on and stop doing it. But don’t just waste the money you save on something else, invest it. Stick it in a no-load stock index fund and watch it grow over time at an 8-10% annual rate.

Heck if you do all 3 and quit all 3, you will be rolling in the dough in the future.

Investing 101

Keeping it Simple Stupid. My brain likes simple things; like watching ALF reruns and eating ice-cream right out of the container. I don’t need to add any complexity to my busy life. Being able to set my investment choices and ignore them is a great thing.

I use no-load stock index funds for a decent portion of my Roth 401k and Roth IRA’s. Plus a few select individual stocks.

Advantages of Index Funds:

  • The yearly costs are dirt cheap compared to managed funds.
  • Very few managed funds beat indexed funds.
  • They simplify your life. Setup a few funds and just check on them once or twice a year to re-balance your asset allocation.
  • They stop you from chasing returns. And buying and selling at the wrong times.
  • Index funds are tax-efficient. If you do own stocks in taxable accounts index funds will prevent you from giving Uncle Obama more money than you have to.
  • All the major investment companies offer them; Fidelity, Vangaurd, Schwab etc…

You can use just 3 funds and create a portfolio that you can pretty much ignore. Here is an example for informational purposes only.

  • A Total US Stock Market Index Fund
  • A Total International Stock Index Fund
  • A Total Bond Market Fund

So, a basic “three-fund portfolio” might consist of 60% Total Stock Market Index, 20% Total International Stock Index, and 20% Total Bond Market fund.

If your company 401k doesn’t offer index funds, talk to your HR department about getting some added.

Every 6 months I re-balance my portfolio to make sure I am still investing the way I want. Using the word “portfolio” makes it sound like I have lots of money to invest, I don’t, but I like using the word anyways.

Important-the above is how I do things. Everyone’s situation is different. Please do your own research and decide what is best for you.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Yes it has come to that, I am making our laundry detergent. After mocking others, hippies mostly, I started making detergent myself. We spend a fair amount each year on detergent and we don’t even use the pricier brands like Tide.

Further down below is a recipe and a link to the site I got it from. This is a concentrated version; she also has a version that requires less of each ingredient. I used a 96 ounce jug to make this and each load of laundry uses 2 ounces of the liquid (HE machine, use more if you have a top-loader). So I am getting 48 loads per jug. Each jug costs me less than $2 to make. Around 5 cents per load. I haven’t bothered to figure out the exact amount. But it’s a lot cheaper than store-bought and only takes a few minutes to make. Oh and the stuff works. On the website is a non-concentrated version that is even cheaper to make.

How to make it:

Put the following into a jug, I used an old 96 ounce detergent jug. You could probably use up to a gallon jug.

1/2 cup of Borax

1/2 cup of Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda

1/2 cup of Dawn Dishwashing Liquid – the blue grease fighting kind

Then add 4 cups of boiling water and shake the jug (stay focused people) to dissolve. Top off the jug with water. Shake the jug between uses to make sure it stays well mixed. That’s it, simple.

Use ¼ cup for HE machine

Use ½ cup for top-loader

Stole this recipe from Here

You can get the Borax and Washing Soda at Amazon. I am told Wal-Mart has them for even less money, but I don’t do Wal-Mart.

You might not think this saves a lot. But we do 30-35 loads of laundry per week. And even the cheapest detergent on sale ( ALL, Arm and Hammer etc…) costs 3 times as much as this home brew.

Homemade detergent per year – $91

Cheap detergent (Cheer, All, Store brand) – $273

Tide and other high dollar stuff –  $310-$480

The non-concentrated version would be about $40 per year.

There are lots of detergent recipes out there, liquid and powder. If you’ve tried any that you like let me know about them.

Family Budgeting 101 – Part 2

It is tough enough juggling (akin to cat-juggling) and paying for a large family without the added stress of having a financial mess that rivals the current mess that is The Kardashian’s. When dealing with the extra challenges of raising a large family (all worth it of course), do you really want to be in financial distress? I didn’t think so. That’s why Budgeting is so important.

No a budget isn’t a magic wand that makes everything alright. But it will help give you some financial peace of mind. And a task that can reduce stress,  is a thing worth doing.

I’ve seen budgets with anywhere from 3 (needs, savings, wants) up to 70 categories, yes 70. My current budget spreadsheet has 22 categories and next to each category is a column labeled “budgeted” and one label “actual”. There is a 3rd column labeled “remaining” that tells me how much is left in each category or how much I have gone over. Plus the columns are totaled at the bottom for the big picture view. I also have a table to track my income. And then there are columns and rows where I list every purchase made each month as they happen.

It may seem like a lot of work. But once you have the initial setup done it’s not hard to use at all. You do have to enter everything you spend money on but I enjoy doing it. And it gives you a great handle on your finances. At the end of each month you know exactly how you did, good or bad. You are either in the red, black or even.

If this seems overwhelming then maybe a simple 3-category budget might be better at first. You first list all your needs and how much they will cost you each month. Mortgage, food, utilities, charity, insurance etc…and no, going to Five Guys for a burger and fries is not a need (although it is pretty close). Second, you write down the amount you want to use for savings and paying down debt. Then whatever money is leftover goes in the “wants or blow” category. Just remember once you have spent everything in the “wants” category, you are done for the month. So plan well. This is an easy way to get started on budgeting until you feel that you are able to switchover to a more detailed budget. Some people do just fine on the simple budget but I find that I do better on the more detailed one.

Just because you have money left in a category doesn’t mean you can spend it. Well you can, but should you? Let’s say it is the last day of the month and you have $20 left in your food category. Should you rush out and buy a box of Ritz crackers, a can of Cheese Whiz and a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20? Or should you add that $20 to your retirement account or apply it to a credit card balance? Do they even sell Mad Dog 20/20 anymore?

Below is a snapshot of the spreadsheet I use.

Family Budgeting 101 – Part 1

Where does one start? Lots of people seem to hate budgeting or at best tolerate it like one tolerates a visit from the in laws. Personally I enjoy managing our finances, budgeting and working with spreadsheets.

For beginners or those in trouble or those whose finances just need an overhaul, you have to start somewhere. You can’t do everything at once. You’ll be overwhelmed and do a poor job of it, or quit altogether. So if you are swimming in debt and can’t get a handle on your finances, don’t fret. Budgeting is not technically difficult and can be mastered quickly if one has the desire.

In part 1 today, and part 2 (coming later), I’ll show what has worked for our family.

Tracking your spending

Track your spending for a month or two before attempting to make a budget. This will tell you where all your money is going each month. I bet you don’t know, I sure didn’t. Do this even before you attempt to make a budget. Having a month or two of detailed spending will make budgeting a lot easier to do. If you are impatient, and don’t want to track spending for that long, try and do it for at least 2 weeks.

You may also be able to do this in reverse and go through the last few months checking and credit card statements. If not, start recording everywhere that your money goes. From your double-whipped-caramel-skinny-latte at FiveBucks to your mortgage payment, track it all. Make some basic categories and first list all the fixed expenses that you know you have each month: mortgage/rent, food, utilities, phone etc. Then add in everything else you spend money on that month, write it all down or use something like excel or an online tool like Mint. I personally prefer using an excel spreadsheet for expense tracking and budgeting. I use the one called “Personal Budgeting Spreadsheet”. We will have an article out in a few weeks listing many free budgeting tools, including the ones we use.

You might think you know where your money is going, but I think this will be an eye-opening exercise for some.  You might find that you spent $150 last month on toys for Mr. buttons, your cat or $300 on running shoes. I’ve done that before (spent lots on running shoes…not a cat). Running shoes are a necessity, right?

After you have an idea of where the money is going, start thinking about ways to cut your spending so you can increase your savings rate and/or pay down debt.

Also think about just how frugal you want to be. Maybe you are doing alright and just want to cut the fat a bit so you can boost your retirement savings. Or maybe you are living paycheck to paycheck and drowning in debt.  There is no right answer to how much you have to slash from your spending. Some people, like my wife and me, are very frugal and refuse to go into debt for pretty much anything at all. We did finance our house but have since paid it off. We prefer a nice home cooked meal to swinging into the drive-thru at McDonald’s or Pizza Hut. Besides being very expensive to eat meals out with a large family, the food at most fast-food joints and chain restaurants is nutritional garbage. So let’s see, $75-$150 for low-grade dog food at a place like Burger King or Applebee’s, or $20 bucks for a nice meal at home? Tough choice. And yes we do feed our family dinner for $20. And no that is not Ramen noodles and PBJ. We spend an average of $46 dollars per day on food, but that’s a subject of a future post.

So as you read how we go about organizing our finances and what we spend our money on, just remember that this is how we have chosen to live. It’s certainly not the only way but it is the best way for us. We enjoy seeing how much we can save and we look forward to actually being able to retire and have some $$$ because it’s not like we can count on Social Security to provide for all our needs.

Personally I’d much rather save my money than by junk-food and more stuff for the house.

How much can you save after slashing your spending to a more reasonable level? Well here is a teaser from a future article, we save over 30% of my income each month. And no I don’t have a high paying job, just a regular old job. Above minimum wage obviously but not some high flying salary. And lower than most of my friends who have fewer kids and are struggling to make it financially. It’s about choices. Sure we all have bad financial luck at times…car breaks downs, kid needs braces, hours get cut at work…stuff happens. That’s why you have to plan and be prepared. We live in a very high expense area so it can be tough at times to save a third of my income but it is worth it to us. My bride, who works much harder than I, sadly does not get paid monetarily.

After tracking your spending for a while you’ll be ready to make a budget and get your financial goals on track. Wait! You do have Financial Goals don’t you? If not, start thinking about them. Maybe you want to pay off your student loans or your credit cards. Maybe you want to expand your garden gnome collection or your vintage Barry Manilow 8-track tape collection. Maybe you are getting older and have neglected your retirement planning. Maybe you are retired and just need to fine tune your finances so you don’t run out of money in your dotage and have to live off of Alpo.

If you find that your finances are completely hosed, you may want to try a “spending fast” for a certain period of time. Think Lent, but instead of meatless Fridays, you don’t spend any money on non-essentials for a month. We do one at least 1 month out of each year (another future article). I’ll be the first to admit that they are difficult. I thought it would be a breeze for us since we don’t shop a lot. I was wrong. I sure do miss the UPS driver and the lovely Amazon packages he used to bring me regularly.

Give budgeting a try for awhile. It might not be fun or easy, but I think you will find it worth the time and effort. Once you see the results, it can be addicting.

Thanks for reading and we look forward to your comments.