Happy 4th of July

Happy independence day. Hopefully everyone is having a great day and working on gaining financial independence too.

Here are a few pics of our 4th and how we make S’mores for a large family.

 

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

Maintain It

Take care of your things and your things will take care of you…especially the big things: house and cars.

  • Do most of the regular scheduled car maintenance. Talk to a mechanic you trust (not the dealer) about what needs to be done and when.
  • Wash and wax the cars. Besides looking nice, it keeps the rust away
  • Change the filter in your AC/Furnace at least every 3 months, check the owner’s manual for specifics. I change ours at the change of the seasons.
  • Paint the outside of your house as needed. Peeling paint is more than just an eyesore. It allows the weather in and causes rot. I know, I just had a bunch of trim on the outside of our house replaced and there was some underlying damage. So even more work had to be done which meant more $$$.

What am I leaving off? Bikes? Tools? Appliances? Yup keep those in good working order. What else?

Be Stronger than Achilles

 

What is your financial Achilles Heel? Where is your weak spot?

What is the one (or two or ten) thing that is putting a major hurt on your budget?

Look through your spending, or in your driveway maybe, and figure out what is it that you keep spending money on that is dragging down your financial stability.

It could be one big thing; car, truck, boat, vacation home etc…

Or maybe it’s a bunch of smaller expenditures that add up over time; golfing every weekend, expensive hair salon visits, eating out, excessive actives for the kids or maybe a combination of things.

What is mine you ask?

Those cars are one of the benefits of working from home. I do not need a newer reliable commuter car. These cars combined cost me less than a used Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic. Plus they are fun to work on with the kids. We spent one summer redoing the interior of the white one. The kids got to learn some new skills and some new words.

At least that’s how I’m justifying their purchase.

Remember, everyone has a weakness. Achilles, Superman…even Batman.

Too Much Information?

How much is too much when sharing on the internet? How much do we really need to be sharing with each other compared to what we share with those in real life?

Do you need to know tons of details about those that contribute to this website? If you don’t, does it make what we post less trustworthy and relevant to you? How much personal information is safe to share from the author’s perspective?

People reading articles on the internet, especially on new sites like this one, have no way of knowing if what write is true or fabricated. I could be a single, 15 year-old kid making up stuff to jerk around with people. As opposed to the 50-something father of many that I am (honest).

And assuming you do take us at our word, how many personal details do you need to know in order for us to get our ideas across? At least some details are needed to give credence to what we are writing about.

It’s easy to say “spend less than you make” and “save more”. But without practical examples that have worked for us, will these saying help you at all? Probably not.

I’m a runner, I probably run too much. But if someone asks me how to train for a marathon. And I say “go run”. That’s particularly useful. It’s true, but some more details and personal experience would make the advice a lot more useful. But you wouldn’t need every detail about my running life. Sharing stories about chaffing and and toenails falling off, while amusing to some, wouldn’t contribute much to your running goals.

So we will try to balance over-sharing vs leaving out any personal information at all. You might get posts with some details of our financial status, marriage and child rearing tips (if we can think of any good ones), homeschooling how-to’s and personal data on other topics of interest.

So rest assured, you won’t ever know if/what underwear we are wearing. But you will know what works for our family and some of the basic details.

Don’t Be Normal

“Normal” in America is:

  • Buying a new car every 5 years and having a car payment the rest of your days.
  • Or even worse, leasing a car. Do the math.
  • Buying more house than you can afford and re-mortgaging it over and over.
  • Having more credit cards, that you don’t payoff, than sense.
  • $853.6 billion in credit card debt. Average credit card debt: $15,263
  • $994.0 billion in student loans. Average student loan debt: $31,646.
  • Saving nothing or minimal amount for retirement and counting on the government (who handles money like a drunken sailor) to provide for you.
  • #1 reason for divorce is money issues/fights
  • Getting all your financial information from the mainstream press.
  • Having more month than money…spending more each month than you make
  • Paying loads and high management fees on your mutual funds.
  • Not contributing enough to your 401k to get the company match.
  • Not maxing out your IRA, or contributing to it at all.
  • Buying new when used will do, buying used when borrowing will do, borrowing when doing without will do.
  • Not thinking outside the box.
  •  Enabling your spouse, family, friends in their money mistakes instead of showing tough love.
  • Taking out student loans for a college degree of questionable value, when other options are out there.
  • Living paycheck to paycheck.
  • Never making extra principal payments on your mortgage.
  • Buying whole life insurance not term.
  • Not having a budget.
  • Borrowing from your 401k for “emergencies”.
  • Consolidating credit card debt and NOT cutting up the cards