Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day

I accomplished some of the tasks I planned a week ago. I sold the bike rack ($40 - ch-ching). I got the Visa rate lowered (but not as much as I wanted). A. and I got to the gym every morning (except today - closed for Labor Day) and I did get to Aikido all three evenings (though a bit late on Thursday).

I listed the Bowflex and the other piece of equipment on Craig's List (today) and put out a freecycle listing for the old bunk bed frame.

The sermon I wanted hasn't been uploaded yet.

I wrapped up the YNAB month and looked at next month. I'm not sure I'm using it properly but since we aren't living on last month's income (not by a long shot!) I need to keep closer track of the cash flow. It's going to be a tight month (again) and it's not going to be easy to avoid adding some debt without sacrifices that other people may not be willing to make. It doesn't help that L's birthday is this month or that I'll be going to an Aikido seminar in three weeks. It would help if I could sell the Bowflex, etc., for a little extra cash.

Plans for this week include my doctor's appointment, having our eyes checked (oops, didn't budget for that!) and T. supposedly getting her learners permit and or drivers license.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Well, heck. It's been a week but I sure didn't do what I said I was going to do. I did post a craigslist ad for the spare-tire bike rack, yesterday, and I got one response but no reply to my reply. Ah, well.

My plan for this week is:

1) I need to call my visa company to reduce the interest rate. It climbed up (and I didn't notice it!) probably because I was late on a payment or two last year. I've also started paying off every visa charge online within days of making it. This will leave me paying the minimum plus the snowball amount every month without also paying the new monthly charges, too. Les is on-board with that. It will, I hope, help separate current expenses from debt reduction in a way that will allow me to budget debt reduction as a separate item. I want to do this because I sure as heck don't want to try to go back and figure out how to budget for expenses (including interest expenses) before we started this budget. Water under the bridge, you know? Update: Done - Called 8/27 and got it changed to 11.9%

2) List the Bowflex on craigslist.

3) List the car booster seats on Freecycle.

4) List the kid books and home-schooling stuff on Freecycle.

5) Download and listen again to today's sermon by Arvid as soon as it's posted.

6) Hit the gym every morning with A.C.

7) Get to Aikido on Tuesday and Thursday (and Monday if T. wants to go).

8) Get eye exam appointments at Costco for A., T. and me. Update: Done - called on 8/27

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Daunting Task

First, I do not like garage sales. I don't like going to them. I would not like running one. I do not even like seeing them and their tacky signs around the neighborhood. (To be clear, I don't care if other people do them and I would not back legislation to outlaw them. I am a little-l-libertarian in that regard.)

So, now that I've had my first taste of dealing with what amounts to an online garage sale (see post below) I am now a bit nervous about dealing with the other stuff we want to get rid of but don't want to just throw away. Some of the stuff is in good enough condition and would - hopefully - command a high enough price that I would like to recoup a little of the cost. I have a bowflex exercise thingy, a bread-maker and some recipe books, we have quite a bit of home schooling curriculum that someone can surely use, a bike rack for the Jeep Cherokee that we sold over ten years ago, etc. Les would also have to deal with some of this since I'm going back to work tomorrow and still have my three nights a week of Aikido.

There is also quite a bit of stuff that we're going to post on Freecycle just because I don't think it would get us any money but it's still too good to throw away.

I will put the posts up this afternoon.... I swear.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Making a Budget

I've also used some of this time off to start (again) watching our financial situation and correcting it. After looking around a bit I actually spent real, live money on the YNAB budget spreadsheet. I've started using it and it is eye-opening. I will be using it, initially, to track our spending. Les is with me on getting a handle on our money. The kids... not so much. I admit that we've spoiled them a bit. At one level, we don't have it too bad. We have our mortgage at a fixed 5.25%. We only have one credit card but we're carrying a balance and the interest rate is bad because I missed a payment. (I should call them and see if they'll reduce it.) We have a HELOC with a ton of debt from paying cash for our second car and bailing out the credit card twice.

In the last several months I've made it a habit to drop a chunk of money into the HELOC at every paycheck. I intend to continue doing that.

Now, I'm not accruing more debt on the credit card. Since it is from my bank I can just transfer money to it to pay off a debt just incurred. Monthly, I will be starting to pay down the balance. I may also ship it off to one of those new credit cards with 0% until October 2008. The trick with those is that they add 3% off the top and I don't know if that will be added into the balance transfer or whether it will sit there accruing interest until the 0% balance is paid off.

Hmmm... More research is in order.

The Semi-Great Purge of 2007

I took the last two weeks off and tried to use the time to get a handle on what needs to be done around the house. We rented a cargo van from U-Haul on the evening of Thursday, August 9th. On Friday we twice loaded it with junk from the garage and took it to the landfill. On Saturday, the third load consisted of a bunch of junk from the garage and most of the junk from the back yard, side yard and patio. It really felt great to hurl those 15-20 broken down folding chairs, both rotted-out mini-trampolines, and so much more into the pile of refuse at the dump. Driving away from the dump after the first load I said, "I feel 700 lbs lighter!"

That took care of the bulk of the junk. We still have stuff to process for donating to Goodwill, selling on craigslist and/or putting up on Freecycle. I had my first experience with craigslist this week, too. I listed a whole bunch of Amiga equipment, peripherals and software for $100. It took me a week to get through the miscommunications of trying to get a willing buyer to my house to pick the stuff up. Most of it went yesterday. I asked the guy after he'd paid me what I could have gotten for the stuff. He said that the two Amiga 1000 computers in the boxes could go for about $125 each and the A2000HD could be sold for about $250. I was happy to have the $100 and have (most of) it out of the way. It had been blocking the keeper stuff and the triage stuff in the living room.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Situation

We have been unwise or maybe we were just so caught up in day-to-day life that we let maintenance slide.


Our garage was packed to the point we had only a very small path to get to the washer and dryer. Only half the floor in the hallway was open to foot traffic. The kids' rooms were so crammed with stuff that the only floor space was the minimum needed to open it far enough to squeeze in. One of the springs on one side of the external door broke several years ago (!!!) so it takes one tall person to open the door and hold it while someone else props up the weak side.

The kitchen counter tops were jammed and unusable and the cabinets were inefficiently crammed. The refrigerator was half filled with containers of left-overs - quite a few of them could be classified as biology experiment and/or compost. One corner in the kitchen was taken over by old baskets filled with left-over homeschooling materials, three barely functioning computer monitors, three barely functioning computers and miscellaneous computer bits and tools. The kitchen table was generally unavailable.

I won't even talk about their desks but every time I want to use my computer I have to take two stacks of paper off my keyboard and another stack of stuff off my chair (and that is after the first pass at straightening and decluttering).

A major knot of knitting an crocheting supplies took up the bulk of one end table in the living room. The other end table is covered with books and papers. The huge, yet full, bookshelf has needed repair to its splitting seams for at least a year.

The back yard is completely grown over and was littered with neighbor-inherited folding chairs, a never-used badmitten net from the same neighbors (they moved out three years ago?), and a plastic structure that the kids outgrew about ten years ago. The back patio was covered in decaying sycamore leaves. The Weber grill has been occupied by bees for at least the last two years (it appears to be completely full of wax and (hopefully?) honey. The table a friend gave me in college had finally decayed to the point that the layers of plywood and Formica had warped and separated. The artfully termite-eaten bookcase (not really full of termites - it was the style at some long-ago point in the past) held a few knick-knacks and pots containing dry root ball clods.


The day-to-day obliviousness has, perhaps, had the worst long-term effect on our finances. Even though we are a one-wage-earner family (in San Diego!) we make enough to live comfortably, if not extravagantly. The bills got paid (mostly) but the credit card (only one!) balance built up, not once, but twice to the point where I paid off the balance with money from our home equity line of credit (HELOC), each time promising myself that I would pay everything off every month and not carry a balance.

I knew this stuff but habit, complacence, and - sometimes - willful ignorance got the better of me and I let things slide. I say I let things slide because L. deferred to me in all matters financial, his hands being busy with the day-to-day business of homeschooling the kids and maintaining sanity surrounded by two bored teenagers. Basically, we weren't managing our money and we had the dubious luxury of letting it slide as long as we have.

We ate regularly even if we relied a little too heavily on fast food, too many meals at our neighborhood brew-pub, and on prepackaged food from the store. On the plus side, we do get a box of vegetables every week from our local CSA so we do get some fresh vegetables. In general, though, our diet was bad for both our bodies and our finances.

Internal Pressures

Simultaneously, I've been dealing with general dissatisfaction with the arc of my life. The three solid bits - my family, my church community and my aikido community - are pretty much where I'd like them though my ability to give of myself to them seems (to me) to be ungenerous, at times. I feel as though I am taking more than I'm giving back. I say that realizing that there will be times and that's just how it works. Nevertheless, some discomfort about only taking is probably a good goad to rebalance.

My job situation is a bit stickier. I've let myself slide a bit and with my internal transfer I hope to apply myself and start learning again after stagnating for several years. Still, it is not a bad job but I continue to think about what I want to be do when I grow up.

Earlier in the summer at the UUA General Assembly, I did a lot of thinking about what it would be like to go to seminary and pursue ministry. While it is still a very intriguing thought, I think I may be able to do what I feel needs to be done without a theological degree. It would be a very expensive goal to seek.


So, that's a snapshot of my situation. A fuzzy, under-exposed, poorly-framed snapshot, yes, but it's a start.