Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fixing a love seat

Where we are getting on our budget here, and working very hard to build our emergency fund ($20,000 is our goal by the end of next year), and saving for a vacation (just wrote about that), furniture is NOT one of our budget priorities at this time.

A love seat in our living room set recently broke. The springs gave way underneath it. My wife asked me to help her take it out, so we could put it out to the trash. I told her that I felt that we should give it another chance, in that I might be able to save it.

I turned the love seat over, and looked under it. One of the braces along the rear, where all of the springs attached, had broken. It broke right in the middle of a knot. Whoever built this piece of furniture probably should not have used a length of wood with a knot (or at least the knot should not have covered over 50% of the width of the board), but they did.

I began looking for a fix, and figured that I could cut a piece of hardwood, and just brace the broken piece back together. When I went to do this, the force of the springs pulled the board off from the other side of the arm of the loveseat. My wife was ready to take it out to the trash again, but I talked her into waiting. I had knocked many things off my to do list that day, and was tired, so I figured that I would wait until next weekend.

When the time came, first, I pulled a bunch of staples holding the bottom netting to the frame, as well as staples holding some of the upholstery. I disconnected the remaining springs from their clips, which were fastened right into the board that broke. I took the board out, and measured it. Wow, simple, it was 3 1/2 inches wide, which meant that a standard sized board (4 inches nominal) would fit right into the groove that was cut for it. I do have a tablesaw if I needed to rip a board down, but this made it even easier.

I had a piece of poplar in the workshop that would have fit for the size. Poplar is a hard wood, but not quite. I figured that if I was going to take the time to do this, I might as well make an effort to do it right. So, I went off to Lowes. I found a piece of maple that was $8.00, that would do the job. A piece of poplar was $5.50, so I figured the extra $2.50 was well spent on something a bit harder. The piece was clear, with no knots, so it should be nice and strong. I could not find any of the clips for the seat springs, so I figured that I would have to re-use the old ones. That should not be too difficult.

Just a cut to lenght, a measurement and instalation of all of the seat spring clips correctly, and I was ready to install the board. The trickiest part was bolting the board in place. The prior one had been installed with staples, probably before the back of the couch was built, but I would need to bolt this one in with sheet metal screws. This was painfully slow with a 5/16 wrench (my socket wrench was too deep to fit in), but I got it done. I rolled each of the springs into place, and into the clips. Then, I stapled the covering (upholstery) in place covering the springs. I turned over the loveseat, and stapled the bottom netting back into place. Then, I had a seat, gently, I will admit at first, but all is well.

How often in the past would I have just gone out and replaced the set? Back when I used credit that is probably how I would have purchased it! Also, I am not a staunch enviromentalist, but I was also able to save something from just going to the landfill. It was also just as easy, in the long run, for me to fix it as it would have been to go out and purchase a new one, drag it home, carry the old one out, and carry the new one in.

Now, it will have to be replaced someday, and probably within the next two to three years, but by then, I should have the emergency fund in place, and I will be able to cashflow a new one.

The only thing that I did not do, was that I didn't take pictures of the repair, to detail how I did it. I will have to remember to do that next time!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Saving for a vacation

This is the time of year that it is good to look to the future. We should, of course, do this all year long, but I want everyone to get out of the habit of doing your next year planning in that week between Christmas and New Year Day.

My wife and I said that we would like to plan for a vacation. We went to Niagara Falls last year on July 4, and did not take a vacation this year. With the changing of jobs, I decided not to take one this summer (even though my company arranged for me to have 5 paid days off at the end of July.) Therefore, I will have ten paid days off as of January 1, and will earn 12 paid days off per year after that.

We have done vacations where we go shorter distances away, and further away as well. A short vacation may be 100 miles, and a longer one will be 800 miles or more. We used to make these travel trips with our travel trailer, but we do not have that any more. Someday, I will get into a comparison of RV vacations VS. Hotel vacations.

We were thinking of doing a short (four day) vacation to New Hampshire in the summer. This is about a four hour trip away for us by car. Before we had our RV, we used to rent a two bedroom house there, so we had a kitchen, living room, and a yard for the kids. My wife thought that it would be good to go back there again. We also would like to plan a trip to Florida, to Disneyworld, Universal, and Seaworld. In addition, we could go to visit some relatives as well. We set a tentative date of the middle of July, 2009, for New Hampshire, and March, 2010 for Florida. Our oldest son will be fifteen at that time, and it could very well be our last long vacation with him.

I opened up another tab in my 2009 financial control spreadsheet (Where I keep track of all spending, saving, and budgeting accounts), and began to plan for the summer vacation. It was amazing that with our family of five, including spending money, we came up with $2200 for our trip! We sat down and sharpened the pencil a bit, and were able to trim it down to $1810. We would have to fund $65 per week, or $258.00 per monthly bonus to have the money in time. Certainly not out of reach.

We began a quick plan for the Florida vacation, including airfare, lodging (probably will spend a few days with family as well), themepark tickets, extra for food, spending money, rental car, and the like. I was pretty generous in spending money, and theme park tickets as well. Our projected expenses for this trip came to just shy of $7000!

Well, at least we have 62 weeks, and 15 months to put away for it! I figured out how much was needed with funding coming from my weekly pay, as well as my monthly bonuses. $25.00 per week, and $356 per monthly bonus, will put us right where I figure that we need to be.

This is in addition to some other pretty agressive goals for this year, one of which is to build and accumulate a $20,000 emergency fund by the end of 2009. This will definitely be some work!

Well, we have decided that we will probably cut the projections for our summer vacation a bit short, maybe a weekend away, and work hard towards the emergency fund and the Florida trip. But, my point is, by taking the time right now to sit down and plan for events that are anywhere from eight to fifteen months away, we can make the decisions that we need to make, and set our priorities. It will be great to get on that plane, knowing that we will be gone for twelve days, and having every dime of it paid for in advance. No debt! That feeling, to borrow the Mastercard line, is PRICELESS!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Weekly Budget Planning - This week.

Payday is tomorrow...

Well, it is actually Thursday, but with the magic of direct deposit, it should hit my checking account in about two hours, well, that is if the Veteran's Day holiday doesn't mess it up.

This is a good paycheck week! This, is my bonus week. Every month, I get a bonus based upon the profitability of my department, as well as the business. If you listen to the news, the automotive business is almost dead, but apparently, we are the exception to the rule, because we are doing OK, or at least up until this month.

So, I used my Excel spreadsheet that I have custom made to plot out where the money should go. Since I am salaried, my base pay is always the same, so it is easy to plan that out a day in advance. I have a spreadsheet that calculates my bonus based on the formula that the company uses. I am usually within a couple of dollars, but the withholding amounts are always a bit confusing.

At any rate, I inserted what I thought would be my bonus amount (I estimated a bit low), and proceeded to plan my spending. We put another couple of hundred into the Christmas fund for the kids. We have funded most of Christmas last month, but we wanted a bit more, just to be sure. If we do not spend it all, it can be re-allocated. What a feeling it is to get to the end of my accounts, and have some extra money!

I fund quarterly expenses (life insurance payment, water bill, and a couple of others), semi-annual expenses (property taxes), and yearly expenses (homeowner's insurance) out of my monthly bonus checks. I fund most of my weekly and monthly bills out of my weekly paychecks, such as the mortgage, food, doctor's co pays, etc. I decided to do this back when I started this planning. The thought was that if I had a month that we didn't do so well, and I did not make a profit, and therefore no bonus, that I would have some more time to adjust over the next month or two, and make up for it out of future bonuses. Of course, this could be a bit more of a problem if I had extended months without bonuses, but there would also be some serious issues if this were happening, and it would call for strong measures anyways.

At any rate, where I was getting at, was that I had some money left over. I also love my budget plan, because I can look ahead. I really think that the bonus situation will not be as good next month. So, I funded my life insurance fund with two months worth of payments, as well as the water bill. I was able to put 1 1/2 months of payments into property taxes.

But all is not lost, as December is a five week month. In addition, there is a Christmas bonus next month, as well as (hopefully) a year end discretionary management bonus. And, I still should make a regular bonus. And hey, with many of my accounts funded, I should be continuing to get ahead. My goal is to take the Christmas and discretionary bonus, and invest them in my emergency fund. I have a pretty aggressive goal for an emergency fund... $20,000 by the end of the year next year.

I definitely encourage you, if you don't do so now, to make a budget, a financial control, and stick with it. The changes in your life will be amazing!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Energy Costing less = More money in the budget

I keep a couple of 30 pound propane cylinders at my house that I use to run my water heater. About three years ago, I used to get my propane from a local company who delivered it to my house. One day, just about two weeks before Christmas, I found that I was out of propane. The company had let me run out. When I called them, they told me that "I still had 60% left in my tank." I told them that although their system may say that I had 60% left, I was out, and they had let me run out.

She proceeded to tell me that I would need to pay $75.00 for an off day delivery (It was a Saturday,) and $50.00 for them to do a pressure check, in addition to $3.99 per gallon for my propane. I had been paying $2.79 not too long before.

I resisted the urge to tell them just what they could do with their propane tank!

I grabbed one of the 30 pound cylinders, and went to the hardware store. I have been doing this ever since.

The price had gone up to $3.99 per gallon, plus the hardware store had taken away my 10% off discount, so it was getting pretty expensive. It was still cheaper than electricity however.

I had recently debated on going back to a delivery company, but then I would have that bill again. You see, I have developed a bit of an aversion to bills that come in the mail. We are in a good position right now, and all that we get for bills are electricity, cable/internet, and a water bill. When propane at the hardware store went up that high, I just KNEW that I could save some money with a delivery company.

Well, the 30 pounder ran out today. One bad side effect of this is that my wife calls me up at work and tells me that we have no hot water. Lately, she has taken the tank to the store for me, so all that I have to do is hook it up when I get home. However, she didn't have her vehicle today, so it was up to me.

I grabbed the cylinder, and headed to the store. Imagine my surprise, when I went to pay for my seven gallons, that the price had dropped to $2.99 per pound. I was saving $7.00 on this fill! My family averages one of those cylinders per week, so the savings at that rate is over $350.00 per year.

So, I guess that I am back to being my own propane company for a while. I may have to get the bigger tanks filled, and set them up on a changeover regulator, so that I don't get that call at work telling me that we have no hot water! If you ask me, it is a small price to pay for no monthly bill.

So, what do you put up with to avoid a monthly bill on something?

Well, for anyone who wasn't bored to tears by my musings about propane, I will see you tomorow!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

New Year Resolutions

Seems strange to be talking about New Years day and we haven't even gotten to Veterans Day yet? Truth is, this is a perfect time to talk about the new year coming up, and one of the most important things that you can think about in that context.

Now is the time to get your plans and goals for the new year up and running!

For example, I use a pretty extensive self designed Excel spreadsheet to track all of my finances. If you follow my Blog, you will learn about this, as it is a pretty extensive part of my financial planning, and something that I do feel very passionate about. However, to keep each individual file from getting to be too large, I am just going to create a new sheet for next year. This sheet tracks weekly paychecks, so the date for each weekly paycheck needs to be entered, so that requires a bit of work. Plus, there are other little tweaks and improvements that I want to make, and I am always thinking about something to make the sheet better. So, over the next few weeks, I am getting the "Financial Control 2009" sheet ready to go live on January 1.

What are some good things to do to get ready for the new year?
  • Make sure (just as I am doing) that your financial accounting methods, whatever you use, are ready for the next year.
  • Look at your goals for the present year. Is there anything that you can do to step up and meet a goal in these last two months that otherwise might not have been met?
  • It is a good time to be thinking about what you want to accomplish next year. To do this right will take you longer than the couple of days prior to January 1 that most people think about their resolutions. I wonder if this short planning time coincides with the fact that most of these resolutions are forgotten by January 20? Maybe We could call this "Getting Up's law concerning New Year Resolutions?" How long a resolution is followed directly coincides to the amount of time that it has been thought about before January 1. For each day spent thinking about the resolution, one week is spent on following it. Since we are about at the 52 days until the end of the year mark, if you start now, you might make it through until the end of the year.
  • Don't do anything that will torpedo your next year goals between now and the end of the year. This means that you can't go crazy at Christmas time.
I have begun my planning for next year. Have you? Today is a good day to get started!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

It's time for Eggnog again!

I have never been a big fan of eggnog, but two of my children certainly have discovered it! I guess, to me, it is just too thick. If I am going to drink a dairy product, I want skim milk. And I want it so cold, that it is just this close to freezing.

So, we were in the local Wal-Mart today, and sure enough, there it is. In two different varieties. A half gallon cost $4.49. Wow! It makes soda seem cheap by comparison! I had some serious reservations about paying that much for a half gallon of this stuff, so we went on our way.

Behind us, what did we see, but the $4.49 eggnog with $1.00 coupons on it. OK, that was a bit more like it, so we bought a half gallon.

But still, that is quite a bit of money. My wife said that we had better find a recipe for eggnog. So, I went online to look. This site has a few great recipes, and they do look excellent, but they aren't the version that I want to feed my kids. Check it out though, you might like it!

For the kids, this might work better. It also has cooked eggs in it, for those who are worried about eating raw eggs. But, if you want really simple, you can find a simple mix-it-together-and-serve recipe here.

We will give these a try, and I will let you know how they turn out.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Here we go!

Well, here I go!

Everyone has told me that I should have a blog, so, I decided to just make it happen! I hope that my musings here will help you out in some way.

OK, so on to my title, Doing Money Right. Well, there is definitely a wrong way to do money. I have found that out the hard way. But, how do we take a hold of our money, and do this thing right?

I want to chronicle my family's journey, and let you know some of what we have found, and are continuing to find every day. Personal finance should not be boring! We should enjoy every step of the way, and, if we make a game out of it, personal finance can be richly entertaining.

What won't you see here? You won't see get rich quick schemes. Face it people, they don't work! You won't see advice from wall street MBAs, since one, I am not a Wall Street MBA, two, I don't know any, three, I wouldn't want to pay them what they want, and four, I have this strange idea that you would rather read what I have to say anyway!

So, welcome, and I hope that you enjoy your stay!