Archive for the ‘random stuff’ Category

Sunday Night Insomnia

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

It’s almost midnight here, and I am nowhere near tired thanks to a good nap before work.  So I could waste time sacking castles on a video game, or ramble here on the blog LOL

Some blog carnival notes for fellow bloggers:

  • I am holding the Carnival of Financial Goals on Wednesday.  Blog Carnival was down part of the weekend, and the scheduled host had personal business out of town with limited internet.  If you have blogged about your financial goals, you have until I wake up and get coffee on Wednesday morning to submit your posts.  If you haven’t written up your financial goals, that gives you two days to do so!  Also, with BC being squirrely, you can email me (addy on about page) or twitter me (that didn’t sound right…) if the submission form isn’t working.
  • I am holding the Carnival of Debt Reduction on Monday the 12th (next week).  I am hoping for some really great submissions about killing off that evil debt!  But I will happily include posts about reducing debt as well, and really love to read about success in the battle. (hint)

At work tips were lackluster all weekend, which is odd for the first weekend of the month.  All I can say is folks can buy nice cars, a nice house in a nice neighborhood, but they can’t buy class.  Not tipping at all shows no class.  I am hoping this is just a statistical anomaly, but I have the uneasy feeling I may be right about the direction of the local economy.  Guess I better get cracking on that ebook idea!  Question for y’all readers: should I make the ebooks free, or charge a few dollars per ebook?

And on a very related note to both the ebook project and pizza delivery, I’ve decided to do that topic first!  If you have questions about delivering pizzas as a part-time job, feel free to ask.  You just might inspire an entire section of the upcoming ebook.

Finally, I forgot to put out the question I posed a couple weeks ago: How many of y’all tried my gas mileage challenge?  If you did, what were your results?

Random Thoughts Over Coffee

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

It’s still pretty early, and I am still working through my first cup of coffee.  So this post is just a collection of half-baked random ramblings that are floating through my mind.

First up, most of y’all have probably noticed a new banner over in the sidebar.  Debt Free Revolution has a new advertiser this month: Pens By Hans.  Hans has a new domain and is expanding his home business and is the first advertiser to get permission to use “DFR Endorsed” on his ad :)  I own one of his pens (thank you again, annonymous reader!) and pictures just don’t do these handmade ink pens justice.  Yes, I am still gushing over mine LOL

I almost forgot to mention!  Hans has a special for DFR readers!  He is giving y’all free shipping on orders placed from 1 May to 30 June 2008 if you put the code in the order or email him.  If you are interested, click through to the special page he made for y’all for details on how to get this.

Last night at work was unbelievably busy, and the storms didn’t help.  Folks, when the weather is hideous, you will NOT get your pizza as quickly.  We actually ran a TWO hour delivery time last night, and at least one customer chewed me out about that.  I wasn’t handed her order until one hour ten minutes after she ordered it, and I was also handed THREE orders that were older than that.  If the weather is ugly enough you don’t want to step outside your door, chances are good the rest of the town feels the same way.  Oh, and any sensible pizza delivery driver will slow down in bad weather, which compounds the problem.  Be patient if you order pizza in bad weather, and don’t take it out on the driver.

I still need your personal experiences of stagflation in the 1970s and any tips you may have on how to cope with that nasty economic situation.  Google could only find two pages on it, and they both said the same thing … and I will be picking apart what little advice I found in a future post.  It was pretty much the opposite of what I plan to do!

Speaking of inflation, I had the inflation talk with the Teenager yesterday, and we came to an agreement on changes to the “teenager on a food budget” experiment which will go into effect for tomorrow’s shopping expedition.  I’ll post the full details of it either tomorrow night after work or Monday morning.

Finals Week Link Love

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Two cups of coffee and I still can’t put my thoughts into coherent form today, plus I have to go camp out on campus again for finals … so it’s a link love post for y’all.  My brain is in chemistry student mode LOL

First up, I need to get caught up on what little blog carnivalling I’ve been doing recently:

I haven’t been reading the blogs as much recently … but here’s a few that did catch my eye:

Now, for the one thing I have actually been reading about … other than organic chemistry: the Federal Reserve FOMC starts their two-day meeting this morning to decide the fate of the U.S. economy (otherwise known as setting the interest rate).  Here’s a few good articles on it:

It’s no secret I have a pretty low opinion of the Fed’s rate cut policy, and I am pretty convinced this “economic stimulus package” payment will end up at most folk’s local grocery store and gas station.  There’s this thing called INFLATION that Ben Bernake seems to be totally ignoring, mostly in the form of rising food and energy costs (which the government conveniently strips OUT of their inflation calculations).

They’ll announce their decision about fifteen minutes before we organic chem students go into the slaughter known as a year-long cumulative final, but y’all can probably guess what kind of post I will write if they do remain stupid and cut the interest rate again.

Now I am off to study again … and finish up a couple of projects due before the finals (which cannot be over with soon enough!!!).

Numbers Vs Emotion in Money Decisions

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

One thing I truly love about reading y’all’s comments is they often make me think about things either in a new light or at a much deeper level than I had.  Here’s another great example, in Eric’s comment on my post Raiding Retirement - A Huge No-No:

… I would have to sit down and run the numbers - this isn’t an emotional decision, which I am afraid you have made it into …

I am all for running the numbers on most things, but there is one simple truth (for me, at least).  My emotions are tied to my money situation, and heavily influence my personal finance decisions.  For me, money equals security.  When I lived paycheck to paycheck, I lived with a fear in the back of my mind and in the pit of my stomach at all times.  What if the car broke down?  What if the gas (heating) bill came in higher than expected?  What if I got sick and had to miss work?

This feeling of fear and insecurity is why I am so anti-debt, and is the result of bad experience (and bad decisions).  When I was driving home on Decemeber 26, 2006 - knowing the trip was on a credit card and worried how to pay it - and heard of a better plan on the radio, it was of fifteen years of financial fear and frustration that motivated me to make such major behavioral changes my son wondered if I had joined some kind of cult.  These emotions also motivated me for fourteen long months to get out of debt.

These changes brought about another emotion that I had never associated with money: HOPE.  It’s another strong motivator, and one that drives me today.  HOPE that I will have a big enough emergency fund to cover whatever life throws at me.  HOPE that I will be able to retire comfortably, and not need to rely on VA disability or Social Security.  And best of all, HOPE that I can influence my son so he can truly have wealth and financial success in his adult life.

Money is a very emotional topic: for proof I point to the comments section of just about any personal finance blog where discussions often get heated (this one included).  Money - or lack of it - colors almost all of our daily decisions and touches our emotions.

I am sure there are folks who are able to make money decisions on a purely numbers basis instead of an emotional basis.  Obviously I am not one of them!  One of my favorite quotes is Dave Ramsey on the topic of saving up money for an emergency fund: “You will only save up money when it becomes VERY VERY IMPORTANT TO YOU!“  Guess what?  Eighteen months ago, getting out of debt and saving up money became VERY VERY IMPORTANT to me!

I can run the numbers for the most part … but for me money IS a very emotional thing, and the emotional component is what has kept me motivated to make major positive changes in my financial life.  Since this blog is about my experience with money and debt … it will have a strong emotional aspect to it.  Sometimes I will run numbers to back up a point I am trying to make, other times I will simply link to other people who are better at the numbers part of the money game.  But for me personally, money decisions are all about emotions and how well I will be able to sleep at night.

I will admit I am now curious.  Which is it for y’all, the readers?  Emotions or numbers?

Welcome to The Simple Dollar Readers

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

I just got back from my organic chem test to find quite of few of Trent’s readers already looking around my archives and commenting.  For the rest of y’all, be sure to check out my “Best of DFR” page for some of my favorites and my readers/commenters’ favorite posts.

Recent posts of interest (besides the very popular “Teenager on a Budget” posts) include:

I hope y’all enjoy the reading and decide to stick around by subscribing :)

Oh … the organic chemistry test?  Don’t ask.  The morning class used words like “traumatic” and “brutal” and I completely agree.

Reusing Plastic Drink Bottles

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Yesterday I blogged about finding those reusable shopping bags at Kroger, and since today is Earth Day I thought I’d share a little tip I have been using for a while.  I reuse those plastic 20 ounce drink bottles.

The main thing I reuse them for is water.  I personally have never understood the concept of buying bottled water when it comes out the same from the tap. In fact, John Stossel’s 2005 survey only confirmed what I had suspected all along about bottled water: it really isn’t any different from tap water.  So here is what I have been doing:

  • On occasion, I get a 20 oz bottle of Diet Pepsi from the pop machine on campus (only $1 cold)
  • After I am done drinking the pop (soda) I rinse the bottle out then wash it and the cap with dishes
  • once it’s fully dry, I put about 3 ounces of water in it, then pop it into the freezer
  • after it’s frozen solid, I can put in water or tea for a cold iced beverage!

A quick note about the tea: having grown up in the Midwest I drink UNsweet tea which is virtually impossible to find in bottled form here in the South, so this practice originally started because I don’t like “tea-flavored syrup” as I call it.  Trying to find mint-flavored unsweet tea (my favorite) is exponentially harder, much less the “honey lemon ginseng” green tea I have liked since it came out.

We actually did this in Iraq with the 1.5 liter bottles the Army had, except we froze the entire bottle just to keep it cooler longer in the 120F summer.  We also made up Gatorade and tea when we got tired of regular water.

For my teenage son, I have honestly tried to convince him this is better than buying the individual bottles from the machine at his school.  I once bought him a 6 pack of the bottled tea when it was on sale and told him to save up the bottles so he could reuse and freeze ice into them before adding his green tea.  The bottles ended up in the trash.

This week at the grocery store, the Teenager bought an 8 pack of Gatorade bottles, at a price he could have gotten the large can of powder for.  I started to point it out to him, when he interrupted me to say that was his plan: buy the bottles this week and the powder next week.  He mostly just wanted the bottles (with the labels) to take to school with him.

So that’s what I do with the 20 ounce drink bottles.  To find ideas for reusing plastic milk jugs, look at Frugal Dad’s post for today.  I know I found some good ideas!

Reusable Shopping Bags at Kroger

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Yesterday while grocery shopping at Kroger I saw a display tree near the checkout lanes that had reusable shopping bags on special, 5 for $4.  I paused in front of the display for about half a minute, then picked up five: three bright blue ones with the Kroger logo on them and two black ones with the words “Earth Sound,” a globe, and very tiny Kroger logo underneath.  I love them!

I have to admit: this is not really motivated by a sense of environmentalism.  I just truly hate those little plastic bags they have been using for the past several years.  Those plastic bags are small, tend to tear if they have the slightest hole in them (especially with canned goods in them), and my cats have WAY TOO MUCH FUN playing with the noisy things at 2 A.M.

I have been reusing those little plastic bags for years as trash can liners for the small trash cans in my office, my bedroom, and my bathroom (the ones that don’t tear).  Before the plastic ones came into vogue, I also used to use the paper grocery bags as trash can liners.  But since the plastic bags are so flimsy and small, I have at least a year’s supply of them still here in the house, stuffed down into an unused trash basket in hopes the cats don’t discover where they are hiding.

Back to the new cloth reusable grocery bags: these are nice and roomy!  Yesterday the bag boy fit all my groceries except the kitty litter into only three of the bags.  If he had used those noisy plastic bags it would have used 6-8 of them.  The new bags have looped handles which fit over my shoulder nicely.  They come with a small cardboard rectangle for the bottom to stabilize the stuff inside.

Then I discovered the nicest part: the cashier gave me a $0.04 discount off my total for each bag used!  It’s not much at all - I mean it saved me a grand total of 12 cents LOL - but since I only paid $0.80 per bag, I figure they should actually pay for themselves by the end of the year.  That was a neat little bonus.

  • They won’t tear nearly as easily as the plastic bags
  • They hold a lot more than the plastic bags
  • The cats have shown no interest in playing with them, and even if they did it won’t make noise
  • They are easier to carry
  • For each bag used, a get almost a nickel off my grocery bill at Kroger
  • They’re cute little bags and I got nice colors

As we were loading the groceries into the trunk, my son was telling me about the environmental benefits of using these reusable shopping bags.  He bought less than half the amount of groceries I did, and used four of those noisy plastic bags.  He pointed out the plastic ones are technically petroleum products.  As he put his groceries away at home and threw the plastic bags into the trash (since we have a surplus of them) he noted that with my new bags I am reducing the amount of plastic in the trash.

Glancing at the calendar, I notice tomorrow is Earth Day.  I didn’t buy these reusable shopping bags with the intention of saving the Earth, although I admit that is a nice side effect.  I bought them because they will benefit me in the form of convenience and usability.  I also love the shade of blue.  Let’s not forget they hold no interest for the cats :) so eventually there will be no more plastic bag “wars” waking me at zero-dark-stupid.

Musing as I finish my first cup of coffee for the day, I think this is the key to getting environmentally sound practices to really take hold with the general population: when it’s convenient and provides benefits for the average consumer.  The small discount off the total bill is a very nice little incentive as well, so hats off to Kroger for coming up with that idea, and making/carrying/marketing a product that can make life a little easier for me (the shopper) and can make my son think I am a bit of an environmental hero.

Mow The Lawn And Get In Shape

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

This is a guest post from Mike at Quest For Four Pillars, who is pinch-hitting for me while I attend my cousin’s funeral.  Thanks Mike!  Be sure to check out his blog, and if it appeals to you be sure to subscribe.

I’m a big fan of exercise in order to stay in shape. One of the things that I try to do is to get some exercise doing normal chores around the house so that I can increase my fitness without having spend extra time or money going to a gym. A great way to get some solid exercise during the summer months is to mow the lawn with a manual lawn mower.

Now you might be thinking that your yard is too big. Well, how about doing part of the lawn with the manual mower and then hop on your 8-cylinder rider for the remainder? Now I can accept that some people are not healthy enough to do manual work but everyone else should be capable of doing part or all of their lawn with a manual mower.

Reasons why you should be using a manual lawn mower

  • Exercise - this particular workout doesn’t cost you any money, no time to get to the gym and is time that you would doing a chore anyways
  • Save money - manual mowers are cheaper than any other kind of mowers and the maintenance is much less
  • Good for the environment - you aren’t using any electricity or polluting with a gasoline engine
  • Quiet - electric and gas mowers are very loud, which is annoying to the person mowing as well as everyone else in a half mile radius

You can buy a pretty good manual mower for about $100 so even if you already own a mower then you can sell it and buy a manual mower. Your health will thank you.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s another post on manual mowing from the Good Human.

I’d like to add a quick note: the Army still uses these manual push mowers, especially my old unit on Fort Campbell.  The commanders believed it was great exercise for soldiers on extra duty!