Where Do they Get this Stuff?

My parents live among houses like this...“Nearly one in five U.S. mortgage borrowers owe more to lenders than their homes are worth, and the rate may soon approach one in four as housing prices fall and the economy weakens, a report on Friday shows.”

That’s the opening line in an article on CNBC today.

Read that again.

“Nearly one in five U.S. mortgage borrowers owe more to lenders than their homes are worth, and the rate may soon approach one in four as housing prices fall and the economy weakens, a report on Friday shows.”

I realize that real estate is always “local” and no one thinks that this sort of thing happens in “their” neighborhood, but I’m sorry, that opening line is too outrageous to ignore.

One in five? And soon to be one in four?

No way.

No freakin’ way.

“The data, covering 43 states and Washington, D.C., includes borrowers nationwide, even those who took out mortgages before housing prices began to soar early this decade.”

I call BS.

There is no way.

I bought my house this decade and I’m not in that situation. I’m not even close.

I even could have purchased my house two years ago, when it was near it’s height, and I still wouldn’t be in that situation today. Value is dropping, yes, but not like the stock market did in October…

The only way that opening line could possibly be true is if roughly a quarter of all homes in the country were purchased in the last 18 months and we all know that that isn’t the case.

I look at my street, and again, I know people always say real estate is local, but my street is pretty run of the mill. The most recent home sale was about two years ago now. The one before that was, well, my house — six years ago. Things were pretty affordable six years ago.

The woman across the street — now an AARP member grew up in that very same house. If I had to guess, the average for the street is well over 15 years per house.

Neighborhoods don’t have enough turnaround to justify the numbers quoted — that is unless, of course, if they only collected data in brand new dead end cul-de-sac developments full of McMansions…

Naturally, later in the article they take a HUGE step back from the opening line saying things like, “This is very much a regional problem” and that “most of the country is not in bad shape”…

Um, okay… So what’s up with the opening line?

Shock and awe!

I guess it worked.

Posted on October 31st, 2008 at 9:20 pm by Brainy Smurf
Current Events, Mortgage, Rants | 1 Comment »

I Got Tagged

I usually don’t do this stuff, mostly because I feel like I’m usually the last to be tagged but also because I don’t like to brag about myself.

I kid.

New blogger MoneyMate Kate tagged me this morning for the latest, um, “chain post” and, at first, I dismissed it but after further thought (in the shower), I changed my mind.   I’m going to bite.

And now for the rules as detailed as far back as I was willing to follow the chain:

1. To link the tagger and provide the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs.

I’m skipping rules three and four. It’s not that I’m “Captain No-Fun”, I just have a feeling that everyone I’d tag has already done this.

So, here goes…

Seven things about Brainy:

  1. I’ll be supporting Barack Obama on Tuesday.

    Not really a surprise, I mentioned that once already. But I’m not voting for him. I can’t.

    I mentioned that too, but what is new is that I can’t vote for anybody anywhere. I can’t vote in the United States because I’m not an American citizen. And, I can’t vote in Canada, where I am a citizen, because I haven’t lived there in the past five years. What a rip off.

    And you’d have to think, if ACORN were as guilty of specializing in voter fraud as they’ve been made out to be, why haven’t I been contacted? I’m exactly what they’re apparently looking for…

  2. I wear argyle socks. Almost exclusively. (and Mom, I’d like a few pairs for Christmas.)
  3. I haven’t had a real haircut in over 18 months. And only once or twice have I been the obvious victim of a home haircut gone wrong.
  4. Jennifer Love Hewitt and Entertainment Tonight attended my high school graduation. Both witnessed the head of the Board of Education mispronounce my name though she lived just two houses away and had known me since the age of 7. Sometimes I still wonder about that.
  5. I graduated from high school twice. Someday I’ll explain that further. No, sadly, it wasn’t a do-over to pronounce my name correctly. It’s… complicated.
  6. The first job I had out of school only paid $6 per hour. I still hold the same position.
  7. I got married in Las Vegas. For real. To a woman I’d just met. Okay, that second part is an exaggeration…

How was that?

Oh, and Happy Halloween!

Posted on October 31st, 2008 at 7:25 am by Brainy Smurf
Blogging?, Life | 2 Comments »

Weekly Saving? Not Working… Bi-Weekly? Maybe.

Piggy BankI’ve tried over and over to put together a savings plan where I’ll make weekly transfers to keep things on a steady and constant up-and-up. It worked so well for paying down my debts.

But right now, it’s not working.

All too often, I’m projecting that my checking account will come up short nearly every other month — and on the months that it doesn’t come up short, well, it’ll be too close for comfort.

You know, when the ATM receipt tells you that you’ve only got $0.95 left in your account

That scenario was okay when I was paying down debt, I was supposed to be poor — sorta like a self-imposed punishment for running up my credit cards so high, but now that I’m not in debt, it’s not acceptable.

My next paycheck — coming in on November 6 — won’t be enough to pay the bills *and* make the yet-to-be scheduled transfers before the following paycheck comes in, two weeks later.

Even if it were enough, it’s far too close to the paycheck-to-paycheck existence that I thought, at this stage, would be in my rear view mirror for good.

So, instead, I think I’m going to use the November 6 paycheck to pay the December mortgage bill and all of the utility bills. That’s it. I’ll pay all of the bills and then idle for two weeks. No savings plans.

Then, the November 20 paycheck (along with all paid invoices) will go almost entirely into savings. The monies that don’t go into savings will be to pay the bill for the credit card I continue to use for day-to-day purchases and knick-knacks that I pick up along the way…

Not exactly how I want it, but until I have a little bit more of a buffer in my checking account, I really can’t afford to do it in a more structured way…

Posted on October 30th, 2008 at 5:33 pm by Brainy Smurf
Finance, Savings | 1 Comment »

So, the Cat’s Out of the Bag…

The Cat’s Out of the BagI’ve been living in squalid conditions for over a year.

Rice and beans, beans and rice, right?

I was too “busy” paying down my debt to notice, right?

Cutting corners, you know, to save money?

That’s how I can justify how horrible that room looks…

Please?

Well, not exactly.

While I am horribly ashamed of that photo of the entry way to my home, the rest of the house isn’t like that at all.

If it were, I mean, dontcha think I’d be a prime candidate for the police to come barging through the door with a camera crew in tow for a taping of the show Cops?

The setting is almost too perfect. All it needs is a plaid couch with cigarette burns in the cushions and domestic beer cans strewn randomly about the floor…

My crime would be driving without a front license plate. (Did you know that they’re required?)

“Suspect is a white male of average build. Last seen driving a late model BMW in the vicinity of Gargamel’s castle…”

But now that I’ve shamed myself on the internet (what was I thinking?), it’s time to get things moving on this room (and entire first floor, while I’m at it) and set up a budget for 2009 to pay for it all, which I’ll start in November.

In the months ahead, I have one bill to pay that will likely be paid from my savings account. My horrible homeowners insurance premium is $902 (ouch!) and it’s due on December 18.

Aside from that, though, the month-to-month finances should remain consistent from here on out. No trips planned, no weddings scheduled, no huge holiday expenditures on the horizon, and we never really spend much for our birthdays (which are in the summer anyway). Basically, it’s an empty schedule.

Also, in an effort to speed things up even more, I’m going to try to get my wife on board — wipe out her credit card and boost her savings. A lot.

But my savings need the most work…

Resorting back to what worked so well while paying down debt, I realize that the only way to go is to make it automatic and then, if anything is left over, keep throwing that on to the pile too.

At the height of my pay down, it wasn’t unusual for me to make 7-8 payments to the same creditor in a week’s time. I’ve got to grow my savings the exact same way. If I find $5 in my winter coat pocket, that’s enough to initiate a transfer. Just do it.

So what’s my ultimate plan?

I’d like to be able to save up at least 1/3 of the cost of the remodeling cost before we get started. I’m not saying that I’ll use it all at the onset of the project, but for peace of mind, if nothing else, I want to have it available before I commit myself to such a huge debt load.

The remaining 2/3 would be financed on credit cards.

I know, I know, if you’re new to this site, that must sound crazy. Who’s willing to charge that much?

Well, that’s the method we used on the siding project and it was a whole lot more cost effective than the more common home improvement loan route we took for the roof the year before.

If you’ve got the right cards, the right offers, and a zero balance, you can borrow tens of thousands of dollars at well under 5 percent. No bank or contractor can offer financing that approaches that.

So, to begin, I’m going to continue the auto savings plan I started this month where I’m transferring $400 per month into an ING savings account. I may not reserve it for a vehicle purchase anymore, but I’m not going to cancel the transfer series either.

I was also planning to step up my extra mortgage payments from $50/week to $165/week to keep me on pace to have the mortgage paid off by 2015, but now, instead, I’m going to send that to my savings account plus what I would have been contributing to my savings account anyway and all of my passive income.

All together, on a good month (you know, when my clients actually pay their invoices), that would be around $2310 going in to savings right off the top. That’s freakin’ huge.

Basically, almost $10k every 4 months.

Sounds lofty. Borderline un-realistic.

Probably is.

I’m not really sure, I’ve never not had huge bills to pay…

The plan starts next week.

Posted on October 29th, 2008 at 8:46 pm by Brainy Smurf
2009 Goals, Finance, Home Improvements, Life, Savings | 9 Comments »

Another Big Ole Financial Fork in the Road…

Financial CrossroadsIn three weeks time I’ll be eligible to call into the Dave Ramsey show and Dave will ask me how much I paid off, how long it took me, and what my household income is…

He’ll then ask my wife’s name and then we’ll do the countdown together, “Three… two… one… WE’RE DEBT FREEEEEEEEEEE!” and he’ll hit the sound effect button from the movie Braveheart.

Then he’ll ask what the last bill I paid off was and what was the hardest part about becoming debt free.

It’s all very predictable. I already know how it goes, so I’m not going to bother calling in. I don’t like to think of myself as that exciting, you know?

Besides, my story is kinda bland.

The hardest part was waiting for each pay day — time was the hardest part. I knew how to get “here”, I just didn’t enjoy waiting for the paychecks to come in.

And the last bill I’ll pay off is a 0% interest credit card.

Hardly the type of story he’s looking for…

Anyway, I’ll soon find myself with a lot more cash on hand each payday. In fact, that’s already happened — I’ve spent a lot of money already this month just knowing that there aren’t any large looming bills to come in the mail.

That’s coming to an end in November.

So, I’ve started putting together a new budget that will continue to pay down our mortgage at an accelerated, yet comfortable, pace and one that will hopefully make my savings account grow equally as fast as the balance of my 401k has been dropping of late.

What am I saving for?

I’m not sure.

No, that’s not true.

I know what I’m saving for, I just don’t know yet how much I’ll need. And I’m afraid to find out how much I’ll need because it might be more than I can imagine saving for.

Make sense?

Plain and simple, the entire first floor of my house needs to be remodeled. And we’re not talking about a coat of paint and some new lamps…

It needs to be gutted. We need new floors, new walls, new ceilings, new wiring, new plumbing, etc… We need everything.

As it stands right now, it’s an embarrassment — so much so that I almost don’t want to hand out Halloween candy this year because of the small glimpse of the interior that the kids will be able to see.

Yeah, it’s that bad.

Hang on, let me take a picture.

See what I mean? This is the entryway to my home. Mouseover it, you’ll see what I’m talking about. Not what you expected, huh?

It’s looked like this for over a year now. Really.

Now I’m sure you understand my plight.

I just spent all of the these years paying down my debt to get to this spot where I am right now…debt free. And now I’m in a position where I’ll need to spend $30k, $40k, maybe even $60k in one shot and put myself deeper in debt than I ever was before.

Yikes.

I can’t really imagine saving up $30k, let alone twice that! But seriously, look at that place? It *needs* to be done and the sooner the better.

One route would be to just deal with it for another few years (can you imagine?) and save like crazy until we can afford it.

The other route would be to get on the horn, get a few contractors over here for estimates, and get it done in the not too distant future while saddling ourselves with payments for next few years…

Obviously, I’m leaning towards the latter route. See, the roof and siding projects we took on between December 2006 and July 2007 cost us a little over $40k total — and here we are, already, lining up to be debt free in November 2008. While it felt like it took forever, it really didn’t.

History tells me that it’s possible for us to pay for a project this big, but my gut tells me that I want out of this $2500/month-to-creditors cycle… It’s worn me down.

Or maybe it’s walking into my house and seeing that scene above that’s been wearing me down…

Posted on October 28th, 2008 at 9:32 pm by Brainy Smurf
Finance, Home Improvements, Life, Savings | 15 Comments »

Closing the Book on the PMI Fight

I Give Up!So, after all of this time of avoiding the subject entirely, I suppose it’s time to wrap up this whole PMI topic.

In last month’s net worth update, I briefly hinted at the fact that I was throwing in the towel for now…

I cast out one last line earlier this month to Countrywide when they completed my annual escrow analysis for my attached escrow account (which, in part, pays the PMI premium each month) and was greeted with the same response I’ve been receiving since July.

“Send us a check for $130, take a day off from work, and maybe we’ll drop it, but probably not. The current market conditions aren’t favorable, you know…”

So, for the time being, and likely the entire year of 2009, I’m just going to swallow my pride and continue to be ripped off because I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a battle I can’t win — there are just too many loopholes and specific conditions available in the law for them to fall back on to justify taking this money from me.

Yep, I’ve met all of the commonly mentioned benchmarks; the 22% equity being the most often referenced as a mark resulting in automatic termination.

But there are little sneaky things in there like termination, automatic or not, never happening until reaching the mid-point of the original amortization schedule.

Yeah — like 9 years from now…

In my instance, that’s another $9200 in PMI payments.

And, even then, there are ways for Countrywide to continue to hit me up for an extra monthly fee.

Aggravating is the only word I can think of to describe it.

Seems my only hope is to re-finance and, right now, I’m not ready to make a move like that.

I’m not really sure why I say that, it could just be laziness — it probably is, but for whatever reason, I’m just not comfortable making that move right now…

You know, with “market conditions” being what they are…         ;0)

Posted on October 27th, 2008 at 9:08 pm by Brainy
Mistakes, PMI - Mortgage Insurance | 9 Comments »

Photo of the Week: Who doesn’t like a good hockey fight?

Hockey Fight

I took in my first pro game of the season as a member of the media this week, making my return to the type of photography that I’m good at and snapped this shot – one of my favorites of the night.

It’s kinda sad that Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the NHL, has been trying to outlaw fighting during his tenure.

True, in a civilized society, it’s ludicrous for two grown men to beat the snot out of one another over an essentially meaningless game, but it’s one of the few things that can still get the crowd on their feet. And isn’t that the point of professional sports?

What most people don’t realize, hockey fans included, is that it’s very rare for a player to get hurt during a fight — it really is all for show.

Not like WWE wrestling — hockey fights aren’t fake, but they’re not really trying to seriously hurt one another either — though it may look like that…

In fact, considering it’s a game where a rock hard piece of rubber flies around over 100mph, players run into walls at 30 mph, fighting is part of the game, all of the players carry long sticks, and don’t forget that everyone out on the ice has knives strapped to their feet, well, it’s pretty shocking that a tame game like baseball has more injuries.

Hard to believe… Must be a side effect of all of the steroids in baseball…

Anyway, at the conclusion of this specific fight — neither player went down, so technically nobody won — they essentially shook hands and thanked one another for the opportunity as they were escorted to the penalty box.

Yes, they exchanged pleasantries. After a fight.

Must be a Canadian thing…

Posted on October 25th, 2008 at 5:46 am by Brainy Smurf
Photo, Sports | 1 Comment »

Awesome! My 401k is Down Over Twenty Percent this Month!

I Love my 401k!It’s like I said a few months ago, regarding my falling home value at the time… It doesn’t bother me much. I don’t feel as if I’ve “lost” anything because, really, I haven’t lost anything.

It was money that I never… actually… had.

My 401k has never helped me pay a bill. Not once.

It’s just a number on paper, err, I mean a monitor.

In fact, as I have for months on end lately, I feel like I’m 100% on the right track and it’s starting to show.

Sure, right now, my net worth is officially $1000 less than it was on January 1st. That sounds like terrible news.

But really, it’s not.

My assets, unfortunately, happen to be down $26k since the start of the year

My liabilities, though, are down over $25k since since then too. That makes for a net loss of the previously mentioned $1k.

Doesn’t seem like much to get excited about, huh?

But here’s the thing — I haven’t sold a single asset to pay down a liability.

Not one.

I still have everything (material) that I had at the start of the year — the only “real” difference is that my debt load has decreased by 25 grand.

It’s tough not to call that progress…

Posted on October 23rd, 2008 at 8:15 pm by Brainy Smurf
401k, Finance | 1 Comment »

The Streak is Over

Game Worn Jersey CollectionIn the past I’ve talked about one of my hobbies — collecting game worn hockey jerseys.

I know, I know, totally weird to some — c’mon, dirty polyester?

Why?

But seriously, there’s a pretty sizable following and if you can believe it, the economy within the hobby is strong.

My best jersey commanded nearly 5-figures at the height of the boom (October 2007) and today, well, it still commands that same amount.

Almost makes it a wise investment, right?

I kid, I kid…

But the one downside to this hobby of mine is that for years it sucked me dry. Much of my former credit card debt can probably be attributed to my collection — I was easily dropping in excess of $500 per month, on average, adding to the collection. That’s a lot of money.

Some may even say it was wasted money. They might be right.

In 2008, I scaled it back. A lot.

Then, in June, I noticed that I hadn’t made a purchase in over a month — and I wasn’t really missing it.

Same thing in July. August, and then September!

Had I kicked the addiction?

Nope.

I relapsed this month.

Last week I bought a jersey on the secondary market (yeah, this bizarre hobby is big enough to have a very busy secondary market) for $115.

Anything under $300 is peanuts in this hobby so, for a sum that small, it’s not likely to increase in value anytime soon, or ever. Probably not a wise investment.

But, at the same time, for such a small price, I just couldn’t resist.

And that’s the bad part. This jersey’s arrival in the mailbox has me re-energized.

Just today, I was already pricing out $600-$1000 jerseys… Crazyness.

Step away from the keyboard…

Posted on October 22nd, 2008 at 7:43 pm by Brainy Smurf
Hockey Jersey, Mistakes | No Comments »

Photo of the Week: The Great Pumpkin

The Pumpkin Patch

I don’t know how many places still give you a free hay ride out to the pumpkin patch, or how much longer any of them will continue to do that sort of thing, but it sure beats buying a pumpkin at Walmart or at some roadside stand.

There’s really no comparison.

This past weekend, my wife and I went in search of the “Great Pumpkin“.

Due to our Florida trip the previous weekend, we were a bit later in the season than we usually are so there were slim pickins out in the field — as you plainly can see.

No matter though, we still picked out our “Great Pumpkin” for under $10 and now we’re ready for Halloween.

So if you haven’t picked up your own “Great Pumpkin” yet, I really suggest you find a local pumpkin patch — it’s just a lot more fun making an event out of it.

Posted on October 21st, 2008 at 7:28 pm by Brainy Smurf
Bargains, Life, Photo | No Comments »

The Most Vocal are Usually the Least Informed

Vote Yes!If you’re living in the United States, you’ve no doubt noticed all of the political lawn signs littering nearly every other house’s lawn.

Though I live in a traditionally “blue” state, so it’s not much of a surprise, it’s difficult not to notice that Obama signs outnumber McCain signs 10 to 1.

Though, given Connecticut’s presidential voting record over the past 10 elections, well, that’s not really unexpected.

But the more interesting signs are the more local “Vote Yes!” or “Vote No!” signs.

In some towns, it’s a referendum on whether a Walmart or Home Depot should be built in town. For others, it regards a new town swimming pool, or the formation of a dog park, or reduced City Hall hours.

At the state level, it’s usually about something boring like labeling organic food differently or something controversial like gay marriage.

It’s these signs, the Yes/No ones, that I’ve noticed the most this election year.

In my town, without going into the specific issue — it doesn’t really matter, “No” signs outnumber “Yes” signs at least 20 to 1. At least.

In a neighboring town, with a different issue on the ballot, their “Yes” signs outnumber the “No” signs in a landslide.

In both towns, it doesn’t seem to matter if you’ve got the Obama/Biden or McCain/Palin sign out front.

The local issues are seldom something decided down party lines.

But how are they decided?

See, in both instances, the more popular sign is the one that’s short-sighted and, well, wrong. Progress inhibiting, for sure.

That puts me at a total loss… Or does it?

My theory is that most of these folks don’t really know any of the details of the side they’ve decided to support and, then, showcase proudly on their lawn.

Just plain ignorance, really.

Using the Walmart example, the biggest opposition when it comes to a new Walmart always seems to be the added traffic each store brings.

In the 90′s, the town I grew up in voted on a “Walmart” type of issue. Simply, “Yes” to Walmart or “No” to Walmart.

At the time, the “No” signs heavily outweighed the “Yes” signs. Traffic, as it often is, was the issue.

A little back history first…

In the 1980′s, my home town had two regional department stores — Bradlee’s and Caldor. Just up the road, there was an Ames.

If you needed something, every one of those store would most definitely have it.

But, as everyone now knows, Walmart emerged from seemingly out of no where and went national putting pretty much every competing department store out of business in the process. Bradlee’s, Caldor, and Ames included.

CaldorSo, here in town, we had three vacant “big box” stores. All at the same time — for years — and then Walmart came knocking.

Not to build a new store, but to take over one of the vacant buildings and restore an eyesore of a plaza back to it’s former glory.

Sounds like a good thing, right?

Well, the people in town, obviously swayed by the sea of “No” lawn signs voted it down. Citing traffic or some such silly reason.

Walmart was not coming to town.

It didn’t take long before people started to realize — hey, if I need a 90-minute Memorex cassette or something, we don’t have any stores that sell that sort of thing anymore.

Where do you buy something like an alarm clock? Coffee maker? Cheap jewelry? Socks? Head phones? Shower curtain? School supplies?

I know!

You could buy all of that stuff 25 miles away where they put a Walmart into an old shuttered Bradlee’s!

Voting “No” was stupid.

It was wrong.

It was shortsighted.

Now, 15 years later, of course, a Walmart occupies that former Caldor building. Bradlee’s was torn down to make way for an expanding grocery store and a new movie theatre. Ame’s former location is now a Tractor Supply Co.

But for 3 or 4 years, all three buildings sat vacant. And people in town had to travel to neighboring towns to buy, well, all of their dry goods. All of them. We had grocery stores and car dealerships. That’s it.

Now that’s how to drive a local economy…into the ground.

Remember, the most vocal are usually the least informed.

So, come November 4th, when you’re filling in the circles on your ballot, be sure to select the option you saw the least of during your drive to the polling station.

Chances are, that will be the wiser decision.

Posted on October 21st, 2008 at 12:38 pm by Brainy Smurf
Current Events, Rants, Retro | 1 Comment »

Spending Your Savings — It’s Not Easy…

Nintendo Entertainment SystemIt’s funny how as you get older, parting with huge sums of money gets more and more difficult…

Just days into my plan of making car payments to myself, and feeling pretty good about it too, commenter Cath recently mentioned that, though she’s doing the same thing, she’d have a hard time parting with all of that saved up money in one shot

I found the comment pretty intriguing and, after thinking about it some, I think I’m exactly the same type of person.

Let’s fast-forward 4-5 years and say that my “auto” savings account has grown to around $20k. My current vehicle isn’t getting the job done and I’m car shopping.

I don’t know that I’d be able to just wipe out all of that savings in one fell swoop.

That’s probably because I’m a hoarder. A collector. An accumulator.

But I wasn’t always that way…

The first big ticket item I ever really religiously saved up for was the Nintendo Entertainment System.

It came out when I was in the fourth grade. Jay Mooney, who was more of an acquaintance than a friend, lived up the street and was the first person I knew to actually get one. It was awesome.

I mean, it blew my Atari 2600 out of the water. Clear out of the water.

It was even better than Intellivision. Even the rich kids with Colecovision were jealous of Jay Mooney.

I wanted one. Bad.

One problem, though.

It was expensive and my parents weren’t about to spring for it.

It’s funny, to this day, I’m not really sure my mom can even pronounce Nintendo correctly… She wasn’t alone either. A number of my friend’s parents referred to it as, “Intendo”. Weird.

Maybe that’s why none of us actually got a Nintendo for Christmas in fourth grade (or fifth) — our parents were looking for something called the “Intendo” Entertainment System instead.

Any way, it was apparent that this was something that I was going to have to save up for myself.

At the time, the version I wanted (the one that came with the gun for DuckHunt) was $199.99 at Toys-R-Us.

Earning a sporadic $5/week wage (allowance) and $5 per lawn mow during the summer, it seemed as if I’d never get there.

And I didn’t.

The next door neighbor and I suffered the entire summer between 4th and 5th grade playing “Pitfall II” and “Congo Bongo” on the Atari 2600 on a 13-inch black and white television knowing full well that up the street, Jay Mooney was playing Mach Rider in full color.

We did the same the next summer too.

Looking back, we probably should have pooled our money.

Apparently the idea of “sharing” never crossed our minds.

But I remember getting really excited when I’d reached the $50 mark. I’d never had that much money in my life.

I could finally start to imagine having my very own Nintendo. To speed up the pace, I started pilfering $1/day from the lunch money my mother would give me each morning.

Being the dork that I was, I remember ironing all of the $1 bills I had so that they looked really cool all in a stack. I even taped a piece of paper around them like they do at the bank.

As months turned into years, it started to feel like I’d never make it, but I held on to the goal.

One day, the Nintendo Entertainment System would be mine.

Thankfully, at that point in history, Nintendo didn’t have any real challengers (like XBOX or Playstation), otherwise I’d have had to rethink my planned purchase.

Then, as luck would have it, my stash of cash got a major boost when my uncle slipped me a $100. “Shhhh… don’t tell your dad…”

I had enough!

I didn’t tell my dad about the $100, but it had to be pretty obvious. I mean, where would I have gotten a nice crisp $100 bill? Seriously…

My parents drove me down to KB Toys at our local mall (now torn down) and I had the privilege of asking to purchase one of their big ticket items. You know, the stuff that was kept behind glass…

It was so cool walking out of there.

That night, the Atari was disconnected for all eternity.

My sister and I hooked up the Nintendo full of excitement only to realize that, while we now had a Nintendo of our own, we only had two games (Super Mario Bros. and Duckhunt) and we’d played both of them to death over the past few years at friends’ houses.

Making matters worse, *everyone* had those two games, so we couldn’t even use them as trade bait. No one wanted to borrow those two games.

It was pretty horrible stomping on goombas and koopa troopas without any sort of challenge.

The light at the end of the tunnel was, as it turned out, well, boring.

That first night, in one sitting, I played through all 24 levels to win the game. Levels 7-1, 7-2, and 7-3 are easily the most difficult.

Back to saving I went…

Thankfully, while the system itself was too expensive for my parents to buy for us, the games were not.

Unfortunately the games I remember getting for Christmas were forgettable titles like “Jordan vs. Bird” and “A Boy and his Blob“…

A couple of years later, it was another year of saving for the Sega Genesis…

Rinse and repeat, really.

But now, like Cath, I can’t imagine spending every last penny in one shot — even if I’d saved up for it.

Already, now, I’m excited by the twelve cents of interest I’ve earned so far…

I almost think that I might prefer to pay back debt rather than eliminate my savings to prevent taking on debt…

Weird…

Posted on October 19th, 2008 at 9:46 am by Brainy Smurf
Finance, Life, Retro, Savings | No Comments »