Monthly Archives: August 2010

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Oh boy… Here we go…

Do I have to?

I mean, I’m just warning you, you know, before you read on, that this month was off the charts. I mean, totally out of control…

Here goes:

  • $6000.00 : Contractor
  • $600.26 : Alamo Car Rental
  • $498.72 : Mortgage
  • $448.84 : Cash
  • $400.00 : Punch-Out!! Arcade Game
  • $340.43 : Black Knight Inn
  • $327.66 : Ramada
  • $285.50 : Hockey Jersey
  • $222.03 : Gas
  • $217.36 : Radisson
  • $205.86 : Hand Truck
  • $191.26 : Pocahontas Bungalows
  • $186.05 : Delta Hotels
  • $183.60 : Best Western
  • $168.95 : PODs
  • $156.20 : Super 8 Motel
  • $138.00 : Airport Parking
  • $116.20 : Water/Sewer
  • $116.15 : Cable/Internet
  • $106.48 : Business Expenses
  • $105.99 : Waffle Maker
  • $97.77 : Clothes for Duncan
  • $85.00 : Dentist
  • $83.27 : Credit Card Foreign Transaction Fee
  • $79.64 : Electricity
  • $74.18: IKEA
  • $69.86 : Home Depot
  • $20.00 : Corporate Filing Fee
  • $31.89 : Natural Gas
  • $28.54 : Lowe’s
  • $21.49 : Green Electrical Supply
  • $19.61 : Chicken Wings

Added up all together, that’s $11,626.79.

Eleven freakin’ thousand dollars?! Can you believe that?

I started doing these reports, following frequent commentor DD’s lead over on Happy Rock, over a year ago now and I have never ever even come close to the five-figure sum I’m reporting this month.

I mean, I’m glad that I’m sitting down as I type this…

It’s almost comical that I’m going to do my regular breakdown and then try an justify the expenses line-by-line as if spending this much is “okay” but here goes…

I wrote a $6000 check to our contractor. So far, we’ve paid him $24000 total. I wrote a $3000 check back in May and my wife’s credit card offer took care of the other $15000. We still have around $10k to go but, hey, it’s looking great!

Up next are the vacation expenditures which I’ll group together. Quickly, and in order:

  • Alamo Car Rental ($600.26) — What a freaking ripoff. Sure, the Nissan Sentra was nice and all, but holy crap?!
  • Cash ($448.84) — 99% of this was just money taken out for “stuff” while on vacation.
  • Black Knight Inn ($340.43) — Do not stay here. Do not *ever* stay here. What a freakin’ dump. An expensive dump.
  • Ramada ($327.66) — Just north of Calgary, this was the same Ramada mentioned in last month’s spending report. We liked it so much, we stayed there again!
  • Gas ($222.03) — It is what it is. Two years later, I still don’t think gas is overpriced.
  • Radisson ($217.36) — I don’t even remember staying in a Radisson. Yep, it left that much of an impression. You’d think a nightly rate exceeding $200 would leave an impression, no?
  • Pocahontas Bungalows ($191.26) — A last minute destination, this was for a night in a rustic cabin in the Rocky Mountains. Let’s just call it an “experience” and leave it at that.
  • Delta Hotels ($186.05) — This was the hotel connected to the Calgary Airport. It wasn’t exactly where we wanted to say but with an early morning flight out, well, it was definitely convenient and it saved us an extra day’s worth of car rental.
  • Best Western ($183.60) — I’m not usually a big fan of the Best Western chain as they’re mostly dumps on the east coast but this one just west of Edmonton was beautiful. When I checked in I thought it was overpriced but now comparing it to the other rooms we stayed in, it was definitely one of the best values.
  • Super 8 ($156.20) — I broke one of my own rules on this one. See, I’ve often stated that I will never stay in a hotel with a number in the name. I would have stuck to that rule too had it not been 10 o’clock at night without another reputable hotel within a 4-hour radius. Let’s just say that the northern interior of British Columbia isn’t a hot bed of nice hotel rooms.
  • Airport Parking ($138.00) — It’s funny how when you pull into the long term parking lot, the sign reads “$75 Maximum” but when you insert your ticket, the attendantless machine demands $138. Funny how that works.
  • Credit Card Foreign Transaction Fee ($83.27) — I freakin’ hate these. You could have a TD credit card and you’d still get hit with these. For the record, TD stands for Toronto Dominion. Yep, they’re Canadian. And you’ll still get hit with Foreign Transaction Fees if you buy stuff in Canada. My card issuer isn’t TD, but I’m just sayin…

So, all together, the August portion of vacation cost $2563.27. More than we’d have liked but not too bad.

Now to fill in the gaps (while ignoring the regular utility bills), again, in order:

  • Mortgage ($498.72) — This was the first mortgage payment since the refinance went through all the way back in June. I still can’t believe my mortgage is less than $500 per month.
  • Punch-Out!! Arcade Game ($400.00) — I don’t care what anyone says, this purchase was so awesome that it warranted its own post. I don’t regret it for a second.
  • Hockey Jersey ($285.50) — This addiction just won’t die. It’s getting there, though…
  • Hand Truck ($205.86) — So now that I’ve got two arcade games along with a ton of heavy furniture in the POD, it only seemed like a good idea to go out and buy my very own hand truck. I can’t tell you how many times in the past we’ve said, “It’s too bad that we don’t have a hand truck” as we huff and puff some piece of furniture up the stairs. I didn’t skimp on this purchase either cause there’s nothing worse than an inadequate tool. This puppy is rated up to 1200 pounds and will make moving everything back into the house so much easier. Safer too.
  • PODs ($168.95) — Yep, that portable storage unit is still in the driveway and full of stuff that used to be in the rooms being renovated. It’s looking like this could be the last month we have it but if things get tight, we’ll keep it around another month.
  • Waffle Maker ($105.99) — Now my sister will probably think that we bought this because she got one as a wedding gift (while we were up there on vacation) and felt the need to rightfully gush about it. But the truth is, that Best Western that I referenced above had one of these and that sold us. It’s a nice one that makes two belgian waffles at once. Yep, I’ve had waffles for dinner at least 10 times this month.
  • Clothes for Duncan ($97.77) — While looking at some of the pictures we took of Duncan when we were on vacation, I realized that he needed a more trendy wardrobe. Mission accomplished. He’s the coolest looking kid in the Toddler 2 room.
  • Densist ($85.00) — I don’t think I mentioned here on PIAC but back in June I dropped our dental insurance. This $85 cleaning charge would have cost me double if it’d come directly out of my paycheck as an insurance premium…
  • IKEA ($74.18) — This was for a few light fixtures for our renovation. They’re not great but they look neat.
  • Home Depot ($69.86) — More light fixtures. These things can get expensive but obviously we didn’t buy anything too pricey.
  • Corporate Filing Fee ($20.00) — Sure, it’s only $20 but it’s one of the reasons that small businesses avoid the State of Connecticut. I gave the state $20 for nothing. In April, I’ll give them another $250. Again, for nothing…
  • Lowe’s ($28.54) — This was for a pair of work gloves. And one of the light fixtures that we bought at Home Depot had a broken globe. I bought a replacement at Lowe’s and it didn’t fit. Go figure. I’ll return it one of these weekends.
  • Green Electrical Supply ($21.49) — But wait, there’s more. In addition to having a broken globe, the fixtures that we picked up at Home Deport are ├╝ber green. I mean, they don’t accept Edison-mount light bulbs cause they’re too darn inefficient or some such nonsense so… it’s darn near impossible to find lightbulbs that are more powerful than a lightning bug in any store. Thankfully they’re available online though, so that’s what these are. I bought 4 bulbs that should be brighter than the sun itself. I only needed two but figured that ordering lightbulbs online was a wee bit risky. I all but expect two of them to be broken during the shipping process.
  • Chicken Wings ($19.61) — You almost never see food expenditures here on PIAC because my wife usually buys all of it and her finances aren’t reported here. She would have bought this too, you know, had she remembered her purse.

So, in an attempt to make it seem as though I didn’t spend as much as I did, I’m gonna pretend that we didn’t go on vacation or have our house worked on.

Adjusted spending for the month of August now comes in at $3063.02.

Yep. That sounds good to me.

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Nintendo Punch-Out!! Arcade GameOkay — so yesterday afternoon I picked up the first piece of furniture for our newly renovated rooms.

That’s it over there to the right…

Yep — I bought the 26-year old arcade game Punch-Out!!

The last time that I played this game — and if memory serves me, the *only* time — was at a roller skating arena called United Skates of America. I was celebrating my 8th or 9th birthday.

Anyway, I’m 34 now. You don’t have to do the math… it was a brand new game when I played it *and* a big attraction in the arena… How I was able to get my turn is truly a mystery — Punch-Out was a big deal back then. Seriously…

As for that old the roller skating arena… Well, it’s been long torn down and a big box store’s parking lot is there in its place.

Perhaps that’s why I haven’t heard anyone mention a skating party since, wow, probably 1989… That’s too bad. It was one of my better birthday parties.

And what ever happened to that old Punch-Out machine from the roller arena?

Well, it’s in my garage right now as you read this. For real. I swear — I own it.

Now I don’t know for sure that this is the same exact machine that I played way back in the 1980’s but I do know that its condition is unbelievable — as if I really were the last person that played it a quarter of a century ago.

I mean, compared to my other arcade game (which was manufactured in 1991), this one is in amazing condition. Such a great purchase.

I like it. I mean, it’s a freakin’ classic.

Duncan obviously likes it too. That’s him up there delivering one body blow after another on poor Glass Joe.

And the wife, well, she let me use her truck to pick it up so that at least means that she didn’t veto it.

So where’s it going to go?

Well, if you’ve been following my home renovation updates, it’s going to be in what was once the dining room. We’re going to make that the computer room — one side will have all of our computer equipment (which is currently upstairs) and that green wall up against the stairway will have our two arcade games.

What, you didn’t think I requested that electrical outlet there for something else, did you?

Now if we can only manage to get them in there (they weigh around 300 pounds each…) without messing up the new floor…

Anyone wanna help me move them?

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So, this week the painters came in and put on a few more coats and the flooring was partially installed. The dining room shots are also the first photos that offer a glimpse of the window trim that was put in place late last week too.

Things are definitely coming together in a hurry now. Here’s the progression…

Living Room:


Dining Room:


So, what’s left? Well, the light fixtures still need to be installed, the floors still need to be sanded and stained, the door and baseboard trim has to go in, a new door to the basement needs to be hung, and then one more coat of paint will be applied the walls to even things up.

Then they’ll tackle the stairs. You might have noticed that I didn’t post an updated picture of the stairs… That’s because there hasn’t been much progress on that front.

I don’t know how they’re going to do it (they’re going to eliminate that odd triangular step near the bottom and rebuild on top of the existing staircase or something) but apparently they’ve got a plan and based on what we’ve seen so far, I think we’ll be pleased.

And, for once, I don’t think we’ll be feeling shame when we open the door on Halloween this year…

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This morning I heard some talking head on the radio, apparently a financial analyst or something, tossing out that question rhetorically, I dunno, since some existing home sales report was dismal yesterday and it brought the markets down.

One of those doom-and-gloom blame-the-economy reports, you know the kind. It’s tough to find a newscast these days without one…

But it got me thinking back to when I bought my house — did I buy it as an investment?


Did I buy it to save money?

Not really. I mean, sure, my original mortgage payment was less than an upscale one bedroom apartment could be had for. Now that my mortgage payment is less than $500, well, it’s less than a rat-infested two bedroom apartment could be had for.

So, okay, maybe it was a money saving venture but that certainly wasn’t my intent.

Point is, I didn’t buy my house as an investment or to save money.

I bought it to live in.

And that was a good investment.

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Same idea as last time — you know, repeats from the last few photo posts followed by what it looks like now…

Living Room:


Dining Room:


So, basically, since the last update, the electrical has gone in, the drywall went up, and a quick primer coat was sprayed on.

The big changes for us as that we have outlets all over the place. I mean, everywhere. Two of these rooms originally only had one outlet!?

Now, imagine how many hoops we had to jump through and how many daisy-chained surge protectors and extension cords we had to finagle in the family room to be able to plug in two lamps, a tv, the cable box, the Wii, the DVD player, the VCR, a vacuum, and in the winter, a Christmas tree too?

We’re in heaven… We also have an outrageous number of surge protectors going unused…

We have light switches too — the neat dimmer kind, even! Before this, we were using ceiling mounted pull chain fixtures, you know, like people use in unfinished basements. It was rough.

And, while it may seem like nothing, a working doorbell and a new touchscreen thermostat (remember this one?) have really brought us up to, well, modern times.

Sadly, our first visitor since having a working doorbell knocked on the door. How he missed the brand new button (that even lights up) is beyond me…

This past Friday,we had all of the window trim fabricated in the front yard and put up and the oak flooring was delivered too. Neither are in the photos as I took the most recent shots on Thursday night.

This Monday the painting crew will be back in to, I’m assuming, finish most of the painting so it’s looking to be a pretty busy week…and enough of a change to justify updated photos! I’m still a little confused on how they’re going to do the stairs but that’s their problem, not mine…

Anyway, looking at the original photos, well, it’s obvious to me that the current unfinished state is still superior to what the place looked like just a couple of months ago…

Now if we could only afford new furniture too…

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Allstate LogoFor the past couple of years I’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to pay my ever increasing auto insurance premiums in full each time they come around for renewal.

My 6-month policy next comes due on September 4. That’s only two weeks away!

The full premium for the next six months is $900-something. I don’t know the exact amount but it doesn’t really matter: I’m not in any position to write a check (or submit an e-payment) for that kind of money.

So what’d I do?

I signed up for their autopayment plan where it charges one of my credit cards each month — plus $3.50 per payment or some such ridiculous fee.

It’s not ideal — I prefer to pay things upfront and put them out of mind — and the fee drives me insane but I’m not going to dwell on it.

My insurance policy will be renewed and paid for on its own, like autopilot, and it’s not going to break the bank in the process.

I’ll take that.

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You know, though I’ve only made one mortgage payment in the past 3 months while also managing to cut the monthly payment by 60% (through the re-fi), the more I think about it, the more I start to see it as a lateral move.

I mean, this should have made a HUGE impact financially but the thing is, it hasn’t.

At least not yet.

It’s not my own doing — it all goes back to that pay cut that I took. It essentially cancelled everything out.

Sure, I’m paying less but I’m also making less. It didn’t get me anywhere.

On the other hand, I guess it’s been business as usual around here as I haven’t really felt the effects of the paycut — when most of my co-workers probably have.

I dunno, still seems awfully dark and cloudy.

Probably because I thought it’d be sunnier…you know, having a sub-$500 per month mortgage payment…

I guess it just hasn’t been as great as I’d expected it to be…

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Duncan drinking the juice.
Well, I couldn’t do it.

I just couldn’t allow finances charges to creep up and bite me.

I said I was okay with it, you know, so I wouldn’t tap myself out but this morning I made a big transfer from savings to my checking account and then a big old payment of over $3k to the fine folks at Mastercard.

Balance on my Citi card is now back down to zero.

Most, if not all, of the expenses were incurred on our nearly two week vacation.

Thankfully, the airline tickets were paid for months ago and most of our day-to-day spending money while abroad (like that juice box up there) originated from my wife’s checking account (which is never reported here) so the damage wasn’t as bad as it could have been but now it’s all behind me.

Vacation has been paid for in full.

It probably wasn’t the most logical financial move to make — what, with the likely finance charge being under $40 anyway — but with a number of purchases looming (like new furniture for our new rooms), I wanted a clean slate…and now I’ve got one.

Can You Dig It?