Monthly Archives: October 2010

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Okay, so as I type this, through the window, an orange glow is overpowering the room…even though it’s nearly dusk.

Yep, while those that live far from New England think that this must be the most beautiful time of year, those of us that witness this firsthand year in and year out, well, the message the colours send is quite different.

See, in a matter of days all of those leaves will be on the ground.

And you know what that means, right?

Yep, looming just ahead are an aching back and blisters all over the webbing between my index fingers and thumbs.

Sure — for the last couple of years we’ve had a landscape company come in and take care of the leaves for us but I’m not certain that it’s in the budget this year.

We’ve spent a lot of money this month and we’re not done yet either…

The now-complete renovation was a big chunk, yes, but then I went out and upgraded some camera gear, blew a load on hockey jerseys, and purchased a leather sectional couch with all of the bells and whistles.

And, as I just said one paragraph up, we’re not done either…

Still to buy are a new television and a piece of furniture to put that new television on.

Basically, I’ve got a couple grand more to spend…

In the end, since we’d spent so much so quickly, I figured that I might as well go all-out and get it out of my system so that we can get back on the track we were on before the renovation evaporated our savings.

Oh yeah, have I mentioned that smurfling 2 is on the horizon as well?

It’s gonna be a thrifty winter!

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Okay, so our $40k renovation is complete. Work was actually completed last weekend but we didn’t get a chance to start moving stuff back in until this weeked.

Thankfully, I took a few quick photos before we junked it up any…

Now I was going to do the full progression of images from start to finish (if you want to see those, just check the archives) but the before, gutted, and after photos are the most impressive so here goes:

Living Room:

This is the room that started it all. (Click on that link to see some of the room at it’s worst…) We parially gutted it ourselves years ago thinking, well, I don’t really know what we were thinking!? Basically, it became apparent pretty quickly that we were in over our heads. It looks pretty nice now though…


This is the room we watched TV in and that Duncan primarily used as a play room. Well, we’ll still be watching tv in this room but *all* of the furniture is gone. Even the TV. The new stuff isn’t in yet, but in a few weeks, well, the room and all of its contents will be brand new.

Dining Room:

This isn’t the dining room anymore. It wasn’t really much of a dining room before either but now it houses our computers and my collection of upright arcade games. I’m typing this post from this room right now. It’s awesome.


Now I know that most people don’t think much of their stairs when it comes to remodelling but this is the crown jewel for us. No, it’s nothing fancy in the final after shot but compared to what it used to be (a stair case hidden in a closet), well, I almost can’t believe that this is the same house.

So that’s it. We’re done for at least the next 12, if not 24 months when it comes to remodelling…

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Bruce SpringsteenIt’s been a busy week and I wish I’d had the time to do individual posts about these but, well, you know how it goes.

First off, on Tuesday, my 401k balance finally hit the six figure mark.

While this doesn’t really mean anything, it’s exciting sorta like when your odometer hits a nice round number. I didn’t write down what song was playing on the radio at the time, but you know what I mean…

When my old VW Jetta hit the 100k mile mark, Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” was playing on the radio. I’m not really a fan of the song or even Bruce.

And the very next time I started the car after surpassing 100k miles, well, it didn’t start. Spent three days stranded in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

I blame Bruce Springsteen.

The next thing is that we received the final invoice from the contractor working on the house. The original quote back in May was $33487.70.

Total damage now that they’re within hours of completion (just some paint touch-ups left) is $39212.72.

At first I was floored. But then, after taking a closer look at the breakdown, well, I really can’t complain. Sure, it’s cost us nearly $40k for this renovation but I don’t feel ripped off.

I do, however, feel broke.

Even with a six-figure retirement balance.

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Is that a vacuum cleaner on his shirt?Is it just me or did the month of September go by really quickly?

I can’t believe that it’s October already…

  • $6000.00 : Contractor
  • $498.72 : Mortgage
  • $250.00 : Allstate Insurance
  • $168.95 : PODs
  • $140.00 : Cash
  • $130.36: Toys R Us
  • $116.15 : Cable/Internet
  • $111.20 : Electricity
  • $109.75 : Gas
  • $99.01 : Business Expenses
  • $26.85 : Boston Bruins
  • $22.99 : eBay
  • $21.20 : Cell Phone

Total comes to $7,695.18.

It’s times like this that I wish we weren’t having all of the work done on the house. I mean, subtract $6k from that number and, well, I’m not really spending that much these days…

So, here are the expenses that I feel the need to comment on…

The Allstate payment is a lot higher than it was supposed to be. See — back in August, I signed up with their auto-pay feature for this billing cycle. They’d automatically take out a certain amount each month and I’d never have to worry about paying the bill again.

Sounded pretty appealing since I couldn’t afford to pay the entire premium up-front this time.

Well, my first auto-payment fell on Labor Day — September 6th. When payments fall on holidays, they process the payment on the previous billing day which, this year, would have been September 3rd.

Now, apparently it takes them 20 days, which is utterly ridiculous these days, to “turn-on” the autopayment for any given account. Based on when I signed up for the auto-payment plan on August 16, that was in time for my first payment. Because of the holiday, though, the payment ended up needing to arrive inside the 20-day window.

Long story short, the payment was never made (though I had confirmation that it would be made) and my auto insurance lapsed. Not needing to be dropped by Allstate for no good reason (again), I frantically submitted a $250 payment and a nasty note to their customer service department (who explained the whole 20-day window/holiday scenario to me a few days later…)

The PODs storage container should be gone in the next few weeks. The renovation is all but done so we should be able to start moving stuff back in (or to the dump) before I get dinged with this rental fee again.

The trip to Toys R Us was a spur of the moment thing. Duncan seems to really enjoy toy stores these days and Daddy just happened to notice a “Buy Two, Get One Free” special on Lego sets. Let’s just say that Duncan got a Duplo set and Daddy got two Lego sets for himself.

The Boston Bruins expenditure was for a t-shirt. I don’t even like the Bruins but I wanted the t-shirt.

And that eBay purchase? Well, yeah, it was a hockey jersey. But this time it was for Duncan.

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Rolling along…

The numbers didn’t get too crazy this past month and I’d expect them to start to change for the better over this next month as we make the final payment for the renovation (updated photos coming soon) and probably make a few large furniture purchases too.

Last hurrah of sorts…

Here’s the breakdown:

The big drop stems from another $6k payment to the contractor.

In total, we’ve made payments of $30k so far. I’m expecting to make one more payment of around $6k upon completion — so I’d better initiate a transfer from savings pretty quickly!

It’s been a few months since I last left my savings account alone. September was one of them — just deposits this month. Can’t wait until that’s the norm again.

Gov’t Bonds:
Seventeen bucks in interest will do just fine. These pay so much better than my savings account these days that I’d be foolish to sell them.

For a second, I really thought that I would surpass the six-figure mark! Came within about $700 before receding but I’m pretty certain it’ll get there in October. In my head I’ve been telling myself that I’d lower (or eliminate) my contributions once I hit $100k. Still considering it.

Could care less about a drop here. The place looks great. Especially when compared to what it used to look like…

Auto 1 & Auto 2:
Auto 1 still gets me from point a to point b. Auto 2 still looks nice in the garage. No complaints here.

Credit Cards:
Slowly chipping away at that 0% balance. Ideally, I’ll have enough in savings by April of 2011 to pay it all off before we’re hit with any interest charges.

It’s definitely do-able but please don’t hold me to it.

Auto Loans and Other Loans:
Zilch. Zero. Nada.

Just another minimum payment. Since the re-fi, I’ve totally flip-flopped and hopped on that bandwagon of folks that say that overpaying the mortgage is stupid. I totally agree with them — but only if your monthly payment is insanely low

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Eight years ago today I signed my name on around 100 documents and grimaced my way through sitting far too close to a lawyer with the worst breath imaginable.

It was almost like the OJ-trial at the closing with my lawyer coming in all close to whisper what each form was about as if the standard forms were some sort of secret or something…

It was the one time in my life that I truly wished for a Tic-Tac. For someone else.

Anyway, I tried to dig up a few pictures of what the house looked like back in 2002, you know, to show off some of the progress, but apparently they were all on that hard drive that went belly-up back in 2007.

Someday I’ll send it in to a data recovery company. Someday. Like when they won’t charge me $1k+ for a 50% recovery rate.

So a lot has changed since I moved into the old musty thing. Best of all, it doesn’t smell like an old lady anymore. Not anywhere. The latest renovation has finally, finally, finally cleared the faint odor of Charlie perfume, cedar, and whatever can take credit for that familiar “grandma’s house” smell.

It’s all gone – replaced by the smell of wood and paint fumes. Mmmmmm…

Over the 8 years, I’d had a lot of work done and, yes, there’s still a ton left to do. No doubt about that but things have definitely been accelerateing in frequency and cost over the past few years.

Starting from the beginning, with-in days of moving in, I had an electrician come in and wire an outlet in my computer room. He charged an outrageous $500 fee.

Little did I know — this tiny project would cause endless anxiety and have far greater costs over the long haul.

The first big upgrade made was the jump from 60-amp to 200-amp service in early 2003. When I first moved in, if I turned on the television and the vacuum at the same time, I’d end up having to venture down into the dark basement to screw in a new fuse.

Yep — you read that right. I had to “screw” in a new fuse. Probably twice a week — any time I did laundry.

I think it cost me around $1500 to upgrade to 200-amp service and have the new panel with circuit breakers put in. I also had a new wire run to the dryer cause, well, it had its own circuit now. Based on what I know now — I got a great deal on that upgrade.

The next fall, just after I’d had my oil tank filled up, the furnace died. Right then and there I replaced the old coal furnance (since converted to oil) with a brand new natural gas one. Including that wasted oil fill-up, the cost was right around the $5000 mark.

After that initial blast of renovation activity, I took a long break — 2004 was the first year that I put nothing into the house. I think we painted a room ourselves — that was it. More of the same in 2005 and most of 2006.

In my head, I was saving up for a new roof — and I even had a few contractors come over — but in reality I was just spinning my wheels.

It wasn’t until December of 2006 that the roof project actually got off the ground for real. Total cost — including the removal of a chimney and porch was $12000.

Yep, now we’re talking about some serious money…

In 2007, we did the siding project with those horrible contractors that just went on and on and on and on. Total cost on that, including a new porch and some exterior doors, was in the vicinity of $25000.

We spent 2008 on the sideline, you know, pretty much broke.

In 2009, we had those huge trees taken down. Total damage there was only $2750. If you haven’t seen it, you should check out the video.

Also in 2009, we were finally able to un-do the unfortunate homeowners insurance situation that the very first project put us in.

Yep — it took 7 years to “fix” what that contractor initiated. Ugh. Makes me angry just thinking about it.

In 2010, we re-financed to lower the mortage bill to less than $500 per month and we’re in the final stages of our interior remodel that’ll probably top out at around $36000.

While it troubles me some that I’m averaging putting over $10k worth of work into the house each year, I still wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Like I said just a few months ago — this money pit was a great purchase.

I think I’ll still feel the same way in another 8 years…

Can You Dig It?