Monthly Archives: April 2012

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Empty Pockets...Another month, another four thousand dollars (plus!)…

For those that haven’t read super closely in the past — and I would never expect you to — the lines in red are infrequent or unusual expenses.

$922.22 : Day Care
$625.28 : Hockey Jersey
$525.00 : March of Dimes
$498.72 : Mortgage
$396.42 : Gasoline
$228.25 : Auto Insurance
$195.49 : Natural Gas
$153.98 : Electricity
$146.18 : Cable/Internet
$141.30 : Tax Preparation
$109.50 : Hockey Skates and Helmet for Duncan
$104.81 : Plastic Hangers
$100.00 : Cash
$90.38 : Land Rover Parts
$66.15 : Business Expenses
$40.08 : Life Insurance
$25.63 : Finance Charges
$21.27 : Cell Phone
$21.26 : Lego Set
$5.00 : Car Wash

That all adds up to $4416.92.

Okay, so, with the success that I had in paying down my credit card debt, well, I got a little crazy on the spending side of things.

I won’t deny it.

I bought a few pricey items (including over $100 worth of plastic hangers!) and even donated $525 to charity but guess what?

Yeah, I could afford it.

And that feels pretty darn good.

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As I prepare to start my Month of May purge, I couldn’t help but get a little sentimental over some of the boxes that have been holding my “stuff” for the past two decades or so.

Here’s a picture.
Why the box says Prime Colorado is a mystery...

Colorado Prime was (and amazingly still is) a food wholesaler that sold direct to consumers.

So, at some point in the 1980’s my parents were apparently conned (I need to ask about this) into purchasing a huge upright freezer (through Colorado Prime at a significant mark-up, I’m sure) and signing up for some sort of “food delivery” plan.

I’m not sure if it was like a cell phone contract, where they were stuck for a certain number of years, but we amassed an awful lot of these cardboard boxes over the years.

Basically, every month or so a big unmarked semi would back into our driveway and drop off a *TON* of food in these boxes.

If the print on the box was brown, it was “assorted meat products”.

If the print on the box was green, it was full of non-perishable groceries (and usually heavier than sin.)

So, in our basement we had enough canned goods to survive for years following any sort of nuclear attack from the Soviets (though we were never the paranoid type to worry about such a thing) and while we were blindly awaiting that attack, we ate red meat pretty much every single night.

So much so that I still detest red meat (except in hamburger form… and hot dog form too.)

Anyway, the pack rat hoarder in me really wants to hold on to one of these boxes for, well, nostalgia’s sake but my brain is telling me a picture is enough to remember it by.

My brain is winning.

So long Colorado Prime…

(sorry – no update yet on whether I’m parting with the contents of this box…)

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    No one mentioned anything but, while recounting my recent debt payment payoff success, I noticed that I hardly have any photos of Smurfling 2 on here but tons and tons of Duncan (Smurfling 1).

    That’s not fair, so here’s a shot of Henrik from this past weekend.

    Honey Badger

    He turned one back on March 31.

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    Lacking all of the fanfare of the last time that I did this, I am proud to announce that I have paid off all of my credit card debt.

    Hooray!

    Again.

    Today was a pay day and my latest paycheck allowed me to make a $450 payment to the fine folks at Chase Bank.

    It worked out quite well too as today was my due date so the statement that will come out in a few days will be a totally clean slate.

    So, let’s see, the first time around I paid off $28555 in credit card debt in 17 months.

    This time, I paid down $28165 in 11 months.

    So, if you’re keeping track at home, you can mark that financial goal for 2012 as completed.

    Now to build up some savings…

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    If all goes as planned, next month I’m hoping to make some more room in my house.

    I know a lot of people like to say “de-clutter” but I’m pretty sure those same people don’t have two toddlers under the same roof.

    Clutter comes with territory here.

    But having been in this same house for nearly 10 years now and never having really cleared anything out, not to mention being a self diagnosed hoarder, well, it’s time.

    It’s past time.

    Now, it’s not that we’re out of room or anything. I have to stop saying “we”…

    The “stuff” is predominantly mine and not my wife’s.

    Okay, so, it’s not like I’m out of room, it’s more of an organizational thing.

    Stuff — that I definitely want to hold on to — that should be together isn’t.

    Like how things like tape and scissors and staplers should all be in the same junk drawer — in my house, they’re not even on the same floor.

    That’s the root of the problem.

    Ideally, I need a ton of extra space to take everything out (and I mean *everything*), organize it, and then put it all back.

    In my head, a minimal amount would be thrown away but that’s the hoarder in me talking.

    That’s not that big of a deal, I’m not so bad that I can’t throw away things that have no value. I’m sure I’ll fill our garbage can to the rim each and every week.

    What is a problem, though, logistically, is that I have two toddlers — I don’t have anywhere that I can put everything for that organization stage and that is why this whole endeavor is going to be such a challenge.

    Now I’ve read all that stuff where “experts” say that if you haven’t touched something for an entire year, you shouldn’t keep it in your house.

    Well, there are boxes in my attic that I haven’t opened since the early 90’s that I’m pretty certain are worth keeping.

    Yeah, I have a problem.

    But I’ll get through it.

    In May.

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    I was eight years old in 1985.

    April 4th was the Thursday prior to Easter and that night Scout Pack 274, Den 7, had an after school Den Meeting.

    The weather was unusally nice so the Den Mother that week, Brian Kurtz’s mom, took us all to a local recreation park that had a big, well, not really an obstacle course, but a paved trail with “exercise” activities along the way.

    You know, walk a few hundred meters and come to a chin-up bar. Walk a few hundred more meters and there’d be a balance beam. It was kind of a “new” thing back then…

    Anyway, I was way ahead of the pack. I mean, lets get real, even as early third grade, the typical boy scout isn’t exactly a prime specimen — a bunch of rejects and dorks, myself included — so there really wasn’t too much competition.

    I remember running from station to station almost effortlessly — there were maybe ten of them over a mile long course or so — until I got to the last one.

    Then, “something” happened.

    Something hurt. It wasn’t an ankle or a knee or anything. It was more like a cramp. A really low cramp.

    I sat, kinda hunched over, on a bench waiting for the other kids to finish…and even longer waiting for Brian’s Mom to finish and then toughed it out for the car ride home.

    Once home, I refused dinner which really wasn’t that unusual.

    I mean, I always ate, but when it was something gross (like anything plated with mushrooms, brussel sprouts, squash, beets, or yams), the food that entered my mouth was minimal. It was probably one of those nights — I don’t think my parents thought much of it.

    The next day was Good Friday so there wasn’t school that day. My dad would have gone to work and my mom would have stayed home with me and my sister.

    I don’t really remember much of the day — it was probably one of those days where I stayed in pajamas all day and just watched tv. I do know that my mom was aware that I wasn’t feeling well at this point but, again, this wasn’t terribly unusual, I was sick all the time.

    When my Dad came home from work and we sat down to dinner, I didn’t eat a thing. Nothing. Again.

    I remember my parents getting a little heated when I continued to refuse food thinking I was just being an overly picky eater.

    After dinner I remember them trying to get me to swallow some pills — tylenol or some sort of cold medication or something — and I couldn’t do it.

    They didn’t understand and I remember crying as my dad was borderline trying to force the pills down my throat but they just wouldn’t go down.

    Of course, at this point, their tasty coating was long gone making them borderline impossible to swallow anyway so I was sitting in the bathroom downstairs with a glass of ginger ale trying to explain to my parents that “I was full”…

    They didn’t get it.

    Saturday came around and I didn’t leave my bed. I’m pretty sure it was assumed that I had the flu or something.

    A good day’s rest would work wonders.

    Then Easter morning came. Easter in our house wasn’t quite as exciting as Christmas, but my sister and I usually woke up at the crack of dawn to pick up jelly beans (before the our dog Spike licked them all) and scope out our Easter baskets.

    I do rememeber getting out of bed. I remember harvesting some jelly beans. And I also remember opening a new engine for my N-gage train set — it was yellow.

    And I’m pretty sure my parents really started to worry about was wrong with me when I showed zero interest in playing with the new train or even eating candy for breakfast.

    Now, keep in mind that this was before the days where people would go to the emergency room with a stuffy nose, so my parents attempted to make a doctor’s appointment on Easter Sunday.

    My normal pediatrician had the day off, obviously, and was probably even vacationing on some tropical island but his office (or answering service or someone?) recommended the old school pediatrician in town — Dr. Lothar Candels.

    We’d never heard of him but, apparently, for those who’d lived in town since the roads were just dirt paths, this was the family doctor. Yeah, the type that’d make housecalls or be the subject of a Norman Rockwell painting.

    So, Dr. Candels agreed to see a non-patient on Easter morning. I’m pretty sure that’s an impossible scenario in 2012.

    Anyway, I remember his office being more like barber shop where you’d expect to talk about hunting or fly fishing than a doctor’s office

    It was nothing like our regular doctor who had the all white theme going on with the fancy built-in salt water fish tank in the waiting room…

    This place smelled funny and old, the floor creaked, and the walls had were covered with dark wood paneling. The waiting room was, well, just an entry way (not that we had to wait — he was the only one there and totally expecting us).

    He sounded (and looked) a little like Henry Kissinger. He even pulled stuff out of one of those old black leather doctor bags when he was pressing on my stomach and listening to my lungs.

    He wanted me to pee in a cup but not having injested much of anything for 3+ days, well, there wasn’t much to provide there…

    In the end, he directed my parents to the hospital and I didn’t return home for two weeks.

    Still have the scar to prove it.

    So it’s been 27 years since someone last thought I was pretending to be sick…

    Which brings me back to the present…

    In the wee hours of the morning on March 31st, Henrik, who’d been sent home early from school the day prior, was having a tough time breathing.

    I’m still not the type to ever go to the hospital unless I’m missing an appendage but since I’m pretty accustomed to breathing problems (they suck) and Henrik can’t talk yet to explain what he’s feeling we decided not to ride this one out.

    My wife took him to our local hospital while I stayed behind and watched Duncan.

    Our local hospital admitted that they weren’t exactly set-up for 1 year olds (it was Henrik’s first birthday) so they set-up a middle of the night ambulance ride to the Children’s Hospital in Hartford.

    Now, I don’t know about you, but getting to ride in an ambulance on your birthday would be pretty cool.

    I’ve never had the opportunity to ride in an ambluance…

    Anyway, a stuffed WebKinz horse, a neat-o birthday card, and 5 hours later, they were outta there.

    Diagnosis was/is asthma with a hint of pneumonia — it’s all good and made for an exciting birthday.

    Henrik

    Anyway, while I’m sure my family will continue to be the type that only goes to the doctor un-expectedly when the situation is dire, I’m pretty sure I’ll always think twice before thinking my kids are “faking” it.

    They’re still too young now to comprehend the “benefit” of staying home sick so there isn’t any incentive to pretend just yet (though Duncan does ask for a bandaid a little too often) but I’m pretty certain I’ll lean more towards their claims when it undoubtedly occurs.

    Happy Easter!

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    April 2012 Net WorthI can see the light at the end of the tunnel…

    Thanks mostly to that insurance check, my credit card debt level is nearing zero again for the first time in nearly two years.

    It feels good.

    Here’s the breakdown:

    Cash:
    Glad I’ve been keeping my distance from the Bank of America fee threshhold.

    Savings:
    This is the result of weekly transfers of $135. Basically $95 goes in each week to cover my property taxes that come due in July and Decemeber. The other $40 is for whatever…

    Gov’t Bonds:
    Why am I still holding on to these?

    401k:
    I’m pretty sure that this is the highest point I’ve ever reported. It was back in October that I broke the six figure mark and I’m up 33% in just 6 months while making no contributions. Crazy.

    Home:
    Ebb and flow.

    Auto 1, Auto 2, and Auto 3:
    Eh, they all work.

    Credit Cards:
    If the balance isn’t gone this month, it’ll certainly be gone next month. It’s crazy what can be done when you really work at it and when some un-expected cash rolls in.

    Auto Loans and Other Loans:
    Nothing to report.

    Mortgage:
    Just another minimum payment for now but once the credit card debt is gone, I’ll start attacking this more aggressively.

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    Anthony DavisIf Family Feud had the question “Why should you go to college?”, I’m pretty sure the survey’d say, “To get a good job.”

    I mention this because I couldn’t help but notice the negative connotation thrown towards the now-champion University of Kentucky Wildcats basketball team.

    I can admit that I was suprised to see that their starting line-up was made up of three freshman and two sophomores. That’s pretty impressive.

    (I was also horrified at how ugly the best player was but that’s not really important.)

    I wasn’t surprised, though, to learn that the school doesn’t expect many (or any) of them back next year since they’ll all be headed to the NBA.

    One and done.

    So, is that a bad thing?

    Based on the Family Feud example above, I say no.

    Going to college, even for just one year, got them what most people want out of college — a good job.

    (Full disclosure — I dropped out of university after three which happened to be one of the brightest things I ever did. In hindsight, probably should have left after one…)

    Now do I think those basketball players deserved a full scholarship on the taxpayer’s tab?

    Um, hell no.

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    Related post: MBAs are Overrated (and kinda stupid too…)

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