Monthly Archives: April 2013

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Well, just as we hemmed and hawed over which car to trade in, the decision was essentially made for us.

The dreaded “Service Engine Soon” light illuminated on the dashboard of the Land Rover. Again.

Shoulda traded it in last week…

We took it to our local garage to see if, by chance, it was an easy, err, inexpensive fix but, not surprisingly, the repair costs very clearly dwarf nay possible trade-in value.

Something about some gaskets and solenoids — doesn’t really matter…

We need to trade the Land Rover in…NOW!

It’s kind of bittersweet.

Land RoverWhile I won’t miss having to worry about hitting the ceiling in parking garages or having $90+ fill-ups as the gas station every week, I will definitely miss driving one of the few cars I’d always wanted.

Hey, at least I can say that I owned one.

And hopefully Duncan is old enough to remember that we owned one too.

On that note, before I was born, my parents drove a BMW Isetta. Wicked cool car. Look it up.

Of course, the first car I remember having was a Chevy Malibu which we traded in for a Ford Crown Victoria station wagon (with the fake wood on the side). Yeah, really cool memories… Sigh…

Anwway, before getting rid of the Isetta, my dad removed the headlights and the taillights and pretty much everything else that could be removed — I still have them in my attic along with the owners manual.

Following suit, I’m likely going to take the tire cover with the rhinoceros off of the Land Rover tonight as a souvenir (and proof) of my formerly cool self.

On the bright side, I think I’ll really enjoy taking the Scion xA back from my wife as a daily driver. I know I’ll enjoy the $30 fill-ups that last nearly two weeks.

So, barring any unexpected circumstances, the Land Rover will be traded in tomorrow night for some measly sum on the edges of unfair and we’ll drive away in a nice new (to us) Toyota Sienna.

Regarding the entire Land Rover ownership experience — well, it was, hmmmmm… I’m not sure I can sum it up in one word.

We purchased it (used) a little over two years ago just before the birth of Henrik because it was essential that we have two cars that could fit two adults and two HUGE car seats.

It wasn’t a luxury — it was a necessity (says the guy who already had 3 cars at the time…)

While it had a few mechanical problems along the way, and a few fender benders as well, it got the job done and it lasted just as long as it needed to.

It survived two major road trips which was one more than I’d expected it to.

Sure, I wish I could have squeezed another year out of it but, in the end, this is the right decision.

Comparatively, the Scion has a lot more life left in it.

And I can honestly say that I feel I got my money’s worth out of the Land Rover.

I don’t regret the experience one bit and, if they ever have a great looking body style again in the future (they currently do not), I’d love to buy another one at some point down the road when we’re done with the minivan stage of life.

It’s swagger wagon time.

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So, needless to say, I have big plans. Big expensive plans.

I want a new garage, a new kitchen, a couple new bathrooms, a new yard, a hockey rink, and a new car — not necessarily in that order.

I can’t afford anything on that list, though.

But I’m not going to let that stop me because, well, then I’ll likely never get any of them accomplished.

Thinking more short term, I think the car purchase will come first.

Now, as I’ve said, I can’t afford to go out an spend $20k+ on a car but the reality is that we need a car and, well, that’s how much cars (read: Used MiniVans) cost.

Everyone else is doing it, why not me?

I can swallow my pride, finance much of the cost, and have car payments like “everyone else”. I don’t want to, but I can.

And that got me thinking, “Wow, it’s been nearly a decade since I last financed a car.”

But you know what?

It was easy.

Easy to get *and* easy to pay for. And, at the time, I was routinely carrying $20k worth of credit card debt on top of everything else.

And I made it work so, realistically, I have nothing to be afraid of now.

I’ll just have a car payment like “everyone else”.

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So, I’ve been meaning to write an answer to the as-of-yet unasked question, “How’s the stock market experiment going for ya?”

I’ve been so far behind on posting the net worth updates that it wouldn’t make sense to answer the question without some numbers to look at but I’ll tell you this…

Apple sucks.

I’ve always held this opinion.

But I left my better judgement at the door and momentarily bought into their hype machine when I decided to go out and buy individual stocks via ShareBuilder…

And guess what?

Apple has been the anchor in my portfolio — down over 30%.

For every dollar I made from my donut-related investments, I’ve lost two more dollars because of Apple.

Even the ongoing Lululemon transparent pants debacle (which sounds more like a value added feature, if you ask me) hasn’t hurt my bottom line significantly…

Lesson learned.

Shoulda bought more Google instead.

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So, I should mention that I inadvertently stumbled across a youth hockey program that’ll take a 3-year old player on the roster.

The “season” starts May 11th and runs for 8 weeks. I’m pretty excited and I hope Duncan’s enthusiasm as it stands now is still present on May 12th after the first practice.

The downside to this program, and it’s a big one, is that it’s just barely local.

Okay, it’s about an hour from home…

Yeah, it’s a haul.

While I’m less than thrilled about that part of it, I’m trying to look at it like a test run of what’s likely to come.

See, youth hockey involves a TON of travel. It’s just not as popular as soccer or baseball where there are dozens of teams at each age level all under one Recreation Department’s control so… even when they’re youngsters, hockey teams are generally of the “travel team” variety.

The other advantageous part is that, in the fall when he’s 4 years old, he’ll be able to “transfer” to a team (more on that inna sec) that plays out of a rink 15 minutes from where we live. This summer’s experience will make that commute, provided he still wants to play, feel like nothing at all.

Now, when I started playing soccer as a 5-year old, the team that I played for (Go Crickets!) and the league we were a part of were governed by AYSO which is the American Youth Soccer Organization. Our uniforms even sported their logo.

Since I was only in kindergarten at the time, I’m not sure if my parents had to sign any sort of contract other than the standard “We won’t sue if he gets hurt” form that would have been submitted with the payment.

When I moved to Connecticut, I just played in a town rec league. Yeah, just like a local group that threw something together without an organizing body calling the shots. Oddly enough, even at 7 years old, the players in this program were far, far,far more advanced than what I was used to in the AYSO.

I went from a stud to a dud. I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked that an organization with endlessly long tentacles did a terrible job of developing talent…

(Insert any anti-ObamaCare, pro-assault rifle, or big government arguments you want in the comments here… I won’t bother responding beyond questioning how one can play both sides saying big government is stemming from an apparently unqualified community organizer… Yeah, whatever… Healthcare is good, guns are bad, and I’m indifferent on the size of the government.)

Anyway…

So, fast forward 30+ years and change the sport to hockey.

Youth hockey in the United States is, as far as I can tell, governed from coast-to-coast by USA Hockey. In order to join a team, I had to register Duncan with them, which I did about a year ago, and he was given an ID number that’ll be attached to him until he’s 18, I’d assume.

Thankfully, membership is free for those 6-and-under.

And by signing on with this team next month, I’m totally serious about the “signing” part. As a 3-year old, he’s signed a contract with this specific hockey program under the guidance of USA Hockey.

In order to play for a different team in the fall, his “contract” will need to be “released” by his current team and then “approved” and “transferred” by USA Hockey to the new team — if they still want him.

This is for a FOUR YEAR OLD!?

I’m not certain on the reasoning for so much paperwork and, well, processing. I suppose that since, unlike school districts or town rec leagues that have residency requirements, hockey programs draw players from neighboring towns so you don’t want one team scooping up talent on the fly from other teams as if they’re minor league feeder programs without any governing body involved.

No joke, little kids have contracts that are “traded” just like the professionals.

While I’m sure it is all just paperwork and I’m thinking about this a little too much, can you imagine if there’s a dispute with a program? Like as if they won’t release your contract?

I am aware that it does happen, denied releases, that is, but I’m clueless as to the circumstances. Payment issues, perhaps… I dunno.

I just think it’s a bit much.

Sure, it’s a money making venture for USA Hockey to collect a fee from every player in the country to “grow the game” or whatever, which I totally understand and support, but even for the kids under-6 years old that aren’t paying that membership fee? Really?

Oh, and get this… Figure Skating is the same way…

Hopefully being a registered USA Hockey member doesn’t mean that he can’t play for Team Canada when the time comes…

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ManwichWow… Six years is both a long time and, well, at the same time, it doesn’t really feel like that much time has passed.

There haven’t been a lot of things in my life that I’ve stuck with for that long though, you know, without finding something new or different to replace it.

Maybe a handful… Tops.

My favorite food in the world has been Manwich for the past 27 years — at this point, that’ll probably never change. The hockey jersey thing has been going for 18 years now. The photography hobby/job is about to hit a decade. I’ve been married for almost 7 years. The kids are still fun and exciting but, compared to the site, they’re still relatively new.

No, I won’t lose interest in them… C’mon…

But things that pretty much defined my personality that I’ve totally lost interest in are yo-yo’s, Burger King, argyle socks, video games, the Simpsons (proably been a decade since I watched a “new” episode), running, camping, khaki pants, shaving, “current” music, real haircuts, taking the stairs, swimming, web design, and any sort of manual labor.

Sure, age might be partially to blame but if you’d told me 15 years ago that I’d end up abandoning my $40 haircut, argyle socks, and the Whopper for lunch everyday, I’d have thought you were crazy.

Anyway, I remember the morning I decided I’d start doing this and typed out that very first post like it was, well, just a couple of weeks ago.

Every other post since then? Well, not so much…

Now, everybody knows that I prefer to chop things into weeks (rather than months or even years) and six years is 312 weeks.

Right now, I’m stashing away $110 each week for property taxes, $16 each week to cover my homeowners insurance premium, and $250 per week for just, well, whatever I fancy.

If I’d been doing that all along (and never had to take it out to cover the property taxes, homeowners insurance, and, uh, whatever — totally hypothetical, I know), I’d have stashed away $117,312. And earned plenty of interest along the way too.

Time is your friend.

Well, dedication too.

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Here’s February’s report…

$902.20 : Daycare
$741.00 : Dentist
$498.72 : Mortgage
$405.00 : Hockey Jersey
$320.00 : Family
$314.63 : Gasoline
$298.95 : Business Expenses
$273.41 : Natural Gas
$228.27 : Auto Insurance
$159.22 : Electric
$120.44 : Water/Sewer
$90.66 : Clothing
$77.94 : Cable/Internet
$60.00 : Cash
$40.08 : Life Insurance
$40.00 : Toddler Computer Class
$26.53 : Auto Repair
$20.98 : Punch-Out!! Repair
$7.42 : Burger King

Summed up, that’s $4625.45.

All of these clothing expenitures over the past few months might have you thinking that I have a pretty killer (and continually updated) wardrobe but the fact is, most of these expenses are for the kids.

I’m still a t-shirt and jeans type of guy… 364+ days per year.

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Traditionally, January has been a very thrifty month for me. I’m not sure what it is — perhaps a Christmas spending hangover of sorts but I’m not complaining. Any month where I routinely spend less is a good thing…

$902.20 : Daycare
$525.31 : Family Photo Framing
$498.72 : Mortgage
$400.00 : Family
$285.05 : Gasoline
$228.27 : Auto Insurance
$213.97 : Natural Gas
$179.02 : Electric
$150.13 : Business Expenses
$137.41 : Clothing
$90.00 : Auto Registration
$75.00 : Dentist
$72.77 : Cable/Internet
$40.08 : Life Insurance
$40.00 : Cash
$40.00 : Toddler Computer Class
$17.16 : e-Book (Journeyman by Sean Pronger)
$13.81 : Auto Repair
$11.55 : McDonald’s
$4.00 : Stock Trade

All together, that’s $3924.45.

Not as great as last January but a lot better than last month!

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In the past I’ve said that this blog keeps me accountable. When I stick at it, anyway…

And for the past three or four months, well, I haven’t been sticking at it *or* holding myself accountable and, as a result, I’ve been financially treading water and probably, unknowingly, sinking too…

So here’s my *very* late spending report for December…

$1064.95 : Family Photo
$918.96 : Christmas Presents
$902.20 : Daycare
$700.00 : Charity
$498.72 : Mortgage
$446.05 : Gasoline
$408.00 : Cash
$320.00 : Family
$302.99 : Business Expenses
$228.27 : Auto Insurance
$193.32 : Christmas Decorations
$168.84 : Electric
$166.97 : Natural Gas
$136.49 : Hockey Jersey
$100.00 : Hockey Registration
$73.61 : Clothing
$72.77 : Cable/Internet
$40.08 : Life Insurance
$40.00 : Toddler Computer Class
$37.23 : Photos with Santa
$21.27 : Cell Phone

All together, that’s $6840.72.

Not too bad when you consider that almost $3k of it is a seasonal or an unusual expense…

Can You Dig It?

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