Authors Posts by Brainy Smurf

Brainy Smurf

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I'm three apples high and nearsighted. I like yellow-haired smurfs, robot invasions, sarcasm, and anything where the secret ingredient is love.

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November 2015 Net Worth ChartOnly a few weeks late with this…

Pretty good month that was greatly swayed by the recovery of the markets that caused my bottom link to tank last month (and the month before).

That (out of my day-to-day control) nonsense aside, I had a good month.

Granted, it was also a month with three paychecks which also swayed the numbers, I still spent less than I paid back on all of my open credit car accounts — one of which I paid off.

I’m thinking I should resurrect my monthly spending reports to really make myself more accountable for my spending.

Really, shame is a great motivator. I truly hate having to explain my frivolous expenditures when, deep down, I know exactly how frivilous they are…

I also want to show off how much fast food I’ve been eating.

It’s crazy.

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Back during the summer, I posted some things about potentially purchasing a $750k house as kind of a ‘toungue in cheek’ type of deal.

But the more I thought about it…the more it started to, well, make sense.

Say, for instance we nixed the plan to build our extravagant 3-car garage and instead put that money towards a down payment on a much larger (and nicer) house that already had a three car garage and more bathrooms and an updated kitchen?

And then I started perusing real estate listings…

Before long, we were doing drive-bys. And we even nearly attended an open house a couple of weekends ago.

Things were starting to “get real”, as in, we should probably tell our architect that our renovation and addition plans had changed drastically… we’re moving instead.

It all made sense.

Bigger house, better neighborhood, better schools, and a house that wasn’t still in need of major, not to mention expensive, updates. We could get everything we were looking for elsewhere…at a price we could afford.

The timing all seemed right.

So my wife and I finally found 7 minutes to actually discuss something that adults should probably talk about every now and then, you know, without one of the kids interrupting…and we made our decision.

We’re gonna stay put.

While we’re probably in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase the type of house we’ve only dreamed about, financially, it just feels too risky.

Our current location is close to major highways — not so close that we can see or hear them or anything but it doesn’t take us an eternity to get to them either.

We’re close to “stuff” like grocery stores, Targets, Walmarts (ugh), banks, restaurants, you name it.

During my time in Canada, I can’t tell you how much it sucked to have to drive 45 minutes just to get to a mediocre shopping mall full of dollar stores. And I never lived “in the sticks”, either…

Where we are now, we can pick one of five malls that are all within 45 minutes, like good malls too, with stores with names I can’t even pronounce. That’s really convenient.

My wife really likes our neighborhood and the schools too.

We differ in opinion on those.

While our long established tree-lined street is great now, I’ve seen it decline consistently over the past dozen years or so.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still nice, just not as “tree-lined” as suddenly everyone is paranoid that a tree is going to fall on them. Or something.

Maybe they just hate trees?

Can you tell we have one annoying tree-hating overly paranoid neighbor that likes to report EVERYTHING to the city?

Further, many of our “other” neighbors are elderly. Again, that’s great in my opinion, but as time passes, “new” folks will be moving in. Based on the price point of their homes, well, I’m not sure the “new” neighbors will be of the same ilk…

Now I’m sure that when my neighbors saw me move in as a 25-year old, and the first thing I loaded into the house was my HUGE stereo system (currently covered in dust), they thought the same thing,

“There goes the neighborhood,” but more recently two of the more modest homes in the area were sold and turned into legit crack houses.

Really, like you’d see on the news.

They went from little houses with an old man living in them to houses with broken windows and different cars coming and going at all hours of the day and some scary dude sitting on the porch staring you down… within a week.

No joke, one even had some sort of late night fight club in the street on a regular basis. Thankfully an arson charge and a couple of foreclosures took care of it but for a good five years, that area of the neighborhood went down hill really fast.

For the following five years, the houses were boarded up. Yeah, eye sore. Big time.

Both have since been purchased by development companies, totally gutted and renovated, and currently sit on the market… and have been for quite some time.

I pray they don’t lower the price to the point that more scum move in…but that’s what I fear for my neighborhood in the years to come when the current owners pass. These century-plus old homes will be considered entry-level.

As for the schools, well, my oldest in the only one currently in the school system and he’s killing it, obviously. I switched schools at his age and survived so I wouldn’t have a problem switching him now.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a SINGLE home in his current school district, on the market or not, that will need our family’s needs so if we were to move, he’d be in a different school (and likely a different town).

Of all of those issues, though, it’s really the location and the conveniences that it offers that really weigh the most.

They always say, “location, location, location…” Well, we have that.

And then there’s the financial aspect…

This part of the discussion took up at least 6 of the seven uninterrupted minutes we had.

As I’ve said before, probably to the point of boasting, we can afford a bigger home without issue. Maybe not a $750k one but we could very easily swing something with a $400k price tag. Easily.

Once the two young children are out of full time day care, well, that would be an additional $2000 per month to use at our discretion. No small sum.

But here’s the thing that convinced us to stay put and move on with our original “build a garage” plan…

It’s been OVER a decade since we’ve had a sleepless night worrying about money.

I can’t remember the last time I had a bill that I was unsure how or where the money would come from to pay it.

If our car were to die tomorrow, we could go out and but a new one, same day. If both cars died at the same time, we could buy two.

Duncan’s hockey tuition of $2500 out of the blue, no problem. Sure, it sucked making that payment but we could do it. And it didn’t mean we had to not pay something else.

Just last month, we decided we needed a new mattress. Five minutes and $800 later, we had one on it’s way. It’s awesome, by the way.

I’m not so far removed or so wealthy to not know that most people would have to save up for things like this.

I might sound like I am but, truthfully, I know I’m in a *very* cushy place to be able say those things.

And a lot of that is due to the fact that the house we live in isn’t beyond our means. It’s not far below our means. In fact, it’s probably just about right.

So, yeah, I don’t know if we’d be the “true” definition of house-poor if we moved to a larger home but just taking in our current situation — even if the opportunity to make it so much better is right there for the taking — I’m not sure I want to disrupt the path we’re on.

We’re in a pretty good place.

And a garage addition that will nearly double the size of our home (putting it in range of the home we’ve been looking at) won’t mess that up.

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networth201509Yeah, so last month I was pretty confident that I’d turned a corner and was well on my way to building wealth again…and then I ended up down another 8 grand…

Granted, the markets continued to tank so my 401k kind of acted as an anchor of sorts but I also spent a TON this month.

Back in August, I mentioned that my oldest son would be trying out for a travel hockey team. Well… he made the team which is so awesome as he’s “playing up” (basically playing at a level above his age group) but with that come some pretty hefty expenses…you know, to the tune of $3000.

On top of that, my middle son’s hockey season is another $500. Yeah, this isn’t like the $60 town league soccer program…

So that was the main budget buster, though much of it is hidden in this update as I paid down the balances prior to the end of the month — as much as I could, anyway.

We also purchased a new mattress from Casper.com. I’d heard enough good things about them and knew that, since our staircase is so narrow, we needed something that we could get up into the room without causing all kinds of damage to the walls and ceiling.

It came in a box that was manageable in size and enlarged once we cut it open. Pretty cool. Pretty comfy. And, thankfully, a purchase what we’ll make maybe once per decade.

Outside of that, it’s business as usual around here…

Oh, have I mentioned how nice it is not having a car payment again?

Yeah, that’s pretty sweet.

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September 2015 Net WorthWhat a month!

Now, usually, I’d be pretty upset about falling nearly $10k in the span of 31 days but not today.

I haven’t really set financial goals since, hmmmmm, probably 2008 (which has probably been a HUGE mistake) but back in April of this year, I set a goal of paying off my remaining $11k balance on an auto loan by summer’s end.

On August 7th, I did just that.

So, while my credit card balances are a little out of control and the savings balance is below the $150k I think I’ll need to fully finance the garage project, my auto loan is gone.

That opens up a lot of cash to pay down the loans and bloat the savings in a hurry.

And, on the bright side, had it not been for the market woes at the tail end of the month, I’d have actually had an increase this month.

Pretty good feeling considering that I kinda felt I’d stretched myself a little thin…

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Clover LawnOver the years, I’ve probably spent well over $1000 on various types of grass seed, fertilizer, and new sprinklers in a feeble attempt to make my lawn look amazing.

Success has been, well, minimal.

My lawn looks pretty much like it did when I bought the place 14 years ago — some nice grass, lots of brown stuff, the occasional dandelion, that really tall mossy stuff, and bright green crab grass.

A mosaic, really. Nothing ever dies (even when I poison the crap out of it) and nothing ever spreads either. (The picture of my son practicing his shot is an accurate representation of my entire lawn.)

Not suprisingly, the lawn looks a lot like the lawn I had growing up, the one I was paid $5 each week to mow.

No green thumbs in this family, apparently.

At least we’re consistent.

Anyway, while doling out professional advice to a client, who Facebook friended me out of the blue and I then cyber-stalked online, I couldn’t help myself but to ask how she kept her lawn (that I’d seen in the background of nearly all of her Facebook photos) so green all the time.

Flattered and embarrassed, her one word response was…clover.

And that got me thinking…

The few really nice green patches on my lawn that always have the fat furry bumble bees hovering above are clover.

The stuff never turns brown and looks amazing just after I mow the little white flowers off…

Hmmmmm…a lawn full of clover…

Growing up in the land of cul-de-sacs, which doubled as hockey arenas and baseball stadiums, there was this one house just beyond the “outfield” wall, err, curb where we’d get hollered at anytime a home run sailed into their, ahem, grass.

For real, the guy that lived there was tending his lawn daily and, frankly, you could tell.

Perfectly straight mower lines in a criss-cross pattern and bright green all of the time…right up to the first snowfall.

But I also remember sitting on that curb with our hands in the grass searching for four leaf clovers with pretty decent success.

And we used to “catch” those furry bumble bees in our hands there too.

(One time we made the mistake of trying to catch yellow jackets in the same manner behind home plate. BIG mistake.)

Thirty years later, I know know that guy was a total fraud.

He was mowing his lawn every single day so as to not EVER let one of those little white flowers pop out.

His ENTIRE lawn was clover.

So I ordered sixty-something pounds of clover seed and it should arrive sometime this week.

Actually, I just checked the Fedex tracking and it’s apparently hanging out in Augusta, Montana right now…

So, being that I google almost everything, I decided to look Augusta, Montana up.

Population…284.

Um… how is it that a place with just 284 people has a FedEx ground “warehouse” or whatever they call the places where they scan all of their packages…

I mean, this is really the middle of nowhere.

For real, I Google earth’d it. Three bars, a diner, and some place called the “Bunk House”.

Their high school graduated nine last year.

NINE!?

Augusta Class of 2015

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Financing the Mortgage the Old Fashioned WaySo I convinced myself earlier last week that we could totally afford a 5000+ square foot palace with twice as many bathrooms as it does bedrooms.

And, as factual as it is that I can afford such a place, it’ll never happen.

Over the weekend, I came across a real life reinforcement as to why I’d never do such a thing.

A parent of one of my son’s former classmates (in daycare) was told this week that her position would be “eliminated” next month. Sort of a reverse two week notice, of sorts.

We’re not “tight” enough for me to know if she’s the main bread winner in their household but based on the fact that they’re had a tag sale, like, right now *and* put their house on the market already kinda of tells the story on it’s own.

In some ways, I’m envious of the reality that she’s been applying for jobs (yes, already — clearly they move quickly on things) all over the country, totally committed and prepared to leave this area entirely.

I mean, I’m not entirely sure how or why I ended up where I did, geographically, and though it’s certainly near the the top of my list for places I’d like to live, well, it’s not the top spot.

Either way, I’d never want to put my whole family in a situation where we’d have to pick up and turn our lives upside down on essentially zero notice.

So, while I feel like we’re living paycheck-to-paycheck as it is now, should me or my wife suddenly find ourselves without income, you know what?

We’d be okay thanks to our sub $500 monthly mortgage bill.

Guess we won’t be moving to Southern Ontario, Wisconsin, or Ohio anytime soon…

Drat.

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Family RocksSo, while my kids drive me absolutely crazy more frequently than not — and one is still “new” as he’s less than a year old — I really enjoy having kids.

Not really being a sociable person — in a seemingly “forced” social scene sense, anyway — for most of my 20’s, I couldn’t wait until I was in my 30’s and the mere thought of “going out” on a Friday night would be, well, unusual.

I never really did go “out”. And, by my 30’s, it was totally acceptable socially.

Thankfully, I also got married when I was 30 making that whole transition into being a “responsible adult” that much more real.

Took seemingly forever to have kids thanks to that taboo M-word (miscarriage) but eventually we ended up with two healthy kids and one more that’s still a work in progress.

I kid — The deformed third one will be fine.

But now as I approach my 40’s, I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to my 30’s.

I want another kid.

Perhaps it’s the validation I feel as a parent, regarding my oldest, but even without that whole thing, I’m pretty confident that my wife and I make pretty good parents.

I know, I know, all parents think that…

But they’re mostly wrong. ;0)

Anyway, I’m 39 and my wife is 42 and we’re, well, we’re done with making our own kids but I certainly don’t feel DONE done, you know?.

Sure, I could trade my wife in for a younger model and start over but that would undoubtedly just mess up the great start I have with the three kids that I already have.

Besides, my wife is a pretty good teammate in all of this parenting stuff (she’s the boss, actually) so that leaves us, really, with only a single option…adoption.

My wife, originally, wasn’t really on board with the thought, you know, with it not really being “hers”.

Makes sense, I totally get it, and probably a more common reaction for women that have already had children of their own.

That never really mattered to me — at least I don’t think it does. I mean, physically, I don’t see very much of myself in my kids but it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

Not the Father

Just last night I joked with my wife that we should see if we can get on a Maury Povich episode to, you know, see if I *am* the father.

It’s probably a guy thing where we just don’t have that “magic” connection or something. Who knows…

So, even before we had our third (but after a few more of those demoralizing m-words), I’d already starting poking into the realm of adoption and, while kind of turned off by how difficult it can be, I never really abandoned the idea either.

In my head, where I’m already living in that $750k home, I’d like to adopt a healthy male toddler from Haiti or Jamaica and make them my fourth son.

My reasoning?

Well, most adoptive parents much prefer newborns and infants so that they can, you know, bond from as close to day 1 as possible. I’ve done that already and wouldn’t want to rob a couple unable to have children of their own of that opportunity.

Older children are, technically, easier to adopt for the same reason — people like new things.

I have no issue with a 2 to 4 year old. Possibly old enough to remember some of their origins (which I do think is important) but young enough for our parenting style to take effect and really make them feel like they’ve always been part of our family.

I’m leaning towards a little boy simply because it’s what we know. We’ve got three boys and really good grasp on how to raise a boy. Why rock the boat?

As for the international aspect, well, I’ll confess… it’s just my preference.

Ideally, I’d love to adopt someone from the other side of the planet but the process is really, really, really difficult in so many ways.

Sorry, while adopting a child from Zimbabwe would be so awesome, I can’t imagine having to reside there for months prior to an adoption taking place (which is often a requirement).

It’s too far away, too different of a culture, too different of, well, everything. I have a hard time getting around in Quebec City and, if backed against a wall, I speak enough French to get by and understand nearly all of it…but I’m still totally out of my element.

Going to the other side of the planet where I don’t know a word, well, I guess, I’d just never really be sure if what I was agreeing to do was actually what I was agreeing to do, you know, lost in translation?

Haiti and Jamaica aren’t that far away — though inconvenient, yes, neither is further than a couple of plane flights away and English is abundant.

Further, originally being from Canada, I’ve met a number of both Haitians and Jamaicans up North and they’re all pretty awesome.

I’d assume the Haiti/Canada connection has something to do with the French language and the Jamaica/Canada connection is just because both countries are awesome.

Either way, it’s something that our now “American” family would share in common even if we all look different…or mostly look like Mom.

And, lastly, I’d like them to be healthy.

Kids are a lot of work all on their own. Having four of them is four times the work. Selfishly, a special needs addition would be too much for our family to bear.

All of this said, while we’ve talked about it, we haven’t really pursued anything…and unless we really get on board and actually start pushing the process along, it’s likely to remain as just a thought in my head…

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Lawn ChairYouth sports are funny. On the sidelines, as parents, in our cheap folding chairs, we’re all pretty much equal.

Sure, there’s some judging going on based on the vehicles we drive up in but, for the most part, even a relatively new Nissan runs around $40k.

A hefty price tag for, well, a less than luxurious ride.

It’s once the Facebook connections start to take hold and the inconsequential birthday invitations start coming in that you get a glimpse that some of these folks are, well, “living the life”.

You know, tennis court in the back yard, kitchen that could easily seat 30 people, and multiple staircases…to their 3rd floor library.

In fact, lately, while it’s hardly true, it still feels like we’re the only ones who lack these things…

A classic “not” keeping up with the Jones’ type of deal.

One kid, whose parents I went to high school with, lives in a $6 million dollar home. I can’t even imagine.

Anyway, while driving around aimlessly last week with the kids killing time until swimming lessons started, I stumbled into a neighborhood of homes that, when I’m not dreaming of living in a 5000 square foot Victorian home from the 1800’s full of secret passages, was full of McMansion style houses that I picture myself in when I’m in my 40’s and raising my kids.

Newsflash… that’s just a year away. Ack!

Yeah, I could live here.So I scoped out a couple of them on local real estate sites to get a glimpse of what the interiors look like and, yep, as expected, they’re all really nice. Duh.

Price tags hover around $650k.

No, not 6 million dollar homes but, really, who needs a full blown movie theatre or bowling lanes in their house? Not me.

Again, I can’t imagine.

A $650k mortagage, excluding taxes and insurance (like my current mortgage) would run around $3200 per month.

Yeah, I can’t swing that.

But… if I were to sell my current house for $200k (maybe a stretch, maybe not) and come out with $130k (subtracting out the outstanding mortgages) and apply that as a downpayment, well, the monthly mortgage payment would then drop to under $2500.

Considering I’ve been paying that amount on a CAR PAYMENT — alongside two mortgage payments — with relative ease, well, now things are becoming a little bit clearer…

Financially, we could totally afford to move to a new home that’s double (or even triple) the size of our current one.

In fact, once we’re done paying daycare bills, gasp, even a $3200 per month mortgage payment would be totally do-able.

Am I really convincing myself that I should/could trade up from my first home (that I paid $141k for) all the way up to a $750k+ home?

Yeah, kinda.

I mean, I wouldn’t need to build that 3-car garage anymore cause, well, the new house would already have a 4-car one.

And even though we already have enough room in our house for each kid to have their own room…if we moved, they could each have their own bathroom (and staircase too)!

All kidding aside, though…

It’s the brief moments of weakness like this that I feel I do need to “keep up”.

Thankfully, reality always sets in (along with my own incredibly high-end personal “vision” of myself) pretty quickly, and I’m happy with where I am.

I know I could have a $750k house if I wanted to…

Perhaps it’s not the wisest financial move (not investing in real estate in a upward fashion) but I can’t say I’ve had a sleepless night over money for over a decade now.

It’s pretty comforting knowing that I “could” pay off my mortgage pretty much anytime I’d like.

Moreso than the comfort a $750k house could give me.

Most of the time, anyway!

Can You Dig It?

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