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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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Every now and then my eyes turn into dollar signs and I daydream of how awesome the future will be…

And then I look at my finances and realize, well, most of those dreams, while definitely possible, are a long, long, long way off.

First, we need a new car — a bigger car. I’ve already detailed this plan here and I expect it to come to fruition within the next 60 days.

Following that, I’d like to break ground on the detached 3-car garage — or at least tear down the existing garage — that I’d originally hoped would be happening right about now.

We’re down to three cars now and, I’ll be honest, I’m chomping at the bit to get a little bit more storage space. A two-story 3-car garage will get all of our cars covered *and* really de-clutter and organize the house while also allowing the boys to have their own bedrooms. Win, win, win.

Up next would be the kitchen. We had the rest of the first floor completely gutted in 2010 but left the kitchen as-is. This past winter, we noticed that the half-bathroom adjacent to the kitchen was at risk of falling into the basement…

Basically, decades of a sweating toilet (in the humid summer months) have rotted out the floor. While it’s a very high priority to get this taken care of, the bathroom isn’t in the ideal place (as the laundry room is also poorly placed) and both should probably be roped in under a complete kitchen remodel with a small addition as well.

I have a sinking feeling that we’ll have to spend a couple grand to band-aid the issue until we’re ready and able, financially, to do it the way we really should.

Up next would be our full bathroom upstairs. Plain and simple — it sucks. The layout is all wrong, it’s poorly lit, poorly ventilated, the sink is cracked, and the tub drains far too slowly… Sounds awful, right?

Well, it’s not as bad as I’m making it out to be but…it needs work. If we’re able to get the downstairs bathroom built out and converted to a full bathroom, well, maybe this could wait another 5 years or so. Maybe.

Lastly, we’ve got a large level and clear lot. I’m not opposed to mowing grass but, for the last few years, growing grass hasn’t exactly come easily. The yard looks horrible.

Now, the new garage will eat up a pretty good portion but in behind the new garage, I’d also like to put in one of those sport courts. Not basketball or tennis for us but hockey.

In a perfect scenario, synthetic ice will have become low maintenance and practical so that we could skate on it year round but deep down I know that a concrete slap covered with sport tiles are what I really should be envisioning.

A couple nets, maybe some dasher boards, and lights installed on the backside of the garage to illuminate it for those autumn evening games.

That’s better than a swing set anyday… Of course, I need to get this done before the kids get too old to make it worth it…

And I know, I know, why increase the value of your home like this and then drop a hockey rink in the backyard and destroy all added value?

Well, mostly cause it’s for me and my family.

And we’re not looking to sell.

And, when you really look at it, a sport court is little more than a glorified cement pad so, if it ever became an issue, one dude with a bobcat, a dump truck, and some grass seed could take care of it in less than a day.

So, how much money are we talking about?

Well, we’re expecting to pay $20k for a used minivan, the garage will be at least $60k, the kitchen/bathroom update and addition would probably be $35k, the upstairs bathroom would be $10k, and the sport court would probably be around $7k.

Anybody have $130k handy?

Pulling my head down from the clouds, we’ll likely finance the car, put the garage off for another year, put a $2k bandaid on the downstairs bathroom while continuing to dream of a full blown kitchen remodel, abandon the sport court idea, and keep on using our dismal upstairs bathroom.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

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February 2013 Net WorthWow. What happened?

I mean, I take a month and a half off and my net worth increases by $10k and I’m suddenly carrying credit card debt again…

Now, of course, I’ll take the $10k gain any time, I mean, that’s nothing to sneeze at. I’m on the verge of doing my best Vanilla Ice dance to celebrate my seemingly effortless gains.

But in reality, since I haven’t been keeping up on my finances here, things have sorta been, well, aimlessly out of control.

Sure I gained a huge amount but that was really nothing more than luck. It had nothing to do with any recent decision of mine.

The new found debt, however, was because there wasn’t anyone behind the wheel. No doubt about it.

I spent.

I spent some more.

Then I spent more.

And then I thought I had more in my checking account than I really did.

And then I “borrowed” from savings.

And then I spent.

It’s been at least 5 years since I’ve gone on a tear like that — spending like crazy on, well, “nothing”.

The reason it hasn’t happened in so long is because I normally stay on top of my finances — on a DAILY basis.

Keeps me in check, you know?

Well, that hasn’t been happening and the fact that my 401k and home value bailed me out this month doesn’t mean that I’m a-okay with the past 45 days.

I’m not.

I’m pissed, actually.

I mean, I’m supposed to be like halfway to being able to pay for the new garage I was to break ground on this year.

Guess what?

I’ve got nothing.

So,now that it’s March, it’s time to get real.

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January 2013 Net WorthFirst off, Happy New Year!

I’m starting 2013 in a pretty cushy position.

Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration but when looking back at the archives, I’m in a better spot now, financially, than I was in January of 2012, and an even better spot than I was in January 2011. Things are on the right track, it seems.

So here goes…

Cash:
I’m actually surprised this is where it is considering all of the Christmas related bills I paid over the past week or so.

Savings:
Struggling here a bit but still on track. I had to “borrow” around $1000 to cover Christmas but never had to dip into my emergency fund or my “property tax” savings.

I pay my homeowners insurance and property tax directly so as to keep my mortgage payment low (and stable). There is no escrow account. I’m only able to do that, though, if I budget correctly so that when those bills come due, I have the funds available.

As such, I never stopped my weekly contributions which total $316 per week. Yeah, per week. At least half of which are slated to go towards taxes.

Stocks:
Well, well… This is a new category for me. Last month, I decided to sell off all of my I-Bonds (earning $2 per month) and, instead, buy stock on the thought that I could do better than two bucks a month.

I invested $750 on December 11th, paid $28 in commission, and earned a $50 bonus just for opening an account with Sharebuilder.

Omitting the bonus from the calculation, my $722 investment ($750 minus the $28 commission) is currently worth $740.05. Yeah, it’s official, I can do better than $2 per month.

I also have a better grasp on how it all works now too so I won’t be paying such a high commission again — thankfully the “bonus” more than covered my initial investment fee.

Gov’t Bonds:
So long… It only took me a year’s worth of dragging my feet but I finally sold all of them.

401k:
Just adding more fuel to the fire that it takes money to make money. With a fiscal cliff looming and zero contributions, somehow I find myself adding another $2k to my pile.

Home:
Can you imagine what this will look like when (I mean, if) I build a new garage in 2013?

Auto 1, Auto 2, and Auto 3:
For once, these values pretty much make sense. Their values *should* be dropping.

Credit Card:
Who rang up a couple thousand on plastic this Christmas season and still managed to pay it all off before the New Year? Yeah, this guy.

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

Mortgage:
Just another minimum payment.

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December 2012 Net WorthFinishing out the year on a high note with a new all-time high and it feels good.

I’m right at the onset of a pretty big transition regarding how I manage and “make” my money. It’s more of an experiment than anything else but I’m hoping it’ll give me a crazy expensive Christmas and propel me past the financial wall I seem to find myself looking up at.

Sure, my net worth is going up, seemingly continually without much effort, but I still “feel” pretty broke. The governemnt bonds are (and have been) a complete joke, the savings rate is essentially nothing, and I’m hardly contributing to my 401k. There’s a better way to make your money grow than what I’ve been doing so… I’ll be getting that going this month.

Cash:
November was a three paycheck month for me so this number is skewed.

Savings:
Aye Caruba?! Well, I piad my property taxes a month early just to get it in the books… and kinda to pad this month’s net worth report. See, with that third paycheck on the income side, I could afford to make a huge tax payment and not have it create a HUGE slope change in my net worth. Sneaky, huh?

Gov’t Bonds
Come December 3, these are toast. I’m finally doing it. While their earning a really nice interest rate (compared to today’s rates), there just isn’t enough month there to make them worth keeping. They’ll be redeemed on December 3rd and the money will be “used” elsewhere shortly thereafter.

401k:
Just waiting for this fiscal cliff to knock like 30% of this away…cause politicians are stupid.

Home:
I’m not really sure why this is rising. I haven’t seen any nearby homes sell lately and my garage is only getting worse.

Auto 1, Auto 2, and Auto 3:
Another head scratcher here… I guess BMW’s make great Christmas presents so their value rises this time of year? Maybe?

Credit Cards:
Yeah, that’s right. Christmas with a zero balance.

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

Mortgage:
Just another minimum payment.

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November 2012 Net WorthIt’s funny how perception can deceive you.

I mean, I’ve felt like I’ve been on a pretty good run lately, keeping my expenses relatively low and my income has been up a bit.

At least that’s what I thought was happening…

Cash:
A couple medium sized side-business payments came in at the tail end of the month to boost this up a bit.

Savings:
I’ve been stashing away over $1300 per month here but, like last month, I had to “borrow” hundreds of dollars from myself to pay for and/or down other things. This past month it was for that sideline credit card that was getting a little heavy.

That doesn’t bother me so much — it’s the fact that saving up for a new garage is looking more and more formidable as my piggy bank fails to grow at the rate I’d expected.

Worse yet, I might need to dip into savings again this month to pay my homeowners insurance premium (on which I paid a monthly installment for the first time ever just a few weeks ago)…

Three months in a row of taking out over half of what I’ve put in… Not a path to success.

Gov’t Bonds:
Another month, another two bucks!

401k:
2012 is looking to be a pretty flat year. Or maybe the fact that I stopped contributing (over a year ago) is just now starting to be noticeable?

Home:
The news might have you believe that Hurricane Sandy also wiped out much of Connecticut but my house is doing just fine.

Auto 1, Auto 2, and Auto 3:
If you offered me $20,880 for these three cars today, I’d gladly hand over the keys. Offers? Anyone?

Credit Cards:
So while my net worth went down this month, my ability to keep the credit card balance at zero cancels out any downward feelings. I’m living within my means. And Christmas time is always more fun with a clean credit card balance!

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

Mortgage:
Another minimum payment.

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October 2012 Net WorthYeah, yeah… It’s been a month since my last post…

I know, I know…

Every time I fall way behind like this, I tend to lose focus. I still keep track of my finances but I don’t really analyze them.

Pretty stupid considering I’m just beginning my quest to build a new garage

So this info feels like ancient history at this point but for the sake of having a monthy net worth update, here goes:

Cash:
Same old story. Just treading water here.

Savings:
This was weak. I’ve been stashing away around $1300 each month but came up short right at the tail end of September and had to “borrow” $600 from myself. I say “borrow” but I just spent it. Just keepin’ it real, folks.

Gov’t Bonds:
Another month, another two bucks!

401k:
It’s up! It’s down. Just dumb luck that I was “up” on the last day of the month. This has been swaying back and forth between $130k and $137k from week to week.

Home:
I’m not selling so this number doesn’t really hold a lot of weight for me.

Auto 1, Auto 2, and Auto 3:
It’s hilarious to me that the oldest car I own is “apparently” worth the most. It’s also hilarious that it all adds up like that considering it’s the one that was in a big accident.

Credit Cards:
Sometimes I can’t believe that I used to routinely carry $25k+ balances here… For real — check the archives!

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

Mortgage:
Back to the minimum payment again…

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