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7 21200

Raining MoneyThe point of having money is, from time to time, to spend it.

Not that I was ever that great at saving money anyway but I’m about to spend pretty much all that I currently have…and then some.

History has shown that debt repayment is one of the financial tasks at which I excel. And I’m gonna try my hand at it again.

Like a lot of other authors in this genre, I too have a negative connotation towards debt.

I don’t like it and I don’t want it.

No question, being saddled with debt puts a lot of unnecessary weight on your shoulders.

At the same time, though, as long as it’s not debt being carried for the stupidest of reasons (like an airplane, or a BMW, or dirty polyester), I’m perfectly okay with it.

Kind of like how a lot of people call their mortgage “good debt”. I guess I’d fall into that line of thinking too, though, I still have a tendancy to pay that down like the dickens when I can…

Anyway, like all of my recent big ticket purchases, this one is another home renovation.

Unlike the previous runs, I want to get my finances more in order. I mean, it’s not that they weren’t in order for the last one…

I had over $10k in a savings accounts ready to go but… then the estimate came in double what I’d been hoping for and then by the end of the project’s completion it ended up a full additional $10k more on top of it all.

I had $10k in my pocket, hoped for a $20k estimate, got a $30k quote, and ended paying over $40k. Ouch.

That said, we made it work.

And we had it paid for in roughly two years — hardly crippling. I don’t regret it.

This time, while I don’t plan on having the resources to pay for it all upfront in cash, I want to, at the very least, have the final bill fall close to where I expect it to.

We’re not talking about hoping it’s $20k but kind of expecting $30k and then coming to learn it’s actually more like $40k.

I don’t want that to happen. Not again.

I also don’t want the cost to “limit” my expectations.

Yeah, there are a couple coulda-shoulda regrets about the interior renovation in 2010…but we chickened out because we saw the price tag going up, up, up, and then up some more.

Mmm... GarageSo, with that, in the Spring of 2013, I’m hoping to replace my 20×20 detached two car garage (which is in a state of decay — for real) with a 24×36 two-story three car garage (kinda like the one I dreamed about in 2008).

My budget is $60k to demolish the current structure, remove the current foundation, cut down some trees, remove the current driveway, level the land, pour a new foundation, build the new garage, install a new driveway, add electricity, and finally landscape the redeveloped area.

I’m not a contractor but here’s what I’m “anticipating”:

  • $2000 to demolish and remove the current garage and foundation
  • $1500 for tree removal, driveway removal, and grading (a landscape company can handle all of this)
  • $5500 for the new foundation (this is an uneducated guess — I really have no idea)
  • $46000 for the structure
  • $1500 for subpanel and wiring throughout the structure
  • $2000 for a new driveway (again, this is a guess)
  • $1500 for landscaping

So how much do I have right now, you know, to get the process rolling?

About $5000.

Yeah… Not very much.

But here’s the thing… We’re still a few months away from breaking ground (and this is a pretty concrete goal) so time is on my side.

By early Spring (and barring anything crazy), I should have close to $15k saved up. That’s 20 percent.

Yes, I’m aware that that’s NOTHING.

But here’s the “payment” plan…

Demolition and site prep will go on a low interest rate credit card. No clue who we’ll use for demolition (I’d love to do it myself over the span of a few but I’d probably hurt myself). We might even get lucky and the landscape company that we’ve used in the past for tree removal and leaf pick-up will do it. As far as I know, they have all of the equipment necessary and, really, what team of guys wouldn’t really, really enjoy knocking over a building…

The project would be underway and we’d still have $15k in cash on hand.

For the foundation, I’d do a low interest cash advance from a different credit card for $10-$15k… This would pay for the new foundation in pull and also give us some “slush” money to play with should anything go over budget.

At this point, I’d have $9000 in credit card debt, $9500 in “borrowed” money, and (at the high end) $15000 in cash.

Oh, and a perfectly prepped construction site.

Next week we’re planning on meeting with the builder — it’s a modular custom pre-built elsewhere and assembled on site but a bunch of amish dudes type of place — where I’ll get some more solid details but it appears pretty standard for them to want 1/3 down and you can finance the rest.

Guess what?

I’ll have 1/3 in cash available.

Imagine that?

Yeah, that’s right. I’m planning.

The wildcard here is the interest rate. I don’t really know what to expect but it had better be under 10%. If it isn’t, I’ll have to do some long and hard thinking depending on what my minimum loan payment turns out to be.

So, in this scenario, now I’ll have $9000 in credit card debt, $31000 due in some sort of construction loan, $9500 in “borrowed” money, and zero cash.

Once the building is up and good to go, I’ll bring in the electrician that we used when we re-wired the main house and make it “functional”. Lightings, garage door openers, you know, that sort of thing.

This is where I’ll be forced weigh a few options depending on how I’m feeling financially…

Technically, a new driveway and landscaping are “finishing touches” that don’t really need to be done right away so if I’m feeling in over my head, I’ll just give the $8000 that are left right back to the credit card company I took it from.

That scenario would mean I’d finish with $16000 in credit card debt, a $31000 construction loan, empty pockets, and a brand new and totally functional 1728 square foot outbuilding.

Otherwise, I’ll just blow the whole load on a new driveway, some landscaping, and any other bells and whistles that the money will allow.

The break point is $800 per month.

If my monthly loan and credit card payments exceed $800 per month, I’ll have to put the project on hold.

We’ll see…

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Prepared Lines of Defense

Q: Hey Brainy, why are you only building a three car garage when you have four cars?
A: By the time this all comes to fruition, we won’t have a fouth car anymore. Whether we sell one outright or do a two-for-one trade-in is still to be determined but we’ll most definitely be down to three cars once this thing is up.

Q: Why not make it a little smaller to cut the cost down when a 20×30 would suffice for a 3 car garage?
A: Two reasons. First, a 2011 Toyota Sienna Minivan is nearly 18 feet long. We don’t have one of those but, even still, that’s tight. Our current 20×20 garage fit two cars, snuggly, and little else (which is why there’s only one (very small) car in it…). That won’t do.

Secondly, I’m only doing this once. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from past projects it’s that you should overextend as far as your comfortable with. I will never regret having an extra 264 square feet on two floors when the added cost isn’t really substantial to do so.

Q: Two floors? Really? Do you need a second floor? Chop it down to just a garage to keep things under budget….
A: The answer here is essentially the same. Sure, a three car garage will add value to my house all on it’s own. An additional 864 square feet of storage space (and possible even living space) adds a whole lot *more* value for, again, somewhat minimal cost.

Q: Dude, just go all out and build a four car garage already…
A: I wish I could and I’ll even inquire about it but I’m pretty sure zoning will give me the big NO if I try to get a variance to go that big.

Q: Is you garage really that bad? Juest deal with it…
A: Yes. I’m not making this stuff up. It is in a state of decay but I’ll take pictures to prove it. Upnon viewing them, you might even set-up a “Rebuild Brainy’s Garage” fund just to make it disappear.

Q: Wouldn’t it be smarter to revamp your 1940’s style kitchen?
A: Hell no! It’s vintage! You can’t buy that kind of authenticity.

Actually, the garage has risen to the top of our priority list as it’s about to fall over, it’s an eyesore, and we hate it. The kitchen, while an eyesore and something we hate, is still functional.

5 3563

So I’ve kept everyone pretty up-to-date on my auto-repair expenses for the Land Rover.

We’re fortunate (or foolish?) enough to have 4 cars in the household so when one goes down, we’ve got plenty of back-up.

Or so you’d think…

My BMW Z3 hasn’t been out of the garage for over a year. Over the past two years, it’s driven maybe 30 miles. I couldn’t get it started months ago and didn’t even consider it as my back-up vehicle while the Rover was in the shop.

So, instead, I hoped in my wife’s Toyota Tacoma, turned the key, and heard the fabled “click-click-click-click” noise.

I’m no gear head but I do know that that means the battery is dead.

We hooked it up to the Scion (our only functioning vehicle) and it started right up.


We let it run for an hour or so, you know, to charge the battery before shutting it down.

The next morning, I went out to take it for a spin, turned the key, and got nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

Battery must *really* be dead.

And then a lightbulb went on!

Hey, maybe the only problem with the BMW is the battery?


Needless to say, I went out to AutoZone and spent almost $300 on a couple of batteries and then spent an afternoon pretending to be a real auto mechanic.

I thought these were so cool.  When I was 5.For real, I looked like one of those guys who’s always working on his Trans-Am with the bird on the hood.

(I realize that changing the battery is a simple task — I have some great ideas on how this century old system should be modernized though…)

Three hours later, I had two more running vehicles.

How about that?

6 7167

Looking for a few suggestions on what we should do — we’re in need of a new vehicle.

Here’s some background info… In roughly three fortnights, our family will be personally incremented by one — literally.

Together, that’ll make four of us.

If you’ve been a recent reader — or noticed that uterus bubble on the right — that’s hardly news.

Even still, back to the topic today: We need a bigger car.

Right now the largest vehicle in the garage is a Scion xA.

If you’re unfamilair with that model (or brand), imagine one of those Penny Racer toys from the 1980’s, you know, those little pull-back cars where you could jam a penny into the back bumber to make them do wheelies…

According to my registration, it’s categorized as a wagon (probably because it has 4 doors and a hatchback) but in reality it’s a sub-compact.

Sure, two adults and two car seats can fit — but nothing else can and that’s our dilemma…

We need something bigger.

In a perfect scenario, we’d go out this week and buy a brand new Toyota Sienna (the swagger-wagon) or a Honda Odyssey. Both are minivans and would certainly get the job done.

But did you know that both of those cost in excess of $40k!?

I didn’t. Ouch.

I mean, I guess I knew that a minivan would cost over $30k these days but $40k? You used to be able to get a Porsche for that kind of money…

The Swagger-Wagon has, well, swagger but it ain’t no Porsche… you know, it’s not gonna get the hot moms to check me out in the day care parking lot…

And price (or pride maybe?) isn’t the only reason, though.

Well, maybe it is.

We’re still not finished paying for last year’s home renovation yet so we’re not exactly in the position to go out and spend even more than that entire project cost.

The other aspect that has me leaning against buying new is the fact that babies are messy. The back seat of my Scion has absorbed more, um, bodily fluid than I’m sure that I’m even aware of.

This might not help the re-sale value of my Scion but the air freshners wedged under the front seats are there to hide the acrid smell of vomit that coated the interior side of the rear passenger side door just a few short weeks ago.

That’s okay in a car that I’ve been driving for 5+ years. But if Duncan I or the forthcoming Duncan II projectiled all over a recent $40k purchase, well, I’m not sure a couple of Little Trees air freshners (yeah, they spell it that way) would be enough for me to “get over it.”

So a new minivan is out of the question.

Okay, so we can’t justify buying a new minivan only to coat the interior in puke. Here’s another idea — let’s buy one that’s already been coated in puke!

We spent a couple of hours last week looking at CarMax and AutoTrader for the puke flavored, err, used minivan of our dreams.

Well, it’s sticker shock all over again…

A late model minivan still costs in excess of $20k!?

These things have more miles on them than my Scion does right now but cost more than mine did when it had just 7 miles on it — and they probably have secret stank absorbers (known only to the used car industry) hidden somewhere to make them seem new.

Do we want to spend that much on a car with somebody else’s kids’ boogers all over it?

I’m not so sure. It kind of skeeves me out…

The internet is pretty neat. Having grown discouraged on my quest to find a suitable vehicle, I went astray and started to browse far less suitable vehicles…

I showed my wife, “Hey look — we can get a Bentley Mulsanne for far less than a used minivan…”

Less suitable?

I started to ponder…

Rolling into daycare in a Bentley would definitely turn some hot mom heads, I thought…

I should persue this…

And I did.

You can get a Rolls-Royce, if that’s your fancy, at a bargain basement price too — often for less than those late model minivans with similar mileage… Who knew?

Sure, some of them were manufactured in the 1980’s but you have to figure that anyone who could afford a vehicle of that nature new while managing to keep the total mileage low (relatively speaking) took care of it.

And for well under $10k, we could pay for it lickety-split.

It wouldn’t have to last very long — anything over two years would just be a bonus.

Best of all, the idea of boogers and vomit all over someone else’s old beater doesn’t seem to phase me much…

But, really, how many car seats have you seen in the back of a Bentley? It’d be more likely to find traces of cocaine in the glove compartment… For some reason, that doesn’t bother me too much either…

Anyway, more realistically speaking, I’ve been looking at older but more exclusive vehicles that will suit our short term needs — mainly a bigger car that we can afford right now and one that we won’t feel bad for essentially destroying…

Keepin’ it real, y’all…

What would you do?

(No, I’m not even considering a Chrysler 200…)

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PIAC Post Extension:
Hang on, Brainy, don’t you already have three cars?

Sheesh — are you a stalker or something?

I last mentioned that on May 7th, 2008

Yes, we have 3 cars. And here’s the crazy part — we’re not planning on trading one of them in for this next purchase.

Yep — family of four with four cars. Perfect example of American excess — except we’re Canadian.

Well, three of us are…

Anyway, it’s true that we have 3 cars — and we’re looking to add a fourth — but they all serve a unique purpose. It’s not like we have three Accords and a Jetta (all basically the same vehicle) in the driveway. That would be ridiculous.

We’ve got the two seater BMW that someday will, again, resume it’s role as the fun weekend vehicle.

We’ve got a two-seater Toyota Tacoma pick-up truck that’s come in handy more times than I can count.

And then we’ve got the Scion that can actually fit all of us.

They’re all paid for so they’re not costing us anything.

At the same time, they’re all relatively worthless regarding trade-in values so there isn’t really much reason to eliminate one.

Besides, the car on the chopping block is the Tacoma and it’s the most useful of the vehicles in our fleet…

It’s not going anywhere…

1 2294

Almost three years ago, to the day, I wrote a post with the same title as today’s post.

I stumbled across the old post by chance while trying to dig up that old chart for yesterday’s entry.

Anyway, since then, I’ve gotten out of debt and then right back into it again…but let’s ignore the second part of that statement for now.

So as I neared the end of my original debt paydown, I listed out a number of things that I wanted to do once the debt payments were no more.

This is that list:

  • Quit my extra job.
  • Start a family.
  • Take a real vacation.
  • Have the entire first floor of my house remodeled. We’re talking the works. New floors, walls, ceilings, electrical work, plumbing…
  • Buy an all new living room set with a sectional couch so we can both sleep comfortably when football is on.
  • Have some trees removed and then have other areas landscaped professionally.
  • Tear down and build a new garage.

Reading it brought a smile to my face.

I quit my extra job — a few weeks before I even wrote the list. After 18 months off, I’ve since taken it back on but with a lot less on my shoulders so it’s no longer as maddening as it once was. It *is* however like being in the dentist’s chair when it comes to being paid in a timely fashion. Yep — they’re over 90 days behind. Again.

I started a family. Duncan was born in May of 2009 and we’ve got another on the way at the end of March.

Take a real vacation? Well… We did take one hell of road trip in the summer of 2008 but I’m not sure I can classify it as a “real” vacation. By “real”, we’re talkin’ about a Wheel of Fortune prize type of vacation. We’ve yet to take one of those.

We had the first floor of the house remodeled in 2010. I still need to have the kitchen done (and the associated plumbing) but everything else was done.

And at the conclusion of the renovation project, I bought a huge sectional couch for our living room back in October!

We had trees removed in July of 2009. And while we haven’t had any professional landscaping done, I’ve had professional landscapers rake my leaves for me since April of 2008.

And we still haven’t gotten to that last “wish” but I think I pretty much accomplished what I wanted to do when I got out of debt — and getting out of debt was the only reason that I was able to accomplish as much of it as I did.

Now to start putting together a new list, you know, as something to look forward to.

3 2235

At the start of each year, I usually do a big comparison to years past to see if I’m progressing or regressing.

This afternoon, I totalled up the numbers from from Spending Reports in 2010 and then went back to my trusty Microsoft Money file (still running strong 16 months after they announced it’s no long supported) to get the numbers from prior years.

The numbers are on the right.

I managed to spend $80810.52 in 2010.

That works out to an average of $6734.21 per month or $221.40 per day. When you break it down that far, well, wow. It’s eye-opening.

And strictly based on the number on the chart, well, it’s really apparent that I’ve regressed and gone back to my old ways…

Or have I?

The three years that I’ve highlighted, including 2010, all have one thing in common. A very pricey thing in common.

Home renovations.

In 2006, we had the roof of our house re-done. Then in 2007, we had new siding put on the house. Both were headache-inducing projects that I’ve tried to put out of mind.

Most recently, in 2010, we carried out the over-chronicled interior renovation.

Major updates, for sure, that skew the numbers significantly.

Sure, I spent $80k last year. It’s true. But if you take the renovation expenses out of the equation, I actually did alright. Not as great as 2009, no, but still decent.

But while I can pat myself on the back for a job well done, it’s not really reasonable to do so.

Sure, classifying the renovations as “one-time” expenses and omitting them from the numbers might look good but it isn’t realistic.

Keeping them in *is* as realistic as it gets — I’ve got at least 3 more 5-figure renovations tentatively planned for the next decade.

We need a new kitchen.

We still need to modernize the second floor to match the first.

And you didn’t think I’d forgotton about that garage plan, did you?

Oh no — I haven’t forgotton about it. If anything, I’ve expanded on it since I first mentioned it. We’ll definitely need a four car garage now!

Anyway, planned renovations aside (none planned for this year), so far in 2011, I’m on the right track.

My average daily expense is a mere $55.40. Compared to 2010, that’s awesome.

2 2112

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

5 3615

Nintendo Punch-Out!! Arcade GameOkay — so yesterday afternoon I picked up the first piece of furniture for our newly renovated rooms.

That’s it over there to the right…

Yep — I bought the 26-year old arcade game Punch-Out!!

The last time that I played this game — and if memory serves me, the *only* time — was at a roller skating arena called United Skates of America. I was celebrating my 8th or 9th birthday.

Anyway, I’m 34 now. You don’t have to do the math… it was a brand new game when I played it *and* a big attraction in the arena… How I was able to get my turn is truly a mystery — Punch-Out was a big deal back then. Seriously…

As for that old the roller skating arena… Well, it’s been long torn down and a big box store’s parking lot is there in its place.

Perhaps that’s why I haven’t heard anyone mention a skating party since, wow, probably 1989… That’s too bad. It was one of my better birthday parties.

And what ever happened to that old Punch-Out machine from the roller arena?

Well, it’s in my garage right now as you read this. For real. I swear — I own it.

Now I don’t know for sure that this is the same exact machine that I played way back in the 1980’s but I do know that its condition is unbelievable — as if I really were the last person that played it a quarter of a century ago.

I mean, compared to my other arcade game (which was manufactured in 1991), this one is in amazing condition. Such a great purchase.

I like it. I mean, it’s a freakin’ classic.

Duncan obviously likes it too. That’s him up there delivering one body blow after another on poor Glass Joe.

And the wife, well, she let me use her truck to pick it up so that at least means that she didn’t veto it.

So where’s it going to go?

Well, if you’ve been following my home renovation updates, it’s going to be in what was once the dining room. We’re going to make that the computer room — one side will have all of our computer equipment (which is currently upstairs) and that green wall up against the stairway will have our two arcade games.

What, you didn’t think I requested that electrical outlet there for something else, did you?

Now if we can only manage to get them in there (they weigh around 300 pounds each…) without messing up the new floor…

Anyone wanna help me move them?

1 84383

August 2010 Net WorthBack to muddling through my hazy financial funk…after a two week vacation (which is why this is so late).

With the renovation in progress and still not paid for — and not having to make a mortgage payment — I have too much money in some places and not enough in others and a constant fear of coming up short somewhere.

I’ve reassured myself time and time again that I’ve got the funds to cover everything but, well, let’s just agree that it’s very unsettling to go two months without paying the mortgage.

It just feels…risky. Like I’ve forgotten something.

That said, after a month where I dropped over $28k, I recovered pretty nicely with a $10k+ gain!

Whether up or down, five-figure months are always exciting!

Here’s the breakdown:

My cash reserve is a lot higher than it needs to be but that’s just in case the contractor comes looking for another payment. I just like to be ready and not have to ask, “Can you wait a couple of days before you deposit that?”

I dunno, I guess I don’t want to give off the appearance that the money isn’t there thinking that he’ll do a better job knowing that the check isn’t going to bounce. Naive of me, yep, but that’s just how I am…

This is where my padded cash reserve is coming from. I’m still contributing pretty heavily, though, you know, just to keep the weekly transfer routine going.

Gov’t Bonds:

Good month on the markets.

I wish putting $33k worth of work into it showed here but that’s okay…

Auto 1 & Auto 2
Eh, whatever… Sadly, the BMW won’t start for some reason but it still looks nice in the garage!

Credit Cards:
Ugh… Between the vacation expenses and the cash advance we took, well, this is tough to look at. Most of it is at 0% so there isn’t any urgency and the rest, well, I’m considering carrying a balance for a month or maybe two.

Hate to do it but it’s the wiser move. I’m not comfortable tapping myself out right now just to avoid some very small finance charges.

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

Feels like I’m going backwards and to a certain extent, that’s exactly what’s happened as closing costs pushed me $5600 deeper into the red.

It’s okay though — this month the mortgage payments start back up and the number will start to drop again.

Can You Dig It?


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