Epic Battle With the Trashman

Dad was a thrifty, amateur mechanic. Although this would occasionally backfire, he usually got the job done. Our full size van had some damage to one of the doors, and it didn’t quite shut flush with the body. This was a standard door, not the sliding door you see in minivans. He went to the junkyard and found a replacement door. This was before YouTube, so it required some creativity and ingenuity to get the old door off and the new door installed. It was a different color, of course, so we were THAT family for a while.

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Paying Off the Mortgage, Month 7 of 12

We overspent a little on Christmas. Maybe a little more than a little, which is better than a lot more than little, or the dreaded lot lot. One big culprit is that we signed the kids up for a bunch of stuff as part of their Christmas gifts. Archery and tennis lessons for Davin, and voice and dance lessons for Ava, for example. We tried to account for these recurring monthly expenses, but it’s not quite working out. We’re going to scale back some other activities and do them every 2 weeks, which will help offset the added cost.

Oh, another thing, I think I’ve finally come around on credit cards.

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A Valentine Story (Rob and Bev) by Davin

               Rob and Bev met when they were 11 years old at school, Ruth N. Upson Elementary, in Jacksonville Florida on the playground where a carnival was set up. Rob started walking with Bev’s friends. She thought he was a punk because one time he was walking her home, and he tried to put his arm around her and she slapped him. He claimed that he was just helping her with her books. She said that he was trying to be fresh with her and wrap his arm around her. He was pretty bold walking up to them like that when no one knew him well. Rob had brown eyes and hair and was tan from having a pool, which was a big deal back then. He had short hair for a guy and was 5 feet tall. The first time he saw Bev was in a classroom while he was looking for a place to sit, and when he saw her he thought That is who I am going to marry. Bev was pretty skinny, had short brown hair, blue glasses, and was 5 feet tall. When he walked up to Bev and her friends the girls giggled “Do you see Rob? What is he doing here? Does he know anybody? Bev do you know Rob?”

          “A little but he is kind of a punk.” She stated. He didn’t give up, and after that day they started hanging out more and more. Then they started doing family things together. Finally, after 5 years of knowing each other, they officially started dating at 16 years old. When Rob was in high school, his dad was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis so he could not walk. He lost his job so Rob had to get a job as a UPS truck loader. It was soon found out that his dad could still work, but he stayed a truck loader to help out the family.  While still in college they started thinking about getting married, so at 19 they got married and led a successful life as a happy couple.

Rob and Bev

The Tiger Tamer

I read the book “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen a few years ago. It was a good book and after reading it I realized that my younger two kids have never been to the circus. I’m ambivalent about the circus. It’s a bit of a ripoff, and I am conscientious about animal treatment. On the other hand, it seems like the circus is something every kid should experience at least once. Our oldest, Jaron, has been to the circus. We went when he was 6 years old with some friends, and there’s one enduring memory from that experience. The Tiger Tamer.

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Paying Off the Mortgage, Month 6 of 12

We’re at the halfway point, and all systems are go. We’ve got a few slippery items on the budget coming up. Jaron’s tax refundable college expenses, for example, which depend on how much scholarship money he earns. We’ve also got income tax return money and a potential bonus in March. I’ve made conservative estimates for all of them so we’re on the safe side, and we’re still well on target. The budget did get “blowed up” in December, but it worked out fine because we were on top of it. We knew we wanted to spend more on Christmas than we had allocated, so I rigorously updated the budget throughout the month based on our purchases. This allowed us to shift things around on the fly to make sure we weren’t impacting our mortgage payoff plan, but still continue to bless others during the holiday season. I’m not sure how most people follow their budget, but for us the discretionary items are flexible, as long as the bottom line balances out. Continue reading “Paying Off the Mortgage, Month 6 of 12”

Is it Smart to Pay Off the Mortgage?

Most financial advisors will tell you not to pay off your mortgage. You are paying under 4% interest on the mortgage, plus it is tax deductible, which means the effective rate is even lower. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to take the extra money you’d put toward the mortgage, and invest it instead. You’ll make 8% to 12% in index funds over the long term, so you pay 4%, you make 8% (at least), and you come out ahead. This is true, and it is why I continue to invest in my retirements funds while also paying down the mortgage. From a pure numbers standpoint, over the long term, barring any major catastrophe, it makes sense to invest rather than pay off the mortgage. So, what am I doing? Here are three reasons why I’m paying off my mortgage. For me, it goes beyond numbers. Continue reading “Is it Smart to Pay Off the Mortgage?”

The Death Curve

It’s really an “aging” curve, but I prefer “death” curve because it is more macabre. The sad truth is that life expectancy in the US is stagnant or even declining, in large part because of our poor health habits. My grandmother is 97, and still living on her own. She doesn’t drive, she’s losing her eyesight, but she maintains a reasonable quality of life. She’s on a solid curve. Dad died at 62, but up until the last few months he was extremely active and healthy. It was an excellent curve until cancer reared its ugly head. I’ve been pretty active over the past 2 weeks. I made a comment this morning about how my shoulder was bothering me and Lianne suggested that I take it easy. Dad would always say that the best way to overcome an achy joint or an aggravating injury was to go exercise it. He ended up having surgery on both shoulders, so maybe this isn’t the best medical advice, but I do think it is excellent life advice. I sounded like Dad when I responded to Lianne, “As soon as you quit doing stuff, you’re dying.” Jaron, ever the pragmatist, said, “We’re all dying.” Ok, he has a point, but it is possible to die healthy. That should be our goal. This chart shows the difference between dying healthy, and dying sick.

Death Curve Continue reading “The Death Curve”

Paying Off the Mortgage, Month 5 of 12

We were $45 over budget for the month of November. As my Dad would say, “I’m flabbergasted.” I’m not tracking spending every day. I usually update the budget every week or so to see where we’re at, but I think I only updated it once in November. It’s awesome that we still managed to keep things that close. We did spend over $1,000 on groceries, which is high. I think it is due to two things. First, I’m only going by where the money was spent, so I’m putting all Walmart and Sam’s Club spending into groceries. That probably isn’t accurate. We’re going to save those receipts from now on so we can break it down better. Second, Lianne masterfully worked in the kitchen more than usual in November, crafting her exceptional creations for parties, Thanksgiving, church functions, etc. Plus, we’ve turned toward healthier, less carb heavy meals at home. Those factors are probably contributing to higher grocery spending as well. We may need to adjust our budget to take this into consideration. This is an important point. Things change. It is tough to account for every expense ahead of time. We continue to examine the entire budget, and make adjustments as needed. For example, we are dropping Sirius radio, and we’ll probably drop our YMCA membership at the beginning of the year. We are going to shift that money toward lessons and other recreational activities for the kids. Flexibility without compromise is the key to a successful and workable budget.

On the mortgage front, we were able to put a significant amount of money toward the principal in November. I had a small brokerage account that I cashed out as well. It’s a one-off account that I’ve been playing with in the stock market, not too successfully. The election caused it to spike, so I figured it was as good a time as any to pull it out. I’ve been planning to put it toward the mortgage anyway. It is invigorating to see that mortgage balance go down. We’re nearing the halfway point, and we’re still on track.

Lastly, I should mention Christmas. Lianne was concerned that we wouldn’t be able to spend as much as we usually do on gifts. Fortunately, as it turns out, I get paid every two weeks and December is a 3 paycheck month. The budget is built based on 2 paychecks per month, so we’ve simply allocated a portion of that 3rd paycheck to go toward Christmas gifts. Typically, you should set aside Christmas money throughout the year to prevent overspending, particularly credit card spending. We didn’t have to do that in this case because of the 3rd paycheck. It’s a handy trick, and we’ll do it again next year.

Paying Off the Mortgage, Month 4 of 12

We were $7 under our expenses budget for the month of October. That level of accuracy is pretty amazing. Extra education and grocery expenses were offset by lower restaurant and general household expenses. The bottom line is that we’ve curbed our impulsive spending habits. We don’t go out to eat as often, and we don’t make random purchases without thinking. In the past, “Household” was a catch all for buying those things that didn’t really fit anywhere, usually off of Amazon. A new phone case, a drip irrigation system for the garden, toys for the chickens (for real), better ear buds, etc. A few items we needed, like mic stands for the kids’ music gigs, but for the most part it was just random stuff, to the tune of $400 per month. We’ve cut those expenses by 75% and we don’t miss the stuff at all.

We’re still making extra principal payments as part of our regular, monthly mortgage payment, but for September and October, just based on the way the budget worked out, we weren’t able to make the extra-extra payments that will accelerate the payoff. Now that November is here, we should really see the mortgage balance start dropping. It will be psychologically rewarding to see the remaining balance go below some of the milestone amounts. It’s like passing those mile markers during a long race. It provides the motivation we need to keep our eyes on the debt free finish line.

Losing My Religion

Things were normal. I attended youth group. I led praise and worship and played in a christian punk band. I helped my parents start a church. I was a conservative, evangelical, charismatic christian. There were signs that things would change, however, like in middle school when the biology teacher at my Christian school posited that God could have used the process of evolution to create life. And when I realized in high school that I wasn’t better than my homosexual classmates. And in college when I became friends with a Palestinian and learned that the Middle East was more complex than my limited, religious-republican worldview. The change was gradual, until I graduated college and started working. It was then that I discovered a world of christian thinkers who examined everything carefully (1 Thess 5:12), and for the first time my beliefs were challenged. The year was 1999, and I had an important question to answer. Does God exist?

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