Paying Off the Mortgage, Month 3 of 12

For the last few years we’ve been automatically doubling our mortgage payment, with the extra going toward the principal. Now, this “gazelle intensity” 12 month plan calls for even more, which we weren’t able to do in September. That was by design, because there were a lot of expenses last month associated with homeschooling and the co-op that the kids are attending. Even though we planned for those expenses they ended up being more than we thought. We are recouping that money with the reduced grocery and car fuel expenses, so that looks OK. I also just noticed that I did NOT include my annual bonus in the budget for early next year. It isn’t a guarantee, so I think it’s a smart move to exclude that potential income. We don’t want to rely on that money so it will literally be a bonus, which is as it should be. Continue reading “Paying Off the Mortgage, Month 3 of 12”

8 Ways to Care for the Environment

Pope Francis issued a call for action on the environment. He wants to add Care of Creation to the existing acts of mercy, which are traditional Catholic works that include caring for the poor, and essentially living a life of peace, love, and charity. The pope correctly makes the point that environmental changes disproportionately impact the needy and marginalized. Therefore, when we care for the environment we care for the poor and sick. He talked briefly about needed political and economic changes, but he also exhorted individuals to modify their lives in small ways in order to lower wasteful consumption and to care for the earth. This is how I believe we should work toward change in the world. Instead of focusing on the corrupt spheres of politics and big business, let’s focus on our day to day lives. Here are some things we are doing in our household to care for our common home.

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Paying Off the Mortgage, Month 2 of 12

Quick monthly update. We just finished our 2nd month of following a strict budget toward the goal of paying off the house by next June. Jaron asked me what we were doing differently, because he couldn’t tell. 🙂 It just shows how we had been spending money on things we didn’t really need, since we don’t miss them.

We had two unexpected expenses in August. The first was Jaron’s summer tuition, which I hadn’t accounted for. His scholarship covers most of his tuition, and a tax credit covers the rest. He’s taking a bit of an accelerated schedule though, so he’s going to pitch in to keep us under budget. The second expense resulted from Lianne dunking her phone. It’s supposed to be water resistant, but the speaker/mic don’t work, so she can’t make or receive calls. I just bought her a used Galaxy S6. That blew our entire “household” budget for the month. We’re still within the budget though, so that’s good!

On the flip side, our grocery expenses are well under the budget. I looked at our previous 6 months of expenses and set it to $1,200 per month, but we’re actually spending around $800 per month. That is an awesome difference, and that “savings” is going straight toward the mortgage.

Two months down. Ten months to go!

Dad, the Scooby Doo Roller Coaster, and Chaos

I rode my first roller coaster in middle school. We were living in Alameda California and my class took a trip to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which is a classic, seaside amusement park. The coaster was the Giant Dipper, an historic wooden coaster that was built in 1924. I rode it over and over again. I was hooked. I’ve now ridden 126 coasters at 18 parks in 2 countries. Where did this love of coasters come from? I have no idea. It definitely did not come from my Dad. He was fearless in many ways, but when it came to coasters he made the scarecrow look like General Patton. Every time we went to an amusement park as a family I would try my best to convince him to ride something … anything. I just knew he would love it. He loved to have fun. He wasn’t scared of heights. “C’mon Dad, this one just has a little drop. I know you’ll love it.” I begged him literally hundreds of times to ride a coaster. He always refused with a laugh and weak claim of motion sickness or some other, equally lame, excuse. I pleaded. I mocked. I made a scene. It became a joke. Nothing worked until that one fateful day at Kings Dominion.

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Advanced Money Saving Tips

In my previous post I gave some examples of ways we’ve been able to save money in our pursuit to pay off the house. One month in and things are going well. We were under budget on everything except gift giving. We’ve really got to get our generosity under control. Here are some more money saving ideas, these require potentially major life changes, time and effort, or the ability to accept some risk. For those reasons I’m calling these “advanced.”

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We Are (Almost) Debt Free

When Lianne and I finished college we both worked and we saved as much out of those early paychecks as we could. Later that year we bought our house. The original loan was for 30 years, $110,000, at 8% interest. Our goal was to pay it off by the time we turned 40. That gave us 17 years. A couple of refinances, and two rounds of major home improvements later, and we are almost there. It’s been 19 years.

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That’s One Way to Win

Sometimes with guys, everything is a competition. I remember competing with my Dad to see who could stuff the most muffin into his mouth. In the parking lot after going out to eat, we’d race to the car, we’d race to the house, we’d do pushups, play racquetball, and generally try to beat each other at whatever activity presented itself. So it was that we found ourselves taking Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU) class, and another competition was born.

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The Terror of Tribalism

Some people swear that Linux is the best computer operating system, others will only using Microsoft or Apple products. Some people grew up in the Northeast, and Tom Brady can do no wrong. Some people support their nation’s wars because that’s where they were born. Some people’s religion tells them that god hates homosexuals …

Humans join together in groups. It’s a throwback to our early days, when it was important to band together for protection and to compete for scarce resources. It’s called tribalism and it can be very dangerous. Tribalism tends to shut down our ability to reason, and elicits emotional responses based on nothing more than the tribe affiliation. We have to strive against this base instinct and recognize the Truth that Jesus taught. We are all part of the tribe of humanity.

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The Family Picture

WP_20150220_002I assume most families have this tradition. Once every few years everyone gets together over the summer or over the holidays, and someone decides it would be a good time to get a picture. That held true for my mom’s family, who would usually congregate down in Jacksonville FL at Mema’s (my mom’s mom) house. Mom has two sisters, and of course, the three of them and Mema, had some particular ideas about how the family picture would go down. Continue reading “The Family Picture”

O Club

When Dad was in the Navy it was a man’s world. It was before the Tailhook scandal. It was widely understood that the military was filled with boys, and that boys would be boys. Dad was different. Other than laughing at fart jokes, he had left boyhood behind. He was a gentleman in the old fashioned sense. He treated women with respect. He believed in avoiding sin and avoiding temptation, and he lived those convictions in his life, whether at home, or on the job. Sometimes that was easier said than done. Continue reading “O Club”