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October 27th, 2016 at 10:42 am

Thanks everyone for the warm welcome back. Ultimately we lost discipline. Someone asked about my health focus - I am 280 days free of my addiction to nicotine. I'm still very active over at the quit chewing tobacco site. In fact, I've tried to send a couple of the guys over here.

One of the expenses that ended up on my credit card is a gold cap on one of my molars. The molar directly closest to where I held my wad of tobacco for so many years. So, I have no doubt about the cause of the deterioration of the tooth. The cap cost about $1,100.

You would think that quitting the tobacco would allow me to save money. Unfortunately, I've been buying a lot of junk food and sugar free gum to subside the cravings. Basically, I've spent up to half on alternatives to keep my mouth busy as I spent on the tobacco itself.

So, this is day two of my concerted effort to stop buying the junk.

Thanks again for the kind words and thoughts.


October 26th, 2016 at 12:13 pm

Looks like I haven't posted since March.

We've gotten ourselves into a CC debt problem again. It's about 11K. Hard to believe I let it happen again.

The debt is all on one card, and as of right now, at 8.9% interest. As long as I don't miss any payments, it will stay at 8.9%.

It's also maxed out, or close to it. So, as long as we don't start charging up another card, which I don't think we'll do, it will stay at 11K or less.

That's it for now. But, I'll get active here again.

Our Amish Contractor

March 30th, 2016 at 07:29 am

The Amish guys that sided and roofed our barn didn't use all the materials we purchased. They were left in a nice, neat stack, but they never did mention to me or DW that there were any left overs.

My experience is that Amish crews do a great job. They work quickly, they are honest, and the finished product is done very well. They biggest complaint I have is how they communicate. Generally, they don't do very well with communications. First, and most obvious is the lack of phone communication.

What I'm about to describe is the Amish order that lives in my neighborhood. As I understand it, the different rules that govern Amish orders can vary drastically, and the community in my neighborhood is probably about in the middle, not particularly conservative, not particularly liberal.

Amish people in my neighborhood are allowed to have telephones in their place of business, but not in the house, and they can't own cell phones. They guy that did our work has a land line out in his shop that he shares with his dad, who is a tarp maker. There is no answering machine, but there must be caller ID. Every time I called, I would let the phone ring several times and hang up. Then I would get a call back, it might be later that evening, it might three days later.

When they guy was working on our barn, he did give me the cell phone number for his English driver so I could talk to him directly. If he happened to be with his driver. And, I'm pretty sure that Paul, our contractor, wasn't strictly on the up and up when using the cell. It has to do with whether or not the phone is connected to the earth. I'm not really sure.

Also, Paul wasn't on-site actually doing the work. He had two employees that did all the physical building. You see, Paul had been kicked in the ribs by a horse a few weeks before. That was a terrible, and painful accident, and I felt bad for him, but it also created another barrier to communication. With him not on site each day, I communicated in person with his employees, rather than Paul himself each day. Again, they did great work, but I didn't always know for sure what was going on.

Which brings me back to the beginning of my post. The afternoon that the crew finished the roof and siding, we were hit with a big snow storm. When the snow melted, there were three piles of stuff that the Amish crew left. One was a pile of mostly scrap lumber, with some plastic and steel mixed in. One was a pile of mostly scrap steel, with some lumber and plastic mixed in, and one was a pliƩ od unused, returnable steel.

I hadn't recognized it immediately as returnable steel, because of the snow and the mess in the yard, and because no one had mentioned to either DW or me that there were any left overs.

When I did recognize it as returnable, it took me a while to get back there, and get the stuff returned. The ground has been fairly wet and soft, and I didn't want to rut things up too badly.

I finally did get the stuff returned this morning. The steel roofing/siding dealer is another Amish neighbor who lives about 1/2 mile down the road from me. What I returned was - 17 pieces of J Channel @ $5 per piece, 1 piece of L Shaped steel @ $12 per piece, and 1-10' piece of steel siding @ $20. That's $117 of returned material. I had no idea it would be that much.

I took the cash directly to the bank that we used for the loan to renovate the barn. I used it as a payment toward the loan. That seemed like the only logical thing to do with it.

If you ever have to opportunity to do business with an Amish person, they do good work. At least the Amish people I've worked with. Every group has its bad apples, I'm sure. But, they are culturally different from non-Amish. They work hard, but at a different pace. The things I find important, and worth getting in a rush over, aren't necessarily the same things that they get in a rush over.

Hair Cuts

March 28th, 2016 at 08:03 am

I got my hair cut by a professional last month for the first time in about 2 1/2 years. I've been using clippers to cut my own hair for about 6 or 7 years. That coincides with the same timeframe that I came here to SA when I was butt broke.

A set of clippers costs about $30 locally. A haircut with tip costs about $15. At a haircut per six weeks, the math is pretty easy.

The way I had been doing for the first 3-5 years of using the clippers is that I would alternate between clippers and professional hair cutters. So I would say I was getting 3-4 haircuts per year. Then, about 2 1/2 years ago I just quit going to get my hair cut, and did it myself.

My recipe went something like this - #8 guard (1 inch) on the top. #6 guard (3/4 inch) on the sides. #2 guard (1/4 inch) above the ears and very bottom of the back. Blend with a 3 or 4 guard, or both depending on available time and patience.

Just recently I grew tired of the super short hair. In fact, when I went in for the haircut last month, my hair was fairly shaggy for me. It's starting to get shaggy again.

I think I'm done with the clippers for now. At $15 per cut, and two cuts every three months, that's $10 per month. I'll chalk that up to another treat for myself since quitting the tobacco.

I still use the clippers for my two sons, so we are saving money as a family with the clippers. Who am I kidding? Both boys have special needs, and taking them to a professional is not much of an option.

Tidying Up

March 17th, 2016 at 08:10 am

The scrap that was left over from our barn renovation has been cluttering our yard. I took some time this morning before work to tidy some of it.

Some of the scrap is left over lumber, some is plastic and cardboard packing material, and some is steel left over from the roofing and siding. I hauled the scrap to our local scrap dealer.

I took two loads, that combined to total #600. When I settled up, I received $9, or $30 per ton. Seven years ago, when we started cleaning up around the farmstead, it was selling for about $250 per ton. That was clearly an inflated, top of the bubble price. That was the same summer that gasoline was selling for as much as $4.50 per gallon, and corn was selling for $7.50-$8.00 per bushel. For those of you who haven't been watching the grain markets, corn is selling locally for $3.60 per bushel.

It's difficult for me to wrap my head around how commodity values can swing so drastically. But they do, and it seems to be a post 9-11 reality.

As far as the scrap metal goes, and I've blogged about this before, today I cleaned up the yard, and the steel is a waste that I can recycle and get paid for it. I don't care how much I'm paid for it. I could have sat on it until the market went up, which it inevitably will, but I don't want to store it. I want it gone.

Hauling the leftovers from our renovation allowed me to also haul a small amount of scrap that was accumulating outside of the renovation process, including a grill. We've had that grill since we were married in 1996, and my in-laws gave us a new one for Christmas. It was a little bit sad to see the old original grill go. We've hauled it to every home where we've lived since we were married. But, it was time.

Renovation, Bracket, and Braces

March 16th, 2016 at 06:53 am

Our barn renovation is complete. And we came in ... under budget.

I've never been able to type that before when it comes to a contracted project like this. And, keep in mind when I say "under budget" I mean by just a couple hundred dollars. But, it's still under budget nonetheless.

I woke up this morning to an electricity outage. We're having an early spring thunder storm. I got the generator going, and we were all able to compete our morning routine. As I was heading out to work, I saw that the electric company service vehicle was just pulling in to our neighborhood.

The electric line that services our house is three miles long. It connects to the main line via a line that runs through a swamp to the south of our house. That is always where the power outages occur. As I understand it, our electric company has scheduled a project to have trees and branches cut back this summer. Hopefully that helps alleviate the problem.

I have my NCAA tournament bracket filled out. It's not much of a stretch this year, so I picked my MSU Spartans to win it all. I picked Kansas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia to round out the Final Four, and MSU to win in the championship game against Oklahoma.

We paid off DD1's braces a few weeks ago. I had increased the amount taken out of my pay check for my flexible spending account, and I was able to pay off the balance using that. It's good to have it paid off, but my pay check is correspondingly smaller. The advantage, of course, is that our tax liability is decreased.

I'm Back.

March 14th, 2016 at 09:28 am


I've returned, and will be providing my normal irregular posting here in the SA Blogosphere.

For those of you who may have missed it, I quit using smokeless tobacco near the beginning of the year, and took a hiatus from SA to start another blog at a site related to quitting smokeless tobacco. Today is my 53rd day free of all forms of nicotine (I had used Nicorette gum for a few weeks).

While I was at the other site, I blogged on such topics as: how I became addicted, weight gain, aspects of addiction, nicotine pushers, my previous caves, smokeless tobacco user stereotypes, sin taxes, temptations, $ previously spent on tobacco, phases of a quit, thinking about tobacco, nicotine as a laxative, tobacco replacements, anxiety during a quit, oral health, and trigger events.

Who new that for 25 years, nicotine had worked in my body as a mild laxative, and removing it from my system ...

Number one, I've kind of run out of topics without becoming redundant, and number two, I'm at a phase in my quit where things are a bit more smooth than they were a couple months ago.

Don't get me wrong, I still need to steel myself against caving, and going back to tobacco use. But I'll be doing that more on the forum side of the site than the blog side.

Within the forums I have my own "quit group", that is, other "quitters" that quit within the same month that I did. According to the site rules, I couldn't count the period that I was using Nicorette, only the days that I was completely free of all forms of nicotine.

Within my quit group, I do what's called "posting roll call" each morning. When I post roll, I make a promise to all members of my quit group that I will not use nicotine in any form for that day. We post roll every day, and make the same promise. It seems to work really well.

Just like any on-line forum community, there are spots within the forum to help others, new quitters and old quitters.

As far as the blog goes, I was the only one actively using it for the past six weeks. I got a few comments, and I could tell that others were following it by some comments in the forums. But, it's not like here where there is an active community. The active community is pretty much in the forums.

But, just like when I joined here to get out of debt, my quitter blog helped me organize and clarify my thoughts, and helped me to stay accountable.

I'm just at a point where I can do that through the forums by themselves.

And, I thought I'd come back here to blog about all that money I'm not spending on tobacco anymore.

Our Barn

February 29th, 2016 at 09:05 am

Hello all. I thought I'd check in.

Our barn is nearly complete. I looks like we'll com in close to budget. Our roofing/siding crew finished last week, about five minutes before the great Midwestern blizzard of 2016 started.

We have some finishing work to get done inside the barn. Our contractor still needs to hang some gates. He would have had it done already, be he would have had to compete for space with the roofing/siding crew.

We did splurge on one item that was completely unnecessary. I bought a 4'X8' sheet of white Azek. That's a composite material that's popular for decking, because it resists mold/mildew, stays white, and is generally very tough.

I think I spent around $120 on the sheet. DW then drew the outline of an MSU Spartan S on the sheet. We then had our contractor use his jigsaw to cut the S out. Actually, there was enough room on the board that she drew in two S shapes, one big, that's on the barn. One small that we'll use for something else.

One of us COULD have used our jigsaw to cut the shapes, but neither one of us was confident enough in our skills to not screw it up, so we had our contractor do it.

When the project is all finished, I'll tally up our spending an report how we did compared to budget.

I'm going to try to add a picture of the barn, the view from the east.

My new blog

February 5th, 2016 at 11:33 am

The good news is that I'm still quitting my smokeless tobacco habit, so there's that.

The other day I mentioned finding a quitters forum. There's also a blog side to that site. I've started blogging there. Right now quitting smokeless is more pressing than guarding my finances, although guarding my finances is no less important than it's been over the past five years.

As I'm sure it's not difficult for you to imagine, the vast majority of participants on the quit site (it's killthecan.org) are males. And what's true here at SA is also true at KTC - the men tend to use the forums, and not the blogs. And, there are no women to use the blogs (It looks like there have been a few women, here and there, but the overwhelming majority of people on the site are men).

So, the blog side of the site is dead. There have been a few valiant tries at getting the blogging going, but it's mostly dead. You can find my blogs at quit4today.com

So far I've got two blog entries, and I'm going to try for a post per day pace.

For some reason, when the most pressing issue in my life was getting out of debt, I found it so much easier to organize my thoughts, and formulate a plan in this blog atmosphere. Now that quitting tobacco is the most pressing issue in my life, I find the same is true. There's a lot of noise on the forum side. It's just that there appears to be no one but the site administrator, who appears to be a good thinking person, following me.

So, I'm trying to promote the blog side in the forums. I'm going to keep blogging, and we'll see where it goes.

I just wanted to drop a line here, and let you all know that I'm still here. I'm still quitting, and I appreciate all that so many of you have done for me over the past five years, but I'll be gone for a while. I'm sure I'll be checking in once in a while. Heck, it's not like I've not dropped out and popped back in several times before. It's just that this time it's a planned drop out.

Taxes filed

February 1st, 2016 at 11:09 am

We filed our taxes this weekend. We're still using the adoption credit, so we're getting a $4K refund from the feds. Our state refund is $390.

It feels like March outside. There were several reports of ice fishing disasters over the news this weekend. Just now, during lunch I heard of an accident involving a dad and a 4 year old. Sounds like they were both under the ice for a while. Sounds like the dad didn't make it, and the young boy is in rough shape.

End of week, end of month stuff

January 29th, 2016 at 10:31 am

Today is pay day. I'm paid once per month, on the last working day of the month. It's always nice when payday falls on a day when there are still a couple days left in the month. My pay check was deposited into my account at 12:00:01 midnight, this morning. All of our bills are set to be paid on the first of the month, so we'll have a healthy looking checking account all day today, tomorrow, and Sunday. Then the draining will begin.


I paid off my pickup loan last October. I had been waiting for a lien release letter from our credit union. I even mentioned to my wife a few days after I figured that I should have gotten the letter that I was expecting the letter any day. The letter never arrived, or if it did, I completely missed it, and I don't remember DW mentioning that it did arrive.

For whatever reason, I totally forgot about the release of lien letter, until yesterday. I logged on tot he CU web site, and sent a message voicing my concern. I logged back on today, and sure enough, there was a reply to my message. A Mr. Perez had replied back, acknowledging that I had, indeed paid the loan, and the CU could, indeed, release its security interest in my pickup as collateral for my loan. Furthermore, Mr. Perez assured me that the CU had sent me confirmation of that in the mail. But, for my convenience, Mr. Perez attached a new termination of lien to the email. Mr. Perez also reminded me that the CU would be happy to finance my next vehicle when I begin looking again. Thank you Mr. Perez.

Probably we did receive the letter in October, and it has been forced into the bowels of a household of four children.


Speaking of my children, I have to brag about DD1 one more time this week.

DD1 is in FFA, as I have blogged about before. FFA district leadership contests are next Wednesday. DD1 will be competing again in Jr. High public speaking. Her speech is about highly pathogenic avian influenza.

Her agriculture teacher, Mr. W announced that all FFA members who would be participating in leadership contests would be excused from class at 1:45 next Wednesday so they could change into official dress (OD), and board the bus to travel to the school where the contest will be. OD is an FFA jacket, black slacks or skirt, black socks or hose, white shirt, and blue tie. The chapter provides a jacket to students who do not have one.

DD1 informed Mr. W that she planned on wearing OD all day at school, even if she was the only one. She then told all the other Jr. High students that they could wear OD all day, and that she wanted them all to sit together during lunch. The other JR. High members apparently are going along with DD1's plan.

I'm not sure when all this campaigning happened, whether it was yesterday, or some other day this week, but this morning, a message went out to all High School FFA members informing them that if they plan on participating in leadership contests, they are REQUIRED to wear OD during school hours!

The chapter is young, I think it's in its fourth or fifth year. There aren't a lot of traditions yet. But I guess someone needs to start building them.

Oh, what to blog about...

January 28th, 2016 at 10:57 am

Quitting spit tobacco .... check
My daughter's scholarship .... check

Actually, I found a new forum. It's basically the same as the old one I was on a few years ago. In fact some of the articles, and the basic culture are the same. My guess is that the old one folded, and this new one was resurrected by former members under a new url, and the old url is still out there. Too bad there wasn't something to direct me to this new one. So my posts about quitting will become less, because I've found this new outlet. But I'll probably speak up about it every now and then just to let you all know I'm still quit.

The thing about using sugar free chewing gum as an alternative ... my kids can bum a piece off of me. Yesterday DD2 got two pieces, and DD1 and DS2 one piece each. So it's going to get more difficult to keep track on my mental spread sheet.

Honestly, I've got to start winding down this budding chewing gum habit. It's not as damaging, it's not as expensive, but it's a habit that costs money. I mean I honestly almost always have gum in my mouth now, at work, at home, at church - almost all the time. That's the difference when your habit is socially acceptable. The mentality of satisfying a craving just doesn't seem right, no matter how harmless, and comparatively inexpensive the new habit is.

And here I thought I wasn't going to blog about quitting today....

We should be ready to complete our income taxes now. I think all our papers are in. It's just a matter of finding the time to sit down and get them done.

This will be our fourth year of claiming the adoption credit. I think the credit can be claimed over five tax years. An accountant goes to our church, and I asked him to make sure. He wasn't sure. He says he can only remember doing one adoption credit before, and that's back when it was fully refundable - this accountant is about 5-10 years younger than I am. He said that he could look for me, and I told him no to worry about it.

I've not blogged at all about the Flint water crisis. I know it's made quite a few national headlines. Flint is a bit more than an hour west of me. I drive through Flint on the interstate every time I drive to Lansing, and Flint is about half way. It's a very sad situation. It's almost unbelievable that something like that could happen in 2016.

DD1's Scholarship

January 27th, 2016 at 08:41 am

Michigan State University awarded my thirteen-year-old eighth-grader a $2,000 scholarship yesterday.

It's called a "pre-college" scholarship, and can be used to offset the costs of tuition as she pursues a bachelor's degree at MSU, pending acceptance into MSU, of course.

Some of you may remember me blogging about the 4-H Natural Resources camp that DD1 attended this past summer. Up to 5% of attendees were nominated by the camp counselors to apply for this scholarship.

Attendees of other 4-H summer programs can also be nominated, programs like a 4-H veterinary camp, a 4-H renewable energy camp, and participants in the annual 4-H Washington D.C. trip. There are also non-4-H MSU youth program attendees that are nominated.

Nominees have to be in 8th, 9th, or 10th grade when they are nominated, and need a recommendation letter from a teacher that teaches one of the core subjects. A total of 60 students receive the scholarship each year.

DD1 filled out the application in October, and found out yesterday that she was one of the 60 awardees!

Day 29/5

January 26th, 2016 at 07:00 am

Today is the 29th day I've been free of spit tobacco, and the 5th I've been free of nicotine gum.

I think I can give the gum away now. Or at least most of it. Three pieces have been separated from the blister pack strips, and are floating around as singlets. I'll keep those three pieces as emergency back up, and give the other pieces (28) away.

I'm going to give them to a guy with whom I work. He works at a different location than I do, but I'll be seeing him this afternoon. He's never given any indication that he'd like to quit smoking, but I pretty much figure that anyone who has been using tobacco for more than about ten years (probably less), and/or is older than about 25 (probably younger), would prefer to quit, whether they admit it or not.

For me at this point the sugar free chewing gum seems to be doing the trick.

Yesterday, LR left a comment on my post about her experience quitting soda. We call it "pop" in Michigan. Not sure why.

She said that soda was difficult to quit, but now that she has, she feels better, and has saved money.

I drink quite a bit of soda as well. Not a ton, but I would guess up to 50-60 ounces per day. Not that much every day, but it wouldn't be uncommon.

Also, as I alluded to yesterday, I have more opportunity to drink soda now that my mouth is empty of the tobacco.

So, really soda is something that I should cut back. And since "cut back" doesn't really seem to be an option in my life, "eliminate" is probably the only realistic option.

I would guess that when it comes to bad habits/addictions, that there's a hierarchy. That is tobacco is a "worse" habit/addiciton than soda and caffeine. For me, anyway, before I can really think about the harm that soda is doing to me, I really need to take care of, and eliminate the tobacco first. The same might be true of an alcoholic that smokes. Before they can or should quit smoking, they should take care of the more destructive habit first.

Maybe I'm getting too philosophical now, or maybe I'm coming up with an excuse for not slowing down on my soda consumption. Either way, I'll start considering soda elimination after I have tobacco kicked, and that will probably be another 2-3 months, I suppose.

I also wonder if I'm feeling better now that I'm sans tobacco. I've never really been well in tune with my health. Clearly, the inside lining of my cheek, and gums is less raw, and feels a lot better. That was true after only a couple days, and has continued to improve. But, I'm not noticing much else in the way of "feeling better". But, every day, month, and year that I stay away from the tobacco decreases that chance that I'll get cancer, and that's a lot.

Day 28/4

January 25th, 2016 at 01:29 pm

My 28th day tobacco free, and my 4th day nicotine free.

My apologies for high jacking this blog as my personal quit tobacco support site.

The truth is, in the past when I tried to quit, there was a forum site dedicated to quitting smokeless. I became a member, and found it to be helpful. That site is apparently not supported anymore.

Obviously, quitting tobacco ties in very closely with saving money, second to things like health and cancer prevention. So, there's that.

Also, folks in the SA blogs tend to be supportive by nature, so I thank you for that as well. And it is nice to just blog about this in relative anonymity.

I continued to stay away from the nicotine gum, and chew only the sugar free chewing gum. It seems to be working without any major fits.

Last week, CCF reminded me that nicotine is a POISON. It's funny, because I took an entomology class in college, where I learned that nicotine was one of the very early insecticides used on crops. Even today, nicotinoids are effective insecticides.

From an academic stand point, I've very aware for a very long time about the poisoning attributes of nicotine, and yet the addictive attributes were more powerful.

As far as the financial implications of quitting, the chewing gum appears to cost about half of what the nicotine gum cost, and the nicotine gum cost about 60% of what the tobacco cost. So my daily cost is about 30% of what it was before - using chewing gum over tobacco (plus the health and social benefits!).

I'm still not holding myself back on the chewing gum, chewing two pieces at a time whenever I get the urge. I'll stick with that plan for a while yet, and wean myself down at some time.

But, it's also very true that I'm tempted to eat more food as well. Without getting too graphic, it's difficult to eat with a wad of tobacco in your mouth. Now that that wad is not there, I have the freedom to snack a lot more. Something else I'll have to work on with healthful alternative, etc. If it's not one thing it's the other thing!

More on quitting

January 22nd, 2016 at 06:30 am

Thanks everyone for your words of support and encouragement after yesterday's post.

As far as plans for my savings - we have asked our cleaning person to come two hours every week, rather than three hours every other week. That will increase our spending on cleaning by $30 per month. Also, our emergency fund needs attention.

Ima Saver included in her comments the cost of a pack of cigarettes when she started and stopped smoking. That got me to thinking about what a can cost when I started. It seems like it was just under $2? in 1991. More than $1.75, and less than $2.00 seems right. I was buying a premium brand back then.

About 10 years ago that premium brand hit $5.00 a can. That's when I switched to the discount brand I'd been using ever since. It seems like that discount brand was somewhere between $2.25 and $2.50 when I switched. I do remember it being less than half the cost of the premium brand.

Most recently that discount brand has been costing me about $3.00 per can, although certain stores would sell it for as much as $3.60.

I was using anywhere from 7-9 cans per week, so about $25-30 per week.

I bought a 110 pack of nicotine gum on January 4. I have 31 pieces remaining. The pack cost a bit under $50, or about 45 cents per piece. I've been using an average of 4.4 pieces per day, or just under $2 per day.

Here's the good news - since I made my post here yesterday, I've used exactly one piece of nicotine gum! I bought 72 pieces of regular, sugar free chewing gum after lunch yesterday. The 72 pieces cost almost $6, or about 8 cents per piece.

It didn't take me long to determine that I'll need to chew two pieces of this gum at one time, just to get enough volume in my mouth the satisfy my craving, but I plan to do this without nicotine for the duration.

So far, I'm not even trying to limit myself with the chewing gum at all, like I was with the nicotine gum with a minimum of two hours between each piece. With the chewing gum, if I have a craving, I pop two pieces in.

We'll see how long these 72 pieces last. I've used 20 since 1:00 yesterday (it's 9:20 am right now). I'll have to limit myself at some point, but for the time being, and the foreseeable future, I'll not limit myself at all.

The only question I have is what to do with the nicotine gum. Keep it to satisfy a monster craving, or throw it away?

What has concerned me the entire time I've been using the nicotine gum is that I'll just use that to satisfy my addiction, and never get off it. Now that I've taken this step with the chewing gum, maybe it's time to get rid of all forms of nicotine.

But, if I do get a really bad craving, or if something happens in life that I tell myself I "need" a fix, a piece of nicotine gum is way better than buying a can at a gas station.

For now, I'm going to keep the nicotine gum. I'm going to give myself the weekend, and revisit the question Monday.

The cheapskate in me says - I bought the stuff, it would be wasteful to throw it away! The rational side of me says that's part of the reason I used tobacco for so long - I never wanted to throw a can that I had bought away!

Quitting a bad habit

January 21st, 2016 at 08:19 am

I have a bad habit that I've not discussed here before. I'm a nicotine addict. I don't smoke. I use smokeless spit tobacco. Gross, I know. Expensive, and bad for my health, too.

I've not used smokeless since December 28, 24 days ago. That date had more to do with the schedule around my holiday break than an actual New Year resolution, but you could call it a New Year resolution, too.

This is the third time in that I've been serious about quitting. I'd say the last time was about 2011, also tried around 2007, and about 2002. So, that's about every five years that I try to quit. Obviously, I hope it sticks this time. This time I hope I'm mature enough and serious enough that I will stay quit. I probably thought that same way last time.

To help quit, I'm using nicotine gum. From a financial cost standpoint, I'm spending about 60% of what I spent on tobacco on the gum. So, that's a positive. I've been chewing a piece with a minimum of two hours between each piece from 8-5. And maybe, but not always one piece in the evening. When I hit 30 days I'll extend that to three hours between each piece.

The recommendation is to use the gum for 12 weeks. That takes me through the third week of March. We'll see, but I hope I can kick the gum habit. I'll have to conscious and deliberate about extending the period between pieces. So far I've had little problem with the two hours between pieces. When I say "little problem", I mean I start craving one at the hour and a half mark, but I've been able to hold off until the two hour mark without fail.

So, it seems as if I'm rambling at this point.

The reasons to quit are many, and the only reason to not quit is to satisfy an addiction.

Obviously at this point, I've replaced one nicotine delivery agent with another, but my total daily dose is much less. The first two 20 piece boxes of gum that I bought were the 4mg dose. My most recent purchase was a box of 110 2mg dose pieces. So I've stepped down my gum dosage already.

That's it for now. My plan is to be nicotine free by March 21.

Truck work

January 7th, 2016 at 06:33 am

I had some maintenance/repair work done on my pick up. The bill totaled $698.05.

The last time I had work done was a year ago February. My memory tells me I spent about $750 then.

It's paid off, and I bought it used. I'm at that stage where I don't have a payment, but more annual maintenance is required. And an average monthly cost of $60 is much better than a $350-400 monthly payment. I just have to make sure I keep looking at it that way.

2015 Financial Goal Update

January 4th, 2016 at 08:14 am

About a year ago I set a financial goal for the 2015 year. My goal was to gave a 250K net worth by the end of the year. I missed that. By a long shot.

My net worth a year ago was $227,074. My net worth today is $227,948. An $874 increase.

Of course the stock market is tanking, that's a big factor.

I've also taken on more debt - to renovate that barn that I was talking about last time I was actively blogging, and braces for DD1, that I blogged about in April/May.

Also, when we were lining up the barn loan, our house was appraised. It wasn't fully appraised. We got what is called a BPO - Broker's Price Opinion. That's a drive-by appraisal.

I had our house listed on my balance sheet at 85K, and the BPO came back at 80K. Who knows, if the broker had walked through the house, he might have been closer to an 85K number, but to "official" number was 80K, so I changed my balance sheet to match that, so that's a 5K difference.

I wish I had recorded and saved what my retirement fund balance was a year ago. I have no idea, but I know it is less than it was a few months ago.

I suppose it only makes sense to set my 2016 goal back at 250K for 2016. We'll see how I do this year.

Our new loan

October 12th, 2015 at 07:51 am

We were approved for the new loan on Thursday, and I returned the signed paperwork on Friday. Our new loan is $38,000, and will be used to pay off my Aunt and my mother and father-in-law for loans they made to us to renovate our house several years ago.

I wanted to clear up one thing that, according to a comment I received on my previous post may not have been clear - We have been paying both my Aunt and my in-laws with monthly installments of $500 and $600 respectively. We will use this loan to eventually pay them off completely.

DW suggested we pay my aunt, rather than her parents first. It makes no difference to me, so we'll do that. Our Oct. 14 payoff to my aunt is $12,273.04. The check is written, and will be mailed once I receive confirmation that the money is available. Columbus Day is throwing things off. Once we receive the final bid for the roof and siding on the barn, we'll make a payment to my in-laws. Depending on what the bid is, I think I can make a payment to them of about $10,000. We're waiting for an Amish crew to return the bid for the roof and siding, and they don't return bids as quickly as "English" crews, but their work is cheaper.

Someone else asked through a comment on here whether this is a HELOC or not. It is a HELOC right now, and can be for up to a year, with only quarterly interest payments due. After a year, or whenever we decide within that year, we'll amortize it for five years.

During that time, of course, we'll continue to make monthly payment to my in-laws. So, I might just wait to amortize the new loan until the entirety of their old loan will fit in. It depends on the final cost of the barn renovation, but I think I can do that by next March or so. We'll see.

It does feel good to be able to 1). pay off my aunt, 2.) make a significant payment to my in-laws, and 3.) get moving on this barn renovation.

The guy we're hiring to do most of the work on the inside also runs a lawn care business, so he said he'll be busy with that until the end of October. The water line out to the barn and hydrant can be done as soon as the plumber can fit us in.

I ran the numbers - Barn renovation loan

October 7th, 2015 at 09:01 am

Regarding my post yesterday - I ran the numbers on a relatively small loan from the bank, and not paying my aunt's loan off right away versus maxing out the loan from the bank, and paying my aunt off right away.

The difference is $1,210 more paid in interest over 5 years. Or $242 per year. Or $7.95 per month.

To be clear - my aunt is not badgering me for the money. She is not rolling her eyes when we go on a vacation, or buy something for the kids. In fact, she was absolutely thrilled when we borrowed money from her to renovate our family's farm house.

But, my heart tells me that we shouldn't be beholden to her. Now that we have a way to pay her back, we should. It's the right thing to do.

When we borrowed the money from her, our options were limited. Conventional borrowing from a bank was not an option. In fact, I let her know that we would pay back the money as soon as we were able. We will soon be able to pay the money back.

DW and I will discuss. I've made up a handy-dandy color coded spread sheet (DW is a visual person) that outlines each of the options.

More on this later.

Flexible Spending Account

October 7th, 2015 at 06:43 am

I completed the open enrollment process for my benefits at work. I maxed out my Flexible Spending Account to $2,550, because of DD1's braces. We were woefully short this 2015 year because, again of DD1's braces.

The Flexible Spending Account period runs from Jan 1 2016 - March 31 2017. On Jan 1, our balance on the braces will be $1,580, so that leaves $970, or $80.83 per month for other out of pocket medical expenses in 2016. That should get used up, and if it doesn't we also have Jan - Mar of 2017 to get it used up.

It's kind of unsettling to commit to having more than $200 per month withheld from my check, but that reduces my W-2 income, so it's definitely worth doing.

Also, my FSA plan allows me to pay for expenses even before the money is deposited to my account. So, my plan is to pay the entire braces balance in January with my FSA card. So I won't have to worry about monthly payments to the orthodontist.

Barn Renovation Update

October 6th, 2015 at 07:57 am

I've blogged a few times about our barn renovation project.

We did get a bid from our plumber - $1,400 to dig a 170 ft. trench from the house to the barn, run a water line from the house to the barn, and hook up a hydrant at the barn. The total projected cost is about $16,000.

The first time I blogged about this, a handful of you suggested we have our kids pick up some of the cost, as the renovation is really about keeping their 4-H and FFA projects going. Between the four kids, they have about $7,000 is savings. What we've decided to do is borrow some money from the kids, and pay them back over time at no interest. DW and I both think that's the right thing to do.

We have applied for a loan for the balance of the costs. I hope to hear back about loan approval this week. Here's a Cliff's Notes (do they even use those anymore?) version of our loan.

Some of you who have been here for a while may remember that we took out loans from two family members to renovate our house ago. Even though we have been paying on the loans faithfully each month, it's not a great situation owing money to family members. We would like to get one or both of them paid off as soon as possible. We owe my mother and father-in-law about 17K, and my aunt about 13K.

The loan we've applied for is up to 38K. The original idea was to use that money to pay off my in-laws, and use the balance to renovate the barn, and borrow only what was needed - about 33K - we applied for the loan before we had many bids in for the renovation. The loan would be amortized for either 5 or 6 years, depending on how much we actually borrowed. Paying off one of the loans would also free up some cash flow.

Now that we've had this idea about borrowing some of the money from the kids, it seems to me that we can pay off both sets of family members, and also renovate the barn.

Yes, that will cost us interest, and we will be extending the total loan out longer, but we will feel better having my in-laws and aunt all paid off.

So, for right now, that's the plan.

I paid off my truck

October 2nd, 2015 at 06:34 am

I paid off my truck with my October 1 payment. The final payment was due Jan. 1, so I'm three months early - a 36 mo. loan paid back in 33 mos.

I'm happy to have my truck paid off. I really am. But, I've discovered, or maybe re-discovered something about myself.

When the payment went through, I thought to myself about how it will be another almost 2 1/2 years before my wife's mini van is paid off. And that my truck will need to last AT LEAST that long before we can replace it. And what if it doesn't. What if it breaks down tomorrow. We're screwed.

OK, maybe all of those thoughts didn't come into my head that rapidly. But still, that's the basic flavor of what was running through my head. Instead of being completely happy about having my truck paid off, I was worrying about having this van paid off in time that we wouldn't have two $300+ payments at the same time.

I need to be worrying about something at all times. My grandma P.'s contribution to my psyche, I guess.

Truly, I am happy about having the truck paid off, and no, I'm not really all that worried about my truck taking a crap.

But, that thought was still there, and that says something about my approach to life.

Apples, Apples, Apples

September 16th, 2015 at 10:35 am

We have a tremendous apple yield again. Last year, not so much, but this is probably the same as we had two years ago when our tree yielded so well.

Last time we had so many apples, an Amish neighbor pressed them into cider for us. DW stopped by yesterday, and he said he wouldn't be ready to press them for another week.

DW has already canned several quarts of sauce. But, we don't go through a ton of sauce. We do go through a ton of fruit juice, though. The boys drink a lot of juice.

My mom has a friend that has quite a few apple trees. He gave us permission to pick apples at his place. All the trees in the area are just loaded.

I think we had 11 gallons made two years ago, and I can't remember how long they lasted us. Most of the year, anyway. We usually water juice down by half when we give it to the boys.

Any way, the cider from our apples will help us save on purchased juices for a lot of the next year.

Hauled some scrap metal

September 15th, 2015 at 07:34 am

I hauled some scrap metal this morning before work. I haven't hauled in a long time, because the farmstead is getting pretty well cleaned up. Cleaning out the barn, getting ready for the renovation, had produced enough to justify a small haul.

What I cleaned out of the barn was the old chain paddle system that sat down in the gutters of the barn to remove manure. We had already cleaned out about 3/4 of the paddles previously, but this set was a little harder to access. I added that to the small pile of other scrap that was accumulating, and decided to haul.

I only delivered 140 lbs. of scrap iron. I've always figured that as long as I haul enough scrap to pay for the gas and the wear on my vehicle, I'll make the trip. Fortunately, the scrap yard is only four miles away.

I was paid $4.20 for the 140 pounds. I covered the trip, barely. I figured it out, and that's $60 per ton. The previous low that I remember calculating for scrap that I delivered was $75 per ton. I think it was selling for $275-$300 per ton during the summer of 2008, when the majority of scrap was hauled from our place.

I've heard that part of the reason scrap was so high that summer was because China used so much iron to build that stadium for the Olympics. I'm not sure if that's much of the reason or not. That's also the summer that corn prices and gasoline prices were sky high. The world was going on one last binge before the global economy collapsed.

Barn Budget

September 14th, 2015 at 11:22 am

I blogged a couple months ago about renovating our barn. It's the barn that houses the kid's 4-H animals. For better or for worse, we've decided to use some of our home equity to finance the repairs.

One side of the barn will be used for storage - straw, haw, animal show equipment. The other side will be used to house animals. So, we are only renovating the side that houses the animals. We've reduced the number of animals in the barn while we work on the renovation. Right now all we have is one laying chicken, one duck, and one goat.

I've removed and burned all the lumber that made to old pens. I'm working on cleaning out all of the manure. I have pretty much all of it out, and am probably ready to power wash.

We'll also side the barn, and put on a new roof.

We're in the middle of getting bids. Some of the work we will do ourselves, some of it we will hire out.

Here's my (current)budget:

Siding and roof materials - $6,800
Inside labor - $2,500
Outside labor - $2,000
Water hookup - $1,600
Lumber and adhesive - $1,050
Gates - $1,130
Feeders - $185
Hardware cloth (for chicken coop) - $136
Lighting and electric materials - $100
Pins and hinges for stalls - $75
Misc. hardware - $48
Gate closers - $26
Total - $15,650

The only number that I pulled completely out of the air is water hookup. The plumber hasn't been out to give a bid. I've guessed $1,600. Hopefully that's on the high side. We'll either run a pipe underground from the house (about 75 feet), or punch in a point well at the barn. Whatever we do, it'll need to be frost-free.

The outside labor (putting on roof and siding) is also a guess. We've not gotten a bid. But, when the materials supplier was adding up his bid, he guessed $2,000. So, I'm using that as a semi solid number.

The lighting and electric materials and misc. hardware are also my guesses.

When we started out, I was hoping for a 12K budget. The first quote we got was $6,800 for the siding and roofing materials. So, I knew then that the total project budget would have to be increased. Hopefully the plumber comes out this week to give a bid. Then, I'll be satisfied that we'll have a decent working budget.

This is a lot of money for an asset that doesn't provide us with shelter, or substantial income. But, if you've been following my blog for any time, you know just how important these livestock project are to our family.

I downloaded Mint

September 3rd, 2015 at 08:58 am

Why didn't I do this years ago? My bank account, credit card, and retirement balances all housed on one app.

I have to get my budget entered. And, unless I can link it to a future Mint account on DW's iPhone, the budget will be useless anyway. I'm assuming that can be done. Otherwise, this Mint app is really only fully usable by single people.

But, still, just having the account balances available in one app is worth having it.

Our long weekend vacation

August 20th, 2015 at 11:21 am

My brother-in-law's brother-in-law is a practicing attorney. And I think he's a corporate attorney who makes a substantial amount of money. He and his wife (BIL's sister) own a house at a ski resort. So, my BIL and SIL (DW's sister) are spending this week at the resort. We were invited to the resort to spend some time with them. We had a couple of things going on Saturday morning, so we spent Saturday evening through Monday afternoon with them.

It is a very nice setting, a very nice resort, and a very nice house. The resort is primarily a ski resort, so the heaviest, most desirable use is in the winter. I got the sense that a lot of the owners rent their houses out for a week at a time to cover some of their costs.

The clientele were mostly clearly upper middle class. I've not been surrounded by a group like that in a very long time. In fact, it kind of made me feel the same way I felt when I was in college at Michigan State, where a lot of the folks around me had and spent more money than I did.

I don't want to take anything away from our enjoyable time. We spent at least half of the time away from the resort, at a couple beaches, and a national park.

Saturday evening, we took the chair lifts to the top of one of the ski mountains. There was a solo guitarist playing songs and singing. It was very enjoyable. There was also a bar. It's not like anyone was flaunting anything at all, but most of the people were dressed in much finer clothes than we were, and most of the people were spending quite a lot of money on drinks. At the same time, it looked like there were a few people more from our social strata.

Before I joined the SA community, I would have figured all of those people were "rich". And probably most of them are living within their means. But after having been here in SA, I couldn't help but wonder how man of them are in debt up to their eyeballs.

A follow-up to yesterday's post

August 12th, 2015 at 12:09 pm

Yesterday I blogged about starting DD1 in 8th grade at the local public school, rather than home school. I was typing a response to the comments in the post, and my response was getting long enough that I decided to make it its own blog entry...

Now that I think about it a bit, we do have experience with the nebulous costs of sending kids to public school.

We had been sending our boys to the special needs school. We tossed the requests for fund raisers, deluxe photo packages, and such in the trash. It seemed to help, because I think staff at the school got the message that we don't participate in such things, because we quit getting them. There is a difference, as the boys' understanding is such that they had no clue what it was that we weren't participating in.

The class that DS1 was in last year took occasional trips to places like McDonald's, and the movie theater. We valued those opportunities, because it's good to get an autistic child out in the real world, so he knows how to interact with people in those situations. The teacher appeared to have a fund to defray part of the cost, because the amount requested would never completely cover what they were doing. Her fund probably came from fund raising efforts! If the requested amount for the trip was $3, we'd throw in $5, or $7, throw in $10, and ask that she keep the change for another student or trip.

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