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Archive for March, 2013

Lawn Mower

March 27th, 2013 at 05:52 am

We need a new lawn mower. Our old one just doesn't work anymore.

My mom and dad live about 1/4 of a mile down the road. We think they could us a new lawn mower, too. Not sure what they think.

So, we're entertaining the idea of going in half with them on a new mower.

I haven't mentioned the idea to them yet. Not that I'm avoiding the subject, I just haven't thought of it when we've been together.

It makes sense. Why own an expensive piece of equipment in full for once weekly use six months of the year?

Our lawn is about twice as big as theirs is (about 2 acres vs. about one acre), so maintenance could become an issue. So we would probably cover a majority of the maintenance costs.

The only down side that I can think of is that we've each had a back-up mower in the past when one of ours is broken down.

Anyway, getting this typed out may help me remember to bring the subject up this week. Assuming winter ever breaks, we'll need to start mowing in a month.

Syrup Money

March 25th, 2013 at 07:48 am

My parents gave DW and me $550 this weekend. It's our share of 2012 net sales. They really don't have to pay us that much, but it sure is nice.

So, I paid $61 toward CC debt (10% of the balance of our highest interest rate "old" card), and paid off our two active CCs that we pay off each month anyway. (Except for the $705 charge for the EEG/neurologist visit I detailed last week). I'll pay that off when we get the payment in the mail, or just before we get charged interest, whichever happens first.

I'm keeping about $300 in reserves.

This syrup season has been pretty much a bust so far. It's been too cold here in the upper mid west. We've produced about 50 gallons so far, and should be closer to the 120 - 150 gallon range. We consider anything between about 160 - 175 gallons at the end of the season to be successful, and our maximum is 211.

It sounds as if the weather will warm by the middle of this week. We could easily finish off another 100+ gallons if things don't get too warm too fast.

We sold off most of our inventory when we had the open house a week ago, so really, the big priority is to finish off enough for family use at this point!

So THAT'S what an EF is for

March 21st, 2013 at 06:40 am

I'll start this story almost two weeks ago, Friday at about 4:20 in the afternoon. I was at work, and I got a call from DW. She told me that DS2 was "floppy" on his right side, and that he fell down and bumped his head. My sister had been watching both boys at our house, and they had been napping until about the time that DW returned. DW asked me to call DS2's pediatric neurologist for consultation. The neurologist told me to get him to an ER, and to keep in touch with her. By the time I got off the phone, DW had figured out by herself that he needed to get to an ER. He was getting progressively weaker on the right side.

By the time we were settled in at the ER, he was very much worse. No movement or feeling on the right side, and he was drooling heavily out the right side of his mouth. The Dr. ordered a CAT scan to rule out stroke. I took him down to radiology, while DW fed information to the Dr.

That's when things started to get better. He hated the CAT scan, and started thrashing, including movement of his right arm and leg. That was good. By time the CAT scan was done, he was getting back to normal.

The CAT scan results were not consistent with a stroke. The Dr. was stumped, so he ordered DS2 to Children's Hospital in Detroit.

Children's was packed, but we got a room. DS2 was fully back to normal by 8:30. The Dr. at Children's diagnosed "Todd's Paralysis", a condition that can follow a seizure. He called our pediatric neurologist, and she concurred with the diagnosis. Normally, Children's would have kept him for further observation and testing, but they had no room. We had a choice - stay in the ER room at Children's, or follow up with the pediatric neurologist. We opted for outpatient followup with our neurologist.

Fast forward to one week ago, last Thursday. We had an appointment for an EEG with the neurologist. An EEG is the test where they stick a bunch of electrodes to the head to measure brain activity. They get the beast measurement while the patient is sleeping. So, we had to bring him in tired. Our appointment was at 11:00. So DW got up with him at 4:30, and kept him awake. He has a prescribed medication that typically makes him sleepy. I timed that perfectly for about 11:15, the time we figured the test would begin.

That's when the problems began. It seems that the neurology clinic has a new computer system, and they had no history of our insurance information. We need prior authorization from our primary care physician, and we did not have it. So we called our PCP, and asked, can you please send prior authorization. Long story short, by 11:45 DS2 was beginning to fall asleep, and we needed to take action. I ended up putting the $705 charge (EEG + office visit) on my credit card, and he got in and had his EEG.

It turns out that EEG results were not consistent with the type of seizure that would cause Todd's Paralysis. Our highly trained, well respected pediatric neurologist is also stumped.

So, we go back down to the Detroit area again on April 4th for an MRI, and a blood draw for testing mitochondrial activity.

He's been doing absolutely fine since the episode two weeks ago. No long-term effects at all.

What I'm thankful for is that we had the available credit, and EF to cover the $705 EEG/office visit. We wouldn't have two years ago. Things have worked out with the insurance, and we should be expecting a check in the mail within the week.

This is the part I've been trying to ignore

March 13th, 2013 at 08:14 am

The impending implosion of our credit scores.

As most of you are well aware, we're about to sell a house as a short sale. That assumes the sale goes through, and I'm beginning to think it will.

I don't exactly know just how much that will hurt our credit score. But my understanding is it's a little better than a foreclosure. Emphasis on little. The only option I'm aware of to protect our credit scores was to hold on to the house until its value matched what we owe. Would that be 5 years? 7? 10? dunno. Also, to cash flow, we would have had to keep paying renters in the house.

Our biggest fear has been the furnace. It was old, and needed replacement when we bought the house nine years ago. Or some other major expense. We have grown weary of dumping more money into the house. But enough on reasons to sell the house. We decided to sell it, and it is done.

When the house is sold, and CCs are paid off, we start building a real EF. That should take care of issues like furnace breakdowns, insurance deductibles, and the like.

The only thing I would see us needing to finance in the future is vehicles.

Maybe we'll have enough in savings by the time a vehicle needs to be replaced. Maybe not. We could probably get financing somewhere, but at what rate? Leasing is always an option, but I absolutely abhor the idea of leasing.

So, we'll take it one step at a time. Sell the house. Pay off the CCs. Build the EF. Nurse the credit score along. We've done enough other "good" things with our credit that it may build back up over the course of the next two or three years. We'll see.

Notice Served

March 12th, 2013 at 11:47 am

I served notice to our renters today. I made a phone call this morning at about 10:30. Renter didn't pick up. She usually doesn't when I call. It might be more accurate to say that she *never* picks up.

I didn't leave much detail, other than - this is 30 days notice/we expect to close on Apr. 12/we ask that you be moved out before the end of the day Apr. 11.

The detail is in the certified letter I sent. I sent it yesterday, and should arrive today or tomorrow. The letter is 400+ words, and details our expectations related to move out date, where to drop keys off, setting the thermostat, that the house should be broom clean, daily rental fee for April, removing their names from utility accounts, and that we will return their security deposit if all the terms of our contract are met.

So that's done.

In a separate communication with our Realtor, we found out that a Rural Development inspection/appraisal was completed last week. The good news is that there were no noted repairs that need to be done. Great news!

DW and I are still confused on one thing that our Realtor said, and that's that there have been circumstances where required repairs weren't found in the inspection, but were picked up when the file went to underwriting. So, I guess we're not necessarily done with that step. We'll see.

Notice to renters

March 11th, 2013 at 06:43 am

The closing on our house is scheduled for April 12, just a month away. We still have renters in the house, and our contract states 30 days notice is required to break the contract.

So, we need to give notice tomorrow.

Our plan is to contact them by phone tomorrow, and follow up with a certified letter.

I hope they don't give us any problems. They probably won't. Heck, an appraiser walked through the house last Thursday. That should be a hint, right?

They haven't paid rent this month (due on the first) so, I don't expect any more rent from them. We do still have their $800 deposit, which will cover March rent, but not the 12 or so days in April. Small cost for selling the house.

On another subject, we finished 12 gallons of syrup yesterday. Our first of the season. It didn't freeze last night, so the trees ran all night. Weather forecast for the month looks perfect.

Maple Syrup

March 8th, 2013 at 06:41 am

I mentioned a year ago that my family produces maple syrup. We have about 350 taps on about 700 trees. Next weekend we will invite on Friday other home school families and on Saturday and Sunday, the general public to our woods. 2013 marks the 131st year that may family has produced maple syrup in these woods, and the sixth year we've invited groups of people to our facility on the third weekend of March. We keep the date set on the third weekend of March for simplicity sake.

There's only one problem right now. We've not produced one single gallon of syrup yet. It's been too stinking cold. DW and I tapped about 2/3 of the trees last Sunday, and my dad finished up on Tuesday. As of right now we've gathered about 100 gallons of sap, which would boil down to about 2 and a half gallons of syrup. Ouch.

Ideal syrup producing weather is 26 degrees F or colder at night and 37 degrees or more (preferably 40-45) during the day. The freeze/thaw cycles keep the sap moving down to the roots (cold) and up to the branches (warm) each day. We capture about 10% of the tree's sap as it's moving up. We've not been much warmer than about 36 since Sunday, and closer to 34 or 35.

Looking at the 10 day forecast, every day through next Sunday (except for next Monday) looks pretty good. A week from today we could have 90-120 gallons boiled down and packaged. Fingers crossed.

We call this a hobby that pays for itself. It demands 6-8 weeks of our time each spring. We make a little money at it. Most of the money gets pumped back into the business/hobby.

It's a great experience for our kids. Life outdoors, family togetherness, and with the tours, really helps their public speaking/public relations skills. DW and I represent the 5th generation of my family to carry on the tradition.

A couple of things

March 6th, 2013 at 06:44 am

Our state income tax refund was direct deposited into our account Friday. I transferred all of it to our savings. We're now less than $100 away from having our back porch account full funded.

I calculated another pointless personal finance figure. I was curious as to how much of our monthly family income goes toward building net worth, and how much of it goes to other stuff.

What I came up with (month of April projections) is: 32.4% goes to building net worth, and 67.6% goes to other stuff.

Or, for every ten dollars available to our family to spend, $3.24 goes to principal payments or savings, and $6.76 goes to interest payments, food, fuel, insurance (protecting our net worth), child care, entertainment, and some other stuff.

I had to think about how to handle my employer retirement match. I don't think of it as income. It's not available to spend at our discretion. But, it is a big part of the calculation. So, I ended up adding it to income.

I have no idea what a good number is. 32% sounds pretty good. 35 - 40% sounds better. I'll try to track this periodically over time, and see where it goes.

Close Date has been set

March 1st, 2013 at 10:03 am

April 12, 2013. Six weeks from today.

The continuing saga of trying to sell our house.

We finally got approval from our bank for the short sale. It took from Dec. 6 til today. But, it's done.

Well, not really.

Buyer still needs to get loan approval, and we still need to have the house inspected under USDA RD parameters.

But, this is a major hurdle cleared.

March CC Debt Update

March 1st, 2013 at 06:08 am

(Well, now I've had the "I had my post written out and it didn't post problem. Let's try this again.)

CC1 Balance (8.9% APR) - $630
CC2 Balance (5.25% APR) - $594

Total CC Debt - $1,224. A lot better than 2 1/2 years ago.

Still planning on having CC debt paid on Sept. 1, or before.

CC2 is on a fixed payment plan. What happened is that three years ago we were woefully past due on the account. I have no idea what the interest rate was, other than it was high. The company (Bank of America) cut us a deal. They lowered the int. rate to 5.25%, and raised the payment to a permanent $140 per month. We've made a $140 payment every single month since. So, it will be paid off on Aug. 1. Actually, the Aug 1 payment will be about $40. So, we'll send an extra $100 to CC1 that month, and the balance on CC1 should be low enough on Sept. 1 to pay it off. If it's not already paid off.

We still have that triple priority of paying down CC debt, saving to rebuild the back porch, and saving to make sure our short sale house sells. The back porch fund should be set by the end of this month.

(So, I just copied this post in case its lost again.)