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Archive for January, 2016

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.

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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.

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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.