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Archive for August, 2013

The Bet

August 30th, 2013 at 07:03 am

I know most of you have probably been waiting with bated breath to learn how much we'll be spending on Tigers tickets, so I'll end the suspense here. We're getting pavilion tickets behind the Tigers bull pen. Tickets cost $19 each, plus a $4.75 service charge, whatever that is, so we'll be seeing the game for $23.75 X 4 = $95. Plus parking plus gas to get us there plus whatever we buy for food. That works.

On to the post at hand.

I graduated from Michigan State, and my sister graduated from Western Michigan. MSU plays WMU tonight in football. I placed a friendly bet with my sister. It seemed foolish to bet any real money, and silly to bet only a dollar. We ended up betting winners choice of a bottle of pop (or soda, depending on your preference) or a candy bar. I'm spotting her twenty points.

When the bet was set, I announced it all on Facebook. That drew the attention of my brother-in-law, who is also a big MSU fan. He concurs that MSU will win, but he doesn't think they'll win by 20. So we went ahead and set a bet. The stakes on this bet are a six pack, losers choice of brand.

I drink about five beers over the course of two months. And I'm not at all picky about what I drink, although I don't drink the really cheap stuff I did in college. My BIL on the other hand is a regular beer snob. He can detect all those orange rinds or oak barrels or whatever was used in the brewing of the beer. So, since I fully intend to win this bet, I figured he would choose a nice six pack for me. If I lose the bet, I've got my work cut out for me to not disappoint.

For the record, I predict MSU 31-WMU 10. GO GREEN!

The Tigers Game

August 29th, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Our niece L (DW's niece, mine by marriage) and her husband M live in South Africa. They'll be coming home for a visit in about three weeks.

So L set up a conversation via Facebook about arrival dates, when they will be where, planning, etc. Among those plans was an effort to set up a date/time for a family picture (there are 28 of us in total, and everyone will be in the same state at the same time). M is also a fairly big Tigers baseball fan, and they're doing fairly well this season (current series with the A's not withstanding). So L asked if anyone was up for a Tigers game on Sept. 20.

My immediate reaction (to myself) about the ball game was "count us out". My gut reaction is always to not spend the extra money, and we have two boys with special needs, and any time we need to find someone to watch them for us is at a premium.

A lot of the ensuing conversation around this FB thread had to do with the pictures, and the Tigers game kind of got forgotten. Apparently if you buy tickets in groups of 10 or more, you get a discount, and L and M really want to go to the game, and were hoping for a sizable group. So finally yesterday L asked via the FB thread - "Who's up for the ball game?" And DW sent me a text asking if I wanted to go. I said sure.

So, the four from my family plus L and M plus L's mom and dad plus DW's mom and dad makes 10.

I'm not sure how much the tickets will cost. I just looked on-line, and saw that fairly decent seats to great seats are priced anywhere from about $30 to about $80 each, before the 10 ticket discount. I just made my first contribution to the FB thread asking about price, so we'll see.

I haven't been to a Tigers game since 1995 or '96. Not sure. I think I've only been to four or five games in my life, and I've never been to a game in the "new" Comerica Park (opened in 2000). This *could* end up being a special year for the Tigers, and if it is I'll be able to say that I saw a 2013 Tigers game.

New Tires

August 28th, 2013 at 11:15 am

I blew a tire on the way to work yesterday. The truck is fully insured, including towing, so after some effort on my and DW's part to get the spare on, we had it towed to the tire shop.

I opted to have all four tires replaced. The truck has 85,000 miles. I'm not sure if the tires are original or not, but they needed to be replaced. No need to go blowing them one at a time over the next several months.

The total cost to replace was $636, including tires, labor, and tax. The tire guy said that I could have a good used tire for $50. But, again, we have the cash, so I opted for new tires all around.

This leads to a (somewhat) funny story. Until recently I drove a POS car. Three or four years ago that car had a flat that needed to be replaced. My job has me wearing different clothes depending on what I'm doing, either seasonally or day to day. One day I might be wearing khakis and a button up shits, another day I might be wearing a tee shirt and dirty beat up jeans. On this particular day when I got the flat I was not dressed up. The tire guy probably assumed I was broke (actually, I probably was broke). He offered a good used tire for $20. Different vehicle, different tire, different year, I know, but I can't help but think that I appeared to have a different paying capacity three or four years ago than I did yesterday, hence the difference in pricing.

Anyway, I'm set for the winter now, and maybe set for another 85,000 miles.

Updated DTI Ratio

August 27th, 2013 at 07:19 am

We've retired some debt this month. All credit cards completely paid off. Truck loan - took a big chunk out of the loan. Lawn mower loan - almost completely retired (balance will be paid next month).

So, I decided to re-figure our debt to income ratio. It's now 24.5% - that is a wee bit less than 1/4 of our before tax income is required to meet monthly minimum required debt obligations.

That being said, we'll plan to send more than the required minimum to the truck loan per month from here on out. Not quite a double payment, but I'm thinking a payment that would amount to 10% of gross monthly income. That will bring our effective DTI to about 30%, and retire the loan about 14 months early. I think we can live comfortably with that.

Weekend Happenings

August 26th, 2013 at 06:11 am

I'm not sure how much I've talked about it in the past, but DW home schools our girls. With school about to begin, she needed a block of time to get curricula organized. So, I took the boys out for a road trip on Saturday. The girls had been invited to a birthday party in the afternoon.

Before we left for our road trip, I loaded the back of my pickup with some scrap iron. We live at my family's old farm, so there always seems to be scrap iron turning up. The load ended up being small - 40 pounds. The price I received was $3. Really, I look at it as an opportunity to deliver trash, and they pay me for it. The junk yard is 4 miles from our house.

I went into town, and had an extra key made for my pickup. When I bought the truck, I only received one key. With a copy now, I'll have some insurance if I ever lock the keys in the truck. The copy cost $2.99. Kind of funny how that worked out.

Then, I got the oil changed in my pickup. The oil change cost around $41. The truck is a Dodge Ram Hemi. It holds 7 quarts of oil. The expensive oil changes are something I wasn't aware of when I bought the pickup in December. Live and learn.

I have changed the oil myself in our various vehicles in the past. My brother-in-law has a nice farm shop that makes changing oil easy, and if we're there for the weekend, and a vehicle needs an oil change, I'll go ahead and do it. But honestly, enough of the cost is the actual oil and oil filter, that it really doesn't cost a whole lot of money to have the quickie places do it for you.

Then, I took the boys to a zoo. The zoo is about 40 miles from home. Admission for the three of us was about $25. We had a nice time. The funny/frustrating thing was that the goats at the petting zoo area were the biggest hit with the boys. We have three goats at home.

The boys ended up falling asleep on the way back home, so I pulled over and listened to the Tigers/Mets game on the radio. The Tigers won the game, and swept the weekend series. Go Tigers!

The Truck Payment

August 19th, 2013 at 05:28 am

I bought a truck last December. I financed it through our credit union. We hadn't ever financed a vehicle through this credit union. We had carried a credit card, house re-fi, and home equity loan (back in the bad old days when we did home equity loans) through this credit union, but never a vehicle loan. The dealers always beat their rates, typically by 0.1% point. So, I wasn't really sure how the CU worked the loan if paid ahead.

Some months, I've been rounding the $378 minimum payment up to $400. I had been wondering if the minimum due would gradually ratchet down - like $1 less due per month for every $36 that I was paid ahead on the loan (it's a 36 month loan). But, the payment has never been adjusted down at all, which is fine. I wanted to pay AT LEAST $378 per month, and have the truck paid off earlier. I just figured that the CU would make some adjustment to keep me paying on the loan for the full 36 months - more interest income for them.

Last week, I made a substantial payment ahead. I decided to pay 10% of the remaining balance. The remaining balance was $10,220, so I paid $1,022 (About $16 of that payment went toward accumulated interest. Had I been thinking more clearly, I would have increased the payment so that the principal balance had gone down 10%). I went to the CU website this morning just to check if the payment went through. It did. And, yep, the amount due with the next payment remains $378. What changed is the date the payment is due! I don't owe anything on this truck until December 1!

Of course, I plan to make my Sep., Oct., and Nov. payments. We also still haven't decided if we're going to pay this off entirely with the gift money.

Either way, we're hopefully getting ourselves well positioned to pay this truck off, and start saving cash to buy a replacement family van in a few years. I'm not saying we won't finance it, but we will hopefully at least make a substantial down payment.

Our Septic System

August 16th, 2013 at 06:02 am

No, our septic system didn't fail. But, it hasn't been updated in quite some time, and will need to be replaced. Just, not yet.

But, we want to be prepared, and have the money available for replacement, when the time comes. So, I called an installer yesterday, to get an idea of replacement cost.

His first questions were: which county do you live in, and how many bedrooms are in your house? I told him which county I live in, and that we have three bedrooms in our house. My county requires a 2,500 gallon tank for a three bedroom house.

Next, he asked me if our house was on sand or clay soil. I told him that our soil was loamy, or in-between. The required length of the tiles in the drain field are dictated how fast your soil percolates water. Sandy soil percs faster than clay soil. So, a septic system on sandy ground costs less than a septic system on clay ground (less excavation, less fill sand, less drain tile).

He estimated the cost at about $6,000, but said that the estimate would be much tighter after the county environmental health department came out to do an actual perc test.

So, we'll set aside $6,000 in the EF. The system may need to be replaced next year, or it may be 10 or more years. Either way, we'd like to be prepared.

More work on the house

August 15th, 2013 at 06:45 am

First - to make the new porch truly barrier free, it will cost quite a bit more than the original estimate.

Second - the new porch area will have new soffit and fascia. We've decided to have the contractor put new soffit and fascia around the entire house. The old soffit is wooden and peeling. Do you even call that soffit when it's wooden? Not sure.

Third - our house has never had eaves troughs. We'll have the contractor put eaves troughs around the house. That will help withe the water in the basement problem.

So, yeah. That's a lot of money we'll be spending on the house.

I've probably hinted and mentioned the circumstances about our house a few times, but there are some new readers hear, so I'll go into some detail.

About 5 1/2 years ago, a job opened up for me in my home area. My wife grew up in the same general area of the state. So, I took the job, and moved home. We put our house up for sale right at the beginning of the housing crash. Selling that house became its own adventure that I've detailed extensively in past blogs.

My maternal grandparent's house was empty, so we rented it cheap from my mom until (we were thinking) our old house sold, and we could find something permanent. During that time, my fraternal grandmother died. That house became available to us. It's on the original farmstead that my dad's great grandparents settled and built in 1882.

While the actual real estate transaction was cheap, the house was in very bad need of updating (previous update was 1929). We had absolutely no money, and absolutely no capacity to borrow money to make the necessary renovations. While it's true that we could have moved in, and renovated one room at a time as we saved money, we just weren't up for that option.

My aunt (my dad's sister) really wanted the house to stay in the family. She really wanted us to update the house and move in. She had just inherited a bit of money from her parent's estate, and she has money of her own saved. So, she lent us some money to get started.

We gutted the house ourselves, and hired a builder to renovate it. We were still under the delusion that our other house might sell during this time, freeing us up to borrow more money to finish the renovations. That didn't happen, so we ended up borrowing more money from my in-laws to complete the project.

When the project was complete, we had an almost entirely new house - on the inside. We did nothing on the outside, except clear brush, and cut some trees, and add gravel to the driveway. The house still looked old and beat up from the outside.

Since moving in, we have dome some improvements outside. We put on a new roof two years ago. We replaced the front porch last year. I've blogged on here about each of those projects. They each needed to be done.

So now, we've been gifted this money. And, really we're finishing the project that we started five years ago.

So, there's some pride and sentimentality involved with our decisions. We certainly could have made other decisions that would have been cheaper. We could have stayed in my other grandma's house until our old house sold. We didn't even have to move from our old house. But, we did. And we took the opportunity to move into my family's farm house. And now, we're taking the opportunity to update the outside of the house. And, I'm happy to be doing it.

Our visit with the attorney

August 12th, 2013 at 07:31 am

We visited our attorney on Friday. As a reminder, the reason for our appointment was to have him set up special needs trusts for our two boys .

I was fairly ignorant on what exactly a special needs trust is. What I did know was that it a special needs trust is a way to shelter money earmarked for their use that doesn't count as an asset if/when they qualify for social security payments after age 18.

I'll pause here for a moment. Let me be very clear - I hope that both boys lead very productive adult lives, employed to the fullest of their abilities. They were each adopted out of foster care, and DS1 is autistic, and DS2 has cerebral paulsey, and fetal alcohol syndrome. We need to plan for the worst.

Anyway, what our attorney told us is that he would add an amendment to our existing estate planning documents. We should set up separate savings accounts for each of them, and refer to those savings accounts in the amendment. That's it. Pretty easy.

Immediately after our attorney appointment was finished, we drove to our bank, and set up new savings accounts, one for each son. We put $1,000 in each account.

We'll continue to add to those accounts through the years - cash birthday gifts, money that they may earn through the sale of 4-H animals, and we'll periodically add our own money.

We will need to drop off our current trust papers to the attorney. Somehow neither one of us thought to bring them with us on Friday. But, it's done. Fairly simple.

Completely unrelated - I said in one of my posts last week that the porch renovation would only take a couple of days. That was a fantasy. The contractor didn't understand that when my wife said that the entrance to the house needed to be "barrier free" that she meant that it needed to be "free of barriers". We lost all of Friday when new plans were made. They are working on it again today.

Spending More Money

August 9th, 2013 at 08:54 am

We're getting a load of gravel today (actually, it's probably already delivered). We used two loads of gravel six years ago when we made our driveway. We've had lots of rain this spring/summer, and the potholes have become very evident. The delivery fee is $75, plus $6.50 per ton for the gravel. The dump truck holds 19 tons. So, I ordered 19 tons, and the total comes to $198.50.

It's fortunate that the porch contractor has a skidsteer on site. The gravel driver will spread the gravel as best he can from the dump truck. The porch contractor will help spread it evenly with the skid steer. Will save me from moving it around. We're going to extend the driveway a bit back from the road, too. We would have done that six years ago, but there is an electrical line in the way. The addition of the skidsteer will help that.

I also contacted a professional carpet cleaner. He will be at the house on Monday. He'll charge us about $100-$150. Yes, we could have rented a steam cleaner (and bought cleaner) for about half that cost. It can be a challenge to coordinate that, especially with two kids with special needs. The boys are in school Monday, and DW and the girls are busy, and will be out of the house.

We've got a couple minor, but out of our area of expertise plumbing problems. I've contacted a plumber to take care of them. Not sure on the cost yet.

The gravel and the plumbing have been on the to do list for a while. We just needed to wait until we had the extra cash. Plus, doing the gravel while the porch contractor is there will make the finished product much better, and easier.

Other home improvement projects for the future:

Generator with transfer switch installed. We live in a very rural part of Michigan, and have been without power two times recently. One of the times was for about 20 hours.

Couches and easy chair. We haven't bought a single couch at all ever. The two that we are using are hand-me-downs from my in-laws. The easy chair is about 11 years old. It was a gift from my brother-in-law (purchased new) when our first daughter was born.

New dressers for the kids. Again, all kids dressers are hand-me-downs, and they don't work very well.

Refrigerator. Our refrigerator was left in our old house when we bought it. We moved it with us. Not sure how old it is. It still refrigerates and freezes things. The ice machine does not work. We can do with this for a while, but it needs to be in the replacement plan.

These items are on the wish list. We need to see how the dusts settles out on other priorities.

The back porch project

August 8th, 2013 at 06:02 am

Some may question the wisdom of us spending 4K on renovating our back porch. Our EF is pathetic, and our college savings is pathetic. Our retirement fund is not exactly pathetic, but anemic may better describe it.

All of this is true, yet we are going to have our back porch renovated. It's not at the level of safety concern, but it is an eyesore. And, my 82 year old arthritic/diabetic mother-in-law and 82 year old father-in-law with Parkinson's have great difficulty in entering our house to visit their grand children. That can also be read as the people responsible for the gift that will allow us to renovate the porch deserve better access to our house.

The builder starts today. There is no rain in the forecast. Hopefully he's finished by the end of the day tomorrow. We'll see.

Oh, I almost forgot to add - we had the same builder renovate our front porch last summer. He stored some materials in the old family blacksmith shop. He happened to notice that we had an anvil, drill press, and other small blacksmithing tools. He offered us $500 for the items. When he's finished with this project, he will knock $500 off the cost of the renovation, and take the items with him.

I'm going to try to add a couple of images to show the current condition of the porch and walkway.

The very generous gift

August 7th, 2013 at 06:21 am

This past weekend, my in-laws gifted my wife $30,000. For more background on the gift see my most recent post in the forums.

Steps that have been taken so far:

The checks were deposited into our account on Monday.

The credit card was completely paid off this morning.

We scheduled the builder to begin work on our back porch today. It is raining.

We scheduled an appointment with an attorney to set up special needs trusts for our boys. We'll be meeting with the attorney this Friday afternoon.

Our emergency fund is housed at DW's home-town bank, and that transfer has not been made yet.

Our girls already have 529's set up, but we have not allocated any new funds toward them.

I received some good advice from my forum post. We may pay off the truck (10K) and set up an automatic monthly payment for a Roth IRA for DW for the amount that had been going to the truck payment.

Still not sure exactly how everything will be spent and allocated. It will not be spent on a luxury car or a Caribbean cruise.

$30,000 represents a bit more than half of my annual salary. Heck, 10 years ago, I wasn't even making 30K in one year. I (we) are overwhelmed by the generosity of this gift. It gives us the flexibility to attend to some savings goals that have been sorely neglected, as well as make some needed improvements around the homestead.