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Blue-collar Living in a White-collar World
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Cashed Out PTO

January 13th, 2014 at 04:38 pm

I have an extremely rare opportunity with the company that I work for. They actually allow employees to cash out their PTO. You only need to meet the following criteria to do so:
- Must have 60 hours PTO remaining after cash out.
- Must have taken a least 40 hours PTO in past 365 days.
- Max cash out of 120 hours.

So I cashed out 110 hours and will have 60 remaining. This will help out tremendously with some of our newly-accrued debt from buying our home.

We should be picking up keys for the home today. Smile

How much did efficient driving save us in 2013?

January 7th, 2014 at 04:38 pm

In 2013, we drove ~9,000 miles.

The EPA est. fuel economy of our vehicle is 27/33/30 MPG (city/highway/combined). We drove mostly city miles.

Our end-year average fuel economy was 33.4 MPG.

Taking the highs and lows from

Text is this chart and Link is http://www.gasbuddy.com/gb_retail_price_chart.aspx?time=24
this chart for our area (no link for area), the average price per gallon was $3.65.

9000 / 33.4 = 269.5 gallons
269.5 * 3.65 = $983.5 spent in 2013 on fuel.

9000 / 30 = 300 gallons
300 * 3.65 = $1,095 spent if attaining only EPA est. MPG

Total saved = $111.5.

This may not sound like much. However, keep in mind: I do not make many behavior modifications to my driving. It simply consists of accelerating slower, staying at or under the speed limit, and turning the car off whenever you would normally idle, and slowing down much sooner for stops.

If you want to learn more, visit
Text is CleanMPG.com and Link is http://cleanmpg.com/
CleanMPG.com

Owning Up...

December 27th, 2013 at 07:06 pm

I have not posted since I was last promoted at work. We have been super busy with new endeavors! My wife and I launched a coffee review web site, and it took off like we couldn't have imagined. This was borne out of our strong desire and drive to be doing anything and everything in the coffee industry and community. It is our goal to open a roaster and shop.

As such, I have begun roasting coffee at home in a small popcorn popper. You'd be surprised by how awesome these little things can be!

With these new endeavors, however, have come new expenses! We have actually been somewhat irresponsible, and have even lost track at a couple of points. It is partially due to the fact that we have changed up our methods, and partially due to not restraining as much as we should. Some of the new methods have proven to not work with us. So we are currently using a combination of old things that worked before, and new ones. Namely, using a spreadsheet to lay-out our budget, while using YNAB to track spending.

Also new... We are buying our first home! We should be closing no later than this Thursday! How exciting! With utilities, fuel for commuting, and our mortgage payment and insurance, our living expenses will still be lower than renting this apartment.

You should be able to notice some changes to the sidebar. Here are some explanations...

Student Loan: Almost paid-off. Will continue making payments, as it is the lowest % rate.
Visa: Used for home inspection.
Amazon Store Card: Used to purchase yoga gear. Will have to make payments on this.
BillMeLater: Used to purchase espresso machine and refrigerator, washer and dryer for the new home. Will pay down as much as possible with tax returns (~$3,900), and make payments thereafter. (OUCH!) BML's interest rate is 29.99%. That is painful!

All this said, I don't have too many regrets. We could have gone slightly cheaper on the espresso machine (~$200). The appliances for the house, however, were the cheapest new machines you could find. Home Depot had an awesome Cyber Monday sale going on that ended up making the appliances we wanted (great ratings, 5 year warranties, etc.) more than $400 cheaper than rebuilt ones from Sears Outlet. We actually saved $950 off retail prices on them.

It will be tight for a bit, but it's nothing we can't handle. Certainly don't want to do it again, however. Especially since we need to look into getting a second vehicle.

All-in-all, it has been a crazy awesome year! I am looking at receiving a fair chunk of a raise this February. The maximum is 3%. However, only three other people at work (of the 15) are due to get raises, so they are talking about giving me 6%. They have to get it approved, of course, but I have faith in their abilities to go to bat for me.

Until next time, all!

Movin' On Up

June 28th, 2013 at 04:54 pm

This has been coming for a long time, but last week I finally got official word that it was happening. I am getting promoted at work, and will be getting a raise of $1.89/hr. Not bad, I suppose.

Most of that raise, however, will be eaten up by groceries, as we will be getting off of food assistance! Woohoo! How liberating! We sure are excited about that, even if it does eat up most of our new income. After that, the raise only comes out to about $34 more per month.

So we looked at our budget. We have budgeted $40/mo for kid-related expenses. Seeing as how our little two year old is already potty-trained, a lot of this is no longer required. So we cut it down to $25/mo. We shall see how that goes. Hopefully we can contribute a decent amount to savings each month.

Also, I started using YNAB (You Need a Budget) recently. I was previously using just the iOS app PocketMoney. YNAB seems to be a bit more realistic and easy to work with. Instead of highlighting your total available funds, it highlights your budgeted amounts. Out of sight, out of mind.

So, here we go! Another new chapter in our lives.

Anniv. Trip, Work life, etc.

May 10th, 2013 at 05:29 am

My wife and I celebrated three years of marriage this past week. We spend one night and two days in a city that, just at the mention of it, our hearts flutter. It is smaller, friendlier, greener, foodier, etc. It has it all for us.

While on vacation there - without our kiddo in tow for the first time in over two years - it didn't feel like a vacation. It felt better. More real. Like just a weekend in the city. As if we lived there. We have had plans to move there, and to open our future business(es) there. Now, we are even more convinced.

When we returned, I found out that I would again be missing out on a promotion, because someone higher on our team hasn't gotten the position he had applied for (if he had, myself and another would have moved up). Oh well. I've spent over a year in this entry-level position, receiving near-minimal wages (pretty rock-bottom for this field), and unable to afford health, retirement or disability insurance. In fact, this year I will be making some $30/mo less on my base salary. With the FICA tax going back up, rent going up by 3% (I live in the company-owned building and receive a small discount), state minimum wage having gone up by $0.11 (thereby lowering the value of my dollar), and adding in my 3% raise, I'm coming out $30 behind. I suppose you shouldn't count the FICA tax, as that was a temporary thing anyway, but it counts in this instance.

I suppose this is pretty typical around the states.

Text is This article full of charts and Link is http://blog.quandl.com/2013/05/07/justifiably-mad-the-plight-of-the-99-in-15-charts/
This article full of charts puts it into context very well.

However, I should try to do better for myself and my family, yes?

What if I moved to another, much larger company? They seem to have decent reviews on glassdoor.com (especially compared to others), and they have properties all up and down this coast. More room for possibilities? My company does not have any properties in the city or state that we desire to move to.

I don't know. I like the people I work with (most of them). It sure is a difficult decision! Maybe I shall apply for that company, and just see what happens?

Minimalism

April 29th, 2013 at 10:56 pm

For the past few months, my wife - somewhat reluctantly - and I have been purging a lot of our belongings. I have found that we, people, hang on to the most worthless junk. Now, we never really had a lot of things to begin with, but definitely more than necessary.

So I adopted a new-to-me way of thinking and feeling: If I don't love something, it's history. I don't need it. I don't want it.

We have not owned a television since we sold ours back in 2011. But other things - nick nacks, sentimentald, clothing, etc. - we had. So, recently, we have purged almost the entirety of our wardrobes, and replaced them with more neutral items. I now wear my entire wardrobe in a month (pretty good considering they're only worn on weekends). I have reduced to three t-shirts, two button-ups, two pants, two pairs of shoes, two outer layers. This is great, too, because after having lost 37 pounds in the last year, it is nice to have clothing that fits.

We have gone through the kitchen and our daughter's things, and have gotten rid of quite a bit, and with no remorse. We still have a few things to dump... Such as our printer. It is bulky and takes up valuable space in the closet when not in use. There is a print:copy/scan machine at work that I have access to 24/7. However, it does not print in high enough quality for, say, business cards or photo paper. So we would still need a high quality printer. I think stand-alone photo printers can be had for about $50 brand new, however.

When I describe this to people, they ask: So, you don have any decorations or anything? Wrong. But I do all of the decorations we do have.

We also got rid of our king size bed. We still have the mattress, as we haven't found a buyer for it yet. So the mattress sits directly on the floor. Best night of sleep I have had in about a month (my sleep quality app confirms this).

In the way of small kitchen appliances, we have a KitchenAid blender and a KitchenAid stand mixer. The blender was found at wok an repaired with an $8 part. The mixer was given to us used. That is all for appliances. We don't need anything else. We do, however, have three different coffee makers. All manual. An AeroPress, a Chemex, and a French Press. Each one makes a different type of coffee. And, being coffee geeks, we truly enjoy and love them on a daily basis. Plus, neither cost over $40, and we got them within at least six months of each other.

Those are but a few examples. Basically, we keep nothing that we don't use regularly, and don't love. It helps to keep free of distractions, and keeps upkeep to a minimum.

Edit: Here are a couple of resources by a man who has served as great inspiration for this:

Text is https://zenhabits.net and Link is
https://zenhabits.net
Text is https://mnmlist.com and Link is
https://mnmlist.com

Little Updates

April 24th, 2013 at 03:58 pm

Our car insurance is going up by $20/mo in June, due to a speeding ticket I received. I contested it so that it, and won, but somehow it is still on my record. No idea.

Anyways, we decided to drop Collision coverage, as our deductible was 1/5 of what we paid for the car. We also opted to lower our Comprehensive deductible from $500 to $250 for only $12 more per 6 months. And considering that we have had a couple break-ins on cars at the property this year, this is a good idea.


In less than two weeks, my wife and I are ditching our kiddo with her parents (driving in from out-of-state) for some much-needed us time! Heading down to Portland to enjoy some fine coffee, beautiful scenery, and some vegan/vegetarian cuisine!

Rent On the Rise - Where to Trim the Fat?

April 9th, 2013 at 04:48 pm

Our rent is due to go up by $20 in June. I received a $.36 raise this year ($57/mo) and as a result, our food assistance dropped by $50/mo. Makes sense. But now rent is on the rise as well. The $20 won't break us, as I will still come out $80/mo ahead (before including ~$80/mo commission), but it is still a set-back.

Our expenses are almost as bare-minimum as it gets. Prepaid phones (actually, my phone is on a family plan with my parents, but only costs $2/mo more than prepaid), slowest Internet, no cable, only $40/mo in fuel (no commuting), etc. We even slashed our electric bill by about $15/mo by line-drying our clothes inside rather than using the dryer. We only contribute $80/mo of our own cash to groceries ($230/mo for two adults and one child after assistance).

The only unnecessary expense is $30/mo in coffee.

Water/Sewer/Garbage is through the roof at $80-110/mo. No idea how to avoid that, being on a rented boiler system, an having to pay for other residents leaving crap everywhere.

So, that brings me to car insurance. We recently paid off our car, and still carry full coverage at $140/mo. This is the cheapest. We have looked around. If we drop all but the necessary coverages, it goes down to about $65/mo. Our car cost $5,500 at the time. In order for a downgrade to pay for itself to fund another vehicle, it would take six years to save $5,500.

What to do...

Fell off the wagon.

April 7th, 2013 at 05:47 pm

March, and so far April as well, we have not done very well in the way of finances. Mind you, we have no troubles paying bills and all, but I have not been mindful about setting anything aside.
I am still paying bills on set days of the month, and have a month's worth of expenses in checking, but we have dipped below that a bit, and haven't made any deposits in savings.
Since March 1st, we have spent $304 in unbudgeted purchases.
$45 of that was for my wife's blog (which has the potential to have an income in the future).
$85 to dining out (no excuse).
$122 was for outdoor adventuring gear (all on clearance - $272 worth).
$26 was for coffee gear ($72 worth - $46 came from credit card rewards).
$22 for photography gear (potential to make money in future).
$4 for audio equipment (trying to fix record player).
Not sure how we got so off-target. The outdoor gear was foresee, but I did not set a savings goal for it when I foresaw the expense last year.
It has to stop. Almost two months of bad financial behaviour. Well, no more! Back on the right path!

When to Pay Cards?

February 26th, 2013 at 03:10 am

I have three cards that I use. One is due the 5th. Another is due the 15th. And the last is due the 21st.

I would rather make all of the payments at once. When do I make those payments in order to avoid interest? Let's say I make it the 1st. Does that work (assuming they post within two days)?