Thursday, December 29, 2016

Self Help Refresher for the New Year

It's that time of year again when loads of people make good intentioned resolutions for self improvement. Around this time last year I did a series of posts about my research into self improvement strategies. Here is a quick refresher.

It's about habits not willpower

I recently read an online conversation. A person was claiming it was impossible to be a healthy weight forever. The claim was that it would require constant willpower all the time forever until you die. I can understand were the person gets this idea. This person has probably tried some sort of crash or fad diet. They had the best of intentions and only managed a few days, maybe even held out for a whole week but the temptations just ended up being to strong. They looked a lifetime, years and years, of every day tiring themselves out resisting temptations and gave up. The good news is this is not remotely true. If every single time you got up early to go work out it was as hard as the very first time, no one would ever work out for more than a month. My number one message to someone starting out on a self improvement quest; It will get easier.

Make Your Plan and Execute It

We will achieve long term improvement by making small incremental changes that can be maintained.  I'll use my quest to get out of debt as our example. First, we come up with our big goal.  I am going to pay off all my credit card debt. Now that we have a big picture goal we need to divide that into smaller attainable goals. I will pay off 1/3 of my debt by... I will have it half paid off at.. etc. After we have decided on some goals, we need to come up with what you need to do to achieve those goals. I need to consistently bring in more money than I spend and use the excess to pay off my debt.

At this point we have to think of the practical steps you can take to reach our goals. I will increase my income by taking a second job. I will reduce my expenditures by tracking my expenses and then cutting out excess spending. For earning more money I made a list of what time I had available for extra work and then thought about what skills and tools I had to make money. I had a car so I could do food delivery. I had time on the weekends and skills I could use. I noticed I spent a lot of money eating our so I could reduce the number of days I went out to eat for lunch and dinner.

We take this information and make a very specific action point that we will make a habit. I will bring my lunch to work every day except for one day a week. We then spend weeks working on bringing lunch to work and building the new habit of not eating out. Once we have established the new habit we move onto the next. If later down the road we find that we are spending too much money eating out, we concentrate for a couple of weeks on returning to the proper habit.

Most big improvements in our lives are just the summation of all the little decisions and choices we make.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

TWTW December 19th through the 25th: Dude Where's My Phone?

All right owned by whoever made this movie

It was a cold and icy night. The kind of night were smart people huddle at home and watch netflix. I had only one problem. I had committed a grave and unforgivable sin. I had let us run out of gushy cat food. I groveled and attempted to explain to the angry fuzzy face. I was soooo sorry but it was horrible outside. You can't send me out in this!!!!  The old furry patriarch did not relent and I was cast out onto the icy roads.

It wasn't that bad. I got to the store and purchased the all important gushy food. After feeding the manor lord I went to get my phone for something. I couldn't find it. I searched the apartment to no avail. I went out to the care were the ice had started to coat everything. I looked under the seats. I looked everywhere. Then I had an idea. I have a bluetooth dongle thing in the car that will connect if it's close to the phone. I turned it on.  No connection. The phone was not in the car. I was not sure if the range is good enough for me to confirm that the phone was not in my place. I cleaned the ice off and slowly drove to the grocery store. I drove near where I had parked thinking that maybe the phone had fallen out of my pocket. I kept the bluetooth on an listened to the tone indicating a connection. Nothing. I went inside and asked if anybody had turned in a phone. Nope. I drove home defected thinking someone had stole my phone.

I searched the apartment one more time. Then I remembered I had a bluetooth speaker that the phone automatically connected to. I grabbed the speaker and turned it on.  I waited watching the blue led blink. "Connected" came the response. So the phone was here.  I searched everywhere. I looked in the garbage. I looked in the freezer. I looked under things. I walked into the bathroom defected. It was sitting on the bathroom counter.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas 2016

I am coming to you from my mom's house. That's her tree in that picture. I hung the ornaments. That's why they are so haphazardly placed.

May this Holiday bring us all a time of peace, hope, and love.

And what you have all been waiting for... BRING ON Michael Buble

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

TWTW December 12th through the 18th: I FALL Go Boom

I Fall go Boom

Monday I went out to lunch with my boss. We needed to go to Best Buy to pick something up. On the way out of the store, I was talking about something technical. My boss went around a curb and I went over it. I stumbled a bit as I stepped over. I lost my train of thought and started trying to make my point again. I realized I wasn't regaining my balance.  This confused me. This was a simple task. My weight pitched more and more forward as I started to accelerate. It dawned on my that I wasn't going to save this and was about to face plant into the Best Buy parking lot. As I flashed by my bemused boss my face was heading right to the pavement. I managed to turn my body and slammed down with my elbow and knee taking most of the impact. I scraped up my palms a bit and my cheek just grazed the asphalt.

My boss started frantically asking what happened and if I was ok. I lay there shocked but took stock and realized I had escaped most serious damage. The most annoying results of the tumble wasn't the bruised knee ( still bruised as I write this) or my painful elbow. The worst part didn't show up later that day. I had sprained my big toe.  It made it painful to walk or stand. In fact,  It is still a  little sore.

They're Using Artillery on Us!

Over the weekend, winter came in with a vengeance. I think it was one of them polar vortex thingies. But before that happened things warmed up and it rained Friday and Saturday.... actually I am wrong it iced. Everything got covered in a layer of ice. My car, the streets, the sidewalks, everything. Then it got cold.  And I mean really cold.

That's F by the way for those of you in the rest of the world. It's only gotten this cold a few times since I have lived in this building. But a weird things happen to this building when it gets this cold. I woke up about 4 am to the worrying sound of banging and popping. It sounded like someone was throwing bowling balls at the side of the building. I have no idea what makes that sound but I just hoped it would end so I could go back to sleep.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

TWTW December 5th through the 11th: I Wash Dishes by Hand

It also snowed. Nothing to do with washing dishes

I live alone ( well except for Jobu but he doesn't do any domestic chores) and my apartment has a dish washing machine, so my process for dishes is simple. When I have dirty dishes I rinse them off
and put them in the dish washer. When the dish washer gets full I grab one of those little plastic things full of detergent and start it up. At this point I usually just let the new dirty dishes just pile up until I finally give in and unload the dish washer and start the process over again.

On Saturday the dish washer was full. I popped in the detergent, slammed the door shut, turned the dial, and walked away.  But, there was no sound. I jiggled the dial. I open and closed the door. I even checked the breaker. Nothing worked. What did I do now? I had all sorts of dirty dishes. I guess I'd just have to throw them  out and buy new dishes.

I filled the sink with hot water, found an old expired bottle of dish soap, and went to work hand washing dishes. On a side note: how does dish soap expire??!!! I mean it still worked fine even expired by years.  It's soap. I had to find a clean rag to dry the dishes but over the next 2 days I managed to wash all those dishes :)

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

TWTW November 28th through December 4th: I Visit the World Famous Omega General Store

The work week was a normal week. I don't really remember most of it. I am sure stuff happened, Jobu probably did something funny, and there was weather.

Saturday I went on a little trip/adventure. I drove downstate. The two main reasons for my trip was to see my Grandpa, he recently turned 98, and to help a friend on his property.  On the way down I though I would stop by and see a house my mom has bought near where my grandparents live. My mom plans on moving them into the house once it is ready. It can be a little odd to get to and is in a part of the country down there I have never been to. I assumed I wouldn't have a data signal so I had memorized( I thought) how to get there. I found the first turn, then the second.  I then took a wrong turn and another and another. I wandered around a lake I hadn't known was there until a few days ago. I finally pulled out my phone and got a location but still couldn't find the place.  I finally went back to a rode a new and decided to just go see my Grandpa. 

After visiting my Grandpa I visited the new house. I got a data signal and had been able to map out the way. I checked out the house and then started north driving along small country roads. As I drove through the countryside I marveled at the beauty around me. The land is gently rolling fields and woods filled with life. I realized this is my God's country. I would like to live in the south of France but I want to retire to southern Illinois. Yeah that is weird. 

I eventually ended up in Omega. Where I visited the world famous Omega General Store. 

Monday, December 05, 2016

Music Monday: Julien Dore - Le lac

Love the song. Not sure I understand the video.. He rides around on his tiny motorcycle and then Pamela Anderson shows up ????

Friday, December 02, 2016

Late Fall Photos of Allerton Park

Every fall I try to get out to Allerton park and get some shots of the fall colors. This year my trip kept getting delayed. By the time I finally got out that way it was late fall. The cold weather made me cut my trip short and most of the leaves had fallen from the trees. But I still think I got some nice shots. I really like the second picture and no filter or post processing was done on any of these.










Tuesday, November 29, 2016

TWTW November 21st through the 27th: Giving thanks and Weather

It was Thanksgiving week here in the US. That meant time off from work. But this post will be mostly about weather.

Between Saturday and Sunday we went from Spring to Winter in one day. Saturday it was about 70 degrees and then the rain came. It rained and rained and rained into Sunday.  Sunday the temps dropped to 40. As I sat in my place listening to the rain fall outside I decided to take a video mostly for the sound.  Some stupid train had to come by and ruin it.

I had a good Thanksgiving. I spent time with my parents and my  oldest brother eating good food and watching a lot of football.

On Friday I bought a new phone during "Black Friday". I had been nursing along the  cheap phone I had bought a couple  of years ago. It had gotten to the point were it was difficult to get it to charge and the notification LED no longer worked.

Saturday night I went to bed really early (for me) at 10:30. I woke up early and went for a walk in the cold.  It was really foggy.
There are trees not that far away

Later that day I was sitting on my computer with the Bears game (OHH are they terrible this year) just starting. I looked over to see the opening kickoff and things looked really foggy on the field. I wondered if they set off a bunch of fire works before the game. I minute later I glance over at Jobu all curled up in his bed. Wow it was also all foggy over by Jobu.. Wait a minute? Did I leave the burner on. I rushed into the kitchen were burnt butter smoke was pouring out of the frying pan I had left on the stove.  In the almost 40 degree weather I had to open the windows and turn on the fan for about a half hour to clear out the smoke.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Some Post Election Words for a Few Groups

 I don't really talk about Politics on this blog. The recent election have made me consider putting my neck out there for a few posts. In my head I have planned out three or four posts. Not being a supporter of either party gives me a different perspective on things.

To start it off here are some thoughts to  few groups after this election.

Republicans: You are now in charge. You control the Presidency, the Congress, and shortly the Supreme Court. You tell everyone that your vision for America is the best. Well then implement it. For at least two years no one will be able to stop you. No excuses. Come up with your plan and bring it fully into effect. No more blaming someone else. The government of this country is now yours, use it. You won't. Oh you'll do a few things but you will still need a reason for people to vote for you in four years.

The American Left: First, it is now clear you have some things very wrong about a large swath of the country? Now is a time to listen and learn. The narrative you have been using for the last several years no longer works. Time to come up with a new one. Sanders offered you a chance at a new version. You didn't take it and the old ideas failed. Secondly, listening does not mean being silent. By wise in speaking out. Continue to push for what you think is right.

The American Voter: I have a draft post sitting in my blog from 2013. It is a lament about how the American Voter is misinformed, easily propagandized, and irrational. It seem clear that nothing has changed in three years. Oh and before you get all self congratulatory thinking, "yep those other people on that other side", I mean all ya all.  An informed intelligent American voter is like an hen's tooth in a haystack. Political strategists from both parties have done this intentionally. They want an easily controllable voting population that is susceptible to propaganda. Like Pavlov's dogs they want you to react with emotion when they ring their bell. Become smarter and better people.

The Media: In my heart is a special place full of seething contempt for the media. My words to you are simple. Stop lying! I don't care if you are just some blog or a world respected news agency. Stop lying! Stop misleading people. Be sources of truth. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

During all the food and football today take some time to be thankful.
Generic Thanksgiving gif stolen quilt free from the internet

To keep the tradition alive here are some things I am thankful for.

Giving Thanks: Being able to give thanks is something to be thankful for. Not only does it mean there are good things in our lives, but thanksgiving itself has positive impacts. It improves both physical and mental health, and has a bunch of other positive benefits. I have been meaning to start a daily habit of being thankful but haven't gotten around  to it. Each night I would think of five things that I am thankful for.

Mom: I think she has deservedly made this list every year. I don't know what more I can say about her. She's one of the strongest, most loving, and dedicated people in the world.

God in control: I am very thankful that God is ultimately in control. This is a great source of hope.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

TWTW November 14th through the 20th: Every Day is Friday

Every Day is Friday 

So my boss went on a vacation this week. He will be out until after Thanksgiving. He left Tuesday at noon. This lead to the week long running gag that everyday was Friday.  We'd leave the office saying "See you next week."  The problem is that the human brain is stupid. I actually started getting confused that it was Friday. I would go to bed thinking, "Glad it's Friday I can sleep in tomorrow." Then I would wake up all happy it was Saturday only to remember that in fact it was Wednesday. When It actually got to be Friday I thought it was Thursday.

Seasons Change Quickly

Saturday morning the temperature hovered in the upper 60s. Then the rain came. Lots of rain blowing sideways. By the next day it was below freezing. That's the way weather works here in Illinois. We tend to skip Spring and Fall. 

The Vacuum is Dead

There is a monster that lives in Jobu's very own house. It spends most of the time sleeping but don't be deceived. It will awake.  THE VACUUM!!!!  The Vacuum is the only creature that can both howl and eat at the same time. It has a particular taste for Jobu fur.  Sunday morning the Vacuum awoke and proceeded to try and eat all the Jobu fur. The Vacuum had trouble eating up all the floor. It didn't seem to be sucking very well. So I dissected the Vacuum as seen above. For some reason this terrified Jobu even more than usual. I thought he would be happy to see is live in nemesis in pieces.  I tinkered a bit and put it back together. I did find a bolt it had sucked up. As of writing this I haven't tried it out to see if I actually fixed anything.

$%# Happens

Just a short funny happening I remembered. I put Jobu's....uhh. waste in a plastic shopping bag that I have in a little trash can. I then tie it up and throw it away. I was taking the bag out when it ripped open. Used litter and poop fell to the floor. I stepped on a bit and yelled out a very common exclamation.  I then looked at what I had stepped on, said out loud "literally" and started laughing. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

TWTW November 7th through the 13th: Well Nobody(almost nobody) Predicted That

I have continued waking up early since the time change.  In fact I even got in a couple of workouts in the morning before going to work. I really like the extra time in the morning. For the last several years my mornings have consisted of waking up and then rushing around frantically to arrive to work late. 

What else can I talk about?  What else could have happened this week??  Tuesday morning after going for a jog in a light drizzle I went and voted. As the results came in I, like most people, became more and more shocked. Almost all predictions got it wrong. We went into this election with many predicting this might be the end of the Republican party. In fact the Democratic party is the one in turmoil. Not only did the Republican party win the Presidency, but they control both houses of Congress and will gain control of the Supreme Court.

 I have a lot more to say about it than I am here. I don't know If I will ever write the thousands of words I have come up with over the last several days.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

TWTW Octoboer 31st through November 6th: YEAH FALL BACK TIME CHANGE

The most important thing that happened this week was obviously the Cubs winning the World Series. But I already wrote about that.  The whole year was amazing. They begin with such an amazing start. Arrieta started the years with the most amazing run of pitching I have ever seen. They stumbled a bit before the all star break. I got so distraught that I declared that the Cubs would not even make the playoff.  Boy was I wrong. The easily won the division and cruised into the playoffs.  The playoffs were very stressful but still amazing to watch.  Being the eternal pessimist I couldn't the Cubs out many times but they kept finding the ways to win when they had to. Once they were down 3-1 games in the World Series I came to terms with them not winning. I got myself all ready to appreciate the great year they had and to be prepared for a good run next year. And lo and behold they pulled it off winning three games in a row.

The other big event of last week was the good time change. I love falling back. Suddenly I can wake up all early and get to work on time. It usually only lasts a week or so but It's wonderful for the little bit of time it lasts. In fact on Sunday I got up early and have done all my laundry by 9:30 am. I  then went for a jog and had a very productive day.  YEAH FALL BACK TIME CHANGE

Sunday, November 06, 2016

I am a Fan of the World Series Champions!!!

It was a dark and stormy night

Or it was going to be. It was Wednesday evening. The deciding game seven of the World Series between the Cubs and Indians was to be played that night in Cleveland. I planned to watch the game in a little bar down the way a bit. I found that I could watch the game with a small crowd not a big place going crazy. I had been checking the radar watching a line of storms grow quickly closer and closer. I tornado had even been reported. I had to make a decision. Do I try and beat the storm or wait until after they had passed and risk missing the start of the game.  The walk would only take me like 10 minutes I had plenty of time to make it.

About half way through my walk the wind picks up and a light showers starts.  I decide to put my working out to use and start a slow jog just in case the storm is coming faster than I thought. As I round the final corner and am only about a few hundred feet from my destination the storm hits. A torrential downpour of giant freezing drops begins pelting me. I take off on sprint. As I sprint the final hundred feet across the parking lot I notice the welcoming glow of the open back door. My friend who runs the bar is standing in the door way looking puzzled as a stormed past.

With the weather I expected nobody to show up, but we ended up with a nice small crowd of maybe 14 people or so.  As the night went on and the comes cruised toward victory I become hopeful that I might actually see the historic event. Then something happened. Sitting there I had a great sense of deja vu.  They were going to bring Chapman in and he would blow the save. I was as certain as if I had actually seen it happened. I even texted it to a friend so somebody knew I had seen the future.

All went exactly as I had foreseen it and the game was soon tied.

They went into extra innings and then they had a rain delay. I decided I couldn't wait for a long rain delay. I would go home and ignore the game. I could find out tomorrow that they had lost. The rain delay ended quickly. Before I could even settle in the Cubs had scored two runs.  Cleveland had one last chance. They managed to score a run and then this happened...

I waited and dreamed all my life for that moment. People have dreamed and died waiting for that moment.

I was a fan of the World Series Champions. I hugged everyone, even the Cardinal fans.

Friday, November 04, 2016

4 Common Misconceptions About Voting Third Party in the USA

Though I don’t tend to tell people (online at least) who I vote for, I make it no secret I vote third party. This had led to several comments that have made it clear people don’t seem to understand how voting third party in the US works. Here is my tongue in cheek response, in no particular order, to 4 common misconceptions.

1. Voting third party is throwing your vote away

When I walk into a polling place with my ballot intending to vote third party I do NOT crumple up the ballot and throw it into the trash can. I fill it out and turn it in. Now when the check my ballot they do not throw it away either. They actually take my vote and apply it to the candidate I have chosen.

2. By not voting for major party candidate A I am voting for major party candidate B

The assertion is that by not voting for A I am in fact voting for B. Now there are a couple of problems with this reasoning. If by not voting for A means a vote for B, would not voting for B mean I am voting for A. So in this model by not voting for either I am both voting for both and not voting for both at the same time. This confusion over how voting works extends further. When they process my ballot and find out I voted for third party candidate C they DO NOT apply that vote to either A or B. They actually give my vote to the candidate I chose

3. You shouldn’t vote if you can’t win

I don’t even have anything funny or clever to say about this. It’s just plain old stupid.

4. You should vote for the lessor of two evils*

If you have the choice between voting for Satan, A lessor demon, or a respectable person, the moral choice is the respectable person/platform. Hmmm my ballot has Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and reasonable human on it. Stalin killed more people but Hitler was really bad... Let me get out my evil scale to determine which is the lessor evil. 

* I do acknowledge cases in which this may actually be a choice you can make with a clear conscience. 

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

TWTW October 24th through the 30th It Wasn't Supposed to be Like This

Most of my life I've dreamed of the Cubs making it to the World Series. I imagined it as a time of unbridled joy as unicorns danced in the field until the Cubs were inevitably crowned the champs.  It didn't occur to me that there would be another really good team trying to win the thing as well. I never realized how anxious I would be with each pitch, or how sense of encroaching doom. They played three games over the weekend and I really only watched about  a total hours worth. I couldn't take the stress.  I watched a movie, I read a book, I took a walk. Anything to avoid the games.  This was supposed to be a happy time.

Friday, October 28, 2016

How I Got My Finances in Order part 7 Should I Get A Consolidation Loan?

Do You Want To Get A Consolidation Loan?

Once I came to terms with my debt problem, I had to figure out what strategy I would use to deal with it. I had three major options. Many people stop using their credit cards and just pay off as much as they can each month. They tend to use the snowball effect. You pay off the smallest balance first and then work your way through all the accounts. Using this method you keep they really high interest rates, so I didn't want to use it. Also I had been ineffective up to this point at paying bills so why should I think anything would change. The balance transfer is another tactic. You take hunks of debt from one card and sent it to another one to have a much lower or no interest. I rejected this idea for a simple reason. I had many times transferred balance from one card to another and it had done nothing to help me.

Taking out a consolidation loan is a third popular option. You see them advertised on TV and the internet.  Reduce all your high interest credit card payments to one easy payment. That basically covers the gist of what a consolidation loan entails. You take out one big loan to cover all your existing credit cad debt. You pay one place and you get a better interest rate. Your monthly payment is set and tends to be much larger than you minimum credit card payment. Consolidation loans can be a great help in getting out of debt, but they can also trap you in a cycle of debt.

What are the benefits of a consolidation loan? The biggest benefit you get is a much lower annual percentage rate of interest. My credit cards had APRs between 19 to 29%. The consolidation loan (SPOILER) I eventually got was under 9%. The total interest paid out for my three year loan was the same as I was paying per year on all my credit cards. The fact that the payment is fixed every month, and in my case auto deducted from my bank account, can be another big benefit.  You have to make the payment. With just a credit card payment you can make the minimum payment and prolong your debt and maximize the interest you pay.

You don't want to get trapped into the cycle of consolidation loan debt, which is one of the biggest drawbacks. The cycle of debt occurs when you aren't sticking to your budget or your loan payment is too large. Month by month you payment is being sent to the consolidation loan but at the same time you aren't staying in your budget. You keep whipping out the credit cards to keep up with normal expenses. So after your three or five years the consolidation loan is paid for but you are staring at another pile of credit card debt.  The loan company is there with a convenient solution, another consolidation loan. And the cycle continues until your children inherit your debt. Another drawback is the same as one of the benefits. You have to make the payment every month. You can pay more but not less. If you take out a loan with too big of payment or lose some income you can end up in a real bind.

When I was trying to decide to get a loan or not, I needed to make sure that I would not fall for any of the traps. I determined about how much my monthly payment would be. I then subtracted that from my monthly income and for two months saw if I could live within the amount left. I made the minimum payments for my cards out of the amount a deducted for the loan. I took the amount I didn't put toward the minimum payment and put it into my newly started emergency fund. For two months I managed to keep within the limits and so I decided to pull the trigger and get the consolidation loan.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

TWTW October 17th through the 23rd: CUBS ARE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES!!!!

The week was dominated by the Cubs.  I tried not to care. After years of disappointment I tried not to riled up. I mostly succeeded.

Wednesday night they were up 10-2 in the ninth inning. I watched the game shaking my head. "They are going to blow it. I knew they were going to blow it." They didn't. I was confused that was't what is supposed to happen to the cubs.

Thursday's game they were up 8-1 in the bottom of the eighth and gave up a run. "That's it they are blowing it. I knew this would happen".  In the bottom of the ninth they gave up 2 more runs. "Oh this is it. It's all over now. They've blown it. They'll never win another game."  They won.

I stood there on Saturday as the cubs held a 5-0 lead and were cruising along. "It's going to be so sad that they are only 6 outs away from going to the World Series and they are going to blow.  Man they are only 2 outs away. When they blow this it's going to be way worse than 2003."  Ground ball to the shortstop. Out at second and out at first. I stared bemused at the TV as people cheered around me. "What just... THE CUBS ARE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES!"  We then sang Sweet Home Chicago.

I honestly never thought I would see this in my life.

Friday, October 21, 2016

How I Got My Finances in Order Part 6: Tips And Tricks About The Budget

Where Have I Been?

After a long break (I checked and my last post in this series was on May 29th) we return to how I got my finances in order. So where have a been during this break? I have been working a lot. I spent most of the summer working two sometimes three jobs. I would say I have been busy all the time, but that would be a small lie. After coming home, I would rather sit down and play a video game or watch something on netflix.

So were do I currently stand on my quest to become debt free and financially responsible? I have been following my budget and controlling my spending. I am enjoying watching my debt drop every month. I am just around the corner from the finish line. I should be debt free early next week.

Tips About Setting/Adjusting The Budget

First, It's very important to understand that the budget is not sent down from on high like the ten commandments. Your budget is not an inviolate set of instructions. You will find that what you HAVE to spend money on will change several times during the life of any budget. The goal for the rest of your life, even if you become independently wealthy, is to have a budget. You will never not have a budget. That budget needs to change and adjust for your life.  Prices go up and down, maybe your commute becomes shorter, all these things need to be reflected in your changing budget. Just make sure that your budget always leaves some money to continue paying off that debt or investing.

One piece of advice you'll often hear about budgets is to never borrow from one budget category to pay another. So if you have budgeted two hundred dollars for groceries and say 100 for gas, then these amounts are set in stone.  If you have some unintended travel emergencies that use up your budget well just to bad. You won't be buying any gas from here on out so you can't go to work and get fired. Or woops, you ran out of grocery budget so know you starve and die. Obviously these examples are absurd. Ultimately you are working toward keeping your expenses below a certain amount.  So feel free to borrow from one category to pay for another.

It took me months to arrive at a budget I have been able to keep in the long term. At one point I had to add a hundred dollars  or so to the overall amount because I could not stay below the previous amount. No point in having a budget you can't stay within.

Tricks For Staying On Budget

People have come up with several tricks and programs to try and help you stay on your budget. I tried a few of them. Envelops full of cash remains a very popular method online. You may be shocked but you still can pay for pretty much everything with cash. Yes the cashier may start thinking you are a drug dealer :) You get a bunch of envelopes and write the various budget categories on them. Each month you get the total cash amount from the bank and put it in each envelope. When you have an expense you pull out that cash and buy the groceries or whatever. I had some problems with this system. Your envelopes are sitting at home but when you go out you just have a wad of cash you use for everything. You get some gas, then stop by the grocery store, and finally pick up some take out on the way home. You paid that out of the cash you had but how much now should be in each envelope?  Now you gotta pull out  the receipts and calculate how much should be in each category. And of course you don't have the right change. I tried it for about two months then moved one.

You can use one of those prepaid debit cards that you fill with the budgeted amount each month.  What I do is somewhat similar. I have another bank account with a debit card. Each month I transfer the budgeted amount from my main bank account to this account. I've connected the account to Mint so that it automatically deducts amounts from my budget categories. I also have an ATM just down the street if I need some cash.  I've used this system for almost two years now.  I find it amazing how much my spending is curtailed when I know I am using "real" money and not credit.

Probably the most advantageous way to spend you budget would be to use a credit card with big cash back bonuses. You have to make sure not to go over budget and pay it off each month. I don't remotely trust myself enough to not just start pilling up debt again so my credit cards are locked in a cash box.

Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is one of the most important things to have. This will keep you from falling back into debt with those unexpected expenses. Each spring I replenish my emergency fund with my tax return.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

No TWTW.. all I got is a few pictures

The retention ditch had a metric tonne of ducks in it
Full Moon through a tree.. spoooooooky
Local Maple Tree begins to turn

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

TWTW October 3rd through the 9th: I Run. My Ankle Hurts. I Run Again

Don't fear readers, all 30 of you. I don't see this becoming a fitness blog. I am old, chubby, and out of shape.

My actual old man foot

On Tuesday I went for my scheduled run. It was nothing long, fast, or spectacular. I am doing a modified version of the c25k program. Afterward I had some ankle pain. It got worse on Thursday so I didn't do my run that day thinking I would postpone until Friday. On Friday it was way worse. My foot would pop and crackle and hurt. There was't any swelling but something sure didn't feel right.   I started looking up foot anatomy online trying to figure out what tendon or whatever hurt. The image above of my actual foot shows the painful area in red. It wasn't the achilles tendon it was behind it or to the side. It still hurt on Saturday. I even iced it that night thinking that maybe something was inflamed. I've come to the conclusion that running didn't cause the problem, but the shoes I walked around in did. My right foot supinates rather badly. I wear my shoes down quickly on the outside. With this pair of walking shoes the heal actually broke in a little bit on the right side making my steps even worse. I think that constant twisting of the foot with each step is what caused the pain. I stuffed toilet paper into the right side of my shoe until it leveled out my footfall. That seemed to help a lot.

Sunday I didn't have much pain and I had a lot of energy, so I wanted to get in a run. I put on my heart rate monitor and all my stuff and went for a jog.  Right off the bat I knew my NEW heart rate monitor was having problems. Within twenty seconds of starting it warned me I had reached my max heart rate. I hadn't. It just wasn't working properly.  At one part of the run it just bounced all over the place. I would be at max, it would go down to 140 then down to 100 then back to max. At this point I realized the monitor was useless. I ignored it and decided to try and take stock of just how I felt. I felt good. I didn't feel winded or under a lot of stress. I decided to just keep going and going. According to runkeeper (one of the many and the oldest of the apps I use) claimed I managed my longest run ever.  Maybe I should ignore the HRM more often.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

TWTW September 26th through October 2nd I Go For Some Jogs

You might all want to sit down for this announcement.  I jogged three times this week. I actually kept to the schedule. I intend to do three workouts a week but it's really hard for me to get to the gym now that I try not to drive.  So I impressed myself with my three jogs.

Dream of the week

I was in my house and it was a really sunny day outside but windy.  Then the wind picked up until the gusts were stronger than any other wind ever.  I worried the house would blow over and then it did start to tumble along. I fell out of the house which was no longer a house. It was now the carcass of a large old analog tv with the tube taken out of it. I don't remember what happened next, but we ended up in a dungeon. We knew we had to get out so we could get to the tower and defeat the Wind Demon that was making all the wind.  We got out but most of the people just wanted to fix the castle. I checked on the gps and found out the Wind Demon tower was just a little bit away. Two people decided to come with me to the tower but they quickly left so I went on alone. I came around the corner and it was my grandparents place but there in the back was a big Gothic tower with a bunch of wind blowing around it. Two Minotaurs came out of the tower to fight me. Pulled out the remote for my Amazon fire stick which was also a light saber. Then there was a ferret. I took the ferret into my grandparents' place and tried to play with it in the back room. It kept biting me on the thumb so I got annoyed and decided we had to get out.  But the ferret kept hiding and I didn't want to leave it in there to bite my grandparents... then I woke up with Jobu poking me in the face. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Great Heart Rate Monitor Saga

I have been exercising regularly for a few months now. I switch between using the elliptical machine at the gym and running on the trail right outside my place. Once I hit 40 years old I became concerned about heart health. So now I monitor my heart rate with a chest strap when I run and use that as a metric to go by.  I set a target heart rate that is almost my max, or if I am working on a distance I watch my heart rate to know when to take things slower.

Things with my monitor started out fine. Then things went wonky. At first it would just have the occasional drop out or seem slow to adjust. It got worse as time went on. As soon as a would take off on a slight jog the monitor would instantly shoot up to over 170 bpm. The drop offs became way more common.  The monitor soon became totally useless and unreliable.  I took a screenshot of the results from one run below.

Either my HRM isn't working or I died several times

I have been trying not to spend money so I hoped to fix the problem without buying anything. The chest HRM consists of two parts. The strap itself that has the sensors that go against your skin and a pod that takes a battery and transmits the data, in my case to a GPS watch. I changed to a brand new battery.  Thing improved slightly but not for long. Next I cleaned off the strap but that didn't help. I tightened the strap. I loosened the strap. Nothing mattered.  I actually had another strap sitting around and so I tried that, but I still got the bad results.  At this time I decided the pod itself had gone bad. Luckily I had gotten an amazon gift and it covered the cost of  a new monitor. So far it works fine.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

TWTW September 19th through the 25th: The Great Mosquito Assault

The Great Mosquito Assault

For several weeks now I have been having a mosquito problem in my apartment. But Wonky, how can you have a mosquito problem inside your apartment? Well you see I have a small fuzzy child. He likes to hang out on the balcony. Yes even at night. Since I don't have some sort of cat door and I can't close the door while he is out there because he would be perturbed. This means my balcony door stays open for like an hour each night. The mosquitoes take full advantage of this situation. One night a couple of weeks ago I killed eleven of the blood sucking monsters.  They have a particular liking for my feet and ankles. To counter that I have taken to wearing big socks pulled up as far as they can go on my feet. Each morning as part of my morning ritual I check to see how many new bites the legion of ziki have given me. Wednesday morning my left foot was extra itchy. I pulled off my sock and to my horror counted seven bites on the top of my foot. I can only assume that at some point during the night my foot came out from under the covers.  Also these socks have some sort of special cooling mesh on top and not normal sock material so I guess the west nile attackers had no trouble sensing my nummy flesh.

I Ground the Death Machine

I had been still driving the death machine ie car with the recalled but not yet fixed airbags. I decided to actually read what happens when the airbags fail:


You read that right. Shard of metal fly at your face.  The equivalent of a shotgun explodes in your face. After reading that I went down to the dealer and asked them for a loaner since I wasn't going to drive the car until they fixed it. The told me they didn't really do that. So I grounded the car. It sits out front of my apartment and won't move until they are going to fix it.

What's the point of having a Honda if you can't show it off?