Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dave Ramsey

On a co-workers recomendation I looked up which, for those of you not in the know, is a money management and debt reduction site that claims to be able to secure anyones financial future with only the money they already make blah-blah-blah we've all heard it before. But, as I trust this co-worker I decided to look into things a bit.

First and foremost the plan is built around 7 "baby" steps, though Dave and my definition of baby certainly differs. I was surprised to find that his suggestions, and my current strategy is fairly similar. His first step, and mine, is to amass $1,000 in savings. Where we differ is that he views a couples funds jointly, I do not. So, in my eyes I don't have $1,000 in savings, according to Daves plan I do, as The Missus has $1,000 or more in savings. I'm not totally in agreement, but I can accept the differing opinion.

His second step is to begin making a "debt snowball" while the name makes me chuckle, as I always envision a snowball growing, maybe a debt melt? But, in his defense he's referring to a debt repayment snowball, which is just clunky to say, but in the end the theory is that you order your debts from smallest to largest, then proceed to pay off the smallest, then the next smallest, etc. all the while making minimum payments on the rest. In theory the excitement of repaying the little guys will continue to motivate you to pay off the larger debt. However, he only looks at interest rates when two debts are similar in size. I disagree with this in principle. While I can understand wanting to pay off, as I call them, "ankle-biter" debts, those debts under $300, I feel that any lump sum of money applied to debt has to go against highest interest debt, or the progress made will be lost under compounding interest. So again, we're similar in our approach, but we differ in practice.

His third "baby" step is to amass 3-6 months of expenses in savings, for me six months is nearly $10,000, which is simply huge. I think this is where his system really degrades. This step can be simply insurmountable, even with the bulk of debt paid off, with the exception of a mortgage, I would be able to only put $1,000 into savings a month, provided nothing un-planned happens. This is nearly a years effort.

After the third step he get's into investing, paying down your mortgage, and giving, but at that point with only a mortgage to worry about it's fairly simple to manage your money.

I'm going to follow his program for awhile and see where it takes me, but I'm also going to keep track of where I would have put money according to my plan to see how, in the long run, if it does in fact make sense to pay off smallest to largest, or in interest rate should be the determining factor.

$10 Christmas

I was sitting at my desk the other night looking through receipts, bank statements, and trying to motivate myself to do the wrapping that I should have done weeks ago. I spent a fair amount this Christmas, not an unreasonably large amount, but enough to give me pause and more importantly to get me thinking.

I looked at the names on my list and wondered could I conceivably give everyone on the list a solid, appreciated, gift for under $10 per person? My thought is that if by reducing the financial burden of the season could I in turn reduce the stress, the depression, the angst that I always feel at this time of year? Now, for this year at least it's too late to really go back and do any cost-reduction. But the idea sounded good in my head and I thought that if it worked for me, and if I could get a group of people to agree then maybe I could start a small revolution towards a happier, more frugal, Christmas, hopefully free of the over-commercialization that seems to plague the season.

It's a thought for next year, let's see if I remember!

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Mother Doesn't Like the Pogues

Alternate Title, Fairytale of New York.

I posted a link to Fairytale of New York, the classic Christmas song written by the Pogues. My mother disagreed with my assertion that it was, in fact, one of the best Christmas songs ever written.

That got me thinking, that as an adult, or at some point as I became an adult, I had to redefine what Christmas, or for that matter any holiday, meant to me. I realized that this is one of the places that we non-theists, myself a humanist, really fall short. Theists have an intrinsic understanding of what a holiday should be, the stories, the legends, the fables behind their religions holidays.

As a non-theist I understand the holiday, from a religious perspective, but I lack the intrinsic sub-conscious feel of a holiday. So, as part of growing up I had to decide what each holiday meant to me as I had no spiritual default to fall back on. I began, as I'm sure we all do, with my parents idea of Christmas, I can tell you the traditions, the cinnamon buns on Christmas morning, that you open your stockings, have breakfast and then open your gifts, I remember the music too, Neil Diamond, the Carpenters, and the Dubliners. Those songs evoke in me a feeling of what Christmas meant to me as a child, a sort of sonic nostalgia.

However, as I came of age I realized Christmas did not feel, for me, the way it did for my parents. Christmas, to me, was a quiet time, a time to sit in front of the fire with a cup of coffee, safe from the cold. It's not that I was not merry, I just felt a sense of quiet, as if I loathed to disturb the quiet of the snow, the unbroken sheet of white, and that quiet had come into me, and in so doing, my idea of Christmas changed. I now thought of Christmas as a time to reflect back, to think of things done, of friends known, and dreams either fulfilled, or abandoned. My Christmas is quieter, softer, and when my children think back on Christmas it will be the Fairytale of New York they will remember.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A New Year: 2011

I know I'm early, but this is the first time in my adult life where I can look back on the past years resolutions and see how I did, and as I've been thinking about it a lot I intend to do just that, right now.

First, last years resolutions may be found here

I broke last years resolutions into three broad categories, my personal, professional, and economic goals. While I intend to do the same this year I hope to delve into more detail then a bulleted list.

2010 Personal Goals:
  • I will loose weight, with a goal weight of 250lbs.
  • I will achieve a 300lb squat and dead lift, and a 200lb bench press for reps, 5x5.
  • I will get the apartment clean, and keep it clean.
  • I will compete in at least 2 Judo tournaments outside of my club.
  • I will attain my Judo green belt, and blue belt if possible.
  • I lost weight, with my lowest, current, weight at 280lbs. Half way to my goal of 250lbs.
  • I came nowhere close to either of my weight lifting goals, I chose to abandon heavy weightlifting in favor of cardiovascular exercise in an attempt to loose weight faster. I don't consider this to have been a wise decision.
  • I competed in one, semi-formal competition. Finances, and a lack of confidence kept me out of any additional competitions. I, at this point, have quit Judo and am considering not returning.
  • I am still an orange belt, with little chance of attaining my green, or any higher Judo rank.
2010 Professional Goals:
  • I will write, market, and sell a software product written wholly by me.
  • I will move towards attaining my Microsoft Professional Developer Certification.
  • I will decide on a masters program, and if necessary take the GREs
  • I did not complete a stand-alone software product, though I did complete several websites for clients, bringing in roughly $2,000
  • I have made no progress on my MPDC, I am debating if this is a direction I wish to go in.
  • While I want to go back to grad school, finances, and my wife's need to finish school have put my desire on hold for the time being.
2010 Economic Goals:
  • I will save $2,500
  • I will pay off at least $7000 of my personal loan.
  • Over the course of the year I'm sure I saved roughly $2,500 though at no point did I have $2,500 in the bank, I consider this a failed objective.
  • I have paid off just over $6,000 of my personal loan, while I don't consider this a success I am proud the fact that I got so much paid off in so short a time.
As I'm looking at this list I can't help but realize I did not accomplish a single goal I set for myself. Yet I can't help but also see that some of these goals were counter to other goals, and some were simply unobtainable. I also can take heart in the accomplishments that I could not have foreseen. I bought a house, I adopted a third cat, I saw my one year wedding anniversary come, and go. These, and dozens of other smaller victories I have to take comfort in, and I have to work harder next year. And so...

New Years Resolutions 2011!

Note: I'm breaking up Professional (my 9-5) and Business (my side-work) into seperate catagories for 2011.

Personal Goals for 2011:
  • I will loose weight, with a goal weight of 250lbs. This is a carry-over from last year, but I'm determined to see it through. I'm no longer pre-diabetic, I ran the Corporate Challenge and posted a respectable time, and I aim to do better this year.
  • I will choose to either return to Judo, or to another exercise program.

Professional Goals for 2011:
  • I will deliver a 40hr+ AR, on time, under budget, with no bugs.
  • I will deliver every AR, on time, with no more then 3 PRs requiring a code fix.
  • I will find a niche, and fill it, to the best of my ability.
  • I will study one segment of the product, per month, with the end goal of being comfortable in a large swatch of the the products code.

Business Goals for 2011:
  • I will bring in $4,000 in side-work/web work
  • I will track every client, every payment, every hosting sale, and will know exactly how much I made in 2011.
  • I will build, and market a web product, to a customer, that generates recurring revenue.

Economic Goals for 2011:
  • I will pay off at least $6,000 of my personal loan.
  • I will acquire, and maintain a $1,000 savings balance for at least half the year.

Educational Goals for 2011:
  • I will read an educational non-fiction book a month.
  • I will spend 10+ percent of my "allowance" per pay-period on books or other educational materials, either for personal or professional growth.

It's a good list, and this year I've kept an eye on avoiding goals that contradict each other. I'm hoping that with a higher degree of granularity that I can better meet my goals. I will also look at these goals quarterly to asses my progress. First in March, then June, then September and lastly in December.

I feel I have chosen an attainable list, I hope that in a years time I will have better results then this year.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas, of sorts

I dislike most holidays. I'm no Grinch, no scrooge but I do prefer to celebrate in my own way, quietly, with a close few. I find the holidays to be a trying time, a stressful time, even as work winds into the slow season, and festive music can be heard on every station I find myself depressed, low, as if the overly festive atmosphere exposes the fact that I, at least most of the time, don't feel particularly festive.

I don't mind if others make merry, and I most certainly wouldn't say no to a gathering or party, I just find myself sad a lot this time of year. My situation, especially my finances, weigh on my mind. I reflect back on the year, both the highs and the lows, and I often find that the lows stick in my mind. I do my best to stay positive, but I find it hard. I'm hoping that this year will be better. I hope to be merry, and I hope to have a good end to a good year.

Here's to hoping.

Hello World

September 24th 2010, that is the date of the last update to this blog. That makes it just over two months ago, and the entries preceding that one were plenty sparse. I find myself monologuing in my head, having a discussion as if giving a lecture. When I find myself doing that, I blog.

Given that I no longer have to write, at least creatively, I find the urge comes and goes, when I feel I have something to talk about I do, when I don't, I don't. These inner monologues are the indicator that I might just have something to talk about. I'm sure through the holidays I'll be blogging more, if for no other reason then for the stress relief.