Posted on January 27th, 2023
Everybody likes to speculate about what they would do if they won the lottery and came into sudden wealth. The memes are on social media all the time. And the answers are usually something along the lines of "I'd quit my job and travel!" Or, if you really hate your job it's more like "I'd tell my boss to kiss my ass then buy a boat!"
Most times I read these replies and don't know how to answer because so many details are missing.
How much money are we talking about, after taxes? If it's a million dollars, here in Washington State you'd lose $250,000 of that (according to the Lottery Tax Calculator) leaving you $750,000. So... that's likely 10 to 20 years covered depending on how much you spend in a year. Or perhaps 5 years if you go really crazy. So... when you really think about it... quitting your job only works if it can carry you to retirement age. By the time I retire, retirement age will probably be 70 years old, so I could quit work if I spend only $50,000 a year. Totally doable, really. Though, to be honest, I'd probably still work for at least five years since Social Security is likely going to be in the toilet unless Congress stops being a bunch of dumbasses.
Where it gets interesting is if the lottery is more like 10 million dollars. That leaves me $7.5 million to play with after taxes. Even if Social Security collapses completely, if I live to be 80 years old I'd have $250,000 a year to spend! In which case... oh yeah... I ain't working another day in my life. Pay off my house. Travel a bit. Do some remodeling. Go crazy. Then it's just day after day of drawing and woodworking for me until I die.
If I win $100 million, I'm going to space.
I guess this means I should start buying lottery tickets?
Posted on November 25th, 2022
For decades I've saved my money all year long so that I can shop Black Friday sales for all the stuff I need and want at a discounted price. Usually clothing.
That hasn't been the case this year.
In trying to get my home repaired, every cent I have has to go towards plumbers, electricians, and contractors and such. And they ain't cheap.
But it is nice not having a hole in my kitchen ceiling... even if other ceilings and walls are still torn up.
That's a story for another tax refund.
Posted on September 30th, 2022
Just when I think that prices of stuff can't surprise me any more than it already has, I walk out of the grocery store with one bag of food that I paid $65 for, and I'm in shock all over again.
It's really breathtaking. In that I can barely catch my breath from the money I just spent.
Remember when you could order a two-bedroom house, ready-to-assemble from Sears for $1,175? Pepperidge Farms (and the internet) remembers...
$1,298 if you want an interior bathroom.
Which I do, but the $123 difference could buy me two bags of groceries.
Posted on August 15th, 2022
Today I had to pay cash for something. This was an event which came out of nowhere and had me wondering how I actually get "cash" now-a-days. I just never use the stuff. Everything is paid on credit card (so I can get those sweet, sweet air miles that I can never use... thanks, COVID!) or, God willing, via my Apple Watch or iPhone.
It had me thinking back to the last time I paid cash for anything, and apparently it was so long ago that I can't remember. Fortunately I was owed some money where I was paid in cash (which I quickly forgot about) and so I didn't have to find a compatible cash machine or locate a checkbook. I had money waiting to be spent in my wallet.
It's bizarre how much has changed in my (relatively) short lifetime.
For the longest time, cash was all I had. I didn't get credit cards that I could actually use regularly until I was in college (something which would come to destroy me financially for decades).
Well, whatevs. I'd be thrilled to never use cash again.
Even though that will signal the End of Days, or whatever.
Posted on July 19th, 2022
Today was a long, long, very long day at work. I started at 5:30am, finished at 1:15am, and only stopped to each lunch and dinner (plus bathroom breaks). So... nineteen hours, give or take.
I think it might actually be tolerable if I was able to get some sleep, but for the past three weeks my allergies have been in overdrive, which means I'm coughing my fool head off most of the night. Interestingly enough, my cats have become so accustomed to it that they don't even flinch when I'm hacking up a lung. Quite a change from the days when they would dart under the couch or run upstairs and hide if I were to so much as clear my throat.
As if the coughing and lack of sleep wasn't bad enough, I seem to have been locked out of my bank account somehow. Which is to say that I'm effectively without funds. My credit/debit/ATM card is "frozen" and when I try to login to see what's going on I can't get in that way either. Tomorrow (=ahem later today) I will have to call my credit union and find out what the heck is going on. Hopefully it's not because somebody has hacked my account and taken all my money... that would really suck. Though perhaps bank and credit union accounts are insured against that kind of thing? I have no idea.
But I bet you I will real soon now!
I've counted out money from my change jar just in case I need to have that exchanged for real money. I could have sworn I had a $20 bill tucked away in my wallet, but I do not. Apparently I spent it and forgot about it. Entirely possible given how I almost never use cash any more.
I guess my spare change savings is all I got, apparently.
Maybe I should think about trying to find my checkbook? That would be a big help right about now.
Posted on June 29th, 2021
As anybody who's been reading this blog for a decade or so already knows, I put money aside each month so I can save up for Black Friday. That's when I buy just about everything, because you can pretty much double your money by taking advantage of sales and such. But last year I started dividing my money between Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day because the sales just keep getting better and better after being pretty crappy for years (I'm convinced that "Prime Day" was quickly becoming a dumping grounds for crappy products that people can't manage to sell any other time of year).
Here's what I blew my luxury savings on.
ROOMBA i6+ SELF-CLEANING VACUUM ROBOT $700 (reg. $1,150)
This was pretty much the only thing on my "MUST-HAVE LIST." Last year it went on sale but I didn't have enough money saved to get it. This year I was prepared. Like my other robo-vacs, I will be naming this one Carl. Old Downstairs Carl died and I had been using Upstairs Carl for both floors, but not very often. The big plus for this New Carl is that he will automatically empty himself. The dirt is sucked out into a storage bin that you only have to empty every month or so (or every day if you have shedding cats like I do, probably). Nice. He also has a few improvements over Old Carl. First of all, he cleans in straight lines instead of bumping around all over the place randomly (well, he still bumps around, but it seems more like finding his way than random). Second of all, he can map out individual rooms and respect "no-go" areas that you can set up (like the cat feeding station I built). I will make an entry about New Carl after a few days once I've had a chance to see him work for a while. Looks promising!
Waterpik Water Flosser in Aquarius Blue $40 (reg. $70)
I've always wanted a Waterpik, but it seemed like such an extravagant expense given how cheap dental floss is. I was still on the fence as to whether the $30 savings was enough to pull the trigger... until I saw it came in blue and not just the sickly white color. Sold! It hasn't arrived yet. I think it's lost. I'll wait a few more days until I cry to Amazon about it.
Blade Runner 2049 - Interlinked, The Art $19 (reg. $29, list $50)
This year Amazon once again had a "Small Business Spotlight" where if you buy $10 or more from their small business partners (yay! new flakey salt!), they'll give you $10 to spend. This companion book to The Art and Soul of Blade Runner 2049 completes my book collection of one of the most fascinating films I've seen in recent years. Which is to say that I obsess over the movie and can't read enough about it. The original film seemed impossible to follow, but Denis Vileneuve nailed it (which makes me more than anxious for his Dune reboot). This book takes a look at the concept art that was created for the movie and it's glorious. I was poring over every page with wonder and amazement at just how much thought went into the world that was created/expanded. It fits right in on my shelf of other movie art books, and doesn't overlap much with The Art and Soul of Blade Runner 2049, which is nice. I really hope that they stop releasing books about this movie, because I would absolutely buy them! I'm running out of room on my bookshelf though!
The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge $18 (reg. $28, list $50)
In addition to the small business credit I used for the book above, I also got a promotional credit of $10 for reloading my Amazon Gift Card balance with $40 (talk about a no-brainer!), which I used on this art book which goes behind the scenes of "Star Wars Land" at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. I am a huge, huge fan of both Disney and Star Wars, so seeing not only how they designed Galaxy's Edge... but also how they designed the rides you'll find there... is pretty great, as I knew it would be. Especially when it came to designing Coca-Cola that exists in a galaxy far, far away!
Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian Season One $18 (reg. $28, list $40)
This was yet another $10 credit I racked up... but I don't remember where. But anyways... I was so excited for new Star Wars that I pre-ordered the art-book for The Force Awakens before watching it and finding out that it wasn't great new Star Wars, but instead a watered-down rehashed remake of the original. Fortunately, The Mandalorian brought Star Wars home and was actually great new Star Wars. The art book is, as you would expect, absolutely amazing. The concepts on how they got to where they ended up is every bit as fascinating and entertaining as the actual show. I keep hoping for a book covering the second season, but one hasn't appeared yet.
Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker $14 (reg. $28, list $40)
I detest the prequel trilogy. I really didn't care for the sequel trilogy. So why am I buying this book? Because it's $14. And the concept art that went into the making of the movie is undoubtedly going to be as mind-blowing as all the other Star Wars movies.
Simply Cheetos Variety Pack 36-Count $12 (reg. $18)
I have been addicted to Simply Cheetos Puffs in White Cheddar, and ordered several cases of them so I can have a snack at work. Then, for whatever reason, the price for a case jumped from $18 to $38 and I couldn't afford to order them any more. During Prime Day they had the Puffs/Crunchy combo case on sale for $12, so I decided to grab it. I hadn't had the Crunchy version, but I figured it would be okay. Turns out it was more than okay... just not as good as the Puffs I love so much. The only problem is that the Crunchy Cheetos expire next month and the Puffs Cheetos expire in September. So now I have to eat all Crunchy Cheetos first since they're the least-fresh. Hopefully the price will drop on that case so I can order exactly what I want again.
PopCorners 6-Flavor Variety Pack $19 (reg. $24)
I love PopCorners... but don't love the absurdly high price. Instead of 36 bags like you get with the Cheeto cases, you only get 20 here, and I wasn't paying $1.20 each for a tiny little bag. The Prime Day price brought it down to 95¢ a bag, which is still way too high... but affordable enough that I decided to grab the offer. The item hasn't shipped yet. No idea when it will arrive. Hopefully I have a decent expiry date on them.
Taco Holders 4 Pack $12.50 (reg. $16)
This was an impulse buy that popped up when I saw it. Seems like a great way of propping up shells while you fill your tacos and an easier way to grab them without spilling so much out of them. I like that they are metal instead of plastic, and that was the deciding factor (along with being dishwasher-safe). The reviews are good, so hopefully they hold up as well as you'd think over time. Like other items, this one appears to be lost in transit. Fingers crossed!
And there you have it. $852.50 worth of crap that I couldn't live without. Fortunately the money in my Black Friday savings covered it once I used up a couple gift cards, special offer redemptions, and my Amazon Prime Credit Card reward points. But still... now I'm poor! But totes worth it since my life will be sooooo much better with this junk.
It will be better, won't it?
Posted on October 27th, 2020
The other day I was headed home from a quick run to the grocery store and, because it was just after 5:00, I decided to take "the back roads" home. This sounds more dramatic than it is. I live in a small city, so it's not like I'm avoiding a highway or anything... I'm just deviating from the "main" route that I'd normally use 99% of the time.
As I was crossing the railroad tracks, I had a flashback that hit me like a punch in the gut...
I had moved my mom to a facility on the coast in September of 2016 because she required a level of care I could no longer provide. At this point she still recognized me, so my visits every-other-week were especially painful. In my heart I felt like I was abandoning her every time I left even though my head knew that it was the only option available. After making the two-hour drive home from her birthday dinner in December, I saw that snow removal was happening on the "main route" so I turned to take "the back roads" in the hopes that I would get home quicker.
As I was crossing the railroad tracks after sundown, the right side of my car fell off the road and dropped between the tracks below. Turns out that when they plowed the street they plowed way too far to the right, so the road I was driving on was not actually the road, it was just snow pack. Snow pack that could not support the weight of my car, so down I went. It was such a sudden and unexpected jump that I remember biting my tongue.
In the photo above, it doesn't look like much of a drop, but when you look at a photo from the opposite angle, you can see it's quite a height to fall...
It was a drop I had no way of seeing because it was plowed even to the road, everything was white, and it was dark out.
At the time my financial picture was dire. I had to come up with a significant chunk of money to get my mom into her new place and I didn't have two nickels to rub together... let alone have money to pay for auto repairs. I remember sitting there behind the wheel with my car off the road feeling utterly defeated. My mom's health was declining. I was overwhelmed with work and having to travel. And my credit cards, which I had worked so hard to pay off, were likely going to build up again because there were just too many expenses piling up.
My car is front-wheel drive, so I was pretty much stuck. Trying to slowly back up just caused my tires to spin out in the snow. So I got out and took inventory of everything in my trunk. I had kitty litter, which I sprinkled under my left-front tire for traction. I also had a bundle of rope and some blankets, which I gathered up and stuck under my right-front tire. Then I
"Well that sounds expensive" I said out loud to nobody.
In the morning I backed out onto the driveway so I could try and see what was dragging. All I could tell was that it wasn't the muffler because the noise was coming from the front end.
Turns out it wasn't quite so bad as I had feared. Because cars are cheap crap now-a-days, it was a big piece of plastic which, apparently, was there to shield the underside of the motor from getting splashed by road grime. At first I tried to just rip it off the car but it was too well bolted on the back-side. My solution was to use zip-ties to pass through the holes in the plastic shield where the bolts had ripped through, and basically fasten it back to my car's frame.
It worked just fine and cost me $3.00 cash money.
A couple of years later I was driving down the highway when the zip-ties finally fell apart. So there I was all SCRAPE! SCRAPE! SCRAPE! again. This time with lots of people around. Fifteen minutes down the road I pulled off to an Auto-Zone so I could buy another bag of zip-ties to get me home. Though this time I spend $5.00 so I could get the industrial-strength version.
Those zip-ties are still holding my car together to this day...
And since it seems to be working, I guess I won't bother paying to have the plastic repaired or replaced... though I probably should at some point. Having people stare at me as I go driving by while my car is going SCRAPE! SCRAPE! SCRAPE! is enough to make me want to die from embarrassment.
And if I were to die?
Guess it only takes an 8-inch fall to kill you, as unlikely as that may seem.
Posted on June 15th, 2020
Home ownership is the money pit which never ends. No sooner than one expensive problem is solved than another pops up to take its place. Or, in my case, several things.
In an effort to save a hit to my wallet, I'm taking on the repair tasks myself. Some of them are difficult and require research. Others are easy but require money. My favorite things are those that are easy and cheap. Those tasks I tend to do right away because easy and cheap are my middle names.
Well, you know what I mean.
When I bought my new place, I had to do a lot of remodeling so my mother could live there safely. She couldn't walk on carpet very well, so I had to rip it out and put in hardwood. Simple tasks were becoming difficult and messy for her to manage, so I tried to accommodate that as well. I ripped out tubs and enlarged showers so it was easier for her to get in and out of... and clean. I also replaced the toilets from two-part standard models to one-piece "comfort height" models. I did whatever I could to make things easier for both of us.
I don't know if you have ever shopped for toilets, but single-piece models are expensive. Even the cheapest ones are double or even qradrupal what it costs for the standard stool/tank model that's commonly used. I ultimately went with Kohler because I found them on sale for $400 each (regular $600). Given that you can easily find decent 2-piece models for under $100 each, that's a heck of an investment.
You would think that a $400 toilet would have pretty good quality parts for the money.
Yeah... not so much.
From the get-go, both toilets would randomly start running for around a minute. At first I'd notice it happening a couple times a month. Then weekly. Then daily. Aghast at the water that was being wasted, I managed to fix the downstairs toilet just by taking it apart and putting it back together. The upstairs toilet, however, never managed to be fixed no matter how many times I worked on it. If anything it got worse, running 4 or 5 times a day. Because of the lockdown I ended up with extra time on my hands and decided to take another crack at it. I started taking it apart and... snap! The middle of the "AquaPiston" flush valve snapped. Rather than just buying a replacement for that, I decided to spend $20 and get an all new AquaPiston. Despite being advertised as having "leak-free performance," it was the only part that could really be the problem. Wanting to make sure that it was a genuine Kohler part and not a knock-off, I ordered direct from Kohler.
The part finally arrived and, viola, the problem was totally solved...
Apparently the AquaPiston which came with my toilet was defective.
Note in the photo above that the handle trip-rod has rusted. $400 doesn't get you a non-rust part, I guess.
I've now reached the point where the projects I'm facing are far more pricey. Some I can't even do myself. I was really hoping that this year would be the year I got to replace my countertops, sink, and garbage disposal. All of them are awful, and there are issues with the disposal that simply can't be fixed. The worst part is that it leaks underneath when the waste/water level gets too high. But it doesn't make much sense to replace it if I don't replace the sink (which is cheap, damaged, and looks terrible). And it makes no sense to replace the sink before replacing the countertops (which are just cheap and terrible). I was making good progress with my savings until the pandemic, now I don't know if it's an expense I can swing no matter how badly it's needed. Maybe I'll look into a home equity loan or something, because the longer I wait the more it's going to cost.
So much for having the luxury of being cheap and easy, I guess.
Posted on February 24th, 2020
I've been slowly gathering up my 2019 financials so I can get around to my taxes in a week or two. I'm in no hurry, because I am not anxious to see if my effective tax rate has gone up again. One thing I noticed just this evening is that I've gone from spending hundreds each year in credit card interest charges... to spending nothing in 2019.
That's a first.
And a far cry from 2015 where I averaged paying $45 in fees per month and getting nothing in return.
Money is expensive, y'all.
Turns out that paying off my credit cards and then working hard to keep them paid off month-to-month was worth the rather painful lifestyle changes it took to get here.
No idea where all the money I saved in credit card interest has gone... probably to my mortgage... but so long as it's going towards something instead of nothing, I'm happy.
I'd be a lot happier if I had that money in cash so I could roll around in it... but still...
Posted on December 18th, 2019
Aquiring a mortgage and other massive expenses makes it so that I really have to watch where my money goes. One of the best tools I've found for that is the "pro" version of the TrueBill app on my iPhone. For $3 a month, the app helps me to track my spending and plan for expenses, all while keeping me on top of my bills and credit cards. It also makes it easy for me to squirrel away the money I save for my Black Friday Shopping day... and my vacation. It's surprising just how helpful it's been and I wish I had started using it earlier.
One of the things that surprised me most after tracking expenses was how much I was spending on groceries. I knew they're expensive every time I end up at the store. What I didn't expect was how much it was all adding up to. The monthly total was staggering and caught me off guard when I saw it. A trip here... a trip there... the amount going towards groceries was absurd.
That's when I started buying generic or store brands instead of name brands... making my own meals instead of buying prepared... and, of course, only buying something when it was on sale (unless I had no choice). In short order I had cut my grocery bill by 30%. After a while I was pushing 40% because I got smarter about buying ahead, freezing, not buying stuff I don't need, and hunting down sales and specials.
And then there was eating out at restaurants.
I used to eat out at least twice a week. Sometimes much more when work was piled up. Which, this time of year, is often. I never gave it a thought. I never kept track. I never kept a total. But TrueBill put the expense in vivid relief. If the money I was spending on groceries was surprising, the money I was spending on restaurants was downright shocking. Once I had it spelled out for me, I stopped eating out.
From there it was only a short reach to canceling magazine subscriptions, cutting cable, and reducing the amount of money spent on entertainment.
So now, all these months later, I've gone from having absolutely nothing at the end of the month and wondering where all the money went... to not having to stress so much and being able to set aside a few bucks for when unexpected expenses come up. Which is almost certain to include a new water heater or (shudder) a new HVAC system one day all too soon.
It's a far better feeling than I ever got from the money I was tossing at things I didn't need to be spending it on.
All it took was finally taking a look at what I was spending. And finding an app to help me do it.