Wednesday, February 27, 2013

New Car Rant

When I open my browser I always have yahoo finance pop up, mainly so I can check my stocks.  Well today it had a treat for me.  "New Cars Increasingly Out of Reach for Most Americans" is full of fun facts.  "According to the 2013 Car Affordability Study by, only in Washington could the typical household swing the payments[of a new average priced $30,500 vehicle] the median income there running $86,680 a year."

I have to tell you my first reaction was, "GOOD!  Maybe then so many people won't be so dumb!"  My next reaction was that I should move to Washington:).  I seriously can't imagine paying that much for any vehicle even if I was a millionaire.

Now I could give a really really good rant on this subject, however I believe someone else has done a better job than I ever will.  You can read a really good rant here at mrmoneymustache.

Note to self:  Add in car financing into my Algebra II curriculum.  I try and sneak in what I call "financial common sense standards" in with all of the crusty state required standards and hide it under the guise of "math applications."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Frugal Newlyweds Financial Guide Part 2: Second Financial Date

This is part two of my basic guide for newlyweds or engaged couples.  If you haven't already read part one, do that now.  Don't worry.  I can wait.

Now that you have talked about your financial ancestors, next you will need to talk about the specifics of your finances.  I think I heard some gasping.  Get over it.  Sooner or later your fiance or spouse is going to find out about your money situation and it might as well be now.  If you don't trust your partner with this information, maybe you should think a little harder about whether you should be getting married to them.

First, you will need to do the following things before your second financial date.  Make a list of every account that you have- checking, savings, brokerage, insurance, credit card, loans, retirement, and mortgage.    Bring the latest bill or statement from each of these and information on your insurance coverage.  Also make a list of all of the titles that you have- car, house, boat, trailer, motorcycle, etc. and bring that to the date as well.  ***New*** I have added a special spreadsheet that you can use to make this step easier.  Click here to download it.

For the actual date I suggest making the first part of this date as fun as possible.  Plan to stay at either your place or their place for the afternoon.  You will have a lot of financial documents out and about and you don't want to lose any.  The best time for most people would be a Saturday lunch because you are both really awake and relaxed and that leaves you with plenty of time to get everything done.

Have fun making lunch together.  It doesn't have to be something overly fancy or it can be if you are into that.  If you both don't enjoy cooking, then get some take out.  The key is to get in a place where both of you are relaxed.  Make sure both of you have eaten and are well rested.  I have worked with adults and preschoolers, and I can tell you that adults like to think they've evolved a lot past their three year old counterparts and don't have such bad reactions to lack of sleep or food, however they are fooling themselves.  Most arguments happen when at least one party is low on sleep or is hungry.  It is best to make sure both of those needs are satisfied before moving on.

After eating bring out your papers.  Take a big breath.  Tell yourselves you can do this.  Maybe bring out cookies to reward yourselves with as you finish each step.

Step 1:  Merge ahead!  Create a combined list of all accounts for both of you- banking, brokerage, insurance, credit card, loans, mortgages, etc.

Step 2:  Twinsies!  Do you both have a Discover card account for example?  When you are married do you just want to have one?  There are very differing opinions on combining finances when married.  I honestly can't imagine keeping separate accounts when you're married.  That would be way to confusing and much easier to hide things from each other.  However, I have heard there are happily married couples that keep their finances split.  I would challenge you to ask yourselves why you are keeping your accounts split though.  We have never regretted combining ours.

Circle all duplicate accounts and determine whether you will leave them separate or combine them.  When you combine you will actually be closing one account and adding a name on the other account.  Make sure to start to make a to do list for each person.  List the account, whether or not it needs to be closed, or whether they need to call and add the other person's name.

Next, determine if you want to close an account that isn't a complete duplicate, but is in the same category as something else.  For instance, you may have checking accounts that are at different banks.  Go through the same process as above.

Although merging accounts is a huge pain, I like to think of it as getting a series of shots.  The nurses try and do it as quickly as possible to get it over with.  If you go over all of this merging at once, you'll find that you can get this icky stuff over with and can move on to more fun things in your lives.

Step 3:  Falling in love.  Look at insurance policies.  First look at auto/home/boat/etc.  There is a lot of information on your policy that you should have brought with you.  If you have an insurance agent I suggest calling them and giving them information on both of your insurance situations (maybe you have a house and a car and your fiance has a renters policy and a truck) and have them give you a quote on combining all of your insurance needs.  You might find that it comes out much cheaper than the two policies alone.  If you don't have an agent look online.  There are lots of websites that will give you quotes online.

You will also need to look at health insurance policies.  You can get information on your policies normally from the HR department at your work.  You might want to compare and determine whose policy you want to use.  Almost always a "family" policy is much cheaper than two individual policies.  If you both are not insured I can not push enough that you need at least what I call "in case you chop your leg off" insurance.  My husband does not receive insurance through his work so when we were first married we had a very high deductible insurance that we paid for on our own because I was just student teaching.  We had saved enough that in case of emergency we could pay $10,000 and then the insurance would kick in.  The likelihood of needing the insurance was small, but now that healthcare costs are rising so much, it would have just taken one trip to the ER and we could have eaten through that deductible in a hurry.  We figured out how to do individual plans and now it is even easier.  Go to and request a quote to get started on your journey to responsible health insurance adulthoodland.

Once you have decided whose plans you are going to use, make sure to add the other person on to the policy.  Add this to your to do list.

Step 4:  Mrs. ?.  Obviously, if you choose not to change your name you can skip this step.  For the traditionalists read on.  This was a huge pain in the butt when I got married, so brace yourself.  I am cheering for you.  You can do it.  Make a list of all of the accounts you are going to keep that have your current name.  This is another good reason to nuke a few of your duplicate accounts.  After you get your name changed you are going to need to contact all of those accounts and fill out the necessary paperwork.  I will warn you that when I did this for my brokerage it was a huge pain.  Be prepared to have to get things notarized.  Not all of the accounts were that bad though.  You will want to start looking into getting checks with both of your names.

Small note- you might not want to add your name on accounts before you get your name changed unless you absolutely have to.  This will give you one less account to change the name on.

Step 5: Titles- aren't just for books.  Make a combined list of all of the assets that you own that have titles.  Consider adding the other person's name on that title.  If you choose to add a name, make sure to add it to you to do list.

Step 6: Until death do you part.  When you die (don't say if- it's going to happen) your money and assets have to go somewhere.  If you are like many people you never filled out the beneficiary information for your accounts.  Now is a good time to add your significant other to your beneficiary information.

Step 7:  Mints keep us fresh!  I cannot promote any website more than for any couple.  This is a free way to keep track of all of your accounts in one place.  You'll start noticing where you spend money, what accounts you are using and what accounts you might want to close.

Step 8:  Double the fun!  Double check each of your lists.  Your list should include accounts that you need to close, accounts that you need to add names to, accounts that you need to change names on, and accounts that you need to add beneficiaries to.

As you draw your financial date to a close I only have a bit more advice.  Remember that not only your assets, but also your debts are shared.  Be careful not to resent your partner for their debts.  Hopefully you consider their companionship as worth more than money.

Good luck on your second financial date!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Menu Plan Monday: Reality 2.0 Edition

I'm linking up with Menu Plan Monday today.  Here is a peek at my guilty non-cooking week last week with reality and an option for reality 2.0 (new and improved edition).


Reality: Sausage Alfredo
1/2 lb ground sausage, sauteed with dried onion since I didn't have any real onion, drained
1 jar Aldi brand Alfredo Sauce
Dashes of Italian spices thrown in
Boil vegetable fettucine noodles.
Served with salad and cut up oranges

Reality 2.0 edition: Canjun Shrimp Alfredo


Reality: Subway Sub (school activity night)

Reality 2.0 edition: On the Go Egg and Bacon Sandwich


Reality: Taco Time $0.59 Tacos (next church before youth group)

Reality 2.0 edition: Freezer Chicken, Rice, Bean Burritos


Reality: Maple Leaf Farms Chicken Cordon Bleu's (we get free through family connections), served with steamed broccoli, salad, and cut up oranges

Reality 2.0 edition: Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta

Good luck cooking this week!  May your reality be the new and improved edition!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Favorite Finds- Freezing Rain Day Edition

Well, the wind blew, the rain came, the snow came, and the freezing rain came.  So much for telling my students that I doubted there'd even be a delay so they had better study hard.  Today was supposed to be the last day of the trimester.  However, old man winter wasn't about to let it end normally, so here I am trying to figure out how to plan things for next week because we will have the teacher work day before the trimester is actually over.  Oh, well- the good news is that I actually get to participate in Friday Favorite Finds from

I've been trying to get more into cooking since reading Mr. Money Mustache.  I've always read all of these ladies' blogs and been like, well they are just a Betty Crocker and that is not me and used that as an excuse to hate cooking.  However, for some reason when I read a guy's blog it clicked that maybe I just have the wrong state of mind while cooking.  I was too worried about pleasing these random "other people" that I forgot that 99% of the time I am just cooking for my husband and me, so I don't need to stress about the "other people."  Before, I was just annoyed because I could work really hard at making something and make it perfect and people still might not like it.  My math "one answer is the correct answer" background definitely surfaced.  

However, now I am all about making things my way.  My goal is to be able to create healthy food that I find delicious for cheap.  Once I started focusing less on how others might view my food and more on making it the way I like it, the whole process became much more fun.  I know that sounds extremely self centered, but it is really just less "keeping up appearances" oriented.

Anyway, if that doesn't work for you, I want to tell you another item that has made me enjoy cooking slightly more.  Wine!  If I cook with a glass of wine in my hand I feel like I have been instantly transformed into Julia Child.  Many nights I don't have any wine, I have learned that it is just the power of having a fancy glass in my hand filled with any random beverage.

Without any further ado, here are some of my pics for the week:

Easy Chicken Fried Rice

Easy Baked Chicken Legs

Roasted Broccoli

Source: via ALDI USA on Pinterest

Baked Zucchini

How cool are those chocolate bowls?!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Frugal Newlyweds Financial Guide Part 1: First Financial Date

In honor of one of my husband and I's friends who is getting married this weekend I decided to write a small series of posts that can be a financial guide for newlyweds or soon to be newlyweds.  We've been married almost five years, so I think that qualifies me in two ways.  First, we've been married long enough to see some results of the decisions that we made early on and second, we haven't been married so long that the financial world is that different now than when we first married, so our advice would still hold.  I recently read a book that was written a little over ten years ago and it talked about 7% CD rates.  You'd be lucky to get much more than 1% now!

Today I am going to focus on what to do pre-newlywed status, i.e. when you're engaged.  During this time period it is really important that you really get to know your fiance well, not just emotionally, but financially also.  You don't want any huge surprises after you're married, although there will always be some surprises.

Now, if you are like most couples either one or both of you just groaned and said, that is so unromantic.  I'm here to tell you now that sometimes you've got to do some unromantic things in order to save your marriage ahead of time.  Many marriages are brought down by money issues, so you want to get them out in the open before you've sealed the deal.

First, plan two financial date nights.  The first one can happen anywhere.  The second one, I suggest cooking at home or picking up take out and going back to one of your homes so that you don't risk the chance of losing important financial documents in a public place.  You never know what a weirdo might do with your old credit card bill.  I will give you details on that second date in my next post.

For the first date night your main goal is to talk about your parents/guardians and how they earned, used, viewed money.  You don't need to talk about your own personal money situations yet.  Knowing the way money was handled when your fiance was growing up will really help you understand some of the things he or she does.  It definitely opened my eyes to some of the things that I saw my husband doing.

Before you start asking questions make sure that you both realize that these questions are there to guide discussion.  Be careful not to make judgmental comments about your future in-laws.  Each of your jobs is to answer as best as possible and then to listen.  Don't give a commentary about the other person's upbringing.  You are just fact-finding.

Here are a list of possible questions:

  • What jobs did your parents have growing up?  Did they switch jobs frequently?  If they did, why
  • What type of home did you grow up in(apartment, duplex, small/medium/large house)?  Did you move a lot?  Why?
  • Did your parents have debt while you were growing up?  If so what type, car, home, credit card?  Why?
  • Did your family go on vacation much?  Where did they go?  What did they do?
  • Do you consider your parents savers or spenders?
  • Are your parents investors?  Explain.
  • What was your parents view on money?
  • What was your parents view on giving?

If you aren't used to talking about money, this is going to be incredibly painful.  However, just like exercise it is really necessary.  If you haven't talked about money you are like those 400 lb people on the Biggest Loser.  It's going to take some time and effort, but you can get that financially flabby body in shape!

This conversation is something you might just laugh off.  However, consider it just as important as giving your family history at a doctor's office.  Why does your doctor care what diseases your grandparents and parents have had?  Clearly, those diseases can continue to haunt families for generations.  Yet, just because your grandfather had a heart attack does not mean that you are destined to as well.  Just like you shouldn't be too proud to admit diseases in your family, don't try and cover up bad financial decisions of your parents.  That's all they are... your parents' decisions.  It will be up to both of you to determine how you let those decisions affect your future together.

Good luck and remember to just keep it on topic- no commentaries no matter how strange your future in-laws sound!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Valentine's Day Soapbox

My poor students.  They didn't know the bees nest they were getting ready to step on last week when they asked something along the lines of what my husband and I were doing for Valentine's Day and something about gifts and Valentine's Day.  I think my eye twitched a bit.  I asked them whether they really wanted to know.  They assured me that they did.

I paused, got out my imaginary soapbox, dusted it off, and stepped up on it, took a deep breath and gave them all I had.  This might be my only chance to impart on them something that they that I think is more important than the quadratic formula (which is all they think that I think about) and could change their lives.

"Valentine's Day is a holiday where people spend billions of dollars to make you unhappy."  I think all of the single kids agreed at this point and there might have even been some "Woot, woots!", but that was not where I was going. "They are not making you unhappy for reasons that you may believe now.  No, they are making you unhappy so that they can pick pocket your money.  You are most vulnerable to pickpocketers when you are unhappy, not just on dark deserted streets."

"For those of you who are single, they try to make you feel awful and unloved.  Then you might go to eharmony or some other advertised site and hook up with someone.  When you go on a date they will control your mind and you will do some things that they want you to do that I will discuss later.  Let's say instead of that, you do another thing that they want you to do.  You think you are bucking the trend, but it is all a part of their evil scheme to take your money."

"You will go and 'treat yourself' to a spa day, special food, special drinks, flowers, special jewelry, etc., etc., etc.  All things that you wouldn't have paid money for if they hadn't spent millions of dollars to make you feel like a piece of poo for being single on this one day a year.  They try to steal money from you by making you feel sad and alone, because we all know those 'treats' that you gave yourself don't do much to fill the void that they have created by bombarding you with their propaganda.  Yet they will yell at you in the ads they pay for on TV, the internet, the radio, and even the storylines in tv shows that you have an illness called singleness that can only be cured with paying money for their stuff."

"For those of you who aren't single, or are single and fell into the trap of going on a date with some stranger just so that you won't be alone, they will trap you as well.  To girls they will make you feel like the only way that a guy can show you that he loves you is with stuff.  What a load of C-R-A-P!  We ARE NOT that shallow, but some are because they have bought into the lie.  They actually think that a guy who gives them an expensive ring likes them more than the guy who gets them a ring-pop.  Who knows, maybe the guy with the diamond ring has cheated on you and is hoping the diamonds will shut you up.  Maybe he is trying to buy your way into your pants.  All of this stuff he get you will take up space, it wilts and dies, or it's full of empty calories, or it ends up leaving him in the Red and I don't mean Valentine's Day love red, I mean the Dr.Evil red ink of debt that leads you to unhappiness one monthly payment at a time.  Eventually if you stay together all of that lovely red ink of his will become yours.  Isn't that a delightful thought.  Because this red ink thing has now become a tradition you will get the love of Valentine's Day together with 12 easy payments for the rest of the year FOR THE REST OF YOUR LOVELY LIVES TOGETHER."

"For the men there are two horrible things.  First, what do you pick?  The industry will always push the most expensive because $$=love, right?  WRONG!  You must go to a fancy restaurant, give her more flowers, give her jewelry with more diamonds, go to a resort with more amenities, etc. etc. etc.  Do you know what this leaves you with?  The idea that all women are this shallow.  That we have all been brainwashed by this consumerism lifestyle.  I am hear to say, WE HAVEN'T!  What you are always looking for in a gift is a gift that will make an impact.  The jewelry salesman is definitely ready and waiting, 'Oh no, that ring is so plain.' He eyes you who he sees as Mr.Gullible and thinks to himself that Mr.Gullible is practically handing me his wallet.  'I'm sure she only wants a one-of-kind ring that has a bajillion diamonds and other shiny doodads because you know your wife is really a raccoon and only likes shiny things.  Here, let me hook you up to our transfusion machine while we use your blood to write your bill in all of the lovely Valentine's red ink monthly payments that will suck the life out of you and eventually your relationship.'"

"I don't think any of you even knows what a gift with an impact looks like."  I walk over to my computer and pull up a few stats.

"For those of you who were excited because this is math and you have some how gotten me to talk about something non-math related (or so you think), I am going to pull in some numbers.  Many people around the world do not have access to clean water."  Then I read off a bunch of stats from .  "'Worldwide, 1 out of every 5 deaths of children under 5 is due to water-related disease. 443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related disease. It is no wonder that these countries are lagging behind.    Girls under the age of 15 are twice as likely to be responsible for fetching water, which takes time out of their studies.  For every 10% increase in women's literacy, there is a boost of 0.3% in the country's whole economy."

Finally, I pulled out two of the most important numbers.  "Do you know the approximate cost to bring clean water to the world?.......10 billion dollars."

"Do you know how much we spend on Valentine's Day? Seriously, take some guesses."
"10 million!"
"No even close!"
"100 million!"
"$500 million!"
"ONE BILLION!"  yelled a kid from the back with a smirky grin.
"Higher."  He looked a bit deflated.
"Five billion?"
"Sadly, higher.  We spent 13.1 billion dollars on Valentine's Day last year alone.  Just soak that in for a second."

"We could solve the world's water problem and still have 3.1 BILLION dollars left to spend on this evil day.  Yet, the flower, jewelry, restaurant, and in general STUFF industries have taken this away.  I have called them evil all along because it is more fun to think of it that way, but in all reality they are just doing their jobs, which is to make as much money off of you as possible.  It is you who are letting them tell you where to spend your money."

"I say, this Valentine's day, think about a gift with a real impact.  An impact like a rock hitting the water that leaves ripples.  Water for a community, means less money spent on the sick, means more time in school, means more literacy for women, means more money for the economy, means less war, means less violence, and on and on.  All because you decided to draw a picture of a rose for your honey instead of spending tons of money on flowers that will wilt anyway.  Or maybe compromise- give one rose instead of 2 dozen."

"The key is though, not to just be a cheapskate and not spend anything on Valentine's Day, but to instead decide with your honey or just by yourself that you are going to give a gift that really makes a difference.  If your valentine isn't cool with that, you might want to reevaluate who you are with.  Just saying."

"So as far as my husband and I go for Valentine's Day here's what we normally do.  We go to the card section of a store and pick out 10 cards each for each other.  We read them and laugh, and then leave.  Not having spent a cent."

"We don't have a fancy dinner, because it is all marked up for the holiday anyway and there's too many people, which gives long lines, which does not give us happiness.  We'll probably go to our usual hole-in-the-wall authentic Mexican place and spend the same amount that we always do, which is not very much."

"We don't drive to the city to spend the night at a hotel, because we like our house.  We have a comfortable mattress that we like better than any hotel's."

"We don't go to the movies.  Instead we go to the library and pick out a movie and bring it home to watch on our super comfy couch.  I don't have to worry about sticky floors or sitting on popcorn, or paying for ridiculously over priced popcorn, or being cold, sitting on my coat and scarf, having the movie be too loud or too soft, sitting behind tall people (a serious concern as am 5'2 and a half), having to pee and not wanting to miss a part, being annoyed by people dinking on their cell phones, etc.  Instead we sit on our couch with a comfy blanket eating whatever yummy snacks (that are normally healthier) that are cheap and high quality because they were bought at Aldi, with a perfect view of the screen and full control of sound and pausing.  The best part is if we both get tired, we can stop the movie and go to bed.  The money saved on this holiday we donate to something, maybe thewaterproject or to bring education to the world.  Normally we like to give "sustainable" things, so that we don't promote an culture of 'toxic charity.'  That is a speech for another day.  So that is my thoughts on Valentine's Day.'"

Then, I quietly stepped off of my imaginary soapbox and put it away.

Happy Valentine's Day class!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Valentine's Day Weekend Love Story

Source: via Janie on Pinterest

Since my husband and I don't really do much for Valentine's Day weekend that is very notable, here is a glimpse into our marriage to satisfy your Valentine's day love story needs.

This weekend my husband and I were in the freezing cold parking lot outside of Lowe's walking towards the store and having a discussion about the house.  We were talking about some of the small projects that we needed to do.  One of these projects is creating something to hang jackets on in the back hallway.

I need to order hooks and I said that I can't wait until we put the hooks on a rectangular black piece of wood.  My husband stops walking, turns around and just looks at me weird.

"What do you mean a rectangular piece of wood?"  I wasn't quite sure where the confusion was coming from.  I stopped as well and just stared at him.  It was very cold out, but this confusion needed to be cleared now.  What was so confusing about a "rectangular piece of wood"?

I gave him a beautiful definition of a rectangle.  Any of my math professors would be proud.  My husband just kept standing there with such a cute puzzled look that I wanted to lean over and give him a kiss.  Then I even made lovely hand motions outlining this lovely imaginary coat hook rack for our hallway.

Finally, after a long wait he scratched his head and said, "Do you mean a one by four?"

I laughed a bit and said,"Yes!  That would work!"  I had forgotten to speak his language.

He then laughed and laughed until his whole body shook, which made me laugh even more.  "Sometimes I forget I'm married to a math teacher, but not tonight!  A rectangular black piece of wood.... the guys are going to love hearing this!"

Gotta love the miscommunications of a math teacher/construction worker marriage!  Keeps life interesting!

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Living Richly with Homemade Sweet and Sour Mix

This weekend I was getting ready to enjoy a nice glass of wine and my husband was going to enjoy a lovely Long Island Iced Tea at home when, gasp, we were out of sweet and sour mix. What to do, what to do. We were tucked in and not willing to go out in the cold or to waste gas to drive to town to buy some.

I looked online and lo and behold there was a sweet and sour mix recipe. My mouth dropped open when I realized how easy it was to make and how cheap the ingredients were. It was pretty much sugar water with a bit of lime and lemon juice. Sugar is about $0.50/lb and lime and lemon juice aren't that expensive either. I couldn't believe I was paying $5 a bottle for essentially Koolaid! If you would like to see the recipe we used you can find it by clicking on the picture above. It isn't too bad, although we might tweak it a bit.

Now if you are wondering how drinking involves being frugal here are my excuses. My husband and I don't drink much and aren't too picky, I mainly enjoy a bit of wine and he likes Long Islands. If we went out and had drinks it could easily cost us $10 just to each have a drink, or at some places his drink alone could be $10. Instead, we enjoy our drinks at home. I can get a good bottle of wine at Aldi for $2.89! That means each glass of wine costs me about $0.50. My husband buys a premixed Long Island mix that just requires adding sweet and sour mix and a splash of cola. It isn't very expensive considering how many drinks he gets out of it. We used to buy the sweet and sour mix to go with it. We used to be happy with that and think we were being frugal. Now, we know better.

If you are the type to go out for drinks I challenge you to look up the ingredients for your drinks.  You may find as we did, that it is best to make them at home.  We can make the drinks exactly how we like and be happy knowing that we're spending less on an "adult beverage" than we would getting soda!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Living Richly with Old Man Winter

It's that time of year again where the white stuff comes down and makes some of us curse and some smile.  I am definitely one that hates the cold.  If I could convince all of my friends and family to move, we would definitely not live here.  For now though, I haven't had any takers (apparently there are scary bugs down south, but that wouldn't bother me), which means that since it is February I live in a mainly white world.

I am not very outdoorsy this time of year.  Normally I try and wear so many layers that I don't notice the cold and I just stay inside and huddle for warmth under a blanket.  I definitely go into hibernation.

After this weekend of incredible super bowl eating (you know they say the only day you eat more than the super bowl is Thanksgiving) I was feeling like I needed to work out.  I just wasn't up to Jillian tonight.  I looked out the window and saw our neighbors using a snow blower to clear their driveway.  I looked over at our driveway with quite a comforter's worth of snow and I got two thoughts.

First, I really should go out and get a free workout with benefits (and by benefits I mean a clean driveway).  This is actually enjoyable because for the last 4 years we lived at a house with a driveway that was a tenth of a mile long and was gravel.  We had to pay a lot for gas to plow it and the 4-wheeler that the owner's had us use to plow it was always breaking down.  Now that we have a nice short driveway it is still a novelty to go out and shovel- even to me, a non-winter person.

Second, wouldn't it be fun to run the expense numbers on a snow blower?  I'm a math teacher/investor so I'm weird that way.  Here is what I found.  Snow blowers have a wide range in prices- I would say a good median price would be around $700- amazingly some are $2000.  I did a bit more research and found that it is easy to use a half to a full gallon of gas for a driveway, so figure about $2-$4 each time it is used.  Furthermore, they need annual maintenance which would be about $45.  Although my husband does amazing things with homes, he only does a small amount of engine work, so we would probably pay this.

So tonight I used my ergonomic (fancy- and worth it) snow shovel ($15) and my own power to clear our driveway.  I had on enough layers that even I did not notice old man winter.  I listened to my favorite NPR investing show Marketplace while burning up to 400 calories/hour and getting a bit of much needed Vitamin D in this dark dark winter.  I considered it a win win win since I am healthy and smart enough to use the right tool and not over do it.  Slight side note, make sure you remember where you keep your extra key in case you get locked out of your house, not that that happened to me tonight or anything.

Although I know not everyone's back can handle it, I would push anyone that I can to take the time to enjoy the outdoors, listen to your favorite tunes/audio book/radio show/nature, burn a few calories, tone your tummy and tush, and end up with a clean driveway and sidewalk.

Fun calculation (I realize this is a lot of if's and not the most accurate, but still fun for me):  $700 initial investment at 10% (low end of my returns) with $80 annual contribution for 25 years= $15452)
Second fun calculation:  Clearing snow just 9 hours a year would burn one pound of pure fat.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

In Response to Mr.Money Mustache "Get Rich With: Universal Men's Grooming Device"

If you have not read Mr. Money Mustache's blog post "Get Rich With: Universal Men's Grooming Device" do so now.  Don't worry, I can wait.

Ok, now we are on the same page.  If you are a wife and you are like, no way Jose will I ever do that, (completely with snaps and head swishing), hold on for just a moment and let me tell you a story.

I was raised in a really frugal home.  My husband.... wasn't(at least not compared to my family).

When we got engaged we were in that stage where you are more afraid to speak up when your significant other makes a crazy suggestion, and thank goodness we were.

Let me set the stage.  We are over at my future in-laws for dinner.  We've just had a nice dinner together.  I am fairly comfortable with them, but still a bit nervous because I feel so young (I was- I hadn't even graduated college- his siblings were married/kids).  Anyway, we talked about college, about my husband's job, you know, the norm.  Anyway, all the sudden my husband rubs his thick dark head of hair and says to his mother, "Do you think you have time to cut my hair?"

Gasp.  She cuts his hair?!  What?!  My family as super cheap as they were still had all the boys in my family go to the barber to sit with the men and have their hair cut, unless it was summer and then my dad just buzzed my brothers' hair.  Cutting hair was for the sorcerer's of the barber shop.  It was not a task to be taken on by normal folk.  It required mystical powers.

I waited for my mil's response.  "Sure, just go get a chair and a towel and I'll get the trimmer and scissors."

Is this really happening?  Is my mil who I know goes to get her own hair done every 6 weeks going to cut my fiance's hair?

I proceeded to watch as they put a chair in the kitchen, my husband took off his shirt and wrapped his shoulders in a towel.  She started by cutting an inch or so off his dark locks on the top with scissors.  My jaw must have been on the floor.  She was doing this like it was the most normal thing in the world.  Then it happened.  My fiance said to his mom, "Mom, you need to teach her how to cut my hair."

No, no, no.  This can't be happening.  I was one who could barely do Barbie's hair, much less cut a grown man's hair.  Uh, oh.  My mil is turning to me, "How about you come and I'll tell you what to do and you cut his hair this time.  I've been cutting it over 20 years and it is time for you to take over."

Oh no.  I am the most klutziest gal around and you are trusting me with scissors and his beautiful hair?  Now looking back I am glad that I was too nervous to say no, otherwise we could have wasted hundreds if not a thousand dollars so far on chopping his hair.

Needless to say, I did walk over and she started by having me use scissors to cut his long curls on the top of his head.  Ssssnnnippp.  I was the slowest cutter ever, and yet, ssssnnnippp- oww!  Somehow I cut my finger and blood started pouring out.  Where are those fast acting clotting mechanisms when you need them? It felt like I bled forever.  It was bad enough that I ended up having to go get a tissue and wrap my finger so that I wouldn't bleed everywhere.  Talk about embarassing.  Trying to keep a tissue around a bleeding finger does not exactly make you feel super confident.  Then, she brought out the electric clippers.

I didn't matter that I must have been shaking from nerves by this point.  My mil just kept plowing on, not bothered a bit by my clumsy bloody mess I had made of my finger.  She just turned on the clippers, buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, and handed them to me.  Then, with the patience of Job and the confidence of Cleopatra, she showed me how to buzz the lower parts of his head.  That didn't go to bad.  I was feeling better after I used those.  In fact I started imagining myself on top of a riding mower chopping a field of dark brown grass (yes my imagination is weird like that).

After I climbed off of my mental lawnmower and put down the electric clippers, my mil pointed to his ears and his bangs.  Apparently we were supposed to go back to using those evil scissors and I was supposed to cut around his ears and cut his bangs straight.  At this point after my previous incident with my finger I was sure my husband was going to be the next Vincent Van Gogh.  I looked over to the scissors.  Clint Eastwood music was playing in the background.  I gave the scissors mentally my best Clint squintly eyed glare and told them (inside) that I was going to ... take... them... down.  And I did.  It ended up working out alright.  After my last clip, my mil pulled me back and had me look at him.  "We are the champions" started playing in the back of my head.  I did my touch down dance, in my mind.

During this whole traumatic event I realized I hadn't looked him in the eyes, but when I finally did I saw a man that had put his full confidence in my wobbley shakey hands and was smiling at me.  He looked great.  His hair didn't look half bad either.

Now, four and half a years later I am sitting on the couch writing this.  Looking over at him (he fell asleep during his tv show again) I think about how it is about time again to get out the clippers and the scissors and give it a trim.

Moral of the story:
If I can do it, anyone can do it.  You will save a bunch of money over the long run.  Also, he will get a consistent cut. Finally, don't judge your in-laws prematurely. You never know what secret tricks they've got up their sleeve:).

Good luck!  May the force be with you!


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