Home Improvement Projects And Wish List

It’s been a fairly busy year around the house for getting home repairs, ranging from maintenence to repairs to upgrades.  I thought I’d share some of the items we’ve worked on, as well as looking ahead to some of the things we might still do, and finish off with a few ‘dream’ projects.

Complete:

  • Tree removal – We had one big tree removed this year as it was getting attacked by bugs, which seems to be going around the elm trees in our neighborhood.  In fact, another nearby tree is showing signs of stress and will likely have to come down.
  • Sink and faucet upgrades – Our kitchen sink was white porcelin, shallow, chipped, and had a leaky faucet.  We had the sink replaced with a deeper, modern stainless steel option, as well as a new brushed nickel faucet.  It really helped improve the look of our kitchen.  In addition, we had a chipped bathroom sink replaced, and two bathroom faucets replaced.

In Progress:

  • Deck Repairs – Our deck was starting to show signs of wear.  Railings and posts were starting to warp or exhibit signs of rot.  We hired someone to reinforce all of the railing posts, replace several posts which went into the ground and had rotted, and also replaced all of the stairway plank boards.  All that’s left is that I would like to put a coat of paint on it to protect it over the winter.
  • Painting – We moved the kids rooms around, so three bedrooms need to be repainted.  I’m finishing up the third room.  We also decided to repaint an upstairs bathroom, which I’ll finish up as well.  This has taken quite a bit of time, as we got going on it during the summer, which is busy, plus I decided that I was doing a full paint, including trim and ceilings.  The results have been fantastic, they’ve just taken a while and had things upstairs in a fair bit of disarray.
  • Our first LED bulbs – When we moved into our home in 2007, we put CFL bulbs where we could.  We’ve had several fail, and we took the opportunity to replace a couple of lamps with LED bulbs, which are more expensive but use less electricity, seem to be more environmentally safe, and put out a more natural light.  Our local electric company offers subsidies from time to time, so I was able to pick up a couple of bulbs for half their usual price.  So far, we are very pleased with the results.

Planned:

  • New Mantel – We have a fairly typical fireplace with tile in front and around, but my wife has always wanted a mantel.  The man that did our deck repair will hopefully be able to come up with something simple and affordable in time for the holidays, so that we can hang our stockings in front of the fireplace.

Wish List:

We probably won’t get to these, but if I had my way…

  • Window Replacement – Some of the double paned windows on the front side of our house are starting to fail, as you can see moisture between the panes.  This is where the most sunlight hits, so it makes sense that they’d go first.
  • Replace grout in the bathroom – A few months back I wrote about epoxy grout and how great it can be in comparison to your standard cement grout.  Every time I look at our stained grout around the shower, I think how awesome it would be to get this installed.  Megasealed, the company whose website I learned more about this product, recently won an innovation award for their product.  I have a feeling you’ll be seeing a lot more about this product in the years to come.
  • Landscaping updates – Some of our bushes are getting a bit too big, so it’d be nice to have them replaced.  I may give them a good trim before the end of the year but it would really be nice to rip them out and put something a little more contemporary, but that’s probably not in the budget, and time is a little short to do any remaining planting.  It doesn’t help that the person who had done our landscaping projects is no longer offering services.  It stinks when you lose someone reliable!

Readers, what are your home improvement goals and achievements for the year and time ahead?

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Wealth Grows Like A Tree

I live in a neighborhood with a lot of old trees.  We have trees on our property that are at least thirty feet tall, and there are others throughout the neighborhood that are even taller than that.

These trees have been here for a while, well before the neighborhood was built in the 1990’s.

As I looked through the trees the other day, thinking about raking once all the leaves started falling, it occurred to me that people simply don’t plant trees that large.  It just doesn’t happen.  If I want a tree in my backyard, I’m going to get one that’s anywhere from a few feet tall to maybe ten or fifteen feet at the most.

A fully mature tree with roots that stretch far into the ground that’s been around for many a decade?  One of those isn’t making it’s way into my yard, and probably yours, anytime soon.

Your Tree Of Wealth

I started thinking about it and realized that trees are a lot like wealth.  You look around and you see people that have built wealth.  Whether it’s a famous person like Warren Buffet who defines wealth to someone who lives comfortably in retirement because of modest wealth, chances are they did not simply get their wealth planted as it stands today.

Instead, they started off small.  They planted their tree of wealth.

They took care of it.

They watered it, so to speak.

They allowed the roots to grow and spread.

They watched it slowly grow taller.  Maybe so slow that they didn’t even realize it was growing, but when they took a step back and looked at it compared to a few years ago, the difference was noticeable.

One day, they looked at their tree of wealth and realized that it had grown to a significant level and it was all because they gave it care, time, and patience.

Reasonable Expectations

In thinking about how trees grow, the same needs to be said for wealth.  It doesn’t grow quickly overnight.  Patience is key.  For those who are looking to build to a certain level of wealth, expectations must be set.  Time must be allocated.  Care must be given.  Progress has to be measured.

It all fits together.

Readers, if you envision your wealth, does it help if you think of it as growing like a tree? Both up in the sky and through the roots that strengthen it below.  How do you apply the principles of growing a tall tree to growing your wealth?

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Do Lower Prices Equate To Lower Motivation?

In the last few months, my exercise routine has fallen off.  I have  yet to go more than a week without going to the gym (except during camping trips), but my normal four day per week routine fell to as little as one time and is now averaging around three times per week.

Initially I blamed the summer months and being busy, tired, etc. along with the activities, but when I took a closer look, I realized that my fall off not only occurred right around the time when summer started, but it also happened to be the time that I switched gyms…and got a lower price.

Prior to summer, I had been working out at a local gym and paying around $22 per month.  When Planet Fitness announced that they were opening, I enthusiastically switched as their pricing was only $10 per month.  I typically utilize cardio machines 90% of the time, which is the specialty of Planet Fitness.  My old gym had much more in the way of weights, but that was largely wasted on me.

I started to wonder if my gym routine took less importance in my mind when a ‘missed’ day had less cost.  Back when I was working out 4 times per week, that equated to roughly $1.32 per workout ($22.50 per month exactly divided by 17 workouts per month).  Once I started paying only $10 per month, that price per workout could be matched by only going 7-8 times per month…which is what I was hitting around the summer.

I wonder if subcounciously I had said “As long as I’m getting my money’s worth at the $1.32 price point, I’m OK”  and was letting that influence my decision.

I suppose time will tell.

It’s not all disappointment, though.  On the flip side of things, even with the reduced attendance, I’m still at my longest stretch of continued attendance at a gym in my life.  That’s pretty cool.  So, the good news is that I haven’t given up altogether, which is all too often the problem, and a much bigger one if you think about it.

Now that I’ve had this hit me, I’m going to work on getting back up to four times per week and keep that going through at least the fall and winter.  And, if you know Michigan weather, that would entail quite a few months in which to get back and stay on track!

It brings to mind some other potential examples:

  • If the price of your favorite pizza went down, would you throw leftovers away rather than keeping them or heating them up?
  • If your cable bill went down, do you think people would still try to call and get discounts or switch providers?
  • If car prices went down by 50%, would you cut the amount of time you keep the car by half? (Not taking into account the fact that a car costing half the price would probably fall apart in half the time)

What do you think, readers, what element does price weigh in on motivation?

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Family Fun In The Fall

Fall is here and it’s time to start planning some fun fall activities.  I’m always interested in new ideas, so if you have ideas on fun things to do as a family, please post them in the comments below.

Here are some things we are planning for the family to make fall fun:

  1. Cider Mill – Apple cider and freshly made summer are the hallmark of a good fall, and as we have some really cool mills nearby, this one is usually easy to manage as long as the weather cooperates.  Here we have long lines and bees to contend with, but that first bite of a freshly made doughnut followed by that first sip of just pressed cider makes it worth it!
  2. Apple Picking – I never did this until recently, but my wife started getting us into picking apples.  Little kids love it, and you get lots of apples for eating, for baking, and of course, to make applesauce!
  3. Pumpkin Decorating – Halloween is still a few weeks away, but start planning now!  Look around for cool pumpkin decorating or carving ideas, and soon it won’t be long before it’s time to pick out that perfect pumpkin.  Don’t go too early or it’ll be rotted before Halloween!
  4. Playing in the leaves – For us grown ups, this means raking, piling, and baggingmb-2014-09leaves leaves.  For the kids, it means getting to jump in leaves.  Either way it’s fun when the leaves start falling.
  5. Visiting the zoo – We have an annual pass to the zoo, so the cooler weather and less hectic weekend schedules makes for some extra fun visits to the zoo.  What’s your favorite animal?
  6. Fall camping – Our family loves camping, and fall is an altogether different camping experience.  While summer camping is (for us) focused around the beach and having fun at the parks and biking the trails, fall camping is more time around the fire, taking walks, and slowing down a bit.

Those are just a few ideas.  What are your plans for fall fun?

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Domestic Violence, Spanking, And Oh Yeah, The NFL

For years, the NFL has done nothing but grow, in terms of audience, revenue, popularity, cultural placement.  The Super Bowl is annually the most watched event of the year.  Even the off-season has become wildly popular, with free agency and the draft getting more coverage and attention than the regular season of some other sports.  It was a ride straight up and up.

I always wondered when the ride would end, and with all of the press coverage centered around domestic violence, you have to wonder if this is the thing that will finally bring some stop to the rocket ship rise of  the NFL.

It All Started With Ray Rice

The stories emerged during the off-season of Ray Rice being involved with a domestic violence charge against his then fiance.  I tend to tune out a lot of the off-season stuff with the exception of that surrounding my hometown Lions, so while I was aware of it, I didn’t know the details.  That is, until the day a couple of weeks ago when the video was released.

I was listening to the radio on the way home from the gym when I’d first heard about it.  I work out early in the morning, and the video had just been released hours ago, so recently that other networks were not yet showing it, but just talking about it.

When it finally hit the main airwaves, all heck broke loose.  Anybody (like me) who hadn’t been made aware of the specific details were soon enlightened, and boy was it ugly. Rice flat out knocked out his fiance.

The video unleashed an instant firestorm.  The NFL and the Ravens were chastised for the previously announced two game suspension.  They tried to correct this.  The team released him, and the NFL reversed course by suspending him indefinitely.  Both came under fire for not having saw the video when TMZ was able to get it.

It turned into one big mess

And Then It Got Worse

Ray Rice, as it turns out, was not the only player involved in a domestic violence issue.  His just got the most attention.  Soon after his firestorm hit, attention turned to other cases that had not gotten as much attention, but were now.  Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers admitted to an altercation and was going through the legal system, but was still playing.

Until the team decided to change that.

Then, other players involved in cases suddenly started getting attention.  Soon, it became apparent that the Ray Rice incident was not just one isolated event.

And Then It Got Worse Than That

During the whole thing, the Ravens had a Thursday night game.  Thursday night games are broadcast on CBS, and they had an intro featuring a song by Jay-Z and Riahnna.  The same Riahanna that is one of the most popular people on the planet, but who was also the victim of domestic violence a few years ago.  CBS decided to pull her song for the week that the Ravens played.  When Riahanna heard that they were going to resume using it the following week, she went on Twitter and told them in no uncertain terms that this was not acceptable.  CBS wisely decided to stop their plans on using her song.

So at this point, you’ve got suspended athletes, accusations of, at worst, cover-ups, at the least, incompetence, plus you’ve now angered one of the most popular people on the planet.  It couldn’t get any worse right?

Wrong.  It Continues To Get Worse

To top it all off, Adrian Peterson, widely considered one of the best players in the entire NFL, is arrested and charged with child abuse for whipping his 4 year old son with a tree branch.

It breaks my heart to even write that sentence.  Look, everything else that’s happened is bad, but as bad as it is, you didn’t have children involved.  Old AP decided to change that.

What sick monster thinks that it’s OK to hit a 4 year old child with a tree branch in the name of discipline?

Nobody in their right mind, right?

Wrong.

Insert Reggie Bush

I’m a Lions fan so I’ve been thrilled that they have Reggie Bush, but that all changed when he came out and actually defended Peterson.  (What the h-e-double hockey sticks is it with running backs being at the center of all this, anyways?)

In fact, he took it further.  He said that he has a 1 year old….THAT HE DISCIPLINES.

Disciplining a one year old?  What is he even talking about?  A one year old understands very little about the world.  They don’t understand right from wrong.  They are just learning the world and their place in it.

Yet, this tool is going out there and disciplining a one year old child?  A one year old that has no idea about anything other than what the few people he or she trusts can show them.  Those people, including her father, should be showing them love.  And trust.  And strength.

Not discipline.

I will still root for the Lions but I will not cheer this fool.

My Words and Thoughts

These guys are grown men.  They’re in a violent sport.  They are stronger than most.  Their job is to intimidate, to push past others, to knock down when necessary.

But they need to leave that on the field.

These guys have no business taking that with them.  The second that game clock stops, so too should their propensity to muscle their way through by any means necessary.

Until that happens, the NFL will suffer.  The image will suffer.

I don’t think that the NFL will start sliding anytime soon. They will still be popular.  People will still watch. Sponsors will still pay obsence amounts to advertise during their games.  Sunday will still be football day.

But, the endless climb up the mountain?  I think that’s on hold for awhile.  And here’s the thing.  The fans want the NFL to do something.  But what can the NFL do?  It’s up to the players to take ownership of their actions.  It’s up to the players to be good men, and to not take up hands against their wives, fiances, girlfriends, and (I shouldn’t have to say this) their children.

The NFL can’t teach these guys to act like honorable men.  And, what’s worse is that right now the honorable men (and there are many out there) are getting outshadowed.  Let’s remember, for all the idiots like Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, and Reggie Bush, there are multiple players out there who treat the people in their lives with respect and who don’t feel the need to use their hands as ‘discipline’.

Maybe we can take the time to re-think who we root for.  That we look at who we deem a hero.  Or a role model.  Or someone whose poster we hang on our kids wall.

In the NFL, and in all sports, the men and women who play the game matter.  Maybe this will make us more aware of who we are rooting for.  We can’t just root for the players.  We have to root for the men and women that the players are.  We can’t support players who lead their team to victory but then drag their fiance unconscious out of an elevator.

Rooting for players is fine.  It’s always happened and it will continue to happen.  But, let’s not root for the animals.  Let’s root for the players that leave it on the field, that use the gift of their athletic ability to make the support exciting, but then use the grace that we are given as human beings to make positive choices once they leave their sport.  It all counts.  It all goes together.   We can’t unravel it.

Let’s stop pretending that we can.  Let’s start rooting for the best men and women to play the sports we love.  Let’s teach our kids that the best players to play the game may not automatically deserve our adoration, and explain why.  Use the current examples as teaching moments, and eventually, maybe we’ll teach our children, and maybe even the players who deserves to be rooted for.

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

6 Things Your Debt Is Costing You

I am not a fan of debt.  Most financial bloggers will agree with me.

Have you ever thought of the things that your debt can be costing you?  Here are six things that I came up with in just two minutes time!

  1. mb-201312billscoins – This is the obvious one.  When you have debt, you have to pay it off.  This is money that comes right out of your income stream, and because it’s for an item you already paid for, you are paying present money for past purchases.  There is absolutely no joy in that.
  2. Opportunity – When you pay money for your debt payments, that takes money away that you could use for other things, including making money!  Your $500 debt payment is gone, but a $500 investment in the stock market is an opportunity for future gains.  But that’s lost when you have the debt payment that comes first.
  3. Freedom – Every debt payment you make requires a certain level of income.  For some people, debt takes any income gap and then some.  These are people in extreme debt.  But, even those not in extreme debt end up with a correlation between debt and income that sees you relying on your income so that you can pay off your debt.  You’re still able to make the payments, which is great, but you’re in essence stuck doing whatever you’re doing to make income for as long as you have debt.  Remember the people in extreme debt I talked about earlier this paragraph?  The ideal thing is to be on the other extreme, where you have no debt.  When you’re there, you have freedom without having to worry about the next debt payment.
  4. Happiness – Debt causes anxiety.  Anxiety causes stress.  Stress reduces happiness.  Therefore debt costs you some level of your happiness.
  5. Sleep – Have you ever woken up and started thinking about your debt?  If you have, then chances are, rolling over and going back to sleep isn’t in the cards.  There are few things worse than being kept at night…because of debt!
  6. Your Net Worth – Financial freedom is obtained by increasing your net worth.  When you make debt payments, you’re taking an asset to pay off a liability.  This means that your debt payment realistically results in zero net worth growth.  In fact, once your next statement comes in the mail, your interest is a new liability, which actually reduces your net worth!

As you can see, debt is kind of the worst.  If you’re in debt, then getting out of debt will help you gain back some of the costs above, and I’m sure there are others.  If you get out of debt, then stay out of debt so you don’t have these costs come up and get you again.

Readers, what other costs are associated with debt?

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.