Avoiding The Mess Left By The Snow Plow

It’s been a very snowy season here in Michigan. I think I saw a statistic on the news the other morning that we’ve already exceeded our average snowfall for the season, and we still have a couple of months to go!
Although I have a snow blower (compliments of my dad), the hardest part of our driveway is the mess left at the end after the snow plower goes through. Nothing drives me more crazy than cleaning off the entire driveway, only to have the plow come through and leave a huge pile of snow at the end of the driveway.
I decided to look and see if anything can be done, and it turns out that there IS a way to reduce the amount of snow left by the plow.
Most people clear off the area in front of their driveway. To ‘avoid the plow’, you need to take it one step further. Clear off the street on either side of the driveway. The reasoning behind this is that you will then create a ‘drop off’ area for the plow to drop off what has been collected so far. According to some of the reading I did, you should still get some snow left in front of the driveway, but at a greatly reduced level.
I decided to try that this year when possible, and it does work! My wife even commented last week after one of our many snowfalls that we had less snow in front of our driveway than other neighbors, even though the plow had come during the day while we were both at work. I proudly told her that because of the little bit of extra work I did the evening before, it was indeed a lot less of a mess. Going out and cleaning up the little bit that was there was a breeze, compared to what it would have been had I not.
So, for those who have to shovel snow, my suggestion is to make an investment in your time in order to save some time later.

2009 Financial Goals

2009 is upon us and it is that time where we start setting out goals. This is the first time I’ve ever publicly stated goals for the entire year, so I may skip around a bit. I’ll try, though to keep it organized.
Balance Sheet Goals:

  • Property – My goals here assume that we pay our normal mortgage payment, which is in our control. The thing that is out of our control is that I’m assuming that our property value remains relatively stable. Hopefully the prices in our neighborhood don’t continue double digit percentage falls this year!
  • Autos – I am assuming that the overall value of our cars goes up, but that we take on a loan. This is assuming that we sell my car, and purchase a used automobile to accommodate the baby. Neither of our cars are very ‘family friendly’ I’m looking at getting something modest and taking on a very small loan, but it’d be nice to not have to take one at all!
  • Mutual Funds – With everything going on this year, we probably will not invest in non-retirement mutual funds. We do hold some, and I’m hoping for a 10% increase in the value, which would mean that the market recovers this year. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
  • Long Term Savings – We hold cash reserves for emergency fund as well as bigger expenses we expect to pay for in the next several years. I’m hoping that this remains stable (i.e. no big emergencies)
  • Retirement – I’m hoping that the value of our retirement account goes up about 30% this year. That would follow the expected 10% market recovery this year, as well as several other things. First, I’m assuming that I will become fully vested in my company match 401(k), which should happen due to the company being sold last year. Second, I’m assuming that I can contribute 8-10% of my salary and realize the full 6% company match.

If we manage all this and things work out favorably in the market, this would increase our net worth by about 20% this year. This is what I was averaging in years past until the free fall in stock and real estate in 2007 and 2008. It’d be nice to get on the ‘right path’ again.
Personal Goals:

  • Continue my quest to level out our monthly expenses
  • Make a successful adjustment from a two-income household to a one-income household as my wife will not be working following the birth of our first child
  • Don’t freak out when the expenses hit for the baby! I took my first walk through of Babies R Us this week, which was my wife’s way of easing me into it!
  • Maximize our rewards for normal spending. We have a Citi Dividends card which pays us 2% for grocery and gas purchases, and 1% for everything else. We also signed up yesterday for our bank reward program, which gives points for using our debit card. I’d like to make sure we’re maximizing our rewards as the year goes on.
  • Reduce student loan payments by 30-40%. If we can hit this number, then the higher end loan that my wife has will be mostly paid off. This would be awesome!
  • Refinance the mortgage – We are currently paying 5.875% for a 30-year mortgage. This is a good rate, but I think that rates will be below 5% before long to where a re-finance might make sense. It’d be nice to reduce our interest obligation.
  • Begin saving for major house expenses – Our house is about 10 years old. I know that we’re getting a few years away from routine tasks that cost a good deal of money. I expect a new hot water system will be needed within 3 years, a new roof within 5 years, new windows within 7, a new furnace within 10, a new deck and driveway within 12 years. I’d like to begin saving for those now rather than figure out how to pay for them as they come up.

All in all, it will be a very interesting year with a lot of changes. I will look forward to updating throughout the year as well as looking back at the end of the year to see how we did.

Save Your Wrapping Paper Scraps For Smaller Gifts

I’m in the middle of wrapping Christmas gifts. My wife has been doing this for a couple of days on and off, and it’s my turn tonight.
Since I’m a ‘typical guy’ when it comes to wrapping, my wife handles all of the wrapping for anybody that gets gifts except for the gifts that I get her, of course. So, my wrapping takes a lot less time.
One thing we realized this year is how many little scraps get cut out that accumulate. My wife started saving anything bigger than a regular sheet of paper, and we’ve found that they can be used to wrap smaller gifts without wasting more paper.
This has saved us quite a bit of paper. The first four gifts I wrapped for her were of paper that had been previously cut. I can’t tell what the gifts were that I wrapped because my wife peeks on here and that would ruin the surprise.
I’ve also found that they come in handy for filling in an edge for paper that’s a bit too short. You know the kind. Either you mis-cut or you have a piece that’s just a fraction of an inch too little. Rather than scrap the whole thing, what I’ve done is to slip in a little piece that fills in the gap, then fold over as normal. 99.9% of the time the person will never see the ‘fill-in’ (though they probably would see the gap if you had just left it), so these little scraps come in handy to patch up mistakes too!
So, remember to hold on to those little scraps because they can really come in handy!
Back to wrapping!