Sunday, August 16, 2015

The $27 hamburger

One of the smarter fellows I know was at one point pretty naive about money. At this period, he was having some financial trouble. He was scared to look at his bank statement, because he knew that the news was bad.

His friends went out to eat fast food a lot, but he was very conscientious about not spending a lot. He would usually just buy a single item from the fast food dollar menu, or a two dollar burger.

He asked me for some help looking over his finances. I pointed out that his bank account had gone negative. Every time he had bought something from the dollar menu, he was charged a $25 overdraft fee. I asked him if the $27 burger had been delicious. This isn't the only case where seemingly minor splurging can turn out to be very expensive. Any high interest debt (say, credit cards at 19% interest) that could have been paid down increases the cost of any splurging significantly.

Hamburger Original Price: $
Highest APR on any debt: %
If you wait five years to pay down this high interest debt, then I hope you enjoyed that hamburger. Note that I'm assuming 2% annual inflation, which actually fluctuates and has generally been lower than that.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Walking Games


We try to walk places whenever we can around here. After all, it saves gas, reduces wear and tear on the car, and --at least in the long run--it means you spend less on doctors' bills.

We have also found that it is easier to get places on time when we walk. This seems counter-intuitive, but I think it is because walking forces you to plan. When I drive places, I often forget to think about how long it really takes to pack everyone in and out, not to mention driving through traffic. What I think is a five minute trip, might actually take 15. There is another advantage to walking as well. If you're five minutes late walking somewhere, you can always make up time by doubling your speed. Try this in a car, and you're likely to cause an accident, or get a ticket.

So, walking is wonderful! I love walking...

But, sometimes I hate it. Here is why: my four year-old is slow. He is a dawdler and a foot dragger. He likes to use up all of his energy weaving across the sidewalk and then wander into someone's yard to step on their decorative rocks or pick their dandelions. When we're running late getting his brother to school, this is a little frustrating.

Fortunately, we have found a solution which works well, at least sometimes. We play games. Here are a few of them:

Racing Cheetahs: My friend invented this, and my son won't actually play it unless she is running the game.   In this one, the kids are cheetahs, chasing after deer, giraffes, and other wildlife. The wildlife is played by obliging street lamps, signs, poles, and hydrants. The grown-up tells the kids about wildlife up ahead and sends them chasing after it.

Ping Pong Ball: I am the paddle, the kids are the ping pong balls. I give them a gentle whack on the back and send them flying, when they reach a busy driveway or intersection we "roll" across together.

Bow & Arrow: I am the bow. The kids are the arrows. I pull them back and send them flying at a pole, tree, or sign up ahead.

Whack It With a Stick: This one is my favorite. I have him find a stick (not too heavy) and whack things as I call them out. We stick stuff I'm sure he won't damage, like sturdy trees, poles, and garbage bins.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

If you have a bad job, keep job hunting (but don't quit the job!)

In relation to my last post on making sure you always have some sort of job, even if it doesn't match your needs, I figured I ought to point out some of the pitfalls of working in a job that is beneath your abilities.

I have a friend who has a pretty bad job, and doesn't get enough hours to support himself. He has mostly quit job-hunting though, because at least he has a job. He's been stuck like this for quite some time. He did the right thing in taking the job, but then he forgot all about finding a better one!

Basically, if your job doesn't meet your needs and skills, you ought to be spending serious time job-hunting every week. As a corollary, if you are spending 80 hours a week at this pretty bad job, you aren't going to have the time or energy for real job hunting. Overtime at a bad job will just burn you out, and make you unable to get anything better. Cut back to a reasonable schedule any way you can, just to have the energy to find a better job.

I think you should only really quit the job if the only way of keeping the job is working lots of overtime for poor pay, since that means it's interfering with your search for the job you really need.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Get a job, any job

I've mentioned this before, but I figure people might be more likely to believe me if I find more people saying the same thing:

Why Hunting for a Great Job Will Hurt Your Career

Full-time job hunting can be a depressing, long-term experience. Even if you have to take a job far below your abilities (and perhaps way below your income requirements), you should always make sure you have some sort of job. Then you can spend your spare time looking for the perfect job.

  • You'll avoid gaps in your resume.
  • There may be quick promotion opportunities at the suboptimal job, if you perform well.
  • There are better networking opportunities interacting with people at a bad job than sitting at home sending e-mails.
  • When you take a job beneath your abilities, you really don't need to treat it like a long-term commitment. Don't feel guilty when a better job comes along.
  • Not having even a bad job can easily lead to depression and feelings of worthlessness, which makes it even harder to get a job.
  • It's possible to waste a lot of time on the Internet. Anyone trying to spend all day job hunting on the Internet is going to get bored and start visiting sites of lower and lower quality while surfing. At the end of the day, you'll have done 30 minutes of job hunting and 8 hours of web surfing. You might as well spend those 8 hours doing actual work instead - and getting paid.
Remember of course that being unemployed can also be a great time to get additional training - even an additional degree, if you have the means.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lessons Learned, Money Saved

Here's a bit of money-saving inspiration from "The Simple Dollar:"

This is a fun list. I especially like the items that go "_________ isn't nearly as scary as it sounds." It's so true. A lot of times we spend money to get out of things that really aren't that bad.

What have I learned from trying to save money? Here are a few things, in random order:

1. It's fun to create money strategies and then watch our progress.
2. You realize a lot of things are completely unnecessary after you've put off buying them for a while.
3. Some things cost more to upgrade than others. For example, we could rent a tiny house (here in the bay area), or we could stick with our apartment and stay at the Four Seasons twice a month for the same total cost.
4. I love beans.
5. Buying things isn't as much fun as doing things. See this post.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Unemployment and Faith

In this article from the August issue of the Ensign, A. Brent Hammond writes about how he and his wife got through unemployment. Things eventually worked out for them, and they managed to do a lot of good in the process.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fabulous Cabbage

Do you eat cabbage? We love the stuff. Raw, it's crunchy and a bit peppery. Boiled, it tastes buttery and smooth. And the great thing is, it's super cheap--30 cents a pound the last time I bought some!

Here are three of my favorite cabbage recipes:

Cabbage Patch Soup from allrecipes (pictured above). This recipe is easy and tasty. We use real bacon, double the cabbage, and leave out the peas.

Chicago Dog Salad from Rachael Ray. It sounds weird, but it's really yummy. We shred the cabbage ourselves; it's easy.

Jeanne's Vegetable-Beef Borscht from the Fix-It and Forget-It Big Cookbook. Borscht is a traditional Russian stew. It is usually made with beets, which turn it bright red. I was excited to find this recipe which is as flavorful as the traditional recipe I use, but much simpler. Preparation still takes some time, but it's worth it! The recipe works best in a 5 quart slow cooker. You could go larger. My alterations and substitutions are in parentheses. Please forgive me if they annoy.

1 lb. beef roast, cooked and cubed (I used less, cut small, and browned but not cooked through)
half a head of cabbage, sliced thinly
3 medium potatoes, diced
4 carrots, sliced
1 large onion, diced
1 cup tomatoes, diced (I used a 14 oz. can stewed tomatoes)
1 cup corn
1 cup green beans
2 cups beef broth (I doubled this, 4 tsp beef broth concentrate)
2 cups tomato juice (I used 1 cup tomato sauce)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dill seed (really it's optional; for more authenticity add chopped fresh dill to each serving)
2 tsp salt (I used 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp pepper
(I also added a bit of honey after cooking to complete the flavor, maybe 1 tablespoon for the whole batch)
sour cream

1. Mix together all the ingredients except water and sour cream. Add water to fill slow cooker three-quarters full. (At this point the vegetables are piled way over the water line. They will cook down.)

2. Cover. Cook on Low 8-10 hours. (Or on high 2-3 hours, on low 4, if you're a little slow like me).

3. Top individual servings with sour cream.

Variation (which I highly recommend!): Add 1 cup diced cooked red beets during the last half hour of cooking. (I peeled a large beet, pierced it with a fork several times, cooked it in the microwave until tender, and then diced it.)