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Archive for March, 2010

Getting nervous about taxes

March 29th, 2010 at 01:13 pm

Anybody still haven't gotten their tax returns yet? I haven't. I typically do 1040s with standard deductions. My financial situation is just that simple most of the time.... But this year, I decided to itemize my deductions, and as a result, I've had to mail in some paperwork to prove my deductions.

Or least that's what Turbotax said, and so, I followed their instructions to mail in my federal filings.

I've also tried to check on the update status on the IRS website, but that doesn't appear to work for me. I don't know if it's because I went through Turbotax or what, but does anyone know what may be going on? Any other way to tell if the IRS even received my packet? Since this is my first year that I mailed in my itemized deductions, how do I know if it's approved or not? Anything else I should know or do differently next time?

Le quickies

March 26th, 2010 at 05:14 pm

Because they use the metric system? Big Grin

* Received my electric bill. Because of my previous mishap of over-paying, I am still running at a 2-month surplus right now....

By the way, is my average of $33 a month normal (for one person)? I can't tell. What's your average electric bill?

* Finally got my Perkstreet bonus money! Glad it came through, and the reward points are rolling in too. Everything seems to be in working order, so I'm going to step up my usage.

* Updated my net worth, and it seemed surprisingly high. Then I realized that's because I was suffering last month on the stock market, and this month simply caught it back up. Oh well.

* Still feverishly trying to save money while battling shiny temptations.

When it rains....

March 23rd, 2010 at 08:24 pm

it pours. My third post for the day. Big Grin

While raising rabbits isn't a practical option for me right now, it nevertheless got me wondering about all sorts of self-sustaining, money-saving, and ecologically-friendly ideas that I can implement while I'm at it. Ideas ranging anywhere from what kind of herbs or vegetables I can grow using rabbit pellets as fertilizer, all the way to rabbit hutch designs.

The latter is what lead me to this post here, because I think it could mate very well with another idea that I've been hoping to get my hands on some day: Collecting rainwater.

I think the benefits of collecting your own rain water is pretty self-explanatory right? Unfortunately, it's not without its practical challenges.

Current implementations generally center around rigging up a large drum to your house's drainage gutters. Sure, that'll work, but you also have to constantly get up to the roof to clear the drainage. That and you may have to make a lot of ugly changes to the side of your house to get the drainage pipe set right. After that, it's another task just to get the rain water out from the drum and into use.

No no no. There has to be a better way. How about... building a rain water collection system on top of a rabbit hutch? Think I'm crazy? You should know the answer to that by now. Big Grin But seriously, take a look at this example hutch:

Now, I don't have to build one as beautiful as this, but notice how it's got an angled roof? If I make a hutch that's bigger (so the rabbits will have plenty of room to stretch their legs), and just high enough (with PVC shielding so rats can't get up there), why can't that also be a viable rain water collection system built on top of such a roof?

Moreover, it would solve the risks/hassles related to cleaning the drainage since you don't need to climb way up high anywhere.

Finally, if the hutch is placed correctly, it should also allow the water to naturally flow down and irrigate into a garden somehow, and not just a storage tank.

I think it can be done, and done in a cost-effective manner at that. What do you think?

Eeh, what's up doc?

March 23rd, 2010 at 01:46 pm

This is only a THOUGHT experiment, because right now, this simply isn't an option for me to consider.

Just the same, if you dig deep enough, frugality can be a strange and twisted path down the rabbit hole sometimes. What do I mean exactly? Raising your own rabbits for meat. DUM DUM DUM!

Raising rabbits for meat does make logical sense though. They're relatively easy to domesticate and raise. The meat is very cheap, even if you factor in the relatively low start-up costs for this sort of thing. I can be sure of the quality of the meat since I am raising them myself. And last but certainly not least, I can ensure that these animals live a "good life", and die painlessly by my own hands. Lots of good reasons.

Being a Surbanite though, you can also imagine why something like this isn't an option for me right now. I mean, can you imagine the Homeowner's Association finding out about what I'm doing in the middle of my aunt's back yard? Man, they'd have a cow! *rimshot* Thank you.

Maybe this is something I will look into again when the kids are much older and I live somewhere where this is perhaps an option. I don't know. What do you guys think about this hare-raising scheme?

Those pesky newspapers

March 23rd, 2010 at 12:58 pm

They keep chucking those freebie local newspapers into the driveway. That's like the one freebie I actually don't want!

I managed to find an email to the newspaper that supposedly stops the delivery, but I don't know if it will actually work. They hire these people who are probably paid minimum wage to throw these things into a neighborhood at like 4am in the morning, and in the dark of the night, so I have my doubts that they will actually stop, check over a list and say, "Oh yeah, BA's residence just sent an email saying that they don't want any more deliveries."

Or maybe I'm wrong. Any of you have had success in getting a newspaper to stop delivering those things? Or am I making a mistake by telling them to stop because these are actually good freebies?

Cut my own hair

March 22nd, 2010 at 10:39 pm

I don't know why, but I've never cut my own hair before. For a guy who is supposedly frugal and has no taste er I mean personal fashion preference, I've just always gone to a barber. What I would do, though is to wait forever until I went to one.

Well, with weather warming up and co-workers and friends alike joking that I'm trying to grow a hippy ponytail, I figure it was about time that I give it a try.

Now, if I was smart, I'd post first and solicit some advice from you guys before I start. I'm sure there is plenty of experience here to tap. However, I am not that smart Big Grin so I just dove right in.

I didn't know what I was doing, so I just picked... you know those hair clipper plastic guard thingies #5 to start out. I knew at least that I would tell a barber to use "clipper #2", and they seem to know what I had meant even if I didn't. So, I figure #5 is at least a safe choice to try first.

Well, I have some good news! I didn't cut myself and bleed! Yay! The bad news is that, even after a hour of experimenting with hand positions and trying to get those darn little strands here and there, I still have no idea if my back looks fine. For all I know, I look like a serial killer who got his hair cut back by an equally unsavory convict back at the big house. I'm probably going to go buy a mirror later tonight.

You know, my oldest son already cuts his own hair like this, and I have to say that I'm mighty impressed with his result. However, I'm also pretty sure he used only one clipper guard, whereas I tried to blend two of them. Blending seems a lot more difficult than it first appears. Maybe I should have started out with only one as well.

Again, I don't know why I never thought of doing this myself, but at least I'm trying. If you guys have any helpful advice, anything at all, I would greatly appreciate it.

Edit: Good news! I just got compliments at work about the hair. One guy even jokingly said, "I would've cut your hair for free!" Big Grin

Hay slow cooker

March 18th, 2010 at 10:47 pm

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Just ran across something that I thought some of you may find interesting.

Happy St. Patty's Day

March 17th, 2010 at 02:40 pm

Actually, I didn't even know it was today until... today. Big Grin However, I am also wearing the best kind of green I can have. The one where my investment balances are showing green!

The last several days have been rather good at the market. Lots of factors played a role, but overall, the market is growing in confidence over signs of a fundamental economic recovery. Well, I don't know if that's true or not, but that's the market sentiment anyway.

On a separate note, because I was clueless about St. Patrick, I decided to read some about it online. Did you know that he was kidnapped and sold as a slave when he was a teenager? I did not know that. He eventually went back to Ireland (where he was sold as a slave) to try to convert the masses there as a Bishop.

Also, the significance of the green Clover was his way of explaining the concept of the Holy Trinity to the local populace. It must have been quite effective, but I wonder why the four-leaf clover is considered lucky? Since the Holy Trinity is three, not four. Or maybe that's a later invention? Does anyone know?

Anyways, have a happy St. Patty's day everyone.

First job

March 16th, 2010 at 01:07 pm

My oldest son finally has a job now. Yep, his very first job. They grow up so quick!

And what does he do for his first job? Being the Easter Bunny at the local mall! Hilarious!

According to him, the job is harder than it first sounds, which is just to sit in a chair for 2 to 4 hours, holding kids for pictures. For one thing, the costume is heavy and causes shoulder strain even after only a couple of hours. Also, he can't see very well, so he actually needs the parents' help to get the child seated in his lap properly. And of course, there are the occasional screaming children. It's also a little bit hard to breathe and they're constantly sweating in that thing. What's more, you can't talk, and he's a chatty person, so he found that difficult. And finally, an Easter Bunny got attacked and beaten up by some punks a few years ago, so they have to take security measures to stay safe.

The pay isn't great either, but it's still pretty good for a teenager's first paycheck. It's also seasonal, so the job will only last about a month.

Still, I think it's a great learning experience about the value of working for your money. It used to bother me that, like most teenagers I guess, he couldn't understand the why money is such a big deal. He looked at it as a reason why society is so misguided. But now that he's not being babied on certain expenses and now that he's had a taste of working, hopefully, he'll learn to appreciate the hard-earned dollar sooner rather than later.


March 15th, 2010 at 08:13 pm

I think I've done this before, but just out of fun/boredom/curiosity, I decided to do it again. Below is my current budget, in percentages, and in a spiffy pie chart thanks to

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The chart only illustrates a "working budget" that I personally attend to based off of my take-home pay. In other words, it's not based on gross pay, and it does not include stuff like 401(k), taxes, Medicaid/Medicare, or anything else that is automated before take-home pay.

Also, I'm using budgeted numbers, not "real" numbers. In other words, I budget slightly more money than I typically end up using. But whatever.

When things are in percentages, it always seems kind of surprising just how "small" some expenses seem to be, because I tell you, they seem pretty massive to me when I am pulling money out to pay for it.

Another thing I should note is that while my savings rate seems high, please remember that I am expecting to lose my job in the near future. That and it's actually not that massive in actual dollars I don't think. But I'm doing what I can I suppose.

All-in-all, I'm just coasting right now, but I don't think that's a bad thing? It's moving forward, and I just need to keep going forward.

The unfrugal mind

March 15th, 2010 at 02:31 pm

I've been thinking about this dear friend of mine, and wondering why he wants me to buy an iPhone with him.

Sales pitch and gadget lust aside, what he is proposing basically boils down to being locked into a 2 year contract for at least $75 a month, just to play a game or two that I can't play anyways when I'm at work, and at home, I already have a competent PC.

It's really hard for me to say no to such a good friend, but I definitely had to say no to that one. The cost is exorbitant and I just can't see how this would work out for us, much less for myself.

The iPhone itself isn't what's interesting though. To me, it's the thought process behind it. It always seems like he's chasing after the latest and greatest gadgets. Alas, reality never seems to quite meet expectation, so once it settles in, he either gets bored or disappointed, and moves on to the Next Great Thing.

It's strange. I don't understand that kind of mindset. Mind you, I'm a gadget geek who just blogged about a gadget in my last entry. And yet, I kid you not, he's already gone through four smartphones within only a year I think.

And his response to me declining a joint iPhone purchase? Equally perplexing. He eventually accepted my decision and said, "Oh well, it's just not meant to be right now." Not meant to be? Like it's something that fate has yet to transcribe into the astral tome of destiny or something? I don't understand that either. To me, the basic cost versus benefit just doesn't add up. That's all.

I mean, I'm not trying to give my friend a hard time or anything. It's just that the way he looks at things is very alien to me... and fascinating at the same time. I just don't get how his thought process works.

Anybody have any insights on this?

The right tech

March 9th, 2010 at 07:12 pm

This... doesn't have anything to do with frugality unfortunately. Or maybe it sort of does. I'll let you be the judge.

As you guys may or may not know, I love technology. Always have. What makes it interesting though, is that I am also a born-again fruggie. That means there's usually an interesting inner-conflict between my nerdy, gadget side and my sensible, watch the bottom line side.

Most of the time, I do not give into temptation, especially when the technology doesn't seem to justify the cost or doesn't meet my needs.

But there is a fine line in there when I will occasionally indulge in it. That fine line is when something comes along that transcends its base technology, captures the imagination, and brings a whole new level of experience to my digital life.

I think many felt that way with their first iPod, yes? Or how about the humble blog? Would many of you say that the SA blog community has been at least somewhat transformative in your digital life?

Recently, I saw something new that I felt the same way again. This time, it's a rumored device called the Microsoft Courier. It's Microsoft's take on the digital journal. Words are not adequate to describe what it's capable of, so instead, I recommend

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clicking this link and watching at least one of the videos in the middle of that page.

I could probably go on and on gushing about a device like this, but I would get way too long-winded. Also, I'm not saying I'm actually going to buy this this. Right now, I don't even know if it will see the light of day. I'm just saying that it's great to see something so innovative and refreshing in a gadget landscape full of me-toos and cheap knock-offs.


March 1st, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Hi, sorry I haven't been around! I'm still around, but just not really here around.

Well, I'm just going to be honest here. Ahem. I'm addicted to a space ship game called Eve Online. Yeeeeah, spending every waking moment with it.

The bad news is that it costs $15 a month to play. The good news is that the annual subscription can knock it down to more like $12 a month... and well, I don't think it's too costly since that is all I spend on personal luxuries. I've even canceled Netflix, which was $10 a month for me.

That said, I really doubt anyone here is interested in such a game, although if you are, let me know.

You know what what else I currently play though? Actually, my little girl is the one that loves to play it. She loves playing Farmville and all those similar farming games over Facebook, but I like it too. Not only is it visually pretty (to me), but it's also light and relaxing. Best of all, it's free!

Anybody else hooked on Farmville or similar games on Facebook?