Archives For Eric

By Eric on October 30, 2014 +

I want to follow up to my post from last week The Price You Pay to Drive, because first of all… I got the car running again. After sitting in the garage for exactly one week, Humpty Dumpty was put back together again and rolling down the road.

Not only that, but last Friday I managed to also fix our dryer for less than $20. After talking with a local appliance repair shop, they diagnosed it over the phone, I took the old thermal fuse (apparently a common problem with dryers not running) in to be tested which confirmed the issue, replaced the teeny tiny 2″ part, said a quick prayer as I plugged in the dryer, and it fired right up. Hallelujah!

Perspective through Inconvenience

So the week that shall forever be known as the week of “inconvenience” in our house, was culminated with both major inconveniences being restored, our first world problems solved, and a satisfying bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Perspective

It was an amazing week of perspective for us as a family, but specifically for me in particular. So I wanted to share the insights I’ve learned through this week of inconvenience.

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By Eric on October 23, 2014 7

I almost added “a used car” to the end of the title, but I think the title works as is. My point being that it doesn’t matter if you drive a used car or a new car, driving in general assumes some risk. If there weren’t risks with driving, you wouldn’t need insurance, right?

Anyway, We’ve been faced with a challenge this past weekend when I tried to leave the office last Friday evening and my car wouldn’t start. She’s a 1998 Grand Prix with about 151,000 miles. Every time I tell someone who knows something about cars that I drive a 1998 Grand Prix, they say “oh man! That engine will run forever!” Yup… if you can get it started…

Fixing the Car

By the grace of God, I was able to get it running after about 25 minutes of fighting, slamming my head against the steering wheel, and praying that it would start. Well, it did, but at the same time all the dashboard lights, brake lights, and parking lights were flashing.

Nevertheless, I made it home with the lights flashing, but once in the garage, couldn’t get it started again, and with the key out of the ignition… all the lights were still flashing.

I then spent all day Saturday trying to figure out what in the world was wrong with my baby (I’ve been driving it for over a decade now…. we go waaaay back!).

I won’t tell you the whole story, mostly because at this moment, it’s still un-written (It’s still sitting in the garage and won’t start). But, there are some key lessons in vehicle ownership, car maintenance and vehicle purchasing that can be learned from this inconvenient scenario.

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By Eric on October 20, 2014 +

Based on my last post, you now know that I love coffee. And by love, I mean that it’s a vice of mine. And while I try to keep my coffee budget in check, there is still this little scientist inside of me that wants to experiment to find the best way to make a cup of coffee at home.

Most days I’m content waking up to some Dunkin’ Original blend (easy peasy and cheap when you buy in bulk from Costco). But, then I’m also left wondering what else is out there?

I’ve entertained the thought of giving bulletproof coffee a try, but the price tag for the coffee alone has kept that experiment at bay for awhile. I’ve never ventured beyond a Keurig, or your standard automatic coffee maker, so thoughts of mastering a fresh press, or chemex seem to be a hurdle for me.

Regardless, I’ve still wanted to try grinding my own beans to see if it makes for a better cup of joe in the morning.

Which is why I was excited when UncommonGoods reached out to see if we wanted to pick something out from their website. Free stuff is always great, but I was super stoked when I saw this Steampunk Coffee Mill and fell in love with the old school hand-crafted look of it. Not to mention it would grind coffee beans!

Uncommon Goods

 

To conclude the experiment, I’ll state that freshly ground coffee does in fact taste better than standard coffee grounds. Plus, I get a little workout grinding up my own beans every morning. It’s kind of therapeutic….

If you’re not into grinding your own beans, but looking for some sweet gifts for yourself or others for the upcoming holiday season, check out Uncommon Goods.

Bonus: Kelsey is running a giveaway on Snappy Casual that ends today, and she’s hand-picked 11 things you might like. (Plus see some photos of Rooney using her construction plate!)

Although… Kelsey’s picks are kind of… how do I say… girly… so, if you are a dude, or looking for a gift for a dude, check out these selections:

What would you pick out for yourself or for someone else from Uncommon Goods?

Thanks to Tom from Uncommon Goods for letting all three of us pick out something for ourselves in exchange for sharing their website with you. 

By Eric on October 14, 2014 3

My daughter is a very deep thinker, she’s cautious, and she loves routine. When Rooney has the opportunity to try something new, she first observes. I love this about her. She’s just like her Mamma. It’s not necessarily a strength of mine, so it makes for a nice balance in our house.

Carousel

So, when we visit places like the Heritage Carousel of Des Moines, it can be challenging on both ends. It’s challenging as parents to drive across the city to provide your daughter with a fun experience, only to have her stare at it.

This happened at the Iowa State Fair this year. She went down the Giant Slide once with Kelsey (proof below), so the next time we went, we doubled down and bought two tickets for the slide, and she refused to go…

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset(Kelsey and Rooney are half way down the slide on the very right edge)

And it’s challenging on the other end, when she finally gives it a try, falls in love with it and never wants it to end.

Once Rooney figures something out, or takes a calculated risk and likes what she is doing, she’s all in. Focused on mastering that task, and repeating the behavior, over, and over, and over, and over again.

When she finally gets to that “a ha!” moment, my heart melts. She’s got it! She’s doing it! She’s loving it! I couldn’t be prouder.

This is how habits are formed as well, by repetition.

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By Eric on October 7, 2014 17

In preparation for the big job transition, we decided to trim our budget from some of the “luxuries” that we had become accustomed to over the years with a steady paycheck.

It’s amazing how “must-haves” in the budget can melt away when faced with a new goal and new circumstances.

Let me begin with telling you that our food budget is almost sacred territory. It’s fluctuated over the years, but it’s the first category to get an increase when we’ve gotten raises or cut back in other areas.

There are a few reasons for this…

  1. We are trying to eat healthier, which usually means a bigger grocery bill. (Organic fruits and veggies can be nearly twice the price of regular)
  2. We added a toddler to our dinner table and when the expense for formula went away, that money was moved to the food category.
  3. We like to eat, and we like to eat out when we can.

How Our Food Budget Works

Before I tell you about our food budget, let’s talk about the rest of our budget. I’m not going to get into all the numbers, but just know that before the month starts we set our budget based on our monthly bills, non-monthly bills, and savings categories. These fluctuate a little bit from month to month based on what we have going on in the month ahead, but stay fairly consistent.

If you want to start your own budget, pick up a copy of my free budget spreadsheet.

Our food budget

  • We withdraw cash from the bank on the first of the month and the 15th. We keep our food budget in $20 increments so it’s easy to pull it out from the ATM. (Our bank is right on the way to Kelsey’s work, so she does this most of the time, and then Rooney likes to say… “bye bye bank!”)
  • The cash is then split into two envelopes. Half for the first eight days, and half for the second seven days which covers us for the first half of the month. (We split the money into weeks so that we can better keep track of how we are doing throughout the week. When the money is getting low, we eat leftovers and scrounge around the house for things to eat to make the cash last until the next week.)
  • Groceries and eating out is all kept in the same pile of cash. This works for us, because we have overcome impulse spending at the grocery store (for the most part), and keep track of what we need, know how much it is going to cost, and then eat out if there is money left over. (Bottom line, we make the cash we have work. There have been several months that we have run out of cash. We don’t go hungry, and have survived every single time)

I should also say that we do have a separate category for organic grass fed beef that we order from a farm. We love Wallace Farms and fund a separate category for buying ground beef, burgers, steaks, and Nick-sticks throughout the year. We order/pay online and pick up at a church near our house.

Chopping the Food Budget

After being set in our ways with the same $600 food budget for the past year or so, Kelsey and I were both concerned with how we would handle cutting back on our food budget.

In September we cut our budget back from $600 to $500. A 17% cut… and I’m happy to report that we had just enough money in the food envelope to order Applebee’s curbside to go on the last day of the month, which also happens to be Kelsey’s birthday. Whew!

I honestly thought we would be panicking the last few weeks of the month, but again, because we separate our money out on a weekly basis, it’s easier to stay disciplined with our food budget throughout the month. Of course that lesson was learned after blowing through all our cash a few times and really having to scrimp for food in the cupboards a few times.

Sometimes we solidify numbers in our head and convince ourselves that there is no way we could ever live on less, spend less, or save more. It’s been a long time since we’ve had to squeeze our budget like the last few months, and it makes me wonder what more we could have done over the years if we hadn’t been so comfortable…

When was the last time you tried to trim something from your budget?
Was it harder or easier than expected?