Tuesday, June 30, 2015

6 Ways to Pay Off Debt (And Keep From Getting Into It Ever Again)

Yes, these really work. 

I have been amazed at the interest in my blogpost about keeping out of debt. We've been using some of these techniques so long that I forget others don't always know about them!

    I thought about this again after Financial Samurai' profile of people making more than $250,000 a year -- in some cases, $500,000 annually -- and just not making any progress.

    Oh, poor them.

Here are six ways I can practically guarantee will free up extra money -- and keep you from returning to this dilemma. (Because, like you, I hate to be in debt. Hate it, hate it, hate it.)

*Take care of yourself...but be practical about it. Don't run to the doctor for every little sniffle, especially now that antibiotics have lost much of their effectiveness, due to overuse. (So much for amoxycillin, the "pink stuff," which we trotted out repeatedly for Daughters #1 and #2.) What that means: the doctor is likely to say, "It's a virus...get some rest."
     Which you already knew, for $150 less. 
     Do eat healthy and exercise. Take herbal remedies that help. (There's a ton of advice on this out there on the Internet.) Just don't let it consume you. We're all going to have tired/sick/blue days -- it's just part of being human. And buying hundreds of dollars of vitamins isn't going to change that.

*Buy the highest quality you can. If you're thrift shopping for clothes, look for high-end brands in your size...and accept nothing less. (Or find them on Ebay.)  The only exceptions, in my mind, would be t-shirts and underwear -- because no matter how much you pay, they wear out, eventually. (Restock in late summer, when kids' school needs prompt sales.)
     Same goes for appliances, any kind of tools, vehicles -- whatever. Don't be afraid of 'used.' What that actually means is that someone else has already found out any problems -- and fixed them for you already. But:

*Buy for reliability.  If it's trendy now, that's great -- what about two, three or five years from now? If your lawn mower or refrigerator are still going strong, you've just saved money on purchasing them again. Consumer Reports is a good place to start, but a search on forums will tell you which products have this reputation. Our Subaru Outback, for example. It's run like a champ, needed only minimal maintenance -- and saved us big bucks in gas when I put 7000+ miles on its last summer. Looks great, and pays for itself -- my kind of car.
     Buy it to last.
     When I worked at Quilter's Newsletter, an artist friend there was deeply involved with a small Indian reservation up in the Dakotas. My friend would regularly collect winter coats and cold weather items for her Native American friends -- and the first year, I pretty much stripped our household of the girlies' outgrown coats, etc. A huge pile of winter gear went with my friend...with a warm feeling left behind for us.
     The next year, Friend was back, soliciting for more heavy coats, mittens, etc. "They have nothing," she said. I couldn't stand it. "What about everything we sent with you last year," I asked. "Oh, they have a tradition that you give away everything when the season ends," she said blithely.
      Live this way -- and you'll be paying extra every year. 

*If at all possible, never pay full price. And never, ever pay for nothing. Two words: car lease. What do you get out of it, after your payments are finished? Zippidy doo dah.
     Otherwise, if you 'desperately' need that new TV, laptop or whatever, can you wait... a day? A week? A month? Can you make do with what you've got -- or go without -- until you find a sale on a reliable model that's going to last? Can you stretch your money even further, by buying that sale item on a payment plan that charges 0% interest? (As long as you pay faithfully, that is. Don't commit to it, if you can't do it.)
     The answer is usually yes.

Now take the money you've saved from using these strategies, and pay off the debts. But don't forget to:

*Save. SOMETHING. This is one of the big ones -- if you've got extra set aside for those last-minute emergencies...or astounding bargains...or breakdowns -- you're going to be in much better shape, financially and emotionally. Even a little, saved faithfully, starts to add up. Will that twice-weekly Starbucks make up for being stranded on the highway, panicking because you don't have enough to pay for a new tire?

    I know the interest rates are crappy right now.
    I know that $5 here, $10 there doesn't seem like much, in the grand scheme of things.

   But it adds up. Bank away $5 a week...$20 a month...and you've got $240 in your savings account by the end of the year. That covers a doctor's visit, or a 'new' fridge (secondhand)...or a plumber's visit. And a lot of peace of mind. 
    If you're working a job with an employer match to contributions, take the maximum amount -- it's just like adding interest. You will be able to live without it. The Brick has deductions taken out each month for our medical account and his 401K -- we don't even notice it's not there.

    What you won't enjoy is paying interest and fees when you don't have the money to cover these expenses. And they will happen.
     Keep saving -- replace the money you need to use -- and you'll be amazed at your totals, after a year or two. I promise.


*Give to someone else. I don't understand how it works. But I know that giving to others will help stretch your own money in ways that are absolutely amazing.
     We call it a 'God thing:' that He just 'happens' to inspire someone to put out hunting gear or workboots at a garage sale -- or sell them via Craigslist at a steal, just when we need them. (If you live in a hunting family, gear is a need -- not a want.)
     My own feeling is that at least 10% of your money, time and energy should be given or volunteered away. Yes, the "t-word:" tithing. You have to decide on the amount for yourself. People, groups and our world desperately need our help -- and we have so much.
    Give some of it away. You won't regret it. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: A Numbers Puzzle

I've got a numbers challenge for you. Pick a number -- any number. 
    Multiply it x 2.
    Add 6.
    Divide by 2.
   Now subtract your original number. 

Your answer will be 3. 

Believe it? I've tried it several ways, including using fractions: it still comes out to 3. The Brick, who loves math, showed me this one -- but don't ask me to explain.. I almost flunked algebra in high school.   Meanwhile:

If you haven't been paying attention to recent Supreme Court decisions, you should: they've handed down landmark actions on everything from same-sex marriage to Obamacare to energy restrictions. These are going to have an increasingly strong impact on our everyday lives.

Hidden chalkboards from 1917 -- exposed during renovation at the Emerson schools in Oklahoma City, OK. And they're full of writing and drawings from the period... from Sometimes Interesting.

A handbag found at Oxfam in Great Britain -- he paid 20 pounds at this thrift shop, it's worth about 350,000. 

Accidental discoveries that changed the world. 

12 frugal ways to beat the heat... including 'Scottish showers!'  (From Brad's Deals)

Listening to the chickens talk.  I wonder what ours would say... (From It's All Connected)

This is a creepy one -- someone named 'The Watcher' who sends threatening letters to new homeowners. The Watcher suggests he/she is following what generations of the family have been doing...and asks for 'young blood.'
     Now the family is suing the previous owners, saying they knew all about the stalking.

Another creepy story, this one from the "Yum" department:
A guy buys a three-piece dinner from Kentucky Fried Chicken; one of the pieces looks uncannily like a rat, complete with long tail. He says the KFC manager told him to sue -- the company denies it, and requests a DNA test on said "rat." Our hero not only refuses to help out any more with the investigation -- he also refuses to produce the item. His lawyer finally gets it. And how about that: the test proves it really IS chicken! Whole story, with disgusting photos, is here.  (KFC says if he doesn't shut up, they may take legal action.)

Ten ways people stupidly throw money away. (From USA Today)

An amazing -- and huge -- batch of antique and vintage graphics for you to use. (From Knick of Time)

Ten secrets of the British royals. (From Listverse)

Why you should ALWAYS double-check deals before buying on Amazon. (From Brad's Deals) From the same blog:

Nine websites for cheap books.

Tote bags - from old t-shirts! (From Creative Green Living)

Sotheby's vs Christie's -- what's Sotheby doing to win back their dominance? (From The Appraiser Workshops blog)

The importance of focus and clarity. (From My Frugal Miser)

25 photos, perfectly timed. (Most have something to do with the word "Ow.")

Some very silly jokes, Jewish and otherwise. (A sample: How do you know you're being harassed by Unitarian universalists? They leave a burning question mark on your lawn.) See if you don't laugh out loud!

Sketching with the cartoonists at Denver's 'Drink and Draw.' Daughter #1 is a member of this group...but ironically, isn't in the video! (From Westword)

A beautiful farmhouse counter from recycled lumber. (From Camp and Cottage Living) 
     From this (an old workbench):

To this. (Brick, are you listening?)

Have a great week...and stay cool.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Fourth of July Celebrating

Brought home more than I planned from the trip to Texas: a hacking, rumbly cough I can't seem to shake. The voice is starting to go, as well.
    I'm really glad we don't have to sing for church tomorrow. 
    All the same, it's not fun to running a fever AND dealing with our current heat wave. Fortunately, the fever seems to have hit the road for now. 
    As usual, the chickens could care less. 

If you're thinking about something special for upcoming Fourth celebrations, try these recipes:

The best of Betty Crocker's Red, White and Blue desserts, including this beauty:

While you're at it, put up a flag display -- this one, by Knick of Time, combines an antique window and a vintage flag. (Go here for specifics.)

Have a great weekend -- and no coughing!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Eating Humble Pie...

...because I'm admiring this amazing quilt!

Humble Quilts just finished an Ohio-themed sampler quilt top...

"It's fun, quirky and humble -- just the way I like it."

The nicest part: she not only shows us the top, but gives us step-by-step photos on how she stitched this dizzying mix of pattern and color. Go here for specifics.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Great...and Simple

Got a tree stump you don't know what to do with? 
     Make it into a direction-finder for wonder.

Go here for more.

(Thank you, Upcycling Blog. What a great idea!)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Family Matters

I often talk about my family -- thought you'd like to see their sweet and smiling faces, for a change.

First up are Daughters #1 (on the right) and #2 (on the left) -- 28 and 26, respectively.

We love them dearly. 

Next are Charley the dog (also known as Sir Charles and Charl E. Bear), mugging for the camera, along with his beloved Alpha Dog -- the Brick.

 What a flake.

And one of him with Abby. She's his pet -- not ours. I am not sure where we rank in this hierarchy.

And, of course, the chickens. At least some of them. Hierarchy-wise, I still don't have a clue. We feed them and give them water -- they tolerate us and produce eggs. Some eggs.

None of  me. Darn, darn darn.

There's A Chill In the Air (Not)

Fifteen different popsicles -- homemade?

Yes, thanks to Living on A Dime. Go here for more.

A nice way to cool off in this nasty heat.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Golden Needles Revisited

I got some great photos on my recent visit to Conroe, TX... thanks to the girls in the Scrap Quilts class.

We actually pieced several different block patterns, and did a few other things -- but what they really enjoyed were making Hole in the Barn Door blocks. Like this one, courtesy of Shirley:

Notice the airplane print in the center. (Shirley is a pilot.)

Here she is, with block in hand -- and grin!

Dawn came to class with a wonderful sunflower print -- and a handful of coordinating fabrics. Here's her block:

Notice how the center section really complements the larger-scale sunflowers.

I had a great deal of fun with Terry's block. Notice anything unusual?

I thought she did it on purpose, for a kind of "entry door" look. Nope -- here's what she really meant to do:

That's a photo-transfer in the middle, by the way. And not that I EVER sew rows together out of step. (Ahem.)

And finally, Trish started her block in class, complementing the black-and-white illustration with hand painting:

One of the freebies was "grass" trim.
     (Yes, a Coloradoan was giving out free grass. Make of it what you will.)
That's what's edging the smooching couple here.

And here's where Kris headed, once she got home. More embellishments and goodies -- and Kris's grandma will have a pillow as a gift.

Doesn't the quilting -- and the pearl trim on the center block -- add a lovely touch?

Thanks so much, friends, for sharing your work. I had a great time. Thanks for coming! 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Monday Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff: Colorado Heat

It's not the Nuggets who are hot. 

Or the Rockies. (Ha -- they're in last place, and just got beaten badly by the other last-place team, the Brewers.) 

It's us.

All of a sudden, we are in the throes of a huge heatwave. Thanks to all the rain we've had this spring, the plants are loving the combination. The mint is growing so fast it's considering statehood -- or forming its own gang. It's ruthless that way: "Hey guys -- you'll be sleeping in OUR bed, and we'll be sleeping in yours from now on!" (Daughter #2's mint actually grew through a hole in her bathroom wall, and started branching out behind the toilet. I'm not surprised.) 
    And this is the same batch of plants that I was told were 'delicate' and hard to grow. Fat chance.
    I had a great time last week with the Golden Needles Quilt Guild members in Conroe, TX.  They came up with some especially nice Hole in the Barn Door blocks -- I'll show you those this week. (Update:  Here they are.)  It was hot and sweaty there, too. Guess that's summer for you.
    The list of Stuff is a little short this week -- I wasn't online very often. But hey, it's meaty!

The prosecution rested -- in the James Holmes theatre trial. (Thank God, after weeks and hundreds of witnesses.) Now the defense gets to show why this poor misunderstood soul shouldn't be held responsible for the murders he committed. They've already tried a number of times to press for acquittal...but that big mean judge keeps saying no.

A new quilt challenge from the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum. Deadline's July 15 -- here's info:
     Call for entries for the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum's "25 Years of Inspiration" Quilt Challenge. We think you'll agree that the museum is an inspiring place, from the story of our founder, Eugenia Mitchell, to the countless wonderful quilts that have been collected and exhibited, to the many educations programs. We are inviting you to take it personally and make a quilt for the 25th anniversary challenge. Visit the website to download the rules and the submission form. Your 25"-square quilt will be displayed in the museum during the 25th anniversary exhibit (July 30-Oct. 27, 2015).  We hope that everyone will choose to donate their quilt to help RMQM begin an endowment fund...but donation is not required. All donated quilts will be auctioned online, with the proceeds used to jumpstart the RMQM endowment fund. 

10 people who should have known better, tweet-wise. Ah well...we can't all be smart.

Making a plastic pot look like a trendy cement planter. (From It's All Connected)

Is there cash hidden behind your walls...or elsewhere? (From The Penny Hoarder)

The backstory on a map stolen in Sweden...and returned. (I know this incident from an intriguing book about lost maps.) From Graham Arader.

The cat who rock climbs. Not to be confused with the dog who did extreme jumping.

The best (and worst) financial advice Dad ever gave you. (From Get Rich Slowly) 

Have a great week.

Life is just a bowl of...

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Bits, Pieces and Updates

Weird stuff I've been meaning to tell you about:

Now Rachel Dolezal thinks her parents may not be her parents. She wouldn't mind a DNA test...
and Maury's willing to do it.  
     I have this vision of dark-skinned Baby Rachel cooing in a basket, dumped on her missionary parents' front stoop. Blonding and blue-eyeing ensues...
     Go ahead. Do the DNA test, Rachel. You'll just be more embarrassed.

Remember I mentioned that it was snowing on Memorial Day weekend?
     Here's the proof.

Lindsay Lohan is off probation. That hasn't happened in years! One of my silly hobbies is following Lindsay's doings, as well as -- oh, the horror -- Octomom. (Although she's behaved herself lately... darn it.)
      I can't help myself.
    After all, not all Hollywood comebacks stay that way.

Some very strange things have happened in moviedom, anyways. Like the stars of The Godfather, who enjoyed mooning each other offset. (I'm not kidding.)

When it comes to religious quilt patterns, the Devil does all right for himself. Devil's Footprints. Devil's Puzzle. Devil's Claws -- lots of them. Even the Devil's Dark Horse gets in on the show. (I've been researching faith-named patterns a lot lately, for the Bible Quilts lecture.)
    Here's the weird part: I couldn't find a single angel-based pieced quilt pattern. (Although they show up now and then in embellishments and applique.) Are the Heavenly Hosts getting slighted?

The baby chicks are starting to lay! At least one or two of them, based on the tiny eggs that are suddenly showing up in the nesting boxes. This is wayyyy early.

Ever watch Naked and Afraid? I got the Brick hooked on this History Channel show, about two people dumped in various jungle/forest/desert settings, stark naked and with just a few tools. (And a bag, to hide naughty bits on occasion.) Somehow, they must Survive.

     Sometimes the couples get along -- sometimes they hate each other. But that's entertainment.
     It's a lot more fun than  Mountain Men. I get sooo tired of Marty the pilot whining and grousing, particularly when his small plane starts to take off: "Oh, I just know we're not going to make it." Hey buddy -- why are you even trying, then? He also manages to do stupid stuff, like losing and/or breaking his glasses -- then moans about how he can't see a thing without them. In spite of being hundreds of miles out in the boonies, it hasn't occurred to him to get a spare pair.
     Yes, this is Marty in this short clip:

     Ah well -- if Marty kicks the bucket, I'll stick around to see what happens to Eustace and Tom.

And Alone -- ten guys set out in the 'wilderness' (actually Vancouver Island) to see who lasts the longest. (The winner gets five hundred thousand smackers.) They get more tools than Naked and Afraid. They're supposed to be 'survival experts.' Then why in the world do they have so much difficulty finding food, or drinkable water, or starting a fire? (Only one of the ten got a fire going in the wet woods -- and he didn't manage it until Day Two.) They seem incredibly timid and scared, too, for survival experts.
     One guy quit, so far -- but I don't blame him. Nobody else had three bears nosing around his open-ended tent around midnight: ("I didn't come to compete with bears and cougars for territory," he explains. Except Bigfoot, maybe.)
      I'd be a little nervous with all that heavy breathing, too.

See what you learn when you hang out here?

In Conroe, TX -- and Poor Puppies

Got to the Fairfield Inn in Conroe a little after midnight this morning... my flight was FOUR HOURS LATE into Houston. And it wasn't due to the weather as much as the Frontier staff hinted at, either -- roads were bone-dry on the way to the hotel. (Though it was foggy.)
     Rain has come off and on all day today, but nothing worse than usual. Apparently Tropical Storm Bill is tuckered out.
     The hotel is lovely inside, and my room looks out over a grassy pond. (Every frog in the county is out there right now.) But nothing was open for getting a snack, or even a drink. (I made do with an IBC root beer, thankfully.) And getting here was a little strange, since the hotel is off by itself, away from the other businesses -- almost looks like it's crouched over in the woodlands, trying to hide. (Do hotels play hide-and-seek?)
     What with no lights and a scruffy turn-in, I missed the turn the first time. A deer jumped in front of the car, but it was ok...I wasn't that tired.

Actually, after a long sleep, some pizza and yet another nap -- yes, I was that tired. No matter. I feel a lot better now, and raring for tonight's lecture! Click on the link for specifics... meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the Conroe Bible Church in... well, you guessed it. I'm looking forward to it.

* * * * * * * * *

These dogs, however, are not looking forward to it -- whatever their human owners can think up, sadly. Like this poor soul from the slideshow:

He needs a good quilt lecture.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Are You Near Conroe, Texas?

Ever heard of the Golden Needles Quilt Guild? 

I'd love to have you stop by the guild meeting I'll be at -- Thursday, June 18, 6 p.m. at the Conroe Bible Church in Conroe, TX.  I'll be doing a lecture on "Quilts of the Bible." 

This star pattern was also called "Star of the East" and "Bethlehem Star"

We'll be making this 'Hole in the Barn Door' pattern, too -- it 'kept evil spirits away' from Pennsylvania Dutch barns!

Yes, it's about Biblical faith -- but it's also about our history! For many people, the Bible opened the door to their ability to read and write. (The Good Book was often the only, or one of the few books in an average family's library.)

I plan to talk about literacy -- and evolution -- and cultural events. Oh yes, and S-E-X.

Come join me.

Friday the 19th, I'll be teaching a class on how to mix and match fabrics and colors for effective scrap quilts -- plus I'm slipping in a chapter of my thoughts on Memory Quilts. Go here for a taste:

and don't mind the goofy appearance. I was tired that day...

Would love to have you visit then, too. Just contact me via e-mail  or phone (720-849-7105 or cindyjbrick@gmail.com)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Monday Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff: On the Way to Conroe

This new week has really snuck up on me. 

A number of things need to be finished up before I leave Wednesday to teach in Conroe, Texas -- including planting more beans (put in a bunch today), the usual washing/drying/ironing/putting away chores, and finishing off a big batch of pending appraisal reports. Busy, busy, busy. Meanwhile, my neck of the woods is nervously watching our swollen creeks and rivers -- we tend to have a downpour at least once a day. Flooding keeps rearing its ugly head. I actually found giant lamb's quarter weeds almost up to my shoulder.
    What's going on here -- Colorado is a DRY state!

Remember my uptake on Rachel Dolezal?  Here's the update on Ms. Dolezal, the NAACP leader who bills herself as black -- and isn't. 'I do consider myself to be black,' she insists. (As my dad would say, "Oh yeah oh yeah oh yeah?") Today's news -- she resigned. 

Great baby showers on a budget. (From Moneysaving Mom)

Ten witnesses to important events (and people).

One of the most common archeological discoveries from bogs isn't bodies -- but butter! Apparently, it still tastes good, too.This unusual article includes a how-to on making (and aging) 'bog butter.'

22 kids who got detention -- for very weird stuff!

A Viking era brooch and some interesting textile samples (including one herringbone pattern) -- found in a lump of 'organic material' in the British Museum's storeroom!  It had been stashed there for more than a century.

'Distractingly sexy' photos female scientists are getting dissed for. Make sure to take a look!

Memorable work stories. (From Money Beagle)

Seven great makeovers for your front porch -- involving as little as paint, rearranging some furniture and twinkle lights! (From Apartment Therapy)

Antique trade signs. Values are going up.... (From Skinner Auctions)

A fraud that promoted gay marriage. 

Christopher Lee died last week. So did Ron Moody, an amazing actor who never received the awards he was due. He will forever be my mental version of Fagin in Oliver Twist; he humanized this scoundrel in a way that was both sad and touching. Rest easy.

Budgeting so you can say YES to unexpected opportunities. (From MoneySaving Mom)

Become a virtual assistant . Here are ways to do this well-paid at-home job. (From Penny Hoarder)
    Or perhaps you'd prefer a job as a food blogger, instead.

More about Conroe in the morning...have a great week.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Lies of Color - And Honor

From the Department of "So THAT's What She Meant:"

Rachel Dolezal, the head of a prominent NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington, has been categorizing herself as Black. African-American. She has been active in Black groups, has an extensive African art collection, and has been teaching classes on related culture and history.
    When she said on Facebook that her father was coming to visit, she combined that announcement with a photo of herself standing next to an older Black gentleman.

Only -- oopsie -- it turns out she doesn't have any African-American blood running around in her veins at all.

Or so say her parents. 

When asked about this by a reporter, who just 'happened' to have a photo of her real father, Dolezal couldn't get away fast enough. (Here's the full interview -- go down to the video at the bottom of this post, if you want to cut to the chase.)

She has adopted siblings who are Black. Her mom says she's shown interest in multicultural subjects ever since she was young: "She was always interested in ethnicity and diversity."  Rachel wears hairstyles and clothing that have a distinctive African-American yuppie/ethnic bent. (And does it well.)
    She's been doing a good job at appearing to be what she claims to be, too.

But she's Caucasian by birth.

Specifically Czech, Swedish, German...with a little Native American thrown in.

(Her Montana birth certificate backs up her parents' assertions. Granted, they say they've been estranged from her for years, and the allegations include claims of abuse.)

The NAACP chapter says she doesn't have to be Black to be their president. They're downplaying the whole thing.

And they're right. Who cares about racial identity in that respect? Bloodlines have nothing to do with wisdom and intelligence, charisma and the ability to communicate.

They're sprinting past the main issue here:


Why would she hesitate to lie in other areas and subjects, if she felt it a worthwhile cause?

Here's the problem with that: INTEGRITY. 

Shame, girl. Shame.

UPDATE:  After a very silly defense by Al Sharpton -- who insists it's all the folks' fault -- Dolezal has resigned.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

They're Coming!

"Shark Week" is coming in July to the Discovery Channel.

I know, I know...it's silly. But I enjoy the rushing-around and "danger" (manufactured or not). You generally learn something new, as well.

I even confess to liking Sharknado. Pathetic, huh?

If you like a little bite to your day, try Mental Floss's list of mental misconceptions about sharks. Enjoy...but don't go in the water!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Run, Matt, Run!

Matt was running a field day race with his schoolmates -- but having a lot of trouble keeping up.
(He has cerebral palsy)

So he finished last, right? 

Actually, he ended up at the head of the pack. See what happens.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: It's Been A Quiet Week in Lake Woebegone...

Oh, that's right...I meant Castle Rock. 
    We've had a few visitors, and a ton of lightning and thunderstorms. Other than that, though, it's been a reasonably content week around here. The Brick did bring home a cold from work, and graciously shared it with me. (sigh) And this week marked the year anniversary of The Mama's open-heart surgery. She has improved some, but has never really moved back up to good health. At least I can stay home this summer, other than some gigs...as long as good cousins and Little Brother keep checking on Mom.
     I have some appraising work, and  a big meeting Wednesday morning. Other than that, life should continue to be fairly peaceful.
     I hope. 


The story of Lost Bird. Did you know that a baby survived after the Wounded Knee massacre for four days, protected against a snowstorm by its mother's body? That child was Lost Bird...and her story is an intriguing, though sad, one.

A dozen items that pay for themselves, over and over. (From the Simple Dollar) Also in the lineup:

26 Cheap and Delicious meals. Easy to make, too. More here on the Simple Dollar's Facebook page, if you're interested.
    Kimberly Phillips had this suggestion, on the Facebook post:
"A cup of noodles 32 cents and a mini bag of nacho cheese chips 3 for $1 and crush them all up and put it all in the chip bag and boil just enough water to get it all wet and roll the bag and let it set till it makes a burrito alot of people say ewwww but i had them try it its amazing."
    (Just weird enough to make me curious!!)

Ketchup cookies??  (Donna Freedman's idea -- not mine.)

David Letterman's final Top Ten List. In some ways, this seemed more sad and forced than funny.

This year's  winners of the annual Smallest and Coolest Home contest. (From Apartment Therapy)

An easy way to keep graveside flower pots and urns well-watered: baby diapers! (From Frugal Upstate) 

The man who was the subject of A Beautiful Mind, is gone. John Nash died, along with his wife, in a car accident.

Millionaires that are frugal, when they don't have to be. Unless that frugality is a clear sign of what's kept them doing well all this time...

Why I defaulted on my student loans. An occasionally whiny defense that argues it was just fine for this author to do so-- though if everybody did it, chaos would result. But if it gets you out of the clutches of the "greedy vultures" that are trying to collect, well...
    (Personally, I hope they keep trying. Update: Looks like at least one other person agrees with me.)

American Pharoah wins the Triple Crown -- for the first time in 37 years! Wow...

More items as I stumble onto them... have a great week.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Thank You For Your Service

See if you don't get a lump in your throat...particularly if you have military members in your friends and family.

(Thank you, Food City, for your sponsorship)

Debt... Or No Debt?

    I've been reading Prudence DebtFree's third anniversary post on how much they've cut their debt. (And it's a lot.) They've paid more than $137,000 over the past three years.
    And they still owe $134,000.


    She also has a profile of Ron on her sister site, Fruclassity. Ron got himself through adult high school, while working as a custodian. And thanks to commitment (and a willingness to take on extra work), he is now close to owning his own home, as well. He's not even 30.
    Who's to say what this guy can accomplish by the time he retires? (He wants to do it by 55.)


Prudence comments that she and her husband had much higher incomes over the same period -- yet they're the ones in deep debt. Not Ron.

Which made me think... when the Brick first started working full-time, after getting two college engineering degrees, we were making big bucks. (I was contributing a little -- but no one pays a starting-out quilting teacher and writer much.) Or so it seemed to me. My dad, a farmer, made about $20,000 yearly -- and the Brick was getting a little more than $50,000!

He was also putting in 60-80 hours a workweek. (Engineers do that.) And when the inevitable breakdown happened, he began life again -- as a bus driver. Daughter #1 was in 6th grade, Daughter #2 in fourth.

We lived on a bus driver's (and a slowly increasing quilter/writer's) income after that -- generally between $15,000-20,000 annually. This, in one of the wealthiest counties in the United States. We qualified not only for foodstamps (which we didn't get), but free lunches (which we did -- and the girlies hated, because they didn't like looking "poor.")

It wasn't until the past few years that our combined income has come anywhere close to what the Brick made as an engineer.

Having said that -- 

Our house is paid off. 

Our credit cards are paid off -- every single month.

We have little debt: a few medical bills from bad teeth (sigh) and the Brick's emergency room visits for kidney stones. Those bills are paid, $250 or so at a time, every month. They'll finish this fall.
    We also owe Daughter #2 less than a thousand on money we borrowed for a car. That will be paid off this fall, as well.

That's it.

How did we do it? (Other than God's grace, that is.)

*We didn't spend what we didn't have. With few exceptions (underwear, mostly), I bought all our clothes at the local thrift shop. And since we live in one of the wealthiest counties in the U.S., those clothes were generally of higher quality and lasted longer than anything we afford at Wal-Mart.
     Or we were given hand-me-downs. (Our church had a wonderful circle of friends who passed their children's clothes along as they grew out of them -- the "circuit," we called it. I laughed to myself to see Daughter #2's dresses parading along on other girlies. No doubt their parents felt the same way about our kids.)
     Or we made do with fewer, but well-made clothes. Colorado is a casual state; wearing a dress coat over your jeans (and nice boots) is considered dressing up. I wore a lot of classic turtlenecks and nicer sweaters with my jeans...plus a thick fur-collared leather coat. ($29 at the thrift shop. I still wear it, to compliments.)

*We worked extra. The Brick did a stint in Home Depot's plumbing dept. for a while. I worked at Wal-Mart. We both did our own cleaning and home repair. I taught piano lessons, and began appraising. I also made and restored quilts to pay for a chainsaw and one of the Brick's crowns. (Teeth, not head.) That extra income kept bills paid, and allowed us to --

*We paid medical bills, a little at a time. If you pay regularly, hospitals and dentists will let you pay your bill without charging interest. Or, if you can scrape the money together to pay it in full, they'll often offer a discount. (We saved about 20% this way on the Brick's colonoscopy.) You must pay regularly, though -- even if it means skimping on groceries that week.

*We also saved a little each month. That money not only became our emergency fund, but it also let us take advantage of crazy bargains and discounts. It doesn't matter how little: even $10 set aside each month grows into $120 a year.

*We didn't buy anything new. Refrigerators, bikes, cars, furniture...any large items were purchased from the thrift shop, Craigslist, or scavenged. Granted, we were fussy about it. We did a lot of research on the best brands and were careful about condition and mileage. We also haggled a lot. (Never make the first offer, my dad would say -- because that sets the price. Also -- never pay what the person is asking for. Always start underneath.)
     Were these items used? Sure -- but they were still in excellent condition, because they were well-made and cared for, to begin with. Or we didn't buy them.
      Those things have continued to last well over the years -- or we've sold them, for a profit. Even paying a little more up-front, they've still been good purchases -- partly because we didn't have to keep replacing them. Which makes another point:

*We waited. If we took a cruise, we found the best price possible -- which took a while. That gave us time to save money, research what we wanted to do on land (and find the best-priced trips), and gave us something to look forward to on bleak days.
     We bought our house for less, in part because we'd visited more than 70 places before it -- and knew what a bargain it could be. (After repairs, and replacing the awful blue siding, it was, too.)
     We've purchased every single car for less -- because we were willing to wait and compare prices, as well as models with the best long-term reliability. (The Subaru proved itself not only for maintenance but for the savings in gas. Which really helped last summer, when I put in more than 7,000 miles, due to The Mama's surgery in Michigan. It's also helped when two trips had to be done this spring, so far, on short notice.)

I just read about a guy who used the "tomorrow" approach: if he needed milk or groceries, he would wait until "tomorrow," if possible -- and get by for one more day without them. Learning to do that means you learn to use what you have...and lets you save for when you really do need those things.

*Once we had it, we generally kept it.  Buying higher quality in the first place meant that we could literally drive our vehicles into the ground. My $200 cowboy boots have been worn for more than a decade now -- and though the soles have been replaced, the uppers show little wear. Ladders, tools, vacuums...if you buy better quality to begin with, you'll be able to use them longer. And that means you'll be able to use that money somewhere else, instead of replacing equipment every few months.

My struggle now?

I hate debt. Hate it, hate it, hate it.

I keep thinking we could use that $250 or a so a month toward a good long vacation. Maybe a combined scuba driving/Spanish language class in Ecuador? Or how about a leisurely trip through the Greek Islands, which the Brick visited when he was in the Navy (and loved).
     Or maybe a lightweight trailer, so we don't have to sleep on the ground anymore when camping?

Guess what we'll start saving for, when the medical bills are done?

Guess what we won't go into debt for?

One final thing we did -- and both the Brick and I continue to think this is essential.

We tithed our income. Even in the darkest times, 10% went to our church, missionaries we supported, and organizations like Compassion (for sponsoring kids), the Mennonite Central Committee (for building fishponds and getting good water for isolated villages) or Samaritan's Purse (for the recent earthquake in Nepal).  We gave our time and energy, too, besides the money.
     This did several things. First, it made us think about someone other than ourselves. Second, it helped people and causes we believed in. And thirdly, we always got by without that extra money. I don't know how -- but our bills were paid.

If you honor God, He honors that commitment, as well. And not just with money, either.


Monday, June 1, 2015

Monday Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff: Summer, Are You Really Here?

We are still getting far more rain than we normally see in this season, but Colorado is finally settling down to its summer pattern:  warm, windiness...then a violent afternoon storm that clears to a beautiful sunset. 
    Welcome, summer.
We finally got the lawn mowed, and the front flower bed weeding is in progress. Now, if I can only get the vegetables planted. Meanwhile:

An easy veggie burger to try. (From Betty Crocker) Some other vegetarian dish links are on this page, as well.

Soldier Bergdahl, after being held captive for five years, was exchanged for several enemy combatants. But did he really desert in the first place? Based on the testimony of his former mates...he did.

Getting through those financial valleys. (From Moneysaving mom) Also from MSM:

A list of LOTS of homeschool curriculum resources and freebies. If you are homeschooling, or involved with family members who are, this would be a big benefit.

Strategic frugality -- when buying the least expensive version may not be the smartest thing to do. (Courtesy of the Frugalwoods)

The dirty secret behind the Ferguson protestors -- at least some of them were paid to be there! (And now they're protesting because they didn't get their paychecks.)

Eight ways to get yourself to eat at home more often. (From And Then We Saved)

Top ten traveler photos, from the Smithsonian. (Don't miss the slideshow of cellphone photo awards, either.)

The same bicyclist who killed a tv executive's wife by running her over is seen blasting through red lights in New York City, little son in tow. (In case you're wondering, no, he hasn't been charged.)

MAYBE a Civil War looted treasure has been found on a Michigan shipwreck. They're currently trying to get the safe open, to find out. (I dunno...think I might have waited before I made a big deal out of this.)

They live in an Airstream. A trailer, that is....some really good storage ideas here. She's got some interesting winemaking posts, too. (From A Small Life)

What toilet paper breaks down the fastest? No, I'm not being weird. This is good to know if you have an RV or camper -- but it's also helpful if you're camping and having to dig "cat holes."
    You don't do any of that? The recommended paper won't clog your indoor system as quickly, either. (And yes, the winner surprised me...from Money Beagle)

Seven traits of highly productive people. (From Inc magazine)

Ten thought-to-be-lost treasures that have been found recently. One of them: Captain Kidd's treasure! Speaking of treasure...

'One Man's Treasure' is a photographer's blog -- but he collects other people's work. The results are an intriguing slice of cultural society, like his post on dog photos. Also of special note: two posts on photographic 'mistakes'... that may not be.

Five people who were exonerated of horrific crimes...then went on to commit worse ones.

Ten unexplained broadcasts.  Some truly weird ones here.

Have a great week.