Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Vintage Travel Bag

I love bags. LOVE bags. Not purses, but bags...like this one. For a while I could not stop acquiring new backpacks and totes until John made me promise to throw or give away one before buying another. Since I could not part with any of the bags in my inventory the purchases came to a halt. Until today :-)


You see...I gave one of my nice backpacks away this morning. Which means (oh joy, joy!) there is room for a potential new one!!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

YNAB You Need a Budget

I am not getting paid to write this. I share this because I like to share the good things I've found in case it might benefit others too. I have been using YNAB for some time now and it really works for me. It is a unique budgeting software in that, most budgeting software seem to be reactive where YNAB is proactive. The other budgeting software tracks and categorizes your spending for you to analyze. They may even have a budgeting feature for you to set spending amounts for each category. While there is some value to setting limits for your spending and knowing where your money went, there seems to be a gap--a bridge for getting from what you are spending and sticking to your budget. They seem to lack a good method for helping you stay within your budget. Sure, spend less...but things always come up right? The unexpected happens no matter how well you know and account for your fixed and variable expenses. And when they do, that's when I just throw my budget out the door. Or another situation that other budgeting software addresses poorly is when I just need to know, can we afford this purchase or that purchase? My response before YNAB use to be I don't know...I look at our accounts and there is money in there and I haven't spent all of the money in that budget category so...I guess we can afford it. But that's really not an accurate picture and then at the end of the month we've spent more than we had intended to because we've spent from checking, and PayPal, and our credit cards to get points and then at the end of the month I pay it off and realize we've overspent. And why is it that the more money we make, the more we seem to spend? If I could live like when I was in college on the income I have now - I would be swimming in a massive money bin like Uncle Scrooge in Duck Tales!!

Now why does YNAB work when the other budgeting apps have not work for me? They have a method based on four simple principles. Strangely enough, I get to spend, spend, spend. Spend every single penny and it feels good!! That is YNAB's rule #1 - give every dollar a job (not actually 'spend' but I see it that way). And when every dollar has a purpose, it does its job. I also 'spend' money towards our savings account which is YNAB's rule #2 - save for a rainy day. Because the unplanned expenses always comes up YNAB's rule #4 has taught me how to roll with the punches. This rule has helped me tremendously!! Living by the YNAB methodology has helped me achieve rule #4, living on last month's income so when the paychecks come in a good chunk of it goes to savings and the rest is spent on fun stuff but the bills still get paid from last month's income. Nice huh?
It's a different methodology for managing my money and it works for me. Check it out!

I like the simple user interface and simple features because I don't have time to track all the little details. I can track spending and see its immediate impact on my budget. I can set funds aside for long term annual expenses such as car insurance and quarterly tax payments. When these things are all lumped in checking and savings, it can be hard to keep track where that money is promised to go but YNAB keeps it straight for me. It also helps me track my student loan debt and when I have extra money left in my budget, I make sure to spend extra towards that category. I finally feel in control of our money. And when John asks me, can we afford that? I look YNAB on my phone or iPad and know that, yes we can afford that.

So if you find that it also works for you, please use my referral link to purchase the software (one license works for all your desktop PCs/MACs and the phone apps are free). You'll save $6: http://ynab.refr.cc/Z3GD8DM and I will earn $6 for the upgrade for when they release a new version.

To get your 10% or $6 discount for YouNeedABudget.com YNAB Personal Finance Software:
  1. Go to: http://ynab.refr.cc/Z3GD8DM 
  2. Click: ‘Take me to the store’ button 
  3. Click ‘Purchase’ on top 
  4. Now you will see the discounted price!

Monday, October 07, 2013

Waiting for Halloween

I think Elgy has Halloween on her mind and is wondering about the design she'll soon carve on her pumpkin.
Elgy is contemplating her Pumpkin design.
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Sunday, October 06, 2013

Landscaping of Backyard

Earlier this past week, the work began to landscape our backyard. We wanted an organic look with drought tolerant plants for water conservation so that we can reap the advantages of xeriscaping. The before and after photos are below.

Our HOA requires that the backyard be landscaped within six months to reduce soil erosion and so forth. It took us some time to save up funds enough for our budget and when we finally had cash in hand, we started calling the landscaping companies in the area.

We never imagined that the process would be so frustrating week after week. A few companies never called us back. One company quoted us three times over our budget. One company came and looked at our yard (it was the owner himself), took our requirements and never called us back with a quote or a design. It was quite frustrating to have finally saved up the money to landscape our backyard--and no one wanted the job (probably because our budget was too low compared to other jobs they could take instead). Our last and final call (from a recommendation) before we considered putting in the elbow grease to do the landscaping ourselves, was to Steve at Old Stone House Gift and Garden who drew up a design that was in line with what we had in mind, and came in close to our budget! Now we were getting somewhere.

Within two weeks, the work began and the crew (who were very hard working) completed the landscaping in three and a half days--under the estimated schedule. We are so, so pleased with the outcome and could not be any happier with the job! As mentioned before, here are the before and after photos.
Before: view from dining room to the east.
After: view from dining room to the east.
The material fill in the main area is decomposed granite where we plan to put a fire pit and dining set with a patio umbrella. We originally had turf in the original design but we scratched the idea in order to stay within our budget and to conserve water and keep the cost of maintenance down.
Before: view from the dining room to the west.
After: view from dining room to the west.
We now have our fire pit and some Adirondack chairs out there.
Before: view from the patio.
After: view from the patio.
The builder put a rock wall east of the patio...but in the corner there is a grade in the soil and the rain would wash the dirt down the slope.
Before: from the west corner of the yard.
After: from the west corner of the yard.
So the wall was extended and back filled with dirt to stop the soil erosion.
What we have left to do is to put in modern stepping stones or have it poured with moss or river rock around it like this or this
We also need to add some landscape lighting.
After (click image for a larger view)
After (click image for a larger view)
There is also a small area for my garden. Then we will fix up the patio with Chinese lanterns and lights!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Meet Max

There is a cat that comes around the shop almost daily to hang with John and his crew during the day. He is very friendly and appears to be a stray. Yet when offered (dry cat) food, he was not interested which leads us to believe he's not feral and perhaps could be someone's pet.
October 2, 2010
September 10, 2013
He doesn't have a collar so John named him Max
We talked about adopting him but hesitated for a few reasons. First, he could be someone's pet and they might miss him dearly, being an outdoor cat if we adopted him there are coyotes in the undeveloped land behind our home and we wouldn't feel comfortable letting him out, he is pretty comfortable in his current environment and if we kept him inside he may not be very happy, and lastly our girls are used to just them two and may not take to him at first though eventually they would become friends. So, for now, adopting him is not really a consideration no matter how tempting.  It is hard to resist him with that cute little face!
The biggest issue is, Max is not neutered and we feel an obligation to take him and get him neutered. By the description John gave me of Max's testicles, I have no doubt he is fathering a lot of (homeless) kittens and we don't need more critters in the world when there are already so many animals in the shelters.
September 12, 2013
I am conflicted. Do I take him and get him neutered, not knowing if he is someone's pet? If he does belong to a family, they should have put a collar on him. After he gets neutered, it would seem wrong to release him but then again, that is what he seems to be comfortable with. If the shelter where he would be neutered knew he was a stray (he may not be chipped) they may keep him, probably in a cage in which he would be miserable. Maybe I could find someone who would adopt him and get him neutered. I am just wrestling with feelings of guilt...like I would be catnapping him from his family if I took him, and he never came home.  I can let him be because he doesn't seem hungry and he seems to be very content visiting now and then but he really needs to be neutered.

What would you do?