Thursday, March 27, 2008

Follow-up on life

Today was a day of good news. I'll start with the car. Last night I rented a tow dolly and drove to the town where I left my car Tuesday. My father-in-law has a truck, so that's what we used, and he rode with us. When we got the car on the dolly, he looked underneath it and asked me to recreate the noise. Then he told me to turn off the car and came out from under it with a smile. It turns out it wasn't the transmission at all, it was a broken axle!

That was actually good news, because I was bracing for an $800-$1,000 transmission, and instead had to get a $125 axle! Woo-Hoo! So we dropped the car off at the shop last night, and they fixed it before 1pm today. Excellent service.

On top of that, my wife has just completed a training course to become a CNA (Certified Nurse's Aide). She was hoping to work in a hospital, but they are hard to get in to, so most people end up starting at nursing homes. BUT, my dad works at a hospital, and knew the lady who did some hiring. He got her an interview this morning. She starts Monday! I think we both hoped she would be offered a job on the spot, but neither of us expected it at all!!!!!

On top of THAT, we got a payment for some mystery shops I did about a month ago, AND we received our church leadership kit for Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University today :). We're REALLY excited to go through the course, and bring it to our church.

It was an all-around good day :)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Life and other foibles

Things have been interesting lately for me. I turn to my blog for it's original concept: a log on the web.

Yesterday I was tasked with training a new contracted employee at work. This required that we drive around to different sites, and he watch what I do, and ask questions. We had 6 sites on our plate, and everything was going pretty well...until....

We got to the fifth site, and as I drove down the street immediately preceding the site, I noticed a little noise, and a strange "feel" in the steering of my car. When I turned into the parking lot, the car made a very bad sound. Ever ride a roller-coaster run by a chain? It has that kind of "clink-clink-clink" sound as you approach the top of the hill? That's what my car sounded like. Oi.

The car is a 1999, so it isn't all that old, and it only has 130,000 miles on it. And I had the transmission replaced last year. But I think it's something in the transmission making that noise, and I don't like it.

Needless to say, I was somewhat embarrassed. Here I am training someone who works for me, and my car has a fairly significant failure out of the blue. Bummer. He got a ride home from his brother who lived in the area, and I had a couple great friends make the hour-long drive to pick me up. Oh yeah, I forgot to say I was an hour from home when this happened. So my car spent the night there, and I have to figure out how to get it home today, and what shop it is going to when it gets here.

This post is more for me than you I suppose. It helps me to lay everything out and organize it mentally. Last night when I got home I could barely function. It just kind of hit me with a disappointment about the whole thing. What a silly thing to be down about. It's just a car. I'll be able to get it fixed, and it will be back on the road soon. Maybe it was just one more thing at the end of a long day for me. So while I didn't have the energy or motivation to even respond to emails or check the updates in my Google Reader, I was able to clean our family room, which was long overdue.

Do you ever notice that when things are stressful, sometimes the simple things are the best things you can do? Sometimes you just need to be able to clean, or read a book, or relax in a hammock. It gives you that small sense of control over your surroundings I think. It lets you know you can handle something at that moment, even though it isn't the big problem. Sometimes cleaning (or reading or mowing the lawn, or, or, or...) can be therapeutic. Just those simple actions.

It actually makes me slow down just a bit, and maybe that's why I'm going through this.I know things will get better, and the car will get fixed, and I'll move beyond this moment (after all, it came to pass). I just pray that I learn what I am meant to learn through this, and that I don't miss the message. I'm truly blessed to have my wife, and good friends to help me out in times like this though.

What the heck is a foible anyway? It just sounded right.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Warning: Rant Approaching

Howdy everyone. Sorry for the hiatus from blogging lately. Life happens. It's been tough lately just to keep up with reading the blogs I follow in my Google Reader, let alone actually contributing to the social blogosphere!

What gets me going today (aside from actually having an hour or so to be at the computer) is an article in my reader. The blog post that got me going was one that has been sitting unread for a while. I quickly read it once and then decided to "keep as new" so I would go back and actually comment on it.

The blog points to an article on CNN's Right on Your Money series that talks about student loans. It mentions way to "handle" your student loan debt. One of the methods is to extend your debt to up to 30 years, in order to pay it back.


Why in the world would you want to extend your student loan debt to 30 YEARS on purpose!? As Dave Ramsey would say, "You're keeping that thing around like it's a dang PET!" Seriously, are you kidding me?

The article says that you many need to extend it if you are in a hardship, or if you are in a career that doesn't pay very well. Ok, I understand a hardship. They happen and they are unfortunate, but because you don't make much money in your post-college career? They give you 10 years on a standard loan (as I understand it) to repay it. The article says the average graduate takes $21,000 in student loan debt with them across the stage to get their diploma. If you have 21K in debt to get a job that pays 30 grand, well that would be a BAD DEAL! But even on 30 grand you could pay that off in 10 years. Just 10% of your income would do that.

Oh....but wait. I didn't figure in some pretty important numbers into this equation. I mean, if you've just graduated and landed this awesome job, you're going to need a car. And heck, you've earned it by going through all of this schooling, so why not go get something nice. You can afford a couple hundred bucks a month, right? And you have to look good to your new co-workers.

And I forgot. You'll probably have to spend a bunch of money on clothes. You have to look good at the office. If you don't have a really nice handbag (ladies) or some great suits (guys), they probably won't think the same of you. That has to be factored in.

And lest I forget, we'll also throw in some money for eating out at lunch during the week, beers after work with co-workers, some new furniture for the possibility of having people over, and other things I might have forgotten.

Here's an idea: let's not try to attain or parents' lifestyle right out of college. Let's not try to make appearances to impress people who are either A:) well-established in the company and their careers, and have been where we are before or B:)are swimming in debt themselves trying to keep up with everyone else. Let's not be NORMAL. Normal is in debt. Normal has a spare room for Sally-Mae and Murphy to move in to. NORMAL is BROKE!

My wife and I got a pretty decent tax refund back. I withheld too much, and we got credits for having kids and my wife going to school. I would have LOVED to use that money on stuff. I could have easily purchased several new technology items, and she could have gotten some new kitchen gadgets (including a Kitchenaid mixer she has been wanting for a long time). We could have gone on vacation this summer and had fun with more stuff we bought. But that would defeat us in the end. We're trying to get out of debt. If I would have spent $1,000 on a new HD Camcorder, that would be $1,000 less to use to pay off the credit card. The credit card was carrying a balance of $1,100. That's a thousand bucks of STUFF that we already bought!

I know this is a crazy idea, because I wasn't thrilled about it myself. But we finally PAID for $1,100 worth of stuff we ALREADY OWN! We are finally free from the shackles of VISA!! After three or four years, we finally have paid off our credit card! It feels great! We even had extra to put on our mattress. Yes, we took out a loan on our BED. We borrowed against the thing we sleep on every night. Now we own over half of our bed. I'm nice, so I claim it's my wife's half :). I bet she sleeps better on her paid-for half :P

The point is (yes, I guess I'll finally get off the soapbox and make a point) that we have money BACKWARDS in our society. How many times have you bought something in cash (or debit card or check) that you didn't need while you carried debt? Don't we realize that one day we actually have to pay for those things we borrowed money to get? How many of you know someone who has died owing money? Do we really want to owe for the rest of our lives? Do we want to take this to the grave with us? I know we think that will never happen. "We'll pay it off" yeah, yeah, I'm sure. Then something happens. We want something new. Something breaks and needs replacing.

I will not go to the grave owing money. This nation NEEDS to get their finances under control, and quick. We can NOT continue living like this. It's starting with me and others who are finally sitting down and changing things. People who are FED UP with debt. People who want to change their family trees. People who will seriously change the world.