Friday, June 26, 2020


I have a copy of Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover.  I bought it several years ago, and have had it out on loan more often than it's been in our bookshelves. 
Recently, I re-read it for a pick-me-up.*
It does make a lot of sense, in a lot of ways--for one, it says that money problems aren't caused by money, but by behavior.  And by a lack of understanding of one's own behavior, a lack of understanding of the difference between need and want, and a lack of knowledge of how to make (and a lack of discipline to keep) a budget. 
I learned to budget watching my mom stretch $366 bucks per month (child support) to cover rent, utilities, and non-grocery incidentals (soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, toilet paper, etc).  I learned, early, the difference between needs and wants.  Yes, we did get a car with a loan (paid a 5 year loan in a bit less than three years), and yes, we messed up with credit cards (to the tune of less than a thousand dollars total).  But those were all paid off before we decided it was time to have kids.  And we've never done the same stupid thing twice.  And won't.  Because I don't like paying interest. 
The thing that struck me this time is that, in Ramsey's baby steps,** saving for retirement comes before saving for the kids' college.  I...yeah, that was something I'd gotten backwards. 
Right now, though, I have a couple more immediate short-term savings goals.  I want a new roof before I start putting money back for retirement.  And I'm almost there.  Once the roof gets repaired/replaced, I'm really planning on doing as much as I can to put as much into retirement as we can afford.***  Because security is something I've always stretched for.  And having enough money to take care of things that need to be taken care of is security. 
However.  The last money away.  Ramsey says that the most fun you can have with money is giving it away.  I honestly...can't see that.  I'm not sure I'll ever be very willing to do very much of it.  I have a very hard time wanting to help the terminally stupid, and it seems like most of the country is terminally stupid.  And it has been really, really apparent, this entire year. 

*First: debt is not one of our problems, and has not been one of our problems for a very long time.  Second: the testimonials always make me cheer for other people--something that I usually find it hard to do. 
**Dave Ramsey's baby steps: 1. Save $1000 for a baby emergency fund.  2. Line your debts up from smallest to largest, pay minimums on all but the smallest; pay that one off.  Then roll the payments from that one into the next smallest.  3. Save 3-6 months of expenses as a fully-funded emergency fund.  4. Invest for retirement.  Ramsey recommends 15% of the gross income.  5. Save for kids' college funds in a ESA or 529 account (if possible).  6. Pay off the mortgage.  7. Live and give like no one else.
***We have paid off the mortgage, so that's no longer an issue.  However, we're still paying tuition to a private school, and will be for about...eight more years for both, plus one more for the youngest.  And that eats a LOT of savings.

Thursday, June 25, 2020


So.  The kids got a set of Little House books for Christmas.  I started reading them out loud to the kids right after we got them, and have been doing a chapter (or two...or three) every night since.  We're up to These Happy Golden Years, the last book that Laura Ingalls Wilder had fully finished (The First Four Years were a first draft/outline that she hadn't fleshed out and added to). 

The kids are loving the books. 

And so am I. 

I will admit this is my first re-read of the series in about...twenty, twenty-five years (yes, I am that old).  I am very familiar with them, because prior to hitting nominal adulthood, I had read them multiple times.  Re-reading them now, as an adult, several things have stood out. 

Charles Ingalls...was an idiot where money was concerned.  He borrowed more than he could pay back if things didn't go exactly perfect.  And he did it more than once.  One time, he was counting on a crop...that got eaten by...well, locusts.*  Another time, his crop was eaten in the seed stage by gophers.  A third by corvids (which they ended up eating).  One time could be due to inexperience, but over and over like that? 

Yikes.  Reminds me of a lot of stupid financial behavior we see even today, with student loan debt plus a car payment plus credit cards blocking people out of being able to afford to live

Caroline Ingalls...was a pretentious snob.  Mary was a spoiled brat (so was Grace, the youngest, but there were extenuating circumstances--she was born the same year their boy died at a year old).  And Carrie...poor little Carrie.  I think she may have had a heart condition, possibly caused by the same illness that sent Mary blind. 

And Almanzo Wilder had decided to court Laura Ingalls when she was not quite fifteen.  And watching him actually do so--the way he sorta just...showed up, and kept showing up and keeping her company...she never saw it coming until she'd fallen head over heels.  Sneaky-like, but not dishonorable-sneaky.  Really cute. 

Another thing I'd noticed, this time through...the Wilder family was far better off, financially, than the Ingalls family was, as both of them grew up.  That was not something I'd noticed, the first several times I read through the books. 

Recently, the book award for young readers named after Laura Ingalls Wilder was...yeah, not gonna be named after her anymore.  They say it's because the books are racist. 

They aren't.  Not for the time.  They're an accurate depiction of the time, including the dangers posed by the native tribes, and the fear many held for them.  And in Little House on the Prairie (yes, Indian Territory in Oklahoma, by the Verdigris River), they were in significant danger from the natives.  And the...interactions (some friendly, some decidedly not) were honestly shown, and to be honest, the fear that Caroline held was very much warranted.  So was, in a lot of ways, her disgust: I really doubt anyone would appreciate men wearing nothing more than newly-cured skunk-skins in their vicinity. 

All in all, though, the books absolutely stand up under the tests of time.  They are fully as good as I remember them being (if not better).  And I am already looking for a hardcover set for myself.

*Yes, the book called them grasshoppers, but the description was of locusts. 

Monday, June 8, 2020

Well. THAT happened.

Fuck 2020.  Honestly.

Our AC went out last Thursday night.  In such a way that the thermostat went dead, too.  Nothing showing in the little window. 

We opened up windows, and made calls to a couple of HVAC places, and got one to agree to come out on Friday morning.  And so they did.  And they went under the house, poked around, and told us it was an electrical issue. 

Boy howdy.  We got some electricians out late Friday afternoon to check it over.  The guys that came out said that it was just about ready to start a fire.  There was a badly-done secondary breaker box down there that was in the process of melting down entirely. 

They said it was going to be a most-of-the-day job, and that they couldn't get to it before Monday. 

So, yeah.  We went without AC all weekend.  Until about 2:00 or so this afternoon. 

And only barely avoided a house fire.

It's dealt with, now, and I've paid the bill for it.  It was well worth it.  

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Psychological hangups.

I am really...not peer pressure. 

I do not wear a mask in public.  I won't make fun of (most of) those who do, but I won't do it.  I will not risk damage to my own health to make someone else "feel safe."  Someone else's emotional state is not my responsibility. 

I have not changed my FB profile--and will not--in honor of the protests.  I will not "black out" anything.  Not my FB profile, not my cheese-product (saw a "special edition" Kraft singles slices in passing, not sure if it was real or satire--it's hard to tell, anymore, with how utterly ridiculous the world has gotten), not anything. 

I don't share the posts saying "share if you love Jesus," or the ones saying "no one will share this, since I'm (crippled/ugly/starved/what-the-fuck-ever)" or the ones saying "FB keeps removing this...let's keep it going too far for them to get 'em all." 

I don't mindlessly support cops.  Some cops are awesome, but too many either stay silent, or join in the bullying and thuggery that the bad ones engage in.  I will not mindlessly sport the "blue line."  Not unless and until the thugs are all ejected from the police forces everywhere.  And prosecuted for the thuggery that would have seen anyone else jailed. 

(That said...I also don't support the people attacking cops just for the uniform.) 

I never smoked because of peer pressure (I did smoke, but that wasn't why).  Same with alcohol.  And pot.  I don't not smoke because of peer pressure, either--I quit smoking because my mom wouldn't stay out of my cigarettes, and she had COPD from working in smoke- and dust-filled environments long enough to ruin her lungs.  I don't not smoke pot because of peer pressure--it's inconvenient.  And I refuse to allow my rights to be infringed by the federal government because of a damn plant.  One that could very well be very useful to me, since I don't react well to narcotics. 

Don't ask me why, but peer pressure very often pushes me in the opposite direction that those applying the pressure really want me to go.  Possibly because I refuse to be manipulated, and I don't like doing or supporting anything without thinking it through. 

And maybe because most peer pressure relies on emotional appeals, which make me suspicious of the motives making them. 

Maybe it's partly because I hate bandwagons. 

Or people in general. 

I don't know why I react like I do to peer pressure, and I don't like not knowing that about myself.  This is going to take some serious reflection.