Thursday, July 26

Difficult But Liberating

When I was younger I moved a lot. Basically, as a consultant, I would work in a city for a year or so before moving on to the next assignment. I was used to fitting my life into a car and relocating it from one coast to another. One of my favorite anecdotes is the fact that the cast iron frying pan my grandmother had given me fit underneath the seat and in turn could be stuffed with small keepsakes. No inch was left unused.

Now I am moving again, but it has been years since the last time I moved. In fact, the last couple of times I moved it was within the same city so I didn't even have to pick and choose what I could take with me.

So, once again, because this move involves two lives moving into one home, I am reduced to eliminating the bulk of my minor posessions. It's difficult. Here is a bauble I bought while living in California. There is a souvenir from my trip to Australia. Look, a favorite sci-fi novel that I'd love to read again if I could. Chess peices and old record albums that my grandfather used to listen to.

Of course I'll find space for the special momentos, but there are so many other little things that are part of my life that won't make it. Clothes I don't wear very often or at all. Gifts I've never used. Kitchen items that aren't needed very often. Out of date career related text books. Furniture that won't fit. Decorative items. Collected notes, papers, magazines and records that don't have to be kept. Unused sporting goods.

Luckily, I have been through this before. I can only imagine what it is like for someone who has never had to deal with this type of issue to suddenly suffer a natural disaster like a flood. At least I can safeguard photos or other momentos and make sure they remain with me. Paring off a significant portion of your belongings is loss enough, but to have the choice be arbitrary would be a disaster.

On the plus side is the fact that after doing this you are liberated. You are freed from the memories that objects invoke. There is nothing wrong with the fact that items collect meaning, but when you clean out the clutter, removing the prompts that keep you thinking the same thoughts and memories, it frees your mind. You can look at the things around you with fresh eyes and see the world for the first time.

Okay, I've spent enough time writing this, I need to get to work sifting my belongings into treasured items that I can't part with and those items that have insinuated themselves into my life but that don't deserve any emotional attachment I may have for them.

Out with the unused computer games, unused spare pillows, organizers and shelves that have collected items that don't need to be kept. Out with the dishes that languish at the bottom of the cupboard. Out with the pots and pans that haven't seen the light of day in three years. Out with the microwave that caught fire and looks like it survived a war. Out with paperbacks I've already read two or three times. Out, out, out.

It's time to begin anew!

Tuesday, July 24

Fire Sale Prices

Well, I'm moving, so I haven't had a chance to think and write about a frugality related topic.

However, I need a bit of a break, so here is a short note.

When people are moving, such as myself, there is often a desire to simply be done with the process. Perhaps many of the things you own will not fit in your new location. Perhaps you don't want to transport your larger belongings a long distance. Perhaps you haven't left enough time and need to find a way to vacate the premises in time for the next occupant.

Myself, I've still got an entire week before I need to be gone. Yay for me!

Anyhow, I've still unloaded some of my furniture at fire sale prices. I've had it for years. I no longer need it. I won't need to replace it in the forseeable future. I don't want to have to move it.

The moral of the story? Fire sales are happening all over the planet on a daily basis. Figure out where they are and take advantage of them! Or, on the flip side, plan things far enough ahead that you aren't forced into a fire sale mentality.

Sunday, July 15

Rocks In My Head

FlagstonesI'm about to start a backyard project.

During the next few weeks, after I move in with my girlfriend, I'm planning to make a garden in the back yard, perhaps down the length of the fence. I'll need something to edge the garden - creating a border between the garden and the grass.

I think it's going to be rocks. Flat rocks.

I live near a large lake and should be able to scare up some flagstone style rocks here and there. I'm thinking maybe I can stop at one of the many small parks, wander around and relax, think up ideas for my blog, find a rock, and nab it.

Obviously the rocks will be free.

Luckily, I'm not in a hurry and don't mind if the project takes most of the summer to complete. So, I've been thinking about free rocks for weeks now...

I can't wait to get started!

Monday, July 2

Cheapest Personal Loan

Dream On!Of course, the best personal loans are the ones that have already been paid back. However, if you have the discipline required to manage your debt appropriately and you simply must use your credit, then do it as cheaply as possible.

0) If you are willing to open Pandora's Box you may consider getting a loan from your family. For example, parents may be willing to offer you an interest free loan. This is as cheap a personal loan as you will ever find... as long as you pay it back under the terms originally agreed to.

1) It might be appropriate to get a line of credit based on your home equity. A bank line of credit is basically always available to you and usually carries a pretty low interest rate.

2) If you have a good credit rating and a steady income you may simply be able to open up an unsecured line of credit with your bank. This will also generally be available all the time and carry a very reasonable interest rate. For most people I believe this will be the cheapest personal loan available.

3) A more expensive option is generally to get credit cards issued with your bank. The cheapest credit cards, if you are forced to finance something over time, are those with low interest rates. Often these cards will have an annual fee. Normal higher interest rate cards are okay if you pay them off in time and they generally won't have a fee.

4) Perhaps the most expensive option is to get a heavily advertised card that jumps to a huge rate of interest after the promotion period has ended. Of a similar nature are most store specific credit cards. Their may be a few good ones I'm unaware of but basically they all amount to a rip off. Throw them out.

5) I have to say that I don't consider the so-called check cashing services to be akin to a personal loan. The short term nature of these services and the fees imposed make it a ridiculous way to throw away your money.

On a related note, don't be afraid to shop around a bit. You can certainly open an account at a competing bank in order to get better credit and financing terms.

Anyway, there are certainly times it is appropriate to finance something, whether personally or for business purposes, and it is not just because you really want something expensive. I know that a lot of people will already know this, but there are people out there falling for these more expensive options all the time.

I'll be happy if I can help even one person be guided towards healthier credit options... even if it is only because I am disparaging something they are currently doing.

Sunday, July 1

Buying A Home: Strategy Shift

If you have been following along you might remember that I was hoping to buy a home this fall. However, as my girlfriend and I are getting quite serious, it's time to think a little more strategically.

Family Issues
Living alone, as a guy, I could live just about anywhere and be fine. However, thinking from a family perspective, there are a lot of new issues to consider. How safe is the community? Is it well lit? Are there any bars and nightclubs close by that will release streams of drunken rowdy people each weekend? What about proximity to food, gas and entertainment? Are there good schools in the area if we plan to stay long term? How long will the daily commute to work take? Would we rather live in the city, in the suburbs or perhaps even further out?

You'll notice I'm asking a lot of questions and that I don't have much by way of answers at the moment. These are just some of the things that my girlfriend and I will be considering.

Financial Issues
Also, we've been discussing financial issues. Looking at everything involved we can both realize some significant savings if we are living together. However, buying a home causes a lot of miscellaneous expenses - some related to the sales process, some related to moving and others just because of all the unexpected issues and stresses that lie in wait.

The decision?

With all the added expenses related to both of us moving to a new home, we've decided to hold off for a while. We're going to move in together and apply our combined savings towards getting our ducks in order.

There are huge long term financial differences in total home ownership costs when you can make a larger down payment or shorten the term of the mortgage. So, while it's tough to put off buying a home this fall, we think we'll be in a position to get something that will make us happier, in the long run, perhaps by early next year.

Other Thoughts
Personally, I'd like a little bit of land. I've got a hankering to play around with various renewable energy sources, grow some vegetables, and maybe even do a little bit of simple woodworking. A bit of land would give me the option of finding all kinds of things to do outside - as opposed to sitting inside on the computer or watching television.