Saturday, February 27, 2010

Maybe I've gone overboard

So I really like getting a good deal. Some people are content with 10% off and consider that a "good deal." Other people clip coupons and buy things on sale and they get their "good deal."

Me, well, I don't buy big items UNLESS I get at least 10%. I don't wait for it to go on sale, I haggle OR I buy it used. Haggling has kind of a bad reputation because it has been abused, by car salesman i guess, but if you go to most other countries haggling is THE way of life. There are some countries that don't even have price tags in non-tourist areas. They haggle. I love that idea.

Most people when I tell them I do this and I tell them the deals I get, they have some excuse as to why haggling isn't a reliable way to purchase things. One of my favorite is the idea that you can't haggle at big box stores. This is not true! If I need something, I start at Best Buy. I've had more success at getting the priced reduced at Best Buy than any other place. I love Best Buy because of that. Also, despite what people think, car dealership, big box stores, or any good businesses don't sell things below cost. That only happens at garage and going out of business sales. They might sell it to you to break even but if they lose money on a deal they go out of business so they are making money or your helping them clear inventory (at cost) for new products so that they can make money.

In order to haggle you CAN'T be impatient. You must be able to walk away if you don't get your deal OR accept the deal they offer you. I purchased our computer for $450 which was regularly $599 (at Best Buy they kept offering $499) but it took several months. I purchased our LG Steam washer and dryer for 60% off but that took several years and I didn't get the color I really wanted.

As far as buying used, you're already getting a great deal because whoever bought the item took the depriciation hit. This is a huge money saving strategy, but don't buy junk. Cars and furniture are the best example of this, but it applies to almost every man-made item.

So you're probably wondering what inspired this blog post... I'm actually hoping my wife reads this before she gets back into town so I don't have to tell her personally what I've purchased but, I've purchased two things for Mayzie that she can't really use by herself. One a stuffed horse from H-E-B it was marked $20 but I got it for $10 because it has a small tear on a seam (that I knew my wife could fix.) The other a bicycle... that's right a bicycle. This time I got it used. It is reguarly $150, but I got it for $65. Mayzie is going to evenutally need a bike and this is a good bike for much cheaper than if I had to buy it new. BTW I've been looking for one like this one since July.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My co-worker

I have this co-worker who's house was damaged in the recent hailstorm. You know the one that happened a year ago. The one with the really big hail, the baseball size one. You probably don't remember it because it was a LONG time ago. He's just getting to the replacing the roof on his house. Insurance took care of that, and the reason he delayed it so long was because his brother-in-law (from Wisconsin) is a roofer and he was waiting for him to come down and do it for a MUCH cheaper price than if a local roofer did it. I give him some major Kudos for that money saving patience.

Since I love learning new valuable skills and have done a bit of amateur roofing myself, I stopped by his house yesterday to ask some questions about things that confused me when I did it after reading a book on how to roof. Turns out the only thing the brother-in-law would have done different than myself is putting he uses staples for the felt paper without the little tin disks. So I guess reading a book about roofing prepared me well.

However, while I was standing on the roof in the lower 40's without a jacket I turned to my co-worker and said, "Sometimes I wonder how bad it really can be working outside all the time." I remember my dad's endless complaints in the summer about the heat and the winter about the cold. My co-worker acknowledged he thought the same but said something that resonates(I hate using this word) in me.

"Sometimes I leave work on Friday and think, 'What did I really accomplish this week?'"

I was struck. I have these same thoughts, only I word them a little different but they have the same meaning. I like to do things with my hands, I love being outside especially when it is hot although not really when it is cold. I can't tell what I'm being held back by, lots of things whirl through my head, that make me feel superficial, but really none of them are worth it more than, being with my family.

That's what I want the most of, time with them. The second thing I want the most of is to make a difference in people's lives. The comes the nice house, neighborhood, private school and other things of little importance. I just don't know how to get there.

PS Sorry about all the run-on sentences and poor grammar or any confusing sections. I don't proof-read the "things on my mind" category.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Eating Right

I have been reading and hearing more and more about "clean" eating. Maybe it has been around for a while or maybe it is some new movement brought about by the rise of organic food.

I agree with most of all the ideas of clean eating and organic food only diets. In fact, I even tried growing all our vegetables (totally organic of course) for a month one summer which unfortunately coincided with a 25 month long drought in Central Texas. It was a miserable failure except for cucumbers which were a hit even among the squirrels. However, I do wonder how much of it is based on irrational fears and how much of it is really based on truth. I'm ok if the idea was born out of a simple existence or drive to return to a simpler life or how things were "meant to be." Some say that means how nature intended it, which I would re-word how God designed creation be function. If there is no real good reason to eat organic other than that mindset, then I'm ok with it and I agree with it.

Here's the main problem: I love processed foods!

I loved Mrs Baird's Fried Cherry pies. OMG!! I love them!! I like coke I really like RC Cole. The way the fizz (acid) eats at the top of my tongue feels great! I love spaghetti O's probably more than is healthy for a grown person. Really anything that is high in refined sugars and fat (animal or vegetable) is great to my pallet. Most people savor things they think taste good... not me, I eat them gorge style. Because why savor one when you can eat 10 and have the same taste the whole time?

Here's the other problem: Organic is expensive!!

Grass fed beef and really wild Salmon cost almost twice the hormone fed stuff. Part of me really wonders if soy fed farm raised Salmon is really all the different from whatever real wild Salmon eat. I know it is, but is it bad for me or just bad for the fish? Same with the beef. Does plain ole' grass just mean my cows don't get to enjoy the more fattening (probably better tasting see point 1) cow feed? Is it just bad for the cows or me? Sure you can search the Internet and find articles about how this is all better for me to eat organic but they seem more based on fear than facts. Or at least small lab rat type results that are extrapolated to apply to humans. Again I'm fine with just believing it is better because that's how God intended cows to grow but at twice the price I'm tempted to say, "oh well."

I would use the excuse moderation to say well I'll eat some organic and some not, but I can't. Really, I can't. Put me around something that tastes good and I'm like a crack addict who just left rehab and found some crack on the ground. It is just not something I can do. As soon as I taste the crack I go buy more and more until I find something else that tastes good. Right now, I'm in the rehab, trying to get myself off the cokes and processed Spaghetti O's partly because I'm getting ready for my 70.3 but also because I just want to live in a sustainable healthy life style, and with us down to one income I am trying to save as much money every where so we can continue our to meet financial goals. I've been doing a lot of cooking and making my own meals to help cut out all the "bad stuff" but I secretly long for Mrs Baird's chocolate covered mini-donuts or some Oreo cookies in milk... as you can see I've got a long way to go.

Monday, February 15, 2010


So this weekend was the start of the NASCAR racing season. And as usual I'm playing my fantasy racing. It turned out very well and I'm in a good position for the start of the year.

It also happened to be the weekend I was supposed to sell my race truck but the guy had some trailer problems and couldn't make it. So I spent the day remembering the 3 full years of racing and then 1 year racing part-time that I got to experience. I really enjoyed racing. There is no feeling like there is racing. I have never been skydiving but I'm sure the same principles apply when talking about skydiving. There is just no way to simulate the feelings of a race and there is just no way to describe it without at some point telling the person you just have to try it to understand.

As a regular driver, I feel like it has given me an awareness that I never had before. I have this "sixth sense" about what other drivers on the road are about to do. It also has taken away my security in my car. I am always looking for an "out" (the place I'm going when everyone starts wrecking) when I'm driving. The funny thing is people view "racing" as a very dangerous activity my life insurance costs doubled. BUT once you've raced and you've wrecked in a race car you realize how much more dangerous driving your car around town is. People just don't realize how quickly wrecks unfold and how little time and control they will have in the situation. It is actually a learned skill and I wish everyone had to race one season before getting a license. I'm convinced it would slow everyone down.

I don't speed! Especially in neighborhoods, again because you don't realize how quickly things can unfold in front of your car and how likely it is that you'll be unable to do anything or in most cases you don't know what your natural reaction will be. MOST people's natural reaction is to avoid by swerving. THIS IS DANGEROUS!! You never know what you'll swerve into and it is usually worse than if you didn't swerve. It is usually better to square up, slow down and hit whatever you're about to hit (unless it is a kid.) but the goal is to be able to make a good decision on the appropriate action. It takes practice (which is why I think everyone should race) to reprogram your natural tendency to swerve. Plus it take practice for everything to slow down enough to where you can make a decision and react appropriately. The first time someone threw a baseball at you, you probably missed it and even if you got lucky and caught it they were also throwing the ball slowly. Precisely how to teach and condition people and yourself how to catch objects. As you get better you can catch things moving faster. The same applies to driving.

This guy is coming on Tuesday to buy my race truck, I'll be sad to sell it. I know it is the right decision, lots of people are not in the position we are in and this will strengthen it. It will prepare us to make and execute GOOD financial decisions. I am thankful for the way it brought my family together but it is going to be tough to quell the desire to turn a car at 95mph left, a foot behind a guy and a foot in front of a guy all doing the same thing. The feeling of braking as your turning and having to "feel" the chassis to see if it wants to start to spin, then getting hard into the gas and feeling the g-forces push you into your seat all the while having to perfectly maintain pace or risk being passed. There is no feeling like being under the lights, feeling the power and competing against others for the same prize... as plastic trophy. It is really something special and much harder than is possible to imagine.
PS. If this doesn't make any sense or flow well it is because I typed it out as a stream of thought.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

1 mile

This morning, I finally swam 1 mile, since getting back into the training swing of things. I had been working my way up since I had really lost a lot in the swimming department. I can tell my form is pretty bad and my core is pretty weak. It is amazing how quickly you can go from being a good swimmer to just being able to swim. It wasn't my fastest mile ever, but you know I'm building up my base. My training officially starts a week from next Monday (Feb 22nd.) So I'm pushing myself and getting ready to really endure some torture.

I am registered for the Buffalo Springs 70.3 in Lubbock on June 27th. That is one day before the baby's 1st birthday. I'm so glad the BST organizers held my registration from last year. They didn't have to, but they were kind enough to do that so I didn't have to pay the $250 entry fee. Whew! The race if you are unfamiliar it a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run (half-marathon.)

Since writing down my goals is something I have been trying to do with anything I start, here are my goals for this race.

Swim portion: 30 minutes for 1.2miles
T1 : 7 mins
Bike portion: 2hr 40mins
T2 : 7 mins
Run portion: 1hr 35mins

Total Time: 5hrs

Now 5 hrs is a very very hard goal to make. It is like the 3 hour marathon. You have to really have your stuff together to finish at or below 3 hours in the marathon. And when you tell other marathoners you're a 3 hour marathoner they know that's hard to accomplish. A 5hr HIM is the same way, you really have to train hard and be ready on race day.

I'm looking forward to really starting to train hard and pushing myself to the sometimes painful extreme. Hopefully since the baby is getting older, she and the wife can come along some of those times.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The house

You know, your house seems fine to you when you're not thinking of selling it. Yeah, there are things you know need attention, things that need to be fixed, and of course the dreams you have if you had endless amounts of money to remodel the place, but when you're thinking about selling it... all of sudden everything is wrong with the house. You can spend endless hours thinking of all the things that need to get done to get it ready!

I am in that spot... all I think about is all the little things and all the big things. The thoughts of, "Oh some potential buyers would turn their nose at cream colored walls or red kitchen cabinet doors and ugly counter tops. It doesn't cost much to replace the doors and counter tops we should do replace them." I'm getting ready to sell something big which will give us several thousand dollars to use to prepare the house. I'm really ready to use that money... my wife... well she wants to meet the realtor first. Probably a good idea.

Another strange thing is the guilt I feel for leaving my neighbors. I have GREAT neighbors on either side of us. The people are across the street are the only exception, but nothings perfect right? My neighbors have put up with things I've put off and now I'm really working hard just to sell it. In the grand scheme of things I know this is the right decision for us, whether or not the mini-golf idea works out or we just end up buying a cheaper house, I just can't help but feel like I'm abandoning my neighbors who like us and want us to stay.

Oh well I guess we'll see what happens!!!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Commuter Cyclists

Ok now I used to hate cyclists. I couldn't understand why they were allowed on the road. It was dangerous for them, a nuisance for me and why would anyone want to ride their bike that far anyway? I hated that I had to drive 15-20 miles an hour because some morons thought pedaling through the hill country would be enjoyable.

Fast forward 10 years and while watching a rerun of the Ironman World Championships, I decided that and Ironman was something I wanted to do. And, if you didn't know it, the Ironman bike portion is 114miles. On a bike, on the road, for 5-6 hours. So I got a bike, and quickly discovered that riding a stationary bike is kind of boring and it is really really enjoyable to be on a bike in the middle of the country with nothing but some water, a few snacks, and hopefully a riding partner.

Since starting, I have put thousands, no really thousands, of miles on my bike and while I've had a few close calls from drivers not paying attention and close calls while building my riding skills, I haven't been seriously injured. Yet people think I'm crazy for riding my bike or commuting to Austin. Mostly, I think because they, like I used to, hate cyclists. Plus I feel safer in downtown where people are accustom to driving around cyclists than outside the city where people drive too fast and don't usually encounter cyclists. The commuting by bike thing; is great, even if it takes twice as long there is no A/C and no radio, it is really great. AND if you look at the statistics you're much more likely to die in a car crash than as a cyclists.

If you want to commute by bike, here are a few tips from me.
  1. Have a backup plan. You might be really tired when you get where you are going or the weather could unexpectedly change and then you might be stranded.
  2. Consider your smell. If you are going to work, do you have access to a shower? If not bring some wet wipes or get good at wiping yourself down in the bathroom. You kind of feel like a bum when your co-workers come in but it is worse to be the person in the meeting who's smellin' up the place.
  3. Don't try it two days in a row. You're gonna be tired from the first day and unless your commute is less than 10 miles one way you should probably start out with 1 or 2 days a week, with a day of rest in between.
  4. Wear your helmet. You'll figure out pretty quick that people in cars, treat you like a car. Which means if you've ever been tailgated, cut-off or almost hit by someone not paying attention, then it will happen to you on a bike. BTW if you are driving don't tailgate a cyclist, they can't go any faster and it takes all of 5 seconds to pass them, just go around!! You're not going to "teach them," by tailgating or driving close, they just think you're uneducated and probably a jerk.
  5. Pay Attention! They treat you like a car, but if they hit you, everyone finds out that you're not built like a car.
  6. Plan your route!! Try and stick to less traveled roads or road with bike lanes on your first attempt. Don't just jump into heavy traffic on your first adventure, you'll get frustrated and so will the other drivers.
  7. Practice Handling Skills. Just like when in a car, sometimes things happen. Objects in the road, someone, including pedestrians, might pull out in front of you. You might have to brake hard, etc, etc. DO NOT commute the first time back on a bike in 10 years. Practice and hone your handling skills, because you WILL need them. It is really embarrassing and painful to crash in front of lots of people.
  8. Be Predictable and Steady, Not Twitchy. Again cars, are expecting you to behave like a car. So don't make sudden movements in traffic. Ride in a straight line and signal if you need to change lanes. Drivers don't like cars that whip in and out of traffic, and it is difficult to drive around a twitchy cyclist.
  9. SIGNAL!! See number 8. It is frustrating when you don't know what another driver is about to do and the same goes for cyclists. If you signal it helps drivers know they can pass you or they need to wait.
  10. Have fun! Unless you're in a hurry enjoy the fact that you are not trapped in the car. Or if you're a Greenie, that you've just reduced your carbon footprint and probably your waistline.