Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Me vs. The Machine

If you follow me (me, not DDA) on Facebook, you've been enduring my latest rants against my computer.

I have had the same work laptop for three years.  Every morning, as I walk into my office, I walk on a bridge that goes over four (or six?) railway lines.  I've really wanted to *accidentally* drop this computer off the bridge the last few months and let Norfolk Southern smash it to bits.
Now, you need to understand, in the real world, a three year old laptop would be outdated, but still fairly functional.

Not government laptops.

We buy outdated laptops and then uninstall any program created in the last 15 years.

Seriously, we should just carry these...

Our computers are about as efficient.

The warranty on my laptop ran out last week. 


I'm fairly computer literate, so last Tuesday when my wireless capability all of the sudden was disabled, I thought, "No big deal.  I got this."  And after three hours on the phone with an IT guy (and I call him that loosely) who "fixed" my computer...I got this:

Dun...dun..dun...  THE BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH

Then Wednesday, in the middle of critical tax law research (fun! fun!) my cd/dvd rom drive decides it's not going to all.  It wouldn't even read a Jason Aldean cd.   Tragic, I know.

So, after another phone call to IT, they overnight me a replacement cd/dvd drive...but no tools with which to actually replace the drive.  So after my feeble attempts with a steak knife, glasses screwdriver, and surgical scissors (don't ask), on Friday, I end up spending an hour in the office of one the best computer geeks I know just to perform what should be a fairly routine procedure.  And it ends up like this...

 (Ok, a bit of an exaggeration, but still, it was in more pieces than it should be.) 

And today, after spending another two hours on the phone with IT, and finally getting all of my computer issues resolved, I was informed I was getting a replacement computer

Yes, this is an actual picture of my actual computer in my actual trashcan.
You think that information would've been relevant LAST WEEK!!!!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Funding Your Emergency Fund

If you're just starting FPU, your first "baby step" is to fund your emergency fund with $1000.  (This is so you don't add to your debt, while paying down debt.)

When we first started FPU, saving $1000 seemed almost impossible.  While $1000 is not life-changing, it's nothing to sneeze at either.  If we could save $1000 in a month, why would we be in debt?  I thought it would take us 2 or 3 months to fund our emergency fund.

So, I was shocked when we were able to raise $1000 in less than a month.  I a matter of 4 weeks!!  And this is how we did it...

1.  We held a yard sale.

Now, I am not a fan of yard sales.  Holding or going.  As much as I love saving, I hate haggling and being haggled with.  So I piggybacked.  One of our friends held a yardsale.  I took my stuff over, let them price and sell it.  I had zero stress and just got to pick up the cash.

2.  We sold excess furniture online.

Look around your house and I bet you can find at least two pieces of unused furniture that are in fairly nice enough condition to sell.  I was shocked when I listed a coffee table, end tables, and a dining room set on Craigslist and they all sold.  (It does help to be in a college town.)

3.  I sold everything I could on ebay.

I love purses.  (Before I collected shoes, I collected purses.)  I sold at least half my collection on eBay.  Along with candles, decorations, cookbooks, luggage, makeup, kitchen items...

Anything still in the box, with tags, or unopened, got sold. 

4.  We paid the minimum payment on EVERYthing.

This was the hardest for us.  We had always paid extra on everything.  (And yet, still grew deeper in debt.  Bad math, I know.)  We cut all our payments back to just the minimum and banked the difference.  Including our credit card.  It still turns my stomack to think about.

5.  We cut our variable expenses by half.

Heard of the rice & beans budget?  That is what you're supposed to live off while you're getting out of debt.  The first month, we just had the "rice budget."  I'll admit it, we ate ramen for dinner more than once.  We spent $0 on groceries other than absolute bare necesseties like milk.  The rest, went into savings.

These are only 5 options, I didn't even touch on second jobs, consulting income, etc.   $1000 can seem daunting, but it's doable.  And there is a direct corellation between your determination and your success. 

Hmm...maybe we should do it again...I could sure use some new shoes! 

Just kidding.


Monday, August 29, 2011

5x7 Folded Card

Posh Pinstripes 5x7 folded card
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View the entire collection of cards.

Friday, August 26, 2011

One Classy Lady

We've talked about the importance of family...

We've talked about the importance of giving...

We've talked about the importance of loving..

Much of what I believe in how people should live and be treated has been ingrained in me since birth by my mother, grandmother, aunts, and leading ladies in my life.

One of those Leading Ladies was a woman named Wowo.

She wasn't my grandmother.  She was actually my cousin's grandmother.  But yet she always treated me like a granddaughter.  She had the biggest heart I know. 

When I was a small child, she would hide sticker sheets in her Bible and give them to me on Sunday nights after church.

When I was a teenager, I sat with her and her daughter Cathy almost every church service.  On the rare occassion I brought a boy to church, she'd even look the other way when we held hands. 

When I was a poor, broke newlywed, she'd invite me to Sunday lunch with her family and pick up the tab.

She was the first to welcome a vistor and loved practical jokes.

Wowo appreciated coordinated shoes & bags; and understood that a shopping trip, meant you need to go out of town to a really good mall.

On a church workday, she was the first to show up AND have a plan on how to get it all done. 

She would tell you "how it was" but with a smile on her face so you never felt dressed down.

She truly was the epitome of grace and class.  What every woman should strive to be when they grow up

Wowo graced Heaven's gates last night.  She will be sorely missed.  I've spent a better part of this evening looking through photos, crying, remembering, laughing...and editing this post furiously to attempt to do her justice.  It's almost midnight and I'm still not sure I've been able to convey what an amazing woman Wowo was. 

We love you, Wowo, and will miss you dearly!  I'm sure you're already organizing the robe closets in Heaven!  You leave behind some really big *coordinated* shoes to fill.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Annual Softball Tournament

Mr. DDA is a badge wearing, hand cuff holding, pepper spray bearing, gun toting police officer.

It creates a bit of a crazy, hectic, lifestyle in the DDA house.

Seven years ago, our local police department began the Law Enforcement Memorial Tournament.  It's a fun weekend for different departments to get together and honor their fallen friends.  The officers love it.

The spouses...not so much.

First of all, it's always in August.  And even if it's calling for 100% rain and a balmy 70 degrees, it's going to be matter what.  It's predestined.

Second of all, it's game after game after game...leaving us and our kids feeling like this...

And lastly, even though it's a Law Enforcement tournament, it's just a matter of time till these guys show up...
Yes, the rescue squad.

See, this tournament cannot happen without someone getting hurt.

We've had broken legs, ACL's snapped in half, pulled muscles, torn rotator cuffs...

I don't know why it happens, but it's like the 105 degree temps, it's predestined.

This year, I think the worst was someone threw their shoulder out.  My husband pulled a "hammy."  And after a box of Tylenol patches, an entire tube of Icy Hot, and at least one ace bandage, he's finally recovering.

He's certainly milked it for all it's worth.

Even though he got *hurt* (cough, cough) this year, I know he enjoyed the games he did get to play. 

Every year he says he's not going to play, but every year he does.   He can't resist. 

I don't know if it's the camaraderie or the competition.  And even though I dread the annual softball tournament, I wouldn't want him to miss it for the world.

It's the least we can do to remember those we've lost.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Counting the Cost of a Big Move

Moving is never easy.

And usually, it’s never cheap.

I have a friend who is moving about 2 hours away from her current home and is facing just under $2,000 in moving expenses alone.

And that doesn’t take into account any of the new costs of living she will be facing in her new home.

At this rate and taking into account the extreme volatility of the current real estate market, she may not even make enough on the sale of her current home to cover the costs of her move.

My question is, are there actual ways to cut costs on moves (whether local or long distance)?

Is there any way to make it easier on your pocketbook if not your back?

Here are some things to take into account when budgeting for your moves that may help you save money in the long run.

  1. Shop your ear off.

There are a limited number of options for the average mover, but I wouldn’t leave any option off the table until I have learned the cost benefit to each option. 

2 Men and a Truck

They are all valid options.

Call around.  And I say call, because you can only find so much out on a website.

Find out the requirements, the benefits, the disadvantages and the limitations of each option. 

  1. Coupons MAY apply.

I don’t know about you, but once a week I get a stack of sale papers and yes – coupons – in my mailbox.  Most of these coupons and mailers are for local companies that provide just the kind of services you may be looking for. 

And don’t forget about your Val-Pak’s that you get once a month!  I can’t tell you how many times I have seen coupons for local businesses such as moving companies. 

If all else fails, check online for coupon codes to mention when you call in to each company.  You may be able to find a deal that you can’t walk away from.

  1. Be Willing to Do Some of the Heavy Lifting

You can save yourself a heck of a lot of money if you are willing to do some of the stacking and loading yourself.  Not to mention the fact that you control what goes where – meaning your grandmother’s china won’t end up under 3 boxes full of college yearbooks. 

And if you go with the option of Pack-Rat or Pod’s, you have the luxury of packing at your leisure.  No 1-day rush to get it all in, out, and off.

Which your back will probably thank you for a week after your move is over.

  1. Consider the tip.
If you choose to go with a moving company – actual people moving your stuff in and out of homes – you need to account for tipping the poor people whose backs you are breaking.  Most of the time that cost isn’t thought of until that day and suddenly you’re running to the nearest ATM and digging out whatever cash you can lay your hands on so that your helpful movers don’t end up breaking your Aunt Bernice’s antique glassware or spitting on your favorite sofa out of spite. 

Take that into account when you are budgeting IN ADVANCE of your move, and plan accordingly.

  1. Gasoline Surcharges

Gas is expensive.

That's no secret.

And no matter which option you choose, you will need to take gas rates into account. 

Whether you opt to rent a U-Haul or send your stuff across 8 states by way of a crane, gas rates are going to affect you. 

Obviously, since the rates change almost daily, it is difficult to predict the actual amount you will pay, but consider the time of year and location of your move as well as the local average gas rates to prepare yourself.

You don’t want to end up with sticker shock at the “fuel surcharge” line for your move.

Overall, moving expenses are probably going to leave you feeling a little woozy, but preparation and knowing you got the best bang for your buck may hold your feet on solid ground for a little longer.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Jason Aldean - Need I Say More?

If you know me at all, you know I love a lot of people and things.  I've talked about all of them on this blog - except one.  And to get to know me, you have to know this about me.

I try to keep it in the closet.  I like to come off as polished and professional.  And not at all the country bumpkin I was raised.  But there are very few priorities in my life that I am absolutely passionate about:

1.  My husband & kids
2.  My family
3.  My church
4.  My friends
5.  Jason Aldean

I should have been in the music industry.  Not as a singer.  Ugh.  I'm horrible.  But like a music manager or something.  I can pick the winners from the beginning.  I've always known who was going to make it and who wasn't.

And I picked him...

 I saw him at a teeny tiny country fair when he had one single out and no one hardly cheered till he covered Guns 'N Roses and Sweet Home Alabama.  I was there on business and we stayed in the same hotel.  A Comfort Inn.  (Doubt he's staying in too many of those lately.)

I'm sorry - can we just stare at the picture for a minute?

Ok...back to the blog.

He became my favorite - which was a big deal for someone who did not listen to country music.  In fact, I detested country music. 

In the past five years, I've seen Jason Aldean more times than I can count.  (Really, I have lost count.)  And I don't even attempt to add up the money I've spent on tickets & gas to his concerts.  (I could have probably bought my Christian Louboutin's with that money.)

But I love the artists when they're brand new and they'll sign autographs for hours.  They're thrilled when they're recognized in Walmart. 

He's a big boy now.  Selling out arenas and amphitheaters once reserved for only the biggest names in the music industry.

So proud, but kinda sad.  Like how I felt about watching my big boy going to preschool today.  (Yes, this is a shameless plug to show off my kiddo.)

Jason Aldean single handedly turned me back on to country music.

And empty's my wallet twice a year!

If you ask anyone who knows me what's on my iPod - they're going to say Jason.  All four albums. 

Just thought I'd let you in on my secret.

Tax Tip Tuesday

(I've written these blogs and am just now getting around to posting them.)

I have a couple shows that I watch regularly.

But very few that I will not miss.


Confession: I have watched new episodes of Top Chef on YouTube at work on my smartphone in 10 minute clips.  Talk about desperation.


Another foodie show...but I love Scott Conant.  Almost as much as Richard Blais.

Come to think of it, pretty much all of "my shows" are foodie shows.  The only one that is not is...


 I know I've talked about this show before.  But hang with does plan into my tax tip.

During the first season, you fall in love with Dr. Hank Lawson, a lovable ER turned concierge doctor. 

And you get to know Hank's goofy, bean counter CPA brother, Evan R. Lawson, CFO of HankMed.

Over the past three seasons, I've fallen out of love with Dr. Hank.  Too perfect; too dependable; too boring.  And am head over heels for Evan.  I's fate.

But I wanted to scream at my TV at the end of last season.

CPA Evan decided to lease a brand new 2011 Toyota Sienna for HankMed.  And then proceeded to talk about why leasing is so much better for your taxes.

This is such a common myth among businesses.

They lease everything.

Yes, when you lease you get to deduct the amount of you monthly lease payment.  But it's a horrible financial decision.  You don't pay the bank 100% to avoid paying the government 25%.  Bad math. 

But hopefully not too many people are getting their tax advice from tv.

Let's hope anyhow.

Debt Fatigue - Signs & Symptoms

Over the weekend, I had a conversation that enlightened me. 

We talked about debt fatigue.


When we decided to get out of debt, I being the lovable, furry, old nerd that I am, made twenty-eleven different budgets.

(In case you didn't know, 20-11 is a southern expression for a ridiculous amount.)

I made budgets where we paid off our debt in five years, three years, two years, paid as much as possible, paid as little as possible.  Every different recreation, I tried it.

If you follow Dave Ramsey's plan, you pay as much as possible every month.  You work, work, work and sacrifice to get out as soon as possible.

If you follow  Gail Vaz-Oxlade's approach, she limits you to no more than 15% of your income - as long as that pays off all your consumer debt in 3 years.

If you're staring at mountains of debt, living in poverty like conditions for years on end can seem daunting. If you don't pay off enough, you begin to feel like you're making no head way and get fatigued and worn out.  But if you sacrifice too long, that wears you out.

But if you go the other way and only pay the minimums and take too long, you lose your momentum, your steam, and tend to fizzle out. 

And that's why they call it fatigue...because you get tired of it.

Like a week of volleyball camp in 110 degree weather in a giant gym with absolutely no air circulation...

That kinda tired.

It's been 15 years since volleyball camp, and I still remember that fatigue vividly.

But speaking of fatigue, I'm exhausted.  Hence the post that doesn't really make that much sense.

But maybe you got the point. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Can't Breathe...

Just wanted to pop in and apologize for no recent posts.  In all day workshops for the past week and haven't had a moment to myself.  I should hope to have more this Friday!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Office Building.

My office is as non-descript as they come.

Brown, brick, ugly building.

With a very strange smell that reminds me of the PCC Field House locker room.  (For all of you that didn’t attend PCC, it’s a mixture of rubber, sweat, and just general funk.)

But this very ugly, non-descript building houses some very interesting characters

You don’t mess around with the people going to the 4th floor. 

And, I have to admit; I totally elevator profile. 

Sometimes, “people” get on the elevator and you just look at them and know where they’re trying to get. 

They press “3” and it takes every piece of me not to say, “Oh, no.  You need 4.”


That pretty much sums it up.

It's a scary place.

That I try to stay away from.

Then we have Court Community Services.


Every morning, I’m trampled by a herd of truants trying to get in first thing for their pee test so they can do only God knows what the rest of the day. 

They’re moving out this month.  I’m kinda excited about that.

But then we have part of Veteran’s Affairs. 

They’ve only been here a few months but I already don’t like them.

Even though I should.

1)                  They took the most awesome space in the whole building where we usually have our Christmas luncheon and made it storage.
2)                  They’re on floor 2.  We have stairs in the atrium, which if you take, lands you on their doorstep.  And yet they all seem to take the elevator.  This annoyance goes back to my college days, yet again, where we learned that you don’t take the elevator to the 2nd floor unless you are in a wheelchair.  And these people aren't.

But the one place in our building you don’t want to go to, besides my office, is Bankruptcy Court.

I don’t know how often they hold court, but it’s on the first floor and we all have to walk by it to get in.

And on any given day, you get see a whole host of characters in the waiting room. 


Young Couples.

Middle aged divorcee’s screaming at each other.

Some of the best dressed people you’ll ever meet.

The elderly – who absolutely break my heart.

Some are nervous.  Some are crying.  Some are happy. 

But I wonder about each one in there. 

I truly want to know about each of their stories. 

How did they end up here? 

Do they have hundreds of thousands in medical bills, but are proud cancer survivors?

Did their business go under? 

Did they make a bad investment?

Did they lose their job? 

Did they sign up for that free t-shirt in college and get in over their head?

Maybe it’s just nosy of me. 

But I want to know. 

What brought them here? 

What is their plan? 

What would they do differently?

What could we all learn from the wide range of people who have walked through those doors?

And if they were willing to tell us, would it change anything we're doing?

I just can't help but wonder....

Monday, August 1, 2011

I am Super Girl. And I'm Here to Save Your WORLD.

Today, I went into my bosses’ office and said, “I want to buy a bigger house.  And I want some plastic surgery.  And my son wants to go to Disney World next year.  You have to give me more money.”

Just kidding.

But that’s kinda what Congress is doing to the American people.

They’ve decided they want this, that, and the other.  And when the budget can’t pay for it, they want a raise from the American people.

As part of the debt ceiling agreement, Congress must vote on a Balanced Budged Amendment. 

(Which, if passed, still must be ratified by the states since it will be an amendment to our Constitution.)

Unfortunately, this amendment is highly unlikely to pass.

Because our government cannot support a balanced budget.  Not without some serious retooling of the budget.

We simply do not have enough money coming in to pay everything we have going out.

They have to take the same approach to their budget as we do our personal budgets.  When there isn’t enough money, you either have to increase income or decrease expenses.

The majority, including our President, has decided the only solution is to increase income.

Funny thing, in this economy, you can’t increase income.  Actually, as backwards as it seems, if the government needs more money, they need to cut the corporate tax rates.  I’ll spare you the details, but that would incentivize more companies to move here and, therefore, pay taxes here.  More companies equal more jobs.  More jobs means more taxpayers employed.  More employment means more taxes.  See, more income?

Easy, peasy…

If that seems just too complicated, then you have to reduce spending. 

But even that seems impossible to Congress.

They don’t want to single out anything to get cut.

So, here’s my proposal.

Reduce the government spending to 2008 levels.  During the election, everyone cried how extravagant the spending was then so that should be an appropriate level.  Then do a 1% cut across the board.  1% is a drop in the bucket.  Then every year, cut another 1% till we’re in the black.

I know you’re sitting there in awe of my genious-ness.

I can’t help it.  I was born with it.

Just kidding…but when I run for Congress, this will be my platform. 

Maybe I should patent it..