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Archive for January, 2007: TinapBeana's Blog: Money Wars!
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Archive for January, 2007

Headline: One Possum Short of a Match Set

February 1st, 2007 at 03:48 am

Observant readers will note that, in order to be "One Possum Short of a Match Set" I must have at least one possum to begin with. And you, dear reader, would be correct.

Today was the convergence of several comic, er, cosmic forces of the universe which culminated in my taking a picture of a possum in my basement. Ironically, I got the picture when it ran to hide under DH's deer stand. HAAAAHAHAH!



First two forces of the universe involved: laziness and procrastination. I say this because there is a vent hole into our basement that's needed to be replaced since we bought the house in July. Our cats use the hole to get in and out of the basement, which isn't too bad. The neighborhood cats use the hole to get in and out of the basement, which isn't too good. Apparently a possum can use the hole to get in and out of the basement.

Next force of the universe involved: kizmit. The dishwasher we ordered from Lowes on the 15th arrived today. WOO and HOO! Today is the beginning of a new fiscal month (long story), so we were all exicted to pick up the appliance, buy the last bits needed to install it, and get it wrapped up tonight.

Final force involved is quite common: mother nature. See, it's gonna get nasty here during the next 24 hours. For details, click the flag shaped weather button to your right. Suffice to say it'll be cold and went and likely very icy (as in an inch on the power lines, not good). As a side note DH and I chopped and gathered wood when I got home from work, so since we're prepared nothing should actually stick...

So, when one has a hole into one's basement and plumiting temps outside, it is reasonable to see how one might wind up with wildlife in one's basement.

The chances of actually walking down your basement stairs and finding a possum drinking out of your sump-pump hole, however, and likely SLIM and NONE. Apparently luck was on our side and slim was still hanging around...

So, money saved by this evening's adventures in plumbing and wildlife:

$59 (pick-up instead of appliance delivery)
$150 (switching out the plumbing underneath the sink)
$150 (installing said dishwasher ourselves)
$??? (not calling a pest guy regarding the errant possum)

Going Freelance: Got Samples

January 29th, 2007 at 06:05 pm

So, I went out this weekend and braved the cold and wind and got some pictures. As a side note, I also realized I really need to get a lens cleaning kit, but that's neither here nor there. Turns out, some of the pics that are posted online are even for the wrong house! Jeez Louise...

At any rate, I wanted to post a few and see if anyone (especially the house hunters among us!) would give some feedback from the perspective of a potential buyer. I'm including the realtor's name and contact number on the photo (and I'm debating about putting the MLS# on there too), which I think is a good idea but who knows if it'll fly... What do you think, would a buyer like that info placed on the photo as long as it doesn't obstruct anything?

Before & After
OK, the first house has a huge tree in the front yard, so the only viable way to shoot it is from an angle.

The other two houses are the ones where the wrong picture is currently posted online. WTF....





Visit from the Computer Fairy

January 28th, 2007 at 10:31 pm

My house has been visited by the computer fairy! Big Grin

First, some background for this post. I remember unpacking my family's first computer with my dad in 92, maybe 93. We'd splurged and gotten a 486 instead of a 386. HAAAAAAHAHHAHA!!! Anyways, we'd had computers in school for a couple of years at this point, so I sat there in the floor with my dad showing him what all the bits and pieces were, how to hook everything up, etc.

How fast they grow up...

Fast forward to today. Computers are my dad's hobby, something he tinkers with when the cigar store is slow. Over the past few weeks he's been Ebaying, buying 3 servers of varying age and completeness in order to build himself a gigando Frankenstein server. Whatever floats your boat, right?

Anyways, after taking his pick of all the parts, there was a ton left-over so he pieced them together for a new computer for me. Woohoo!!! I can't call it a PC b/c it's technically a server configuration. Can't call it a server b/c I'm not actually serving anything on it.

Semantics aside, I've got a nice new-to-me 'box' that will more than do what I need. 3 hard drives (two 18s and a 9), dual 733 mhz processors, and 788 in ram that'll get boosted up to a gig or two once he's finished picking over the parts. And since it's a 'server', there's plenty of room to grow.





My cost? Well, he won't let me help pay for the parts. Dad's, what can you do? Since it used to be a server, there was no sound card and no USB ports (which I need for my photographs). We went to Circuit City today and bought a sound card, a USB PCI card, and a USB hub for $75.

Having the new computer gave us the motivation to rearrange the office to be able to fit everything in properly. Here is our office, with all the freebies marked with a red X. And yes, there is one on the cat Big Grin



Going Freelance: I think I Can!

January 26th, 2007 at 09:40 pm

I've been mulling over the whole "generate your own income" thing for a while. Some of you might remember it's one of my new year's goals to come up with 10 ways I can make about $500 per month. On that list I've already include "something to do with photography". Real specific, right?

I've always been better taking pictures of inanimate objects for some reason or another. Especially buildings. I have a 'thing' for architecture and I really enjoy taking pictures of houses, churches, etc. Probably 2/3 of the pics I took in Argentina were architectural. This combined with my realtively recent house purchase has made me think of real estate photography on and off for the past couple of months. I know when I was looking at houses, if it didn't have a picture I usually didn't bother. I think that's pretty much the norm.

Things were slow at work today, so I revisted the idea. Went online to my favorite real estate watering hole to see what the market looks like right now. Generally, there are about 6000 houses on the market at any given time in my area, over 600 in a 5 mile radius of my house. Even with a 'bursting real estate bubble' our area is booming, what with BMW, Michelin, FUJI, and

Text is ICAR and Link is http://www.clemson.edu/autoresearch/
ICAR calling the upstate 'home'.

6000 properties. If I could just grab 1% of those...

Anyways, when browsing today I picked 21 listings, ranging from $64,900 to $1,649,000. These listing either had no pictures (BAD), or really crappy pictures (WORSE!). Don't believe me?

This house is listed for $77,900




This house is listed for $210,000




WHAT THE FOO? Who's gonna bother looking when the pictures are like this? What does that say about the real estate agent, or the agency?

When I saw these pics, I thought to myself "A trained monkey could do better than this. Or an untrained human!" Since I myself am an untrained human, I figure I qualify.

So, I have 21 listings from 14 different agents, all in about a 5 mile radius of my house. This weekend, I'm going to go around to several (one's even on my street!) and take some pictures. Next week I'm going to email the pictures to the realtors directly, letting them know I'd be happy to work with them.

BTW, I don't have any 'normal' house pictures with me that I've taken, but here are some of my more 'artsy' ones for comparison purposes.











Dishwasher Saga

January 26th, 2007 at 01:15 pm

Grrrrr... Dishwasher is backordered until the first. Ergo, $300 tied up in the intricacies of Lowes ordering system for 2 weeks.

Good news is that the drain pipe is of course fixed, and we've run the electical. Last thing on the list (other than bringing the blasted thing home!) is to replace the drain plumbing under the kitchen sink so the washer has a place to hook up. Oh, and cut some holes in the cabinatry with a hole saw for the water in, water out, and electrical. Luckly, there was already an opening in the cabinatry for the dishwasher, so no major carpentry is needed. Someone had just added doors and a kick plate to the front when they took the old dishwasher out back in the way back.

Here's hoping that when the darn thing finally arrives, all we have to do is plug 'er in, hook 'er up, and slide 'er home!

Replacing the Kitchen Drain: A Soapmaker's Perspective

January 22nd, 2007 at 04:01 pm

That's right: a soapmaker. As in 'one who makes soap'.

As many of you know I have really sensitive and dry skin. This led me down a path several years ago that resulted in making my own soap. Not the stuff you buy to melt-down and mold, I'm talking full-on face protection while you mix the lye, add some fat, and eventually cut into slabs soap. It's actually quite enjoyable, a nice blend of exact science and crafty creativity (kinda like baking).

FYI, for the curious fruggie, you can make basic soap for about $1.50 per pound, perhaps $2 if you decide to make it smell pretty. It is cheaper to buy Ivory soap when you find a coupon or a good sale, BUT Ivory dries my skin out. Plus, for the veggies and vegans out there, Ivory is made from animal products (sodium tallowate = soap made from beef fat, which is actually a very good fat for making soap).

I'm still hoarding my last batch of soap, I make some every 2 years or so b/c it is a PITA to clean up afterwards. You'd think a big batch of soaping stuff would be easy to clean, right? WRONG: the stuff in the pot isn't soap yet, it's just a hot greasy caustic mess that'll burn you if you're not careful!

But, I digress.

DH and I replaced the kitchen drain pipe Friday evening. Yes, the one that was leaking like a seive. The pipe we took out was 2.5" cast iron and likely original to the house. It was so badly deteriorated that, when we tried to snap it with the specially rented pipe cutter, one part of the cast iron shattered. Turns out we could slice the thing off using our Saws-All and didn't have to have the rental equipment after all. Oh well...

Anyways, we got the section off, and I found myself staring into the pipe. Like a bad car-wreck, I couldn't tear my eyes away. Inside the 2.5" pipe was maybe 1" of space for the drain water. The rest of the pipe looked like it was filled with red clay.

Of course, it wasn't clay. It was 80 years worth of EWWWWWWWWWW!!!! Think of the stuff that gets poured down your kitchen sink. Imagine 80 years worth of it. That's what was inside the pipe. It looked like red clay because it had been tinted by the rust from the pipe. In retrospect, that was probably a good thing otherwise I mighta tossed my cookies.

And this, dear friends, is when my inner soapmaker spoke up about the beauty of drain cleaners.

Sodium hydroxide (lye) + water generates heat (a lot, actually).

Hot water/lye solution + fat = a cascading exothermic chemical reaction called saponification, otherwise known as soapmaking.

The chemical structure of soap gives it a dual nature, a split personality if you will. One side of the molecule is hydrophillic: it loves water and is attracted to it (this comes from the lye used in the process). The other side of the molecule is hydrophobic/lipophillic: it loves fats and is attracted to them (this comes from the fat used in the process). The result is soap's ability to 'cut' grease and increase water's cleaning power.

Putting lye down a drain and flushing it with hot water creates the solution which in turn reacts with a layer of the fatty EWWW lining the pipe turning it into some weird freakish soap (but soap nontheless). Soap + hot water = the ability to dissolve even more of the unreacted fatty EWWW in the pipe.

Moral of the story? Who-ever named 'drain cleaner' must have been a soapmaker!

I Fought the Lawn, and the Lawn Won

January 20th, 2007 at 08:52 pm

OK, for the purists out there I am using the term 'lawn' very loosely, as I have no actual grass to speak of. Well, I do have some, but that wasn't what I dealt with today.

Today I raked.

And raked.

Oh, and did I mention I raked?

I filled my compost heap, I covered the 8'x10' tarp, and I have another two huge piles. For the curious, I only raked 2 areas, totaling maybe 200 square feet. Got leaves?



The good news is that rotten leaves are second only to poop (cow or worm, not cat or dog!) when it comes to making good dirt. To be living in the land of Carolina Clay, I have uncovered a gold mine of rich moist loamy black earth. WOOHOO!! I'm thinking I'm going to use this lovely dirt to my advantage and plant a lettuce plot in the back yard, which is all northern exposure. I have some old lettuce seeds, but might get some new ones
Text is here and Link is http://www.naturalgardening.com/cgi-bin/shop/S-Mart.cgi?command=listitems&type=group&pos=0&pg=vegetables&group=mixes
here, where I can buy a 1oz mix of organic seeds for $7.50. In case your curious, 1 oz of lettuce seeds is about 20,000 (!!!), which means I should be able to have plenty of baby green salads for the spring and winter.

At this point, the lettuce is my only planned contribution to my yard's foliage. As many of you know, the house I bought originally belonged to what I must assume was an avid gardener. I say this because I have counted, thus far, 11 varities of camellias, and have another 4 or 5 that haven't even bloomed yet. I 'inherited' camellias, azaleas, daffy's, periwinkle, roses, mimosa, nadina, rose of sharon, and countless other items.

Here's what's showing off today. Nadina berries, periwinkle, daffodil, 2 of my camellias, bamboo, and what I think is privet. Not sure on that last one, though.



And, while I'm thinking about it, does anyone know what this is? I've got a crapload of it!

Optical Illusion: OW!

January 19th, 2007 at 08:23 pm

OK, if the pic below isn't big enough, click on it and it'll take you to a full-size version.

Just glancing at the picture, the bits seem to move. Focus your eyes on any particular spot and the movement grinds to a halt. OW!

One Week One Goal: Google Revelation

January 18th, 2007 at 09:34 pm

I received an inspiring comment on my blog yesterday. Nothing particularly special about that, as I have grown accustomed to reading the kind, insightful, and inspiring words you leave me on a daily basis.

With that said, this comment was different. It was on an entry from

Text is October 16th and Link is http://tinapbeana.savingadvice.com/2006/10/16/one-week-one-goal_15779/
October 16th: over three months ago (!) from someone new to the site. He wasn't on the site due to an interest in personal finance, he found my blog due to a Google search for one goal one week. I WAS THE NUMBER ONE RESULT.

Actually, his exact words were "Googled it - and you are the first link. So there.So I've decided to hold myself accountable and live-by 1-goal.1-wk." I didn't believe him, so I tried Gooling the phrase. Searched one goal one week without quotations, and there are "about 45,700,000" results.

And there I am. At the top.

My eyes bulged, my jaw dropped, my little heart went pitter-pat. There are companies and websites that would kill for that kind of placement. OK, maybe not kill, but definitely spend good money... And somehow I manage to get there by accident?

Odd. Weird. Perhaps even kizmit.

This one comment, from a man in India using the handle
Text is Condor and Link is http://www.flickr.com/photos/condor/
Condor, has left me with an itch I desparately want to scratch. It brought to light the known but unacknowledged fact that what I put forth on this blog (perhaps spew forth would be more accurate!) could really and truly have an effect on some unknown person somewhere out in 'The Real World', be it positive or negative. Was it the intended effect? No, but I guess that's part of the revelation, too. People will take what they will from your writing, which may or may not be what you expect.

Long story short, this has made me realize several different things. Most basically, I stopped my "One Week, One Goal" entries when the holidays hit and I really should start again, if nothing else but for my own good. Also, it made me wonder whether or not "One Week, One Goal" could be the basis for a viable online community. And whether I could create it. Or maintain it. Or, with enough luck and enough Condors, grow it into a self-sustaining entity.

So many what-if's, so little time...

Thinking of Jumping In...

January 16th, 2007 at 10:23 pm

My $20 challenge is somewhat stagnating, other than the change and ones that are slowly collecting. I may revisit whether it's just me or the house and me that are participating, but also of concern is thinking of a way to actively generate income. Combine this with the very real possibility of losing 60% of the household income at the end of February, and ACK!

And that's why I'm thinking of jumping in. To a business, that is. Not even really a business, more of a 'venture'. No, not MLM: those folks hate to see me b/c I always play devil's advocate and they can't answer all the questions I ask Big Grin

I'm thinking about getting some prints made of my photographs. Specifically, I found a REALLY CHEAP place to get posters printed, 18 x 24 size.

Text is http://shortrunposters.com/ and Link is
http://shortrunposters.com/

First one is free, each add'l is $2, and S&H is $10 from what I've read online. The quality is OK from what I've read, nothing to try and sell in an art gallery or nuthin'... I was thinking, though, that I could get 10 posters printed for $28 after S&H and see if I could sell 'em for $5 each.

So, what do ya'll think? Should I try and be a photographer? More importantly: ANYONE WANNA BUY A POSTER? Big Grin

Adding value to the house...

January 15th, 2007 at 04:48 pm

Yeah, that's the ticket, I'm adding value to the house...

DH and I said we were going to put a dishwasher in our house when we closed in July. One because it'll add value to our 1969 kitchen, and two because we're a couple of slacker anti-dishwashing fools. Don't ask me why, don't ask me where it came from, but I've hated doing dishes since I was 10 years old. HATE IT!

My parents made me do the dinner dishes for our family for about 2 months, and I was so bad at it my punishment was to have to wash every dish in the house. Nice thinking, pops: now ALL the dishes in the house were only halfway washed, not just the everyday dishes... My mom finally had it UP TO THERE (you know where THERE is, right?) and told me I wouldn't have to wash the dishes, but she would never wash a stich of my clothing again. COOL! I like laundry, and love to iron, so we were both very pleased with this compromise.

Anyways, I digress. I hate doing dishes. I'm better at it than I was in my youth, but I'd still rather iron king sized sheets than wash a load of cutlery any day. And DH, well... Let's just say he means well when he washes a dish.

Add to this the fact that the cast iron drain pipe from my kitchen sink leaks like a seive (no exaggeration here, I'm afraid) into my basement, and you get a kitchen that is an absolute wreck. Intead of washing the dishes as they're used, they get rinsed and then wait for a full load since all the dishwater is going to drain into the basement anyways.

Needless to say, the dish situation made it difficult to work up the motivation to do something so frugal as to cook and eat at home. So, well, we didn't.

Over dinner last night I told DH I enjoy eating out, but I enjoy eating at home too. Add to that it's financially healthier to eat at home, and my preference becomes clear.

He didn't understand what I meant when I said it was financially healthier. So I told him what we've spent the past 2.5 weeks in groceries and eating out (mostly eating out). I cannot, I will not repeat the number here because it is utterly appalling, mortifying even. He asked me to repeat myself, because surely the number I had just given him couldn't be right. Could it?

Oh yeah, it was right. His response? BLINK BLINK.

After a very long pause he said "Maybe we'd cook at home more if we actually put that dishwasher in. Of course, that means we'll have to fix the cast iron drain pipe, first..."

HALLELUJAH!

The cost of repairing the pipe will come out of my monthly budgeted amount for home improvement and repair 'stuff', so no extra money spent there. The money for the dishwasher? Well, the house had some cash sitting around unallocated in savings from the era of my 'save it aimlessly till you need it' mentality. Since it is in no way figured into our existing budget, we're gonna use that to pay cash for the dishwasher.

Total cost for the dishwasher and materials/tools to fix the pipe: approximately $350

Total saved doing the pipe repair and dishwasher install ourselves: approximately $250

Total value added to the house: WHO CARES!!!! I WON'T HAVE TO WASH DISHES!!!!

Well, I do care of course, but it'll be several months before we get it appraised so I guess we'll find out then. Alls I know is it appraised for 74,500 without a dishwasher, cook top, or oven, and with that freaking huge tree in the yard. Tree's gone, cook-top is in, dishwasher is moving in; now I just gotta find a built-in-oven for cheap.

Total saved by eating out less: I'm so ashamed, I really can't reveal that. Let's just say it's, um, A LOT.