11/28/09 - You have to be able to laugh at yourself

So, right now as I'm typing this, my weight is around 165 pounds. By no means would I be considered "fat" by the average American, but considering my family background, I'm "chunky" as my middle brother calls me. High school was a different story for me. I graduated at 118 pounds.

Please understand, my parents fed me and I ate. And I ate a lot. I averaged 3000 or 4000 calories a day, probably more. I also worked out quite a bit when it came to basketball and other sports. I tried protein shakes and powders and all sorts of special diets to put on weight, but it just didn't work. Instead, I looked like this below. Please don't confuse this with an ad for hungry children in Somalia, I'm not asking for money, I'm just making fun of myself.


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11/21/09 - Why is it so bad to be different?

I have mentioned finances multiple times on this blog. I've mentioned the envelope budgeting method my wife and I use, how buying in bulk isn't all that great sometimes, and how some products/services are ripoffs. This last week has really upset me a bit about the whole frugal mindset.

My wife has a wonderful job, I just feel bad for her in regards to the people she has to work with (another post is upcoming on this). Multiple times, my wife during conversation has mentioned how some of her coworkers think she is weird for being so "cheap" and "tight". I'm not going to say they attempt to insult her, but she is almost frowned upon for the way she and I manage our money.

Likewise, my sister-in-law has ridiculed me on multiple occassions for simply price checking items at the grocery store. If I can save $.50 by looking at two price labels and using a little bit of elementary math, why not? Even on this very website, I had a self-proclaimed "super cheap" person say they would not do the things I do to save a little bit of money. Just like my wife, I know that these people (I think both of the people I mentioned read this blog) mean no harm in their comments, and honestly, I am not offended by them. These are just two examples, and I could provide more.

Here's my point, espeically for those people my wife works with. Many of her coworkers are in their 50s and 60s. They are still working with no sign of retirement in their future and still paying on debts that they still manage to accumulate. When my wife and I reach our 60s, we will be retired with absolutely no debt whatsoever (unless we decide to take a loan to purchase our Class A RV), and will have been retired hopefully for quite some time.

Yes, we save where we can. My wife doesn't feel like spending an extra $200 to get a new phone just because she "wants" one. We haven't bought a new car even though our current Accord has over 230,000 miles on it and needs a paint job. We don't eat at Sonny William's Steak House twice a week. For that matter, we don't even eat at Casa Mexicana but every other month or so. Our only major downfall is taking vacations where we tend to spend a lot more for nicer accommodations.

But, neither my wife or daughter have ever gone to bed hungry. We have a comfortable place to sleep at night and we can get to and from wherever we need to go because our cars run. We are always clothed, and typically with very nice clothing.

However, within the next year, more than likely we will be completely debt free with the exception of our house which we will then be able to pay off in about 10 years (on a 30 year mortgage which was a mistake and is a lesson for another time). That's assuming that neither of us ever receive another raise or bonus from our jobs. I should also mention that if we change nothing about about the way our retirement is setup, we'll retire with somewhere between 1 and 2 million dollars in sound investments. We'll be able to live off the interest of our retirement, and pass on the balance of our accounts to our children. As far as I'm concerned, that is some kind of a legacy to leave to your kids.

With that knowledge, someone explain to me why being so different is such a bad thing. We are sacrificing nothing of importance today, to gain everything later so we can continue to enjoy ourselves with no worries. Dave Ramsey has a motto that recently I have really begun to understand better: "Live like no one else, so you can live like no one else."


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11/14/09 - Car History...1996 GMC Sierra

The next entry in my Car History series is a 1996 red GMC Sierra extended cab. This was the first vehicle that I ever purchased with my own money. The previous cars had been given to me by my parents, and I'm very grateful for that. In fact, after the Bonneville was totaled, they allowed me to use a portion of the insurance claim money as part of the down-payment for this truck. Here are a few pictures of my actual truck, including one of the speakers in the back.

This truck was definitely my baby. When I purchased it, it was completely stock with only the addition of a Tweety Bird air freshener. As you can see by the pictures below, I added quite a few items. I tinted the windows, added security/keyless entry, I added the bed rails, bed liner and tool chest. I also modified the exhaust to make it sound awesome, straight pipes coming straight out the back with what I believe was 3" chrome tips.

I eventually added the stereo system that was originally in the caravan. It definitely sounded the best in my truck above the other vehicles. The downside is that I no longer had the use of the back seat of the truck. On the other side, it's a pretty tight fit, so not many people ever sat back there anyways.

Over the course of owning the truck, I also fixed the truck several times. Although not a big deal to most, I fixed door handles, the tail gate multiple times, switched out the battery and alternator and I'm pretty sure there were other things that I can't think of right now.

I'm not positive of all the places this truck went, but I know it made several trips to South Arkansas, several to Central Oklahoma, it made it to Houston (to pick up a Soloflex, that's a pretty good story) and it might have been to Memphis a couple of times as well.

I can't describe how much I loved this truck. Needless to say, this truck also got totaled. I was on the way to south Arkansas to visit some friends from church camp, talking on the phone with my future wife, when the rush hour traffic came to a pretty quick stop. The reason for the quick stop? A police officer, who appeared to have an individual in the back of his car pulled attempted to pull into traffic traveling at about 65 miles an hour from a complete stop. The first car had to slam on their brakes, the car behind them stopped in time, but the next car, a silver SUV did not. I slammed on my brakes but slammed into that truck pretty hard. A split second later I was rear-ended and I think one more vehicle was involved after that. Luckily no one was injured, but my poor truck wound up looking like this.

Strangely enough, you will notice I'm wearing the same ACE hardware t-shirt in both pictures. I forgot how much I loved that t-shirt. Apparently, I wore it a lot more than I realized.

After the insurance wrote me a fairly sizable check for the loss of my truck, I began looking for my next truck. This time, I knew what I wanted and had the funds to buy it. My search for a 2-door Tahoe had begun. Oh, the police officer who started the accident, and then left the scene of the accident to my knowledge was never ticketed for his involvement.


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11/7/09 - AT&T and there stinking modem

Recently, my XBox360 died. Although that is a story all in itself, short story is that I went ahead and bought a new Xbox 360 Elite. I got it home, hooked it up and realized I couldn't connect to XBox Live. I went and checked our modem and sure enough, we had red lights.

I went through the typical troubleshooting but couldn't get it work. At this point, I was forced to call tech support. Typically, this is a nightmare, but this time around they were very straight forward and told me that I would have to buy a new modem. There is a 1 year warranty and mine lasted 1 year and a few months. Apparently, after reading several reviews online and seeing if I could buy one outside of the AT&T network, this is quite common with this particular modem. So, if you have AT&T DSL service, started saving some extra cash, because it appears that after about 14 months, they just stop working.

After weighing my options, I decided to go up to the AT&T store to see if I could talk them down on price for a new modem ($100 for wireless, $75 hard-wired). Knowing that new customers get a rebate for free equipment, I was hoping to at least get the price reduced by half. I didn't think this was too far out of the question especially after walking in and seeing a large advertisement for the free equipment deal (after rebate of course).

Once I was able to speak to a salesman, I went straight to the point. I explained the situation and told him that basically, I wanted to get my internet back up and going, but I didn't feel that after being a loyal DSL customer for nearly a year and a half, I should have to pay for a crappy piece of equipment that they required you to have. He quickly explained that there was nothing he could do, and amazingly, there was no one he could talk to about it (this of course, seemed like a big fat lie, but we continued anyways).

Next, he suggested U-verse. I think I have written about this before, but the television service that u-verse offers, in my mind is priced higher than just about any other package I have compared. To get the same setup we have now with Dish, u-verse would be an extra $36 a month. This immediately rules out getting tv through u-verse and since we don't have or need a home phone, we don't need that service either.

The salesman explains that if you get internet and tv, there is no installation charge, but if you only get internet, they will charge you $150. I'll repeat that, $150 if you only get internet. I attempted to negotiate the price on the installation, but he again stated that he could do nothing and there was no one that could.

Timing on these also came into play. Basically, he explained that with u-verse, you had to shut off your DSL for 5 days before they could setup an appointment to come setup the u-verse service. This makes no sense to me, but I'm not familiar with this technology, so I can't comment on the validity of this statement. Of course, their scheduling was about 10 days out, so I would be without for over 2 weeks. With DSL, in order to maybe, try to get the rebate, he said I would have to shut off DSL service for 5 days, and then sign back up and hope that they don't notice I just canceled service. Basically, I could wait 2 weeks with no internet and get u-verse for $150, wait 5 days with no internet and hopefully get a free wireless modem, otherwise I could get it that day and pay the $100 and be good to go.

Being frugal, I still felt there was a better way. After not giving the guy an answer, he finally came back with a deal he "just found" that gave a $100 rebate for u-verse internet setup. Immediately, this was the best deal in regards to price. However, Cristi and Makenna were leaving in 3 days and considering my time alone would be spent playing video games online and surfing the web, I couldn't be without for 2 weeks. Finally, the guy said that I could just buy the modem that day, and bring it back within 30 days.

So, with that said, here is how it was supposed to play out. Mind you, this conversation with the guy took 20 minutes or so. I purchased the modem that day. I kept all the receipts and boxes ready to be repackaged and sent back to the store. When my family got back in town, I was going to be taking the modem and canceling my DSL service. As soon as possible, I would request the u-verse internet installation and wait for that to be turned on. I planned on making one last attempt at getting the entire installation fee waived, otherwise I would have just covered the $50 fee (after rebate) and moved on. The price for service is identical so I would have been gaining the option to upgrade speed and have AT&T take responsibility for the hardware. Sounded like a win-win to me.

On the 3rd of November, I decided to put my plan into action. But, before doing so, I thought I would just hook up the old modem, just to make sure it was really broken and it wasn't have a bad day when it "broke". Guess what, it worked just fine. However, I was using the new power cable, so I'm guessing that something was actually wrong with the power cable, and not the modem. I quickly packaged up the new modem, put it back in the box and took it back to get a full refund. That part of the plan went flawless.

I made the mistake however, of trying to get more information on U-verse. I asked how long it would take to get U-verse internet turned on. The lady quickly responded with, "You can't do that". So we had a nice discussion about how u-verse is a package deal and you have to get at least two of the services. I objected stating that the previous salesmen had tried to sell me on just the internet and I had a friend who was using only internet service under the u-verse label. She insisted that you had to get internet packaged with a home phone (which we don't need) or a tv package (which is grossly overpriced).

To summarize, I now have internet, it works fine and for the most part at no out of pocket cost to me. Had I needed to get U-verse, I would have been out of luck (according to the saleslady I talked to), I would not have been happy. For now though, all is good.


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