October 2012 Monthly Review

This here continued to slow down, and I’m finally starting to be able to use the kitchen.  I’m getting better at knowing where things are, and knowing where to look for some things.  I still cant find everything I need, which is super annoying, but when we get around to cleaning out the basement that should change.

I’ve been doing more and different workouts, but I’ve been finding it tough to get motivated because there’s not really a clearly defined goal that I’m working towards.  Sure, staying fit is a goal, but it’s one that wont pay off for quite a few years – I need something more immediate to get focused.

Finances have basically stayed the same, as we’ve been spending most of our free cash flow on house upgrades.  We are 90% done with quite a few things, and have shifted our main focus to finishing up the bathroom, which we can hopefully make some huge gains in the next few weeks.

Debt:

This is pretty high right now because of the house, but I’m alright with that.  I’m not 100% against debt like I used to be, but I still dont think it’s a great thing.  It’s a tool, like a lot of things – and you can hurt yourself with it just as much as you can help yourself.

House

Mortgage $ 120,140  ($531) –  This is going down super slowly which makes sad, it looks like about 50% of our payment goes towards interest every month.  H and I are still in the working stages of clearing out our other debts and/or making house upgrades right now, but are working out a plan to start making 2 payments per month starting in January 2012.  If we do that, we should be able to take a considerable amount of time off the loan.

Student Loans

Great Lakes Loan $ 10,200 ($122)  It’s nice to see this going down a bit faster after I increased the payment, but it’s still not going down as fast as I’d like.  This will be the next focus after the truck.

Truck Loan

Ford Credit: $4,993  ($308): Finally got below 5k on this note.  This is exciting, and I’m hoping to retire this by the end of the year, which is quickly coming up.  I’ve developed a plan to pay the vehicle off with a credit card for the points, then pay that bill as well.  It’s a huge point haul, and I wish I could set up my automatic payment to the credit card, but they will only let you do a 1 time.  No matter, I guess.

Total Debt: 135,333 (1,920)  This is kind of crazy, and really bothers me about debt in general.  Without making any extra payments on anything, we paid almost 2,000 to our debt!   Totally nuts!

Health Goals

This has finally turned around – though not exactly how I would have liked.  I’ve been working out 5 or 6 times per week, usually consisting of 2 trips to the gym to lift weights, 2 sessions of yoga in the morning.  Ive been liking it, but because of all of the bouncing around, it feels like i’m doing a few things: 1) avoiding a hard workout by doing something else instead and 2) not really being able to get into anything because I’m spread too thin and not really focusing in on anything specific.

I’m also thinking that I need to up my goal workouts – hitting 20 every month seems to be getting easier and easier, and I dont seem to be getting sore as often, so it could be time to ratchet up the frequency.

Goal Workouts: 20

Total Workouts: 24

Food Challenges:

This month, in an effort to save some money and start eating what food H and I have, I started a Meat Challenge.  The meat challenge continued on for another successful month, and I can hardly remember the last time that we bought meat at the store.  It seems like the grocery bill is starting to inch up, but lots of that has been because we have been running out of staples that we typically buy in bulk, such as olive oil, rice, flour and things like that.  I went  hunting once this month, and got nothing.  I’ll be going at the beginning of november as well and hopefully my luck will turn.  I’ve been tossing around the idea of getting 1 more elk tag, but I’m not 100% set on it just yet

The Grocery Store Challenge has been harder to track than the meat challenge.  I just went to the store a few days ago, and didnt really do that well for this particular trip.  Most of what I had was dairy, but there were lots of veggies that we have not been getting from the farm share.

Fall is coming, and we are starting to get some stuff ready for winter.  I finally got my beer kit, and we made our first (and probably only) batch of homemade hard cider for the winter.  I’d like to try a pear cider or some other type next year, but the only cider I’ve been able to find is apple.  Total cost of the cider was $40 for the cider, 1.25 for the yeast, and 1.50 for the sugar.

How did everyone do in september?  Were you able to make lots of progress on your debt, or were you focusing on some other area of your life?

Honeymoon: Thailand pt 1 – Bangkok

After our few days in japan, we flew to our real destination – thailand.  H and I were both really looking forward to thailand, as we’ve heard all about the beautiful beaches, the super relaxing massages, and the awesome food and culture.  I will say that it was not a disappointment at all, and H and I each had a fantastic time.  We worked with a tour group for the majority of our time in thailand, and I’m glad we did – I think it ended up saving us a lot of money.  They took care of everything for us for the days that we were working with them, and all we had to do was show up at the right time and place.

One thing that I was mildly annoyed by was the pressure to buy stuff, which I’ll admit neither of us handled well at all.  During our tours, we were taken to places (reputable ones) that had a distinctly thai product.  One was a jewelry shop (thailand exports a lot of gems), one was a tailor, one was a teak wood carving store (that had a 30k+ chair!!!).  The products were impressive and lots of them way out of our price range, I was just a bit annoyed that we took us there and didnt put the things like this in the itinerary.  H ended up getting some earrings and a shirt, and I ended up getting 3 more custom shirts – these did not take near as long to get made as the one for my wedding, but they fit just as nice – and didnt cost near as much.  I picked some checkered patterns so that I could wear them to work when the weather gets cool, which I’m unable to do with my wedding shirt.  Without further ado, the pictures.  (fyi – this is a long and picture heavy post, so feel free to skip if you like)

This is the temple (Wat Tramit) where they housed the golden buddha.  The golden buddha was giant, and held a buddha that was probably 10′ high made entirely of gold.  He was covered in plaster in the 1700s, to keep him from being stolen.  The identity was eventually forgotten, and when moving the statue to its current location in the 50s, the ropes broke and part of the plaster cracked, revealing the gold underneath.

This is the golden buddha.  Quite an amazing work of art, if I do say so myself.  There were not as many people there as was normal because we went on a sunday.  Apparently, it’s just packed full of people every other day.

This was another one of the temples (Wat Phra Kew) that we went to.  It housed the emerald buddha, but unfortunately we didnt get to see it because people were worshiping there when we were there.  Also, there’s chatter about the buddha not really being made of emerald, but jadeite, which is also green.

This is another part of the roof – the detail they put into the construction is just incredible, and must have been hugely time consuming.  The buildings looked great though, and were a total wonder to see.  (I took asian art in college to get out of my english requirement, so I’d see lots of this stuff in my professors old slide shows, but seeing it up close was totally different).

This is a picture of the floating market north of bangkok.  There was quite a drive to get here (about 1 hour) and then we got on a long tail boat  like the one you see in the bottom left of the picture, and they took us to the market.  Those long tail boats were crazy – most of them looked like v8’s with long pipes and a propeller on the back, which the driver moved by hand.  It sure looked like a lot of work.  Once we got to the floating market, we got on another boat where they took us around the market.  Neither H nor I were very interested in the things they were selling – they all seemed to be more or less the same, and the whole thing felt a bit touristy.  The one thing I was interested in though, were the food items – they had coconut water straight from the coconut, and lots of spices in bulk for sale.  I bought some bulk spices (to be used when the kitchen is done) and that was about it.

This is a picture from the elephant show that we got to see.  This elephant is in the middle of doing a handstand – which was super awesome.  These elephants did a whole ton of stuff – they played soccer, played drums, swung a hula hoop around their trunk, and reenacted how elephants were used in war.  It was pretty amazing all of the things that they were trained to do, and they seemed to be having a ton of fun doing it all, too (as much as I can read an elephants emotion, of course).

This is from the crocodile show.  These guys were totally nuts.  They were sticking their heads and hands in the crocodiles mouth and pulling the crocs out of the water.  One thing that I did notice about these crocs was that they stayed very still, basically not moving from the last position they were in unless they were really, really provoked.  I was thinking that it was an evolutionary thing for conservation of energy that they’ve employed basically forever, but I dont know for sure.  At first H and I though there were about 4 crocs in that little pond, but there were probably around 12 – all the others just stayed super still and blended in with everything else.

This is a bridge over the chao phraya river that was lit up when we took  a dinner cruise.  It was a nice cruise along the river in bangkok, and we got to see a lot of the city lit up – which was nice, because most of our exploring had been during the day.    There were lots of tall hotels that were all lit up, and this bridge, as well as a lot of other boats on the river.  We got to sit in a rather secluded table, but everyone kept coming over our way because we were at the front of the boat and they wanted to take pictures.  It was kind of annoying, but the rest of the cruise was still pretty fun.

This is the Jim Thompson house, which we saw on our final stay in bangkok without the tour guides.  It was a pretty sweet place, and there’s a lot of history behind the guy.  He moved to thailand after the war working for the OSS, and loved the silk and sent samples to london.  He became a famous silk merchant, and loved thailand so much he made his home there.  After living there for a while, he built a prosperous company.  One day he went hiking and disappeared, and about a year later, his daughter disappeared as well!  Crazy stuff, considering he was in the OSS (predecessor to the CIA).  The silk products were amazing, and we got a wedding gift for some friends there, and I got a tie with elephants on it (it rules).

This is a template he used for putting patterns and colors on silk.

These are rolls of silk that the silkworms made.  Really cool stuff, and they were really soft.  I had to take this picture about 4 times because people kept reaching in there and touching the silk while I was trying to take a picture.

This was on the way to the royal barge museum.  H and I took a river express boat on the last day (because we were not sure what to do) and this was one of the stops.  There were directions in the guidebook that we had, so we decided to follow them and though it was close.  When we got off the boat and into the area, I saw something in the water that was sticking up with gold on the top, and figured that had to be it.  It was about 1000 feet away, but unfortunately you couldnt go through that way because it was a naval base.  So, we followed the signs that were going to take us to the museum, and they led us through some really depressed areas.  There were tons of places that looked awful – very poor living conditions.  I think they had electricity, but I’m not sure about potable water.  It was my first time seeing how the majority of the world lived, and it was almost surreal.

This is the center of one of the boats – I believe that this one was for the king.

Front of one of the boats – these were all gold as well, and were incredibly detailed.  Unfortunately, these boats only come out on very rare occasions – the last time was in 2006.  The queens 60th birthday was during the month we were there (july) and they didnt even break them out for that.

ANother one of the front of a boat.  There were probably about 10 barges here in all, some were just for show and were much older.  These were made of teak wood.  Once again, the detail on these was just amazing….and all of that is gold.

Another shot of the front of the boat.

All of the images on the front of the boats are famous in thai culture.  The monkeys rescued the princess from another color monkey.  This 7 headed serpent played a role (forgive me for being vague, we didnt have a tour guide and I dont recall much).  One interesting thing about this place though was you had to pay a fee to take pictures!  It was a small fee (something like 3 dollars, I believe) but was totally worth it.

This was the last place we went on the last night in thailand.  It was amazing and had a great view.  You may recognize the dome from the movie the Hangover 2.  The view was amazing, but the place was super crowded and small.  And even though it was 10pm or so, it was still really hot outside.

This was everything from our time in bangkok – it was an amazing city and we both had lots of fun.  It was super nice to relax and not have to worry about what to do or where to go that day – the tour did that for us.

Honeymoon: Japan


After a super long flight from LAX to tokyo, we landed at about 8pm tokyo time, and were absolutely dead tired.  We were staying in akasaka area of tokyo, which was a few train rides from narita airport, which we sleepily navigated with some help from a few friendly train station employees.  Once we got to the hotel, we quickly checked in, then promptly fell asleep – with both of us waking at around 3am, ready to start the day.  We were able to go back to sleep, and finally got to enjoy tokyo.

This is the imperial palace grounds in tokyo – an awesome place to around and see historical buildings.  They had some amazing gardens on site, and it was free as well.  This is one of the first things we did in Tokyo.  This involved a lot of walking, and afterward we went to the museum of contemporary art (or something), that had a lot of really sweet scrolls and stuff as well.

The tokyo metro government building.  I couldnt believe that just the city government was this big, but it was. I later found out that tokyo is the equivalent of a city/state, so this doesnt seem too over the top.  This building had an awesome view – even though it was slightly cloudy outside (which was not unwelcome, as it was hot).

A view from the tokyo metropolitan government tower.

This is from the tokyo zoo, which we happily went and explored.  Unfortunately, we got there a bit late, and had to rush through the zoo (in the rain) but we were still able to see everything.  All this guy did was sit around exactly like that and chow down.  Not a bad life, except for the whole cage thing.

One of our favorite meals in japan (though just about everywhere we ate was awesome.  This is what H got – singapore black pepper fried rice, a soup and some tiger beer.  The fried rice was so good, I immediately regretted not getting it.
Overall, we had an awesome time in japan, and the food was great and everyone was so helpful.  I really liked how easy it was to get around on the train (neither of us speak the language) and H liked the fact that it was very orderly and clean.

Wedding!

Here are a few shots from H and I’s wedding.  It was a lot of fun, and like my friends told me it sure did go by quick.  We got married in the afternoon in northern wyoming, about 30 min from yellowstone national park.  It was a beautiful day and an amazing setting.  When we decided on an outdoor wedding way long ago, I told H it wasnt going to rain, and kept saying it.  Unfortunately, I was wrong, but thankfully the rain stopped before the ceremony started (by about 1 hour).  I was happy about that, but I had told my friends that I was ready to keep saying it wasnt going to rain no matter what – I had already been saying it for too long to back off now.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the day.

me and H right before the wedding.  We chose to see each other beforehand, and i’m glad we did.  She looked so pretty, and it was nice to have a few calm moments with her before the ceremony.

H before she met up with me before the ceremony.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A picture of our rings – great shot I think.

This is me and all the groomsmen – for fun I thought it would be awesome if we all had similar socks.  Not sure how they felt about it, but I dont think they minded too much.

 

 

This is where our dinner was held.  Such a nice spot.  I love the view

The ever popular ranch dog.  The owner told us he and some of his puppy friends chased off a bear the night of our wedding.

We Are Married!

While i’m honeymooning with H on the other side of the world, I’ve got a few posts lined up.  Some serious, and some not.  I hope you enjoy, and I’ll respond to comments, etc when I get back!

This weekend was the wedding, and it was such a great time.  I’ll post some pictures after we get back from the honeymoon, but this is about what it looked like:

Source: http://files.myopera.com/in-foro/albums/803793/just_married.jpg

If you’re curious, im the one on the right.

Have a great day!  H and I will be spending this finalizing stuff for our trip and packing!

Wedding Expenses Part 2: Fun Stuff

Bachelor Party – I’ve been to a lot of these recently and they have been of all stripes – a trip to Vegas, a camping/rafting trip and one where we went sledding and out to dinner and a few bars.  Personally, I had a great time at every single one of these, and from the people that I talked to who were there said the exact same thing.  No matter what you do or where you go, I feel like you’re going to have a good time because you’re hanging out with your friends.  I havent decided what to do quite yet, but it’s probably going to be something along the lines of a camping/hiking/fishing trip or something.  It will probably be pretty close to where we all live (except for 1 person) so that everyone can go, which is what I’m concerned about most.  My estimated cost is going to be heavily dependent on gas prices.  I know it will take me at least 1 tank of gas to get down there, and my most recent fill up was 60+
Estimated Cost: $150

Gifts for my Groomsmen – I havent decided what I’m going to get those jackals quite yet, but I’d like it to be something that each of them enjoys and gets a chance to use frequently.  I’d also like something lasting, so beer or something similar is out (at least as the main portion – I may try and brew a special batch for them).  Obviously I’ve seen a ton of stuff but dont want to go the typical route of a flask or a cigar cutter – my friends dont drink much hard booze, and only smoke cigars once in a blue moon (though prob will at my bachelor party).
Estimated Cost: Undisclosed, since I know some of them read this.  It’ll be sweet though guys, I promise.

Bride’s gift – I’m going to be 100% honest here and fully admit that I had absolutely no idea what H was talking about when this came up for the first time.  She started going on about her sisters wedding gift from her husband and I stopped her and said: “Wait, I tricked you into marrying me, and now I have to get you a gift to make sure nothing goes sideways? That’s BS”  After that I got a long spiel about how it’s tradition and bla bla (a friend of mine put a spending cap on wedding gifts for him and his fiancee, equal to the exact amount of the firearm he wanted).  I know that a lot of ladies read my blog and probably wont be happy with this, but I still question wether or not this is needed.  I have found something that I hope that she will like and that wont break the bank, but I still feel like the resources could be better used elsewhere.  I’m happy to give her something in all honesty, I just cant convince her not to get me anything (yet).
Estimated Cost: We are going to set a cost limit on this, but havent decided yet.

Well, that’s about all for the more fun stuff.  How much did you spend on gifts, etc for your wedding?

 

More About Me

A while back, my buddy Ninja put a post on his site about how he wanted to be more transparent with his readers and open about his non-blogging life.  I thought that it was a great post, because I had been feeling the same recently – much like ninja, I’m not quite ready to completely come out and reveal my full identity on my blog (and i’m not sure that I ever will).  Of course, I feel like you all will be able to better understand where I’m coming from the more you know about me, so here’s a bit more information.

I was born in Colorado, and lived in a house with my parents, sister and some dogs until college.  Growing up, we were always taught not to waste things (I think it’s the german in the family).  We always recycled what we could, occasionally getting some money for the aluminum (back when they did that – it’s not so common anymore).  We would also try and grow a garden, despite the fact that we had dogs that loved to try and run over our fledgling plants or dig them up.  We were also scolded when lights or water was overused.  Mostly though, I grew up in a house just like everyone else – just about everywhere that I needed/wanted to go involved a car trip of some kind, most things that were needed would be bought at the store.

When I went off to college (I went to the University of Colorado), quite a few things changed.  The first was that I was given new transportation options: a bike or walking – I was informed that I would not be taking my car with me (it would be sold for tuition money 2 years later) and naturally, (at age 18) I had a conniption.  How was I supposed to get around, how would I get home, how would I get dinner with friends, how would I do this and how would I do that.  My dad told me that all of my friends would be on campus, probably wouldnt have a car, and I’d be able to do all that I wanted to do with the resources I had available to me (mainly, a bus pass).  Because of where I grew up, I simply informed him that was not possible and he told me that he didnt care and I was going to have to deal with it, so deal with it I did.  At first it was pretty rough, but as I started to meet more people and get to know the city more, I became fine with it, and even met a lot of people who either didnt have cars or had them but drove about 2 times per week – all other commuting was done by bus, bike or foot.  After this initial heartache, I quickly learned to deal with  my carlessness and enjoy the freedom from gas, insurance and car payments.  When I moved, I took into account where I worked and how easy it would be for me to get to campus – anything that was a pain in the butt was tossed off the list. Other than those adjustments, I never found anything else to be that bad (aside from grocery store runs) so I went from hating it to liking it.  For those of you that arent familiar with CU, it’s a typical college town in a very liberal city, so there was a lot of environmental initiatives going on and I learned a lot about sustainability, both what I think are good ways to go about it and bad.  From what I learned at CU, I really got more into the ‘macro’ side of sustainability that is typically gotten through public policy, but I did get quite a lot of classes about energy and did a lot of personal/at home calculations.

As for my finances those years, they were fairly ok until the last 2 years, when I started spending more than I earn, for reasons that I cant even explain right now – as I’m still not sure of them.  My earnings went up every year, and so did my expenses, and eventually my expenses outpaced my earnings.  To me at the time though, this was all fine because it was 2007 and the economy was roaring (I even qualified for a 250k loan for a house on my 18 hour a week job hourly wages [this bank, obviously, went under]) so I figured me with a ‘big kid’ job would step in, pay off the debt I had accumulated with 2 or so paychecks, then pay off my student loan (of around 10k) and then start saving about a year after graduation.  During the middle of my senior year, I applied for jobs, but what I really wanted to do was go to grad school to get into a field that I was partially qualified for, but not exactly – I hoped that my masters would take care of this for me.

After graduation from CU, I moved to Wyoming and went to UW.  At first I thought it would be a huge culture shock, and it really wasn’t.  College towns are college towns, they were both different but I was still happy for the change of pace.  I didnt have an assistantship when I got to school, so I took out loans for the first semester, (which are what remains of my student loans).  Mid first semester, I got an assistantship, got a regular income and they were paying all of my tuition!  It was awesome, and sometime around here was when my financial turnaround started to take shape.  I found get rich slowly and the simple dollar, and started to really think about my finances and what a disaster they were.  I could still make my minimum payments and all of that, but the prognosis was not good, and I knew it.  Thankfully, having no friends (new city/state) and a constant cash inflow made saving money pretty easy, so I was able to get on top of my situation and stay on top of it.  After some fun times, and 2 years worth of financial blog reading under my belt (as well as most of a degree) I found a job, moved and waited to start.

Unfortunately, that start date never came, and I was left with student debt payments coming in and no job.  I went back to my old job (no benefits) full time, but that meant a long commute every day in a really old car.  I found another job in a different city from that (AND the one I lived in) and took that as well.  I was hardcore into paying off debt more at this point, so I figured that 2 jobs wouldnt hurt at all.  It didnt, and I made great progress, but I was driving a lot (got a new car eventually) and was tired of it and wanted to get back to the car free lifestyle that I had lived in undergrad.  After looking for about a year, I found a job in my city, and left both other jobs.  I was grateful for the opportunity, but thankful that I could now walk to work.  As you know, the turning of the financial ship continues, but it’s gotten much easier than it used to be.

That about brings us up to today.

Readers: Anything else you want to know?  I’d be happy to answer questions in the comments.