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.

Alaska Pictures Part 3

I’ve got some more pictures from alaska to share.  The first two groups (which you can find here and here) is from my week in Anchorage, and the ones where I’m on a boat are taken from a harbor wildlife cruse I took that was based out of Seward, AK on the Kenai Peninsula.  For all of these pictures, I was hiking Mount Marathon in Seward, AK.

This was a really fun hike that I did in Seward.  When looking at the route before I left, I noticed there was 2 trails (which I found more about later) and took the easier (and longer) hikers trail.  It was something like 3 miles from the edge of town where the trail started to the top.  The trail started out in a pretty dense forest for about a mile before breaking.  Here’s what the trail looked like as we got through the trees.

This didnt go straight up, it hooked around the back before I regained the ridge.  It was cold on the back side.  There was no sun, a large creek and the wind had kicked up.  I was fully prepared though, so I just pulled out my gloves and hat and kept on going.

This is a picture of the town of seward from near the top of the mountain.  Yes, that’s the whole town – it’s around 5,000 people.  It was a nice little place, and I probably walked from one end of town to the other about 4 times per day – or more.  I had no other way to get around, but I dont mind, it was good exercise.

I took this picture from the near the top and was thinking to myself, that would suck if you fell off of this part.  It was pretty steep, and the soil was pretty loose so there wasnt much to stop you.

This is a shot of ressurection bay from mt marathon.  It is pretty impressive.  During the good friday earthquake of 1964, (the highest ever recored on the richter scale) a tsunami was headed for the town, but the deepness of the bay blunted the strike and there wasnt as much damage in seward as there was when the tsunami made land in california.

So after reaching the high point and turning back, I found the trail that I had missed earlier and started following it down.  I didnt follow it up – so I didnt know where I’d end up reaching the hiking trail (the one I took up) again.  Not too long after, I realized that this moment was never.

That picture that I took earlier saying that I didn’t want to fall down I started going down.  As you can see, it’s quite steep.  The dirt was really loose, so I was able to pretty much take a few steps then slide down, stopping on one foot for a second and then continuing down the trail.  After a while, I realized that I was on what they call the “runners trail”.

Another part of the runner’s trail.  Yes, it goes through that runoff creek.  After thinking about the runners, I was wondering how the hell they did this in a race.

This is the trail that I took down from the top – you can make out the lighter part in the grey rock.  That was me kicking up the trail and turning the darker rocks over.  You can see the trail go off the left hand side of the mountain and duck into the green – that’s where the trail starts going through the river.  It took me about an hour and fifteen minutes to descend the trail.  I thought that was pretty good, but when I went to dinner later that night, my world was rocked.

I was talking to the bartender when I was eating dinner that night, and he was telling me about the Mt Marathon Race.  The race is held every July 4 and was started after a bet in a bar around the turn of the century (the best kind of race, right).  The bartender told me that the racers run from around the building we were in (about a mile from the trailhead), to the top of the mountain, and back.  The crazy thing was that the record for this run was 45 minutes and some change.  When I heard this, I was clearly stunned.  I knew that I took the longer route, but didnt think that my 5 hour hike could be distilled into less than an hour race.  The even more shocking thing was that the decent (that took me over an hour) took the race winner less than 11 minutes!!!

I couldnt believe it – I want to try the race, but unfortunately it’s so cool that there’s a really long waiting list and they have a lottery.  The town grows to 35,000+ people during the race weekend!

That’s the last of the pictures from this hike – next week will be the last installment of my alaska pictures.  I hope that you’ve enjoyed them.

 

Alaska Pictures Part 2

I’ve got some more pictures from alaska to share.  The first group (which you can find here) is from my week in Anchorage, and the ones where I’m on a boat are taken from a harbor wildlife cruse I took that was based out of Seward, AK on the Kenai Peninsula.  For all of these pictures, I was halibut fishing near Seward, AK.  I also have gotten my first taste of the fish (I grilled a fillet last week) and it was soooo gooood.

This first group is from the halibut fishing trip.  You may have seen my posts about halibut fishing on twitter and what a hassle it was to get my halibut home from Alaska, but the trip was awesome.  Here’s a view from the boat as we are steaming out of resurrection bay around sunrise (8am-ish)

Even though I am a terrible photographer and have a terrible camera,  I still think this one turned out really good.  It’s the same 3 glacier area that I posted some pictures of from the other boat.

This next shot is a view from the boat after we have exited the bay and were out in the open ocean.  The water was quite choppy, so much so that the whole group almost didnt go out because of it.  I was still ok during this part – I didn’t start to feel like donating last nights dinner and that mornings breakfast to the fish until much later in the ride.

Those snow covered peaks in the very back of the shot are from Kenai Fjords National Park. I wanted to spend some time in the park, but it’s not really accessible by car.

When I was on the halibut boat I was wearing my wyoming hat, and a guy walked on the boat with a wyoming hat.  He quickly sat down next to me and we started chatting.  Turns out, the guy lives where I used to live in wyoming and knows both of H’s parents!  I absolutely couldnt believe it.  It’s such a small world sometimes.

These are all the fish caught by everyone on the boat.  Alaska has a daily bag limit of 2, so that’s the maximum that you can catch.  Everyone on the boat caught that many, and after that we were steaming back to the harbor.

I didnt sit down in the cabin of the boat at all, and rarely went in there because it made me feel sea sick. (note to guys: if it’s a choppy sea and you need to go to the bathroom, dont waste your time peeing in the bathroom.  I got thrown around so many times and hit my head on the wall and had water splashing me in the face from the porthole window that I had regretted my decision even before I was finished – Just go off the side of the boat.) So as I was sitting outside watching the deck hand toss all the fish out of the box and onto the deck, I waited for mine (marked with orange zip ties around the tail) to come out.  The first one I saw flew out of the box, and on to the deck, where it washed right out the deck drain!  I told the deck hand and he chuckled (because it was sorta funny) and he said they had another one for me.  I probably got the better end of that – the one they gave me was probably bigger.  S

That’s the deck hand cutting up one of the fish I caught.

Some of you have probably seen this, others probably have no idea what it is.  It’s a coal tipple, and one reason that I took a picture of it was because I thought it looked really awesome in front of the mountain.  The tipple is there because this is the only port in alaska that doesnt freeze over for the whole year, so most of the coal mined in central Alaska is taken by train to a facility near this tipple, processed, and then sent to this tipple for loading on a boat.

More in a Day…

This past weekend was the financial bloggers conference for just about everyone in PF blogosphere.  While it was the weekend of the financial bloggers conference for me, it was a few other things.  The first was that plans that had been months in the making would finally be executed, and the other would {hopefully} be that my life would get way more awesome.  As many of you know, I’ve got a girlfriend, H, and we’ve been dating for quite some time.  At first, she didnt want me to talk about her on the site, so I left her out or referred to her in some other fashion.  Once she decided she didnt mind being mentioned she was given a name for the blog and comes up more now.  Anyway, back to the story, and I’ll start from the beginning.

Spring

This spring was quite busy for the both of us.  I got a new job much closer to where I live and H did some traveling.  She went to Belize and Las Vegas with a friend.  I had finally gotten quite a bit of debt paid off and decided it was time to get busy planning the future.  Of course, since I wanted this all to be a surprise I had to act stealthily and tackle problems one at a time.  The first was to determine the size of a ring and then find some spare time to go buy it without her noticing.  For the first, I figured that I’d just swipe an old ring she already had and take that in and let the store do the rest.  For a while I paid attention to which rings she had on her finger, but that proved fruitless, so while she was traveling to Belize I got on her computer  and looked through more than 3,000 pictures from the last 3 years to see if there was any of her with a ring on.  After looking through them all I found a picture that was only a few weeks old (and would have gotten deleted if it were on my computer) that worked.It had her wearing a ring. I marked it in my memory and waited until a few days before she left for Vegas and I rifled through the jewelry box, found the ring, and hid it to make sure she didn’t take it along.  After that I simply went to the jewelry store and purchased what I wanted using her own ring as a size reference.  I did already have  a style and a budget set in mind, so that made things quick and relatively painless.  Unfortunately, I purchased at the top end of my budget and ended up going over because I paid a much higher sales tax than I’m used to paying (or that I personally think is necessary).  That concluded phase one.

Summer

Honestly not much happened here – there was quite a bit of planning and decisions, phone calls, and discussions with friends.  Nothing too much though.

The Day

So, as I mentioned, I went to the conference and decided that the Sunday after Fincon11 was over would be the day.  One of the reasons was because when we first started dating we had a really fun trip to Chicago so I figured it would be fun to go back and do the same things that we did that first trip.  So, my day started at around 1am at my buddies house, confirming tomorrow’s plans after a last minute change because the train didn’t run as late as I’d hoped.

I left early from the conference and hopped on the train at the station.  While I was at the conference, H was getting manicures with some friends and heading to an art show.  PS – totally stole the manicure idea from Ninja.  My buddy picked me up at the train station and we headed to the hotel where H and I would be spending the night in the loop (she thought we were staying with friends), and he gave me the ring.  I had forgotten how large the box was and I couldn’t put it in the pocket of my jeans, so I put it in the pocket of my jacket and zipped the pocket up (I was given some good advice by a friend. He said to not  be constantly checking my pocket to make sure it was still there.  Instead, I carried my jacket around as it was too warm anyway and occasionally brushed it against my leg to make sure I had not somewhere/somehow lost the largest single purchase I’ve ever made).  After this, my friend and I met H and his girlfriend and had a very late lunch.  After lunch my friends left to “run Sunday errands” (that I asked them to).   H wasnt sure why they didn’t want to hang out anymore, but they sent us on to the train to the loop.

H and I had a great afternoon strolling around Millennium/Grant Park area.  It was the first time I’d seen Buckingham fountain actually turned on, and the weather was perfect for it.  There was a guy making really gigantic bubbles with what looked like some string and 2 sticks, though unfortunately for me my phone was dying, and given all the communication I needed to make (and fake) at that point I suggested we go to a coffee shop for a sit down and some tea and orange juice.  I was able to charge my phone to almost full and we headed off to see the Bean and wander the park.  At this point my friend suggested we meet at the Hancock building for drinks before dinner (totally a ruse because they weren’t coming to dinner with us at all and I made reservations there about 6 weeks ago).  We went up the the 95th floor to “get drinks” and  I checked in and we were seated.

After arriving at a table for two when I had told her there would be four people there she asked why there were only two. I just said that I wanted to spend some time with her after being gone for so long.  That eased the question and after our white wine (H) and pumpkin manhattan (me) arrived, we ordered our dinner.  I kept talking about getting desert (even though I was so full and my stomach hurt the thought of it made me sick) because if she didn’t get desert my whole plan would come apart at the seams (though I do think the restaurant remedies this with a “complimentary dessert from the chef” or some nonsense).  After some prodding and a great dessert menu it was time.  She left for the restroom and the waiter confirmed plans with me. They brought out her plate first.  As he was setting it down, I got down on 1 knee and got the ring out of my pocket:

To say that she was shocked would probably be the understatement of the year.  After asking if it was a joke, she quickly accepted and put the ring on.  Unfortunately, it was too small!  I was 1/4 size off, so she forced it on for the time being and I told her we could take it to the store when we got back the next day and get it taken care of.  After dessert, I told her my friends were in the area at a nearby bar and wanted to have a beer before we left.

I had long ago arranged to get as many people here as possibly, but because of many different things I had a feeling it would be tough – it was, but I didn’t care.  As we walked in she saw a few of our friends, and finally her sister that had driven up for the day from Indiana.  She was very excited (to say the least) and we had a few beers and went back to the hotel.

One thing I can say is that although I don’t feel any different  I’m excited and can’t wait for the rest of my life to get here 🙂

Update: H edited this, and there were quite a few gasps and “I was wondering how you did that’s” when she was reading it.  Thanks for editing!

Alaska Pictures Part 1

As you all know, I was fortunate enough to have my job send me to Alaska.  I was arrived on a sunday (around 6pm, after traveling for 12 hours) and was on the job until that friday at around 1pm.  After that, I decided to stay and use that as a bit of my vacation.  The conference was in Anchorage, and after it ended I basically just hung out around the hotel.  I was pretty beat from a week of super long days, and couldn’t muster the energy to go much of anywhere, especially given the fact that I had to be ready to go at 8am the next morning to meet a shuttle down to Seward, where I’d take a wildlife cruise and go halibut fishing, then spend a few days.

I got to hike quite a bit around on the trip, and was able to see some amazing things.  Anchorage has what they call the coastal trail, which is just what it sounds like – a trail along the coast.  This is a bike/multi use trail that runs along the coast.  I headed here 3 of the nights I was in anchorage, to get in my daily workout.  There are some great views of the Knik arm and downtown Anchorage, and I got a few pictures.That’s what they call the sleeping lady.  If you look at it right, it looks like a woman sleeping.  I can see it sometimes, though this photo doesn’t really show it.  There was also a very close and very quick hike up flat top mountain.  I didn’t really plan to do this, but saw it on a whim in a guide book and decided to get it in before my conference started.  Great hike, very quick and I was able to run down the last 2 miles.

That’s a view from the top of the mountain (it was somewhere around 3500 feet – nothing that big) and a good, quick hike.  Those were basically all the pictures I got in anchorage – I was working a lot, and I didnt have much time outside of the conference to do anything other than eat and head to the conference.  I did visit a lot of microbreweries, and if you’re really curious, you can email me and I’ll show you pictures from them.  After Anchorage came Seward. I got a lot of great pictures there, and did a lot of things.  There was a lot of walking (I probably walked across town 10+ times) and a lot of fun to be had.

I went on a wildlife cruise, a fishing trip for halibut (more on that later) and did quite a few hikes, one which has a long back-story.  Before I left I warned H that if I came back engaged to a glacier, she shouldn’t take it personal and that it was just the way that things had to be.  She said she understood, but I’m not so sure she meant it – who can be OK with getting left for a large sheet of ice (aside from me)?

You can see the glaciers rather easy in this photo – they are cirque glaciers, and not attached to any larger ice sheets. I also saw a whole rock full of lazy sea lions.  All these guys do all day is lay on that rock, sun and make tons of noise – sounds like a professional blogger (j/k!).

The bear glacier – this thing was huge and when we got near it, you could feel the effects that it had on the local temperature – it got cold.

That is all the pictures that I’ll share for now – there’s still quite a bit more from the fishing trips, the hiking and just the general walking around.  I took about 400 pictures in total (2 of them have people in them) and I’ve got a few more posts to put together with more of the pictures.

Readers – have you ever been to Alaska?  Did you enjoy it?  Where did you go and what did you do?  Why did you go there?  

Also, this will be the first of two or three posts – I’ll probably post them all on Wednesdays.

Year End Goals Review

It’s the end of the year, and it’s normally a good time to review the goals that you set for yourself at different points in the year and see how you progressed.  I’ve got a post that details my financial progress throughout the year and how I fared against the financial goals that I put up on my goals page in June, so this will just be a quick review of the other goals that I had listed on the page (sparse, I know).  If you’d like to read my 9 month review, head here.

Health Goals:

I don’t know if I’d call this an epic failure, but I failed at this.  I was able to join the gym, and after 3 months, It wasn’t looking good.  I got onto this big project at work and ended up not going to the gym for almost a month.  After that, I got back on track though, and have been making it at least 2 times a week, although most weeks it’s more.  It’s not the 4/5 times that I had hoped for, but it will work for now.

Environment Goals:

These seem to have fared slightly better.  My first goal was to walk to do more things around town.  During my 9 month review, I was skeptical of the progress I’d be able to make for this because of the winter snow.  I’m happy to report that there has been hardly any snow (thus far) this year.  I havent been walking as much as I was, but I’ve been riding my bike to meet friends and whatnot, so I’ll consider this one a success.  I’d like to keep this up for next year, as well.

The next goal was my compost heap.  There was very little progress made on this goal at all, and while I can say I now know you can toss almost anything in there, I still dont know how to make it work faster/better.

How did you do on your goals from last year?  Where would you like to improve for next year?