Year: 2011

Apple Fanboy

Apple fanboy: Someone who is tired of technology being difficult and knows there is something better; someone that loves to get the job done instead of working on their machine; a person that isn’t afraid of breaking the status quo; someone that appreciates quality design and workmanship; a person that realizes cheapest isn’t always best.

via Definition of an ‘Apple fanboy’ and those that use the term.

I bought my first MacBook because I was tired of tinkering.
I was tired of fighting malware.
I was tired of half-assed software.
I was tired of program that never worked quite right.
I was tired of using subpar solutions.
I was tired of things that never lived up to their promise.
I was tired of my computer being something to be worked on.
I was tired.

When I bought my first MacBook I used my computer.
I abused my computer.
I left it running for days.
I designed.
I wrote.

I had a computer that got out of my way and let me work. I didn’t have to worry about it. I didn’t have to wonder if I’d come home to a blue screen. I didn’t have to wonder if one of my applications had mysteriously stopped working. I didn’t have to wonder if I would have a working computer. I spend my days as a computer technician so fixing computers has never been a problem. However, the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was work on another computer.

It sounds trite, but Apple computers just work.

Lessons in Minimalism

This weekend I read The Minimalists journey into minimalism. They broke it down into 21 days and explained minimalism to them isn’t getting rid of things for the sake of getting rid of them but to declutter your life.

It was an eye-opening read. They set forth their plan from the beginning where the should became a must. When something is a should in life, it’s not a high enough priority to get done. When something turns into a must then it will be done because it’s no longer optional. By changing something from should to must, it means you’re dedicated to doing it because you must do it.

They walk through their planning and packing all their worldly belongings and only unpacking what they needed as they needed it. They talked about getting support for their lifestyle choice, how to get rid of all the stuff they no longer needed and even how minimalism played into their healthy choices.

I am not headed down a route into minimalism myself. Though I have taken some of their practices and ideas to heart. After reading the 21 articles, I felt motivated to get up and sort through all of my clothing.

I made a donate and a trash pile. Anything in good shape that didn’t fit anymore is going to Goodwill this week. Anything in poor shape is being trashed.

Now that I’ve freed up space in my closet and dresser I am free to get new clothes that fit properly and have fewer holes in them.

I’ve also been going through all the various electronics I have lying around and selling what I can sell and preparing others to donate.

I hold on to many parts and items because I think I may need them someday. The truth is I rarely need them and they’re just taking up space in my apartment and in my life.

I am not trying to make any huge changes but I am focused on a series of small changes to improve my life. Decluttering is just one of those changes.

Control your money before it controls you

My wife and I have worked to get our financial house in order. We have become devout followers of Suze Orman. We have made a rough budget. We have our first emergency fund. We are nearly credit card debt free. We are working to save up an 8 month emergency fund so we can stay that way. We are paying off student loans. We are looking to the future and home ownership. Paying overdraft fees and having to stop spending because we ran out of money before payday is a thing of the past.

We have made a lot of big steps this year. We didn’t want to be a family that was making good money and still living paycheck-to-paycheck. It is an easy trap to fall into and we have been there.

We knew things had to change when we were both working full-time and still barely had money for our bills and expenses. We weren’t going into debt but we weren’t getting out of it either.

Our path to financial health has been slow and steady. There are no quick fixes. We made some good decisions and stuck to them.

First, we did what I think was the smartest step we could take. We created a shared bills calendar. I made a new Google Calendar, called it Bills and shared it with my wife. I added my pay days, a strange 7th and 22nd of every month, and she added her more normal 1st and 15th. Now we knew when our money was coming in.

Next, we added all of our recurring monthly bills. Student loan payments, Netflix, web hosting, Audible, cell phone and Internet were all laid out in front of us. Now we knew when that $300 would be heading to students loans or when FiOS would take its $54. There is something wonderful about seeing all of your money laid out in a calendar.

Now that we knew when and how much of our money was coming and going, we changed some payment dates to better cope with rent. After that, we made a rough budget. How much gas do we buy? What about groceries? Do we want to put away savings for medical bills and vacations? We assigned values based on the previous month’s spending and continue to tweak it. Now that we know where our money is going, how do we start saving?

We are fortunate to bank with PNC Bank and use their Virtual Wallet software. The Virtual Wallet allows us to break our savings into three accounts. From there we can set savings goals and ear mark amounts towards each of those goals.

For instance, we have categories for medical bills, new car tires, vacation and a new sofa. We put a lump sum into savings every pay check. Then my wife goes into the virtual wallet and applies $50 to one category $30 to another and so on until all the money is accounted for.1

I like this much more than having one big sum of savings money. The money already being put towards something means it will not get spent on frivolous things.

Through a simple bills calendar, using our bank’s web-based software and making a simple budget we are digging out of debt. We know where all of our money goes every month. We are in control of our money instead of letting it control us.

  1. I erroneously thought the Virtual Wallet was applying the money to different categories. It does not, so I’ve revised this sentence. 

Big Spender

Communication and trust are vital to a happy marriage. Everyone will tell you this about any relationship but what most people don’t talk about in marriage is how your thinking must change.

Before I entered this relationship I had to think about myself and make decisions about my money and my time. I had to make decisions only keeping my best interests in mind.

After you enter a relationship and eventually a marriage all of this changes. Instead of looking out for yourself and taking your wants and whims into account you also need to take into account the wants, whims and feelings of your significant other.

No one tells you this when you agree to marry the lady or guy of your dreams. It is something which must be learned and practiced.

I did something stupid recently. I bought a watch. It was expensive. This was a huge mistake on my part. This mistake was two-fold.

My mistake was not because I bought the watch.
My mistake was not even because of the price of the watch.

First, my mistake was the timing of the purchase.

I had just gotten paid and was feeling that look at all the money in our account feeling. I bought the watch and didn’t think anything more of it.

Until I got home.

It was at that point I realized the magnitude of my mistake. I had spent a sizable chunk of the money we were going to have left after the rent check, which I wrote out that evening, went through.

I had forgotten at the time of purchase but my wife had mentioned the night before about not spending a lot of money because it was going to be tight until she got paid in a couple of days. Also because we had agreed not to buy Christmas present for each other this year.1

Second, I did not think to talk to her before I spent $100 of our money.

No longer is this my money and my life. This is now our money and our life together. We are working very hard to pay off our credit card debt2, pay down student loan debt and generally be smart about how and where we spend our money.

I had not taken any of this into account when I clicked that buy button.

When you enter a marriage, you are no longer only responsible only for yourself. You are now responsible for yourself and your spouse. Your decisions are their decisions when it comes to time and money. In the future, I will consult my wife and make sure I’m thinking about what is best for us, no just for myself.

  1. There is very little we need. Even coming up with a list of wants for family has been very difficult. 

  2. We will be credit card debt free by early next year! 

Natural Beauty

Arriving home from work before the time changed and the world plunged into darkness by 5pm I looked out my balcony window. I had to stop and stare at the explosion of fall colors outside. From seven stories up, I have an unobstructed view of the trees and sky as far as the eye can see.

I was struck by just how beautiful the part of the world I live in can be during the Fall. Growing up in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley ((and being a kid)) I took for granted the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the expanses of trees and farmland.

Now that I’m older, I take the time to reflect on the natural beauty of the world.

It’s so easy to forget how much beauty there is in the world and so easy to fall victim to the busyness invading every waking moment of my life.

Randy Murray wrote recently about noticing the beauty around you and even before he put this thoughts into words as the daily writing assignment for 11-11-11 I had similar thoughts.

The world is such a gorgeous place and so often I’m too busy and rushing too fast to stop and notice it. Stop and take a moment today to notice how beautiful the world around you is.