Monthly Archives: March 2009

Shaking off the man

On Tuesday we paid off all our debt, except out house. Definitely a good feeling.

I have to admit though, it came about because we pulled some money out of our IRA accounts. I found a tax clause that allows the owner to pull out their contributions, even for a rollover to Roth conversion, so we did it. Our accounts were almost 100% in cash between a money market fund and some CDs. The interest rate return was around 3% or so. It didn’t make sense to keep that money in there while paying higher interest in other places. After I found out I could remove this money with no taxes or penalties, it was pretty much a sure bet.

But, even given this, I think there are some valuable strategies that we employed that might help others with paying down your debt.

First, I read Dave Ramsey’s book about Financial Independence. It’s a good book, although I don’t agree with all of Dave’s philosophies. But, his cash envelope system to manage your budget is spot on 100% the best way to move from a check/credit card system to a system where you can put some serious limits on what you were doing. You are required to be serious about your budget and this cash system forces you to do that. You have cash, you can spend it. You don’t, you can’t. No slipping them the plastic!

Second, if you want to do it you will have to struggle. Many times we ran out of cash, so we just didn’t do ANYTHING. Even grocery shopping. There were plenty of times where we only ate what was in the pantry or the freezer. For a while I didn’t have enough cash to restock our freezer for meat products, so we went without quite a bit. It didn’t hurt us.

But, as most of you know we buy most of our vegetables and fruit in the summer and put them up for the winter. I was able to do this with our normal weekly spending, so it’s possible to do something like this and still eat local and organic.

Third, it takes a team effort by both parties. Rachael and I have been on the same page a lot of things for most of our marriage, but this changeover was quite hard for us even. We had plenty of disagreements about the spending. You need to know that going in. But, the adjustment was worthwhile, and we are comfortable with the cash envelope system.

Fourth, the changeover from using a credit card to using cash is an extremely taxing month. We had to pay for everything with cash while also paying the previous month’s credit card bill, which was our normal spending. This was a really hard month. I dipped into just about every source of cash I could find to make it through this month.

I’m not sure if I really offered any tips here, but let me know if you have questions or anything.

By the way, if you are on Facebook look me up. I’m listed under my real name. Facebook people found this out on Tuesday.

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Potpourri

Sorry I’ve been away for so long, I’ve got a lot to say but not a lot of time right now.

Weight
Well, most of the month of February was lost. I ended up gaining 3 pounds by the time the week in Vegas (and subsequent week long readjustment after wards) was over. That puts me as of now at 15 pounds lost. Still have 20 to go. This week might be the week though. I feel some changes in my body and with gardening starting up I’m now busy in the evenings too (even if I just want to lie down) which means even more calories burnt. I typically lose 10-15 pounds over the summer so hopefully that will continue.

Chickens
Loving them. I’ve been spreading out mostly finished compost in the garden and they are finishing the work for me. I’ll be planting or trimming something nearby and they are digging up the beds and spreading around the compost looking for things to eat. Unfortunately they got into my cold frames when I had the lids off but I think I was able to stop most of the damage. They are doing a great job though earning their keep.

Gardening
I planted lettuces, Swiss chard and spinach in the cold frames. Also transplanted some so we’ll see how that takes. First results aren’t very good. Last night I also planted onions, carrots, parsnips, beets and turnips. I’m waiting for the moon phase to turn again at the end of the month and I’ll plant peas, broccoli, cabbage and other things, although I did start their seeds to see how they take. I also started some tomato and pepper plants. I’m not planning to grow many tomato plants this year. I’ll plan to buy most of what I need to can. Squash and melons will be started when the moon phases line up too, although they’ll only have about 6 weeks in the tray by that time. Seed potatoes are sitting on the counter waiting for the right time.

I heavily mulched some spinach last winter and it seems to be coming back just fine this spring, which is really cool. I should get my first asparagus crop this year and the garlic is doing nicely, although I planted less this year. I haven’t seen the rhubarb coming up yet.

Food stores
I did a lot better stocking up last fall and managing it through the winter. We ran out of pizza sauce, but that was really all. Most of my potatoes are unusable because of shriveling and sprouts, but that was because I was sold bags of mixed potatoes instead of just long storage ones. Otherwise we’ve had plenty of jelly, tomatoes, sauces, beans, corn and other things. We ran low on meat for a while but we’re past that now. I guess heading into this summer I have a much better idea what I need to stock up on and how much to stock up on.

Volunteerism
If you live in the area and want to help I’ve got some opportunities for you!
I am planning to do my runs again this summer from a local CSA farmer to the food kitchens. This would be once or twice a week. You would need to be able to pick up about 40 pounds and have a large enough vehicle to hold 4 or 5 boxes of produce.

I’m working with the Matthew 25 hub on a couple of projects.
1) We are setting up an effort to beautify the flooded areas of the city. Right now (pending city approval) we are planning to build a sheet mulched garden bed in the public space at intersections (maybe 6-8 ft around) that will be studded with native Iowa wildflowers, sunflowers, etc. Sometime in late April we are planning a gardening blitz, so keep your options open at the end of the month. Contact me if you would like to donate some seed packets.

2.) Additionally, through Local Food Connection we have two CSA shares being delivered to Cedar Rapids to Red Cedar Farm that will need to be picked up and delivered to the Matthew 25 hub once a week for 18 weeks. This produce will then be distributed to local low income families at a time to be determined. We’ll need volunteers to pick up the produce on occasion as well as people to staff the area during distribution time. We’ll also be doing some education opportunities which might be fun and interesting to be involved with. Let me know if you are interested.

Interview with Aaron Newton

My friend Aaron was recently interviewed by a local news organization. The interview is below.

His new book, A Nation of Farmers, is coming out very soon.

Interview originally appeared here.

I can’t get the interview button to embed here so follow the link over and listen to what he has to say.