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Showing posts from 2018

Fundamentals of personal finance - how to spend money

Here in the frenzy, money goes out the door on a daily basis. The frenzy can be expensive. So we have some experience spending money. However, having experience spending money is different than knowing how to wisely spend money. In an earlier post, I talked about gaps in my understanding of how to acquire money , but I had even more gaps in my understanding of how to spend money. It’s something I am still working on. For the vast majority of us, how you spend money is much more important than how you acquire it. It took me a very long time to learn that lesson. The first part of understanding your spending is to understand what type of spending you are engaging in. This is my personal classification, it may not map perfectly for your purposes but you should go through a similar thought process when you spend money. Expenses that cannot be avoided Some expenses cannot be avoided if you participate in the US economy, and since you're reading a blog on a dusty corner of

Our baby hated the car

Sometimes the frenzy shows us we have misconceptions. It teaches us to not trust common knowledge. I hope that by sharing our story we can push back against some of those expectations. Prior to having a baby, we thought babies loved the car. We heard stories of tired parents driving their children around the block at 1 AM. This sounded miserable, but it sets a certain expectation Expectations about babies and cars We had an expectation that babies love cars, they would go to sleep instantly in the car seat when the engine started. We practically turned around on our way out of hospital to tell them they must’ve forgot some secret procedure because our lovely new baby screamed the entire car ride home. We hoped it was just a fluke a single trip. It turns out it wasn’t . The “common knowledge” about babies and cars was not true for our baby. Your baby is not broken So why share this story? You baby may love the car. But there is likely something else that “all

We didn't buy a diamond ring and it wasn't about saving money

Early before the coalescence of the frenzy, we had started to form our family values. One of our now well-established family values is that we try to minimize harm caused by what we buy. We don't always succeed but there is one thing we avoided from the very beginning because of the incredible damage it has done around the globe. Buying a diamond ring. This was particularly my hang up perhaps caused by Leonardo DiCaprio's attempt at a South African accent . I would not spend money on a diamond ring. But I also didn't want to seem cheap to my soon to be bride, which was entirely in my head and had nothing to do with what she thought of me. So I started the delicate dance of figuring out if we were in the 100 percent getting married camp while bringing up my ethical dilemma. Luckily, I was not left wanting for clues on this one. It was made very clear that we were indeed in camp and that we should get started on pitching the tent before midnight. I got lucky bec

Instant Pot as an alternative to a rice maker?

Here in the frenzy, we love using rice. There is nothing that makes a meal like putting rice under and combination of random ingredients from the fridge. (Let's see... blue cheese... watermelon... tuna fish... over rice. Got dinner!) So we have a dedicated rice maker that we've used for several years. But is that the best way to supply our rice for those quick and easy meals? Since we joined the cult of Instant Pot, we've been exploring it's functionality. Since one of the 10 functions is making rice, we pulled it out and made some rice. It worked just fine. I'm not a rice aficionado, so if you can wax poetic about the perfectly prepared rice for hours then YMMV , but to me I had perfectly acceptable white rice out of the Instant Pot. Saving kitchen space I like the Instant Pot's flexibility. I decided to buy an Instant Pot rather than buying a dedicated yogurt maker . But now that I've already purchase the thing, I might as well work out al

Instant Pot yogurt - failure and success

Here in the frenzy, we sometimes learn from failure. And sometimes I just make a slightly different mistake on the second attempt. So I previously discussed that I ended up making two changes to my yogurt routine at once, and thus was unable to isolate which was the cause of failure. I decided to avoid too much of a blow-by-blow by doing two more rounds of yogurt so I could actually post something that has a chance of being useful. To recap a bit, I got this heritage yogurt starter: The package comes with two packets of dried granules that look like the bread yeast packets that you put in the freezer. I followed the included instructions to heat the milk, cool it to 110 degrees Fahrenheit and then add the packet. If you read carefully, it also comes with the disclaimer that this may not produce a firm yogurt the first time around but that the second time you use a starter to make yogurt the bacteria would become substantial enough to make yogurt. I decided to hedge my be

Purple sauerkraut

In the frenzy every moment is precious. There are so few opportunities to do... well -- anything other than getting parents and children fed and in bed. Still, every once in awhile we get to spend a few minutes being proactive about making our food healthier and more environmentally friendly. We've always been inclined to make food rather than buy prepared food. And when I'm ambitious, I like to preserve food in various forms. One of the easiest things to do when it comes to food preservation is to ferment vegetables. With a small investment of time you can get something that is healthier than anything you would buy in the grocery store. It also tastes much better than the food you pull off the grocery shelves. Perhaps the best example of this is sauerkraut . Something about cabbage makes it just an easy vegetable to start fermenting. I also don't feel like you need to complicate it. If you look for recipes online there will often be a fancy take on sauerkrau

Sometimes in parenting - zen is illusive

Perhaps the title of this blog is a bit pompous. Some days it feels like you're on top of the world and that you can totally control the chaos that is every day life. But there are also days where you are beat down. Children see the chink in the armor. They know when you're stressed out. They can smell the fact your control is teetering on the brink of the precipice. This is when we look to our partners to step in. To help us keep our cool. And 9 times out of 10 they are there for us. But with two working parents, there are going to be days when they're not in that head space. So we yell when we shouldn't. We snap at our partners in front of the children. We hold back tears or sometimes we just cry. Yeah, I've been there too. Sleep, hope for a better day tomorrow. Find a sympathetic ear. I can't promise it will get better but I can say that there are other parents in the same place, dealing with the same struggles, trying to make it from one d

La Zizanie

When Blue first approached the subject of us starting a blog, my very first instinct was "are you nuts?" The reason; two careers, one infant, 1 toddler, and 3 big families. When I think of what I would like to do with my free time (what free time?) blogging was not the first thing on my mind. While I have watched him set time aside to make posts, I find that I'm stuck in my head unable to create the posts that I want to create due to having a human semi-attached to me. She is in the phase of going from being attached to realizing she can have some autonomy outside of my body, however, a permanent accessory I currently have is the Moby or the Tula. I am partial to the infant, I mean I grew her so you know, I will say she is not a speedy eater it is pretty common for me to be breastfeeding for about an hour. While I was driving in the car today, I realized maybe I should try to create posts by doing talk-to-text, and so this is the very first experiment. My Hope is that I w

Dear reddit - a bond tent case study

Dear reddit , Sometimes I just seem to find the frenzy. It's a talent. Either way, a thread on reddit raised a question about using a bond tent as you approach financial independence . ( Is it recommended to use a bond tent when approaching FIRE date soon? ) So I jumped in with my perspective that it is not a good idea when saving to a target amount rather than saving to a target date. This opinion was based on numbers I ran for my previous post on bond allocation. The author of the thread took a brave step of throwing up their calculations in google sheets in a follow up post. ( Show Reddit: Sample Calculation for Bond Tent During Accumulation Phase - Seems to be Worth It!? ) We had some back and forth discussion, but to be fair he put his calculations out in public so I could dissect them. It seems only fair that I do the same. I'm not going to use the original script or parameters that I prepared for the previous post because the script was a bit ugly and the

Buying a used Nissan LEAF - a perfect storm of value

Sometimes we need to transport the frenzy from one place to the next. Early in our life, we lived in an apartment that only allowed one parking space per unit. So we had to get rid of one of the two cars we had been using. We eventually bought a house and moved out of that apartment, but with a combination of public transit, biking, and getting rides from family and friends, we managed to keep our family a single car family. After moving to a second house and a job change that significantly shifted commutes, we needed a second car. Cars are a funny thing. I am not a car person. I don't get any pleasure out of driving. I cannot wait for Google to continue to take over every aspect of my life by driving my car for me so I can shop online more. But I also want to have options. I know you can rent a car when you need to go further than the LEAF's range. But I don't really want to rent a car that can handle snow or gravel roads. I don't need those options ofte

Adventures in potty training

There is nothing about potty training that is not deeply in the frenzy. I wish that I could write a post of all the secret tricks to make potty training ridiculously easy. I'd definitely share that information if I had anything like it. All I can tell you is how incredibly unsuccessful we were. Not for lack of trying different things. We tried. We failed. I already talked about how we got to the point of giving up on cloth diapers . But even when you have disposable diapers you still need to use a mountain of wet wipes to try to remove the excess material left stuck to your little angel that is sweetly smiling at you saying "I pooped in my diaper". Your heart sinks knowing all to well the task that awaits. It's not the first time they sweetly smile at you and utter that phrase. You're excited the first time. You feel like this is a sign of progress. Something to indicate the end is nigh. No, it's the 10,000th time... That may be a bit of an e

Instant Pot yogurt - first attempt

Sometimes in the frenzy, you fail. I'm not sure I'll ever get to the point of being excited about failure, but I definitely accept it as part of the learning process. Sometimes you may not have failed but you didn't succeed either. When we decided to join the Instant Pot cult , I indicated that you would be in on the comedy or errors that was likely to follow. And true to my words, I have to give you an update on the first attempt to use the instant pot to make yogurt. Short story -- it didn't work . OK, that's not fair to the undoubtedly lovely people that recruit for the cult of manufacture the Instant Pot. It's not them, it's me. I have previously used store bought yogurt as a starter and after a few rounds of making yogurt, the culture died off. Part of the problem was likely that I wasn't able to control the temperature to the degree I wanted to and the Instant Pot performed adequately on that account. The other internet-based diagno

Is your bond allocation worth working another 2 years?

Sometimes we fall prey to an illusion of control in the midst of the frenzy. Saving and investing can feel intimidating. We don't want to lose money. Investing is much more fun when money is growing. Fear lies below the surface. What if the market falls. So we spend some time on google and discover asset allocation. Put some money in bonds and you'll be buffered against the inevitable fall of the market. You can adjust your bond allocation based on your age . You may even build in an extra allocation, called a bond tent, as you get closer to retirement . The only problem - it doesn't work while you're building wealth . It's particularly bad for proponents of financial independence who save up to some multiple of their living expenses . With "traditional" retirement, where you fix a retirement date, the closer you get to that date the more likely you are to want to protect the money you have saved. But what if that's turned on it's

Cloth diapers are awesome and cloth diapers suck

Here in the frenzy, we've tried different things to reduce the waste we produce and save money. One thing that has definitely worked well for our budget is cloth diapers . I was a skeptic at first but I took the chance and eventually I was won over. We saved a bunch of money and being a parent will eventually desensitize you to baby poop... and baby pee... oh, and spit up... and drool... and whatever other mysterious substances that manage to make it onto children's hands... OK, I'll stop. For the first year or so, cloth diapers are awesome. We got past the grossness and managed to make spraying them off and washing them part of the routine. Then you introduce more solid food. And your child starts eating more and more food. Eventually, if the input volume increases, then you know the output volume will follow. Sometimes, the output volume exceeds the carrying capacity of the diapers. This is never fun. I was eventually beaten down. My tolerance used up.

Fundamentals of personal finance - how you acquire money

Part of bringing some zen to the frenzy, is managing finances. Honestly, I've had to make many mistakes to learn the skill of responsibly managing the household money. Somehow I managed to miss all the lessons in high school about being a responsible adult who cares about budgeting and saving. I guess I should have taken Home Ec rather than pottery, but my mother would have been deprived of pottery that is so ugly it should've been smashed by the teacher the moment it came out of the kiln. Still, there is a basic concept about money that I wish would have been driven into my thick teenage head. It would've saved me some pain down the road. This is the place I want to start with my children talking about money. There are only a few legal or legitimate ways I know of getting money. 1. Earn it - get a job! For most of us this involves showing up somewhere and punching a clock at the start of the day and at the end of the day. It may involve providing a service or

The easiest gardening win to save on your next grocery trip

Here in the frenzy, we love the idea of growing our own food. We also love the idea of peaceful and relaxing evenings and weekends. Or at least an occasional moment of solitude somewhere other than in the bathroom with a toddler standing outside the door to monitor your progress... Still we take what we can get. So the easiest thing to grow yourself rather than buying at the grocery store are fresh herbs. Now I know most of us don't pick up fresh herbs every week while shopping. But there are a few occasions that you need them. And it's $2 to $3 dollars to pick up something each time when you could spend $10 at a garden center to get a lifetime supply, assuming you have a yard you can find somewhere to stick in a few plants. Plus adding more fresh herbs to your cooking could help you want to eat at home more often. The other thing we love about having fresh herbs growing in our yard is that we don't have to bring home yet another plastic clam shell container and

To Instant Pot, or not to Instant Pot?

Here in the frenzy we are always looking for a way to make our lives a little bit easier. While we may not follow every internet phenomena out there, once it hits somewhere between the level of grumpy cat and covfefe (I'll let you figure out which one is the more predominant), it may actually get through our sleep-deprived attention span. Somewhere in the cobwebs that occupy the space between my conscious and subconscious mind, I started noticing that there was quite a bit of buzz about something that looked like the love child of a rice cooker and a Crock-Pot . Since you are undoubtedly more aware of the current state of the internet or just your general surroundings than I am, you probably have heard about the Instant Pot for months if not years. When it comes to the internet, I am a relic of a bygone era. I still use Facebook and I've never even installed Snapchat on my phone. Yet still, I catch the trailing wisps of the cultural zeitgeist and maybe there are a

Waste not, want not - or at least want less

Here in the frenzy, we're constantly busy and distracted. Consistency of thought from one day to the next was difficult when we didn't have children and we were getting a normal amount of sleep. Add an infant and toddler to the equation and suddenly I'm lucky if I can remember how to tie my shoes some mornings. So I have stumbled through the grocery store in a half-conscious state throwing whatever seems good or at least vaguely food-like into the cart many times. This inevitably leads to a large amount of food getting wasted. To add insult to injury, that results in extra packaging that is almost always plastic. Plastic sucks for our oceans and isn't great for the other parts of the planet either. Beyond spending the extra money on groceries we never use, it's also just not an environmentally savvy thing to do. We look for ways to fight the waste. It's not about going 100 percent plastic free or holding ourselves to a extreme standard. We dwell

What is the frenzy?

For us, the frenzy is 2 careers, 2 children, 3 large extended families from 2 cultures... So basically the frenzy is the everyday life of 2 working parents with too much to do. We generally have to live in a constant state of chaos where we text and call each other and extended family members trying to figure out the intersection of our calendars that allows us to pick up or drop off children, get groceries, do laundry, etc. I can't say that we have found the perfect solution to managing this chaos we call the frenzy. But we have found a few coping mechanisms that work for us. Perhaps along the way we will share a few that will work for you as well. Or they won't. Giving advise to parents is usually a hazardous pursuit to engage in. Whatever we know is based on our children who have their own special soup of nature and nurture that differs significantly from any others. Especially those children that walk quietly behind their parents in the grocery store. But m