Friday, March 21, 2008

How Much Should You Spend on a Hobby?

Since you all were so helpful when I was trying to decide if I should purchase an LCD TV (still haven’t finalized my decision – but I have a pretty good idea of what I’m going to do) I thought I’d try the same with the cost of a hobby.

Some of the bloggers in the PFBlogger network have suggested I change over to wordpress from blogger so that I could have more flexibility with my blog template. I’m all for changing over except there would be some costs involved to do so.

Seb at Pinching Copper did some research about the costs associated with registering a domain name and hosting fees. The domain name is $10 a year hosting would be around $6 a month which would equate to about $82 a year to use wordpress instead of blogger.

To me that’s a lot of money in order to blog. I blog for my personal enjoyment, not as a money making adventure. In fact my blog’s in the red because I’ve funded a few comment contests. It was suggested so I did add google Adsense in an effort to recoup some of these costs but my current Adsense account has only $4.17 in it and you can’t even access this money until you reach the $100 mark. In my estimation at the current rate I’ll reach the $100 mark to be eligible to withdraw earnings in about 8 years. So needless to say I’m not banking on these funds.

I started thinking about if spending close to $100 a year is reasonable for a hobby. So I decided to examine my hobbies outside of blogging and their yearly expense:

Volunteering Weekly at the Food Bank:

  • Travel to Food Bank calculated at the IRS’s .505/mile reimbursement rate - $262.60
  • Monthly Donation - Excluded (I’m excluding my monetary contributions because I could volunteer weekly without donating each month, I just chose to donate since I see first hand the need and benefit)


  • gym membership - $660/year
  • Replace Running Shoes - $400/year
  • Replacement of Worn Workout Clothing Articles - $90/year
  • Race Entry Fees - $ 170
  • Travel via car and subway to races and the gym. Car travel also calculated at the IRS’s .505/mile reimbursement rate - $787.80


  • Library Card – Free
  • Purchasing the Occasional Book that I can’t find at the Library - $20/year

Obviously I do have more expensive hobbies than blogging. My hobbies currently cost $1340 a year excluding transportation, including transportation $2390.40. Dang - that’s a lot of money. I have to admit while I had a good idea of the hard costs associated with my hobbies since I keep track of my spending by categories I never sat down to calculate the cost of the transportation until today. After figuring out the true cost of my current hobbies do I want to add another $100 a year for blogging when I can use for free?

I’m not sure what to do yet – I’m going to do my usual wait and see before making a decision. I know the benefits of not using blogger and using wordpress would be quite nice but where do I draw the line for hobby spending? Where do you draw the line for hobby spending?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Updates on "The Work Situation"

Wanted to share two new developments on "The Work Situation" that's been giving me a lot of heartburn and heart ache.

Do you want the bad or the good first? I'll start with the not so good aka bad news first.

I'd already been told in no uncertain terms from my boss's boss's boss (the big dog of the Atlanta office) that my only options were to be forced or to be happy about being force. I can understand what's going on in the company to realize that I don't currently have an option about going into preconstuction however there are other options for projects to be sent to and I think my concerns need to be addressed not only about the project I'm being sent to but also my concerns about this derailing my career path in preconstruction. I'd made my concerns know to big dog, my my immediate boss and Mr. VP who was supposed to be my new boss. My boss and Mr. VP listened to my concerns but their hands are tied by big dog. When I tried to talk to big dog he kept brushing me off (which kept further irritating me and making me more upset about the situation - if you're going to be changing my life at least spend five minutes to talk to me or schedule time to talk to me!). Unfortunately until today all of my communication had to be via telephone since I'm on an out of town project and not in the office with any of these people. Today, I was at a millwork shop with the big dog for an event and even without me saying a word he made it very clear to me that I didn't have any options, it has already been decided that I'm going to this problem project. Then wasn't really the time to talk so I said I'd still like to talk to him more about this and would he have a few minutes tomorrow, I named several times but he wouldn't commit. I'm so frustrated. I've come to accept that I can't work in preconstruction for the foreseeable future since the department is being temporary disbanded but the treatment I'm getting makes me feel even more like exploring my options and possibly leaving the company. In fact, nothing would make me happier than to come in tomorrow and just drop my resignation letter on his desk and tell him I'm otta here and on to some place where they at least make time to talk to their employees. But I recognize its just my anger and I'd never do something like that.

Now on to the good news...

On my drive home from the millwork shop today I received an interesting call from my old old boss. The one before Mr. VP, in fact he was in the same role as Mr. VP until he got promoted to run a different office of our company and became the big dog of the Tampa Office. Anyway he called me up today and said he’d heard what was going on from Mr. VP and knew how much I wanted to go back to working in preconstruction and according to him I am damn good at it and deserved an opportunity to do so. He offered me a promotion and a nice salary increase to go work for his office of our company. He’d offered me essentially the same deal two years ago and I respectfully declined then. I didn’t accept then for a number of reason including that fact that it would be a permanent relocation to Tampa. Almost all of my same reasons for declining the offer two years ago stand except for my concern about the office not being strong enough to support a large preconstruction department. In the last two years since old old boss took over this office they have grow dramatically and have increased their work load to far surpass my office. I’m not sure what I will do but the nice thing old old boss did was say this offer is open ended and when I decide I'm ready to make the move to call him up no matter if its in 3 months or 3 years he’ll always have a spot open for me in preconstruction if I want it. He and I talked for a while after that and just caught up, his final words were "if I know you, you’re not going to accept my offer today or even this month, but that’s okay I understand. I’d love it if you would accept. I'm going to call you back in a few months and we’ll talk because I hope by then I’ll be able to convince you to make the move."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

How do you Cap your Financial Luxuries?

I’ve had a pretty bad last week, on top of the happenings at work, my TV died. Okay, so the TV dying is not quite on the same level as the work shake-up, but it does add insult to injury.

I’ve wanted an LCD TV for quite a while to replace my bulky 19” RCT bedroom TV that takes up half of my dresser top. My envy of others for their LCD TV’s has been getting greater and my monthly shopping trip to Target or Wal-Mart for staples has started including a side trip to their electronics department to visit LCD TV’s.

I’ve recognized this is a desire and not a need, and I can “make do” with my current bedroom TV so it’s senseless to spend $400 on a desire when I already have a product that creates the same out put. My side trips to the electronics department have helped reinforce how expense it would be to replace a working product with a new one just for looks. Until recently that is.

Last week, actually the very day I’d been called about the change of career plans I went home tried to turn on my bedroom TV and all I saw was snow and static, but could faintly hear through the static the show coming in. I thought my cable had gone out so I called my cable company to come out and repair it, I’d had a few problems similar to this about a year ago and it was because the signal had been reversed.

The cable company finally came out to repair it yesterday. The repairman told me that it wasn’t the cable line it was my TV. He even got a cable extension to run from my bedroom jack into my living room TV prove it was the TV. According to him it’s my tuner. I called a local TV repair place to obtain a ball park figure to replace the turner and was informed it would cost about $250 but they would need to look at the TV first to confirm and to look at it if I chose not to have them do the repairs would be a $50 service charge.

Well no dice, I am not going to spend that much to fix a 13 year-old TV, that to be honest I’m surprised it still functions since it was an el cheapo no name TV to begin with. Instead of fixing this TV I’ll buy a new TV. From my visits to the electronics department I know I could purchase a replacement TV similar to my current one for about $150 or I could purchase a LCD for about $400. For a price difference of $250 I decided that I’d just go for the LCD, its what I want, chances are it will last longer, it will be easier to move in the future, it will be HDTV ready for the 2009 conversion, etc etc.

I get excited, I started seeing the new LCD TV taking the place of this old clunky RCT TV. I can see it hanging on my wall, not sitting on my dresser, I’m day dreaming about my shinny new TV, the clear pictures it will present. Oooo I’m even thinking about having a functioning remote control – oh life is good. I’m so excited I could finally justify dipping into my non-emergency irregular expense funds to buy a TV. I even went on line and started browsing to check out deals and get a better feel for prices.

I’m all giddy with the idea of a new TV, until Mr. Be-Mine and I talk last night and I’m relating my excitement about being “forced to buy a new TV”. He deflates my excitement by offering me his RCT TV that he keeps in his basement game room since he never uses it; in fact it’s not even plugged in. There goes my giddiness about a new LCD TV. No longer am I “forced” to buy a new TV, I have an option now.

I still really want that LCD TV, but now it comes to choices do I really want to spend $400 for a 19” LCD TV or use a 30” free RCT TV? There’s a big price difference between the $250 to buy the TV I want compared to spending $400 when I have the option not spend a dime.

I can’t help but listen to the “gemme gemme’s” and the “Iwanna wants” voices in my head when it comes to the LCD TV. I’m usually pretty good at squashing these inner voices for most purchase but squashing this voice when it comes to an LCD TV has started to become harder. I realize a TV is a luxury, but it’s a personal choice that I’ve made now its just where to draw the line with indulging my luxury.

Where do you draw the line and how do you reign in your material things desires without tightening the belt so tight you feel so deprived that you struggle to stay on the “material things diet”?

More Interest Rate Cuts :(

I thought dropping from 3.6% to 3.3% was a bad drop when I complained in my Bait and Switch post. I should have known it would get worse...I was updating my budget and logging into all of my bank accounts to upload information when low and behold I log onto Emigrant Direct and discover my interest rate has dropped down to 3.0% now! I guess Emigrant wasted no time after the Fed's cut interest rates by 3/4 a point yesterday.

I guess I'll just be losing more interest.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I've been holding out on you all ---- Changes for Future Millionaire's Career Path

For the last week I’ve been holding out on you guys about something pretty major happening in my life with an indirect relationship to finances. I’ve been holding out, not because I didn’t want you all to know, but because it was difficult for me to post about it because I was pretty upset about the changes.

As I’ve discussed in past posts, my “lateral growth opportunity” project in Valdosta is ending soon and I’m moving back to Atlanta. Until last week, the plan and commitment had been after this project I’d be returning to my old department and doing the job I love. Don’t get me wrong I’ve enjoyed the project in Valdosta but its not what I think I’m most successful at or something that I find extreme joy in. My old role I truly loved so I kicked butt at it and “was ‘da bomb”, which is in part the reason I was given this growth opportunity designed to fast track my climb up the corporate ladder.

Before I jump into telling you all the major work happening, I thought I’d give you all some background about what the company (or more specifically my office/branch of the company) has been going through for the last few years which will better explain the reason for these changes.

The office of the company I work for is taking some pretty big losses on two projects that were worked on over the last three years; both of these projects have recently ended. By big losses I’m talking about 13 million dollars, we typically only make between 1 and 1.5 million of profit on a project, so 13 is a pretty big loss. There’s also one other project that broke ground last year that’s headed down the road to take some pretty big losses as well.

The last couple of years while we’ve had a ton more projects that were a big success and made up for the losses (including the project I’m currently working on), the efforts of most of the big wigs has been directed towards these two “looser” projects and how to try and keep from losing even more money. Because they were focused on the “looser” projects the big wigs were not out selling our company so that we could win more work.

On top of that our preconstruction department’s been swamped for the last two years with two really big jobs. Between the two projects, its more volume than we typically do in a year so that’s good, however about 9 months ago both of these projects broke ground so that department is not very busy. Between no current jobs in preconstruction and no new jobs coming in from sales for the there’s not going to be a lot of work in that department for the foreseeable future.

Without getting work awarded it means that there’s no need for a preconstruction department. The decision from up above has been made that people in the department except for the two highest positions are being transferred into another department due to a lack of work and there’s not a time line for when the department will be resurrected (although IMHO it better be soon or else this office of the company’s going to be sinking, no preconstruction means no construction and no construction means no money).

The decision from above to dissipate the preconstruction department was made on Monday and since it was guaranteed I would be returning to preconstruction

I got a call that afternoon from my boss’s boss’s boss (the big dog of the Atlanta office) telling me the news. Not only am I not going back to Preconstruction but I’m going to the current problem project that won’t be completed for two years and will be there for the duration of the problem project.

Anyway I won’t get into all the details of this problem project but word on the street (trust me construction companies or at least mine is worse than a high school when it comes to gossip) is that not only is this project headed south as in losing dollars and behind schedule but it’s a real rough place to work. The management “sucks” on this project - there’s a huge micromanage mentality and almost daily verbal abuse. In fact, within the last four month seven people who were assigned to this project have resigned from the company, somehow that tells me something’s wrong when that many people leave. On top of bad management the Owner is shall we say difficult and the Architect and Engineers aren’t the most helpful to put it politely.

I’m all for helping out the company where I’m able and I can understand a company decision has been made to dissipate the department temporally. But I don’t want to be in a bad working environment nor continue in a role that’s not my first love for another two years. On top of performing a role that I am not a big fan of and possibility not enjoying my day to day job, my advancement (ie promotion) within my chosen career path is going to be delayed for at least two years – maybe longer since my preconstruction skill set will be rustier when this project is completed.

I’ve talked to several influential people about my concerns and it appears that I don’t really have a lot of options within the company,. However, in this day and age I do have options outside of the company. I get calls from head hunters fairly often, but I’m just not the type of person to job hop. Until this turn of events I’ve been extremely happy with this company, even turning down slightly higher paying offers because there’s more to life than an extra 5 or 10k a year. To me its about the quality of life, role, experience, and very important to me the quality of the people I work with.

I’ve thought about it a lot. I’ve talked to my friends and family about it a lot – although they were not that helpful. My mom’s first reaction was to ask me if I had a current resume, Mr. Be-Mine’s suggestion was to start calling my contacts at other construction companies, and of all people this surprised me but The Council said to look else where too.

But I’m hesitant to do that because I’m a loyal person plus I have a lot invested in this company. As my boss puts it I’ve got a lot of “stock” as in I’ve earned a lot of respect and am viewed pretty highly and to have to go start over somewhere else I wouldn’t have the same “stock” level there at first, it would take years to build it up. On top of that I love my job (well when I’m doing the role I love), I love the company (until they pull crap like this), and most importantly I love the people that I work with and the culture we’ve all worked together to create (although on the jobsite for the project I’m being sent to I’m not so sure that will be the case). This is all food for thought.

Anyway…so long post later – I just wanted to share with you all what’s happening in my life. I hope you all have been having a better last week than I am. On the bright side Thursday morning I’m heading up to Atlanta for work and will be in the ATL until Monday, so it won’t be like one of my usual 9 hour round trip drive for a quick jot up for just the weekend.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Monday's Money Funny - Gas in Gorda, CA

One of the regular features on my blog is "Monday's Money Funny" which are humorous (at least to me) articles/jokes/just about anything that I've discovered over the weekend when I catch up on all my on line reading that spark a need for knowledge. For example last week's was on Governor Purdue missing the forest for the trees and canceling school due to high gas prices.

This week I’m couldn’t help myself by continuing with another gas article – this one much more recent. The reason why I couldn’t help myself with sticking with the same topic is this morning when I was at the gym running on the treadmill I burst out laughing watching the CBS news clip about gasoline prices (I’m sure the guy next to me thought I’d lost it).

So I went on line and was able to find a small article about Gorda’s gas prices – but if you can check out CBS news tonight, I’m sure they’ll show the same clip. Its down right hilarious.

Highlights from the article include:

“Try not to run low on gas in the tiny Big Sur town of Gorda, where a gallon of unleaded regular costs $5.20. And it's $5.40 a gallon for premium. Amerigo Gas Station employee James Willman says at least once a day he gets an earful from motorists who pull into Gorda, which is about 35 miles north of Cambria on scenic Highway 1.
Willman says "they say all kinds of stuff _ `You ought to be shot,' or 'Where's your mask?'"”

As a side note, which is not mentioned in this article but was in the news clip, this gas station is the only one for 50 miles along this stretch of highway. Go figure gas is more expensive there. I think I’ll bring an extra gas can in my trunk if I’m ever in that part of time.

Last week I did some research and found a few articles for you all on how to save gas so I thought since I was going to re-feature saving on gas that I should expand my research so I have several more articles for you all today. Here’ the most interesting articles:

How to Advice has Thirty Gas Saving Tips featured How to Save on Gas – Tips to Improve Mileage
and straight from the horse’s mouth The EPA offers Tips to Save Gas and Improve Mileage

Well that's it for this Monday. Stay tuned for next week's Monday's Money Funny. Also if you run across any Money Funnies please email them to me at and if I use them I will give you credit and link to your blog.

Carnival of Personal Finance #144- St. Patrick’s Day Edition

Be sure and check out The Carnival of Personal Finance # 144 - St. Patrick's Day Edition which is being hosted at Being Frugal.

I've very excited to say that my post Asking if Salaries are no longer Taboo was included under the career section.

Also props to my fellow PFBloggers: Trees Full of Money for inclusion of his post about Life Lock and Kevin at No Debt Plan for his post about how he budgets.

A few of my other favorite bloggers were included:
Banker Girl's post on The Current State of the Banking Industry and Single Guy Money's post on Keeping his Current Tenant.

I hope you enjoy this 144th Carnival.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Weekend Round Up

Okay its offical Weekend Round Ups are being moved to Sunday, so as you watch your Grey's or Sunday Night sports you can surf the net and explore the highlights from the PFBloggers World.

Below are some of the highlights from this week in the PFBloggers World:

It must be a case of Great Minds Thinking A like because I was planning to post about MP Dunleavy, "Happy Hooker has got to go..." article but Living Almost Large beat me to the punch so check out her commentary instead - it will save me from posting. :) Also check out her post about gift giving guidelines.

Mom over at Wide Open Wallet
shared about not knowing she was frugal until about two months ago. I'm glad to know Mom doesn't go to some of the extremes that some people do.

Get Rich or Die Trying
asks a very important question, should he empty his emergency fund to pay off some accounts in collection. My advice to him was to continue on the payment plan because you never know when a "real" emergency like a job loss, unexpected medical, etc might arise and you'll need those funds then. So go over and visit him and let him know your thoughts - it can't be an easy decision to make.

I've already posted about it, but I thought I might mention it again in case you haven't had time to check out Seb’s Open Letter to Ben Bernanke @ Pinching Copper.

Don't forget to check out all the other blogs in the network. I've conveniently listed them all in the left hand column for your use.

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