Saturday, June 30, 2007

Painting with Child

Our basement is finished, but we had water problems and needed to replace most of the drywall. It was going to cost a couple of thousand to paint, so we had the bright idea to paint it ourselves to save some money.

I've never painted anything outside of middle-school art class.

My Mom came for a visit to help us out by playing with Amelia, our two-year old. Amelia isn't one to sit idly by while there's work to be done, though, so when she learned we were painting she kept making two signs over and over. One was her sign for "work", and the other was her sign for "everybody".

So she ended up downstairs with a brush in one hand and a roller in the other. She did great, and learned how to scrape the brush on the side of the paint can to get the excess paint off it, and how to get the excess paint off the roller. If she was a bit haphazard in where she painted, well, it was all a new and exciting experience for her.

She ended up not quite as covered in paint as I'd expected. She's really pretty good about not deliberately making a mess, but painting is messy. And she had a great time helping out.

I'm sure we violated every child labor law in the book, though. So keep it to yourself, okay?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


The Origins gaming convention is coming up very shortly.

For anyone who enjoys roleplaying, board gaming, card games, or pretty much any sort of game, Origins is a great place to spend three or four days playing old favorites and trying out new games. It's been our favorite summer vacation for years. Typically we're registered by January, and have our weekend gaming schedule set by May.

With a two year old in the house, we haven't even registered yet this year. We'll get there, but it's hard to say how much gaming we'll do. I do want Amelia to experience it this year, though. She loves to people watch, and a big gaming convention is great for people watching.

I'm sure we'll get some gaming in, too. It's a bit odd to be going to the convention and not have the schedule planned out in advance. We'll see what's available and what strikes our fancy, and go from there.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Envelope Budgeting Goes Online

I've been a proponent of envelope budgeting for a long time, and have run weekend courses to teach others how powerful a concept it can be. I even had a trademark on the term for a while, before letting it lapse.

The basic idea is that you put away money from your paycheck for future bills. When the bill comes due (like an insurance policy you pay yearly) you already have the money for it in the envelope and don't have to scramble for the money.

I've had on my to-do-list for years to write software to make this easier. I currently use Quicken, which is cumbersome since Quicken's savings goals don't match the concept of an envelope. As usual, when I have a great idea that I sit on for more than a year, someone else does it. To be fair, they may have had the service back then, too. It's tough finding good resources on the Internet, even with Google. is an online site for managing personal finances using the envelope system. I haven't tried it yet, since I still need to plan how to migrate over my Quicken data (or even if I need to).

While I would have created a standalone application, I can understand the reasons behind having an online system. Convenience is great for the users, and an online system can charge a monthly fee instead of a one-time payment for software.

Their fee can be as low at $7.90 a month if you prepay for 2 years. Given how much money envelope budgeting (and other aspects of improving your relationship with money) can save you, $7.90 is fairly trivial.

Getting started with envelope budgeting does require some discipline, and a willingness to really look at what you're spending. I've mentored people on this in the past, and some have run screaming (not really, but it was close) when we started to examine what they spent. The realization that you're spending more than you earn is a hard one for some people, as is the realization that a fair amount of that spending is entirely frivolous and not contributing to your quality of life.

If you're already an envelope budgeting devotee, or just looking for a great way to take charge of your personal finances, give a try.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Credit Card Rewards

While it's always been possible to apply for credit cards online, I've had the devil of a time finding cards that matched my needs. For the longest time now I've been looking for one that had the best rewards program, because we use our card for pretty much everything (we also pay it off every month, which I highly recommend...if you can't do that, stick with cash). We've been getting a gas rebate, which has been nice with gas prices lately, but there's still a lot of things we use the card for that we aren't getting any reward for.

Think about the amount of money you spend each month. Now thing about channeling that money through a credit card that gives you something back in return. It's like free money. At least that's the idea, but finding a suitable card is tough.

I recently ran across , a web site that categorizes credit cards based on different characteristics, including the type of rewards offered. I discovered that 5% cash back was the most you could get, and that only for limited categories of spending. 1% was more likely if you wanted it to apply to all your spending. The Blue Cash card seems like the one I'll go with, since it has 5% back on selected spending (including groceries, a big one for us) and 1.5% back on everything else.

I have to stress that if you're going to use a credit card for the rewards, it only makes sense if you can pay the card off every month. Otherwise you're spending more in interest than you're getting back from the card.

This is one of the techniques we've used after our debts were paid off. If you're still in debt, read through the articles at for ideas on getting out of debt, and put off the new credit card for now.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Birthday Cake

There's something about the tradition of having cake on your birthday that seems really important to some people.

My daughter had her second birthday party yesterday. My Mom seemed to really want Amelia to have cake for her birthday. On her first birthday, we gave her a birthday pear, because that was what she really was enjoying those days. Plus, she'd had reactions to wheat, so cake was out that first year.

This year we'd planned on having cake anyway, but it was funny how important it was to everyone else. So we put a couple of candles on the cake and Amelia blew them out (we'd had her practicing lately by blowing bubbles through the little bubble wands, so she had some good lung capacity).

Amelia loved the cake, and didn't bother with a fork. She just used her hands to eat it, leaving crumbs all over the place.

We've been called health food nuts before, so it won't be any surprise to those of you who know us that the cake was an applesauce cake made with a mix of rice and wheat flour. Very healthy for you! We weren't about to give Amelia a typical sugar laden cake, regardless of what everyone else wanted.

Amelia had a great time during her party, and showed everyone how she could blow bubbles, and carried her geranium she's taking care of over to show them, too. She's quite the social girl once she gets used to the crowd.