Saturday, April 09, 2005

In my own, haphazard , way, I am focusing on my pile o' debt by getting rid of the smallest bill, paying them off and then taking the money I would have spent on that bill, and applying it to the next smallest bill. It's a sound principle in theory.

I used to have a little shareware program called Debt Blaster to help me calculate what payments I needed to make, and how much. Somewhere along the way, after three different computers, I have lost the program. I don't want to download and purchase it again. That seems foolish. Then again, I bought Supertramp's Breakfast in America on 8-track, cassette and now CD, so who am I kidding?

Yesterday, I discovered a freeware debt calculator called Debtonator. After I downloaded it, and clicked install, it went away. Twenty minutes later the install process started. By the time it finished it was time to go to work, so I haven't had a chance to play with it yet. Once I do, I'll post a review.

Friday, April 08, 2005

I know that auto insurance is a very good idea, and required by law in most states. I have had insurance since I got my first car 27 years ago. For the first couple of years, before Texas required auto insurance, I was able to get insurance pretty easily, though it was expensive.

"Don't worry," the agent said. "When you hit 25, the rates will go down. You young kids are reckless."

When I hit 24, I bought a slightly newer car and paid the same amount in insurance. Then the state passed insurance laws. Since I was under 28, I had to go into an insurance pool to get insurance. Once I left the safety of our friendly neighborhood insurance agent, my rates went up.

At 30, I bought a newer car, and guess what! My rates went up. True I had moved to Austin, but when I moved back home, with the same car, my rates didn't go down.

I haven't had an accident since I was 17 (except I did hit a deer when I was 22 that caused some damage), nor a ticket since I was 20. Do my rates go down? Nope. They go up every year.

And if Universal coverage is the law, why do we buy Uninsured Motorist coverage? Shouldn't the law require someone who let their insurance lapse to pay for the damage inflicted to my car?

I pay in about $1000 (rounded up) a year for insurance and haven't had a claim in 20 years. When do I get a break?

It strikes me that insurance is like gambling. I'm betting the insurance company that I will have a wreck, and I can't win unless I have it. And even then, they may not pay off.

Can you tell it's time to make my monthly insurance payment?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

So, I'm selling my old comics on eBay, and yesterday I get this month's copy of Worlds of Westfield and I start seeing what I have to get. You know, Superman, Batman, Captain America, and the rest.

This morning it hits me: Why am I buying new comics to replace the comics I'm selling?

What would happen if I went on a strict austerity program? I've already cut two magazines, and a couple of monthly subscriptions, and Giganews. That single move saves me $40/month. How close to the bone should I cut?

Looks like I've got some serious thinking to do.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Last night as I tried to go to sleep, I started thinking about this Friday's paycheck. i was trying to see who I could pay, who I could delay, and who I could shaft.

I hate laying awake at night spending a check I won't see for three days. Inevitably, I get a queasy feeling at the pit of my stomach, and it becomes harder for me to sleep.

But I must remember my Goal for April: Payoff B&W Finance. Then I can focus on the larger bills.

In the meantime, I have to spend as little as possible on me. As much as I like beer, I've quit drinking on work nights. It's all too easy for me to drink 6 or 8 beers after I get home, buy another 12 pack the next day and continue the chug a lug. and repeat that every couple of days.

Getting my finances in order is going to take a while. I need to be patient.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

After a few days of ruminations on other topics, it's time to talk about money again.

I am lining up the bills that need to be paid on Friday, and trying to figure out a way to save enough money to visit my cousin in Midland for some golf the following weekend. All work and no play, after all.

Today he sent me this email: "I’ll be attending a funeral of a fallen comrade in Houston this Friday. This will probably screw up golf on the 15th and 16th. . . I've given up hope on ever having a normal life................"

My answer was, "Hell, a normal life is nothing but interruptions and crisis after crisis. It's a slow leak of cash from the wallet that you'd rather spend on beer."

I wonder when I got so cynical?

Monday, April 04, 2005

The re-election of George Bush seems to have encouraged the Religous Right to become more vocal. I used to identify myself as a Republican, but with the RR become more and more intwined with Republican politics, I decided I didn't want to be there any longer.

Now, the RR is challenging school text books that teach the Theory of Evolution. They want teachers to add a section of Intelligent Design to the curriculum. And by Intelligent Design, they mean "On the first day God created the heaven and Earth." They don't mean to teach Native American creation beleifs, Buddhist creation beliefs, Hindi creation beliefs, or Australian Aborignal creation beliefs. And they sure don't mean that they will teach the Theory of Evolution is Sunday School to balance things.

Most creationists argue that evolution is not a fact, but a theory, and that teachers should be teaching it that way, and expressing other teachers. But I don't hear them saying Physics teachers should be teaching alternatives to the Theory of Gravity. I don't hear them saying that since the Copernican model of the solar system isn't described in the bible, we should go back to the Ptolemaic version.

A couple of decades ago, the late Isaac Asimov wrote a short story that was published in his magazine. In it Moses was dictating the opening pages of Genesis to his brother Aaron. He started off by saying "Sixty billion years ago. . ." Aaron objects. He says that papyrus costs to much to record Sixty billion years of history. He has to trim the story. When Moses asks how much, Aaron looks at the papyrus on hand and says "Six days."

That's the theory I subscribe to: the Universe was created by, for lack of a better word, a Master Watchmaker, who has let the Universe run by a set of laws and principles. As humanity learns more, we understand the laws and principles better, but we still need to learn more. I don't have any problem looking at the latest dinosaur fossil discovered in Montana and saying, wow, isn't God amazing?

So as the RR tries to push us back into the caves of ignorance, I find myself more and more distanced from the Republican party. The sad part is, I'm in the monority.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

My Austin Apartments Part 3

Since my territory was South Austin, I didn't want to drive from Pflugerville to South Austin to make my calls. So I decided to move.

I looked at a few apartments. I used the formula my friend Junior taught me. Divide the cost by the square footage to find the cheapest apartment. His formula didn't have a variable to include my girlfriend, The-Bitch-in-Austin-Do-I-Sound-Bitter. So I picked a place in the same complex, in the building next to hers. It was an older complex near St. Edwards University. What a great place! One August, I even took my nephew to the Dallas Cowboys' trainig camp.

I signed the lease a month and a half in advance. They were going to do some refurbishing, but said I could move in a week before the first of the month. I borrowed a van from work and loaded it up. I drove the 20 miles from Pflugerville to St Edwards drive. I pulled the key from my pocket and headed for my new apartment. The door was open.

They were still working on it!

So I went back to Pflugerville.

The next day, I drove down and unloaded my stuff, and noticed that there were no appliances. No fridge, no stove, no dishwasher. Instead of three days to move, as I had arranged, I had two. But I managed. Since I moved in on a Saturday, and had to pack all my groceries into an ice chest, and they didn't furnish appliances until Tuesday (!), I got a free week rent.

The-Bitch-in-Austin-Do-I-Sound-Bitter complained that she didn't have one of those spy holes int the door. She said he complained to the management but hadn't heard anything. So I went to a hardware store, bought one, and installed it for her. At the time, I didn't realize she was screening boyfriends.

Anyway, living near my girlfriend was kind of cool. Until she let a co-worker move in.

This guy (Yes. Guy.) worked at the same convenience store chain, and at that point, everything changed. We stopped going out, and except for me seeing her at work, I never saw her. Eventually, they moved to a complex on Riverside Drive. For several months, she would talk to me on the phone, but we never went out. When he went back to his wife, she finally invited me over.

Then I helped her move into her mother's house. We dated for a few months, then stopped.

I now know she had started dating someone else. But it took me a few more months to realize it.

One day she called me to talk about her having a hysterectomy(sp?). She complained that no man would want to be with her since she would no longer be able to have children. I told her that anyone who told her that was a jerk. (Yes, I had a clue.) Then, later, she called to give me the "Friend" speech.

I never spoke to her again. She called a few times after that, but finally got the hint.

I spent another six or seven months there. But my heart wasn't in Austin anymore. I quit my job and moved back home.