Monday, March 31, 2008

Money Management

For a long time, almost 10 years I have been tracking my spending, my debt reduction and even how much I have in my model trains. That is right tracking... watching... observing... trending...

Budgeting is something different it is planning... managing... doing...

I was never firm in my tracking... I would know that I would spend about 100 dollars in food and if it was 110 that was OK because I was saving lots too I would take it out of there.

As I said in my last post I learned something new from listening to the Dave Ramsey Podcasts. I learned the easy way to change what we do from spending trending to budgeting. And it is a good time to learn it!

Here in India our support came in as 18k up front, plus we get an additional $660* each month. For the last 8 months we have spent on average 1,000 a month, plus some extras like our paper newsletters and our visa renewal trip. Well now our spending has caught up to us... our savings account is close to zero at the end of the month... we now need to spend only 660 or what ever comes in or we will be spending invisible money.

With credit to Dave here is what we are going to do.

1) Write down everything we want to spend and how much it will cost.

2) take that list and say What is the first thing I will do with my money. Put a 1 next to that.

3) Then a 2 next to #2

4) keep going down the list until we got them all prioritised.

5) Add a new column and total everything above it... ie 1=$1; 2=$2+$1; 3=$1+$2+$3...

6) Take the income for the month (what we were given last month to support us this month) and see that total. If that will allow us to do 1-93 on the list but not #94 to 1000 we don't do any of those.

7) If something comes up that did not make the list that must be paid then you put it on and cut out 90-93 to keep the total = income. If new item is below #94 in priority you don't do it.

It will take some work and a little more discipline but we have 3 more months here and prob a couple more in the states before we get our $avings rebuilt... plus we will keep doing it in general life from now on out.

*The truth is we need about 900 to 1500 to live and do our full list of conservative activities. As it stands Important things are being cut out of our spending to be at $660, our landlord is not charging us for electricity or Internet, our neighbor is cooking meals for us, we are not buying meat to put into the meals we make. We have not sent out a paper newsletter (the plan was to send it in time for Easter.) If you are reading this I ask you to pray about our financial support, and for some of you that also means the Lord will lead you to giving. -thank you in advance.

Money Management

Crown Financial vs Dave Ramsey

Both are Christ centered trying to get people to use money better. Why should someone choose one or the other?

Sick and tired of being in debt, not being financially free, not having enough money? Both

Have too much money and don't know how to use it? Both

Are you very conservative? Crown.

Do you need a cheerleader with lots of energy? Ramsey.

Do you make each choice through verses in the Bible? Crown

Do you try to not take the Bible so literally but as a general guide? Ramsey

Since i graduated college I have listened to crown's half hour radio show. Applied the theories in my life, saving much, spending less than I earn paying off my debts. All in a conservative way. Great stuff, it has allowed us to fix up a house and sell it at a loss and feel no worry. It has given us more than a years living expenses so we could prep and return from a year volunteering in India.

But still when I would talk about Crown and financial management with friends many of them would respond about Dave Ramsey. Seeing how I have studied to be a coach for people to follow crown's principals I thought I would take the time to understand Dave. For the past month I have downloaded his 39 minute free podcast and listened to it with Nancy.

So much of the foundations and steps are the same between Crown and Dave. But as Dave has a 3 hour / 15 hour a week talk show... six times as long as Crowns 1/2 hour daily he can cover many more topics, he can afford to be looser and less organized.

Yet at the same time he cuts deeper... reached crisis and have the house being repossessed and credit and medical bills chasing you? Pay the house and let the dogs cry in the night. Set priorities "if you can only pay for one thing this month what will it be? -basic food" Next shelter next... next... last vacation. Dave encourages people to drop everything when in debt and fight it off until it is gone gone gone. Don't worry if people are not happy in the process, keep them informed that they will be paid... just not first.

I have even learned something from the way the two companies are organized. Dave and financial peace is based so much on his personality and him. When he dies so will his coaching and energy. Crown is less dependant on a single person... they have already survived the loss of a leader. The loss hurt but they go on. If I am involved in an organization I will set it up like Crown. I am key but not THE key, Christ is.

The truth is as a Crown Money Map Coach there will be times that I will tell people they should look at Dave (financially a competitor because both sell products that are the same) But with good reason, if someone needs the energy to stick with the program all the way to step six or seven then so be it... why let them fail because of my selfishness?

Dave has done one other thing of great value to our family... read about that in the next post.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


This is a sad time....
In the spring of 1999 I graduated from MTU, shortly after I traveled back up north to visit my girlfriend Nancy. While she was in class I visited a favorite haunt, the local animal shelter. While in college I went weekly if not more often to walk dogs for them. I am a cat person, frequently saying that I was raised by cats in the wilds of west Michigan. Mostly due to my second most loved cat, Kitzy who was shot by a hunter poaching on our land when i was in Jr High. Ok back to tech, the animal shelter had 17 kittens, plus the usual adult cats. They wanted me to take a kitten, I told them I could only take an older cat as I would be working long hours. They wanted me to take a cat, i told them it had to be declawed, they found one that was... I told them that i had no funds for one as I was a few weeks from starting at GM. They said they would give it to me free, I told them i had no carrier, they found one for me free... no litter box... gift free... litter... gift free... food... gift free.

Well when Nancy found out that I had gotten a cat, and left him in the car (they do not allow cats in the dorms and after Jimmy while i was still a student there... I had thought twice about pushing it) she made me bring him in. Then the issue of a name. Well after much discussion with Nancy and friends I chose Dutch as he had blue eyes, and was free.

Dutch survived the week without being found out... even after a late night walk around the dorm :) what were they going to do kick me out of school, I was graduated. At home we settled into a routine. I would go to work, and when I was home he would jump on my shoulders until bedtime then lay by my feet, waking me up in the morning for food. Going to the bathroom when I went (our toilets were right next to each other.) If I was in the apartment he was there.

Now here is something about Dutch, I doubt if he ever knew he had a tail. I had a fish tank, he sat on top, tail in the water... fish nipping at the fur... later when Nancy was around we learned that we could not have candles and dutch in the same room.

Dutch and I used to play fetch with those little mice, he would bring it to me and I would throw and he would pick it up and bring it back.

When Nancy graduated the next year we realized that unless we did something we would never have any time alone. We got Kaysa from a shelter in Pontiac, I went in looked at the cats, said I wanted the Siamese playing in the water they said come back next week and pick her up after she is fixed. When i came back they gave me a different cat... I thought for 30 seconds and said OK i will take this one... which really surprised them. I figured God could chose a better pal for Dutch than I could. Kaysa was abandoned as a kitten and really has issues with being alone. When I got her home she sat on the arm of the couch trying to figure this new place out. Dutch then got up on the arm right in front of her, then stood on his hind legs reaching his paws way up in the air, Kaysa's eyes were huge!! then dutch mewed at the spider plant just out of his reach. That is when Kaysa figured this all out. And I had been replaced as best friend.

Nancy made chicken and rice for me just after she graduated. As she was serving it some of it fell on the floor, Dutch ran over, sniffed it, then started to do the motions of burying it. (I wanted to do the same... but could not do that for my girlfriend. My wife now knows I do not like chicken and rice.)

We gave money to the human society the summer after Nancy graduated.

There are so many other things about him I can say. When I was making wax drawings I drew this picture of his eye. After our moving company cracked the glass on this picture I brought it in to be reglazed, Sue would not let me take it home again until it was properly framed... $500 later sue was happy. In the future I will be designing a house... an area of it will be done specifically for this picture. My free cat is costly...

Dutch liked to be up high.

Dutch would sleep in a closet all day, with the door closed, when we would open the door he would go out eat, drink and then go back to the closet and settle down again. Kaysa did not like this... she needs to know where her best bud is.

Dutch had allergies usually resulting in dry skin and his right eye being glued shut, the allergy shots we gave him were not good for his liver but did help his eye and skin.

In the morning when I ate breakfast and did my bible reading Dutch would jump on my lap, I would push him off he would jump up again. The most times was 21 before I gave up. He always sat on my lap during breakfast. Unless he was stuck in a closet.

When we had to sell our house in 2006 we gave Dutch and Kaysa to my parents... when they went on their yearly pilgrimage away from the snow down south the cats went to stay at my Aunt and Uncles who already had a cat and a dog.

Sadly, Dutch was not keeping his food down, and at 14 years of age the time had come for a hard choice... further medication or...

I am glad that Kaysa was staying with Dobby and Baxter, else I think the shock of his loss would have been too much.

I would have liked to have Dutch buried at the cabin where Kitzy is buried, but that is too much to ask for when I am in India.

It is a good thing Anna is a girl, I found out that Nancy will not let me name my child the same name as a pet I have had.

I miss you Dutch, you have a special place in my heart.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Hobby

This picture on Seth Godin's blog is used to illustrate the fact that the owner let feature creap dilute his core offering. Seth is worried that soon this will be some dusty trains in the back of another convience store.

Truth is, having been in many many hobby shops in my life that this shop is not isolated, the fact that it did add coffee and lottery and maps has allowed the shop to survive just a little longer to sell trains. Most shops start out in year one with all the latest offerings, five years in they offer some hard to find items. Ten years they have some oldies, and twenty oh the nestalga.

You can tell how long the shop has been in business by how old the stock is. There are very few truely profitable shops.The whole hobby industry is in decline, it has been for almost 20 years now. Most shops are hobbies started by men who wanted to share their hobby. They break even if not loose money until the owner gives up or dies. The passion for the product overshadows the passion for profits.

Now this is where Seth has it right... ish. If this guy was smart he would find a partner to get the coffee business done right. Then there would be a high profit activity to support the love of trains which this guy can focus on. Or he should specialize, then use the internet to reach those people wherever they live.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

What I Am Called For

Well actually I do not know why I am living in the fullest sense. I just heard a quote recently "perfect is worthless" on Seth Godin's blog. You know that has changed my life and actions. I am now choosing good enough in some of my actions to not make it perfect. This does not mean I am choosing to be shoddy but I did start work making a model railroad even thought it will never be perfection in miniature.

So another of Seth's posts got me over to a video by Jan Chipchase at TED.
I am rocked, and motivated. He tells a story about how the poor are using mobile phones as an informal wire transfer network. He talks about how the poor of the world are starting to have the same tools to connect to the world as the rich. How they are going around the systems that the rich and designers and companies set in place. It is amazing to me how the poor are able to boil down things to what mater.
I am an engineer, my career ability is to support and be part of the team that Jan and his counterparts lead. To take what he observes, what others dream, I develop, so others can build, and everyone will use. If I do my job right I become invisible. If I do my job wrong we all fail.
At the end of the video below Jan lays out 4 aspects of designing things for the future:
1) The big idea is only a big idea if it is part of BIG change (Truth is you can not design for big, big happens after an idea is let go.)
2) Small products move to everyone world wide, rich and poor (for me I worked last for a car company, a product that reached only a couple people. Well ok what I did affects everyone that buys any car that manufacture makes and that IS a lot of people, but not everyone in the world. Right now my product will affect at most a couple hundred directly and a million indirectly. WOW I never realized how important what I was doing was!!!)
3) No mater how well a product is designed as soon as it reaches the marketplace all the people out there will find better ways to use the product, different than intended.
4) The poor want to be part of the world, the conversations that are driving the direction of the world, they have something to say that transcends their lack of education, money, literacy, and so many us vs them things. They are still people who, when it all boils down, have relationships.

I am a stuff designer, that is who I am and what really gets my juices going. I love to be a part of the team that figures out this stuff. And this stuff ROCKS when it is kept simple so simple that it is hard to believe it has never been thought of before. Or like nokia that there is so much technology behind the device the shell belies in simplicity. It would rock even more to know I have stuff out there that the poor find use in, that means the whole world needs it, not the elite few who waste money and time.

In a 15 minute talk Jan covers so much more than the above, his thoughts on design, what is important and why, how delegation works, how innovation happens and trust. All as it relates to how I want to earn an income to support my family and my self. Watch his video to see into what I care about. To me this is a rally cry and a call to action and pride in my job and skills.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


I do not think that a single picture out there can tell you how I feel right now But to give you a visual clue I submit this: No music is loud enough, pure enough for me right now. Oh how I long for 100% pure. Instead of being part of the pure white at the top I feel like I am just that little hint of color in the lower left corner.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Going To The Next Level

Friday was Anna's convocation, we still are not sure if she is in preKG or LKG and going to LKG or UKG? What a hoot if the parents did not realize their kid got a midyear grade promotion. (Ok foundation is that Anna now sits on the LKG side of the room, way far from the preKG and her last report card said LKG not preKG...
I do know the guy bending over gave a great commencement speech, "Twinkle twinkle little star, no we do not have to look in the sky to find the stars, they are all right here." Nancy and I both said awe. I was glad to be able to be there, I got a bug that made me curling on the bed in pain, praying to feel better, and I did!
Thought saturday we hung low, good thing because Anna started not feeling good about noon, and Nancy that night. I ended up going to church in the morning alone. Again this sermon series was great, it hurt, I am quite mad and frustrated at my inlaws right now, this sermon quickly put me back where Christ wants me to be. And then after church...
Some friends dropped me off at Nugambakam Railway station so I could take the train to Saidapet. I noticed walking up to the station that an express was slowing to a stop, odd because usually they go through quite quick blowing their horn sounding like they are afraid they might hit someone.
The people on the overwalk and platform confirmed my worries. In a culture where the reset button is an option another followed through. It is interesting so see how in this culture where no one is certain of what is absolutely right almost everyone is confused, while I did not want to take a picture of the body, I thought about and chose not to photo the watchers on the platform. I saw no emotional reactions from anyone. Just standing and watching. By the time I got to Saidapet the express was passing me, going faster and blowing harder than ever.

I like what Nancy said, "It is pretty easy to not get hit by a train."

Sadly I am already forgetting what I saw, they long red cloth of the saree wound around the body parts, the guys pulling it to the side of the tracks, knowing it will take until morning for someone to remove it to a morgue. My local train arriving, me hopping on and going on my way.