Shae and I really like our raised garden beds. They keep the rabbits out of our produce, and are dead simple to weed. Our vertically challenged son however has been missing out on the action, so last night I whipped together a simple outdoor garden stool.
The stool is just made up of scrap wood that I had lying around the garage. I made the step 14″ wide, and the legs are at a 15° angle. Pocket screws and wood glue hold the legs on.
After letting Frugal Boy try it out, I added a couple of 1x stabilizers to help prevent it from rocking back and forth. They are held on just by wood glue.
Frugal Boy can now see into things that were 7″ out of reach before. Like the car windows.
And the car mirror.
And the support strut of the garage door.
And the workbench in the garage.
He loves his little outdoor stool and it was super easy to make!
In the peaceful forest of Tuckville there was a mighty oak tree. Each year, all of the squirrels in the forest would work together to collect all of the acorns from the tree.
The youngest and smallest squirrels would gather acorns from the very top of the tree. The branches were itsy bitsy, but that did not scare Sammy.
Sammy ran along the branches to the very tippy end and would pick an acorn before racing back to the ground and adding it to the big pile of acorns.
When all of the acorns were harvested, the oldest squirrel would give each squirrel a share of the pile. The oldest and biggest squirrels who collected the most acorns, would get more, and the younger smaller squirrels like Sammy would get less.
Most of Sammy’s friends would eat their acorns right away. Some of them would trade their acorns for a car.
Sammy thought about what he wanted to do with his acorns and he got an idea. He took them down by the creek in a nice sunny area and he buried all of his acorns.
For the rest of the Fall, he watched as his friends raced around in their cars.
The next Spring, Sammy went back to the creek and saw dozens of little oak trees were he had buried his acorns.
10 years went by, and Sammy was no longer a little squirrel. He was a big adult squirrel. Back by the creek, it was no longer sunny. There were big oak trees there now, and they had huge amounts of acorns!
His friend’s cars had long since broken down. They had nothing left to show from their long days of picking acorns from the mighty oak tree, but Sammy had an entire grove of oak trees all to himself.
He picked all of the acorns from the trees that he had planted so long ago and traded those acorns for a nice house where he could raise his own family.
So ends, my little parable. Isn’t it nice and cliche? Would you believe me if I said it was based on a true story? My story to be exact.
When I was in high school, I worked as a dish washer for the local college. Looking at my social security earning reports on SSA.gov, I made $1350, $1046, and $733 for the three years that I worked there. I remember that my wage was $5.35/hr and my sophomore year of high school, I worked during the school year as well as the summer.
Most of my friends also worked during high school, and some of them worked to drive. “I need the job, to afford the car, to get me to the job.” I rode a bike, and was fairly unpopular. Having a car is a big status symbol here in the Midwest. It is something of a rite of passage for teenagers. The sweet 16th birthday. Of course, $3k doesn’t buy a whole lot of car.
It did however buy around 50 shares of AAPL stock. A decade later, when I ‘harvested’ that initial investment, it had grown to the tune of around $30k.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was the best paid dishwasher in that cafeteria making an adjusted $53 an hour. Perhaps if I had known, I might have been more tolerant of the infantile college students behavior of making toddler sized messes of their food trays.
So what happened to that windfall investment? Well, most of it went towards clearing up student loan debts from college, but the remainder became part of our down payment on our house. Who knew that cleaning dishes would be so enabling?
Obviously, there was a lot of luck involved with putting all of my acorns in one basket. What wasn’t lucky, was my decision to take the path less traveled and forego my teenage desires for mobility, freedom, and instant gratification.
I eventually did buy a car and a cellphone. It only took until I was a junior in college.
My employer announced changes to the paid time off (PTO) policy today. Though it’s being touted as “better” and “more in line with industry standard,” like most benefits changes it’s meant to help the employer not the employee.
The current system is set up such that for XX number of years of service you get XX days of personal vacation (renewed in June), XX days of personal sick leave (renewed on your anniversary), and 3 days of personal time (renewed every January). The rules for how you can use each vary. The new system will do away with that and combine everything into one bucket with some special rules for long term federally protected leaves and one-off events like jury duty and funerals. Instead of once a year allotments, employees will get a fraction of their PTO days every pay period. Less tenured employees who don’t use a lot of sick time, like myself, will see an bump up in usable PTO days. Pretty nice huh?
The extra days up front will be a boost in the short term but after you do the math anyone staying long term will lose out compared to today’s plan especially with the new accrual caps and timings.
It is always good to have a back up plan as employee benefits packages can change suddenly and without warning. Just a few years ago there was a radical change to the post-retirement healthcare subsidies that left many retirees and soon-to-be retirees confused as to what exactly was going to happen to their healthcare and how they could afford it. In the past you could put in 35+ years of service and retire with a guaranteed pension. That doesn’t happen much anymore. Employers have to change to stay solvent. I wouldn’t be surprised if our own pension and 401k plans were to change over the next decade given the aging workforce.
By taking responsibility for your own finances and not relying on anyone else to provide for you (whether that be your employer or the government’s Social Security) you cushion yourself from the sudden benefits changes that may devastate someone else. Our goal to be financially independent by 40 makes the new PTO policies an non-issue for us. We’ll happily take the extra days off that we would have had to wait years for. By the time that the new policy would become a negative we’ll hopefully be in a spot where we are a) completely retired b) cut back to part-time or c) selfishly employed somewhere else (in no particular order of preference).
Back in March I took our car into the mechanic to have a flat tire patched. He noticed that the passenger side outer tie rod was nearing end of life and recommended that I replace it. Of course, he was happy to do the work for me for a steep up-charge on parts and $100/hr labor. I politely declined and went home to order the parts.
I have replaced tie rods before on a different car, see here for that adventure. This time around, I wasn’t going to mess with the inner tie rods. I figured it was about an hour job. Sadly, I was woefully incorrect.
After getting the wheel off, I could see that the passenger side outer tie rod was in poor shape. The protective rubber boot had torn on the other side and most of the grease had leaked out. The castle nut holding the tie rod to the wheel assembly just spun when I tried to loosen it. It was spinning because it is attached to a ball joint. Normally, mechanics will use a tool called a pickle fork to apply pressure to the joint so it won’t spin. I don’t have that tool, so I ended up just cutting through the metal.
The next challenge was loosening up the lock nut between the inner and outer tie rods. This lock nut is used as an adjustment when your car gets aligned. After pouring a river of penetrating oil on it and adding as much muscle as I could muster, I eventually conceded that only fire would get the job done.
It took about 3 minutes of blasting it with the propane torch before I was able to wrench the nut free from its rusty prison. With that done, the outer tie rod threaded off easy peasy.
I used the same procedure on the driver’s side. The mechanic said only the passenger needed replacing, but seeing as you have to get an alignment after this job, it makes sense to get them both done at the same time. While the driver’s side was in better shape, I could see some obvious signs of rubber fatigue in the boot. It was also on the way out.
The easy part is putting everything back together.
I bought both tie rod ends off Rock Auto for $50 with shipping and tax. Installation took about 4 hours, 3 for the passenger side, 45 minutes for the driver side, plus cleanup. The mechanic wanted $50 for just the passenger side and another $80 in labor. If I break down my cost to better match apples to apples, then mine would have been $25 in parts (one side) + 2 hours in labor (average per side). That would make my hourly rate $52.50/hr. Not too shabby.
Even with stubborn rusted on parts, it still was worth DIY’ing this project.
Our 2015 property tax bill is now viewable online. We should be getting a paper copy in a few days. It is interesting because we are in almost a polar opposite of my parents. They have a very high county income tax, but pay almost nothing in property taxes. We have no county income tax, but extremely high property taxes (along with a flat state income tax and high sales taxes).
Public schools aren’t cheap. There is no such thing as a free education.