Visualizing Expenses

A lot has been written on the subject of retirement, specifically, “when can I retire?”  Popular rules of thumb are:

  1. Save 10 times your income by age 67 (Fidelity)
  2. Save 10% of your income (too many to quote, but here is a nice write up on why it is probably rubbish).
  3. Multiply annual expenses by 25. (Forbes)

The last one takes the most amount of work, because you actually have to know how much money you spend.  It is also probably the most accurate.  I made a quick mashup of our expenditures for the last full year (2017).  I put essentials on the left and luxuries on the right.  Shelter and food are fundamental in my viewpoint, so they get put all the way to the left.  I could have split out Groceries and Eating Out to better characterize them as necessity vs luxury, but I was feeling lazy.

Two major expenses that will be dropping off in the next few years will be Childcare and Education/Tuition.  The Misc. (pink) category is a catch-all and contains some fat that could be cut out.

Finally, you might notice that I put College Savings all the way to the right, indicating that it is the most cuttable budget item.  Let’s be frank.  Any parental financial assistance is a bonus.  Our goal is to cover all costs after scholarships but if they need to take a loan that’s fine too.

Revitalizing a Worn Down Wheelbarrow

Last year or maybe it was the year before that I snagged an old wheelbarrow that my neighbor was throwing out.  The bucket was in fine shape, but the handles had seen better days.

A new wheelbarrow costs around $50.  I bought some steel replacement handles for $14.

I could have gone cheaper with some $8 wood handles, but I figured that the steel handles would outlast everything else.  Our garage is tight on space, so this cheapo wheelbarrow lives outside all year long in our garden.

Removing Ads from Words with Friends Permanently

I admit that I enjoy playing the mobile game Words with Friends 2 by Zynga but my goodness is it chock full of ads.  Banner ads along the top and bottom, full screen interstitial ads after every single turn, and to add insult to injury no way to pay to get rid of ads.  No, I do not consider their $10 in-app purchase to remove ads for 30 days at all reasonable.  This is Frugal Living, there is a better way!

Seriously?! $10/mo to have an ad free experience. That is as much as my phone bill!


Introducing AdBlock

I will show you how to install an ad blocker on your phone or tablet that can not only eliminate ads in Words with Friends, but also every other app including your browser!

There are many different ad blocker apps available on the App and Play stores.  I personally chose AdBlock by FutureMind (iOS $2).  The important thing to find is one that offers VPN, virtual private network, or DNS, domain name services.

Setting Up AdBlock

There are two ways to utilize AdBlock.

  1. As a Safari (browser) content blocker
  2. As a system wide ad blocker

Both of these can be used at the same time.  Here is how to setup #1.

Open the Settings app on your home screen.  Scroll down until you see Safari.  Click on that and scroll down to “Content Blockers”.  Finally switch on AdBlock.

Tada!  Safari browsing should be greatly improved.  This should also eliminate the ultra annoying hijacking ads that look like this:

Setting up AdBlock to block ads system wide, including inside apps such as Words With Friends, takes a little more work but is still pretty easy.

Open the AdBlock app > Settings

Turn on “Enable DNS Logging”

Exit the AdBlock app and go play some Words With Friends.  You will still see ads, but not for long.  After you have seen a few ads, exit Words with Friends and return to the AdBlock app > Settings.  This time click on “DNS proxy log”.

You will see a long list of URLs that your mobile device has contacted.  This includes all of the URLs that the game has contacted including ad servers!

Click on any entry that includes the word “ad” in it.

Then click on “Create Rule”

A list of domains will appear from most specific to most general.  DO NOT SELECT A TOP LEVEL DOMAIN such as “com”, as that will block ALL traffic to any website ending in “.com”.

Click on “done” to create the new rule.  Apps and games will no longer be able to access the domain that you just selected.  If an app breaks or doesn’t work right, then you can undo it by going to AdBlock > Settings > Manage DNS Rules.

After you have done a few you can start to see AdBlock working.

You can see that I did NOT block “” as that would likely break the game.  I also did not block non ad servers such as “”.

Final Thoughts

AdBlock occasionally turns off.  I think that happens when I move from Wifi to cellular data or vice versa.  It is easy to see when the blocker is active because a little “VPN” icon appears in the status bar.

If it does turn off, I just reopen the AdBlock app and it will turn back on again.

I have also discovered that after setting up or turning on AdBlock I do need to force close the ad-laden app and restart it to get the ads filtered out.

In the good news department, I hardly ever see ads in Words with Friends now.  If I do, it is usually because the VPN has turned off.  Now when I complete a turn the screen goes black with a white spinning wheel in the middle for about half a second and then it returns to the game.  The top and bottom banner ads are gone and the entire UI looks much cleaner.  Oh, and I’m not spending $10/mo for that privilege.

One final word of caution.  While there are many Ad Blockers available, I would recommend sticking with a well known one even if it does cost a bit of money.  Preferably pick one that uses DNS filtering.  There is a fine line between a useful ad blocker and a malevolent piece of spyware that monitors all of your network traffic.