Monday, December 31, 2012

12/31/2012 - Monthly Financial Breakdown

The Sixth Unemployed Monthly Financial Breakdown. **Holiday Edition**

Well, another month has passed and this means I need to do a financial breakdown. This past month went fairly well despite it being a gift giving holiday...Lets see how well it went. How much is Van dwelling in my VW Westfalia saving or costing me?

Previous Monthly Financial post here

If I sum up total expenses from 12/1/2012 through 12/31/2012 I get -$978 :-( A rough calculation would put my yearly expenses at $1176. I was over the 11K mark due to having to purchase a flight to NJ for a funeral (this added $321 to monthly budget)

Regular Food costs: -$75 or -$19 per week (Normal)
Fun Food Costs:  -$14 or -$0 per week (Breakfast in NJ and  some beer)
Fuel: -$39 or -$10 per week (basically didn't drive much past month)
Van: -$33 (All for projects for the Mini )
Travel: -$471 or -$0 per week (paying monthly for Caribbean trip in January and Flight to NJ)
Insurance: -$160  per month   (Reduced Van Insurance and health insurance)
Clothing: -$0 (Nothing new in December)
Misc: -$79 (Eye Exam, movie tickets, misc parts at home depot)
Mailbox:  -$15
Gifts: -$80 (Half of this was a part for our Refrigerator which was my gift to my father)

Things that were not necessary this past month: The Funeral flight, the car projects, the monthly payments on the Caribbean trip, the movie tickets.  This brings my luxury expenses to $568 and necessary to $420 Yikes!! Without the luxury for this month, my yearly is at $5040... :)

Ok, clean out the unusual stuff and do a monthly for the rest
Regular Food and fuel: -$200
Mailbox only:  -$15
Insurance: -$160 
Clothes: -$0
Van:  -$50 (minor maintenance next month)
Fun: -$25 (very reasonable)
Yearly expense estimate with the new numbers: $5400

Estimated to be under my 11k mark again.

Another Unemployed month but my expenses increased from last month. I was expecting it to be about the same since I didn't do much but the holiday expenses spiked my totals plus the extra flight expense. I have some auto expenses coming up but I am determined to figure out why the van runs weird when warm.

I am not optimistic about next month's expense sheet, while the Christmas holiday has passed, there is a two week carribean vacation approaching and I do not know what my share of the boat expenses are. I plan on not drinking on the boat to avoid that cost. Most of the sailors drink way more then I do and also drink wine, which I dont. I do not think it will be fair for me to lightly drink a few beers and then have to split the bill with the rest of the crew.

Here is the status of my dividend income:
I have a running total of yearly expenses which I base my numbers off of so if my monthly goes up my dividend income against it decreases in value.
Since I re-aligned my investment strategy I've been putting extra cash into dividend paying stocks and other investment opportunities.

 Last post it was at 46.23%. Previous Monthly Financial post here

Current level is now estimated at 47.63%

Progress at a snail's pace, My plan for January and the rest of the year is to put any spare cash that I receive into dividend stocks and trim expenses. Such slow progress and the market has not been very favorable. Currently in the red on several stocks but many are improving, I am still optimistic though. Waiting for the Cliff to be resolved, until then I will just have to wait it out
Best of luck in your travels in the new year!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The end is nigh!

Thats right, I am one of those people who uses the word, "nigh"

As the end of the 2012 calender approaches, I sit and ponder over all that has happened in the past year. All I can say is that it has been a rough year and I hope that 2013 is a whole lot nicer.
I think the icing on the cake was having to go to a funeral on chrismas eve, but then again there were three funerals in the last two months. Two of old age and one suicide.

My plans for the new year:
  • Start it off right by going on a tropical vacation in the British Virgin Islands for two weeks in January.
  • Drink more Tea (existing stock pile should last a few months)
  • Rearrange financial portfolio to increase monthly income
  • Get rid of/sell more stuff
  • Figure out what is bothering the van and improve running condition
    • currently building a gauge to monitor Oxygen Sensor voltages (will post when done)
  • Finish Mini projects and add to Mini site
  • Read more books so I can get rid of the ones on my bookshelf
  • I suppose more money would be nice
  • More fun with my camera - I received some macro filters and need to figure them out
  • ??
That is it for now. I will update if I can think of anything else.

Hope everyone enjoys their new year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Reducing expenses

Today I dropped my expenses by a small amount.
I will probably stick it out through the winter in CO and since I don't have a regular job I decided to reduce my insurance premium on the van. I had it higher due to the location I was in and to also ensure that I was well covered but now that I don't need to drive much and am no longer in lots of traffic, I no longer need it. The drop in my premium was approx 40% or $250 a year. If I am ever in a situation that requires the higher insurance, then I will raise it again. I pay my insurance in 6 month increments because it saves me the extra monthly charge fee, or "convenience" that gets added on.

This drop would be equal to an extra ~$1500-2000 in invested dollars paying a dividend.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Suddenly winter

Monday I was riding a bike to radioshack, today it is snowing. Mother nature is a procrastinator, seriously, the first major snow of the season on Dec 19th...wtf...
The weather has been so nice this fall that I thought that it was never going to snow.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

An Interview I did...

The lateness of this post is inexcusable considering the one I am referring to was posted on the 28th of August.

My friend Wayne did an interview of me for his blog,
http://boxerswaps.blogspot.com/2012/08/team-van-life.html

His blog is part of a site designed to help vanagon owners with their engine conversion with subaru motors. They do nice work and show how easy it is. www.boxerswaps.com 

Anyway, check out the interview and the rest of the site. BTW, the sunglasses I am wearing were found in the van to my left. We were scavenging in a VW junkyard for parts for both our vans when I saw the shades.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Déjà vu

For the second time in my life I am witnessing the demise of yet another electronica/dance/techno radio station. The first was 102.1 when I was in high school and now it seems that 107.1 is going to change as well. Currently they are in "stunting" mode but it only signals the beginning of the end for what I thought was a most promising radio station.

The first station, 102.1, came at a time when most electronica/dance/techno music existed in a sort of underground scene where you had to know where to go to find it. The popular music at the time consisted of boy bands, aging artists producing experimental stuff and grunge bands. People had no idea what a bass drop, dubstep, or techno was. Before the station existed, I used to stay up past 11pm on weekdays just to listen to an hour long set on 93.3 simply called "Eleven" (which has also changed formats to just a three hour set on thursdays) The radio station played great stuff and a lot of the airtime was commerical free. Instead of having to hunt for the music or go to a club, they made it available all day long and exposed the music to the masses (although the broadcast signal was somewhat weak and spotty due to location of their signal tower). I made many tape recordings of their hour long sets but one day their format flipped. There was no warning or announcement, it just happened, literally mid-hour to become a country station. It was heartbreaking and I mourned the loss. I never expected another station like it to exist in Denver again.

Fast forward to today. The tapes are all worn out but the music has become popular enough to attract mainstream attention. It started out with small bits and pieces inserted into new artists songs but eventually it breached the pop songs top 10 lists. Suddenly people were listening to music that was kinda like what I had listened to and were talking about it. Thanks to the internet, you could find whatever type of music you wanted to hear and listen all day long. Life was good again for the music that I enjoyed and my return to the Denver area brought with it a nice surprise of a new radio station broadcasting something similar to the old 102.1 (including similar broadcasting signal weaknesses). It was more club dance then I would have liked but there were many other songs and sets to make up for it. Between pandora and this new radio station, I had more then enough music to listen to but good things never last and on Nov. 30th. things changed. I hope that the stunt mode will end soon and it returns to what it was but I know in my heart that it wont. Stunt mode is just a cover up for changing formats or firing people, the station stunts long enough to for people to forget their favorite DJs and what the station was like. Once that happens, the stunt cover comes off and they reveal the "old" station or something entirely new but either way it is bad news.

edit update: The station was sold to another company that used to operate a station in Denver and it has reverted to the new owner's old format which is as crappy as it was when they pulled out of the Denver area. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

11/30/2012 - Monthly Financial Breakdown


The Fifth Unemployed Monthly Financial Breakdown.

Well, another month has passed and this means I need to do a financial breakdown. This past month went fairly well...Lets see how well it went. How much is Van dwelling in my VW Westfalia saving or costing me?

Previous Monthly Financial post here

If I sum up total expenses from 11/1/2012 through 11/31/2012 I get -$676 :-)
A rough calculation would put my yearly expenses at $8112. :)  Yeay, I did it again! another sub 1K month!!

Regular Food costs: -$75 or -$19 per week (Normal)
Fun Food Costs:  -$0 or -$0per week (Very Very low, I didn't go anywhere)
Fuel: -$24 or -$6 per week (basically didn't drive this past month)
Van: -$151 (Two oil changes, new wiper blade, circuit board repair w/ new multimeter,tire and fuel pressure gauges )
Travel: -$150 or -$0 per week (paying monthly for Caribbean trip in January)
Insurance: -$170  per month   (Van Insurance and health insurance)
Clothing: -$0 (Nothing new in November)
Misc: -$69 (lots of mailbox shipping, new watch band, credit report)
Mailbox:  -$15
Gifts: -$22 (Mother's birthday)

Things that were not necessary this past month: Not much. I guess my monthly payments on the Caribbean trip, the new multimeter, my credit report, and one of the mailbox shipping (I made a mistake and shipped a package to my mailbox instead of the address in Denver.  This brings my luxury expenses to $227 and necessary to $449 Yikes!! Without the luxury for this month, my yearly is at $5388... :)

Ok, clean out the unusual stuff and do a monthly for the rest
Regular Food and fuel: -$300
Mailbox only:  -$15
Insurance: -$170 
Clothes: -$0
Van:  -$50 (minor maintenance next month)
Fun: -$25 (very reasonable)
Yearly expense estimate with the new numbers: $6720

Under my 11k mark again.

Another Unemployed month but my expenses increased from last month. I was expecting it to be about the same since I didn't do much but the auto related expenses spiked my totals, however I am determined to figure out why the van runs weird when warm.

I am not optimistic about next month's expense sheet, with the upcoming Christmas holiday, I anticipate an increase in spending.

Here is the status of my dividend income:
I have a running total of yearly expenses which I base my numbers off of so if my monthly goes up my dividend income against it decreases in value.
Since I re-aligned my investment strategy I've been putting extra cash into dividend paying stocks and other investment opportunities.

 Last post it was at 45.96%. Previous Monthly Financial post here

Current level is now estimated at 46.23%

Progress at a snail's pace, My plan for December and the rest of the year is to put any spare cash that I receive into dividend stocks and trim expenses. Such slow progress and the market has not been very favorable. Currently in the red on several stocks but many are improving, I am still optimistic though.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Van update - 11/25

The van is no longer giving me issues with the oil pressure light/buzzer at low rpms. I have not been on the highway since fixing it so not sure at high rpms.

I did an oil change today, had to go to 5w30 so the van would be able to start up in the winter months. The 20w50 that was in there was really thick and it was difficult for the starter to crank the motor over.

Also did an oil change on the mini and changed the clutch and brake fluids.

I've been trying to figure out why the van runs worse when warmed up. When it is cold you can take off from a stop like everyone else but when warm it acts like it has no power. I have a hunch that the problem lies with fueling. I've ordered a fuel pressure gauge to do the Bently tests. When cold, the fuel injectors are kept open longer for a richer mixture but when warm they rely on the programming in the computer. If the pressure is too low then there wont be enough fuel and the spray pattern coming out of the injectors will be poor causing low power. The other test is to see what the total volume of fuel over a period of time coming out of the pump is and compare to specs in the manual.
Ill see where these tests take me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thinning the transportation herd and van update

Since I have been stationary in CO I have tried to use my time wisely by thinning down my stuff that I left at my parents house when I moved out. The process hasn't been easy for me but I work on it every day now that the weather has turned toward winter. The more stuff I find, the worse I feel. 


Last weekend I sold my 1972 t250 suzuki motorcycle. I have owned this bike since before I could drive and had intentions of riding it and/or restoring it but after seeing it wrapped up in plastic tarps in the back yard I realized that my intentions and reality are two different things. I put it up on craigslist along with a bunch of other stuff that I no longer need. It took about a month before someone wanted to buy it. A sad moment indeed but a necessary one. The rest of my stuff is still up there though. One of the things I have learned is that other people aren't interested in my stuff no matter how cheap it is. Only weird people like me want it and there seems to be a lack of people like me out there. No one cared that the bike still ran well and that it was fully functional for a 40 year old bike. No one cares about the fact that it was suzuki's fastest two-stroke bike with a 6 speed racing gearbox that could do over 100mph all on 250cc. No one cares that this bike essentially killed off most of the small English bike manufacturers. What people care about is getting the right size ipad so they can play angry birds. I swear I was born in the wrong time period.

Van update:

The boat is in winter storage and I just winterized the water tanks on the van because I don't believe I will be taking it on any long trips in the near future that will require the kitchen systems.

Winterizing the water systems is simple:
1. pump out all the water from the main tank
2. use sponge to hand dry the remaining water inside the tank
3. blow out sink water line with air to prevent faucet and pump from freezing 
4. drain grey water tanks (they don't completely drain dry)
5. pour winterizing fluid into sink drain to keep the grey water tanks from freezing.

I had some sort of crazy electrical problem happen on election day. The oil pressure buzzer and light started going off all the time when driving and at idle. The buzzer isn't supposed to work at idle so I knew that there was something wrong with the system. After taking the console apart and doing the bently electrical testing (which I swear burned out the LED oil light) I came to the conclusion that the zener diodes on the circuit board were malfunctioning. A trip to radio shack for diodes and a 12v red LED was successful and I managed to repair it. There still could be an oil pressure issue when the engine is hot but I have not taken the van on any long trips to test it out.

I also had to get a new wrist band for my casio databank 150 watch. I think this was third watch band I've purchased, they only last about 3-5 years before sudden catastrophic failure.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

10/31/2012 - Monthly Financial Breakdown

I have been sick for over two weeks with an infection in my tonsils that has basically kept me in bed or doing very little which means I haven't spent much this past month.

The fourth Unemployed Monthly Financial Breakdown.

Well, another month has passed and this means I need to do a financial breakdown. This past month went extremely well...Lets see how well it went. How much is Van dwelling in my VW Westfalia saving or costing me?

Previous Monthly Financial post here

If I sum up total expenses from 10/1/2012 through 10/31/2012 I get -$379 :-)
A rough calculation would put my yearly expenses at $4548 . :)  Yeay, I did it again! another sub 1K month!!

Regular Food costs: -$75 or -$19 per week (Normal)
Fun Food Costs:  -$12 or -$3 per week (Very Very low)
Fuel: -$61 or -$15 per week (The last trip to the springs was on the first and then I went nowhere for a month)
Van: -$0 (no car maintenance expenses)
Travel: -$150 or -$0 per week (paying monthly for Caribbean trip in January)
Insurance: -$170  per month   (Van Insurance and health insurance)
Clothing: -$0 (Nothing new in October although tempted by patagonia down jacket)
Misc: -$35 (mailbox shipping, new watch band, two sets of antibiotics)
Mailbox:  -$15
Gifts: -$0 (zip)

Things that were not necessary this past month: Not much, being sick saves you money. I guess the one night of eating out and my monthly payments on the Caribbean trip.  This brings my luxury expenses to $162 and necessary to $212 Yikes!! Without the luxury, my yearly is at $2544... :)

Ok, clean out the unusual stuff and do a monthly for the rest
Regular Food and fuel: -$300
Mailbox only:  -$15
Insurance: -$170 
Clothes: -$0
Van:  -$50 (I don't anticipate any large projects for next month)
Fun: -$50 (I need to watch my fun costs)
Yearly expense estimate with the new numbers: $7020

Under my 11k mark again but mostly due to being very ill. 

Another Unemployed month but my expenses dropped considerably from last month. I was expecting a bit less but I didn't expect it to be so low.

I am optimistic about next month's expense sheet, should be interesting to see exactly what is going to happen.

Here is the status of my dividend income:
I have a running total of yearly expenses which I base my numbers off of so if my monthly goes up my dividend income against it decreases in value.
Since I re-aligned my investment strategy I've been putting extra cash into dividend paying stocks and other investment opportunities.

 Last post it was at 45.18%. Previous Monthly Financial post here

Current level is now estimated at 45.96%

Progress at a snail's pace but improving, My plan for November and the rest of the year is to put any spare cash that I receive into dividend stocks and trim expenses. Such slow progress and the market has not been very favorable. Currently in the red on several stocks but many are improving, I am still optimistic though.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

9/31/2012 - Monthly Financial Breakdown

Sorry for this post being late. I've been busy these past few weeks and completely forgot.

The third Unemployed Monthly Financial Breakdown.

Well, another month has passed and this means I need to do a financial breakdown. This past month went extremely well...Lets see how well it went. How much is Van dwelling in my VW Westfalia saving or costing me?

Previous Monthly Financial post here

If I sum up total expenses from 9/1/2012 through 9/31/2012 I get -$602 :-)
A rough calculation would put my yearly expenses at $7224. :)  Yeay, I did it again! another sub 1K month!!

Regular Food costs: -$81 or -$20 per week (Normal)
Fun Food Costs:  -$68 or -$17 per week (Very low)
Fuel: -$140 or -$35 per week (trips to the springs)
Van: -$0 (no car maintenance expenses)
Travel: -$82 or -$20 per week (bike rental at vail)
Insurance: -$170  per month   (Van Insurance and health insurance)
Clothing: -$0 (Nothing new in September although tempted by patagonia down jacket)
Misc: -$46 (Home Depot and Lowes and mailbox shipping)
Mailbox:  -$15
Gifts: -$0 (zip)

Things that were not necessary this past month: Travel, fun food, and van expenses.
The fun food expenses were eating out with friends and the mountain bike rental at vail. This brings my luxury expenses to $196 and necessary to $406 Yikes!! Without the luxury, my yearly is at $4872... :)

Ok, clean out the unusual stuff and do a monthly for the rest
Regular Food and fuel: -$400
Mailbox only:  -$15
Insurance: -$170 
Clothes: -$0
Van:  -$100 (I don't anticipate any large projects for next month)
Fun: -$200 (I need to watch my fun costs)
Yearly expense estimate with the new numbers: $10620

Under my 11k mark again but a slight uptick is noted, mostly due to driving back and forth to the Springs.

Another Unemployed month but my expenses stayed about the same as last month. I was expecting a bit less but the misc expenses and travel killed me, especially the mountain bike rental.

I am optimistic about next month's expense sheet, should be interesting to see exactly what is going to happen.

Here is the status of my dividend income:
I have a running total of yearly expenses which I base my numbers off of so if my monthly goes up my dividend income against it decreases in value.
Since I re-aligned my investment strategy I've been putting extra cash into dividend paying stocks and other investment opportunities.

 Last post it was at 35.14%. Previous Monthly Financial post here

Current level is now estimated at 45.18%

Progress at a snail's pace but improving, My plan for October and the rest of the year is to put any spare cash that I receive into dividend stocks and trim expenses. Such slow progress and the market has not been very favorable. Currently in the red on several stocks but many are improving, I am still optimistic though.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Time to fix that fuel tank

This week, despite the colder weather, I am planning on dropping the fuel tank and attempting to fix the dent that is preventing my fuel gauge from reading correctly and to also seal up the seams as they leak when the tank is full. I am hoping that I will have enough access through the fuel level sensor hole to be able to hammer the dent out.  If not, I suppose I could cut the tank, bend it back into shape, then weld it shut.

edit: nevermind, I am lazy and this week is cold.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What the heck has Darren been doing?

You might be asking yourself this question if you have been following my blog. It is a perfectly reasonable question to ask considering the lack of posts. I apologize for the lack of details but I will try to explain in this post. Ever since I resigned from my job and moved back to CO to sort out my life, I have not spent much time working with the van or trying to simplify my life. I've been sort of living in the moment if you will.

Speaking of living, I am currently sitting in a hospital room watching over a friend who is about to have surgery. One moment life is going well, and then, in the next, you end up in the hospital waiting for surgery. Edit: Surgery went well and friend is recovering nicely.

Well, first off, I've resumed wearing a watch but I had to swap to my back-up watch because the primary one started randomly resetting itself. I still lose track of what day it is but I feel more productive with it on, also I've been putting more things (festivals, events, etc...) onto my google calender in an attempt to break up the monotony of dealing with my stuff and fixing things.

Travels:
More boat life but I did a trip to Aspen to hike up to Conundrum Hot Springs. Super cool spot to camp out and hang out at. A hot spring pool at 12000 ft surrounded by rocky peaks is simply amazing. The hike up to it is intense, next time I do it I will only bring a water purifier instead of carrying in tons of water. I would prefer to bring a lighter tent too.

One 14er hike up Mt. Elbert which is the highest peak in CO. Surprisingly, the highest peak was the easiest one to do. A 2 hr hike up and 1.5hr back. I was able to maneuver the van up the rough dirt road and camp out at the trailhead. Off-roading with the van is so much fun and the accommodations are perfect. If I want to camp I can do so but I will always return to the van knowing that I can have a good night sleep.

I've spent time driving my classic mini around the mountains along the peak-to-peak highway. The big annual british car show was mid-september. I spent a week prior to it assembling a friend's mini and then had to detail my car for the show (clay bar, polish, wax, treat trim, etc..).

Last week I was in Colorado Springs enjoying the town and the Garden of the Gods. Lots of good food and cool sights. It is a microcosm of interesting people.

Van:
Other then the trips to and from the mountains I have not done anything to it. There is no power to climb hills. I had to take Loveland Pass instead of climbing through the tunnel because my top speed up the switch backs was 30mph in first gear. I had a similar top speed going up to Leadville. At their altitude, 10200ft, my top speed was 55mph on the flats.

I need to do something about this lack of power because it is keeping me from really enjoying the van. I can fix the issue by installing some new stock engine cylinders and rings to bring the van back to stock performance.
I could do a subaru power swap or an I4 VW engine swap....drool....1.8t audi turbo engine with gobs of power sounds about right to me. Sadly the engine swaps are too pricy and more work then I am willing to do right now.


lets see, what else have I been doing. Fixing/riding my bike and getting rid of stuff.
I have so much stuff it is unbelievable.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

8/31/2012 - Monthly Financial Breakdown

The second Unemployed Monthly Financial Breakdown.

Well, another month has passed and this means I need to do a financial breakdown. This past month went extremely well...Lets see how well it went. How much is Van dwelling in my VW Westfalia saving or costing me?

Previous Monthly Financial post here

If I sum up total expenses from 8/1/2012 through 8/31/2012 I get -$588 :-)
A rough calculation would put my yearly expenses at $7056. :)  Yeay, I did it again! another sub 1K month!!

Regular Food costs: -$86 or -$28 per week (Normal)
Fun Food Costs:  -$4 or -$ per week (Very low)
Fuel: -$160 or -$53 per week (all Trip related)
Van: -$92 (Paint for Mini)
Travel: -$0 (zip)
Insurance: -$170  per month   (Van Insurance and health insurance)
Clothing: -$0 (Nothing new in July)
Misc: -$126 (Concert ticket and Home Depot)
Mailbox:  -$15
Gifts: -$0 (zip)

Things that were not necessary this past month: Travel, fun food, and van expenses.
The fun food expenses were eating out with friends. This brings my luxury expenses to $120 and necessary to $369 Yikes!! Without the luxury, my yearly is at $4434... :)

Ok, clean out the unusual stuff and do a monthly for the rest
Regular Food and fuel: -$400
Mailbox only:  -$15
Insurance: -$170 
Clothes: -$0
Van:  -$100 (I don't anticipate any large projects for next month)
Fun: -$200 (I need to watch my fun costs)
Yearly expense estimate with the new numbers: $10620

Under my 11k mark again but things must change quite rapidly in the next month if I am to maintain my unemployment.

Another Unemployed month but my expenses stayed about the same as last month. I was expecting a bit less but the misc expenses killed me, especially the paint for the mini. 

I am optimistic about next month's expense sheet, should be interesting to see exactly what is going to happen.

Here is the status of my dividend income:
I have a running total of yearly expenses which I base my numbers off of so if my monthly goes up my dividend income against it decreases in value.
Since I re-aligned my investment strategy I've been putting extra cash into dividend paying stocks and other investment opportunities.

 Last post it was at 35.14%. Previous Monthly Financial post here

Current level is now estimated at 35.14%
Note: I did not purchase any more stock this month.

Progress at a snail's pace but improving, My plan for September and the rest of the year is to put any spare cash that I receive into dividend stocks and trim expenses. Such slow progress and the market has not been very favorable. Currently in the red on several stocks but many are improving, I am still optimistic though.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

7/31/2012 - Monthly Financial Breakdown

The first Unemployed Monthly Financial Breakdown.

Well, another month has passed and this means I need to do a financial breakdown. This past month went extremely well...Lets see how well it went. How much is Van dwelling in my VW Westfalia saving or costing me?

Previous Monthly Financial post here

If I sum up total expenses from 7/1/2012 through 7/31/2012 I get -$552 :-)
A rough calculation would put my yearly expenses at $6625. :)  Yeay, I did it again! another sub 1K month!!

Regular Food costs: -$59 or -$14 per week (Very low)
Fun Food Costs:  -$49 or -$12 per week (Very low)
Fuel: -$265 or -$66 per week (High due to Trip)
Van: -$71 (Propane filling and BG fuel injection Cleaner)
Travel: -$0 (zip)
Insurance: -$170  per month   (Van Insurance and health insurance)
Clothing: -$0 (Nothing new in July)
Misc: -$53 (Pandora subscription renewal and misc electronic bits )
Mailbox:  -$15 (No more storage unit fees)
Gifts: -$0 (zip)

Things that were not necessary this past month: Travel, fun food, and van expenses.
The fun food expenses were eating out with friends. This brings my luxury expenses to $120 and necessary to $377 Yikes!! Without the luxury, my yearly is at $4524... :)

Ok, clean out the unusual stuff and do a monthly for the rest
Regular Food and fuel: -$400 (At least one trip to CO)
Mailbox only:  -$15
Insurance: -$170 
Clothes: -$0
Van:  -$100 (I don't anticipate any large projects for next month)
Fun: -$200 (I need to watch my fun costs)
Yearly expense estimate with the new numbers: $10620

Under my 11k mark again but things must change quite rapidly in the next month if I am to maintain my unemployment.

I almost don't believe that I only spent $498 last month. Nothing was lacking in my life and I wasn't starving thanks to my parents.  

I am optimistic about next month's expense sheet, should be interesting to see exactly what is going to happen.

Here is the status of my dividend income:
I have a running total of yearly expenses which I base my numbers off of so if my monthly goes up my dividend income against it decreases in value.
Since I re-aligned my investment strategy I've been putting extra cash into dividend paying stocks and other investment opportunities.

 Last post it was at 35.14%. Previous Monthly Financial post here

Current level is now estimated at 42.33%
Note: I purchased more stock with my last paycheck and also updated my expense sheet to reflect the new living situation (i.e. no more storage unit expenses, etc..)

Progress at a snail's pace but improving, My plan for August and the rest of the year is to put any spare cash that I receive into dividend stocks and trim expenses. Such slow progress and the market has not been very favorable. Currently in the red on several stocks but many are improving, I am still optimistic though.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Travel Update! 7-30-2012

Well, it has been very interesting being unemployed. First off, I lose track of time and what day of the week it is because I don't wear my watch.

My return trip to Denver was uneventful. It took two days to get home with no problems with the van other then a slow climb up Raton pass and Monument Hill. I spent one night at a rest stop near the New Mexico border.

I have spent most of the time so far at the house, getting rid of old stuff and doing maintenance on our cars. Broken things seem to gravitate to me.

My parents purchased a 26ft Chris Craft which I helped launch into Lake Granby. I spent last week on the boat, cleaning and sorting it out. I plan on returning to it this coming week because it is really nice on Lake Granby. You are on a boat which is in a lake surrounded by the mountains of the Continental Divide. Assuming I can get the van up the mountain passes, I will then take it into the National Forest areas and do some extended camping and hiking. There was some tentative plans to do some caving but all caves have been closed to protect them from disease the bats are getting.

If the van does not make it up the pass, my plan will be to do a rebuild on the motor. I did a compression test and all cylinders returned 100psi cold. The bently manual states that 115 is the minimum. There are several options for rebuilding, the cheapest is to get a piston ring set and have the cylinders honed to fit the rings. Next would be a rebuild kit for a slightly larger 2.2 liter size. The most expensive being the 2.5liter kit with fancy cams and cranks but with the highest increase in horsepower and torque. The other alternative is to do a subaru engine swap. I'd really like to have a turbo diesel...

The monthly financial post will be coming soon.Will be a bit sad due to a lack of income to boost the dividend rate. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

6/30/2012 - Monthly Financial Breakdown

Well, another month has passed and this means I need to do a financial breakdown. This past month went extremely well...Lets see how well it went. How much is Van dwelling in my VW Westfalia saving or costing me?

Previous Monthly Financial post here

If I sum up total expenses from 6/1/2012 through 6/31/2012 I get -$552 :-)
A rough calculation would put my yearly expenses at $6625. :)  Yeay, I did it again! another sub 1K month!!

Regular Food costs: -$104 or -$26 per week (Normal to low)
Fun Food Costs:  -$32 or -$8 per week (Very low)
Fuel: -$84 or -$21 per week (Normal)
Van: -$14 (Renewed the Inspection)
Travel: -$0 (soon to spike with upcoming trip)
Insurance: -$170  per month   (Van Insurance and health insurance)
Clothing: -$0 (Nothing new in February)
Misc: -$127 (dental bill and a couple of movie trips )
Storage:  -$35 (plus a sunk cost of 15 per month for mailbox)
Gifts: -$34 (June wedding gift)

Things that were not necessary this past month: Travel, fun food, and van expenses.
The fun food expenses were eating out with friends and solo burritos. The Van only needed a renewal of inspection. This brings my luxury expenses to $193 and necessary to $358 Yikes!! Without the luxury, my yearly is at $4299... :)

Ok, clean out the unusual stuff and do a monthly for the rest
Regular Food and fuel: -$400 (At least one trip to CO)
Mailbox only:  -$15
Insurance: -$170 
Clothes: -$0
Van:  -$100 (I don't anticipate any large projects for next month)
Fun: -$200 (I need to watch my fun costs)
Yearly expense estimate with the new numbers: $10620

Under my 11k mark again but things are going to change quite rapidly in the next month due to being unemployed.

I almost don't believe that I only spent $552 last month. Nothing was lacking in my life and I wasn't starving plus I got to stay in my friend's guest room for this past month. 

I am optimistic about next month's expense sheet, should be interesting to see exactly what is going to happen.

Here is the status of my dividend income:
I have a running total of yearly expenses which I base my numbers off of so if my monthly goes up my dividend income against it decreases in value.
Since I re-aligned my investment strategy I've been putting extra cash into dividend paying stocks and other investment opportunities.

 Last post it was at 30.96%. Previous Monthly Financial post here

Current level is now estimated at 35.14%
Note: I am waiting to buy some more after market settles down a bit after the euro banking crap.

Progress at a snail's pace but improving, My plan for July and the rest of the year is to push hard on dividend stocks and trim expenses. Such slow progress and the market has not been very favorable. Currently in the red on several stocks but many are improving, I am still optimistic though.

Friday, June 29, 2012

On the road again

Well, I've done it. I have resigned from my engineering job. Today, Friday the 29th of June, is my last day. My storage unit is mostly packed up and I am ready to get on the road. I will be driving in the evening/night so that I can travel at a slower pace and also enjoy the "cooler" temperatures.


The initial plan is to move all my stuff back to CO and spend a couple weeks visiting with my parents. Spending some time cleaning up the van/maintenance (fix fuel tank) Afterwards, it will be vacation time with the van. I don't know where I want to go just yet but wherever it is, I want to stay there for as long as possible. I am thinking that BLM land will be the best bet for boondocking.

Not sure about destinations or what I will do but it feels good to have some freedom. Definitely some climbing and caving and gold panning.

Friday, June 1, 2012

5/30/2012 - Monthly Financial Breakdown

Well, another month has passed and this means I need to do a financial breakdown. This past month went extremely well...Lets see how well it went. How much is Van dwelling in my VW Westfalia saving or costing me?

Previous Monthly Financial post here

If I sum up total expenses from 5/1/2012 through 5/31/2012 I get -$661
A rough calculation would put my yearly expenses at $7937. :)  Yeay, I did it! Finally a sub 1K month!!

Regular Food costs: -$104 or -$26 per week (Normal to low)
Fun Food Costs:  -$210 or -$52 per week (Higher)
Fuel: -$128 or -$32 per week (Normal to low)
Van: -$76 (Renewed the Registration and propane)
Travel: -$56 (Parking from Marathon trip)
Insurance: -$50 per month   (I pay in 6mo intervals to reduce the premium but still counted as monthly)
Clothing: -$0 (Nothing new in February)
Misc: -$52 (fuel for a friend)
Storage:  -$32 (plus a sunk cost of 15 per month for mailbox)
Gifts: -$0 (nothing happened in May but June has a wedding)

Things that were not necessary this past month: Travel, fun food, and van expenses.
The fun food expenses were eating out with friends and solo burritos. The Van only needed a renewal of registration but one could argue that there is a fuel tank to be purchased. This brings my luxury expenses to $343 and necessary to $318 Yikes!! Without the luxury, my yearly is at $3816... :)

Ok, clean out the unusual stuff and do a monthly for the rest
Regular Food and fuel: -$300 (I don’t have any long distance driving trips planned for next month)
Storage and box:  -$47
Insurance: -$50 
Clothes: -$0
Van:  -$100 (I don't anticipate any large projects for next month)
Fun: -$200 (I need to watch my fun costs)
Yearly expense estimate with the new numbers: $7200

Finally under my 11k mark again but still disturbed by fun expenses like eating out with friends but I can hardly be angry about it because it was really fun. 


I almost don't believe that I only spent $661 last month. Nothing was lacking in my life and I wasn't starving.

I am optimistic about next month's expense sheet, should be interesting to see exactly what an another normal month will look like.

Here is the status of my dividend income:
I have a running total of yearly expenses which I base my numbers off of so if my monthly goes up my dividend income against it decreases in value.
Since I re-aligned my investment strategy I've been putting extra cash into dividend paying stocks and other investment opportunities.

 Last post it was at 24.0%. Previous Monthly Financial post here

Current level is now estimated at 30.96%
Note: Since last post I have sold one of my positions and redistributed it into a lower interest but more stable stock. Ill wait till after the dividend to re-buy.

Progress at a snail's pace but improving, My plan for June and the rest of the year is to push hard on dividend stocks and trim expenses. Such slow progress and the market has not been very favorable. Currently in the red on several stocks but many are improving, I am still optimistic though.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fuel system update

Well, the van has been running fine all week long. I changed the filter but the problem is worse then I had initially anticipated.
The fuel tank is dented, probably by the lift machine at the oil change shop, or I drove over a large rock (which I haven't done). The dent is pushing the fuel gauge arm up causing bad readings at less then half a tank. The tank seam has also split slightly. The fix is a new or used tank. These are not cheap. I priced a new one at $150 but the damn tank has this crazy complicated mess of hoses and o-rings and seals which costs another $80. Throw in some shipping and I would be out at least $250 to fix it. The good news is that I already have a new fuel gauge sender unit to install into a new tank. I could attempt to fix the tank by banging the dent back out but I would still have to take the tank out and then weld the split seams.

I can ignore it for a while but eventually I should replace it. For now, I will stick to using the odometer to gauge fuel use-age or fill up at a quarter tank.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Vandwelling Update - Post Marathon and the Van's reaction to my return

I have returned from my vacation. Lots of fun and it was great to see the family/extended family.

The marathon went well and I did not get injured apart from extreme soreness. Now I can drive around and proudly show off a 26.2 sticker.


The Van decided to change its' strategy, instead of attempting to kill me it decided to try to break down and leave me stranded. Maybe it was a sign that I am not supposed to keep working in Houston, the van didn't want to take me to work on Monday. Regardless of its intentions, this is what happened:
I am cruising along the highway when I suddenly start to slow down. I can't accelerate anymore but I still have enough power to make it to an exit. Once at the light I can't accelerate and can barely creep forward to an abandoned parking lot where it stops running. Attempts to restart are futile. Hmm... feels like a fuel issue.
I disconnect the fuel line at the motor and stick it into a jar and crank the motor over to see how much the pump is putting out. Not much comes out which confirms that I do have a fuel issue. I bypass the fuel filter and try again. This time I am getting little squirts of fuel but not a steady stream. Maybe the tank is low or the pump is fatigued? Gauge reads 1/4 but I put in the emergency 2 gallons of fuel that I keep stored under my bed and then whack the pump with a hammer a few times. This time the pump started pumping out a normal stream of fuel. I hooked the fuel line back up to the engine and drove away.

If the pump is going bad, it will cost me 150, if the filter is clogged it will cost 10, if the fuel level sender is faulty it will cost 50. I think I have a spare fuel filter and I already purchased a new sender last year because the gauge wasn't working when I purchased the van and when I went to replace it, it turned out that it had simply been disconnected. I will change the filter first, assuming I have one. Next, Ill drive around till it is almost empty, if I run out of fuel before the gauge reads empty then I know that the sender is bad and I can change that out too but if nothing happens then I will keep going and save up some cash to buy a new pump.
Maybe I will test the pressure and volume output of the pump this week and see if I can rule it out.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Vandwelling update - Pre Marathon Edition

Well, the marathon I've been training for is finally here. I fly to Denver today and will return on the 13th, the marathon is on sunday. Surprise, surprise, looks like it might rain and a 20 degree drop in temperature that day. Sigh, any time I try to do something important in CO I get weather fucked.

More DVD copying to my hard drive. I am down to the last box which is mostly seasons of shows I like. It feels great to be able to carry my entire collection of movies and photos in one hand and store it in my pocket. Next step is to sell off the movies, although I am not quite ready to hand over some of them.

Van update:

Fog lights were installed last week. I need to add some spacers to get the light beam higher up and align the pattern. I used a spare defroster switch and an open slot on the dash board. It is awesome having them and will be even better once I have them setup correctly. Now I need to add a set to the rear to come on when backing up.

Oil was changed on Friday, the oil pressure warning light/buzzer kept coming on but I think it was just air pockets working their way through the system. I also think the technician overfilled the system but it seems to have settled down now.

Propane filled up on monday. 

Box of van parts sold - all I have now is some tune up parts, spare belts, and misc hardware. It feels good not having all that extra stuff. I honestly dont know why I was so concerned about having all that stuff. If I need to I can get all of it.

Fixed the seat beads, the string that held it together was coming undone so I replaced it with 80lb fishing wire.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

4/30/2012 - Monthly Financial Breakdown

Well, another month has passed and this means I need to do a financial breakdown. This past month was Ok ....Lets see how it went. How much is Van dwelling in my VW Westfalia saving or costing me?

Previous Monthly Financial post here

If I sum up total expenses from 4/1/2012 through 4/30/2012 I get -$1056
A rough calculation would put my yearly expenses at $12,679. close but higher then last month...
lets take a closer look.

Regular Food costs: -$197 or -$49 per week (High)
Fun Food Costs:  -$92 or -$23 per week (Low)
Fuel: -$228 or -$57 per week (Normal to High)
Van: -$33 (Propane and Fuel system Cleaner)
Travel: -$88 (Road Trip fuel and Toll Tag billing)
Insurance: -$50 per month   (I pay in 6mo intervals to reduce the premium but still counted as monthly)
Clothing: -$0 (Nothing new in April)
Misc: -$384 (Genetic Testing Kit and External Hard drive for DVD collection, shipped a box and renewed the domain name )
Storage:  -$32 (plus a sunk cost of 15 per month for mailbox)
Gifts: -$0

Things that were not necessary this past month: Travel, fun food, Genetic Kit, and Hard Drive
The fun food expenses were eating out with friends and solo burritos, I am tempted to not put my solo burrito meals in the fun food. Travel was a trip to Canyon Lake for camping, I picked up the fuel bill. The Hard drive was needed so that I could eliminate the physical clutter of DVDs and also backup my laptop's files. The Genetic kit is also a luxury expense but will be interesting to see what it says. This brings my luxury expenses to $564 and necessary to $491Yikes!! Without the luxury, my yearly is at $5900... :)

Ok, clean out the unusual stuff and do a monthly for the rest
Regular Food and fuel: -$450 (Seems my food and fuel costs have been slightly higher then estimated)
Storage and box:  -$47
Insurance: -$50 
Clothes: -$0
Van:  -$100 (I don't anticipate any large projects for next month)
Fun: -$200 (I need to watch my fun costs)
Yearly expense estimate with the new numbers: $10164

Again, just under my 11k mark but still disturbed by fun/misc expenses. The genetic kit and the hard drive killed this month's budget. Fun food and travel were lower this month but still contributed. 

I am optimistic about next month's expense sheet, should be interesting to see exactly what another almost normal month will look like.

Note: Sold mattress and vacuum. Still have van parts, watermaker, tent, and lots of clothes

Here is the status of my dividend income:
I have a running total of yearly expenses which I base my numbers off of so if my monthly goes up my dividend income against it decreases in value.
Since I re-aligned my investment strategy I've been putting extra cash into dividend paying stocks and other investment opportunities.

 Last post it was at 23.5%. Previous Monthly Financial post here

Current level is now estimated at 24.0%

Note: I have another paycheck's worth of cash to purchase more stocks but I am waiting for the market to decline a bit before i do. If I were to include that additional stock purchase my estimated level would be at: 26.97.3%

Progress at a snail's pace but improving, My plan for May and the rest of the year is to push hard on dividend stocks and trim expenses.

Monday, April 16, 2012

How much freedom do I buy with each paycheck?

This was the question I asked myself over the weekend. Despite being in the woods, camping out, and having fun on a lake, I was still thinking about my financial situation.

After plugging in some future scenarios into excel, I achieved this chart.
The green line is the percentage of expenses that are covered by dividend investments (replotted against right side Y-axis for clarity)
The light blue line is the age at which, if reinvested, my dividend investments would pay me more then my current salary.
The purple line is the age at which my investment income is twice the amount that I currently need
The red line is the age at which my investments, if reinvested till that age, would cover my current expenses.
I had to take so many assumptions that it isn't worth the effort to try and explain all of them. Inflation and tax rate changes are not included.

The information in this chart is exciting.
  • The most important piece of information is that financial independence is achievable, with 21 more paychecks invested I could search for employment that makes me happy and not worry about what was going to happen. Assuming that my expenses stayed exactly the same and that the dividend/interest payments of the companies I am invested in stay the same. 
  • Investing and compound interest is very important and very powerful.
  • 10 paychecks invested will cover another 30% of my expenses plus it reduces my freedom point by 7 years.
  • 15 paychecks invested will cover another 45% of my expenses and reduce freedom point by 11 years
If only I had been investing this heavily when I was first hired....

Monday, April 9, 2012

Oh the things I keep...

Such stupid things... I keep working at my trimming down my pile of stuff and it feels great. Sunday I went through my box of van parts and decided that I could function perfectly well without half of what was in the box. The problem is that I don't want this stuff but who else would want it? The other half is stuff directly related to the performance and operation of the van and so, for now, I will keep it around.

My Katadyn reverse osmosis water purification system is now on craigslist. Hopefully some survival person sees it and is interested. I could put it on ebay and sell it but I really don't want to deal with shipping it.

After the camping trip this coming weekend I will think about putting my tent on craigslist. The idea of carrying around a 12lb tent is not as appealing as i had thought. It is too big for my needs.

I've copied one third of my DVD collection onto my laptop and I'll be needing to get that external hard drive soon, currently 60% full. Once they are all copied, I will put them on the company bulletin board and sell them off.

I am mailing two boxes of stuff back to CO. One box contains detailing supplies for my Mini and the other is a box of kitchen towels for my mother.

I've made some progress on paperwork that I thought I couldn't get rid of, turns out that I can. Everything from financial statements to old school document are now on my google docs folder and my laptop. I am losing physical clutter and gaining digital weight. Which one would you want to keep?

Had to refill the propane tank on Easter Sunday.

Monday, April 2, 2012

3/31/2012 - Monthly Financial Breakdown

Well, another month has passed and this means I need to do a financial breakdown. This past month was Ok ....Lets see how it went. How much is Van dwelling in my VW Westfalia saving or costing me?

Previous Monthly Financial post here

If I sum up total expenses from 3/1/2012 through 3/31/2012 I get -$927
A rough calculation would put my yearly expenses at $11,130. So close...
lets take a closer look.

*Note: I had to pay my taxes, cost of $920 which I did not include in the expense analysis because if I was living off of my budget goal I would be paying a lot less if not zero taxes.

Regular Food costs: -$125 or -$31 per week (Normal)
Fun Food Costs:  -$167 or -$42 per week (Normal)
Fuel: -$113 or -$28 per week (Normal to Low)
Van: -$104 (New coolant tanks, belts, and propane)
Travel: -$310 (Flight to CO and hotel for marathon)
Insurance: -$50 per month   (I pay in 6mo intervals to reduce the premium but still counted as monthly)
Clothing: -$0 (Nothing new in March)
Misc: -$58 (Running Gels, Sports Drink formula, and cord for my camera's remote flash system )
Storage:  -$32 (plus a sunk cost of 15 per month for mailbox)
Gifts: -$15 (One wedding gift)

Things that were not necessary this past month: Travel and fun food,
The fun food expenses were eating out with friends and solo burritos, I am tempted to not put my solo burrito meals in the fun food. The new coolant tank was not needed but I did not trust the old plastic tank to keep working forever.  This brings my luxury expenses to $477 and necessary to $450 Yikes!! Without the luxury, my yearly is at $5400... :)

Ok, clean out the unusual stuff and do a monthly for the rest
Regular Food and fuel: -$400 (Seems my food and fuel costs have been slightly higher then estimated)
Storage and box:  -$47
Insurance: -$50 
Clothes: -$0
Van:  -$100 (I don't anticipate any large projects for next month)
Fun: -$300 (I need to watch my fun costs)
Yearly expense estimate with the new numbers: $10764

Just under my 11k mark again but still disturbed by fun expenses. Food with friends and Travel are what killed this month's budget but I can hardly be angry about it because it was really fun. 

I am optimistic about next month's expense sheet, should be interesting to see exactly what another almost normal month will look like.

Note: Gave away/donated many items. Still have mattress, vacuum, van parts, and lots of clothes

Here is the status of my dividend income:
I have a running total of yearly expenses which I base my numbers off of so if my monthly goes up my dividend income against it decreases in value.
Since I re-aligned my investment strategy I've been putting extra cash into dividend paying stocks and other investment opportunities.

 Last post it was at 17.97%. Previous Monthly Financial post here

Current level is now estimated at 23.5%
Note: I did receive a bonus this year and the whole thing went toward purchasing more stock which accounts for the significant increase in my dividend level vs last month. 

Progress at a snail's pace but improving, My plan for April and the rest of the year is to push hard on dividend stocks and trim expenses.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The battle continues...

It is Man vs Van vs Stuff

VS Van
I've completed the repairs to the cooling system. Last week I was trying to find out why my battery light had decided to stay on, turned out to be a bad wire but the next day the belt that drives the water pump broke. The broken belt damaged the coolant reservoir and some hoses. I simply pulled the power steering belt off and put in on the water pump, had to drive around for a week without power steering. I've replaced the two coolant tanks, pressure caps, new hoses and belts. Currently in the process of getting all the air out of the system.

VS Stuff
Lots of progress last weekend:
I donated three sets of sheets, some clothes, and threw out some used van parts.
I've eliminated the rest of the food and other consumables (except for vitamins).
Gave away some books and some more garage fluids (cleaners and oils).
I did a rough pass through my DVD collection looking for movies that I could easily live without and started copying them onto my laptop. The rest will come later on. I will be getting an external hard drive to dedicate to movies and photos.
Ive sold the jack and axle stands, they were not built to lift/hold the weight of the van and wouldn't be safe to use.
A director chair or two may be sold later this week.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

200 days Van Dwelling in a VW Westfalia

March 19th was the 200th day of Van Dwelling for me. To mark this generic milestone, I will take a look back and reflect upon what I have learned and observed.

First off, I moved out of the van right at the end of a hot summer. There were days when I had trouble sleeping due to the high interior temperatures but cooler weather quickly came. My lesson is that anyone can survive living in Houston without heat (Although, I wont be trying to survive without Air Conditioning this summer). There were times when I wanted to have heat but my only choice was to generate it with my body. Crawling under my blankets and comforter was initially shocking due to the cold but I would soon be fast asleep. Getting up to go to work is far more difficult when it is cold. A few cold nights I used a candle to provide ambient heat/light and it made the mornings much easier to deal with so I would recommend that. Cold down here is when it is 40-50F. It did get below freezing a couple of times but I survived. In a pinch, the stove can be used for comfort heating but you have to open a window.

In November my dividend income was very low and it would only cover approx 9% of my yearly expenses. Since then I have made it a priority to save/invest all my "extra" income. Currently my dividend income is approx 20%. It has been both exciting and depressing to see it rise, exciting in that I've increased it by 11% but sad that it took so long to do and it is really depressing to think about how much I would have had if I had been saving this way when I started my job in 2009.

When I moved out of my apartment, I had a storage unit stuffed with unnecessary items. Bread makers, toasters, extra Tupperware, chairs, etc... So much stuff that it was difficult to get in/out of the storage unit. I still have a storage unit but I can walk in/out without a problem and most of the bulky items are gone (still have the mattress). The remaining items either have emotional or useful ties and are difficult to throw out. I've started setting price levels of items I am willing to get rid of if they cost less then the price of storage.

Window tint is required for van dwelling. With it, you can be sitting in front of Starbucks using the wifi and feel as comfortable as being at home. However, having some does not mean that you can turn on all the lights or have loud music.

A dedicated parking spot is the best thing you can have when van dwelling with long term work. The stress of moving to a new location each night was wearing me down.

Space is a premium and it takes very little time for the van to get messy. I spend a few hours a week putting things away and cleaning, afterwards I feel at ease with the van. The mess brings stress.

That is all I have for now, I'll add to the list as I think of more things.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Future Dollar Thinking

Ever walk into a store, see the price tag for an item you want and then figure out how many dividend paying shares you would need to acquire to pay for that item each month?

I do.
 
If you did this every time you purchased something, it would make retirement seem like an impossibility. But just imagine, for a moment, that weekly coffee drink or burrito that you, and I, enjoy. Use something that is a special treat, not the regular day-to-day things for this thought experiment. Special treats have higher value to us should continue to be purchased so long as it's personal value continues to be high. If you had to choose between giving up the weekly treat and giving up the weekly morning latte, ditch the latte. If the weekly latte is your weekly treat then this experiment will be much more painful/eye-opening to go through.

Lets use a burrito as the weekly treat: it roughly costs around $6 at most of the major burrito places.
Lets say you got this burrito once a week. Rough cost of $312 per year for your weekly treat.

The ideal situation would be to have you dividends pay for you treat so that it does not impact your lifestyle in retirement. If dividends were paid weekly there wouldn't be an issue but the best you can do in the current market is monthly. With some simple budgeting it shouldn't be a problem to pay for the burritos.

How much does this treat habbit cost? $312 per year which is equal to $25.98 per month, round to $26.

Lets take a look at some of the top-yielding monthly-dividend paying companies/stocks.
Alpine Global Dynamic Dividend  AGD  Yield=11.78%  share price of $6.20    Mo. Div.  $0.06
PIMCO High Income                   PHK  Yield=11.29%  share price of $12.96  Mo. Div.  $0.12

I've only put the top payers here for simplicity of this thought experiment, no advise is given to buy or sell. Some would argue that anything about 5% is unsustainable but back to burritos!

With the monthly AGD stock dividend of $0.06, it would take a minimum of 433 shares to provide $26 of monthly dividend income, which would require an initial investment of $2684. This is not including the bite that taxes take so it would be better to have more shares, 25% more or ~550 at the cost of $3410.




Investor/trader note* Always round up to whole groups of shares like 10 or 50 or 100. They trade much
 faster then 433 or 541.

What would that commuting expense of $60 per week in fuel be?  You will need to be investing $34100 in 5500 shares

So, how much are your treats costing you?

The simple thought experiment above is applicable to everyone but you may suddenly want to become a van dweller and trying to live off of 11k per year after seeing your future dollar costs.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Rainy days and Mondays

They always get me down.

Daylight savings is just another way to deprive sleep from the wage slaves. At least the kids are on spring break giving regular commuters a reprieve from terrible traffic.

I enjoy listening to the rain, so soothing.

Sadly, this rain storm has highlighted a few van flaws. I noticed some rain droplets forming at the corners of the skylight cover. If the droplets land at just the right angle, they will splash between the seal and the cover. I also noticed some water along the slider window tracks. When the weather dries out I will climb up there and see what I can do.

The clutter within the van was driving me mad on saturday and I spent some time cleaning/organizing while I did my laundry. I donated a box of towels and my old hubcaps; the new hubcaps are a bit to shiny for me.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

2/30/2012 - Monthly Financial Breakdown

Well, another month has passed and this means I need to do a financial breakdown. This past month went very well...Lets see how well it went. How much is Van dwelling in my VW Westfalia saving or costing me?

Previous Monthly Financial post here

If I sum up total expenses from 2/1/2012 through 2/31/2012 I get -$1205
A rough calculation would put my yearly expenses at $14,448. :( not even close.
lets take a closer look.

Regular Food costs: -$148 or -$37 per week (Normal)
Fun Food Costs:  -$150 or -$37 per week (Way better then last month)
Fuel: -$192 or -$48 per week (Normal)
Van: -$190 (One new tire and propane)
Travel: -$461 (Balance due for Ski trip, couple days at Galveston Island RV Park )
Insurance: -$50 per month   (I pay in 6mo intervals to reduce the premium but still counted as monthly)
Clothing: -$0 (Nothing new in February)
Misc: -$20 (drill parts)
Storage:  -$32 (plus a sunk cost of 15 per month for mailbox)
Gifts: -$35 (Two wedding gifts)

Things that were not necessary this past month: Travel, fun food, and van expenses.
The fun food expenses were eating out with friends and solo burritos, I am tempted to not put my solo burrito meals in the fun food. The extra tire for the van was a bit spontaneous but I should have taken care of it when I got my new set of tires. This brings my luxury expenses to $835 and necessary to $369 Yikes!! Without the luxury, my yearly is at $4428... :)

Ok, clean out the unusual stuff and do a monthly for the rest
Regular Food and fuel: -$350 (I don’t have any long distance driving trips planned for next month)
Storage and box:  -$47
Insurance: -$50 
Clothes: -$0
Van:  -$100 (I don't anticipate any large projects for next month)
Fun: -$300 (I need to watch my fun costs)
Yearly expense estimate with the new numbers: $10164

Just under my 11k mark again but still disturbed by fun expenses. Food with friends and Travel are what killed this month's budget but I can hardly be angry about it because it was really fun. 

I am optimistic about next month's expense sheet, should be interesting to see exactly what an almost normal month will look like. I know that there will be another flight purchase for early May.

Note: Gave away a few more items. Still have mattress and vacuum.

Here is the status of my dividend income:
I have a running total of yearly expenses which I base my numbers off of so if my monthly goes up my dividend income against it decreases in value.
Since I re-aligned my investment strategy I've been putting extra cash into dividend paying stocks and other investment opportunities.

 Last post it was at 16.6%. Previous Monthly Financial post here

Current level is now estimated at 17.97%
Note: Since last post I have sold one of my positions and redistributed it into a lower interest but more stable stock. Ill wait till after the dividend to re-buy.

Progress at a snail's pace but improving, My plan for March and the rest of the year is to push hard on dividend stocks and trim expenses. I also want to find additional employment for weekends. Such slow progress and the market has not been very favorable. Currently in the red on several stocks but many are improving, I am still optimistic for 2012.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ack! more stuff found!

Digging around my automotive parts area in the storage unit lead to a discovery of forgotten stuff!! Well, not really a discovery but at least a surprise.

After getting rid of (given away) some tie downs, work rags, some fluids, rope and other misc stuff, I came across the box of brake parts for the van. This box contains two front brake rotors and a rear brake drum. I had it sitting on top of my bar clamps, underneath the workbench, which was obscuring my view of the smaller box below it. It is a box of books. All very good and useful books that I will have to go through and thin out but not right now.

Right now I have to deal with the brake parts and fix my drill.

The brake parts have an interesting problem associated with them. First off, are they useable? To determine this I need to do some measuring with calipers to see if the metal thickness is enough to reuse but also need to determine if they are warped or not. Second, if they are useable, what am I going to do with them?

The net value of these parts new would be about $160. Is it worth the time and effort to deal with these parts or do I recycle them and free up some more of my life? Probably the latter because they are heavy and bulky and after 6 months of storage unit fees I could buy the new parts. Plus it hampers my mobility as a van dweller.

**Update 1: I can take the drums/discs to an auto parts place and they will measure them. If they are still good then it will cost $25 per part for the machining. Assuming all are still machinable, it would cost $75 $50 per update 2**

**Update 2: Parts were taken to the shop and determined that they are still good and can be machined. The rotors need machining but the extra drum has already been done. Of all the parts I have, I would have thought that these used rotors and drum would have been trash and I could simply recycle them. Just my luck that they can still be used.**

Friday, February 24, 2012

It is friday!


Just a bit of inspiration for those of us at work.

Saturday I have a 10K (6.2mile) race which is just for fun considering I ran 9 miles on sunday, 6 on tuesday, and another 6 on thursday. Thursday's run I did in 55 minutes, a personal best.  It is also the pace I would have to maintain to do the marathon in under 4 hrs. I need lots of training to keep this pace.

I had to take the van to the tire shop because a slow leak developed in a rear tire. After the technician broke my hubcap, I was told that the puncture was too high on the sidewall to repair and that they would have to replace it (under warranty). New tire to arrive sometime early  next week, I asked for them to order a second one to replace the ancient spare tire. The shop has to replace my hubcaps so I might have them compensate me for the cost of replacement against the cost of the spare tire instead.

I must go to goodwill this weekend and donate a bunch of stuff. I am running out of room in the van.

btw, I promise to fix the keystone issues with the photos in the previous post. I forgot how to do it in my editing software and had to relearn this week. 

Projects:
I want to go through the spare van parts and make an inventory then determine what to keep.
I want to find out what is causing the jerky acceleration, I think it may be an issue with the air flow signal. I will finally get to use my hand held oscilloscope to test with.
I need to adjust the idle switch and replace the cam screw.
Still need to deal with brake switch issues. Need to bleed brakes and adjust rear shoes.  Also want to measure the spare brake parts (discs and drums) that came with the van to determine if they are worth keeping or recycle.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The dark side...my storage unit

Sunset at my storage unit, I edited it in an HDR style to keep sky exposure and foreground exposure correct
In previous posts I have mentioned a storage unit where I had dumped everything from my apartment that was unable to fit in the van. I finally got around to taking some photos of it although, I wish I had some shot of it when I first moved my stuff into it. If you ever want to use a storage unit as an extra room/closet, do it the way I did with hanging clothes rack, ironing board (iron plugs into the light socked above) and stacked storage in the back. Very functional this way and easy enough to access most items, high use items or items to get rid of are at the front. All clothing is visible and wrinkle free.

Vacuum and ironing board on left, golf clubs and mattress on right. Clothes above and crap in the back.

DVDs, Katadyn RO Watermaker, Auto parts below the shelf.
Why did I have to get a storage unit? Well, it is a complicated answer but the main reason was because I did not know if I would be able to survive van-dwelling, if I was a gambler it was my way of hedging my bet. I also was blissfully unaware of how much stuff I really had in my apartment. There were some items that I knew I was going to get rid of via craigslist which meant that I would have had to wait for a buyer or donate these items and the rest I deemed worthy of keeping. The only problem was that not everything could fit into the van.

Initially I accepted having the storage unit, it was crammed with all my stuff and I felt like I had done the right thing as part of my new lifestyle experiment. I justified having it because of the value of the stuff I put in it and the "low" monthly cost. Eventually my acceptance turned into apathy, or bliss, and it was just another part of my daily life. I would visit it several times a week to exchange items like work shirts, pants, shoes, dvds, etc... I did what I thought I needed to do and posted the "unnecessary" items for sale, slowly each thing sold. Some stuff I just gave away or donated but, in the end, I still had a storage unit with lots of stuff.

Eventually every item developed a blind spot in my mind as I quickly rationalized why I needed what was inside. In doing so I felt like I had somehow failed myself. I knew that some things were going to back to CO and others were to be sold but because I had mentally eliminated it, I could ignore it. Ignorance isn't bliss. Every week I would read blogs by minimalist travelers who have less then 100 personal items and wonder if it was even possible for me to do the same. The idea of paring down to that level seemed like an impossibility when I was having a hard time getting rid of my useful but unnecessary cleaning supplies.

So what was I supposed to do about my storage unit stuff?
The answer isn't clear but it has something to do with how replaceable an item is; meaning that I could get it anywhere for a reasonable price vs the mental/physical costs of storing it. Each item needed to be looked at with this line of questioning.

example: I had a box of fluids for the van that came with it and some I had purchased, they sat below the ironing board till I started to accept the idea that I can replace all of them for less then $30. I also realized that I was keeping some of the inherited fluids just because they were useful but after further inspection did I find out how old they were. Never use old fluids, they absorb water and chemically degrade. I was overlooking this detail because I had, initially, mentally justified keeping them based on their perceived usefulness when in fact they were useless.

Every item gets scrutinized. From the item's point of view it would be as if the Eye of Sauron was looking upon it and deciding it's fate. Sometimes I look at something and initially dismiss it however, I have recognized this as a way for my mind to avoid a difficult decision. Other items need to sit in my mind and torture me till I come up with an answer. Even if I decide to get rid of something, I still put it in the van and drive around with it for a while till my patience runs out with the lack of space and I am forced to get rid of it.

I've made a new goal that every time I go into the storage unit I have to take something out. Give away, donate or throw away.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

So what is in my van, let me show you

Someone asked about what I keep in the van and where, here is my answer (some of the stuff I have, more in a future post)

The rear cabinet mostly contains socks and underwear but it also has shoes, shorts, and repair manuals. I keep my van life shirt and Mini hats here as well. See photo.

Next is the wardrobe closet which is where my hanging clothes are. I also keep the dirty laundry bag in here.

The two storage bins below the main table contain misc food things like a container of almonds, produce bags, ice pack, cutting board, loaf of bread (sometimes), spare food storage containers. The other storage bin is where I keep my pants and camera (not pictured) and the storage bin below the camera has the power cable and "dirty shoes"


I also took a photo of the kitchen drawer, lots of crap in here but all very useful.

Notice the position of the lighter, it is velcro attached to the side of the drawer making it very easy to find for lighting the stove




Here is a shot of the stuff in my shower bag.


Ill get photos of the pantry area in another post, it will take a while due to the size of the space. The same applies to the space below the rear bench.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Rainy Days, Cold Days

I like rainy days, if only I could sleep in and listen to them. The sound of rain on the rear window and roof is cool, I suspect one day I'll be late to work because of it.
Sadly the rain brings with it the cold weather. This past weekend was in the 50s with lows in the 30s. Went on a 16 mile bike ride Saturday, hands were frozen by the end.

I ran out of propane on saturday, had it refilled sunday morning. Re-filling the propane tank on sunday was such a pleasant experience, the tech got the fill hose hooked up correctly, opened the valves in the correct order and even knew how to use the manual bleeder valve. For once I believe I have a totally full tank of propane, usually the techs have trouble with fitting the hose or don't close off the bleeder valve after shutting off the pump leading to wasted propane.

No van projects completed, I did purchase a wrench to get the Oxygen sensor out and also purchased a brake adjusting tool. I need to do the brake stuff, I am tired of not having properly operating rear brake lights. Hoping this next weekend will be warm.

Friday, February 10, 2012

So now what?

This is the question I ask myself quite frequently. What do I want to do?

What about my stuff?
Well, I have reached a plateau with my stuff in storage. Everything that is left will require a conscience effort to get rid of. I am prepared to let go of my DVD collection but only after I transfer it to an external hard drive, this should be my next project. This will eliminate three boxes (except for the special collections or shows), will post the rest on Craigslist.

I've removed two buckets and some cleaning supplies, hoping to give them to a friend who has a house. Also getting rid of misc spices and other cooking liquids.
I've re-posted the mattress, vacuum and woodworking tools on craigslist. Hope they sell soon, I am tired of seeing them.

Ive got a trolly jack and axle stands, need to use them to adjust rear brakes and do a fluid flush but need to get rid of them as well.

The nice sears drill I bought needs a part to fix the chuck, if I buy the parts to fix it I could sell the drill but this assumes I can actually get the parts I need.
**update** Parts were available and I purchased them. I am amazed that a consumer product can even be repaired these days.

What about my job?
Yesterday I received an email from a friend about a full time photography position in the Virgin Islands. I am so tempted to just up and leave. I don't know what is really holding me back, I could point to my financial plan and say that I am not ready but money is just a tool. I could point to my stuff and say that it takes work to move but that is just an excuse for my laziness in getting rid of it all.
I need my job to allow me to exercise my creativity and control but also improve my life in some aspect. Every day right now feels like another day wasted in my short life span, no new life skills - just paychecks.

What Now?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

1/31/2012 - Monthly Financial Breakdown

Well, another month has passed and this means I need to do a financial breakdown. I can clearly see that I have problems with eating out with friends. 

Previous Monthly Financial Breakdown post here

If I sum up total expenses from 1/1/2012 through 1/31/2012 I get -$1326
A rough calculation would put my yearly expenses at $15,919. :( not even close
lets take a closer look.

Regular Food costs: -$51 or -$13 per week (Normal to low)
Fun Food Costs:  -$463 or -$115 per week (High - I paid for several expensive dinners with friends)
Fuel: -$88 or -$22 per week (includes a trip and driving around Denver)
Van: -$323 (Floor mats, sensors, light bulbs, propane, etc...)
Travel: -$341 (Parking cost for ski trip at airport lot, fuel for trip, purchased another flight for March wedding)
Insurance: -$50 per month   (I pay in 6mo intervals to reduce the premium but still counted as monthly)
Clothing: -$0 (Nothing new in January,  The awesome knitted red merino wool hat served me well for the ski trip)
Misc: -$24 (Purchased Tea and Fireworks)
Storage:  -$32   (plus a sunk cost of 15 per month for mailbox)
Gifts: -$36 (Pandora subscription for friend)


Things that were not necessary this past month: Most of this past month's unnecessary expenses are related to travel, fun food and fuel., and unnecessary van parts.  Purchased another ticket to fly back home for a wedding in March plus parking fees and fuel, $341.  The fun food expenses were all eating out with friends, I paid for several of them, $383...ouch. The floor mats were not necessary $80 but I enjoy them a lot but the oxygen sensor, coolant sensor and light bulbs were needed. This brings my luxury expenses to $804 and necessary to $522 Yikes!! Without the luxury, my yearly is at $6264... :)

Ok,  clean out the unusual stuff and do a monthly for the rest
Food and fuel: -$350 (I don’t have any long distance driving trips planned for next month other than to the airport for my wedding flight)
Storage and box:  -$47
Insurance: -$50 
Clothes: -$100 (Assuming another smartwool shirt and misc)
Van:  -$50 (I don't anticipate any large projects for next month, revised down)
Fun: -$400 (number held constant, upcoming wedding trip will incur dinner expenses, parking fees, etc...)
Yearly expense estimate with the new numbers: $11964
I know there is a $400 expense for next month, it is the remainder of the ski trip costs that I have to pay for. 

Unhappy to see an increase over my 11k mark again and still disturbed by fun expenses. The food for friends are what killed this month's budget but I can hardly be angry about it because it was really fun. 

I am optimistic about next month's expense sheet, should be interesting and depressing to see exactly what a an almost normal month will look like. 

Note:Gave away a few items; Ikea chair is gone and am working on getting rid of a end table and car cleaning kit. Working on getting rid of mattress and vacuum.

Here is the status of my dividend income: I have a running total of yearly expenses which I base my numbers off of so if my monthly goes up my dividend income against it decreases in value.
Since I re-aligned my investment strategy I've been putting extra cash into dividend paying stocks and other investment opportunities. More progress mainly because of the "extra" paycheck at the end of December. Last post it was at 9%.

Previous Monthly Financial Breakdown post here

Current level is now estimated at 16.6% (All Q4 Dividends have been received)

Progress at a snail's pace but improving, My plan for February and the rest of the year is to push hard on dividend stocks and trim expenses. I also want to find additional employment for weekends. Such slow progress, the market has not been very favorable to me either. Currently in the red but many are improving, I am still optimistic for 2012.