What are YOU Working For?

What are you really working for?

We all work, in some way, shape, or form.  Many of you, when asked the question, “what are you working for”, will likely give the easiest answer.  Money.  That’s what we all work for, right?  We need it to pay our bills, buy our food, and do many of the things that we choose to do.  But, one of the things that I’ve contemplated for some time, and that helped me make the decision to quit my job last year, was the furtherance of that question.  Sure, we all work for money.  But, is that all we work for?  And, if so, should it be?

The conclusion that I came too, as you can probably guess, is that money isn’t everything.  We do need some, but if that’s all we’re working for, it quickly becomes less of the tool that it should be, and, instead, becomes something that makes us feel trapped where we are.

Not All Work

Primal Money

One of the popular diets, recently, is the Primal Diet.  It’s a diet of foods that our primal ancestors (the hunter-gatherers) would have eaten.  Mostly meat, and readily available nuts and fruits.  The idea is that the human race has been around for thousands of years, but only been farming, and eating what we farm, for a fraction of that time.  Proponents think that we haven’t evolved sufficiently enough to properly handle the abundance of grains and other “farmed” foods in our diets.  (sidenote: the increase in Celiac disease over the last few decades might point to them being correct)  Because of that perceived evolutionary gap, they’ve taken up eating what our kind would have eaten before the rise of farming.  The movement made me think, though.  What of money?

For centuries, we’ve used money as a means of trade.  I give you a coin, you give me goods and services.  If I run out of coins, I have to find a way to make more.  I trade my surplus goods and services to someone, and they give me coins.  We repeat that cycle, and we have an economy.  Slowly, coins become the only way to attain goods and services, and we all depend on them.  And the more we depend on them, the more of them we need.  And the more we need, the more we have to sell our goods or services to get more.  Eventually, we end up where we are now.  We all work in order to gain more coins.  Our economies have evolved.  But, if that’s the case, what were they like in the Primal era?

Before we all became obsessed with coins, and money, our ancestors hunted for their food.  They didn’t need to buy it, they just went out and trapped or shot it.  Or they scavenged it off of the tree it grew on.  Or dug it out of the ground where it grew wild.  The work they did wasn’t for a new tv, or a new car, it was for survival.  If they didn’t do the work, they would starve.

If you don’t do the work, you get fired (if you work for someone), or you just don’t make any money.  And, yes, you still might starve.  Eventually.  But, food wasn’t the only thing that many of them worked for.  They worked to help their family survive.  They worked so that their children would grow up healthy and strong.  Their children were their legacy; what they would leave the world when they passed on.

Legacy.

Now, we’ve found the real purpose of work, I think.  That’s why I work, now.  It isn’t about the money, although money can have a place in legacy, but about what I leave the world when I leave the world.  The example that I set for my children, the good works I do, the changes I make in my world that make it better, and the life I lead, are my legacy.  Money is merely a tool, like the bow and arrow for our primal ancestors, to help me do those things.  And, here’s the funny part.  Looking at that list of things, it’s a tool that I don’t need that much of.  I set a better example for my children by being conscious of the things that I do, and by what I teach them.  Donating money to charity is a good work, but there are just as many good works to be done through volunteering your time and skills.  And, I can certainly make changes for the better in this world without money.  My legacy doesn’t need money.  I’ll use what money I have to give it a boost now and again, but it doesn’t need it.

I’m working for my legacy, not for a new tv or a new car, or even a new house.  The realization of that is what helped me make the decision to leave my job.  There will always be other jobs that I can get that will help me pay the bills and put food on the table, but I don’t need one to help me do my work.

What are YOU working for?

photo credit: The Marmot

Saving on Home Loans

One of the biggest purchases you will make over your lifetime is the purchase of a house.  Some will argue that purchasing a house is an investment.  But, if it’s your primary house that you intend to live in, it’s not an investment.  Sorry, it just isn’t.  If you intend to rent the house out, that’s another story, but your primary residence is just a purchase.  Even so, it’s a very large purchase.  It makes sense, then, that we will want to find as many ways as we can to save money on the purchase of our home.

Saving before a home purchase

I’ll discuss how to save on your home once you’ve already purchased it a bit further down, but you’ll find yourself a good bit ahead of the game if you start thinking about how you can save money on your home purchase before you make the purchase.

  1. Improve your credit, improve your rate – The rate at which you borrow the money to buy your home is a big deal.  A half a point on the rate can translate to thousands of dollars more in interest over the life of the loan.  The best way to guarantee that you get the best rate available is to have excellent credit.  Depending on how far you improve your credit, you could shave as much as two or three points off the interest rate of the loan.  Not only will that reduce the payment you’ll make, but it will reduce the amortized amount of the loan by tens of thousands.  Want to know what makes an impact on your credit score?  Read the Beating Broke Guide to Your Credit.
  2. Compare home loans – I mentioned how this will likely be one of the biggest purchases of your life, right?  Well, why on Earth wouldn’t you compare the loans available to make sure you were getting the best deal?  You’ve got to compare those loans!  Different lenders will have different policies, rates, and even lengths of loans.  Not only will failing to compare the home loans available cost you money, but it could cause you a lot of stress over the life of the loan.
  3. 20% down or more – If you’ve got the savings for it, put at least 20% down on the home.  Why?  Well, it reduces the amount of the loan, for one.  The less you have to borrow the better, right?  More importantly, 80% is the normal cutoff for when a lender will require you to add Private Mortgage Insurance to the loan.  It can add a hefty bit to the monthly payment, and it doesn’t go anywhere but into the insurer’s pocket.

Saving after a home purchase

  1. Refinance – This may not be for all of you looking to save, but with the current rates, it bears looking into for some of you.  Refinancing a higher interest rate mortgage into a lower interest rate loan can save you thousands over the life of the loan.  Refinancing into a shorter term mortgage can also save you thousands, but beware that the mortgage payment is likely to be higher due to the shorter amortization period.
  2. Make extra payments – If refinancing isn’t in the cards for you, make sure that your lender will accept extra payments to principle and then start making them.  Reducing the principle will reduce the interest, and by simply making an extra payment a year, you can shave years off of your mortgage.

Whether you’re looking at buying a home, or already have, saving money on the biggest purchase of your life is always worth looking into.  A few minutes on the phone with your lender can sometimes save you more than you would cutting lattes every day.  With the higher number of defaulting mortgages recently, many banks are much more willing to help you save money on your payments and pay the loan off early.  They like getting their money back too!

What other ways have you used to save money on your mortgage?  What’s the most extreme example that you’ve heard of?

My Container Garden: The Season is Over

This spring, frustrated by the lack of any good growing space in our yard, we decided to give a container garden a try.  We bought up a whole bunch of pots to put everything in, got some good potting soil, and planted away.  Once we were done, we planted a couple pots of tomatoes, a couple pots of cucumbers, a longish pot of green beans, a pot of green peppers, a longish pot of carrots, two pots of onions, and two large pots of potatoes.

Last weekend, with the low temperatures in the forecast dipping below the 32 degree mark, we decided it was a good time to pull up the root vegetables, and pick anything that was ripe.  Considering the few silly things we did, and the terribly hot summer we had, I think we did O.K.

Container Garden Harvest

In the picture, you can see some of what we pulled up last weekend. I wasn’t quick enough on the camera trigger to get pictures of the carrots or peppers before they got taken into the house. Also not pictured are any of the cucumbers, beans, or tomatoes we’ve harvested throughout the summer, or any of 10 or so potatoes that we pulled out from the bottom of the potato bag in August.

Overall, I’d have to say that I was slightly disappointed with the harvest.  None of the onions grew to very good size.  What cucumbers we did harvest were all seeds and no flesh.  The heat really played havoc on most of the plants in the containers.  There were several weeks where the plants really needed to be watered every night, but we were either gone, or didn’t get home in time to do it.  I also made the mistake of planting a few too many plants in some of the containers, and I think they got crowded which stunted their growth.

The quality of what we got, however, was pretty good.  Fresh potatoes taste nothing like what you get from the store, they’re so buttery and sweet.  The onions, while small, were very good as well.  My wife made a salsa with some of the tomatoes and onions, and it was very, very good.

I’ve already got a pretty good mental list of the things that I’ll be changing next year.

  • We get such a short growing season here, that I either need to start the seeds much earlier in the house, or just spend the money and buy greenhouse plants when it’s time to plant.
  • I’ll have to be careful to reduce the number of plants in the pots as well, to cut back on the crowding issue we had.
  • I’m also thinking about building a few planters attached to the deck so I don’t have to buy any more pots.  Of course, I could try and find some second hand pots as well.
  • The soil we use may have to change a bit as well.  The stuff we bought this year, while good potting soil, just didn’t seem to keep it’s consistency very well.  Part of that may have been the need for more watering.
  • I’ll be changing the mix of plants that I plant as well.  The cucumbers didn’t seem to take to containers all that well, so I might cut those in half.  I’d also like to add a few more tomato plants, and a few more varieties of peppers.  We only planted green peppers this year, but I’d like to try some jalapeno, and maybe another variety of hot pepper.

How did your garden turn out this year?  Do you plant in a garden or in containers?