Time to Plan Your Garden

Spring is finally here.  The sun is shining a little brighter (and warmer too), and the ground is starting to warm up.  And with all of that, those of us who garden are beginning to get a little antsy to start putting seeds and plants in the ground and begin growing them.  In many parts of the states, it’s still much too early to start planting though.  So, what is a anticipatory gardener to do?  It’s a great time to begin planning the garden and preparing for the planting season.

Maintenance and Clean-up of your Garden

I like to start with the maintenance and clean-up of the garden area as soon as I’m able.  I get to go outside and, while I can’t plant anything, I can begin to prepare for doing so.  There’s always some leaves that fall after I rake for the last time in the fall that can be collected.  We do most of our growing in containers, so it’s a good time to make sure the dead plants from last year are removed (fall quickly became winter last year and I didn’t get a chance to remove them) from the containers.  If you’ve got any gardening structures, like lattices, nets, etc, you can give them a quick once over to make sure that they’re all still in usable condition and don’t need any repairs.

Plan Your Garden

What Will You Grow?

For several years, we’ve been playing with and experimenting in our garden.  We’ve been planting some new varieties of plants that we haven’t before (last year we had Eggplant and Brussels Sprouts) and planting some things in different locations than we have before.  This year, we might do the opposite and refine what we grow a little bit.  There are a few staples that we’ve grown every year that we’ll grow again, like Tomatoes, Potatoes, Green Beans, and Cucumbers.  We added some Snow Peas to the garden last year and they did really well, so we’ll be planting more of those this year as well.  A couple of crops that we have grown in the past, but all depend on space are Carrots and Onions.  We’ve never had a whole lot of success with them, so they might get scrapped to leave more room for more of the other plants.  We’ve also got a few smaller containers that we’ve discovered are a little small for most of the stuff we’d like to grow, so we might throw  some herbs in those and see what we end up with.

Start Your Seeds Indoors

This is one thing that I’ve really struggled with over the years.  For whatever reason, I always end up with most of my seedlings dying before I can transplant them, or with them dying shortly after transplanting.  It is much cheaper to buy seeds and then start them indoors for transplanting, than it is to go and buy plants at the nursery, though, so I keep trying.  I’ll do so again this year, and we’ll likely supplement with a few plants from the nursery just to be sure we get some strong plants.  The growing season (outdoors) here doesn’t really start until late May or early June, so I generally try and hold myself back from planting seeds indoors any sooner than mid to late April.  Even that is probably pushing it, and probably should be pushed out to early May.

I find that giving some thought to the garden before you get to the planting stage acts a little like a budget.  If you’ve got a plan for what you want to plant, and when, you have something to stick to and keep yourself from going overboard with plants you won’t have room for, or that won’t do well in your garden.  It saves you money, and work.

What do you do to begin the gardening season?

No One is Going to Save You

I have some bad news for you. If you’re waiting on someone to show up at your door ala Publisher’s Clearinghouse and hand you a big cardboard check that will solve all of your financial problems it’s not going to happen.  No one is going to save you from your financial woes.  No one is going to suddenly decide that you, and you alone, are worth pulling from the depths of your financial hole, pay all your bills and set you up for life.  No one but you.

In truth, I’m writing this post as much for me as I am for you.  I need to hear that message occasionally, just as you do.  It’s nice to daydream about winning the lottery, or some sweepstakes and having some of your problems solved.  It really is.  But, if you, like me, find yourself lingering in those daydreams a little too much, too often, you need to hear those words.

You and you alone can be the savior of your finances.

Savior of your Finances

You (and I) are the best prepared, and the most willing (without fees), to take on the ratted nest of bills and accounts that we call our finances.  You (and I) are the most able to figure out how to sort out where our money is coming from and where it has gone.  You (and I) are the only ones that can drum up the willpower to make the changes necessary to begin telling our money where to go that it will be most helpful to our finances. No one else is going to do it for you.

No one but you.

If you (and I) don’t do it, do you know what happens?  Nothing but the same.  Your paycheck comes in (maybe on time, maybe not), your paycheck goes out.  At the end of the month, maybe we ask “where did it all go?”.  And if we do nothing about it, we’ll never really know.  We’ll just continue the pattern; wondering why we aren’t paid more, and wondering why what we are paid never seems to be enough.

You can make a difference in your finances though.

Uniquely.  No one but you.

You can budget your money and tell it where it belongs.  You can know where your money is going, and control how it works for you.  If you actively manage your money, it can no longer control you.  Create a budget, track your income and spending, then take back your financial life.

Put your finances in order; be free.  Be debt free.  Be free to spend as you choose.  Be free to earn as you choose.

What are you doing today to break old financial habits and take control of your money?

Bitcoin: Boom or Bust?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard the term Bitcoin being talked about a lot.  A whole lot.  And, depending on who you listen to, it’s being called an impending disaster or the next greatest thing to hit the world of commerce.

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a private payment system that allows for the transfer of “bitcoins” between people through a private system of digital wallets and transactions.  It’s probably simpler to just call it a digital currency.

Currency?  Yep.  Think of it like the mighty Dollar (I’ll remove my tongue from my cheek later.)  The Dollar is the currency of the USA.  We use it every day, either by earning it in exchange for work, or by spending it in exchange for goods and services.  You can do all the same things with the Bitcoin currency.  Of course, there’s one huge difference.

What gives Bitcoin it’s Value?

With the US Dollar, the value is backed by the US government.  In essence, you and I guarantee the value of the Dollar.  It’s a bit more complicated than that, of course.  We live in a world economy, so there are other countries involved, and other country’s economies that help determine the value of the Dollar.

Bitcoin Boom or BustWhere does Bitcoin get it’s value then?  Scarcity.  It also has some inherent properties that many find alluring.  It’s not tied to a country, so it’s relatively unaffected, in theory, by any one country’s economic problems.  It’s not really regulated in any way, so there aren’t any pesky rules about how much you can transfer, or any specific reporting requirements if you transfer over a certain amount.

Of course, many of those properties also make the burgeoning currency attractive to a seedier population.  If you can make transactions that aren’t traceable by traditional methods, it’s far easier to perform certain transactions (think drugs, prostitution, illegal arms) without having law enforcement breathing down your neck.  Without any real reporting requirements, it could be a pretty handy tool for money laundering.

Bitcoin Boom?

The recent popularity of the digital currency has caused quite a few articles lauding it’s future and how it could be the currency of the future.  It’s not hard to see the appeal.  The value fluctuates enough to make some mild speculation profitable if you hit the bumps right.  The currency, should it continue to be used, with it’s scarcity, could continue to rise in value.  People are even making dedicated computers set aside to “mine” bitcoins and are alluding it to it being similar to a new gold rush.  It’s entirely possible that Bitcoin will arise as a stable currency that’s accepted worldwide as payment for goods and services.

Bitcoin Bust?

The fall of Mt. Gox, one of the leading Bitcoin exchanges (like a Bitcoin bank), after a hacking event where Mt. Gox lost a reported $400 Million worth of Bitcoins along with a couple of smaller exchanges losing 5 and 6 figure amounts to similar events has caused a bit of a destabilization of the currency.  The value dropped to nearly a third of what it was before those events, and caused a panic.  The lack of regulation, and security concerns could be the downfall of the fledgling currency.  At least one country as banned the currency, and several are looking at ways to regulate it’s use.  Should more bannings and further regulatory actions take place, many of the reasons that people are flocking to the currency now will be reduced, or removed entirely.

Bitcoin or Bitcon?

My fingers have been leaving the i out of Bitcoin the whole time I’ve been typing this article, so I can’t help but ask the question.  Bitcoin has no real value.  There isn’t anything giving it value other than fervor and scarcity.  In fact, I have a hard time calling it anything other than a collectable akin to the Beanie Babies rush in the late 90’s.  At least if you jumped on the Beanie Baby rush, you might still have a few plastic pellet filled animals to hold.  If the floor falls out from under Bitcoin, all you’re likely to have to show for it is a bruised pride and some extra software on your computer to remove.

The best case, as I see it, is that some regulation gets involved in the mix, and Bitcoin becomes something similar to Paypal, but using Bitcoins instead of your local currency.  For that to happen, the currency has to stabilize in value, or have a set value.  I don’t think there are any current plans for 1 Bitcoin to have a set value, and so long as the security issues remain and people keep jumping back into it, I don’t see the value stabilizing either.

One thing that could potentially save Bitcoin would be if several world currencies destabilized over a short period of time.  That combined with a large amount of people taking money from those currencies and dumping it into a more secure Bitcoin could act as a float to drastically improve the perceived adoption of the currency worldwide.  Of course, the problem there is that if several world currencies destabilize, we might have bigger issues on our hands.

What do you think of Bitcoin?  Is it a viable alternative to localized currency?  Will it see increasing adoption and become a legitimate currency?  Is it doomed to fail?  Does it have any value for speculative investing?