Wednesday, March 28, 2007

How To Plan a House

The title of this blog is Simplify my Life, but it seems like life is anything but simple these days. We're in the process of planning and building a house, and hope to get this done by the end of the year. My parents want to give my sisters and I each a house lot on their farm. I'm the first to try and do this, as my younger sisters are not ready to settle in just yet.

There's a whole lot to do here. Here's a very basic outline of the steps we think we'll need to get done:
  1. Choose an area where we want to build (done)
  2. Have that area surveyed and divided
  3. Obtain that lot from my parents (either nominal sale or gift)
  4. Inquire and start the process of bringing electricity and telephone to the lot
  5. Select a house plan (We're going modular)
  6. Get a construction loan
  7. Get the lot ready - foundation, septic, well, driveway, etc
  8. Have the House delivered and move in
We got step two put into action this week, as we've been interviewing surveyors and getting proposals on getting the lot done. One of the engineering firms we talked to was someone that a friend of the family had used several times in the past, was pleased with them, and they also came in a full $1500 less than the next firm's price. We ensured that all the proposals contained the same work and went with this firm. We had to send a 50% deposit to them, which was mailed this Monday and pretty much wiped out one of my savings accounts (ING Direct).

We'll try to keep you posted on the process!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Review: You Call The Shots

Cameron Johnson started 12 successful businesses before he turned 21. Most of those were Internet ventures, but he also served as General Manager of Sales for his family's Ford Dealership - which is one of the top in the country.

Johnson started in business when he was 10 and got his first computer. He created greeting and business cards and sold them. Then he moved onto wholesale online sales of Beanie Babies, and followed that up with several Internet business that provided services such as spam filtering, surfing for profit and an easy way for businesses to follow up with customers.

During the course of these ventures he learned a lot about how business should be done, and has collected his thoughts and experiences together in his book You Call the Shots: Succeed Your Way-- And Live the Life You Want-- With the 19 Essential Secrets of Entrepreneurship.

Written in a casual, friendly style, Johnson comes across as humble and likable, many of the people he went to school with didn't even know of his other life as a business mogul until they saw him on TV or mentioned in the paper. The book is an easy read, I went through the about 250 pages in just a number of hours.

Perhaps the best part of the book is the resource section in the back, which has a large number of sites that Cameron has found useful, or feels that someone trying to start a business of their own could benefit from.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Farm Expenses

We were doing some quick calculations off the top of our heads yesterday and realized that we spent almost $4000 this year on my parents farm. Here was our fast breakdown:

$1300 Brown Swiss Cow
$800 Truckload of Hay (My Dad had a bad year weather-wise and didn't make as much as usual.)
$600 Milking Shorthorn Cow
$500 Stall Matting
$400 Equipment (Water bowl replacements, collars, etc)
$200 Feed

That's $3800 right off the top of our heads.

Amazing where your money goes...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Checking In Once More

I apologize for the silence on this blog. I didn't mean to phase it out, but there's a lot that has been going on.

We've been spending more and more time at the parent's farm, trying to help them keep up with all that needs to be done there. Our cows are doing fine, the Brown Swiss cow that we purchased in August gave birth to a female calf in October, so our own personal herd grew by 1/3. Way to increase the portfolio!

We're also looking at building a house hopefully next year. We're getting a plot of land from my parents and are exploring our options in that area.

There will be much to do in that area, so I'll try to keep this updated a little more often.

Thanks for checking in!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Investing in...Cows???

Yup, Cows.

Perhaps you never thought of cows as an investment.

Well, since my parents run a dairy farm, buying cows is an investment like any other. Recently we've bought two cows to bring up to the farm and add to the herd. My parents have mostly holstein cows, with a few jerseys and milking shorthorns mixed in.

One of the cows we bought recently was a Brown Swiss. This is a hardy breed with good milk production (high butterfat) and a pretty docile nature. We paid $1300 for this cow. Seems like a lot for an animal?

Well, we think this cow was worth the money. She's four years old, and is due to calve next month. This means that we could be potentially getting two cows for the price of one.

Adding her milk to the herd will bring more money, though not much initially, because of the low prices that farmers are getting these days (Around $12 for hundred lbs of milk - which means farmers get about $1.50 for every gallon of milk they produce.) However, we're looking at the demand for raw milk, and thinking that we could sell that. The person we bought her from was getting $4.50 for each gallon of raw milk she was selling to people who stop in, and she couldn't keep up with the demand.

The second cow we bought for $600. She's a smaller cow, three years old, needs to put on a little weight, but has good potential. She is a white milking shorthorn.

Both of the cows are also registered, which increases their value. A registered cow has a documented pedigree, which means you can trace their background, and know the strengths and weaknesses of the lineage. It also means that they are a purebred animal.

We'll try and keep you posted on our latest adventures in dairying!

Edit: A couple people have raised the issue of whether raw milk can be legally sold. In the state where I live (NH) you can sell up to 5 gallons a day without a permit, and with a permit you can sell more. Since my father already sells milk commercially, the proper facilities are already in place to make sure that the milk is handled safely.

For the laws in your state, visit

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Jeep Paid Off

This week I sent off the final payment on my 2000 Jeep Cherokee. I bought it in December of 2003, and have paid it off in just over two and half years. It was originally a six-year loan.

I was able to do this by just adding extra to my payments each month - being sure to specify that that the extra was to go towards the principal due on the loan. (A article on this topic has more on the importance of telling the lender your intentions.)

I did make one giant payment somewhere in the middle of the loan, but for the most part, I just added $100 or $200 extra to the payment.

Now we can take the money that was going towards the Jeep and put it towards wedding and honeymoon debt.

I also added another item to my Sharebuilder investments, dipping my feet into the International market by added some iShares MSCI Japan Index (EWJ) to my account. This Exchange Traded Fund includes some of Japan's most well-known companies, such as Toyota, Canon, Honda, and Sony.

Over in the right hand sidebar, I added the new Yahoo! Finance module, which I've set to monitor some of the investments I currently have, while not telling you how much I have in them. (It's very small.)

Monday, July 03, 2006

This and That

I admit, I'm having a hard time coming up with material for the blog here. I'm still very interesting in financial matters and have in fact been working on a few different little things, but nothing that makes me feel worthy of writing a blog post.

We're in the preliminary stages of looking at houses and getting a feel for what and where we can afford. I need to finish up The Automatic Millionaire - Homeowner to make sure I'm pretty well educated for when we head into the process in earnest.

We're attempting to set a household budget and set a goal for eliminating all wedding/honeymoon debt. Right now the initial target is to be in the free and clear by next summer.

I'm trying to put all account, personal and financial information onto a USB jumpdrive, which I will then keep in a fireproof safe or even a safety deposit box to ensure I have that information and documentation in case of an emergency.

We're continuing our savings deposits and investment plans. Currently we're either saving or investing nearly $450 a month.

Trying to decide whether we stick it out in the corporate world for a few more years, or attempt to strike out on our own sometime in the next 5 years. Lots of things to consider there.