Micro Monthly Costs

Have you ever looked at your bank balance every month and wondered where all the money went?

Good Afternoon SNH’ers,

Have you ever looked at your bank balance every month and wondered where all the money went? You know you make enough to cover your monthly costs, even have enough to save for your emergency fund and retirement, but somehow, you still end up with no play money at the end of the month.

We started noticing micro costs, you know, the kind of subscription services, daily trips to the convenience or coffee store and that dollar app that you get charged for every month to send you new cat videos. Yep, adding those up really put a dent in your monthly and yearly savings.

Today, I thought I would pass on a few recommendations for smarter ways to handle those monthly creepers.

  1. Try to use apps that are “buy once cry once” so you don’t have recurring monthly costs to use them.
  2. Use computer software that is run solely on your pc. Sorry Microsoft, for daily office use, open office and libre office are excellent alternatives.
  3. You really don’t need to buy that 20oz mountain dew before work. If you buy it at the grocery store, you’ll save about 60% of the cost. Don’t get it in the refrigerated section by the checkout counter, get it on the isle…in the 6 pack. Better yet, use a thermos and buy 2 liters.
  4. Review your monthly subscribers once in a while. Why use both Amazon and Pandora at the same time. I bet you don’t need both.
  5. If you have a cell phone plan and a very close relative, see if you can jump on their plan for a few more dollars in your pocket. Also, check to see if you employer has a cellular discount with any of the vendors.

That’s it for tonight. Be sure to like and share with your friends.



Since this blog is not particularly focused on just the primary topics, I thought I would also write out some goals. Really, I think everybody should evaluate their goals periodically to keep themselves driven. Having a set of defined goals is one habit of highly successful people.

Short Term Goals (1 year or less)

  • Finish down payment savings for home purchase.
  • Assist my little SNH’ers more with schoolwork and be a more encouraging Mr. SNH’er.
  • Go on a real date with Mrs. SNH, the time is too far in between.
  • Increase 1% of salary going to 401k.
  • Take Cocoa the wonder dog for more walks because..truth is.. I need it more than she does.
  • Increase my position and influence at my full time real life work job!
  • Maintain at least 1 post per week on SNH.
  • Start video interviews with members of my new community on the space coast for the SNH website.
  • Successfully start a Tropic Sweet, Golden Dorsett and Anna apple trees on the East Coast of Florida. Yes, I want apples in middle Florida.

Long Term Goals (1-30 years out)

  • Save / Plan for a vacation home where seasons exist. Sorry Florida.
  • Continue to develop my software/hardware idea to help people grow more food for themselves.
  • Find ways to be more philanthropic.
  • Catch a Salmon! It eluded me for the years that I lived in the most beautiful state in the United states, but I am still chasing it.
  • Be able to grow at least 1/3 of our fruit/vegetable need for our family of 5.

Keeping more money by cutting costs at home.

Greetings SNH’ers, a while back when Mrs. SNH and I really needed to clamp down on our expenses after the short sale of our house. We examined the day to day activities that we did and what they were costing us. One of the biggest costs was paying for “traditional” cable tv service. It was running us about $80 per month for a service that provided us with many channels that we just didn’t watch. Doing the math, over the course of a 2 year contract with cableco, that nets us about $1920 out of our pocket. I decided to purchase a low cost antenna for local news and take advantage of the services offered inside of a Roku streaming unit.

We now pay about $160/year in add-ons and have netflix/amazon and some shared content with relatives. Talk about savings! We have now been a cord cutting family for at least 6 years. While I do occasionally miss the Gold Rush show on discovery, the sheer quantity of apps for the roku as well as the savings more than make up for it.

If you’re interested in finding out more about putting up an antenna, check out the following website: https://www.fcc.gov/media/engineering/dtvmaps to get a brief idea which channels are available with a decent antenna. We currently get about 12 reliable channels which include ABC, NBC, FOX and PBS.

As for Roku, here is a sampling of some of the apps we use on a regular basis:

  • Amazon Music
  • Amazon Video
  • Netflix
  • Starz
  • Vudu
  • Pluto TV
  • Sling
  • NewsOn
  • and the roku channel itself.
  • Have a great evening.

The high cost of Blue Apron, just go to the grocery store!

Greetings SNH’ers

I was listening to a millennial rave about how much money they are saving when using Blue Apron to cook their meals. Having gone through a revelation in cooking with my family (1 gluten free child, 1 vegetarian) in recent years, we really had to start analyzing our eating habits and how much impact it had on our budgets. We no longer eat out like we used to and we also started to cook “real food“.

The Blue Apron does have some great meal ideas, but the reality is that these meals are extremely expensive at the estimated $9.99 per serving. These meals are largely dinners and after looking at our budget for the family on a monthly basis, we are at about $3 for our dinners and $7.50 per person per day.

Here is an average family Friday night meal. 2 pizzas serves us pretty well with little waste. Now, these days, we may make a gluten free crust, but you’ll get the idea with this info-graphic.

As you can see, the $1.69 per person for this recipe is an excellent way to suggest you roll your own with your local grocery store and forget the boxed meal services. At 9.99 per serving, they are 6 times more expensive. They are costing you massive amounts of money that could otherwise be put into your IRA or other investment vehicle!

I am not saying that you shouldn’t enjoy those meals, just don’t do it as part of your regular meal plan for the week unless it brings you a certain satisfaction that you can’t get by heading to the grocery store and sourcing the ingredients yourself. They do often have unique ingredients and flavors that you may not stock in your pantry. I find however, that as you cook more, your pantry grows with many of the items that are used in those recipes.

Plant Database, the geeky way to keep plant data!

Greetings fellow gardeners, I have been keeping a database of plant varieties for a while now and wanted to make it available to you. This will never be a completed item as I scour varietal information across the internet. If you have more data to contribute, I would love to add your info to it.

For those who don’t know, I don’t use excel at home and prefer open office. All files that I put out (here) will be in open office formats. If you need other formats, just post the need and I’ll get in contact with you.

http://www.openoffice.org Tree and Plant DB

Compost, the smarter way to garden

Greetings SNH’ers,

As the Fall season starts to come into view, many of you are eyeing a mountain of yard clippings full of leaves, grasses and small trimmings from your plants. Don’t throw that stuff out, start using it for compost to feed your garden next year.

If you aren’t in the habit of composting, now is a perfect time to build a 3 bin compost system in your yard and start with your fall stock. Make sure to put a healthy mix of green stuff (fresh grass clippings, clean food scraps, egg shells etc) and a mix of the brown (twigs, leaves, paper products like egg shell containers).

The compost still has about 6 months to cook until you need it for spring to feed your plants. Nothing beats free compost for your garden and now is the perfect time to get on it. It’s also a great way to reduce the amount of waste you put out to the curb every week!

Here are some great YouTube videos about composting:

link 1 link 2

College Savings

Good Evening SNH’ers,

This is more of a user feedback post. I am debating about the best strategy to help my kids with funding for college. I know that I cannot fully fund their college activities, but I do want to have some money reserved to give their first year a start. I have seen several strategies available each with their pluses and minuses.

Method #1 – 529 Plan

  • Pros
    • Can generally put in as much or as little as you want.
    • It is shielded from the fafsa form as counting against your child’s available funding.
    • It is valid in any state.
    • If funded in your local state, may have tax exemptions or deductions.
  • Cons
    • Funds must be used for education or a penalty is assessed.
    • Usually pretty low growth fund opportunities (sub 6%).

Method #2 – Prepaid Plan

  • Pros
    • Generally gets a better forward interest rate by committing funds at current rates.
    • Generally exempt from federal taxes
    • You will have a predefined amount of tuition you have paid for in advance.
  • Cons
    • Can typically only be used in the state at public universities.
    • Usually structured payment plans that may or may not fit well with your current financial plan.
    • Not all states offer these plans.
    • Not transferable outside of the state, though some states have made allowances for “equivalent in state value.”

Method #3 – Parent funded investment account

  • Pros
    • Unlimited fund options with a private broker
    • Larger growth opportunity
    • No restrictions on how the money is used
    • If no college is planned, money can be reserved for other uses
  • Cons
    • There is no guarantee that the market was favorable to your investments
    • There may be capital gains taxes you may have to pay

Within this list, I don’t currently favor the prepaid option. While the savings are great, I am not in position to commit any of my kids to an in-state public school. I like the 529 plans because you can transfer them to another child and you have a low risk investment that generally stays above inflation from the data that I have seen. Method 3 looks great on paper, but you really have to watch the market carefully, and I am not too good at picking funds that are so stable that I could count on an ROI each year.

There may even be a 4th strategy to combine a 529 plan with an investment account funneling off dividends to the 529 plan and committing to regular contributions to both the 529 and the investment account.

Let me know what your thoughts are, I would love to see what you think is the smarter way to save for college expenses.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Invest Early, Invest Smart

If you’re like me and started late into the game, go start investing right away!

Good Evening SNH’ers,

I have decided this post to be all about saving for the future. I hope this article encourages those of you without retirement accounts to start one tomorrow, or even tonight. When I was younger, saving was encouraged but never made a priority in my life. I always understood the benefits of compounding and how the longer that I kept money invested, the greater the outcome I would have. I think the investment path is one of the tools we need to approach life just a bit smarter.


I had some revelation about a year and a half ago that no matter what, I needed to get a retirement account started because Mrs. SNH and I did not have any plans whatsoever for how we would end up in retirement. It was bleak and the math on the lottery tickets didn’t prove favorable. I also looked at our current finances and forced it to be a priority to get something started. It meant really ratcheting our food costs and even controlling how we chose to drive making each trip more purposeful with the miles spent in our car. I also used a work at home program doing small click-work for Amazon’s mechanical turk program that helped kick start the process. It is really a great program to get a few dollars moving in the right direction, but you really have to stick with it to get more that 100 “hits” done before you start to achieve anything appreciable. At the same time, I also set about putting away 1% of my income into my 401k. As I saw more money go into the 401k, I also opened a private Roth IRA for some strategic reasons that I will post down the road. I look forward to meeting a modest retirement goal at this point.

Onward to compounding

One of my favorite tools is to estimate what happens to money as it compounds at the following site: https://www.dividend.com/tools/compounding-returns-calculator.php. This calculator allows you to play the “what if” scenario. Let’s say that you estimated a 7% growth on your investment every year and put in a total $1000 at the ripe old age of 17. At the age of 67 which is now the social security definition for retirement (here) if you were born after 1960, that would net you about $29,457.03. Parents, here is where it really gets crazy, what if we did that same investment when your child was born and had a full 67 years to mature in an investment account. It soars to just over $93,000. That is the power of compounding. The lesson learned is that the earlier you invest, the less you will need to put in down the road to have a secure future at retirement age. If you started investing at age 40, to get to the same 30k at age 67, you would have to put in about $4600 to reach that 29k mark. To reach the 93k mark, you would need to put in roughly $15,000!

Another great tool I have found to play the game is here: https://www.hughcalc.org/drip.php . This one allows you to look at reinvesting dividends and making monthly contributions to an account which is much more realistic for investors where they can sock a little away each month and account for dividends and stock appreciation.

The take away

If you’re like me and started late into the game, go start investing right away! There are many great ways to get started with next to nothing. After all, the sooner we start, the more we will see when we get to retirement!

Here are some of the places you might start investing:

Schwab (http://www.schwab.com)

Fidelity (http://www.fidelity.com)

Betterment (http://www.betterment.com)

Ally Invest (https://www.ally.com/invest/?PRtarget=am )

TD Ameritrade (https://www.tdameritrade.com/home.page )

Ellevest (http://www.ellevest.com)

Full disclosure: I am not a financial planner or fiduciary and write from personal experience. I advise that you discuss your financial future with a professional to evaluate decisions that can affect your investment paths as they are far more suited to assisting you and your personalized needs.

Why gardening is smarter, not harder.

Gardening is a past time that I have used over the last few years to relieve stress. I think is it genuinely one of the few activities that can be a positive on your belly, body and mind!

There is of course the first benefit of feeding yourself. Who doesn’t love the freshest and tastiest grouping of fruits and vegetables delivered minutes from the vine? There is no comparison between a tomato brought to a deep red on the vine vs a store bought tomato picked at the “peak of green-ness.” Yes, I have coined a new nonsensical phrase. The flavors are rich and sweet where a store bought tomato is often mealy.

Growing your own also benefits your body. It encourages you to eat higher quantities of the good stuff we should put into our bodies instead of the inner circle of grocery store goods which arguably contains nothing good we should be eating. Little monster SNH’er #1 completely decimates my pea plants each year, leaving nothing for me. Little does she know, I plan for that and encourage it! #3 loves to raid the fresh organic strawberries before anybody else. I also love that little monster #2 ate more cucumber that he ever did with grocery store produce!

Gardening gives our brain a chance to decompress from long doses of the workday routine. If you are in the retired community, it can give you a bit of a gardening high to brag among your friends about the biggest zucchini or heaviest bean bush that you have grown.

If you haven’t started a garden, it really is easy. Since I have been a renter the last few years, I have stumbled on a great way to create a temporary patch of real soil. Just get a set of 6 to 8 tomato cages, some plastic ribbed 3′ high mesh fencing for a few dollars at your local big box. Mark out an area around with the tomato cages as if they were fence posts and attach the mesh with some zip ties. In about 30 minutes, you can have a great patch to start planting and likely a bit lower in cost than the same equivalent for potted plants. The cleanup is quick too so you can return the ground to its original state when you move out!

That is all for now. Happy gardening. Oh, and since winter is coming up, might be a good time to get some red russian kale in the ground!

a 2013 incarnation of the garden.