An introduction to Japandi design (and more)

As Kim and I begin our house hunt, it’s become clear that I am drawn to mid-century modern design. Yes, I realize that’s a bit clichΓ©. Mid-century modern (or MCM, for short) is popular with many, many people.

For me, I’m drawn to MCM β€” or any sort of modernist design, really β€” because it seems to be the United States’ closest approximation of two other design paradigms that I find appealing: Japanese and Scandinavian.

Both Japanese and Scandinavian design seem to emphasize the same things: simplicity, clean lines, natural materials, and so on. Turns out, I’m not the first to notice the similarities. In fact, Japandi (as it’s called) is a hot design trend in 2021! (Here’s a blog post about employing Japandi in a traditional ranch home.)

I just spent the past two hours down an internet rabbit hole as I tried to learn more about Japandi design. Since I don’t want to forget what I’ve learned, I’m going to share some of the things I liked best here.

Here’s a ten-minute video on how to decorate Japandi from the Posh Pennies channel on YouTube.

And here’s a sixteen-minute video from Nick Lewis that explores the same subject.

I haven’t watched that one yet, but I will just as soon as publish this blog post. πŸ˜‰

Lastly, I enjoyed Joe Allam’s 21-minute “Made in Japan”, which explores traditional craftsmanship in the Ishikawa and Gifu prefectures.

Although I’ve been drawn to this sort of design my entire adult life, it’s only recently that I’ve considered decorating my home this way. And it’s only in the past year that I’ve realized it’s possible to purchase notebooks and pens, etc. from Japan.

So that I have a permanent resource for this stuff, here are some links (most of which I have not explored thoroughly) to sources for Japandi design inspiration and Japanese products.

  • Hobbs Modern is a San Diego company that restores and sells mid-century modern pieces. Gorgeous stuff but expensive.
  • Artek is a Finnish company that has been creating modern furniture since 1935.
  • Modloft (in Miami) produces “elite modern furniture for the contemporary home”.
  • Maruni is a Japanese company that has been “pioneering the industrial application of craft skills” for almost 100 years.
  • Karimoku is a Japanese manufacturer of wooden furniture.
  • BoConcept is a source of Danish furniture that feels very modern.
  • Motarasu is a company deliberately working to blend Japanese and Danish design. (I don’t like most of their stuff, though.)
  • Mobilia is a Canadian company that sells (creates?) Scandinavian-inspired modern furniture.

And here’s a list of semi-related companies that sell high-quality and/or elegant items that aren’t necessarily Japandi, but which are related in my mind.

  • Schoolhouse is a local Portland company that sells a wide range of items for the home. They’re not all Japandi, but they are all quality. I’ve been buying from them for more than a decade now. I’m not sure how I feel about it. (For sale here.)
  • Muji is a Japanese company that sells a wide range of products β€” clothing, furniture, and more β€” that are meant to be simple and practical.
  • Walden sells high-quality (but expensive) meditation cushions, etc.
  • Studio Neat creates high-quality, simple tools. Last year, I spent $65 on this pen. I love it. Love it, love it, love it.
  • Hobinichi Store for my favorite journals and planners. (Also available from JetPens.)
  • Uniqlo is a Japanese company that produces “stylish and affordable sportswear”. They’re very popular in the /r/frugalmalefashion subreddit, but I’ve never looked at their stuff because I thought the company name was stupid. My mistake, I guess.
  • Takasaki is like an online Japanese supermarket. (See also: ZenMarket.)
  • Umami Mart is a California-based source of Japanese food and drinks.
  • Nihon Ichiban is an online shop for authentic Japanese household items.

Kim and I already own a few pieces that would fit well (if not perfectly) in a Japandi home. I have the four Stickley items I bought in 2009. She owns a couple of black cabinets. And, of course, technically all of my Ikea office furniture is Scandinavian haha.

We’ll see where we end up. If the home lends itself to it, maybe we’ll pursue Japandi interior design.

The day my dishwasher died

When I bought my condo in February, one of the things that impressed me about the place was the built-in shiny silver kitchen appliances. They were all so fancy and fun! My parents always had cheap appliances. When Kris and I were married, we too had cheap-ish stuff. (The dishwasher at our last house was almost 30 years old when we inherited it! Kris finally had to replace it last spring.) I soon learned that shiny silver kitchen appliances may be fancy but they’re not always fun.

The Trouble With Fancy

“What’s the deal with the microwave?” Kim asked soon after I moved in. “I can’t just punch in a time and go?” “No,” I said. “You have to press cook time, rotate the little dial to select the timer, press the dial, rotate it again to set the timer, press it again, rotate it down to start, and then press it again.” “Wha–?” she said. “Exactly,” I said.

Why anyone would design a microwave in this inane fashion is beyond me. The most common function now takes about 10 times as long as it ought to. Sure, we can select all sorts of fancy setting if we want to. But we never want to.

Meanwhile, the fancy fridge had its own issues. The plug at the back of the ice-maker bin had fallen out and gone missing before we moved in. Whenever we had the ice-maker make ice, the cubes would cascade down the back of the freezer. (I fixed that, obviously, but it was still dumb. Why was there even a plug in the bin?) Worse, we couldn’t use magnets on the doors.

But most frustrating was the dishwasher. Instead of an easy mechanical dial and push buttons, the controls were computerized. You selected a cycle (and various options) from a control pad. I’d never seen such a thing before. I liked the idea of it, but the reality was different. It was stuck in pot-scrubbing mode. I scoured the instruction manual and the Internet to see if this was normal behavior, but I couldn’t find any answers. So, for eight months, we washed our dishes on this single cycle.

Last Sunday, even that option disappeared. The control panel became unresponsive, constantly flashing “rinse only.” Kind of a bummer since Kim had just spent the weekend making bone broth, which had dirtied nearly every pot in the house. A little research online revealed that I wasn’t going to be able to solve this myself. I called in an expert.

Dishwasher Disaster

Yesterday, a service tech from Sears stopped by the condo to diagnose the problem. “Huh,” he said after a few minutes of fiddling with the dishwasher. “Interesting.”

“I don’t like to hear that,” I said. “I used to repair computers. I know that ‘interesting’ is code for ‘I have no idea what’s going on’ or ‘You need a new machine.'”

“You might need a new machine,” said the service guy.

He spent another 20 minutes playing with the dishwasher and punching info into his diagnostic computer. Eventually, he came to me with the news. “Here’s the deal,” he said. “That control panel is gone. You need a new one. That’ll set you back $460 for the part. Plus there’s labor. Plus there’s the $80 for my visit today.”

“Ouch,” I said. “Right,” he said. “And it looks like there are other things that could fail soon.” (He named the parts, but I didn’t file those in my memory.)

“So, we’re looking at $600 or $700 total to repair this?” I asked. “How much does a new dishwasher cost?” “They start at $600 or $700,” he said. “Plus, if you choose to go that route, I can give you a coupon for $100 off if you buy it from Sears.”

This sounded a little like a slimy sales gimmick, but the guy seemed in earnest. I sighed, thanked him for his time, and took the $100 coupon.

Over-Analytical Man

Now I’m faced with two unpleasant tasks. First, I’m back to washing dishes by hand. This isn’t really that big of a deal. I washed dishes by hand for all of 2012, both at my apartment and at Kim’s house. The dishwasher is a luxury. Still, it’s a luxury I like, which brings up unpleasant task number two. I have to shop for a new dishwasher.

I’ve come to realize that I don’t enjoy shopping for furniture or appliances. I see the process as a necessary evil. I put it off as long as possible. Why? Because it’s overwhelming. There are so many products available and so many places to buy them. Because I’m by nature a Maximizer, it’s too easy for me to get locked in “analysis paralysis.”

Note: Here’s a quick review of the difference between Maximizers and Satisficers (terms I picked up from Barry Schwartz’s fascinating “The Paradox of Choice”). Maximizers want the best; they need to know that every decision they make is the best possible decision. Satisficers settle for “good enough”; they find something that meets their needs and don’t worry about the possibility that there might be something better. As you might guess, Satisficers tend to be happier and more productive than Maximizers, living with less regret. For Maximizers like me, increased choice just means increased suffering. When we have only two or three options, it’s easy to choose the best one. When there are 20 or 30, it’s almost impossible.

After the service tech left last night, I pulled out the July 2013 issue of Consumer Reports to read up on dishwashers. It wasn’t helpful. The article rated 87 dishwashers — 87! — with 10 recommended models and one “best buy.” How do I choose? Should I buy another KitchenAid to match the rest of the appliances we have? But I don’t even like the other appliances, so maybe I should opt for another brand? Should I only go with the models that Sears stocks so I can use the $100 coupon? Or should I browse at Costco? And how much time am I really willing to devote to this process? Ultimately, this is what I decided to do:

  • Set a budget. The dishwashers listed in Consumer Reports range from $260 to $1,800 (although most of the cheap dishwashers get poor test scores). Since it would cost $600 or $700 to repair our current dishwasher, that’s my spending target. (I’ll admit I’m willing to spend a little more than that, but not much — certainly not over $1,000.)
  • Select a store. I don’t have time to install the new dishwasher myself. I’m in the middle of writing a book and prepping for this year’s Financial Blogger Conference. Plus, I don’t want the hassle of disposing of the old dishwasher. Because of this, I need to buy from a place that will deliver and install the dishwasher. I’m not a Sears loyalist by any means, but because I have a coupon and because there’s a Sears close to me, I’m going to start there.
  • Limit my search to certain brands. I realize good appliances can be had from any provider. For my purposes, though, I’m going to limit myself to three brands: KitchenAid (to match the rest of the kitchen appliances we own), Samsung (because I like my Samsung washer and dryer), and Bosch (which gets great ratings from CR while having the best reliability).
  • Set a time limit. I know myself. I could turn this into a two-day quest for the Best Dishwasher Ever. I’m not going to do that. The next time I run errands, I’ll add this to the list. I’ll spend a couple of hours looking at the various models and choose the one that best matches my needs after the end of that time.

“You seem like a frugal guy,” the service tech told me as he was leaving yesterday. “I can tell you don’t like to spend money.”

“That’s true,” I said.

“Here’s what I’d do,” he told me. “Don’t go to the main Sears store at the mall. There’s an outlet center down the road. Go there. They’ll have last year’s models, but that doesn’t matter. They’re still fine machines. That’s your best bet for finding a bargain.”

So, that’s my plan. I’ll start at the outlet store (where my coupon is no good — although I’ll ask if I can use it). If I can’t find anything there, I’ll head to the main Sears store. And then to Costco. But that’s it.

I realize this is a lot of hand-wringing over a broken dishwasher. We each have our weak spots though, right? For me, it’s shopping for furniture and appliances. I hate it. It’s overwhelming. And it hurts to see how expensive everything is.

I’m fortunate to have enough money in savings to cover this expense; a decade ago, this would have been a disaster that set me back deeper in debt! Of course, I’m open to suggestions.

How do you shop for major appliances? How do you keep from becoming overwhelmed? How do you find good deals?

I’m open to any tips and tricks you might have to make this less painful and less expensive.

A place of my own

Two months ago today, I asked my wife for a divorce.

I won’t be writing about the personal aspects of the divorce at Get Rich Slowly. In fact, other than some brief background at my personal site, I don’t intend to write it about it on the web at all. Kris and I are both emotional wrecks right now; the wounds are fresh and raw for both of us.

Note: Kris and I are working together to build the best possible relationship going forward. We’ve seen folks go through bitter divorces, and neither of us wants that. We want to remain close friends. So far we’ve been successful.

That said, I can no longer avoid sharing the truth with GRS readers. Too many of my financial decisions β€” present and future β€” are tied to the divorce. I’m hunting for health insurance, for instance, and I’ll have to re-evaluate my asset allocation. And ten days ago, I moved to a new apartment.

Living Small

For the past eight years, Kris and I have lived in an 1800-square-foot house on three-fifths of an acre. The place also includes a large garage, a workshop, and a couple of out-buildings. Plus, I’ve been leasing an office up the street. Despite working to reduce clutter in my life, I have a lot of Stuff. I’ve written a lot about wanting to simplify, about wanting to live in a smaller space, but I’ve been reluctant to take the necessary action.

Now, though, I’m moving. And because I’m moving, I feel obligated to practice what I preach. While part of me wants to find another house (Kris is keeping ours), I know it’s better to find a smaller space and to adjust my life to fit it. Thus, I’ve been looking to see how some of my friends manage to live not-so-big lives.

For instance, last fall Tammy β€” who writes about simplicity at Rowdy Kittens (and who shared a GRS reader story about the benefits of biking) β€” moved into a tiny house. The entire home is only 130 square feet! She and her husband had me over for dinner recently, and I shot some video of the space:

I loved Tammy and Logan’s tiny house. The floor plan is well-designed and functional. Still, I’m not ready to live that small just yet.

Instead, I opted to rent an apartment.

The Apartment

While most folks were spending Thanksgiving week, well, giving thanks, I was hunting for apartments. Some might consider going from house to apartment a step backward. I don’t mind. In fact, as I’ve mentioned before, I actually believe renting can be a great choice for the right person. In this case, I think I’m the right person.

While searching for a place to live, I tried to take a lot of things into account. Price was important, obviously, but so was the age of the place, the layout, and, especially, the location. Over the past five years, I’ve come to place a premium on walkable neighborhoods, and I know I wanted an apartment with a high walk score.

I found a place I liked in a good location near downtown Portland β€” the biggest drawback is that it’s right next to a donut shop (danger! danger!) β€” and signed a lease. But then I started to worry that I was paying too much. By comparing notes with other people, I’ve since decided that while I’m not getting a bargain, my rent is reasonable.

Best of all, the apartment has a walk score of 88 (very walkable) and a transit score of 73 (excellent transit). And because I’m an avid walker, I can reach neighborhoods that the Walk Score app doesn’t consider. (As a comparison, our house has a walk score of 49, meaning car-dependent, and a transit score of 32, which means it has some transit.)

I’ve been in my new place for ten days now, and I like it β€” but it doesn’t feel like home. Still, I’m trying to make the most of these 705 square feet. Instead of just talking about how much I want to cut back on clutter, I’ve been faced with tough decisions every day. Which books do I keep? Which comics? How many pairs of shoes? How many jackets? Do I really need (or want) my records and record player?

By making judicious choices (and with the help of some new furniture from Ikea), I think I’ve reached a good balance. My new place contains the things I need β€” but it’s not filled with a lot of clutter and junk. It’s my hope that this will continue for the foreseeable future.

Fear of the Future

Now that I have a place to live β€” and now that I’m mostly unpacked β€” there are other problems to tackle as a result of the divorce.

For one, how do I handle health insurance? For eighteen years, I’ve been on Kris’ policy. Not anymore. After the divorce is final, I have only a few weeks (or maybe even just a few days) before my coverage with her carrier lapses. I’m the sort of guy who might risk going without health insurance for a few months or years, but Kris won’t have it. “We are not getting a divorce until you can prove to me that you have health insurance,” she told me the other day.

Meanwhile, what do I do about my office? Does it make sense to continue to rent that space? Should I find someplace closer? More importantly, what about day-to-day stuff like laundry and groceries. Obviously, I’m capable of handling these chores on my own, but due to the division of labor within our marriage, I’ve always relied on Kris to handle most of these chores. Now I’m going to have to budget for food, plan meals, and buy supplies on my own.

Kris has lots of questions about the future too. She’s still in the house, after all. How will she handle the yard work? Who’s going to take care of her car? And so on. But she too is capable of handling these things on her own. Besides, we both agree that figuring out the chores is inconsequential to figuring out the big stuff, the emotional stuff.

For now, Kris and I are still in constant contact. We had dinner Friday night, I drove by the house yesterday, and we’ll have dinner together tomorrow night. Plus, we still plan to share a vacation to Argentina in a few weeks. If one of us gets into trouble, the other will be there to help. Our marriage may be ending, but our friendship isn’t.

Old friends: Scenes from a class reunion

I am getting old, my friends. I am getting old. It’s no longer just a feeling, either. More and more, there are objective real-world reminders that I’m not the young man I once was. Kris and I spent last weekend, for instance, hanging out with other old folks at our 20-year college reunion.

We had a blast, of course. Though we don’t see most of our old friends as often as we’d like, when we do get together, the connections still feel strong. We went to a small school (our graduating class was probably about 350 students), and so most of us knew each other. A lot of us stay in touch by blog, Facebook, or e-mail. Our ties are tight.

WU motto: Not unto ourselves alone are we born.

For me, of course, it’s always fun to hear about people’s financial lives, especially when they’re successful. Before we left for the reunion on Saturday, I grabbed a small notepad. “You’re going to write about the reunion for Get Rich Slowly, aren’t you?” Kris said. She knows me pretty well.

I jotted a lot of random notes over the weekend. For example, I learned that in 1998, one classmate published a well-regarded book about investing called Sleeping Like a Baby. And another founded LegitScript, a website that certifies which internet pharmacies are providing legal, authentic prescription drugs. (LegitScript has over 85,000 pharmacies in its database; of these, only 323 are legitimate!)

But mostly I used my notebook to write down dialogue from hours of conversation.

Martin Gets Robbed

Kris and I talked with Martin, for instance, who rents a home in Portland. He lives at the bottom of a hill, just outside a very nice neighborhood. As a result, he gets to meet some powerful people. (He told a story about recruiting the governor of Oregon to find his daughter’s lost cat.)

Perhaps because he lives near some posh homes, his own place has been robbed four times this summer. “They’ve taken everything I have at this point,” Martin told us with a sigh. But it’s not just his house. Thirteen other nearby places have been burglarized recently.

“The police aren’t much help,” Martin told us. “They say there’s nothing they can do. They recommended I just watch Craigslist to see if I could find my Stuff.”

I liked that Martin used the word Stuff to described the things the burglars had taken. “It is just Stuff,” he said. “I’m in a fine financial position to replace the Stuff. And I have renters insurance. At first I felt violated, but I’m over that now.”

“Actually,” Martin said, “I hate to compliment the people robbing my home, but at least they’re doing a nice job. They don’t trash the place. There’s no identity theft. They just get in and get out, almost like they have a shopping list.”

Sara Saves

Since I’m about ready to leave for a few weeks in Peru, naturally I talked a lot about travel. Many of my classmates studied abroad when they were in college. Others have found the travel bug as adults.

Sara, for instance, had always wanted to go on the annual college-sponsored trip to Florence, Italy, but she couldn’t afford it when she was in school. And she couldn’t afford it after school either. But when she found out the school was going to end the program, she decided to do it. She and her husband spent a year savings specifically for the trip.

“We opened a separate savings account,” Sara said. “We used that to save for the trip. I put a little away every month. Then one day my husband topped it off to surprise me.”

“I love targeted savings accounts,” I said.

“I know,” Sara said, smiling. (Turns out she reads Get Rich Slowly!) “I do too. We still have that account open, and we still use it to save for vacations. It gives us permission to do things that we otherwise wouldn’t do. Right now, we’re saving for our twentieth wedding anniversary.”

“And your husband likes this?” Michael asked. Michael is the former GRS “intern”; he spent much of 2008 helping me keep this site organized. Michael and Sara went to high school together.

“Yes,” said Sara. “The only one nerdier about money than I am is my husband! We live in a small house, but we own it. Because of that, I was able to quit my job.”

“‘Own it’ as in you paid off the mortgage?” I asked.

“Exactly,” she said.

“Awesome,” I said. (In real life, I use the word “awesome” far too often.)

“We’re buying our house again,” Michael said. “Rates are so low that we’re refinancing for fifteen years and taking money out in order to remodel. We ran the numbers and decided that it would take too long to save like we’d normally do. By the time we’d saved for it, we wouldn’t have any time left to enjoy it.” Michael’s a savvy saver, so I’m sure he’s making a smart choice.

Old friends.
Old friends (under ghastly red lights)

Jen Scams the Banks

Kris and I spent a lot of time talking with Jen, who used to know us pretty well. “Do you still keep separate finances?” Jen asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“Do you still keep your cereal boxes separate?” she asked.

“What?!?” Kris said.

“You used to keep your cereal separate. Like if you both had Wheaties, you’d each have your own box. It was hilarious.”

“We don’t do that anymore,” Kris said. (And though neither of us can remember actually doing that while we were dating, I’ll admit it sounds like something we might have done.)

“Do you have separate accounts?” I asked Jen. I expected her to say no, of course. Most people join their finances when they get married. But she surprised me.

“We do have separate accounts,” Jen said. “We like it. But I think it’s because my husband and I came together as adults. If we’d met when we were younger, our finances might be more merged.”

Jen and her husband have a sort of division of labor when it comes to finances. She takes care of the regular monthly bills because she’s better at keeping track of them. But he takes care of all of the banking. Her husband frets that they’re not saving enough, though.

“I guess we’re very financially responsible, even though my husband worries,” Jen said. “We just had a financial adviser review our retirement last week, and he laughed that my husband was so worried. He told us we’re fine. My husband’s still worried, though, but it’s good to know that a pro thinks we’re on course.”

At this point, Jen noticed I was scribbling in my notebook. “Are you taking notes?” she asked. “Ha! What else do Get Rich Slowly readers want to know? Should I tell you how we used to scam the banks?”

“Scam the banks?” I asked.

“Well, it wasn’t really a scam. It just felt that way.”

“How’d you do it?”

“Well, the credit card companies used to offer zero-percent interest rates, right?” Jen said. “We’d get a new card and take out a $10,000 advance at zero percent, and then put the money in a savings account for a year or eighteen months or whatever it was. We made a vow that we would never spend it. And we didn’t. The money sat there earning interest. We’d earn $300 or $400 in a year. It wasn’t a lot, but it was something. It felt like a scam!”

The party's over, but we're not leaving.
The party’s over, but the class of 1991 lingers on. (Some of us, anyhow.)

Old Friends

We spent a lot of time gazing wistfully at the red brick buildings, wishing we could be students again. “I miss doing whatever I want to do whenever I want to do it,” Lisa said. While we were in college, it always seemed like there was so much to do, so much work to do, but looking back it’s clear that we had it easy. We all agreed it would be fun to grab current students at random and challenge them to a study-off. We have no doubt we’d win.

“Now I know why all of the ‘non-traditional’ students used to get the best grades,” I said. “They were more motivated. And they knew how to work.”

It was getting late, but the nine of us who remained weren’t ready to leave. None of us wanted to wait five years to get together again. But that’s how time works. “I used to be able to stay up until eleven,” John said. “But I can’t do it anymore!”

“We’ve got to pay a babysitter,” Laura said. “So we’ve got to leave soon.”

“How much do you pay for a babysitter?” John asked.

“$10 an hour,” Laura said. “But that’s a small-town rate.”

“It’s $15 an hour in Seattle,” said Aaron.

“I pay $8 an hour in Montana,” said Jen.

With that, we rose slowly and sauntered outside. Four current students were seated in the quad, laughing and lounging under the starry sky. “Hey,” they said as we walked past.

“Hey,” I said.

“Were you here for the reunion?” they asked. “What class were you in?”

“We’re the class of 1991,” we said. “What about you?”

“2012,” they said. “And were you all friends back then? Are you still friends now?”

We looked at each other and smiled. “Yes,” we said. “We were friends. And we still are. And maybe, twenty years from now, the four of you will still be friends too.” And I hope they will be. Friends, especially old friends, are worth far more than money.

American Cookery: Magazine ads from 1939

My wife knows me pretty well. At a recent garage sale, Kris picked up the November 1939 issue of American Cookery magazine. She wanted it for the recipes. But after she was finished, she handed it off to me. “You’ll want to look at the ads,” she said. She was right.

Fun trivia: American Cookery magazine was originally called The Boston Cooking-School Magazine. The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book was first published in 1896 and written by Fannie Merritt Farmer. When I was a boy, my mother regularly used a modern edition of this cookbook, which we knew as “the Fannie Farmer cookbook“.

Some of the ads from this issue of American Cookery are for products that are still familiar to us seventy years later:

Baking soda ad Salt ad

But many of the ads seem quaint or outdated:

Cake ad
Fowl lacer ad
Table-setting ad
Cheese ad

Continue reading

Bigger isn’t always better: Remembering to appreciate what I already have

Walking home from work today, I decided to take the long way. Most of the time, I choose the easy quarter-mile stroll downhill from the office to our happy half acre (or happy .62 acre, if you’d like to be precise). But to celebrate the first day of summer, I took the river-forest loop.

The river-forest loop is exactly what it sounds like: a series of quiet streets that wend along the east bank of the Willamette River, easing their way beneath stands of tall oak, fir, and pine. It’s three miles from our house down the river-forest road and back again. I choose this route when I need exercise or want to think. And, on days like today, I choose it to soak up the scenery.

As I walked, I looked at the trees and the river and the lake. I listened to the birds. I watched the squirrels go about their squirrely business. I nodded to the neighbors, and (strangely enough) I encountered three different loose dogs traipsing around unleashed, each of which was pleased to spend some time walking with me a ways.

After a while, I stopped looking at nature and started looking at the homes. The river-forest loop has some great houses. In fact, the side of the street next to the river is lined with what can only be described as mansions. The homes are stately and ornate, with beautiful, manicured lawns. (Rumor has it that one of these homes belongs to Will Vinton, of California Raisins fame.)

True story: I once found a bowling ball for sale at a garage sale at this house. It fit me perfectly and was just the right weight. I didn't buy it. To this day, I regret not buying that bowling ball.
Dream house? Or an example of potential lifestyle inflation?

I’ve looked at these homes before β€” and even have my favorite (which I’m dying to buy if it ever goes on the market) β€” but usually in just a cursory fashion. Today, I really looked at them. And as I looked, I began to covet.

“I want a house like that,” I thought as I passed the new house built from river rock and brick. “Or maybe one like that,” I mused while considering the next lot, which includes a tennis court.

I imagined what it would be like to live in homes like these, homes with arched double-door entries, vaulted ceilings, and wrap-around porches. How much would it cost? (And where would I get the money?) What would this new, wealthier J.D. be like? What would I do? How great would my life be?

But my imagination really took flight when I saw that one of the homes was for sale. I stopped at the top of the driveway to admire all of the gables, the fountain, and the three-car garage. I pictured the other side, which must sit right at the river’s edge. (The above cell-phone photo is of this house. It’s listed for $2.3 million, or almost ten times what we paid for our house.)

“Wow,” I thought. “If only I could afford a place like that!”

Yes, J.D. If only. And then what? Would that make you satisfied?

As I resumed my walk, my route led me back through normal neighborhoods: ranch houses and minivans and small city lots. Several folks were out working in their yards, just as I’ve been doing for the past few weeks. Like me, they’re trying to make their homes look as pretty as possible.

Suddenly it occurred to me that I didn’t need some fancy dream house. I already have one. I recalled the excitement that Kris and I felt when we first found our current place back in 2004. We thought it was perfect. Our hearts broke when we thought we’d lost the home by $500. And our spirits soared when the prospective buyers backed out. When we moved in, we were overwhelmed, but mostly in a good way. We thought this was our dream house.


Our home, which we call Rosings Park.

You know what? It is our dream house. And I have a great life already, even without a fountain or a riverfront view. Here it was, three in the afternoon on the first day of summer, and I was walking home from work. And here I was again, half an hour later, plopped on a park bench writing a blog post in a notebook while all around me kids played tennis and basketball. At home I’d grill some steaks and pet my cats and read a couple of comic books. What more could I ask for? (Well, besides for Kris not to be on the road for work, that is.)

I’m always urging others to appreciate what they have. When you feel that aching urge to keep up with the Joneses, when you wake up and realize you’ve begun to succumb to lifestyle inflation, it’s time to pause and take stock of what you have. When you slow down and really appreciate what you already own, you can often slake the thirst for something bigger and better. Maybe it’s time to take my own advice.

In my case, I reminded myself that although our house has been a little rough around the edges lately, that’s mostly because I haven’t had time to take care of the property like I ought to. After I’m through with my big yardwork push, and now that we’ve repaired the sewer line, and after we purge a little more Stuff, I’ll feel much better about our place again. We’ll have people over. We’ll laze in the afternoon sun. We’ll pick peas and berries from the garden.

I’m smart enough to realize that a $2.3 million dream home won’t make me any happier than where we live now. I think I’ll stay put.

Remnants of Things Past

I did a little time traveling yesterday, and I didn’t like it.

“I’m going to clean the workshop,” I announced at breakfast. “I know I should write or mow the lawn, but I’m going to clean the workshop.”

“Sounds good,” Kris said. She rarely argues when I have an urge to do some cleaning.

A glimpse at the past
My WorkshopWhen we first looked at this property five years ago, I was drawn to the outbuildings. I have fond memories of the outbuildings on my grandparents’ land, so I was excited that our new house would have a detached garage, two sheds, and a workshop.

For the first couple of years, I actually used the workshop for its intended purpose. It was the place I practiced my (very limited) handyman skills. I also used it to build computers for family and friends. In time, however, the building fell into disuse; it gradually turned to storage.

I gave a tour of our home to a visitor last month. When I showed the workshop, I was dismayed. I hadn’t really looked at it in months β€” or years. But when I saw it through the eyes of a stranger, it was clear that it had become a dumping ground for my cast-off Stuff.

The past recaptured
I’ve written before about my battle with Stuff. In many ways, I’ve made great progress. I’m less acquisitive than I used to be, and I’ve sold most of the things that have value. But I still possess a great mass of Stuff.

As I began my cleaning project yesterday, the workshop was packed with:

  • Old computer parts (Apple II, Macintosh SE, etc.)
  • Vinyl record albums from my youth
  • Compact discs
  •  
  • Darkroom equipment
  • Old books and comics
  • Stacks and stacks of magazines
  • Boxes and bags filled with miscellaneous junk
  • Packaging materials from three years of purchases

Looking at this collection of Stuff β€” none of which I need or use anymore β€” I was overwhelmed. I felt sick. Did I really purchase all of this Stuff? Why? As I worked, I tried to answer that question.

Whenever I picked something up, I tried to remember how much I had paid for it and what had led me to buy it:

This voice recorder cost $59. I thought it would keep me from forgetting things, but I never remembered to use it. Not once. These photography books cost $20 each. I thought they’d help me make better photos, but I’m not sure I read any of them at all. I bought this old Apple II for $125 off of eBay because I wanted to play the games I remember from fifth and sixth grade. I used it for a couple of hours.

I took a trip through my past, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. All around me was evidence of my wasteful ways. For nearly 20 years, I had been in acquisition mode. I accumulated Stuff. My workshop was filled with the last remnants of this life.

One fundamental principle of frugality is to buy only things for which you have a use (even if that use is pleasure). The old J.D. wasn’t good at this. I bought a lot of stuff that I didn’t need β€” and barely wanted.

Now here I am at 40, and when I look at all of the things I own, I can’t help but wonder what my younger self was thinking. Buying this Stuff seemed like a good idea at one time, I know, but owning these things did not make me happy. It didn’t make me feel free. Quite the opposite, in fact. This Stuff is a burden, a physical and a mental barrier to the things that are actually important to me.

A dream of the future
Kris and I are in the very early stages of planning our vacation for next year, and we’re leaning towards a Rick Steves tour. Steves is a one-bag zealot: Participants are not allowed to bring more than a single carry-on suitcase, whether the tour lasts two days β€” or twenty.

This might seem limiting to some, but I find the one-bag philosophy liberating. When Kris’ parents took us to London and Dublin in 2007, I took a single carry-on bag. For three weeks, my entire world consisted solely of the possessions I could squeeze into this suitcase. It was awesome. I felt unburdened. When we returned from that trip, the one-bag experience prompted me to undergo a short phase during which I purged Stuff around the house β€” but I never finished the job.

As I continue to develop my personal and financial goals for the future, I want to focus less on Stuff. I’ve learned to guard against the invasion of Stuff, but I want to take it a step further. I want to eliminate more of the Stuff I already own. To that end, I’ve developed some personal guidelines to help me approach the task:

    • Don’t overthink it. With so much Stuff to get rid of, it’s easy to make the project even better than it has to be. I’m tempted to draw up plans on paper or to simply re-arrange the Stuff into new piles. The key is to dispense with all this folderol and just get started.

 

    • Focus on one item at a time. If I look at the entire project at once, I’m overwhelmed. How on earth will I ever clean the workshop? How will I ever find a place for all this Stuff? Instead, I concentrate on one thing at a time. Where does this photo enlarger go? And what about my old Tintin books? I break the project into smaller steps.

 

    • Don’t get depressed. When I think about the time and money that this Stuff represents, I sometimes let it get me down. It seems like such a waste. But the past is the past, and I cannot change what I’ve done. All I can do is try to make smart choices going forward, to guard against the invasion of Stuff, and to get rid of the clutter that’s already in my life.

 

    • Do some good with the Stuff you have. If I’m going to get rid of things, I might as well make the most of them. Sure, much of the Stuff is going to end up in the trash, but can some of the items be donated to a local thrift store? A school? In my case, I have darkroom equipment that somebody on Craigslist or Freecycle may want. My nephew would probably love the two boxes of model railroad parts I’ve acquired.

 

    • Purge ruthlessly. When I sort through this Stuff, I have to turn off the emotional side of my brain. This can be difficult, but it’s necessary. Do I really need my high school newspapers? All of my old role-playing games? My boxes of common football cards? What about my cassette tapes from high school and college? The financial records for buying our first house in 1993? Everything has some sort of meaning; if I keep it all, I’m going to be buried in clutter.

 

  • Remember how this feels. Though I’m doing much better at avoiding Stuff, I still have my weaknesses. I still bring home too many books. I’m still drawn to “free” stuff by the side of the road. Next week, I plan to attend an enormous neighborhood garage sale, and if I’m not careful, I could come home with even more Stuff. When I’m tempted in the future, I need to remind myself of what it feels like to dig through this crap.

I almost think that this project should make me feel happy and triumphant, not sad and mopey. Look how far I’ve come! Look at the smart choices I’m now able to make! And think of how much less cluttered my life will be once I purge all of this stuff!

I don’t feel triumphant yet, but maybe I’ll get there. For now, I’m hoping that my own experience can serve as an object lesson to others who might be acquisition mode. Buying Stuff (and getting Stuff for free) can seem like fun. It can seem like “winning”. It’s not. Don’t buy things for which you have no use; the value is in the using, not the having.

Coping with Life’s Little Setbacks

I had a lousy weekend. It was one of those weekends where anything that could go wrong did go wrong. The individual problems were minor enough, but taken as a whole, it was all rather overwhelming. Some examples:

  • When I left the house to go on my marathon training run Saturday morning, the cover to porch light fell to the ground and shattered into a million little pieces.
  • Our internet connection died. And, of course, the only way I know how to contact my provider is over the internet. (Fortunately I now have an office just up the street with a working internet connection.)
  • I mowed the lawn on Sunday. For five minutes. Then the lawnmower died. The blade just sort of seized up and now will not turn at all. I have no idea what’s wrong, and I won’t have time to diagnose the problem until I return from Orlando.
  • On Sunday evening, we went swimming with a group of friends. Naturally I left my suit and towel at the aquatic center. I didn’t have time to retrieve it before my flight yesterday.

This is but a sampling of the avalanche of small setbacks that have befallen me over the past few days. As I say, no individual problem is particularly dire, but when encountered in a clump like this, they make me cranky. For each one, I imagine how much money it’s going to cost me to fix. I see dollar signs floating over the broken light fixture. I see dollar signs crawling over the lawnmower. I see dollar signs next to the DSL modem.

The Olden Days
In the Olden Days, back when I struggled with debt, a series of setbacks like this would have been more than just frustrating. Because I had no emergency savings, I would have been forced to resort to my credit cards. I would have found myself drawn deeper into debt.

There’s no question that these mishaps bug me. But I know that I’m financially prepared for them, and when I’ve taken care of each problem, I’ll be able to build up my savings and return to life as it was.

If this had happened five or ten years ago, however, it would have been a different story. These setbacks wouldn’t just bug me β€” they would have made me depressed. I would have felt like life was conspiring against me, dragging me down. I would have felt unlucky. And as I charged each repair on my credit card, I would have felt like I was sinking deeper and deeper underwater.

This has been one of the great revelations of fiscal responsibility. A broken lawnmower is still a pain in the neck, and it’s still going to cost me money, but it will cost me money that I have saved. While the money has waited to be used, it’s been earning me 2% or 3% or 4% in interest. Previously, I wouldn’t have earned interest at all, but would have charged repairs to a credit card, which would cost me 12% or 18% or 21%. By saving, I am in control of my money.

Even Steven
“You know what this is, don’t you?” Kris said when we realized I had left my swimsuit at the pool. “It’s karma.”

“Karma?” I asked. I didn’t feel like joking around. In fact, I was in a foul foul mood. I was imagining all of the dollar signs floating above my broken world.

“Yeah,” she said. “Karma. Things have been going so well for you for so long that they were bound to balance out. Just think: The site is producing income and you’re saving and investing. You’re doing awesome. These things don’t matter. They’re inconsequential. You can afford to fix them, and you will.”

My wife is a smart woman. She’s right. I shouldn’t let small problems like these bother me. I’ve put myself in a financial position where I can handle small setbacks β€” even when they come in waves. I’m going to fly to Orlando, have a good time, and when I return home I’ll tap a bit of my savings to make things right again.

Update: Just as I’m ready to leave for Orlando, the bathroom sink clogs. I pull out the drain plug, but when I do, the long “stem” to which it attaches comes loose and falls down the drain. Another minor annoyance, and probably another few dollars literally “down the drain”. What is going on? It’s as if I have a hex on me!

Plant a tree to add beauty and value to your home

There’s nothing like a breathtaking autumn to make us notice the trees. And fall is the perfect time to start thinking about adding a tree to your property.

J.D. and I are lucky to have many mature trees on our lot, but that didn’t stop us from planting more when we moved in. We added four fruit trees and a Japanese Zelkova for shade on the southwest side of our home. In only its second summer, that shade tree was already a welcome spot of cool for J.D. and the cats.

In most climates, autumn and spring are the best times for planting new trees, but a tree is a lifetime commitment, so don’t rush into anything! Do your research now so you’re ready for a springtime purchase, or spend the next 10 months watching trees in your neighborhood before picking the one that’s right for you.

Why Plant a Tree?

For a small investment of money and time, a tree provides many long-term benefits, including these cited by the Arbor Day Foundation:

  • Property value. Landscaping can add 10-20% more value to a home, especially landscaping that incorporates mature trees. Business areas with trees attract more customers (and they stay longer and spend more money) and apartments with trees have reduced tenant turnover.
  • Resale value. A well-chosen tree adds curb appeal and makes the home appear established within its environment. According to the Arbor Day Foundation’s research, “83% of realtors believe that mature trees have a ‘strong or moderate impact’ on the salability of homes listed for under $150,000; on homes over $250,000, this perception increases to 98%.”
  • Energy efficiency. Depending on how your home is situated, trees can be used to provide shade during the heat of summer or protect your home from the blasts of winter wind, cutting cooling and heating costs. According to the U.S. Forest Service, “Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20 β€” 50 percent in energy used for heating.”
  • Beauty. From spring’s first blossoms to the vibrant colors of fall, trees usher in the seasons and announce their passing. Even the bare branches and bark of deciduous trees can be stunning against a stark winter landscape or dusted with snow.
  • Good for the planet. Trees do more than look good. As every second-grader knows, a tree absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen, helping to reduce the impacts of fossil fuel use and keep the planet in balance. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that “the net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.” Trees also reduce soil erosion and storm runoff.
  • Good for your mood. Research indicates that communities with more trees report lower crime rates and lower levels of anxiety. In one study from Texas A&M University, looking at trees reduced stress within five minutes, as indicated by changes in blood pressure and muscle tension. Add a hammock and you can probably cut that to two minutes!
  • Good for your wallet. Reduce your grocery bills by planting trees and bushes that produce food for your family. Dwarf selections of fruit and nut trees are beautiful and productive.
  • Privacy. Well-placed trees can screen a house from a busy road or a noisy neighbor. We are fortunate to have mature trees on all four sides of our property, creating a park-like setting in which street noise and the visual impact of other houses are minimized.
  • Company. Native trees provide berries, seeds, fruits or nuts for local birds and critters. Even non-native tree species may serve as nesting sites or feeding stations for wildlife.
  • Community. Planting a tree to commemorate a birth or death is a meaningful way to connect our humanity with our environment and the future. If you don’t have room in your own yard, consider arranging a tree-planting at a senior home, school, or community center as a way to honor someone in your life.

What Kind of Tree Should You Plant?

Now that you’re convinced, here’s the fun part: choosing your tree.

This is the most crucial step. Putting the wrong tree in the wrong place spells trouble down the road for you, your neighbors, or future owners. I frequently see housing developments built during the early nineties that are planted with ill-chosen trees.

Often, new homes are sold with no backyard landscaping and merely grass and a few ornamental shrubs in front. Because their houses are so close together, homeowners may have felt compelled to plant fast-growing trees to provide a bit of privacy. After a decade, however, these trees are reaching out to block windows, touch roofs or walls, stretch toward power lines, overhang driveways, and creating lawn and sewer problems with their root systems. A tree that’s going to be 80-feet tall when mature does not belong in a postage-stamp-sized yard.

Plan ahead by asking yourself these questions:

  • How big is the space? This should be your top consideration. Remember that trees come in all shapes and sizes. Some are tall but narrow, while others form a broad canopy. Dwarf or slow-growing varieties are more appropriate in limited spaces. Some trees take well to pruning to keep them a desired size. How tall is your house? It’s best not to have a large tree too close to the house; it should not overhang the roof. A small space could still be home to a large shrub, adding many of the same benefits.
  • What is the purpose of the tree? Shade? Windbreak? Ornamental, to be seen out a picture window? A crop tree? Will you plant one tree, or do you have room for more? How fast do you want it to mature? Remember some fruit trees need others to pollinate them. A windbreak is commonly a row of trees set together with branches near ground level. A shade tree is likely a widely-branched deciduous tree. But a fruit tree provides shade and beauty, and a windbreak can shelter birds and minimize soil erosion. The best trees are multi-purpose.
  • What does the climate dictate? Trees native to your region are best-suited for your climate, and will host the most wildlife. But there’s nothing wrong with planting something more exotic if you’re willing to do your homework and give it a bit more TLC. Be sure to avoid species classified as invasive in your area.
  • How much maintenance will the tree need? Know thyself. If you hate raking leaves, maybe an evergreen tree is best for you. Fruit trees can draw insects and make a mess if the fruit isn’t harvested. What’s your neighborhood like? In ours, nobody cares if the leaves aren’t raked immediately and a few apples litter the sidewalk, but your neighborhood may be different. If you live in a city, there may be local information available about certain types of trees recommended (or required) for planting near sidewalks and streets, as well as trees you may want to avoid due to mess, pest-problems, or climate intolerance.

I recommend that you begin your quest for the perfect tree in your own neighborhood. Look for trees you like and observe them during each season. You might even talk to the home or business owner to get their opinions on the tree. Like most people, each tree has bad habits. Does it send up obnoxious invasive sprouts from its root system? A lot of pollen in the spring? Have weak wood that results in downed limbs? Make sure you can live with the flaws.

An arboretum or local park can show you what the fully-grown trees look like. (Take along a picnic lunch and a tree identification guide so you’ll know what you’re seeing.) The staff of a quality local nursery can help you identify a tree from a leaf or flower, and answer questions about its habits.

If you need additional help, check out the Advanced Tree Search tool from the Arbor Day Foundation website. (The main Arbor Day site also has links to local resources and arborists.)

Ready to Buy, Ready to Plant

Although you may find a greater selection by mail-order, I highly recommend choosing and purchasing your tree in person. A young tree in a 20-gallon pot may be 6-12 feet tall and run around $100-200, depending on variety.

Go to a good nursery and examine the branch structures of the type of tree you’re shopping for. Look for evidence of pest damage. Beware of thick roots circling the inside of the pot or thrusting up from the soil. Ask questions! And be prepared to get it home; a potted tree is heavy and awkward. A good way to damage a young tree is to stick the pot in your car’s hatchback, the trunk waving in the air, and drive home on the freeway with the limbs crashing in the wind.

Note: If you live in an area with limited nursery options, start by seeing what trees are available in your area and then researching those to make your choice. It’s discouraging to settle on the perfect tree, only to find it’s not for sale in your state. That could mean some hefty freight charges if you have your heart set on a particular tree.

Once you get the tree home, plant it as soon as you can.

Remember: Your choice between spring or fall planting is important.

  • Cold-hardy trees are best planted in fall. This gives them a chance to acclimatize and establish a root system before the dry season.
  • Some immature trees can be more susceptible to frost damage after a transplant; if your chosen tree is one of these, choose a spring planting.
  • Either way, keep your investment from shriveling by watering deeply and often through the tree’s first year in its new home.
  • Mulch two feet out from the trunk of the tree to keep down weeds, retain moisture, and prevent you from damaging the trunk with the lawnmower or trimmer.
  • Learn how to prune your tree to maximize its assets. Never simply cut off the top of a tree to make it shorter.

Trees need time to reach their potential. Eventually, that small twig will be a thing of joy. Just sit back and watch your tree grow, adding both beauty and value to your home.

My Family Financial History (As Told by My Mother)

I’m giving a presentation at 1 p.m. this afternoon at the main downtown branch of Portland’s Multnomah County Library. I plan to cover a bit of my personal history, share some of the things I learned along the way, and offer some book recommendations before taking questions.

As part of my preparation, I asked my mother for a brief family financial history from her perspective. (I never trust my own memories β€” are the “facts” I recall from when I was six really reliable?) This is my mother’s story.

Steve and I met at a youth group meeting for our church, in Woodburn, Oregon, and then ran into each other at church dances in the Portland area, where we both lived.  We started dating in the fall of 1967 and were married on June 18, 1968.

We lived in a small apartment in Southeast Portland for about a year, and moved into a house in the same area just before J.D. was born, in March of 1969.  Steve worked as the gardener at Good Samaritan Hospital for a short time, but he had gotten a job cleaning trucks and then as a tire man at Freightliner.  When J.D. was born, he decided to go to aircraft mechanic’s school at the same time.

About seven months after J.D.’s birth, I became pregnant with Jeff. At about the time of Jeff’s birth in August 1970, Steve graduated from aircraft mechanic’s school.  He started work as an aircraft mechanic but after a couple of months he lost his job β€” he never did know why.

He had been taking flying lessons and he soloed and then got his flight instructor’s license and gave flight lessons himself.  We weren’t able to make ends meet and we wanted to move to the country before the boys got very old, so he started working for a landscaper in the Canby area, where he had grown up and where his parents lived.

He didn’t enjoy the work very much but his parents had given us permission to put a mobile home on the south end of their property and so we picked one out and had it moved out there.  It was just up on bricks and we used a well Steve hand-dug, which was muddy in the winter and dry in the summer.  We went to a friend’s house for much of the time until we were able to dig a deep enough well.

Harvest Mills
Little HarveySteve had various jobs and I was a stay-at-home mom. We had our third son, Tony, in 1972. We managed to make ends meet, but barely, until Steve started his home wheat grinder and food dryer manufacturing business in 1974.   It still was difficult and we were very behind in our payments. Fortunately, we used our products to produce the food that we ate and our creditors worked with us until the time came that we were able to start really selling the grain grinders and food dehydrators under the banner of Harvest Mills.

Our company grew by leaps and bounds as we advertised in the newspaper and I gave classes and demonstrations, plus people came out to our shop that we had built and bought the wheat grinders and food dryers almost as quickly as Steve manufactured them.   The competition became quite fierce, though, and we became ready to sell the business when we got an offer from a bankruptcy attorney from Utah in 1977.

The attorney was to pay us $5,000 every three months for fifteen years, for a total of $300,000. [J.D.’s note: The sale price of the business is actually a bit of a mystery. This is a best guess.] Back in those days, a couple of hundred dollars a week was enough to make ends meet, and this was a lot of money. Things looked good for a while, and Steve spent money to buy some things he’d always wanted, like a sailboat and an airplane.

Unfortunately, though, the buyer made only a few payments and then forfeited on the loan.  We had to repossess the equipment and Steve once again was looking for work. This time, I took some business (10-key and accounting) courses and also looked for work part time, as Tony was in preschool and the other two were in school.  We managed to get jobs and pay our bills all right then.  We weren’t by any stretch of the imagination well off, however.

Custom Box Service
Tony gluing a boxIn 1985, Steve started his business making custom corrugated boxes, Custom Box Service.  He was able to build his box-making equipment thanks to his aircraft mechanic’s training and experience and he knew of the custom niche in the market thanks to working for a couple of box manufacturers.

The business grew slowly while J.D. was in college, and I went to work full time at Farmer’s Insurance Regional Office as a text processor.  I worked there for a couple of years and then developed early carpal tunnel syndrome and was able to go on to another job that didn’t require much typing.  I lost that job after a couple of years and went home to work for the business.

The business continued to grow and Steve hired his nephew, and other employees followed β€” most particularly our sons, J.D., Jeff and Tony, at various times.

Steve had been suffering from chronic lymphocytic leukemia since the late 1980s and he passed away on 21 July 1995, ten days shy of his 50th birthday.  The business was left to me and to the boys. They ran it until Tony left it to pursue other interests, and then J.D. did too. Now Jeff and his cousin are the only family members left at the box company. It’s doing alright β€” about breaking even for the year.  The economy in our nation is in terrible shape so we can be grateful for how we are doing.

I’ve written before that our parents’ experiences with money shape our own attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Reading Mom’s descriptions of trying to make ends meet reminded me of my own “adventures” during the mid-1990s. Just as my father spent the money he had instead of saving it, so did I β€” until recently. Thanks, Mom, for sharing your story!