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Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Wall Street Journal asks "Where Would You Spend $600?" I thought I would answer that question on my own blog. For the typical middle-class family, finances have become much more strained lately. Fuel is high. Food is high. Debt is mounting. My own family received $2100 (family of 5, less than $150k in AGI).

We first gave 20% to our church, as we have embarked on a sanctuary remodeling and roofing project. Then I allocated $400 for clothing for the wife and boys. Assuming you don't buy Hilfiger and A&F, $400 actually goes a long way these days for clothing. Then I paid down one of our gas card accounts by about $500. I also bought new brakes for the van, and an engine diagnostic tool which I have needed for a while. And to help out the wife with cooking, I took the family to On the Border for dinner, and Johnny Carino's for lunch.

The rest is sitting in savings, but is going to likely be used to spend on comsumer items. I've had my eye on a Boston Acoustics speaker system to replace the one that is built into our LCD TV. I'd like a tow hitch for our minivan, and a cargo hauler for our upcoming trip to see our families. I've looked at some other things too, like a recliner, some bookshelves, an Adirondack swing, a new pot rack for my wife's kitchen, and maybe some new dress shoes.

In other words, the stimulus fund has actually helped us accelerate purchases we were going to make anyway, and moderately helped with some debt, while also giving us a little bit of luxury. While the economics of throwing money to the masses is questionable, I am not going to complain about receiving part of my own tax money back for my personal use.


.: posted by Dave 12:23 PM

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I keep hearing how poor the economy is. I'm sure outside of my little box in Texas, things are troublesome. But here, that's just not the case.

Despite the high cost of gas, the roads are just full of commuters, and shoppers. It took me 30 minutes to get from my office to the automobile service center on Friday. It felt like I was back in Connecticut on the Bulkley Bridge at 5 pm.

The big box stores are always packed. Target, Best Buy, Kohls, etc. have an abundance of shoppers. If people are cutting back, they aren't cutting out retailers.

As far as housing goes, I read about people losing house value and equity. Not here. Housing starts are still in full bloom. Our subdivision, a new addition to the area, is still seeing growth. Houses seem to sell after 30-60 days, which doesn't seem unreasonable to me. Personally, my property assessment went up 5% this year. So while America loses equity, Texas doesn't seem to be.

And then I read this today:

Recent reports reveal that more Fortune 500 companies are now based in Texas than in any other state. Job growth in our state remains high while unemployment rates are still low in spite of negative national trends in this recessionary environment. Texas added more than 213,000 new jobs last year, and job growth has exceeded one million over the past four years.

Maybe all of this is indicative of just how bad things are in the rest of the country. Or maybe it shows how productive the economy can be when companies can locate in a low-tax area, where residents can live without a punitive state income tax, and where the cost of living is generally low. Maybe if other states got out their own Petri dishes, and experimented with ways to promote growth in their own backyards, they would see similar results. Just maybe.

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.: posted by Dave 1:55 PM

I would be remiss if I didn't wish all of the mothers out there, including mine, and my wife, and my mother in law, and my grandmother in law (whew) a happy Mothers' Day. So... Happy Mothers' Day to you all!

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.: posted by Dave 1:53 PM

Friday, May 09, 2008

A Significant Date (Ode to Granny):

I haven't been blogging much lately, since, well... there are far more prolific bloggers than I, plus I haven't had a lot to say, plus we have a huge SAP implementation going on, plus... well, blame Websense, who has the audacity to ban all things "Blogspot" because they have been designated "Social Networking Sites". Whatever.

Yet, today, I feel more compelled to find a way to blog, so I'm going back to using my Treo (which I did many times in the past, but it's not as convenient as using a fancy laptop). Why today?

Today is May 9th. For me, that is a meaningful date. On this day in 1925, my dear grandmother was born. She was 45 years young when I was born, and I always talked to her whether by phone or in person on her birthday. Generally, I asked her if she felt a year older (she did), if she liked her gifts (she did), and what she was going to do the rest of the day (sit and relax, most likely).

Birthdays in my family are meaningful days. Being an only child, that meant a windfall for me. But as I got older, I simply enjoyed sharing other people's birthday's with them, especially Granny's.

The gifts aren't important. I seldom remember what I got for her, or my Mom, or even my kids or wife. It's the time spent together. The conversation. The love between family members, in this case, between grandmother and grandson.

This birthday is different, of course. Granny died in the summer of last year. Not a day passes that I don't see something that reminds me of her, especially my youngest child, Dylan, whom she never met, but for whom she endured quite a lot of pain in her last days, just so she could know that he was going to recover from his own medical issues. For me, he will be forever linked to her.

So today, when I get home, I will look at a few pictures, hug my kids and my beautiful wife, but especially when I embrace my littlest one, I will think of Granny, shed a tear, smile a smile, and long for the day that we all can see her again.

Happy birthday, Granny. We miss you.

.: posted by Dave 12:35 PM

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