2015 has been an incredibly busy year around the old NCN household. Honestly, I’ve slacked off a bit with my bookkeeping and document organization – so I took a few hours today to clean things up and get things tidy. I am now much better prepared for next year.
First, I sorted, organized, paid, and filed this year’s remaining bills. I am finished with 2015 – and ready for 2016.
Second, I sorted and organized our tax documents for 2015. Many more will arrive over the next month – so I wanted to be ready. Receipts and other tax-related items are nice and neat, and we should be ready to file our taxes in February.
Third, I took an hour or so to organize other business-related documents. My house serves as my main office – for both my regular job and my online ventures – so its important that things be neat and organized.
Fourth, I shredded non-essential documents – mostly old envelopes and unsolicited junk mail. No matter how often I go through that kind of stuff – I always seem to end up with a stack of it, just sitting around.
Fifth, I sorted through our assortment of important documents – wills, birth certificates, insurance policies – just to make sure that they were all in good shape and accounted for. I also updated a list of important contact information that I keep on hand, in case of emergencies.
I have stored away all of 2015 documents, purchased a new file-box for 2016 – and I’m ready for the new year. It feels much better to be organized, ready to go. Blessings.
Follow me @NCN.
Tools for DIY projects can get expensive. Over the years, I’ve managed to accumulate a pretty decent set of hand tools and power tools – most at discount prices, and some for free. Here’s how –
I shop the discounted / returned items section at “big box” stores. I purchased a gasoline-powered pressure washer for 50% off retail a few years ago. The original buyer couldn’t figure out how to connect the soap dispensing feature – so they returned it to the store. I bought it, fixed the soap dispenser, and it still works great!
I shop at pawn shops. We have several pawn shops in our area – and most have a big bin, loaded with very inexpensive hand tools, drill bits, etc.
I shop yard sales / garage sales / flea markets. These are great for finding power tools – often rarely used. A few years ago, I purchased a brand new, in the box, drill and driver, for five bucks. As with any item I buy post-retail, I check for recalls and defects.
I shop the Amazon Tools section. Last year, I found a great deal on a set of router bits. Since I only use my router a few times a year, I wasn’t looking to spend a lot of money on expensive bits. Using Amazon, I found an entire set of inexpensive bits – and they work fine for what I need.
I shop eBay. I just checked, and I’ve been using eBay since 1999! Wow. I love eBay for hard-to-find parts and tools. A few months ago, I purchased a set of small screwdrivers, used for repairing electronics. (I have never had much success with Craig’s List. I think it might be because we live several miles from the nearest city on the list. If I lived in a bigger city, this might be a resource I used more often.)
I shop our local hardware stores and farm centers. These are great places for things like nuts, bolts, and fasteners. This past summer – I checked online and with five different major retailers, before finding a part for my lawn mower – at the local hardware store, 5 miles from my house!
I borrow from friends and family. Once in a while, I’ll need a use-it-once, never-need-it-again tool – and I’ll ask friends and family. For instance: I needed to jack-up our kids’ playhouse, but I didn’t have a set of bottle jacks. Rather than go buy a set, use them once, and then have them sit in storage – I asked my Dad. He had some, I borrowed them for a couple of days, and returned them. When I borrow tools, I’m extra-careful with them – and I’m always ready to pay for a replacement, should I break them.
I let folks know that I’m into DIY projects. On a couple of occasions, folks who know that I like to build stuff have just given me their old / unused / unwanted tools. I have a ladder, a chop saw, and a belt sander – and all were gifts from folks who know that I’ll use the tools.
I check the for-sale section at the scrap yard. One of our local scrap yards has a for-sale section, where they sell items that were “scrapped”, but are still in good condition. Last week, I purchased two big spotlights for three bucks. I used them to illuminate our back yard during a party – and there great for lighting a work area.
I shop the aisles at the “big box” store – and look for close-outs. Each year or so, manufacturers refresh their product lines. This is a great time to snag usually-expensive items for less. Last year, I purchased a table saw for 50% off, just because the manufacturer was ready to clear shelf space for a new model.
Over the past few years, I’ve managed to acquire a decent amount of tools. I’m still looking for a drill press – and I’d love a biscuit joiner – but I’m pretty happy with what I have. If you have an idea for saving money on tools and DIY projects – leave a comment in the section below – or connect with me via twitter.com/NCN. Have a blessed week!
It’s time for a new chart! We are working to pay off our fixed-rate, conventional, fifteen-year mortgage. Our goal is to pay it off in less than 10 years.
I use a simple pie-chart to track our progress – and post our updates here at No Credit Needed.
Having a visualization keeps us motivated!
Here’s a chart with details for our current progress –
The percentages above represent the amount of our mortgage we have paid – 32.83% – and the amount we still owe – 67.17%.
Each month, we make our scheduled mortgage payment, plus an additional principal-only payment.
Some months, we make more than one principal-only payment!
This chart doesn’t represent our entire equity – It represents that amount we still owe on our mortgage.
We have reduced the length of our 15-year mortgage by 8 months!
Check back often to see how we are doing! Blessings.
Like many folks, we have shrubbery beds surrounding our home. Today, I had a few extra hours after work, so I grabbed my favorite pruning shears and began the process of pruning our shrubs.
We have five major shrubbery beds – one for each side of the house and one that encircles a stand of oaks. Over the years, I’ve used various material for mulching the beds – pines straw, fallen leaves, and bagged cypress mulch.
Over time, whatever mulch is used will compact, disintegrate, and discolor. So, instead of going out an purchasing some sort of mulch (or raking the neighbor’s yard for pine straw) – I decided to try something a little different.
I pruned all of the shrubs in one particular bed – and placed the cut-offs on the ground, just outside the bed. I then removed the brick barrier from the edge of the bed – and raked all of the old mulch (a combination of the three mentioned above) out into the yard. I mixed the pile of old mulch and the cut-offs from the shrubbery – and started up the old lawn mower.
I raised the blade of the mower and slowly began to chop through the 3 to 5 inch pile of cut-offs and old mulch, chopping the pile into hundreds of little pieces. I ran the mower through the pile, reversing direction, 10 or 12 times, until all of the leaves, stems, pieces of pines straw, and chunks of cypress were chopped into little bits.
I then used my blower and my rake to transfer the little bits back in to the shrubbery bed – and was able to create a nice, even, good looking mulch for the bed. The homemade mulch looks great – and should actually breakdown, like compost, while it does its jobs of holding in water and protecting plant roots.
I may show a few pictures, once I’ve completed all of the beds. I think I’ve found a good way to reuse the cut-offs from my shrubbery to make some high quality mulch – for free!
Side note: I’m also experimenting with using plain old cardboard as a weed-barrier.