Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mission accomplished: September push-up challenge

Today is the last day in September, and so ends my 1000-push-up-in-a-month challenge.

Last Tuesday I had 130 push-ups left to go. Not counting today (since I haven't done any yet), I've completed 170. So: mission accomplished! After the first week of setting a habit and gaining a bit of strength, it was a pretty easy challenge too. I find myself impressed at what the human body can adapt to, especially one that leads a sedentary life like mine.

9/25 Tuesday20 3555
9/26 Wednesday20 2040
9/27 ThursdayNone0
9/28 Friday25 3055
9/29 Saturday2020
9/30 Sunday3535
Grand total: 1075

As you can see I sort of petered out toward the end, mostly on purpose to be honest. Ten or so days ago I noticed myself feeling fatigued, and I thought maybe some rest would allow me to do fewer sets of many more reps. That's an hypothesis I haven't fully tested yet, so let me go collect some data now...

Whew. Okay. That was 35. And a tough 35 at that. With the right type of coercion I probably could have done another five consecutively, which would meet my 2012 resolution of 40-consecutive-push-ups. My plan for the rest of the year is to do sets of 30 or 35 any time I'm not feeling fatigued, with the hope that I'll reach another fitness plateau. From there it's a short jump to 40.

In the course of the past month I've greatly increased my upper body strength. This may be a bit presumptuous, but here goes: after this month I'm of the opinion that any able-bodied man should be able do 20 consecutive push-ups. At least. Maybe it's easier for my 25-year-old body to ramp up than someone nearing the traditional retirement age. But if you can do a single push-up, that's your first step; then you put one metaphorical foot in front of the other until you can string together a set of five, ten, fifteen. You don't have to rush yourself either. It's just too simple not to. No equipment required, just lie on the floor and push.

Okay enough proselytizing about push-ups. I've taken a long enough break from discussing personal finance. Expect October to be more oriented on dollars and cents, budgets and loan payoffs, investing and other financial goals. Just take this as a reminder that Mustachianism is not totally, or even mostly, about money.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Working on the weekend; and more push-ups

First let's get push-ups out of the way. Then I'm going to share some updates on my professional life.

9/12 Wednesday15 10 2045
9/13 Thursday15 2035
9/14 Friday20 2040
9/15 Saturday20 2040
9/16 Sunday25 2045
9/17 Monday20 2040
9/18 TuesdayNone0
9/19 Wednesday20 3050
9/20 Thursday3030
9/21 Friday25 2045
9/22 Saturday2020
9/23 Sunday20 3050
9/24 Monday25 30 1570

That's 510 more since the last time I wrote, which puts me at 870 for the month. I have 130 push-ups left to do, and six days left in which to do them, for an average of 21 2/3 per day. Eminently do-able. I'm much stronger now than I was when I started. All it took was consistency in a routine that inexorably got me to where I wanted to be. Kind of like Mustachianism! A flavor of lifestyle design where we sow little habits that pay big dividends and compound until you've got a big ol' stash; in this case, of push-up prowess.

Yesterday marked a milestone in my professional life. Sunday was the first time I ever worked on a weekend. It was totally voluntary too: I wanted to get ahead. Long story short, I care about the project I'm on, and I want what's best for our customers. That said, the jury is still out on whether my boss recognizes the value I'm providing. But I'm optimistic that by doing my best and not settling into complacency, sooner or later the work I'm doing will pay dividends.

Sometimes I'm bullish on work, other times bearish, but I do know a couple of things: 1) I never love my job enough not to mind that I have to be doing it, and 2) I feel most effective when I feel least tied down to my job. I've been fantasizing about the day when the sole reason I'll go to work is because of the good I can do, and not because of the paycheck it provides. That will probably be a decade or more in coming, but with every paycheck I'm making progress toward that (and other) goal(s).

In student loan news, this month I've sent payments of $700 and $900 in that direction. It'll be enough to get my balance somewhere in the mid-$10k range. It's totally a habit at this point ("oh, got paid again, money sitting in my checking account; time to make a payment!"). I'm making progress even more quickly than I had hoped almost a year ago. Remember that I gave myself a little over two years to pay off a little under $32k in student loan debt. Now it's looking like I'll get there in 15 months at most.

And then I can start building my stash :)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Car ownership costs

Let's talk about how much my car really costs.

For those of you just tuning in, in June I bought a 2007 Honda Fit Sport from a private party, and paid $10,500 courtesy of an auto loan through my credit union. I know, I know, car loans are bad. But in my case my student loan interest rate is 6%, my auto loan interest rate is 2%, and I'm not badass enough to go completely carless just yet.

But the cost of a car is more than what you pay for it. First and most obviously there's the cost of gas. And then there's a whole host of other fees like title and registration, emissions and safety inspections, taxes, insurance, servicing, and unexpected repairs. It's easy to sweep those costs under the proverbial rug because they're generally not charged in neat monthly increments (well, maybe insurance is).

Gas is an easy win. Before my Fit I was driving a hand-me-down Land Rover LR2, where the gas tank was twice as big and I'm pretty sure I filled it up more often. I think the gas tank on my Fit is 12 gallons and when I'm only commuting it's three weeks between fill-ups. I can get this down even further the more I bike.

Then there's taxes. Where we live we pay an annual vehicle value tax. Let me break this out into a table so it's easier to compare:

Tax months65
Tax due$74.61$129.82
Total due$91.11$145.65
Monthly tax$12.44$25.96
Assessed value$8,825$18,425

The Fit costs less than half as much in taxes as did the LR2. Not at all coincidentally, the assessed value of the Fit is less than half. (Those numbers are almost exactly the same ratio. I checked.) Total due is more because they charge about $16 for a yearly registration.

Then there's maintenance. I've got one more pre-paid maintenance at the Honda dealer where the previous owner serviced the car. So I got the oil change for free, and it was $16 for a state emissions and safety inspection. But I let them talk me into other preventative stuff like changing the air filters, so it cost me $167.68. A lesson is learned: car dealerships are almost always a ripoff.

And that brings me to my final point, a question for my readership:
I'm considering purchasing the Helm service manual for my vehicle's model year. The down side is that it costs $56.50, maybe more with shipping. The upside is that 1) I'm sure I can perform a bunch of easy maintenance stuff myself, thus saving lots of money, and 2) it will teach me a whole lot about my car, thus increasing my general competence level and my automotive competence level specifically.

I'm pretty sure the service manual is worth it, but I'd really like a second opinion. Thoughts?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mid-September update

The push-up challenge is coming along nicely. It's the end of day 11 and I have 360 under my belt. 640 more to go in 19 days, for an average of around 33 1/2 per day. I've averaged 32.7 per day so far, or 36 per day if you ignore the first day. So I feel pretty good about my progress.

9/1 SaturdayNone0
9/2 Sunday2020
9/3 Monday15 10 1540
9/4 Tuesday15 2035
9/5 Wednesday15 15 1545
9/6 Thursday1515
9/7 Friday20 1535
9/8 Saturday15 10 1540
9/9 Sunday15 2035
9/10 Monday15 15 10 1050
9/11 Tuesday15 15 1545

I can feel my badassity increasing daily. I've settled on sets of 15 for my "average" set; it feels like the right number. Not too many that my muscles burn afterward, but enough so I feel it. Each day it's a little easier to complete my sets. One day I'm going to gear up and just knock out as many as I can, though I'd like to get a bit ahead first.

In student loan news, my most recent payment of $500 cleared which puts my current loan balance at $11,954.27. My car loan is at $9,807.90 thanks to two extra erroneous payments (basically autopay was automatically set up and I made manual payments as well before I caught myself). I'm already planning some sort of celebration for when my student loan balance drops below my car loan balance. I want an excuse to mention my aggressive student loan payoff to friends and co-workers, basically as another voice in the dialogue to balance out pervasive consumerist talk that comes so naturally. More on that later.

Last, on to investment news, which consumes a good deal of my mindshare. A co-worker heard from my office mate about my interest in the stock market and we're going to discuss such awesome things as dividend growth investing tomorrow over lunch (leftovers, of course). He was excited about buying into Corning (GLW) because he felt it was undervalued. I'm hoping I've found someone at work who I can geek out with about the stock market.

I've also been reading up on options, specifically selling covered calls and (what I think is called) selling cash-covered puts. I think there's very little risk in these moves, especially if you're committing to an action you were planning on anyway (like buying shares if they drop to a certain price, or selling shares if they rise to a certain price). I plan on writing up these strategies in a later post.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

September push-up challenge: rocky start but making progress

The title says it all.

Saturday was September 1st and thus the beginning of my 1000-pushups-in-a-month challenge. Unfortunately I was too distracted by playing video games to notice. So I actually started doing push-ups on the 2nd — a measley single set of 20 — and I've been ramping up since then.

Before I show my numbers let me go knock out another set of however many push-ups I feel like doing. (In case you can't tell, I love goals that I can complete at my own pace before some long-in-the-future deadline).

Okay that was another fifteen. Let's see all the numbers:

9/1 SaturdayNone0
9/2 Sunday2020
9/3 Monday15 10 1540
9/4 Tuesday15 2035
9/5 Wednesday15 15 1545

140 down, 860 to go. At the beginning of the month I needed to average 33.3 push-ups per day to hit my 1000 target. That's without any rest days. As of today that number is 34.4 per day.

After my disappointing Saturday, I overcompensated on Sunday. I realized as my shoulders started tightening up that I shouldn't push myself too hard at first. This challenge is eminently achievable as long as I'm consistent about completing sets. The strategy I've settled upon is completing more sets of fewer push-ups, both to give my body time to adapt and so I can get a feel for the right posture (i.e., one that won't kill my shoulders). That should warm me up over the first week or two, and then I can push myself for larger sets later in the month.

Remember that this challenge is mostly an excuse to get me to my 40-pushups-at-once goal, which I set to be completed by the end of 2012. As such, I do want to try for more push-ups per set, just not at the expense of doing too much too fast and burning out.

Other stuff

I'm in the middle of cooking as I'm writing this post. It's a dish that I can't believe I haven't blogged about yet: Pasta Lentils! I'm capitalizing it because it's its own thing, a recipe I invented all by myself, and one of my three favorite foods. I'm totally going to write another post devoted entirely to Pasta Lentils, but to give you a sneak peek: you basically cook a pound of lentils and use it as pasta sauce for a pound of pasta. Voila! All the protein and carbs a growing grad school student needs in convenient Mustachian form. It's easy to cook, easy to store, easy to reheat, and delicious. It's great with red pepper flakes or parmesan cheese. Dinner is going to be awesome tonight (and so will lunch for the rest of the week).

From skimming my old posts it looks like my last student loan update was over a month ago. I've been throwing money at my loans as it's been coming in — I have less than $400 in my primary checking account — and my balance is at $12,442.34. At around $2000 per month that puts my payoff date some time in the February to March 2013 time frame, well in advance of my end-of-2013 goal. And who knows, maybe I'll get a bonus at work and bring that date in even further.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how excited I am to see Dividend Mantra blogging again. I missed his clockwork updates while he was taking his summer vacation from blogging. I continue to find his slow-and-steady march toward financial independence inspiring. Every time I read one of his Dividend Income Updates or Freedom Fund Updates, it re-kindles my excitement for dividend growth investing. The day when I start building my own Freedom Fund will come soon enough, and until then I'll just be working on my student loans.