For the first time in my life, really, I am being smart with my money. There are many factors contributing to this, but I think the key recently has been frequent and small transfers to pay off debt and into savings.

What I have been doing is every few days I’ll log into my credit union’s website and look at my checking account balance. If I notice that I have breathing room, which I almost always have, then I’ll make a transfer into my savings or pay off some debt. Previously I would get paid and be overly ambitious on putting money into savings or paying off debt, and only do it once per month. So what would happen is I would run out of money in my checking and either have to put money on a credit card or empty out my savings again. Now what I have been doing is when I get paid, I still put in a larger amount of money. But this time it might be $125 to pay off debt and $125 in savings. Three days later I might log back in and put another $50 in savings. Getting close to the next paycheck I’ll see that I have plenty of money left in savings and maybe transfer out another $100 or $200.

This gives me a better idea at all times of how much I have. I also am good at thinking of the next several days of expenses but not good at thinking of a whole month’s expenses at once.

Also to prevent taking money out of savings I try to keep at least $200 in my checking account at all times. The only time when it should get this low, anyway, is right before my next paycheck. And anything that needs more money than this can easily wait an extra couple of days.

I’ve also made it much harder for myself to borrow money. Probably about a year ago I canceled my two credit cards, having paid them and another loan off with a debt consolidation loan. So I haven’t borrowed any new money in this time. I only have this and one other loan to pay off currently, the smaller of which should be paid off in the next two or three months.

By the time I get this smaller loan paid off, I should also be pretty close to having three months of living expenses in savings, which is my short-term goal. In this case, any extra money I have will be able to go into my debt consolidation loan, which will make it easy to pay this off very quickly.

I should make a small point. As personal preference, and after seeing it suggested in at least two places, I’ve decided that a good strategy is to pay off smaller loans first even when they have slightly smaller interest rates. Certainly if it was 12% vs 19%, I’d pay off the 19% first. But in my case, twice now I’ve chosen to pay off a loan that was .5% to 1% lower interest rate first. The reason for this is this makes it less to worry about, less to manage, and less chance for late fees and such. Better for my peace of mind 🙂

I’m very excited to be debt-free. But I also get excited each time I pay off more of a loan or put more money into my savings. It feels really good. Once I am debt-free (hopefully in about a year), all of my extra money will go into savings. I don’t intend on working eight hours a day, five days per week my whole life (at least, not for someone else), and being able to consistently save money while I am working will allow me to live off of these savings for months or years at a time while doing something that isn’t making me a ton of money. Like school full-time. Or going on a cross-country bicycle trip. Or traveling the world (frugally, of course). Or spending my days reading and writing (self education). Or finally starting to write that video game that I’ve wanted to write. The possibilities are endless, and the decisions that I made today, and day-to-day will help me realize any number of these things more fully and for longer periods of time.

You might be asking yourself why I would choose to not have any credit cards. Having a small number of credit cards in good standing and with a balance of about 40% (I think) of its limit can help your credit score. Well, I try to think of things in terms of risk/reward. In my case, the risk of having a credit card was higher than the reward of a higher credit score. After I am completely debt-free, I will worry more about improving my credit score. As it stands, my credit score is good and landlords in Mags and my recent apartment search have been eager to have us as tenants due to our credit scores. So it isn’t a huge concern right now.

Of course, you can’t save or pay off debt unless your expenditures are much less than your earnings. I am comfortable with my earnings. Comfortable enough that I have recently turned down an opportunity to greatly increase my earnings (because I love my current job). As far as expenditures, I have cut down on them significantly since I moved to the city. When I first moved here, I had a one-bedroom apartment in Russian Hill. I had a car, too. I didn’t really think about how much I was spending and why. Now, I am splitting my studio apartment with Mags (in the Tenderloin), I don’t have a car, and in many other ways I am spending less just by constantly being aware of how much I am spending, if I could get the same thing for less somehow, and if I really even want or need what I am buying. It certainly helps that I enjoy my more frugal lifestyle more than my more extravagant one, even if you were to ignore the money aspect. I avoid driving as much as I can as it tends to stress me out and make me depressed. The driving, suburban lifestyle was, after all, the primary reason why I escaped the Maryland suburbs. I also enjoy communal living, and too much space equals too much stuff and too much clutter, which also depresses me. So it all works out well in this case.

Of course, it has taken me too long to get smart with money, but it could have taken a lot longer or never happened, as happens with a lot of people, so I feel fortunate of where I now stand.

I really love well-put-together, informative and complete tutorials like this. I want to try this soon. Maybe in a few weeks I will put one together.

How to make a soda can stove:

Since living in San Francisco, I have changed as a person in at least a few ways. I have changed in terms of my outlook on life, but, more concretely, I have changed several aspects of my lifestyle. Today I’m going to talk about transportation – how I get from place to place.

The early days: car
I arrived in San Francisco with a 1994 Lexus ES300. It was an incredibly smooth ride, the car was fast, and it looked nice. After getting a raise at work I decided to buy a new car and ended up with a 2006 Honda Civic Si. This might have been my favorite car that I have ever owned. It was sporty-looking and did 0-60 in 6.9 seconds with a manual transmission. But I soon realized how foolish it was to have a car in the city, mostly because of the cost. I paid $300/month for parking (which was probably unnecessary), $300/month in car payments (again, unnecessary – there was no reason I needed anything better than a 15-year-old Civic), $150/month in insurance and $50/month in gas. So several months after buying the car, I sold it. Great move.

Pros: speed of arrival (to most places), convenience in some situations.
Cons: cost, environmental concerns, lack of convenience in most other cases, lack of exercise as part of a lifestyle, difficulty in finding parking, stress while driving, stress when worrying about maintenance, the dividing effects that private transit has on our culture, encouraging a sedentary lifestyle, danger to myself, pedestrians, bicyclists, and other motorists. I didn’t think there were this many cons when I first started thinking about this post, but now that I started typing it, it almost seems as though I am missing some cons.

I ditch the car: bus
After ditching my car, I took a bus most places that were more than a dozen or so blocks. This was fine but I still was irrationally averse to more physical exertion.

Pros: very inexpensive (a Fast Pass is only $45 per month), proximity to other people.
Cons: unreliability of MUNI, lack of exercise as part of a lifestyle, not as fast as a bike.

I get on my feet
At the beginning of 2007, I think it was January 2, I stepped on the scale and it read 198.5. From that moment I was determined to lose weight. Part of the strategy, besides diet and non-lifestyle exercise (that is, exercise for the sake of exercise) was to walk to work every day. I lived two miles away from work and this couldn’t have been a better decision. Sure, on lazy days I would take the bus. But I would say that four out of five days I would walk, both ways. What a beautiful walk it was, too. I started in Russian Hill then walked through Nob Hill and a little bit of the Tenderloin before arriving in north-eastern SOMA. If you’ve never walked through Russian Hill and Nob Hill, I encourage you to do so.

I found that I genuinely enjoyed walking. So I started walking most places that were within two or three miles.
Pros: lifestyle exercise, more intimately discovering the neighborhoods, fresh air, more energy.
Cons: usually slightly slower than the bus (but really only slightly), not as fast as a bike.

Penelope and I meet
I had been wanting a bike for a while and finally got one in mid August of this year. Her name is Penelope and she is green and covered with stickers. This has completely revolutionized how I get places. It has also changed my daily lifestyle. I feel in tune with the “biker culture.” I go to critical mass, I roll my right pant leg up. I’m fit, in shape, feel great when I get off the bike, feel great when I am speeding down a giant hill. In short, I am in love with biking. I’ll take my bike on pretty much any trip. I ride it on two or three round trips to school every week, which is about eight miles each way. The ride to and from school actually ranges from a little faster to a little slower than taking MUNI. Of course on the way there I need to factor in time to stop sweating and change clothes.

Biking sometimes requires a lot of planning ahead: Do you need/have a change of shirt? Do you have an appropriate route mapped out that doesn’t involve hills or highways? Can you bring your bike inside of where you are going, or onboard the train or bus that you are riding? But generally it is incredibly convenient; you just hop on, ride out, and lock the thing up right outside of your destination.

Just last night, Peter-man and I took an exhilarating ride out to 46th and Taraval, got a couple of beers at Riptide, and then rode back. We got to the bar all sweaty, but I didn’t really care. Biking has given me a new outlook on sweat; I don’t mind being sweaty anymore. It’s a very human thing to do.
Pros: lifestyle exercise, faster than almost any form of transit for medium-length trips, inclusion in a common culture, exhilaration from the ride
Cons: sweating, bicycle maintenance, potential for becoming a splatter mark on someone’s windshield

My next form of transit? Probably teleporting.

Some random rumblings from my gray matter recently:

– I’d like to go on a cross-country bike trip after I graduate. And not just a fast-as-you-can straight shot from San Francisco to Baltimore. More of a San Francisco to Fresno to San Diego to Flagstaff to Phoenix to Austin to Houston to New Orleans to Key West to Atlanta to Baltimore with 25 more destinations in between. And stopping for extended periods to get involved in local social justice movements or to read or to soak up some rays or anything else that floats my boat. And maybe go back and forth and all around a few times. Lots of camping and lots of couch surfing. Anyway, this idea has been occupying much of my thought for the past couple of weeks.

– School has really started to ramp up. I am unbelievably stressed and busy but I am somehow still doing well. I really don’t understand how.

– I am currently reading How Nonviolence Protects the State by Peter Gelderloos. I can’t say that I am completely convinced by some of the things he says but it is interesting and generally well-argued nonetheless. I might try to tap out a whole book review after I am finished.

I’ve been neglecting this blog a bit lately. I’ve basically been busy as hell lately, and I suppose the blog has taken a back seat. So this post will be a rambling one bordering on stream of consciousness. So grab a cup of your favorite hot, cold or lukewarm beverage, get someone to rub your feet, and read on.

The fitness side of things has been going very well. It has been mostly bicycling (more on that soon!) but I have also been doing some calisthenics, push ups, basketball and pilates. However I guess I am drinking enough beer and soda to negate any exercise progress I am making. I am still holding steady at my (healthy) weight but I’ve still got that blasted belly fat. I think at some point I may abstain from alcohol for a month just for caloric reasons.

Now onto bicycling. I am surely becoming better at it. My legs are getting stronger and I am becoming more confident in riding. I let myself go faster down hills and don’t mind small bumps as much. I am actually surprised that I have not gotten a flat from some of the huge goddamn pot holes I have unintentionally gone over. I have also somehow managed to not pierce my tube on all the glass I have seen on the street. Also, yesterday I participated in my second Critical Mass. It is quite an empowering experience. After spending all month being a second-class citizen on the roads and being scared out of my wits several times by inattentive or malicious motorists, it is nice to have the bicyclists own the roads for a change. Yesterday I especially had fun stopping for a few seconds directly in front of some cars in a couple of intersections to let the mass go through. I did have to break off rather early, however, to meet some friends in the Sunset for dinner. On my way there I kept running into break-off massers. I am not sure what you call it, but I went through a group of bikers who were using an intersection as their own personal traffic circle, stopping traffic in all directions. Beautiful thing. After passing through that I had all four one-way lanes of Fell Street to myself. I love Critical Mass. I wish it were two times per month, every week, twice a week, every day. Maybe some day…

By the way, a quick “shout out” to my friend Peter’s excellent San Francisco bike blog.

School has been going well, although I probably need to start working harder at it. Last semester I worked too hard at school; I probably worked twice as hard as I needed to to actually get an ‘A’ and ended up with super duper A’s. Right now I am probably working hard enough for everything to be borderline A/B and I would really like to get straight A’s again. Unfortunately this semester there are no term papers like last semester where we get to pick our own topic. I really enjoyed writing my paper Anarchism in Spain during the Spanish Civil War last semester and I wish I had the opportunity to do something like that again. Unfortunately it is mostly book reviews, midterms, and one term paper on which our topic is rather narrow. School has been rather tiring, for sure. 11 out of my 12 weekly class hours are packed between Monday at 4pm and Wednesday at 10am. With bicycling to/from school most of the time I am pretty exhausted by the time I get out of work on Wednesday. But I keep on truckin’. I think I can wait until December and January for a decent vacation.

In December I will be going to Maryland for about a week. I’d like to be back in San Francisco for New Year’s Eve, and then I’ll be off to Hawaii to visit Kelly, Conor and Caleb. Hopefully Tim will be home by then. I’m very much looking forward to this vacation. But the real doozy will be next summer when I plan to go to Europe for a month, couch surfing as much as possible. I should probably get on getting that passport…

Talking about Couch Surfing, I have been hosting a LOT. The vast majority of the days I will have one or more (sometimes as many as four) couch surfers staying with me in my studio. I am taking a several day break from it right now but I really enjoy hosting people. I have met so many people and I’ve stopped counting how many I’ve hosted. Besides the obvious social benefits of it, I am looking at it from an anarchist perspective. It is essentially a gift economy; the apartment is theirs to stay in with no strings attached. They also get to avoid spending money at a hotel and I get the joy of knowing they kept money out of the hands of the big hotel owners. And to be selfish, I am racking up a huge list of people than can host me in the future!

To change gears here, work is also going well. We are trying to spin off a separate company. I won’t go into the details right now, but it’s involved setting aside a few weekend days to get some work done on our project that we are trying to launch. I don’t mind so much; the solitude while I work is nice and it is what I was looking for when I volunteered all of us to work on the weekends. The regular during-the-week stuff is going fine but I am looking forward to this new company getting launched and hopefully working in that line a lot more.

Now onto the “having fun” part of this post. As I posted before, I have recently launched a San Francisco drum and bass blog where I am keeping track of the different drum and bass events upcoming in the city, posting pictures and writing event reviews. I had a tremendous time last Sunday at Compression at The Cellar. I hope to go to more drum and bass events now that I am keeping track of all of them for the new blog.

A few fun things that are upcoming for me: Next weekend I am going to Monterrey for a night with a few friends for a birthday. I’ve been to Monterrey a few times but never spent the night. I think I won’t go to the aquarium again, even though it was great last time. I want to check out other parts of Monterrey, whatever they may be. The weekend after that I’ll be in LA visiting Alyssa. I haven’t been to LA for a while and I’m looking forward to it. I’m sure we’ll have a great time.

Now just some comments on our current political atmosphere. I become more and more turned off by mainstream politics every day. I am especially jaded by the Obama campaign. I can’t stand to see Obamamania going on here in San Francisco. If I had more time (how many times have I said this?) I’d challenge the Obamamania. I want to put up posters that say “Obama is a warmonger.” I want to make t-shirts to the same effect. I want to challenge the Obama street table volunteers to an impromptu debate.

What, you didn’t know that Obama was a warmonger? He has voted to fund the war in Iraq. The same war that has killed an estimated 1.2 million Iraqis, many more than you may know who have been killed directly by American soldiers. The same war that has made five million Iraqis flee their homes, internally and externally. Well, surely, you might think, Obama will change all of that when he takes office. Think again. He plans to keep thousands of troops in Iraq, including in the Green Zone, thus completely ignoring the will of the Iraqi people and destroying any hope of Iraqi sovereignty. Obama also seems to think the Iraqi people should be paying us money for our war that is essentially no more than mass murder. Should someone with this mentality be our president?

But it doesn’t stop with Iraq, of course. Obama’s effort to be “tough on terror” includes sending more troops to Afghanistan. Send them there for what? What are more troops going to do over there? It doesn’t take tens of thousands of troops to combat Al Qaeda, who are evidently holed up in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. I’ll tell you what more troops will accomplish however. They will, intentionally or not, murder more Afghan people, like the close to 100 that were killed a couple weeks ago by an American bomb. Is this who you want to be president?

This is the same man who thinks it is wise to leave “all options on the table” with regards to Iran. The same Iran that several years ago agreed to stop all nuclear activity if we would only promise to not attack them. We reprimanded the third party diplomat for delivering the message. Are we really going to consider bombing Iran, too? Or maybe we’ll just starve them out like Bill Clinton did to Iraq. 1 million dead Iraqis thank Clinton for that, and the rest of the Iraqis thank Clinton for making them more dependent on their dictator, making it extremely difficult to overthrow him. And this is who the San Francisco “liberals” are so excited about?

This is the same man that actually wants to increase the size of our military. Our military expenditures are already higher than the rest of the world combined. This is our idea of a presidential candidate that stands for peace, that wants to use diplomacy to settle our differences with the world? Diplomacy at the barrel of a gun, maybe. Change, my ass.

And just a bit on the economy here. I am actually kind of excited about the state of the economy. I think economic collapse would certainly be painful in many ways but it would also be a time of opportunity. An opportunity to make a change in our lives on an individual level and also an opportunity to replace what we have on a systemic level with something at least slightly better. We’ll see what happens, but my opinion is that the current bailout plan will make the decline of the American economy happen slowly rather than suddenly. Either way it’s going down the tubes.

Lastly, a quick comment on some stuff I am reading right now. I am reading Living My Life by Emma Goldman, an autobiography if the title didn’t give that away. An excellent book so far, talking about all of her travels, lectures, romance and more. I certainly like Emma Goldman much more than Lenin after reading his biography. Lenin was essentially a mass murdering elitist who did it all in the name of the working class. One thing I am getting out of all of this, however, is that I think I would admire someone much more for their actions rather than their words. Emma Goldman, until this point in the book at least (I think she’s about 30) has mostly done lecture tours. Anarchist lectures are generally meant to agitate the working class so they take action. Seems like a bit of a cop-out to me. But I still like Emma Goldman.

I also started reading a journal I subscribed to, Anarchist Studies. An article in the current issue discusses Leo Tolstoy’s Christian anarchism, which is something I had never heard of until now. There’s a lot about laws, slavery and non-violence in the article. I am skeptical of some of Tolstoy’s arguments, especially the one that declares that laws are slavery. I think the term slavery is cheapened when it is used so broadly like this. Having said this, I’d like to read some of Tolstoy’s books and articles that this journal article mentions.

Until next time, faithful readers…

As you saw earlier I got a flat tire this morning on my bike. Not a good way to start my day. After class today I discovered a $70 parking ticket on the City Carshare car. This was because I forgot to put the parking voucher thing in the dash – I had paid for the whole day but they didn’t know that. So overall my flat tire cost me at least $150.

So I get home and for the first time in a while I am looking at my blog’s statistics. There, I notice that there have been 0 visits and 27 hits from an…eyebrow blog. (Jesus, they really have a blog for everything, don’t they?) 0 visits and >1 hits usually means that someone is using an image on my site. So I follow the link and…


My eyebrows are the feature picture on a post talking about how more men should thin their eyebrows! Hahahaha. I think that is hilarious.

Since they are using the image off of my site without the courtesy to ask (just as a politeness thing, I don’t care about the law on it), I have taken the opportunity to update the picture with a barely legible note.

It was great bicycling weather: cool and overcast (so I don’t sweat). At Valencia and 24th I got a flat. I noticed some glass earlier and tried to avoid it but it seems I wasn’t able to. Sure enough, pulled a piece of glass out of my tire.

I left the apartment with plenty of time to spare and I had just packed my bag with maintenance stuff: needle nose pliers, inner tube, pump, pressure gauge. So I go to replace the inner tube. It seems that the person and Valencia Cyclery did not sell me the correct size. That was a very annoying and costly mistake. Thankfully I was right at a City Carshare pod location. I reserved a Prius for the whole day and off I went. Of course this was not all great as it will end up costing me over $60 just for the car.

And now I get to go to Ocean Cyclery during lunch time to get the correct size inner tubes. Maybe have them install it for me and show me the correct procedure to do so.

Moral of the story: I don’t often get pissed. But the person that shattered glass in the street really pissed me off. And to a less extent the person at Valencia Cyclery that sold me the wrong size tube pissed me off too. Something else that pissed me off? The automated phone reservation system that City Carshare uses.

Update: The inner tube was not too big. It turns out (surprise!) that I just didn’t know how to put it on correctly.

In the 26 hours since I got back from New York, I have: joined the YMCA, purchased a sweet road bike, canceled a credit card, paid more money to SFSU so I can sign up for more classes and fixed a billing problem with City Carshare.


Robert Novak hits a pedestrian, flees the scene, and gets let off with a ticket.

This pisses me off so much…

As I was out running after work today, I had an idea on how I can get myself to complete my goals. You see, I had intended on going running this morning, but I didn’t quite make it. In general, I have been pretty good about my exercise this summer but not as good as I wanted to be.

So my idea was to set a goal and set a monetary punishment for not meeting the goal. If the goal was to go running before work and I didn’t do it, I would put $5 in a bin set aside for that purpose. At the end of the month, I take whatever money is in the bin from the running goal and other goals and donate it somewhere.

Of course this plan has its limitations too. I would need to be better with my money so I wouldn’t be dipping into the bin because I “need” the money. And I don’t think this plan would work well for goals that are monetary in nature. Other than that, I think I will start doing it and hopefully it will help me to complete more of my goals.