Category Archives: blogging

Obama and the Talmud

mask sink

Saw this quote from The Talmud in huge letters on the side of a building:

“The past we inherit, the future we create”

Which reminded me of a more recent quote, from President Obama:

“Our destiny will not be written for us, but by us”

Both quotes reminded me of this blog, which I’ve neglected over the past few months.

The longer you go without a new blog post, the harder it gets because it feels like you have to break that silence with something awesome. But I just broke that silence with something…less-than-awesome?

Meet Your Meat

My friend Rose from Our Lady of Second Helpings posted her version of our trip to the farm to buy our cow. She’s a food blogger, so her article focuses more on the nutritional aspects of grass-fed beef. It’s a great compliment to the articles I’ve written on the cost-savings potential in buying an entire cow.

For instance, here’s her take on grass-fed vs. whatever-junk-they-use-on-feedlots beef:

Taste and Nutrition – We would rather not eat greasy food. Compared to factory raised grain fed beef, grass fed beef is extremely lean. We prefer the more meaty and slightly gamey flavor of grass fed beef. Studies have shown grass fed beef to be higher in nutrients, minerals, and “good” fats.

Go read the whole article, it’s interesting.

What if this was a blog about building a house?

not our future house (hopefully)Mrs. Foundry and I are on month four of a house-hunt in the Seattle area. I enjoy looking at real-estate, weighing pros/cons of various floor-plans and neighborhoods, figuring out mortgages, etc. However, it’s a time-consuming and sometimes frustrating process. For those not familiar with the parcularities of the Seattle area, we’re experiencing an unprecedented shortage of homes for sale, which is driving up prices and generally making it a less-than-awesome time to look for a house.*

We’re working with an awesome agent, Sheley, who is being patient with us, since we’re being very picky about where we spend a gajillion dollars and park our tuchases for the next few decades.

I recently got turned on to the blog A House By The Park, which details a local dot.com millionaire’s process of buying land and building a very expensive modern home. Even though we have a fraction of his budget, the thoroughness of his writing inspired me to check this option out. In addition, I have a soft spot for modern home architecture, but always assumed it was out of my price range.  Since housing is artificially inflated by low inventory, wouldn’t that make building a home a relatively cost-efficient thing to do?**

And why not blog about it along the way? I figured my blog name is already appropriate: the “foundry” being the home and the “forest” being Seattle. I can write about how we’re challenging the status quo in order to save money, which is pretty much my favorite thing to do and to write about.

So please pardon the mission creep, and indulge me while I write about buying, remodeling, and/or building a home, from identifying the property right up until moving in. Maybe some readers have experience with this already? Either way, I think we’re all in for a wild ride.

* An architect/builder friend explained that banks aren’t lending money for high-density condos, so developers are building lower-density townhomes and single-family homes. The lower density leads to less properties for sale, which leads to the classic supply-and-demand problem that isn’t unique to housing. I’m sure this is a simplified view of the situation, but it’s a more satisfying hypotheses than “nobody wants to sell their house right now.”

** This statement only applies to the house itself. Apparently I’m not the only person in town who came to the conclusion to build, as Vacant lots are also being subjected to the current mini-bubble.

Cow Number 2

car full of meatLast weekend we bought our second full cow from 3 Sisters Farms. We kept 1/4 of it (about 150 lbs) and divvied the rest up between a few other families. The first one lasted us 18 months, which means we ate just over 1.5 pounds of beef per person per month. I’ve heard a healthy red meat portion is 6-oz, so if we were eating right-sized portions each time (I probably ate more than my fair share), that comes to 4 servings of meat, or once a week. That’s probably about the optimal frequency for consuming red meat. However, we often brought the meat to potlucks and entertained guests with red meat dishes, so not all of it was actually consumed by our family.

If you compare the picture above to the one I took for the blog post about our first cow purchase, you can see how much better I’ve gotten at efficiently loading up the back of the car with boxes:

18 months ago

You can also see the difference between an old camera-phone, and Mrs. Foundry’s nice DSLR.

This year, the farmers weren’t making trips into the city so we drove to Whidbey Island to pick up the meat. Originally, I thought it was going to be a hassle (and negate the savings of buying bulk meat), but we made it into a fun day trip with Rose from Our Lady of Second Helpings and her son who’s about the same age as our youngest. We had a picnic lunch at Deception Pass and rode the ferry, so even though we logged over 150 miles onto the car (more than I drive in 3 months) I think it was well worth it to meat…I mean meet the farmers and the future hamburgers. The animals were well treated, and seemed very happy. The pigs had an unobstructed view of Puget Sound, and as much as I love the view from our back deck, I must admit I was a little jealous of those porkers.

The price went up compared to 18 months ago ($4.25/lb vs $4.00/lb last time) but that’s about the pace of inflation. To make it an even better deal, they threw in the organ meat (heart and liver) along with some dog bones that we gave to the other families who have dogs (and kept some for ourselves to make soup stock…shhhh).

Maybe I should have put a warning at the beginning of this post for vegetarians to skip over it? Nah.

PS: Happy Birthday to my sister, Mindy! I won’t divulge her age, but as of today, it now ends in a zero!

MMMMM (Me Merrily Meeting Mr. Money Mustache)

mustache bearMonday afternoon I had the pleasure of meeting one of my favorite bloggers, Mr Money Mustache. Along with blogger pal Erica from Northwest Edible Life, he hosted a little get-together here in Seattle for his readers. There was even an offer of free beer if you rode your bike, but unfortunately I couldn’t take advantage of it as I rode the scooter to get home in time to take the Foundry Boys to Cub Scouts.

It was really fun to see MMM and watch him dish out advice face-to-face. I didn’t hear it all but the most commonly repeated refrain of his was that everybody should be riding a bike. I wholeheartedly agree! As I told someone there Monday night, replacing most car commuting with bike rides is the 2nd biggest improvement to my quality of life (marrying Mrs Foundry is #1 of course).

I knew I was among my own kind when someone in a group asked how many people love making spreadsheets, and everyone proudly agreed “I do!”

I got a warm feeling from being able to give some investing advice, based on the Gone Fishin’ In the Foundry portfolio.

But mostly it was great meeting others who share a passion for frugality, finances, and good beer. Hope to see you again next time!

What do you think of this new tagline?

oxygenNot that it makes a huge difference in the whole scheme of things, but I put a new tagline up at the top of my blog. Here’s why…

I figured that there are a thousand frugal blogs out there (even though this was the only “frugalism” blog), so I needed something more unique and inspiring. The new tagline is:

Work to earn. Earn to save. Save to invest. Stop working.

It was inspired by this awesome article on what “retirement” means in this day and age. The full context is:

I demonstrated a very typical Generation X attitude to finance. Rather than thinking of it as having a pension plan, getting vested, putting in my time, and making monthly installments on my defined contribution plan, I looked at the “rules” of the game. How does the money system work? Should I work to earn and earn to consume? Or should I work to earn and earn to save and save to invest so I can stop working?

I broke it into four sections that are really the four main topics of Foundry in the Forest

  1. Work to earn means Maximizing Income. Reading your average frugal blog has a diminishing return on your time, since there’s a limit to how little you can spend (Jacob, the guy who wrote the above article, seems to have found that limit, $7k a year per person). On the other hand, there’s no limit to how much you can earn. That’s why I recommend most people focus their efforts on maximizing income. Once you’re past 6 figures, you’re probably good in this department.
  2. Earn to save means Minimizing Spending. Figure out how much is enough and don’t spend a penny more. If you increased the frequency of your breathing, you could gulp up so much more oxygen. But you don’t because you have all the oxygen you need.
  3. Save to invest means Educating yourself about Investing. I wrote a series of posts on this topic that will help start your investing education. But never stop learning!
  4. Stop working means Becoming Financially Independent, and no longer requiring paid employment. That part should be self-explanatory. But maybe not, since smart people are still re-working the definition of “retirement” these days.

So that’s the new tagline. What do you think?

Foundry Goals

Once you’re past Freshman year of Frugal School, you’ll understand the importance of setting goals. What you might not have learned is that one effective way to stay accountable to your goals is to publicize them.

Like the old management quote says, you can only change the things you monitor.

In this spirt, the goals for my family and this website are listed on a new area called Foundry Goals. Just like in a role-playing game, each goal has levels that are more challenging then the previous ones.

You’ll note that there are no dollar signs to be found on these goals. That’s because the amount of money the Foundry makes is somewhat irrelevant. What’s more important is keeping a high savings rate by minimzing spending and maximizing income, which in turn will drive up the amount of investment income our savings can provide. When investment income matches spending, you don’t require paid employment any more, if you don’t want. While it’s important to track and optimize spending/income (which are measured in dollars), they aren’t goals in and of themselves.

I’d love to hear suggestions for other goals, or hear about your goals.

See the Foundry’s Goals here.

Give Away 100 Things: Challenge Update

The month is half over, so let’s see how I’m doing on the July Challenge to give away 100 things. I have to admit that I stretched the definition of “give away” and recycled or threw away a few things that weren’t fit for donation. I thought of it as giving them away to the the earth (hopefully) or landfill (unfortunately).

You can see a photo of the Goodwill run I just made over the weekend. I lost track of the number of items, after packing up two boxes of books, two bags of clothing, two bags of housewares and some other assorted items. I’m going to estimate that this was about 100 things, but this is stuff from both Venessa and me, so we’re only half way done. And this was the easy stuff. The low-hanging fruit, if you will. So we have the second half of the month to dig deep into the corners of our house and find the next 100 things each.

Wish us luck!

Welcome MMM Readers

Welcome MMM readers! This is a blog about urban frugalism written here in Seattle, USA (pictured to the left). Take a look around the site, I think fellow “Mustachians” will find a lot to love. Here’s a bit of background about the blog name.

A confluence of internet things is bringing a nice amount of traffic to my humble blog, from Personal Finance blogger Mr Money Mustache, and his readers. I wrote about him a couple posts ago, and let him know (since I was using his topic ideas after all). In return, he tweeted a link to that post, which brought some of the traffic. As if that wasn’t enough, he linked to his twitter account prominently in a recent blog post, which brought even more traffic here. MMM’s post is about sucking at things, but I’m sure that isn’t related to his opinion of my blog 🙂

Hope a few new Mustachians stick around!

BTW, a post like this is called a “catcher’s mit.”* It’s a way to retain an influx of new traffic. I’ve never had any influx of traffic so I’m new to writing them. I learned the technique from Ramit at I Will Teach You To Be Rich.

* I also added a miniature catcher’s mit to the top of my aforementioned post.

Fill In The Blanks

Welcome MMM readers! This is a blog about urban frugalism and my family’s Mustachian journey, here in Seattle, USA. Take a look around, I think fellow Mustachians will find a lot to love.

One of my favorite Personal Finance bloggers, Mr. Money Mustache, is gone for the summer and taking a break from blogging. As some sort of taunt or joke, he left a list of all the blog posts he’s been meaning to write but hasn’t got around to it. I thought it would be fun to steal, I mean write a few of them for him, in a slapdash manner…

An Amazing New Prescription Medication
It’s called “exercise,” and you can self-prescribe based on the dosage you need. Taken daily, it boosts your immune system, and increases your longevity. Side-effects include happiness, weight-loss, and socializing with others. Best of all, it’s practically free.

Fancy New Appliances, for Less than Zero Dollars?
If your old appliances are wasting gas or electricity, and you find almost-new ones on craigslist for a deep discount, the amount you’ll save in energy costs over the lifespan of the new appliance will outweigh the initial cost. Therefore, you’ll be making money by buying new appliances. Do the math.

Are You Using Work as an Excuse to Accomplish Nothing?
When you work a 9-5 for someone else it’s easy to occupy yourself with non-productive busywork that pleases your manager but doesn’t really accomplish anything great. Furthermore, the busywork helps mask the fact that you’re not happy with your job. They seem to go together.

Quality over Quantity
In almost every situation, quality wins out. I’d rather have a small steak from the grass-fed beef we bought directly from a local farmer, than any number of fast-food hamburgers. Same goes for most other purchases, and also intangibles such as spending time with friends and family. Quantity is what marketers want you to buy so it’s what’s shoved down your throat on a daily basis. You have to step back and consciously choose quality, but you’ll be glad you did.

Mr. Money Mustache vs. Peak Oil
Folks like MMM who bike everywhere don’t care about peak oil or the price of gas. In fact, we’d love to see the price of gas go to $10+ per gallon. Then more people would ride bikes and the roads would be safer for all of us. Plus there’d be less pollution, more healthy people putting less of a strain on our healthcare system, etc. I could go on for hours on this one but you get the point.

Recovering from the Pack Rat Years
I feel like I’m living through this one now, with the July Challenge of giving away 100 things. Ask me again in a few weeks.

My 401k is Too Small to Retire, Waah, Waah!
You have a few choices: 1. invent a time machine and go back to when you were 21 to punch yourself in the face. 2. cut living expenses to the point where you can live off your current 401k balance. 3. do #2 but also work your ass off for a few more years to drastically increase the balance.

Fasting: a Fast Way to Greater Badassity
I fast once a year at the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. It also includes no water. I consider that pretty badass. It feels amazing and when you break the fast, no matter what you’re eating it tastes like the best food ever. I recommend trying it once in a while. Fasting also makes you very thankful for what you have.

Wealth is something that is created, not just divided
Making and saving money isn’t a zero-sum game, so no need to get competitive about it. You can make a bunch of money and the next guy/gal can too. In fact, it’s best for all of us if we work together and share tips. That’s one reason I started this blog.

Life Cycle Funds: Become a Dynamic Fancypants Investor with No Effort
I just happened to write about Vanguard’s LifeStrategy funds in a previous post, so go check it out. Vanguard also has a set of “Target Retirement” funds, which grow more conservative as they approach the target date. For instance, if you plan to retire in 2040, the fund for that year is mostly stocks with just a few bonds right now, but over the next couple decades, it will slowly sell stocks and buy bonds so you’ll have a low-risk/low-volatility fund by the time you retire. All without the need to rebalance or figure out your optimal blend of investments for your age.


Hope you enjoyed reading these as much as I enjoyed writing them. Next post will be on a topic of my own choosing, or maybe yours…? Let me know if there’s something you’d like me to write about!

update: I sent this post to MMM and he tweeted about it, calling the post “not bad”. I’ll take that as a compliment 🙂