Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fantasy Football

First off, Fantasy Football. The last couple years I've been in a fantasy football league with Alison and other family members. There were rumors earlier in the year on this blog that my team was no good. While I was happy to make the playoffs with my 7-6 record, I cruised through the playoffs and came up victorious in the end, winning the final game by 7.

My brother Jordan and I played in our league's fantasy Superbowl II. Throughout the whole season my team averaged more than 10 points per game more than the next best team. The problem was that every week the team I was playing had their best game. In the end, it all worked out though and the Annihilators brought home the coveted Squire/Lombardi trophy.

For the real Superbowl, both Alison and I will be cheering for the same team (unless we are talking about the Jazz or Buffalo Bills this is very rare). While (according to the experts) the Cardinals may be one of the worst teams to ever play in a Superbowl, we'll both be cheering Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and (my best fantasy receiver) Anquan Boldin on loudly. Go Cards!

Personal Finance

My calling in our ward is the Ward Welfare Specialist focusing on personal finances. What the job basically entails is to visit with people who are in financial trouble and help them set up a budget. It has been an eye-opening experience seeing the difficulties that people in the ward are experiencing. I thought that I had a pretty good idea of what a Bishop's calling entails, but as I have served in this calling I realize that I still have a lot to learn.

Following is an email that I sent out to the ward welfare committee because they were asking for my recommendations. I'm going to try and post a little more about personal finance/frugality topics here on the blog as well.


There are so many good financial resources. A few of my favorites are:

Personal Finance

1. One for the Money Guide to Family Finance, by Elder Marvin J. Ashton. This is a pamphlet that you can probably get from your bishop or from Church Distribution. The address from which the pamphlet is adapted is a talk given at the welfare session of the April 1975 general conference. The original talk can be found here.

2. A second pamphlet (also available from the bishop or distribution) is All is Safely Gathered In: Family Finances. This pamphlet can be found online in its entirety here.

3. Possibly the best website on the internet for somebody starting out in personal finance is personalfinance.byu.edu. This website contains 5 beginning courses, 17 intermediate courses and 15 advanced courses that you can go through at your own pace as you create your own personal finance plan. Also available for download are more than 350 pages to use as a manual. The courses cover everything from budgeting to investing, life insurance to debt and loans.

Budgeting

4. There are many good budget programs available for use as well. One of my favorite free programs is pearbudget, which has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. This is a spreadsheet that allows you to easily track your expenses. In my opinion, this option is the easiest to use if you are familiar with spreadsheets (such as Microsoft Excel or OpenOffice Calc). Download pearbudget here.

5. Another awesome program is Rainy Day Budget (incidentally created by my brother). The program is perfect for people who have never kept a budget before. The program takes you through the steps required to set up a personalized budget and allows you to track a budget more easily if you are unfamiliar with using a spreadsheet. It can be downloaded for free here.

6. My personal preference for budgeting is Quicken (or Microsoft Money). I really don't recommend jumping to one of these programs until you have consistently kept a budget for a while. Quicken ranges in price from $40 to $80. Every week before family home evening I download the weeks transactions from my bank accounts, credit cards, loans and investment/retirement accounts and categorize all purchases. Quicken automatically calculates where we stand as for our budget each month and calculates our net worth. Quicken data can also be imported into TurboTax making tax preparation a little easier. The learning curve for these programs is far steeper than for any of the others.

7. Another option that I have utilized in the past is a basic spreadsheet that can be printed out and used by hand or within the spreadsheet program itself. This option is basically a simple table for tracking your spending categories.

8. One final option for creating a budget is good old paper and pencil. Grab a calculator and find out whether or not you will have enough money to make it to the end of the month. The utlimate goal in keeping and creating a budget is tracking your expenses in order to spend less than you earn.

Frugality

9. Often times, in order to stick to a budget you've got to cut your spending down. This can be accomplished with various frugal tactics. One of my favorite websites for frugal ideas (as well as all things personal finance and improving yourself) is thesimpledollar.com. The site has been around for a couple of years so the archives are very extensive. Type in any question that you have and chances are that thesimpledollar has answered it.

10. Another great website for frugal ideas and personal finance articles is wisebread.com. All of these sites mentioned also link to many other websites that cover similar material. There is an enormous amount of information available for saving money.

11. A great book with frugal ideas is The Complete Tightwad Gazette. The book is 972 pages of frugal ideas taken from newsletters that were published in the early '90s. There is something for everybody in this gem.

There are so many resources available to help people get ahead in their finances. I am more than willing to help anybody out in creating their own budget or helping research answers to any other financial questions. Please be aware that I am not a financial adviser, but only somebody that is willing to help you find your away around financial issues.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Utes Parade


Utah paraded down State Street today and was met by huge crowds. I was very surprised by how many people turned out to greet them. At the rally Mayor Becker, President Young, Congressman Matheson, Coach Whittingham, Brian Johnson and Louie Sakoda all spoke. Governor Huntsman concluded and even called Florida out. He told the crowd that he was going to call Florida's governor and tell them that Utah will meet them anytime, in any stadium in America to determine which team is really #1.

A fitting celebration to an incredible season. Go Utes!







Wednesday, January 14, 2009

2008 by the Numbers

  • Bought a house worth 142 times as much as my 1995 Geo Prizm aka Lurp Truck III
  • Used 201 kWh of electricity (since June 25th)
  • Used 25 DTH (decatherms) of natural gas (since June 25th)
  • Increased my hourly wage by 2 times (Have I mentioned that I love my job recently?)
  • Added 1 baby to the family for a grand total of 2 kids
  • Read 34 books for an average of 38.75 pages per day or a grand total of 14,137 pages
  • Spent $974.29 on woot.com (which doesn’t include $679.98 worth of purchases for my dad)
  • Spent 1001 minutes on airplanes flying in the sky
  • Visited 8 states
  • Wrote 164 blog posts (34 of which were reviewing the books I read throughout the year)
  • Took 3 final exams
  • Voted 2 times
  • Went to 6 football games (all of which my team won) 1,2,3,4,5,6
  • Enjoyed parts of all 366 days
  • Turned 27 years old
  • Met 1 apostle (and he called me on my cell phone)
  • Increased our living quarters square footage by 1,594 square feet
  • Most viewed blog post was written in 2007 and had 240 views in 2008
  • Had visitors from 67 countries to this blog (Even from China. The Great Firewall of China is not blocking Lurp’s Lounge… yet)

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Utah 31, Alabama 17

2009 Sugar Bowl Champions! And in incredible fashion!

There are few times in my life when I am glad that I am wrong. Last night was one of those times. I had to watch the game again today to be sure that everything happened the way that it seemed to happen yesterday.

It did.

Utah did in fact come out swinging in incredible fashion yesterday. Their first three drives rival some of their best drives of the season. Alabama's vaunted defense looked as porous as a sponge and Brian Johnson and Utah's receiving corp were as crisp as well-cooked bacon [end of bad similes].

I'm not sure whether or not Utah's offense or defense was more impressive. The same Alabama team that only gave up 1.1 sacks per game gave up 8 yesterday (as well as numerous tackles for loss). Alabama's rushing offense averaged almost 200 yards a game during the season but was only able to get 33 yards on 31 carries. Stevenson Sylvester had the game of a lifetime and the rest of Utah's defensive players were mistake-free as well.

On Alabama's biggest news website (al.com) more than 50% of voters think that Utah should be the #1 ranked team in the nation when the final polls come out. This may have something to do with the fact that Utah dominated Alabama (the game was not as close as the score suggests) while Florida struggled against them. Another 25% think that Utah should be ranked #2 (behind the winner of the Florida/Oklahoma game). They are the only undefeated team left and just beat the team that was the ranked #1 for almost 40% of the season. I think that they should be national champions as well. Realistically, they will get a handful of first place votes and hopefully end up in the top three, but this has certainly thrown a wrench into how the BCS works. Orrin Hatch has promised (once again) to have Senate inquiries into whether or not the BCS is fair - hmm, that's a tough one.

Great win Utes!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Game Day


It's a good day to be a Utah fan. The Utes will finally meet Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Do they deserve it? I'm not so sure. But they have completed the challenges placed in front of them and are now the only undefeated FBS team left. They also hold the nation's longest bowl-game winning streak.

I don't think that Alabama will blow the Utes out (and I'm pretty sure that Utah won't blow Alabama out either). I think that Utah will surprise a lot of people and be a better team than they expected. They have shown poise and the ability to execute under pressure all season and that is something that is going to work in their benefit. Utah will surprise Alabama with their speed but the Utes will have no good answer to Alabama's size.

My hope is that Utah is able to come away with a statement win and show the nation (and the 90% majority that have picked Alabama to win this game) that the Mountain West Conference plays some good, tough football. My prediction is that Alabama beats Utah by less than 7 points. If Utah is playing crisp and Johnson and his receivers are all on the same page then Alabama should watch out but, all good things must come to an end sometime...

In reality, this is a win-win situation for Utah. They aren't expected to compete with the Crimson Tide and if they do it only helps to make them look good. If they lose, they still get a truckload of money and everything simply played out the way the experts thought it would.

I hope I'm wrong.