Home Cooking For the Win

There is a great way to save money and your waistline. It has been around for forever, but more and more people seem to be forgetting about it.  It’s called making all of your meals at home. And yes, this includes lunch for all of you business boys and girls with jobs. I know you’ve all heard this before: eating at home will save you money, but it is so true that I need to say it again. Let’s start with numbers. In 2015, the average household spent $3,000 every year eating away from home, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now, what about 2019? Assuming an 8% increase in spending each year, which is what the increase was from 2014 to 2015, the average American household spends $4,000/year eating away from home (including delivery). I wouldn’t be surprised if it is more than that now with the…

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You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Unfortunately, that song from The Rolling Stones feels less and less true every year that passes here in the U.S. But Tyler, why would it be a bad thing if people could get what they want more?  Because they can’t afford it! There are a plethora of ways for people to borrow money these days. Your good old fashioned loan, credit cards, payday loans, pawn shops, and even a “refund advance” on your tax return (it’s a loan people). More and more, people are using these loans to buy the latest gadget. To get the coolest car or to go on the spectacular trip so that you can share it with everyone on Instagram. My friend even told me about his coworker taking a loan on his 401k so that he could get an apple watch and a new Iphone. He sacrificed his retirement to get text messages on his…

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Budget for Beginners

If you are ever going to be comfortable with your finances and prepared for your financial future, you will need to have a budget. I am not sure that there is a better way for someone to become knowledgeable about the entirety of their financial situation. It gives you a great picture of your incoming and outgoing money all at once. Now, having a budget may look completely different for every individual reading this post. If this is your first time creating a budget, it may feel really difficult to even start. Determining reasonable budget numbers for each area in your life may feel impossible. For those who have had a budget for awhile, it may be on autopilot, something that you look at every now and then to stay on track. For some, like Allyson and I, having a budget is more about tracking spending than planning spending, since…

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Free Money!!!

Would you like free money? I am going to assume that the answer is yes. If for some reason you don’t want free money, you can stop reading at this point. And no, this is not one of those signs on the side of the road promising $1000/week investing in real estate or something similar. This is legitimate and about as easy as it comes.  As part 1 of the Intro to Finance series that I am putting together, I’d like to discuss the 401k that most companies offer for salaried employees. To begin, let’s define a 401k. A 401k is an employer sponsored retirement account that allows employees to invest for their retirement on a tax deferred basis. Essentially, you can contribute money before taxes (reducing your taxable income) and then invest that money. Once you reach the age of 59.5 (hopefully well into retirement), you can then withdraw…

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Intro to Finance

Happy Holidays to all. I hope the holiday season has been good to everyone and that it has been a time of relaxation and fun. It’s been pretty great around here. Allyson and I stayed in Denver this year and took it easy, so it’s been a week of sleeping in, opening presents, and getting a lot of house projects done (our favorite). I’ll eventually write up some posts on the projects we finished, like the new floor in the workshop or new towel rack/shelf that Allyson built in our bathroom. First though, I’d like to go through an introductory series on finance.  I’d love feedback as I introduce some key ideas that I think are important for someone just starting out in their first full time job (or someone wanting to make a change from their current financial path). The idea for this series came from my cousin asking…

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Grill Me

A couple of weekends ago I got a new grill. No, not the blinged out jewelry for your teeth grill; it is a "get hot and cook your food" grill. Allyson has been wanting an upgrade over our old grill for quite some time. In this case, probably a fair viewpoint considering I originally got that grill for $20 off of Craigslist. It didn’t heat evenly and really only had 1 setting, lava hot, but it lasted us for almost 2 years and we got 2 full propane tanks along with the grill for that original 20 spot. Whenever we decide to get a new kitchen/cooking item, we turn to Cook’s Illustrated to check out their reviews. In this case the highest recommended grill was a Weber Spirit II E-310. A three burner grill that they couldn’t say enough good things about. To top it all off, Allyson’s parents were very…

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French Fries and Gravy, Sir

Super Troopers is the first thing that pops into my head any time I hop into the car for a long road trip, and last weekend was no different. The blog is a couple of days behind schedule this week because my buddy needed some help moving from Indianapolis, IN to Loveland, CO (quite an upgrade if you ask me). While driving through some of the most boring parts of this country may not sound appealing to any of you, having the chance to fly out to Indy and drive back with my friend for a couple of days was amazing. Since college, I have had a fairly good history with road trips. It all started in 2010 (maybe?) when 2 of my 3 best friends hopped in a purple minivan with me and drove from Atlanta to Niagara Falls during our fall break from school. The “Purple Palace” served…

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Shiplap Ceiling

Joanna Gaines would be so proud of us. I didn’t even know what shiplap was until I got hooked on watching Fixer Upper and now I have spent several weekends installing it in the new workshop. For those of you who don’t know what it is, I’m proud of you for never seeing HGTV, and also, here’s a great example of it. Photo Credit: https://abeautifulmess.com/2016/02/so-you-want-to-diy-a-shiplap-wall.html Shiplap was commonly used as exterior siding for barns and similar structures in harsh climates, as the overlap on the edges allowed for good weather proofing and movement in temperature extremes. Now, everybody and their mom is putting it in their house for a farmhouse look. Allyson and I are jumping on this train with the workshop ceiling, as it is a perfect fit for the modern farmhouse design Allyson is putting together for the workshop. Our workshop during the summer. It's missing some trim,…

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Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I hope your holiday was filled with a healthy amount of unhealthy food and the perfect amount of family time (whatever that means for you). I also hope that your post-holiday days were filled with zero shopping. As always here at the Branchbarks household, we recommend buying used and limiting consumption, pretty much the exact opposite of black Friday. I won’t go on a rant today about consumerism; just know that it sucks the big green weenie as an old mentor used to say. Today I want to talk about gratitude. Obviously, this is an original and topical post that no one else could possibly think of around this time. The thing is, regardless of what time of the year it is, being grateful is a healthy practice. I’ve personally tried to keep a notebook on me all of the time that I fill up with…

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The Power of Community

While Community was a good show that I thought had a lot of interesting storytelling methods throughout the course of the series, it is not what I am talking about today. I want to talk about the community that we all build up around us every day.  I believe that building healthy communities within our friend groups and neighborhood can be a powerful way to make the world a better place. That may seem like an exaggeration to you, but there is so much good that comes out of a healthy and caring community.  You can learn so much from those around you. It is extremely easy these days to find yourself in an “echo chamber” of ideas that match your own. Getting outside of those environments and hearing from other perspectives and experiences makes us all more empathetic and understanding of others. As an example, I’ve enjoyed getting to…

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