You gotta have hobbies – sticking mouldings!

I continue to pursue my woodworking hobby, with emphasis on using hand-tools to do a lot of the work. In some ways it is slower than using power tools (ex: when doing repetitive cuts of the same dimension on a table saw). However, for most of the “one-off” items or joinery, the hand tool solution often is faster. It takes a long time to set up a machine to make a cut (initial setup, test cut, adjust, test cut again, adjust…..). When you are doing a few items with one task, it’s often quicker to just pull out a chisel, hand plane or saw, and do it.

It’s often more fun and more quiet as well. I can do this at 6am on a Saturday, or 10pm on a weeknight. I get the thrill of producing something by hand, and being able to see it in my home constantly. I urge everyone to pick up a couple of hobbies so they can improve their skills and gainfully occupy their time – instead of just sitting in front of the TV.

Most homes have mouldings in place. These are the pieces of wood around doors, edges, or places where two planes meet (between ceiling and walls, floor and walls, etc.  They are mostly used to reduce damage and wear at key points in the house which might suffer too many dings and hits. For some home styles, like Victorians, the moulding/trim was quite extensive.

The way these are made nowadays, for the most part, is by running the wood pieces through a powered machine called a shaper, or in some instances on a router table (a less-powered version of the shaper). You can often buy large lengths of specific trim pieces at Home Depot/Lowes, or get special trim pieces made by a lumberyard/specialty shop. This makes sense, because once you set the machine up, you can run large amounts over the time, and get economies of scale.

Before the age of powered equipment, the way this trim was produced was with a “sticking board” and moulding planes – wooden planes with profiles ground into them to cut the trim the way you wanted it. The joiner/woodworker would start at one end and run the plane down the length, taking off some of the wood and then go back. As he continued to run it down, the profile would take shape until eventually it reached the final version. Some wooden planes had a built in “depth stop” on the plane, a section of the plane which would prevent it from cutting any deeper once the final shape had been reached. After that, the trim would be cut to size and installed, just like it is today.

Well, I’ve recently built my sticking board (some straight lengths of wood with screws on the end to hold the wood trim pieces) and had built a cove moulding plane (the light brown item you see) and tried it out. It was a lot of fun, and some good exercise. While not really great cardio, it certainly forced me to do some walking in the shop.

I’m satisfied with the results. I intend to use it to build some frames for two posters I got on our vacation to the Redwoods and Crater Lake National Park. We’ll see what other things I can make with this setup in the future.

How have your hobbies gone?


Mr. 39 Months

Frugal Win – fixing your own stuff!

One of the interesting sub-plots in the FI community is the number of people actively working on ways to “out-Frugal” the next person, or as Mrs. 39 Months calls it, being “more frugal than thou.” Its all in good fun as we all travel different paths to our final destination.

When I was younger and not making as much, I often did most of the construction work around the house (deck, bathroom remodel, kitchen remodel, electrical, etc.). I had a detached garage (that flooded) that was my shop, and I tried to build minor bits of furniture (mostly bookshelves) and other things. While, one of the things I never got the hang of was repairing the items that I had. It didn’t help that a lot of the tools I had were not the best.

As you get older, more frugal, and have a little more time on your hands, it starts to be kind of fun to try to fix something, instead of just contributing to consumer culture, tossing the old one out, and buying a newer, cheap  version of it.

When we first moved in 20+ years ago, my father bought me black & decker workmate, one of those basic tools that it seems like every homeowner in the US has. Good for setting up around the home, doing basic tasks, etc. I used that thing a lot over the last 20 years (look at the top, with its paint, saw cuts, holes, etc.). About 10 years ago, one of the parts supporting the leg in its “up” position broke, and the leg just dangled after that.

It didn’t really affect the workmate when it was up, the leg was in its regular position, but when I went to set it up, or put it up, it flopped around and made the setup a little challenging. About a month ago I decided to find the required part online (found the item master list, identified the part, ordered in and got it delivered). Part and shipping was less than $5. After about 5 min of work taking out the old part and re-installing the new one, I had a perfectly functional workmate. Made me realize what an idiot I was for letting it sit like this for 10+ years.

Nothing major, no great victories, but at least one less item in the landfill, and a great feeling of accomplishment. OK, so what’s next? Maybe take apart that weed whacker that has been sitting in the shed forever…..


Have you fixed up anything instead of just buying something new?


Mr. 39 Months

Travel Hack Completed …..Somewhat

As folks know, Mrs. 39 Months and I took the opportunity to travel to Northern California and Oregon recently, both to enjoy the scenery and for her to take a class in shoe making. It was a great time, and one of those opportunities everyone should take advantage of if they get the opportunity.

I also wanted to use this trip to put into practice some of my travel hacking skills. As you may remember, I’d worked hard on the two Southwest Airlines cards in order to get to 110,000 miles and get the companion pass. I have now been working on the Chase Sapphire card, to try and nail down the 60,000 bonus points for that.

Overall, the trip consisted of 10 days (2 days in the air, 8 days on the ground). We flew into San Francisco, saw a few sights (Cathedral, Fisherman’s wharf, etc.) and then hit the sack. The next day, we visited Alcatraz, and then headed north. The following three days were spent in Northern California and Oregon, visiting national parks and enjoying the outdoors. We ended up Wednesday in Portland, where Mrs. 39 Months spent the next 4 days in class, while I traveled about and saw the city and surrounding area (Columbia River, City of Portland, etc.). We finally headed home on Monday (long flight).

So how did my hacking do?

  • Air flight: free (except for some fees) – savings of $1,088
  • Rental car: paid $338 for 10 days through Alamo, plus gas (about $120). Didn’t use any points, but all the cost got onto my Chase card, helping me towards my goal for the free 60,000 points.
  • Hotel: Due to where we were staying in the national parks, I couldn’t really use any points on stuff, but we did get the hotel in Portland for free: savings of $745
  • Food, Gas, other: Couldn’t use points on these, but again, was able to use the charges on my Chase card to hit my goal. By the end of the trip, I had achieved the usage on the card to get my 60,000 free points!

Overall, trip for two, Philadelphia to San Fran, travel to Portland, and then back cost around $1,512. I’m sure many of the really experienced travel hackers could have saved even more, but I’m pretty happy.

Some lessons learned:

  1. Southwest companion pass is awesome. Wife traveled across the country and back for free!
  2. It pays to get points from various vendors, not just the ones with Chase. I had several hotel options in Northern CA/Oregon that I could have used points for (ex. Holiday Inn express) that I didn’t have points for, so I had to pay cash for.
  3. Haven’t figured out a way to pay for car rental with points yet. Maybe used my 2% cash-back Citi card to pay for it.
  4. Food/Dining out is difficult to use points for – better to use card to pay for it with case and collect the points.

We had a great time, and I learned a lot about travel hacking. Time to plan the next big trip (probably 2019). Maybe the Grand Canyon?


Mr. 39 Months

Taking time to smell the roses II – Portland OR

Again, one of the key points of FIRE that I agree with is the idea of not putting off things you want to do today, just to try to achieve FI earlier. It leads to a sense of deprivation which often can make the individual (or family) stop pursuing FI and falling back into their old habits. Yes, save as much money as you can, but also try to enjoy life as you go through it. We only go this way once (if you agree with Western philosophy) so you should work to enjoy every day.

Just ask the Stoics about that: “Were you to live three thousand years, or even a countless multiple of that, keep in mind that no one ever loses a life other than the one they are living, and no one ever lives a life other than the one they are losing. The longest and shortest life, then, amount to the same, for the present moment lasts the same for all and is all anyone possesses. NO one can lose either the past or the future, for how can someone be deprived of what’s not theirs.” Marcus Aurelius

One of the places Mrs. 39 Months likes is Portland, OR. As noted in a previous post, we took the opportunity to see a couple of national parks and then headed to Portland so she could take a class on one of her hobbies – making leather shoes. A 4-day course where, at the end, she’ll have a pair of boots once she is done. We also took the opportunity to do some travel hacking (more on that in a future post).

I took the opportunity to run around Portland and see some of the sites. The city boasts the largest number of brew pubs and coffee bars of any city in the US (supposedly). The drive up the Columbia River was gorgeous, with lots of information on the various dams on the rivers (there are 11) which have helped tame it, while allowing the salmon to continue to climb up it and spawn. The drive ended about 100 miles up, with a remake of Stonehenge, which was made to commemorate the dead of the county in the state of Washington in WW One. Pretty cool.

In the city, every Saturday, they have the craft market down by the river. Last Saturday, they also had the first annual “doggy dash” to raise money for animals care. The market has all sorts of vendors, as well as excellent food.

We had a great time, even after I came down a little sick the last couple of days, and we’ll always have this trip together.

And here are the shoes!



Mr. 39 Months

Taking time to smell the roses (or get some of your non-financial goals accomplished)

One thing every FIRE person needs to guard against is getting so tied up in the financial side of FI, that they neglect other aspects of their life that are equally or even more important (can anyone say “family” here?).  One should never neglect their other goals in life just for financial gains – or you might end up at the end regretting a life of emptiness.

That is why your goal setting for the year should include a healthy set of non-financial goals, and you should strive mightily in order to meet them. For me, my non-financial goals are:


  • Increase weight lifted by 10% from 2018 (increased by 12.7% in 2017). I want to continue to improve my strength as I get older, instead of just wasting away
  • Average 3 hours of cardio per week (currently averaging about an hour). Again, want to improve my fitness
  • Take part in at least one long bike ride, like MS bike-a-thon (80 miles)
  • Backpack over 100 miles on AT (did over 100 in 2017)
  • Begin volunteering at Pennsbury Manor at their joiner’s shop (woodworking)
  • Reduce weight by 20 lbs. from Jan 2018 (lost 9 lbs. in 2017). Again, I want to get in better shape as I get closer to financial independence
  • Read at least one book a month. Trying to learn new things and keep my mind shop. Started this in August 2017, and I’ve been doing fairly well with it.


  • Visit a national park (visited Shenandoah NP in 2017)
  • Visit family in Tennessee, Vermont and New York. Family is very important to me. One of the things I am looking forward to with financial independence is the opportunity to visit family more often
  • Visit Portland, OR and northern California. Mrs. 39 Months has a craft class she wants to take in Portland, so I’ll go as well, and run around in Portland, when it’s over, we want to visit the Park in Northern California with the Redwoods.
  • Visit Ellis Island. Wanted to do this in 2017, but didn’t make it. As 50% Czech from immigrant great grandparents from the turn of the century, I believe they went through there, and I want to see it
  • Go on an international trip. Not sure which one (Canada, Caribbean, etc.) but I’d like to get out this year.
  • Visit the Asheville NC area. It’s one of the areas that we are considering retiring to (close to my old home in Tennessee, interesting crafts, shops & outdoor sports, etc.). Trying to learn more about the area (we’ve been there a couple of times).

For the year, I have worked as diligently on these as on my financial goals (well…. Maybe not the weight loss as much). Still, I have knocked a lot of them off/made progress.

This week, I had the opportunity to visit two National Parks, which helped me check off a travel goal for 2018 – and gave Mrs. 39 Months and me a lot of pleasure.

We visited the Redwoods National Park in Northern California. Mrs. 39 Months has always wanted to see these big trees, and they didn’t disappoint. It was great hiking around and just taking in the grandeur of it all.

We also visited Glacier Lake National Park, in Southeast Oregon. It was formed when a volcano exploded about 7700 years ago, and then collapsed in on itself and the caldera. The result is a beautiful lake at 8800 ft. altitude, which is just fed by rainwater. Nothing drains out, nothing drains in, and so it has some of the most pure water in the world. You typically can see 140 – 180 ft. down into it, and it is also about 1900 ft. deep.

When we visited, there was still snow on the ground and blocking the road which goes around. We took pictures in freezing rain, and then headed out. Still a lot of fun.

What non-financial goals do you have this year, and what have you gotten done so far?


Mr. 39 Months

Status Update, May 2018

Well, another month, another period of not much progress. Again, I didn’t lose but didn’t gain much either. Looks like last years big “bump” is going to be offset by a flat year in 2018? We will see, still got 2/3 of the year to go. Thanks to putting all my bonus money into my investments, I’m back to being over $1M in assets, so that is a plus.

Retirement Accounts: Remember, my allocation for these is:

  • 30% Bond Index Fund
  • 17.5% S&P500 Index Fund
  • 17.5% International Index Fund
  • 17.5% Small Cap Index Fund
  • 17.5% REIT Index Fund

I ended up being about 0.3% up here, after my monthly inputs into the various accounts. My bond index funds dropped a bit, but my international and REITs were up, bringing me to a +0.3% for the month. For the year, I’m a little up, while the market in total is a little below Jan 1. Another reason for asset allocation. Note that these returns include reinvesting dividends.

My 401K/Deferred account at work was up only 1.1% for April – but this one doesn’t have a REIT option in its choices, so I didn’t get the benefit of the REITs for April (but didn’t suffer from this in this account for 2017).

Dividend Income Account: Allocation:

  • 25% Dividend Stocks
  • 25% REITs
  • 50% Bond Index Funds

Up about 0.2% including dividend payments.  Bonds (50% of allocation) got hit, but my 25% REITs helped to lift me into the positive. Most of the dividend stocks (Chevron, Verizon) were up significantly, which helped.

Value Investing Account: Allocation (remember I refocused this at the beginning of February):

  • 40% in individual value stocks I picked myself (2 each, 20% for each) – SBS and GILD
  • 20% USAA Market Index (my brokerage is USAA)
  • 40% in Vanguard Value Index fund

Another bad performance for the stocks that I picked myself. Down 2.5% for the month of April. The big losers were my two stock picks. It is becoming very clear that I am not a good stock picker (as most folks in the FIRE community can attest to). If I don’t see a major turn around in fortunes by the end of the year, I’ll just sell my stock picks and go to index mutual fund investing (like so many other folks). Again, this is more of a “fun money” account where I experiment.

The allocations are not too much “out of whack” so I don’t intend to rebalance until July (unless something major happens).


How did you do in April?


Mr. 39 Months