3 Simple Ways to Save Money

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Everyone is looking for ways to save a few extra bucks. Today it seems even harder for people to save. Car payments, taxes, rent/mortgage, phones, Internet and regular expenses almost make it impossible to save for anything. The worst is when something bad happens and you need to shell out a ton of money in an emergency situation.

Here are three ways to save a little bit, every day which will add up over time.

Change

Change can add up quickly. Vow to not use any change you receive. Of course, this assumes that you will be using cash for your purchases. Change rattles around in your pocket or purse just about every day. Instead of trying to find the exact change for your purchases – don’t! Instead, at the end of each day, take whatever change you have and put it in a jar. In just a few months, you could end up with hundreds of dollars in that jar.

You could do this even if you are using a debit card. Hopefully, you are keeping track of your spending. Instead of writing the exact amount you spend in your checkbook, register, spreadsheet or finance software, round up to the next whole dollar amount. When you balance your checking account, take the difference and place those funds into a savings account.

Coffee/Tea

Don’t buy coffee or tea anymore. Most employers have hot water available within the workplace. Buy your own coffee or teabags, make your own coffee or tea and take the money you would have spent each day and put it in a savings account or jar. This could turn into quite a bit of money every day.

Share a ride

If you know someone from work or school who is going to same place you are at about the same time, try and figure out how to share rides. Maybe you drive one week and the other person drives another week.

My wife and I do this sometimes. I will leave my car at her work overnight which is about half way to my school and we will share rides in the morning and evening. We get to spend about 15 minutes before work/school and after with each other where we can discuss the upcoming events of the day in the morning and update each other on our day in the evening.

You could do this with friends, neighbors, or your kids if they are old enough to drive. You could end up building stronger relationships that way.

What ways do you save a little money each day?

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Do You Understand Contemporary Art?

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Contemporary Art

After spending over 30 years in the electronics, automation and robotics field, I found myself on disability and going back to school to start over. It’s a completely new direction for me and although my grades show great promise for the knowledge I have gained, I have to admit that I just plain do not understand some forms of art.

I went to the San Antonio Museum of Art last year and specifically went to the contemporary art exhibit first to see what people were creating that was considered art. One of the pieces I saw was the Pink Electric Chair by Ivan Navarro, made in 2006. An interesting concept but not very practical. It’s a full sized chair made with Fluorescent light, color sleeves, metal fixtures, and electric energy. I get it. Re-purposing something to make something else. It’s original and I probably would not have thought about doing something like that myself.

Another piece I saw is apparently no longer on display or the website does not show it. I must admit that it confused me. It was a larger piece, probably four foot by eight foot hanging on a wall. It contained what I saw as a bunch of garbage (bottles, metal scraps, etc.) glued together on a base plate and the entire thing was spray painted gold. I remember taking a photo of it and a photo of the artist statement but still do not understand what the heck it meant. It obviously meant something to someone because the museum purchased it.

My Artwork

I have created several pieces of art. Some were made in 2013 while others have been made in 2014 and 2015. I have also taken photographs of things.

The artwork I did in 2013 is a set of drawings made from pastel oils and colored pencil. They are a contemporary vision of the “Life of Christ” and have five pieces in the set.

The first piece shows a droplet entering a body of water. The piece is called “By Water and the Spirit.”

The second piece is a close-up of an eye. If you look closely, you will realize that it is not a typical eye. It is representative of a bionic eye. The piece is named “The Blind See.”

The third piece shows a US Marine who has lost a leg in the war. He has a prosthetic limb. The title of this piece is called “The Lame Walk.”

The fourth piece is a line art piece that looks like a stained glass window. In it are the elements of Communion. The title of this piece is “Amazing Grace.”

The fifth and final piece shows the feet of Christ while He is on the Cross. The title of this piece is called “Paid In Full.”

Together, they represent a contemporary view of the life of Christ. Will everyone like it? Probably not. Will some like it? Yes. I like it. My wife likes it. I hope you like it too.

I’ll introduce some other work I have done in posts in the near future.

Video Production II

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Stop Motion Video

Maybe you recall as a youth, the practice of drawing small images on the bottom of a pad of paper. As you flipped through the pad, the images would dance across the bottom of the pages to create something like a movie for you to enjoy. Stop motion videos use the same concept to create that effect in a digital form.

Stop motion videos are created when you place a series of still photos together, one after another to create a video. It usually requires a huge number of photographs to make. I was involved in making one a year ago but because I did not feel I was able to participate at the level I wanted to for the project (it was a group project), I decided to make two others. One of the videos was made in the fall of 2014 and another one in the spring of 2015.

The First Video

Stop motion videos can be made from anything. The first video was made based on the story of Stone Soup by Marcia Brown. I have placed that video on Vimeo for you to see. Keep in mind that it is based on the story and not a direct representation of the story. I realized a lot by creating that video. One of the most important things I learned was to make your set at a level that makes sense. For this video, my set was placed on the floor with the camera on a tripod about four feet off the ground. This caused me to have to constantly get up and down throughout the process. It took hours. With bad knees to begin with, this certainly did not help. It took me several days to get the pain under control.

The Second Video

The second stop motion video was created as a How-To documentary. The requirement for the class was to produce a one minute video. I initially made a two minute video and then cut it back from there to meet the requirements of the project. Because I felt that the two minute video better represented what I was trying to say, I published it on Vimeo as well.

Claymation

Although I have not created a Claymation video, they are similar to a stop motion video. Maybe you are old enough to remember a kids show called Davy & Goliath or Gumby. Those were Claymation videos. Wallace & Gromit are newer versions of Claymation.

Editing

I chose to edit my stop-motion videos using Photoshop but there are other programs you can use. Three other programs that come to mind are iMovie, Final Cut Pro and ProTools. Today, you can even create simple stop motion videos using your smartphone simply by downloading an app. If you have never attempted to create a stop motion video, I would encourage you to try it. You might just have fun doing it and create something amazing.

Video Production

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A New Skill

This semester at school, I am learning some skill with video production. There are actually two classes where we are producing videos. The first class is Digital Video Production I. The second class is Advanced Emerging Media Production.

So far, I have created probably five videos. The first video was to get setting shots from two locations. The way that works is you take an establishing shot which is like a wide angle shot of a scene. The next phase is to take a medium shot which is a bit closer to the scene. Finally, you take a close-up shot. The last portion of the video was to take a simple shot of me walking away from the camera and then back towards the camera. An effect was used to simulate time in those images so that you are not completely bored watching me walk the entire way, back and forth. That effect is called transitioning which allows for the passage of time.

You can see my first video on Vimeo.

I can honestly say that I have come a long way since this video was produced but also realize I still have a long way to go. I’m pretty proud of what I have been able to accomplish so far and am looking forward to producing more videos in the near future.

We Can Do It!

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Erin go Bragh! Éirinn go Bráth! Ireland Forever!

It’s all about the green today. Be safe and don’t drink and drive.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to ya!

Having Much; Having Little

My favorite scripture is Philippians 4:12-13.

“I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – NRSV (New Revised Standard Version

I can tell you from experience that it is a lot easier if you have enough. I have met people who have very little but who are completely happy in their circumstances. I have also met people who have had plenty and then complain when they don’t get a raise. I have had times in my life where I have wondered how I was supposed to make it. I have also had times in my life when I have had plenty of extra and was able to help others, save more towards retirement, etc.

Giving Back

I’m at a point in my life, after going on disability, that I need to start again. I’ve done it before and I know that I can do it again. I’m fortunate that my wife is successful in her ministry and we are paying the bills as we go.

Recently, I gave a talk to some women about domestic violence and personal finance at Agape House. These women have escaped from abuse. Some have kids, others do not. They are literally starting over again with nothing. Some have been laid off or had to leave everything with what they had on their backs.

I’m now in a position to take some time and teach a couple of these women how to manage their finances based on what I have done with my life. I do not claim to be a financial advisor. I am simply sharing the ideas and tools that I have used in the past to get out of debt and start on a positive path.

Back To Work

I receive my degree in Emerging Media and Communications in December 2015. However, my disability runs out in July so my job search begins now.

My wife, Sharon, reminds me to be grateful for the amount of assistance I have received so far with my education. I certainly cannot complain about graduating debt-free from college. All said and done, it will be just about three years from start to finish with a school change in the middle.

I have learned a lot about social media, web development, video production, various software programs and ways to communicate. It’s a well-rounded knowledge base which will serve me and others well.

What have you experienced related to the scripture stated above? How has your life changed during times of plenty and times of want? What have you relied on to get through the tough times and the easier times?

Frustration Ramblings

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I heard the news today

Have you ever had one of those days? A day where one thing happens and it seems to set the rest of your day off on a bad tangent?

I am having one of those days today. As you might recall from an earlier post, I was involved in an accident about a year and a half ago. The other day, I was speaking to my insurance company about it because they had given up on trying to get money from the person who hit us. She was drunk and had no insurance at the time. Now it seems, she has dropped off the radar, moved with no forwarding address and there is nothing else for them to do other than request that her license be suspended. Somehow, I don’t think that will be much of a deterrent but there you go.

That’s not why I am having one of those days though. Instead, my day began with a phone call from the doctor doing my knee surgery. After having it scheduled for months, I get a call one week before it is supposed to happen and am informed that he will be out of town so he cannot do the surgery.

FRUSTRATION!

Now What?

If I had known about this change say a month ago, maybe I could have found someone else to do it in the time frame I was looking for. You see, next week I will be on spring break from school and would be able to recover fully during the time off.

Now, I will have to schedule the surgery during school which will mean missing classes, struggling for a few days to get around and just be inconvenient.

I did not want to call them back right away because it would not have been good. Instead, I started looking up scriptures about frustration. It turns out there are quite a few that pertain to frustration. Two scriptures that stood out to me were:

James 1:2-4 which states “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”

The other is:

John 16:33 which states “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

Some translations use the word tribulation instead of persecution. I do not believe that my doctor is persecuting me so tribulation works a bit better in this case.

The challenges

The biggest challenge will be to figure out the best time to reschedule. Spring break is no longer an option. I really need this surgery done. I have a relatively short time frame to complete the task.

Having surgery while school is in session poses a couple of problems. The only days available for the surgery are Tuesday’s and Thursday’s. If I choose Thursday, I will miss a full day of class with one of them being a class that has some challenges for me. If I have it on Tuesday, I only miss one class but will need to do the hardest part of recovery while attending classes.

I know I will figure out the best time frame for me in these circumstances. Writing this has already helped a bit with the frustration. So for now, I will instead look to:

Isaiah 41:10 “do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”