Monthly Financial Summary – Spreadsheet Tool

For a number of years I’ve put together a monthly summary of my financial accounts, just to take a few minutes each month to see where things stand.  Are things going in the right direction? If not, what is the reason?  It is a big help to take a look at the big picture of where things stand financially.

After getting married my wife and I have continued to use a simple summary spreadsheet and sit down each month to take a look and discuss.  It’s a great way to make sure we’re on the same page and aware of where our money is going.  I wanted to share my spreadsheet in case it’s of use to others.  It’s basically just a simple list of all the accounts we have – credit cards, investments, bank accounts, student loans, mortgage, etc.  We add a column each month for the current balances and I added a couple of formulas to show the change for each account month-to-month and for the year in total.

It’s a simple tool, but simply having a good idea of all the accounts you have and how they change is something I find few people do.  If you’re married or sharing accounts with another person, it’s also a really good opportunity to discuss goals and issues that otherwise might go unspoken.  You can also use Mint for more detail on your transactions and for creating budgets or tracking trends.  It’s really good and really easy to use.  Mint is also a big help in putting together the monthly summary since it has your current account balance all together in one place.

If you’re interested in learning more about money and saving I highly recommend the Mr. Money Mustache website and reading the book Early Retirement Extreme.  They are great and somewhat unconventional resources for having a full life and full wallet.

Download file here (Excel): Monthly Financial Summary – Template

Bike to Work Day – Postponed to Friday, 5/29 (Meet Me at 28th & B!)

NOTE: Edited due to postponement of Bike to Work Day to Friday, May 29th.


Friday, 5/29, is the postponed date for Bike to Work Day in San Diego and many other places across the U.S.  (Of course, there’s no reason that every day can’t be bike to work day but that’s largely reserved for the ultra-awesome.)  I’m going to be hosting a “pit stop” on behalf of BikeSD in Golden Hill at the corner of B Street and 28th Street.  The pit stop will be open from 6 AM to 9 AM.

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Up for grabs – official T-shirt, Clif Bars, Zico coconut water, Suja juice, magazine, bike lights, and more!
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Stop by our pit stop, get 25% off at SD Bean Bar Downtown (next to Central Library). Sweet!

You should come by and enjoy free shirts, snacks, drinks, and other goodies.  There is potential for rain in the forecast so I’m also packing extra tents you can relax under while enjoying the cool morning with other fun people.  I’ll also be tallying everyone stopping by the pit stop so help me represent and top the attendance list.  (No, I don’t think there’s a prize for that but I’m crossing my fingers for official bragging rights.)

Check out these photos for a sampling of what’s waiting for you at 28th & B on May 29th.  Even if you’re not going to work, cruise on over and hang out for a bit!  May is also “Bike Month” in San Diego and BikeSD is hosting a Bike Month Bash party on May 30th to celebrate.  If you’re not already biking this month, start today and you’ll have something to celebrate on the 30th.  Register today!

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Some quality reading material you can read while pretending to work!
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I organize the annual Bikes & Beers SD event so you can score a free sticker and glass. Exclusive to 28th & B pit stop!

Share Your Support for Airbnb and Short-Term Rentals in San Diego

If you value the existence of short-term rentals in San Diego and platforms like HomeAway, VRBO, and Airbnb please share your thoughts to ensure they remain available here.  The San Diego City Council is currently considering new rules and regulations for this type of property use which includes a potential ban, strasd-logo-w375among other possibilities.  The Short-Term Rental Alliance of San Diego (STRASD) is a grass-roots group of San Diegans that has organized to give a voice to responsible hosts here and the benefits that short-term rentals provide to the city.

The City Council Smart Growth and Land Use Committee held a hearing on April 22nd attended by hundreds of San Diegans on this issue and will have another hearing on May 29th.  For many, it is not possible or difficult to attend in person and voice an opinion.  STRASD has created an online submission option you can use to add your thoughts and why you support short-term rentals here.  Whether you are a property owner, a visitor to San Diego, a local business, or anyone else that supports platforms like Airbnb your voice is important and needs to be heard!  STRASD will compile the submissions and present them to the City Council.  Please take two minutes (or more) and add your perspective.  It really makes a difference.

You can make your submission via the “Share Your Voice” link at the top right of the STRASD website, or via this direct link.  Thank you for speaking up.

The following is my submission, as an example.  Yours can be shorter or longer – the important thing is that you make a submission.  If you’re not familiar with this issue or would like to discuss I’d be happy to talk with you, just drop me an email or phone call.


I am an Airbnb host in North Park and love the platform and the opportunities our family has due to it. We bought our home two years ago, and the presence of a second legal and permitted unit on the property was the primary consideration outside of neighborhood for us. We exclusively use Airbnb when we travel and wanted the opportunity to be a host in San Diego. We are a one-income family and planned on the income from the second property to allow us to spend quality time with our young children. A ban on renting our property on a short-term basis would be a major issue for us and may cause us to sell our home and potentially leave the region as well.

It’s not all about the money though. For us and for many hosts there are many factors at play in being hosts on Airbnb. We are able to accommodate friends and family in town (no return on investment) due to the flexibility provided. We are able to help move San Diego away from solely being a car-focused place by encouraging bike use (provided), bus, etc. Many guests do not bring a car, they walk around the neighborhood and improve the conditions around parking and traffic for all. We can show off our great neighborhood of North Park and the many businesses located here. I give all of our guests great San Diego beer to help promote one of our most recognized industries. We’re also able to host parents of friends that otherwise would be miles away instead of a short walk.

During the time we’ve owned this property we’ve made many improvements to the cottage we rent out, hiring local electricians, plumbers, construction workers, and other service providers. We also pay a neighbor to clean the cottage at an hourly rate that is more than double the existing minimum wage. The positive economic impact for San Diego provided by platforms like Airbnb and VRBO is significant and on top of indirect effects like restaurant purchases and zoo tickets the dollars paid for the lodging itself benefit our local community by staying with owners that live and spend here, not hotels that take the money out of our city.

Please keep ordinary San Diegans like us that are good hosts and care about and are involved in our community in mind when contemplating any regulations or rules on short-term rentals. This is a great opportunity for many people in the city that should not be eliminated due to a very few problem locations. Thank you.

Close Florida Drive Now. Right Now.

As I recently wrote about, Balboa Park is a city treasure, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.  It is also home to many high-speed roads which greatly diminish the quality of the park, use large amounts of high-value land, and pose health dangers immediate (being crushed by a car) and long-term (developing asthma and other disease due to very poor air quality in San Diego).  It is time to eliminate the most superfluous high-speed road in Balboa Park – Florida Drive.

This year is the 100th anniversary of Balboa Park and there would be no better way to celebrate that than by returning a significant portion of the park to it’s natural state.  (Or at least we can offset the deletion of another canyon in Balboa Park by the San Diego Zoo that is currently approaching completion.)  We can expand the size of the open park space, and the quality, by closing Florida Drive to automobile traffic.  To avoid inconvenience to cars – which must be the first consideration for a conversation to even start – this would only be a closure of Florida Drive from Morley Field Drive to Zoo Place.

Area of Florida Drive to close to autos immediately
Area of Florida Drive to close to autos immediately

San Diego’s canyons are a tremendous asset for the city and residents.  They are a tiny foothold for local flora and fauna in our beautiful and bio-diverse region.  They provide an opportunity for our youth to experience the outdoors in their backyards, across the city.  They show that we value nature, heritage, and the environment.  They are well worth protecting and in this case, worth restoring.

Florida Drive mirrors Park Boulevard and a closure of this portion of Florida would have little to no impact on vehicle traffic.  It certainly would not cause back-ups.  At the same time, it would provide a peaceful setting for those enjoying the canyon and an expanded sanctuary for the snakes, lizards, birds, and other animals that call this area home.  A park should be a park, not an extended Interstate on-ramp that is a park in name only.

How to proceed:

  1. Immediately install temporary concrete bollards blocking Florida Drive to automobile traffic at the Intersection of Morley Field Drive and Zoo Place.
  2. Monitor traffic counts on adjacent roadways to determine impact on traffic flows and overall safety for a 6-month period.
  3. Remove three-quarters of Florida Drive (East side) and replant with native trees which will flourish in the natural creek setting of the canyon bed.  Convert remaining one-quarter to a two-way bike path and install a gravel running path on the West side of the pavement.
  4. Enjoy the quiet and peacefulness of a greatly improved piece of San Diego’s premier park, all done at little cost and with great benefit that will only increase in the coming years.

We can do this, and so much more to make our city better.  All we have to do is choose to do so.

Beautiful trees and shrubs with many birds are found in Florida Canyon, but loud and dangerous cars diminish the area.
Beautiful trees and shrubs with many birds are found in Florida Canyon, but loud and dangerous cars diminish the area.

[Also posted on San Diego Free Press website. And thanks to VOSD for inclusion in the 5/13 Culture Report!]

Running – Best Sport Ever

I don’t get to run as much as I used to, but appreciate the opportunity when I can find time.  My favorite sport to play is basketball but there is no better sport than running.  No teammates, no equipment (other than maybe shoes and clothes), and thus no excuses.  It’s you against you, fighting fatigue, pain, and weakness.

It’s a sport where grit and determination count more than natural ability.  Everyone has a chance to be a champion when it comes to running.

Stop Package Theft – Simple Steps You Can Take To Avoid Losses

With the rise of Amazon, Etsy, and other Internet businesses there has been a marked increase for many in the amount of package deliveries.  The convenience of home delivery and the vast array of products online, many at discount prices, has been a boon for customers around the world.  Unfortunately, these deliveries have also presented a new easy target for theft in many places.  That has been the case in my neighborhood, so I wanted to share some tools I use to reduce the risk of theft.

This man wants to steal your packaged trinkets. Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/saxonmoseley/288741595/
This man wants to steal your packaged trinkets. Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/saxonmoseley/288741595/

 

Sign up for package delivery alerts

  • FedEx – Create and account, “My Profile”, via the link at the top right for a multitude of options regarding your packages.  Use the “Delivery Manager” to set specific actions for when a package arrives so you don’t miss it.  My method is to receive a text message when the package is delivered – it usually arrives within a minute of the package delivery.  You can also do other things like set a Vacation Hold to avoid packages sitting on the porch while you’re gone.
  • UPS – Create an account via link at top “New User” for options similar to those available on FedEx, though I find the FedEx site more polished and with more options.  Use “Delivery Alerts” to set specific actions for package deliveries.  As with FedEx, I use text alerts when a package arrives.  If you prefer to know in advance, you can get email or text alerts the day of or day before a package arrives.
  • USPS – USPS does not currently have the same breadth of tools as UPS and FedEx, but you can still create an account with some useful tools.  Use the “Register / Sign In” link at the top right to start.  I primarily use USPS to hold mail delivery while we’re out of town.  Hopefully they’ll add package delivery options in the near future.
  • OnTrac In San Diego, OnTrac completes a fair amount of deliveries for Amazon though it seems recently that USPS is doing more of that work.  Their website options are very limited, and from conversations with company representatives they do not have similar tools to those for other delivery providers.

Know your neighbors

  • No one knows your habits and schedule like your neighbors.  Creepy, right?  Exchange your contact information with your neighbors and be a nice person and they’ll probably be happy to pick up a package that’s sitting on your porch if you’d like.  If you have the delivery notifications mentioned above set up, you can even call them when there’s a package at your place.  Your neighbor probably doesn’t have a formal registration system, but cookies are usually a good starting point.

Install a security camera

  • I installed a security camera above our front door to record anyone coming to our home or passing by.  It’s also visible from the street so hopefully acts as a deterrent to those considering approaching with ill intent.  I opted for the Dropcam Pro due to ease of installation, price point, and low monthly fee structure (which is optional).  It cost me $149 plus $10 per month for 7-day online recording, so I can review the tape and save clips if anything happens.  The price per month per camera decreases quite a bit if you add additional cameras.
Our front door camera and grumpy old man sign.
Our front door camera and grumpy old man sign.

 

Report thefts that do occur

  • If you do have a package taken, or other items stolen make sure to report it to the police.  Chances are that you won’t get your item back, but the theft will be entered in the official system and may result in increased patrols or better data for the police to address area issues.  If they don’t know, they can’t help.

Have you had packages stolen from your property?  Have other tips to avoid this problem?  Share them, I’d love to hear.  Cheers!

Common Ground on Airbnb in San Diego

The debate about short-term rentals, including sites like Airbnb, Flipkey, VRBO, and Craigslist continues in San Diego.  The San Diego City Council Smart Growth & Land Use Committee held a public hearing on April 22nd that was attended by hundreds and will be continued in a hearing to be held on May 29th.  To date, four council members have issued memos on the issue (click links for full memos):

San Diegans waiting to attend the April 22nd hearing
San Diegans waiting to attend the April 22nd hearing

While there are a broad number of issues that have been raised, there are also some very major points that nearly everyone agrees on.  These basic points should be the baseline for any proposed rules or regulations.  They include:

  • Everyone should pay the hotel taxes due
    • Anyone renting out a property or a part of a property is responsible for timely and full payment of the San Diego hotel taxes – for most, that is a transient occupancy tax of 10.5% and a tourism marketing district assessment of .55%. (For more details on the taxes click here.) These taxes are not being debated although the City Treasurer could do more to improve the payment system including acceptance of credit card payments, a payment profile system to save account information and history, and acceptance of zero due filings.  Additional staff for the Treasurer’s office to collect back taxes would likely pay for itself many times over in addressing current non-compliant properties.
  • Owner-occupied properties should be allowed to host guests
    • The horror stories of late-night parties, loud noise, and heaps of trash no doubt reflect reality in some instances.  These types of issues are far more likely to occur in a non-owner occupied property.  I have heard very few people that want to prevent a widower from renting a room in their house, or a young couple trying to pay bills renting a spare bedroom.  Home owners should not be curtailed in their ability to rent space on their own property.  There do not seem to be many San Diegans that would agree with the City Attorney prosecuting a retiree in Burlingame for renting rooms in her own home. (Other than perhaps her private investigator neighbors.)
  • Enforcement of existing nuisance laws and fines for bad actors
    • Late-night noise, property damage, trespassing, and other issues have existing laws on the books.  These should be enforced and property owners held responsible for the behavior taking place on their property.  Additionally, most parties support fines for bad actors on an escalating scale.

Hopefully the city council will take these common ground, and common sense, items as a starting point for any proposals put forward.  Other issues remain and will likely be contentious but with very strong support across the board for the above items there is no need to muddy the conversation with issues that are not being debated.

Balboa Park – A Great Place to Drive a Car Through

Balboa Park is frequently referred to in loving tones by San Diegans, guide books, and articles.  It’s our “Crown Jewel” and an asset for the entire region that draws visitors from all over the globe.  There are a number of very enjoyable museums in the park and it’s a great place for a picnic or to take the kids to.

Apparently it’s also a great place for high-speed auto traffic to speed through.  Here’s a map of the speed limits for the roadways going through Balboa Park.

The speed of cars trump people throughout San Diego
The speed of cars trumps people throughout San Diego

These type of speeds are more appropriate for highways than access roads to the premier park and open space for a major city.  As a result of the abundance of these types of roads in Balboa Park there is essentially nowhere in the entire park you can enjoy without the sound of automobiles.  There are very few spots you can even be out of sight of cars whizzing by.  The very nature of these roads shows you that they are not for visiting the park, but for moving as many cars as possible through the park area quickly.

In addition to high speed roads, we continue to pave ever more of the park to provide automobile parking.  On the East Mesa area the city has established a growing parking lot for park service vehicles.  It is huge.  The San Diego Zoo is building an $18 million parking garage behind the Old Globe Theatre with 650 parking spots for employee use.  The access for this garage will be via Village Place and Old Globe Way – small roadways that are currently very quiet and provide access for only a few dozen parking spots, maybe a hundred at most.  Now there will be hundreds, maybe thousands, of cars traversing this area throughout the day.  Oh – and a native canyon space has been razed and replaced by an enormous garage.  San Diego Zoo – shouldn’t conservation start at home?

East Mesa Parking Lot in Balboa Park
East Mesa Parking Lot in Balboa Park

All of this amounts to an area that professes to be a park but would more appropriately be described as an auto park.  We recognize that we live in a beautiful region with an incredible amount of natural beauty worth preserving.  We can recognize that land is very valuable here.  But when it comes to roads and parking we choose to annihilate our native habitats along with the plants and animals, including us, they support and spend exorbitant amounts of money (nearly all public money, not private) to do so.  As you can see with the massive interstates built through our coastal wetlands and the decades old surface level parking lot that is the San Diego Downtown bayfront, there is literally no land too valuable or beautiful for us to not pave the ever-loving piss out of it and call it improvement.

So we’ll continue to pave Balboa Park, widen the roads, and raise the speeds.  We won’t even have to waste our time walking in the park to “enjoy” it.  Why waste the time?  Speed in, take a selfie, and speed out.  Progress.  It’s disgusting, unhealthy, and a terrible message for San Diego to spend to the world.  New Yorkers value Central Park and you can bet your bottom dollar they would never allow their “Crown Jewel” to suffer the fate that we continue to actively choose for our own.

So enjoy your next visit to Balboa Park.  Maybe you’ll even catch a glimpse of the museums or zoo while you’re speeding past.

How to Buy a Bike – 8 Simple Steps

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This could be you. Pretty sweet. Credit: Jake Davis

How does one go about buying a bicycle?  What things matter?  Many people are interested in bicycling – to commute, for fun, to ride along with children, or to get in better shape.  If you don’t already have a bike or it’s been a couple of decades since you rode it can be intimidating.  What to look for, how much to spend, what kind of accessories are needed, etc?  Here’s a short list on how to approach buying your first bike, or the first bike you’ve had in awhile.

  1. Don’t overthink it.  You’re buying a bicycle, not a car that costs you tens of thousands of dollars.  Especially if you’re going to reduce your car usage, you’re going to save a ton of money, even if you buy a very fancy bicycle.  AAA estimates the average car costs about $9,000 per year.  Put another way, you could buy a $750 bicycle every month of the year and be even money with what you spend on a car in that time.
  2. Find a bike shop you like.  Whether you buy a new bike or a used one, you’re going to need someone that knows how to keep it in top shape.  Walk in to a bike shop near you and say hi to the people there.  Are they nice and fit your style? Awesome, you’re good to go.  Are they mean or you don’t really like the vibe? Walk out and go to a different shop, there are lots to pick from.
  3. Buy a bike.  Utilize the friendly bike shop you have identified and ask them what they’d recommend.  All you need is a general idea of what you’ll be doing – going to work, rolling down mountains, cruising along the boardwalk.  The good thing is that bikes have awesome utility so you’ll be able to do many of these things with whichever one you pick, but buying in the right general ‘category’ is a good idea.
  4. Can’t decide? Buy a hybrid.  Here’s my current bicycle – a Giant Escape hybrid.  Hybrids are basically a cross between a road bike and and a mountain bike – designed to handle a wide range of uses, with a little more comfort and durability than a road bike.  They’re all-around great.  I paid about $600 new for this bike.  My previous bicycle was a $200 used road bike I bought on Craigslist.  My wife commutes to work daily on a hybrid bicycle as well that cost around $450.

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    My bike, with rear rack and pannier bag.
  5. How much should you spend? It really doesn’t matter.  For a new bike, I think it’s worth spending $500-600 to get a solid ride from a good brand.  You can buy a new bike for half that and be fine, or buy a used bike and also be fine.  If you’re buying used look for a good brand so you know the bones are good.  With your trusted local bike shop you can rest assured that if your bike has mechanical problems or just needs a tune up they can help you out.
  6. Get some accessories.  A few things you want to add to your bike to greatly increase the utility.
    1. A super strong lock. Get something from Kryptonite and always lock up your bike.  Thieves suck and will try to take your bike.
    2. Good lights – for both front and back, get some powerful lights.  I recommend doubling up on the rear lights for good measure.
    3. A small pump and two spare tubes.  In case you have a flat, you need these.  When you ride with your friends they won’t have these and you’ll be the hero. Rock on.
    4. A rear rack with a pannier bag.  This will allow you to easily carry things on your bike. Awesome.
  7. Take care of your bike.  I don’t know much about fixing bikes, I’m guessing you don’t either.  Plan to get a tune-up at your bike shop twice a year.  They’re pros at this stuff and will make sure your brakes work, your chain is well oiled, and your tires aren’t worn through.  Put it on your calendar and just do it.  It will cost $25 – $65 per time and is well worth it.  Later on you can do it yourself, but start with the bike shop until you increase your skill set.
  8. Have fun and ride often!  You made a great decision to buy a bicycle.  You’re going to be healthier and happier.  You’re going to save a ton of money.  (Mr. Money Moustache has awesome articles about the cost of commuting / cars.)  You’re going to make your community healthier and safer for everyone.

Have other tips for those looking to buy a bike?  Drop some love in the comments.

Ride with GPS – I’m an Ambassador! Help me highlight great SD rides.

Ambassador shieldI became familiar with the Ride with GPS app / website while planning for the most recent Bikes & Beers event here in San Diego.  Our events do not seek street closures, we want the experience to showcase how good our city streets can be for bikes without special measures like barricades, traffic cops, etc.  It’s meant to be a preview of the way we envision our streets in the future – filled with bicycles and people having a great, safe time in our city.  This can make it difficult to keep people on the route, though, since there isn’t a wide swath of empty road to follow as there would be with a marathon.

What we needed was a turn-by-turn tool to direct riders and after looking over many different apps I could not find what I needed.  I needed an easy-to-use app that could do voice navigation for a custom bicycle route.  Then I found Ride with GPS and it was just what we were looking for.  They even hooked us up with free access for all event participants.  It was great.  The app did voice turns, we could add custom instructions and photos, and it didn’t suck the battery like Dracula.

After being so pleased with the app during the event and the great support from the company, I volunteered to be an “Ambassador” for the brand.  Basically I’ll be creating a set of great rides in San Diego that others using the app can utilize.  So whether you’re a visitor or a local looking for a new ride, you can open the app and access the routes I’ve highlighted.  However, most of my biking in San Diego is functional, not recreational.  I’m usually towing a couple of kids and going to school, library, grocery store, etc.  I’m pretty much a newbie when it comes to the scenic rides throughout the county.

So I’m asking for your help.  If you have a great route you want to share, please let me know so I can add it.  Of course I’ll give you a shout-out too. 🙂

Hit me up via email – john.patrick.anderson@gmail.com if you have suggestions and thank you!

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A typical day of riding for me