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Let's Get Personal (please comment)

October 3rd, 2011 at 11:33 am

Blog posts have been pretty sparse from me lately. This one is going to get a little personal. I am going to share with you all some things that I do not usually tell random Internet strangers. 

This past weekend was quite emotional for my family and I. To make a long story short, we live with my parents, in their upstairs (bedroom, bathroom, and living area), while I pay down our debts. My oldest brother (32) also lives there, in the basement. This weekend, my father held a household meeting because of the recent goings-on in the house. My wife and I thought it would be an intervention to try to get my brother to straighten up. Week before last, he left the oven on with a pizza in it for four hours, scorching the pizza. We - my wife, infant, and I - woke up that morning with killer headaches, sick stomach feelings, and our 7.5 (8 months today!) month-old was super cranky that day. Obviously she had some physical issues going on other than just her normal teething. This is a health hazard. 

Last week, my brother attacked me for trying to get him to stop yelling at our mother. My wife was worried for my safety and the safety of our child. I was fine, as I have military background. However, that does not lighten the situation by any means. He is physically and verbally abusive. 

A couple weeks ago, we came home from running errands, to find smoke wafting up from the basement. The kind of smoke? Marijuana. 

So we have this meeting on Saturday evening. And what is it about? It is about how my brother has "agreed" to shape up or get out (though he is drunk and high during this meeting). He was given 30 days. Which, mind you, has been a previous ultimatum given him by them before. They fail to execute. My father went on to say that the fact that my wife and I "practice false religion" (being that we do not go to their religious gatherings; instead, we attend a different "religion's" congregation, because that is where our spirits feel at home), is a negative aspect of what "goes on in his house." I protested, remarking on how my brother was behaving during this meeting, pointing out how he was smiling awkwardly, and obviously pretending. They wouldn't hear it. I also pointed out the recent goings-on and how it effects us, but they would not hear that either, and even said that there were no harmful elements emitted from that burnt pizza, and that my daughter's life was not in danger. They kept saying that we needed to move forward.

Yesterday, at church, the message hit home for us. It was about worship. Where and how it is conducted, and where it should come from within yourself. Basically, the most important PLACE of worship is from your spirit, your heart. The physical place of worship is hardly a matter (within reasonable limits, of course). There was a lot more said, but I DO NOT want this to become a religious or spiritual debate, or even a topic. Just giving a look into who we are and how this has effected us. We then spoke with our pastor and he gave us some real insight and encouragement. 

We are now looking at other options.

My wife's mother is in an LPN to RN bridge program currently, and will be out in April or so. She is out of school by 4. I should be moving to that new position with the new employer in the next week or so. That position will net me about $250 more than I am netting right now. It will also allow me to go to school in the Spring. My wife suggested that she go to work at her previously employer, Macy's, where she worked the same nights as my new shift will be. Her mother would come over to watch our little one during that time. Though she will be out of school and back into the workforce in just a few months, she will do what she needs to help us out. Even if that means taking a job that coincides with our schedule. While I hate to put that on her, she has insisted. 

My wife and I would also be donating plasma regularly. One person who donates plasma the maximum amount of times per month can make around $200 in that month. However, since they are so strict about your urine and blood contents, you are not guaranteed or even likely to be able to donate that often. So, we are not including this in our future budget plan. 

All of this would help us to move out of my parents' house. The goal is to find a one bedroom for no more than $500/mo. It is doable. The university I will be attending offers family housing. One bedroom for $480/mo, and two bedrooms for $500/mo. However, in order to be accepted into the Spring move-in dates, you must apply in November. And the Winter move-in dates application periods have already passed. So, while these rates are far above any other we will find, it looks as though this will not be doable... We need out ASAP!

This brings me to the more financial side of things... We have been trying to decide... Should I take money out of savings in order to pay off a monthly bill of $100 (payoff is $549). We have $793 in our main savings account, $590 of which is EF. We also have $1,154 in another savings account, that might need to be used for airfare later next year for a somewhat expected emergency (sorry that I cannot provide more information on that), that - of not taken care of when it comes up - could spell unemployment for me. 

If I do not payoff this $100/mo bill, we will not be able to afford to move out.

Thoughts on this?

Also, I have a $200/mo bill in which I owe a total of $11,600. This is a no-interest loan from my parents. They paid-off a car while I was in college before (yes, I graduated). They did this without me asking, abd considered it a graduation gift. That car is now gone, and so is the loan. The loan was part of their second mortgage. Their second mortgage is being written off as a loss at Wells Fargo. Currently, this $200 goes to lay for my Mother's addictions to beer and cigarettes (which she spends $300/mo on). 

Since this loan was written off at the bank, I feel that when we move out, I will stop paying it. Their total disregard for my family's safety is inexcusable, and I do not feel obligated to pay this bill anymore. 

The worst thing about stopping payment to them is that I am going back on my word. However, they have gotten $8,000 from me ($600 of which is since the loan was written off). Also, I would be severing ties with my family. I feel they are - with the exception of my father - an endangerment to my child. For instance, my Mother's addictions get in the way of her ability to watch our daughter. She once placed her on the kitchen counter so she could reach into the fridge and get a beer. This is one of many dangerous situations she has put our daughter in...

Would you continue to pay, or would you stop?

Thank you for reading and for providing your opinions. This is an important post to me, personally.

More Free Money!

September 27th, 2011 at 09:12 am

Recently, coming up with money for consumer goods that we actually need has been difficult. We need winter clothing and shoes and some odds & ends.

However, we have gotten a little help. A few days ago, my wife took in some clothes of hers that she does not wear, and sold them. She got $31 and was able to purchase one new outfit and still had some left over that we put into our clothing budget savings.

The other day, we were able to afford $115 worth of items at Target. 1/3 of that was regular expenses, while the rest was - thankfully - a coat for each of us, and a pair of pants for myself. That means that I now have three pairs of pants. Yay? And my wife only has one...

The other day, we received an offer from Target, saying that if we create our wedding registry, print it out, and take it to customer service, we would get a $20 gift card. We signed up for this before we got married over a year ago, so we felt that it would not be entirely dishonest if we were to take advantage of this offer.

So we did just that. Sunday, we got the card, and my wife was able to get some much-needed undergarments.

It's slow, and it's paycheck-to-paycheck as far as getting things we need, but it is working so far. Thankfully, we still have a good amount in savings, though we do need to payback our EF. But I am currently working on paying my auto repairs fund, as tires are an upcoming purchase of about $350.

On Saturday, I changed the oil in our car. Now, most people pay about $20 at any old lube shop for their oil changes. Not me. I have had far too many negative experiences at tire, lube, and mechanic shops. So I take it upon myself. Also, the oil we get costs $50 for 5 quarts. "Why?!" you may ask. Wel, it is AMSOIL Signature Series 100% Synthetic oil. This oil lasts up to 25,000 miles or 1 year. You do the math... Actually, don't. I already did for you. Well... For me. Using this oil costs $0.0027 per mile. Motorcraft (Ford brand oil) synthetic blend is $0.007 per mile. And Mobil 1 ful synthetic is $0.006 per mile. Quite a difference. Also, AMSOIL is proven by independent sources to cause less wear, to warm up faster, and to burn cleaner. So, it's a great buy.

As for those tires I will be getting later... They are Kumho Low Rolling Resistance tires that will last up to 100,000 miles or 6 yrs, with a warrantee, and cost LESS than the standard tires.

It's all about the quality of the maintenance you put into your vehicles. Smile

Okay, so let's end this rambling and let you get on with your day!

Eventfully Crazy Week!

September 21st, 2011 at 10:59 am

Lots of stuff has been going on recently. So much so, that I have not been able to complete a blog post recently. Here is a run-down of the most recent week, only:

Thursday, 15th - our custom-built computer took a plunge, leaving us with no way to watch Grey's Anatomy, movies, or anything for my wife to do on downtime (besides walks and what-not that she usually does).

Friday, 16th - All three of us - my wife, 7 mo-old, and myself - come down with a pretty harsh cold or flu. I got a head cold mainly, with small instances of stomach yuckiness. The wife had the same, with more severe congestion and stomach yucks. Our baby was whiney, and kept trying to clear her throat by growling. Smile 

Saturday, 17th - Still sick. Our friend, who is married to my best friend, is in town from South Korea until the 27th, and Saturday was her baby shower. We missed it, as we did not want to get anyone sick. 

We went to Other Mothers and sold some baby items. We got $31. $10 went towards a treat, as we had not had one that week, and $20 went into our winter clothing fund. Also went to K-Mart and picked up some eyeliner for my wife and two bags of dog food with an old K-Mart gift card we had. Played a couple games of Scrabble.

Sunday, 18th - Not much happened on Sunday. Still sick, so we had to miss church for the second week in a row. Went grocery shopping and got lemon and honey to make Hottie Totties with the Jack Daniels we still have from our wedding. Great remedy for sore throats and congestion. Played a few games of Scrabble. 

Our baby had a fever as high as 101, so we were pretty worried and kept a close eye on her. 

Monday, 19th - Work. Ugh! I was feeling a little better. Before work, our little one had a fever of 101 again, and was unhappy. Later, while I was at work, her temp went down to 96.8, while she is normally 97.1. 

At work, while I was driving my two DDA clients to run some errands, one had a behaviour that involved slamming on the dash of our car, popping off the trim of the vent. He then slammed against me, grabbed my head and neck, and dug his nails in, leaving cuts on my neck and temple. 

Tuesday, 20th - After picking up my paycheck from the office at work, I headed to pick up our computer from the repair shop. The power supply unit went out, which blew out one of the SATA ports (connects the motherboard to the hard drive), and three of the four memory card slots.

So, obviously a computer cannot function without power, memory, or storage. 

$55 was the flat rate for them to diagnose the computer.

Got home and my dad was in town (truck driver), and as some of you know, we currently live in my parents' house. Unfortunately, so does my oldest brother. He has been there for a few years, and has made no progress towards financial stability. 

Long-story-short, my older brother attacked me. It was quite the scuffle, and it created much unrest in the house. My wife is even more uncomfortable with him in the house, what with his explosive behaviour and booze and drug problems. Her parents are very unhappy with how the situation was handled. Basically, he will continue to be allowed to live there. Now, I was not beaten up or anything (ONE good thing I got from the Army), but I do not like to fight. I can. I choose not to. I am a Christian, and a family man. 

Anyways... So, we are stuck with him living in that house, where my baby and wife reside. How's that for stress?

Later that night, I ordered an iMac. Now, our Windows computer is fixable with a motherboard and power supply. However, a good power supply unit is about $100, while the motherboard would be around $200. $300 for a computer we are replacing in March anyways? No, thank you. 

So we ordered the iMac we wanted and planned on getting in March with our taxes. While we do have money for the computer, it is in emergency funds and other savings, so that is not an option. I remembered receiving a letter saying I was pre-approved for BillMeLater's 6-month period of no interest or payments. That should take us to March 20th. We should have taxes back before then. 

I am going to part-out my current computer. Should be able to get a few hundred out of it. 

Quite the week we have had, eh? Any positive vibes, prayers, etc. are much appreciated!

Historically High U.S. Fuel Export

September 9th, 2011 at 11:56 am

Wondering just how much the govt cares about gas prices?

Take into account that the U.S. has recently reached a historical high for exported oil...

Text is U.S. News - Historically High Oil Exports Helping Keep Gas Prices High and Link is http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/energy-intelligence/2011/09/08/historically-high-oil-exports-helping-keep-gas-prices-high
U.S. News - Historically High Oil Exports Helping Keep Gas P...

By PATRICK DEHAAN
September 8, 2011
Many Americans know supply and demand can make an impact on how many dollars they shell out at their local gasoline station--the lower the supply the higher the price. Is part of the reason supply is low because refiners are keeping it there deliberately while sending refined oil overseas?

[Read: How Much Oil is There?]

Refiners have been shipping historically high amounts of refined products out of the U.S., much of which is bound for Europe or Asia. Since diesel demand is high from Europe, where a majority of vehicles burn the heavier fuel, refiners can make a few extra dollars from each barrel by shipping it across the Atlantic. Meanwhile, domestic supply of diesel fuel currently sits nearly 11 percent below where it was last year, or some 19 million barrels lower.

[Read the U.S. News debate: Should offshore drilling be expanded?]

Certainly the fact that U.S. refiners are exporting such a high volume of product overseas is not only keeping domestic supply tighter than years past, but it's also supporting high prices. Gasoline exports are also at record highs, some 395,000 barrels per day, according to the most recent Energy Information Administration numbers. Just earlier this summer, we were exporting 200,000 barrels per day of finished gasoline, so refineries are now sending nearly double the amount of gasoline out of this country. Looking at gasoline inventories, we see a similar deficit because of the amount of gasoline being shipped out. Not surprisingly, the latest EIA numbers show gasoline inventories some 7.4 percent or nearly 17 million barrels below there year ago levels. [See a collection of political cartoons on gas prices.]

The bottom line is this: historically high exports aren't allowing U.S. domestic supply to grow and are certainly a part of the culprit behind high gasoline and diesel prices. So for those motorists out there rounding up reasons why prices are high can certainly add products being exported to their laundry list of reasons why motor fuel prices remain seasonally high. Keep in mind refinery maintenance season is right around the corner, and if these export rates remain high, we could see even more pressure on gasoline prices, perhaps pushing the fragile U.S. economy closer to the brink of another downturn.

Pedal Power - the new old ride

August 17th, 2011 at 09:31 am

Over the weekend, I purchased a 1972 Schwinn Varsity 10-speed road bicycle. This bicycle will serve as my secondary means of travel, for when I start school in the Spring. Unfortunately, I cannot commute to work unless I were to leave my vehicle at work, as I am required to transport DDA individuals. This is not an option, as we lack a second vehicle to leave at home in case of emergencies. Quite unfortunate.

The bicycle itself is in pretty good condition. Great condition, considering its age! There are a few things that need done on it - adjust front brake pads, adjust or replace rear brake line, figure out the gearing. Gearing on these older bicycles is a completely different story. 


Text is 1972 Schwinn Varsity 10-speed and Link is http://www.flickr.com/photos/urabbit_foto/6053393334/
1972 Schwinn Varsity 10-speed by
Text is uRabbit_foto and Link is http://www.flickr.com/people/urabbit_foto/
uRabbit_foto, on Flickr


As you can see in the image above, the gear levers are much different than today's more compact, robust gear shifters. The left lever controls the front gears. There are two front gears and I refer to them as HI and LO. In the rear, are five more gears, making a total of 10 possible gear positions. Currently, the rear derailleur (shifter) is skipping gears 2 and 3. This could be an issue, considering I have hills to climb on this bicycle.

Other than that, there really is not much needing done to this 39 year old two-wheeled vehicle. I do need to get a helmet, multi-tool, open-end wrench set, pump, etc. Also, I will most likely take this in to get a complete tune-up.

Locally, we have the
Text is Boise Bicycle Project and Link is http://BoiseBicycleProject.com
Boise Bicycle Project, which is a non-profit shop that does much more than your average bike shop. Their going rate is $10/hr. However, if you pay the $50 yearly membership fee, you get unlimited shop hours, classes, and a 10% discount on parts/in-store purchases. Great deal! I will be doing this when we get the extra dough. It will not be very soon, as I need to pay-back savings for the speeding ticket...

Also, I will be working toward getting the wife a bicycle and a trailer for our little one. It seems women's bicycles are going fairly cheaper than men's, and trailers are super cheap as well. Cannot wait for a family ride! Hopefully by next Spring.

Financial Fitness Update & Oregon Trip Summary

August 7th, 2011 at 02:04 pm

Well, we had a wonderful trip to the Oregon coast this past week. It was absolutely beautiful! We took over 700 pictures with our

Text is Fujifilm S1800 and Link is http://www.fujifilm.com/products/digital_cameras/s/finepix_s1800/
Fujifilm S1800, and enjoyed the company of family, as well as our little one's firsts! First time at the beach, first road trip, and first tooth! Uh oh! She did so well on the road trip. Our last night, however, her first tooth cut and she was not a happy camper. Still did exceptionally well!

Our last day there, we spent in Portland. Oh my! Portland is most definitely our destination of future dwelling! It was already on our minds before we went - but now, there is absolutely no comparison!

In fact, we are so bored by our hometown now, that we are finding it hard to leave the house, even though we dread the house so much. We have to go get diapers today, but cannot figure out what else to do. It's tragic! This place is horrid. Ick!

On the way home from the trip, I got a speeding ticket. Ah! The one time I wished we had cruise control in our car. I should not have been speeding, but alas, I was. $287 ticket! Worst part is that my teenage speeding tickets are dropping off this year. And now this! Grr! Guess insurance will be going up... Might call to find out how much.

As for finances... Before we left for our trip, my Chase Freedom card came in the mail. We used it all throughout the trip and did quite well. Should earn quite a bit of reward points. However, somehow between tracking the transactions and some transactions pending, I am off on my math by about $300. We budgeted $381 for the trip. Came over by $11. That makes $392. That should leave $108 on my tiny credit limit. But it shows $148 and I cannot find the transactions that are missing. So, I am waiting for the bill to come in before I spend anything out-of-budget.

Also, I am looking at going back to college. I want to become a Registered Nurse. However, there are not many options here. I want to get my Associates first, so that I may start working sooner, and then get my BS via a RN-BSN bridge program. The only schools in Boise that offers an Associates are Carrington College (a for-profit school) and College of Western Idaho. The difference in tuition is about $10,000! Carrington is probably quicker, as it pumps out students like no tomorrow and has no wait list, but CWI is probably better, as the local university (BSU) accepts graduates of CWI for their RN-BSN program. Also, Carrington would be very difficult to attend while working as well.

So many things to consider! It is getting quite stressful!

Current Happenings - Road Trip, Car Stereo, etc.

July 25th, 2011 at 12:26 pm

I wanted to post another regular blog entry today, but I simply have not had time lately. So, instead, I will post the current happenings in my life.

Credit
I decided that, since all my credit debt is done away with, I should get a card without an annual fee and with cashback rewards so that I may use it every day in place of my debit card, so as to build my credit up, and to get free money. 

I began researching cards, and the two that suit me best were the Chase Freedom and Capital One Cash Rewards cards. I rather liked the Discover and AMEX cards better, but they did not provide the "everywhereness" that Visa/MC does. I may yet use an AMEX of Discover in places that will take it. Probably just stick with one card though. I was declined for the Capital One card with no annual fee, but was approved for Chase's with a $100 cashback if I send $500 in three months. No problem! So, that is in the mail.

I did some quick math, and estimated that I can make at least $84/yr off of this card. And, since it is not a budgeted income, and do not have to redeem it at any time, I can let it sit there until I feel like having a surprise.

Also, just received confirmation that my Best Buy credit card account was closed with zero balance and that it is being reported to the three major credit bureaus. Woohoo for that!

Road Trip 
As of the 30th, my wife and I will be in Tillamook, OR, for a family get-together on her mother's side. It will be the longest road trip I've ever driven, so it should be fun! 

We have $381 set aside for this trip (money from

Text is selling my class ring and Link is http://urabbit.savingadvice.com/2011/07/14/gold-for-cash-under-budget-again_71353/
selling my class ring). We also have $306 leftover after paying bills (technically, about $250, as some is for gas). I was thinking we would keep this $306 in case of any emergencies during travel. However, I have not made a double-payment on my current target debt, and I do have $1,000 in EF, so I was thinking also that I should probably just make that double payment...

We will also be visiting Portland on our last day there. And, as a possible future home for our family, wenwould really like to get a non-touristy feel for the city. We are going to visit a coffee shop or two, a place for breakfast, a place for lunch, and I place for dinner, and then possibly visit some neighbourhoods. We are not sure. Any ideas?

Car Stereo
While still paying down debts, I was able to save $100 for a new car stereo. We are so excited! It has been pain not being able to listen to anything other than the radio! So I went onto
Text is Crutchfield and Link is http://crutchfield.com/
Crutchfield's web site and looked around there, as well as other retailers. Got a beautiful stereo with USB, AUX in, CD player that reads MP3 and WMA, Bluetooth for hands-free, a remote, and HD Radio! So excited about the HD Radio! The wife and I tried to install it ourselves in order to save $50, but it was unsuccessful. Taking it in today to get it done. Maybe they won't charge the full $50 since it is 3/4 done...

This stereo retails for $139.99. Crutchfield had it for $99.99. A simple Google search found me a $20-off coupon code for Cruthfield. So I ended up paying $79.99 for the stereo, totaling $98 for everything, including free shipping and gear for installation.

Work
I will be working at another location tomorrow. I am not entirely happy with this change that my employer is doing (again!), but I am their go-to guy, so it is to be expected. A long-time employee left for a better job with Enterprise Rent-A-Car and I will be taking his place. I do not look forward to the higher maintenance and more fragile work environment, but it may help make the days go faster as well. 

Baby
Our daughter, Lorelei, is growing every day! Saturday, she decided that she would suck through a straw. This morning, my wife calls me to tell me that she is saying 'mama'. 

Our little 5.5-month old will be presenting us with teenage material in no time! Ah!

Rounding
Some of you know that I execute a wonderful tool called rounding. What this entails, is I round up to the nearest dollar on all withdrawal transactions and run down on all deposit transactions, then  record it in my PocketMoney app. 

The total saved from rounding this month was $17.61. This goes straight into savings.

Fuel Economy
I am consistently achieving 120% of my vehicle's EPA rating. The car is rated at 27mpg city/hwy (55%/45%). However, I am getting - on a long-term average - 35mpg, driving 85% city, 15% hwy. Last tank, I reached an astounding 38 mpg. This is great for a 2.0L engine. Granted, my previous Honda Fit's engine got 42mpg without trying...

Groceries
We came in $27 under budget for the month! Our grocery budget really is helping out! 

So that's what's been going on. Hope everyone finds a bit more time off than I - I will be busy this week!

Babies Can Be Frugal Too!

July 22nd, 2011 at 08:44 am


Lorelei says "Bleeehhhhhh!" to spending money.

This Friday, I would like to talk about babies. So, before you go out and spent a boat-load on your bebe, please give this article a read.

A lot of people feel that babies are expensive. I know of people that spend hundreds of dollars a month on diapers alone. Then there's formula, or when they're old enough, baby food. There's clothing, walkers, high chairs, potty chairs, teething rings, toys, etc., etc.

However, I am here to tell you - you can spend less than $50/mo on your new bundle of joy, and she will still have everything she could ever want or need. 

In the six months our daughter has been on this earth, we have spent less than $1,000, easily. I would go so far to even say we have spent less than $500. Less than $300, even! 

Yes, it is true. How can you do this?

My wife's baby shower is responsible for a lot of it, I must admit. But none of the things we got were worth over $50, for one item. So, if you have any family or friends, chances are they can help you out a lot! The gals at our church were there, as well as family and friends. What we got was quite a few outfits, a breast pump, plenty of cloth diapers, about two month's worth of disposable diapers, and a few odds and ends. 

Most people these days do not breast feed and use disposable diapers. However, since my wife is able to breast feed, that is what we do. Why not? Breast-fed babies are shown to develop mentally, emotionally, and physically better than formula-fed babies. Also, we use cloth diapers. A friend's rationalization for not using cloth diapers, is that he would not wear something that he'd crapped in more than once, so why would he make his child...? Interesting. Spendy, but interesting. We do use disposables when we are out of the house, and at night. We use about one case of diapers every 1.5 to 2 months. Not bad, eh?

When it comes time to start weaning your baby into solid foods, most people purchase baby foods. But why? Laziness. Would you not rather give your baby freshly prepared fruit & veggies straight from your own kitchen? All you need is food and a food processor (or you can mash the foods yourself!). 

Now what about clothing and toys? As you know, babies grow out of both rather rapidly! However, this does not mean you have to spend hundreds of dollars on them. If you have family and friends that are able to help contribute any amount of money to your baby fund (via purchases they make themselves), then you should be set. 

My wife and I took the clothes that our daughter had never worn and was already grown out of, to a store called Other Mothers. We ended up with a lot of in-store credit. And were able to get things for our daughter that she actually needed. So 'second-hand' stores can be great for both the buyer and the seller. And don't go thinking your child is 'too good' for second-hand.

Also keep in mind that your child does not need every obnoxious toy that every store has to offer. Our daughter - now almost six months - has three toys. Her peacock from Babies-R-Us, her twinkly birdie that looks like an elephant that we don't know where it came from (haha!), and her key ring. Those are the ones that were purchased. But usually, she would much rather play with her Oragel tube, a clean toothbrush, or any sort of paper or grass so she can rip it to shreds. Other than that, she also has her walker. So, you can see that we have not spent even $50 on toys yet. Nothing can compete with a child's imagination. 

Just so you are aware, our budgeted allowance for baby-related expenses is $30. And so far this month, we have only spent $12, and the month is almost over.

Some people may think we don't spoil our child enough. And we wouldn't have it any other way!