Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Conundrum

In May of 2003 I purchased a Panasonic surround sound system that can be classified under the heading of a "home theatre in a box" as all the necessary components come in one convenient package: 5 speakers, sub-woofer, and 5-disk DVD player/receiver. This auditory wonder has served me well over the past 5 years, with only an easily fixed, over-heating problem to speak of. However there is now a problem:

It's dead.

About a week ago we noticed that after being turned on for several minutes, the unit would power down and go into standby mode. At this point, the unit can not be powered back on unless the power cord was unplugged.

Being the internet savy person that I am, I explored the wonders of Google to discover that this is a known issue with this, and other, surround sounds systems. Generically dubbed, "The F61 Error" has three possible causes: faulty cabling leading to the subwoofer, an amp being blown, or a power supply issue.

I removed all cabling from the device, yet the error persisted. I opened it up to see if there was any charring from something being blown, but nothing was evident. Thus I reach my conundrum: What is the best way to get this situation resolved?

My 2002 self would know what to do of course: go to futureshop and buy the coolest looking surround sound system they had. However, I'd like to think I've grown wiser in the intervening years and think I should investigate the following three options:

(NOTE: time frames and costs are estimates only as I have not done much research yet on options #2 and #3)

Option #1: Get it professionally repaired
Ideally, this option makes the most sense. However, there are a very limited supply of people that do consumer-level electronic repair work. I went through 6 places before I called one that could do it. The catch: they have a two month backlog because the main guy that would do it is always out repairing big-screen TVs since they make more bang per buck that way.
Estimated Option #1 Cost: $50 labour + parts
Estimated Option #1 Timeframe: 2+ months

Option #2: Purchase a new receiver w/o subwoofer and use current speakers
With this otion I would sell/get rid of the current 5-disk changer and subwoofer and get a new receiver which would hook-up to my current 5 speakers. I have to investigate whether any receiver can work for these speakers or it needs to have certain specifications. I'm wary about that since the instruction manual says not to hook different speakers to the subwoofer. Does anyone know if that works in reverse: hooking the speakers to a different receiver?
Estimated Option #2 Cost: $200-500
Estimated Option #2 Timeframe: 1-2 weeks as I need to research my concerns.

Option #3: Bite the bullet and get a brand new system
This option requires the least amount of thought and time yet will be the most expensive by far. It would be great to cave-in to my technolust and get a snazzy wireless suround sound system, but I can probably keep that crazy beast subdued in the back of my brain.
Estimated Option #3 Cost: $300-1500
Estimated Option #3 Timeframe: immediately

So looking at those options it's kind of neat to see the inverse correlation between cost and the time investment to resolve the situation.

However, despite all this, I have to ask the question: "Do I really need a working surround sound system at this point in my life?" It honestly does not get that much use as it is and if we want to watch a DVD we can always hook up the X-box to the tv in the living room. I'm more just pissed off that one of the constants in my life, my entertainment status-quo as it were, is effed up.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Net Worth Update May 2008

A little later in the month than usual, but let's see if I reached my goals I set for May, shall we:

Assets - Up 4.7%
Goal set: +3.0% increase

A moderately higher asset increase than planned. I won't complain! This is due in part to keeping a reign on spending and you know, not purchasing $700 beds.

Goal for next month: I expect a nice bump in assets for next month since I'm getting a fair bit of subbing at island schools and I am back at Resolve full time. I am also going to try and unload some comics finally! As a bonus, I am resolving not to buy items that contribute to my "Latte Factor," such as chips, pop, coffee, muffins, etc... and really curbing my eating out at places like MacDonalds, Wendy's, and A&W. So let's go nuts and say a 5% increase.

Debt - Down 103.5%
Goal set: 2.0% decrease

Wow!!! WTF??? This month saw the total elimination of my current debt. How you might ask? Stay tuned...

Goal for next month: Well, this is interesting, isn't it? Since we aren't at the point where we are comfortable investing our savings yet, I may just keep adding to the bank account that will be used to fuel student loan payback as I will be accruing debt in September. This may be the topic of a future post. In terms of a goal, I think I will keep things simple and just focus on paying off the credit card consistently like I have been doing.

Overall Net Worth - Up 29.5%

That's certainly a hell of a bump. Next month should be back to more moderate increases.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


One of my main vices for over spending is on eating out. Not nice sit -down, enjoy yourself, enjoy the atmosphere type meals, but rather the quick and dirty, often greasy take-out fast food variety. Those fatty deep fried morsels just taste so good on the tongue that it is often hard for me to resist the neon signs and 2 for $6 burger deals.

So I made a pact to myself: For the month of June I will not buy/eat this so-called food in the efforts to improve my health and also my wallet.

It shames me to say, but I spent over $100 on eating out last month. Not all of those dollars went towards fast food. No sir. Incldued in that 3-digit figure is a coffee here, a coffee there, here a pop, there a pop, a bag of chips sounds good type items. Those little things, which would be considered under the category of the Latte factor, really do add a significant drain on the pocketbook.

I would like to say that things are going very well thus far. I've cooked big batches of food including barley-chicken soup, chili, cornbread, and barley-lemon Tabbouleh (recipes and cost analysis to follow), so I don't have the often-used excuse that there is nothing to eat at home. So far for the month of June I have not indulged in any of my culinary vices.

I almost, possibly, kind-of slipped today though.

I didn't have a large lunch today and as I drove my fiance to work, I felt a familiar pain in my stomach saying "FEED ME". Rather than drive back home to get something to eat, my last month self would have swung into Wendy's or A&W and called it Good Eats. I was sorely tempted to purchase a premade $3.99 sandwich at Superstore today to feed my hunger. I know for a fact that if I did so, a $2 pop and a $1.50 bag of chips would have tagged along with it. This would have represented a $7.49 meal before any applicable taxes. I'm pretty sure that the chips would have been taxed and the pop price is with tax, but for the purposes of this analysis I think taxes will be inconsequential.

I did not take this option.

What I did instead was as follows:

1. I moseyed on over to the discount baked goods section and picked up a 50% off loaf of in-store baked European 12-grain bread. Cost after discount $1.25.
2. I sauntered to the produce section and took hold of an especially firm, medium sized tomato. Cost: $0.80.
3. I wandered to the deli counter and ordered 2 slices of Vermont style Ham and 2 slices of Roast Beef. Cost: $1.89 and $2.40 respectively.
4. I strolled to the condiment aisle and snatched a small bottle of mustard as the deli counter did not have small fast-food type packets. Cost: $0.89.
5. I side-stepped in the condiment aisle and secured a jar of deli-style bread and butter pickles. Cost $1.99.

Total price of the goods here: $9.22 and these items are tax-exempt.

I then drove to work, spent 5-10 minutes constructing two, 1 meat slice sandwiches, grabbed a free leftover bleuberry-bran muffin and a cup of free leftover Vanilla-Hazlenut coffee from the cafeteria, and had a delicious and nutritious meal.

Going the non-last-month-me-way provided the means to create 4 sandwiches with ample leftovers for other delicious things. Based on the total price of $9.22, this works out to be $2.31/sandwich. 42% cheaper than buying the premade one.

One could argue that since I had two sandwiches I really spent $4.62 on sandwich food, more than what would have been had with Superstore's convenience item. However, the calculation above ignores the fact that I have most of a tomato, a nearly full bottle of mustard, a jar packed with pickles, a good many future pieces of toast, and two more slices of meat leftover, all of which will be used. It also ignores that I had a free beverage and muffin rather than the pop and bag of chips. A deeper analysis could be performed to get the price of each pickle and slice of bread based on the number of each in the package/container, but that's a bit too anal even for me.

Thus ended my almost slip-up of not eating junk food. It was a good choice I think both for my health and my wallet and will think about options like this in the future if I feel myself craving those convenience foods.

[Edit 06/11/08: Turns out I am that anal. As a per item cost the breakdown is as follows:

1. The loaf of bread had 16 slices that were suitable for sandwiches.
Unit cost:$0.078 per slice.

2. The jar of pickles had 16 large pickle slices.
Unit cost: $0.124 per pickle.

3. I figure I could get 12 tomato slices out of the tomato I got.
Unit cost: $0.067 per slice.

4. The bottle of mustard had 250 mL in it and I'm guessing that each sandwich can have 25 mL in it.
Unit cost: $0.089 per 25 mL serving.

5. The ham was
$0.945 per slice and the roast beef was $1.20 per slice.

Thus as a total cost for each sandwich:
Ham sandwich: $0.945 + $0.078x2 + $0.124 + $0.067 + $0.089 = $1.38 per ham sandwich.
Roast Beef sandwich: $1.20 + $0.078x2 + $0.124 + $0.067 + $0.089 = $1.64 per roast beef sandwich.

Total cost of sandwich goodness for this one meal: $3.02. Again, cheaper than the pre-made variety.