– Ben Martens

Savings and Debt

I think about retirement more than is normal for someone of my age, but saving for retirement is a long-term game. My basic plan has been to save some money, pay off debt, and then save more money. We’ll see how well that works out for me, but it aligns well with Dave Ramsey’s “7 Baby Steps“.

Those basic guidelines are great, but there are so many small choices along the way. What’s a good order to do them in? Then I found a flow chart on reddit and I was in awe! I’m sure there are people with different opinions, but if I have a tough time believing that anyone would go too far off course if they followed this verbatim. You should be able to click into it to see all the details, but if not, check out the linked post above for the original content.

Rimetrix Laminar Black Wheels

When we were originally pricing out our car, we had planned to go for the upgraded 20″ black wheels because we liked the way they looked better. But when the price increased right before we ordered, we backed off that and went for the default 19″ regular wheels. In the end, I’m glad we did that because those 20″ wheels reduce the total vehicle range and give a slightly rougher ride, but that wasn’t the end of the story.

The Model Y 19″ wheels have a cover that snaps onto the actual rims and that cover improves range by about 7%, but since they are a cover, they’re replaceable. Rimetrix makes some aftermarket wheel covers for the Model Y (and the Model 3). They give the same aerodynamic performance and aesthetically pleasing black look while being significantly cheaper than the 20″ black rims.

The actual installation itself was very quick and I’m super happy with how it came out. Along the way, I also removed the two chrome Tesla badges and replaced the “dual motor” badge on the back with a blacked out version. There’s no chrome left on the car and now we have a car that is slightly different than the ocean of other Model Y’s driving around our area.

Energy Sources

When power plants churn out electricity, it gets integrated by a “balancing authority”. There are a few dozen groups that handle this in the west.

I recently found a site that shows live stats from the Bonneville Power Authority Balancing Authority. On the map, this is represented by the medium blue that covers much of Washington, Oregon, northern Idaho, and western Montana. Every five minutes, the site is updated to show where the power came from those previous five minutes along with the demand level. (Note that VER stands for Variable Energy Resource which means wind, solar, etc. In this case it’s mostly wind.)

So the last five minutes of power were 75% hydro, 9% fossil fuel, 9% nuclear and 6% wind, but for the last couple days, wind was actually producing more of the power than nuclear.

The power at my house comes through PSE so this isn’t exactly applicable to me, but I still find this fascinating. If anyone knows how to find similar data for PSE I’d love to see it! Thanks to Cliff Mass’s excellent weather blog for setting me off on this side track with his post about why energy production declines during heat waves.

End of an Era

I started the Studio711 fantasy football league back in 2007, but I’m closing the league. We won’t be playing this year. It sucks up a lot of my time to write these posts, make sure the league and rosters are full, handle my own team, etc, and while I could probably get by with less effort, I don’t want to do it halfway. It has been a lot of fun over the years, but lately it has felt like more of a drag, and honestly, I didn’t even watch every Seahawks game last year, much less keep up with all the NFL news.

Here’s one last post full of stats summarizing the years from 2007-2021 (minus 2020 when we took a COVID break.)

  • A total of 15 different people participated in the league over the 14 years of the league. Luke, Tim and I were the only people to play in it for all of those years, but Andy and Dad were in 13 of them.
  • I had the most playoff appearances (12 time, 85% of the seasons) but Tyler had a 100% appearance rate over his three seasons.
  • Micah dominated our league for one year with an 85% win percentage but he ended up losing the championship. Of teams that played at least 3 seasons, the top three win percentages are Tyler (62.8%), Logan (62.6%), and me (59.7%.)
  • Logan made the most moves per season (32.5) and Chelsea made the least (6).
  • Logan averaged the most points per season (1745 over 11 seasons) and Ed averaged the least (1436 over 3 seasons).

Thank you to everyone who participated over the years!

Seaquest State Park Camping

In the summer of 2020, we had planned to camp with Tyla’s family at Seaquest State Park. Don had gotten stuck out of state during COVID and was still quarantining, but we did make the trip with Logan and Megan. This year we decided to try again and thankfully we were all able to make it.

We could not have asked for better weather! It was in the mid 70s during the day and mid 50s at night. There were scattered clouds both days, and on the first day, there were just enough clouds obscuring the mountain that we didn’t make the drive up to the visitor center. (We were watching the webcam.) Instead, we went to Harry Gardner Park and sat along the river for a while. I took my drone and managed to photo some kind of big hawk in flight! (It’s on the left side if the river in the center of the photo.) At the time I thought it was a bald eagle but the tail isn’t white so I guess it was something else.

On Saturday, the web cam looked great when we woke up so we ate breakfast and made the 1 hour drive up to the observatory. Getting there early was really nice as we didn’t follow a line of campers up the mountain. There were more clouds by then but we still had a great view. I’ve been there twice in 2007 and once each in 2011, 2012 (when we climbed it!), and 2020. It’s fun to see how much it has changed over the years. The dome was rebuilding for a while and the area around the mountain is slowly coming back to life. Check out these pictures comparing my view from 2007 with the view from 2022. There’s a lot more green and the dome inside the crater has grown.

Mt. St. Helens 2007
Mt. St. Helens 2022

All in all, it was a fun trip. I pitched in a couple meals but thanks to Don for taking the bulk of the work! It also makes tent camping a lot easier when your camping buddies have a camper!

Identifying Tesla Models

Welcome to another Tesla Tuesday!

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the current prices for the various models, but how do you tell them apart when you see one in the wild? It takes a little practice, but here are some identifying characteristics:

Tesla Model 3

If you don’t know, guess Model 3. Today, this is the most common Tesla on the road (but going forward the Y is expected to overtake it.) The 3 is the smallest of the four models. It’s a four door sedan and, like the Y, it has no main grill openings on the front aside from the opening on the very bottom of the bumper.

Tesla Model Y

The looks like a bigger version of the 3. In fact, they share ~70% of their parts. The Y doesn’t have any grill openings either. The Y is a bit taller (~7 inches) and is a “crossover” style. It has a full liftgate instead of a trunk. It’s easy to get these confused with the Model 3.

Tesla Model S

Like the 3, the S is a sedan, but this one looks a lot fancier. You can differentiate the S and X from the 3 and Y by the grill “opening” with the Tesla logo. The rear end of the newer S and the X models also have a chrome accent that runs between both tail lights. These models usually have an emblem in the lower left of the rear that says “Model S”.

Tesla Model X

The X is BIG. It’s a full size SUV, but like the S, it has a grill “opening” and the chrome accent between the tail lights. If you see it in a parking lot, you’ll notice the gull wing doors. The door handles for the front and rear doors are also centered along the line between the doors.

Charging Costs vs Gas Prices

Welcome to anotherĀ Tesla Tuesday!

Before we did the car, I did a lot of research and math to compare a Model Y’s long term cost of ownership to the Ford Escape that we likely would have purchased instead. As part of that, I estimated that gas was going to average $3.50/gallon over the life of the car. That was about the average around us when I was doing the research and while I knew prices would go up a bit, I wanted to be very conservative (favoring the Escape over the Model Y.) Obviously the world has changed a lot since then and gas costs an average of $5.44 around us. How does that affect my calculations?

First let’s talk about how I’m collecting data. Finding “average gas prices” is a bit tricky. Most sites that you’ll find show averages for the state by month. That’s better than nothing, but our area is typically more expensive than other parts of the state, and we should be able to do better than monthly data. The GasBuddy website has daily updates on gas prices at a lot of gas stations. I wrote an app that checks the price for regular gas at the 6 closest gas stations to our house. I log that data to a database every day.

The next piece of the puzzle is figuring out how much gas I would have been buying at those processes. Obviously that’s a little tricky to get exactly right, but I’ve estimated it by looking at the total miles driven per day in our new car and assuming that I would just pay for that much gas each day. I get the daily mileage from the Tesla APIs and log that to the database as well. I’m left with a query that shows X miles driven for a given day when the gas price was $Y. I use the average MPG from our last Escape and do the math to estimate how much we would have paid for gas that day.

The Tesla API also gives me a record of every time I’ve charged the car. It tells me not just how much energy was added to the battery, but how much energy I pulled from the wall to account for a small amount of loss in the charging process. We have a tiered electricity cost based on total usage for the month so I assume that all the charging costs are in the highest tier.

When I was working out the math to see if an electric car would be cheaper, I had planned on saving $12.72 on gas per 100 miles. But that as planning at $3.50/gallon, so what does all the data show? After putting 2100 miles on the new car, I’m happy to report that we are saving $18.68 per 100 miles!

Shop Tour – Organization

Marc over at The Wood Whisperer sent a message to members of his guild and asked us for videos of our shops. He’s working on a new video that somehow incorporates videos from normal humans. I have no idea how that will work, but I decided to film a quick video and send it to him. We’ll see how that plays out but I thought that I’d share it here too. The ask was to focus on organization so I hit few points in my shop that I think are interesting.

It’s interesting looking back at photos and videos I shot in the garage in the past. I don’t feel like I change/update my workshop area that often, but it’s in a constant state of flux. It just keeps getting a little better every year.

Tesla Prices

Welcome to anotherĀ Tesla Tuesday!

Let’s talk about price, but first let’s set some context. Car prices are increasing rapidly in the entire market. The average car price in May 2022 was $47,148 and prices are up ~15% compared to just 12 months ago. It’s not a great time to be buying a car.

Teslas are obviously more expensive than the average car, but there are a lot of misconceptions out there about how expensive they are. It’s not uncommon to hear people talk about how they don’t have $100k to spend on a car so they can’t get a Tesla. Yikes.

Tesla makes four models: S, 3, X, and Y. (Yes, that was intentional. The “Model E” trademark was owned by Ford.)

Starting on the low end, we have the Model 3. It’s the cheapest way you can get into a Tesla at $46,990. The Model Y is a crossover version of the Model 3. They share a lot of parts and styling. The Model Y starts at $65,990. The Model S is a premium luxury/sports car. It starts at $104,990 but they also offer the Plaid trim for $135,990 which gets you 0-60 in under 2 seconds. The Model X is the most expensive one, and it’s the one with the fancy gullwing doors. It takes the speed and luxury of the Model S but also gives you room for 7. $120,990 or $138,990 for the Plaid trim.

Those prices have gone up… a lot. Two years ago, you could have bought a Model Y for almost $20,000 less than today. Tesla keeps raising the prices and people keep ordering them. The wait list is still 4-12 months long depending on what trim level you buy.

I’m usually the guy who gets into a line right as it stops growing, but this time we did much better and placed our order early in that price ramp. Frustratingly it did jump $2k as we waited an extra three days to take one more test drive before putting in our order, but still, I’m glad we got in when we did.

When you look at Tesla’s website, the pricing is a little tricky to figure out because the prices they show by default are the prices with “potential savings.” They’re guessing about fuel savings, tax credits, etc. And that’s where pricing gets so complicated. When you buy a gas car, you’re just getting started on your total cost of ownership. You still need to pay for things like gas and service. When you buy an electric vehicle, you’re sort of prepaying for a lot of that total cost of ownership. The initial purchase is higher, but the long term costs are lower since electricity is much cheaper than gas and there is very little maintenance or service required on an electric car. So yes, the prices are expensive (especially now) but to truly compare your total cost, you need to think about the full lifespan of your vehicle and see how that math works out for you.

I had spreadsheets galore when I was researching all this before our order and I was confident that we’d at least break even buying an electric car versus a comparable gas car, but I’m not stopping there. I’m keeping good records to see how that plays out. I recently set up a spreadsheet that looks at how much energy I used to charge the car every night and compares it to the average price of gas at the six stations closest to me so I can estimate what I would have paid to put an equivalent amount of gas into my car. So far we’ve saved $391 over the first 1500 miles.

A couple years ago, it seemed like we were hitting he point where electric vehicles were going to get popular and prices were going to come down. Well, they got popular, but now everything is getting more expensive so prices have gone way up. Thankfully the popularity of these cars is still increasing, but for them to truly take off, we need $20-30k more models to be available (and good.)

Gridfinity Organization System

I have a pile of random screws, nuts, bolts, and washers in my shop. I buy little bags or boxes of random sizes of things, use a third of them, and then the bags sit around forever because they are such a mess that I can never find them when I need them. The whole thing seemed so random that I never really put much time into looking for an organization system, but now that I have 3D printer, I have the ability to custom make exactly what I need!

A couple of months ago, Zack Freedman released his “Gridfinity” system. The system is based on a grid of baseplates and then each bin/holder can be easily stacked in various combinations. I was downloaded exactly the bins I wanted, customized his model to make some new bins, and made a series of prints that resulted in a lot more organization. This is a project that I’ll keep adding to, but for now it feels good to have brought some order to the chaos. Not bad for ~$10 in filament!