Monday, February 23, 2009

ziarat rasool (pbuh&hf)

O Allah! Send blessings on Muhammad and on the children of Muhammad. In th name of Allah, the Beneficent the Merciful. I testify that there is no god save Allah; He is One; there is no associate (partner)with Him. I testify that you are His Messenger, and you are Muhammad son of Abdullah; and I testify that you had delivered the Message of your Lord, advised and warned your followers (Ummah) like a sincere friend, and strived, leaving no stone unturned, against heavy odds, in the cause of Allah, with wisdom and good advice. Strong and powerful support from the Truthful (Allah), was put at your disposal; (and) you had been kind and compassionate to the believers, (but) was harsh with the disbelievers, and had sincerely served Allah, till the inevitable (what was certain) came unto you. So Allah made you reach the highest stage of glory and honour. (All) praise is for Allah (only) who saved us through you from the polytheism and going astray.

O Allah! Send blessings on Muhammad and on his children.

Thy blessings and invocations of thy Angels, (of) Thy Prophets and Messengers, (of) Thy pious servants, (of) the people of the heavens and the earths, and (of) those who glorify Thee, (O the Lord of the worlds), from among the ancient and the present, be on Muhammad, Thy servant and Messenger, Thy Prophet, Thy confidant, Thy volunteer, Thy intimate friend, sincerely attached to Thee, purified by Thee, Thy favourite, the best essence from Thee, chosen in preference by Thee from Thy creation, and gave him surpassing superiority and eminence in wisdom and character, subtle ways and means, highest stations, and put him on the pedestal of (praiseworthy) fame and fortune; found his position enviable the men of old and the men of later time. O Allah, Thou said: “And if, when they had wronged themselves, they had but come unto you and asked forgiveness of Allah, and asked forgiveness of the Messenger, they would have found Allah forgiving, Merciful.” O my Allah, therefore I turn repentant to Thy Prophet (S.A.), asking pardon for my sins, (so send blessing on Muhammad and on his children), and be kind to me. O our chief, direct yourself, and your “Ahluh Bayt” towards the Most praised Allah, Thy Lord and my Lord, in the matter of my request

Recite 3 times:

for verily we are Allah’s and verily unto Him shall we return.

Then recite:

With love and longing for you, we move, O dearest friend, in your direction, because the misery has increased, since revelation (Wahi) has been cut off, and we lost you. Verify we are Allah’s; and verily unto Him shall we return.

O our Chief! O our Messenger of Allah! Blessings of Allah be on you and on the pure and pious people of your house.

Today is Saturday, your day, and I in its hours, take refuge with you ; seek your nearness, (so) receive me with open arms, let me be near you, because you are very kind, love to be hospitable, chosen and assigned to give asylum and refuge, (therefore) make me feel at home, a most generous friendly welcome, take us under your shelter, a most reliable protection; in the name and for the sake of your belief in Allah, and your Ahlul Bayt’s belief in Him, and the status He has assigned to them, whereby you (all) took into your keeping His Wisdom, Verily He is the most kind of all who show kindness.

O Allah! Send blessings on Muhammad and on the children of Muhammad.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Error Analysis: Hypothesis that Heaven and Hell exist

Ho: Heaven and Hell do not exist.
Ha: Heaven and Hell do exist and have certain criteria for entrance.

Type I error: False positive, i.e. reject Ho when Ho is actually true.

In context: Reject the idea that Heaven and Hell do not exist and conclude that Heaven and Hell do exist. In reality, however, Heaven and Hell do not exist.

Consequences of error: A person making this error lives life as if Heaven and Hell existed, thus may choose to deprive himself of certain opportunities, etc., in this life in an effort to live according to what he believes is more likely to keep himself out of Hell and get him into Heaven. However, he does not actually get to enter Heaven and did not really need to worry about going to Hell.

Type II error: False negative, i.e. fail to reject Ho when Ho is actually false.

In context: Operate as if Heaven and Hell did not exist when in reality they do exist.

Consequences of error: A person making this error lives life as if Heaven and Hell did not exist, and thus may choose to engage in certain behaviors that he would have avoided, and vice versa, if he believed they existed. However, it turns out that Heaven and Hell do exist and he most likely goes to Hell because he did not meet the criteria for entrance to Heaven.

Conclusion: Type II error has the worse consequences, therefore a prudent person operates to limit the probability, Beta, of a Type II error.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Seven Deadly Sins

Can you remember a time in your childhood when you first realized that your perceptions of the world were not necessarily the same as everyone else’s, and not necessarily correct? One example from my own childhood involves my perception of the past. I had seen old shows on TV like Leave It To Beaver and I Love Lucy, or old news reels about World War II. My visual perception of what the past was like was based on these shows and other sources like old family photographs. All of these were in black-and-white. It was a revelation for me when one day I suddenly realized that color had not first come to exist sometime in the mid-twentieth century and that the world was not black-and-white in the past, but rather the media available simply were unable to record the color. It was a double revelation for me when I discovered that not every child had the same misconception that I did.

That was one of my earlier experiences that taught me that we do not all interpret the world identically to one another and that our perceptions at times do not match reality. A much later example of this came after adolescence. Even though I realized that men and women were different physically, I had been raised to believe that the differences between genders stopped there. I was taught that there was no basis for any different treatment between genders in terms of work, career, school, sports, or anything else. However, I saw that society didn’t fully uphold this teaching in its practices; boys shouldn’t come to school in skirts or play too often with baby dolls.

I gradually came to understand that the differences in gender extended to brain chemistry and hence also psychology, perception, mental processing, and even spirituality. In particular, I realized that there was merit behind Islamic teachings regarding interaction of the sexes. We now understand that males are more easily and quickly stimulated through visual means than women, and that words are a faster way to a woman’s heart than to a man’s, generally speaking. As simple as those two ideas may sound, many adolescents are at a stage of psychological development such that they fail to understand them well enough to realize the implications and act accordingly. An example: as a high school teacher, I regularly see girls dressing in a way that stimulates their male counterparts. Some of them do it on purpose to get a reaction, but many others are truthfully unaware that males may perceive their appearance through a different lens then how they see themselves. It takes time to develop the empathy and ability to comprehend the myriad ways that others may experience and perceive the world differently from us.

These different perceptions and experiences, whether tied to biology or something else, mean that we each have different strengths and weaknesses in the face of temptation. A case in point, the Catholic Church has recently reported results of a study indicating that there is a relationship between gender and what particular types of sin we are more likely to commit. The Catholic study focused on The Seven Deadly Sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath/anger, envy and pride. The exact origin of this Catholic list of the seven classes of sins that warrant hellfire is unclear, but they are mentioned in Dante’s Inferno, were written about by Pope Gregory I in 590 AD, and became relatively common in the fourteenth century as a theme of European religious art.

According to the report, based on a study of confessions carried out by Fr Roberto Busa, a 95-year-old Jesuit scholar, the top three confessed Deadly Sins for males are lust, gluttony, and sloth. For females, the top three are pride, envy and anger. Lust is a sin of sexual desire, gluttony a sin of excess particularly associated with food, and sloth is a sin of despairing of God’s mercy or losing hope as well as a sin of laziness or failing to work to achieve one’s potential. Pride is a sin of desiring or viewing oneself to be more important or attractive than others and is considered by Catholics (and others) as the most deadly of all sins, being the reason for Shaitan’s fall and the precursor of many other sins. Envy is the sin of resenting the good in others’ hands and desiring it for oneself, and anger is a sin of hostile emotion associated with loss of self-control and objectivity. The study does not assert that either gender is immune from the other sins, but merely that the strongest temptations and struggles are likely to be different.

The study results were released in the context of concern that fewer and fewer Catholics are going to confession. Pope Benedict said that, "We are losing the notion of sin. If people do not confess regularly, they risk slowing their spiritual rhythm."

Islamic theology holds a slightly different view about confession. Catholic doctrine holds that a priest is a necessary intermediary between a layperson and God. Shia Islam does uphold the concept of appealing to God through the means of someone closer to Him than oneself, but it does not put the intermediary as a barrier to the direct connection. Further, Islamic teachings suggest that it is often preferable not to advertise one’s sins in the form of public confession, as doing so may gradually make the commission of such sins seem more acceptable or ordinary to those who hear the confession. This is apparent enough to anyone who has watched TV long enough to see its influence on what is acceptable in society. Granted, Catholic confession is not public per se, but certain denominations of Protestant faith have taken it to that level and adopted public confession as a virtue.

All, however, seem to agree that a path of spiritual self-improvement, i.e. jihad e akbar, requires careful self-examination and acknowledgment of one’s sins to oneself and God. Pope Benedict was right at least to the extent that if we do not analyze our behavior for sinfulness, then we risk overlooking our sins, taking them too lightly, and going further away from the right path. A sin that is excused or overlooked as minor may open the door for greater and greater disease in the soul and ultimate loss. At a societal level, there does seem to be an alarming global pattern of losing the notion of sin or wrong. What a previous generation would find shocking may be in this generation seen as normal behavior.

Islam also holds the concept of mortal sins akin to the Seven Deadly Sins of Catholicism. The list, however, is not limited to only seven, although many of the long list of mortal sins in Islamic teachings are related to one another and could be classified into a fairly short list of overarching categories or clusters, just as the Seven Deadly Sins have under them many related diseases of the soul and so could be considered far more than seven. Ayatollah Sayed Abdul Husain Dastghaib Shirazi wrote a fantastic treatise on mortal sins called Greater Sins, including mention of such sins as shirk/polytheism, despair of God’s mercy, disregard of Allah’s punishment, murder, disobedience to parents, usury, fornication, drinking alcohol, lying or cheating, and many others. It is excellent and necessary reading for anyone seeking to engage in the Greater Jihad against self. An online English version is located at

One point that was unclear from the BBC’s summary of the study is whether the variable of what sins people admit to, either to themselves or to a priest, is confounded with the variable of what sins they really commit. Regardless, several reflections can be made about this study and its context. One is that awareness of what constitutes sin and self-evaluation for any sign of sin or moral error is absolutely necessary. Second is that the paths to ruin are wide and numerous, while the straight path is a narrow, moderate one. Third, due consideration of the strengths and weaknesses of human beings includes understanding of differences and adapting one’s behavior to limit the trials and temptations of self and others as much as possible. This may include anything from observing hijab to avoiding places where alcohol is sold.

Finally, the above three points should lead us to develop a focus on our own shortcomings over judgment of others. To paraphrase Jesus (as), why should we obsess over the speck in our brother’s eye yet ignore the mote in our own? Or, as he also said, “Let he who is without fault cast the first stone.” In conjunction, if we care for our brothers and sisters then we must not overlook our obligations to help them steer clear of those wide and numerous paths of ruin. For most of us, our duty is that we are our brothers’ keepers, but not their judges. Just as when we were children we gradually learned about how our perceptions may differ from others’ and from the truth, as we grow older we must expand and refine that knowledge to understand the differences between Jihad –e- akbar and irresponsible asceticism or selfishness, between recognizing one’s sins and accepting them or unwarrantedly relying on the forgiveness of Allah swt, between tolerance, forgiveness, or compassion and enabling or encouraging a sinner, and between enjoining good or forbidding evil and self righteousness or obdurate harshness.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ziyarat Arbaeen - Feb. 16 2009

Why Arba'een?
Significance of Arba'een and the Performance of the Ziyarat of Arba'een
Imam Hasan Al-Askari (a.s.) includes the performance of Ziyarat-e-Arba’een as one of the five marks for a believer, in addition to reciting 51 raka of sala, audible recitation of Bismillah, wearing a ring on one’s right hand, and doing sajda on dust. (This hadith has been narrated by Sheikh Tusi in the book Tahthib).

Why is so much importance given to the performance of the Ziyarat of Arba’een and the observance of Arba’een (40 days of mourning)?

Ziyarat, as we all know is a visitation, which in essence, is the act of speaking with and visiting our role models. Of course the physical manifestation of the ziyarat is actually being present in Kerbala to perform the Ziyarat of Arba’een, but, in reality, that is not possible for every believer. So does making ziyarat while not in Kerbala give one the same benefits? Ahadith tell us that performing the Ziyarat of Imam Hussain (a.s.) far from Kerbala would hold the same significance as being in the land of Kerbala, as long as the person performing the Ziyarat has truly understood the status of the Imam and seeks to emulate him.

Imam Muhamed al-Baqir (a.s.) states that the heavens wept over Imam Hussain (a.s.) for forty mornings, rising red and setting red. As we complete 40 days of remembrance of our Imam, we re-assert our pledge of obedience and loyalty to him,

“I bear witness that you are the Imam (who is) the upright, the pious, well-pleased (with Allah), the pure, the guide and the rightly-guided.
I bear witness that you fulfilled the pledge of Allah and you struggled in His way…I am a friend of whoever befriends him ...”

By performing the Ziyarat of Arba’een, we pledge that we will continue to follow the path of justice and righteousness and will reject injustice and speak up against the oppressors of the time,

I am an enemy of whoever is his enemy

In essence, we make a promise to continue to mold our lives according to the teaching of Imam Hussain (a.s.).

But why is it that we mourn and remember Imam Hussain (a.s.) for a period of forty days and then move on?

Our Prophet has said, “The earth mourns the death of a believer for forty mornings.” Therefore it appears that the deceased should be remembered and mourned over for a period of forty days. Performing an act for a continuous period of forty days is also known to help one to not just form a habit, but also to carry on the practice for the rest of his life.

If we look at studies dealing with bringing a lifestyle change, we notice the time period emphasized to bring about a change is usually 6 weeks which is about the same time period as 40 days (to be exact it is 42 days).

In the book 40 Days to Personal Revolution: A Breakthrough Program to Radically Change Your Body and Awaken the Sacred Within Your Soul, the author Baron Baptiste explains the significance of forty days:

Why forty days? Because the number 40 holds tremendous spiritual significance in the realm of transformation. Jesus wandered in the desert for forty days in order to experience purification and come to a greater understanding of himself and his mission. Moses and his people traveled through the desert for forty years before arriving at their home in the holy land. Noah preserved the sacredness of life by sailing his ark for forty days and forty nights. According to the Kabbalah, the ancient Jewish mystical text, it takes forty days to ingrain any new way of being into our system….

Reciting particular duas for a period of 40 days is highly recommended in our practices as well.
The unit 40 (forty) is said to be very effective. If a particular Duaa is recited 40 times, or 40 people gather to recite it, or it is recited for 40 days then its effectiveness is highly increased. (

It is reported from Imam Ja'fer Sadiq (a.s.) that whoever recites Dua-e-Ahad for forty days, after morning prayers will be amongst the helpers of the 12th Imam (a). Visitation of the shrine of Imam Hussain (a.s.) as well as Masjid-e-Sahla for 40 consecutive Thursdays is also very highly recommended and is one of the acts that promises a visit from the 12th Imam (ajtf).

Thus, as we perform the Ziyarat of Arba’een and commemorate the Arba’een, 40 days of mourning of Imam Hussain (a.s.), we hope and pray that this forty days of remembrance of Imam Hussain (a.s.), brings about a transformation in us by which we can continue to follow the path of Imam Hussain (a.s.) and carry on his message of upholding justice with true faith and a strong sense of sacrifice!

A’maal of Muharram and Safar (Tayyiba Publishers)
Kerbala and Beyond by Yasin T. Al-Jabouri
The Miracle of Ziyarat-e-Ashoora
Commentary on Ziyarat Ashura, translated by Saleem Bhimji from the work of Ali Asghar Azizi Tehrani
Kitab al-Irshad, translated by IKA Howard, authored by Sheikh Al-Mufeed

Peace be on the favourite of Allah, Peace be on the beloved friend of Allah, His distinguished hero! Peace be on the choicest confidant of Allah, sincerely attached precisely like his father! Peace be on Husayn, who gave his life in the way of Allah, a martyr, underwent untold hardships Peace be on the hostage surrounded by the-tightening circle of sorrow and grief, killed by a horde of savages.

O my Allah I give witness that beyond a shadow of doubt he is Thy favourite and choicest confidant, who enjoys Thy confidence and favour, precisely like his father!
Thou looked upto him and elected him in Thy cause, picked and chose him for the good fortune, selected for him the best purified parents, appointed him guardian, leader, and defender of rights, a true representative (inheritor and progenitor) of guardians, leaders and defenders of rights, gave him much and more from the inheritance of the Prophets, put him forward as a decisive argument, along with the other successors (of the Holy Prophet-the twelve lmams) to the mankind. He met with deadly dangers, acted justly and fairly, made use of everything belonging to him to pay full attention to give sincere advice, took pains, made every effort and put his heart, mind, soul and life at the disposal of Thy mission to liberate the people from the yoke of ignorance and evil of bewilderment, but an evildoer, deceived with empty hopes of mean and worthless worldly gains, had pressed heavily on him, and sold out his share (eternal bliss) for the meanest and lowest bargain, betrayed his "day of judgement" for a vulgar return, took pride in insolence, fell into the fathom- well of silly stupid follies, provoked Thee and Thy Prophet to anger, did as the harsh discordant, the hypocrite, the heavily burdened bearers of sin, condemned to Hellfire, advised to him, however, he (the Holy lmam), steadily, rightly and justly coped With them, till, in Thy obedience, gave his life after which his family was set adrift.

O my Allah, therefore, condemn them to hell as a denunciation and conviction; and crack-down on them with a painful Punishment. Peace be on you O the son of the Messenger of Allah! Peace be on you O the son of the first of the successors (of the Holy Prophet)! I bear witness that Allah put faith in you like He had full confidence in your father, and that you always looked for and collected good and virtue, lived a highly praiseworthy life and departed from this world a martyr, forsaken and abused; I bear witness that Allah will promptly fulfill the promise, He made to you, and destroy those who left you helpless and punish those who killed you; I bear witness that you kept your promise made with Allah, and strived in His way till what was certain came upon you, so curse of Allah be an those who killed you, curse of Allah be on those who oppressed you, curse of Allah be on the people who came to know and approved.

O my Allah be my witness that I make friends with those who love him and oppose those who deny him. I, my father and mother, are at your disposal 0 the son of the Messenger of Allah. I know and bear witness that you were "light" in the sublime loins and in the pure wombs, never touched you the dirt of ignorance, nor ever obscurity concealed you in its folds; I bear witness that you are the pillar of "Deen", support of the Muslims, refuge of the faithfuls; I bear witness that you are a truthful, well-aware, content, intelligent, rightly guided guide (Imam); I bear witness that the Imams among your descendants are the symbols of "conscious piety" and signs of "true guidance", the "safe handle"-Islam, and the decisive arguments over mankind; I declare positively that I have full faith in you and I know for certain that you shall return. I am, fully committed to the laws of my religion, certain of my deeds, my mind and heart ready for your return, and my affairs carried out in the light of your instructions, till Allah gives you permission, together with you, along with you, not at the same time with your enemies. Blessings of Allah be on you, on your souls, on your bodies when you are visible, when you are invisible, on your perceivable aspects, on your innermost genius be it so, O Lord of the worlds

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Nerdy Valentine's Gift for Those of You with TI Graphing Calculators

In Y =

Y1 = abs(x) + √(1 - x^2)

Y2 = abs(x) - √(1 – x^2)


Xmin = -1

Xmax = 1

Ymin = -1

Ymax = 1.5





Monday, February 02, 2009

Links to Useful Things

I thought I'd share a few links that have caught my interest.

1. If you have some books you'd like to weed out, you can post them here and people who want them will ask you to mail them. For every book you mail you earn a credit to request a book from someone else (plus you receive two start-up credits when you register (no cost involved anywhere except mailing a book someone else requests)). They have lots of members and hence lots of books - not always every one I'm looking for, but often something similar is available.

2. Shutterfly has a nice feature where you can make your own calendars using your own photos that you upload. You can customize dates and pictures. I made family calendars as Christmas gifts - each month features pictures of whoever has their birthday that month, and their birthday is featured on the calendar like any other holiday. I also made a Muslim calendar with wallpaper with Qur'anic ayahs captioned with quotes of Ahlulbayt (as) with all the Shia Islamic dates for the year put in (such as Ashura, Eid, birth/death dates, etc.)

3. Bloglines If you enjoy reading a particular blog, you can put its URL in here and come here to find which of the blogs you follow has been updated so that you never miss a post. Not just blogs are in rss-feeds anymore - many news services, cartoons, etc., have rss feeds and any of them can be followed here.

4. Vegetarian Menu Planner There are many menu planner sites out there. I don't eat fully vegetarian but for practical reasons, such as halal meat is only available in Denver, I eat that way most of the time. This lady posted two months of dinner menu plans with 5 meals each week including the grocery list. Most of the meals are vegan and easy to adapt. Something like this may be a good way to try to start eating healthier, learn to cook, and save on groceries.

5. Foxway Budget Tracker Some people are budget people and some aren't, but we really all should be. No need to spend lots of money on budget software when this Excel spreadsheet does the job beautifully.

I'm no expert, but here are the general steps to follow for budget tracking:

Step 1: Get an updated statement of all your accounts from your bank, or view them via online banking. You can obtain statements by going to a branch of your bank and asking for them. Most will give up to three months of statements for free as long as you aren’t asking for them constantly. Online banking is the better option because you can view all account transactions instantly. One aspect of online banking that is extremely useful is bill pay. You can enter the account and address information of all your recurring bills such as mortgage, utilities, and loans and set up recurring payments. This can help avoid late payments and saves money in postage. Many banks offer online banking and bill pay for free. If yours doesn’t, you probably should consider changing banks. Online banking is as secure as through the mail – the chances of identity theft through online banking are similar to those created by sending your bills through the post office. However, be sure to look for the secure lock symbol in your Internet browser every time you do online banking or purchase something online.

Step 2: Determine your monthly income from all sources – salary, hourly wages, money from family, stipends, etc. If your income is not the same every month, take an average of your monthly incomes over several representative months as your typical income for budget purposes.

Step 3: Go through every penny spent in your account statements and put it into categories. If it is a recurring bill, keep it as its own category. Example categories include mortgage, credit card, gas and oil for car, insurance (life, home and auto), Netflix, allowance/spending money, books, Internet service, groceries, electricity, and so on. Be careful to include bills that do not come every month but instead come quarterly, bi-annually or annually, such as certain insurance payments, trash service, property taxes, car registration, and professional society fees or magazine subscriptions. Also, don’t forget to include savings. You may want to break down your savings into categories with goals. It is a good idea to build savings for home maintenance and car maintenance as well as for emergencies and travel. If you do not have a separate bank account for savings, it is a good idea to open one. Studies show that people with who have a separate account for savings are more successful at saving. If you don’t have a savings account, you can open one online in just minutes in many areas. For example, U.S. citizens or permanent residents can open an ING Direct Orange Savings account in about 5 minutes. It is free, has a great rate, is well-rated, has no minimum balance, and can directly transfer money from any U.S. checking account you own on a recurring or one-time basis as you desire.

Step 4: Find the total you spent in every category for each month in your account statements. Then, if you created any new categories such as savings, allot an initial goal amount for each. For any bills that recur less often than monthly, you should calculate or estimate how much you will owe in a year to that biller and divide by 12 and use that amount. For example, you may find that you spent an average of $288 dollars each month on food, exactly $1101.87 each month for your rent, that you want to save $50 each month toward a summer road trip, and that your trash bill is $60.00 every three months so you need to budget $20 each month for it.

Step 5: Add up every category total from step 4 and compare this sum to your monthly income you found in step 2. If your sum is greater than your income, you must adjust whichever categories are flexible until the two amounts are equal. If your spending is way out of line or you experience a sudden decrease in income, you may even need to eliminate some categories altogether to make the two numbers balance. Most people find they can eliminate a cell phone or land line, cable or satellite TV, and some of their food budget. It is not recommended to completely eliminate savings or allowance/spending money from your budget, although these may need to be decreased if you are in dire straits.

Step 6: Enter your budget into the spreadsheet. You can customize the categories to suit your needs. Then, enter what you actually spend for a given month in the same spreadsheet. Use online banking to help with this if you can, or every time you make a purchase or send a bill enter it into the spreadsheet that day in its appropriate category. If you prefer, do this once a week, but you have to make sure not to miss anything you spent. Your budget won’t help you much if it is inaccurate. This file will automatically compute for you where you have overspent, where you have extra, and your running totals and deficits for each month and the year-to-date. Don’t forget to save your budget file every time you make changes to it and to periodically back it up somewhere such as a flash drive.

Step 7: Periodically analyze your spending compared to what you budgeted. If there are categories that you are consistently overspending in, you may need to increase how much you budget for it by taking aware from another item, or you may need to be more strict with yourself in that spending category. Similarly, if there are line items that you frequently underspend, you may be able to decrease how much you have budgeted for them and put the extra somewhere else. Don’t forget that some items are not paid monthly and that, for example, the trash bill will show as underspent for a few months until the bill actually comes due. Likewise, some bills vary greatly due to season, like a gas heating bill. You may budget an average monthly payment, but during winter in any given month you will likely overspend it and in summer months you will spend considerably less than budgeted, but over the course of the year the budget should balance out. Finally, analyze your savings against your goals – do you need a newer car more than a new fence? Maybe you should put more into your car savings category and less into the home maintenance savings category.

On another note, if anyone has ideas/suggestions about very easy vegetable gardening - probably container gardening - let me know. I plan to do tomatoes again this year, and am thinking of trying zucchini.