2012 changes continue

February 6, 2012 at 4:34 pm (house, Improving Financial Health) (, )

In January I lost my ex’s share of rent due to him packing up for greener fiscal pastures (see my post on his move to ND). What to do, what to do? Get a second job? Not so easy and a big pill to swallow. Move to a new residence? Looking pretty necessary.

So I discussed with my bff and former roommate and she expressed interest in sharing a house together. Roommates/sharing expenses/high cost of utilities are a common theme in our discussions. We even went to look at a few places.

Thursday she came over and told me she wants to stay where she is, to keep her gym and weight loss regiment stable. I totally understood! Plus, she has been making noises of possibly moving away from Seattle, and within the year. It would suck to get a house togther, then have her leave and have to find a replacement roommate. What if I couldn’t? I’d be stuck with a higher rent than I’m currently paying! So that plan was off.

We discussed what I should do and all things seemed pointed to me moving. I’ve never ever in my life considered an apartment. It seems so…clinical. I mean, come on, a beige box, cheap housing, usually on main roads, ugly views… Keep in mind that I’m sure there are very nice apartments out there, but my goal is a less expensive place that I can live in while saving money. I don’t really want to do the high-end high-cost apartments. I could also do the roommate/shared house thing. I seriously considered applying for the roommate option, but here are my considerations:

I am 40 and have accumulated furniture. I can’t fit all my stuff in the back of my car any longer. I have a couch, a buffet, 2 full-size bookshelves, a dresser, a bed, and a lounge chair. That won’t fit in a bedroom. I have a whole bunch of kitchen stuff (I love to cook). Plus I have bicycles and lots of art for art shows, and I mean a LOT (which consume a lot of space). I’d have to find a place with either 2 bedrooms (more expensive apartment), or get a place and pay for a storage unit. Plus I don’t really want the drama of comings and goings and rules of houseshares (been there, done that, it can be a lot of work).

On Thurs night I started looking for apartments. On Friday at work I decided to look again, and try and schedule some walk-throughs for Saturday. I set up 2 apointments and left a bunch of appointments.

The first one I looked at was perfect. Old historic building, lots of vintage charm, working fireplace, relatively large, with ONSITE storage available for $50 (in the shed next door, plenty big for ALL of my art and my bikes!). Only problem? It was in seriously high demand, in a very very sought after location, Alki beach, steps from the water, and he had 10 appointments scheduled for the rest of the day (he had even pulled the ad from craigslist after a few hours due to the demand). Ugh. I did my best to sell myself and be congenial. I gave him my manager’s name and phone number as a reference for employment. I was woefully unprepared. I didn’t have any of my old landlord names or phone numbers. My smartphone internet connection was not working and I couldn’t even look up a property manager’s phone number. Ugh! I left, sad and wistful.

3 hours later, he called and said it was mine if I wanted. How soon could I move in? My manager apparently really sold me to him! And apparently I’m a really good fit. And no one ever leaves this place – most people have been there over 10 years (it has 6 units). OMG. I was terrified. It’s one thing to know I have to move. It’s another to actually make it final.

I called my current landlord, broke the bad news, gave notice, and went to sign paperwork. Whew. It’s official. I can move in 2 weeks, and have to be out of my current place by March 1.

Here’s the breakdown:
Current Rent: $895
Current Utilities (averaged): Gas ($50/month), Electric ($70/month), Water/Sewer/Garbage ($80/month)
Total: $1095

New Rent: $695 
New Utilities: Electric only ($50/month is my guess)
Storage: $50
Total: $795

Savings: $300 per month!

I guess I’ll just have to get used to living on the beach instead of having a private back yard. And I get to stay in the same general neighborhood, which is what I wanted. It’s bittersweet, but will be good for me in the long run.

Here’s to achieving your goals this year…
debtmaven out.

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What’s in store & check your math!

January 22, 2012 at 9:00 am (goals, house, Saving Money) ()

I love fidding around in excel. Since ex-mr. maven decided to move to the central plains, I’ve been running scenarios in my budget spreadsheets of how long it will take me to pay off my debt. I felt girded to slay the lion, I felt ok. I had a longer slog ahead, but I was prepared and armed with my facts and figures. Then I’ve been discussing possibly moving to a house with a girlfriend and cohabitating to split rent and utilities (unlike the scenario with mr. maven living with me). I reran the figures, taking into account the additional money I’d save.

Lo and behold I realized I had made a fatal flaw in my initial calculations!!!! Excel works great to extend a series of numbers and formulas. What is NOT very good at is extending dates. I had extended my months from Jan ’12 to Feb ’12 down through the years, but somehow, it messed up and I “misplaced” an entire year! I realized that because I F’d up the date column, when I thought i’d be ok to pay off all debt by end of 2013, it was more like end of 2013/early 2014!!!!!!!! Crap!

so basically, unless I make an extra $300/month, or pay less rent/utilities by $300/month, I’m looking at 3 years to pay off debt. If I get a cheaper place, then I can shave a year off and make it back to my original, end of 2013 projected date payout.

I’m such a dork. Oh well, good to know these things now!

So yesterday my girlfriend, S, and i went to look at a few places together. It’s a bit of a rude awakening. We are both in our 40s, both working adult professionals (she works in a scientific field, so makes more than me!), and both single. We’re both also done with cheap/sub-par places (no more dingy mother in law basement apartents). It’s amazing how poor the choices are for places in my price range. I am ok up to splitting a $1350/month house. Any more and it’s almost not worth it.  That means that either the house will be a dump in the best/most central areas of Seattle, or be on the fringes, or in a bad neighborhood. Basically, it’s a radical shift in amenities and neighborhood quality of life. She wants a place she can walk around in the evening (ie, it needs sidewalks and should be a lower-crime area). We both want to be close to a good/inexpensive gym. I don’t want a hideous commute. She’s considering leaving Seattle in a year, so it has to be a place I can find a replacement roommate to live in if she moves out later on. It needs to be 2 bedrooms with copious extra storage (ie garage, extra bedroom, etc). We both have a household of stuff in furniture, and we both like room for projects (and I have a ton of art in storage from having done art shows). In a way it’s fun, but in a bigger way, it’s depressing. Plus there’s that really fine line of finding a place that you want, with enough time to give notice to both our existing landlords, when the landlord we would be applying with wants a renter sooner than we would be available to move in (like in a week, or Feb. 1 for example). It will be really hard a good place, with the pressure of beating another person to the punch, while having enough time to give 1 month’s notice. Ugh.

I’ve never lived in an apartment – maybe i should just find a cheap place and do that. Ugh, but I want a yard. Anyway, the house hunt is on. And remember…double check your math, people!

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2011 end of year blowout spending recap/2012 the year of change

January 19, 2012 at 8:54 am (credit cards, house, overspending, things I bought)

Warning. You’re about to see what amounts to a TON of excuses. It all starts with a story about changing our living room from carpet to wood floors. Back in the days when Mr. Maven was still in the picture, he had a serious aversion to our hunter green 12 year old carpet. He knew the old 1920s house we rented had hardwood floors underneath. He convinced the landlord (who is pretty nice) to agree to remove the carpet, provided the floors were good enough to be refinished. Part of that process involved moving ALL furniture out of thel iving room into the rest of the house. We live in a 700 sq. ft. house. The living room is by far the largest room.

Ok, that process took a solid 2 weeks. Then since the furniture was out, we used the opportunity to repaint the dingy yellowy-white walls with bad hole repairs done without touchups, and the one dark, wood panelling a bright, fresh white. Trimming, and marking off what not to paint. Multiple coats of primer, then paint, then drying, all with kitties running underfoot. It took a week. I felt like I lived in a hoarder house for 3 weeks. All that climbing over furniture every time I wanted to move around!

Ok, then we moved back INTO the refurbished room. No rug. no place soft to sit on or lie on. All of a sudden, the makeshift furniture I had didn’t quite do the room justice. I ended up buying 2 pieces of furniture. One a really really super awesome 1940s sideboard with mirror. It is soooo pretty. $800. Yikes. Then I replaced a makeshift curio/bookshelf cabinet thing with a better version – it had wide storage underneath to hide some larger art books and music CDs,  and an upper half that was shelved and had doors with decorative glass that kept my prized collection of art ceramics free from dangerous kittens knocking them over. Small antique glass-fronted cabinet? $400.

Oh, and about this time, my computer totally crashed. 3 year old HP laptop, kaput. I had to buy a new laptop, with, ahem, a friendly ex-Microsoft employee helping out with a cheap Microsoft Office (shhh, don’t tell) at seriously reduced costs, for about $750 total.

Add in the absolute craziness of living like a hoarder and the inability to stick to mundane tasks like regularly cooking meals at home because there was NO FRIGGIN’ ROOM to move in the kitchen, and there were some overzealous spending in the grocery/restaurant/pizza front. A few hundred here, surely.

Then finally, oh yes, was a relatively unhappy trip I allowed myself to be talked into going, against my better judgement, and with, unfortunately, a lot of resentment – going with mr. maven to visit his family for thanksgiving. In North Dakota. With our cats, which meant driving, not taking a train. Mr. maven refuses to fly, and no cats on the train, so driving it was. I used 3 days of vacation. I paid for 50% of the gas and motels. I used my car and had to spent a ton of money on maintenance in advance. I had to get an extra oil change, since the whole trip was like 2300 miles (and do you think mr. maven paid for any of the car maintence or chipped in towards wear and tear? I’ll let you deduce that yourselves). Anyway. The whole reason I said I would go, was so that I could meet his mom. His mom lives in Texas but was going to come up to visit the rest of the family at that time. 2 days before we were to leave, we got word she wasn’t going to go. GRRRRR. But at that point, unfortunately, I was committed. And even more unfortunately, I didn’t want to go, didn’t relish the trip, and felt really resentful about spending the money and using my hard-earned vacation time for someone else’s family. Sorry for the big hateful venting here, but I couldn’t say any of this to mr. maven. I can’t say I was a thrill to be around, and you now know how this ends (mr. maven has just moved to ND and I’m now single, which was not because of the trip, but happened chronologically soon after). The cost of this whole trip was about $550.

Anyway, tally up all this spending, and you’ll notice a lot of discretionary spending. This went onto my BECU credit card. I HATED it there. So I paid a ton towards it. I used up my vacation savings. I stripped my EF to pay for it. I used the remaining xmas spending to pay for it (I had a little left over). I also fully raided my kitten fund (at $930) to pay it. I got it down to zero. I was expecting to start refunding the kitten fund, when I he told me he was moving to ND to find work. And taking the kittens with him.

Well, I guess I don’t need to fund for the kittens any longer *sniff*, but you’ll notice, all my mini-funds are fully wiped out. I am starting 2012 from a very low place. Emotionally raw (I’ll get over it), financially drained (at least no credit card debt!), and with a renewed vigor to tackle my remaining debt ( hopefully an average $300 extra per month).

It’s odd to start this year off, when normally you hear people taking stock of their lives, and reflecting. Instead, I’m responding and digging out. I’m gearing up, and figuring out. I have a lot of changes ahead, but I’ll at least be more focused on what’s good for me…and my finances. Maybe that should be my them for the year…CHANGE.

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Thankful for good quality inexpensive housing

December 29, 2009 at 9:23 am (house)

I’ve been settling in at my new (rented) house for a month now and boy am I happy to have moved! I don’t remember now why it was such an agonizing decision to move. My rent is essentially the same, and my bills are a little higher (residential rates are always much more than commercial ones), but the comfort level is orders of magnitude better! All of us, J, the kittens, and myself couldn’t be happier.

The housing market has definitely benefited us. I didn’t expect that it was possible to find a house for $900 in Seattle. If you want a liveable small house that is still affordable, I had expected it to be more along the lines of $1100-$1300. Imagine finding a place for only $895?! Our landlord did mention that she had lowered the rent somewhat. The other down side to this house is that is only a single bedroom. I doubt any couple on earth looks for a single bedroom. So that downside is our financial gain. As long as we don’t plan on having guests over regularly, kids (not anywhere in my future!), or a separate office, then we’re good. Luckily there is a complete full basement, though the entrance is outside. That gives enough room for storage, and our pseudo office where we will set up our photo printer, J’s large desktop mac, my filing stuff, and any work areas for projects.

I thought it would be more of an adjustment than it is, but it’s really quite liveable and pleasant, so I’m not missing that mythical 2nd bedroom. It could just be the mini sitting room off the back porch that we use as a reading room. We can watch the cats freak out over the squirrels inches away, the masses of birds (jays, junkos, flickers, and chickadees), and the odd neighborhood cat.

J gets to putter around and build a ginormous garden (2 or will it be 4 giant raised beds out front and a 10×20′ plot out back). He gets to design his studio/man cave downstairs in the basement, and feel like he’s sharing in the house from the beginning, rather than as an interloper in someone else’s home. The cats are in 7th heaven – they have windows on all sides of the house and get to see other critters all day long. There is a wildlife safari outside on the deck all day long. They haven’t met a racoon yet, but that will definitely be happening at some point. We have privacy, and can hear the wind in the cedar trees rather than the interstate traffice and busy roads. We are all in love.

Granted, we’ve only been here 1 month, but I can easily see myself staying here for several years. As long as the landlord doesn’t ask me to leave, so that she can live there, or so that she can sell the house (like 3 of the last 4 places I’ve lived), then I think I’ll have a nice, affordable, comfortable, perfect little place to call home during the remainder of my debt pay off. I’m also fairly certain that it will be very comfortable in summer – there are a lot of trees shading the south side of the house, and a lot of windows for cross-breezes. Plus the excessively large covered porch will make for a fabulous outdoor room/entertainment area when it’s pleasant weather.

Even better, J has been paid equal rent for the past month and is planning on paying the same in January! He is even going to be paying back some of what he owes me (only about $350). He may not be paying any of the deposits or utilities, since his salary is much lower than mine, but that’s ok, I’m happy he’s chipping in as he can, which is more than he did at the studio (our last place).

It’s a happy thought when you know you’ll have fairly inexpensive rent and a comfortable home, all in one, for many years to come.

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