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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Major changes/starting over fresh in 2012

January 18, 2012 at 10:59 am (Improving Financial Health, mr. maven)

It’s been some time since my last post. my life has totally changed in the last month, so I’ll bring you (briefly) up to date.

Mr. maven has been unemployed since March 2010. He has never fully paid his full share of bills or rent (sometimes rent, but never on bills). Last few months he stopped even paying rent. Immediately after christmas, he told me he was moving to North Dakota to pursue work (and stay with his family). So the maven household is now a single Ms. Maven. There’s a lot of emotional upset of course. He took my kittens with him, which leave me totally devestated. We are still friends, just no longer cohabitating or sharing our lives so intimately.

What this means financially is that I am now the one and only breadwinner, ie, rent payer. I have no backup to rely on helping out with bills, but it also means that any expense are mine and mine alone. I don’t have to worry about buying alcohol and having it drunk before I have a chance to have any of it. I don’t have to worry if there is inequity when buying groceries or eating out. But it means no sharing, either.

I’ve been single one week and 2 days so far. I’ve been discussing with my BFF/girlfriend getting a house together in a few months and splitting rent/expenses. She’s a professional working woman so she is fianacially stable, and we have been roommates before (it’s how we met after all!), so I know we will be compatible. The problem is now finding a place she will live that we can move into together (the market for 2 bedroom places in the $1200-$1300 range in a nice neighborhood in Seattle is very slim!). So That may change. Until then, I’m solo and living in  my house all by my lonesome (there is both good and bad in that!).

I’ve been updating my debt totals periodically, even without posting. Currently, I have 2 debts:
SBA loan – $16073
BECU Car loan – $8447

At the minimum, I am paying $253/month on the car loan, but nothing extra. For the SBA, which is at a higher rate of 5%, I have an automated $100 every second paycheck. I put a debt payment calculation together for myself, and if I can pay an extra $300/month towards the SBA, I will be debt free by December, 2013. That is if I remain frugal, have no major expenses, don’t travel, don’t move to a cheaper place/get a roommate, and don’t get a part-time job. I think it’s doable, but it will take vigilence and dedication. This also assumes that my full tax refunds for the next 2 years (about $700 or so) are fully paid towards debt, which again, shouldn’t be a problem – it’s what I’ve done the past 2 years.

So. Here I am. Still focused, chugging along, head down. There have been ups and downs, mostly downs, in the last year, and even more recently, but no actual derailments. I’m going at it slower than I wanted to 6 months ago, but that’s my new reality. Until I move/get a roommate, this is the pace I can maintain.

I’m glad I got my used car in April 2011 – it added an extra $10K of debt to my total, but it’s a much better and more reliable car than the truck I had before (and with 100K less miles on it!!!). I recently purchased a few pieces of furniture, which I may not have done if I knew I was about to be single, but they are nice pieces and work better in my house. That temporarily stopped debt payments for 2 months. I had to buy some additional items when mr. maven left – a new rug, lamp, and kitchen gear, to the tune of $500, but that is ok, I needed them, and having a gorgeous 8×10′ rug for $200 is pretty awesome. I’m also in the process of downsizing some of my stuff, and selling it on craigslist. That should give me some extra snowball payments, which are fully going towards debt. I’m also pursuing personal friendships more than I have before. Being single/alone makes it really obvious that you have to work at extablishing and nurturing external relationships, when you don’t have a default one to fall back on at home. So, again, lots changing, but actually, it’s kinda the same as always.

Here’s to 2012 – it’s all uphill for me from here!

Best wishes,
debtmaven

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My boyfriend is starting a budget!

December 6, 2008 at 9:38 am (Improving Financial Health) (, )

This is exciting! After 2 months of talking about money, budgetting, and spending habits and all the things I’ve been finding out, my bf finally decided he wanted to have a budget.

He has $800 in debt on one card, he owns his beater of a car outright, has an ok paying job, moonlights as a wedding photographer in the summer and has regular pet sitting gigs for extra income which he gets fairly often. He is always having missed payments on all his bills, and his organization is a complete disaster. He’s doing what a lot of us (and even I) have done: avoiding money because we’re ashamed of how poorly we manage it, which just makes it worse. It was a pretty emotional night last night, trying to get a budget set up for him. He’s still fighting about looking at his past expenses to guage his spending habits and to figure out the yearly expenses that don’t happen every month, so I’m not completely sure how successful it will be for at least a month or two, but we’ll use December as the starting point. He says he will keep all his receipts, and he still wants to pay cash instead of  the debit card (even after losing $200 last month). He also realized his BoA credit card is at 37%. Yikes!! He didn’t even know, that is the saddest part.

He asked me to be patient with him. There was a lot of tension and upset; it wasn’t anger with me, it was shame and guilt. I understand. I do really. I can remember avoiding even logging into my online bank statements because I didn’t want to see how bad it was (which meant I didn’t have enough when I went to buy food, which meant overdraft overdraft fees, I’m sure you can see the viscious cycle). But the upshot is, he can fix this in 2-3 months and start improving his rotten credit. I on the other hand, have great credit (I think it’s in the mid 700s, but I don’t know for sure; I don’t really care, I don’t need to know, and it’s not worth paying for right now). But what does that matter, having great credit when I also owe $44,000!!!!!  I would easily swap places with him.

So he’s going to start saving up for buying property, and I’ll make sure he starts paying all his bills on time, and get that darn stupid credit card paid off. THEN we will work on improving his credit. And when he finally gets school done and gets a good high-paying job he can buy all the groceries, take me on trips, and take me out to eat! A girl can dream, right? I’ll settle for a nice sushi dinner with sake and beer.

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Commandments of Personal Finance

December 4, 2008 at 7:08 am (Improving Financial Health) (, , , , )

Hello all readers from MSN! Welcome, and thanks for visiting!

I’ve been talking to my boyfriend about my budget journey, my research, what I’ve been doing, and how i’ve done so far. I’m also trying to convince him to get in on the game, as he needs it as much as I do, though he doesn’t have the debt I do. I realized in talking with him last night that there’s several things that every PF blogger out there seems to recommend or follow, and I’m going to save you all a bunch of effort and tell you what they are! Drum roll please…

Track your spending habits

Compile the past 3-4 months bank statements, and start figuring out where you spend your money. This will tell you what expenses you have, and where you spend money, and also where you probably need to rein in your spending (I’ll give you a hint, eating out is probably high on the list).

Make a budget

Determine what expenses you absolutely HAVE to pay (rent, utilities, car insurance, food). Figure out what you don’t have to pay, but may be able to cut, or may need to cut in the future (cable, entertainment such as books, movies, going out to eat, sports or theater tickets, etc). Figure out what yearly expenses you may have that may not occur every month, such as car tab renewals, car maintenance, yearly subscriptions, etc) so you can budget some per month to save up for the big expenses. If you know about them in advance, it won’t wreck your budget when they happen. Don’t worry if it seems overwhelming. Do it, live it, and see how you do. I guarantee you’ll make adjustments and then tweak as necessary. Many people seem to have an internal competition to see how well they can beat their budget from month to month. And remember to not worry if it doesn’t always work. Over time it will!

Start an emergency savings plan

It seems to be a $1,000 for those last minute unexpected bills. Your car is towed; you had to go to the emergency room; your car broke down and needs a repair; a death in the family – plane tickets last minute.

Open an online ING orange savings account

With a $25 bonus, and a high APY rate of return (between 3-4%), it’s a great way to save. Plus, since it takes a few days to take money out, you’ll be less likely to relie on it as a safety net and spend it.

Take stock of your debt

Figure out what debts you owe and make a plan to pay them off. Don’t just pay the minimum – pay as much as you can while balancing saving up an emergency fund. There are 2 school of thoughts on paying them off. Either pay off the smallest ones first to feel like you’re making headway, or pay off the largest percentage rates first to reduce what you owe faster (I like this last one best).

Talk to the credit card companies and see if they will reduce your interest rates (they may or may not until you start aggressively paying them off). Consider moving debt onto lower or no-interest credit cards (be aware that transfer fees may affect your decision to do this, or not).

Snowball debt payments

In your budget you’ll have regular monthly interest payments due to your existing creditors. As you pay them down, these will get smaller. Rather than reduce what you pay, keep paying the SAME amount. The debt will reduce even more!

Increase your income

Get a second job. Work overtime. Do online surveys for cash payments (they add up over time). Have a garage sale, or more than one! Put all additional income and all found income (gifts, tax returns, etc), straight into debt payments.

Build up a 3-6 month budget reserve

What happens if you lose your job or become injured? After saving up an emergency fund, and starting the debt repayment (if you have any), start thinking about saving up 3 to 6 months of your budget for life’s “what if” situations. Not everyone can do this; if it doesn’t seem possible, save up a larger emergency fund, or pay off your debt first.

Become frugal

Eat out less. Cook at home more and make meals for work, rather than eating out. Buy bulk. Clip coupons. Shop at thrift stores rather than the department store. Do without, or make do with what you have.

Stop spending

Do you have credit cards? Stop using them. Put them away and pay them off. Live off your income (“spend less than you earn”) only, and don’t incur additional debt. This should probably be the number one item on the list.

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