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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Kitty-shaped bank found!

April 24, 2009 at 11:53 am (Saving Money) ()

As you may or may not know, I have a piggybank collection for saving mini-funds in various catagories (see my previous post here). For example, my xmas present fund is in a piggy with antlers (he’s a christmas pig). Well, I had one that I have been missing until very recently – an emergency fund for my 2 kittens.

In the unfortunate situation that there is a big vet bill, I want to have something put away for them. I previously had a dog that got hit by a car and the surgery was $3200! Well, last month I finally found a small cute bank in the shape of a cat!!! 99 cents later and with a lot of elbow grease and paint remover, I cleaned off the nauseating pile of mixed paint all over it and I have a cute white, purrfect kitten bank! I’ve already saved up $120 for them. This completes my little collection nicely.

A small thing, but it makes me happy when I get to put money in the little “piggies” every month and save extra money for larger expenses down the road.

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The piggy bank collection

February 8, 2009 at 4:25 pm (Saving Money, Uncategorized)

I’ve decided to make saving more fun. I’ve collected some piggybanks to have on my dresser to keep my mini-fund savings. I elected to not put it savings for various categories into one big savings account. Sure, I could make some money in 2-4% APRs out there, but I elected to do something fun and physical rather than theoretical with my money. And might I say how much delight it gave me to stuff $100 in my car piggy, $50 in my gift piggy (he has antlers, he’s a christmas pig), $50 in my kitty piggy (I still have to find a cat piggy bank for the pet fund: unexpected vet bills and the like), and $40 in my photo piggy (his name is Ralph, he’s tall, red, and very distinguished for a pig, and I bought him intending to use in a photo project I’m working on, so now he does double duty).

It definitely gave me a visceral thrill to fold and push into a slot, rather than type in some numbers, hit a button on my computer and have the money magically move from virtual home #1 to virtual home #2.

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A long-term look at debt payments and savings

January 30, 2009 at 10:00 am (Saving Money)

I started having those thoughts every person in debt eventually starts having  “What could I be doing with my debt payments if I didn’t have debt?” I realized that if I stick sorta close to my budget, even not paying for debt, and instead save that money, I could conceivably have a downpayment for a house in 2-3 years (you know, the 20% down that is generally recommended)!!!!!

I’m just starting to realize how depressing it is that I’ll have to wait 5+ more years before I get to the point that saving or spending is actually an option. Well, it’s depressing for a few moments. I don’t really let it get to me. It’s all academic at this point, a theory that I can mull over in my head, that I can actually accrue savings and build up money for a really large purchase.

I have never saved money in my entire life, and I’m 37 years old! I contribute to 401K in my current job, but only at the minimum to get a match from my employer, which is 3%. Any higher and it would affect my debt payments. In my previous 5 year stint at corporte america before I returned to school for an art degree (that most useful of degrees), I had an amazing job where they matched up to 7% at 100% (they were rolling in money, a new company, and with a very fresh, very HR-positive atmosphere). I built up quite a bit at the time.

But back to savings. I’ve never had any before now. I currently have $625 for my emergency fund – not a lot, but it’s still in its infancy, and I hope to have $1000-1500 this year JUST for savings (not an amount I’ll touch for the expected large yearly expenses – I’m saving separately for that). 

It’s still interesting to me how I’m able to pay so much in debt payments while I never seemed to be able to do so before, and I feel like I’m living pretty close to the same level I used to. Where did all that extra money come from (post-budget)?!?!

Just some rambling thoughts that have been in my head this past week.

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*$!# Gas Company

December 18, 2008 at 11:51 am (Saving Money) ()

I *just* found out that my gas bills of $25+ in the summer months is for the privilege of HAVING gas! I only use gas for heat and only in November through winter!

I can’t believe I’ve been paying essentially $25 x 6 months to have gas available. My most recent bill of $45 has a $30 base charge. UGH, the waste!

I am definitely going to cancel service in April – I won’t use it again until November, and with a $30-$35 hookup fee, that’s essentially 5 months of no bills. UGH. I am so very upset right now. Grrrrrrrrrrr. Well, at least today is a snow day! We have 4 inches of snow, so no work today.

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Stock Up!

December 16, 2008 at 12:07 pm (Saving Money) (, , , )

No, this doesn’t have anything to do with xmas stockings! It has to do with maximizing your savings on items you regularly consume. See something you use on sale for a really good price? Buy a ton – as much as you can stand to have on hand. If it’s a food item with an expiration date, buy as much as you would normally use by the expiration date. Initially, it will cost more in your budget, but once you have an on-hand stockpile of foodstuffs, you’ll find yourself buying less when you do go to the store.

A few tips:

  • Shop for ingredients after big holidays. If it’s non-perishable, buy for the next holiday (ornaments, lights, etc)
  • Comparison shop! Pay attention to what the stores you frequent charge. I have a head for remembering useless data, like prices. If you can’t remember them, write them down! Wait for the best prices, then buy in quantity.
  • Always take advantage of the opportunity to save. It may seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes to save money (in the long run) you have to spend money (in the short run).

After Thanksgiving, we were on the lookout for canned pumpkin. We make pumpkin bread, and canned works just fine! I started seeing them on sale immediately after, but it varied greatly. $2.69 ea, 2 for $5, then eventually we found 2 for $4. Score! We bought 5 or 6 cans. There’s only so much pumpkin bread I’ll want to eat, but you can get the idea.

Most recently, shopping at Metropolitan Market (which is great for free-range chicken, but is hideously expensive on most all other items), they had a big sale on bush’s baked beans. I’d been on the lookout for the past month, and at 3 for $5 on the large cans, instead of about $2.69 to over $3 each, that was a steal. We bought 12 cans, a good 3-4 month supply.

Some other tips: pay attention to the aisle ends. Stores will have specials and “after” sales posted here. Not always, but you’ll start to see the patterns.

Make a habit of cruising the aisles. You don’t have to linger; go quickly and scan the sale tags. Eventually you’ll notice brands and items you like, and eventually spot your own jackpot.

Good luck saving!

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