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Cashed Out PTO

January 13th, 2014 at 08:38 am

I have an extremely rare opportunity with the company that I work for. They actually allow employees to cash out their PTO. You only need to meet the following criteria to do so:
- Must have 60 hours PTO remaining after cash out.
- Must have taken a least 40 hours PTO in past 365 days.
- Max cash out of 120 hours.

So I cashed out 110 hours and will have 60 remaining. This will help out tremendously with some of our newly-accrued debt from buying our home.

We should be picking up keys for the home today. Smile

How much did efficient driving save us in 2013?

January 7th, 2014 at 08:38 am

In 2013, we drove ~9,000 miles.

The EPA est. fuel economy of our vehicle is 27/33/30 MPG (city/highway/combined). We drove mostly city miles.

Our end-year average fuel economy was 33.4 MPG.

Taking the highs and lows from this chart for our area (no link for area), the average price per gallon was $3.65.

9000 / 33.4 = 269.5 gallons
269.5 * 3.65 = $983.5 spent in 2013 on fuel.

9000 / 30 = 300 gallons
300 * 3.65 = $1,095 spent if attaining only EPA est. MPG

Total saved = $111.5.

This may not sound like much. However, keep in mind: I do not make many behavior modifications to my driving. It simply consists of accelerating slower, staying at or under the speed limit, and turning the car off whenever you would normally idle, and slowing down much sooner for stops.

If you want to learn more, visit CleanMPG.com

Owning Up...

December 27th, 2013 at 11:06 am

I have not posted since I was last promoted at work. We have been super busy with new endeavors! My wife and I launched a coffee review web site, and it took off like we couldn't have imagined. This was borne out of our strong desire and drive to be doing anything and everything in the coffee industry and community. It is our goal to open a roaster and shop.

As such, I have begun roasting coffee at home in a small popcorn popper. You'd be surprised by how awesome these little things can be!

With these new endeavors, however, have come new expenses! We have actually been somewhat irresponsible, and have even lost track at a couple of points. It is partially due to the fact that we have changed up our methods, and partially due to not restraining as much as we should. Some of the new methods have proven to not work with us. So we are currently using a combination of old things that worked before, and new ones. Namely, using a spreadsheet to lay-out our budget, while using YNAB to track spending.

Also new... We are buying our first home! We should be closing no later than this Thursday! How exciting! With utilities, fuel for commuting, and our mortgage payment and insurance, our living expenses will still be lower than renting this apartment.

You should be able to notice some changes to the sidebar. Here are some explanations...

Student Loan: Almost paid-off. Will continue making payments, as it is the lowest % rate.
Visa: Used for home inspection.
Amazon Store Card: Used to purchase yoga gear. Will have to make payments on this.
BillMeLater: Used to purchase espresso machine and refrigerator, washer and dryer for the new home. Will pay down as much as possible with tax returns (~$3,900), and make payments thereafter. (OUCH!) BML's interest rate is 29.99%. That is painful!

All this said, I don't have too many regrets. We could have gone slightly cheaper on the espresso machine (~$200). The appliances for the house, however, were the cheapest new machines you could find. Home Depot had an awesome Cyber Monday sale going on that ended up making the appliances we wanted (great ratings, 5 year warranties, etc.) more than $400 cheaper than rebuilt ones from Sears Outlet. We actually saved $950 off retail prices on them.

It will be tight for a bit, but it's nothing we can't handle. Certainly don't want to do it again, however. Especially since we need to look into getting a second vehicle.

All-in-all, it has been a crazy awesome year! I am looking at receiving a fair chunk of a raise this February. The maximum is 3%. However, only three other people at work (of the 15) are due to get raises, so they are talking about giving me 6%. They have to get it approved, of course, but I have faith in their abilities to go to bat for me.

Until next time, all!

Movin' On Up

June 28th, 2013 at 09:54 am

This has been coming for a long time, but last week I finally got official word that it was happening. I am getting promoted at work, and will be getting a raise of $1.89/hr. Not bad, I suppose.

Most of that raise, however, will be eaten up by groceries, as we will be getting off of food assistance! Woohoo! How liberating! We sure are excited about that, even if it does eat up most of our new income. After that, the raise only comes out to about $34 more per month.

So we looked at our budget. We have budgeted $40/mo for kid-related expenses. Seeing as how our little two year old is already potty-trained, a lot of this is no longer required. So we cut it down to $25/mo. We shall see how that goes. Hopefully we can contribute a decent amount to savings each month.

Also, I started using YNAB (You Need a Budget) recently. I was previously using just the iOS app PocketMoney. YNAB seems to be a bit more realistic and easy to work with. Instead of highlighting your total available funds, it highlights your budgeted amounts. Out of sight, out of mind.

So, here we go! Another new chapter in our lives.

Anniv. Trip, Work life, etc.

May 9th, 2013 at 10:29 pm

My wife and I celebrated three years of marriage this past week. We spend one night and two days in a city that, just at the mention of it, our hearts flutter. It is smaller, friendlier, greener, foodier, etc. It has it all for us.

While on vacation there - without our kiddo in tow for the first time in over two years - it didn't feel like a vacation. It felt better. More real. Like just a weekend in the city. As if we lived there. We have had plans to move there, and to open our future business(es) there. Now, we are even more convinced.

When we returned, I found out that I would again be missing out on a promotion, because someone higher on our team hasn't gotten the position he had applied for (if he had, myself and another would have moved up). Oh well. I've spent over a year in this entry-level position, receiving near-minimal wages (pretty rock-bottom for this field), and unable to afford health, retirement or disability insurance. In fact, this year I will be making some $30/mo less on my base salary. With the FICA tax going back up, rent going up by 3% (I live in the company-owned building and receive a small discount), state minimum wage having gone up by $0.11 (thereby lowering the value of my dollar), and adding in my 3% raise, I'm coming out $30 behind. I suppose you shouldn't count the FICA tax, as that was a temporary thing anyway, but it counts in this instance.

I suppose this is pretty typical around the states. This article full of charts puts it into context very well.

However, I should try to do better for myself and my family, yes?

What if I moved to another, much larger company? They seem to have decent reviews on glassdoor.com (especially compared to others), and they have properties all up and down this coast. More room for possibilities? My company does not have any properties in the city or state that we desire to move to.

I don't know. I like the people I work with (most of them). It sure is a difficult decision! Maybe I shall apply for that company, and just see what happens?

Minimalism

April 29th, 2013 at 03:56 pm

For the past few months, my wife - somewhat reluctantly - and I have been purging a lot of our belongings. I have found that we, people, hang on to the most worthless junk. Now, we never really had a lot of things to begin with, but definitely more than necessary.

So I adopted a new-to-me way of thinking and feeling: If I don't love something, it's history. I don't need it. I don't want it.

We have not owned a television since we sold ours back in 2011. But other things - nick nacks, sentimentald, clothing, etc. - we had. So, recently, we have purged almost the entirety of our wardrobes, and replaced them with more neutral items. I now wear my entire wardrobe in a month (pretty good considering they're only worn on weekends). I have reduced to three t-shirts, two button-ups, two pants, two pairs of shoes, two outer layers. This is great, too, because after having lost 37 pounds in the last year, it is nice to have clothing that fits.

We have gone through the kitchen and our daughter's things, and have gotten rid of quite a bit, and with no remorse. We still have a few things to dump... Such as our printer. It is bulky and takes up valuable space in the closet when not in use. There is a print:copy/scan machine at work that I have access to 24/7. However, it does not print in high enough quality for, say, business cards or photo paper. So we would still need a high quality printer. I think stand-alone photo printers can be had for about $50 brand new, however.

When I describe this to people, they ask: So, you don have any decorations or anything? Wrong. But I do all of the decorations we do have.

We also got rid of our king size bed. We still have the mattress, as we haven't found a buyer for it yet. So the mattress sits directly on the floor. Best night of sleep I have had in about a month (my sleep quality app confirms this).

In the way of small kitchen appliances, we have a KitchenAid blender and a KitchenAid stand mixer. The blender was found at wok an repaired with an $8 part. The mixer was given to us used. That is all for appliances. We don't need anything else. We do, however, have three different coffee makers. All manual. An AeroPress, a Chemex, and a French Press. Each one makes a different type of coffee. And, being coffee geeks, we truly enjoy and love them on a daily basis. Plus, neither cost over $40, and we got them within at least six months of each other.

Those are but a few examples. Basically, we keep nothing that we don't use regularly, and don't love. It helps to keep free of distractions, and keeps upkeep to a minimum.

Edit: Here are a couple of resources by a man who has served as great inspiration for this:
https://zenhabits.net
https://mnmlist.com

Little Updates

April 24th, 2013 at 08:58 am

Our car insurance is going up by $20/mo in June, due to a speeding ticket I received. I contested it so that it, and won, but somehow it is still on my record. No idea.

Anyways, we decided to drop Collision coverage, as our deductible was 1/5 of what we paid for the car. We also opted to lower our Comprehensive deductible from $500 to $250 for only $12 more per 6 months. And considering that we have had a couple break-ins on cars at the property this year, this is a good idea.


In less than two weeks, my wife and I are ditching our kiddo with her parents (driving in from out-of-state) for some much-needed us time! Heading down to Portland to enjoy some fine coffee, beautiful scenery, and some vegan/vegetarian cuisine!

Rent On the Rise - Where to Trim the Fat?

April 9th, 2013 at 09:48 am

Our rent is due to go up by $20 in June. I received a $.36 raise this year ($57/mo) and as a result, our food assistance dropped by $50/mo. Makes sense. But now rent is on the rise as well. The $20 won't break us, as I will still come out $80/mo ahead (before including ~$80/mo commission), but it is still a set-back.

Our expenses are almost as bare-minimum as it gets. Prepaid phones (actually, my phone is on a family plan with my parents, but only costs $2/mo more than prepaid), slowest Internet, no cable, only $40/mo in fuel (no commuting), etc. We even slashed our electric bill by about $15/mo by line-drying our clothes inside rather than using the dryer. We only contribute $80/mo of our own cash to groceries ($230/mo for two adults and one child after assistance).

The only unnecessary expense is $30/mo in coffee.

Water/Sewer/Garbage is through the roof at $80-110/mo. No idea how to avoid that, being on a rented boiler system, an having to pay for other residents leaving crap everywhere.

So, that brings me to car insurance. We recently paid off our car, and still carry full coverage at $140/mo. This is the cheapest. We have looked around. If we drop all but the necessary coverages, it goes down to about $65/mo. Our car cost $5,500 at the time. In order for a downgrade to pay for itself to fund another vehicle, it would take six years to save $5,500.

What to do...

Fell off the wagon.

April 7th, 2013 at 10:47 am

March, and so far April as well, we have not done very well in the way of finances. Mind you, we have no troubles paying bills and all, but I have not been mindful about setting anything aside.
I am still paying bills on set days of the month, and have a month's worth of expenses in checking, but we have dipped below that a bit, and haven't made any deposits in savings.
Since March 1st, we have spent $304 in unbudgeted purchases.
$45 of that was for my wife's blog (which has the potential to have an income in the future).
$85 to dining out (no excuse).
$122 was for outdoor adventuring gear (all on clearance - $272 worth).
$26 was for coffee gear ($72 worth - $46 came from credit card rewards).
$22 for photography gear (potential to make money in future).
$4 for audio equipment (trying to fix record player).
Not sure how we got so off-target. The outdoor gear was foresee, but I did not set a savings goal for it when I foresaw the expense last year.
It has to stop. Almost two months of bad financial behaviour. Well, no more! Back on the right path!

When to Pay Cards?

February 25th, 2013 at 07:10 pm

I have three cards that I use. One is due the 5th. Another is due the 15th. And the last is due the 21st.

I would rather make all of the payments at once. When do I make those payments in order to avoid interest? Let's say I make it the 1st. Does that work (assuming they post within two days)?

Junk Pile Finds

February 21st, 2013 at 11:39 pm

There are some perks to my job. One of those being the stuff that people throw into the 'junk pile' that we have set up for furniture and donation items.

The following is a list of all of the items that I have found and brought home, with their retail values:

Vintage custom Mid-Century Sleeper Sofa by Seattle Mattress Co. (~$2,000 retail)
Canon D60 camera body (traded for espresso machine) (~$700 retail, ~$200 current market)
Outdoor table & chairs
iPod Nano ($200 retail)
Insignia iPod player ($150 retail)
Charbroil gas grille, large (~$300 retail)
Car Roof Rack (sold for $120)($200 retail)
Trunk-mount bicycle rack ($100 retail)
KitchenAid blender ($8 fix)($150 retail)
Bissell SpotBot ($200 retail)
ShopVac
Dyson DC-14 animal ($500 retail)
Bissell ProHeat 2 carpet machine ($250 retail)
Litter box, large
IKEA rug ($150 retail)

At least $4,400 worth in items that we have actually needed. Smile

Decrease auto insurance coverage?

February 19th, 2013 at 09:44 am

I have seen some financial advise articles say to get the least amount of coverage with the highest deductibles you can. They say that you will end up being able to save more in the long-run even if you end up having to replace your car for $1,500.

Our insurance is currently as follows:
BI 25/50
410.90
PD 50
UMBI 25/50
50.30
COMP Ded: 500
70.20
COLL Ded: 1000
269.30
Full Glass Yes
Total
800.70 six month premium

At $133/mo, I think we could see this go down a bit. What's everyone think?

Debt Payoffs! [Update]

February 18th, 2013 at 01:03 pm

We ended up with $674 after all was said and done (original estimation was $405, if you take a look at my last blog entry). The crib mattress ended up being $50 cheaper, and we had more in Checking than planned.

That went straight to Savings. And we can start contributing more-than-before to Savings starting next paycheck! Smile

---

Questions.

Some of you use the method of having one-month's worth of expenses in your Checking account at all times. I am starting this, and have already made one-half of the month's expense payments.

When do you refill your Checking to the original balance?

Here is what I plan on doing: Once I am paid, transfer it to Savings, less what I need to keep my running balance (not bank's balance shown) at the appropriate level ($1,761). Is this what everyone does? Every paycheck? Or just once per month?

Debt Payoffs!

February 11th, 2013 at 12:32 pm

We received our tax returns today. $4,848. We are doing the following:
• $2,318 to payoff auto loan. Woohoo!
• $900 to payoff credit card balance from moving last year for new job. (No more credit card balances!)
• $445 to payoff BillMeLater for camera and gear I purchased for side-work.
• $600 to Checking Account to keep one month of expenses in Checking, while income gets direct-deposited to Savings. (Thanks to the community for recommending this method!)
• $180 to IKEA for two dressers, one for wife and I, one for kiddo (currently stacking things on shelves; quite hectic!), and new crib mattress (either from IKEA or Target).
• $405 remaining for our anniversary trip to Portland, OR in May.

Paying off these items will free up quite a bit monthly for extra savings. Smile Which is great, because we have a few savings goals that we have yet to start on. They are:
• Savings for future business.
• Medical care savings.
• Future car savings. (We probably won't need one for quite a few years; only have 49,000 miles on our 2007.)
• College savings for the kiddo.
• Cushion savings!

A depressing realization.

February 7th, 2013 at 11:34 pm

Today, I turned 25. I also realized today that I only earned $25,000 last year. (Actually, I realized this on February 2nd, when we filed our returns.) That means that I only earned $1,000 annually for each annum I have been alive.

Then, however, I realized some other things...
- I only worked 11 months of the year.
- The year before, we only made $11,000 total between the both of us.
- We went from over $12,000 in debt to less than $4,200 in less than a year. This will go down to $1,900 after paying off our auto loan this month when we receive our tax returns.
- My credit score has gone up 104 points in a year!

My coworkers are in-awe of our living situation and our finances. They don't understand how I can make so little, support a wife and child, and have money to save. Not only that, but we can afford little amenities here and there. If you looked around at our house, or even how we dress and hold ourselves, you probably would not guess that we "make so little money." Maybe this is because we never pay full price for things, or just because we save money. Or, even, because we don't make large purchases often (only large ones have all been paid with parts of tax returns). Maybe because we don't complain or say, "Oh, sorry, we can't. We don't have money." Rather, when asked, we talk about how happy we are, what we enjoy, and not complaining all the time about weather or politics or why we deserve this or don't deserve that. When asked to go out to a movie or something that we have not budgeted for, we simply reply, "No, sorry, maybe next time? Just give me more of a heads-up first."

At the same time, people also seem to think we put up some sort of facade. As if we make more than we do. For the same exact reasons that others are in-awe. "Look at your clothes!" or "Look at your computer!" or "Didn't you just get a new coffee maker? So what's a $12 movie?!" It does sometimes get annoying, but we just have to smile and understand that they operate on a different spectrum than we do.

We are definitely looking forward to the rest of this year! Things are looking great! The future is bright! We have lots of plans. Smile Can't wait to share them, as I am sure there will be plenty of questions to go along with them.

Credit Score Update

January 7th, 2013 at 07:46 am

Guess who just crossed over into Graceland? Oh, yes! That's right! CreditSesame updated me this morning, informing me that my credit score is now Excellent (according to Experian).

Smile

Getting it Together

December 4th, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Some good news!

Remember the car accident we were in? Well, the other party's insurance (State Farm) has admitted 100% liability. This means we will be getting reimbursed for the purchased of our child's car seat ($166) and the damages to our vehicle will be repaired. I asked my claims representative if they could just send me a check for the quoted costs of repairs, and they said they would. If I remember correctly, that was around $580.

The car does not need repairs. It is all cosmetic. And seeing as how our Savings is in more dire shape than our vehicle, I figure we could just put it in there. Smile

In other news, we are trying to get our gardening situation put together. We have leaves and containers for compost; just need to figure out how exactly to do it.

Thanks for reading!

Gardens, Move-out costs & Nice surprises

November 17th, 2012 at 07:10 pm

This week has been somewhat eventful.

We are almost entirely settled into our new apartment. Just a few more things to get squared away. We went in to talk to my manager (the property manager), and she surprised us with another $25 off for the unit. So a total of $50/mo we will be saving on this apartment.

However, today, we just received our move-out costs from the other property. $372. $110 more than we expected. Quite unfortunate. So, it will take eight months for this new apartment to make up for the move, but we still feel it was worth it. Especially considering that we will be able to grow a garden!

We got ten five-gallon paint buckets from work, and we are going to be cleaning them out. They will serve as planters. We will, however, have to build some sort of enclosure for them, as they could be considered an eye-sore to other residents. We still need to do our research into just what it takes to grow a garden, and come up with the upfront costs. Any pointers would be great!

We went to IKEA yesterday to get some Christmas items. For the wee one, we got a little baking set. They were out of the cookware set, but they should have it on Monday. We also got her an easel that doubles as a chalkboard, as well as a storage box.

For ourselves, we got four folding chairs, new 16-piece dish set, coffee mugs, and the tables we wanted was out, but should be back in-stock just after Thanksgiving.

So glad my overtime did not get taken away before I was able to save all of the money for Christmas. This will be our first Christmas with our own tree and what-not. A pretty big deal for me, considering my family did not celebrate any holidays, birthdays, etc.

Earlier this week, I learned that one of our team members may be getting promoted, and that our supervisor wants the rest of us to move up if it does happen. This would be great! Also, I just performed my annual self-review, and soon will have my supervisor perform the review as well. Depending on how well that goes, he will submit the reviews to the Regional Manager, and request that I be offered a raise. And, in 2013, the minimum wage is going up. My supervisor says that we should get an equivalent raise for that as well.

So, while we have had a few set-backs this month, I think we have done a great job at keeping our wits! It will definitely take some time to recover our savings to what it was, but we can do it!

Thanks to all for reading.

The Hits Just Keep on Comin'!

November 4th, 2012 at 08:38 pm

The other day, my wife had a dentist appointment. I was scheduled for that day as well, but I thought it more important for me to work that day instead, since I had missed a full day earlier that week when we were driving back home from our trip.

My wife drove herself there, and we had someone watch our kiddo. As she was backing out, she (according to her telling of the event) didn't know which way to go, as the car was parked so close to the pillar that our space is situated next to. So, not knowing which way to back out, she backed out straight, she says. Haha. I guess the mirror was on the same plane as the pillar, as it crashed against the pillar and snapped off.

If you recall, this is now the fifth time that we have busted a mirror on this car. Man, this vehicle has been through hell and back!

A new mirror is $26. However, I could get folding ones for $70 for a pair. I am not sure what to do, as our Emergency Fund is currently down to $336 since all the other stuff happened.

Tripping

October 30th, 2012 at 09:09 pm

Over this last weekend, we took a small trip 600 miles to my wife's parents'. Her father funded our trip down there for her mother's birthday. It was a pretty good trip, sans the financial failings that went along with it...

First, we missed our junction without realising it. During this little detour of 143 miles, we were pulled over by a state patrolman. I received a speeding ticket for 15 over the posted speed limit. I won't go into details, but I am contesting it - I don't want to get too heated on here. Wink

So... 143 miles, a $144 ticket, and this trip has already turned out to be about $160 over budget.

We get in around 10 and are up late with the family. Smile The next day, we head out to see more family. On the way to one of our destinations, we are rear-ended by a college girl. I had myself, wife, mother in-law and sister in-law, and 19 month-old in her car seat.

We waited about 45 minutes for the slow-poke police officer to show up. He gets the other driver's account of the events and then asks me, Does that sound about right?. I would think he would ask both of us separately... Then he checks her license and insurance. Her insurance is expired. She says she doesn't know why because daddy handles all that... He runs her record and comes back with, Well, I don't see any reason for that to be expired. She's got a clean driving record and all. Who gives a flying...?! Yeah... Then he says he doesn't have to file a report for anything estimated under $1,500 worth of damages... Well, sweet, that probably means we are going to get screwed from insurance.

When we go to strap our little one into the car seat, we realise that the latch has broken. We were going to get a new one anyways, but still. So the wifey went over to Target and picked up a car seat we had been eyeballing for $166 (was marked $189.99). My wife, in her flustered state from the accident, failed to use our Target card, meaning we did not get the 5% off. Oh well. No biggie.

We stuck the old one in the trunk in hopes that that will be enough for insurance to get the other driver to pay for our it. It was $90 when we got it, but we do not have a receipt. >.<

So, needless to say, we aren't the happiest of campers, what with having to destroy our Emergency Fund... As for disputing the violation, that will be $250 for the attorney, instead of the $144 for the ticket. I figure, however, that the $106 difference will end up being less over the three years that that violation would jack up our insurance rates.

We get home, and today I am greeted with even more horrible news. For the months of November and December, no one is allowed overtime at work. Well, crap. So, there's two months I could have spent reimbursing our Emergency Fund, down the drain. >.<

---

In more positive news...

This week, I will be painting our new apartment's accent walls on my spare time. Next week, we are MOVING!

More Savings - Moving!

October 15th, 2012 at 05:47 pm

Most of you know that we have been looking to move out of our apartment and into something cheaper and more suitable to our lifestyle. We were mainly looking for a house.

Yesterday, however, we found a few apartments at the property that I work at (currently live at the property across the street run by the same company - a more expensive property). I checked out four of them, and then had my wife check out the best two.

We both fell in love with one unit. It is a different floor plan than our current unit. The one we are in now is laid-out in a somewhat cluttered way. You walk straight into the kitchen from the front door. From there, you go into the dining/living area, and then there is a bedroom and bathroom to the side. The new floor plan is set up much more friendly to those seeking hard lines between specified areas. You walk in and to the left is the dining area, in the middle is the kitchen, and just past that is the living area. The bedroom and bathroom are off to the opposite side. Hallway down the middle (with a bar where the kitchen is).

The dining area will serve as our daughter's space. Crib, toys, etc. will all go there. A much-needed improvement to the current layout, where all she has is a corner with her stuff jumbled about. We would consider putting her stuff in the room further from the entry, but the cable hookups are in the further room.

Probably the best bonuses of this unit is that it is; a) on the first floor, b) on a private courtyard (no pool, spa, etc. in the courtyard - just back doors from other units and a huge middle area), c) the patio is 3x the size of our current balcony. This means we may be able to start a garden if we build planter boxes, get soil, and get some seeds! Huge improvements there!

Now, here is the iffy part - it is only going to be $25/mo less. The other floor plan (same as ours) would be $65/mo less, but my thought process on this was that we would be happier in the other unit and therefore less likely to go looking to move as soon as if we were in the other floor plan. Also, this one will not get as warm in the summers as the other units, and the carpet is not brand new, so we won't be charged for carpet on move-out if we do decide to move out within the next year (doubtful). Also, it will end up being more than $25 less because of the way the W/S/G bill is set up. Residents split the rent of the rooftop boilers for hot water. Since there are always fewer vacancies at this property than the one we are currently in, the boiler rental fee will always be less. As well, our electric bill will be lower, as this unit will not get as much sun.

We are looking forward to this new change! We move on the 10th. Smile

Total Bills Cut This Month
Internet - $13
Auto Insurance - $20
Living Costs - $25-40

Total - $58-73


Not too shabby! Smile

Hard Times a'comin'!

October 13th, 2012 at 06:06 pm

Just when we thought we were doing so well! Argh!

Our food assistance is being cut by $45 starting next month. Our six-month review was last month, and my income was too great for our current benefits. So they dropped it. Unfortunately, this month is going to be pretty tight, as I will be missing about 12 hours of work to drive to see my wife's parents (they are paying for the gas and will provide lodging and food, thankfully).

So, we should be short our normal income and won't have all of our normal food stamps for the month of November. With how the pay schedule is falling the coming weeks, even if I do overtime, it won't make a difference when it matters.

I will be working normal hours, and we will be submitting my pay stubs to get our normal food stamps back.

I really wish we could just afford to get off of them now! As it is, I only make $12/hr and we only get (were getting) $175/mo in assistance. They know our rent and utilities are high, but I guess it does not matter. :/

Cut those costs!

October 9th, 2012 at 10:23 pm

I thought I would update some of you on our current financial situation. It has been a while!

Living Expenses

Rent, WSG and Electric have stayed the same. No improvements there. And last month we got a letter from our water provider saying they would be making it so that billing is current, rather than three months behind. They way they will do this is by rolling the extra months into other months. So, October and November are supposed to be larger payments than normal. (Great timing for the Holidays, people!) Unfortunately, we have yet to see the increase yet. I pay rent in two instalments each month, though, so I am sure it will happen on the next instalment. Unfortunately, that means that the $80 I was just able to send to savings will most likely have to be taken out again. >.<

Savings

I am now utilising a method suggested by users on the forum, that I am unsure as to why I had not thought of it before. Haha! Once you get paid, immediately move all unbudgeted "extra" funds to savings. I do have a question about this, however:
When should I reconcile my account and move the rounded monies to savings?
You see, I round up and down to the nearest dollar for all transactions. So I always have more in my account than my manual register says. And since I use my Chase Freedom card for all purchases and pay it each week, my checking account is almost never balanced, what with credit card payments taking three days to process and never knowing when to move rounded monies over to savings. Anyone have a solution to this? It is no necessarily an issue, since it currently serves as a small buffer. But it would be nice to fill that savings!

What I am doing currently is: Instead of paying only wha we spent on the Chase Freedom, I pay the rounded amount. This way it helps pay down the debt we accrued from moving over here for work.

Cost-Cutting

When we moved here, we got 20 Mbps Internet from Comcast for $29.99/mo for six months. Well, that six months went by quickly and, while 20 Mbps was sure nice, I decided to downgrade.

When Comcast kicked it up to $57/mo, I downgraded to their 3 Mbps plan for $39.99/mo with no contract. I then purchased our own modem (a better one) for $71, and was able to get rid of the $7/mo modem lease fee. So on the new rates, that modem will be virtually free after just four months. Not bad. So there is $17 more than before that goes to savings. Smile

Treats

If you remember, we were getting coffee once a week, as our only form of entertainment expense. I still don't think it was that bad, but we came into an opportunity to save more money.

A friend at work had a cheap espresso machine that he need could get a good shot out of. He also happened to be wanted a DSLR camera. I just so happened to have found a working DSLR camera body. He also just so happened to have lenses that fit it.

I think you can see where this is going. Smile

So, now, we have absolved most of that "treats" budget into groceries. Some is for coffee stuff for home, and there is room in there for one outing to a coffee shoppe per month ($6 total). Smile

I think a lot of you would be proud of us. We sure have done a log way!

Groceries

We have decided to go vegan, based on some personal beliefs of our own. We now make even more food from scratch than before. And by that, I mean all of our food except for food milk and flour. We buy everything in bulk (even agave syrup, farina, oatmeal, flour, etc.). We also get a Bountiful Basket every week. $15 for around 25 lbs. of produce every week!

Insurance

Some of you know a little about the insurance headache we went through when we moved over here. Switched from Allstate to Geico, Geico to State Farm. We have been with State Farm. However, in that time, they have cancelled our Roadside Assistance (with no drop in premium), and raised their rates "company-wide."

Today, we made the switch to Safeco Insurance. It would have been $10/mo cheaper had I kept the same deductibles and coverage. However, I decided to save a little more and raise the deductibles. I will most likely lower them again at a later date. Still no Roadside, but there shouldn't be a problem next year. Renters is also more affordable through them - $20,000 coverage at $100/year, $25 cheaper. Our monthly went from $147 to $127. I'll take it!

House Hunting - Maybe

October 8th, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Hello all. Long time no chat. Things have been pretty busy around here lately.

Recently, we have been thinking about purchasing a home in slightly nearby Tacoma. Doing so would certainly mean a lot of things. A lot of goods, some bads, and some so-so's.

The Goods
• Yard
• Own home
• Garden
• Lower housing costs
• Bedroom for our daughter
• Plenty more!
• At least $100/mo cheaper.

Bads
• 30-35 mile commute one-way. This equates to over 20,000 miles per year if I work as much as I currently do. Also equates to more wear on our vehicle. We don't put but maybe 250 miles per month on our vehicle now with living on-site at work.
• 1 to 1 1/2 hour commute. Time is money. Or so it is said. The commute time sure would be a downer. Also would not be able to have lunch at home like I currently do.
• Would leave wife & daughter at home without a vehicle.

So-so's
• We are responsible for all housing costs, including repairs/maintenance.

My number one concern is the increased maintenance/repair costs. More wear on the car. Home to care for. Even if I take that $100/mo and divide it, that's only $50/mo more to put aside for either category (Home Maintenance and Auto Maintenance). To me, that does not seem like enough. However, our car is low mileage (46,000) and I drive like a granny and maintain it, and the home we would get would be inspected to ensure that it is not a money pit.

We are meeting with an agent this weekend to help us look, get to know the market, and get to know better what we can do with our income.

I want to know what you all thought about it.

EDIT:
As per so many wise peoples' comments, a house is not the best idea. Now, what about our current rent? $945 for rent, $85-110 for WSG, and $45-50 for electric. Our WSG, we can't really do much about, as it is shared between the rest of the 440-unit property. We could, however, consider moving to the property next door (that I actually work at). It is cheaper by up to $145 (currently with the specials), and the WSG may be cheaper, as there are more residents there to divide the cost between.

Problem with that is that we would then have to pay for carpet replacement (around $300 at this point). That could be added-on to our monthly rent. Maybe worth doing, since after only three months we would be saving money?

I should get with our bookkeeper who is in charge of what residents get charged when they vacate a unit.

Opinions on this?

It is worth noting that I work in apartment maintenance. We would be able to do a lot of the work on a home ourselves, plus the cost of supplies.

Have I Gone Credit Card Crazy?

August 22nd, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Since my credit score breached the 700 mark, I have been getting some pretty great rewards card offers. This time last year, I had only $500 in credit card limits, with one card. Now I have $14,000 in credit card limits, with a $756 balance on one card, a $6,500 soft-cap card coming in the mail, and a total of five credit cards.

Have I gone nuts? Should I really keep opening credit card accounts? I honestly do use all of them but one, and none of them have any maintenance fees, annual fees, etc.

Wonky Pay Periods Have Thrown Me Off!

July 12th, 2012 at 11:16 pm

I am paid every two weeks, rather than on certain dates. This was fine until I received three paychecks in one month last month. Now I am all sorts of confused! So confused, in fact, that I ended up paying two bills twice for that month.

Current upcoming paydays are the 13th and 27th. All bills for the first half of this month are taken care of from last month's last paycheck. So does that mean I should throw the entirety of the check for the 13th into Savings (or whatever)? As far as I can tell, that is how it should work.

I've no clue though. Frown

Refinancing Car & Skipping Payments

June 27th, 2012 at 09:32 am

Last week, my credit union that I have my auto loan through, which is located in Idaho, sent me a letter saying that they would allow me to skip my July auto payment if I wanted to, with the exception of a $29 "processing fee". Normally, I would not do this. Obviously, this is just one way for them to make money. But hey, we could use the extra money to put toward our tires fund, which has plateaued at $241. And, we intend to pay the auto loan off with taxes this coming tax season (balance is currently $2,900).

Then, just yesterday, I got a letter from my current credit union (whom I have my checking, savings, and a credit card through). This letter stated that I was pre-qualified for a $20,000 auto loan, 60-months, no payments for 90 days, and at only 3.49%. Offer expires August 18th.

Just the offer itself is awesome, because it is a bit of a pat on the back to me for doing so well, when we have so little to work with.

So here is what I am going to do. I will skip the July payment (sans the $29 fee) with that credit union, then refinance the car through my current at the beginning of August, and skip three months of payments.

Like I said - normally, we would not do this. But the car desperately needs tires. I think it's a pretty good deal. And most of all, I am proud of my credit score. Smile

Our WSG bill is highway robbery!

June 24th, 2012 at 12:50 pm

This is one of the reasons our living expenses (rent, wsg, electric) equals 60% of our income (inexcusable!).

Here is the rundown of the bill:
Bill Date: 6/12/2012
Due Date: 7/1/2012
Service From: 3/1/2012
Service Thru: 4/1/2012 (yes, you read right - billing is TWO months behind)

W/S ADMIN FEE ............ 2.30
TRASH ADMIN FEE ........ 0.25
HOT WATER ENERGY ... 29.77
TRASH SERVICE ............. 6.86
COLD WATER SERVICE .. 10.33 .. 2130 prev. read, 4470 cur. read, 2340 used
HOT WATER SERVICE ..... 6.91 ... 1580 prev. read, 3590 cur. read, 2010 used
COLD SEWER SERVICE ... 24.94 .. 2130 prev. read, 4470 cur. read, 2340 used
HOT SEWER SERVICE ..... 20.54 .. 1580 prev. read, 2340 cur. read, 2010 used

Amount Due: $101.90

There are quite a few red flags here, to me.

1. Hot Water Energy? I am told that this is the rental fee for the boilers that every tenant shares. The boilers are on the roof. No in-unit water heaters.

2. Why are Cold Water and Cold Sewer the same?

3. Why are Hot Water and Hot Sewer the same?

4. What the hell is "Hot Sewer"?


Needless to say, we are not pleased in the least bit with these living facilities. And I work here... We would love to move out, but we have absolutely no wiggle room (I have to work overtime just to pay the bills), the wife has been looking for kid-friendly work for months, and - because we have no wiggle room - we do not have deposits to move out.

Ugh. Endless circle of fail.

When is it worth it to move to save money?

June 10th, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Our total living costs (rent, W/S/G, electric) come out to 59% of our monthly income. This is simply unacceptable. However, it was what we could do in a pinch when we had to move 600 miles for this new job. Hey! It was nice. As an employee, I didn't have to pay any deposits, and we get a 20% discount, plus any specials currently going on.

But now that I am somewhat settled in my new job, I would like to look into other options.

Living in an apartment is not ideal. Especially with our little dog - she is so bad! She hates other dogs (unless they're in our house), and barks when we are gone (even with the muzzle on), and barks at everything and everyone if we take her with on a cool day and leave her in the car. So, having a yard sure would be nice. However, we simply cannot find any nearby - even outside our price range; it's like they don't exist! Not what I am used to.

We spotted one rental that was the entire upstairs of a nice craftsman home that would have saved us about $150/mo. Move-in fees came to $785 (cheapest I have seen yet). However, that would take us about 5.5 months to save all that money back up. Plus U-Haul, which would only be $20 (in-city move) + fuel.

Another option is moving into another property that is owned by this company. Same deals apply. And, since I work just across the street (actually, driveway) at another property, we could move there. Rent is cheaper, but also the amenities are slightly less. The cabinetry and floors are uglier, the kitchen faucet does not have the pull-out sprayer, but everything else is the same.

Anyways, I sort of wanted to start a discussion, so I am posting a corresponding post in the forums. [ur=http://www.savingadvice.com/forums/personal-finance/66640-when-worth-move-save-money.html]Go see it here[/url]! Otherwise, go ahead and leave your comments about our personal situation here. Smile

Updates on CC's, EF, Groceries, etc.

May 25th, 2012 at 02:20 pm

I mentioned a few posts back that we would be focusing on our credit card debts. Well... That idea just took a blow when I remembered our car desperately needs tires. As in, we won't be able to drive this winter without them. As in, we were on an incline in Seattle last weekend and it was not even raining, and the tires slipped when I accelerated from a stop light going uphill. So, this is most definitely a priority!

The good news is that I have been putting in plenty of over time, and we already have $79 saved for it (State Farm reimbursed us for lockout assistance). It should only take one-half to two months to save for the tires. Smile

Speaking of lockout... None of you know this, but in the past year, we have - on average - been locked out of our car once per month. Last summer, the average was about three times per month, but the windows were down, so we did not have to get lockout assistance. And now that we are with State Farm, we have to first pay for the lockout, and then get reimbursement. Not cool! Allstate covered it, so long as you used an approved locksmith or towing company. Ah well...

But no more to fear! I ordered two keyless entry remotes from eBay for our car, totaling $16, and was able to program them myself, avoiding the $60 it would have cost. What a difference these make! See, before we got our current vehicle, I was used to vehicles with keyless entry. This one did not come with such a remote. It's about time we got them. Should save us the hassle! Smile

The Emergency Fund is stagnant at $900.

Credit Cards are slowly getting paid off, but since that is currently not our main focus, it will be much slower for the current time being. After getting the tires, I will continue putting in more time at work in order to get rid of these debts!

Really sucks that we were entirely credit card debt free (only debt was the car, with only a balance [then] of $3,500), and now we are not. Oh well. At least our situation is still better! Smile

Our grocery budget took a huge hit. If you remember our situation before moving to our new location, I was unemployed and the wife was working part time. Because of our low income, we were receiving around $520/mo in food assistance. Since we now gross about $2,200/mo, that has dropped to $171/mo. We contribute $80/mo from my income, so the grocery budget is now $251, or about $62/week.

We have done great with this, I think! The wife is baking much more (breads, rolls, etc.), we are buying in bulk (lentils, pasta, flour, etc.) from WinCo, and she is really enjoying it! And you can bet that I am too! Wink

So, don't mind me while I toot our own horns, but I am super proud of us. Smile

Our housing expenses are dramatically and unrealistically outrageous! Rent is $945. Power typically runs under $50. But we just got our bill for W/S/G (yes, they bill 1.5 months behind!), and it was $80! Oh my! That takes our housing expenses to $1,075/mo, or around 58% of my net income! Unacceptable! We are looking at other housing opportunities. However, with the area that we live in now, living outside of a controlled-access community does not sit well with me. It is not entirely a safe neighbourhood outside of here, and we have even had our fair share of auto theft, and the like. So, choose your evil, right?

I had the opportunity to get that promotion some of you have been hearing about. The $2 raise and all. My supervisor had it all lined up... One guy is leaving for California. So my supervisor was going to move two of us up the line. But, instead, his boss decides she wants to bring in someone from the outside and screw it all up for us. There is much more back story to this, but I would rather avoid the tell-all. Either way, she ticked off quite a few people with this executive decision, especially considering that is not how these companies are supposed to be run.

Anyways... We are holding on, and our quality of life is still pretty great. Got my wife and kiddo, a roof over our heads that, stable employment, and food on the table. Asking for anything more is just greedy. Smile


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