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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.

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)?

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.

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!

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!

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

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.

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

Thinking of the Future... (Input?)

April 30th, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Have recently been thinking, again, going to college. I am 24 years old, wife and baby, and need to figure out what I'm doing with the rest of our lives.

In the career I am in now, I could end up getting promoted to Supervisor within five or so years. With that comes a free two bedroom apartment (with most employers). This would be fine and dandy, but we do not enjoy living in an apartment as much as we would renting or owning a home with a yard where we could plant a garden, have chickens, etc.

So, school may have to be the route I go. But I don't want to do just anything. I was thinking of nursing before, but that is not what would make me the happiest, I don't think. Being outside, with nature, animals, would do it, I think. So I have been looking into Biology, Ecology, Environmental Science, etc. But as a working man, it will most definitely be hard. However, living in this new area, we have many more opportunities. There are online community colleges that offer two-year Associates that transfer to four-year colleges for a Bachelors. The online, I could do. But for the two years after that, I am not sure. We have cut costs everywhere we can, and things just keep getting harder. Trying to sell our car now, and it is proving most difficult. Also, our food assistance went down from $520/mo to $171/mo. Understandably so, but still - we cannot afford it! If we sold the car, yes, we could. Trying!

BTW, my wife is looking into doing some nannying. Smile

Here is the spreadsheet for my projections of what we will need to make.

Determining a Strategy

April 4th, 2012 at 10:15 am

As you know, we have been trying to decide whether or not to sell our car. We listed it for sale, then took it down. We are just not ready to see it go. A 2007 Focus with only 44,000 miles? Who would be? Our payment is only $136/mo. We owe $3,200. Insurance is now at $132/mo ($7 of which is for Renters Insurance). So we are doing a little better. It is nice to know that we can jump in our car on the weekends and know it won't die on us.

However, keeping this car means getting tires before the next winter. So that is $450-500.

But before we can do that, we need to tackle our credit card debt that we accumulated from moving over here for this better life (and believe me - I don't ever regret it!). That total comes out to $1,300.

Technically, we should be able to pay these down pretty quickly. However, our savings is pretty far behind. It is lingering at $770, which is not even half of a month's bills.

So, question: Should we build our savings first, or pay off the cards?

After getting the savings up, and credit cards back to zero, I plan on doubling-up on car payments.

All this and no health insurance for the wife and I. Hopefully, that will come soon...

I should have a $400+ side job coming up, as well as a promotion. I don't want to psych myself up for that one though, in case it does not happen.

Updates on Auto Ins, Living, etc.

March 16th, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Hi all. Thank you for following. Smile

We got both Auto and Renters insurance switched to Geico. Only saving about $11/mo, but the Renters insurance is much more inclusive (though they do outsource it with another agency). Comes with Fraud/Identity Theft protection. Smile

Today, we are going to Lowe's to pic up some picture hangers (bought a canvas painting at IKEA with a gift card!), screws for our accent lighting in our bedroom, tarps for our bicycles that are stored on our patio, for sale signs for the car, and a tool or two for various things. Gotta start collecting tools if I want to move up from my current position at work. Wink Also need them for working on the bicycles.

Also, today, we may be going to look at an '80's Schwinn Le Tour bicycle for $45. It is of higher build quality than my '72 Schwinn Varsity, so it will serve as a parts bike for mine. If we are going to be riding our bicycles instead of driving a vehicle, then we might as well upgrade them a little bit where it is needed.

And also, we might be getting a new stereo installed in our car today or tomorrow. Our old one went bad, so we bought a factory stereo for $50. Installation will be $25. I would do it myself, but I have not successfully done it before, and do not want to screw up any electrical in the car, because we are prepping it for sale.

Yesterday, at work, I found a great looking couch sitting out at the "junk pile" where tenants put what they consider to be junk. More accurately, it is where I put stuff that tenants leave in hallways and trash rooms instead of doing what they are supposed to because they are too lazy and feel entitled... Haha.

This couch looks like a mid-century sofa. It has a nice floral print and has a hide-a-bed, and is on rollers. It's pretty awesome. We love mid-century styles, and our current sofa is scratched up and bulky and way too contemporary for us. You can actually find the same set at RC Wiley. Not our flavour at all!

I stored this sofa in one of our maintenance rooms that only three of us have access to, so that no one would jack it. Ha! The sofa has no scratches or anything on it. Only thing is that the arm rests are somewhat hard, so our little one may bang her face on it a time or two. Haha. Well, that is going to happen no matter what. Smile

We're excited about the sofa. Just need to figure out how to get our current one down five stories to put in the junk pile. It does not fit in the elevator, and there is a divider in most of the stairwells blocking entry from Parking Level 1 to Parking Level 2 (where the junk pile is). I'll have to figure out which one does not have that divider, and hopefully enlist my wife's uncle to help.

Oh! Almost forgot. A few weeks ago, someone threw away a somewhat older DSLR camera. It was set nicely in its nearly indestructible case, with two battery packs, two memory cards, and cleaning tools. There is no lens in there, but we have done some research, and they still make lenses for it. This particular camera (just the body is in there) is the Canon EOS D60. It was made in 2002, so it is missing some more modern features. However, it is still a very functional camera. With 169 different Canon EF-series lenses ranging from $150 to $2,000, there are plenty of choices. Smile We found one for $170 that would do us quite well. This camera retailed for $2,200 back in 2002. The body by itself still sells on eBay and Amazon for $200. Smile So, we are going to keep it. It turns on and takes pictures fine - just need a lens and battery charger.

Woohoo for working in Apartment Maintenance! Smile

On a more downward note, we still have running balances on our credit cards. Currently paying only a little above the minimum payments, but that will all change soon enough.

We have been thinking about what we would do with the money left from paying off the car after selling it. We should have around $3,000 - enough to pay off Sallie Mae and our credit cards. However, that would leave us with no money to purchase a vehicle if we find that we can indeed not go without a vehicle. So, maybe we will wait a month or two to pay them off. Or we may pay off the cards or Sallie Mae, and keep paying the other. What do you think?

By the way, the current estimation of how much we will be saving per month after selling the car and having dropped the smartphone plans, is over $400! Smile We will be allocating $50 of that to groceries (EBT benefits are decreasing) and $30 to clothing at first (need rain gear and bicycle clothing such as rain jackets), bringing the net savings to $326 per month! Also, we will be getting Washington State Basic Health plans for my wife and I, at $60 each, bringing the new net savings to $206 per month.

It should be a little more than that, because all of our budgets are rounded up and income is rounded down (by about $100/mo), and we have not factored-in our current difference between income:expenses. Just factoring in what we will be saving from dropping the car and phones.

Sounds pretty great, right?! Smile

AT&T may want $450

March 4th, 2012 at 05:27 pm

We are going to check tonight, but here is the deal...

We want out of our iPhone contracts. Wife's is up this July. Mine is up November of 2013. Do not want to wait that long. Their Early Termination Fee for smartphone users is $325, less $10 for each month into the contract you are...

What if they do try to get us to do this? We do have that much in savings. But sheesh! Ugh! I would rather just tell them to shove it, but the prepaid phone plans we want are AT&T. >.

Sell the Car?

March 1st, 2012 at 10:29 pm



We have a 2007 Ford Focus. 44,000 miles (great for the year!). Great mileage. For us, at least - I hypermile, so I always exceed the EPA ratings. EPA ratings are 24/33, but I get 40 in the city. Rebuilt title. Needs tires.

Auto Loan: $3,400 - $136/mo
Auto Ins: $166/mo
Gas: $30/mo

We are contemplating selling. We do not want to, especially with its amazing miles, mileage, and reliability. However, take a look at this (not a pretty sight): Our budget.

As you can see, this leaves NO wiggle room at all. So, we need to trim the fat! We really cannot part with our phones. They are handy for when we do not have our bulky digital camera with us, and we have a daughter, so we need to capture those moments. It really is a fruitful part of our lives to be able to capture and share those moments, especially with being away from our families.

We could trim out our $32 in treats (Starbucks), which we have had to do before...

Student loans are already deferred, which I hate doing.

Rent cannot be trimmed. Nor can internet.

So that leaves the vehicle...

We have always wanted a VW camper. Why not get one if we do sell the car? If we sell the car for $7,500, we could have $4,100 left over to purchase a bus. Also, we could wait to get a bus while saving up more to get a better one. Good VW camper busses usually start around $4,000, but you should really look at spending $6,000 for one you won't need to do any serious work on for a couple of years. However, if we do end up spending $4,000 (and I have seen a couple of great ones for that price, but not very common), then I am thinking this: We will be saving at least $250/mo with not having to pay for the Focus anymore. So this could help us build a good savings again, since it was almost dwindled when we moved. Would help pay off credit cards we had to use for moving.

Here I am asking... What would you do? We like our car (don't LOVE it, but it is responsible). It is reliable, but if anything happened, we could not afford to fix it now. If we had an older vehicle (like the bus), we could afford repairs when it needed it. We could afford clothes (I am down to two pairs of undergarments and two pairs of socks, and the wife... Oh, man!). We could afford to get more clothes for our daughter (she has like five outfits and no rain-proof clothing; kinda need that here!). It would most likely be much better.

What do you all think?

Oh! One more thing! I have a contact that works on and sells (and know others that do as well) classic VW busses. So we would only be getting into a bus that we knew everything about, and knew what we were getting into.

Auto Insurance Hike

March 1st, 2012 at 07:42 am

Due to our recent move, our auto insurance with Allstate has gone by more than $60 per month! Our Renters policy, however, has gone down by $2/mo.

I have been emailing our new Allstate agent about trying to get the cost down, but to no avail. The agent's 'risk management professional' suggests that since I have two speeding violations and an accident, there is no lower rate. However, I have zero at-fault accidents. So what ever happened to Allstate's Accident Forgiveness deal?

I am starting to think it is not worth it anymore. Now that we have moved, our car should be even more insurance-friendly. It has 44,000 miles on it, and is six years old. It does have a restructured title, but they said it is not any more to insure - they just won't pay as much if it is totaled by me. Also, we are driving even less. Been here almost a month and have yet to even fill up on gas. We are averaging 20 miles per week. That is less than 1,000 miles per year. And, again, we now live in a controlled access area.

But, since we now live in a "more urban" place, it goes way up. Well, maybe I just won't insure the car anymore. It is breaking us. Our leftover after monthly expenses is now $54. Not sure how long we can last on that...

SaveUp!

February 14th, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Found an awesome web site. Have used it twice. It is a play-to-win web site. You use tickets - which you earn for adding your accounts or by winning them, or even by paying down debt! - to play different games.

Rewards range from gift cards to loan payoffs to cars.

Have fun!

https://SaveUp.com/

Post-Move Finances

February 10th, 2012 at 01:49 pm

Hi everyone! I know some of you have been looking forward to hearing from me since we moved.

The move went well! I won't go into super details, but we are doing great! Almost everything unpacked, and we are on our fifth night here. I've worked three days at my new job. Basically, it's a dirty job. Dealing with dumpsters of trash and recycling, picking up garbage, etc. But, it's easy, it's good pay, and I may not be doing it for long...

The guy that I replaced is such a screw-up that I may be replacing him again! He was moved to the next position up, because they needed more people to work on getting apartments ready for move-in. When he was working my job, he left the dumpsters overflowing, didn't get certain things done, etc. What he's doing now basically includes painting and blending. Say you've got a hole in the wall from a picture nail. You fill it, let it dry, then fill it some more if it needs it. Then paint over it once it is flush with the rest of the wall.

Apparently he has not been doing well. Cracks in the paint, holes, not using tape to cut-in on different paints, etc. So, I heard thru the grapevine that our supervisor will be asking me next week to help do turns (what I just explained about making apartments move-in ready) with him. That basically means he is going to train me for the position that is above my current one. Hopefully that means that I will be able to receive a pay raise here soon.

Everyone I work with is very pleased with my work. They say they don't worry about something getting done with me at the helm. They say I picked it up faster than anyone else they've trained. Etc., etc. Makes me feel good!

As for the finances... Oh, boy! I'm not happy with the situation we got ourselves into, but we should be okay. Basically, we are in the same boat now that we were a year ago (a year ago, exactly, actually).

Here's the somewhat break-down:
Total Moving Expenses: $5,603
Chase Card Balance: $828
Target REDcard Balance: $260
Remaining Savings: $25
Remaining Fed Tax Returns: $292

Here is how we are going to handle this. Whenever I make a chard to one of the credit cards, I record the same charge in the checking account, so as to be sure that I have the money to pay the credit card. I know a lot of you do this. I wish there was a term for it... Anyways...

There is currently an actual balance of $1,769 in our Checking account, if you do not subtract the credit card balances from it. Here is why I mention this; If we were to pay our credit cards off, we would not be able to pay rent in full this next month. Why? I am going three weeks without getting paid here at my new job. You know, the whole pay period thing.

What we will do is pay the rent, and just pay down the credit card debt. This is what we had to do last year, unfortunately. This debt is less than before, but still important. However, this one should get paid off much quicker, due to our larger margin of debt:income.

So, not too bad, eh?

Keep an eye on the sidebar - Will be updating it more often, now that there will be more changes month-to-month. Smile

Moving - Update

January 26th, 2012 at 06:42 pm

Went and tried out one of the U-Hauls today. We will have to get a 14', because of the third seat. Would be nice if we could just get the 10', as we do not have any big items at all. Our heaviest item is our dining small dining table. Next to that is the iMac haha.

Found out today that we will not have to pay the deposits like normal tenants do. This will save us over $300.

However, our dog just went into heat. Ack! And she is scheduled to get her goods taken out on the 6th. We will have to pay an extra $25, bringing her spay to $125.

I have budgeted $250 for gas. However, gasbuddy.com's trip calculator seems to think otherwise. It is estimating only $100 to get there and fill up. Always better to over-budget! Smile

We found out today just which unit we will be getting. Somewhat, at least. Rent will be $952/mo for a 1 bedroom unit. Better than the $900 for the studio that we originally thought we were getting. Also, since these are "green" apartments, the average cost for utilities (just power) is $35/mo.

Here are the floor plans of the 1 bedroom units:






All come with a bar or island w/ bar, washer/dryer in unit, patio, patio storage closet, walk-in closet, coat closet, granite counter tops, cherry wood cabinets, black appliances, ceiling fans, and our choice of an accent wall.

The studio we would have gotten would have had the options of choosing our colour of counter tops and cabinets, would have had stainless steel appliances, and wood floors instead of linoleum. But whatever. Smile

I, personally, like the second floor plan shown above. I like that the kitchen and dining area are separated from the rest of the unit, somewhat. We would most likely use the dining area to put our little one's crib and stuff in. Would be a good little nook for her, until we upgrade in a couple years (or so) to a larger apartment.

Total estimated moving costs: $1,720
Total estimated bills/mo: $1,560
Minimum estimated income/mo: $1,600

Now, this is definitely cutting it close! However, we will soon be getting rid of our texting plan ($30/mo), will not be driving as much (budgeted $40/mo for fuel), and will be getting at least 40 hours per week.

How I came to the estimated income was taking my hourly wage x 160 and subtracting 15% for taxes. Now, I highly doubt 15% will be taken out for taxes, because the most I've had taken was 5% when I made almost $23,000/yr. Not sure how exactly that equates, but okay!

Anyways... We should be fine. If not, we will make sure we will be. We found a plasma donation center up there, so that would help us get at least $40/wk. Also, my wife wants to - sometime down the road when we can justify the $100 startup cost - become a consultant for Scentsy. If you've never had a Scentsy... They are awesome. Smile

Alright, I think this post has rambled on enough. Wish us luck! Smile

Moving - Job Offer!

January 25th, 2012 at 04:52 pm

Hi all!

I am happy to report that I was offered a job in WA. This is great news! We will bring in more than we are now, and will be able to rent our own place. I will be performing apartment maintenance.

In order to complete this move, however, we will have to deplete our savings account (which is currently at $1,650) to zero. Ack! I have made a budget, and it looks as though we may even be forced to use the credit card.

While this is not at ALL what I want to do, I feel that it would be stupid of us NOT to. I will be making money right off the bat, will have full benefits within three months, and will be making even more as the years go on, as I will have plenty of room and opportunity for growth and promotion.

I will be working with my wife's uncle and his friend. Her uncle has been in the industry for over 10 years, while his friend - former assistant - started where I am, and became a supervisor within three years, and is now making $22/hr and gets free rent.

The planning is going well. We need to get our dog fixed before moving, and she decided that today was a good day to go into heat. Ack! Her appointment is on the 6th, so she will still be in heat then. We may have to pay the extra $25 to have it done while she is still in heat.

Anyways, wish us luck! You should be hearing more from me, as we will have much more going on. Smile

Amazon Free Shipping - Short by a little & don't know what to get?

January 12th, 2012 at 12:46 pm



I am a fool for Amazon.com's FREE Super Saver Shipping. And here's why: If you spend just a little more, you can usually end up getting something basically for free, when you figure that that money would have been used for shipping.

Earlier this week, we went out to the car to find that some idiot had broken one of our wiper blades. The same person also got into another person's car. Well, I am pretty sure that the wiper arm is okay, so I just need a new blade. Straight from the manufacturer, these blades are $30. No thanks! So I looked at AutoZone and similar places, to find blades for the same price, but of much better quality, such as the RainX blades.

Then I read about silicone blades. These things last for YEARS, rather than the recommended six months. And they keep on working! And, guess what... Retail price is $25!

So I did some hunting, and found the same ones on Amazon for much cheaper! To be exact, the driver side (a 22" blade) is $14.27, and the passenger side (a 19" blade) is $10.40. Altogether, that is just under $25.

Well, as most of you know, FREE Super Saver Shipping kicks in only at $25, on eligible items. So I browsed my Save For Later list, and realized that I had some Kool Stop bicycle brakes on there for my '72 Schwinn. SWEET!

Added those to the cart and the total came to just under $35, $5 cheaper than if I had ordered just the blades and paid for shipping. HA! Take THAT, Consumerism! And I got all those for less than one blade from the manufacturer. Smile

So, if you think you're just going to have to buck up and pay for shipping, remember to check your lists. If you can't find anything in there cheap enough, there is this super awesome tool, called the Amazon Item Filler. You simply enter the amount that you are short on receiving the FREE Super Saver Shipping, and it finds items in and around that amount. Alternatively, you could always enter the difference between the total for shipping, and the current amount of the items you have. In my case, this would have been about $10.

Here are links to the items mentioned in this article:
edit: For some reason, links are not showing up when using vB code or HTML... >.<
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00029X5WO/ref=oh_o00_s00_i00_details - Silblade (choose your size - don't know it? Amazon does!)
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001SYM690/ref=oh_o00_s02_i00_details - Kool Stop Continental bicycle brake pads
http://www.filleritem.com/ - Amazon Filler Item Finder

Target REDcard

December 16th, 2011 at 10:16 am

We opened up a Target REDcard last night. Credit limit is only $500, but we don't even spend $100 there each month, so we are plenty happy with it. Smile

It's nice being able to keep your credit open, and this card is just going to help do that even more. We won't have to charge the Chase card as much, as we get our Toiletries and Household Items from Target. Smile

The Reason - Responses?

December 1st, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Recently, my wife has been looking into going to school. If you remember, she is now the one working, while I am a stay-at-home-father and practicing my poor Algebra skills to retake the Math COMPASS for entry into college. She has been looking at the Paul Mitchell school - something she has always considered doing. She would receive 2,000 hours in Cosmetology training. We have thought about this. The school's job placement rate for new grads is 86%. Pretty good. Average salary is about $24,000/yr. "That would help us get out of our living-with-family situation," we think. Then we realize that we would also lose Food Stamps, which is over $400/mo. So, to make up for that, pay our current bills, plus pay her tuition, and put $700 towards rent and utilities, we would have to net $2,000/mo. On one income...

We are still donating plasma, but it is not the $440/mo that we have hoped it would be. While that is the max potential (two people, two 'donations' per week), we have found that it is not always possible for us to do so. So, it has turned out to be around $100/mo. 

Also, I have taken it upon myself to try to find odd jobs to do. This has come to me in the way of oDesk.com. It is a freelancing/contracting web site that appears to have some threads of truth to it. I have been working on my résumé in order to make myself more desirable, so I have yet to apply to any contracts yet (limited number of applications per week). So I do not know how that will pan out. 

Anyways... While the job placement percentage is decent, it is an $18,000 tuition in a field where the demand comes strictly from desire rather than from need. The clients are there because they want to be. Because they are able to afford it (or at least have some credit left on their cards). I am still paying off my $18,000 tuition from when I went to school for Massage Therapy. I am a great Massage Therapist. Great technique. Great form. Wonderful pressure. Superb personal skills. And that sixth sense that a lot of MT's don't have, but wish they did... And yet, I have never been employed in the field. 

What are we to do? We live off of $600/mo. We live in an oppressive and downright dangerous environment where the downstairs wreaks of cat feces and occasionally marijuana, where the other residents do not take into account the welfare of the infant in their house, etc., etc. We have been married over a year and a half, and have been together for longer, and have not once lived in a place of our own! 

This. This is the point of all that we strive to do, financially. Money is the only thing that can change our lives at this point.

What are we to do? Suggestions for my wife? For me? 

Thank you for reading.

Credit Limit Increased

November 25th, 2011 at 07:18 pm

Due to our exceptional payment history and near-excellent credit, our credit limit with Chase Freedom (our only credit card) was increased. I did not receive notification of this, but learnt just tonight by way of checking to make sure our most recent payment went through.

This is very good news for us! Not only will this look great on our credit report, but it will also make using the card much easier! The starting limit was a measly $500. It doubled. Considering that we only spend about $700/mo, we will now be able to use the credit card without having to make multiple payments a month.

We did have to flop our budgets around. We realized we were not spending as much on baby items as we thought, so we increased our pets budget, which was much needed!

Doing pretty well for being on such low income (all things considering, besides the fact that we do not live in our own place).

Other than that, there is not much else going on in the way of finances.

We did find this awesome new body wash soap that we are using instead of bottled body wash. It is Black African Shea Butter bar soap, costs $6 at Target, is all natural, and lasts much longer than liquid bottled body wash. It also smells much better and leaves our skin much softer.

Moving Away from the CC

November 11th, 2011 at 11:07 am

If you remember my last post, Our Credit Card Usage - Your Input?, you'll recall that we are not exactly happy with our method of usage. We have been using the credit card to pay for everything. And then we pay it off. However, it has shown to be an issue sometimes when it comes to pay the card. Such as last night.

Last night, there were no more pending transactions, so I paid the balance. However, today I check, and there is a balance of $85.67. Which is the total of the most recent transaction, sans the payment from last night. So, thinking Chase may have made a mistake, I download all my transactions and past into Pages, then get the sum for all transactions. Nope, turns out to be -85.67. So Chase is not to blame entirely. However, as it is shown on my account statement, the payment comes in after the transaction. And, remember, the transaction was posted when I made the payment. Not pending. So it looks like it takes some time for their system to show an updated balance after the transaction goes through. Strange.

Granted, I should know exactly how much the payment should be. I was doing this initially. However, I have since stopped. Why? Not too sure. Possibly because of all of the changes in our life recently, and taking on new responsibilities myself.

I am thinking that we will no longer use the credit card for absolutely everything. We will use it on items that are included in the 5% revolving categories, as well as monthly fixed payments. Unfortunately, most of my bills are paid from my checking account (because they do not accept credit cards), so we will definitely not be getting as many rewards points. However, I must remember - rewards points are just a gimmick. A tool used to get you to spend money. So, if I focus on the rewards points, rather than keeping our finances simple, then I will lose track.

Wish us luck! Smile


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