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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

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.

Text is This article full of charts and Link is http://blog.quandl.com/2013/05/07/justifiably-mad-the-plight-of-the-99-in-15-charts/
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?

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...

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

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.

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.