Archive | July, 2012

Thankful—Because We Didn’t Purchase Something

29 Jul

My husband and I have been looking for our “dream home” for a few months now. To be honest, I have been scouting homes for over a year but we have been seriously looking at homes for the past two months.

I put dream home in quotes because my dream home is not here. Nope. I cannot afford a house here so our “dream home” has really been limited to co-ops and, if we were lucky, a cheap condo. We were pre-approved and one of the first co-ops we saw—well, we loved it. It was a two-bedroom co-op that needed some work here or there but overall, it was nice. It had a terrace, which I was practically dying for and the only catch was that there was no washer/dryer unit on-site. It was at the top of our price range and we both really liked it. But after consulting with a plumber, we decided it was not worth it at all and we sadly let go of our “dream home.”

I would say that a few weeks after that, my perception completely changed. And I am glad we did not pursue that co-op!

Our current rent is probably right on average for what we would pay in our neighborhood. I started thinking to myself, “If I don’t plan on living here forever and these are not places that I absolutely love, why do I intend on paying more every month to live there?” Our rent is somewhere between 26-27% of our net income, which is actually a pretty good number considering a recent article I read talked about how much rent eats up the budget of those who live in my city.

So I thought up a new plan which is as follows:

  1. We began looking at one bedroom places instead of more expensive, two-bedroom places. We also stopped looking at expensive one-bedroom units. This not only saves us money on the down payment and mortgage but it also saves us money on the maintenance.
  2. I decided that our cut-off was now going to be $220,000 instead of the $350,000 we had started at and had been pre-approved for, since we can, in actuality, make those payments every month. I also decided to focus on places where the maintenance was on the lower-end of the scale, which for us is $600 or less.

I am incredibly interested in a place we looked at the other day. It’s listed for $199,000 and the maintenance is $473.55. I am hoping to get that price down by at least $10,000, though I’m not sure yet how negotiable the seller is since he is also willing to rent it out at the same price that I pay for rent now, which is $1,300/month. Doing a little big of math, I figured:

  • Purchasing the property for $190,000 would allow me to put down 25% or $47,500. The mortgage would be $670.09 at a rate of 3.875% (co-ops do not get rates as good as houses.) With the maintenance at $473.55, my total payment every month would be $1143.64, saving me more than $200 every month in rent. At least 50% of the maintenance every month is tax deductible, as well as the mortgage interest.
  • Purchasing the property for $190,000 would allow me to put down 30% or $57,000. The mortgage would be $625.42 at a rate of 3.875%. With the maintenance at $473.55, my total payment every month would be $1098.97, and everything else mentioned above also applies here obviously.

My thinking, for now, is that inevitably, I will get the money back that I used as a down payment when I sell the property in the future. In the meanwhile, I can pay for a mortgage and maintenance that is not only less than my rent but that will provide me with $2500-$3000 per year in tax deductions. In the meanwhile, I can save more money toward something else. Most housing did not experience any depreciation in my neighborhood so that is not of any concern to me.

So overall, this house hunting experience, which has left me largely frustrated, has also allowed me to reevaluate what I really want and what I am willing to settle for at this time. I think that going with a smarter decision, even if we don’t like it as much, will work out better for us in the end.

And really, I should thank the realtor from the first property—she was so obnoxious that she completely turned us off from the property all together!

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Attempting to Find a Second Job — For the One Millionth Time

19 Jul

Lately, I have noticed quite a few bloggers that I read from time to time posting little pieces on how awesome it is to have a side gig and that everyone should have a second job. They’re so damn positive about it that it makes me sick inside. Sick I tell you! What I find even more frustrating is that a lot of people in my particular field have second jobs too. How do all of these people get second jobs and why can’t I get one? And why does my awesome husband have the same problem?

Resumes

I have reviewed our resumes. For my field, my resume is actually quite reflective of what I do—in fact, I used to get a lot of resumes to review at my old job and my resume is actually quite good in comparison. I don’t mean to toot my own horn but the fact is that a large number of people in my field are from other countries and English is not their first language. This becomes VERY apparent once you start looking over resumes. There are no spelling errors in my resume. Everything flows. I think it’s pretty spiffy.

I have also looked over my husband’s resume. His old resume definitely needed to be redone and when he fixed it up, it was actually quite good as well. In fact, when I first read his new one I thought it might have been too short—but in actuality, he conveyed so much and summed up what he did so well.

Fields

My field is supposedly always in demand. I am so tired of hearing this garbage. If you look on any job or career website, you will see my field as one of the fields in health care that will end up with a shortage. I am still waiting for this huge shortage so that there is actually some competition for workers in my field.

My husband is probably in the best and the worst field for freelancing, which is writing. He somehow managed to fall into copywriting and has been doing it for over four years. He loves his job and he’s good at what he does but it seems almost impossible for him to find steady work to do on the side. He has had one thing here or there but nothing consistent—except a very meager (and very random) site that will pay him $8/article. Being in the writing business is definitely NOT for the weak, as he has applied to jobs over and over again only to:

  • Find out that people want you to work for free or practically free. I have never seen so many jobs that want you to work for nothing or for $5/article in my life—until you find yourself looking on craigslist.
  • Find out that the people who tell you “you’re hired” are actually flakes.
  • Find out that probably two hundred or so other people applied for the same job and that one hundred of them are willing to undercut you on the price.

Networking

I actually think this is our biggest problem.

We actually got our full-time jobs on our own with no help from anyone which I actually have found it almost impossible to do. However, we don’t really know anyone in our fields with an “in” somewhere else.

I would say I am definitely more of an introvert—okay maybe misanthropic if you really want to put it out there—so I find networking incredibly difficult to do. My husband hasn’t really done a lot of networking in a long time. I don’t really know too many people in my field and neither does my husband. I am guessing what this is what we both really need to work on a bit.

But…

After reading all of these bloggers lately, I think I am going to apply to some jobs right now!

It’s Time to Lighten Up

16 Jul

Toward the end of last year, I had this whole idea that I needed to make a budget because we didn’t really keep track of where our money was going. We had always saved money but I didn’t actually know how much we were spending on random things here or there. This resulted in the creation of a budget that could be flexible here or there. We have been pretty good at sticking to the budget with the occasional exception here or there.

I became focused. The goal? Purchase a home. We need to put down twenty percent. We have had the twenty percent for months. But I hadn’t been able to let go. Keep saving, I thought. So we have been saving. And saving. All of my paychecks go directly into the savings account, untouched. I kept telling myself I would start an IRA only to find myself putting it off so I could get to the next big number in my savings account.

But what have we been doing?

Basically, nothing.

I realized I started to detest spending money, even on things we needed or that we would enjoy. We needed a new couch for quite some time but I was very reluctant to actually purchase one. I didn’t want to use the state pass I purchased in order to visit the parks because I didn’t want to spend the money on gas to get there. Essentially, we would put off having fun or doing something that might be fun for us because I didn’t want to spend the money.

I decided that I need to stop being so tightfisted because it was having an impact on my life. I don’t really spend much on activities—so why can’t I let go once in awhile? What’s the point in having a little extra money in the bank if I’m a lot less happy for it. We aren’t anywhere near struggling financially so why am I keeping myself from taking a day trip to the lake? It seems so ridiculous.

I think every once in awhile you need to take a step back and reevaluate your goals in life. Once your needs have been covered, it’s time to establish your wants. What do you want?

I want to enjoy my time doing things with the people I love.

And that is what I plan to do this day forward.

The “Cheaper” Wedding – Part One

6 Jul

When my husband and I decided to get married, we had some differences in our thought processes.

Him: “Wedding! I want a wedding!”
Me: “No wedding! Courthouse!”

As you can see, our thinking varied quite a bit from the beginning.

Once we decided to actually have a wedding, we were pretty lazy about it. I am not the girl that is often stereotyped as planning her dream wedding her entire life. In fact, I found myself resenting most of the things I had to do in order to get through the process. I found myself harboring resentment whenever something had to do be done or if a problem arose. In the end, I really enjoyed our wedding and many of our friends told us it was the most fun they have ever had at a wedding.

Having a wedding, however, can be an overwhelmingly expensive ordeal. My husband and I paid for almost the entire wedding ourselves and living in an expensive city did not make things any easier. I lost count of how many times people told us “you’ll get it back” or “it’s only once” as an excuse to spend even more money. In the end, we found ourselves sticking to our budget and making our wedding work for us. According to Reuters, the average cost of a U.S. wedding was $27,021 and in New York the average skyrockets to $65,824. With numbers this overwhelming, one might wonder how they can have their “dream” wedding on a budget.

Budgeting – The First & Most Important Step

Many people advise against being “house poor” in the same way I would advise against being “wedding poor.” Could my husband and I have had a wedding for $65,824 without going into debt? Absolutely, if we wanted to wipe out our savings accounts. However, many people end up going into debt for weddings which is something I cannot fathom. I cannot wrap my head around the idea of starting a life together in massive amounts of debt or, if you’re already in debt, adding to that monstrosity.

The biggest thing people need to give up is the sense of entitlement that they deserve or are somehow owed a big wedding if they cannot afford it. My mom and all of her siblings either eloped or had courthouse weddings; my husband’s family loves to have big, catered affairs. We were obviously used to very different things and had to really assert ourselves in terms of what we wanted and ignoring other people.

At the beginning, I was a little unrealistic to the cost of our wedding once I came up with a theme. I had a budget but once we got into the actual planning a couple of months before our wedding, I realized I’d have to adjust my budget appropriately. Given that we were having a wedding where the average cost is $65,824, I realized that having a wedding around $13,000 wasn’t the end of the world for us. So how can you begin your initial budgeting?

LOCATION

The biggest thing you need to budget for first is your location. For this, you need to take several factors into account:

  • Are you having a ceremony and reception in the same place or at different locations?
  • Are you having food catered at the location or are you able to bring in your own catering?
  • Is there an additional cost for a rental on top of catering or is everything batched together?
  • Does the rental space come with anything, such as tables, chairs, etc?
  • Is it accessible to the people you are inviting?
  • And most importantly, can you afford this location?

My husband and I saved a lot of money and time by having our ceremony immediately before our reception. After searching for hours, I found an incredibly affordable place that I could rent out for four hours. The cost of the rental was approximately $1400 and we paid for one more additional hour in case we ran over our time, which we ended up using in its entirety anyway. One way we saved money was by simply asking them if we could have our ceremony directly outside of the building—and the answer was yes! I found that most people rented out a separate area for $500 extra and you had to pay for the entire thing even if it was being used for a short ceremony. Additionally, nothing else in the area rented for anywhere close to $1400—in fact, most rentals were $5,000 and above. Even though it was a little further away then I wanted it to be, people could still access our wedding by public transportation or taxi if they didn’t have their own vehicles.

We detest catering halls so finding this place which felt like you were outdoors was amazing and well-worth the research I put into it. The best part about it was that we were allowed to bring in our own catering company or could cater food any way we wanted to. This one thing saved us a ton of money and will be discussed in my next wedding post.