Archive | Household RSS feed for this section

Life Update

11 Nov

I haven’t been around too much lately. Things have been crazy with Hurricane Sandy, attempting to get a second job, working on another blog that will be read more than this one, etc.

HOUSING

We were approved by the co-op board and our closing date has come and gone. Hurricane Sandy really knocked us out for a punch and put a major delay in many of our plans. Of course, more fees must be paid and we have been paying quite a bit into this property already but once it’s over, we will have our own place, we will be making payments that are less than our current rent and we will hopefully enjoy our new surroundings. I’ll have to write about all of the unexpected expenses in terms of purchasing a co-op, which no one will care about because most people do not live in areas with them! I really hope that we can close before the end of the month but that is looking less and less promising.

GETTING A SECOND JOB

Unfortunately, I have really gotten no where with this. After my initial excitement and interviews, I haven’t heard anything. One place I interviewed at said that my schedule didn’t really work for them. Another place, after calling me, never called me back once I returned their call. I did have another interview last week but they seemed to, in actuality, want someone part-time. My husband was also having a difficult time with finding a second job so we started another blog about something he is very familiar with and it seems to be doing okay. We have only existed since October and we are getting over 100 views everyday already so hopefully we can continue on an upward trend.

My husband and I also talked about his goals. Although he really loves where he works, he has been there for over four years and there is no room for growth. Absolutely none. Over the years, he has received tiny raises and then small bonuses but after doing some research, he could be making quite a bit more money at the senior level. Once all of the housing stuff settles down, I think he is really going to think long and hard about what he wants to do and possibly look for another job.

SAVING MONEY & RETIREMENT

This area has been problematic for us and I think the fact that this housing stuff is never-ending is part of the problem.

We were in the position of saving nearly all of my paychecks every month until the co-op stuff started. Now, instead of putting them into the savings account, I have been putting them into our checking account because I have been writing checks non-stop. I haven’t even been able to keep track of anything anymore since they seem to have cashed some checks and not others. I also have not been able to do anything in terms of retirement because I feel stuck with this house stuff over my head.

 

How to Save Money on Moving

23 Oct

My husband and I have been preparing to move. We still need approval via a cooperative board but nonetheless even if we do not receive it, we will be moving anyway since a friend of his is taking over our apartment. Instead of making this a rushed process, we decided to just put together boxes over the next month. I get overwhelmed by this and my husband has a lot of “stuff” so it takes me a long time to pack things away. Not only that, but for insurance purposes and for my own knowledge, I have been listing every single thing as I pack it away. It seems like the optimal time to do it!

But moving can be expensive. When my husband and I first moved in together, we didn’t have any stuff, so it was pretty easy. Now that we have items like an entertainment center and couch, moving seems like it could be a lot of work — even though we live in a small, one-bedroom apartment! As the resident cheapskate, I have come up with these ways to help save a ton of money on our move.

1. Boxes, Boxes and More Boxes. Many people struggle with this one and I admit, I am lucky in this regard. The place I work receives boxes on nearly a daily basis and little by little, I take them home. If you know you are going to be moving, start taking boxes from your workplace way before you begin your move. We live in a tiny one bedroom apartment so having boxes sitting around is not the most glamorous thing but I know it’s for a short while so I suck it up and just ignore the boxes. Boxes are everywhere and all you need to do is ask around. Ask your boss or the person receiving shipments if you can take the empty boxes home from work. If you don’t really receive shipments, ask around – ask your friends, ask your family and even ask local businesses. When I needed some extra boxes one time, I simply walked across the street to a store I frequented and they let me have whatever they had on hand.

2. The Packing Up & Moving Out Part. Packing up your things can take a lot of time which is why we’re starting to early. I recently realized that my brain is converting itself into a minimalist type of person so seeing how many things my husband has already stresses me out! If you start a month or two ahead of time, you can easily pack things up slowly without anybody helping you. Now that you’ve been working on that you need to get your actual move sorted out. This is usually the expensive part but keep in mind the following ways to save money:

  • Renting Your Own Truck. Renting your own moving truck and/or van may save you a lot of money in the long-run. If you don’t have a ton of stuff or have more than one person helping you, this may be a viable option.
  • Using Your Friends’ Abilities. Your friends are an awesome resource. Barter with them and butter them up! Offer to help them with projects in the future or buy them a pizza.
  • But…If you do end up needing to hire movers for whatever reason, shop around first. Call various companies and check their credentials. Do they have insurance in case they break something? Do they have good reviews? Don’t sign-up with the first company you see.

Moving can be an expensive process. I am definitely not looking forward to the move but I am looking forward to starting new and organizing our “stuff” in a new way. I will be implementing a lot of these little tips once the move gets underway!

Have you have an expensive move? What have you done to save some money?

Saving on Low Carb Diets

26 Sep

My husband is fat.

It’s blunt. And I put it out there. But it’s true. And he’s the first to say it.

My husband has been overweight since I met him many years ago. In fact, when he used to stand on his Wii Board to work out using Wii Fit, it would tell him he was technically considered obese. If you look at him, you probably wouldn’t guess that, but according to his BMI, he is obese. (Please don’t forget that BMI is not a good factor for everyone. He is a big dude.) When I first met my husband, he told me that he used to be over three hundred pounds! I could not believe it, except for the fact I caught a rare picture or two of him looking much bigger than he currently looked. He told me that he lost weight doing his own version of Atkin’s.

What Is Atkin’s?

I’m sure you have already heard of Atkin’s, which is a low carbohydrate diet that is supposed to induce rapid weight loss by reducing your intake of carbohydrates and stimulating ketosis. His intent was to merely use this as a launch pad to eventually transition into another phase of eating, which Atkin’s is supposed to let you do.

Why Atkin’s?

My husband eventually stopped losing weight and once he transitioned off of Atkin’s, put some of the weight he lost back on—approximately thirty pounds. After almost two years of struggling to lose LITERALLY a single pound, he decided to go back on Atkin’s as a lifestyle choice, not just a short-term diet. He decided to do this upon our return from vacation and he has already lost over five pounds, which makes us both very happy.

Here is the thing about my husband: he eats less than I do, he eats better than I do and he works out anywhere from three to four days a week. Here is the thing about me: I eat like crap, I eat all insane hours of the day/night and never work out. I’ve never been overweight. He has always been overweight. I have never, ever seen someone struggle as much as him to lose a single pound. It breaks my heart and almost seems a little unfair that I could sit down with a Slurpee and chips while he chomps on a salad and the end results stay the same.  He has an insane amount of self-control when it comes to eating, whereas I do not. It seems that for whatever reason, his body only responds to his version of Atkin’s. He has been restricting himself to 30 g of carbohydrates a day, which I could NEVER do.

Atkin’s – Not a Friend of Your Wallet

If you look up a list of foods that are low in carbohydrates, you will find that list incredibly small. Atkin’s severely limits what you can eat. In fact, I had to make a list of things that I could purchase from the store for my guy and that list was quite short. I have to look up recipes so that he can get some variety in his diet.

This means that your ability to shop sales is also quite limited. So what can you do?

1. Make an All-Encompassing List First

The first thing I did was list everything, within reason, that was low in carbohydrates that my husband could eat. Depending on the carbohydrate limit for the day and what foods you like, this can vary a bit. Generally, your list will include meat, fish, cheese, eggs and certain vegetables. My husband needs to still get in some carbs everyday, especially because he goes to the gym, so he limits himself to the lowest carbohydrate breads he can find. If you’re looking for a start, this list has a pretty good overview.

2. Find Your Sales & Stock Up

Once you know what you are looking for, start searching for your sales. Luckily, there were some decent meat sales this week and it’s even easier when the person on the low carb diet isn’t as picky of an eater as I am! Freeze as much as you can, especially if you know there won’t be another good sale for awhile.

3. Check Your Labels and Make Note for Next Time

You will find that all foods are not created equal. If you buy that fake cheese or fake hot dog crap, it is loaded with who knows what and tends to have carbs (or a bit more in carbs) than the regular stuff does. When you find something that is low in carbohydrates, such as a certain brand of bread or snacks, make note of the item so that you’ll be able to pick up the item again next time. I have seen nearly identical looking things vary greatly in carbs.

4. Make Meal Plans Wisely

In order to make the most of your food, you really need to look into low carbohydrate recipes. After awhile, if you just eat burgers wrapped in lettuce, you’re going to get tired of them.  If you have ground beef or turkey, try to find as many recipes as you can using those ingredients. Simply Google recipes and start writing them down!

 

Have you found changing your lifestyle and how you eat to be difficult on your wallet? Do costs prohibit you from eating the way that you want?

Why Purchasing a Co-op Isn’t For Everyone

23 Sep

I have been looking at real estate for the past year. I know my neighborhood, considering I have been living here my entire life, and I know what I like. I know more than anything I would like a house. But, my husband and I cannot afford that. We live in one of the most expensive cities in the world and purchasing a home right now is not an option. In fact, where we live, it may never be an option. This is something I have reluctantly come to terms with at this point in my life.

I have always read pieces, blogs, message boards—you name it, I’ve probably read it—written by people who tell you to never purchase a co-op. It kind of makes me chuckle, because they make it sound like you always have an option. My own father tells me I should buy a house when it’s obvious we cannot afford one. Theoretically, it may be better for you, since you can do what you want to your own home but it’s not always the most practical choice.

Right now my husband and I are in contract to purchase a co-op. And without reservation, I can honestly say I will never purchase a co-op again. I have now become a naysayer!

Why Did I Look At Co-ops In the First Place?

In certain parts of the States, I am sure you will find people who have never even heard of a co-op. The idea that you are not actually owning something and in fact, just own shares of a corporation, would probably completely bewilder people. The fact that you must abide by and answer to a group of people who decide how you should live (also known as the cooperative board) may seem outrageous to people.

For us, it’s just a fact of life. Co-ops are ubiquitous where we live. The buildings in my neighborhood (that look like apartment buildings, yes) are almost entirely co-ops—not condos. There is a certain precedent for this. And they will continue to exist primarily because this is a launching pad or a way of life for some people. Co-ops are the only thing that my husband and I could reasonably afford. In fact, the mortgage and the maintenance will be lower than our rent.

What Has Changed My Mind

I knew that I would be charged fees for everything—but I had to start keeping a log.

Sure, you have to pay the bank. Closing costs. Fees for this. Fees for that. My eyes glaze over just thinking about it.

And yes, you have to pay the lawyer. Good times.

And then, lest you forget, the management company. We have to pay them for the application ($400), we have to pay them for one other thing that I already forgot about ($250) and we have to pay them separately to fill out one page—ONE PAGE—$150. They give you a list (yes, a list) of things they want from you—as intrusive as a physical examination from a doctor—that paint your financial history. Tax returns. Pay stubs. W-2s. You need a million references. Not enough, you say? Well it’s a good thing you have to make seven copies of every document so the board can have enough copies to go around and know your entire life story.

Everything takes so long and everything is such a huge hurdle. After we submit everything, we need to also have an interview with a board, where they will decide whether or not we are worthy.

And really, this is more than a month away. After all is said and done, the board can reject us. That’s right—after paying the fees, after paying the lawyer, after putting 10% of the purchase price into escrow, the board can simply say no for whatever reason they feel like.

Only the Strong Survive

Purchasing a co-op is a very long, drawn-out process that is definitely not for everyone. I say that I would never do it again but I guess I would if I had no other option. But if I did have an option, I would never do it again. Sometimes I look at my husband and tell him I regret doing this. I’m not sure if I really regret it or if I am just complaining because things are getting so tough with the co-op. But I think I will be happy once all is said and done and we finally move into our new home.

Have you ever though twice about purchasing a property? Do co-ops exist in your area?

Taking a Different Route – Job Hunting

13 Sep

My husband and I have essentially been employed full-time for awhile. When I first met him, he was working as a garbage man for a privately-owned company so he wasn’t making a lot of money. He had a degree in something he didn’t particularly care for or want to use (Political Science) because he’d been pushed into the idea that he should go to law school. He didn’t want to go to law school. He decided, right around the time that I had met him, that he wanted to actually pursue writing so he began taking classes in journalism. While he was doing this, he voluntarily wrote reviews for games on a semi-popular website, which gave him experience in an area he wanted to pursue.

I pushed him, in a good way, to constantly apply for writing jobs. He landed his first job in the financial field, writing about something he didn’t even like. However, he didn’t mind it and it was a great way to get some real writing experience while making more money than he had been making. Every day I found myself on websites, looking for a job for him in a field that he wanted. Finally, I found what was nearly his dream job working for a video game company. Alas, he wasn’t chosen but was offered another position in the company, only to be called two weeks later telling him their original choice had vacated the position without warning and he was offered the position. He has been there for over four years and is regularly praised for his writing. He has earned small raises, including bonuses, throughout his four years there.

I began this blog entry with his story because he is actually quite successful and well-liked at his current position. They often praise his abilities and offer him new things to do occasionally outside of his realm. It seemed that he didn’t have a difficult time landing full-time work in his field; in fact, he applied to a job at another global company (his company is also worldwide) and they loved his portfolio so much that even when he turned down the offer, they called him back two weeks later, asking him to reconsider because his portfolio was the only one they really enjoyed.

So what is the problem?

My husband and I would like to increase our income. Since we are in the process of purchasing a co-op and obtaining a home loan, we can’t really entertain the idea of applying for different jobs right now. I always read about people online getting freelance work—everyone and their mom has a freelance job now. I cannot tell you how long my husband has been trying to obtain a freelance position. He has applied time after time to countless websites, job offers, gigs, etc only to never hear back. He has only been able to obtain really crappy jobs that aren’t even worth the output—like writing $7 articles.

At the same time, I would like to increase my income as well. I have a license in an area that supposedly has a shortage, which is just a bunch of nonsense. I have applied to a ton of jobs, check the websites of various places regularly and search for jobs in a variety of places. Sometimes a place will call you, after you send your resume which clearly states everything you know how to do on it, and then have no interest in you because you lack experience in the “right” area and they aren’t willing to train you. Right now, more than ever, I feel like I am in a money crunch. I have been looking for a part-time job for ages and I can’t seem to get one.

So—Taking a Different Route You Say?

I decided enough was enough. Today I started off going through my usual sites looking for jobs.

Then I stopped. And I did something differently.

I went to the job sites of particular places and e-mailed them my resume anyway. They didn’t have any particular job openings in my field that were posted but I figured what the hell—if they don’t have a position then why don’t I just send it anyway? Maybe I’ll get lucky and someone is leaving. Maybe they don’t update their website. Who knows? I wrote up a nice little e-mail as a cover letter and attached my resume.

I sent it to one place.

And then I did the same and sent it to another, this time including the fact that I had heard about the place from a particular person higher in the chain of command.

I stopped looking for these little places and tried one more time to apply to a real place. Yes, I found a place that wasn’t too far. They had a position that I could apply for so I set-up an account, filled out their entire online application, uploaded my resume—it was completely finished. And then…

…and then, just like that, I got to the end once I submitted it and it stated, “Sorry…” My blood was ready to boil. The website would not accept the application online for that particular position!

And then I went back to submitting my resume to the tiny places, finding their e-mail addresses on their websites.

And then one place called.

And then another.

And I started to set-up interviews within two hours of submitting my resume.

Long Story, Short Summary

Sometimes, you just need to break out of the mold. Sometimes you just really need to do something differently. What I was doing wasn’t getting me anywhere—I needed to be more personal and attack it from another angle. I am going to interview at one place tomorrow and I need to call the other place back and set-up an interview for that position as well. I hope I can pick-up some side work because we could desperately use it.

So maybe that’s why my husband needs. If you’re also struggling to find a second job (or even a first one) maybe it’s time to do something differently. For me, that day is today. Wish me luck on my interviews!

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Remodeling Your Home

24 Aug

My husband and I are currently in contract for our first home. As exciting as it is, it is also incredibly nerve-wrecking to watch money being pulled out of your bank account,  schedule and attend meetings and fret over renovations that need to be made. We are hoping that this is a property we can fix-up and enjoy for at least the next few years.  We were also okay with moving into places that may need some work, which is the type of co-op we ended up choosing. I have a dream that this will end up as a money-maker, but I am realistic and also would just love to break even at the end of it all.

When purchasing a home that needs repairs, you definitely need to consider how much you want to spend before you put an offer down on the property. Here are some important questions to keep in mind to determine whether or not you want to even take on a remodel:

1. Is it worth it? 

  • Do I plan on staying in the property long-term or do I plan on flipping the property?
  • Is the house listed at a lower price than comps that have already been updated?
  • Will renovations have any impact on the resale value of the home? Or will I out-price myself?
  • How many things need to be renovated and at what cost? Are they expensive renovations or not?

2. Can I afford it?

  • Do I have the money on-hand after purchasing the home? Or do I plan on taking out an additional loan?
  • Do I need to put any of my purchases on credit?
  • Are these renovations going to be upscale, middle of the line or a homeowner’s special?
  • Are any of these renovations or updates that I can do myself or will I require contractors, permits, etc?

3. Can I Live With It?

  • Will I be able to live in my home while renovations take place? Or do I need to stay elsewhere?
  • Am I prepared to go without certain things on certain days?

As for us, we will be paying for our renovations out of our own pockets once all is said and done—we are not taking out any additional loans or putting anything on credit. For me, this is the only way to go.

How do you feel about the costs related to renovating your home? Are there any other considerations future homeowners should think about?

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!