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My Little Update on Life

7 Oct

My husband and I have not really saved any money in about two months. That’s a painful existence for yours truly!
What have we been spending money on begrudgingly?

  • The Co-op: We have been writing checks like it’s nobodies business.
  • The Mortgage: They already started pulling money out of our accounts for mortgage-related fees.
  • Vacation and Gifts: We went on vacation last month. We’ve been writing checks for gifts. It seems to never end!

 

After my previous posts, I still haven’t had any luck in landing a second job. Many places find my hours at my current job to be problematic. My husband hasn’t had much luck either so we are looking into a few different options, such as:

  • Creating a new blog that we would work on together. It would include one or two other people. This would be a blog that we work on seriously and something we would try to make money from—not like my lame attempts here! ūüėČ The blog would also be completely unrelated to the topics discussed on this blog.
  • Using a website that I might be able to upload things onto for money—if people purchase them.

 

I hope everyone is doing well. My real entry will come soon!

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?

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?

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!

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.

Why We’re Keeping Our Car

28 Jun

My husband and I have grown up in a major city our entire lives. Every one of our relatives, all older than us, has a car. Yet you will find that the younger generations, people around our age, do not seem to have a car. In fact, amongst our friends, we are one of the few to own a car. Most conversations will go something like this:

Disbelieving Friend: You have a car?
Us: Yes.
Disbelieving Friend: Why?
Us: Because we want one?
Disbelieving Friend: Do you have to drive around your neighborhood?
Us: No, we can walk. We also have trains and buses just like you because we all live in the same city.

Costs of Having Our Car

Owning a car is quite costly. My husband and I bought a car years ago, way before we were married, and split the cost. We bought a used car that was only two years old at the time and in pretty good condition. The best part was that it cost us no additional money because we each paid for the car with our own money and didn’t have to take out a loan.

Initial cost for a 2009 Chevy Impala in 2011? Approximately $8,400 including taxes.

Of course, the costs don’t end there. You have to factor in everything else such as:

  1. Gas and tolls
  2. Registration and inspections
  3. Regular maintenance (i.e. oil changes)
  4. Regular repairs (i.e. having your driver’s side mirror knocked off twice in less than a year)
  5. Additional desired expenses (i.e. car washes, buying a GPS, installing a new stereo)
  6. Insurance

Why Keep Your Car When You Have Insanely Good Public Transportation?

We don’t use our car everyday. In fact, most of its usage occurs on the weekends.

Funnily enough, I have always been terrified of driving. It has always been a very tense situation for me that produces a lot of anxiety. We have had the car for years but I only got my license four months ago. I have to say I love the feeling of freedom my car provides for me.  I love that I can drive a very short distance (though not within walking distance) for sales and do quite a bit of shopping that saves me a lot of money, even including the gas I spend.

Most of all, I love that at any time, we can drive to any place without worrying how we will get there. We love to hike, which involves quite a bit of driving out of the city to get there. How would we do this without a car? My husband needs to go to various camping activities that are outside of the city. How would he do this without his car?

Of course, all of my friends who do not have cars are the first ones willing to snap up a ride from us. One of my friends is getting married and one of the first things another friend asked me was if we were driving there and if so, could they get a ride? I don’t mind giving people rides to places; in fact, when I drive to work (only 1-2x/week) I drop people off at the train. But that expectation that you have a car, therefore¬†you¬†should, gets annoying.

Friend: Want to hang-out?
Me: Okay.
Friend: You want to come to my neighborhood?
Me: Why can’t you come to mine?
Friend: Ugh you’re so far. And you have a car! The trip will be so fast for you. The train takes forever!

My friends act like having a car is some sort of freebie—as if we don’t pay almost $200/month in gas and insurance plus all of the other fees, maintenance costs and repairs over the year—just because we already have a car paid in full. As bewildering as they find it to be for us to have a car in the first place, they sure love any chance to get a ride in our car.

Yes, I Will Probably Have a Car Forever

All of those years I was too scared to drive seem silly to me now. Sometimes I still get anxious, especially driving in a major city, but it no longer prevents me from driving.

I really love the outdoors and there is no foreseeable way of getting there without a car. We are embarking on a nine-night camping trip throughout the state in September, something we wouldn’t be able to do without a car. Considering how expensive it is to rent the smallest car in my area, the cost of a rental would be a couple of months worth of my usual car expenses.

Would I save a lot more money without a car? I would. But I already put all of my paychecks directly into savings, since my husband’s paychecks are enough to cover rent and bills with money leftover. We already live on a budget. We already sacrifice a lot of things. This is a thing we will not sacrifice.