Getting Ready for Our “Frugal” Vacation

12 Aug

My husband and I have been looking at co-ops for quite some time and have gone back and forth in terms of what we wanted and how much we were willing to spend. This meant that although we are dying to travel somewhere awesome, we aren’t ready to spend the money for a trip with that kind of price tag. This also means that we will be embarking on our budget-friendly vacation pretty soon—an incredible camping trip throughout an area of our state that we rarely venture to. I have already discussed a few things about making a trip affordable by:

  • Discussing a variety of ways to make your overall trip cheaper here
  • General campsite costs and how to make them cheaper here and here

Now with a few weeks left to go, we are going to start putting our general itinerary together and have a lot of different things to consider. Again, as I’ve discussed previously, you can definitely make camping trips even cheaper than we’re making ours, but these tips are still applicable to you.

Start off with a Budget

We love the outdoors. One might think the outdoors is frugal friendly but the cost of everything you may or may not need adds up really fast! If you’ve never spent any time outdoors before, you might not have any of the equipment that is necessary and that can cost a pretty penny. Budgets will vary quite a bit depending on a a number of factors such as:

  • Cost to travel (i.e. gas, tolls)
  • Cost of food (i.e. eating out and on the road vs. cooking)
  • Cost of campsite rentals (depends upon where you stay, when, for how long, with how many people, etc)
  • Activities you will participate in that cost money (i.e. rowing)
  • Purchases that may be required (i.e. tent(s), supplies)

Unfortunately, my cheaper vacation is adding up very quickly! This actually has to do with a major activity I want to participate in that is very costly but it is what it is. Remember, our trip is nine nights so it’s quite long and involves two people.

Budget: $1300.00

Take Care of Big Ticket Items First

Of course, my budget of $1300 might seem outrageous for a camping trip but remember:

  • There are only two of us splitting various campsite rentals over a period of nine nights. I discussed how to keep this cost down in my other posts. Cost: $209.00 ($23.22/night—extremely cheap if you look at it that way!)
  • Since we are driving quite a bit, we will be using quite a bit of money in terms of gas and tolls. Cost allotted: $300.00 (Though I sure hope it’s less than that!)
  • I have decided to do this because I really want to and I do not want my miserly ways to get in the way of an awesome thing—the hot air balloon ride for $235.00 a person or $470.00

As you can see, there isn’t much money leftover for anything else. This already totals $979.00, meaning I only have $321.00 left to spend!

What Else Do I Need to Consider?

There are still tons of things to think about when you’re camping such as:

Food: We eat a lot and I am a picky eater. Ideally, I would love to cook every day and night but I think there will be days when we want breaks from that. Budgeted: $150.00-$200.00

Additional Purchases and Activities: $121.00-$171.00.

We are extremely lucky that we either have or can borrow most of the things that we need for our trip. Remember: If you plan on going camping regularly, many of the items you may need or plan to use will probably end up being purchases that will last you for many years.  Keep in mind the following items that you may or may not take with you:

  • Tent(s) — make sure it has a rain shield and that you have a tarp for the ground
  • Sleeping bag(s) and pad(s) — you might want something softer to sleep on if you plan on staying long
  • Cooking supplies, food and something to store it in to prevent animals from getting to it
  • First aid and personal hygiene supplies

You can find a simple list here.

If you know you are going camping, it is easier to buy things over time than have to buy them all at once. If you do this, you can also look for sales, especially during the off seasons or holidays, that might allow you to pick-up some great deals. More importantly, if you don’t have the money for it, don’t be afraid to ask around! You may be able to borrow almost everything you need for your camping trip from friends and family.

It’ll Be Here Soon

Our camping trip will be here soon and I am so excited to go on vacation since I haven’t had off in nearly a year!

Have you undertaken a huge camping trip before? What are some ways you saved money on your trip?

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!

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.

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.

The Emotional Cost of Purchasing a Home – Part Two

24 Jun

I began by detailing the emotional costs of purchasing a home here.

3. Getting Your Hopes Up – The very first co-op that we saw has continued to be our favorite co-op. It’s not the nicest place in the world but it was almost everything we wanted—except there was no washer/dryer on-site.

We were repeatedly told how we could put a w/d in the basement. We were completely fine with this until we brought a plumber and he told us it wasn’t as easy as everyone made it sound and that it would cost thousands of dollars. Without a w/d, there was no reason to pursue the place any further. But in the back of our minds, we are constantly thinking that something will work out along the way and somehow we will get this place.

4. Seeing Tons of Places – The obsession begins to grow as soon as you know you’re looking for a place. I find myself on Trulia every day, checking to see if something, anything, has been added. Every weekend we are checking for open houses and attending them if they are within our price range. We call to make appointments to see listings. You begin to see place after place as almost the same. It starts to get emotionally draining looking for something—perhaps something you just can’t quite find. When you find yourself on Trulia everyday, you find yourself lamenting over the fact that homes you really love are just slightly out of your reach and you feel as though you’ll never get what you want.

5. Heart vs. Logic – Realtors know that purchasing a home is a very emotional decision for most people. They know people will tend to walk into a place and have a visceral reaction of either love or hate. For me, turning off this “heart” button and turning on the “logic” button is a necessary evil. I don’t want to be blinded by the beauty of a unit only to know in a couple of years I might not be able to sell it at all or that I might lose money on the deal.  When I walk into a place, my mind goes into, “Can I fix this? Can I remodel this? Can this go here? Can this go there? Can I make money off of this?” For my husband, he did not think this way when we first started to look at homes but now I think he has started to see the benefit of thinking that way.

Have you ever purchased a home only to find it was an incredibly emotional experience?

The Emotional Cost of Purchasing a Home – Part One

21 Jun

For many years, purchasing a home has been a dream of mine. Of course, my city is so expensive that I can’t afford to buy a house, but I can still purchase some entity nonetheless.

Aside from the financial drain, purchasing a home can take a huge emotional toll on someone as well. Being that this has been a huge dream of mine, I should have realized that no matter how logical I am, there will still be some emotions involved.

How Purchasing a Home Can Be Emotionally Draining

1. The Savings Hit – We have worked very hard to save our money over the years in order to have enough money to put down on something. We withstood the jokes about us being cheap and we annoyingly answered questions from people who couldn’t fathom the idea of getting rid of their cable like we did. The savings account we have almost feels like a blanket to me — we have all of this money just in case. At the same time, we were saving for a down payment in the first place. When you work so hard to save a large sum of money, it feels incredibly scary to all of a sudden have that money disappear. We are going to be putting down 20% so for us, that is a ton of money!

2. Never Quite Right – We have been looking at places for over a month now. We had a short list of things we were interested in finding in a place such as:

  • Two bedrooms, though if the space was large enough or a junior four, we would consider one bedroom
  • Private outdoor space such as a terrace
  • Lower maintenance costs, considering I’ve seen maintenance costs at over $1,000/month
  • Washer and dryer must be available on-site; does not have to be within the unit itself
  • Must cost $350,000 or less
  • Prefer that there is at least one thing that can be remodeled; do not want something that is completely new
  • Must allow cats

There are so many co-ops in my area and the fact that this is so hard to find has been driving me crazy. I don’t think we even have a large list of demands so I don’t know why this has been so difficult.

  1. We have looked at numerous two bedrooms and one or two junior fours. (A junior four is usually a larger one-bedroom apartment that may or may not have a second room.) Many of the two bedroom units that we can afford are small and because of the second bedroom, the price exceptionally higher. There are a couple we have been interested in but things seem to not be working out for us. One of the junior four units that needed work had a no pets policy and exceedingly high maintenance.
  2. The outdoor space is something that is actually at the top of my list in terms of purchasing a co-op. I would really, really like to have a terrace and would take a one-bedroom co-op in order to have one. Unfortunately, terrace units are much harder to come by and usually more expensive.
  3. Maintenance costs are additional costs on top of our mortgage. Some of them make purchasing a co-op for us prohibitively expensive, even if there is a tax deduction at the end of the year.
  4. We actually really like one particular co-op and this is the only reason we haven’t made an offer—it has no washing machine on-site. I can’t imagine owning my own place and having to drag my laundry out every weekend.
  5. Given that maintenance costs for the places we have been looking at run upwards of over $700/month, we must be able to keep our budget on the lower end.
  6. We consider this a starter home and would possibly like to make money off of it down the line. If I buy something that has been completely remodeled before I get there, what can I personally add?
  7. Many co-ops around here do not allow dogs but most of them will allow cats—however, we have come across some places we liked that have strict policies against pets.

I think the most emotionally draining part of the points above is that we have found places that we really liked that are just not working out for us. We have been talking about this two bedroom co-op since we saw it almost a month ago and it’s the one we keep coming back to—but without a washer and dryer on-site, there is no point for us. The realtor for the seller has been pretty annoying about it and we seem to not be able to get our minds off of this place.

Until next time…

Do You Know About Your Money?

18 Jun

This post should just be a reminder for anyone who has ever had money—so that means you.

My husband is an awesome guy. He really is. But sometimes he is just kind of a ditz. I mean that in the most loving way possible. Sometimes I don’t understand how his brain works or where he is in terms of his thought process but I digress.

Last week I opened up our mail and nervously opened one letter from Chase. “Chase? This isn’t a credit card offer—why are we getting a notice from Chase?”

I open the letter and scan it. It’s for a Certificate of Deposit (CD) at an awful interest rate. I look at the terms of the deposit:

  • Maturity Date: June 22, 2012
  • Term: 13 Months
  • Interest Payment Frequency: Monthly
  • Interest Compounding: Daily
  • Projected Value at Maturity: $3,518.61

WAIT, WHAT? Just stop right there; I don’t need any more bullets.

My husband, unbeknownst to him, had a CD of $3,500 just sitting around.

Me, to my mother: I don’t understand. It’s not like we’re rich and when this was opened KC probably made 50% less than he does right now. How do you just lose track of $3500???

My Mom: Rich people don’t lose track of their money they know where every penny is—that’s your problem.

At first my husband thought it was a mistake. He had a CD last year that he closed out and it was for less than half of the amount of this newly discovered CD. He thought the lines got crossed somewhere and he did not believe he had a CD. But after going to the bank and confirming it, he now accepts that he does have a CD.

But the question still remains: where did the CD come from???

My husband is pretty insistent that the CD he cashed in last year was the one he opened for himself. Back in the day, he received money from a particular event and put it into a CD without really even knowing what it was. But this CD he has no recollection of opening so our only assumption is that someone must have opened it for him. He had relatives who used to purchase things for him, such as bonds, pretty regularly so we are thinking this is where the money came from. As I said, my husband can tell you twenty-years ago about a game he was playing, the cards in his hands, and whatever else was going on at the time but he can’t remember where this magical $3,500.00 came from.

What You Should Take Away

I urge anyone who has ever had accounts or anything set-up for them, such as bonds, to check and see if they have ever forgotten about any of the funds they had in a bank somewhere. It actually happens quite often and I know this because once in awhile, the newspapers run the names of all of the people with unclaimed funds in various locations. Always be vigilant about knowing how much money you have and where it is going.

For us, this is perfect timing. Since we are looking for homes, this money makes me feel better about putting down 20% on a house. It adds to that little bit of cushion that we want to have before we move into somewhere else.

Ignoring “Advice” When Buying a Home

16 Jun

My husband and I have been looking at homes. We have had our eye on one particular contender. It’s a two bedroom, one bath co-op in a small unit of cooperative units that look like a row of townhouses—highly unusual in my area since most co-ops look like large apartment buildings. Aside from the stress involved in looking for a home, I have found that people tend to be less than supportive in our attempt to purchase a home. Instead, we end up hearing a stream of opinions from people who know absolutely nothing about our situation and who seem to know little about the housing market today.

Opinion #1: Don’t Buy a Co-Op! Ever!

People fear co-ops for a number of reasons. They do not like that you technically do not own a piece of property. They don’t like the idea of boards and people who can raise your maintenance whenever they want for whatever reason. I am perfectly able to understand where they are coming from and why they feel that way.

What I do not appreciate is when people wholeheartedly try to talk us out of purchasing a co-op. They do not know our situation well enough, financial or otherwise, to make that decision for us.  So many people are ready to talk us out of purchasing a co-op without talking to us first and that is something I do not understand.

Why purchase a co-op? Simply put, that is all we can really afford. Occasionally there is a condo that comes on the market that we can afford but that is very rare. Unlike the neighborhoods many of these people live in, co-ops are actually quite commonplace and regularly bought and sold where we reside.

Opinion #2: Try to Get…

My husband and I have what I consider to be a short list of things we want in a home.

  • Two bedrooms, one bathroom
  • Preferably some type of outdoor space
  • Washer and dryer on-site, not even necessarily in our unit
  • Dishwasher in the co-operative unit
  • Storage or a lot of closet space
  • Some type of parking even if there is a waiting period or lottery

Now some of these things are somewhat flexible. For example, the unit we are interested in doesn’t have a washer, dryer, dishwasher or parking on-site. However, we feel as though we must have the option to add some of these things in the future. Not having a parking space is not the end of the world either—it’s a preference but not necessarily a need.

The naysayers, of course, have to insert their own opinions as to what we should be looking for—why not try to get something with a backyard? Why don’t you get something with a big kitchen? Why don’t you get something that has been renovated? Why are you buying a co-op again?

Opinion #3: Why Don’t You Just Buy a House?

I really hate this question because it assumes that I wouldn’t want to buy a house if I could buy one. Do you think I would be purchasing co-operative units if I could afford a house? What makes you think we can easily afford a house? Do you guys mistakenly think my husband and I are rich? My husband and I would gladly purchase a home if we could afford it. Affordability is key and most of the people telling us this bought houses twenty or thirty years ago when houses were still easily affordable in our city.

What to Take Away

It’s always smart to listen to people in terms of housing, especially when you have never purchased a home before. However, you need to remember that this home is for you and that there is a difference between good advice and opinions from your friends and families. When you begin your search, keep these things in mind:

  • Always ask for advice but make sure your advice is from the right people
  • Before you ask for feedback, make sure whoever you are discussing your situation with has the entire picture
  • Don’t allow other people to push their opinions on you and push you into something you don’t want

How have your home buying endeavors been? How have people responded to what you are looking for when you tell them about it?