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!

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Shopping at the Outlet Malls

12 Sep

We are back from our camping vacation. We actually cut it short a bit and stayed in a motel one night but overall, it was a great experience. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go on the hot air balloon ride due to the weather but that saved us some money and allowed us to go do some much needed shopping.

I noticed that the clothes department in my own apartment was rather lacking. The clothing that I do own has been starting to look ratty. I do not buy clothing very often—in fact, it’s a pretty rare event. My sister even commented on how awful my socks were looking—socks! (To be fair, I don’t think I’ve bought a pair of socks in years.) The thing is, I am cheap and I don’t like spending money on clothing. On top of that, I find clothes shopping incredibly difficult. I am tall, so I often need long jeans, as regulars can be too short—but then the long jeans fit awkwardly in certain areas. Of course, that applies to shirts too—shirts look too short on you or you need to buy a larger size that is too big in some areas but not others. As you can tell, I love shopping. (Not in this lifetime!)

But over the years, I have found that buying “cheap crap” is exactly that. Clothes end up with holes very easily. The clothes get all stretched out and weird. The second hand stores around here are absolute garbage. Funnily enough, I have been to some nice stores with amazing clothing; unfortunately, none of these stores have been anyway near me. I decided to do the next best thing for me: visit the outlet malls.

I really had no idea what I was looking for when I got there but I decided that I could have used ANY type of clothing. I ended up buying four pairs of pants from the DKNY outlet that were $20.00 each. I bought a pair of jeans from GAP for $25. I bought a few other things but the pants were a definite win for me. Outlet malls can be fun but they’re easy to get sucked into and there are definitely ways to avoid overspending.

How Can I Avoid Overspending?

(1) Make a budget before you go. I did not do this because I had a general spending limit in mind but if you are really looking to buy things from the outlet mall without breaking the bank, you really need to make a budget first. If you need to, stick to cash and keep the credit cards away.

(2) Decide what you are looking for and where you want to go before you get there. It’s easy to find things you love once you get to the mall and just buy them immediately. In order to avoid that, try to narrow down what your focus is for the day. If you’re looking for pants and sneakers, avoid checking out shirts and dresses. Additionally, most outlet malls have tons of stores—the one we went to had over one hundred of them. Unless you plan on staying there all day, you should really decide what stores you want to check out. If you’re not looking for kitchenware, don’t waltz into the store “just because” — you’re just looking to spend money then!

(3) When you know what you are looking for, shop around first—go back and buy the items later. My husband was actually looking for a new pair of hiking sneakers since his boots, which have lasted for many years, are starting to fall apart and feel uncomfortable. We visited a few different stores that had these types of shoes and ultimately, he went back to the one with the best price for what he wanted. Don’t necessarily settle on the first thing you see or fall in love with—since you’re in one central place, it’s easy to walk back to the other stores if you don’t find anything better.

Do you like going to outlets? Why or why not? Any tips?

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?

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.