Monthly Archives: February 2014

input, output in the numbers game

INPUT news: Sadly, my last paycheck still didn’t reflect the raise that I was promised at the beginning of the month due to the unexpected promotion. Before I emailed the head bosses though, I waited for my supervisor to come back from vacation. He already knew about the lack of raise because Head Boss in Charge of Payroll had contacted him, I guess to clarify how much I was supposed to get? So it’s been sorted out…and good news, it’ll be retroactive as of the first of this year! WHOOP WHOOP, hoping that means about $800-$1000 extra in the next paycheck, which will help with all the extra costs in the coming weeks.

OUTPUT news: My current landlord finally got back to us about negotiating after I sent off the email about giving us free parking (after we gave notice nearly a week earlier). I was kind of impressed–she basically offered us $1550 for our studio with parking. Remember, my rent is $1495 and each parking spot is $155 = $1805 total. So, WOW. I had asked for $1495, free parking.

BUT…we had already decided we wanted a larger apartment (which would not be in the $1500 range at all in our current building or surrounding neighborhood), with washer/dryer in the unit. (To tell the truth, we didn’t realize we probably put almost $20 on the laundry card every week–which would cover the utility bill at our next place!). And we already signed a 2-year lease while we were waiting for her to get back to us. So, too little, too late, Mrs. Landlord!

What I learned–hey, next time you think you’re paying too much for rent? Be awesome tenants for a year, then give your two-month notice because rent is too high, and see if your landlord comes crawling back to you to negotiate! This could backfire though–I’m thinking this happened because we live in a high-rise apartment building with multiple units. Probably wouldn’t work as well if we were renting a house or something.

I’m starting to get really excited about our move! While still being busy as crap at work, but hey, you win some, you lose some.

How’s your input and output going?

a planned STALL in debt repayment :(

So just as I’m starting to pick up some great momentum in the debt repayment department (try saying that 10x fast!), that progress is going to be put completely on hold for the next few months…hopefully two months at the most, or even just a month and a half!

March/April probably wasn’t the best time to schedule a move to a new place as we are doing a little vacation/race trip to New Orleans and Florida the first weekend of April…AND I probably owe $2000+ in taxes on April 15th. 😦 So a couple days ago I just put down a big security deposit of $1500 (which is more than the $600 I put down for our current digs, all of which we hope to get refunded), in addition to moving expenses and the “overlapping rent” while we give ourselves time to move things 5 miles up the street.

Luckily we bought our plane tickets for the trip already (just need hotel accommodations which will be split with friends). Also March is an “extra paycheck” month, and this Friday will be my first paycheck post-10% raise. Mr. Bacon also realizes we don’t need to hire movers, maybe just a small moving truck for the couches, bed, and big bookcase we have. Since we have several weekends of “overlapping rent”, that gives us time to move the smaller things a little at a time. I also have over $2000 in the emergency fund, and it looks like it’s time to pull some of that money out.

I’m also 4 months ahead on the portion of the Sallie Mae loans with a higher interest rate, so I cancelled my automatic debit payments for that until I get back on track. (Unfortunately I then realized that this removes the 0.25% interest rate deduction for automatic debit, but I’ll get back on that program ASAP.) So the next couple months, I’ll only be paying the minimum of $242 for the lower interest loans so that I have more cash to pay for these moving expenses and taxes.

This of course means the possibility that my total loan amount may actually go UP about $60 this month, as I’ve been paying about $300 in interest each month. We’ll have to see. I’m hoping it will only be February and part of March I have to do this, and that I can still put at least $1000 down in March. Then I’ll get completely back on track in April!

In the meantime, I realize I’m lucky to have a job and income that allows me to move my money around like this, and I know I’m still ahead of my original uber-conservative game plan…for now. Being a couple months behind will put me behind that original game plan, but I can play catch up once we get over this hump. More income + decreased expenses means I can contribute more, about a $1900 decrease in debt each month (more than the original $1500), which will have me back on track to be under the $80k mark around July.

Anyone else have to pull out some emergency funds and temporarily stop debt repayment?

Did we really need a second car?

YES!

Over the weekend, Mr. Bacon and I bought a brand new 2014 Chevy Equinox. (Well, technically, he and his father co-signed for one and my name is nowhere on the car loan, but taking a cue from Anna, I am also Transitioning the “Me” Thinking Into “We” Thinking…)

We had been a successful one-car household for a while and were doing pretty okay–when I didn’t need the car every day for work. There were even a couple months when our work schedules aligned perfectly (in that, they aligned completely oppositely) so that I had the car Tuesdays and Thursdays for the office requiring some outside driving, while he needed it MWF.

But once I got promoted to that office full-time, I was constantly needing the car so I could always have the ability to do some outside calls (rehab hospitals and nursing homes) on some of those days (they’re pretty unpredictable). We were carpooling almost every day and it was a bit of a strain. Especially because he starts work at 6 or 7am, and I don’t have to be in the office until 8.

Since I’ve been working so much more but had to get up early to carpool, I didn’t get much opportunity to sleep in when I was feeling exhausted, or do my morning workouts to alleviate the stress. Picking him up after work on some of his 12-hour shifts meant I usually didn’t have time or energy to squeeze in a workout after work either–in fact I would usually just drop him off, go straight to work myself, and then stay until it was time to pick him up. So I was almost working 12-hour shifts too! I’ve been really tired and cranky, which of course puts a strain on the relationship.

Plus, Mr. Bacon didn’t have the ability to work some overtime hours if he was asked, as he didn’t want me to stay up past midnight just to pick him up or yank me around if his closing time changed unexpectedly. Overtime pays 1.5x so we were missing out on some big bucks there!

So yes…having a second car can be seen as a convenience, but I think it was necessary for the health and sanity of our relationship (and some extra income!). Sure there’s now a $300 car payment each month, but getting a new car vs. keeping his old one was also necessary–his previous truck was 15 years old and had a history of breaking down the last few months he was really using it. He was able to sell it for $3200, and used most of that along with his big tax refund ($1400–yay!) for a down payment. His father also has a GM credit card with $2000 in points he let us use to put towards a new car (which is why he is a co-signer), and is also a master negotiator–he haggled another $2000 of credit with various bonuses somehow, taking the retail price down $4k!

I think the best thing to come out of this (other than all the conveniences and benefits of having a sweet new car that will take us on many road trips and adventures!) is that Mr. Bacon was completely motivated to look over his budgets and get his finances in order. SO proud 😉

It also forced me to transition more to “we” thinking and thinking of our combined household finances as one. That whole second parking spot was the impetus for us to start looking for a new place. Yes, an update on that–we are about to sign a 2-year lease for the 1-bedroom condo with two free parking spots for $305 less per month. (Our current landlord never got back to us about negotiating for free parking…but we are ready to get out of a studio anyway.) If you think about it, that keeps our total household costs about the same when you put in the $300 monthly car payment! Only we’ll have a bigger place…with our own washer/dryer and community swimming pools (drooling here!) AND a new car.

I’ll consider this a win-win for the Bacon household. 😀

To Move or Not To Move? That is the question.

Happy Snow Day! AGAIN. I’m sick of this winter already. 18″ this time! I’m working from home today, i.e. catching up on lots of paperwork I’m behind on, and hey, it’s time for a work break! I’ll go with my tradition of blogging on these snow days. 🙂

So the current debate in the Bacon household is if we should move out of our 600 sq ft studio. As mentioned in my last post, Mr. Bacon will be buying his car this weekend, and rent @ $1495 + 2 parking spots @ $155 = $1805/month for our big little studio. (It is pretty big for a studio with balcony on the 14th floor. But it’s still a studio.) Pros: it’s in a very walkable neighborhood (Walkscore of 92) with a bajillion bars and restaurants and grocery stores, utilities are included, and it’s a 5min walk to the Metro (subway) stop if we want to go into DC. Cons: it’s expensive, we don’t have a washer/dryer in the unit (it’s on the 1st floor), and pedestrian and car traffic can be ridiculous.

The story is, it wasn’t always a ridiculous $1805 for us. I first moved here on my own last January, and rent was $1465. I chose the location as it was walking/biking distance from the hospital I worked at as a contractor at (1.5 miles away) and wanted to live without a car. Mr. Bacon and I were dating long-distance and I left my car with him and lived without it for several months. When he did move in here around May, we were still able to park for free in a friend’s neighborhood 3 blocks away with her visitor’s permit. Then she got married and bought a house elsewhere, so we ponied up the $155/month parking fee for one car. That made it $1620.

This month, the 12-month lease ran out and rent went up $30 ($1650 total with one parking spot). We are now month-to-month with the ability to leave with 2-months’ written notice. Since my promotion last month (YAY!), I got moved to a different office about 5 miles away from here which isn’t convenient via public transit. I was actually biking to this location a couple times a week when they had me on rotating sites, but that was way before it got frigid and icy outside. 😉 SO, the second car was necessary.

But going from $1465 to $1805 for a studio? Which doesn’t even have a washer/dryer in the unit? No freakin’ way!

We’ve been shopping around the area just 5 miles up the road and there are 1 bedroom/1 bath townhouses in the $1500 or under range. There are also 2 bedroom/2bath condos that are renting in the $1800 or under range. Pros of this new neighborhood: parking is included, much quieter area, W/D in unit, more reasonable rent and bigger space for what you pay, community swimming pools included, and two of my running friends live there! Cons: not as walkable a neighborhood (Walk Score is only 38), parking isn’t underground or covered like our current place (which while expensive, has come in handy with these awful snowstorms), utilities aren’t included, and the Metro is at least a 20min walk away.

We saw the 1-bedroom on Sunday and I really wanted it; it would save us $300/month. Then we saw the 2 bedroom on Tuesday and I was just so enamored with the place that I figured, we’d be paying the same for so much more! Both of us aren’t from here, and it’d be awesome to have the ability to host friends and family members from out of town. I really think we’d actually get more visitors if we had a place for them to stay.

So yesterday we gave our two months’ notice here, and I was pretty dead-set on getting us into the 2-bed/2-bath place we saw on Tuesday. Then our landlord called and threw an interesting twist into our moving plans… She asked “What would it take to get you guys to stay?” She talked about potentially giving us a free parking spot if we moved into the “junior 1-bedroom”…which is $1775 and has no balcony. I was so caught off-guard that I didn’t know what to say…and said I’d need to talk to the fiancé.

As it turns out, Mr. Bacon doesn’t really want to move. After all, he just moved here in May and it’s such a hassle (and expense) to move all your stuff (even though we don’t have that much) and change addresses, etc. He does, however, have a tendency to say “whatever you want babe, whatever makes you happy” which is sweet but frustrating. I realized it would cost extra to pony up another security deposit (one month’s rent) plus we’d more than likely be paying for a two-week overlap of rent while we’re moving. Plus Mr. Bacon would want to hire movers as he doesn’t really want to move. (Although he was fairly enamored with the two places we looked at too. It’s like he wants to live at those other places but wants to skip the whole hassle-of-moving part.)

We called his father, who always gives great advice and is an awesome negotiator, and he suggested asking for the junior 1-bedroom at the same price as our studio, with two free parking spots, and to have them move all our stuff for us. WHOA! Like he said, when negotiating, always ask for more than what you want.

Yeah…I tend to agree, but I wasn’t sold that they would grant us all of that for any less than $1805. Plus the “junior 1-bedroom” doesn’t have a balcony, and we have the Dish Network, so I don’t think we’d be able to use it…and we have a 12-month contract on that which ends in July. So me and Mr. Bacon talked some more, and prioritized what we wanted. We realized we want to keep our costs down (as he’s about to have a $300 car payment, and we want to save money for the wedding). So that rules out the 2bed/2bath condo…which we also realized is something we’d want to BUY, rather than pay rent to someone else. While the studio can feel cramped sometimes, we figure we can stick it out for another year to save some money…but only IF it costs less than $1805.

So the two options left:
A) negotiate lower rent or free parking for our current place…$1500 max total.
B) move to a 1-bedroom apartment 5 miles up the road for $1500 or less.

I just sent the landlord off an email explaining our situation and offering to sign another 1-year lease if she can give us two free parking spaces, i.e. $1495 for the rent + $0 for two parking spots. I explained that our price point is $1500 as we are saving money for our wedding. (I believe she got married recently as her last name has changed from when I first moved in here…so maybe we’ll get some sympathy here!)

I’m also about to email the 1-bedroom property we viewed last weekend, with our rental application. So…we’ll have to see what happens. In the meantime, I’m going to remind myself to stick to my guns about not wanting to pay more than $1500 for housing + parking!

I’m leaning towards moving into the $1500 1-bedroom, as it’ll more than likely save us money (I’m not convinced she’ll give us two free parking spaces…one at the most). Even though we have to pay more moving costs upfront, and this is around the time I’m saving up to pay off my taxes *cringe*, in the long run we will SAVE money! Obviously we wouldn’t be buying a house until after the evil student loans are paid off (hopefully in 2.5 years), so I can see us signing a 2-year lease at this new place.

How much do you pay for rent? Is parking included? What would YOU do in this situation??

January’s debt update. $10k down!

Well, that’s $10k down from the start of this blog, not $10k paid off in a month! (I wish!)

I’m down to $85,264.66 as of Feb 4th. (I need to remember to check my loan balances on the first of the month, so there’s some sort of consistency to my monthly numbers update. Since interest compounds daily, UGH, if I forget to check one day, it’s already increased by the next day!) That’s $1,516.32 down from last month and right on track with my goal of decreasing my debt by $1500 each month this year. I paid a total of $1,850.90 in three payments (two minimum payments and an extra $1350), which was $299.58 paid in interest and fairly standard at this point (about $300/month in interest. Bleah!).

Most exciting is that I’m 10.3% down from my original amount at the blog birth, and nearly $10k down from the original amount of $95k! Must keep on trucking on!

So how’d the January budgets go? Fairly good–pretty spot on with the groceries and dining, just $4 over, and funnily enough, $4 under in “home supplies”. Auto & transport was $44 over the standard $120 budget but I’ll get that overflow reimbursed by work (if not more). There was an extra $40 gym fee which was the annual fee to lock in your monthly rate…blog rant to follow about this whole gym fiasco. (It’s been a waste of money and I suspected it would be…but I was trying to be supportive of Mr. Bacon’s fitness goals.) I only took $60 of cash out of the allotted $80.

Then there were the “extras”…while I said the Christmas bonus went entirely to debt repayment or savings, I did throw in an “entertainment” fund, which yes, seems to happen whenever I get a nice bonus. 😉 First of all, the day after he proposed, I took Mr. Bacon out to a celebratory engagement dinner for $103 at a steak restaurant we like. It really felt like a treat since he usually pays for dinner and we try not to spend over $40 for a dinner date! I got myself new running shoes for $107 and 76ers basketball tickets for $80 (for him). I paid for my first triathlon race of the season at $85, and put $712 on the credit card for our New Orleans flights in April. (I know, I know…but I’m actually paying off the credit card balances each month, so don’t worry! And I get points!)

Overall, January went really well. AND last week I got confirmation that I did get a raise. HOORAY! It won’t be retroactive since I started covering for my AWOL coworker, so all my hard work in January didn’t get me more money. But my salary will jump up 10% and I’ll have a chance to get a much more ginormous bonus if profits increase over last year. This coupled with the company paying for my cell phone bill means I could be bringing in net $500 ($400 more in income and $100 less in expenses) more each month!

I hope to throw in at least $300 more towards debt each month once that raise kicks in ($1800 debt decrease per month, if not more) which would be awesome. I may actually be out of student loan debt a whole year early! And done before my 35th birthday, which would be TOTES MCGOATS AMAZEBALLS!

…BUT wait, hold off, no bigger payments quite yet. Looking ahead to our current month of February (and beyond), what is NOT amazeballs, is the impending tax I’m gonna owe Uncle Sam. 👿 The early calculators show that I’ll owe $2300, so I may have to pull half of my emergency fund ($1000) and possible make smaller debt repayments in February and March. Sigh. 😦

More change is also in the air for February. While we have enjoyed saving money by being a one-car household in a very walkable neighborhood, my latest promotion necessitates a second car. So Mr. Bacon may be making a big purchase next weekend after all the research we’ve been doing! The most exciting thing is that he has been going over his budgets now that he’s serious about getting a new car.

We are also outgrowing our studio apartment–with the imminent second car, it won’t make sense to pay over $300/month in parking expenses ($155 per car per month), and that would make it a ridiculous $1800 for a studio. So we are also shopping for a larger apartment or condo and may be moving to a less walkable (but less expensive!) neighborhood in the next couple months. We could probably get a 2-bedroom, 2-bath condo (with free parking) for the same amount as what we’re paying for this studio with 2 parking spots, so that’s the current plan.

More details and more blog posts soon about all of this! I also realized I blogged 5x in January, which surpassed my 2014 blogging goal of 4x/month. Yay! Hope everyone is doing well with your goals. Anyone got car shopping or apartment shopping tips?