Monthly Archives: December 2014

The end (of 2014!) is near!

don-t-keep-calm-the-end-is-near

Yup, so we’ve got two days to go! YIKES! And unfortunately, there’s no sign of a Christmas bonus, which ironically I had mentioned in my last monthly update, “While I am expecting another huge bonus at the end of the year, I don’t want to assume I am getting a certain amount (always dangerous to assume that!).”

Almost creepy foreshadowing. 😦

I ended up having an unofficial annual review after I wrote that post, came to find out that I didn’t actually perform too well during our third quarter, and that overall my numbers weren’t as high as one of the overlords was expecting. (Again, the “how many Etch-a-Sketches have you made today, Buddy?” mentality I mentioned in my last post.) He kept trying to get me to explain why, and I thought it was pretty obvious that it was because they had hired another person during the second quarter, and thus we were splitting up the work between the two of us (rather unfairly, as the new guy got most of the new big accounts).

This is the first time at this job (or any job I’ve ever had), that I’ve been evaluated based on numbers, and it’s really demotivating when there are so many variables out of my control that affect the damn numbers. Another reason I’ve been disgruntled. So up until that point, I had expected at least a small bonus, but things are looking bleak. Typically the bosses will direct deposit it into our account by the end of the year (since it has to be in the calendar year for taxes), and nothing new was in this morning, so there’s still one more day…

In the meantime, this will be my 48th post for the year (HUZZAH!), so that means I have reached one of my 2014 goals of averaging 4 blog posts per month! Another yearly round-up to come soon. In the meantime, enjoy your New Year’s Eve and stay safe! 🙂

The Next 5 Years…

So I’ve been at a crossroads at work recently. I’m just coming upon 2 years here and the past year has deteriorated into a job that I kind of dread and resent. When I was hired here, it was for a completely different site, really fast-paced, where you showed up at 7:30am and busted ass all day (lunch wasn’t typically until 1 or 2pm), but you were most always done and out the door by 4:30pm. The parking situation at work sucked, but I was happy to walk or bike to work each day (1.5 miles from where we used to live), as it was refreshing and forced me to get some exercise in on days I didn’t feel like exercising.

A year into it, I got moved to my current office full-time, because the guy that was previously here went bonkers and pretty much abandoned his post.

Of course, now I feel like I’m the one going bonkers–this job description is completely different than what I relocated to the Washington DC area for, as it is very numbers-oriented (the “how many Etch-a-Sketches have you made today, Buddy?” scene in Elf) and involves a lot of “outside calls”, driving out of the office to drum up more business, and longer hours. I feel like I’m always in the car, driving everywhere. We aren’t expected in the office until 8:00am (although my coworker that commutes from Annapolis sometimes saunters in closer to 8:30am), but it’s not unusual for me to be at this office until 6pm. I had originally consoled myself when they first moved me over to this office that it was a “promotion”, as I did get a 10% raise and more responsibilities…but now I feel like I’m doing much more than 10% more!

I also don’t feel like I’m being valued for the master’s degree that I’m still paying off over $71k for. (You know, the whole reason this blog exists in the first place.) There are different ways of getting into our field, and you don’t need a master’s degree to do what I’m doing, so my coworkers that are doing something similar to me have a lower degree, and may be even making more as they are both more into the sales side of things. Which is completely frustrating.

A lot of this frustration also seems to be coming to a head, as me and Mr. Bacon will be in the position to buy a home in the somewhat near future, which involves settling down and laying down some roots. BUT I just don’t feel like this is a job or location that I can see myself at for the next 5 years. When I applied for the original job, yes, but right now, no.

So in the meantime, I am keeping my options open. I think the universe is trying to tell me something, because in the last two months, I’ve been “courted” by three other companies, so at least I know that I’m a wanted commodity. I also realize that I don’t know everything there is to know in my field, so another year where I’m at will still give me plenty of much-needed experience. So I am not frustrated and disgruntled to the point of “must jump ship NOW!” but I will definitely be looking to make some changes in the next year…

Playing House Hunters = not impressed!

Yesterday was our two-year anniversary. Whoop whoop! Mr. Bacon asked me what I wanted to do, and I said “play House Hunters!” He loves to watch all kinds of house-fixing and house-shopping tv shows (Million Dollar Listing, Flip or Flop, Flipping Vegas, House Hunters etc etc), and random fact–he took real estate agent classes once but didn’t ever go through with it because he didn’t like the idea of “embellishing the truth” to potential buyers.

Since we had been seriously house-lusting for the past couple weeks and I had come up with the new plan for saving up for a house first, we decided to check out Annapolis after all, and see how listings on the interwebs compared to the real thing. Well…we looked for things in our price range (under $350k) and let’s just say a picture is worth a thousand words:

not-impressed

I guess for the most part, yes, Annapolis is an adorable town and of course there were amazing houses right on the water. The only thing is…if you can’t afford something nice right on the water, you will either get a tiny shack somewhat near the water, or a decent house that might as well be in any other town. In fact, in any other town that is within a more reasonable commuting distance!

Our conclusion is, we didn’t see anything we could afford that screamed “hey! this is definitely worth commuting an hour to work each day for!” Because let’s face it, a 40-minute drive when there is no traffic really means at least one hour to 1.5 hours each way during rush hour, or 2-3 hours total per day. Yeah. Um…NOPE!

In related news, Mr. Bacon realized (after being hell-bent on a “real” house, not a townhouse or condo) that perhaps a 2-bedroom, 2-bath townhouse (with a garage!) that is only a 20- or 30-minute drive from work is probably the way to go. Which I’m totally down for (but I have to make him think it’s HIS idea 😉 hehe). There are definitely plenty of those within a 10-mile radius of us, and even some under $350k. We got this!

Seriously House-Lusting!

So I mentioned in the November update about how we’ve been house-lusting for a bit. We’ve been scoping out Trulia for various single-family homes (not a townhouse or condo!) in all kinds of different areas, but have been striking out as they are too far for work (we’re talking 90mins to 2 hours! no way!), not anywhere desirable (up I-270 is nothing spectacular), or way too expensive. (Side note, I love that the co-founder/CEO of Trulia is an awesome triathlete and endurance athlete. Huge fan here!)

I really haven’t considered buying a home in our area at all, as Montgomery County is just extremely overpopulated with condos, townhouses, and high rise buildings AND WAY TOO EXPENSIVE. There’s new construction just a few blocks from where we are currently renting: beautiful 3-story “brownstones” starting at 1.2 MILLION DOLLARS. WTF. The 1-bedroom condo we are currently renting out goes for over $300k, and the 2-bedroom ones in our complex are $350k to $400k. WTF. (Right now we are both within 2-5 miles of where we work, which is the nice thing about being renters!)

Then…there was a bit of an AHA! moment just last week. For some reason, I thought about Annapolis and haven’t been able to shake it. It’s a 40-minute drive (without traffic), and one of my coworkers (who is 4 years younger than me, annoyingly) recently bought a house there with his fiancée. 40 minutes wouldn’t be bad, but I know it could be terrible in traffic. I would probably just drive out earlier in the morning, and get in a swim or run workout before work!

Now Annapolis would be gorgeous. It’s right by the water, has its own cute little downtown and thriving running community, and is only 30mins from Baltimore airport, and 90mins from Mr. Bacon’s family.

Best of all, there are 3- to 4-bedroom houses there from $250k to $299k! If we end up having kids while living there, the crime is rated as “Lowest” and many of the schools are “Exemplary”.

Holy smokes, that is all pretty amazing! As you know, I’m from California and just can’t believe you can find real (read: detached) houses that big, living close by the water, in an area with good schools and low crime for under $300k!

This revelation has been a bit of a game-changer (or game-plan-changer??)…as we would only need to save up $30,000 for the 10% down payment, which is much less than the previous home savings plan of needing $55k to $70k just to get a house in California! And realistically, this could mean that after our 2-year lease is up in April 2016, we might actually be ready to buy our first home! Which is super exciting, because we really do want our own place (without having to live with my mom for a year after being married…).

So I’m doing some research, as stated in the last post, about funneling more of the extra student loan payments into the home savings account.

Pros:

  • lower county tax by living in Anne Arundel County vs. Montgomery County (my coworker has mentioned getting up to $1000/month more in take-home pay. WTF?!)
  • all those tax breaks for being a homeowner, and first-time home buyer!
  • our monthly mortgage would probably be similar to our current rent…but it goes back to us instead of the landlord!
  • having our own place would be SO AWESOME!

Cons:

  • the commute
  • taking a bit longer to pay off the student loans? (maybe?)
  • not California 😦 Cold winters!

But come to think about it, when we get married and should we buy a house in Anne Arundel County, I am pretty sure that my take-home pay will increase because of those two factors. I just crunched some numbers into one of those online payroll calculators, and it looks like my monthly income would go up by $380 when we get married, and only another $40 up from that if we move to AA County (my coworker must be full of BS, I don’t know where you get the extra $1000 from!).

Still, that would be an increase of $420/month in take-home pay, which is almost 2x the amount of my student loan interest per month! That would mean even more money to throw at student loans each month, while living in our OWN HOME.

BOOM!

As for California…maybe someday later…

November shenanigans, house-lusting, and perhaps a new plan for 2015…

Well, November was a bust as far as paying off the student loans went. I ended up only paying the two minimum payments (which are now $242 and $315) and so my total only went down by $343.55 for a new total of $71,532.53. $213.59 went towards interest, which isn’t completely terrible, as I remember my monthly interest used to be more like $300!

So…what gives? November was actually an awesome month. My birthday has always fallen around Thanksgiving, which is my favorite holiday as I enjoy eating like a fat kid and I’ve always associated my birthday with it. We drove 2 hours north to have Thanksgiving with Mr. Bacon’s family and stayed for about 5 days. We went over the dining-out budget but were under for the grocery budget (obviously because we ended up going out more to see old friends, and cooking less).

I also did something just a little bit crazy. I bought a new triathlon bike! Did I really need a new one? No…but my current one is 5 years old, has definitely seen better days, and I ended up getting an offer I couldn’t refuse on a clearance bike (we’re talking over 50% off retail!). This was through the old bike shop that used to sponsor me, and I’ve been doing some bartering for store credit over the last 18 months (writing email newsletters for them). I paid 1/3 of the new negotiated price as a down payment and may end up doing more newsletters to help pay down the balance. I’m getting back into racing more in 2015 and I’ve had my eyes set on this new bike for a while! It’s actually quite a huge upgrade…like going from a $4000 bike to a $7000 bike! And…I don’t expect to buy another new bike for at least another 5 years.

So…instead of putting down a fat extra payment towards Sallie Mae (which I guess is now “Navient), I put it into my savings/emergency fund. While I am expecting another huge bonus at the end of the year, I don’t want to assume I am getting a certain amount (always dangerous to assume that!). So I am making sure I have a nice cushion to pay off everything, just in case!

In related news, we have been house-lusting for a few months now (obviously since I started making some home saving plans in my head and even considering moving in with the parents…), but seemed to have turned up the heat since Thanksgiving week. We visited some of Mr. Bacon’s old friends who had an amazing property in Eastern Maryland, somewhat off the beaten path, that was only 10 years old and cost them $279k. WHOA!

I will go into more detail in the next post, but we’ve essentially found a desirable area that is commute-able distance with 3- to 4-bedroom homes for under $300,000. WHOA! As my old college friend visiting DC said (he also grew up in California and currently lives in Boston), “what is this, 1987 California?!” So if we only need a down payment of $30k, I think we can realistically save that in the next 16 months (which is when our 2-year lease on the condo ends), and actually be home owners within a year of getting married! That is exciting beyond belief.

BUT…it would require changing the financial priorities from paying off the student loans to saving up for the house. As my loans are at 4.6% and 3.2%, the interest is low, but I do want to pay them off. However, I know waiting to pay them off first would take a long time, and there are lots of financial benefits (and tax breaks) to buying and owning your own home (especially in that area, where we would also be taxed less per paycheck!), so it would end up being worth it! In the meantime, I’m doing my due diligence and researching my options regarding all this.

What do you think? Save for a house, and then pay off student loans??? I’d have to change my blog title, wouldn’t I? 😉

I said YES to the DRESS!

So…yes! I got my dress just last weekend! True to my last “getting hitched” update, it was under my $500 budget. Unlike my very first (and uber naïve) “getting hitched” update, it was not under $150, nor was it a halter style top!

This was the 3rd wedding dressing shopping trip: first one was in Maryland with my Maid of Honor and a couple local girlfriends at David’s Bridal. I didn’t know what I wanted and was against the idea of strapless. But all the strappy ones looked weird. On the same trip, MOH and I also stopped at this random dress shop in a mall, where I did try a halter-style dress, and it was also kind of weird. The second trip was in California with my mom and sister, and I started to realize that strapless  actually did look the best on me! And I’ve been assured by many people that as long as it’s fitted correctly (tight enough!) in the torso, it will NOT slip down constantly (my main small-chested fear).

This last trip was in Delaware with a very good friend of me and Mr. Bacon. We originally planned to go to this great boutique that many of our Delaware friends had recommended, and we were impressed just booking the appointment! During the phone call, they ask you several questions: how many people will be coming with you, what size dress do you wear, and what’s your budget? So my friend had made the phone call and it wasn’t until she was confirming the appointment a couple days before that she mentioned my budget. Well, turns out they could only offer “nontraditional dresses” for $500, as they started at $1200 to $1500! Whew…no thank you. We decided to book an appointment at David’s Bridal in Delaware instead.

It was a super busy Saturday morning, and I had to share my consultant Kim with another bride, but she was AMAZING. There were a few I had perused online and printed out, so Kim pulled out as many of the ones I liked that were in stock (3 or 4?). I really wanted this one…because…OMG RUFFLES! Detachable train with RUFFLES!

ruffles

It was discontinued from previous seasons and they had a size 6 (I’m between a 6 and an 8), it would’ve been on sale for $349 (down from $849!). Then Kim asked if I wanted to try on more…and I figured, why not! She was really attentive to what I liked and didn’t like, and what she thought would look good on me.

I ended up buying one that she picked out! It was a really close contest between mine and the ruffly-train dress…but this one actually made my chest look more substantial, and the top was so pretty! It was a size 8 and also discontinued, on clearance for $499 down from $799. I was sad to give up the ruffles in the back…but got some mini ruffle action in the front!

chest

The dress just fit me better overall (you will have to wait til September for more pics, can’t spoil the surprise!) and I’ll only need minimal alterations (where the ruffly one would’ve needed more). One of the best parts (for us personal finance geeks!) was that 5 hours later, I was checking out the dress on my phone and realized there was a $50 coupon I could’ve used. I called them back and they said to print out the coupon, and they would honor it.

Yes! So my dress was $449 (no sales tax, thanks Delaware!) and I got it with 10 months to go. Whoop whoop! Because it was discontinued, I actually got to take it home (well, it’s at Georgia’s home for safekeeping, so Mr. Bacon doesn’t accidentally see it) instead of putting in an order and waiting another 6 to 12 weeks.

I did also just see that there were Black Friday crazy sales online (one week after I bought mine), and both of the dresses were an additional 50% off! But of course they only had sizes 0 and 14 left, so I think I did good. REALLY GOOD! 😀