Category Archives: planes & trains & cars

FML, Honda Fit issues!

I just took my car in to get serviced 3 weekends ago (it had hit over 90k miles and I’ve been driving it a lot for work). Over $900 for the maintenance + brake fluid replacement, but the car needed some TLC. It was feeling great, smooth, pretty amazing. Went on a short girls’ weekend road trip a couple weekends ago, and it was feeling super smooth.

To cap off what would’ve been a great and relaxing 3-day weekend, the check engine light came on yesterday afternoon, the D for drive kept flashing on and off (even if the car was in Park, Reverse, or Neutral) and it made this Ka-CHUNK sound every time the car shifted (it’s an automatic transmission).

ARGH! Took it in to the dealer immediately and they were able to diagnose it as a transmission “clutch pressure” switch that needed to be replaced, for $700. But it was able to be done last night. Fine…but when I went to pick it up right before closing, they had realized it might be something MORE…. so they immediately refunded my $700 and now I’m on standby until later this morning when they call and tell me what’s really wrong. One guy mentioned they might need to replace the whole transmission.

NOOOOO! At which point, Mr. Bacon thinks it’s time to trade the car in. NOOOOO! Hondas are supposed to last forever! It’s a 2007 Honda Fit Sport with 92,000+ miles on it. It’s paid off and I like not having a car payment every month. But I’m afraid to dump $3,000+ into a car that may end up having more problems. Is it too much ask for it to last 3-5 more years? Just give me more time to pay off my student loans, pay for a wedding and buy a house, please!

speeding tickets, and a tentative home savings plan…

I’m really ashamed to confess that I’ve apparently gotten two speed camera speeding tickets in the last month. So embarassing! What’s extra embarassing is that my car is still registered under the parents’ names in California, so the camera snaps a photo of the CA license plate and sends it to Mom & Pop Bacon. D’oh. I’ve had red light violations go to them too. (I swear I’m not a horrible driver! Just always in a hurry! Ok, I’ll be more careful!)

So the first one got sent to Mom right before I flew home. She called me about it, laughed, and said “I’ll just give it to you in person.” It was $40, not too bad, I guess. When I finally went to pay for it online today, they pulled up TWO speeding tickets under the license plate. NOOOOOOOOO! $80 down the drain! The second one is just 3 blocks from where I work…since when did they put speed cameras there?!

Anyway, in semi-related news (as I mentioned the parents above, and the potential for living with them to save money in my previous post), I’ve been trying to craft a plan for the House Fund. Inspired in part by Erika’s old post on her “five-step five-year buying a house plan,” I’ve come up with a 3-step plan for…well, actually, the next 3 years.

Step 1. Pay off the student loan with the higher interest rate. This should be done sometime around when we get married (end of next September), and leave me with just one student loan payment a month, which is $242, instead of a combined $558.

Step 2. For the next 6 months, send the extra money that would’ve been going to student loans ($1,800 to $2,000) into the House Fund. That’s $10,800 to $12,000! (I would still send the $242 minimum payment over to the last student loan, obviously.)

Step 3. Move back to CA, and save a whopping $4,500 to $5,000 per month for 10-12 months by living with the parents. That’s $45,000 to $60,000 more, for a grand total of $54,800 to $72,000!

Holy crap, that is much more than the $50k to $60k that I projected we would need for a 10% down payment and makes it seem like such a great deal. We really do pay a lot in housing! And we do have a pretty good combined household income, it’s just that I pay a bunch of it towards my loans and we don’t live like rich people.

Of course, the numbers are also assuming many big things…for example, that we both find jobs with similar salaries that we will get to start fairly immediately…hmm, yeah, big assumptions. But do-able. If anything, the first part of the House Fund (from the first six months of savings) may end up going to moving expenses or “emergency fund” expenses as we transition to our new living situation, and the non-employment gap that exists in that space.

But it’s all very tentative at this point. Heck, it’s also only a 2.5-year span at most, I imagine the time periods won’t be so exact, so giving us 3 years from now is a good start. What do you think?

Oh yeah, after the savings plan, there’s also:

Step 4. Buy a house.

Step 5. Pay off the rest of the student loans while living in said house, paying mortgage and not rent! 😀

New Orleans, Wrestlemania, and a potential wedding venue!

So two weekends ago was our Gulf Coast trip (Louisiana to Florida). We left Thursday night and flew back home Monday night. It was a great adventure with old and new friends, but ended up costing us more than we planned. Not that I’m surprised–these things are expected! It’s funny, I have a handy-dandy notebook I like to write a bunch of finance things in, and back in January I made rough estimates of $500 for plane tickets and $200 for hotels, which were WAAAAY off. (Wait, actually I think I meant $500 for a plane ticket for myself, and it ended up being $350, or $700 for both of us. So that part isn’t bad after all.)

A lot of things went wrong in terms of logistics and that’s what kinda killed the vacation hotel budget. We originally had a group of 7 or 8 of us going, with most people getting in on Friday afternoon. Well, me and Mr. Bacon found the cheapest flights getting in late Thursday night, and were supposed to spend that night with one of the posse that was renting a place in New Orleans for a month or so. A family emergency meant she wasn’t there at all, and it turned out she hadn’t rented her place in NOLA yet either.

SO… we had to book an extra night’s hotel pretty last-minute as we were the only ones to fly in Thursday. Another friend completely bailed, so it was down to 5 of us, which meant a larger share of splitting up hotel and travel costs. Sunday night should’ve still had 4 of us in town, but the other couple ended up driving back to Texas early, and although my best friend offered to still pay for the half the hotel room for Sunday, I wouldn’t have any of it.

So hotels ended up being over $500 for us, as we had to pay for two nights on our own and split the other two nights. Way more than the $200 I had hoped for! I’m laughing at myself for being so naïve! But hey…it ended up being worth it for all the delicious Cajun food I stuffed myself with–jambalaya, crawfish, crab, turtle soup (!), smoked sausage po’boy (I just love saying PO’ BOY!), gumbo and beignets!!! 😀

And I have to admit it was good to have some alone time with Mr. Bacon on vacation! The trip was for a bike ride adventure, but when it came down to just me and Mr. Bacon in New Orleans on Sunday night after the bike ride, we did what we had to do–which was go to the 30th edition of WRESTLEMANIA! Pretty insane! I don’t follow pro wrestling at all, but my fiancé has absolutely loved it since he was a little boy. I have to admit it was pretty epic being in the Superdome with over 75,000 fans screaming and yelling and booing. I even recognized some of the big names from my childhood–Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Stone Cold, Jake the Snake, and of course, The Undertaker!

We scored super last minute seats for under $50 each on Stubhub.com, just 2 hours before the show. They were club seats somewhere in the middle (not the nosebleeds) that were originally $130 apiece. That was a pretty great deal! So you know, we have fun going on these crazy dates–he went to the circus with me, and I went with him to WrestleMania.

In other news, we also have a huge lead on a wedding venue–one of my clients at work overheard my idea to have a backyard wedding on the Eastern Shore. He happens to have a big house on several acres there (like a summer home, kind of), and has offered to let us use it! We are  going to check it out next month when our weekend schedules align. They are even doing renovations on it this year to open up walls and windows and have a 180-degree view of the water. Pretty exciting!

That’s the scoop for now.

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. 😀

A big hurrah for 2013!

I’m prepping for my December debt update and a bigger 2013 recap, but had a lot of excitement happen in the last 36 hours…and just needed to blurt it out for one last post of the year!

I snuck in a short solo trip home to California for Christmas…it was kind of an “impulse trip” I didn’t really plan for, but so well worth it. I had been sticking to my budgets pretty well the last couple months and had enough to cover the flights, which weren’t actually any more expensive than a cross-country flight usually is ($515). I’d been so good about not travelling much all year and still had vacation days left to burn so off I went. Stayed with the parents and didn’t do much other than visit loved ones and go running nearly every day, so my only cost for 5 days out there was probably the flight!

After taking a red-eye flight back to DC yesterday morning, I picked up the car from the Honda dealership and the valve adjustment only ended up being $326! Much less than the $511 I was originally quoted. I’m glad I waited to go back, because in the meantime I had found a random coupon from one of those neighborhood coupon packets for 25% off any service or repair at this particular Honda dealership. (Aha! I knew there was another reason we took it to the one right in our neighborhood…) Now you math nerds will know that $326 is cheaper than 25% off $511 ($383), so I’m also confused why the price before the coupon was less than the original quote. But I didn’t bring it up, of course! This doesn’t help my confidence that these quotes aren’t just random numbers pulled out of their butts. Anyway, knock on wood, the car is running very smoothly now, and no more “check engine” light coming on.

This morning was my first day back at work since Christmas Eve’s eve, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn we only had to work until noon (woohoo!), tomorrow we’ve got off for New Year’s (which I already knew), and one of my coworkers alerted me to check my bank account. Because our Christmas bonuses were direct-deposited this morning! WOOHOO!!!

It’s amazing how much less stressed I feel when a big chunk of money lands in my lap. Even if most of it is earmarked for student loan debt and doesn’t go in my pocket. I promptly ran some numbers and made a huge payment to Sallie Mae once I got home. 75% of the Christmas bonus. Then I signed up for one of the triathlons I wanted to do (the price goes up tomorrow). The rest will get put into the savings/emergency/triathlon/travel fund. I’m not going to go crazy like I did the last time I got a bonus and am pretty excited to announce my new numbers in the December report. Stay tuned!

Anyone else get their Christmas bonus? Happy new year!!!

the case of the misfiring cylinder vs. misfiring check engine light

Twas the morning of Christmas Eve’s eve in the Bacon Payoff household (an efficient and frugal one-car household) when I got an early call from Mr. Bacon as he was on his way to work. The car was stalling at stoplights and the check engine light had come back on. NOOOOO! He had me quickly look up train tickets to his hometown for later that night, since we were heading up for Christmas with his family. Luckily unlike plane tickets, we were able to secure train tickets for the “day of” super duper cheap–$43 to $48 each way.

Now about a month ago, I had finally taken our car into the dealership to figure out what the “check engine” light was telling us. It comes on and off periodically, but was hardly ever persistent, and seemed to come on when the weather was cold. Sometimes. (There wasn’t really a pattern.) I should know better about taking better care of my car, but growing up in San Francisco, my uncles owned an auto repair shop in the city and they always took care of anything to do with car troubles. Obviously I was spoiled. 😦

So that month ago appointment told us that there was a “misfiring cylinder” and the first step was to “adjust the valves”, which would cost $511 and wasn’t guaranteed to fix the problem. Once we dropped off the car for a day to get this done, we would have to “wait and see” if the check engine light came back on. If it didn’t, then everything was hunky dory. If it came back on, obviously the problem wasn’t fixed with the $511.

Now even though I had some money socked away in the emergency fund for “car issues”, I still balked at paying $511 for a service that wasn’t guaranteed. Besides, it was hard to find a day when either of us didn’t need the car…

Typical car-sharing use of the one-car household during winter (too cold and wet for bike commuting):

  • Mondays are Mr. Bacon’s turn to drive, I carpool with a coworker as I live on her route to work.
  • Tuesdays and Thursdays I drop him off and pick him up if he has a 12-hour shift (unless he’s got the day off, then it’s mine).
  • Wednesdays and Fridays, I walk the 30mins to work and Mr. Bacon drives.
    (I work about 5 miles from the office location I’m at Mon-Tues-Thurs, and only 1.5 miles from the other location Wed-Fri.)

Soon after the diagnosis of a potential “misfiring cylinder”, the check engine light stopped coming on. So…I would often chuckle at myself that this seemed more like a “misfiring check engine light”. Oh, so clever. NOT! Since the light didn’t come back on for weeks upon weeks, I chose to be blissfully ignorant. Until that fateful morning of Christmas Eve’s eve. 😦

Anyway. We are both out of town for a week and in the meantime left the car at the dealership (which is conveniently located a block down our street, don’t even get me started on how to pick a good auto repair place). I got a phone call from them Tuesday, saying the error code was still the “misfiring cylinder”, so we would have to proceed with the $511 valve adjustment we had discussed last month. Grrrrg.

SO. This tale of the one-car household is to be continued, as are the tales of living on the financial edge. We did not get a Christmas bonus at work before Christmas, unfortunately, but word is that we most always get one, sometimes before Christmas, sometimes not til the end of January, sometimes via direct deposit, and sometimes a big paper check. I remain hopeful and grateful that I stashed some of my last bonus into the emergency fund!

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!