Saturday, July 26, 2008

Moving Day

It feels like moving day part 100 because every time we've gone up to the house for a service call or to work on it we've brought a car load up. Two nights this week Gameboy and I needed some alone time so we went to the house. Today the furniture movers will be here to get the stuff I don't want Gameboy and his friends to tackle on their own. We're also getting a bed for his dad and the appliances that didn't make it earlier this week.

Hopefully everything will go smoothly and we will only be left with the things in the closets and pantry.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What does financial independence mean?

Yesterday as I was driving up to get some work done on the new house* and stuck in traffic. It was Talk of the Nation** time on NPR so I decided to tune in. Melody Serafino, a New York twentysomething was discussing, was discussing her recent op-ed piece in Newsweek. The idea of 'adulthood' is something that many twentysomethings, myself included, seem to struggle with. The basic premise of the article is that financial independence is necessary to be an adult. Many of her friends seem to have parents who subsidize their rent, give monthly allowances, or still share credit cards with their children. She wonders when these twentysomethings will learn to budget, do for themselves, and what will happen if their parents suddenly can't help any more.

As I listened to Serafino's explanations and the responding callers I swung back and forth. The side of me that values responsibility agreed strongly. Parental wallets aren't something that should be tapped for every little financial need. Also, if Mom and Dad continually bail you out how will you learn to make things work on your own?

Then I thought about my friends, our situations, and the parental contributions I've gotten this year. Most of my friends and I are self supporting, but benefit from random influxes of parental cash. We don't rely on the cash but are generally happy to receive it.***

In my case my mom is there when she thinks I'm not taking good enough care of myself or something should be handled by parents. Every couple of months she sends me a check with a note like "Go get your hair done and take Gameboy out to lunch" or "It's time for sandals, go get a pedicure." Most of that money ends up going to debt repayment, but occasionally I oblige the request. Two months this year she has paid my student loans. She feels like paying for school is a parental responsibility and I had a full ride through undergrad. Without these funds the bills would still be paid in full every month, but extra debt payments may not have happened at the same pace.

Most recently we applied to the Bank of Mom for a loan to help our down payment. We got preapproval in April and decided on a loan program that required 8% down. We figured out how much we could comfortably put down and started looking in that price range. As we saw what was available we inched the asking price up, finally stopping at 20K more than our original figure. We found the house, put down money, and were informed that the loan program we wanted had moved from 8% to 10% down. We could have depleted our reserves or walked away (losing our earnest money). Without us asking my mom suggested taking a loan from her significant personal e fund to preserve fledgling e fund. Actually she offered to give us the money outright, but we weren't comfortable with that.

So my question is where is the line? And what does it mean to be financially independent? I've gotten enough money from my mom this year that I can't claim to be getting where I'm going without her assistance. But at the same time if her support stopped tomorrow I'd be fine. I may not move forward at the same rate, but my bills, and then some would all get paid. Does the fact that I get random influxes but can survive on my own mean I'm not financially independent? Or is it that I'm just straddling the fence of financial independence?

For any other twentysomethings reading along are your feet firmly planted on one side or the other?

*Meeting the garage door opener installation guy if you're dying to know.
**A show that discusses current events and controversial topics
***I'm the secondary on my mom's ING e fund. This is her preferred way of giving me money. In the past few years when I thought she wasn't in a place where she should be giving me money I've also transfered fund back.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

We have a house!

We're officially homeowners! And I've made 5-6 trips to Home Depot and Lowes in the past 3 days to prove it. So far things are going well. Yesterday I got the air ducts cleaned, vacumed, and shampooed all of the carpets. This was when I realized how big the house is. In the first rooms I was doing salsa moves with the vaccum. By the end of the carpet shampooing I kept telling myself things like: just one more room and I'm not touching a box for the next week.

My father in law wiped down the walls, cleaned out the cabinets and put the pantry together as best he could. While I was at Home Depot math powers left me and I got boards that are too short- especially if I want to stockpile. Today or tomorrow I'll be making another trip to return and exchange them. I'm also working on keeping all of our receipts and warranties organized. I've missed the time for a morning lawn watering so I think I'm going to make some pancakes and chill out. This evening we'll try a mix the vent guy told me about to help bring the lawn back.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


We finally have a closing date. Finally. A lot of the things that need to be scheduled related to the move (vent cleaning, movers for the big stuff, phone/internet/cable, appliances) couldn't be fully scheduled until we had a a date for keys. With each decision comes a lengthier list of considerations.

We've decided to go with a local family owned business for the vent cleaning instead of the local company that dominates the market. I asked about service similarities and liked what the owner had to say. A visit to my local Better Business Bureau's website confirmed my choices. The smaller company has had 1 complaint that they addressed. The larger company has had 4 that have not been addressed.

We're debating movers for our furniture. Really it's just the bedroom stuff. My concern is the folks that delivered it, guys who deliver furniture for a living, had a hard time navigating the stairs/ceiling/wall situation in our current apartment. I love Gameboy, but if professionals have issues I'm not sure how much faith I can put in Gameboy and a friend getting it done without damaging the furniture. And then there's the bed issue. My mom and I were here when they set up the bed but it all seemed a little crazy to me then, 2 years ago. The only other bed I've ever put together was from Ikea, and it had handy little instructions. Movers know how to do this sort of thing right?

Will Gameboy's dad (and I think this really means Gameboy) want to watch his local team while he's living with us? That means NFL Sunday ticket. Do we switch to the other company offering a 6 month intro rate? Or just stay put with a bill that I feel is too large? When it comes to the TV Gameboy's vice is football, mine is definitely our DVR. I like watching TV on my schedule and after 2 years I'm not sure if I can go back to recording with a VCR. It's not necessary for the decision, but it's a correlating decision.

The final thing on today's list is making a decision on where to buy appliances. We have the funds in the bank to pay for things but would not leave us much wiggle room. With all of the crazy changes going on I'd rather finance (no interest of course) put aside some extra money each month and earn interest on the money. The big question is do we buy it all from one place, without the best prices on each item, or go to multiple locations (and pay multiple delivery fees) to do the best on item prices. I'm going to call the one place that has everything on the list, see if they offer a deal for buying 5 appliances, get the details of their price guarantee (ie will they take prices from an outlet), and how long delivery will take.

I also need to unbury our couch b/c it will be the FIL's bed until we buy him one and start moving into the new place. Oh yeah, and do the work my employer pays me to do.

Friday, July 11, 2008

June Net Worth

Instead of working I decided to calculate my June end net worth. It's a good thing my month is light because I've been pulling this kind of move way too often. So far today I've made 6 calls about personal stuff.

Anyway, back to the net worth. Despite last month's lack of saving or extra payments my net worth increased just a bit. Looking at the chart NetworthIQ has with each month's assets and liabilities laid out I realized I'm just shy of a $10K difference in my net worth.

Assets Liabilities Net Worth
June $19,227 $35,874 ($16,647)
May $19,727 $36,548 ($16,821)
April $17,087 $36,937 ($19,850)
March $14,678 $36,753 ($22,075)
February $13,372 $37,488 ($24,116)
January $11,485 $37,710 ($26,225)

If all goes well in the next week my net worth is going to plummet so I'm going to linger on that positive change while it lasts.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Our average house credit card bill, which includes groceries, gas, cable/internet/phone, prescriptions, cell phones and anything else that isn't personal spending, usually runs $800-1200 a month. I'd like to shrink that number, but with our income I'm comfortable with that range.

June, well June blew things out of the water. In a single day we put $1,964.61 on the card. This included what my insurance didn't pick up from a doctors visit, wheels for Gameboy's car, my wedding dress, and half of our wedding bands. That's also the day we put the offer on the house, writing a $1,500 earnest money check. The amount I paid the doctor (and will eventually be reimbursed through the FSA) kinda shocked me. The tires were unexpected but something damaged two and they looked ready for a blowout. The wedding stuff was expected, but if I'm honest not really planned for financially.

I'm going to put off looking at eating out on my personal card. I know I at least doubled (probably more like quadrupled) my spending goal on eating out. The 8 days I had jury duty I at lunch out every day and breakfast at least 4 days.

On the plus side we were able to cover everything without dipping into savings or the e fund. Groceries were also significantly below my goal of $150, thanks in large part to some unexpected gift cards. I ended up spending 106.13 on the card and $3o-40 in gift cards on groceries. While Gameboy was in training he got Target $5-15 gift cards as prizes which helped last month and earlier this month. The bad news is I do most of my spending analysis from my credit card (I probably spend $20/mth in cash) so I don't know exactly how much I spent on groceries.

Another plus was the unexpected windfall that brought the e fund to 70% or our most recent goal. With the new house I'm happy to have a cushion to fall back on. The auto-debits for my Roth also continued, so that account grew.

The one sentence version of all that: We spent way more than usual, didn't save much, but were also able to pay everything off without dipping into the e fund. I'd love to say that for July we're back on track, but I'd just be lying to you ;)

To Escrow or Not to Escrow

We're nearing what should be the end of the home buying tunnel. The other day we figured out home owners insurance and I called our loan officer's assistant to give her the info. At this point I thought one of the terms of the loan was that we had to escrow property taxes and home owners insurance. That means a portion of our monthly mortgage payment would get put into a non interest bearing savings account to save for the annual property tax and home owners insurance bills.

During the call she let me know that we have the option on whether or not to escrow home owners insurance. If you've been reading this blog for a while you can probably see my issue with escrow. It's that non interest bearing thing. I think the idea is to help folks who don't have the discipline to save every month and/or ensure that the money is there when the bill is due. Though I haven't been the best saver in the last 2 months my Roth IRA has continued to grow. Even with today's low interest rates I'd rather have the money in an ING sub account gaining.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Buying Smart

...or at least trying to. The house we're buying doesn't have any appliances. Like many foreclosures on the market the previous owner took everything that wasn't strapped down. This includes stove, fridge, dishwasher, washer, dryer, garage door opener, and shelving in the pantry and a closet. I've decided to look at this as an opportunity to buy appliances that work with our lifestyle.

The most important factor for me is energy efficiency. Everything that is possible* will have an Energy Star rating. To get the cheerful star label products have to be 10-50% more energy efficient than standard models. Though many of these models will cost a little more up front they will help keep our energy bills down. Since we hope to keep each appliance for a long time it's an investment we are happy to make.

When we started looking for appliances we headed to big box stores and talked to sales folks. I'd come home and look up models trying to discern the important differences. Then one day I remembered Consumer Reports. They are a nonprofit that rates everything from appliances to sneakers, to investment funds. It requires a membership, but we decided $6-12 ($6/mth) was worth having unbiased help in making our decisions. We've made decisions on everything but the stove, looking at the factors Consumer Reports rate and user reviews.

The next step will be taking our list of products to the big box stores. We'll see how much each item costs and what types of discounts we can get for buying 5 appliances at once.

*They don't rate stoves and dryers, which I think is kind of crazy since they use so much energy.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

July Goals

I'll be figuring out my June wrap up over the weekend. I've been thinking hard about goals for July.

My first goal is to stay sane. Usually my goals have to do with financial matters but the past month has been interesting and the next month looks like it will be even more fun. Within the next few weeks* we will be closing on the house, moving, and adding another member to the household. No, we're not having a baby. My father in law is going through some stuff and we all agree it's in his best interest to get away from his current city and make a fresh start. The plan, at least for now, is for him to live with use for at least six months.

Financially all of these things have lots of repercussions. We've planned for a lot of the expenses associated with moving but I'm sure there will be things that have slipped our minds. The new place is much bigger- largely because we bought it with our future family in mind. This, and having to care for a lawn, will increase the utilities. We've know this all along, but I have no idea how to budget for it. The biggest unknown for me will be how my FIL's presence will affect everything. The grocery budget will definitely be moving upward. There is also a very good possibility that we will be helping him with legal fees.

Through all of this my goal is to stay calm. I'm not going to set monthly spending goals, other than my Roth which auto transfers. I think I have a good handle on keeping grocery spending low. I'm going to pull a yet to be determined amount of cash out (<$80) and use that for all of my eating out. Otherwise we'll continue to reduce. There's a good chance some of the FIL related expenses will dip into the emergency fund, but that's why we have it.

I hope everyone has a wonderful 4th. We'll be headed to a friends to barbque and then watching fireworks in our new neighborhood.

*I'm trying really hard not to call my realtor too early and get the latest details.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Jury Duty

I breifly mentioned serving on a jury last week. The trial was three days longer than expected and all in all a stressful not fun experience. It was a murder trial, where a 16 yr old visiting a friends house was shot. At the time of the shooting the defendant was 19. Weighing the evidence, with a young man's life in the balance, and a young girls life ended, was not an easy thing. Especially since the evidence was based on a lot of he said, she said.

Despite the fact that it was a totally draining experience* I'm happy to have done it. Mainly because I believe it's an important cornerstone of our society and if everyone cops out, and there were some interesting ways that people tried, then no one gets justice.

We finished up Wednesday and ever since I've been buried in a mountain of work. I told my boss I was extending my month end deadlines by a week but even that is seeming impossible.

On other burners we're researching appliances (have any you love?), trying to get ready for our still undetermined but soon approaching (in the 3 weeks) closing dates, and helping family with some legal issues. I'm sure I'll be writing about all of that in the weeks to come. Thanks for being patient with the hiatus.

*The first day I came home ready to get in a few hours of work for my job. Days 2-8 anything that required though or effort was beyond me.