Saturday, July 13, 2013


Well, the day has finally come and gone - Fiance got an upgrade to Husband. People keep asking me if things feel different now, but I really can't say they do. (Of course, my stock answer to this is "Yes, now the police have to return his dead body to me." and Husband's stock answer is "Yeah, her mother is moving in next month and she took all my money." Just gotta be smartasses.) We've been living together for eight years and have always had very commingled lives, so I don't think things will "feel" any different until we hit another real milestone, like buying a house together or having a kid. Things continue on as they were.

 On that front, we have started considering what we need to do for our next steps in life. We're not sure yet if we should have the kid first or move first. Our house is pretty small - about 1000 square feet - and we would literally have to remove furniture in order to have anyplace to put a crib. I don't want to get sucked into the "babies need all kinds of specialized stuff" vortex, since many babies did just fine getting changed on a regular table or the floor or bed for thousands of years, and diapers just went in the trash, but they do need SOME stuff and we don't really have any room to put it. Unless the baby wants to live in the living room, since that is the only room that has space in it currently. Maybe the baby just wants some space, ok??

Anyway. So the way things are going in our local real estate market, we are probably not going to get any money back out of our house. Or if we do, not a ton. Right now best case scenario is getting a price about $15-20k more than our mortgage balance - but after the 6%, cost of moving, etc, we would end up with at best a few thousand bucks. And since we got the $7500 homebuyers' incentive way back when, we have to repay it. You have to pay it off $500 a year through your tax return, and then whatever is left comes out of the profits of the sale if you aren't there for 15 years. So if we make any profit, some of it goes to the government anyway, and there would likely be none left for us at the end of the day.

The short answer here is that we have to save up for a down payment again. We have an FHA mortgage now, on which you only put down 3%, and I guess we could get another, but there are a lot of fees associated and I'd rather not if we don't have to. The other end of the timing is that based on my current estimates we should both be debt-free other than student loans by the end of 2014, and since we both make decent salaries and have good credit, we might be able to get a normal, non-FHA mortgage at that point. Plus we are both saving, and should have at least some money to put down. The wedding cost more than we were planning on (though we were not off by far) so we do not have as much in savings left as we'd like, but we'll build back up.

The biggest impact of getting married, for me, was that because I am changing my name, I have to get new EVERYTHING. Comically, only one credit card company actually requested proof of ID with my new name. So it's a good thing not too many people have my first name or it would be a lot easier to steal my identity. I think my health insurance and medical records are going to be the biggest hassle, but I have a LOT of accounts around the internet and I am probably going to be changing those for years to come. Apparently I'm more on top of it than others though - the lady at the bank said a lot of people don't even bother for up to a year. Sheesh!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Reinvesting in my future

I became aware of Mr. Money Mustache a few weeks ago and have read a few posts - though it's the commenters that really interest me! Part of his philosophy is that you should have your "little green employees" working for you all the time, as hard as possible. After reading some of his stuff, I started thinking again about a plan I'd had a while back - to buy some DRIP stocks. If you aren't into stock trading, a DRIP is a dividend reinvestment plan. When you get dividends from a dividend-bearing stock, a stock that has a DRIP allows you to use the dividends to just buy more stock. I find this quite a keen idea, because when I was a teen a family friend gave me a single share of AT&T stock. Over the years with the DRIP in place (and some timely stock splits) it became about eight shares of Verizon, which I then sold to buy the furniture in my first apartment. Not too shabby! So I've been looking around to see what kinds of DRIP stocks I can buy through online trading, since I am far too lazy to actually mail anything to anyone, and started looking into what I might like to buy. I'm working out the details of selling my business, and while most of that money was intended to pay for the wedding, I do want to set some aside to invest. I feel like I spend so much time worrying about paying down debt that I forget about taking advantage of time while I am young to make money grow for me. Debt will always be there for me to pay off, but if I don't do some investing, there won't be anything there when I do pay off that debt. I think I'm going to set aside about $500 to buy some DRIPs and maybe also put some money in my Roth IRA, which I also feel guilty about not contributing to this year! I do put money in my 401k but the whole idea of that is that I don't have to do anything. (Note the lazy.) Fiance's work has a Roth 401k of which I am very jealous. Maybe someday I will have a Roth 401k of my very own. But for the moment, I should really get on this investing bus before it passes me by.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

And now for the rest of our life...

Now that the wedding preparations are in full swing, we decided that that was just not enough crazy and so Fiance has gone and gotten himself a brand new job! He actually was not looking for one - the company approached him. But this is a company he'd interviewed with a few years ago and really liked, so he was willing to give them a shot. They were so interested in him they actually skipped the phone interview and went straight to an in-person interview, then offered him the job only a few days later. He got the salary he asked for, and even got the extra week of vacation that he'd put in his offer response. It remains to be seen how it will work out for the long term, but most of the people at this company are there for DECADES.. so if he likes it, he could be there quite some time. I hear they have free donuts on Fridays, which is a stellar retention perk, if not the best for their health insurance costs.

One of the things that I was really happy to see about this company is that they offer not only a match for the 401k, but a Roth 401k, a 403b plan, a supplemental 457b plan, and after two years they'll start putting some percentage of his salary into a separate retirement account with NO match required. That is pretty darn sweet in my book. The best thing his previous company offered was a discount on employee stock. (Fiance had already set aside some money so decided to invest it in the old company's stock anyhow - he still thinks the stock will perform well and will probably keep buying more anyway.) I'm too laissez-faire of an investor to keep watch on a stock, but he finds it pretty interesting and is going to buy more of another company he worked for.

I'm glad that this is going to give Fiance a chance to catch up to me in retirement savings. Mine have not grown as much as I'd have liked during this wonderful recession of ours, but I've still got a lot more than most people my age in retirement accounts. Since Fiance was in graduate school during the years I was socking most of that away, he has not had a chance to catch up, and I think it's important that we at least try to get relatively equal amounts in our retirement accounts. We're both trying to consolidate old 401k accounts, both to save on fees and to actually figure out how much we even have. His earning power now outstrips mine pretty handily, but since we are saving most of our cash for the wedding, he doesn't know yet how much he wants to sock into his numerous options for saving at this new company. (Plus he is paid monthly which has kind of screwed up our budgeting system.) I would also like to raise my contribution percentage to my 401k, and put some more in my Roth IRA, but I feel like I have a lot of competing goals there.

We're on the home stretch for the wedding now - six weeks! It does kind of scare me how much cash we're ponying up for this, but in order to spend less, we'd have had to have a drastically different wedding and cut out a lot of people that are important to us. And while it will be financially painful for a little while, I'm not worried about the long term effects. I'll just be happy to be back on budget! Wish us luck!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Yes I do want to know how much jewelry costs before I buy it... why is that so bad?

Today Fiance and I went out to look at wedding rings. My engagement ring band is somewhat unusual, and we've looked at stores in the past and not found any good matches. However, this store had an engagement ring that was almost identical to mine, and when the lady checked online she found that it had a matching band. They didn't have it in the store but said they would call on Monday to find out the price. I asked how much the engagement ring band was - and found that it was almost three times what Fiance paid for my band. That band alone actually cost almost as much as what Fiance paid for the whole damn ring including the store. When they told us the price, both of us made a face. Another lady there confidently told me that it was because the price of gold went up. (It has gone up about 10% since he bought the engagement ring. I checked five minutes later.) But I was really wondering what was going on there - if it was because it was a brick and mortar store, or if this was a fancier designer, or what. But I was pretty pissed. I said that that was a lot more than I had been expecting, and the lady who told me gold had gone up (who was not the person helping us) asked what my budget was. I said about $500 or somewhat above that, and she looked genuinely appalled. Seriously people?? I know this shit is not cheap, but I don't want any diamonds or other stones, and I'm looking at white gold, which isn't even pure gold (it's an alloy, usually with silver, to give it that color and make it sturdier.) Fiance's theory was that they price the women's jewelry much higher because women expect to pay more, and that was borne out - when we were given a price on the ring Fiance was looking at, which had at least twice as much gold in it, it was less than half the cost of the one I had been looking at. They also have tungsten carbide rings for the men, which are really cheap (mostly under $100) and plain gold bands - I didn't see a single plain gold band for women in the cases. The store probably has some somewhere but they definitely weren't on display. This is part of why I hate jewelry stores. Mostly I hate this delusion they are encouraging - that the only thing that matters is whether you got exactly the perfect ring that you love, and who cares whether spending that kind of change on a piece of jewelry is a good idea. That price doesn't matter and is a vaguely dirty question to ask, like you're haggling over the price of a child's life. There are no prices anywhere - in fact they don't even know the prices and half the time can't even find the price. She's going to call me on Monday to tell me how much the matching band is, but I already know that it will be four figures. Definitely not willing to do that when I have other options I like, or I could even get it custom made for less. Ridiculous! I'm not going to cheap out on something I'll wear for years, but I also don't see the need to pay tons of money when I have other options I like just as well.... plus, both Fiance and I maaaay have written down the model number when she found that matching ring.. we do think alike sometimes! ;)

Thursday, January 03, 2013

A milestone that seems pretty major to me!

So I would just like to notify all my loyal readers that I recently, as in two days ago, actually got approved for a credit card offer that I got in the mail! This is very exciting! The reason this is so exciting is that I have a very good credit score, so I get really awesome credit card offers in the mail. The problem is that when I go to apply for them, the bank takes one look at my debt and goes "eeeeeeee" off into the woods. So if I get approved, it's for a lesser card, with a small limit and a stupid APR. Obviously I have not tried this too many times, usually about every eight months or so, and I did manage to get a balance transfer card last year. This time, I got 18 months of 0% balance transfer and 0% on purchases. Which is by any account a pretty sweet deal - Fiance (with his stellar credit) has gotten the same offer in the mail too. But this is really tangible proof that how much I've been working on my debt has affected how really creditworthy I am. Fiance is also happy - I'm estimating we won't save enough cash by the wedding to cover the whole thing, so it's very nice that both of us will have a good bit of credit available for the various odds and ends expenses that will crop up. (But thank God for long engagements.) Look at me with my big girl credit card! I haven't had one with terms this good since I was running CashDuck. Things are definitely looking up.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

How I do love checking off a checklist!

So my longtime readers may know that I am not a particularly girly girl. Normally this just manifests itself in having to buy new makeup every time I go back on the job market because that's the only time I wear any. But, since I am the bride (or, as Fiance's hometown newspaper put it, the bride-elect) most of the wedding planning falls to me. This is not to say that Fiance is not able to help out, but somehow despite my lack of girliness I have absorbed more wedding knowledge than I actually was conscious of possessing. So Fiance has specific tasks, but I am generally responsible for picking up the ends and pieces - which is fine by me since I like to organize things.

We set a date for next June, and we have got contracts down for our ceremony location, reception location (which is also the caterer), cake, photographer, photo booth, and musicians. The wedding is being held in Fiance's hometown which is not far from my own, so we did reserve some hotel rooms but not a ton since not that many people will need one. And we are meeting with a florist next week. All in all I feel like I have checked off all the important boxes on the checklist.

So why do I feel like there MUST be a million things that I haven't done and need to do? To be honest, I am now really unsure what it is that women who are planning their wedding are DOING, since so many of them seem to regard it as a part time job that they must work at for a whole year before the wedding. I mean, we aren't having a huge blowout, but we're inviting a lot more than just immediate family, and we're having a bridal party and all that. But so far, this just hasn't taken as much time as I thought it would and so of course I think I am missing something.

Part of it may be that there are a great many details I just don't care that much about. For example, the dress - I like dresses, I own a lot of them, but I am unwilling to pay four figures for this thing and I am unwilling to try on 298347597 of them just because that seems to be what people do. I'm going to try on a few, see if I like them - if I don't, I try on a few more, and pick the one I like the best, and if I do, I buy it on the spot. This is how I approach cars, and I have spent a lot more money on those than on dresses!

But I feel pretty good about the progress I have made on getting things done. In my mind, even if all we do from this point forward is send out invitations, we've got places reserved, there'll be food, photos, and music, and places for people to stay. I figure I have covered my bases well enough.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

One down!

I am very happy to report that as of Tuesday I will have completely paid off one of my longstanding credit cards. I had three credit cards that had large balances, and when I was unemployed four years ago, I got all three onto payment plans. The payment plans were a good thing because they had low fixed interest rates, but they also had high payments because I had to pay them off in five years. My plan for this year was to put all the extra money I could towards the one I could pay off the fastest, in order to get rid of the large monthly payment, and I'll make my last automated payment on Tuesday. (Of course, now I have to call them to cancel the rest.. ) That, combined with our (still trying to) refinancing the house, means I'll have an extra couple HUNDRED each month that I didn't have before. In general, I had planned to spend this year putting all available extra money towards debt payoff, and then next year put all extra money into savings for the wedding, and this will enable me to actually make good headway on both. So while I could have paid off higher-interest items, or used the "snowball" method and paid off the smallest, I think paying off one with a bigger monthly payment will ultimately help my cash flow a lot. And that comes even more in handy since I acquired two additional monthly payments this year in order to pay off my gallbladder removal surgery and my braces. (Ah, the indignities of adulthood.) But I still feel pretty yay about the whole thing, and it's kind of fun to do the math and think about which card I want to attack next.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Knocking out this wedding stuff like a boss.

As Fiance aptly put it the other day, we'd be the most boring episode of Bridezillas ever. There's not much about the wedding that I really want to be done a specific way, and those things I pretty much already have covered. (Mall-style photo booth, here we come!) But while neither of us have strong feelings about most of the items on the wedding list, we do have to actually make decisions about what to do. I'm trying to keep costs low since we are mostly paying for things ourselves, and there's only a few things that we care enough about to spend a lot on (food, pictures, and, um... food).

I am a world champion level list maker, so the last few weeks, we've been going down the list and making decisions. I know that traditionally brides agonize over what kind of flowers to get for months, but we decided on blue delphinium, blue irises, and white alstromeria and that is DONE. BOOM. Fiance even has a cousin who is a florist so we're going to see if she can just order us the flowers for the reception in bulk and we'll put the centerpieces together ourselves.

Last weekend we did the save the dates - I guess magnets are all the rage now, so we got magnets, and now we have to get going on collecting addresses. That is the really painful and annoying part - between the two of us, we're in Facebook or email contact with the majority of our list, but you still need to send out invites. So I will be emailing and Facebooking people to ask for their real addresses, and hoping they are all the same by the time we send out the real invitations. I'm just happy to have it crossed off my list.

Next up? Probably getting a dress, visiting our locations to get some pictures for decorating planning, doing trial hair, and reserving tuxes. Hopefully we can get a lot done in a single weekend - we're planning to go up for a couple of business days so we can meet up with a bunch of vendors in our "destination wedding" city, as my mother likes to put it. (It's in a dying former factory town that is losing population like there's a contest it wants to win.)

The Knot has a helpful if depressing list of all the things you need to do, so we're in the 9-to-12 months away block. I'm trying to take the approach that you're supposed to use on term papers: get started now and lay groundwork and the rest will be easier as you just fill in the blanks. Let's see if that actually works and keeps me from tearing my hair out (and then having to pay for expensive hair extensions.)

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

We all have dreams... mine include discontinued auto lines.

As you may have noticed, I'm a planner. Or perhaps you would more accurately call it being a daydreamer with a spreadsheet. Before we moved to the city we live in now, I'd compiled a large Excel list of apartments in the area, with prices, distances to the place I'd be working, so on and so forth. And when I was a little kid, I used to cut out catalog pictures and glue them onto blank pieces of paper in order to make my own catalog of things I liked. You could say that I get almost as much enjoyment about thinking about the things I'll purchase (or the places I'll live) as I do actually purchasing them. And frequently when I want to get myself to do something, I think of something I want and then decide that I can have it when I meet my goal.

So I have decided that when I pay off all my credit card debt, I can buy a new car.

(Not new-new, of course, as I am neither wealthy, nor stupid, nor wealthy enough to be stupid. My sights are set on a car a couple years old, probably a retired Enterprise rental car 'cause they come with a lot of options.)

Of course, this plan didn't seem quite so brilliant on review, since I'm celebrating getting out of debt by getting into more debt. But on the whole, I'll actually have a lot more disposable income after my debt is paid off, and my current car is sliding down the drain pretty quickly. I'm hoping it actually lives until my debt gets paid off!

This is actually a pretty motivating idea for me. I've literally never owned a car that cost more than $4,000, because I've never had much on hand and never cared much about it. But it's really getting old fixing the problems that older, poorly maintained cars create - no one I know has ever had to replace the speedometer, the circuit board that runs your turn signals, or the temperature control panel in the dashboard. None of these were things I could have foreseen, and all of the cars I've purchased were checked out by mechanics before I purchased them, but you just don't see these kinds of problems in normal cars. It's getting old having to fix something every time I take it in for an oil change. So it's very motivating to think about owning a car that won't have random crap breaking all the time.
Right now I have my eye on the Pontiac G6.. here's hoping there's still some good 2009's and 2010's (I think that's when they stopped making them) when I pay off my debt!

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

So excited about refinancing! Is this what adulthood feels like?

So a while back I was doing some research on refinancing because I'd got a bee in my bonnet about trying to reduce our monthly expenses to save for the wedding. When we originally bought the house, we got an FHA loan because we didn't have much to put down, and those come with slightly higher interest rates than the average-bear mortgage. But since rates have gone down since then, and we've paid down the balance of the mortgage, and (I hope) our property has appreciated somewhat now that we have made some improvements, I was hoping that we were up to 10% equity and would have some flexibility in our mortgage options. I even looked into doing a HARP refinance but I'm not sure if we would qualify.

However, sometimes junk mail can be useful. Fiance got a card in the mail from some mortgage company, as he often does as the proud holder of an FHA mortgage, but this one said something about an "FHA streamline refinance". I had not heard of this rare item before, so I Googled, and it turns out that this is a real thing. An FHA streamline refinance basically allows you to do a quick refinance without having to get the house appraised or even provide new proof of income. And some dude from Quicken Loans told me that we could probably get a 4.5% or even 4.25% refinance without paying closing costs - since our current rate is 6.25%, that is pretty darn sweet. That'd lower our mortgage payment by about $150 a month. Not bad at all.

And on top of THAT, I did some shopping for home insurance and found a company that'll insure us for about $400 a year less than our current insurance (which is even nicer, because our current insurance is both going up $300 a year and also dropping coverage on our 100 year old slate roof, since so many of our neighbors evidently have been cashing in on their hail coverage recently.) So between the two, that's about $200 a month right off the top without costing us any money or significant hassle. I'm quite pleased with myself.

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