Mended Knees: A Lesson from the Kiddos

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Yesterday as our kids were getting dressed for preschool, one of my daughters picked out a pair of pants to put on that had a big hole in the knee.

My initial thought to myself was, “well, those pants now belong in the trash.”

I told my daughter the pants-with-the-hole weren’t going to work and that she needed to pick out different pants.

Her initial reaction (in stark contrast to mine) was to say, “That’s okay! Grandma knows how to sew and she can fix it!”

I was initially a little surprised – Grandma sews? How do you know?

And then my surprise turned to embarrassment. My own daughter doesn’t even know that know how to sew, too. Here I am, trying to teach these life-lessons over water bottles and I’m just going to throw away a pair of pants that still fit just fine when I could easily mend the knee with a couple quick stitches. I don’t own a sewing machine or anything fancy, but we sure do have some little sewing kits and mending a knee by hand is no-big-deal.

I sent my kid off to school with different pants, but that same evening I busted out the old needle-and-thread. It took all of 5 minutes to mend the knee until the hole was no-more.

How easy it is to forget and slip back into old habits. I was thankful for the gentle reminder from my 4-year-old to live frugally, try not to waste, and to take care of our things rather than simply discarding them.

In other news, we sure did run out of money before the month was over this month. Don’t you hate it when you end up with more month than money? lol ; )  We’re doing a no-spend week all week. I did semi-cheat a little because I had a Fry’s gift card (which is a local grocery store). I had to use it to get some gas (they have their own gas pumps) and some very basic necessities (lunch meat, bread, milk). But no money is coming out of our account for anything for the rest of the month. I know there are only 4 more days at this point, but we started 3 days ago so it will be a solid week in total. Fingers crossed there are no disasters and nothing crazy comes up! (knock on wood)

What are simple ways that you try to reduce waste at your house?


4 Rental Laws Every Seattle Landlord Should Know

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No matter what part of the country you’re looking to live in, rental laws can often be confusing. For landlords especially, it’s crucial to understand how the landlord-tenant laws operate in your area, in order to protect yourself from any unwanted conflicts. One place which has an array of quirky rental laws is the city of Seattle. With the most recent census data from Seattle finding that nearly 52 percent of housing units are occupied by renters, landlords would be prudent to brush up on their knowledge of local ordinance and steer clear of any complications.

The laws below are an overview of some key factors all Seattle landlords should keep an eye out for, especially as renters continue to flock into the city. By keeping a close tab on these laws, landlords can minimize their risk of running into obstacles in the future:

Specific Requirements in Landlord-to-Tenant Disclosures

One crucial component of the landlord-tenant relationship is the type of information that’s required to be disclosed by the property owner. These include, but are not limited to, any fees that may be refundable to the tenant, identifying any individual who may act on behalf of the landlord in his/her absence, or information regarding how to deal with issues surrounding mold in the property. You can find a full list of disclosure requirements here, to ensure you’ve got all bases covered.

Requirements to Return Security Deposits

Seattle rental laws do not necessarily place any limit on the security deposit amount a landlord can ask for, but they do have statutes of limitation on when the amount must be returned. As such, landlords must return the tenant’s security deposit within 21 days of the move-out date, otherwise the former tenant is authorized to take up the matter in small claims court.

Furthermore, certain disclosures that are required for the deposit need to be clearly written out to be valid in the lease agreement, and have specific reasons for which the security deposit may not be returned in full, or at all, depending on the condition of the property upon the tenant’s moving.

First Come First Serve Law for Tenants

This one is among the newer guidelines that Seattle landlords must follow, stating that those who express valid interest in the property first, also get the first option to rent out the home. In doing so, the “first-come” component is determined based on the date and time the applications were submitted, prioritizing the earliest applications first. Local Seattle rental property management companies can be useful in this case, helping landlords keep track of incoming applications from prospective tenants.

Restriction on Landlords Access to Rental Property

The majority of states have laws and guidelines which require a landlord to take certain actions before they are allowed to enter an occupied unit. For the city of Seattle and the broader state of Washington, this includes a two-day notice from the landlord to the tenant regarding intent of entering. However, this law is bypassed by a one-day notice to the tenant in the event that the landlord is showing the property to a new prospective renter.

The above laws, while only a quick overview of some of Seattle’s quirky renter guidelines are an introduction into many things that landlords need to keep tabs on. Whether trying to find the most qualified renter or trying to safeguard your property against unwanted future conflict, it’s crucial for landlords to have a grasp on what is expected of them when renting their properties. This way, the property owner remains within the legal boundaries to protect themselves, and tenants have a clear understanding of the guidelines they must abide by.


Focus

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With so many disparate goals for this year, some that focus on debt-reduction and others focused more on savings, I felt a bit like we’ve been playing a game of tug-o-war. We want so many different things and, like a child, we want them all NOW!!!

Ugh. Why does adulting have to be so difficult?

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 1.51.03 PM

 

Source – Someone, buy this for me! ; )

When we got hit smack in the face with our looming IRS debt, it forced me to take a step back and re-assess our plans for the year. Some changes I have already implemented (which will go into effect in April) include:

  • Reducing my retirement contributions. My university requires a minimum 7% contribution. I had been investing an additional 3% of my salary (for 10% total), but given our need to get some liquid cash for the IRS (and for debt payments, as well), I called HR and reduced my contributions down to the minimum 7% required.
  • Eliminating extra mortgage payments. Though we closed in November, it still feels like we just barely got here! When I set up our mortgage auto-payments, I set them to include an extra $300 to go directly toward principal. Our required payment was $950, but we’ve been paying $1250. I called the bank and removed our extra principal payment, reducing our auto-draft down to the minimum $950/month that’s required.
  • Practicing patience. I already talked about how my daughter lost her water bottle. Instead of immediately replacing it, I’ve made her start using my water bottle as her own. Unless her old one miraculously turns up (no idea where it is – it’s been lost for 3 weeks now), she won’t be getting a new water bottle until the start of next school year. In the past, I would’ve just immediately purchased a new one. But now I’m examining every purchase and really making an effort to practice patience anytime I’m thinking of buying something that we don’t immediately need.

All of these changes are in an effort to FOCUS on one thing at a time. Dave Ramsey talks about the power of focus (which, I believe, helped motivate the way he designed the Baby Steps so one “goal” is being focused on at a time).

We just have to get out of debt. It’s got to be done. This month marks completion of my third full year of being on this debt-reduction journey. There have been lots of highs and lows and this HUGE tax bill has definitely got me a little down. But, if anything, it’s just made me strengthen my resolve that we need to get out of debt ASAP!!! We had two years of hard-core debt reduction (no frills), one year where we loosened the purse strings a bit, and this year will be a mix. We do have some fun things planned (still doing our first ever Mom-and-Dad getaway sans kids this summer! Eeeeee!!!!!!), but I’m really realizing how much SOONER we can be out of debt if we return to our steadfast FOCUS on the goal at hand. It’s a tough thing going through this journey for SOOOOOOOOOO long. But that’s what the deal is. We started this journey with nearly $150,000 in debt and only making about $50,000/year! Obviously with those numbers it was going to take some time. Things have changed – our income has gone up and our debt has shrunk as we’ve been making huge payments. But it’s time for a renewed focus. I don’t want to be doing this for another three years. That’s too long. I want to try to cut that time in half. If we can be debt-free in a year and a half, I would be overjoyed! I can see the light at the end of a tunnel if we’re only talking about another year and a half!!!

Some of this is just rambling thoughts. I’d like to write up a whole “3 Years Reflections” post with thoughts and reflections on the entire debt-reduction process, to date. But in the meantime, I just wanted to jump on here and say “Hi!!! and let you know about some of the upcoming changes I’ve made in an effort to increase our monthly take-home pay so we have extra cash to throw at debt. It needs to happen. I can’t wait to kick our debt’s butt. Next debt on the chopping block is our medical debt. By this time next month, it will be 100% GONE and then we’ll be on to just the student loans. Can’t wait!!!

Hope you’re having a great month!


Healthcare

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I thought the kids Medicare might carry over for a few months while I got settled in at the new job and decided on new health insurance, but because we moved states it will only cover emergency room visits. I could apply to move it to GA but with my new job and income, I no longer need too. Yippeee!!!

I am keeping it for emergencies while I get everything settled, but now I have to figure out what to do. Here are my options as I see them:

  • Sign up under my corporate sponsored healthcare at about $700 per month with a $40 co pay and $6000 deductible for in-network. It would not take affect until May 1.
  • Evaluate plans under Obamacare’s website if that is still a thing.
  • Sign up for Samaritans Ministries or something similar. From a quick query, this would run me about $320 a month for all 4 of us.

I know health insurance talks can be like beating a dead horse, but I certainly want to hear what the BAD community has to share about these options.

I have already opted to go with the corporately sponsored vision and dental options.  The costs are nominal, coverage decent and with three of us wearing glasses, we will definitely take advantage of it.  (Back in VA, we went to a dental school for our dental coverage, but living in the boondocks now, that is not a convenient option.)

By the way, second day at the new job complete.  It’s going great. I have my own office, my boss took me to lunch today and my co-workers are all really nice. I’m getting up at 5am and spending an hour at the gym before getting in a couple of hours at my contract jobs then I show up to work a little after 8am.  I’m hoping that by doing this I keep my nights and weekends as free as possible to spend time with the kids. Oh, and I’m down TWO pant sizes as I found out when I went to buy new jeans tonight.  Woot, woot!


Today is the Day

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In just a few short hours I report for my first day of my new job. It will also be the time I get a better grip on what this will mean for us financially as I see the health plans, 401K options and so on.  Pray for wisdom as I make those kind of decisions.

I’m grateful for Ashley’s recent post on her Tax Issues, not that she has the issue, but it raised a flag for me as I go to fill out the tax paperwork for this new job, that I need to really evaluate my tax withholdings since I am planning to keep my contract jobs along with this new one.

Prior to starting my new job, I’ve worked out at the gym for an hour, had a full and healthy breakfast (thanks to my Grandmother) and put in a couple of hours of work on my contract jobs.  I spent most of yesterday prepping school for the kids for this next couple of weeks and getting ahead on my contract jobs.  I feel like I’m ready.

The kids have all stepped up in a big way to make this adjustment as easy as possible.  My youngest decided that he will be in charge of packing me a lunch, I think he put one of everything in the house in my bag.  He says that I am going to be gone a long time so he doesn’t want me to be hungry.  My daughter laid out my clothes for the day.  I’m not sure how leggings and a flannel shirt go as far as corporate apparel, but seeings at it is freezing and my wardrobe is limited at best, I’m going with it.  As I fretted about it last night, my very wise 12 year old daughter said to me, “Mom, you already got the job, now you just have to go wow them with your skills.  After that, they won’t care at all what you wear.”  I’m taking that confidence booster and wearing my leggings and flannel to work today.

There are a couple of things I am going to have to buy sooner rather than later like a lunch bag with a way to keep things cold and a few nicer pieces of work clothes, but for now, I am ready to get started.  Wish me luck!

Non-finance related:

Gymnast competed in the Level 6 VA State Championships Gymnastics Meet this past weekend and competed at the Division I level.  He brought home 2nd on high bar, 5th on rings and 6th on vault.  I couldn’t be more proud.  And an even bigger highlight for the kids, was there Dad made an appearance.  He and I planned it as a surprise.  He hadn’t seen the kids in 19 months.  It went well.  Here is Gymnast’s 2nd Place High Bar routine if you are interested.

 


Spring Break (+ Feb. Debt Update)

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Hi All!

Last year, my first year back to full-time work, my Spring Break happened to align with my kids’ Spring Break. I remember at the time colleagues mentioning how lucky that was and to appreciate it. So it was no real surprise when this year rolled around and, looking at our academic calendars, I realized our Spring Breaks did not align. Bugger!

But, I think we’re also making the best out of having separate Spring Breaks! This week is my school’s Spring Break (and hubs’ Spring Break as well). I’ll be back in Texas for a couple days to deal with some dad-related issues. But otherwise, hubs and I are looking forward to doing some serious manual labor out in our backyard. When we bought the house, it had nothing but chest-high weeds all through the back. We mowed them all down, but have done very little since then. Hubs has a friend who owns a landscape company and came over to take a look at our yard and offer some practical suggestions in terms of plants, placement, etc. So for the cost of some plants + weed killer + some hard work and elbow-grease, we’re hoping to get our backyard into a more presentable condition. We’ve allotted $200 to the project. It would be a project the girls could help us with…but will probably be easier without the interference, er, “help.” And I like that the couple days I’ll be gone are on days that they’re already in school. Makes it a bit easier for the hubs and makes me feel less guilt about being away (quick Dad update for those who have been following along and are interested – skip this part if you’re only here for the financial -my Dad, who has frontotemporal dementia, continues to decline. His speech is almost gone at this point and he lives in a constant state of agitation, presumably from the confusion and frustration associated with what’s happening to him. He’s been living in an independent living facility but we’ve been touring several assisted living and dedicated memory-care places. It’s a tough move to make but it’s coming up probably sooner rather than later so we’re trying to research and prepare accordingly. Being that the purpose of my trip is for things related to his care, my sister and I decided he would cover the cost of my airfare – something he would have done in the past if he had the mental capacity. I’ll be staying with my mom so I’ll have free lodging, and will only be paying my meals out of pocket which should be minimal. I’ll be there not quite 3 days.)

Next week is our girls’ Spring Break. In the future, I hope that we can plan family vacations (or even staycations) during Spring Break week, but with our looming tax debt ahead, that’s certainly not in the cards this year. Instead, we’re lucky to be able to hodgepodge together some childcare without having to pay extra to a babysitter. Hubs has class Mon/Wed (but is available other days) and I teach on Tues/Thurs (but am available other days), so between us, we’ll be able to always have one parent home with the kiddos.

I’m still on operation minimal-spending, too. It’s not a complete spending freeze because we still have to purchase essentials like food, fuel, etc. But I have been extra mindful about every dollar being spent. As an example, one of my daughters lost her water bottle for the second time this school year. Last time, I just jumped on Amazon and bought her a new one. This time around, I’m making her take my water bottle as a back-up. I explained that we can’t just get something new every time we lose our old item. It’s been a nice lesson in natural consequences and how its important to keep track of our things. It’s a bit of a punishment because my water bottle isn’t a nice or “cool” as the kid version, but at least it’s an adequate replacement so she’s not going without one. I’m really trying to scrimp and save and see if we can pay our full tax debt ourselves rather than relying on borrowing. I really want it PAID IN FULL by the deadline. I did talk to my sister, however, and if I need to borrow money from my dad it would be an option available to us. I really want to avoid this. It’s such “messy” terrain and I just don’t like the feeling. But I would be able to save the interest + penalties associated with an IRS payment plan. Something to think about, should it come to that (I still don’t have exact figures from our accountant).

In the meantime, I want to share my February 2017 Debt Update. As mentioned in a previous post, the debt payment was less than my originally intended $3,000 payment because I decided to just pay debt minimums toward my student loans so I can try to save up the extra money to put toward our IRS debt. Here you go:

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Navient - Federal 2 (unsubsidized)$11,1055.8034February82433 (all school loans, combined)
Navient - Federal 3 (subsidized)$86085.8025February
Navient - 2 (subsidized)$84966.5533February
Navient - 7 (subsidized)$71976.5529February
Navient - 8 (subsidized)$63726.5525February
Navient - 9 (subsidized)$84976.5534February
Navient - 10 (unsubsidized)$98056.5519February
Balance Transfer Student Loan #2$14000% (through Sept 2017)$800February$7650
Balance Transfer Student Loan #3$45940% (through October 2018)$0N/A
Medical Bills$43700% (must be paid by April)$1216February$9000
Balance Transfer student loan #1$00% -Paid off in March 2016$5937
PenFed Car Loan$02.49%-Paid off in January 2016$24040
License Fees$02.5%-Paid off in April 2015$5808
BoA CC$07.24%-Paid off in June 2014$2220
Mattress Firm$00%-Paid off in May 2014$1381
Wells Fargo CC$013.65%-Paid off in May 2014$7697
Capital One CC$017.9%-Paid off in March 2014$413
Totals$70,444 (Jan balance = 72,560)$2215Starting Debt = $145,472

This month (March), I’m putting less toward the balance transfer card – only $400 instead of the $800 I gave in February. I do NOT want to add “IRS” to the debt spreadsheet, so I’m just stockpiling money in hopes we can pay them their money and not move backward in our debt progression. That will mean lower debt payments for the next couple months (March & April). Even small progress is moving in the right direction.

Have you had any financial set-backs lately?

 

 


How Midlife Affects Your Insurance Needs…Are You Covered?

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You’ve no doubt heard of a midlife crisis: the time in life where you realize that you aren’t going to live forever. As a chance to take stock of the plans you had in your youth and square them up with where you stand now, midlife can be a time of great strife for some people who haven’t achieved their goals.

The good news is that by definition “midlife” means that you are only halfway through. That means you have just as much time left to change your situation as you had getting into it. That also means that there is still plenty of time to turn your financial ship around. If finances are an area where you have not lived up to your plans, dreams, and goals, now is the time to take the bull by the horns.

One critical way to tackle your midlife financial goals is by doing an insurance audit to make sure that you are not only managing your union bank credit card rates and wealth but also that you are protecting your assets along with growing them. Reviewing your insurance plans to ensure that you are fully protected and safe is a good place to start gaining financial control.

The insurance audit should cover all of those things that you use insurance to protect:

Health Insurance

It is not uncommon to develop chronic conditions in your 50s and 60s, which is why it is so important to choose your healthcare plan well. Make sure that you have the proper out-of-pocket caps and deductibles to fit your overall health needs. Having a small deductible is nice, but you also want to ensure that if things go terribly wrong, you have reasonable out-of-pocket costs.

Your risk for serious health conditions increases as your age does, so taking a good look at the structure of your health plan can help you to cut costs and ensure that you are getting the right coverage for any prescription, rehabilitation, or therapy needs.

Midlife means that you have to take a better overall look at your health needs and anticipate what they might be going forward. It may also be a time when you will have to make decisions about the transition between your health insurance and Medicare. Don’t make the assumption that things will be covered. If you need to purchase supplemental insurance, make sure you know exactly what will and will not be covered before the transition occurs.

Life Insurance

When you have young children, a house, and other dependents, it’s a good idea to have a hefty life insurance policy. But it isn’t inexpensive. As you get older, the price of life insurance will continue to increase unless you have a set policy. If you are paying a lot for health insurance and you aren’t supporting anyone but yourself, it really doesn’t make any sense to overpay. Unless you have someone depending on you, reevaluate your life insurance needs.

Disability Insurance

If something should happen to your income, then having disability insurance is a must. The average policy will cover about 60 percent of the income you are earning. Short-term policies will cover your costs for up to two years post-disability. Long-term policies will typically cover you until you turn 65 and you can start to collect Social Security. You can reduce your premium by shortening your benefit period if you are closer to 65.

Auto Insurance

If it has been a while since you compared rates for your car insurance, it is definitely something to investigate. Most insurance carriers consider older individuals lower-risk and will reduce premiums. Also, things like your credit score can reduce your auto insurance payments. It is worth it to call around and talk to several insurance companies to ensure that you are getting all the discounts you can. Go the extra mile to phone the carriers directly to get the discounts you deserve.

Midlife can be a difficult time emotionally for people, but it doesn’t have to be one, financially. Making sure to initiate sound changes to maximize your insurance coverage by minimizing the costs is the best way to protect your assets while still growing them.


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