Browsing posts in: Personal Finance

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.


The Green Eyed Gimmies

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Has anyone read the classic Bernstein Bears book (or seen the associated cartoon) about the Green Eyed Gimmies?

It’s really a lesson for children about how they should be happy with what they have and not always be looking for something new/keeping up with the Jones’, etc.

But it’s hard not to make those social comparisons, you know? It’s a natural human thing to look at our neighbors and feel a little pang of jealousy when they have the shiny new car or insert-whatever-the-new-thing-is.

Recently I experienced a little bit of my own Green-Eyed monster, but not about something you might think.

Does anyone else read Stephanie’s blog – SixFiguresUnder?? I have to admit I’m more of a casual reader, but I think someone recommended it back when I first started blogging here and, every couple of months, I’d head over to her blog to read their latest debt update.

It’s been a minute (so I’m a little behind on this), but I recently went to check out their latest happenings and was shocked to see that they’re now DEBT FREE!!! (read Stephanie’s debt free post here).

Now, I don’t know Stephanie. Never met her in my life. I have no connection to her or her family. But, as a reader, I was happy for them! Becoming debt-free surely must be an incredible feeling!

But I was surprised by an underlying feeling….that of envy.

Stephanie and her family managed to pay off $144,000 in debt.

My starting debt was $145,000.

Stephanie started blogging in September 2013.

I started blogging just a few months later, in February 2014.

Our incomes started out about the same – Stephanie’s first reported monthly income was under $4,000 (from here). Our first monthly income was just over $5,000 (from here).

Our incomes even increased around the same time. Her husband, a lawyer, opened his own practice which dramatically increased their income. I found a full-time job, which dramatically increased our income. The big difference were that they had fewer fixed expenses so a larger proportion of their income was able to be put toward debt. We do pretty well in our house, too, but Stephanie’s family has us far beat both on groceries (one of our big expenses) and on rent/utilities (they live for free in their in-laws’ basement for now).

We’re different people. Different situations. But the desire to make comparisons is strong. I knew they would finish their debt journey before us. When Stephanie started blogging they were already down $40k, starting right at $100k in debt. And we didn’t even start our debt journey until a full 6 months after them. So obviously we would finish after them! We had different start points; it’s only natural we’d have different end-points.

Even so, I felt jealous.

Ohhhhh how I yearn to know what it’s like to be fully debt-free! To not owe anything to anyone.

I love listening to the debt-free screams on Ramsey’s radio show because it’s so motivating and inspiring. But somehow, reading it online caught me off-guard (my own fault, because I wasn’t following their story closer…I should’ve known it was coming up!!!)

So I try to remind myself about all the AMAZING things we have already accomplished!

Our only remaining debt is for student loans and medical debt. That means we own ALL of our possessions 100% outright (ahem – at least until we close on the house). NO ONE can come and take ANYTHING from us as a repossession or as collateral on an existing loan. Electronics, furniture, even vehicles = all are OURS!!!

And we’ve paid SO MUCH DEBT off already! Yes, we still have a long way to go. But I’m proud of where we’ve come from!

For newer readers, you might have a hard time believing that when I first started blogging here, many didn’t think I’d make it. There were whole GOMI threads dedicated to the Blogging Away Debt bloggers (Yes, I know about them. No, I don’t visit them often. And we’re rarely discussed anymore for that matter). People thought I was an airhead. Naive, dumb, blonde – whatever you want to call it.

I was a different person then than I am now. A lot has transpired in the past almost 3 years!

I still have my “airhead” moments. I am human, after all. But I’m learning.

I got my first job! I have been working hard at negotiations (for title, raise, etc.)! I’ve learned about buying (and selling) homes! I’ve been working on the ever-elusive work-life balance. And even as we’ve increased our spending on “life” stuff (e.g., date nights, family entertainment, foods-not-cooked-from-scratch), we’ve still continued to put a good proportion of our income toward debt each month. In a typical month, about 25% of our take-home pay goes straight to debt. That’s in addition to our savings goals, our monthly expenses, etc. I’m proud of that figure.

Recently I received a comment on an old post. Someone asked why I was still saving for retirement, contributing to my kids’ college accounts, and saving for an emergency fund all while trying to get out of debt. Dave Ramsey talks about how when you split priorities, you never get anything done. That’s why he’s all about focusing on one thing at a time.

I responded simply that “I’m not following Ramsey’s plan.”

I wish I could. I wish we could be that focused.

But that’s not our reality.

Most of Ramsey’s followers get out of debt in under 2 years. I believe their average is 18 months.

We’re (nearly) 3 years deep, with perhaps another 2-3 years to go.

That’s too long to put off life and living, in my opinion.

We didn’t start out with only $45,000 in debt. We had $145,000 to contend with. And a lot transpires in the 5-6 years it will take us to be fully debt-free. Too much to go without for so long. As an anecdote – I remember asking my mom for foaming hand-soaps from Bath & Body Works for my birthday one year. I distinctly remember nearly tearing up about it. I felt so deprived that I would never be able to buy a stupid $5 soap because we were using the cheap bulk soap from Costco and refilling our hand soap pumps. How I longed for those Bath & Body Works soaps. Would I ever get to have fancy soaps ever again? Surely not! We couldn’t justify a $5 soap in our tight budget!!!

I couldn’t live like that for a half decade or more. Some are stronger than me. Some may be less materialistic. Some maybe just don’t care a single iotta about their soap. And, to be fair, I still refill our hand soaps with the cheap bulk stuff from Costco. But this is just a silly example to discuss the idea of “living” while in debt-repayment. We were BARE BONES for a solid 2 years. I’m talking not a single new article of clothing, not a single professional hair cut or color, not a single vacation, all homemade foods/all the time, all from scratch/all the time, etc. I made my own baby wipes, for goodness sake!

And I just couldn’t do it forever.

At the end of the 2 year mark we made a conscious decision to loosen up the purse strings a bit. For us to make it through to the end of our journey, we just had to allow some room for “living.” Now we have monthly date nights (and we pay a babysitter to watch the girls!), we went on our first real vacation (cruise 2016) this past April, I’ve bought new clothes – mostly for work, but when I need a new pair of jeans I just buy them instead of continuing to mend and re-mend the hole-in-the-crotch of the pair I already own (true story – I mended the same hole 3 times when I first started debt repayment. I refused to buy anything new and was determined to “make do”). The point is that we had to find what worked for us so that we can make it to our own finish line.

How that looks will be different for every family.

Maybe your family can scrimp and save and not spend a penny and be out of debt in 12 months. I would be the first to congratulate you (and I’d try to not be envious!) : )

But maybe your family needs a little bit more room in the budget for discretionary spending. Maybe that’s what you need in order to survive the long haul to debt-freedom.

I don’t regret the beginning of our debt journey. I think the first two years of super-strict spending gave us the jump-start we needed and put us in the right frame of mind to succeed. But there came a time when we also needed to be realistic with ourselves about our own limitations. We couldn’t keep at it forever at that pace. Rather than fall off the wagon entirely, we made the conscious decision to loosen up the budget a little. It can be a slippery slope and it’s not the right choice for everyone. But it was the right choice for us. And we’re still making killer progress, thank you very much (latest debt update here).

So maybe this is a “do what I say, not what I do” moment.

When you feel yourself becoming envious over someone’s debt journey, remember that it’s just that – someone else. It’s not you. It doesn’t reflect on you one way or another. It’s a different person with a different situation under different circumstances. What might work for them may not work for you and vice versa. Be kind to yourself, forgive yourself, and never give up.

My debt-free date may not be right around the corner….but it will be here before we know it!

Until then, I’ll keep you in the loop about our latest adventures on the journey.

Hugs,

Ashley

 


Mid-Life Career Changes

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I come to you today with a bit of an announcement…..though nothing has actually changed yet, so it’s more of an announcement of things to come (not of things that have already transpired).

I’m sure it’s pretty evident that I’ve been overwhelmed with work lately. I haven’t been able to blog nearly as frequently as I’d like; I’ve sometimes written reactionary/overwhelmed posts (like this one); you all know the vast amount of time that it takes to deal with my Dad’s stuff; finding “balance” has been a reoccurring theme in my blog posts, etc. etc. etc.

It’s something I’ve been talking about with hubs quite a bit over the past several months (I just want to note that this is not another reactionary thing – it’s been on our minds for a long time).

So here’s the deal….I want hubs to quit his job.

Hubs is a flooring contractor. He has a couple of crews of people who work for him but he, himself, also goes out and installs floors all day every day. He’s quite good at it and takes a great deal of pride in his workmanship. But for some reason, we have been unable to grow this business. He’s done it for nearly 7 years here in Tucson (with lots of experience prior to living here, both in Florida and Texas on high-end homes). But every time he starts to expand his operations, we’re hit with HUGE blows. Typically he has someone from an install crew make some mistake and he’s left having to cover the costs to rectify the situation. I think, at most, he was once hit with a $15,000 repair. But he’s had several jobs over the years that have cost him $5,000 here or there. I’ve gotten away from giving our monthly budgets (just due to time constraints as those are one of the most time-intensive posts to write), but when I reported our income monthly I’d sometimes talk about how he had a no-income month or a negative-income month. Yes, these things tend to even out (there are super high income months, too). But, on the whole, things just don’t seem to be progressing. We feel stagnant. And unable to gain traction.

And aside from that, hubs isn’t getting any younger. Let’s face it – his job is manual labor. He’s going to need knee replacements at probably a very young age. His back aches daily and even now (at 34 years old), it takes him a couple minutes just to get up and start moving around some days. He has to stretch to make sure his knees don’t buckle beneath him.

We’ve always known this job wouldn’t last forever. But we’d hoped he would transition away from doing physical install work and toward just managing at some point. Unfortunately, we’ve been trying to do this “transition” thing for nearly 4 years now and every time he gets close, he’s hit with these huge expenses and forced to go back to working, himself. It’s just not a sustainable business strategy long-term.

Looking at the past couple of years’ taxes, we know that I make roughly the same from my part-time job that hubs makes from his full-time job. I say this not to shame him, but just to state a fact

(As a side-note, I want to mention that hubs was the sole income earner in our family for a very long time. I’m blessed beyond belief to have a work-horse as a husband! I’ve seen friends with lazy husbands who drag their feet applying for jobs or just basically refusing to work and in no way can I relate. Even when we first moved to Tucson and hubs had no official employment, he was buying and selling things on Craigslist and trying literally anything to make some extra money for our family. The man is one of the hardest workers I know).

But when I’m literally talking about quitting my part-time job because I can’t keep up with it, yet it only takes me about 15 hours per week and is bringing in the same income as hubs’ 40 hour/week job…..it just doesn’t make sense for me to be the one to let my job go.

When I first broached the subject with hubs, he was vehemently against it. Again – the man is a work-horse. He’s considered it and come to the conclusion that he would not be happy or personally fulfilled to be Mr. Mom. He wants to work. He yearns to work and provide for our family.

But then we started considering some other options. Instead of quitting work and becoming Mr. Mom/Homemaker, what if hubs throws his time into securing a new career. We’ve looked into it and he can take college classes at the university where I’m employed for literally $25/class. Yes – twenty five dollars per class. So, what if he takes a few years “off” of work, during which time he helps out more around the house and with the kids to afford me the time to dedicate to work, and simultaneously goes back to school himself so he can change career trajectories???

Hubs has “some college”, but never finished an actual degree. One field we’ve talked about, specifically, is engineering. It doesn’t require a crazy amount of school (typically the four year degree is all that’s necessary), and you come out on the other end pretty employable (unlike many fields that require different advanced degrees just to be competitive on the job market).

The big drawback to this is age. If we do this, he likely won’t be graduating until he’s 38 or 39 years old. Is that “too old” to make such a major switch in careers???

Like I said, nothing has happened yet. IF we do this (still a big “if”), we’ve talked about doing it as a slow transition. He would ramp down his business across the course of the next few months. He’d likely keep at least one crew working under his business license for the time being (he has one crew that is totally self-sufficient and does great work, so he could continue drawing a small income from the profits on their job). Then he’d look into some college courses for this coming Spring semester (starting in January).

It’s just scary to make such a major life decision. It would obviously affect our debt payoff at least a bit, but the way things are operating currently are just not sustainable. I’m talking about having to quit my (very lucrative) part-time job, which would be a big blow to our income. Losing hubs’ income would also be a big blow, but when looking at it from a perspective of time versus money, it just makes more sense to keep my part-time job and give up his full-time one given that it’s basically the same amount of money either way. To test the waters, he’s already been ramping up his help around the house. He basically does 90% of the laundry at this point, 75% of the general cleaning, and significantly more childcare (he picks up and drops off at preschool much more regularly than he used to last academic year & always takes them somewhere once every weekend so I have a few hours of dedicated work-time on Saturday or Sunday).

It’s just hard. There’s no guarantee on the other side that he’ll 100% for sure be able to go into this completely different career field. And we know that this can not be a long-term plan because, like I said, he would not find it to be a personally fulfilling lifestyle (which is very important, even though I’m sensitive to the fact that many would bend over backward to be in the position to quit their job and not have to worry about the financial implications).

So I’m just kind of laying it out there for you. I’d love to hear if you have stories of mid-life major career changes (into a totally different field all together). Do you know any books on the topic that might be helpful to read as we consider this type of major life transition? Do you have any suggestions of things we might want to research or take into consideration? For the record, yes, it will have an impact on our budget and debt payments. But, as I’ve mentioned, that’s likely to happen anyway (since the alternative is that I quit my part-time job and at some point down the road we would still need to figure out an alternative plan for hubs because he cannot physically stay in his current career forever).

In addition to constructive criticism, advice, and suggestions, I also welcome happy thoughts and prayers for clarity while we try to figure out what the best move is for our family in the coming years.

As always, thanks for your unwavering support! : )

 


Everyday I’m Hustlin’

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Logged into my email today to see this little guy smiling back at me:

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 10.32.08 AM

Sure doesn’t get old to see these “loan payoff” emails! I’m now officially down to 7 Navient loans (out of what 12). To be fair, I’d paid off this loan prior to last month’s debt update, but it took until the next billing cycle (now) for them to acknowledge that the loan was, indeed, paid in full.

Anywho…..pretty exciting stuff! Still lots of big loans ahead, but it’s a nice little pat on the back, indeed!

Lots (and lots!) going on in life right now! We’ve been house-hunting twice (no offers yet). We have lots of work/social functions (Last weekend was an “early faculty” happy hour. Tonight is a departmental social function). Next week we’re going back to Texas as a family. Originally hubs was going to go on his own (to spread his grandfather’s ashes with his mom), but it’s Labor Day and the kids have 2 days off of school anyway so we decided to just all go back together. I’m going to be doing various dad-related duties while in town, including:  1. going to social security office with him so I can get official permission to talk to them since they don’t recognize power of attorney, 2. meeting with a financial advisor to better invest my dad’s money, 3. meeting with a realtor to sell the Texas house.

I’m a teeny bit bitter that a chunk of my trip is going to be monopolized with dad-related stuff when I have two siblings who live in the same city that are perfectly capable of doing the things I’ll be doing. But such is life. There are ebbs and flows. Sometimes my sister picks up more of the “dad slack” and sometimes it falls on me. It’s already a huge relief for his Utah property to be sold and, although we’d originally talked about renting the Texas house, no one has stepped up to take control and my #1 stipulation is that I don’t want to deal with it. Since the duties have fallen to me anyway, I’m going to handle it how I want….which is to get rid of the property so I don’t have to deal with it. We have other (more personal) reasons why we want to get rid of the property instead of renting it, too. Mainly that, due to my dad’s disease, he has a tendency to f*ck stuff up and I just have a gut feeling that if we were to try to keep and rent the property, he’d find a way to mess it up. Might just show up at the front door (illegally) and demand something of the tenants. Or might cause an altercation with the property management company. Who knows? To limit liabilities (and make my life easier), the place just has to go.

So that’s what I’ll be doing the Friday before Labor Day (the only business day that I’ll be in town). Hoping I can get that drama out of the way and enjoy the rest of the long weekend doing low-key and cheap or free activities with the family.

Do you usually travel for Labor Day? We typically don’t, but it’s just worked out that way this time. 

What’s the last debt you paid off in full? Every new Navient loan that I pay off feels like a major triumph. Sooooo over that company! I swear! Once our house situation is squared away I plan to refinance my student loans through another company so I can get a reduced interest rate (and just not have to deal with Navient anymore).


Going for Broke: Things to Consider When Investing Without a Broker

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Most investors work with a broker to help them find and purchase the right stocks for their portfolio. However, you can go it alone if you prefer. When investing without a broker, there are a few things you need to consider to ensure your money is as safe as possible and make it work hard for you.

Understand How to Buy Stocks Through a Direct Stock Purchase Plan

Many companies listed on the stock exchange allow you to buy shares directly from their transfer agent, without using a broker. This process cuts out the middleman and can lead to you saving a lot of money in broker’s fees. However, not all companies listed on the stock exchange offer a direct stock purchase plan. To find out whether a company you want to invest in allows investors to buy shares in this way, go to the company website and look for a section titled “investor relations“.

Consider the Direct Stock Purchase Plan Fees

The fees you have to pay to open and use a direct stock purchase plan depend on the company you want to invest in. In general, most direct purchase plans carry a fee for setting up the account, which is usually between $5 and $20. You can also expect to pay transaction fees ranging from roughly $0.03 to $0.10 per share when buying shares and $15 plus $0.12 per share when selling shares.

Decide How Much You Can Afford to Invest and Over What Time Period

Investing in stocks can be a good way to grow your wealth, but it’s important not to overstretch yourself by investing more money than you can afford to lose. Remember that the value of shares can go down as well as up, so you must not assume that you can pull your money out of stock market investments whenever you need the cash. Keep an emergency fund in an instant access bank account so you always have enough money on hand to meet unexpected costs. Next, decide whether you want to invest over the long or short term. Investing over the long term can be a lot more efficient, as you only have to pay fees when you buy or sell shares, not while you are holding them.

Decide How You Want to Make the Payments

Direct stock purchase plans typically accept payments by automatic bank debit or check. Consider how you will make the payments, while ensuring that you always retain enough cash in your bank account to cover your regular outgoing bills, and check that the direct purchasing plan you want to use accepts your preferred method of payment.

Consider Scheduling Your Purchases

One method of investing, which is known as dollar-cost averaging, involves purchasing a small number of shares on a regular basis, such as every week or every month, rather than buying all the shares you want to own at once. This method of purchasing shares can reduce the risk of losing money, as your initial investment is spread over several months, so there is a much lower risk of buying shares while their price is at a high point. Many people regard this to be a much safer method of investing than trying to guess when the share price is at a low point and schedule your buying to coincide with it. Many direct stock purchase plans allow you to automatically schedule your share purchases for every month or week.

Get Advice on Your Investments

Being a successful investor relies on choosing the right shares to invest in. Making the right decision can be the hardest part of investing, so you need to seek out and listen to expert advice. A good starting place is to get advice from Money Morning, which offers regularly updated tips on the best stocks to buy. Follow industry news to find out which companies are predicted to grow, so you can decide which ones offer the most attractive shares.

Conclusion

Investing without a broker can be very financially rewarding, but it also presents risks that you need to take into account. Always plan your investment budgets and schedules carefully and get advice so you don’t make the wrong decisions. When you know which companies you want to buy shares from, check their websites to see whether they offer direct stock purchase plans. Although these plans usually charge small fees, they can be a much less expensive option than purchasing shares through a broker, giving you the opportunity to make more money from your investment activities.

Peter Berry is knowledgeable in trading stocks and shares and enjoys helping others when it comes to investments. He regularly writes about investing, small/startup businesses and technology.


Extended Warranty to the Rescue!!!

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Back when we bought our new-to-us (then only 1-year-old) car, we added all the warranties on top of the sales price and financed it all together.

Remember, this was back before any debt-reduction mission or such. After listening to Dave Ramsey, I’ve now learned that the majority of extended warranties are a total waste of money (disclaimer: I don’t blindly believe everything Ramsey says, but I do believe this one).

Even so, when we finally paid off the car this past January I never took any steps to cancel the extended warranty so I could be reimbursed for the pricey policy. I just paid it off and went on about my life.

Fast forward to this month. Out of nowhere, we’ve experienced some random electrical issues. Unfortunately, a lot of the car’s displays are electronic. At this point, the entire dash is out. That means I cannot control A/C, we have no radio, there’s no time display, no backup camera, and more. Though most of it is just an inconvenience, some of it actually poses health and safety hazards. For instance, I’ve been driving my girls around this week and they’re crying in the backseat that they’re all sweaty (here in Tucson we’re still over 100 degrees every day). The A/C was on when the dash electronics went out, but it was set to low. Without the electric display, I have no way to change the A/C to be higher or lower and the heat is so all-encompassing that it literally feels borderline-dangerous to be driving the kiddos around without proper air.

After calling a couple shops and discovering that this is most likely a dealership issue (= $$$), I remembered that we had bought an extended warranty that specifically covers the electrical components on the vehicle.

“There’s no way the warranty is still effective”, I thought. We’ve owned the car for just at 3 years now, but we’ve already hit over 100,000 miles. I was imagining the warranty was probably nullified right around the 3-year and 100,000 mile mark.

So, imagine my surprise (and joy!) when I called and discovered that the extended warranty actually covers up to 5 years or 125,000 miles!!! We’re still under warranty, baby!!!

The other issue is that when I was calling around to shops, I was not only stressed about the money, but also the logistics. From what I was told, vehicle electrical work can take quite awhile. So either I’m stuck at the mechanics shop all day, or they can bring me back to my house. But that means it has to be a day we have the babysitter (because they can’t transport me + 2 kids in carseats). However, I’ve already determined that it’s tough to work while the kids are at home. So…stuck at the mechanics shop, then?  I know this is total 1st world problems and not really a big deal, but these are the logistics I’m grappling with. HOWEVER, our extended warranty (purchased through CarMax) includes FREE LOANER CAR while they’re doing the repair work!!!

They’ve said they may need to send the car to the dealership (which sounds likely after speaking to several local mechanics shops), but either way CarMax still provides me with a loaner. PLUS, I’ve had 2 recall-related issues pop up within the past few months that I’ve been putting off forever. So I can actually get those issues handled as well. All for $0 out-of-pocket.

My appointment is scheduled for next Thursday so I still don’t know the full amount of time it will take or even the full scope of what the issue is and what needs to be done to repair it. I’m just happy that this dumb (and super $$$) extended warranty is coming in handy! And, I may be wrong, but I believe I could still cancel at any time and receive a partial reimbursement for whatever time is remaining in the warranty. So there’s a chance I may get this stuff taken care of, then cancel the warranty in a month or so, and still end up with money leftover! I don’t want to get my hopes up (because I don’t know for sure if they’ll do partial reimbursements), but it’s an exciting prospect.

Three cheers for an extended warranty that actually came in handy and hopefully saves us some money!

What are your thoughts on extended warranties? Do you buy them? Why or why not?


2016 Tentative Financial Goals

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Hubs and I are both natural savers (though, admittedly, he would like to save more than me). So it’s been tough to have such a low EF and throw all of our extra money toward debt lately without having much saved for a rainy day.

That’s all about to change, friends.

Hubs and I have been discussing our financial goals for 2016. We’re still hashing them out so this isn’t a definitive 100% set list just yet. And I welcome your input, too. But here’s what we’re thinking.

  1. Save $10,000 for a down payment. One of our big goals for this year is to buy a house. This gets pretty personal (in terms of personal finance), and I’m sure there are strong opinions all around regarding buying a house while still in debt, but this point is pretty firm in both of our minds. Our price point is the mid-100’s. We want to put 20% down to avoid PMI. To do so, we will use $10,000 (which needs to be earned and saved in 2016), and add to it $10,000 I have currently in a money market account. Yes. I rarely talk about it, but it still exists. Our thoughts are that we’re simply moving the $10,000 from one type of investment (money market) to another type of investment (real estate). In addition to that, my mom has generously offered to gift us an amount (I will not disclose) that should tip us over the 20% threshold and still leave us with funds for closing costs, etc. I don’t want to dwell too much on the gift as, again, this gets pretty personal. We are very grateful for her generous offer and feel comfortable with accepting it because this is something she has always told us about. She made a similar gift to both of my siblings to buy their first homes so this is something she has planned and prepared for for many years. One important note is that our current lease ends in August (though our landlord is very flexible and aware of our plans. He has already told us we could go month-to-month if need be when the time comes). Because we’d like to find a home over the summer, we need to save up that money during the first part of 2016. The sooner, the better. So this goal will heavily impact budgeting during the first half of the year.
  2. Save $5,000 for Emergency Fund. Really all of our savings funds need to be beefed up. As a reminder, I use Capital One 360(<refer a friend link) and have separate accounts for all of our different savings goals. These accounts range from the typical Emergency Fund to a health/dental/vision fund, car repairs fund, Christmas/travel fund, and more. Realistically, I’d like to save more than this (again – we’re savers by nature). But I wanted to start with $5,000 and go from there. We need to save room in the budget for debt!!!! Which brings me to our final goal of 2016…
  3. Put $30,000 toward debt. One of our goals for 2015 was to pay $30,000 toward debt. We did SO GOOD and have come SO CLOSE to meeting that goal. I’d love to have upped this figure to something closer to $40,000ish, but with so much of our money being diverted toward savings in 2016, I think $30,000 is still a good number to stick with. Once the house stuff is all situated, I bet debt reduction progress in 2017 will be gangster-status!

That’s it! It doesn’t take a mathematician to see that $10,000 + $5,000 + $30,000 = $45,000 toward debt and savings in 2016! That is such an insane amount of money! We are eternally thankful for our well paying jobs and relatively low cost of living in the state of Arizona. If you were to tell me three years ago that these would be my goals for 2016 I would have laughed in your face! Thinking back to the two struggling people just trying to get by while caring for twin infants makes my heart hurt. We were drowning in debt, maxed out on credit, and just trying to grasp at that next paycheck. It is no exaggeration to say that blogging here has been absolutely transformative for our family! We have accomplished more than we ever thought was possible!

Yes, we still have a long way to go (nearly $95,000 in student loans remaining). But just looking back and seeing all the progress we’ve made in such a short amount of time (less than 2 years) is so heartening. It just fills me with hope and promise for a future in which we can eventually be fully debt-free. I cannot wait!


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