Debt Payment – Processing

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Hi all!

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays : )

I’m just peeking in quickly today to say that my December debt payment post is…”processing.”

I made a very large payment scheduled on 12/23 and, I suppose due to the holidays, it still shows as Processing on Navient’s website. It has not yet posted. Soooooo, I’m holding off any my debt update post until the payment officially goes through. I just wanted to let you know what’s up since I’d alluded to an exciting debt update (and said it would be up yesterday). I’m still waiting.

I hope everyone is doing well! Happy birthday shout-out to Hope, too! I’ll be back soon! : )

~Ashley


Home Ownership: 1 Month Status

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We’ve now been in our new-to-us (1980s) house for just over a month. I haven’t talked much about the house since we closed, so I wanted to talk about some of the financials in the past month of home ownership.

Monthly Bills

The house is larger than our last home so although it’s too soon to tell true differences in heating and cooling costs, my guess is our new house will be a little more expensive on average. Relatedly, our home is now 100% electric (no natural gas) so that’s a bill we’ll be eliminating from our monthly budget. Our trash is now paid quarterly instead of monthly and even though we’re now receiving more service (our neighborhood does twice weekly trash pick-ups), our overall cost is actually less. We do, however, have HOA fees to pay.

Overall, our monthly bills will probably be a little bit higher than in our previous home.

One-Time/Set-Up Costs

The hidden costs of home-ownership! We knew when we bought the house we would have to purchase a refrigerator (we got ours at a great Black Friday deal because Lowes did their “Black Friday” prices for the entire month of November! Great time to buy a home!). What we had NOT realized until we moved in was that not a single window had any blinds on it. Not one. I’ve never bought blinds before. Even going the DIY-install/Home Depot purchase route, we still ended up paying over $1,000 on blinds! We also ended up needing a few smaller items (e.g., one extra bathroom = one extra trashcan, extra hand-towel set, etc.). We also bought 3 ceiling fans for rooms where they were not present (the living room + 2 bedrooms). The bedrooms were already pre-wired (but just had metal plates affixed to cover the wires), so hubs was able to install those on his own. But we had to hire an electrician to wire the living room because, living in Arizona, we HAVE to have a fan in the living room and it hadn’t been wired for one so that work needed to be done.

A great majority the walls in the house are bare. Some of the rooms, even, are bare. But I’m okay with that for now. I’m in no hurry to rush out and spend a lot more $$$ to decorate and furnish the entire home. We’re comfortable with what we’ve got and I prefer spending some time in the house to try to find a design style, etc. and to slowly build up decorative pieces vs. going to the nearest Home Goods and buying all.the.things. just for the sake of having everything immediately decorated.

All things included, we ended up spending nearly $4,000 for one-time/set-up costs (the “big ticket” items were the blinds, refrigerator, and fans/electrical wiring). Luckily, we’d been building up a stash of money for the downpayment and an extra slush fund so we had the cash on hand for these expenses. I’m thankful to YOU readers because I’d initially wanted to make a larger down payment (leaving us with less cash-on-hand), but many of you had commented that we really needed to have a good cash reserve when buying the house for just this type of situation. Having a later-than-expected closing date helped in that regard, too, because we had extra time to save the money up.

Mortgage

Our rent at our old house was $1200/month. Our current house has a mortgage payment of $950/month. When we set up the auto debit, however, we also asked for an additional $300/month to be applied toward principal. That will take our monthly payment to $1250/month. We can always change or amend the extra/surplus payment, but that’s how we’ve set it up to start. I thought it would be a nice way to build some equity in right from the start, without really “hurting” us since it’s comparable to the payment we’re already used to making.

Not having a mortgage payment due in the month of December was the greatest thing ever!! We ended up having extra money to put toward our debt payment (debt update coming Monday that I’m super excited about!!!).

So that’s how home ownership has impacted our finances on an immediate basis (i.e., initial one-time costs) and for the foreseeable future (i.e., monthly bills). Before we’d ever started house shopping I was hoping to find a place that would be somewhat similar in costs to our current standard-of-living. I didn’t want our expenses to all the sudden sky rocket. And I’m happy with our home. Although, yes, it will likely cost a bit more than our old place, it’s not so much more that it will slow down debt repayment. We won’t be “house poor” by any means. And we always have that $300 buffer on our monthly mortgage – if we find we need a little more wiggle room in the budget we can always make that auto-pay adjustment.

I’m busy baking today with the kiddos and getting laundry done and suitcases packed for our upcoming trip. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays and I’ll see you on the other side from Texas! : )

Happy Holidays, y’all!


Teacher Christmas Gifts

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Hi all!

I hope you’re having a happy Thursday! The girls and I are headed to Texas on Christmas Day. We are flying (on Christmas because its much cheaper) instead of driving because hubs has to stay back and work. He’s still planning to quit and go back to school in the Spring (he’s all registered and ready to go), but he has a couple big jobs in the meantime that need to be wrapped up by the first of the year. It’s great, too, because it will give him a final big payday before that source of income dries up. I need to write a post on our 2017 budget soon, because it will be looking pretty different given all of the major income/outflow changes coming soon (e.g., hubs quitting work, some job changes with me in the works, etc.).

This is my first time to ever fly alone with the girls (we haven’t flown with them at all since they were 4 months old – we flew back for a wedding I was in). In general, I think traveling is much easier with young children versus infants, but I’m still a little nervous. Send your best tips and happy travel prayers my way (I’m planning to pack backpacks for the girls with things to keep them occupied, etc.)

In the meantime, today is the girls’ last day of preschool. They have their class party and gift exchange with the classmates (everyone was instructed to wrap a book to exchange). I also wanted to share our teacher gifts this year!

For the gift, itself, we took the easy-way-out by getting a gift package thing from Costco. Our store was selling two-packs of Starbucks gift sets for $20 each ($10 per gift). I got the green paper bags from our local Walmart for 33 cents each (it was 3 for $1). The rest of the gift bag items (craft stuff, construction paper, glue, and tissue paper) was stuff we already had on-hand.

I drew a Christmas tree shape on construction paper and let the girls cut it out themselves (we actually did a ton of Christmas trees so we could also put some in cards to family members – I think we did 10 total?)

After cutting out the trees, the girls decorated them using craft materials we already had on-hand. I then glued them in place on the green bags (and wished I’d bought red bags instead) and outlined them with thick black sharpie. Put the Starbucks gift set inside, stuffed tissue paper around it, and called it a day!

 

Teacher gifts for about $10 a piece, complete with a personalized custom-made kid craft : )

IMG_4542This was actually a little more expensive than our typical teacher Christmas gift. In past years we’ve done $5 gift cards, a kid-drawn picture, and Christmas card (as an example, see here). Even so, I was happy with the price-point. We still stuck within our budget and bought a thrifty gift that I hope the teachers will enjoy.

What do you do for holiday teacher gifts? What is your Christmas budget typically like for teachers, neighbors, etc?

 


Dad’s House #2 is Under Contract!!!

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For long-time readers, you know that my Dad was diagnosed with a rare form of dementia in August 2015. By November 2015 we’d moved him out of his first home (in Utah) and down to his second home (in Texas) to be closer to family.

By February it was already apparent that he really shouldn’t be living independently. In March, we moved him into an independent living facility. It still allows him a bit of freedom and independence, but now all of his basic needs are being met (e.g., they serve 3 meals a day, they have staff that cleans residents’ apartments, etc.)

Meanwhile, we set to work on trying to fix up and sell his homes.

Home #1 sold almost immediately! We received multiple offers the first day it was on the market. All went smoothly and it was like a dream! That sale was complete in August.

Home #2 took longer to “fix up”. It’s been on the market for 3 months with very little action and it’s stood in stark contrast to the ease of selling home #1. Finally (finally!) we received an offer in early December…..for nearly $50k below our asking price. To say we were disappointed would be an understatement.

We grappled with negotiations. We aren’t huge fans of our realtor (we actually came THIS.CLOSE to firing him. Like, I literally sent an email saying “I need to speak with you – please give me a call.” I never received a call until 3 days later, when the realtor was calling with an offer. So we stuck it out just for the sake of closing this transaction.)

In the end, my mom (also a realtor – but we didn’t ask her to do the listing for this property due to the fact that it’s our father’s property and they had a messy divorce. To honor our father’s wishes we went with someone different) ended up doing ALL the work. She ran all the comparables, gave us advice, guided us with our counter offers, and – in the end – we signed a contract that was only $20k below our original asking price (and still quite fair for both parties involved).

Now I hold my breath and wait as the inspections are done. We’re currently set to close in January. This is a BIG deal to me because I have been the person to physically handle all of my father’s finances since August 2015. It has been a big burden to be responsible for 3 households (our own + my dad’s 2 houses). Not to mention I live out-of-state of either property. I’ve handled all the bill pay for utilities, mortgages, I’ve scheduled all the landscaping (and payment), all the repairs (and payment), etc. etc. etc. I CANNOT WAIT until I’m back down to only dealing with ONE home (our own).

At the same time, it’s a bit scary. We’ve sold off all our father’s assets. All of his earthly earnings are now sitting in different funds, being managed solely by me. (yikes! talk about pressure!)

The goal, obviously, is for his assets to last the rest of his lifetime. He’s not wealthy (in my opinion), but he does have a solid asset base that, if we are careful, should last the remainder of his life (fingers-crossed!!!)

I’ve already met with one financial advisor but decided not to go with the company after not liking the advice I was receiving. I was planning to meet with another advisor over the winter holidays, but given the imminent sale of this home I’m thinking it might be better to wait and meet after the return from this home has been liquified. So I’ll probably set something up for the mid-January timeframe. It’s interesting to be dealing with two such different financial planes. My own financial plane, characterized by loads of DEBT and working on strategies to reduce that debt. Compared to my Dad’s financial plane, which is all about investment strategies and ways to maximize available assets. I’m hoping to pick up a thing or two, as these lessons should be helpful to me down the road once our own debt mess is cleaned up.

At any rate – that’s all for today. The point of this post was just to share my excitement to FINALY be under contract! Let’s all hold our breath and cross our fingers and pray we get to closing day without any major set-backs. It would be a Christmas miracle! ; )


The Best $0.46 I spent this Christmas

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How many of you are members of rewards programs at the different stores you are shopping at this Christmas?  Go ahead and raise your hand, we can’t see you.  I think I’ve mentioned before different earnings I’ve gotten from the rewards programs.  I am members of a ton of them…only free ones.  And this month I’ve gotten lots of freebies or special coupons because it’s my birth month.

I mentioned that Christmas was going to be very learn, even non-existent from me in regards to actual purchased items in my last post. Then I collected our mail before we headed out of town.  And there it was a $10 coupon to Dick’s Sporting Goods, no minimum purchase required.

Princess and I dropped Gymnast at the local gym for his practice and ran across the street to the store.  I ran right to the clearance rack in the boy’s section and found my $10.46 pair of gym shorts for little Gymnast.  I paid $0.46!

I should have taken a picture, but I rushed back to wrap them.  They are white.  I would never buy white, even though he’s begged every time he gets new shorts .  But I figured at $0.46, if he ruined them, I wouldn’t cry too much.  Now he will have 3 pairs of shorts to work out in (he’s going to the gym 20 hours a week.)   A great blessing since we don’t have a washer and dryer so keeping him in clean shorts daily can be a challenge!

Tell me about your shopping win this Christmas season!  (I will post a picture of him in his new white shorts when tries them on after Christmas!)


Whoops! and side hustles.

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We have had a disaster hit our lives in the past week!   It all started with being fast asleep until our sweet dog jumped on our bed and wanted to snuggle.  The problem was that she was  soaking wet and smelled of raw sewage.  You can imagine the excitement waking up to that brought!

After investigating, we discovered that our sewer backed up into our basement due to some construction that was happening on our street.   The good news is that our basement is unfinished so the clean up has been simpler than it would have been otherwise.  The bad news is that we have to pay a $500  deductible for our home insurance policy. The hubby also missed a couple days of work without pay because he had no accrued paid time off left for 2016 (I hate “use it or lose it” policies!).   Luckily, this is something that we can pay for without incurring more debt, but it also means we will be meeting minimums only this month unless we can do some side hustling.

This Thursday evening, I meet with a woman who is offering me a small side job that may result in an extra $400.00 or so a month.  On top of this the lady that I typically babysit for is going back to work after a layoff, and that should be adding another few hundred a month to our income.   The catch is that both of these are things that won’t actually leave us cash in hand until January.   Our community has a very active classifieds facebook group, so I am going to do some decluttering and hope to sell a few items that we no longer use. Hubby also might be able to pick up some overtime at work.   My hope is that with all of these side hustles, that we might be able to still make the $500 extra debt payment.   Any other suggestions?

 


You Told Me So

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When we were going through the process of getting a mortgage, we shopped around with a lot of different lenders and ended up with a company that we were…luke-warm about after it was all said and done.

The experience, itself, wasn’t exactly pleasurable. I know it’s stressful anytime you buy a house, etc. etc., but there were some things I didn’t share that were really frustrating. But the one GREAT thing this lender had that no one else could compete with was a stellar interest rate. We got our loan at a 2.75% APR!!!

At that time, a handful (maybe 2 or 3?) of commenters mentioned the option of perhaps rolling some of our student loan debt into the house. Our loan was for well below the appraisal price of the home, so this could have been an option (note: not for all the student loans, but a portion of it).

Hubs and I talked about it and decided against it. Ultimately, we both just felt a little “yucky” at the thought of rolling student loan debt into the house. It just didn’t sit right with us and we took that as a sign that we should probably do something different. The plan was always to look into student loan consolidation companies after the mortgage went through.

When the mortgage was finally funded in early November, I started shopping around just a couple weeks later.

First I was denied by a place. (update: the “negative mark” was, indeed, my delinquent account I’d mentioned in this post. It’s old enough that it should be off my report – and it has, indeed, fallen off of 2 of the 3 credit agencies, but it’s still sitting on the third. I’ve completed a formal dispute so hopefully this will be rectified soon).

And then I discovered that other places really couldn’t offer better rates at all! Here’s a sampling of rates that I was offered:

6.99%

6.49%

5.37%

My current student loan interest rates range from 5.8 – 6.5, so there’s not even really much of a savings compared to what I currently pay.

And now I just kind of feel foolish. I feel like I should have listened to YOU and put some of that student loan debt in with the house debt. Ugh! I guess hindsight is 20/20, right?

This has stalled plans a bit in regard to the student loan consolidation. I’m just not crazy about a 5.37% APR. Yes, it’s lower than my current interest rate. But is it low enough to go through all the paperwork hassles and the fact that I’d now have one GIANT loan instead of multiple, smaller loans to tackle?

I don’t know.

And, that must be balanced against the fact that I truly despise our current lender, Navient.

Again, I just don’t know.

I’ve been doing these balance transfers on a credit card I don’t use. It has a limit of $7,500 and allows me to do balance transfers at a 0% APR for 12 months at a 3% initiation fee (note: this is the current “deal” as of today. In the past, I’ve been able to score as low as a 2% initiation fee, but for a shorter amount of time – I believe 6 months; That “deal” isn’t showing up anymore so it may have been discontinued).

Anyway – that’s the best rate I can get. But that’s only $7,500 at a time and I still have a MOUNTAIN of debt to contend with (most recent debt update here).

So I’m kind of at a loss. Here’s what I’m thinking in terms of a plan moving forward (though I’d love to hear your thoughts, too, so please chime in!):

  • I’ll keep all the subsidized loans with Navient (I’m receiving forgiveness on unpaid interest through August). I’ll pay minimums on those to reap the interest-forgiveness benefits.
  • I’ll continue doing these balance transfers to reap the benefits of the lower interest (with the note that I’m always EXTRA CAREFUL to ensure they are fully paid off by the deadline so I don’t get hit with penalties and sky-high interest). As each balance transfer is paid in full, I plan to continue to initiate new transfers up to the $7,500 limit as allowed.
  • Finally, I’ll continue paying aggressively toward the remaining (unsubsidized) loans.

This seems like the best course of action for now. Unless someone can offer me a better interest rate on a consolidation, that is.

Thoughts?