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Archive for May, 2019

May Payday and Updates

May 31st, 2019 at 10:15 am

Today was payday. Woo hoo! I paid my mortgage with a $100 extra. I want to pay something extra each month until the end of the year when I will be able to put larger amounts towards it. Even an extra $100 keeps me motivated to pay it down faster. Zillow says my home went up in value by $4,000 in two months. I know that’s a bit unreliable, but it feels good to see anyway.

I went to the bank yesterday because I had to deposit a check for $5667.08 into my account. The cashier made an error with the decimals, and for about 5 minutes, it looked like they had added $566,708 to my account. Half a million dollars! I alerted them when they gave me the receipt and they fixed it right away. But, it was nice to see it for 2 seconds anyway. I was smiling about it for about an hour at least.

I’m going on a weekend away to the Pacific Coast with three of my girlfriends. We went last year and had a really good time. We decided we wanted to do it every year, and we’re going again. We’ll have an oceanfront suite at this spa resort. We booked ahead of time, so the accommodation will cost me $150 for the weekend (2 nights). I budgeted another $100 for food, gas, entertainment, purchases. I read somewhere that money can buy happiness when it is spent on experiences rather than on purchases. I so agree. It makes be happy to be able to have a life where I am able to spend this kind of money on time with my friends.

Last weekend, I did a lot of fun things and a lot of work in my garden, but one of the things that didn’t happen was meal planning. So, this week I was very tempted many many times to purchase meals. I only gave in once – for one breakfast. I made myself make dinner/pack lunches etc. on all other days. This saved me so much money. But, since I work such long hours (leave before 7:30am, often get back after 8:30pm), this feels very hard to do. When I get back from the coast on Sunday afternoon, I will have to make it a priority to go grocery shopping and plan/prep my meals for the week.

Help Me Plan for Retirement

May 30th, 2019 at 02:45 pm

Tomorrow, I will pay my second mortgage payment ever.

$351.98 – Principal
$100 – Extra towards principal
$995.81 – Interest!!!!!!!!
$393.02 – Escrow and PMI
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$1840.81 TOTAL
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I think it’s horrifying that the interest alone is more than (Principal + Extra to Principal + Escrow + PMI). Why are mortgages so EVIL?!!!???

Anyway, this makes me think even more of a plan that I have forming in my mind. I don’t know if it is smart or foolhardy. Here it is – please give me some advice.

I will be done with all my consumer debt by the end of this year as well as have $10K in EF. I don’t really have much of any other savings. My employer adds a meager amount to retirement savings, but that will cease when I quit my job early next year. While I worked the last 10-ish years to pay off about $60K in high interest consumer debt, I didn’t really save anything for retirement. So, now I have $40K in a retirement account with my employer, and will get a very small pension. Everything else towards retirement needs to be saved going forward.

I want to pay my mortgage off as soon as I can. It’s a 30 year mortgage at 4.5%. I want to pay it off in 10 years on the outside. Hopefully within 8-9 years if I can. If I quit my job, what this will mean is, after EF, sinking funds for major house repairs/entertainment/travel, purchasing my own health insurance, and if I pay $6k/year into an IRA, if I throw everything else at the mortgage, I can pay it down in 10 years or less unless something horrible happens.

Part of the reason I am planning to leave my job and go into SE full time is that I have a greater earning potential that way compared to doing the same thing in a salaried position. The downside of course is that I can’t predict what will happen – I might have serious health issues, have other things come up that will get in the way of making a good income. This feels like all the more reason to work as hard as I can to pay off the mortgage as fast as I can. If I can have the house paid off, then I plan to purchase a rental property for passive income. Work at the same rate as I am now, use rental income and part of my income to pay off the rental property in the next 10-ish years while saving for retirement simultaneously. Then go semi-retired around 58-60-ish. Even if I don’t buy a rental property, I am pretty frugal, and if I don’t have a house payment, then even if I were not able to work, then I could easily live off very little. If I purchase and pay off the rental property, then I can definitely semi-retire at 60 and would be able to fully retire at 65 with two paid off houses, and a rental income in addition to anything I have saved for retirement by then.

However, I also think it makes fiscal sense to save money for retirement and not throw all my money at the mortgage. I am so torn. What do you all suggest?

Exciting Updates

May 27th, 2019 at 02:53 pm

I ran my washer and dryer for the first time. I did two loads of laundry. It rained most of the weekend, so I could not hang dry my clothes. They both work beautifully. There is a medium rust spot at the top of the washer, and a friend of mine said you can do something to fix it, so I'm going to do that so that it doesn't get bigger or ruin my clothes. It is so convenient to have a washer and dryer at home.

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I had my friend and her husband over for dinner on Saturday. We had a really good conversation about money and finances. Her husband is really interested in retiring early too. They are both on Dave Ramsey's Baby Step 2 and making good progress. I don't follow Dave Ramsey myself, but do a lot of things like he recommends. Anyway, he recommended a finance book called "Money - Master the Game" by Tony Robbins. I'm thinking of reading it. If any of you have read it, please let me know if you would recommend it too.

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I had so many leftovers, and the following day, I invited another friend over and we made a meal of the leftovers. We then went for a walk around the neighborhood. It had stopped raining and the sun came out briefly, so there were a lot of people about. We passed a house with a container garden outside - at least 30-40 large containers growing well. We stopped and said hello to the couple who were outside. It was a lovely conversation, and they said they typically give away a lot of their produce since they have too much. They asked me to stop by later in the month to get some of their harvest. My own garden is about a month behind theirs. But later in the year, I think we could do a fair amount of produce exchange.

Another funny thing on the walk was a little kid who was about 7-8 years old was biking past us. He stopped to tell us that he had a lot of "killer ants" at work, and that if we stopped by his "workplace" at 10am on Wednesday, he could give us a bunch of them. Kids have such amazing imaginative and inventive inner lives. We got a big chuckle out of it.

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Okay - I saved the most exciting thing for the end. This does involve spending money, but it was a fantastic deal. Last month, I entered a local drawing thing for a free cruise, and was one of the people who won. I got a certificate with a list of what I could opt for. It was with Norwegian Cruise Lines. I knew it would not be completely free - I would have to pay airfare to the port, fees, taxes, and gratuities. Anyway, I called and booked a cruise for my sister and me to go to the Caribbean for her birthday in February. It's a 7 day cruise to the Caribbean, ocean view room. With the taxes, fees, pre-paid gratuities, it was $720 for both of us!!! I went and did a mock-booking on the website for the same option, same cruise, dates, room category, etc. on their website at it was $2536. A savings of $1816!!! I am delighted. It is one of the things that I had planned on doing anyway - take my sister and myself on a cruise as a joint birthday present for her 36th and my 40th birthdays. So, this is a wonderful way to do it.

And the even nicer bit is that she had the same idea because we have talked about a cruise before, and she's booking another cruise for my birthday next year in July for her, her husband, baby and myself to go on a cruise to Alaska! I love my sister. I am grateful that I have a wonderful relationship with her. When I told her I was taking her on a cruise, she burst out laughing and told me she was taking me on one too. We know each other well. Neither of us have ever been on a cruise, and now we will go on two in 2020. It makes me happy each time I think about it. :-)

May 24th, 2019

May 24th, 2019 at 08:45 am

I can't think of what to call this post since it's just little updates, and I don't want to call all my posts "This and That". So, the date it is...

My free washer and dryer arrived. They have a few scuffs on them, but they look great altogether. They're about 5-8 years old, I think. I ran a dummy wash to clean out the barrels and it seems that both of them work. I will do a load of laundry this evening, and then we'll see how they work.

When I purchased my house, I thought it was really weird that the latch on the fence was on the outside rather than the inside. So, anyone could get into the yard from outside, but I couldn't get out from the inside. So, when I extended the fence, I naturally changed this and the latch is now on the inside. Well, last month, I got a letter from the local utility board that the person who came by to read the meter could not get in to read the meter which apparently is located in the back of my fenced in house. So, they estimated based on past use (by previous owner) that my electricity + water + sewage bill was going to be $123.59. I am not going to put the latch back on the outside for anyone to be able to come in. So, I called the utility board, and they said I could call and find out when the next two meter readings are, and just leave the fence unlatched on those days. The meter reader would shut the fence behind him as he left. Yesterday was the first day. When I got back home, the fence was latched, so I assume he came and took the reading and shut it behind him. I think this system will work. I imagine this month's utility bill will be adjusted up or down based on what my actual use was. I won't know until the month following that what my actual bill at this time of the year will typically be.

I'm looking forward to the long weekend. This is the first time in a loooooooong time that I will have a "full weekend". I work on Saturdays at my SE job. On Sundays, I usually am doing chores and cleaning/grocery shopping/meal prepping/cooking. So, often it feels like I don't really have a weekend. On weekends when I do take the Saturday off, it's usually because I am going out of town or something like that, and so often that feels unrestful as well. I do work this Saturday, but will have Sunday and Monday off, and am really looking forward to resting and relaxing in addition to the chores.

I'm having a couple of friends over this Saturday evening for a game night. When we meet, we typically don't do a full dinner, but just have a variety of snacks and appetizers and make a meal out of that while we play. It's a lot of fun.

Other plans over this weekend are to finally fully plant my garden beds, dig up and move the tree hydrangea, plant peonies and a couple of other flowers, get caught up on paperwork for my job, watch a movie, have my best friend over for tea or a walk, and to watch a movie.

Some Wins This Week

May 22nd, 2019 at 09:02 am

A couple more SE payments posted, and when I did my accounting this morning, it looks like I will take home $1000 more this month after taxes than last month. This is really exciting. However, I am down several clients - summer tends to just be an off time in my line of work in the place where I live - more people are gone, and that means less work for me. Also, the new client I got this week isn't going to be a good fit, so I anticipate that I am still at fewer hours/week than I want to be. So, I anticipate that this was my best month yet, but that there is going to be a decline in SE income until September. That's okay, but it's certainly an adjustment. I'll do a post at some point about what I am learning about self-employment and the ups and downs of inconsistent income.

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Another frugal victory this week is that I am getting a washer and dryer for my house - finally! And best of all, they are FREE! My realtor and I hit it off really well through the process of searching for a home. She is a sweetheart and was a realtor, financial advisor and mom-figure all in one. I love her. Anyway, she told me that she would put a call out on her local realtor's listserv to see if any people who are selling or have recently purchased a home are looking to get rid of their washer and dryer units to replace them with new ones. She said this is a cheap way to purchase larger home appliances. Anyway, she put out a request, and at the beginning of April someone got back saying that they would be getting rid of a W&D, and that I could have them for free, but that I'd have to wait until mid-May for them. That was totally fine with me. I could do laundry at a friend's house or a laundromat or hand-wash until them. Anyway, today is the day! My handyman is picking them up today for me. If you have friends who are realtors, or are buying a new home, ask about whether this is a way you can get home appliances for free/cheap.

BTW - here's a frugal thing, and a new homeowner thing that I have savored over the past month and a half: I hand-washed some of my laundry and hung it up in my yard to dry. In MY YARD! I still can't get used to the idea of having a yard after years in apartments. And I'm going to be the sort of grownup now (at almost 40, lol) who has a clothesline in her backyard and hangs up laundry to dry. This is what my parents did, and I am excited to be able to do it myself. Clothes hung on a line smell so good. And it's frugal. And most of all, it is heartwarmingly wholesome, I think. :-)

Have a lovely day, everyone.

This and That

May 19th, 2019 at 07:42 pm

I just did my accounting for the weekend, and I had a relatively frugal weekend. The only spending was on the free-ish plants, lunch with my friend (the leftovers gave me enough for two more meals), grocery shopping, and some shopping for seeds/plants.

I also did accounting for my SE job since some payments posted this morning. If all goes as expected, it looks like I will take home $500 more this month than last month.

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I'm having a friend over for dinner this evening. This is the second time I've hosted someone in my new house, and it makes me happy each time to do so. For three years prior to that, I lived in a dingy apartment with almost no light, and I rarely had people over. Mostly, my friends who had more space were the ones who hosted. Now I want them to come over - I have the space to entertain. I also have another couple of friends coming over this weekend. However, I did not want to cook on a weeknight - I almost considered ordering in. Then, sound fiscal judgement prevailed and I went grocery shopping. Menu for today is fairly simple since it's dinner on a weeknight:
* Cucumber, Carrot, Sesame Salad
* Tofu/Veg Stir-fry w. Rice

My friend is bringing dessert.

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Immediately after I bought my house, I impulse shopped a lot of garden things. One of the things was two hydrangeas. I wanted hydrangea bushes in my front yard, and was at Walmart and saw bareroot pink hydrangeas. $5.97 each. I bought two. Impulsively. Without doing my research. I am an idiot!

I planted both. One died. The other is struggling. For some reason, it took me this long to research what kind they were. It turns out they are tree hydrangeas. GRRR. That's not what I wanted. I wanted the bushy kind. So, now I will have to dig this out and put in the right kind. $11.98 wasted. Do your research folks...

Someone on a local gardening group was giving away bamboo stakes. I got about 2 dozen of odd sizes. I used the tallest ones to make supports for my beans. I also made a trellis for my snap peas with them. I still have about 10-ish left that I might use to support other plants. I love free garden things. :-)

My honeysuckle died - I think it went into shock since we had two weeks of really hot days right after I planted it. So, I dug that out. However, my sweet peas are thriving, so I transplanted half of them to the honeysuckle trellis. My friend who is coming to dinner tonight gave me the sweet peas as a housewarming present. She'll be glad to see how well they're growing. I should have an abundance of fragrant flowers later this summer. I want to be the kind of grownup that has cut flowers in her home every day. Growing my own flowers will help me do that frugally.

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Over the weekend, I got my annual statement for my retirement account from work. There was a loss of $834.48 this past year. I still have a little more than last year in the account due to the meager contributions that were made this year. But, looks like they invested in the wrong things. This is the first year since I have been vested that the retirement account shows a loss. So, it's not that bad, I guess.

Free-ish plants for my garden

May 18th, 2019 at 03:20 pm

I went for a walk and lunch with my friend L. As we walked back, I noticed that there was a little plant exchange gathering going on in the neighborhood. We stopped and asked what was going on, and it turns out people were exchanging plants. Since it was about to rain, they were wrapping up. They invited us to join and take what was left. I left with a small pot of succulents, a tomato start, thyme, oregano, two currant starts, eight irises, and two winter squash starts. They were also taking donations, but all I had on me in cash was $1.32. I gave them that. I felt bad, but they said that they just wanted to get people to garden. The donations were for the local homeowners association. I’m not part of the neighborhood and don’t have the HOA, but my friend is and pays the dues, so I was reassured. Next year, I’ll bring them plants to share as well.

FICO and Other Updates

May 17th, 2019 at 10:38 am

My FICO score was 779 before I purchased my house at the end of March. It dropped to 769 in April, and it just got updated and is back up a little to 774 this month. I'm hopeful that it will get to 800 by the end of the year, although I am not sure how realistic that is.

I have another client at my self-employment (SE) job starting next week. This is good since I wrapped up three clients over the last month. It keeps my average SE hours at about 8-10 each week which is where I want it.

One of the first things I did when I moved into my house at the beginning of April was to start to fix the yard. The house itself was in good condition overall. The only thing I have had to do was fix a couple of sticky doors and replace the kitchen faucet. But the front and back yards were horrible, and I needed to install a fence and take out several shrubs and a few small trees and a lot of overgrowth. I got recommended a handyman who is doing most of this. He is excellent and works for a flat $30/hr. So far in his labor costs and materials/lumber/dump fees, etc., I have spent $3422.43. I anticipate spending at least that much more before the end of the year - there is just so much to do to this damn yard!

Anyway, one of the first things I did after the yard was fenced in was to build three wonderful raised garden beds in an area of the yard that was relatively clear. I then got soil, compost, perlite, and mixed and filled them in. I just planted beans, beets, and zucchini in one of them. I'm going to plant radishes, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, thyme, thai basil, and maybe eggplant and a couple of other things. Outside of the raised beds, I'm going to grow pumpkin or maybe butternut squash. I also put up a sturdy post trellis for 7 everbearing raspberries. Also have two blueberries. I am vegetarian (ovo-lacto), so I don't have the costs associated with meat which can be so much more expensive. My veggie garden will not only bring me joy, but also will save me money. Next year, I will have chickens. This will help with my egg costs as well. I might also take down two small trees I have in my yard and plant a fig and a plum tree there. We'll see.

For the purchase of my house, I went with a local mortgage broker who was not affiliated with a bank. I really enjoyed working with them, and recommended them to another friend who is also looking for a house. Yesterday, I got a thank you card from them for the referral with a $5 Starbucks gift card. Free coffee treat for me. :-)

Does anyone else count days to payday? I do. I get paid per month on the last day of the month. For ease of accounting, I also take out my monthly pay from my SE job on the same day. This makes payday doubly exciting. Two more weeks to go.:-)

Hello SA World

May 17th, 2019 at 09:42 am

Hello All,

I've been a long-time lurker and reader of the blogs, and decided to go into it myself. I want to blog and document what I do as a way of holding myself accountable.

I want to retire "early-ish" at around 55-59-ish. Unfortunately, I started this journey at 39 years of age. I'm turning 40 in a few months' time. So, I know I have some hard work ahead of me.

I am a healthcare professional. I work full time and am self-employed part-time. The plan is to transition full time into self-employment over the next year so that I can have a better quality of time/time/leisure for about the same amount of money. I'm in a single person household and only have one income. No kids or pets.

I had a lot of consumer debt ($57,797.94) and spent the last 12 years paying it off in a very inefficient manner. I now only have $9,600 in consumer debt on a zero-interest card that I plan to pay off by the end of the year.

I just purchased my first house. Terrible market to buy where I am right now. But, I am delighted to finally have a house. Put 5% down. Made my first mortgage payment last month. 30-year mortgage. But, mortgages are evil. So, I hope to have the house paid in 8-9 years if I can - if nothing horrible happens that derails my plans.

Now, off to figure out some blog formatting things.