Balancing Wants

It’s great reading posts form personal finance bloggers who are almost at financial independence or are already there in life. It’s so inspiring and motivating. BUT….then I remember my husband and I are only 25. We are just starting out in our careers and really life. Being in your mid 20s means you can’t always do everything at once. It’s all about slow and steady.

Despite all the frustrations in day to day life, I am extremely grateful for where I’m at in life. I’m with an amazing partner. We are happy and healthy. Heck, what can I say, I’m a dreamer!

I’m the planner in our relationship. I scheme, crunch the numbers, plan, and somehow make it happen. It’s a constant battle balancing goals, needs, and wants. There’s the short term (next five years) and there’s the long term (10 years from now), and super long term (20 years +). The dream is for us to be financially independent; so we’re establishing short term habits that will help us in the long term. There’s a reason I established automatic saving buckets. Yet I have a lot of wants for our house, and sometimes I wish I could do it all at once. So here are all MY wants.

– Finish Kitchen – Kitchen backsplash, extra recessed lighting, and new paint color.

– Master bathroom Renovation – Lately I really, really want a to redo our master bathroom. I imagine myself demoing the outdated vanity, gross shower tiles, and redoing it all. I know it’s not going to happen this year. But it doesn’t make me want it any less.

– Start/Finish out our backyard patio – I really wanted to make it happen this year, but we ran out of time during the spring. It was really rainy which limited our work outside, and we started working/ripping out the flower beds, which is a lot more work that anticipated. Texas summers are hot, so you can’t do much without melting. I did install a drip irrigation system around the house to help maintain the foundation. The backyard patio is probably going to be a project for next year. Over the winter, I will plan it all out the design with my mother-in-law. And figure out the budget. It’s all about the budget with me!!!

– New couch -We want a new couch. We got our couch when we first got married. It’s an awesome couch, but we love watching movies together, relaxing, and cuddling. And the couch does not make it comfortable. I’m saving up all our credit card rewards towards the couch purchase. I even created a savings fund bucket for our new couch. It’s going to happen in the next year. It might be next summer, but it’s going to happen because I have wanted a new couch since forever.

It’s a slow progress because we save up for all our purchases and projects and then, move forward with them. Maybe this post should be called postponing all my wants until next year and beyond!!!

The truth is we don’t need all my wants, that’s why they are wants. Our house is in livable condition, but it would be so awesome to have it more finished. Of course, this is all with balancing daily expenses, and life. So save, save, and save.

Well I’m getting sleepy so logging off now. Have a great weekend!

3 Years in Corporate America

In June, I had my 3 year work anniversary. I can’t believe I lasted 3 years at my company. I have had many challenges, tribulations, and frustrations. But here I am, somehow surviving. I was looking through my posts about my career, and realize a lot and not a lot has changed.

We finally set it out on our own. We have our own house, we support ourselves, and don’t depend on anyone. It’s amazing! I would never go back. Even though work is not the ideal life, it beats not being independent.

In the past 3 years, I’ve learned corporate america is not for me long term. I’m already planning our financial independence from the man. I don’t know if I’ll join a small organization. Frankly, because I want us to be financially independent, I have to suck up and be where the money which right now is corporate america.

I’ve also learned politics suck. I’m being more political but I am a sucky brown noser. I can’t help it, I wear my emotions on my sleeve, and when I think someone is stupid, it’s hard to hide it.

Corporate america sucks the life out of me. I am at work from 730 to almost 530. Sometimes I leave at 5. Depends on the day. I hit the gym at work, then head home. So I end up arriving between 630-7 PM depending on traffic and when I left my desk. That is 12 hours away from home. Ouch…So much time dedicated to getting to, being at, and leaving work.

I do miss living so close to work, now I’m 30 minutes away. I don’t miss living in an apartment.

I’m living in the grind. Every week, I countdown to the weekend. I look at my calendar to check when our next paycheck is in the month. My life is starting to resemble Office Space.

Beware students getting into tons of debt. It’s not worth it. You salary won’t match it. Go to a school that has the best return of investment. Many kids don’t look at college this way, but it is the smartest way. Thankfully, I have no school debt, neither does hubby. Just don’t do it. You have been warned.

 

Year 2 of Home Ownership

Owning my first home was a dream come true. We are in year 2 of home ownership and have learned a lot.

–          An older home is exactly that, older. Everything seems to break or I seem to break it somehow. Expect for an item to break every month or so. I started budgeting an extra $100 for home improvements, but in reality this $100 is being used for maintenance. So when you are budgeting for your house, think holistically. Mortgage + property taxes + home insurance + maintenance + renovation budget.

–          15 Year Mortgage vs 30 Year Mortgage – I think one of the best decisions we made was choosing a 15 year mortgage over a 30 year mortgage. Yes, it means our budget is tighter every month because our payment is higher, but it also means we will have our house paid off way faster. Actually as of right now we have 13.5 years left in our mortgage. Sounds way better than 28.5!

–          Less House – Since we chose to go with a 15 YR mortgage, it meant our home budget price was lower than most. If you are going to choose a 30 YR mortgage, you can usually “afford” to buy a more expensive house because your payment for a 30 YR mortgage will be similar to a 15 YR payment, except you will pay an extra 15 years of interest on the house. By buying a more affordable house, our loan was smaller, even though I wish it had even been smaller. I definitely get jealous when I see my coworkers’ new build homes with upgraded finishes, but I take in stride, and figure out how can I implement at my house DIY. If I lose my job, we can keep up with most of the bills with hubby’s paycheck for a couple of months at least.

–          Endless Projects – I guess the fun part is I have an endless list of projects I want to work on around the house. Time and money are always limiters. Well, money is what usually slows me down. I’m still renovating my kitchen one year later because I’m doing it myself on a budget. Additional projects we need to tackle: Redoing flower beds in front yard; laying down pavers in backyard, master bathroom renovation, etc. All of these projects are pricey and I need to save up money as well as figure out how I’ll tackle the projects myself.I, also, have to consider there’s only so much my house is worth. So I can’t invest $20,000 when our house is only worth $150,000. Not that I have $20,000 to invest in the kitchen. I have champagne taste on a beer budget.

–          Home Price Experience – I also learned we most likely over paid slightly for our house. I think we should have negotiated an additional $5000, at least, off purchase price to cover all the work the house needs done. But the market in Dallas was starting to go crazy when bought our house, so we did not feel like we had a lot of leverage. Looking back we should have bought the year before, we would have paid less and our interest rate would have been even lower by half or a full point. But hindsight is 20/20.  The market continues to go up in Dallas, home prices are increasing every day.

Automatic Saving Buckets

Life can get hectic and I can get lazy. I have noticed lately it has been harder to save money every month. We have had a lot of expenses come up this year. Sometimes it’s for items that eventually will happen like car maintenance, others are just spending extra money on food during the month, or buying contacts for hubby. Every month I try to stay within our allocated budget but our variable expenses like food or just another item always pop up. I have tried not to freak out too much because I know we still live very frugally, but the numbers always surprise me at the end of the month.

So, earlier this month I implemented a different strategy – automatic saving buckets. We have a Capital One 360 account which allows us to open new accounts and name them appropriately. I started doing this for our home and auto insurance and automatically deducting it from our checking account. This worked great because when it came time to pay our bi-annual bill, the money was already allocated for in the account, and I just had to transfer it over. It still hurts paying for insurance but I guess for now it’s a necessary evil.

Here’s our saving buckets so far:

– Emergency Fund – This is where we keep our emergency fund. I don’t have automatic deductions yet for this one since it’s 100% fully funded. 

– Home Auto Insurance – $312 gets automatically deducted from our checking account and transferred to this savings account. It is as if we were paying the insurance company monthly, but since we are on a bi-annual plan, the money gets transferred until the bill is due.

– Vacation Fund – So I have a small amount of money getting transferred to the vacation fund. My hopes are this fund will grow so much little by little, one day we will be able to go to Europe. Hopefully before we are 30!

– Brokerage/Property Fund – At the end of this month a small amount of money will get transferred to this account. Originally, my thoughts were this fund will be for buying funds in our after tax brokerage account. But we have been talking about potentially saving up to buy property (land) somewhere down the road. 

– IRAs – Money to fund our IRAs on a yearly basis will be transferred to this account on a monthly basis, making sure we have enough money to fund them. 

I have also been thinking about adding another fund for Christmas and one for home improvements. I have so many projects that I want to do around the house, but they require some money of course. So far, the cost has just been floated on a monthly basis on the credit card, but it would be nice to know there’s some money already allocated separately for home improvements.

I really like having the automatic deductions. This way I don’t have to worry about making sure we save money, it automatically gets transferred. Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 1.43.16 AM

 

My Relationship with Money

As a personal finance blogger, it’s obvious I care about my finances. I started the blog to keep myself motivated and to learn more about how to manage finances. At 21, I didn’t know a lot of investing, mortgages, credit cards, etc. I understood the highlights – save your money and don’t get into debt. I had learned about the basics of investing from my first boss in high school (I’m eternally grateful for his teachings). Looking back, I have learned so much about personal finance. In the last four years, we started our retirement accounts, established a small emergency fund, started tracking our expenses through mint, bought a house, and are planning for future goals. It’s great progress and I’m very proud of us. My husband constantly reminds me we are doing well for our age. Despite the progress, I still worry. This leads me to think about why I worry so much.

I grew up poor. My parents always provided a roof over our heads and food on the table, but there are many things I went without in life. I knew money was limited and learned not to ask for things beyond my parents’ means. If I wanted to do something, I found ways to go. I volunteered in student council and helped work the dances, in order to not pay the dance fees. I fund raised to pay for band accessories in high school. I saved absolutely every penny I had from baby sitting and other side hustles for years to contribute to a new computer. I don’t mind delayed gratification. I will wait until I think I can afford it, and then I splurge. I constantly analyze the numbers. Are we over budget? Ugh we’re always over budget when it comes to food.

It’s a hard habit to get rid of in life. Some people will say it’s a great habit, it allows me to manage our money. But the constant worry can be stressful. This is probably tied to my childhood.

My parents were always worried about money, constantly fighting over how it was allocated or who was controlling the money. I was often aware of these fights and discussions. I never asked for a big quincenera because I knew it would cause more stress. Having a big party was never a want/desire because from moment one, I knew it would never be possible. More stress meant more fights. I don’t think my parents realized the effect it has had on us. My brother is very aware of the cost of items. He’s choosing to go to community college to complete his basics first before transferring to a 4 year university because he realizes it’s much more affordable. He still has ways to go in the personal finance space, but he’s willing to learn.

My experience with money in my childhood has deeply influenced the way I feel about money. I know I don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck. I know I don’t want to worry about our retirement. I know I don’t want to depend on anyone for money. I know don’t want to fight over money. There’s a reason I am making the choice to save and invest.

Because when there’s not enough money to go around in the household, people stress and worry. I just don’t want that feeling.

Have you ever thought about how your childhood influences your current relationship with money?

Cut the Chord

I was sitting down for lunch last week with a group of coworkers and industry professionals. The age range was wide, ranging from one millennial to a couple of Baby Boomers.  We started talking about cell phone plans, supporting kids after college, and then figuring out ways to cut bills.

As a personal finance blogger and a frugal shopper, I’ve tried to find ways to cut costs. One of the ways I’ve cut costs is by looking at forms of entertainment.  So I started sharing with my coworkers, hoping my ideas would insight conversation that would eventually lead to more ideas.

  1. Cut Cable – In our household, we haven’t had cable in a couple of years. I remember when my hubby and I moved together, cable was on the must list to have. We would end up watching endless hours of TV just because it was there. HGTV and Food Network became two of my favorite channels. But the cost of cable was outrageous, especially considering we were broke students. I finally convinced my hubby to cut the chord. Savings are about $80.  We had the smallest package. My coworkers at the lunch table told me they spend $300 a month on cable. Guess HBO, Showtime, NFL package, Starz, sure add up.
  2. Hulu and Netflix – Instead of spending money on cable, I only pay $16 a month on Hulu and Netflix and I can cancel at any time without having to talk to anyone over the phone. I can watch Hulu and Netflix, anytime, anywhere.
  3. Buy an HD Antenna – If you really want the local channels, for example, to catch the sports events, consider getting an HD antenna. We got a $25 HD antenna at Wal-Mart and now 11 local channels.
  4. Get a Chromecast – If you don’t have a smart TV, get a Chromecast. As long as your TV has an HDMI port, and you have a smart device, you’re set. No need to upgrade your TV.
  5. Skip the Movies – Last time we wanted to go to the movies, we checked out movie ticket prices. $11.50 per person for adult matinee. Can you believe it! For two people, it would be $23, not to mention any snacks you pick up on the way. Instead watch movies at home with new releases from Tesco and make your own popcorn.
  6. Exercise at the park – We are so lucky to live in the US. We have so many parks that are free. When I went to visit family in Monterrey, Mexico, we went to what I considered the only “green” area in the city. It took an hour to get there in traffic and you had to pay an entrance fee. Here the park is less than a five-minute walk from my house. It’s so awesome.  One of the reasons I love the neighborhood.

There are so many ways to get entertainment at affordable rates. When I introduced all these ideas, everyone at the table said they couldn’t get rid of their cable. So many devices were too much of a hassle. All they wanted to do is sit on their couch and grab their remote at the end of the day. Well, I rather pocket the savings.

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Insanity Max 30 Is Killing Me!

As part of my plan to regain focus and concentrate on myself in 2015, I decided that I needed to get back in shape.

I injured my shoulder last year and unfortunately it just took me out of commission. The first time I seriously pulled a muscle, so I waited three weeks, nursed it and went back. I lasted maybe two weeks before I pulled it again. It was really bad, so bad I had migraines because the shoulder muscle was pulling another neck muscle. So, I decided to take off more time. I think I waited a month and then started going back. I think my body was just telling me no because I pulled a lower back muscle. Funny story but I couldn’t bend down, so I quit my workout early, somehow drove home, and managed to get out of my car. Except I couldn’t exactly take off my clothes to get in the shower or basically do anything. My hubby wasn’t home, since he was playing basketball at his gym, so I had to call the gym and tell a guy over the phone to please go find him in the basketball court because it was an emergency. I told him to come home. I was desperate. The incident basically told me I had to take it easy, so I took time off to heal my body.

I went back the first week of January!

On a side note- My work has afternoon classes that are run by company employees, so I get to workout with a fun group of people and I don’t have to pay a dime! No gym membership for me baby! Savings of $40 a month. Plus, the workout room is in my building, I just have to tell myself I can make it down three flights of stairs instead of having to convince myself to drive somewhere.

We started an the insanity max 30 program. It’s a super intense program but it only lasts 30 minutes a day. You think this is short? Well, it might be short but you end up dead afterwards. I’ve been so tired after work, I have just been falling asleep on the couch when I get home.

It’s getting better…last week I probably made it to 9:30 PM each night? Considering I was passing out around 7:30 PM, this 2 hour improvement is much better!

I’m already noticing a difference.

I must curse out Sean T a dozen or more time during the 30 minute training. “Sean T you suck…Sean T you don’t need to take off your shirt because you’re tired…Sean T whyyyyy???”

Working out is helping me a lot. I feel better about my body and I feel much healthier. I’m also eating better and avoiding so much fast food. Slowly but surely, I’m getting back into shape. I just wish I had more time in the day because it just goes so quickly.

Are you staying with your new year’s resolutions?

Starting 2015 with a Positive Energy

Happy New Year’s everyone! I can’t believe 2015 is here. I’m 24, about to be 25 in a few months, and learning to appreciate my age and experience. When I was a teenager, I dreamt of being in my mid-20s. I would sit and daydream about how life would be. I won’t lie; I loved Friends because it showed just how life could be in your mid-20s and later. 2014 was an interesting year for me. I stopped writing for a bit because stress got to me. The summer and fall were crazy busy for me as picked up additional responsibilities at work. Other personal stress also affected my balance and happiness. After all this blog, is not only about finances, but, also about managing life, and to some extent family. Family…I’m not even sure how to tackle this subject without going down a depressing road, but I think it’s important for people to understand the struggle.

Family – I’m Mexican. I was raised by conservative, Mexican immigrant parents. Culture has always been a challenge with us. Even though I do understand my Mexican heritage, I speak Spanish fluently and I am caught up on current events in Latin America, I am an outsider. I was raised in the United States and thus, picked up a lot of American customs. My marriage to an American has strained the relationship with my parents. Furthermore, as I progress in improving my life, resentment has set in with my parents. I am, in their eyes, leaving them behind. Without getting mean and bashing on any events, this is the best I can come up with at the moment. Unfortunately, their actions due to this fear that they are losing me have caused a break in our relationship. This saddens me because I had tried extremely hard to put a focus on family ever since graduating school. At this point, I can’t do a lot. My parents and I and hubby are taking a break until further notice. I refused to be defined by any culture. I refused to be boxed in just because of my heritage. I am intelligent enough to take the best out of many cultures and lifestyles and apply it to my life. The hope is one day my parents will understand this. One day they will understand that I am doing my best to have my definition of a healthy, happy life; my choices, my consequences, my life. Once they understand and accept me for who I am, our relationship will begin to improve. Until that point, we will continue to be unhappy in our interactions. They will wish their daughter to be different, and I will wish for them to accept me for who I am. It has taken many months of tears and heartbreak. There has been a crack building for quite some time and finally the fissure erupted. It’s going to be hard, especially as birthdays and holidays come up, but I have to stand my ground. This is about my identity and finally being accepted for who I am. I’m tired of pretending to be someone I’m not. It doesn’t work. I write this with acceptance. I hope my story can help those who are facing similar challenges.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.-

Reinhold Niebuhr

I’m starting 2015 with a new found energy and momentum. I want to appreciate life’s precious moments. I need to find my inner happiness so I can radiate it and infect other people with happiness. It’s a challenge especially since life seems to throw a lot of negative feedback at you, but life is good. I have to thank my husband for providing light hearted wisdom and constantly repeating to me the little things don’t matter in life, so let them go.  Finally, I want to stop being afraid. Fear halts you from progressing; it paralyzes and leaves you stranded.

2015 will be about accepting me, being happy, and letting go of the little stuff.

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Items to Consider When Moving Abroad

Winter has come early to Texas! This means lot of cuddly, snuggly weather and lots of home improvement projects. My family is coming for the holidays and I’m busy trying to make the house more hospitable compared to last year! However, I can’t be an energizer bunny all the time. Today, I painted the guest bathroom, five hours later I was exhausted!!! How can such a small bathroom take so much energy? I tossed my sore body on the couch after all the physical activity and turned on some Netflix. I started watching House Hunters International. Isn’t that show addicting? Get to see new places and houses!!! Then, my brain started thinking.

What do people do when they move to a foreign country? How do they get around to get a driver’s license or figure out how to turn on the water? I recall from my international studies classes in college that the little things in a different country can add up quickly especially for foreigners with no language skills.

I have not lived in another country as an adult, hence I haven’t lived through this scenario, but I do want to live overseas. I joined an international company with hopes of getting relocated. My company would take of most arrangements if I were on a short-term assignment, but once I transfer to a long-term assignment; it might be a different story. In some countries, I would have to take a local contract based on that particular country’s rules. I started thinking of all the things I would have to take care of:

  1. Moving – Moving across state lines in the US has been pretty easy. Rent a U-Haul or some Pods then get them and yourself to the next destination. Figure out where the local DMV and other important office are located. It would be challenging but much easier with Google searches! Moving across international lines is more difficult. It might be easier to hire a moving company that does everything for you. I have read about companies that move your things from the US to Mexico and fill out the documentation of your items to get them through customs.
  2. Figure out Visas – What kind of visas will you need to travel and stay in the country? The U.S. Department of Defense – Bureau of Consular Affairs has some good information. Check it out!
  3. Foreign Exchange rates – Is the country’s economy stable? If it is not, their exchange rate might fluctuate daily. An example of a country with currency exchange fluctuations is Argentina. I had a Director from Argentina come to the US and he couldn’t use his Argentinean credit cards in the US due to country having defaulted its nation debts. When we went to Peru, we realized how hard it was getting to an ATM to get USD dollars. It was extremely challenging to exchange our USD to Peruvian soles in the small villages. Next time we go to another country, I will be better prepared.
  4. Loans – If you move to another country, how will you get access to loans to buy a house (if you choose to buy a house like in HHI), or to get a car, or even a line of credit (i.e. credit cards)? In Britain, you can check out Aspire Money. Aspire Money provides personal and car loans.
  5. Make Friends Fast – Making good friends fast may be a better way to get the in to all the local places. Sometimes just figuring out which is the best neighborhood to live in can be challenging to someone who doesn’t know the area. Friends can be such a great resource.

Those are just some ideas I had, if I were to move abroad long term. Here’s to wishing my dream comes true one day!

Why Completing Your FNP Degree Online Can Be a Smart Financial Move

**The following is a sponsored post.

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Going to school to become and being a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) is a great way to involve yourself in the medical community and provide meaningful service. However, between classroom time and clinical hours, it can be difficult to balance work and your schooling. In addition, getting a degree can be costly. Check out some ways that completing your FNP degree online can be a good decision financially.

No Moving Costs

One of the benefits of online schooling is that you can stay exactly where you are. Whether you already have a job in your location, or it’s out of your budget to make a move for school, there are lots of different reasons why staying put is the preferable financial move. Finish your FNP degree from the comfort of your own home without having to sacrifice stability or your work. This is especially important if you have kids or dependents at home; keep their lives stable by taking classes at home.

Many programs also offer distance learning where only a few weeks a semester on campus are required. This gives you the opportunity to travel without having to commit to the school’s location, and it also gives you the opportunity to meet your instructors in person.

Flexible Hours

Working? Young kids or aging parents at home? An online FNP program lets you choose during what hours you do your school work, letting your life carry on like normal without jeopardizing all your time. Especially when it comes time to do clinicals, sitting in a classroom for long hours doesn’t work well for many lifestyles and home situations. Improve your future while keeping up your responsibilities with an online program. Many schools offer either full-time or part-time programs. Depending on your schedule, you can work at your own pace and still complete the program in a timely manner.

Financial Aid Availability

Nursing programs can be expensive. Most schools offer some kind of financial aid. With the average cost per course hour reaching up to $400, even more for out-of-state tuition, make sure to check out your chosen school’s available fellowships and scholarships. These can help balance out the cost, especially when coupled with a student loan.  If you don’t want to take out a loan or want to reduce the amount that you borrow, working while taking classes is often the best option. Working and participating in a traditional program can be difficult, but with the flexibility of an online program, working to support your education is a lot easier.

No Crowded Classrooms

One of the best parts about online education is the individual attention coupled with the independent study portions. If you enjoy working at your own pace and taking control of your education, an online program is an excellent fit. While it may not work well for those who have a hard time staying motivated or who like face-to-face communication, if you enjoy challenging yourself and are committed to your education, an online FNP program may provide the structure that you need to excel.

Online school helps you balance your personal and educational life while staying within your budget and minimizing student debt. Also, it’s a great option if you want to keep working while you’re in school and if you work well in an independent learning environment.

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