The Benefits of No Commute

When we relocated for my job this summer, we had to find a new place to live pretty quickly.Having only been in the city for twenty four hours during my final interview, the search for a place was a bit overwhelming. Since we were packing up our house, saying our goodbyes, dealing with family, and work, we had no time to go and search for a new place. Most people would be scared. Most people would choose to rent a hotel, or find another temporary assignment. But I’m not most people. 

It took me about a week to find our apartment. I asked for recommendations from several people. These people included the company’s recruiter and hiring human resources manager. We, also, lucked out when a family member recommended we get in touch with their friend in the area. We received some tips as to what neighborhoods were safe.

Then, the search began in the targeted neighborhoods. I had a budget. Our budget for housing was no more than $1,000. Ideally, we would get a 2 bedroom apartment or house.

I ended up finding an 2 bed, 1.5 bath for $965 per month. Under budget and within five minutes to work. So now, unto the benefits of no commute.

1.       More time in your day. I took part of my day back. Granted I still work long hours, but at least I can squeeze in some gym time without getting home super late.

2.       Minimize gas expenses. I fill up my gas tank max once a month. I walk to work every day and use my car to run errands.

3.       Less Miles. Since I’m driving less, my car will last longer. I have a 2007 Honda Civic, 2 door with 93,000 miles. Since Hondas are highly dependable cars, my car should last for many more years. Hopefully, well into my 30s.

 On a final note, we really like living in our neighborhood. It’s very walkable. There are many restaurants, bars, and a farmer’s market on the weekend. We do live in the city, so have to go to the suburbs to get more affordable groceries. 

Planned 2017 Budget

Here is the planned budget (expenses) for 2017.

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A couple of key points:

          The T-Mobile bill is for 5 people. I pay for my parents’ and my brother’s cellphone bill. My brother reimburses me $32 every month to pay for his portion of the bill and his Iphone. I’m definitely giving him a great deal since he is in college. So really, the bill is $144 ($36 per person). I miss not paying for cellphones (we used to have work cellphones). While I’ve looked at other options, T-Mobile’s plan is the best because we all have Iphones. My parents find Iphones easy to use and we prefer Iphones. T-Mobile’s free international calling and roaming is a huge plus. My mom spends time in Mexico and she can now be reached whenever and she can also communicate freely. Plus she calls Mexico a lot when she is in the US.

           Food is budgeted for $515. We usually go over on this category. Actually, every single month. I should probably give up and raise it to $600. That’s a more realistic number to shoot for every month. Will review next month…

          I don’t have travel or health &medical budgeted for in the budget. It’s zero now. We have a savings account where we put travel money every month, so when we spend money for travel, the money comes out of that savings account. This fund came in useful when I had to fly for my grandmother’s funeral in early January. I had to book an international flight same day. It was very expensive, but I’m glad I went. Health & medical will usually include prescriptions, medical appointments. We usually average $700 with contacts, glasses, dentists, prescritions, etc. It’s hard to budget on a monthly basis though. Expenses come at different times of the year.

          Did you notice there is no gym membership? I use my work gym (win!). I’ve actually never paid for a gym membership. My husband hasn’t signed up for one. I’m hoping when he lands he has access to a gym for free. A girl can dream.

          Shopping is for any shopping that’s not related to groceries. Clothes, video games, etc.

          Auto Insurance – We own 2007 Honda Civic and a 2008 Mitsibushi Lancer. The cost is split up and sent to a separate savings account since the payment is semiannual. This is for full coverage. Need to review in 6 months whether it would save us more money to drop full coverage and switch to liability only. Our deductible is already at $1,000.

          I try to make sure out actual spending stays within our budget. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Monthly budget is set at $2,426. Let’s say we come in usually around $2,500. I think that’s pretty good. We could cut food, but it’s really hard. We like food. I think an easy win would be to relook at our insurance premium when it renews in 6 months. 

Home Ownership Emotional Side

I have a weird emotional connection to home ownership.

Maybe it’s the immigrant attachment to owning hard valuables you can touch or fulfilling the American dream? The truth it is I keep running the numbers behind whether we buy a home in the new city or keep renting. I know renting provides flexibility to move wherever, whenever. But owning a home in Texas didn’t stop us from picking up and moving last year. We bought a house where the numbers made sense and we are now renting it. We have 3 years to figure out what to do with the home, although we are leaning towards keeping the house forever.

 This is all me and my random thoughts….

 So, now I want to buy another house. My husband looks at me goofily; he is not sure whether he wants to buy another property right now. He thinks the market is too high, but market timing is so iffy. So, I’ve been running the numbers and thinking about why buy a house. NY Times Rent vs Buy calculator is pretty useful. From my perspective, I feel like buying a house would keep me motivated. I need a carrot to keep running on the treadmill. Financial independence should be the carrot that keeps me on the treadmill? Yes and no. Yes, it keeps me motivated long term (in the decades horizon), but not necessarily in the near term (5 – 7 year horizon).

Our apartment is nice, no maintenance, and yet…I want to own 20% of my walls around me (the bank owns the rest until the house is paid off). In order, to run the numbers, I have been trying to get a gauge for the real estate and what we can get.

Criteria 1: Stay within walking distance to work. Save gas, miles on car, and time. Which means city living.

Criteria 2: 2 Bath, 2 Bed Min.

Criteria 4: Single family home.

 Criteria 5: No big updates to do, no carpet, energy efficiency windows, furnace/HVAC fairly new, good location, single lot (no townhome), place to park the cars. Gosh, our tastes sure have gone up.

So looking at $250K price tag for 1500 square feet, 2 bed,2 bath, carport. Whoppers. It’s going to be hard to pull off a 15 year mortgage. Actually it’s going to be more beneficial to get a 30 year mortgage. I never thought I would say that. By the way right now, our monthly rent is $965 for a two bedroom apartment, 890 square foot apartment.

So yeah, the only hesitation is the amount of debt we will have to take on. So glad we don’t live in California or Portland. But if it’s within walking distance, I could take 50% of what I have budgeted for gas and allocate to the home budget. Oh if we stay within walking distance to my work (which we are right now), my car will last longer, potentially delaying my car needing to be replaced until my 30s. Do you see me playing with numbers? Trying to figure out what I could reduce in the budget to make the numbers work.

Let me tell you we have kept our budget pretty consistent ever since we graduated from school. So, I’m trying to NOT increase the budget. This way we can still travel, have money for unexpected items, etc.

 Sometimes I want to be like YOLO…especially when you heart wants something and your brain is skeptical. 

 Open for comments, questions, telling me I should stop being emotional, continue look at numbers.

Focusing on my health in 2017

Every year I make a goal to focus on my health. Every year I have mixed results. Why mixed? Well, I’m healthy. Nothing majorly wrong with me. All my levels are in green status.  But I know I’m not at the top of my health performance. Why do I say this? I’m always complaining I’m tired. Actually this is the main challenge in my life – combating exhaustion.  I’m only 26.

Here is a breakdown of my day without the gym:

  • 6 am. 1st Alarm rings. I’m usually awake by now just don’t want to get up.
  • 6:30 am – Get up, shower, get ready
  • 7 am – Walking into office, start the work day
  • 11:30-12:30 – At some point eat lunch
  • 5:30-630 pm – Leave office
  • 7 -10 pm – Home time (dinner, spouse time, chores, relax etc.)
  • 10 pm – In bed, sleep time

Incorporating gym time – which I need. I used to workout 3-5 times a week after work. When I changed jobs this fell off the map. 2017, the new, old routine begins again. So the schedule looks like this

  • 6 am. 1st Alarm rings. I’m usually awake by now just don’t want to get up.
  • 6:30 am – Get up, shower, get ready
  • 7 am – Walking into office, start the work day
  • 11:30-12:30 – At some point eat lunch
  • 5:30-630 pm – Leave office. It’s rare when I leave before 530. On average I’m walking out at 6 pm. But if I want to fit in gym time, I need to leave at 530.
  • Head to gym
  • 7 -10 pm – Home time (dinner, spouse, chores, etc.)
  • 10 pm – In bed, sleep time

Notice I don’t have a commute in there because we live five minutes from my office. Going back to no commute is awesome. I don’t want to drive to work ever again if I can help it. As you can see I get my sleep in (approximately 6-7 hours of sleep). I can’t really change my work schedule at this point in my career. So I need to focus on my health. Health is very important because diabetes (Type 2) and heart attacks are very common in my familial history.  Also, I have dietary restrictions. Read next paragraph.

My kidneys don’t process things very well. I don’t drink caffeinated products. Actually the only liquid I drink is water, with the occasional hot chocolate. A few times a year, I splurge and drink juice. I don’t drink alcohol at all. A couple years ago I let my urologist know I felt extreme fatigue. Fatigue is another level from exhaustion. I would come home sometimes and just pass out. After talking about my health and fitness, we figured out it had to be due to diet. After changing up my diet, mostly refraining from red meat and eating less protein, I started to feel better. Still exhausted but not fatigued.  I can only eat 5-6 ounces of protein (animal + non-animal) and need to stay away from red meat. I also have restrictions on a long list of vegetables, other items that I need to eat in moderation due to certain nutrients that make my kidneys work harder. Chocolate is actually one of the items (sucks). I need to have a low fat, low sodium diet too.

So with all that being said. My big problem is I rely on a high amount of carbs for food. Which is bad (see I don’t want to get diabetes). I think it helps I don’t drink soda. I need to incorporate more vegetables and fruits to my diet. And start the 3-5 times a week exercise routine again. 

My goal over the next few months is to feel healthier and energized. I think it has to do a lot with what I put into my body and my level of activity. So here it goes 2017!

Goals Recap 2016

Another year bites the dust. 2016 was a year of change. Halfway through the year we packed up our belongings and moved cross country to the Midwest. I have been at my job for 6 months and my husband is in transition. My husband is taking more time off than expected (extended vacation), but spending has remained in check. It helps we are low spenders in general. Here is a recap of 2016’s goals.

1.       401K – Complete

2.       Hubby’s IRA – Complete.

3.       My IRA – Complete

4.       Invest in brokerage account – Not Complete

5.       Increase Liquid Cash – Working on it.

6.       Continue ESPP contribution – No longer relevant since I switched jobs.

In 2016 I decided to simplify my goal list and focus on financial goals. It’s probably a good thing because my exercise regime has fallen off the map due to the new job and my lack of motivation to start a good routine. I want 2017 to be different on the personal side. There are a few notable items on my personal side that are influencing my goals for next year.

A)      I have been so exhausted. I am more tired than usual. The exhaustion runs deep. I don’t even want to travel anymore. Staycation anyone? I even wrote about feeling the burn out at work. I don’t even know what to blame at this point. It’s a combination of many factors – corporate work/life balance (does that exist?), a decrease in fitness and healthy foods, not enough sun (I sit in a cubicle all day). Whatever it is I need to figure it out.

B)        I manage the financial household in our relationship. I enjoy messing around with spreadsheets, reading about personal finance, etc. It’s a fun activity for me. I soak up the knowledge. But this really needs to be a joint activity; at least in terms of review. There are times where I feel a huge burden on my shoulders, especially now since my sole income is supporting us. We moved due to my job, but there have been moments of frustration at my husband’s job search. This is what happens when you have a very goal driven person (me) and a very laid back person (him) join forces in marriage. I’m very independent and will dig through a mountain if needed. So, in part, my husband has no need to take care of me in the traditional financial sense. We are working through it. I need him to understand the numbers at a high level and how the numbers are connected to the short term goals which are connected to long term goals and then, ultimately to dreams.

Here are the goals for 2017…even more simplified.

1.       Automate Finances and Do Not Touch Automation

a.        Contribute to retirement accounts (401K, IRAs, HSA)

b.       Invest in brokerage account

2.       Health and Fitness

a.        Exercise 4-5 times a week

b.       Eat more vegetables and fruit, less carbs.

3.       Involve my husband in finances more

a.        Draft an Investment Policy Statement

No FI Number

No FI number. While I dream of financial independence, lately I realized I don’t want to define a number. I have a goal obsessive personality. When I set hard, measurable goals, I become hyper focused to deliver results.

Examples below:

          Graduate in 3 years from undergrad

          Finish master’s in 1 year following undergraduate studies

          Complete MBA following master’s.

          List goes on

 Overall, it’s helped my life. It’s a reason I have been able to pull myself out of poverty. There is a reason I succeed. BUT there is one downside. I miss out on smelling the roses and sometimes this leads to burnout. A goal obsessive personality, also comes with anxiety. My husband reminds me I need to slow down. There are times he frustrates me because I don’t know how to slow down in the grand scheme of things. But it really goes back to a theme.

I need to enjoy life. I say this every year. If I keep repeating and making it a goal, eventually I will get there, right?

I was just reviewing our budget for 2017. We really are not crazy spenders. It shows in our monthly budget. Yes, we eat out, more than we probably should, but it is an indulgent. I love food. My hubby likes it when I’m happy. Wink!

The truth is I’m trying to automate financial transactions so I become less obsessive over our financial operations. After spending so much time at work, my non-working time is limited. I want to focus more again on exercising and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. 

Corporate Lessons

Today’s post is about life in the corporate environment.

My previous company is an international company with more than 100,000 employees worldwide and operations in roughly 180 countries. I was one of many floating in the corporate bowl. Working there was not an easy experience. The company prides themselves in sink or swim training. Basically, you learn to survive on your own or you will soon be out. There were many moments of misery, frustration, joy, and excitement. I built a strong network and left many good friends when I decided to leave. When I announced my resignation, a couple of leaders approached me and expressed their surprise. Apparently, I was viewed as a rising star. Hah good to know!

What I learned from my first corporate job:

          Make friends, not enemies – The company was very political. 50% of the time I felt like I was managing political tension. I know I made a couple of enemies just because I didn’t know how to react. But I learned. Don’t lash out. Always be calm, and step away when you can if situations are getting out of hand. Hard work is important. But it’s also important to make friends. It’s important to be political. At least get people to know your name and like you.

          Help people and express gratitude – I received many a helping hand along the way during my corporate tenure.  I’ve learned to express gratitude and in turn help more people. When I resigned, I approached someone who I knew had been trying to into our department. She was smart, capable, and had the right experience. Plus, she would be a great fit in the great team. I’m happy to hear she will be joining the team in 2017.

          Learn to take constructive criticism – If it’s not constructive, view it as constructive. It’s hard to be criticized. Believe me.

          Don’t be afraid to reach out, ask for help – Don’t be shy. When you don’t know the answer, ask until you find the person that will direct you. If you don’t ask, you will just sit there not knowing, and be unable to come up with an answer.

          Work hard. I get in early and leave late.

 On to my next gig. I am working for an international company with again more than 100K+ employees and operations all over. I’m applying the principles above. I can definitely say the experience at my previous company is helping me tremendously. I’m glad I worked and learned for my previous company. It toughened me up. 

The past six months have been challenging. Learning something new every day. But I can say, I’m closing out the year with good results. 

Go Vote

When we were in Belize last year, our last day there was completely a day off for everyone. It was Belize’s voting day for prime minister. Stores, offices, buses were shut down. The entire country was focused on getting people from their homes to the polling places.

Do your civic duty and vote tomorrow. There are so many places where people don’t get to say. Don’t let people tell you America isn’t great. It is. Most people are very blessed in this country. We just forget to pay it forward. We have to remember to be humans and to treat others with respect.

I texted my brother this morning to remind him to vote. He had already early voted. I’m glad at 19, he is being a responsible citizen!

This will be an election I will remember for years.

Burnout at 26?

I have avoided writing this post for a long time. Why? Well, for many reasons. I feel incredibly lucky and grateful to be where I am today at 26. I did not come from a well off family. My childhood was difficult and honestly my life today is what I imagined it to be when I was young. I wanted to be a career woman and happy. I am happy. My husband is my best friend and companion, and I have found an incredible set of friends. Even though currently they are still in Texas. My relationship with my parents has been improving…slowly, very slowly. But I can’t fight off this feeling and I want to put it all out there.

I feel the burn out. I read posts from a couple years ago and there is a stark difference in overall excitement and motivation. Even thinking about going on vacation is met with thoughts about how much planning I have to do, traveling, etc. It would be just so easy to stay at home and relax.

I think the burnout really started to creep in last year. And this year with all the new changes and job, I just try to do my best to keep myself going. We haven’t taken a vacation this year, so I’m missing out on the rejuvenation from vacation. But see paragraph 2 again. And now that we have moved away further from family, we have to do crazy traveling. There are many times where I just wish we could stay at home and enjoy the downtime. But we would be labeled selfish by both sets of the family. Most people enjoy being with family. Me? It’s fun, but also a lot of work. I don’t know how the people in Friends got away with not spending holidays with family.

I, also, think my perception of my closest family is changing. You know when a couple starts having kids, and their nuclear family is their kids and themselves? I know for sure my parents see us this way. When my mom thinks of her family being together it means having her kids (my brother and I) with her. It doesn’t necessarily mean being with her family (her parents), although that would be a plus. I remember talking to my mom on this last mother’s day. She was very sad because she wasn’t going to spend mother’s day with my brother or I. But then I mentioned to her, she was actually going to spend mother’s day with my grandmother (her mom), and that my grandmother would be happy to be with her. It wasn’t the same thing, she said.

As you read this, it might not seem like a big deal. But in Mexican culture, family is very big. And so by deviating from the nuclear concept of family, I’m not only deviating from my culture, but I’m also in turn being very selfish (catholic guilt).

My husband is tackling this as well. His parents seem very liberal in their concept of spending time with family, but really are not. His mom also has a very strong concept of family.

But we all grow up. I’m growing up and my nuclear family has become my companion, my spouse. How do you translate this to your family? How do your parents begin to understand their needs are not necessarily your needs? And how do you communicate the deviation? It’s not an easy answer, especially when you care about your family and when your family is very strongly opinionated (nicest way to put it here).

Don’t get me wrong. Family is family. I still feel very strong towards them, but when you are so tired…sometimes it’s hard to balance everything.

Now to the job aspect. My last job was stressful. Tons of work, very demanding stakeholders, etc. This new job is stressful in different ways. I’m drinking from a fire hydrant and learning the politics around here. The competition is very fierce. It’s a very competitive team environment. In in front of my desk by 7 am. I often don’t leave till 6 or later. Now some might say, well just quit your job or find a way to retire early and not have a job. I don’t know if either one is the solution. Plus, it’s not the solution any time soon.

There is a reason I stepped away from monetizing and growing this blog a while ago. I need a creative outlet where I didn’t have KPIs or deadlines or have to think about others’ perception of me. I, also, don’t want to be pressured to write about how my life is very rosy and beige. It’s not black, but it’s not peachy either. I’m tackling challenges left and right. I’m battling burnout and somehow trying to figure out how to stay motivated. I’m exhausted. So exhausted. I probably wrote about this through my latest blog posts, but I never really addressed the issue as a case of burnout.

Plus, it sucks to acknowledge burn out when you have so many bloggers that are early retired. But they are just at a different point in life. I’m 26. This is what it’s like to be 26. I feel both old and young at the same time. Maybe this is why you see so many people take off and do an MBA around this age? Quitting for two years is not an option for me. One, I already have an MBA. Two, I don’t feel like being stressed out over money because I don’t have a job will help my mental state.

There is no clear answer, so I will just keep chipping away at the mountain. Tomorrow will be another day!

**Again, not depressed. Just tired. I need an entire two weeks of just sleeping, going to a spa, etc.

*** I feel for the parents that have kids. I don’t know how people fit everything in a day.Feel so much respect for parents.

The Itch To Own Again

It’s weird a feeling. The itch to own a structure, to have a mortgage. To say to people, this is is my house!

There are a lot of opinions on the rent versus buy. Financial practicality aside, owning your home is very emotionally charged.

While we are not ready to buy another home in this new city, a part of me is getting the itch to own again. Sigh…such an irrational itch!

Darn HGTV and your house hunters collection!

Owning the last home (oh wait we still own it) was both satisfying and exhausting. It’s really changed our perspective in terms of what we would want in our next home.

We are enjoying being renters for now. Our apartment is very cute.

Need to remind myself about the downsides of owning a home – the maintenance, the down payment and costs, the permanence. It would limit our ability to move due to a job. Although switching to another company is not an option right now. I need to stay with the company for 3 years to vest my 401K match!

ahh..irrational feelings. Maybe it’s because I’m an immigrant. My immigrant parents are also very attached to their real estate. My mom’s dream is to own a nice little home.

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