New Couch Purchase

I have been wanting a new couch for a really long time. But as usual I have champagne taste with a beer budget. After buying a couple of couches that I ended up not liking because they were “more affordable,” I decided I was going to save up my pennies to buy something I really liked.

We spend much of our free time on the couch. We relax while watching tv, I love reading a book on the couch, etc. A couple of years ago I decided I was going to allocate all of our credit card rewards to the purchase of a couch. I saved every single penny. Many people say they don’t have the patience to save the money and they usually spend it, but I had a goal.

I really loved sectionals with down feather wrapped cushions. Looked at Pottery Barn, Mitchell Gold, Room and Board. Did I already say I have champagne tastes?

Well, then I found out about Interior Define. Interior Define has a unique business model. Custom sofas at the right price. Their process bypasses unnecessary middlemen and markups. they pride themselves in offering well-crafter, highly custom pieces at an uncommon value.

It’s important to realize:

  • They only have one showroom in Chicago. To keep costs down, they cut their retail supply chain. If you don’t live in Chicago, you don’t sit on the sofas.
  • Order online or with the help of a rep.
  • Custom choices
  • 365 day return
  • Delivery is “free.” It’s basically included in the price of the couch.

I started looking at the sofas in the fall and tried to read as many reviews as possible. I ordered fabric swatches and started talking to a designer specialist. Over the course of a few weeks, we emailed back and forth and discussed fabric, dimensions, sofa, and leg options. It was a really, easy experience. The rep was really responsive. The experience was very personal. No corporate responses with them!

Finally, I pulled the trigger. I had enough money saved up from credit card rewards and decided to purchase the Ainsley sectional. It takes 8-10 weeks for the couch to arrive because the couches are build to order and custom. It won’t arrive until the end of February or early March. I am super excited! I will share more once I get the couch.

Check out Interior Define. This is not a sponsored post by the way. Interior Define doesn’t even know I blog. The post is based on my personal opinion.

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EOY 2015 Kitchen Reveal

Almost 1.5 years later, I think I have made some great progress renovating my kitchen.

I wrote my kitchen update plan in April 2015. Check out my Kitchen Update Plan.

This is the before picture of the kitchen.

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This is a picture of the kitchen after I finished the kitchen backsplash.

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 11.01.59 PMCan you say complete makeover?

Here is a list of the items that were changed:

  • Changed the lighting to recessed lighting – Cost not sure – Didn’t keep track of it.
  • Added Under Cabinet Lighting – Cost about $250?
  • Added Pendant Lights Above Sink – Cost about $150 from Amazon.
  • Painted Cabinets White – Cost about $100? Rollers, paint, and tons of sweat equity.
  • Added Cabinet Hardware – Cost about $110? Home Depot hardware. Chose the most affordable ones, but we have tons of cabinets, so it added up.
  • Painted the Wall 2x – I painted the wall twice. After two gallons of paint, tons of paint samples because I didn’t want to paint 3x, this came to about $100? Now it’s a light grey. I love it!
  • Added cabinet trim – If you notice from the before picture, the trim was black. I added white wood trim. Cost about $15?
  • New Window Shade – $85? Bamboo shade from Lowe’s.
  • New Dishwasher – Upgraded to a Bosch dishwasher. We thought our old one was broken, when in reality, the reason it was not draining was because we never took out the plug in the new garbage disposal. We bought a new one and had the same drainage problem, and that’s when I figured it out. Oops! Well, I got a super, fancy new dishwasher. Our old one was just a drying rack. Now I use the new one all the time. No more fights over who gets to do the dishes. Total Cost – About $600
  • Kitchen Backsplash – I finally decided on a kitchen backsplash. At first I was going to go for a glass mosaic but it was just too expensive. I decided to do a simple white subway tile. I love it! it makes the space so much brighter. I borrowed a lot of tools. Cost – less than $200. It took a couple days to finish the project. I tiled 55 square feet. It’s not perfect. Some lines are not super straight, the grout lines are not the best, but I did it! Just don’t look too closely. I laid in pain for 2 days straight because my body hurt so much.

I love my new kitchen look. I keep going in the kitchen and just staring at it.

It’s not even the same kitchen!

 

What happened to 2015?

2015

I can’t believe it’s the end of the year. Shortly, the majority of everyone around the world will be celebrating the start of a new year. I feel like 2015 was a blink in time.

I didn’t write a lot in 2015. I had a rough start dealing with some personal issues, and work became even more demanding than usual. There were a lot of days when I came home and passed out. This pattern continued through the weekend. Repeating itself over and over again. It definitely felt like groundhog day. The exhaustion left little room for any kind of creative activity. It felt that if I were to write a post, it would just be depressing. I would want rant about how exhausted I was, how miserable I was, yada, yada, yada.

I turned 25. Golly I’m 25, closer to 26 actually. I can’t believe that I’m getting older. But I don’t mind it. I feel with every year that passes by I become more confident and I begin to understand what makes me happy.

Even though I work a lot, life is easy. I like work, I like keeping my mind occupied, and well it doesn’t hurt to make some money too, right? Plus, I am in a good relationship. My husband and I, despite those days where we annoy the heck out of each other, are partners in life.

Writing this post, reminds me so much about why I enjoy writing. It is just nice to get words on paper (hah in this case, it’s online paper).

I didn’t accomplish all the financial goals I expected to in 2015, but then again, I always set goals that are bit hard to reach. You can check out my 2015 goals if you’re interested in seeing my progress. I did set some good financial habits like automating finances. Every month, contributions get transferred from our checking account to savings account. And now, there is an automatic monthly contribution to a taxable brokerage account. I am putting investment contributions on automatic. I don’t have time to keep track of when stocks go down. I just don’t have time to time the market. So I’m just going to average it out. Just like my 401K.

I’m just trying to be more patient and nicer. Being positive is better for my life, so I need to embrace positivity 200%.

Bye 2015, it’s time to embrace 2016 :)

Shopping For Insurance

Our insurance costs for auto and home have been killing our budget. It is one of the categories in our budget I have identified as HOT. The goal is to save money!

Well this became even more important when I received our homeowner’s insurance rate for next year. Our current policies for auto and home are with Safeco, A Liberty Mutual Company.  Our policy renews in December. Our rate increased from $1560 to $1700. This is the second year of an increase. Last year it went up from  $1400 to $1560. I was so appalled by the new figure, I decided it was time to shop around and find the best rate.

I spend Sunday afternoon filling out online quote forms. Today, it seems like every single insurer called me. I have received quotes from Geico, Nationwide, Progressive, and Allstate. Allstate has been the best quote so far. Below is the situation.

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Allstate’s homeowner’s insurance beat Safeco’s policy. It is $908. The deductible is 1% of the home value. I have requested a second quote with a higher deductible to see the savings. At $908, switching to Allstate is a no brainer.

Allstate’s car insurance is also lower. Right now our annual premium with Safeco includes comprehensive/collision coverage for a whopping $2060 with a $500 deductible. Yes! Crazy amount. My husband turned 26 and I turned 25 in the past couple months, so I believe our new rates reflect our aging age! :) Allstate’s rates are lower. As you can see the same coverage with $500 deductible is $1538. Savings, but it’s not high enough savings for it to make a real difference in the budget. So, I requested a second quote for a higher deductible. The $1000 deductible equates to a $1344 premium. $192 difference. I would make that savings up by not having any claims in 2 years.

So HERE IS THE DILEMMA. If I drop comprehensive/collision coverage, my premium goes down to $716. That is a $1344 difference from current policy and a $628 difference from 1000 deductible.

Our KBB book values are at the top. The money we would save, would establish the new car fund. In just 3 years, the fund would be $1884 from the savings. The risk is if something happens and it’s our fault, the damage to our car would not be covered.

Year 1 $628.00
Year 2 $1,256.00
Year 3 $1,884.00

Any advice for a fellow blogger considering this move?

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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