Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tiny Houses - Could I Live In One?

Lately I’ve become a bit obsessed with tiny houses. Maybe more like intrigued. For those of you that don’t know what it is, a tiny house is literally what it means. A house that is tiny. My parents and cousins will remember the small log cabin my grandpa rented for our family reunion in South Dakota back in 1990 - at the time we all felt bad for my grandma because my grandfather was so cheap he couldn’t even splurge for a nicer cabin on vacation. But now I’m thinking maybe he wasn’t so cheap after all. Ok, well, he was known for driving 20 miles to a different town because he heard they were selling gas for 2 cents less. But that’s not the point...
A Tumbleweed Tiny House

The point is tiny houses are starting to fascinate me. I know I couldn’t go the tiniest of the tiny. I am a bit claustrophobic, so that would drive me mad. This is what I mean by tiniest of the tiny: 99 sq. feet! But I could do something like this: 356 sq. feet. If I was married and had a few children, then I’d have to consider something larger, like 884 sq. feet.

So what is appealing about this? First, the cost. I could build the 356 sq. feet model for approximately $80,000 excluding the price for a lot and property taxes. If I had a family and needed to go for the 884 sq. feet model, the cost would be around $125,000 excluding the price for a lot and property taxes. Last time I checked, the average listing price for a home in DC was $806,887!! Small lots in DC go for anywhere between 10k and 100k depending on the size and location (according to Trulia). So I think it would be safe to say that I would actually be saving a lot of money by building my own tiny home. If I decide not to live in DC, then the price will drop even more.

Second, I like the look of these homes! They are so adorable! I have two requirements in a home: must have a covered porch (preferably wrap-around, but I can live without that) and must have room outdoors for a garden. These homes satisfy that and do it in such a simple way.

Third, tiny homes are eco-friendly. They use less space, they use less materials, and they do so creatively.

I’m still on the fence about living in a tiny house, but I can definitely see their appeal. I’ve been following an interesting blog that is recording the process of building a tiny house community in DC. Check it out here: Boneyard Studios.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Positive Net Worth Celebration!

Great news! For the first time in ten years, I have a positive net worth! It may only be $259.14, but at least it is not a negative number.

Napoleon approves.
For the past year I have been keeping track of my net worth (assets - expenses). I remember the first time I looked at the number - it was in the hole about $15,000 or so. I still have debt (obviously), but before I started hitting my debt hardcore, I made sure to get an emergency fund in place. That helped bring my net worth up a few thousand dollars, and when you add that with the value of my retirement account and the loan I just paid off, that now adds up to the $259.14 in positive net worth.

Hooray for small victories!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Apartment Search Update

An update on the search for my own studio apartment: 

I’ve found a building I like and have put in an application. I would sign the lease next month and move in sometime in November. This is great for me in terms of timing - I won’t have to take any days off from work if I move during the Thanksgiving holiday and I also won’t have to use any of my Christmas vacation time to move in December. Win-win!

The apartment is in my budget range, but definitely on the high end of it. The good news is all utilities are included except for internet. I don’t have cable right now, but I might take advantage of a special that RCN is offering to get cable and internet together for the year for $40/month. Not bad, considering our internet bill right now is $42. I’m hoping RCN is better than Comcast. See my earlier post on that. (And speaking of you, Comcast, the leasing agent at my potential new building told me that her boyfriend had been put in collections in the same manner I had - when they actually owed HIM money).

If I decide to take this place, I’ll post pictures as soon as I can. The main room and kitchen have a lot of potential. The bathroom is another story. It is monumentally ugly. We are talking horrible, dull blue tiles (the ugliest blue imaginable) and a brown-ish linoleum floor. The light fixture above the sink is terrible as well and there is no window in the bathroom. I’m predicting this will be the worst thing about the apartment. But I’m excited about the large closets and the hardwood floors!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sayonara, Graduate Loan #1!!


I paid off a loan!!

With a final payment of $216.85, I paid off Graduate Loan #1. The original amount was $12,000 and since this past January I’ve managed to pay off all of it. I never thought I’d be able to come up with $12,000 in such a short time. But it just proves that my hard work and persistence to paying down my debt has paid off! Every extra penny I’ve taken in this year has gone to paying off this one loan. I’ve been “giselle-intense” as Dave Ramsey puts it, and now I’m going to keep going on the next loan.

There are a few more factors that might make it harder for me to pay off the next loan as fast. Namely, that I will be moving to my own studio apartment, which, unfortunately, costs more than living with a roommate. I can afford it, I just won’t be able to throw as much money at the next loan than I did at the one I just paid off.

But I do have to weigh my quality of life with how I spend my money, and I’ve determined that living on my own is something I’ve wanted for a while and need to do for myself. I’m still putting all of my waitressing income towards my student loans, which means I’ll still pay less interest over the long term.

Yay me and good riddance, graduate student loan # 1!!!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Loans and Responsibility

From a recent NY Times article

“I keep changing my phone number,” said Amanda Cordeiro, 29, from Clermont, Fla., who dropped out of college in 2010 and has fielded as many as seven calls a day from debt collectors trying to recover her $55,000 in overdue loans. “In a year, this is probably my fourth phone number.” 

While I know that student loan debt has gotten out of control in this country, what I don’t understand is how someone can completely disregard their responsibility to pay a loan? This woman is a single mother and obviously has a lot on her plate. But to change your phone number four times in one year to avoid the debt collectors? Ridiculous. Doesn’t she understand that a loan has to be repaid? It wasn’t a gift, a scholarship, or a grant. It is money that you must pay. 

I feel like people who refuse to pay their own debt make a mockery of those of us who do stand up for what we got ourselves into. I knew what I was taking on when I took out my loans and I knew I would have to pay for them. Because of this I now do everything I possibly can to get out of this debt and repay what I owe. I got a pretty big return on my investment - two college degrees and a world of knowledge and experiences that help me in my career and in my personal life. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but I realize that I must now pay for it. 

Also, the federal government is making it easier for borrowers to avoid default by introducing such programs as the income-based repayment program and the public service loan forgiveness program. The above article mentions that debt collectors and loan agents are not quick to point out that these programs exist, which, in my opinion, is a travesty. But what is more of a travesty is that these people who are evading payment on their loans are not trying to find ways to pay them. What happened to personal responsibility and making hard choices? I don’t like that I owe all of this money, but what is the alternative? This debt is never going to leave me unless I force it out myself. Which I am working on doing 
At the end of the day, you can only be responsible for yourself, but it is a sad reflection on today’s society that taking out loans apparently doesn’t mean anything to many of the borrowers. I think it should.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Farewell, Real Simple

It is with sadness that I will no longer be subscribing to my favorite magazine: Real Simple. You are my perfect magazine - you make me feel happy about organization, food, and finance. You are pretty and have the best tips for how to use old things in new ways. You always know how to tell an uplifting story. 
So sad to see you go, Real Simple.

But the bottom line is you have terrible customer service, and I will no longer allow myself (or anyone who would like to gift me a subscription) to support the terrible employees I encountered today. I talked to five people - two of whom hung up on me, and one of whom actually told me that they did not have access to the information I requested, when in fact, I found out later, they did. It was only when I talked to the fifth person that I learned what had really happened with my account.VISA never processed a promotion I signed up for years ago, so when I tried to figure out how Real Simple got my credit card number, I couldn’t find any record of having purchased a product from them. I mean, how cool is it that VISA messed up and I got a free magazine subscription, but how not-cool is it that it took a whole morning and five people to tell me that was what had happened? This was also complicated by the fact that the original subscription was purchased by my mother as a gift to me, so I never actually placed an order myself until this promotion that was never processed. I know part of it is my fault (for not remembering something I bought a few years ago), but the horrible customer service is what will make me stay away from a company that employs such rude people

Adieu, Real Simple, I’m off to Pinterest to replace you. 

P.S. - I promise the next post won’t be about companies that I am angry with :)