Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Moderns Are Moving!

Upfront Blogger truthiness-these entries are not real time.

...One day. Since I started my "new" job, almost three years ago now (!!!), I've known that the commute would eventually do me in. It's 30 miles each way. Considering Atlanta traffic, that means somedays I get to work in 45 minutes. Usually it takes me over an hour and sometimes over two. And then the same at night.

Atlanta traffic. Courtesy Business Insider.

Sigh. And did I mention I now go to grad school downtown two nights a week? Something had to give, and as much as we love where we live-having lakes, restaurants, bars, and an adorable downtown all steps from your front door is seriously amazing-in the end we knew we'd have to move. The commute is killing my soul and sapping my already limited free time.

We knew we'd have certain difficulties finding a great place to live. I work in an incredibly expensive part of Atlanta, which is also not a part of town that's super easily accessible. We agree that living as close as possible, with multiple good routes in because you never know when trafficmegadon might break out, would improve everyone's quality of life.

We seriously considered renting an apartment, and we searched for one for a good long time. Finding something in our price range close to my work that accepted all three of our pets (two is the limit most apartments would accept)? It was a unicorn.

Plus, we knew the time was right.

Courtesy Anne Taintor

That's right, we are buying a house!

In an effort to be completely transparent, we actually started looking in April. It was during this time we found out that J's identity had been stolen and we had to put the brakes on searching. We've since been able to work things out and are back in the game.

What Do We Want?

The first thing we needed to decide was what sort of house we wanted. J really pushed at first for a townhouse or condo, for a couple of reasons. There are plenty of great townhouse communities super close to my work. He also liked the idea of minimal outdoor maintenance.

However, there were a few things that made us decide against this route. The biggest is, again, the pet thing. Most communities we were interested in limited owners to two pets per unit. Still have three furry family members. The other consideration is resale value. And finally, for various reasons we are obtaining an FHA mortgage and many complexes weren't FHA approved.

Another important consideration is access. Over the last few years I've sprained my ankle/hurt my knee multiple times. We actually had rented a townhouse during the J's stolen identity debacle but had to back out because I badly injured my ankle and there was no way I could get up into the townhouse and, once in, I couldn't get up to a bathroom with a tub/shower. And, honestly. J's health is still iffy. Easy access in and out of a house and easy access to a bathroom is really important.

So that pushed us over to single family homes. And, honestly, with our price range and with where we want to live, that means an older home. There are modest new builds in metro-Atlanta, but they are way out on the edges. New houses closer in tend to be very large.

I mean, not that I mind old houses! However, we HAVE to have more than one bathroom. J's illnesses make sharing a bathroom tricky. We've also had a reeaaaaalllyyy small house (800 sq feet) for almost five years ago. I don't want a large house-neither of us do- but a little bit more space, and especially a little bit more storage would be amazing.

I'll be back soon with details about house searching. Until then, happy holidays!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Procrastination Leads to Tress-full Consequences

How is the new year shaking out for all of you?

For whatever reason, I have some sort of mental block when it comes to getting a haircut in a somewhat timely manner, which often leads to badly grown out haircuts. There's always something "better" to do with the time or the money, you know? I also have insanely thick hair, so getting a good haircut can be something of a gamble and I haven't had a really good hairstylist in a few years.

When Gone Girl came out last fall, I fell in love with Rosamund Pike's adorable bob. The secret to avoiding that weird mushroom thing that happens with thick hair is apparently an undercut. Genius. I bought a Groupon and took myself off to a new hairdresser who did an AMAZING job on my hair. I loved it. J loved it. 

However, it's a haircut that requires some upkeep...and I really should have gone in for a trim before Christmas. I didn't. And this week it was driving me crazy, so I called for an appointment but the awesome hairstylist wasn't available. I booked in with someone else.

To quote Vivian from Pretty Woman...


Instead of a trim of my cute bob...

I ended up with this.

Yeah, Susan, I'm dreaming of a day when my hair didn't suck so bad.

Being in the chair was like watching an accident in slow motion. My hair completely stumped the poor woman, who was really trying to give me what I wanted. She chopped, she thinned, she tried new was helmet hair, it was newscaster hair, it was everything but what I wanted my hair to be. Honestly, I should have stopped her way before we got to the tragic bangs. There's nothing to do at this point but let it grow. In a month or so I'll let Awesome Stylist back at it.

Lesson learned? Don't put off getting trims, and it's worth waiting for someone who knows how to cut your hair.

The GOOD thing about today? As I left the salon-not in tears but definitely shaken-I spotted a little antique shop along the way, and decided to walk through to calm my shattered nerves.

That's when I spotted this.

That's right, a bright red enameled Le Creuset dutch-or french-oven. I looked at the tag. It said "Red Pot for Food Cooking" and had a price of ten dollars. I swear, I don't think anyone ever cooked in it. It's pristine, and I've wanted a good dutch oven forever. I'm so excited. And as a genius friend pointed out, long after this horrid haircut is but a memory I'll still have and love my beautiful new dutch oven. 

It also plays nicely into a goal I have been doing really well with-cooking and eating at home. We've only had one emergency takeout all month, and that was on a night when I was hours late leaving work. I'll take it.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Best Money I've Ever Spent

Money is so freaking difficult to talk about in a real, meaningful way. It feels impolite and boastful and shameful and wrong somehow. Maybe it's just me? God knows J's been known to share arcane details of our financial lives with perfect strangers {side note-certain buttons on my laptop like the exclamation point aren't working. Ugh. I neeeeeed my exclamation points.}

Heading into last year our financial situation was looking up. We had good health insurance, which with J's condition was an absolute godsend. I had an awesome, full-time job. This blog was still bringing in a smidge of money, and I still freelanced from time to time.

We do have debt. Luckily, not consumer {i.e. credit card} debt. My student loans. We started making inroads there, and I will take openly in painful detail about that later. We just weren't getting as ahead as I wanted us to be.

I'd been using Mint for awhile, so I knew where we went wrong with our spending, but it felt like shutting the barn door after your favorite horse has bolted. I needed to get out in front of the issues instead of tracking them.

So one day I was browsing a fashion blog {maybe Corporette?}  and a commenter mentioned You Need A Budget. I went to the website, downloaded it, looked at it, and shut my computer in horror.

With Mint you hook up your bank accounts and it tells you how much money you have, where you are spending it, what you are spending it on. It requires no effort on your part. You just receive the data.

YNAB could NOT be more different. When I opened it, instead of a web app that would do the work for me I see what looks like an excel spreadsheet on steroids. I was expected to set up endless categories, manually input transactions...everything. Why, in the twenty-first century, would I want to do this?

I read some YNAB success stories and decided I should at least try it. I spent a rainy summer Saturday taking their online classes-which are awesome, by the way-and it started to make sense. I needed to manually run YNAB because I needed to take back control of our money.

This is how YNAB works. You budget the money you currently have. For example, I was paid on the thirtieth. I'll be paid again on the fifteenth. What do I need the money I currently have to do? Well, rent, our utilities, and my phone are all due before I'm paid again. We'd also like to eat and put gas in the car {although my next check really covers our discretionary spending}. So I open YNAB and assign my paycheck dollars to those categories until I have no more money. That's it.

There are apps for your android, iPhone, iPad, and Kindle. The apps let you record transactions. Did you fill up at the gas station? You enter the amount spent and the category {gas}, and what account you used {checking debit? Visa?}.

The gamechanger about YNAB is that you spend by category instead of bank balance. Out of money in your dining out category? Better start the water for pasta, because you are eating in tonight, sister. That is what's revolutionized our monetary situation. It lets us easily draw the line between "yes, we have the money but no, we don't have the money for that." It also helps plan for irregular expenses, map out your saving strategy, and point out spending black holes {again, for us, eating out}.

I've been spoiled by "free" apps and websites, so I really searched for a free or cheaper alternative. I tried making a spreadsheet. I tried some cheaper alternatives. In the end, I decided sometimes you have to spend money. It really was money well spent.

I'll stop now, but I really encourage anyone who'd like stronger control over their finances to check it out. It seems like it goes on sale pretty regularly; check out the YNAB forums {they are also full of awesome money talk}, someone always posts the sales. A Steam sale {that I posted on Facebook} offered YNAB at seventy-five percent off. I bought it during an AppSumo sale for around half off. However, if you want to buy it and there's not a current sale you can use my affiliate link which saves you six dollars and makes me six dollars.

other than the off-chance someone might use my affiliate code, I haven't been paid, perked, or anything else for this post



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