Tag Archives: home

Lessons in Adulting: How Much Should Living Room Furniture Cost?

When we moved in together two years ago, my Craigslist-purchased couch with ripped cushions and protruding feathers, along with my once-glued together, now peeling-apart IKEA coffee table and self-desctructive Tar-gey bookshelves which are not safe to be around a small child, seemed perfectly fine for a trancient space. With barren white walls and a few half-filled and altogether empty frames scattered about the floor, this now-married couple is trying to figure out how to create a place that feels like “home” without overdoing it (you know, like we (…ahem… I) overdid our wedding.)

Right now, we really can’t have guests over because the place is embarrassing, even on its good days when I’ve cleaned up the piles of mess. Our lease is up in May, but it is doubtful we will move next year or anytime soon (the only real reasons for us to move is 1 – rents going up an unreasonable amount, 2 – we have a child and said child turns 2, or 3, one of us gets a job super far away, like, in another state, and we need to move.) Otherwise, it looks like we’re hunkered down for a few more years in our 800-square foot, overpriced-due-to-Silicon-Valley-rental-costs abode.

This furniture has got to go. Continue reading

Should I Buy a Condo?

Most jobs in my industry are an hour north of where I live (more than that in traffic) and I’m growing weary from the commute. We’re paying $2500 a month in rent currently for our 800 square foot one bedroom and I’m starting to think renting is no longer cost effective for us. Granted, we won’t be able to afford a 1 bedroom quite a nice as the one we are renting – BUT – we could buy a 1 bedroom condo closer to the city and then at least we’d lock in our monthly rates so we can actually afford to stay here.

My crazy thought is buying a 1 bedroom 1 ba condo. I wouldn’t have considered this before, but it’s the only way we can own property for <$600k. My goal would be to get the monthly mortgage under $2000 so with standard $500 HOA, we’d be paying the same (or even less next year) than what we are paying to rent. Continue reading

No Cable TV for Now, Fast Internet Instead

Since I’m determined to read more, get out of the house more to see friends and exercise, and generally not be a lazy couch potato, I decided to avoid getting cable for the time being. Instead, we’re getting 50MB internet and skipping cable altogether.

The cable bill for the first year wouldn’t be that bad, but then I’d get used to it and have to pay the ridiculous fees charged after the first 12 month rates expire. It really is ridiculous to pay $100+ per month for cable television when most of the shows are available through other means. I even already have Amazon prime which offers many shows and movies as part of the membership. There’s also the option to buy Hulu Plus or Netflix if this isn’t enough.

Instead of the cable membership, I splurged on a waterproof case for my Kindle ($70) so I can come home after work, fill up the tub, and read myself silly. Better that then starting mindlessly at the screen. I figure if I’m desperate for television I can sign up for the local gym, which offers tv screens in every cardio machine… at least then I’ll be able to get healthy while watching television instead of the opposite.

Buy vs Rent: A New Thought

We’re moving in together. For real this time. For better or worse, we found out the place he’s currently living in is not a legal dwelling and thus he must move out. We were planning on moving in together this year, but this also expedites the planning and upcoming move.

While it might be dumb to consider buying something together now, I have a few ideas that could make this concept be more logical than irrational. Even though I occasionally mention moving back east at some point, the reality is that I want to stay in The Bay Area. I want to live here forever and have my kids born and grow up here. Continue reading

Mint’s "Goals" Depress Me.

It’s been a while since I’ve written on here because I’ve been so busy lately. Which is a good thing. I’m working a full-time job, spending some time on a side project, and not spending all that much money. All in all, I’m doing “good.” Heck, I’m doing amazing right now in relation to how I’ve done at any point in my life before – financially, personally, etc.

Yet I feel so far away from reaching any of my goals. Mint’s new Goals feature makes my future look terribly bleak. Especially given that my current salary — of about $120k per year, give or take — is temporary at best — and even WITH that salary I can’t save enough to reach my “goals.” At least according to Mint.
I made four different goals for myself…
Emergency Fund — I have my $8k in that, and it’s the only goal I’ll reach.
Save for Grad School — I need to save $110k, I’ve saved $1.4k. Yikes. At this rate I’ll go to to grad school by the time I’m 90.
Buy a Home? Yea, right. I need to save $207k for a downpayment. I haven’t really saved anything for a downpayment yet, but I’m counting my various non retirement investment as savings for a downpayment (which, it is if I ever want to buy a house.) Ok, so how much do I have saved now? A whopping $13k. Mint so nicely reminds me that I’m “4 years and 10 months behind” my savings goal. Granted, I wrote that I want to buy a million dollar house – but that’s not unreasonable where I live. That’s a pretty small house where I live. And I’ll never do it. Ok, so I’ll rent forever. Or I need to more to Kansas (I guess I’m renting forever.)
Retirement? Well, I’m doing OK on that goal. It doesn’t LOOK like I’m doing ok since according to Mint I need to save $6,362,665 by the time I’m 65 to hit my retirement goals. Yikes. Yea, so that’s giving me $80k per year in retirement income and I doubt I’ll need that much money when I retire, but I wouldn’t mind having it. I have $22.8k saved so far, at 26. You may say I don’t REALLY have $22.8k saved because that money will probably have to go to the down payment on my house one day when/if I want to buy one. Which SUCKS because I don’t want my retirement savings to go back to zero.
I know it’s good to be honest with yourself about your goals and how much you have to save, but really this is just terribly depressing. And as I contemplate seriously applying for graduate school next year, I am forced with knowing that grad school will make my goals even further from ever becoming a reality. It almost makes me want to give up. I’ll never own a house and never have enough for retirement. I’ll be lucky if I can buy myself another car when this one dies.

Should I Rent Forever?

I’ve been fairly happy renting thus far in my life. At 26 years old, I’ve never really contemplated owning my own place until now. My rental costs have varied greatly over the years…

2004-2005: Chicago, 2br apartment shared w/ 3 people in a nice area. I lived in the living room w/ a curtain for a door for $460 a month. I think some utilities were included in that too.
2005: lived in DC, where I rented a room with a semi-private bath for $800 / month. Utilities were included. Then I moved to California, where my first place was “free” but it was really part of my internship stipend. Soon after I moved again… to a 4br, 2ba apartment shared with 3 other girls (and their friends on occasion) for $480 / month. When I got a full-time job, I decided I deserved my own place, even though I was making about $35k per year. So I found a studio with utilities included for $900 / month. In a year, the rent for that studio went up to $1100 / month. Even though I knew this was a lot, I didn’t want to deal with moving and I liked where I lived. So I stayed one year. Then they raised the rent to $1350 / month and I decided to leave the apartment complex and look for a more affordable, room-share situation. I found a place in a nice condo complex for rent with a smaller personal living area but a nicer all-around apartment for $635 / month plus utilities split between myself and two other girls.
The problem is that now I live far from my job so the cost of the monthly commute is about $230 / month for parking at the public transit station plus the train, and that’s not including the gas it costs me to get to and from the train. So… you could say now I’m spending $300 / month on transportation, or $1000 / month on “rent” including transportation and utilities. So I ask myself… should I move? If I do move, how much should I pay for a place? While my roommates and I aren’t best friends, we get along fairly well, and I’ve gone through my share of roomie nightmares in the past, so I’m not in the mood to get into any of that mess while just getting into the jive of things at my new job. Still, the cost of the commute plus the actual commute (about 1 hour 15 minutes each way) will eventually get to me. I could even find a place that costs the same or cheaper slightly closer to work… maybe 30 minutes closer… because there are some areas that are not as nice as where I live now that are on the way towards the public transportation stations. I really should be living there. But I just don’t want to deal with moving.
Then, the idea always pops in my mind… what about buying a home? Well, that’s really not possible right now… the average costs of a 1br condo here are like $600,000. Given that I only have $50k in savings at the moment… it will take me a long time before I could even afford a down payment on that. And the more I think about it, the more I realize owning a home… at least in this area… may never make any sense. It’s just too expensive. I look at how much my parents still pay for their house after all these years in mortgage and property taxes and homeowners insurance and think, wow, I should really just rent forever.
Of course, when I have kids one day, I guess it would be nice to own a home. I liked growing up in one place all my life… I think it would have been really tough to move around a lot, being as shy as I was. Then again, lots of families move a lot and they do just fine. And you don’t have to move all the time in a rental, you just never know when your landlord will decide they need you to leave. I guess that on its own is enough reason to consider owning. But really, how can anyone afford home ownership here? This year I’ve hit six figures… I may even make $150k this year, and that isn’t near enough for me to own a condo or a home in this area. I think I’d have to be making something like $300k / year before I could even really consider owning.
Do you own a home? Do you rent? What’s your monthly cost for owning or renting? Why do you own… or rent?

Savings 2009 Update

Since I don’t have a 401k, I’m always paranoid about not having enough saved for retirement. I know they advise workers to put at least the % match in their 401k above and beyond their Roth, but without a 401k, I’m still at a loss for where to save my money. Also, with grad school in the future (2-5 years away) I don’t know how much to save for retirement vs. that. Oy.

To be honest, beyond my Roth IRA, which I max out at $5000 each year, I don’t keep great track of what money goes into my other savings accounts. I save, I probably save quite a bit all things considered, but I haven’t really looked at what that means until today.

This year, so far, I’ve put $4850 in my Roth IRA. I have invested $5000 in ETFs and stock purchases in my Sharebuilder account. Plus, there’s about $600 in my 529 plan. Ok, so I think I stashed away $10k this year, or more. That’s not too bad. Then again, I know people who are saving 30% or more of their after-tax income. Which would be probably more like $20k.

Granted, I lie to my net worth spreadsheet and tell it to deduct more taxes then I will need to in order to have a fiscal boost come April 15. But that usually goes straight to next year’s Roth IRA. I always like to start it out with a $3000 one-time investment in April, then add in for the rest of the year until I hit the $5000.

I really wish I could buy a house right now, but besides not having the money to do that (I only have $30k saved, and much of it is in retirement accounts) it just wouldn’t make sense. So I’ll keep throwing away $600/month on rent. I was at my friend’s house yesterday — the one she bought with her engineer fiancee — and I’ll admit, I’m a bit jealous. But then I remember I don’t NEED a house right now. What would I do with a giant house besides pay a lot in bills and make a mess of it?

Moving: The Latest On My Decision

I’ve decided to move.*

(*”decided” in the dictionary of me = decided for today. That could change tomorrow.)

I don’t want to live in a super-cheap living space, per say, but there are a lot of big-ticket items I want to buy within the next few years (including cosmetic teeth work and a condo), and spending $1300 a month just means that my dream purchases will not be possible.

I looked at a place for about $960 that I like, but it’s a bit out of the way and I feel like if I’m going to move, I might as well try to get something even cheaper than that. I’m not sure how cheap I can go… The $960 place at least has its own bathroom (just a shower, no bath), and anything less than that will undoubtedly be a shared bathroom situation.

There are plenty of random roomshares on Craigslist for about $500-$700, and some of them even include utilities, but the majority of them do not have kitchen “privileges.” I don’t really understand how using a kitchen can be a privilege, it’s not like you’re at college with a cafeteria to eat at. Not that I use my kitchen all that much other than to microwave something, but I still think I ought to get a place with a kitchen.

It’s looking like I’ll just move out at the end of June and look for a place in July. If I do manage to find a place for “cheap” I’m going to really be careful not to overspend throughout the year and instead to really focus on saving. That way I can save up to get my teeth fixed, maybe get some laser hair removal for my face, and finally one day buy a condo.

Ridiculous to Stay, A Pain in the Ass to Go

Ah, it’s a beautiful Saturday morning in my lovely studio apartment. The spring air is keeping the room cool – in a few weeks it will be piping hot outside, with the heat somehow collecting in between the walls of my studio.

In the background of my waking state is TLC’s “My First Home.” A couple is looking for a home in the Bay Area, and they’ve found one they loved.

Meanwhile, I search Craigslist ads vigorously. It’s not that I’ll find a place to move today, as my move-in date is July 1 at earliest, but I’m still trying to decide whether to leave my complex for a more affordable option or stay here and deal with a tight budget and less savings.

When I moved in and the studio cost $905 including utilities, it wasn’t that much of a jump from the $700 + utilities room share options available on the market. For $100 extra dollars, approx, I could have a place of my own. That was a no brainer.

Then rents went up to $1050 and I decided to stay. It was a shock, surely, but it still seemed like a pretty good deal given my options.

$1300 – is about double what I could be paying for a room share situation. I could even compromise and get a room and bathroom in a 2br/2ba condo apartment for less than the $1300.

Moving is such a pain in the ass, though. I could hypothetically “move” for little cost, if I can get some friends to help. As far as furniture goes, I don’t have much. The only large thing I’m sold on keeping is my bed, since I bought that new for a whopping $800 two years ago (I decided after 6 months on a used futon with poor support, I deserved a good night sleep). I have a large bookshelf I got at Target a few months ago and it’s really heavy – but it would be a shame to toss that! Other than the bed, bookshelf, and some small tables, I have a piece of crap IKEA coffee table that started to fall apart before I put it together (though it’s functional) and a large horizontal dresser that I could part with – I’m not sure anyone would want to buy it, but I’d consider trying to sell it on Craiglist. I have plenty of room in my closet now for my clothes, and I’d hope that wherever I move would have at least this much closet space. Then there’s a TV, a printer, a microwave, and other odds and ends. I really don’t have that much stuff. It’s still a bitch to move, but it’s not like I’m moving a house worth of life. It’s just whatever I could fit in a studio for the past two years.

Also, having less space might be good for me. It would keep me organized as there wouldn’t be places to hide things. Heh.

The downside of getting a roommate is – well – obviously enough to have me living in a studio currently. Noise. Roommate drama. Not being able to cook naked in the kitchen. These things are hard to compromise on. 🙂

My biggest fear is that I won’t find anything I like. I have some cushion. If I decide to move – I’d come back to California around June 20-something, and I’d have that time to finish getting out of my apartment. I’d put my things into storage and move in with my good friend who has offered up her second bedroom. I’ll pay her rent, but it will be way less than what it would cost to stay in my studio in August. $1300 versus, maybe $500 or something (plus whatever it costs to put my things in storage for a month.) That will cover the 2 weeks in June that I can’t work because I’m going to be in Israel on vacation. Then I can really take some time to find a good living situation.

The real question is, how picky am I? I get anxious in so many living situations. Finally, in this light and airy studio I feel, well, at the very least calm and comfortable. The greenery outside (beyond the parking area) makes me happy. It almost reminds me of home, back east. I love waking up here.

But is it the stupidest thing in the world not to move? If I did move, I’d look for a place ideally that costs less than what I’m paying now, so I could pay under $1000, and I’d put any extra money between that and the $1300 I would be paying for my studio into a special down payment fund. I’m tired of renting, and dealing with yearly rent increases.

I just wish I felt more settled. All of my friends are getting engaged and married. Buying homes. Me? Well, I’ve been in a relationship for two years. We joke about moving in together one day but we’re talking more apartment than house. He’s going to grad school in fall 2009, and who knows where I’ll be. That’s why it really doesn’t make sense for me to buy anything right now. Even though the prices for condos in the area are coming down while rents are going up, up, up.

The more I think about it, the more I realize the only logical option is to move. I could be saving $500 a month if I find a place for $800, or $6000 a year. $6000 a year is nothing to shake a stick at. That’s a huge chunk of change to go to my downpayment fund. Even if it’s $4000 and I get a slightly nicer place, it’s still a lot of money.

*sigh* – I just… wish there was an obvious option hitting me on the head. But life is never so black and white.

Is Moving Worth It?

As many of you know, my rent has gone up $400 in the past two years. That, alone, should be enough to get me out of this $1300 a month studio apartment.

But looking at the apartment rental listings on Craigslist, there really isn’t much for anything less. And at least this is utilities included for $1300 a month.

Going from $1050 a month to $1300 a month is definitely going to mess up my budget. I finally was making enough to do some serious saving (so that one day I could buy a house, god forbid) and this price increase basically makes that impossible – unless I manage to get a job that pays even better than my current job, which is probably possible, but I love my current job, and it pays pretty well, and I’m so happy working for this company, and I don’t want my rent price to control my career.

It’s possible I can find a place cheaper. There are studios occasionally on the market for anywhere from $900 to $1200 in the area. By area I mean anywhere from South San Francisco to Sunnyvale. The “SF Peninsula.” Silicon Valley. Where the majority of people who live here are engineers making bank, and the rest of us are, well, half-wishing we were engineers.

Getting a roommate seems like the only logical thing to do right now. I don’t do well with roommates. Living alone has taken my depression and thrown it out the window. For the most part.

Lucky for me, my friend volunteered her second bedroom as a place for me to live in July. That’s very nice of her. I’ll pay her rent, of course, and I’ll save some money because I won’t be paying $1050 or $1300 – what I would be paying if I stay in my current place. I can’t stay there forever, but a month will probably be ok. She has a big dog and I don’t get along that well with most dogs. But maybe I’ll make friends with the dog in July.

So if I decide to move out, I’ll pack up most of my stuff before I leave for my trip, and then put all my furniture into storage when I get back at the end of June. In July I’d do my apartment shopping and, fingers crossed, I’d find something decent that’s a good amount less than $1300 a month so the entire moving situation was worth it.

Given, I’m somewhat picky about my living space. I like light in my apartment. I work from home most of the time, so I need a place where I can be comfortable working. A place that isn’t too small. I get really claustrophobic in teeny tiny studios. My current studio is nice and large. It would be nice to have a balcony or patio. It would be nice to have a second room to make my office, so I could deduct that portion of the rent on my taxes. I’d probably turn the bedroom of a 1br into an office and keep the living room set up as a “studio.” I hope the IRS wouldn’t mind that I store my clothes in my office closet.