Tag Archives: housing

Saving for a House… or a Condo?

I’ve always wanted to save up enough money to buy a house outright, without dealing with paying double for the house because of mortgage rates. I don’t like the idea of buying anything piece by piece and paying more for it.

How hard would it be to save up for a condo on my own? Well, pretty hard given the cost of living in the Bay Area, but is it entirely impossible?

I probably should get my rent down quite a bit if this is my goal, for wasting $1050 a month on rent that could be put towards monthly house payments seems to be just as ridiculous as paying interest on a mortgage.

This is the first time in my life (as soon as my raise kicks in) that I feel like I’m making more money than I need. I’ve always spent too much as it is, but yesterday when I was re-doing my budget I found that I had the luxury of liberally deciding where to place my hundreds of dollars of savings per month.

I feel guilty for making so much, but when it comes down to it $60k after freelancing and working 40 hours a week is not *that huge* of a paycheck. It’s certainly more than I ever expected to make, and yet I know people my age making much more. What do they do with all that money? I guess the only thing to do… other than living frivolously… is saving for a house and retirement.

Of course, I’m making $62,400 a year between my 40-hour-a-week gig and my stable 10 hours a month marketing writing job, plus any extra freelance pay I take in over the year… but all that’s without any benefits. Last gig I was making $50k plus the $400 a month for the freelance gig, but I had great health benefits at no cost to me. So in the end I think now I’m making just a little more. Plus, I’ve chosen a crappier health insurance so I’m not spending as much on that as I would had I chosen to stay on COBRA.

In any case, if I keep doing a good job at my current gig, and gee I hope I will, I’ll only be looking at raises down the road. Who knows how much… and I’m not sure the marketing writing gig will last forever… but it seems fairly stable (I work for my uncle and write for four different newsletters he designs and sends out each month for his marketing company and the only reason I’d stop writing them is if he loses a client).

I feel overwhelmed with the money I’m making. It’s not that much, yet it’s way more than I know what to do with. Except I certainly could spend it all at the mall in one day, given a slip into depression and a pick-me-up shopping spree.

Instead, I really want to focus on saving. It’s tough seeing my Roth IRA, stocks and mutual funds slipping, but it’s nice to have some extra cash to play with. The major question is, where do I put the money? I know they say to max out your Roth first, but that seems kind of silly if you want to go to grad school or buy a house. This year, for instance, I’ve put $4000 in my Roth, so I have $1000 left to contribute. Next year, though, I’ll have less savings up front to dump in my Roth. I’ve put $7000 in there total for the last two years, I think. It’s down to $6800 or something right now.

Meanwhile my CDs, even those with crappy interest rates, are obviously up a few hundred dollars after being locked away for a year.

To buy a house, and to make money off my money, it seems the Roth might be the wrong place to put my money. Of course I want my savings to multiply towards my retirement, and it’s nice to think of what the money would do over the years if I max out my account every year… and I don’t have a 401k at work or anything, so it’s up to me to save my money for retirement.

It’s funny, because my boyfriend isn’t thinking about any of that yet. Every time I try to tell him to start saving his money in a Roth he gets all defensive and doesn’t want to talk about money matters. He thinks I’m being preachy. Meanwhile, I’m just trying to educate. Oh well, he usually isn’t so stubborn about things, but when it comes to money he wants to figure it out on his own. Fair enough. I just consider him the man I will one day marry, and if I’m going to have money in retirement and he won’t, that will make for one lousy retirement.

Of course, I might die well before retirement (hopefully not) or he might (no!) or maybe we won’t get married at all. Life has too many uncertainties to put all my eggs into one tax-free basket. Right?

But still, the question remains… how do I save $500k for a house so I can pay off the house (or at least most of the house) up front?

I really wish I could save $500k and my boyfriend could save $500k and then we’d both buy a $1 million house. How long would it take to save $500k?

If I save $2000 a month, that’s $24,000 a year.

So it will take some time. It will take 21 years.

So I could buy a house in 2029 when I’m 45. That seems in poor rational.

But… what if somehow I get a raise and I start saving $3000 a month somehow? That’s only 13 years. So I could buy a house in 2021 when I’m 36.

The sad part is that house prices will likely go up by then. Now, and in the next few years during this recession, is the best time to buy. The money I’ll end up paying on inflation and such might end up matching what I’d pay on a mortgage.

I don’t understand how I could save for a house.

Don’t Let Me in a Grocery Store Again, Ever.

Aisles upon aisles of tantalizing packaging torment me until I can’t help but spend on edibles that I may or may not need.

How is it that I go into a grocery store planning on picking up eggs, milk, perhaps a few apples and a sweet potato, and leave with a $70 bill?

I’ll tell you how…

$2.69: Milk, 1/2 gallon
$4.79: Flaxseed Meal (to try putting in a shake. Or to bake with. If i ever learn how to bake.)
$2.13: two red garnet yams (yum)
$5.99: String cheese (a good snack. i ran out of string cheese a while back. i needed more)
$2.99: bath salts (yea, I know, I don’t need these, but… they smell so pretty, and they were only 2.99!)
$14.99: vanilla whey protein powder (i’m experimenting with protein powders. i got a small sample of this brand the other day and liked it. so i decided to buy more.)
$2.91: two pink lady apples (who can resist a pink lady?)
$3.99: figs (they were on sale. They have fiber. They called to me.)
$1.19: one sweet potato (well, my third one, counting the red garnet yams)
$19.99: a strainer. (I needed a new one since I keep burning myself trying to pour hot water when I cook pasta. This one is special. You can boil things in it.)
$2.69: yeast… in case I ever want to use the bread tin I bought the other day.
$2.99: frozen peaches (for a shake?)
$2.89: liquid egg
$2.24: four kiwis (i say a kiwi a day keeps the doctor away.)

________

$72.47
+ CA sales tax of $3.13

Grand Total: $75.60

Gah! I’ve spent so much money on groceries this month. I’m trying to be good and not go out to lunch and dinner always, but I think I’m actually spending more now that I’m going to the grocery store on a weekly basis. Even though I am eating healthier…

In other quasi food-related news…
I bought three shares of McDonald’s stock today. My gold ETF is up and my small cap risk is way down. I decided to put $3000 in my Roth IRA for 2008, so when I’m ready for retirement, at least I can say that I tried to be smart and I put in $7000 before I turned 25. I’ll see if I can get the other $2000 in sometime over the year. More on that later.

Why Living Alone is Worth Half My Paycheck: Part Two

Over lunch today, I plan to drive to my apartment complex’s office and fill out a form to renew my lease for another year. I’m hesitant to do this, as I know I could be saving upwards of $300 a month if I were to live in a smaller “cozy” studio or perhaps even $500 a month if I could put up with a roommate situation. I might put off signing the lease until tomorrow, but tomorrow is the day my lease officially expires – and, as far as I know, I have until June 8 to agree to sign a new lease under the new terms.

Those terms include a rent-raise of $145 per month. My rent, for my studio, was $905 per month, utilities included (sans cable TV, internet and phone.) Now the price is being bumped up to $1050.

Realistically, I could find another studio for $850 somewhere else on the Peninsula, saving me $200 per month, or $2400 per year. But avoiding having to deal with moving again seems to be worth at least $2400. Besides, I’m still hopeful that at some point in the next year I’ll either get a raise or find a job that pays a little bit more. Most likely it will be the later, since I’m pretty sure my company is going to go under sometime fairly soon.

My rent costs have varied drastically ever since moving into an apartment in college. In Chicago, I shared a 2 bedroom with two other people. I opted for the large, door less living room and used a curtain for privacy. At the time, my parents were paying my rent (thanks mom and dad) but because I was so stingy I’d rather spend less on rent than have a place of my own and spend more. When I moved out to Burlingame, CA, I didn’t have a job – so I knew I needed to find an extremely cheap place. I ended up moving into one small room in a 4br apartment (in a nice location) for $480 a month. It was a pretty good deal, considering rents in the area. But my roommates and I didn’t get along. I was (and am) messy and they were party animals. It was a six month lease under someone else’s name. She also paid for all the utilities and charged the boarders rent. What missed me off most was the month she decided not to pay for the wireless internet (although it was supposedly included in my rent and I needed it for my freelance work and my internship). After the six months, I moved out. I was supposed to move in with one of the girls I had been living with and her friend. We found a 3br in Belmont, CA, that I think was going to be about $500 each per month. We paid our deposit of $500 each. Then, a week later, they all backed out on me. I lost $500. I was not a happy camper. At that point I figured it was worth my sanity to move into a pricey studio.

I’m not sure it’s worth it to pay $1050 a month for a studio when after taxes I take in about $2100 a month. It is, however, worth it to live alone.

I like being around people. Sometimes. But when I come home I just want to kick off my shoes, rip off my clothes, and be naked for the rest of the evening. Seriously. I need that kind of freedom. While I make my own amount of noise (the most noise I make is when I’m singing), I can’t stand other people making noise. And while I’m a bit of a slob, I cannot put up with other people’s mess. I like having ownership of my space. It’s not just about being able to go into a tiny room, close a door and shut myself off from the world. Maybe it would be better if I had a room with my own bathroom. But I like the idea of a studio. I’m even more comfortable in a studio compared to a 1br. My studio is very spacious.

What I like about my apartment:

– the high ceilings and openness
– my neighborhood, even though I don’t take advantage of it.
– Location – I’m really smack dab in the middle of anywhere I’d want to be by about a 40 minutes drive either way. I’m a six minute drive from work.
– a nice pool in my apartment complex… that I used maybe twice last year. I’m
– the utilities are included, so I don’t have to worry about forgetting to pay my monthly bills
– the dressing room hallway/closet. Lets me keep my mess contained if visitors come over.
– The size – there’s room in my place for a futon and a full size bed.
– Privacy. No one knows my name. I come home, I disappear into my apartment. I like being anonymous sometimes. I mean, I’d like to get to know my neighbors, but I also like it that no one there knows who I am
– Onsite maintenance workers that are fairly responsive. No annoying landlord to deal with.
– Carport parking (no worries about finding a spot in the middle of the night)
– Decent street parking availability for guests
– Light-hued carpeting and off-white walls make apartment look even more spacious

What I don’t like about my apartment

– The cost
– That it’s a studio, so if I have a friend stay over there is absolutely no privacy
– It’s not rent controlled. I worry how much the rent will go up next year.
– The building is old. Weird things happen. The paint on my wall seems to have melted off in stripes due to the suns rays coming in through the blinds
– Most of the people who live in the complex are older families. It would be kind of nice to know a few people my age in the gigantic complex, in case I were to have an emergency.
– I’m not close to any “downtown” area. I’m a few blocks from a large shopping mall, but that’s really dangerous when it comes to my spending habits, so I avoid going there as much as possible.
– there’s no outdoor trails to rollerblade on locally, I’d have to drive to a trail to rollerblade, and I’m too lazy to do it.

But, I’ve come to conclusion that I have to live alone. At least until I’m living with someone I’m dating or married to. I think I could deal with that. I might even like it. But I just hate living with strangers. Or even friends. Well, mostly I hate living with strangers. I’ve had the worst experiences in roommate situations. And many of them were my fault. I just can’t deal with sharing my space. Sometimes the awkward situations were not my fault. In college, the second year I lived in my 3br apartment a crazy girl moved in. She was extremely overweight and had a lot of mental issues. I could put up with her, but her boyfriend just drove me crazy. He has some sort of social disorder, which is fine and all, but I felt threatened by him on occasion. Once I was watching TV in the common area and this girl got a phone call so he walked over and turned off the TV without asking me, even though it was obvious I was watching it. So I said “excuse me, I was watching that” and he says (in a very creepy, evil way) “fuck you.” I was so pissed off I walked up to him and said “excuse me, you do not talk to me that way. Do you live here?” I was very proud of myself for my defense, but ultimately the whole occurrence sent me into depression for a few weeks.

It’s just I have such anxiety when it comes to dealing with other people. I honestly feel like there has been this huge weight lifted off my chest ever since moving into my own place and getting my car for transportation freedom. All of that costs a fortune, but I think it’s worth my sanity.

Besides, I save money on not needing therapy.

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RENT $ HISTORY

$450 (utilities not included): Chicago (Lincoln Park) “living room” in 2br apartment.
$800 (all utilities included): Washington, D.C. (SW) room sublet in a house.
$? (internship paid for housing): Berkeley, CA (room in 3br apartment)
$480 (all utilities included): Burlingame, CA (room in 4br apartment)
$905 (most utilities included): San Mateo, CA (studio)
$1050 (most utilities included): San Mateo, CA (same studio after rent increase)

Why Living Alone is Worth 50 Percent of My Paycheck: Part One

According to the recommended budget split, I hear you’re supposed to spend 20 to 30 percent of your income on housing. After my rent increase next month, I’ll have hit 50 percent. As I’ve pointed out before, my rent is now $1050 a month for a studio apartment. Before you gasp in horror, take note that the hefty fee also includes PG&E, water, and garbage, and access to a swimming pool.

Still, living in The Bay Area is painfully expensive. Out of curiosity, I went on Craigslist to see what $1050 would get me in various locations of the country…


SAN FRANCISCO

$1025 Quiet Studio with Beautiful Floors and Remodeled Bathroom (downtown / civic / van ness)
This gorgeous apartment has hardwood floors throughout, fresh paint, a lovely remodeled bathroom, and a walk-in closet. Located at the back of the building, this apartment is perfect for someone who enjoys peace and quiet.

$1050 Bright, Spacious Studio *Completely Remodeled* OPEN HOUSE. (downtown / civic / van ness)
High ceilings and large windows make this a bright, beautiful, spacious studio. Completely remodeled with fresh paint throughout and has refinished hardwood floors. There is a walk-in closet, too. A separate large eat-in kitchen has plenty of room for a table. The building is centrally located, with great public transportation options, just a block from the Van Ness corridor. There is an elevator and a large laundry room in the basement with coin operated washers/dryers. Sorry, we do not allow pets. There is a resident manager on site and the building is professionally managed. The required deposit is $1150.00

NEW YORK

$1050 HUGE 2 ROOM STUDIO BY A/D EXPRESS BIG KIT-FRENCH DOORS + PARK VIEWS!! (Harlem / Morningside)

RENOVATED PRE-WAR 2 ROOM STUDIO – BIGGER THAN MANY HARLEM 1 BEDS
GLASS FRENCH DOORS! EAT-IN-KITCHEN!
THIS GREAT APARTMENT IS A FEW SHORT BLOCKS TO THE EXPRESS SUBWAY A/C/D AND CONVENIENT TO ALL
THIS APARTMENT FEATURES –
GLEAMING OAK HARDWOOD FLOORS
CERAMIC TILED EAT IN KITCHEN – BIG ENOUGH FOR A TABLE AND CHAIRS OR OFFICE SET UP
MODERN RENOVATED WINDOWED EAT-IN-KITCHEN WITH COUNTERSPACE!!!
A HUGE DOUBLE CLOSET AND STORAGE ABOVE
A WINDOWED BATHROOM WITH A ENAMELED PORCELIAN TUB
AND LIGHT!! IT’S SUNNY AND BRIGHT WITH PARK VIEWS!!

CHICAGO

$1000 / 1br – Gr8 Price & Location?Rehabbed?FREE Heat, Gas, Water?No Dep Super location! Super price with lots of savings with free heat, gas & water!!! Plus everything has been rehabbed.. Check out the stats: • It’s a new rehab. • It’s a great price!! Heat, water AND gas is included in rent, and there is NO security deposit!! • It’s a bright unit located in a courtyard building w/ fruits trees!! • It’s in a great location… Lakeview… walking distance to Wrigleyville, Lake front, gyms, restaurants and Lake!!! • VERY EZ access to CTA (bus and el)!! • It’s a REHABBED 1 bedroom about 500-600 sq ft. That means everything has been recently rehabbed!! New kitchen, new appliances including dishwasher, new hardwood floors throughout, new electric service, new dry-wall, new bathroom, new vanity. • Also, there is laundry & bike storage in building. • Cats and small dogs (30 lbs or less) allowed • Cable and internet ready. • 24/7 maintenance.

$1045 / 1br – GET A JUMP START……………for August. Make sure you have a look at our building as part of your search. You will find a gorgeous vintage high rise across the street from the park, several blocks to the lake & Zoo, by boutiques, restaurants, bus stops, grocery. 24 Hour doorman, hardwood floors, fitness room, laundry facility, heat included, no security deposit. Call 773.477.7000 for an appointment. 401 W. Fullerton.

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What can you get for $1000-$1050 a month’s rent in your neck of the woods? I’m planning on following up with a post tomorrow to explain why I spend 50 percent of my rent on living alone, and why I’m damned happy I do it.

PF Jitters

My $6000 was officially transferred from the safety of my Maximizer checking account into my IRA and Mutual Fund investment accounts. I’m excited about taking the investment leap myself, but nervous as all hell that the leap might be futile, or worse. I’m pretty comfortable with the $3000 I put to my Roth IRA. It’s in a nice Retirement 2050 plan that’s already diversified with my retirement date in mind. And since Vanguard seems to be a pretty reputable company, I’m not too worried. However, the $3000 I put towards that Mid-Cap Growth Index Fund is probably a bad idea.

As of 10:25am, my $3000 in my mutual fund is down 5 cents, and my $3000 in my IRA is up 3 cents. Why is a 2-cent loss making me so god-damn nervous? And furthermore, why is my Mutual Fund down 5 cents when looking at the day’s activity in the fund, it should be up a bit? I’m rather confused right now. Maybe it dropped down the second I put my money in. I know I’m going to be anal about checking how the fund is doing, despite that I’m going to try to force myself to keep my money in there for a few years (until grad school) unless someone more knowledgeable than me advises me otherwise.

I’m kind of glad I’m prohibited from getting involved in the nitty gritty of stock trading (due to covering technology companies that I’d like want to invest in), so I’ll likely avoid making any major investment mistakes. Still, putting $3000 in an account that could drop down to $2000 in a few days makes me rather nervous. I mean, the largest investment I’ve ever made with my money thus far was that godawful CD with a 3.1 % interest rate. I put $7000 into that a few months after I got out of college. It seemed like the wise thing to do at the time. It was an 18-month CD, and I figured since I had upwards of $30k in savings somehow, I could spare $7000 for such a “risky” investment. Well, it felt risky at the time.

Sadly enough, I didn’t bother to call my bank when the CD matured, thinking that it would just automatically transfer to my checking or savings account and I could deal with it then. Of course, now I know that CD’s automatically reinvest themselves at the same rate, for the same amount of time. So now I have my $7000 (which is at about $7400 after gaining the 18 months of Interest, which I guess is better than nothing) tied up in this low-interest CD. Meanwhile I recently saw an ad on Bank of America for an 8-month 5.01 % CD and I threw $5000 at that. For some reason they haven’t processed my CD investment yet, though. I guess I have to call them and confirm some things before they can pull my money from my checking account and put it in the CD.

In more exciting news, since last weekend I’ve made $1.57 since enrolling in BankofAmerica’s “Keep the Change” program. It’s kind of neat – every time you use your debit card, they roll your spending cost up to the nearest dollar and deposit the difference in your bank account. So, for instance, if you spend $1.01, they’ll toss in 99 cents. Of course, most purchases end up being, like, $2.92, so in that case you only get 8 cents. But over the course of one week and eight transactions, I’ve afforded myself a small coffee. I also apparently racked up $2.46 in my AdSense account somehow. I guess that means people are actually reading my page. That’s exciting! Extra income, even $4 a week, is certainly helpful. I’m nervous about this AdSense account thing, though. I’ve read some horror stories about how Google has shut down accounts if you click on your own links. And it’s not like I’m going to do it on purpose, but sometimes I’m not thinking and I’m actually interested in an advertisement shown on my page. I’ve never had to restrict myself from clicking something. So hopefully I can restrain myself.

On another note, I’m saving some money this month because I’ve offered a friend who’s recently moved to the area a place to crash until she finds a place. I wasn’t going to make her pay anything, but since she offered I figured I’d split my rent and pro-rate it. So that comes out to $15 a day. And I’m also possibly designing some websites for my friends for a rather small fee (compared to my normal rate.) But I never count my freelance money as income. It’s always “extra,” although in actually due to my poor spending habits and inability to keep a budget, I’m lucky if my freelance wages cover all the cash I’ve spent in a month.

So salary-wise, make about $2200 a month after taxes. (Though this year I ended up owing a lot in taxes and I haven’t done anything with the W4, so I’m figuring I make about $2100 a month, really. $905 of that goes to rent & utilities (PG&E, water, trash, etc are “included” in my rent). Oh, what the hell, here’s a list of my basic fixed monthly costs:

$905 — Rent (includes utilities) – Going up to $1050 per month in July, plus requiring renter’s insurance.
$60 – Verizon Cell Phone Bill, if I remember to pay it on time and don’t use 411, etc.
$64 – RCN TV & Internet
$8 – the converter box from RCN that I’ve yet to find time to return, that I’m apparently “renting” on a monthly basis
$5 – RCN “Home networking” – on my RCN bill, but I have no idea what this is. WTF?
——————————
$1038 total for now
$1188 + whatever rent’s insurance costs in July.

Now, time for some depressing figures…

My spending on rent currently is 45 percent of my income (you’re only supposed to spend 20-30 percent of your income on rent, I hear.) In July, sans a raise (and I doubt I’m getting a raise anytime soon) I’ll be spending 50 percent (or more) of my income on rent.

It doesn’t take a personal finance blogger to tell me that’s a terrible idea.

I’ve been thinking about writing a post about why on earth I live alone in the SF Bay Area on $35k a year, so I think I’ll write that up over my lunch break later this afternoon.

In any case, with $1050 left for all the other things in life outside of basic housing, TV, Internet and phone, I just keep overspending. It doesn’t help matters that I’m spending upwards of $350 a month in gas to get to my various rehearsals that are 40 or so miles from my home (my “hobby” is doing community theater – which is free, outside of gas mileage and makeup for shows and the like.)

But hey, at least I made $1.57 in “keep the cents” change. Then again, Bank of America, for some reason, has that $1.57 noted as a “spend” in my checking account. So I’m down $1.57 for the time being. What’s up with that? Grr.