Friday, August 26, 2011

We Got the Keys!

Well I should be a bit more excited, but the whole thing was pretty anti-climatic. This happened after Independence Day weekend. Even at the last minute when signing papers with the notary, there were screw ups on the paperwork as far as the amount being borrowed, mortgage payment, and such. These same questions were still confusing us all while the papers were at the title company. This completely boggles my mind. And then the next thing you know, we get a refund check of about SEVEN THOUSAND from the title compnay due to over paying for closing costs. Yeah, that rubbed me the wrong way because that's $7,000 that we DID NOT have to borrow, but are now paying interest on.

Ugh. Why couldn't they have figured that our before? This whole home purchase has been such a nightmare. I've spent many nights praying about it in order to find some peace. But one thing is for sure, I will NEVER work with, or refer anyone to, Prospect Mortgage again.

So we get the keys but can't move in yet. We had to wait for our general contractor to begin work. The contract says that he has 30 days from close of escrow to begin work, and of course he took his sweet time. Within that time we did what we could do. Within the last 7 weeks, we have done quite a bit.

We raked up 1/3 of the yard and attempted to grow grass. We failed. Plan B is to till it up and start all over. Hubby pruned the trees and it looks great. There is still much to do.

Just a portion of the yard where I started raking.

Home Exterior
I pressure washed the outside of the house. There were years of dirt, dust, spiders, webs, and bugs stuck to the house. I think it needs another go round since some of that stuff wouldn't come off.

Exterminate Spiders
Since the house has been abandoned for a few years, spiders decided to move in. I called Clark to come out and spray, which set us back $175! Ouch! Little did I know that it would take several applications. Hubby bought 6 foggers and bombed the house one day. Those darn pesky daddy long legs are hard to kill. But thank goodness I have not seen another black widow. I want to fog the house a couple more times before we move in. The plan is to get rid of them and then perform a more eco-friendly and cheaper maintenance after.

One of two black widows at the house. Ick!

Water Anyone?
We also purchased and installed a water filtration system due to having private water. Stephanie from Kinetico came to test our water and provided suggestions on which items we would benefit from. I liked the fact that she was very informative, performed the water tests with us present and explained what she was doing. Hubby did his research and tried to look for cheaper alternatives. But in the end, I felt more at ease going with a system that is well known in our area, especially rural areas. It was a pretty penny, but I didn't want to skimp out on the water we'll be using for drinking, cooking and bathing. The only thing we didn't purchase from Kinetico was the reverse osmosis system. We just went to our local Home Depot and purchased one that fits under your kitchen sink.

Our Kinectico water system.

Home Interior
And of course we cleaned the inside of the house. A few weeks ago we ended up having an impromptu cleaning party. Initially it was just the hubs and his coworker. I wasn't feeling too well at the time, but figured I could do something not as strenuous. Then my mom and her hubby finally came out to check out the place. They ended up coming back the following day to do more cleaning. We spent so much time cleaning the walls, molding on the walls, baseboards, ceiling, floors, windows, window screens, the toilets have been cleaned several times, we cleaned.....EVERYTHING. And boy did it make a difference.

Once again, we're still waiting for the few items to be finished by the contractors.
Time's a my son says.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Align Yourself with Those Who Give

In today's society, many of us bust our butts to bring home that dollar. That dollar provides us with shelter and food in our tummies. But unfortunately, that dollar can also make us greedy and selfish. I feel that it is important to make sure that we have positive influences in our lives. Not only do they help you stay focused in the right direction, but aid in connecting with others that share your heart's desire.

I have a good friend...
...who constantly amazes me. She doesn't try to be someone she isn't. She is just a very good hearted person. She lives her life so aligned with the Bible, it's almost spooky. I read 'Our Daily Bread' each day. Sometimes when I read the day's topic, it reminds me of her. I mean, how awesome is it to just naturally live your life the way God intended? How awesome is it to be that obedient?

I write about her because she has an awesome giving heart. Like me, she was not taught about personal finance.

- We watched our mothers' frugal ways, but they never sat down to teach us about it.
- We both learned the hard way, but we also both knew that we needed to use money wisely.
- We both worked really hard for what we have in life.
- And we both believe in saving for things we want or need, instead of getting into debt.

I guess, according to Dave Ramsey, we're both just plan WEIRD. But she takes it to another level.

She is a giver.

The Lord truly speaks to her, and in turn she provides to those who need it. Many times we don't give to others because we feel that they don't deserve it, or because they may not appreciate it. I know that I am guilty of these very things. But if He tells us to give, then we should obey. She even gives to those who have even cause her heartache, and she doesn't regret doing so one bit. Her unselfishness is indescribable.

Even having been in a terrible car accident recently, which resulted in 2 broken ribs, she aches inside because she is not able to physically help those around her. Being strong and independent, it is difficult for her to ask for help since many have failed her in the past. But this does not stop her.

She continues to give in other ways:

   - buying groceries for others
   - purchasing carpet for a friend's home
   - is often overly generous to those that assist her

Hubby installed a couple of ceiling fans and canned lighting in her house one day. She was overly generous with her gift to him. I told her that she need not be. But she said that he must accept it since she may not be able to be as generous in the future to due to her job contract ending soon.

Yes, she carpeted her friend's home. A single mother who was only able to afford a trashed foreclosure, she bought carpet for her friend. Not once in her mind was she expecting anything in return but a thank you. We need more people like her in this world.

Now she is not rich by any means, but giving makes her feel good. It builds true character which many lack. It makes me sad that there is so much greed in this world. But if we buddy up with someone who lives a righteous life, we can mimmick it and spead what we have learned. By living life on this path, I truly believe that it will eventually bring us more riches than we can ever imagine.

I feel blessed... have someone like this in my life. Not only does she provide me with the spiritual essence my life sometimes lacks, but teaches that there are other positive uses for money. I hope to one day experience how she feels when she gives.

Do you have someone in your life with these characteristics?
Do you find that you excel in your personal finance goals due to this?
Are you a giver?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Budget In Some "Me" Time

The same old song.
My life is pretty hectic. I do the same routine day in and day out, and it's getting a little old. I guess up at 5:15am on days I exercise, which is most days. Then I do my morning chores; fix bed, tend to the cat litter, shower and get ready for work. During my routine, I am also checking in on my son to make sure that he's doing his morning routine. For a preschooler, he does pretty darn well. I kinda feel spoiled since he does so much on his own.

- Showers
- Gets dressed
- Brushes his teeth
- Fixes his bed
- Puts on his shoes
- Gathers his lunch
...and sometimes feeds the cats

Then it's time for breakfast, which usually consists of eggs. I LOVE my eggs in the morning.

Hubby leaves for work super early so it's just me and the boy. Son gets dropped off at school around 7am, and then I head out on my hour long commute to work. For me, work starts at 8:15am and I'm there for the typical 9 hours, with a 1 hour lunch break. Then I head back home on my hour long commute again. Good thing the commute is nice and scenic. Well, on a clear day.

The day doesn't end yet. 
By the time I get home, I cook dinner and we eat. Dinner is around 6:50pm, and yes I try to cook fast and easy meals which are healthy. While eating at the dinner table, we discuss how everyone's day went. This may last for about 20 minutes, then it's time to clean up dinner and prepare everyone's lunches for the next day.

I clean up the mess, and finally sit in front of the tube for about 30 minutes, if I'm lucky. Yes, I am one of those who sits in front of the tube to numb the brain for a bit. By 8am it's time to get ready for bed.

I do my normal nightly routine, with the hubby and I taking turns reading a story to our son. I lay in bed for about 30 minutes or so watching the news or playing on my iPhone.
(Words With Friends username is melygreen if you're interested in playing sometime.)
By 10:30pm it's time for some well needed sut-eye. Sometimes I'll stay up late to balance the checkbook. If I don't do it several times a week, it ends up being quite a chore by the weekend.

And then I do it all over again. As you can tell, I don't really have any "me" time in this equation. If I didn't make the effort to wake up early and exercise, there would be absolutely no "me" time. And I'd probably be much larger than I am now since I enjoy food. Exercising keeps my weight steady and my body healthy.

The weekend is just as busy.
I literally work for the weekend, as the band Loverboy sings. But the weekends are busy as well. I can easily spend a whole day doing the grocery shopping, laundry, dusting and the budget. Not to mention any other type of shopping for items that we need. But to avoid fatigue, I space all of this throughout the 2 days. We also have to squeeze in some family time in there as well. And then the weekend quickly comes to an end.

My routine probably sounds really familiar. You're probably thinking that I'm writing about you. But many households are dealing with the same issue - lack of time. And in my case, I only have one child and he doesn't have any extra curricular activities yet.

What is missing... some "me" time. Sure I have my hour long lunch at work, but that is spent on reading blogs, writing a blog post, running a quick errand, or reading my Bible......which I have yet to get very far in due to constantly starting over and over again. How many times have you started to finally read it in its entirety?

Don't get me wrong.
I LOVE my family.
I LOVE being a mom.
I LOVE being a wife.

But I can get darn overwhelmed with it all. I just had a birthday recently, and I got to thinking that I really need to do something for myself. I don't have a hobby. I mean, I exercise, but isn't that something we all should be doing anyway?

I went for a run that Saturday and started thinking about this. I mean, I was getting frustrated and was searching for some answers. I asked myself:
  • What is it that brings a smile to my face?
  • What is it that makes me relax and forget about the daily grind?

And then it came to me.
I need to set aside time to visit my friends and family.
As Tim McGraw sings in his song "My Next Thirty Years"......
"Spend precious moments with the ones that I hold dear...."
That's what I really want to do, and darn it, it's going to happen.


I hung out with a girlfriend the night prior to my run. She was sweet enough to take me out for a birthday dinner. It was just me and her, and it was nice. We have awesome conversations and I really enjoyed that. It was something different from my normal routine. I wasn't worried about cooking dinner, or getting lunches ready, or feeding the cats, or doing the laundry, or worrying about the budget. I was just living in the moment and it sure as heck felt GREAT for a change.

And with this past Saturday, I went out with that same good friend again, and had a blast. I took her to see The Wayans Brothers at Tommy T's for an early birthday present. I haven't been to a comedy club in about a decade, and I laughed my fanny off. Gosh I could really get used to this.

So yeah, I think we all need that break from our daily lives from time to time. But how do you make it happen? Right now, I am still thinking of how to execute this plan.

Some ideas I am toying around with:
One weekend day a month -->  visit a loved one.
One weekday night a month --> hang out with a loved one that lives relatively close to my work.

So far that's as far as I've gotten.
Any suggestions???

Why just once a month?
Well I do't want to break the bank. I'll have to use good old fashioned trial and error to perfect this plan. If it's just dinner and a movie at a loved one's home, then more than once a month is very doable. So maybe I should rephrase it to at least once a month.

I don't know. This is something I have play around with. I mean, I have the blessing of my husband. He is constantly telling me to go out with my friends. But what prevents me is guilt. I feel guilty if I don't take care of the house, or am not home when they are. Is this normal? But then again, I do get a bit resentful when hubby has the luxury to take a day trip with the guys. So this will help me find some balance so I can take care of me for once.

How do you make time for yourself?
How do you combat your mundane daily routine?
How do you get over the guilt of not wearing the mommy or wifey hat?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Scored on Appliances for Both Homes

Update on retirement home:
The appraisal was done last week. We are still waiting to get a new GFE from our lender.

Our retirement home does not have any appliances. We plan to take both stainless steel appliances from our current home with us; the dishwasher and the fridge. We are also taking the washer and dryer, since both are quite new.

We will get a replacement dishwasher for the rental. The overhead microwave and stove are staying. But the renters will need to bring their own fridge. We haven't decided whether or not to replace the washer and dryer yet.

Hubby heard on the radio that our favorite appliance store, Airport Appliance, was having a HUGE sale this weekend. Even their warehouse showroom was having the sale, so we hopped in the truck and went for a ride. Stainless steel is the color choice of the appliances in our retirement home. We were in search of a stove and overhead microwave. And a white dishwasher for the rental.

We browsed through their selection, and compared prices and blemishes. A salesperson approached us, and I like the fact that they point us in the right direction, provide us with info and let us shop. She told us that if we buy a range, then the microwave is half off. Say what?!

Us: "Half off the already sale price?"
Salesperson: "Yes."

Oh yeah, that caught our attention, so we started to shop.

As mentioned, we were looking for an overhead microwave. The fewer items on the counter, the less clutter I see, and the cleaner it looks to me. We found this nice one. It had a convection function as well. It was on sale for $588, but half off would make it much more affordable. Due to the functions and the price, we settled on the GE brand.

Hubby really likes the look of the smooth top stoves. We found several, but decided to get the GE brand to match the overhead microwave. Sweet! That kitchen is slowly coming together in my mind. It won't cost $45,000 that the previous owners spent on the kitchen that was there, but it will still look pretty darn nice and function just as well.

Since we were there, we decided to browse through their dishwashers since we needed one for the rental. We found a brand new one for $199. It was nice, the price was right, so we added it to our list.

It was now time to check out. The total for all 3 appliances was $1149.96. Which isn't really that bad if you think about it. If we had gone to Home Depot or Lowe's like we had originally planned, it would have cost much much more. And yes, we paid CASH for all 3 items.

The appliances were loaded onto the truck and we headed home. The next day, hubby tested the stove and microwave since they are open box items. They worked just fine. He didn't test the dishwasher since it was new in the box. He just left that one up to faith.

That's a few more items we can mark off of our to-do list. June 27th is our COE (close of escrow), and it's coming in exactly 2 weeks. There's still a lot to do. Each weekend until we move in will be quite busy. Not only will we need to stay in budget with cleaning and fixing up the rental, but with our sanity as well. A break here and there will definitely be required.

We're moving right along.....

Friday, June 10, 2011

Don't Forget the Closing Costs

This post is focused on first time home buyers, or as a reminder to the rest of us.

So you found a house that you really like. It meets most, if not all, of the requirements you were looking for. And now you're ready to submit an offer. But....


Do you know that it's going to cost an ARM and a LEG to close on this deal?

When people go house hunting, they have a price range in mind. It's like car shopping. Our number one question is:
"How much will our monthly payments be?"

But in order to get to that point, there are certain things that need to be done prior to getting the keys to that house.

At this point, I am assuming that both seller and buyer are in contract.
All the inspections and such need to be done. During this time your lender will provide you with a GFE, a good faith estimate, to let you know how much it's going to cost to close on this deal. These intial costs can be quite a surprise for buyers. It's money that they may not have. 

A Quick Breakdown of Costs
You already have to put the minimum 3.5% down for an FHA loan.

If you don't have the 20% to put down:

-> You have to pay for PMI (private mortgage insurance) on TOP of your mortgage payments.     And this just went up earlier this year, by quite a bit.

-> In addition, you will have to pay several months of up-front costs for home insurance, property tax and any other possible costs.

And don't forget about the closing costs which include inspections, possible points, certain taxes, appraisal, documentation and processing fees, and others.

This current deal that we're in has an email fee of $75 !!! Are you kidding me? I just can't imagine that she used up that much bandwidth just on her end.

Add all of this up, and depending on the purchase price of the home, you could be paying anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 or more, out of pocket in order to close this deal. That's a TON of money that most people don't have laying around.

Several years ago, you were able to finance that back into your loan. You would finance 110% of the loan. But times are tough now and so are the rules. Also, in this day and age it is quite common to ask the seller to pay for all, if not most, of the closing costs.

So yes, be sure to factor all of this in prior to submitting an offer on a house. This will help avoid unnecessary financial worries during a time where stress is easy to come by. When you get your pre-approval letter, your lender won't inform you of these costs. It is up to YOU to do your homework, and be prepared for them.

My #1 tip: Save as much as you can, for as long as you can.

Did you run into this when you bought your first home?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reimbursement Check in Hand

Woo hoo!
It really shouldn't be this hard. But persistence definitely paid off.

I signed up for the FSA program at work. This is the third year I have done so. I really this it is a good program to help reduce your taxable income. It's quite beneficial for us since we are paying for preschool tuition along with doctor visits.

At the end of 2009, I signed up and selected my contribution amounts for 2010. For preschool, I selected the maximum of $5,000. When you divide that by 12 months, it comes out to right about $416 per month. For health, I just selected $200 since we don't use it a lot. Mainly just for wellness visits and any prescriptions the doctor may prescribe.

Dependent Care: $5,000
Health:  $200

On the form, there is a choice on how you would like to fund the account. Yes, the norm is to spread it out throughout the year. But it DOES ask how much you want to have withdrawn from your paycheck, and from how many paychecks. Since only $200 was going into the health account, I felt it was silly to spread that throughout the year. I opted to have $50 taken out of my first 4 paychecks in 2010.

Sounds simple right?

1st paycheck in January 2010 - $50 towards the health account
2nd paycheck in January 2010 - $50 towards the health account

1st paycheck in February 2010 - $50 towards the health account
2nd paycheck in February 2010 - $50 towards the health account

But towards the end of 2010 when I tried to get my health reimbursement, and yes we did use all $200 of it, there was an issue. A BIG issue if you ask me. I called the company who manages the accounts and they told me that the do not have a health account set up for me. Which means that the $50 that came out of my first 4 paychecks just disappeared. Well, I'm not going down without a fight. I was told to contact my payroll department and I got on the phone to them right away.

Apparently because I went against the norm and funded the health account with only 4 deposits, it somehow screwed up the system. (Coming from a QA background, I don't think any testing was done for this scenario.) Then WHY have that option on the form in the first place if the system or department cannot handle it? I can't imagine that I'm the only person that has ever went against the norm. I just can't.

After many calls and emails to the payroll rep, in a span of several months, I FINALLY got a check in the mail this weekend. What month are we in now? Oh yeah, June of 2011. WOW! Finally! Good grief. What a pain to go through. Now to avoid this, I fund the accounts throughout the year. Yes, I conformed. I don't want to go through this ordeal again.

Have you had a reimbursement nightmare?

Don't Pay Off Your Mortgage - Say What?

Yeah, I've heard it time and time again. A few days ago I was walking to Safeway to grab some dinner. The meat that I had planned for dinner had spoiled. We waited a day or so too late to cook it, so off to the trash it went. I hate wasting food. (Man, I need to start composting once we move.)

Well, I ran into a neighbor who was outside. He and his girlfriend were heading to his parents' cabin up north. He was telling me how nice and peaceful it was there. I commented on how awesome it was that his family has a place like that for some down time. He proceeded to tell me that his parents' home was paid off, so they took the equity out of it to pay cash for this cabin. Then he said something along the lines of, "Why get rid of a mortgage? If you do, you won't get the tax benefits."

He had a smile on his face, so I just nodded and let him continue on with the story. His girlfriend came out and they headed off, while I continued on my walk to the store. But as I was walking, I couldn't stop thinking about what he had said. And how millions of people feel the same way.

Don't get rid of your mortgage or else you won't be able to claim the tax benefits.

Now I'm not a financial advisor, or an accountant, but in my mind, Dave Ramsey's teachings about living debt free is key in my future plan. It makes sense to me. Keeping a mortgage to right off the interest, doesn't.

It's like paying a dollar to get 33 cents back. It's just not worth it.

Most people don't know that after paying every single payment, you actually paid TWICE as much for your house, if not more. It's just not worth it.

But don't take my word for it. Go to, or any other site with an amortization calculator, and play with your numbers. Do your own research and come to your own conclusion. Heck, it's your money.

I would love to be mortgage free, but I haven't found the time to do it yet. In my eyes, getting another job to pay down the principle each month is the only way I can see to make this happen. But my son is starting kindergarten and that means, he'll start bringing home homework. Right now, I can't see risking his education, or me risking being a mother who isn't around. I've found lots of second jobs, but having them be full-time, would not leave me with any time to sleep. And yes, I have tried several MLMs and that didn't work out for me either. Aside from winning the lottery, a second job is the only answer.

So are you going to delay paying off your mortgage?
If not, how are you increasing your household income to pay it off faster?
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