Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Utilizing mortgage calculators to figure out interest costs over time helped us cut thousands of dollars in interest off our loan amount. Rather than going for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage on a higher loan amount, we instead put more down on our home, and took on a 15-year mortgage.
While the monthly payment amounts were higher with this type of mortgage, by taking on a shorter term mortgage, we would effectively be able to cut the interest we owed over the course of the loan’s life in half. And knowing that by taking on a 15-year mortgage, we could cut our interest rate by nearly a full percent compared to a 30-year mortgage, we realized that we could shave thousands more off our mortgage costs over time. Eventually, such knowledge allowed us to become mortgage free altogether.
I’ve recently started a spreadsheet to track our annual earnings and in turn make keeping up on our Social Security estimated benefit calculator a little easier. The calculator into which I plug our income information is found at the Social Security Administration’s website (ssa.gov), and it requires data such as our dates of birth, age at retirement, how we’d like our estimates presented to us (either in today’s dollars or future dollars that have been adjusted for inflation), and income information.
The secured assets comprise one total, the non-guaranteed assets another, and then we have a combined total for an overall net worth once our assets totals are relieved of any liabilities. We update this calculator regularly, and it allows us to stay apprised of our overall financial situation at a moment’s notice.
Friday, November 23, 2012
We certainly wanted to give the house a good going over cleanliness wise before we started to clutter up spaces with boxes, sofas, mattresses, and all the rest. Cleaning a home is just so much simpler when you don’t have to work around furnishings. We didn’t have to worry so much about spilling cleaning solution on upholstery, maneuvering around vases and dishware, moving certain items back and forth to clean behind them, and otherwise dealing with awkward cleaning situations.
Speaking of carpets, we decided that we’d like to give the upstairs and finished basement carpets a good cleaning before we got settled in with all our furniture. Therefore, we spent about $35 to rent a carpet cleaner from the local grocery store, buy a little carpet shampoo, and I set to work giving the carpet a good going over, not having to worry about moving furniture back and forth, missing areas due to oversized furniture pieces, or hurrying the drying time of the carpet in order to be able to move furniture back into a more livable arrangement.
Monday, November 19, 2012
Mulch and Yard Maintenance
It doesn’t always take a huge investment to make a yard look presentable. In our case, some weed pulling, a bit of sidewalk edging, a good lawn cutting, a little shrub trimming, and 10 bags of mulch that we’d purchased on sale during the winter for $1 a bag, had our yard looking pretty darn good.
During the point at which we were preparing to put our home on the market, our back porch awning looked terrible. It was a canvas covering on a steel frame, but the canvas had torn at one side and the rip had progressively worked its way along the entire edge, making the canvas droop and all-in-all look pretty pitiful.
This was the entrance through which prospective buyers would be entering our home. Therefore, we paid $450 to have the structure removed, the steel sandblasted and repainted, and the cover replaced with new canvas.
Garage Roof Repair
When we bought our home, the inspector noted that the condition of the garage roof was less than favorable. It had three layers of shingles that were crumbling and in need of replacement.
One of the final adjustments we made to our home in an attempt to make it more marketable was to make some changes to our window areas. We spent a couple hundred dollars to buy several new, crisper, cleaner looking blinds for our bedroom and dining room areas and added some sheers in the master bedroom and a window treatment over the dining room window in an effort to add a little character to the spaces. We also removed the dated vertical blinds in the dining room to give the space a newer more updated feel.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Becoming Mortgage Free
I’m not a fan of debt. While I know that sometimes it’s tough to avoid, this doesn’t mean that we can’t try. A mortgage is the one aspect of our debt-related finances that is especially difficult to avoid due to the cost of many homes. However, I never liked the fact that such a payment was there whether we were able to afford it or not; therefore, we downsized our home and bought a space that we could afford outright. This allowed us to avoid mortgage payments and gave us a little breathing room and extra peace of mind in our financial lives.
Debt is one of those things that can not only weigh on our minds but can eat into the strength of our financial resources. Unlike a mortgage, items like credit card debt may have little positive outcome other than enabling users to delay the eventual payment for purchases. The problem is that this delay can come with excessive interest payments and worry over the making of those payments. We’ve been debt free since we paid off my wife’s student loans several years ago. It’s a wonderful feeling and provides peace of mind as well as other options to consider for how to make use of our money in more productive and positive ways.
From extra food and water to a propane fueled cook stove, batteries, flashlights, and similar items, we’ve found that spending a little extra cash to provide us some emergency supplies helps make us feel better about the future. It didn’t take much -- only about $300 in fact -- to get a multi-month supply of food, water, and additional supplies added to items we already had on hand and that set us up comfortably should an emergency of some sort befall our area. It wasn’t a big investment to make to ensure a more comfortable sleep at night through additional peace of mind.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Train Ride to the Future
I didn’t make the move into self-employment as a freelance writer until late 2007. However, I started writing well before then. I actually began writing as a way to work on a book idea I’d had and fill time spent on Chicago’s commuter rail system on the way in to work back in 2005.
My morning commute actually started at night (since I worked the third shift at the time), but that’s neither hear nor there. I would use the time to write (yes, I actually wrote longhand since I didn’t have a laptop at the time) and practice my trade.
While that book never came to fruition, I look back at it now and realize that it was the spark I needed to light the fire that eventually became my self-employment passion.
Using Regular Work as a Resource
I didn’t let on to the fact that I was interested in becoming a writer to many -- if any of my co-workers -- until I knew for a fact that I was making the transition. First off, I didn’t feel it was a great idea letting people at work know that I was interested in pursuing a career other than the one in which I was currently employed. Second, I certainly didn’t want to count my chickens before they were hatched. And third, I really didn’t want people asking me about my writing all the time. Therefore, I largely kept my self-employment dreams to myself.
This didn’t mean though, that I didn’t use my workplace as a valuable resource while I was there. I did this in several ways:
• As a source of information from co-workers and clients to be used as fodder for my writing career.
While this schedule wasn’t easy, it prepared me in the years leading up to my self-employment move for what was to come, and it helped me ensure that I had what it took to make a career out of writing and that it wasn’t just some phase or passing interest.
Saturday, November 3, 2012
We Just Had One Simple Question
We thought our trip to see FEMA officials would last about five minutes. We had one simple question, and we thought we already knew the answer. We just wanted to see if the replacement cost for our pump would be covered, since it was indeed storm-related damage.
So we figured we’d just go in, ask our question, and likely be on our way, since we guessed the answer would be “no”.
But it wasn’t that simple.
When we arrived to the area school where the temporary FEMA offices were located, we were directed to a waiting area where we sat for about 10 minutes. Then we were shuffled off to an area with a row of telephones where we had to register with FEMA.
I told the person taking our information over the phone that we just had one quick question, but this revelation didn’t stop the registration process, which lasted about 15 minutes. We were given a FEMA registration number (or something to that effect) and told to see the next person at a series of stations that were set up around the room. This station, as I recall, did something along the lines of explaining all sorts of inapplicable information to us over the next 10-15 minutes, before sending us on to the low-interest loan lady.
A Loan Interest Loan? What? Why?
We spent the next 15 minutes listening to what seemed to be a sales pitch regarding low-interest government loans. We told the lady we didn’t need a loan, but she proceeded to tell us that her mother always said, “Even though you don’t need it, you might want to take it just in case. It’s better to have it and not need it, than the other way around,” or something like that, I’m really not sure since I wasn’t listening very closely by that point.
She said these loans were great deals with interest rates in the two to three percent range and that we might want to do some updating to our home with the money even if we didn’t have any storm damage.
We finally escaped the “loan lady” by adamantly telling her we really weren’t interested and didn’t need or want a loan. We then got to move on to the next station in line, which was manned by the guy that dealt with water-related damage.
The Final Answer…Frustration and Waste
Finally! We had someone who would listen to our one simple question: Was the cost of our pump replacement covered by FEMA?
His first question was whether we had taken the repair to our insurance company, which we hadn’t. First off, I was just planning to eat the cost of the repair in the first place, and secondly, we had a $500 deductible on our homeowners insurance. For an $800 repair -- and the cost of the likely resulting associated rise in insurance premiums -- I didn’t think filing a claim was worthwhile.
“Why?” I asked. “Wouldn’t it just be a waste of everyone’s time?”
He replied that more than likely it wouldn’t do any good, but just to double check, he could have it done.