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 Post subject: Or Bust!
PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2008 11:13 am 

Joined: Fri Oct 03, 2008 10:55 am
Posts: 19
My 27th birthday has come and gone, and for the first time in my life I'm taking a serious look at my spending habits and personal finances... or lack thereof. :) The main catalyst, besides getting older and wiser, is that I'd dearly like to move to Portland, OR some time next year, and right now we can't afford to. My husband and I have been living in TX for the last year, almost entirely off my $60K salary, and I'm ashamed to say we've been living a bit out of our means.... cleaning lady, yard care, 2 cars for 2 people... we don't have CC or car debt, but with our hefty student loan payments ($600/mo for a combined $50k in loans) and a sizeable rent payment every month, we've been slowly chipping away at the $7K we had in the bank.

So, goals!!

1) Track and eliminate excess spending. We signed up for Mint.com last month, on GRS's suggestion, and I was FLOORED by how much we were spending a month on eating out. Over $500 a month for two people!! That's almost as much as our student loan payments combined! So, we're cutting way back on the restaurants, letting the cleaning lady go, and cancelling a number of other monthly charges and extra stuff we don't need.

2) Bring in extra income on top of my salary, and use it to pay off the student loans. My husband does freelance work, but it's been a slow summer. He's ramping up now, though, and is on track to bring in a total of $15-$20K for 2008. We're also spending our free time putting together two web businesses related to the specialized work I do, which don't cost much for us to launch, but could easily bring in a few thousand a month. If that happens, the profits are going entirely towards killing our loans.

3) Sign up for an index fund with Vanguard and start putting money away for a house/retirement.

4) Get ourselves to the point where we can move to Portland and do well in the less-stable job environment there.

So yeah! I don't think anyone is going to be at all interested in these goals of ours, but it feels great to write them down! Thanks for letting me share. :)


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2008 11:58 am 

Joined: Fri Oct 03, 2008 10:55 am
Posts: 19
Well, I already have news to report! :D

In an effort to cut out more "unnecessary" expenses, I walked over to HR and asked to be switched from the "high" health insurance to the "low" health insurance. They're basically the same plan, the "high" has a slightly lower deductible and office visit cost, but we've gone to the doctor a total of once in the last year, between the two of us. So "low" is fine, and the difference is almost $100/mo.

I just got an email back from them, turns out I WAS on the "low" plan, but they've been accidentally charging me for the "high" plan!! So that's about $700 I get back from them, woo! :D


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2008 1:09 pm 

Joined: Sun Mar 16, 2008 6:53 pm
Posts: 76
Wow, you might want to let some of your co-workers in on that information!


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2008 1:31 pm 

Joined: Mon Feb 04, 2008 7:35 am
Posts: 1148
Location: Maryland
That's great news.

For me, it's always easier to put a number to a goal.

Goal 1: When we leave for Portland, let's have 6000 dollars in our bank account for incidentals (I don't know whether this number is reasonable or not). Then you work towards that goal. As of right now you have 700 so you only need 5300 left! Way to go. :lol:

Goal 2: Bring in 1000/month from hubby's sidework, for a grand total of 12000 dollars for x,y,z.

Goal 3: Only spend 200/month for eating out (I can appreciate a good meal).

That way you're more accountable for getting your numbers instead of saying 'I'll just cut back.' That means you can spend 499/month on food and you've met your goal. Know what I mean?

Oh, and yeah, there are plenty of us that are interested! :)


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2008 2:25 pm 

Joined: Fri Oct 03, 2008 10:55 am
Posts: 19
Oh cool, thanks mpacuk and peachy! I'll definitely let my coworkers know they should keep an eye on their insurance plans... but I think I know what caused the glitch on mine, so it's probably just me.

And peachy, yes! I'm definitely attaching numbers, which is much easier to do now that I'm using Mint. I realized we almost always spend about $25 when we eat out, so it's a simple matter of limiting "eating out" to once a week, for a $100/mo budget. And if we go over it, Mint will know. :D My husband's spearheading our new eat-at-home plan, with a list of about 20 grocery items to keep regularly stocked in the house so we always have things we like to cook, and he's also taking care of making my lunch to take to work every day (yesterday a somewhat burnt chicken pot pie in a sandwich baggie, today smushed PB&J :) ). We'd actually been eating out so much we were starting to get tired of it, so this has been fun for us so far.

We do still have about $6k in the bank, so that's good, but every month it seems like that number drops a little more. We want to see that reverse. One benefit to a future Portland move would be the opportunity to look for cheaper housing... We moved to Texas from NYC, and at the time the house we're renting seemed dirt cheap. :) I think we can do better, though, and I'd like to knock another 2-300 off our housing costs the next time we move.

So, why haven't I just been doing this all along?? Sheesh. :)


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2008 4:24 pm 

Joined: Wed Aug 20, 2008 10:51 am
Posts: 14
Greetings from Portland!

If it is any extra incentive, Oregon is a fantastic place to live, particularly the Portland area. I moved here just over a decade ago from NYC and still love the huge variety of outdoor activities within easy reach. From coastal to mountain to desert are all within reasonable reach of a day trip from Portland.

Yes, the job market can be... well... different. As for me the market was significantly smaller than what I was used to in New York. Then again, so was the number of applicants for any particular position. It also depends greatly upon what type of work you are seeking.

Good luck on achieving your goals. It sounds like you are already making excellent progress in recognizing where you can improve, which can be more than half the battle.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 10:52 am 

Joined: Fri Oct 03, 2008 10:55 am
Posts: 19
Thanks for the encouragement!

Things have been going well on the spending-less front, we've been cooking all our meals at home, many from scratch, and I get a lot of joy out of making a pizza crust for $0.62 instead of the $5 we'd pay for a store-bought crust or the $30 we'd pay for pizza delivery. :) Plus, it turns out I've become a much better cook and baker since I was a kid... I credit Alton Brown for teaching me that recipes and substitutions work because of the chemical makeup of the different foods, NOT because they look/feel similar. :) I'm pretty sure I've substituted butter for eggs and vice versa in the past, because they were both fatty and yellow. :p

That said, I'm feeling a little discouraged overall today... looking through the Mint.com records, it looks like our monthly expenses BEFORE food, fun, and anything else are close to $3,000. Rent's $1395, student loans are $600, electricity, water, and car gas is around $400.... plus internet, gym memberships, phones, etc. On a 60K salary, I only bring home around $3600/mo. So when you factor in our food and all the airfare we've had to buy this year (Texas isn't close to family or all the weddings we've gone to), we're still barely breaking even, even if I make every darn meal from scratch and don't spend a dime on "fun". Which is kind of depressing.

My husband is knee-deep in projects that will bring in another $3k or so over the next month or two, so this slow bleed every month isn't a dire emergency.... but when I'm already feeling unsatisfied with my job and wanting to move, it doesn't feel good to know that the only thing I'm accomplishing at work is keeping us barely breaking even every month.

Sigh. Things are going to get better, I'm sure of that... it's just a little hard to see it when I'm in a funk like this. :\


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 11:01 am 

Joined: Fri Oct 03, 2008 10:55 am
Posts: 19
And, if anyone's curious about why my husband is freelancing from home instead of working full-time... there's two reasons, one is that he worked full-time at a job he didn't like to put me through school for two years, and I very much want to give him the same opportunity he gave me. The other is that, like with most freelancers, when business is good, it's very good, and he brings in more than I do in significantly less time than it takes me. Things have been slow this summer, which is why I'm taking a closer look at our finances and freaking out a little, but in general the work he's doing is worth staying home for, especially since it makes him a heck of a lot happier and healthier than he was when he was working in-house. He's also able to spend a lot of time on the web businesses we're launching, and if those take off, they'll contribute more to our income than my salary, easily. So on that front it's a bit of a gamble we're taking... hoping that the time he's investing in these projects for "free" right now will pay off when we launch them over the next few months.

So, while an easily solution for our monthly finances would be for him to just go get his own 60k job and double our income, I'm more inclined to give this another 6 months or so, both to keep things even on the supporting-each-other front, and to see if these business ideas will pan out.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 1:35 pm 

Joined: Mon Feb 04, 2008 7:35 am
Posts: 1148
Location: Maryland
Look at your phone bill(s). If you have Sprint and mostly call your husband, you can get Sprint to Sprint for like 5.00/month. Then, you can reduce your minutes if need be. Or..if you text, get on a text plan, and don't call people-just text. It's the in thing, ya know? HA!!HA!! I hate texting.

Check out all of your "fun" expenses and make sure that you're using the ones you pay for. No sense paying 18.00/month for Netflix if you're only watching 1 movie a month.

Hopefully you can cut some of the fat there without doing too much work.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 4:39 pm 

Joined: Fri Oct 03, 2008 10:55 am
Posts: 19
Yeah, I've been combing through the monthly bills for a few months, now, and I think we've weeded out the ones that don't make sense for us. Canceled Netflix, we don't have a TV so no cable, the phones are all on the cheapest possible plans (vonage for the house phone at $15/mo and Virgin Mobile prepaid for the 2 cell phones at about $10/mo each). There's more we can cut, obviously, but nothing that we'd want to if it wasn't an emergency. Hopefully we'll be able to bring in some side income soon!

One good thing of note at work is that, since we're in a slow period right now, they've randomly decided to train me on some very high-level, unusual, but very useful software. It's going well so far, so that might be something I can leverage into a higher salary at some point. Plus it's way more interesting than what I had been doing, so yay! :)


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2008 10:49 am 

Joined: Fri Oct 03, 2008 10:55 am
Posts: 19
Oy! Okay, so more ups and downs here in Texas. :) I'm still wanting to get us into the black on just my paycheck alone, since it seems like 60K should be more than enough to support 2 people in a reasonably cheap area, so I'm getting pretty serious about selling my car, our second car. I've never liked being a car-per-person household, and I'm thinking I'd rather go back to taking the commuter train (which has it's own problems, but doesn't cost $200/mo). I bought my old car for $1400 earlier this year, and the KBB on it is $2400, so I might end up coming out pretty well on that. We're going to think about it over the weekend, and if we decide to cut back to one car, I'll bring it by our mechanic Monday morning and see if he wants it.

In more exciting news, it turns out my husband is sitting on 2 retirement accounts from an old job! Obviously they've lost some value over the last few weeks, just like everyone elses, but hey, we have retirement accounts! Who knew? :) Right now one is a mutual fund (he thinks) and the other is a 403b, and from what I can tell from reading up on this online, I think we'd like to roll them both into an IRA, then into a Roth IRA, possibly with Vanguard (I hear good things about them). Does that make sense, or am I missing something? Is this a bad time to do a rollover, or does it not matter? They're not huge accounts or anything, he was only at the job for 4 years, but I think he was contributing the max or close to it. Yay! :)


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2008 11:32 am 

Joined: Mon Feb 04, 2008 7:35 am
Posts: 1148
Location: Maryland
The 403B is pretax, so you would roll that into an IRA.
Depending on where his mutual fund came from (pre-tax or post-tax), would determine where that money will go.

I'm guessing that if he just had money saved on the side post tax, he could set it up for a Roth, and count that towards his 2008 contribution. If it is also pre-tax money, he would roll that over into the IRA with the 403B money.

Yeah, you can use Vanguard if you like. That's fine. I would say to go on and roll it over now if you want to get Vanguard funds for a good price. Call Vanguard and find out exactly what you need to do. You don't want to get the money in your hands or you'll pay a penalty. They will help you roll it from its current location to their location without any problems.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 8:12 am 

Joined: Fri Oct 03, 2008 10:55 am
Posts: 19
Cool, thanks for the tips!

Our goals for this weekend:

1) Open the Vanguard account by rolling over my husband's existing Fidelity and TIAA-CREF accounts into a Vanguard Roth IRA (I believe we'll need to roll them into a Traditional IRA first, before then moving them into the Roth). They're currently not accessible to us, since he's not working for the company that opened those accounts for him, so this will allow us to start making regular contributions for retirement, with a nice little head-start.

2) Launch the first of two web-businesses we've been planning. For the past year and a half, we've been running a site that helps people learn how to do the sort of work I do, and it's grown to over 11,000 registered users and over 600,000 pageviews a month. We put some google ads on it at the start that allow it to break even on the hosting costs, but don't pay us anything for the time we spend maintaining and developing the site. So we're working on arranging better advertising rates, and also putting together a "premium" account people can subscribe to for a few bucks a month, with a few extra bells and whistles on the site. I have no idea how many of our members will be interested, but it doesn't cost us anything to run once we launch it, and if 200 people send us $3/mo, well, that'd be more than we're bringing in now. :) It will also be a "practice run" in selling and running a subscription service, which should make our next business, essentially a web-hosting service, go a lot smoother. We hope to launch the second one by the end of the year, if all goes well.

I'll report back next week and let y'all know how it went! :D


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 9:17 am 

Joined: Sat Jun 30, 2007 10:35 am
Posts: 1444
sorry, you're giving your husband a pass. ok, so what if he worked while enabling you to go to school? the school had a causal link to you getting a job with a steady income stream. ok, freelance work is slow now, fine, but if you BOTH are serious about getting secure, then he CAN work another part time job to offset slow business.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 9:37 am 

Joined: Fri Oct 03, 2008 10:55 am
Posts: 19
I see your point, but it's not like he's sitting around doing nothing with his time. The freelance work is there, just sporadic (the last week was busy, with 3 different clients coming in with rush jobs), and he spends a big chunk of his time developing the web businesses I mentioned above. Are they a sure thing? No, not as sure as selling his time for money. However, given that the two combined have the potential to bring in $3k/month or more of almost entirely passive income, I think it's a worthwhile experiment for now. If another 6 months go by and the websites haven't taken off, then sure, I think we'll both agree that he should find a steady income, but for now, why not give it a shot?


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