Tuesday, September 25, 2012

September update #2

Besides taking a trip to NYC with my sister and staying on budget for the first vacation in my life, I also finally had my wisdom tooth removed.  The surgery and recovery was a horrendous experience with the pain and swelling, and 12 days later I am still sore but there is a silver lining to the experience!  The biggest is that the whole shebang only cost me $68 ($50 for the surgery plus the pain meds)!  I was thrilled when I got the insurance estimate since it meant I would not have to dip into my precious emergency fund!

The other silver lining is that I decided to do a juice/ veggie fast during my recovery to try and kick my soda/ caffeine/ junk food addiction.  I figured since I couldn’t eat or drink anything the day of the surgery anyways I might as well keep it going and get rid of some bad habits in the process.   For the first 5 days I stuck with fresh juices and veggie purees/ soups.  Since then I’ve gone back to my more normal diet sans the caffeine, soda and junk food.  I plan to stay caffeine free for at least 30 days since most of my caffeine intake was coming from soda and I want to make sure I’m well past temptation before going back to tea. 

Since I started tackling my debt a year ago I knew that one of the biggest money sinks for me are my bad diet habits including junk food and soda.  Bit by bit I’ve cut back on the amount I was spending on the junk but it’s time to kiss that expense goodbye forever (and hopefully my waistline will be thankful that I’m giving up the junk too!).  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

September update #1

September has been an unusually jam-packed month so far which has kept me very busy in life but turned me into a complete slacker as far as this blog is concerned.  It's a shame too because so many of the things I've experienced this month have been financially related or perhaps it's just that I can now see the financial impact of every little thing I do!  Either way I wish I had written more as the month progressed, now all I can do is give some updates on how the month has been going so far...

I started September off in New York City (this is where I was when my landlord freaked out about the rent).  My middle sister and I had been planning the trip for a few months, she had found a cheap flight option and we decided Labor Day weekend would be perfect to meet up since we both already had a day off of work. Plus, it was the weekend before my birthday so we would get to see each other near my birthday for the first time in a while.  I know some folks would advise that going on trips when so far in debt is a bad idea and I agree if you're just looking at numbers.  But for me it's not just a numbers thing, spending time with my family and friends is extremely important especially since I live so far away from them.  Traveling and experiencing the world outside of my little day-to-day life is also something I place a high value on.

Since both of us are in the midst of personal finance overhauls and debt pay-off plans we set a very small budget to work with.  We were able to find a pretty inexpensive hostel outside of Manhattan that had a full kitchen so we made breakfast there and also packed snacks to take with us each day.  We also pre-paid for a few meals through Groupon so we could cut our meal budget down even further.  We decided to buy the CityPass, which is bundle of six major tourist attractions at a deeply reduced price, so that we could go to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, some of the major museums, and the Empire State Building.

The trip was fantastic, it was great to be able to spend some one on one time with my sister and to see one of the most amazing cities in the US.  But the truly amazing part is that we (both of whom have been struggling to change our financial habits) were able to set a reduced budget, actually stick to it, have the cash set aside to pay for it, all while having a fantastic time.  We could have easily spent triple what we had budgeted and probably would have if we had taken this very same trip a few years ago!  I am so proud of my little sister and of myself for finally making real changes in the way we handle money!  

So that's how I started the month, I'll post some more September updates soon!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Rent woes AKA My landlord makes paying the rent as difficult as possible

Let me preface what is going to become a rant by saying that I am NOT a deadbeat renter.  I have been renting since I was 18 and have lived in at least 10 different rental properties owned by at least 10 different landlords before the place I am renting now.  Each landlord has had their own rent paying policies and I have ALWAYS paid rent, on time, according to those policies.  OK preface over…

My current landlord has the most ridiculous rent paying policy ever: the rent must be in our mailbox at 9 a.m. on the 1st for him to personally pick up.  We can’t mail it in advance or drop it off to him.  There is no grace period.  We can’t use e-pay, paypal, or any other 21st century form of payment.  We must write out a check and, on the morning of the first day of every month, put our check into our mailbox by 9 am. Period.  No exceptions.  

I realize this sounds like the easiest thing to do but for a multitude of reasons it is not working for us.  In the year that we have lived at the apartment, S and I have forgotten to get the rent in the box at least 4 or 5 times.  Why, you ask.  Because the morning of the 1st is an extremely small window of time when you’ve got two people who are rushing to feed and walk all the pets, prepare lunches and be out the door, half asleep, by 7:30.  Or, for instance, the 1st falls on New Year’s Day and you are still SLEEPING when your landlord comes banging on the door for the rent at 9 am.  And, yes, sometimes we put it in the mailbox the night before but if it rains or snows we can’t because whatever is in the mailbox gets soaked (which is something that Mr. Landlord really needs to fix).  

After the last missed pick-up I was able to convince Mr. Landlord that we should be permitted to mail him the check in advance.  So this past month I wrote out the check and popped it in the mail several days in advance so it would have plenty of time to get from one side of our small town to the other.  So easy.  Except the check didn’t get delivered on the 1st which means I got an urgent text, e-mail , AND phone message from him stating that I need to bring him a replacement check right away.  I was in New York visiting with my middle sister so I couldn’t get him a new check and the rent money was in my account so S couldn’t write him a check either to cover the missing $1700 either. 

I called him and was able to talk him off the ledge (he’s really high strung) and I haven’t heard from him today so I’m assuming the check finally arrived.  The whole situation is absurd and is really getting under my skin.  I’ve never had trouble paying my bills before and am really frustrated with my landlord for his policy and with myself and S for not getting this bill paid the correct way every month.  Unfortunately, we signed another year’s lease agreement a few months ago so we’re stuck dealing with it.  For now I’ll be adding alarms to my smartphone calendar and sticky notes around my house.  Hope that takes care of the problem because I really can’t deal with another freak out from Mr. Landlord.