Mar 04

Would you move to cut your mortgage in half?

mortgageWhen I was paying off my student loan debt I felt, “stuck” and, “broke”. I worried I’d never dig myself out of the hole that I’d made and I felt frustrated a lot. When finally submitted that final payment and received my, “paid in full letter” in the mail, I was thrilled…for a minute.

Because I’ve always been a goal setter, I tend to celebrate accomplishments then immediately re-focus on a new goal. My goal after paying off my debt was saving a down-payment and buying a condo.

Since we’re now homeowners, my main goal is saving for the future and building wealth. Full-disclosure, when I typed, “building wealth” I sort of laughed at myself. I guess since I’ve never really thought of myself as a, “big earner” so the concept of, “building wealth” has always seemed a little foreign to me.

Somewhere along the line, I’d convinced myself that only the super wealthy can, save the “big bucks” and, “build wealth”. Why? I’m not really sure. But thankfully other folks in the personal finance blogosphere have taught me that anyone can build wealth. You don’t have to be make a million dollars a year, or even $100,000 a year to build wealth.

Sure a person making 6 figures will be able to save more and save faster, but that doesn’t mean you can’t save and build wealth when you’re making less.

All that to say, Eric and I have been talking about the possibility of moving out of our condo (we’d rent it out) and into a cheaper living situation (either buying a cheaper condo or single family home in the suburbs, or renting an apartment).  We’ve run the number and done a little research and it seems very possible for us to cut our housing costs (as much as in half).

Basically if we moved further outside of the city, moved to a less, “hip” neighborhood, moved to a smaller apartment (you get the idea) we’d be able to save more and save faster. Here are a few of the pros and cons we’re batting around:


  • Our mortgage (or housing expenses if we rent) would be cheaper so we’d be able to save more aggressively
  • We’d probably be able to find a place with parking which would save us $300 a month in parking fees
  • If we rent our heat and hot water would probably be included


  • We’d probably be moving further outside of the city which means a longer commute
  • We’d definitely be moving outside of our neighborhood, which we really like
  • We like our condo. It’s cozy and comfortable and has newer appliances
  • I hate moving, it’s expensive and so stressful

I guess it all boils down to preferences, tradeoffs and what we’re willing to give up. The faster we save, the quicker we’ll be able to work on other goals. Some of our long-term goals include: buying a rental property (or two-why not be dream big?), starting a business (more about this later), traveling more and saving more aggressively for retirement.

What do you think? Would you move if you could significantly decrease your mortgage or rental costs?

Feb 09

I lost my financial groove and I’m stuck

carsSunday morning Eric and I were having a conversation about our future. Basically I told him that I’ve felt, “stuck” lately and I’m not sure where I’m going with my life.

To, “boil it down”, I’ve been working at the same company for 5 years. I worked so hard to pass my professional licensing boards and now I’m not sure where I want to go from here. I’m feeling like it’s time to make some changes.  I love my clients and co-workers, but there’s only so much you can learn at the same job and I feel like it’s time to spread my wings a little bit and try something new.

But it doesn’t just end there. I’ve been feeling stuck in other areas of my life too. I haven’t been blogging as much as I used to (OK, not nearly as much as I used to) and I haven’t been active in the personal finance blogosphere. It’s not that I don’t want to blog and comment, I just feel, “stuck”. Like I don’t have anything to write about or say. I know that’s not completely true, but when I get home at the end of the day I feel exhausted and annoyed (which isn’t really motivational-and nobody wants to read debbie downer posts).

When I was paying off my student loan debt I had something to, “fight”. When I was saving the down payment for our condo, I was willing to sacrifice for the end goal. Ditto for replenishing our emergency fund. Since we had to use it multiple times I was completely motivated to get it fully funded asap.

Basically, I’ve always been a type-a personality. I make goals and I focus on them exclusively. I like to do things 110%, or not at all. So now that I’ve reached a lot of my personal, professional and financial goals, I’m sort of looking for what’s next.

Saving for retirement and putting money in the savings account each month is great, but I’ll be honest I was much more motivated to save when I had a, “thing” or a more tangible goal that I was working towards.

What this post is about? I’m not exactly sure, so thanks for sticking around for the ramble. Please share with me how you stay motivated to save and spend wisely (when you have a specific goal in mind) and more importantly (for me right now!) when you don’t.

Image: Don Sorensen


Jan 26

5 frugal activities I’m entertaining myself with during the #blizzard15



“The weather is getting worse by the minute”, says NBC4 in NYC. Thankfully my employer let non-essential staff go home today at 4pm, to avoid the bulk of the snow and bad travel. So I’m now comfy/cozy in my PJs lounging on the couch and thinking about the 18-24 inches (depending on what news outlet you watch) of snow we’re going to get.

I’m crossing my fingers we don’t lose power and praying that everyone in the path of the storm stays warm, safe and comfortable.

5 frugal activities I’m entertaining myself with during the blizzard:

  1. Knitting-I just finished up a cardigan for my adorable niece. Right now I’m working on another cardigan for my, “baby closet”. With so many friends expecting these days, I store away a few things for baby showers etc.
    baby sweaterTotal cost? The price of the yarn, which I always try to buy at a discount or with a coupon. The blue yarn I used for the cardi was $3 a skein. I used about 1.5 skeins for a toddler size 3 sweater, so $4.50 for the whole sweater.
  2. Cooking-notice cleaning is not on the list?-wink). As long as we have power, I plan to do a little cooking. Butternut squash soup (recipe by Emeril Lagasse) is one of my favorites, so I’ll be making that. Cost to make the soup? About $4.00 for the squash and a few dollars more for the onions, spices, carrots etc. I omit the cream because Eric doesn’t like it. It makes 5-6 good sized bowls, yum!
  3. Exercising-I see a little FOCUS T25 in my future tomorrow. When I can’t get outside to run I like to do the cardio workout. Cost? Free, I own the DVD set. I paid about $60 for the whole set on ebay a few months back.
  4. Blogging and catch up on blog posts-I’m very excited to write a few blog posts (I feel like I have a million things I want to write and not enough time). I also want to read all of my friend’s blogs because I’m horribly behind (sorry!). Cost? Free
  5. Reading-I have a whole bunch of reading to catch up on. I have 3-4 magazines that I haven’t had time to look at and this Book that a co-worker lent to me. Cost? Free

5 things I won’t be doing during the blizzard:

  1. Going to work-Who ever thought you’d get a, “snow day” as an adult? My employer gave all, “non-essential” employees the day off tomorrow. I thought about trying to go in for overtime, but decided against it in case public transportation isn’t back up and running by tomorrow (all subway service is being shut down tonight at 11pm).
  2. Building a snowman-I hate snow, I hate cold. The only time I’ll be going outside is to drag the dog out to pee (and literally I have to drag him because he also hates the snow and hates getting his feet wet).
  3. Drinking hot chocolate-We don’t have any in the house right now (sad I know!). But we do have marshmallows. So maybe we’ll toast those over the gas stove (is that even healthy? probably not).
  4. Shoveling-Our condo association is cheap frugal so we don’t hire a maintenance company to shovel the sidewalk/stairs. We take turns shoveling and Eric shoveled the last time we got snow, so hopefully we’re off the hook for the duration of this super storm.
  5. Shopping-Most of the stores around us already have signs on their doors stating that they are closing for the duration of the storm. I don’t need anything right now anyway, so we’ll be eating from the pantry this week to save money.

Is the #Blizzard15 impacting you? How are you keeping yourself entertained? Tell me about the weather near you, I’d love to hear about warm sandy beaches. 

Jan 19

Condo assessments right after Christmas = Annoyed owners

Student Debt Survivor BrownstoneToday I wrote a check for $500 to our condo association. The item I’m receiving in return? a fan to vent the dryer’s exhaust (hot air) to the front of our building. Am I super excited about it? No!

But that’s part of the, “deal” when you buy a condo. Unfortunately, the needs of the building come before your own personal needs or wants, and if you’re in the minority, your opinion may not count. If the other owners decide that something is necessary, you’re stuck footing part of the bill, whether you want to to spend the money or not.

Sometimes condo associations have a cash reserve to pay for unexpected expenses (the building’s emergency fund). Our association chose to keep our condo fees as low as possible, which means there’s no reserve and I have to cut a check every time there’s an emergency.

While that’s not personally the way I prefer to do business, it’s what we had to accept when we bought a unit in the building.

While folks in expensive cities accept that condo living is their only buying option (unless you have a cool million *or more* to buy a single family home), it’s something that’s sort of a foreign concept to country dwellers like my parents.

Here’s what I’ve learned about money and condo living over the past 2 1/2 years:

  1. If you’re fiercely independent don’t buy a condo. and hate not having control of every aspect of your financial life, don’t buy a condo. You’re better off renting or moving somewhere cheaper where you can afford a single family home.
  2. If you want something done right, do it yourself! The other owners may be too busy or to lazy to look for bids and wait around for contractors. If you’re not made of money (I’m not) and you care about the quality of the work (or service) being delivered, offer to be the person who sets everything up.
  3. Do your own due diligence. Make sure your neighbors aren’t hooking up their contractor buddies with kickbacks. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a probably good thing if your neighbor knows a, “great contractor” who does good work. But make sure the association gets multiple bids before you sign a contract so you know you’re not padding somebody’s pockets.
  4. Shut up and write the check. Sometimes you have to bite your tongue and give in your neighbors. You don’t want to be the, “difficult” neighbor who’s always causing a fight when the rest of the neighbors want to buy something. Pick and chose your battles wisely. In this case, the repair was necessary, so I’m not complaining. I do however, wish the timing was a little different. We knew that we were going to have to make the repair. Why we waited to make a $2,500 repair right after Christmas, I don’t completely understand!? Biting my tongue…

Do you live in a condo? What do you like/dislike about your association? If you own a single family home, do you enjoy having complete control over your house repairs? I think I would!

Image: Jay Wentworth

Jan 12

Save money: Repair it, don’t replace it!

I’m a little ashamed to say how quick I used to be to to throw away perfectly good, “stuff”. If a button popped off a pair of my jeans, or a sweater started to get pilled, I’d toss it in the goodwill bin and buy a new one.

The past couple of years I’ve been a lot more conscious of how much stuff I have and how much money I paid for it. If I worked half a day to pay for a pair of boots, you bet I’m going to try to make them last as long as possible.

The internet has really been a game changer when it comes to advice about how to repair just about anything. Many of the items I would have previously thrown away, I’ve been able to repair and continue using. That saves me money and saves a lot of, “stuff” from ending up in the landfill.

Stuff I’ve refurbished/repaired
(a little, “elbow grease” and ingenuity can save you big green)

Leather goods

I have a great pair of fossil boots that the dog was convinced he could ruin. If you see the photo on the left, he had scratched the leather pretty badly. I mentioned this to a friend and she suggested buying some FRYE Leather Conditioning Cream. Thank goodness I listened to her Instead of throwing them away. I spent about 20 minutes rubbing in the cream and now they look as good as new. One $9 tub of cream and 20 minutes saved a $120 pair of boots.
scratched bootboot


I recently, “saved” a sweatshirt destined for the donations bin with this tip for getting paint off your clothing (Why I was painting in a brand new sweatshirt is purely my own stupidity). If you can’t mend or repair something yourself, splurge to have someone else make the repair for you. It’s almost always cheaper to mend a decent piece of clothing then to buy a new one.

The Bath Tub

When we moved into our condo, there was a good deal of mold on the grout in-between the tub and tiles. I tried everything I could think of to eliminate the mold, but nothing worked. Not baking soda, not peroxide, not shower bleach cleaner… nothing. So when a friend told me about her, “magic trick” for cleaning grout (bleach soaked paper towel rolled into long tubes that you sit directly on the mold) I was skeptical. I was convinced we were going to have to bring in a contractor and rip out all the tile (which would cost a fortune). Here’s the before and after:
moldmold gone


New furniture, isn’t something we want to spend money on right now (doesn’t make sense with a dog who likes to dig). I recently thought I was going to have to buy a new cushion for our IKEA poang chair. It’s white (well it used to be) and was getting pretty dingy. With a quick google search, I found that the covers are actually removable and machine washable (why I never thought to look, I don’t know). One quick wash and tumble dry saved me from spending $59 to buy a new cushion.

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