Renting a New Room and Writing a New Budget

rent-room

(This is not a picture of my new room. My room will not be as nice as this, but it’s somewhat similar.)

As you may know from my past posts, I have been sharing (one roommate) an overpriced apartment for the past year. One of my goals for 2014 was to find a cheaper and cleaner place to live once my lease ended.  Well, the good news is that I have! I found a room on Craigslist a week or so ago that I went to see.

It was not love at first sight.  The picture in the ad left much to be desired, but the rent was affordable so I had to at least check it out. It is  a few towns over from where I live now.  I decided to walk there from the public transit station along the busy main street. It was unusually hot that day and there were a couple of  points where I thought I’d miscalculated the distance on the map and wanted to turn around and go back home, but I didn’t and eventually found the place.

There are three roommates, all women in 40s/50s, pleasant, so that may be a positive change. The room, like the house, was small, old, and a little dark, but neat. At first I didn’t like it at all, but the more I kept thinking about it, the more it made sense to rent the room.

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Image credit: photographymad.com

I went back a few days later to drop off the deposit, sign the lease and see the room again. Talk about a big difference! I took a different route to get there by walking along a green walking and biking path that I’d learned about thanks to Google Maps. It was cool, breezy, and calm. I got there before I knew it, and realized that the house is within a few blocks of a small public library (win!), a popular local natural grocery store (big win!) and a small gym.

One of my long-standing goals is to find a way to get in shape. For the first time in my life I have developed the dreaded muffin top. My skin, which was never clear to begin with, has gone completely to crap, and I have the ironically named ‘laugh lines’ exploding all over my face.  Why? It’s not from laughing, I assure you. I’ve been stressed out to the point of burnout over the past year.

I’m hoping that being near a good grocery store and a running path will make it easier for me to make some much needed health improvements.  I don’t know if I’ll spend money to go to a gym, but if I can at least start running that’s half of the first battle. Anyway, as I said, what a difference a few days made. I’m glad that I didn’t pass this place by because of the Craigslist picture. I’m glad I didn’t turn around on my way to see it that first day. I can make this room work. As long as its  safe, clean, and bug free, I’ll be fine.

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Image credit: stackthatmoney

I’m mostly excited about the rent. Did I say it was affordable? It is only $500 /month INCLUDING all utilities and wi-fi!!

Depending on where you live, $500 per month may not seem special, but where I live now, rent that low is RARE to find. So my housing costs will drop from $1500 /mo. to  $500/ mo. for a $1000 savings each month! I can’t wait to start throwing all of it towards this credit card debt. With this housing shift, I will be back on track to kill this credit card debt entirely this year!

I won’t be living high on the hog, or even low on the hog. You all know I’d MUCH rather have my own place, but by doing this I’ll have less and less debt to stress out over. I hope to be in the room as little as possible and spend more time outside for once, so that’s another goal.

After this credit card debt is gone, I’ll reformulate my basic budget

 MY AUG – DEC. 2014 BASIC BUDGET

Q4 2014 Budget

Yeah, that phone charge is out of control. I felt like I had to go unlimited because I currently work from home 2 days per week and with all the conference call meetings i’m on everyday – I kept running out of minutes and getting slammed with extra charges.  (I don’t get a company phone.) I will be looking into how to reduce this.

I really hope this new room works out for me and I can stay for a while. This may be the best shot that I have for while to cut down this debt.  I’m finally getting back on track to follow my own advice.

Cutting down on housing and transportation expenses are the quickest ways to save the most money. If you’re thinking about taking the leap yourself…

Do it  credit - thetaline dot org
Image Credit: thetaline.org

“Debtor’s prison is real, and opportunity cost is a bitch.” (DDSW)

Where is my CTRL+ALT+DELETE button? Craigslist season opens again.

ctrl_alt_del_life_by_j0hnnyr0tt0n-d5vm4um
Credit: John Ackerly

I know I’ve been M.I.A for a while. My job is causing me all kinds of stress.  It then takes me all weekend to build the strength to string two thoughts together, let alone write a partially coherent blog post. My new manager is still scary. Every time she requests a meeting with me I panic that I’m going to get reprimanded and put on the short list for a PIP (the pre-firing “performance improvement plan”).

I’ve slowed down my debt pay off. This has been hard for me to do because I’m getting so close to being in four digits of credit card debt instead of five. It will be such a boost to be under $10,000.  Why am I slowing down my credit card murder payoff? I need to move.  My lease will be ending within the next couple of months and I want to find someplace much cheaper to live. I also want to be able to see what kitchen counters look like again (messy packrat roommate). Soooo, I will need to save 2X – 3X rent to move into a new place. I’m sure this housing hunt will earn another post. If you’ve ever competed for housing on Craigslist in a large city with a housing shortage, you’ll understand.

Craigslist roommate listings. You either get:

1. The overly specific poster with a long list of random requirements. It’s easier to join the cast of Big Brother, than get a room in their apartment. O.M.G.!  “Must play french horn with us every Tuesday evening and speak Swahili to our three 10 year old triplet Bengal cats”.  NEXT! Sigh…

The Most Insane Roommate Ad

2. The poster with weird habits that don’t match your weird habits.  A lot of ads have this kind of “kicker” at the bottom of the ad. Everything sounds great until you get to the last paragraph. “Oh, by the way all 5 of the other roommates will have to go through your room to get to the kitchen. The last tenant didn’t mind”. (Really? Well, you should get him/her back.) I’ve started reading the last paragraph first to save time. Sigh…  “NEXT!”

The Most

3. The poster who wants your money, but doesn’t want you.

These posters will do things like spend several sentences bragging about the gourmet grocery stores within walking distance. In the last paragraph they inform you that there are no kitchen privileges. WTH?!  Am I supposed to feed myself by cooking out in the backyard on a hot rock? Oh, wait, I won’t have backyard privileges either…   Sigh… NEXT!

The Most Insane Roommate Ads Ever Posted On Craigslist   Cry For Help   Happy Place

You know what? I’ll confess. If I ever had a room to rent, I’d be likely to write one like #3…  There, I’m guilty.  But that shouldn’t be surprising considering that I REALLY want my own place.

Ha!

Craigslist weirdness, big city weirdness, and hell, even my weirdness (We all have a bit. Yes you too – don’t deny it 😉 ) are making for good times… NOT!  I’ve already told you about what happened to me last year and how I ended up in my current housing situation…  In any event, my goal is to rent a cheap room for a year, kill off any remaining credit card debt and save some money before I even think about getting my own place.

Assuming I find a decent room, what will I do with said anticipated saved money (~$3k – 8k)? I haven’t decided yet. Should I keep it as an emergency fund? I’m not convinced that my job is secure.  Should I put it in my high deductible HSA (health savings account)? My health issues will have to be addressed at some point. Should I use it to fund travel? Should I open a 401k with my employer and send it there? Should I just throw it at the $100k of student loan debt? I need to work through identifying and re-evaluating what my financial goals are.

Another year of renting a room means that next year I’ll be 40 and still homeless. Not literally of course, but for me, not having my own apartment feels like a form of homelessness. Is renting a room one step up from couch-surfing? Sometimes I wish I had a CTRL+ALT+DELETE reboot command for life. I wish life problems could be solved that easily…  Short of having that, it IS within our ability to launch our own personal life ‘task manager’. I can’t start over, but I can decide what I prioritize and spend time / money on going forward.  I can decide what activities/goals I shut down/drop from my life.

Decisions, decisions…

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“Debtor’s prison is real, and opportunity cost is a bitch.” (DDSW)

Living Alone vs. Having Roommates: Health vs. Money?

credit - crashdwell dot com blog

Apartment Fever and Taking My Own Advice

For the past week I’ve had a fever — apartment fever. I experienced some irritations caused by my roommate that led me to start thinking about getting my own place again.

I needed to re-read my own past blog posts to remember my motivation for staying out of debt. I was slipping back into my old mindset, wanting a posh apartment even with a ton of debt and not enough money to furnish the place.

For now, the fever has passed. I’d like to have all my credit card debt gone and be under six figures of student loan debt before I even consider this again, but life has a way of throwing curveballs.

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microapt

My Reasons for Living Alone

I would LOVE to live in a tiny, clean, modern, micro-apartment like the one shown above. They don’t exist where I live yet, but here is to dreaming.

1. Health – As I discussed in one of my early posts, I’m a very introverted and private person, so I was very unhappy to say the least when my debt forced me to give up the one thing that cherished above all material possessions – my privacy.  My old apartment was my oasis to recharge from a world that was stressful, and at times, overwhelming. I could come home, shut the door and truly relax. Not living alone makes relaxation difficult, and is a source of low-level chronic stress. I’m tense pretty much all the time.

AP-STRESSING-OVER-DEBTcredit: nbcnews.com

It’s hard to completely relax when you don’t know who/what you’ll find when you open the door to your place or when you don’t have control over who comes through your door. I’ve noticed that I don’t cook much at all when I live with others. I start to rely on restaurants and prepared food. People with anxiety will understand what I’m talking about. I’ve noticed that my health has deteriorated over the past year, in part because of my poor diet. My recent physical shows borderline high blood pressure for the first time ever and a sky high cholesterol along with a few other conditions that I won’t get into here. For my mental and physical health, I need to have my own place.

2. Minimalist aesthetics  – As an aspirant of minimalism, I like clean lines and clear surfaces. My current roommate, although a nice guy, is messy, OCD, and a hoarder in training. I’m not being mean. It’s a fact. He will admit this to you himself. He admitted it to me AFTER I signed a lease and moved in. So yeah, every square inch of every counter in this place has to be covered in crap. He can’t have one of something; he has to have five of them. For example, on his side of the bathroom sink he has five crusty bottles of handsoap, two big bottles of mouthwash, 3 tubes of toothpaste… you get the idea. Every square inch, covered. His room is so full of crap that it has spilled out into the common area. I’ll spare you all the other details, but let’s just say that as a minimalist, it is irritating and mildly stressful to say the least, that I have to be surrounded by this all the time. 

3. Privacy  – I live an an apartment building that is poorly designed. One example of this is that all the meters, circuit breaker, etc. are all located inside MY BEDROOM. Why?! Who designed that?! So whenever some fuse blows or they need to check the water meter, I have men clomping around inside my bedroom  while my roommate sleeps through everything in his room with privacy. That may not bother you, but my bedroom is a private space to me. Just this past week we had a water meter inspection in our building. At first I didn’t even know it was happening because, again, my roommate is such a junky OCD packrat, that I didn’t see the notice among all the other crap piled all over the counters. I happened to look at the notice right before they showed up.

I started working at my computer, when the doorbell rang. It was a the monitor guys. I let the first one in and he announces to the other one who is still in the hallway, that the monitor is ‘in here’ and proceeds to go straight into my bedroom! I follow the second guy back to my room and sit at my computer while they access the water monitor which turns out to be in my closet! The first guy asks if he can remove a couple of things, and I say sure. Next thing I know, he is grabbing armfuls of clothes off the bar and tossing them on my bed. He continues to  pull out half the contents of my closet – laundry bag included. Sigh. It’s a good thing my closet was tidy.

After a while of going into our kitchen and bathroom to turn the water on and off, they finish and leave, but it was just awkward. They didn’t put any of my stuff back.  I should have made them. I guess what really bothered me about it is that my apartment is junky and messy because of my roommate,  but they were only seeing my face so I felt embarrassed that they were judging me for the apartment being like this.  Yes, I tried keeping the place neat and clean when I first moved in, but quickly learned that it was a losing battle. I’m not his mother and will not clean up after another adult. It is one reason of several that I will be moving out when my lease is up.

4. Freedom  – Freedom to do what I want, when I want, however I want.  ‘Nuff said.

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How you want to feel living with roommates…

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angry baby

 

How you actually feel living with roommates…

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My Reasons to Have Roommate(s)

1. Saving money $$$ – Let’s get right to it to the dollar bills. I live in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. Yes Caroline, “the rent is too damn high!” If Jimmy McMillan ran for office out here, he might actually win.   After exhaustive searches, I’ve realized that I’m priced out of the studio/1-bed rental market; at least for nice (not luxury) apartments that are also in safe neighborhoods. By moving in with roommates elsewhere in the area, I could potentially save $400-800 per month that would go to debt and/or retirement savings.  If I didn’t have any debt, I could afford to have my own place, save for retirement, and still have a little money for fun. But alas, that will not be my life for the foreseeable future.

2. Safety – Related to #1 above, in my fever induced search, the only apartments I could afford  were in not-so-safe neighborhoods. In online tenant reviews of some of these complexes, female prospective tenants are warned not to walk about these areas at night alone. Ummm, no thanks. My physical safety is too important. By pooling money with others, I can live in safer areas.

3. Companionship  – Even if my roommate(s) and I aren’t BFFs, it would prevent me from being totally isolated, as I have been slow to make friends here. I have eternal hope that I’ll find some people that I click with and have something in common with. That would be awesome and fun. Here’s to hope.

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money worry

Even though it is affecting my mental and physical health, I’ll just have to find a way to deal with my anxiety and stress for a while longer, until I can get more debt paid down.  Are any of you living with roommates not by choice? Bring it up in the comments.

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“Debtor’s prison is real, and opportunity cost is a bitch.” (DDSW)