Monday, April 30, 2012

Hoarding pays off sometimes...

If you've never seen my "Hoarders: Baltimore" video, I suggest you watch it now. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Awesome. So thankfully our condo looks much better now, but it's still cluttered beyond a reasonable amount. I admit it's 98% my fault, especially in John's old room, which should probably be renamed to the "Craft Room of Doom." It's bad. I don't know why I have so many craft supplies that I never ever use, but I can't seem to get myself to get rid of them. Which is probably why a whole room was piled to the ceiling with craft supplies in my grandmother's house. And it's not just craft supplies anymore, but a general mass of things I think are awesome. Decorative U.S. Presidents plate here, 1970s Better Homes and Gardens Home Decor book there, I'm on a slippery slope and I know it.
But don't worry, because I'm self-medicating with lots of episodes of Hoarders!  After an episode you can find me wandering around the house muttering "I can't be like those people" and gathering a pile of junk to go to Goodwill or to be sold online. As you can imagine, my pile of "to sell" junk got pretty big, and Shane insisted I list something. After an experiment with a pair of watermelon salt and pepper shakers (which sold for $10 *thankyouverymuch*) I set up a photo studio in the kitchen and took pictures of all sorts of random crap.
I decided to sell this set of enamelware mugs next, because they're cute, I only spent $2 on them at an estate sale, and I thought hipsters might like them.  I researched them and found out that they were made by a reasonably popular Finnish company in the 1960s-70s. Their fondue pots were selling for $150ish online, so I figured maybe I'd get $15 for the mugs?

Fast forward to getting emails from potential buyers in New Zealand and Hong Kong, and me trying to figure out shipping quotes. If someone is willing to pay $17 just in shipping, then maybe these things were worth more than I thought?

Fourteen minutes left in the auction and this is where the adrenaline really starts kicking in. At this point in time, my mugs have had NINETY-SIX unique viewers, and twenty-seven are watching! Crazy! And what's even crazier is the bid of $46.50! I only bought them because they were 50% off at the estate sale, and even then it was a tough call to make. 

In the end, some nice American hipsters won the mugs. I'm assuming hipsters, because they're from Portland, and well, Portlandia. And after those fourteen intense moments of bidding, I walked away $75 richer. For two little mugs. That were just sitting on a table, gathering dust.

Yep, I'm a little more motivated to get rid of some junk now ;)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

We're (closer to being) DEBT FREE!

If you have money, or you'd ever like to, you need to check out Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University right now. I take that back. Finish reading this post, then check it out. It's a must-do, and trust me, you'll thank me later. During the thirteen week course, Shane and I got on track with our budget, stopped living above our means, actually had money left over at the end of the month, and paid off close to $10,000 in debt. We still have a ways to go before we pay off our debt, but the light at the end of the tunnel definitely seems a lot closer than it did before. Shane had been listening to Dave's radio show for a while before we started the class, but I was new to it all, so let me share some things that were real eye-openers for me. 

Important things I learned from FPU: 

1. "Live like no one else so later you can live like no one else." This is Dave's catchphrase, and it really makes sense. It's about making the tough choices to save money where you can now, and maybe not always drive the nicest car or have the most stylish clothes, but later you'll be able to afford all you want and more.

This point took a while to sink in with me, but around week four of the class, I dropped the bomb on Shane. I decided we should cancel our cell phone contracts and switch to prepaid. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved my iPhone and would have run into a burning building to save it, but I didn't care for our $200 a month Verizon bill. 

It's not like we're back to the Dark Ages. We both got a Virgin Mobile Droid with a $35/month plan, which comes with 300 minutes, unlimited text and unlimited web. While the phones may not be the most advanced models (and I still miss the iPhone every now and then) they do what we need them to do. And once we have enough money to spare $200 a month, we'll reevaluate.

2. Budgets work. I know that most people think of  budget as a four-letter word, but once you get going on one, it's so satisfying to see it all work out. Instead of going blindly into the month, we have a plan. Each dollar has a destination before it hits our bank account. Sticking to the budget is easy too. We both have apps on our phones that keep track of our money and let us know how much we have left to spend in each category. We don't overdraw our bank account anymore. We have enough money to pay extra on bills. We still get to go out and have fun. We just keep an eye on our money now instead of spending until it runs out. 

3. You HAVE to have a savings account! The first "baby step" on Dave's plan is an emergency savings of $1,000. This was the first time we've had that much money in the bank (besides before rent is taken out :/ ) and it feels great. So much weight is taken off your shoulders when you know you have a safety net to catch you. We've already had to use and replace ours once! Sheldon ate a bunch of caffeine pills and had to go to the Pet ER. Thank goodness we had the $900ish dollars to leave for a deposit, or we might be a one-dog household again. 

4. Life is possible without credit. Absurd concept, I know. I was among the majority who got a credit card in college "just to get my score up." And guess what? I ran that bill up, forgot to pay on time, and regretted every minute of it. I know there are people out there who can use plastic responsibly, but the fact is that you don't have to. Credit scores are really debt scores, and we don't want to be rated by how much debt we have. From now on, we're going to save cash for big purchases like electronics and cars, because why buy it before you can really afford it?

5. We will be multimillionaires by retirement. It's amazing what consistent saving and compound interest can do for a person. Most people put off and put off saving for retirement because they think they can do it all later, but really it's best to start as soon as possible. If you don't save for yourself, no one else is going to do it for you. We can't even count on the meager Social Security checks to be there by the time our generation retires. Who wants to work their whole lives only to retire and have to go work at Walmart just to be able to eat? When you do the math, and when you learn about the best places stash your money (like in a combination of 401ks and Roth IRAs instead of CDs, bonds, and that tin can buried in your back yard), it's easy to see that you're only doing yourself a favor. Being a multimillionaire by retirement isn't just some crazy dream, it's totally attainable. 

I know this probably all sounds totally crazy, and that's okay. If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me. Going through FPU makes some radical changes in your life, and you might not be ready for that yet. But even if you're not ready right now, just know that the plan does work. And one day, you'll be so sick of worrying over bills that you'll realize you need a change. Then I hope you keep FPU in mind. 

We all deserve a little financial peace. 

Yes, even The Situation.* Let's hope he has a good, diversified investment strategy for all that cash. 

* Can you believe this was the most interesting picture I found when I google image'd "big pile of money?" It was either this or any of the 1998 clip art catalog, so you're welcome.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Congrats Charlie and Sheldon!

You know how they say there's a reason for everything? A silver lining to every rain cloud?  

Our downstairs neighbor is hateful and likes to complain about everything. Need to do some laundry? Better not hope it's past 9 pm, or you'll be getting hateful glares in the parking lot the next morning. We stay home most nights, but when we actually do go somewhere, she leaves notes on our door that say stuff like "your dogs bark constantly when you leave, you can't leave the house." Her argument is that the dog across the hall from her is such a little perfect angel, but it's really a little hell raiser. It only lives there on alternate weekends and it barks worse than both of our dogs combined. We admit it, Charlie and Sheldon can be a tad barky, but our lease does say we can have dogs. And it's not our fault she chose to buy a second story condo, you're going to hear noises from your neighbors.

But you know what? If she wasn't such an ill-tempered person, then our dogs wouldn't have just graduated from beginner class at PetSmart. 

 In a roundabout way, we owe it all to our nasty neighbor. Not that she paid for the class or anything, which would have been nice, but at least now we can say they're well trained little boys. 

We're seriously considering framing their certificates and hanging them by the front door.  You know, just for  fun.