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Archive for January, 2007

Pre-Relocation Stuff Sell Off, Jan Results

January 31st, 2007 at 09:20 pm

Before relocating to Texas, we have decided to sell off as much stuff as we can bear to part with.
Reasons are:
- We have heard nightmare stories about hiring cross country movers, so we decided to do it ourselves with a rental truck
- One-way truck rentals are expensive, as are gasoline and hotels along the way. We figure the less stuff, the smaller the truck. The smaller the truck, the less gas and the faster we can complete the trip. All adds up to lower moving expenses.
- We decided to rent for a year before we buy a house in Texas. This is so we can make sure we really like living there before we make a major commitment like buying a house. Less stuff = a smaller rental place and no storage unit. All adds up to lower living costs.
- We have stuff we just don't need or even want, so why move it?
- Most of the physical things we own, we are not emotionally attached to. We don't have high-end or irreplacable things. So why not sell it off, and then buy what we need second-hand once we have a house?

So ... shortly after my husband got back from his scouting trip to Austin I started our big pre-relocation sell off. This is going to be a HUGE project for me. I know we could have a giant moving sale at the last minute and sell everything really cheap, but I'm going to try to make as much $$$ from the sales as I can while still getting rid of as much as possible. My goal is $3,000 by the end of May [We're not moving until the end of September but my husband & I will both be very busy during the summer months with work so we decided to get this out of the way early.]

Here are the January results.

Items sold during 30 different sales transactions (30 different buyers):
2 Sofas
Armchair & Ottoman
2 Nightstands
Pub Table & 2 Chairs
Sofa Table
House Plants & Pots
Mirror
3 Lamps
2 Golf Clubs
19 books or CDs
2 Christmas Ornaments

Net Sales (after deducting listing fees and commissions, packaging, and postage) = $1,140.51

Interest (at 5% which is an average of what our MMAs are getting, but only calculated once we actually have cash in hand ... which means lag time getting cash if I'm paid through Paypal or Half.com) = $0.43

Total January Take = $1,140.94

Since I need to average $600/month Jan-May in order to reach my goal, I obviously have a good "running start." However, I know there is no way I am going to be able to keep up that pace: I have no more couches!!!

The biggest challenge I will face in the coming months will be to keep my spirits up and keep the momentum going when I'm just making a couple bucks here and a couple bucks there selling books and other smaller things. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can ...

If you read this far, thanks for sharing this big adventure with me.


Woohoo! Thank you ThreeBeanSalad, Craigslist and Ebay!

January 27th, 2007 at 12:10 pm

I was going to hold off on posting anything about this until I had my end-of-the-month totals but I'm so excited I just couldn't wait!

The first (and by far the biggest) step in preparing for our relocation is selling off as much of our stuff as we can bear to part with.

Thanks to ThreeBeanSalad's heads-up, I posted some furniture for sale on Ebay when they had a 20-cent listing sale. Out of 7 listings, only 2 sold, but since the listing fee was so minimal I don't mind. The folks who bought one of our sofas came this morning and picked it up. They seemed so happy with it. I think they got a fabulous deal, and we are happy to not have to move it, so it was a win-win for everyone.

Last night I listed the 5 items that did sell on Ebay on Craigslist (www.craigslist.org). It was the first time I ever listed on Craigslist. One item already sold this morning; some nice folks came and took a look and bought it on the spot, for cash. No listing fee, no commissions, just cash in hand. How cool is that?

Proof Things Don't Always Go According To Schedule

January 21st, 2007 at 06:12 pm

We have 2 cars:
1994 Taurus w/ 170K miles (We refer to it as the Golden Chariot)
1998 Camry w/ 100K miles (We refer to it as the New Car!)

Since I won't be working immediately after we relocate, hubby & I had talked about selling or donating the "Golden Chariot" just before we leave (Sept. 30th is the planned date), taking just the "New Car" with us, and seeing if we could manage with just one car without driving each other crazy.

Well, isn't it funny how life happens when you are busy making other plans? Sure enough, the Taurus went kaput. Won't start; nothing happens when we turn the key. Accessories do light up, so we think it's a starter problem rather than the battery.

Tomorrow we'll be calling our repair guy to see if he can give us a rough estimate without seeing it. Then, we will have a big decision on our hands: Do we cough up the money for the repair, or do we go ahead and donate the car now and live with just one car for our last 7-1/2 months here? [I need the car 3-8 hours a day 7 days a week for my business, and my husband works from home, so getting by with one car could be done but would take a bit of coordinating and patience. In our city, bus service is spotty and the nearest stop is about 5 miles away.]

I'm expecting the repair estimate to be somewhere in the $300-600 range. The Blue Book on our car is hard to pin down since the condition is somewhere between Fair & Poor (ImaSaver - don't fall off your chair when you read this!) but I think the most we could get would be $800, and that would be if we were really, really lucky. $500 would be more realistic.

So, depending on the $$$ amount the repair guy tells us, tomorrow may be a day when we make a more-than-slightly life-altering decision.

Dear IRS - "You're Welcome!"

January 15th, 2007 at 07:11 pm

Today I stuck our 4th estimated tax payment for 2006 in the mail. [The deadline is tomorrow.] My husband & I are both self-employed, so paying estimated taxes is a special treat we can look forward to doing 4 times every year.

A few years ago I realized that I was getting really worked up every time I wrote that check out to the US Treasury: I could feel my blood pressure rise and it would actually take me several hours to get calmed down and back to my normal level of concentration.

Don't get me wrong, I believe in taxes. I believe in good and free public education (and I don't have children of my own), I believe in defending the country, I believe in helping out those who really need a helping hand, etc, etc.
What does grate on my nerves is that I know there are people out there who enjoy the same government-provided services I do and yet I end up paying part of their share because they lie & cheat on their taxes. As silly & immature as this probably sounds, it seems that those of us who pay 100% of the taxes we are required to by law are owed some sort of thanks. Fat chance we'll ever get that, right?

So ... to take the edge off at tax time, I started writing "You're Welcome!" on the memo line for my estimated tax checks. Ya know what? It works!!! I now only cringe slightly when I write & mail the check, and after a few minutes I am calmed down and on with my day.

Am I the only one who does something slightly silly to cope with the stress of paying taxes? Please tell me I'm not alone!

Background on the Relocation

January 13th, 2007 at 06:07 pm

Gonna try to give a BRIEF summary of why we decided to relocate.....

We currently live in the Seattle area. Love it, but it is a pretty expensive place and house prices are quite high.
I was born here, moved away as a child, and then moved back here 20 years ago. We stayed here because we like it, we have roots here, our jobs were here, and we owned a house here. But things changed ...

6-1/2 years ago my husband quit his job and started his own business. He works from a home office and really could work from anywhere. The income from this business will not change because of the relocation.

3 years ago I started my own business after the company I worked for relocated (I gladly took a severance package and never looked back). I can't take my business with me, so I will be shutting it down about one month prior to our move. It will be sad for me because it is my "baby" but it represents only about 15% of our total income, so it won't be a huge financial hit. Also, I have confidence that I will eventually find work again, whether as an employee or going the self-employed route again.

We sold our house recently, when the real estate market here was still strong but we were starting to get whiffs that a change was in the air. We are currently renting the home of a friend who had to move but wanted to keep his house, so it's a good deal for both parties (we are renting below market and he has tenants he knows and trusts).

We had originally planned to buy another house in the area, but fairly early on in our search we started asking ourselves: "Why do we need to stay in this area? It is so expensive, and many of the reasons we stayed are no longer true."

We started researching different parts of the country, and time and time again Texas kept coming up as a place that offered low house prices, low cost of living, and quality of life. We looked at several places in Texas before deciding that Austin "looked the best for us on paper." That's why my husband made the scouting trip, and since that was trip was successful, we made the decision to move there.

Thanks for all of the positive, supportive comments so far!

Interest Rate - It Never Hurts to Ask for a Higher One

January 11th, 2007 at 09:06 am

When making a deposit at our local branch yesterday, I inquired about the current interest rate on our MMA. I was disappointed to see that it had just dropped 0.35%. I talked to the bank manager and said we'd have to close that account if the rate is so low; she said she would call someone higher up in the organization to see if they could keep our rate at the higher rate. I have a feeling that they are going to say no because it is a such a large bank (our deposit is peanuts to them).

However, I have successfully negotiated higher rates with smaller local banks, especially on CDs. So, it never hurts to ask for a higher rate.

Also, don't be afraid to take your business elsewhere.

It's Official - Austin!

January 8th, 2007 at 10:22 pm

My husband returned this evening from a scouting trip to Austin and he says that it's a great place, so it is official --- we will be relocating there.

We are moving there to save money, to put it very simply. We currently live in the Seattle area. In the Austin area, comparable homes cost about 1/2 of what they do here, and the overall cost of living is quite a bit cheaper too. We are lucky because we have a lot of flexibility in choosing where we want to live, so we decided to take the plunge and relocate.

I know some of you out there have contemplated moving to a lower cost part of the country, so hopefully this blog will be of interest and maybe even of use to you.

I'll be writing lots more in the days and months to come ...

Feeling Nostalgic

January 7th, 2007 at 05:13 pm

My first-ever TIPS (that's Treasury Inflation-Protected Security for those of you who aren't Treasury Direct fans) is going to mature on Jan. 15th. If my memory is correct, it's from the first-ever US Treasury issuance of TIPS, issued in 1997 for 10 years. It was my first Treasury, and one of my first ever investments outside of a bank.

My husband wasn't sold on the idea, but I persuaded him to let me invest $3K which at the time was a lot of money for us. It turned out to be a pretty good investment as it has paid 3-3/8 on top of the inflation adjustments.

We bought a few additional TIPS later on, but never got nearly as good a rate. And, it's been quite some time since we bought a TIPS since the rates just haven't been appealing.

Anyway ..... I am kind of sad to see that TIPS mature. It represents a milestone on my road to (hopefully) financial maturity.

You never forget your first ... sigh ...

Decision about my $20 Challenge!

January 2nd, 2007 at 04:45 pm

I've decided what my $20 challenge will be. I am going grow some produce at home for the first time ever. I am ashamed to admit that I have wanted to do this and have even felt I should do this for about 17 years but just never did for a variety of reasons:
- With my former job, I was travelling for most of the growing season (this is really the only legitimate excuse and it ended with my former job 4-1/2 years ago).
- I have been just plain lazy about it, or just did not get my act together in time to get things in the ground.
- I have been scard off by stories about how people end up spending so much money on their gardens that it becomes a money pit instead of a money saver. [A neighbor of mine quipped when I commented on his wife's delicious home grown tomatoes ... They only cost $300 apiece, but for you a special deal at $250!]

This Challenge is the perfect impetus for me to not only finally do this, but to see just how cheaply it can be done by a total rookie! I won't be able to get carried away buying fancy, unnecessary things for the garden --- not if I'm going to stick to the $20 in "seed money" (pun intended).

Here is my timeline:
- Jan & Feb = Learn about container gardening, decide what I will try to grow, and start scrounging for free stuff around the house that I can use. [During this time I'll park the $20 in an MMA and let it earn a bit of interest.]
- Mar & Apr = Order seeds. Start growing seedlings inside.
- May onward = Transplant seedlings outside, tend the garden, then harvest the goodies and add up the value of what I've grown.
- October onward = We are planning to move around Oct. 1st, so hopefully everything will be harvested by then. I will probably just have to park my money in an MMA again and let it earn interest 'til the end of the year due to other priorities.

Here are my rules for myself:
- I will expense what I actually go out and buy. For example, if I have a half-used bag of soil around the house, I won't charge myself for that, but if I go out and buy a bag of soil and only use half of it I will charge myself for the entire bag.
- I will only grow things that we customarily buy now. [In other words, I won't plant things just because they are expensive at the store in order to artificially inflate my bottom line.]
- I will do my best to avoid any hidden, unknown, and unaccounted for expenses. I will do my accounting for this $20 Challenge just as strictly as I do for my business. For example, since water is probably a big cost in gardening, I will come up with a system to capture the water that comes out of my showerhead and down the drain while waiting for my shower to heat up, and use that in my garden. Or if I drive to the garden center just to buy plants, I will expense the mileage at the IRS-approved rate.

Now that I have posted this for the world to see, it means I really have to do it, doesn't it? Gulp!

First Ever Blog

January 1st, 2007 at 04:39 pm

Well - here it is. My first ever blog. I decided to do this so I can participate in the $20 Challenge (and also so I can document our big project for 2007: relocating.)

Now I just have to think of what I will do for the $20 challenge in 2007 ...