After spending some time in a bunch of European countries and South Korea, it’s interesting (and kind of depressing) to think about how big American homes are. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some 3,000 square feet of space, but when you’re in Korea and a family of five lives in a 1,200 square foot apartment, it definitely puts things in perspective.

Girl Ninja and I dream of having a garage. We desperately want more than one bathroom. And a guest bedroom would be epic so guests don’t have to sleep on an air mattress in our living room.

I’m a firm believer buying a house should be a long-term decision. If you aren’t willing to own the thing for a minimum of ten years, you probably shouldn’t buy it. But if we abide by this rule, we must then ask ourselves what kind of house should we buy? Do we buy a house that perfectly fits our current needs, or do we buy the house that will appease our needs ten years from now?

We have to start think about things like how many kids will we have, and yard sizes, and garage space, when in reality, we have no clue what those things would look like in our life; 2, 5, or 10 years from now. What if we upgrade to a four bedroom house and find out we can’t have more kids? Or what if we have 10 kids and our three bedroom house doesn’t cut it anymore?

Reflecting on our first year of home ownership makes me think we made a good choice. We have a fairly modest 1,800sqft at our disposal and use just about every inch of the space. I’d throw up if I paid for bonus rooms, lofts, bedrooms, or basements that were never actually lived in.

Maybe that’s just me though?

What about you?

How many rooms are there in your current house (and how many people under that roof)? Do you wish you had more space, less space, or have just the perfect amount? When does home size go from reasonable to excessive?

{ 21 comments }


Let’s get right to the point today shall we? I go out of my way to ensure my personal finances are significantly more complicated than they should be. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that I sleep better at night because of it. No, I haven’t lost all my marbles, I just hate the idea of automating my finances.

I know I’m probably in the minority here, seeing that numerous personal finance blogs preach the wonders of automating your finances. I won’t try to convince you my way is better (even though it is), but allow me to at least explain myself further. First, I’ll list off all of the regular recurring payments I have each month.

  1. Mortgage
  2. Cell Phone
  3. Car Insurance
  4. Credit Card(s) – Varies depending on monthly balance (usually around $1,500)
  5. Charitable Contributions
  6. Utilities

I may be forgetting one or two other bills, but for the most part I think that about covers it. I could theoretically set up an automatic withdrawal from my checking for each of these bills, allowing the companies access to my checking account. As the bill comes due, the company would pull the money from my checking account.

Now, I don’t know about you, but that totally freaks me out. Getting married and sharing a checking account with Girl Ninja was scary enough, I couldn’t imagine giving a bunch of random strangers access to my account as well.

I’ve read horror stories about people who thought they set up a $200/monthly payment and were shocked to find out $2,000 was withdrawn instead.

Or how about the person that had their car payment scheduled for the 8th of every month. Well it just so happened that on the night their account was to be debited, their bank was beefing up security protocols and restricted all customers accounts for a few hours. As a result, the payment never processed. But because it’s suppose to be automatic, you never think to check and make sure everything went smoothly. Thirty days later you are dealing with an angry Toyota representative hounding you for being one month past due.

No thanks. Automatic payments don’t sound worth it to me.

To be perfectly honest, I actually enjoy manually paying my bills. It reminds me how much money comes in and out of our account each month, but more importantly it makes me want to continually shop around and make sure I’m getting the best deal possible. I mean how many of you having been paying the same cable bill or car insurance bill for a couple of years? That’s insane, every year I shop around, and every year I find better deals than what I currently have. Un-automating my finances keeps me intimately involved in our personal finances. And I need not remind you, making love with money is my favorite kind of romance.

Do you automate your finances? Why or why not?

{ 38 comments }

 Was at a group meeting a few months back and an older gentleman shared an email he received from a friend. The email read….

How Did We Make It this Far?

Looking back, it’s hard to believe that we have lived as long as we have…

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

Our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paint.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors, or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets. (Not to mention hitchhiking to town as a young kid!)

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then rode down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into
the bushes a few times we learned to solve the problem.

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. No cell phones. Unthinkable.

We played dodgeball and sometimes the ball would really hurt. We got cut and broke bones and broke teeth and there were no law suits from these
accidents. They were accidents. No one was to blame but us. Remember accidents?

We had fights and punched each other and got black and blue and learned to get over it.

We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, and drank sugar soda but we were never overweight … we were always outside playing.

We shared one grape soda with four friends, from one bottle and no one died from this.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo 64, X Boxes, video games at all, 99 channels on cable, video tape movies, surround sound, personal cellular phones, Personal Computers, internet chat rooms. Instead we had friends.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s home and knocked on the door, or rung the bell or just walked in and talked to them.

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate worms and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did
the worms live inside us forever.

We ate penny candy, swallowed bubblegum, and our intestines did not stick together because of it.

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t, had to learn to deal with disappointment.

Some students weren’t as smart as others so they failed a grade and were held back to repeat the same grade. Tests were not adjusted
for any reason.

Our actions were our own. Consequences were expected. No one to hide behind. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers and problem solvers and inventors, ever. The past 50 years has been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

Obviously as a twenty something I can’t relate to everything in this letter, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t certain things that stood out to me (I bolded the things I liked).

I mean think about cell phones. Twenty years ago no one had cell phones and people managed to get by just fine. Now, if I reach down to grab my phone and it’s not in front of me, I have a mild panic attack. Funny how priorities change.

What were some of the things in the letter that rubbed ya the wrong way? What were some that resonated with you?

Any other 20-somethings out there willing to admit we are probably the laziest generation to have ever existed? Would love to hear from the 40+ crowd today and get your insights on how you’ve seen things change over the years!

p.s. if Facebook is the biggest “accomplishment” of our generation I’m going to cry.

 

 

Mortgages and Medicine.

October 29, 2014 · 8 comments

Unless you are the dumbest person in the world, you probably have realized I’m not the biggest fan of debt. I think it’s pretty stupid and unlike most PF bloggers, I don’t believe “good debt” exists.

Although I’m a pretty avid debt puncher, I do compromise on two issues…

Home

If you didn’t already know, houses are kind of expensive. The median home price in my zip code is $500,000. Even if Girl Ninja and I were able to stock away a whopping $50,000/yr in savings (which we aren’t), it would take us 10 years before we could pay cash for a house in our hood. And that’s assuming home prices don’t increase during those 10 years we save (which we know it will).

Last year we took on a $280,000 mortgage for our $350,000 home. That means we put 20% down, and financed the remaining 80%.

I would never try to call my mortgage debt “good”, perhaps “necessary evil” is a better descriptor.

Medical

This one goes without saying, and I assume most of you would agree.

If for some reason the crap hit the fan and I was faced with a decision between death or debt, I’m gonna take on some debt. That said, I am doing what I can to ensure I never have to be faced with that choice. I pay a pretty penny for health/dental/vision insurance each month, not to mention I have a decent chunk of change sitting in an emergency fund.

My insurance and savings should significantly diminish the chances of having unpaid medical bills , but on the rare chance I needed to buy an organ on Ebay, you better believe I’d do so. Side Note: How much you think a kidney goes for on the black market? $50K? $100K?

That pretty much wraps up my Tolerable Debt List. I realize my stance may be extreme for some, and for others it’s probably not strict enough. And this leads to today’s question….

Where do you draw the debt line?

What type of debt have you sworn off for good (credit cards, car, mortgage, payday loans)?

What type of debt are you comfortable with (mortgage, cars, 0% credit card offers, etc)?

At what point does debt go from being logical to being ridiculous?


When did that happen?

October 21, 2014

Sometimes I think to myself “I can’t believe I’m a grown up!”. I don’t feel old. I don’t look old, and I sure as h-e-double-hockey-sticks don’t act old. I use to think “old” was an age, but I’m quickly learning it’s a lifestyle. I remember being bored to death when my parents would watch political […]

11 comments Read the full article →

You might be wealthy, but are you free?

October 15, 2014

You ever read a blog post that went something like this… You might want to think twice before you buy that scooter. It would set you back $3,000, and will likely only provide you entertainment for a handful of years. What if you invested that money instead?  If you put $2,000 in to a Roth IRA […]

24 comments Read the full article →

I’ve realized I’m a lifer.

October 12, 2014

A few months after graduating college, the federal government offered me a job to work for them as a Special Agent. I was 21 at the time and the prospect of a “cushy” government job seemed too good to pass up. I mean, I had $28,000 in student loans to pay back after all. I remember […]

19 comments Read the full article →