Your neighbor could be a pedophile.

We bought a house! Ha, yeah right, but as I see those interest rates continue to creep lower, the PF nerd in me says “Now, Ninja. Now!” Two years ago people were saying the market had bottomed, but here we are with sub 4% interest rates. Who woulda thunk it?

While I’ve shared many times before the reason renting is clearly the better choice for us, even in this buyers market, that doesn’t mean I haven’t flirted with the idea of becoming a homeowner. I play with mortgage calculators all the time. Crunching numbers at various mortgage amounts, down payments, and interest rates; doing my best to figure out what combination of the three makes the most sense for us.

I search Redfin and Zillow almost every day looking at what’s out there, seeing if anything tickles my fancy. Usually nothing does, but occasionally a few gems pop up. I love not only viewing what’s currently for sale, but looking back at “recently sold” houses to get a true understanding of a homes value. I’m doing everything I can to educate myself on local market conditions, and crunching all numbers possible so when the right house pops up, Girl Ninja and I can gobble it up quickly.

That said, there is one thing market research and number crunching will never be able to tell me; Who lives behind the doors in the surrounding houses. 

The idea of committing to residing in a single location for more than 12 months is already scary enough to me, let alone thinking about living adjacent to people I might want to punch in the face.

Let’s examine a real world example, shall we? 

My parents, and Girl Ninja’s parents both bought their houses around the early 1990’s. Both homes were new construction, in nice/new neighborhoods at the time. Fast forward 20 years later, my parents neighborhood has unfortunately gone to hell in a hand basket, while Girl Ninja’s parents neighborhood is as beautiful as the day they moved in. Over half the houses in my parents cul-de-sac are in foreclosure. Many of the neighbors are the epitome of white trash, frequently hosting bonfires in the middle of the street until 3am. Few neighbors actually care about the appearance of their lawns and homes. It’s sad. 

This is no fault to my parents. They had no control over who moved in over the years (my parents are one of only two original owners). They can’t force their neighbors to mow their lawns, to not park 87 cars in their driveway/yard/street, to paint their house every 10 years, or to pay their mortgages and not get foreclosed on.

This my friends scares me. Even if we do find the right house, owning comes with the inherit risk that your neighbors could still be douche bags. When you rent, if your neighbors suck you simply move. Owning doesn’t afford one that same luxury. Heck, even if we get a great feel from the neighbors, there’s nothing stopping them from selling their house to a registered sex offender 2 years later.

Ugh.

deep down inside I want to buy a house. I know it’s a great time. I know there are tax benefits and it’s ultimately an investment, but until I can get past these psychological barriers, renters we shall remain.

Those of you that own, I’d love to hear your opinion on your neighbors (love em, hate em, or don’t know em)!? Anyone else seen a neighborhood with a lot of potential like my parents, take a turn for the worse? How does one adequately take in to account in the “neighbor factor” when purchasing a home?

p.s. I should be clear that my parents neighborhood is by no means a total dump and they have a ton of equity in their house, but even they would agree it’s not the neighborhood it was when they first moved in. 

“I’m living the life I wanted 10 years from now.”

One of my buddies, who works in finance for a major bank, told me he recently attended a small group with a few of his good friends from college. During the small group, one of the members began reflecting on his life. He has a good job. He and his wife bought a house in a nice part of Seattle. I think they have a dog. And my understanding is they both have relatively stable employment. They are living the dream. Or as my friend’s friend put it the night of their small group, they are living the life they want to have when they are 35, nearly ten years away.

Can I get an amen?

I know we don’t own a house and I know we don’t have any kids, but gosh darn it, sometimes I don’t want to play grown-up anymore. I only get to be in my twenties for three more years. Mortgages and diapers are not far off. Why then am I not living it up? One word…

Responsibility. 

Retirement isn’t going to pay for itself. My savings account only increases if I keep showing up for work. And Girl Ninja only gets to be a stay-at-home mom if we start planning for that lifestyle change now. The life I want in five, ten, and forty years, prevents me from living the life I want right now.

I don’t know about you, but that depresses me. 

If you’ve been following my blog for a while you know I love my job. That said, it is also the thing that is holding me back the most. If I got fired tomorrow, I wouldn’t go look for a similar position somewhere else. You wanna know what I would do?

I WOULD TAKE THREE MONTHS OFF!!!

Not only would I take three months off. I’d make (or at the very least beg) Girl Ninja to quit her job as well. We would become vagabonds for no less than ninety days. We would be challenged in ways our currently safe, secure, and predictable life can’t. We’d be sporadic. Spontaneous. Scared. And Excited. We’d be living the dream. A 25 year old’s dream.

As with anything, our journey will have to be about balance. We wont be quitting our jobs and sacrificing our long-term goals anytime soon, but I’ll be damned if I catch my 35-year-old self wondering what the hell happened to my twenties. (pardon my french)

I guess this is why phrases like Carpe Diem and YOLO exist. 

Am I a thief?

So I was introduced to a super fun new backyard game called Kan Jam a few weeks back. It’s a four person frisbee game that kept me and my friends entertained for hours. Instead of explain to you how the game works, here is a nifty little tutorial…

So you basically throw a frisbee towards the can that’s 50 feet away from you. Your partner can help try to slam the frisbee down the top or in to the side of the can for points if you can’t hit it directly. I was pretty much obsessed with the game and decided I needed to own it. I went home, searched online, and found it on Amazon. List price, $40.

As you can see from the picture above the cans are nothing special. Just a thick piece of plastic that rolls in to a cylinder. The game also comes with a frisbee. I already own a frisbee and don’t really have a need for a second one. We could obviously afford to pay the $40 asking price to own it, but I couldn’t just bring myself to add it to my Amazon cart.

Instead, I stole the idea. 

Dang. Does that make me as bad of a person as I think it does? I just couldn’t justify the $40 purchase when I knew I could make myself the game for a fraction of the cost. So on Friday I went out on an epic journey to find the best material possible to make the game. First, I stopped at Home Depot to see what kinds of plastic sheets they had. Turns out, they don’t have any. Next stop, Joanne Fabrics. Nothing. Okay, maybe I wasn’t going to find rollable plastic sheets.

Off to Big Lots I went. They had a 26 gallon garbage can for sale for $7. I nearly bought the thing, but decided the diameter was too large and it would make the game too easy. If I was going to copy Kan Jam, I wanted my version to be as close to the original as possible. As I wandered through the store I stumbled upon a $6 cylindrical plastic laundry basket that was absolutely perfect. It was the proper height and width. I made my purchase, spent about 20 minutes at home modifying it, and BOOM! I just made myself Kan Jam.

I brought my home-made set to a friend’s lake house this weekend and we spent hours playing. It was a total blast and I don’t think having the original Kan Jam would have made the game any better.

So, my question today is simple. Am I a thief? Do I have a moral obligation to purchase the game?

Part of me thinks yes. I mean, Kan Jam was made by two guys and it’s super fun. They deserve to be rewarded handsomely for their ingenuity. But then again, who hasn’t replicated someone else’s idea before? Am I obligated to buy a Hamburger from McDonalds instead of make one at home? Does Girl Ninja have to buy that shabby chic picture frame from Pottery Barn when she could easily antique a thrift store frame for pennies?

I guess the big takeaway from today’s story is this: If you are going to create something, make it too complex for a simpleton like me to replicate.

Have you stolen anything lately? 

(side note: I never go to Big Lots and still have absolutely no idea what one would go there for, nor do I know how to describe it to someone else. It’s like Ross, meets Walgreens, meets Albertsons, meets People of Walmart)

Work longer, make more.

Walk in to your bosses office right now (I’m assuming you are reading this while on the clock, am I right?) and demand a raise. See what happens. You’ll either get fired, or at the very least laughed at.

Unless you work on a commissioned base pay system, truth is you probably don’t have much influence over how much you get paid at your 9 to 5. But what if you want, or need, to make some extra money? You really only have one option, work more.

For some this might mean a second job; delivering pizzas, monetizing your blog, or selling things on Craigslist. For non-salary employees, this might mean putting in longer hours and getting paid overtime.

For the first time in my four-year career, I’ve been given the opportunity to work optional overtime. I’ve been authorized up to 15 hours a week for at least the next few weeks.

I’m torn. 

On one hand, it would be nice to add some extra cash to my next few paychecks. On the  other hand, I very much value my free time. I’m going to try to not sound like an ungrateful jerk in the next few sentences so please read them with understanding…

I’m hesitant to work the overtime just for the sake of making an extra $2,000, because truth is, $2,000 doesn’t really change our lives. We live comfortably, spend reasonably, and save aggressively. Simply put, we don’t need the extra money. I’m inclined to turn down the overtime and keep my schedule free. My goal in life is not to work more and make more, but to work less and play more.

That said, It’s pretty freaking hard to turn down time and a half. I mean I’m already working 40 hours a week for regular pay, why wouldn’t I just do what I am already doing for a 50% pay bump? Seems crazy not to take it, right? What’s more, I work better when I have a specific objective or goal. If I don’t view this $2,000 as “just some extra money”, but instead a one week vacation to Hawaii or a year’s worth of free car insurance, then I become more exponentially more motivated.

There are only so many hours in the day. Eight of them dedicated to working. Eight-ish dedicated to sleeping. Not sure I’m ready to forfeit three more to my job. 

How many hours a week do you work (40, 50, 80)? Do you work any type of second job, or work overtime? At what point do you say “Screw the extra money, I want some freedom?” If you were offered 15 hours of overtime at your job would you take it, if so, why (be specific, what would you do with the money)?

Incoming (another clever title)

I honestly believe I have the most engaged readership of any personal finance blog out there. I mean, I write a silly blog post about tax deductions and it gets over 70 comments. It’s insane. It makes me happy. And it makes me want to keep writing.

Sometimes I sit back and think to myself, “Why the heck have over 2,000 people subscribed to my blog?” I’m clearly a terrible writer and I’m obviously not the most financially savvy of the PF bunch. Why do people keep coming back?

Then it hits me. You don’t come to PDITF for my contributions, but for the contributions of the PDITF community. It often only takes a few minutes to read one of my posts (this one included), but it can take 10 times as long to read through the comment section.

A few weeks back I wrote a post titled “What kinda debt you got“. It quickly became the most commented on post in PDITF history. That says to me, you all don’t mind getting vulnerable and sharing a little bit of the “ugly” side of your financial situation. Heck, even some of you long time creepers came out of hiding and contributed to the dialogue. Thanks creepy lurkers!

Since this went so well last time, I figured it’s only fair to give you all a chance to tell the other side of your story. We know how much debt you have from the post a few weeks back. Now it’s time to get vulnerable and talk about how much you’re bringing in. I shared this in my budget just a few days ago, so now it’s your turn.

How much do you make per year?

Remember this isn’t a contest. I don’t care if you are making more money than you know what to do with, or if you’re an underemployed college graduate living with your parents. This isn’t about who makes more. It’s about finding out where your peers are and getting a realistic feel for where we stand against the masses.

You should also probably include your age and general geographic region for context. If it makes you more willing to share, don’t be afraid to fill out a fake name or email in the comments section to keep your identity anonymous (even from me).

Seriously conflicted about the iPhone 4s

I’ve been tracking the delivery of my iPhone 4s like a hawk. In fact, it should be getting dropped off at my door in the next few hours. I’ve been rockin’ the iPhone 3G like a boss for over three years now — longest I’ve ever had one phone — and it’s time for an upgrade. The 3G is more frustrating than it is helpful, it’s that slow. I’ve been drooling over the 4s ever since it was announced, but now I’m sitting here thinking I should return it.

Although I often second guess myself (due to extreme bouts of frugality) that is actually NOT the reason I’m conflicted today. No, it’s something much worse. I was reading the news yesterday and happened upon a story about how/where iPhones are made. I. Was. Shocked. Here’s the first few paragraphs from that story…

Normally, the launch of a new Apple device such as the iPhone 4S would make Mike Daisey salivate. But not this year.

Daisey, a monologuist in the vein of Spalding Gray and a recovering “Apple fanboy,” has not upgraded his phone since flying to China to investigate how those smooth, beautifully designed hand-held gizmos are made.

What he found was horrific labor conditions, impossibly long hours and the use of crippling, repetitive motions. He met very young factory workers whose joints in their hands were damaged because they performed the same action thousands of times a shift.

“I was woefully ignorant most of my life. Even though I love the devices deeply, I never had any idea how they were made and never thought about it in the least,” says Daisey, who had assumed robots put together his iPad and iPhone.

Seriously!? I mean just yesterday I said these exact words in my post about Occupy Wall Street: “You think Bank of America is going to stop charging that $5 debit card fee if you say “I hate you Bank of America” while you’re swiping it at the grocery store? Not a chance. You have to say “I hate you Bank of America” and start banking somewhere else. Empty threats are a waste of oxygen.”

Here’s what that statment should look like today: “You think Apple is going to stop engaging in unethical business practices if you say “I hate you Apple” while you’re tweeting from your iPhone? Not a chance. You have to say “I hate you Apple” and start tweeting somewhere else. Empty threats are a waste of oxygen.”

How the hell can I in good conscience buy an iPhone? If I do, I am essentially enabling/encouraging Apple to continue doing what they’re doing; contracting work out to sketchy technology manufacturers. The only way to make it clear that I don’t support unfair labor practices is to vote with my dollar, and not purchase Apple products.

But I love Apple products. In our house alone we have two iPads, two Macbooks, a Mac Mini, two iPhones, and a handful of old iPods. The iPhone 4s is arguably the best phone to have ever existed and I would want nothing more than to own one. But at what cost? At the cost of someone’s well-being? No, I guess I don’t need a new phone that bad.

I want to keep the iPhone so, so, so bad, but after reading this article can’t figure out a way to justify the purchase. The worst thing I could do is say “Man, Apple is involved in some shady business, but the phone is cool enough I’ll pretend I never heard the bad stuff.”

Am I the only person that’s just now hearing about these inhumane work conditions? Why are people willing to compromise their moral/ethical beliefs just so they can have a cool phone? If you are getting (or already have) an iPhone (or similar device), how do you reconcile the information from this report with your desire to own an Apple product? (I seriously believe everyone that has an Apple product has a moral obligation to answer those questions)

 

p.s. on a much less depressing note I had my first media mention in a published media outlet. If you head to your local grocery store and pick up a copy of this month’s Readers Digest, you’ll notice on page 55 there is a brief reference to myself and my blog (so what if the article is about foam mattress toppers). I found out last night, Readers Digest is the fifth most circulated publication in the world. Pretty sure that means it’s time for me to write a book… right? Took a pic of the article ’cause I was so excited….

 

Let’s build this community!

Over the last two and a half years, I’ve written nearly 700 posts. That’s a lot of blabbering if you ask me. I know I’m not interesting enough to deserve the awesome community that Punch Debt In The Face has built. I am only one person, with one opinion, and one story. As much as I’d like to pretend every post I write totally rocks your world, that’s simply not the case.

Even though I’m not the most influential personal finance blogger out there, I know I have something that the other PF blogs don’t; An amazingly loyal and committed reader base. I’m apparently not the only person that feels this way. Here’s part of an email I received yesterday from a long time reader…

Your blog is great!  I’m glad you are having fun with it and I think you have the best commenters on any blog ever. Thanks again for writing such great posts your blog has really made me think and changed some of my opinions of PF for the better!

I’m so glad I got this email, as it reminded me this pitiful excuse for a personal finance blog IS important and has the potential to radically impact people’s perspectives on money. But more importantly, it reminded me that the true value of this blog lies in the community that surrounds it.

In an attempt to diversify the message of PDITF, I’ve had my mom guest post, a close friend, Girl Ninja, my sister-in-law, and my fellow PF bloggers. That’s all fine and good, but what I really think this blog needs is an opportunity for you all to share your stories.

Things I want to punch in the face is the only series I’ve ever had on this blog. Well, it’s time for that to change. We would all benefit from learning more about our peers and that’s why I’d like to ask for your help in kick starting my newest series: “How you doin’?”.

Here are some of the guidelines if you want to contribute:

First, shoot me an email and let me know you are interested. If no one emails me, then I’ll assume this was a terrible idea and we can pretend this post never happened.

After we’ve emailed back and forth, send me a 300-500 word article summing up how you are doing financially. Are you drowning in debt and feel like there’s no hope? Are you killin’ it and bringing home major dollars? Are you financially cheating on your spouse and don’t know how to stop? Have you lost your job as a result of the down economy and struggled to gain employment? Share your story with me, so I can share it with my readers.

You have to be willing to be 100% authentic and honest. That doesn’t mean you have to use your first and last name, but it does mean you have to be raw and tell your story as it truly is, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Ideally this series will consist of posts from my readers that don’t blog; people who have no way to share their story with others. If you have a blog and want to contribute, that’s fine by me, but you have to be willing to accept that I will not link back to, or even mention, your blog in the post (that way there is no question as to the motives for your submission). If you’ve never engaged with the PDITF community before, this series is the perfect opportunity for you to share how you are REALLY doing.

The ball is in your court community.

Will you take a step out of your comfort zone and help make PDITF even better?

p.s. If you think this idea sucks (or sounds cool) would you let me know in the comments. I haven’t actually talked this through with anyone and I know sometimes things seem better in my head then they do in reality.

p.p.s. If you want to be super awesome, would you also share some other things you’d like to see on PDITF?

I seriously love you guys so much. Thanks for all your support over the years and I want to do everything I can to serve the PDITF community better. If I was emotional, I’d totally be shedding a tear of happiness right now, but instead I’m just scratching my butt and burping 🙂