It takes a year to make your house a home.

Been awfully quiet around these parts lately, eh? Yeah. I’d apologize, but to be honest, I’m not sorry. Been keeping myself busy with lots of fun things, and as a result blogging has kind of sat on the back burner. Sorry not sorry? 

We moved in to our home September 2013. A month after move in, I gave you a tour of our new digs. And here we are, a little over a year later and I’m going to give you, yet again another tour of Casa De Ninja.

Why a second tour?

Well, because the tour I gave you in October 2013 included a modge-podgery of furniture items and decorations we had accumulated over the years, nor did that tour include many of the improvements we have made to the space since. Now that we know we will be staying put for a while, it was time to be a “big kid” and transition from cheap bargain furniture to a more mature taste (that’s not to say we still don’t appreciate an Ikea run every now and again).

I’ll start by showing you before pictures of each room. These before pics are from when we toured the home, before we took ownership. Hopefully you’ll appreciate the changes we’ve made.

Living room before and after:

Clearly the sellers had moved most of their furniture out and staged the space minimally and super impractically. Pretty sure it would be impossible to watch TV while sitting on the couch in that shot without giving your neck a serious workout. Also, the previous owners had a serious knack for green paint. Every room in the house had a different shade of green. Needless to say, there isn’t a green wall in the house anymore.

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Cosmetic changes to the room were pretty simple. We painted the walls a light grey and this last weekend I got out my miter saw and finish nail gun and replaced all our cheap-o window trim with something that fits better with our 85-year-old home’s bones. Our entertainment center used to be our coffee table, but with Baby Ninja, we decided to be coffee table-less and repurpose the furniture piece. No coffee table is one less thing for Baby Ninja to bonk his noggin on now that he is crawling.

Our living room isn’t large by any stretch of the imagination, but we sure do love the space. Oh and did you notice we got our San Diego roots up on one wall, and our Seattle roots blinging on the other. I have a lot of love for these two cities.

The Dining Room and Piano area (before):

Has now become the Piano area and Work Space area:

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We inherited the baby grand piano when my grandma passed away four years ago. We couldn’t fit it in our 600 sqft San Diego condo at the time so we put it in storage, where it would stay for years and years, until we bought this house. Girl Ninja grew up playing the piano and I believe she plans to FORCE teach Baby Ninja to play as well.

 

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How boss is that desk? I freaking love it. It’s sexy, sophisticated, and a heck of a lot more manly than the white chabby-chic desk we had before.

Fun fact on this desk.

I bought it and the chair for $250 on Craigslist this summer, and posted it the next day for $500. I had two people make full offers within a day of posting, but Girl Ninja got pissed and told me I wasn’t allowed to sell it. I’m always hustling.

The picture hanging on the wall to the right of the desk is a picture I took of Petco Park when we lived in San Diego. It’s probably the best picture I’ve ever taken, hence the reason it’s hanging up.

The breakfast nook is now our dining room:

– Sweet sun clock bro.

– Sweet track lighting bro.

– Sweet green walls bro.

 

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Replaced the light fixture. Painted the kitchen light blue. Added a chalkwall, because those are apparently all the rage? Baby Ninja has his own seat at the table now which is interesting. And that picture frame with the Seattle print is actually an original 85-year-old window that we salvaged from our upstairs remodel.

Kitchen Before and After:

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This is definitely where we made the most drastic changes. Changed out all the light fixtures. Painted the cabinets white. Added cabinet hardware. Updated to stainless steel appliances. Got rid of that awful pot rack that choked off the room. I added trim to the peninsula to make it look a little more craftsman-y. Ripped out the tile counters and added a sexy Quartz. And I took my first stab at tiling by adding a subway tile backsplash.

Fun fact: I got quoted $1,200 by our counter guy for the backsplash work. Guess how much the tile cost me? Sixty freaking dollars. Now you know why I did it myself. Booya for saving $1,100 by DIYing.

A few more kitchen before and afters:

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We are super happy with the way things have turned out, especially considering the only work we hired out was the counter install. Sweat equity is the best kind of equity to build and I’m hopeful our hard work will benefit us financially in the event we decide to sell.

We still have work to do in our bedroom, the basement, and outside, but hey…we aren’t going anywhere so what’s another couple years before we knock those projects out, right? Just don’t tell Girl Ninja it might take that long 😉

– Have you dabbled in some DIY projects?

– Learned a new trade or skill recently?

– Would you be interested in me posting simple and concise tutorials on how I taught myself to do trim work, tiling, electrical, and other random house stuff? (feel free to say no, my feelings wont be hurt) 

This marriage is NOT equal.

I’ve blogged many a times over the years about my Roth IRA and the quasi-obsession I have with making sure I always max it out. Since I love my Roth so much, you would think I would be just as eager to open one up for Girl Ninja. Not so much the case. Homegirl ain’t got no Roth. 

Why you ask?

– Is it because I hate her and want her to be poor when we’re old?

– Is it because I want her to be financially dependent on me so she doesn’t leave me for some other dude?

– Or is it that I’m lazy and just haven’t gotten around to it yet?

I pick option D…. None of the above. 

We, the Ninja household, personally believe starting a Roth IRA for Girl Ninja would be overkill. Yes, overkill. Here’s why…

1) I believe investing 15% of our gross investment for retirement is sufficient.

Could we invest 20%, 25%, or 30% of our income? Sure. But why do we need $10,000,000 waiting for us when we are 65? I’m a firm believer there is a such thing as OVER-investing. 15% diversified through a handful of Vanguard Mutual funds should do just fine over 40 years.

2) I believe historical averages will remain relatively consistent.

Sure the markets could tank and the returns we’ve seen the throughout history could go away. But if they do, guess what? My retirement portfolio is going to be the least of my worries. Having food, water, and ammunition would be top of my priority list.

I mean, most Americans don’t put away 3% let alone 15%. I should, by default, be better protected than the vast majority of my peers. If my 15% invested over 40 years can’t get me by in retirement, I don’t think 20% or 30% would have made me any better off. How you invest (diversifying, consistency, etc) is often more important than how much you invest.

3) We aren’t being reckless.

If anything, we are probably saving too much. If there is such a thing. Sure, we could always save more, but at the same time at what cost? We only get to be in our 20’s once. We only get to have Baby Ninja be a baby once. Occasionally we splurge and doing something nice, but for the most part we keep our nose down and grind. I’m not one of those PF bloggers that will make you feel horrible about driving a nice car, going on vacation, or choosing a career path with a modest salary.

I get that many of you worship your retirement accounts and contribute excessive amounts to them religiously. That’s great. You’ll be hella rich when you’re in the last few decades of your life.

That’ just not how we roll or what we want for ourselves.

Retirement is cool, but so is saving, investing for the short-term, and…GASP… enjoying some of our hard-earned money.

I’m in Ireland

For the rest of the week. Baby Ninja knows no different.

 

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Minimal risk, big reward.

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I was chatting with a close friend a few days ago about the housing market. Big surprise right? We know what the median household income is in Seattle ($66,000), and we also know the median sales price of a home in Seattle right now is $380,000. What we don’t know is how the crap people can afford a $380,000 mortgage on a $66,000 annual income! There are only a few logical conclusions…

1. They inherited the property

2. They received a financial windfall

3. They are house poor. 

4. They are risk takers.

If they inherited the property, or received a financial windfall, good for them.

If they are house poor, I can’t say I’m jealous of them. Nothing about living paycheck to paycheck appeals to me. I would never want to be in a position where I have to sacrifice traveling, eating out, or skiing just so I can make a mortgage payment. No thank you.

But what about the people who are just willing to take a risk?

Debt has a pretty bad rap. Heck, I even named my blog Punch Debt In The Face because I think it’s so dumb. But reality is, debt can be a powerful tool for building wealth; like when one takes out a line of credit to start a business, or when someone finances a rental property.

Sure it’s risky. If the business fails, or the real estate market crumbles, you could lose everything. But how bad is that really? It’s not like you have to worry about going to jail. Maybe you get sent to collections and settle your debt for less than you owe, maybe you walk away from your house and get foreclosed on. Maybe you have to consider filing bankruptcy. While none of these things are particularly enjoyable, they are solutions.

Maybe I’m too conservative for my own good?

I mean, if we bought a $500,000 house in 2012 we’d have about 15% equity in the thing based on recent market appreciation. That’s a $75,000 gain in less than two years!!!

What did I do?

Oh that’s right. I decided to keep saving money so we could easily afford a 20% down payment on a house priced $150,000 under what we were qualified to borrow. At last check, my savings account earned a paltry 0.75%. 

Do you see what I’m saying friends? It seems to me that the risk/reward comparison of using debt to leverage one’s financial position often favors reward. Think about it.

We buy a $500,000 house and sell it a year later for a $50,000 profit (after commissions). Or we buy a $500,000 house, watch the markets tank, and walk away from the property and let the bank deal with it (Washington is a non-recourse state). The system is set up to protect one against their own stupid decisions, so much so, that these stupid decisions are no longer necessarily stupid.

Interest rates are low, and house prices are still lower than pre-bubble days. Why not use the depressed market, and government bailouts (quantitative easing), as an opportunity to make some extra dough?

Oh that’s right, because I’m a wuss.

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Being conservative might not make me rich, but I guess it beats the possibility of being poor?

No easy way around extra paychecks

For those of us that get paid every two weeks, we face a battle of epic proportions. Managing a budget is no easy task, especially when all months AREN’T created equal. Ten months a year we might bring home $4,000, but two months of the year we bring home $6,000. Why must such cruel things exist!?

Although an extra paycheck is definitely a good problem to have, there is no denying it adds a little hiccup to the budgeting process. Us “three paycheckers” really only have two options…

  1. We can mentally break up the two extra paychecks. Say for example you take home $2K every two weeks. Instead of budgeting your expenses around $4,000/month, you can pretend you make $4,333/month (since that is your average monthly income over the course of a year). In my opinion this method sucks. It takes a lot of work, discipline, and patience. It also causes you to spend money you don’t necessarily have yet. My first third paycheck month doesn’t come until March each year, so by this rule, I’d be spending money in January and February that I have not yet received. It would be like spending your tax return before you actually got it. Sure, you know it’s coming, but it’s best you wait for it to get deposited in to your bank account.
  2. I like to pretend the extra paycheck is a bonus. If you take home $2,000 every two weeks, I recommend you budget your expenses around a $4k per month income. When March and August roll around, you suddenly get an extra $2,000. Two thousand dollars that does not have a budgeted purpose. You can spend it on a vacation, a unicorn, or even be responsible and open a Roth IRA. Booyah for unicorns and responsibility!

If you haven’t noticed…it’s almos August, which means I’ll be getting an extra paycheck next month. Perhaps I will buy a few thousand McChickens from McDonalds, maybe I’ll give this extra paycheck to one of my lucky readers, but most likely I will be boring and throw it in the good ol’ savings account. Totally un-sexy… I know.

I know I’m not the only person that gets paid every two weeks. How do you manage? What works best for you!?

Markets at an all time high? Jump in.

I’ve been doing a lot of blogging lately about real estate and the stock market. The last two years have been insane for both markets. Epic and unsustainable are some of the adjectives that come to mind for the recent  gains.

The general consensus amongst PF nerds is that one should strive to buy low and sell high. Today, I’ll make the argument that one should Buy low AND Buy high.

One of the Seattle Real Estate blogs I read repeatedly says this is a terrible time to buy a house in Seattle because of the recent market appreciation. This bothers me for a few reasons: 

A house is a home first, an investment second.

I have to pay to live somewhere, right? Real estate is one of the only investments I can think of that satisfies a basic human need, shelter. Even if my house lost all of its monetary value, it still provides ME value. If your WaMu stock loses all of its monetary value, you have nothing.

As long as you can afford it. Who cares how much it costs. 

Just cause the market went up doesn’t mean your budget should. If you find a house that you like – in your price point – you should not refrain from buying it just because it was $20,000 less last year. Milk was also cheaper in 1995, so are you not going to pick that up at the grocery store next time you run out? Which leads me to my next point…

Buying high is a good thing.

I mean, that’s they way the stock and real estate markets works right? They should both be setting new highs every day. Okay well maybe not every day, but over the long haul the trend is supposed to be (and always has been) up. Why do we act scared or surprised when the Dow sets a new record?

THAT’S WHAT IT IS SUPPOSED TO DO!!!!

I get that one might argue the importance of buying low and selling high when it comes to short-term investments. But who the crap buys a house with the intentions of selling it two years later? That’s stupid, or at least speculative at best. Two years from now the housing market may be down, but I bet you a billion dollars twenty years from now the market is up. I don’t really care if my house is worth $300,000 or $320,000 today, when it is going to be worth $700,000+ thirty years from now. Sure, it would be nice to time the market, unfortunately no one can do that without taking a gamble.

Moral of the story kids: The market being at all time highs should be reassuring that the market is performing as expected.

Today I become a dad

And this is the only picture I could find to summarize how I feel about that.

 

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Wish me and Girl Ninja luck 🙂