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Almost Moving Day!

April 27th, 2016 at 04:50 pm

It's been a long time coming, but moving day is almost here! My closing is on Friday at 10:30 AM and we're hoping to have keys in hand and start moving our possessions by 3 PM. I honestly had no idea that I didn't get the keys as soon as I signed the paperwork. The last home I purchased was a foreclosed home and I was able to get the keys immediately. Not sure if that's because it was a foreclosed home, or I just got lucky, but apparently it's typical to have to wait quite a few hours after closing until the house is "legally" yours since they have to record title paperwork, etc.

My current house is filled with boxes and it's quite annoying to maneuver through. With only 625 sq ft of living space, there isn't a lot of room for piles of boxes :/ my poor Emmett (60 lb pit bull) is going stir crazy in the house with having barely any room to play (did I mention it's been raining for 6 days straight so barely any outside time either??)

It's been awhile since my last house purchase and I had forgotten how spendy appraisals and inspections are. Inspection was $325 and Appraisal was $684. I feel like the housing industry should find a way to blend those two services... they are very similar. The Inspection company originally wanted $425 ($100 for a radon test). Considering the house I bought has a radon mitigation system AND I can go to town to the environmental center and pick up a radon test for $12 - there was no way I was paying an extra $100 for a guy to close some windows and press a button.

A few weeks ago we did have a hiccup in the mortgage underwriting process though! My lender called me saying there was a fraud alert in my name! *YIKES!* I asked if she meant someone was stealing my identity? And she clarified saying that on my application, I stated I only owned one home (my townhouse I sold) yet there was another home in my name, so it looked like I was the one attempting to commit fraud! I had no idea what she was talking about, and then she shared the address in question with me... Ohhhhhhh it's the home my dad owned. When he passed away in December, that house went into my name. I hadn't even thought of that. Not to mention I live in Montana and that home is in Minnesota - so out of sight out of mind and all that. Thank goodness this situation was cleared up easily by just giving my lender the contact information of the attorney who is handling the sale of my dad's house. But it sure was scary for a minute there! The word "fraud" is never something you want associated with your name!

Anyway, I can't wait to move! Well, the moving itself is not fun, but I love unpacking and organizing!

Time to Start Thinking about Buying Property!

February 16th, 2016 at 09:14 pm

It's time to legit start looking at buying new property here in Montana! The sale of my MN home will be complete on February 24th. I can almost grasp moving out of this teeny, tiny concrete house.

I keep going back and forth between two options: 1) buying acreage (.5 to 2 acres) with a house already on it or 2) buying the acreage and then putting a modular home on it.

I was originally leaning toward the modular/acreage but it's been a little difficult finding land that allows modular homes. Even though they are built based on higher standards than manufactured and mobile homes, most land covenants want traditional stick-built homes. Ugh.

The boyfriend and I are going to go look at a home this week - 1550 sq ft, 3 bed/2 bath, new construction with .25 acre yard in a subdivision... the words "in a subdivision" make me cringe a little. I don't want to be in a cookie-cutter neighborhood, but these have decent sized lots so we'll see.

I haven't talked with a mortgage loan officer yet (I've been waiting until the closing of my MN house) but I am a little at a loss on how much I can afford. I'll be purchasing the house since I have excellent credit and while I don't see me and my boyfriend ever breaking up - I never have liked the idea of co-signed loans. He and I will still split all the monthly payments though... I guess he'll essentially just be paying me rent.

I only make about $38,000 annually (same with the bf) but I'll have about $100,000 for a down payment. A real estate agent I was talking to kept sending me houses that were $300,000... that seems quite steep for someone who only has an income of $38,000.

Advice anyone?

Ally Account Update

January 21st, 2016 at 06:25 pm

Ok, so far switching to Ally is going smoothly. Their online chat is very convenient for any questions I have as I'm going through the process as well. I rarely ever have to wait longer than a minute for someone to be available live online.

It does take awhile for funds to become available in my Ally accounts if I am transferring from an outside bank. That's not that big of a deal to me since I usually pay everything with my credit card anyway, but it's good to share. I'd say it takes about 4 business days for my Wells Fargo funds to be made available in my Ally account.

One hiccup I want to mention is the fact that apparently PayPal does not let you link online bank accounts. I had been trying to swap out my Wells Fargo checking account for my Ally account and it kept telling me "We cannot process your change at this time." I finally called PayPal and they mentioned they only allow brick-and-mortar accounts to be linked to your PayPal account. I opted to still remove my Wells Fargo account, but will keep my CitiBank Credit Card linked since I don't plan on getting rid of that anyway.

Moving to an Online Bank

January 12th, 2016 at 10:48 pm

I recently decided to finally switch banks. I've been postponing this because I know what a time-suck it will be to transfer all my different retail/membership/direct deposit/etc accounts to the new checking account.

I recently opened an interest-yielding checking account through online bank Ally and a savings account through them as well. I've read many good things about them on NerdWallet, BankRate, etc. Any of you have an opinion on Ally?

What finally made me put on my big girl pants and do this was because my dad recently passed away and he had life insurance in which I am a beneficiary. I didn't want that death benefit check sitting in a checking account doing nothing.
I am also in the progress of selling my townhouse in Minnesota and will be getting check for the mortgage/purchase price difference and didn't want that sitting in an account that wouldn't do anything either.

I've never done any investing other than a 401K (and buying a couple Powerball tickets this week for the first time ever) so I figured a high-yield interest savings account was the first logical step.

Sometimes Online Coupon Purchases Just Don't Work Out

April 30th, 2015 at 09:42 pm

I've had [mostly] great luck saving money with Groupon, LivingSocial, CrowdCut, Amazon Local, etc... but I have to share a *blah* purchase experience.

A couple months ago I saw a coupon on Amazon Local for professional carpet cleaning and thought "Score! This will be great for just before my new tenants move in!" I bought the coupon which was for 4 rooms (up to 250 sq ft each) and a hallway for $55.20 (really was advertised as $69 but I had a promo code.)

I called the company early April and scheduled an appointment for 4/29 at 4 PM. That was the latest they could come out so I gave in and just decided I'd take off work an hour and a half early. Not too big of a deal.

Well, 4/29 was yesterday. They called and left me a message around 2 PM saying they were running behind and asked that I call them back. I called them back around 3 PM (work and all that delayed me a little) and I got a generic "This caller is not answering at this time" voicemail. I wasn't sure if it was the correct number so I didn't leave a message. They tried calling me back around 3:15 and I didn't answer (again, I'm at work) and they did not leave me a message this time.

3:30 rolled around and I originally planned on leaving at this time to meet them at my rental property at 4. Because they had said earlier that they were running late I left at 3:40 instead. As I am driving to my house, I call them again just to get an ETA since we'd been playing phone tag. The guy answers the phone and says he's JUST arriving at another job site that is located in a city about 30 minutes from me. They were JUST arriving. Keep in mind that they were supposed to be at my house at 4 PM and it's 3:40 and they are JUST arriving at a DIFFERENT job.

Tell me if I am wrong here, but leaving me a voicemail message at 2 PM saying "We're running a little behind" does not equate to not even starting the job before mine until the time my appointment was supposed to occur.

The guy said he'd be at my house around 5 or 5:30. Keep in mind, this is my rental house, not where I currently live so no TV, no Internet, no food, no water, no nothing for me to busy myself with while I wait. I decided to run to Trader Joes to pick up flowers and a card for my new tenants and then sat outside the house for an hour while I waited since it was nice out. I could have been working... but no. I left work early thinking they would only be "running a little behind."

They arrived around 5 PM and proceeded to then complain about how the owner of the company overbooked them, etc... etc... and also told me they had to charge me an extra $80 for "heavily soiled carpeting." BS. I don't wear shoes in the house, I don't have children, and my cats were indoor cats so never brought dirt inside. There was no way my carpets could have been considered "heavily soiled." I told him he should give me a discount since they were an hour late and because I didn't have a hallway for them to clean when my coupon includes that. He then told me $80 was a discount.

Anyway, there is my rant about my most recent online coupon purchase fail. Do you guys have any experiences you'd like to share?

Facebook Garage Sales

April 13th, 2015 at 03:04 pm

Because I am moving to Montana, I have LOTS of things I have been trying to sell/get rid of. The less things to pack and move, the better!

Who still is only using eBay and Craigslist to sell stuff? I was up until about a month ago, then an angel in disguise (a co-worker) told me I should try selling my stuff on Facebook. I had no idea there were "online garage sale" groups on Facebook. Did you? Anyway, you can join these local groups and start posting For Sale ads (for free) and start selling ASAP. What's especially nice about selling on FB is people can easily and quickly comment, ask questions, give offers, AND you can see what the person looks like, unlike Craigslist which can be a little scary sometimes.

So, three weeks ago I joined 5 local garage sale groups on Facebook.
Here's a rundown of what I've sold so far:

2 laminate wood bookshelves - $75
1 original Playstation w/ controllers - $5
1 original XBOX w/ controllers and 5 games - $10
1 XBOX 360 16G game console - $50
2 wireless XBOX 360 controllers - $30
5 XBOX 360 video games - $25
5 board games - $20
1 North Face track jacket - $10
1 small wooden table with drawers - $20
1 large decorative clock - $35
1 framed copy of Monet's Water Lilies print - $20
1 George Foreman Healthy Cooking Griddle - $10
1 Hamilton Beach blender - $10
1 Swiffer Wet Jet - $10
1 laptop - $50

That's $380 worth of sales in 3 weeks and 25 items I no longer have to pack and move to Montana.

YAY Facebook Garage Sale Groups!

Rental License??

April 8th, 2015 at 09:03 pm

I'm prepping to move to Montana in June and I own a townhouse in Minnesota that I plan on just renting out. As I am knee-deep in working with my property management company, I find out I need to let the city know I plan on renting it out. My association, sure. The city? Fine. I contact the city and find out I need to APPLY for a rental license! Seriously? Apparently I'm completely oblivious to things because I assumed if I owned a home it was mine to do what I wanted (within reason of course.)
Turns out I had to pay $325 to apply for the 3-year rental license ($100) and have a city inspector come "approve" my home ($225). I was shocked and maybe naive to think I had to pay so much just to rent out my own home.
Anyone else rent out their home and come across this? Yikes!

5 Ways to Save Money Each Month

April 1st, 2015 at 06:47 pm

HBO announced that they will be offering their online streaming service starting this month (April). Do you hear that? That's the sound of millions of cable subscribers jotting the note "cancel cable" into their 2015 planners. To follow this up, here's a tip: go get an antenna. No, not those contraptions with the bunny ears and tinfoil, but one of the new streamlined antennas that you can hide behind your TV. Unless you're living in an extremely remote area (we'll have to see if this works out in Bozeman, Montana!), you'll be able to pick up local HD channels like FOX, NBC, CBS, etc. for a one-time fee of about $40. This way when you cut the cable cord, you'll still be able to watch the news, sports, and your favorites like Modern Family and The Blacklist. It's a great way to save a few bucks every month.

Another way to save a few bucks is to shop with apps. Target's Cartwheel app and Cub Food's Rewards app are my two favorites to grocery shop with. I basically take a few minutes before heading to the store to look at their featured coupons. I then plan my meals around the deals. (Not to mention the Holiday Station gas savings with Cub rewards points!) I know Costco and Sam's Club are also two places to save money when grocery shopping, but I'm a single woman with no children. I don’t need to bulk grocery shop.

Amazon Prime. Do I need to say more? Okay, I will. Amazon Prime is a great tool to save money. An annual fee of $99 gets you a streaming TV/movie service, free (or discounted) Kindle books, free two-day shipping, and a free music streaming service (with no commercials!). Find a pair of jeans you like at the store, but they are just a little too expensive to justify buying? Look those up on Amazon - 90% of the time they are cheaper. Need a present for little Timmy this weekend, but don't have enough time to go to the store? Boom. Amazon will have it at your front steps in two days. Recently canceled your gym membership to save money and now want to buy a treadmill? Amazon will give you a deal and deliver it for free! Need to buy kitty litter but don't feel like straining your back trying to lift the 40 pounds into the trunk of your car? Amazon. Okay, that may make me sound lazy, but time is money. Also, I look like an idiot trying to lift those massive bags into my trunk. But think of it this way, you now can take the time to go for a walk around the block enjoying the Spring weather instead of going to the store.

Summer is coming. Save some money and buy a programmable thermostat. Set it to your ideal temperature (mine is 71) only the hours you're at home and for when you're at work set it so it's at 78. Your energy bill and wallet will thank you!

The last money-saving tip I'll pontificate on is being a do-it-yourselfer. I'm the daughter of a plumber. He's been preaching to me since I could crawl on the importance of learning to fix things yourself, or at least try before calling a professional. A few weeks ago my vacuum stopped working. I started Googling the prices of vacuums and looked on Amazon at different reviews. I almost bought one, until I thought "You know what, let me first see if I can fix this thing before dropping 100 bucks." I Googled the make and model of my vacuum and watched a YouTube video on how to take it a part. In 20 minutes I had that thing working like it was brand-spankin' new. I immediately called my dad and told him all about it. So, not only did I save about $100, I also felt great about myself. You can find a video on how to fix pretty much anything on YouTube. And you can find a video on how to make pretty much anything on Pinterest. Last month I made a personalized jewelry box for my niece's third birthday. Had I bought it in the store, it probably would have cost over $40. And just let me say, I'm the last person you'd pick to be in a crafting club, so if I can do it anyone can.

Let's quickly review.

Five Easy Ways to Save Money Each Month:

Cancel Cable, Get an Antenna
Use Grocery Apps
Amazon Prime
Programmable Thermostat
Be a Do-It-Yourselfer

The Job

April 1st, 2015 at 04:37 pm

For the past five years, I have been the "Director of First Impressions" and Marketing Coordinator for a life insurance brokerage company. This job did not require me to know the ins and outs of life insurance, which I was thankful for because it seemed very confusing.

Obviously working in a life insurance office for five years though you start to pick up on all the lingo and processes. Two weeks ago my CEO brought me into his office and asked if I would be willing to write all the technical content for our new start-up B2C online insurance company. It would allow me to continue to stay with the company even in Montana.

As you can imagine, I was so grateful, but scared beyond belief. I have two months to learn as much as I can about the ins and outs of life insurance before packing it up and working from home in another state.

I have a lot of prove and a lot of hard work and research ahead of me. I just finished my first article entitled "How Much Does Life Insurance Cost?" which took me hours upon hours to put together because there is so much to know about life insurance and there is not a lot of information online explaining it all without all the insurance-lingo. The article is now on my CEO's desk awaiting review. (Yikes! Get out the red pen!)

Now, I won't just be writing content. I also manage both companies' (the main and online) social media presence as well. I'll be plenty busy and have lots to learn on my journey to becoming a full-time life insurance writer.