I’ve been away from home quite a bit over the past few weeks. (It’s one of the reasons I haven’t written a post in over 10 days!) My husband, son and I have been traveling back and forth to our beach house in order to get things in order for the rental season.
We have very few storage spaces in our rental home and closet space is at a premium. We have to find places to store our blankets, sheets, pillows, food and a whole host of other items so we don’t have to drag them back and forth every time we visit North Carolina.
For some reason whenever I start organizing our beach house I also find myself driven to organize like crazy at home. Before we travel on vacation I always eat-down all of the food in the fridge. I search for recipes that can help me use up the last little bit of garlic and onions that are left in the veggie bin. I even use up as much of the soy sauce, chutney, jelly and other assortment of bottles that typically sit on the side of the refrigerator door begging to be used.
As we emptied the fridge day after day I noticed it was in desperate need of a thorough cleaning. I thought about cleaning it, but did something I’ve never done before. I hired cleaners to do it for me. That’s right. I paid someone $25 to pull out all of the drawers, dig into the back of the fridge, take all of the remaining bottles off the side of the door, scrub the gook and clean, clean, clean.
Maybe I should have saved the money and cleaned it out myself, but it felt so nice to have someone else climbing half way into the fridge to remove month old residues that had dripped into places that were nearly impossible to reach.
Lazy? Perhaps. Happy to have someone else clean it? Most definitely.
This weekend my husband and I purchased our first new car in over thirteen years. We bought a brand new 2013 Toyota Highlander Limited. I spent a lot of time researching the best ways to ensure a good price, so I thought I’d share my experience in case it helps anyone else looking to buy a new car.
We weren’t sure if we should buy a new car or focus on a slightly used one, preferably one that was only a year or two old. One sunny Sunday afternoon my husband and I visited CarMax where we wandered through the lot looking at various SUVs and Crossovers. It was there that we narrowed down our vehicles of choice to a Toyota Highlander and a Toyota 4Runner.
We asked to test drive each vehicle. While we both liked the 4Runner a little bit more we decided that the Highlander had much more comfortable seating in both the front seats and the second row. We also liked that the car could fit up to seven if necessary. We’re still not sure if our family will expand any further, but we wanted the option for more space if it was needed. If nothing else it will allow me to transport my son’s friends as he gets older.
I highly suggest test driving a couple of different vehicles before choosing one. I wish I had done this in 1999 when I bought my Honda Civic. I didn’t realize how small and uncomfortable the car until it was too late.
After narrowing down our vehicle of choice I researched prices and found that used cars weren’t that much cheaper than new ones. Plus many of the older cars had lots of options that we didn’t necessarily want or need.
Once we decided to buy a new car I began searching for the best possible price. I went onto Edmunds.com and ran a query to determine the True Market Value. I wrote down the invoice price of each option I wanted as well as the true market value, which indicates what other people in my area paid for the same car.
Next I started my inquiries online. I am fortunate enough to live in an area with a lot of different showrooms, so I pulled up the websites of various dealerships and searched for cars that met my criteria.
Next I weeded out any vehicle that included extra options I didn’t need. There is no sense in paying for items in a car that you don’t want. They will add unnecessarily to the bottom line. I ruled out any car that contained features that weren’t on my original options list. In essence, I ended up with the basic model of a car with nothing more than optional floor mats or floor mats and cargo cross bars.
If I found a car that met my criteria I reached out to the dealership via their online query form and asked for their lowest price. I ended up sending inquiries to four dealerships in my area. Three of the dealerships in our area didn’t haggle, so I knew that there price was the absolute lowest I could receive.
I compared the numbers of each dealership on the base price of the vehicle and then started asking follow up questions. Toyota is currently offering a promotion that includes a $500 cash back rebate or 0% financing. Three of the four salesmen didn’t tell me that their lowest price included the rebate until I asked them. If I wanted the 0% financing I had to add $500 back to their lowest price. I found that kind of shady, but clearly a lot of places do that so it’s definitely something to be aware of when checking prices.
Once I narrowed down the lowest prices I asked each salesman how much it would cost to add extra options that were not included in the vehicle they had for sale. These included items like a tow hitch as well as remote engine starting capabilities. The prices of these add-ons varied greatly among the dealers.
For instance one dealership told me it would cost over $1000 for the tow hitch while another quoted me less than $700. While one place offered the base vehicle for less it was also the dealership with the most expensive add-ons.
My husband and I decided to try our hand at negotiating and visited the one dealership that didn’t take the no-haggle approach. We walked in with an email from the dealership offering the lowest price and asked if the salesman could do any better. It was the same person that had responded to my email inquiries and when he pointed out why his prices were valid I referenced the detailed information I previously found online. I think I could have haggled a little more with him, but I felt good with the price we were offered.
Even if he hadn’t matched the price or offered us a lower number his prices were still the best after we factored in the add-ons we wanted. We came to an agreement on the pricing and were then sent to speak to someone else in the servicing department about the extra options. My husband was able to negotiate a little on those too.
Before the Internet individuals would spend hours negotiating prices. When they finally agreed on a price it was difficult to know whether or not they got a good deal on their vehicle. These days with the help of Edmunds.com and a little research from the comfort of your own home you can feel good about the price you pay. You can start the ball rolling on negotiations before you even set foot in a showroom.
My best advice is to get the facts and start a bidding war through online inquiries. By the time you show up to buy the car you sit down, agree to the price and write a check. It took a lot of research and time to crunch numbers, but by the time we arrived at the dealership it couldn’t have been any easier.
The last time I bought a new car the year was 1999. All of our current cars were built over a decade ago and it feels strange to think we might buy something new, rather than buying unwanted cars from old family members and friends. That’s the way we received our last three vehicles.
Rather than taking the old fashioned route of going into a dealership and haggling I found the lowest price all from the comfort of my living room. I emailed the four main Toyota dealerships in our area and priced the exact same make and model with the majority of features I wanted.
I have a feeling we’ll try to haggle a little bit when we arrive tomorrow, (there are still a few kinks to work out), but I hope we’ll be driving a new car by the end of the day. Wish me luck. I hate the very idea of walking into a car dealership.
I did not have a good experience when I bought my car back in 1999. The salesman told me I would receive floor mats then tricked me into signing paperwork that said I shouldn’t receive any additional options. The original salesman told me it was included in the base price. I later learned that he was lying.
I walked out of the dealership with those floor mats but I almost cried to get them. I had never spent so much money on one thing in my life and I couldn’t believe the dealership was trying to cheat me out of an extra $200.
Let’s hope tomorrow goes better! It’s time to pass my car onto my husband, (it gets much better mileage than his current vehicle), and this new one will be roomy enough to carry something other than my son’s stroller in the trunk.
Sign-up for the free FedEx Delivery Manager membership by clicking the image above and you’ll receive delivery notifications and be able to change delivery times for your impending packages. If you don’t already have a FedEx account you’ll need to create one.
You can choose to receive delivery alerts whenever a package is addressed to you or whenever a package has been delivered.
I recently signed up for a similar service through UPS and it has made my life so much easier. I travel out of town quite frequently and I love knowing when packages are on their way. There is also a vacation hold feature of the FedEx site that will allow you to postpone deliveries scheduled when you know you won’t be home.
Note: This post contains affiliate links.
We have been blessed by box after box of hand-me-downs from friends and family. It’s been a true blessing because my son seems to outgrow his clothes ridiculously quickly.
At the current time he’s an odd fit. He has a very long torso, but he’s skinny and has relatively short legs. At least it seems that way because his shirts are always showing his belly, his pants are always slipping off his waist and his shorts somehow look like pants even though he’s taller than 99% of other children (according to his medical charts).
While I’ve received a lot of pants and shorts for my son I didn’t receive too many shirts. At least I haven’t since he grew out of 12 month sizes. If you are going to receive only pants or shirts I think pants are the best thing to get. They tend to be neutral in color so as long as they fit he can wear them and they can be paired with an adorable shirt.
I take a lot of photographs of my son each week. I’ve taken thousands since his birth and I will admit that I like to dress him in color shirts that look good on camera. Also, boys clothes tend to be rather boring, when compared to clothes for little girls, so I want to dress him in bright colorful clothing while I can. By the time he’s four or five the colors and designs are quite boring.
While I have found some items at thrift stores, for some reason mine local store has a plethora of adorable hawaiian shirts, I haven’t found much in the way of colorful shirts that I want to photograph my son wearing. I tend to buy deeply discounted items at local department stores as well as TJ Maxx and Ross. I’ve also bought a few items at Gymboree.
I like the quality of Gymboree clothing, but the way they constantly lower and raise prices drives me crazy. One day the shirt you want to buy is on sale for $9.99 and the next it’s $15. The next day they hold a 40% off sale, two days later it’s only 30% off and the next it’s back to full price.
It makes me bonkers to buy my son anything there. I’ve actually decided if I want to shop there I can never look back online at the same items again. I tracked the changes for one item over the course of two weeks and found a difference in over $6. Imagine how this adds up as you buy more and more things.
I recently bought a bunch of items for my son and then cursed myself when all of the items went on sale two weeks later. I decided to return the original items and then buy everything again as it would save me over $25.
I drove to the store last night to return the items. It had only been a few weeks since I made the purchase so I was within the boundaries of the return policies, but I was unable to receive a credit back to my card. Since the time of that purchase my credit card was compromised and the credit could only be issued to the card I originally used. I was angry, since it’s not my fault the card was compromised, but I was okay with receiving a merchandise card that could be used in store or online instead.
Apparently that wasn’t possible. According to the clerk I could only receive a merchandise credit that can be used in store. I’m not a fan of in store only cards since I tend to perform 90% of my shopping online.
When I inquired further I was told that there is a significant amount of fraud at Gymboree stores. As a result they will not issue a card that can be used online. They will only offer you one that can be used in the store.
Huh? I don’t understand the policy. What difference does it make if you are purchasing in store or online? If the store believes you are committing fraud they can certainly keep track of your purchases just as easily online as they can in the store, so why not issue a card that can be used online?
Is anyone familiar with this type of store policy? I’m sure there is reasoning behind the decision but I can’t imagine what it is.
I received an interesting email in response to my post Do You Have Enough?. A reader asked a very simple question. How do you know if and when you have enough?
This question is not about having enough money. That’s a topic for a different day. The question is whether your quest for money and/or your lack of focus is actually getting in the way of enjoying your life.
Here’s a simple way to address the question for yourself. Find a quiet room, sit down and create a list of items you feel you can’t live without. Don’t think about the basics like food and shelter. Instead consider who or what makes you happy? If you have trouble creating a list try thinking about your past. Are there specific events in your life that you recall with fondness and warmth? Try to write down at least three or four things that truly fill your life with happiness and joy.
As you reflect upon this list sit quietly again and contemplate your current life choices. Do you spend time with the people whose names you wrote down on your list? Do you carve out time for moments that bring you joy?
Now begin to think about your day-to-day routine. Are you squandering your time on things that don’t really matter? Do you find yourself participating in a bunch of activities that don’t make you happy? Do you make time in your day for the things that really matter? If not, why not?
A lot of people work long hours at meaningless jobs and find themselves too exhausted to carve out time for the people they love and the passions they crave. We all know we don’t need to drive expensive cars or fill our closets with endless articles of clothing, yet we spend our most vital hours slaving away at jobs that help us buy things we don’t really want or need.
When you begin to ask yourself what it means to have enough you may find that you already have it. You may be wasting time, the most limited of resources, focusing on all of the wrong things. Things that don’t bring you any happiness or joy.
Maybe you don’t need to waste countless hours at a meaningless job. Maybe you could earn less money and actually lead a more enjoyable life. Maybe you don’t need to climb the corporate ladder. Maybe work should not be the biggest focus in your day.
By defining what enough means in your own life you may be able to refocus your energy. With a little reflection you may be able to stop the cycle of quick gratification, (buying things you don’t really want or need), and instead spend time on the people and projects that truly matter.
With this new perspective you may be able to avoid the spending cycle. Imagine if you saved more of your money and began setting aside your paycheck for the things that really matter. Maybe you could retire earlier, find a job that pays less money, relocate to friends or family or move to a smaller home.
With a little reflection and gratitude you may find that you have more than you think you do. At that point you can decide how best to refocus your energy to savor and enjoy the things and people you love.
This year I’ll celebrate the second mother’s day since my son was born. While my son could say mama last year I’m not sure that he truly knew what the word meant. At eighteen months he now uses that word more times than I can count. Mama means everything from ‘help mama’ to ‘open mama’ to ‘more food mama.’ My grandmother always referred to her own mother as mama and if my son favors that word over mommy I’ll certainly let it stick.
Motherhood has been an amazing transition and experience for me. While it has been difficult at times it is more rewarding than I ever could have imagined it would be.
As my son grows up I hope he will come to understand that time is an incredible gift and that the greatest gift is simply spending time together as a family. Enjoying his company is more valuable than anything he could place in a box or wrap with a bow.
Of course all kids still want to buy their mother’s gifts and of course many grown up children feel the need to buy beautiful trinkets to show their mother’s how much they care. I know my mother would be disappointed if I didn’t bring at least one small gift to celebrate her big day.
This year I plan to search for her unique gift from NOVICA. The website is filled with hand crafted items made by artisans all around the world. I can literally spend hours searching the website and typically wind up buying at least one or two things for the people I love. Last year I purchased two necklaces, a pair of earrings, a comfy hammock swing and two beautiful handmade belts. This year I purchased three necklaces and a pair of earrings.
The fine folks at NOVICA would like to help one reader buy a perfect gift for their mom. Entry is simple, just leave a comment below telling me how you plan to celebrate mother’s day or what you plan to buy your mom. You will be entered to win a $50 gift code to NOVICA.
One winner will be randomly selected on Sunday, May 12th. Good luck!
Over the past twelve years my husband and I have applied for home loans nine separate times. Does that seem slightly insane to anyone other than me?
Our primary home was purchased in 2001 for $260,000. Here are the details for the original loan and each refinance that followed.
|2001||$247,000||30 Years||6.875%||Original Loan (included crappy PMI)|
|2002||$243,000||30 Years||6.000%||Removed PMI|
|2003||$237,700||15 Years||4.875%||Lower Rate & Term|
|2009||$400,000||15 Years||4.500%||Cash Out to Buy Additional Property|
|2012||$335,000||10 Years||3.125%||Lower Rate & Term|
Our second home was purchased in 2005 for $620,000. Here are the details for that loan and each refinance that followed.
|2005||$496,000||30 Years||6.000%||Original Loan|
|2008||$243,000||30 Years||5.000%||Lower Rate|
|2009||$376,000||15 Years||4.500%||Lower Rate & Term|
|2012||$325,000||10 Years||3.500%||Lower Rate & Term|
As you can see each and every one of our loans seemed to make sense at the time. We refinanced as interest rates fell and tried as often as possible to lower the term of the mortgage.
The exception to that rule came in 2009 when we applied for and accepted a cash out refinance in order to purchase a third property free and clear. We actually planned to take out a mortgage on the third property, but were low balled by a low appraisal. Without any other means to fund the purchase we decided to cash out our primary residence. In the end it was actually a better alternative as rates on primary homes are typically at least 50 basis points lower then they are on second homes and investment properties.
I will admit that it was quite difficult to watch the loan amount jump up to $400,000. Although it was worth it to buy the investment property the principal on our home was less than $180,000 at that time.
As you can see if we had been a bit more patience with interest rates we may have been able to hold out on refinancing our second property in 2008. Interest rates continued to fall and we refinanced again just over one year later.
Crazy enough interest rates have fallen even further since we refinanced last year. I remember shaking my head in disbelief as I signed a mortgage for 3.125%. These days I could get the same mortgage for 2.875%.
Believe it or not I considered refinancing again, but the numbers just don’t add up. With a 10 year term and such a small drop in rates we’d only save a few thousand dollars over the life of the loan. By the time you stack on closing costs it’s certainly not worth it. Still I would love to say I had an interest rate of less than 3%.
I can’t believe how many times we refinanced these two properties. Refinancing is not easy work and it’s crazy to think about how many times we applied for loans, gathered up all of the required documents and met with notaries to sign documents.
I like to think that we would never refinance these properties again. Even if these two homes are paid off in the next nine years I’m not certain that we are finished with mortgages. My husband wants to build a vacation property, which means another home loan will exist for us in the not so distant future.
When I met my husband he told me he wanted to build an empire. An empire? It was a concept that completely baffled me. I grew up in a three bedroom rancher. I lived in the corner bedroom, so I could hear my brother snoring when I pressed my ear against the southern wall and my father snoring when I pressed my ear to the west. It was a tiny, but comfortable house. My parents moved in when I was an infant, so it was also the only home I had ever known.
These days I live in a two story home with a finished basement. Although I should be happy living in a modest brick home in an upscale neighborhood I often feel constricted by it. The house doesn’t seem to fit my personality. When my husband works in his study it feels like he’s on the other side of the moon. A supportive wall and staircase separates his working space from the living room where I spend much of my time.
The house is much larger than the one I grew up in, but strangely enough I find myself craving the closeness of that tiny rancher. Until I sat down to write about it I never realized what it was about this house that seemed strange. It’s not the house, but rather the way I grew up I suppose. I could hear my parents talking in their bedroom when I sat in the living room eating Lucky Charms and watching cartoons. In my current house that simply isn’t possible. I think I miss the way the structure of our home created a feeling of closeness and security for me.
Based on that tiny house I couldn’t fathom the idea of building an empire. Don’t I have enough already?
It’s difficult to wrap my head around the concept of enough. It’s not just about the properties you own or the house you keep it’s about everything in your life. I am fortunate in so many ways and grateful for the life I’ve been granted to lead.
The definition of having enough is different for everyone. For me it involves focusing on the things that make me happy and number one on that list is spending time with the people I love. It’s the reason I quit my job and decided to stay at home with my son. Will my earning power decrease as a result of my decision? Most definitely. Will I regret not staying home more? Most definitely.
I don’t need much in the way of material possessions to make me happy. I don’t need a fancy car or an expensive house. I don’t need lots of clothes in my closet or shoes on my feet. I don’t crave fancy gadgets and computers.
Have you ever thought about what you need in life? Have you written your thoughts down on paper or typed them into your computer? I started to create a list and then realized that having enough might just cover the bare necessities. You know food, water and shelter.
Off the top of my head I want more than the basics. I want a roof over my head, a clean home that is void of dirt and dust, a fridge filled with healthy food, air conditioning in the summertime and heat in the winter (or to live in a climate like Hawaii where neither is needed), hot water when I want to bathe or shower, a large glass of ice water on a warm summer day, a comfortable bed with soft sheets and pillows that I can fluff behind my head and a hammock where I can rest and feel the breeze. I want to live in a place that’s not too far from the ocean. I don’t mind driving a few hours to get there, but please don’t drop me in a place where I can’t reach the beach. I long to listen to the waves and to feel the sand in between my toes.
I want infinite amounts of time to spend with the people I love. I know that’s not possible so I’ll kindly accept however much time I’ve been granted. I want to suck up the small everyday moments in life. I don’t need to travel the globe. I can find a lot of satisfaction and joy in things that are closer to home, like watching my son’s eyes light up as we pluck dandelions from the yard and blow seeds wherever the wind will take them or simply staying up late snuggling while watching a movie with my husband.
My husband and I don’t always see eye to eye on the definition of enough. Although he doesn’t want to own fancy cars or buy expensive watches, I know that he does want to build an empire. I admire his drive and determination, yet sometimes I worry that it will kill him.
Do you think you have enough in life? What else do you want or need to make you feel that way?
Do you find it difficult to stick to your financial goals? Do you find yourself tempted to buy things you want but don’t need? If so you might want to give these ideas a try. They seem a bit strange, but they have helped me curb unnecessary spending.
First, change the passwords on your online shopping accounts. If you are an avid online shopper you probably have accounts set up at all sorts of online stores. Log on to the sites that you frequent the most and update your account information with passwords that will remind you of your goal. If you want to avoid spending change your password to something like NoBuying2013. If you want to save for retirement make it NotTil401K.
Log on to as many sites as you can now, long before you get the urge to go shopping. While you are updating your password don’t poke around in search of the latest styles. Just log in, change your passwords and log back out.
Hopefully the next time you get an urge to spend you’ll change your mind after typing in your password. It’s an easy, in your face reminder of your long term goals.
If you find yourself spending money in stores take a picture of your goal, print it out and wrap it around your credit card or place it in the front of your wallet where you typically hold your driver’s license or other form of identification.
Do you want to buy a new home? Find a photograph of a house you’d love to own. Do you want to become a stay-at-home parent? Place a picture of your children in the fold in front of your credit cards.
Whatever your dream find a photograph that represents that image and place it among the dollar bills or credit cards, so that you have to move it out of the way in order to spend money.
When you reach the checkout counter the picture may help you to pause and review your upcoming purchases. As you look down at the image of the beach you wish to visit or the home you want to buy you may think twice about purchasing something you really don’t need.
It’s often difficult to focus on long term financial goals. Hopefully these gentle reminders will prevent you from unnecessary spending.