Why wait?

“I’ll start my diet on Monday”, “I’ll start paying debt down next year”, “I’ll start working out next month”, and “Ugh, I missed 2 days to my exercise program so I might as well wait until next week to restart.”  All of these are excuses I’ve used to excuse myself from doing something NOW.  That comment about starting to pay off debt? I made that in a February and wouldn’t allow myself to see the silliness of the comment.  After all, I had missed the New Year’s “deadline” to create goals so I would just save it for the next year.  Which, in case you were wondering, went by and this was not one of my goals.  Instead, I waited another few years to start doing something.

Just this past week I found myself starting to do this cycle of waiting all over again to re-start something.  It started out simple enough: I missed 3 days of work outs and when you add this to the 3 days I had missed the previous week, I really wanted to just say “I’ll wait for…”. But thankfully I recognized the cycle and on Sunday, I got my butt out of bed early and went for a run.  Granted it was a slow jog and I didn’t feel nearly as great as I normally would have but I at least did something.  And yes, on Monday, I was a little bit sore as I re-started Insanity week 3 (missed all but 2 days of this workout the previous week) but I feel better already!

With finances, I try very hard to stay in my routine.  If not, I’m afraid I’ll go back to the old ways.  So yes, I might check accounts every day or look at my budget, but I want to stay on top of things.   And last year, I finally started repaying my debt but I started in September.  It at least got me some momentum going and I was able to come up with a loose plan of attack. The “scariest” part was a few months into following my budget and I didn’t write it down to carry with me.  I hadn’t memorized it yet so didn’t realize how much money was for what category-but we spent anyways.  Thankfully we managed to switch some savings around and stay in budget but I did have a moment where I wanted to say I would start again next month.

The point to all of this is I had no real reason to wait.  There is no time like the present to implement a change.  Waiting to start it a few days probably won’t help you out-it might even hinder you farther.

 

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Top Tips for Apartment Hunters

Editors note: A big thank you to Jordann! I’m extremely greatful for the chance to take a break from blogging! Plus, this post relates really closely to my current life as even though I’m not actively looking, I will be soon enough!

Apartment hunting is a pain in the ass. Checking the classifieds daily, weeding out the undesirables, and when I finally find a place that’s in my target neighbourhood at my target price – the place turns out to be a dump. As fun as it is searching for an apartment, the inevitable let down upon viewing ruins everything.

Apartment hunting doesn’t have to be that bad. I’ve learned over the past few years that the main reason I was having a hard time apartment hunting is because I wasn’t going about it in the right way. I was making key mistakes that not only made the whole project more difficult, it made it take longer to execute.

Here are my top tips for apartment hunting:

Check the Season

If you’re a young person living in a university town, looking for a one or two bedroom place, a lot of one year leases are going to end in May or September. This protects the landlords, who don’t want to get caught with an empty apartment for the summer. While the leases may end in May or September, they will be advertised as available long before that. In one particular city that I lived in, May leases started to be advertised in January. To make the best of your options, start looking early.

Make a Short Wish List

Another mistake I was making was that my wish list was way too long and specific. I needed good lighting, an open kitchen, laundry that wasn’t too far away, good sized bedrooms, my own thermostat, etc, etc. How could I possibly expect an apartment to hold up to that? These days, with two pets, my wish list is pretty simple: Good location, access to green space, pet friendly, good landlord, quiet neighbours This is a pretty basic list, because these are things I can’t live without. Everything else is pretty much doable, at least for a short period of time.

Figure Out the Landlord

Probably the single most important thing that will define your renting experience is your landlord. I’ve had bad ones (entering the apartment without notice, without even knocking) and awesome ones (actively helped me hide the fact that I had a cat from the building owners for two years) and I’ve gotta say, I’m a lot more willing to put up with the weird quirks a place has, if the landlord is good. The easiest way to get the truth about a landlord (because he/she will seem awesome while showing the place, the true personality not emerging until the lease is signed) is to interview the tenants.

Interview the Current Tenants

I’m not saying you need to sit down and have an hour long conversation with them, but if they happen to be in the apartment, ask for their email or phone number so that you can start up a dialogue without the land lord present. If they say no, oh well. But if they say yes, they’ll be able to give you the little known facts that may make or break your renting experience. Plus, since they’re leaving, they’ll probably be candid. Are the neighbours super scary or loud in the middle of the night? Does the garbage truck come at six in the morning on Sundays? Is the land lord really evil incarnate? The current tenants will know.

Know Your Rights

Every province has a Tenants Act or some equivalent, detailing the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants. Read yours. Knowledge is power after all, and by knowing the ins and outs of your rights as a tenant will help you make sure that you get what you want with minimal fuss. Think the place needs some repairs or a fresh coat of paint before you move in? Your Tenant’s Act will probably stipulate that things like that need to be included in writing, on the lease, before it’s signed.

Following tips like these has allowed me to vastly improve my renting experience over the past few years, to the point where I have no interest in buying a house for awhile. Renting can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience, if you go about it properly.

Everyone has their renting horror stories. I want to hear yours!

Jordann is a part time runner, yogi, local foodie and personal finance aficionado, and a full time marketing professional living and working in Atlantic Canada. She writes about her life at her blog, My Alternate Life.


How learning to manage my finances has helped my health out

First, let me be honest.  I’m a worrier by nature (read about wedding worries and baby showers issues) and will stress myself out over the oddest of things.  I’ve woken up in the middle of the night because I’ve panicked about random worries (which could be something as weird as not remembering if I sent out a bill or as crucial as something like I don’t know how I’m going to eat.  Thankfully the latter worries have not come back for a while!)  and have suffered insomnia due to this.  (The insomnia is one of the reasons I have set schedules that I try not to change a lot-I do better sleeping on schedules)

A little over a year ago, this led to some issues with my health and thankfully it was nothing major-only an ulcer.  First, I was doing a workout program on top of riding a bike to work (no car at the time) and making a quarter above minimum wage at a place with no regular hours-both in shifts and in the amount of hours per week.  Second, we had no real budget or plan-we paid bills to our roommate and made sure we had some food but that was pretty much it, the rest was gone.  So there I am, getting up early to do a workout with poor nutrition and very little sleep and wondering why instead of feeling stronger, I’m getting weaker.  But I’m also a stubborn person and persevered through it, plus the workouts helped relieve the stress of being broke. Not my brightest decision.

Due to the way my body was aching and me skipping lunches at work (I needed as much time as possible and would rather not eat if it meant getting an extra half hour.  These added up as this place would start to send people home if it wasn’t busy so I needed all the hours I could get.), I started to take ibuprofen to counteract the headaches and soreness.  Funny thing-I couldn’t take them with milk as my stomach would get upset.  So I took them with water on an empty stomach and kept it up for a few weeks.  Woops.

Sure enough, I started to have really bad stomach pains-these blinding, ripping, stabbing pains.  I went to the ER and finally to a clinic (they worked with people with no medical insurance) where they finally got me on medicine and calmed down the raging stomach issue.  The bad part? It took 2 and a half weeks to get this figured out so I ended up missing a lot of work-or rather, was sent home from work a lot and add the small paychecks to the medical bills and my normal bills? Ugh.  That did not help my stomach issues out as the more stressed I became, the worse the pain ended up being. I did get financial assistance for those medical bills though so that’s a plus.

That was one of the reasons I wanted to be out of debt and wanted to have a budget.  I didn’t want the stress of “OH MY GOD!  The electricity is due…but we have no money! How could we forget!?!?!” that I’d been having.  Instead, I like it much better when I get an outrageous bill and can say “hmm, I think that is a mistake and I’ll be calling but if not? It’s budgeted for.”  It’s partially why I tend to overestimate things.   Now that I have that budget and my plan, my ulcer has stopped flaring up and I sleep a lot better.  Oh, I still worry but I can open my computer and look at the pretty budget.  My insomnia, while not going away, is much better than it was previously.

What did having an ulcer due in the long-term? I can’t take anything with an NSAID in it without my stomach cramping in pain, I cannot eat as much of the spicy food that I love as I used to or have it as hot as I liked and I have to make sure that I have medicine on hand in case it flares up.  Not fun at all.  But it was also that nice kick to the butt to get a budget in place.  While I would never wish an ulcer on someone, at least *some* good came out of it. And thankfully, I didn’t need surgery!


Updates

Thank you to everyone for the encouraging words yesterday. I do feel pretty nifty about getting to start paying on that loan for real.  And sadly, we have basically made up our minds to stay where we are for a year (read about the dilemma here).  There’s a bunch of stuff that’s going on (that I don’t want to get into on a blog where some people *may* find it) that sort of made this choice for us.  But we’re going into it knowing what’s up.  We’re continuously looking at our ceiling for any spots that look like they might fall and thankfully, none have turned up.

In the long run, another year and 2 months won’t hurt here and might actually help us out by being able to save more money.  I do think that we will try to ask for a 6 month lease instead of a year lease though.  This way we can slowly save up the money rather than stretching ourselves pretty thin when it comes to money.  It doesn’t change the fact that we are going to be living paycheck to paycheck for a while but it does change the fact on where our money is going to go.   But a 6 month (if the landlord goes for it) will help with my sanity (knowing that if we can save up money we can leave) with the small exception of the wedding planning.  If we found something in June (which is when a lot of rentals become available around here) it would mean moving a few weeks before the wedding.   I am pretty sure I can handle it as we moved into this house in one day (packed the night before and that was it).

We’ve come to terms with it like I said and I’m sure it will only make us stronger and more committed to better managing our finances.


Wedding Worries

mmmh cake-and wedding cake has ZERO calories (true story)

My fiancé and I use the same computer from home so when I grabbed the computer to check my face book (which I’m on rarely anyways and need to get better about this!), I happened to see his cousin was engaged.  I asked him if he had noticed and dropped the subject.  The next morning he brought up the fact that he hoped that his cousin wasn’t going to get married next year on our wedding day and went to check her page. (I think he’d had a dream about both weddings having ended up on the same day at the same time) Apparently it’s this November.  Um okay, now I kind of hope we aren’t invited to the wedding. Is that horrible?

My reasons:  we need a few months to budget things out.  Money is tight right now (our own doing but we want to save for the potential move, our wedding, debt and just to save of course) so it’s going to take some tricky maneuvering to be able to budget a gift (which as we gave his other cousin $100, I would think we need to do the same amount-they are in the same family).  And of course, do we have suitable clothes? I do but most of his clothes state the company that we work for—probably not awesome attire.  Then we need to figure a way out there.

Plus if we do budget in the money for the gift, it’s always hard to let it go as its money that could have gone towards our wedding! (Oh that just sounds greedy now)

Of course, this could all be worries for nothing.  And I could be over thinking everything anyways. We might not be invited and would therefore not have to worry about it.  I just don’t want to offend his family as our wedding is coming up.   So it’s this weird thought process that keeps going through my head of worries that shouldn’t even be in place yet.

Eventually we want to have a gift fund in place for things like this but that’s relatively low on the list right now!


To move or not to move

Ugh, with all the house issues (falling kitchen ceiling anyone?) I’m still debating on whether to move when our lease is up.   There are several pros to moving and there are several pros to staying.  In the beginning the plan was to stay for at least two years-if not more.  And then we talked about marriage and it became a stay here until the  lease is up  after we get married and then move to a bigger place—so that way I don’t have to move for a while and if we wanted to have a start a family, we’d be in the house we wanted to be in.   So I figured I’d make a list and see what other people might think.

Pros to staying:

Rent is fairly cheap-I would get to save more for all funds and pay off more debt

Close to work-this is important with our car situation never being completely stable.

We know the utilities for winter and summer-excellent for future budgeting

Could start saving up for furniture/curtains/house stuff we would like (right now we make do with what we have)

Cons to staying:

House is falling down around us.

Shady landlords who do not always answer complaints (valid ones in my opinion like the fact that I don’t have a back light at all or the ceiling is caving in or that I have a leak in my kitchen sink.  They swear I don’t but we’ve emptied the bucket under there a few times.  And by bucket I mean it’s one of the kitty litter containers I’m reusing)

Stress about the house and having to pay the landlords money.

Might have our heat/ac break a few more times.

Pros to leaving:

Get a better house –bigger (slightly) and not falling down around us.

Wouldn’t have to move for a while

Mental health is important!

Cons to leaving:

Not entirely sure if there will be a house we both want to move into (and yes house, I dislike apartments) when our lease is up and I have to give 30 days’ notice that we will be ending the lease.

Bigger place would come with a bigger rent so less money and we’d most likely have to pay a pet deposit again.

Not a lot of places around here really let you have animals and my cat is part of our family.

Would not be able to save up for new stuff (or new to us) as fast as we would like-it’d be put of until well past the wedding.

Really it’s a draw-well, kind of.  I hate this house with a passion but could put up with it for another year after our lease is up.  I wouldn’t like it but if I reminded myself why we’re doing it (wedding, debt, savings) I’d be okay with it.  And I know we could just move into a 1 bedroom place if need be, but I dislike moving (before I was 16 I’d changed counties/states/schools a total of 18 times just because my dad liked to move around) and the next time I move, I really want to be able to stay for a bit.  This means thinking ahead to potential family starting.

Part of it will be finding the right fit for us at the right time.  It sucks looking in the paper now because they have a lot of what we’re looking for in a lower price range than our maximum amount we’re willing to spend.   (did you follow that last sentence?) So I stay away from the paper but once in a while, we’ll see a house for rent and it looks good from the outside so I still see them.

Any thoughts on this?


More wisdomy words

Today is my mom’s birthday and I wanted to share some things I learned. I’ve already shared her words of wisdom concerning mistakes here.  But I learned  a lot from her-some of it was recognized while she was alive and others…well, I get  the lesson now at least!

Don’t say things you’ll regret later.  You can never take back words so even if you apologize they are still hanging out there.  Try to think  about what you are saying before you say it, even in an argument.

Speaking of arguments: best way to diffuse an argument is to remind the other person you love them. I would get so mad at her because we’d be arguing over something and she’d stop, look at me and say “Just so you know, I still love you and always will.”   It’s really hard to have a comeback to that.

Someone can always have it worse so make sure that you are thankful and thoughtful.  We were very poor growing up as I’ve mentioned a few times but she always maintained that it could get worse.  We had family and needed to remember that.  Unless we had no food, we always gave some away to food donation places.  She is another reason why I try not to judge people–you don’t know the full story so one shouldn’t make snap decisions.

Make sure to laugh often. Even if I was having a super bad day, she’d remind me to laugh or smile.  As I mentioned above, someone can always have it worse.  Plus, smiling makes you feel better.

Don’t wait forever. I was always horrible at this-I’d take so long to make a decision that sometimes I would miss out on opportunities.  She followed her gut a lot and went with the flow.  I am a planner and hate change–she was the first one to help show me that sometimes, you need to just go for it.

It’s okay to be afraid. My mom and I had a great love of horror movies and (still to this day this is true)  I had an over active imagination.  I’d leave the light on while sleeping sometimes because I couldn’t be in the dark (usually after just watching a new horror movie).  I’ll admit to being ashamed of it for a while but I’m okay with it now.  She told me she did it herself for a while–she was afraid of the dark until she passed away and usually had one light on in the house because of it.

Let others know you love them. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings–yes, they might not get reciprocated but that is okay.  Not everyone will love you but the world can always use more love.  (Just not the creepy stalker kind, k?)

Happy Birthday to my mom and I’m glad she’s watching over me.  I miss her every day.