Saturday, May 30, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
We've been pretty good money managers throughout life, but we are about to get a lot better. We graduated college with zero credit card debt (notice I didn't say debt...our Sallie Mae bill is scary!) and we've always been big savers. However, as we prepare for family life with little ones (no, not yet!), we realize we need to be more proactive in our budgeting. We always made budgets, with way over-estimated expenditures for some categories and not enough for others. Clearly not the best. In the past, I would get freaked out about money, add up and categorize everything we spent in a month or two, and the proceed to shout useless things like "How can we go to the grocery store 35 times in a month?! That is more than once a day" and "I do not need to be the number one Target shopper in Indiana...we have got to stop spending so much money there!". But, when next month came, we'd do it all again. We did set a weekly Target budget and I've been good about that, but I realize that we can do better.
So, after hearing the success of several friends, we signed up for Mvelopes, a "proactive approach to spending management. It's basically the envelope budgeting system set up for a credit card and electronic bill pay society. And it is fabulous!! We've already done better about our dining out and grocery budget. And with our surprise expense of a trip to the emergency vet, we were able to identify which areas we could take money from to put in our pet envelope. There's all kinds of cool features I have yet to discover, like mobile access and net worth tracking (sounds fancy!). I really think this site will be able to help us spend less, save more, and help me be a little less neurotic about our spending. And less neuroses are better for everyone here at the Bungalow.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
My older brother and my dad are the two hardest people to shop for. My brother is because he literally has everything and the only thing he wants is something big, so he always asks for gift cards. I hate giving gift cards...they seem so impersonal and unwelcoming and they aren't very much fun to wrap. My dad never seems to like anything he gets. He opens every gift and then goes, "Hmmm." It's not that he doesn't like it, he's just a man of few words. But he does return an astonishing amount of gifts.
But this year, I found the perfect gift for my brother's birthday and my dad for Father's Day. They both love to grill, so I got them this fabulous slider kit from Sur La Table, one of my favorite stores. How perfect is this?!? It contains a burger press, a bun cutter to make the buns just the right size, and a grill basket so the little burgers don't fall through the grill. And, it comes with a great price tag: $45!
Andy was with me when we picked these up at Sur, and he about died he was so excited. So we had to get one for him, too. Hopefully we'll get a chance to break it in this weekend!
I gave my brother his on Memorial Day weekend (his birthday present this year was not having to have a family party, LOL). He really liked it! He's excited to make sliders because he thinks my niece, who is 4, will really get a kick out of the "baby burgers." She definitely will!!
For those of you with dads, husbands, or other special men in your life...what are you getting them for Father's Day?
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Maxwell Gladwell, in his book The Tipping Point, describes mavens as one of the three types of people responsible for trends spreading, along with connectors and salespeople. Andy was given this book by a mentor, and while reading it, he frantically called me over because it was describing me to a T. Mavens are “intense gathers of information.” I’ve used the term “information obsessed” to describe me before, and it really fits quite well. Mavens know everything about everything, and LOVE to share it with everyone.
Part of the reason why I started this blog is that I wanted to be more connected in my Maven-ness. I wanted to take all this information I amass and share it with everyone. Even though I’m introverted, I approach strangers all the time to offer unsolicited advice (oops). Of course, I stay away from controversial topics, but the other day in Target I heard a lady and her husband in the storage and organization aisle looking for a particular product. Knowing that Target did not carry it, I had to let her know that, but also tell her that she can order it online from the Container Store, and give her a coupon code for 20%! Or the person in front of me makes a joke about buying 30 bottles of sparking water, but I have to let her know how great they are and give her one of mine that I purchased so she can try it herself. I just can’t help myself. Hopefully this will allow me to release some of this information so I can stop going up to random strangers at stores, but, let’s be honest….probably not!
So, being a new homeowner, one of my favorite topics to discuss is advice on buying a home. Here are the top three lessons and tips we learned along the way:
Take your time. Don’t let anyone rush you. Not your realtor, not the sellers, not even the impending move-out date of your lease. It took us 11 months to find The Bungalow. If you rush, you will settle. This is the biggest purchase of your life, and make sure to take the time to make it right.
Expand your search area. I think this could have been a potential biggest mistake homeowners make. Everyone tells you to make a “must have” list and don’t deviate from it. Well, that wasn’t really realistic for us, and I encourage you to go look at houses with specs AND locations that may not exactly meet your must-have list, but they can give you a better idea of what you can live it. I thought for SURE two bathrooms was a must-have, but we ended up with a one, and really, it’s fine. Try a little bit outside of your comfort area and see what you like! We looked at so many different types (new construction, town homes, Victorian-style houses, cottages, detached town homes, subdivisions, and everything in between) of houses in a lot of areas (6 school districts), we really could make an educated decision
Know what you can afford. And the follow-up…don’t let anyone tell you different. Even me, LOL (this is for my cousin)! I think we were approved for more than THREE TIMES the amount we used. That gives me palpitations just even thinking about having a mortgage so much more than what we have. I know The Wise say that you can afford it as long as you keep your PITI (principle, interest [mortgage payment], taxes, and insurance) to around 30% of your gross income. Well, to me, that’s just nuts. I’m comfortable around 10 to 15%, which is where we are now. If you don’t have a budget and these numbers are making your head spin, get one ASAP! We wanted to something that we could afford on one salary (even though pharmacy is a pretty recession-proof career), and honestly, we didn’t need a 3500 sq ft house. Our little 1300 sq ft bungalow works for us just as well. And don’t forgot that PITI isn’t your only monthly obligation…there are utilities, home owner dues, set-up costs, maintenance, etc. It adds up fast!
A word on financing…
This is one of my FAVORITE things to talk about because we were able to get such a great deal and I want all of you to have it as well! First, when figuring what you can afford keep in mind how much cash you need on had for earnest money (which you submit with you offer), down payment, and closing. The Wise tell you that you need 20% down to avoid PMI (private mortgage insurance), you can’t get a conventional loan for less than 5% down, and if you do a FHA loan, it’s hard to get a property and you still have to put 3.5% down.
Well, we were able to get a conventional loan that only required a 3% down payment, one mortgage at a low rate, and NO PMI! I feel like half the time people don’t believe us, but my employer’s credit union has a fantastic first time home-buyers program. The only stipulation was that the amount financed had to be less than $200,000, which was a little less than what we thought we’d spend, but definitely do-able. Be sure to check around and find the best time for you. No one else will do it for you! And I really have to hand it to the credit unions for the best deals. Find some that you can join and see what they have to offer!
In the end, we ended up putting 5% down, but with the way things worked out at closing the only cash we had to pay was 1% of the purchase price that we used for the earnest money and that was it! Less than $2k and we had a house with 5% equity and netted $6k with the $8k First Homebuyer’s Tax Credit, as we closed in March 2008 and were able to claim the house on our 2009 taxes and have the check by May when our first mortgage payment was due. Not a bad deal at all!
Good luck, and most importantly – have fun! This is something very exciting and wonderful, and you only get to do it a few times in your life. Here's a great resource to get you started on your search. Enjoy it!
Monday, May 25, 2009
We are so fortunate to live in a great area. Just a block from The Bungalow we have a Fresh Market, 2 coffee shops, a newstand, florist, about 6 restaurants, and several other little shops. Less than a mile up the road is a Village that has tons of great restaruants and shops. We took Eli up to the the Village, and we went into a few shops and stopped for a GIANT sno cone for the walk home. Eli was a little too poped out to finish the walk home, though, so Andy had to carry him:
Saturday, May 23, 2009
We decided to take advantage of the beautiful day and head down to Oliver Winery. It's a great local vineyard about an hour south of us. They make some fabulous wines, with my favorites being Oliver Soft Red and Skyy Dog Red. We packed up a picnic and the pup, and left town around noon. Can you tell how excited Eli is?
Friday, May 22, 2009
For the inaugral foodie post, we will do not one but THREE recipes!! YAY! These are from Fajita Night on Monday.
Guacamole, aka "The Best Food Ever"
Guac is one of my most-complimeted recipes, and I do have to agree that it's fabulous. This recipe came about after many, many experimentations, and is very flexible to omissions, deletions, increases, and decreases in ingredients. It's all about how it feels. And tastes. Here's what I used Monday night:
3 avocados (when cooking for a crowd, I usually allow 1 avocado per person)
2 roma tomatoes
1/2 red onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 jalapeno peppers (actually, on Monday Fresh Market was out of jalepenos so I subbed 1 serrano pepper)
Halve avacadoes, remove goodnessy green stuff. Mash with fork until it reaches desired consistency (Andy likes his chunky, I like mine smooth. Hehe.). Add the juice of two limes, both for flavor and to help prevent oxidation (or as you non-science people know it as, "Make it stop turning brown!"). Halve tomatoes, removing seeds. Dice tomatoes, onion, and jalepenoes, and add to avocado mixture. Finely dice garlic, then add sea salt to it. Mash into a paste. This ensures that the garlic will evenly distribute throughout the guac and you won't bite into a big piece of garlic (but would that really be so bad?). Add to avocado mixture. Chop cilatro and add. Stir, taste, and add additinal salt if needed.
Guac tip: to store leftover guac (if this is even a possibility at your place!!), place in a Ziploc bag, and squish out all the air. This will help prevent it from oxidizing.
2, 28 oz cans of San Marzano whole tomatoes, drained
2 cans of Rotel, drained
1 large Vidala onion
2 jalepeno peppers
3 garlic cloves
Yes, you must cough up the $3/can and buy San Marzanos. It will change your life, and you will never touch a can of Hunts tomatoes again.
Using an imersion blender, chop up the whole tomatoes and place in a bowl. Add drained Rotel. Ask your fiance why we chop up the tomatoes, then add diced tomatoes....would it make more sense to not chop tomatoes as finely? Receive The Look from your fiance, and tell him never to question your cooking abilities again.
Add onion, jalepenos, cilantro, and garlic to a food prcoessor. Pulse until it reaches a fine dice. Add to tomato mixture. Add the juice of two limes. Add salt to taste. Proceed to eat salsa on everything for the rest of the week.
Spanish Rice (adapted from The Joy of Cooking, aka The Bible)
This is probably one of my favorite recipes from Joy. I hated buying those mixes of Spanish rice, and once I tried this recipe I knew I would never have to do so again.
1 tsp vegetable oil
3 slices of center cut bacon, minced
1/2 large Vidala onion
1/2 large green bell pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup minute brown rice
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
2 cans of Rotel, drained
1/2 tsp paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 F. Add oil and bacon to an oven proof skillet with a lid. My trusty Le Creuset buffet casserole works fabulous for this! Cook, stirring as needed, until bacon begins to brown. Add onion and bell pepper, cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic, stir, and cook until onion is translucent. Add brown rice, and stir until well coated. Cook for 5 minutes. Add and bring to a boil remaining ingredients. Stir, cover, and transfer to oven. Bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender (25 minutes). Uncover and let stand for 5 minutes before serving (great time to throw tortillas wrapped in foil in the oven if you are serving this with fajitas).
Here's what our spread look like on Monday:
YUM!!! This was enough for two hungry diners, 4 lunches, and a few of Andy's "salsa salads"--salsa and crushed up tortilla chips. He's weird.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I love registering. I kinda wish I could do it every day. I've had my china picked out before I met Fiance (who does not like registering).