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Net Worth Update: May 2016

Last month, I revealed my pregnancy and the fact that my expenses will be going up. So how did everything shake out for the month after that? Let’s dive in and see the numbers!

Change: +$4,370 or +15.92%

May Net Worth Total: $31,818

May 2016 Net Worth Chart

Building Up Cash Reserves for the Baby

This month’s increase can really be attributed to just one thing: I’m building up my cash reserves right now. (So is my husband, but our net worths are not combined for these blog updates.) With a baby coming in November, building up extra savings is an obvious thing to do.

Speaking of the baby – I now know what my total costs for the first trimester have been! Medical costs, anyway – we haven’t bought a single thing for the baby yet. No crib, no clothes, no toys, no adorable baby what-its of any kind. This is, in my mind, a good way to keep the costs of a new baby down: don’t buy anything until just before you actually need it. And until after you see what gifts you will get, because honestly there’s no sense in throwing money away and ending up with duplicates of some things. I’m not trying to be gift-grabby or expecting people will give us lots of gifts – I’m just being realistic about the fact that babies (especially first babies) are gift-giving occasions. Plus there’s the fact that I know so many people with slightly older children, so some hand-me-downs are to be expected in my case as well.

But back to medical costs – for the entire first trimester, including pregnancy tests, prenatal vitamins, and all doctor visits, the total out-of-pocket costs for weeks 1 – 12: $648.45. I’d say that’s pretty good, all things considered… where the “all things” to consider is that I’m self employed, and therefore on the cheapest Bronze-level Obamacare health insurance plan that was available to me. I was expecting a higher bill, due to being on the lowest rung of the health insurance ladder.

I’ll dive deeper into the numbers in a future blog post series about being pregnant on Obamacare – because honestly? Before I was pregnant, I started trying to do research into how much pregnancy would cost out-of-pocket on an Obamacare plan, and I couldn’t find much information, nor hardly anyone giving examples with concrete numbers. It sucked, and I’m happy to help someone else out by at least putting my concrete numbers on the internet. Of course the situation will be different for someone else’s pregnancy, but I just feel like examples should be shared. And you guys know how much I like to share numbers. 😉

UPickVG 5 is Coming

We also hustled pretty hard this month, knowing that next month will require us to take a few extra days off from the usual hustle, because we’re producing a weekend-long livestreamed internet game-a-thon. 48 hours straight of livestreaming takes not just the 3 days of the weekend that the fundraiser is live, but also some shoulder days for setup/breakdown, and rest and recovery. Not to mention we’ve already begun donating some of our own money to the fundraiser (cause it’s hard not to also want to kick in when you’re hustling so hard on behalf of a charity) and anticipate donating more during the event itself, so we’ve been trying to build up the “Charity” savings account to prepare for that.

In fact, by the time this post is actually posted, the UPickVG 5 fundraiser will already be over. The game-a-thon and its prep time are just too close to the beginning of the month of June for me to have all of May’s numbers and everything posted before I have to completely transition into “Showrunner” mode and focus all of my attention on UPickVG. So… I could tell you how the fundraiser did in the end here, but I won’t. I’ll save that for the update it belongs in: next month’s June update. You’ll just have to wait. 😛

Extra $200/month?

I’ve left the poll up for how I should save/spend the extra $200/month I’ll have, starting in July, due to the end of my car payment. I’ve left this poll up even though, in reality, it’s becoming clear that those dollars are all going to go toward rent for a bigger place than my current 1-bedroom/1-bath apartment. Because even if we don’t strictly need more space for the baby during the first 6 months of their life, I’m a big believer that we will need a second toilet. Somehow, my husband and I have thus far avoided any “both of us managed to get food poisoning at the same time” catastrophes (ala Bridesmaids), but with a third human in the home, I feel like we’re just asking for trouble with only 1 toilet. Even if that human won’t use the toilet for several years. Just askin’ for trouble.

So, the new apartment (with at least 1.5 bathrooms) search has begun.

But you can still vote in the poll, which has now become an interesting hypothetical to discuss, for an alternate universe version of Stephonee, where I am not pregnant and apartment shopping right now. So feel free to place your vote for what Alternate Universe Stephonee should do with her extra $200/month starting in July:

I’ll discuss my thoughts in the June update, but I will say that so far… the poll has been going in a very interesting direction, in my eyes.

Holiday Tree FOR AMERICA

We’ve updated our holiday tree to its summertime-long decorations, which will cover Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day:

Holiday Tree - Summer Patriot

O beautiful for spacious skies…

The flag that’s on top of the tree is pretty special to me: it’s from a Tweetup on the White House lawn that my husband and I went to years ago (when we were just friends), where we got to stand in the rain and see President Obama in person, as well as the President of South Korea. Well, not that the flag isn’t always special, but this exact physical object holds additional meaning in my life

Oh! And to give you the full effect of the fireworks lights…

Holiday Tree - Fireworks Animated Gif

Ooooo…… ahhhhhhhh!

That’s it for May! Check back next month for another update, and the discussion on the $200/month poll… and who knows what else!

Also, if you’d like to see how I stack up against other personal finance bloggers, be sure to check out The Ultimate List of Blogger Net Worths over on Rockstar Finance!

Net Worth Update: April 2016

April showers bring May…. more showers. I’m pretty sure that’s how the saying goes, at least according to the weather in Northern Virginia so far. The constant rain has been sort of a doozy, which ties in nicely to this month’s net worth & financial update…

Change: ($1,372) or -4.76%

April Net Worth Total: $27,448

April 2016 Net Worth ChartAlright, so it’s down. Let’s dig a bit into what happened in April:

Taxes

April is tax month! Even though I completed our tax return back in, what, February? (I don’t even remember now, it’s been that long.) But we owed money, to the tune of over $6,000 (yay self-employment for two people!), and of course, I put off that withdrawal from our account pretty much as long as possible. So the IRS took their payment in early April. And then, we also paid estimated taxes for Quarter-1 2016, since those were due in April as well. Double whammy. But that lowered my “tax liability” in the liabilities column, so the whole thing was actually a wash. Neither up nor down in that category – as it should be.

My car lost $1,972 in value

For no reason! Well, not no reason, I suspect, but for no clear reason. My Toyota Camry passed 100,000 miles, but that was a few months ago and not in April, so it (probably) wasn’t that. As far as I can tell, the Camry just goes through seasons where Kelly Blue Book values it more or less than it did before. It may bounce back later in the year. Or it might not. I’m not really worried about it – after all, I’m about to pay off the car in a few months, so it having any amount of value left in it is just gravy. I’m not looking to sell the Camry anytime soon, so its value is more just a good way to keep track of value vs. loan, and that loan is almost gone!

If you were to ignore the car value change, I would actually be up $600 for the month, so… I’m not losing any sleep whatsoever on this month’s net worth loss. When it’s based on something completely out of my control, it’s not worth dwelling on.

Bun in the oven

Since it’s more than likely that this will have financial implications for the rest of my life, it’s hard to talk about any of my personal finances without making this announcement: I’m pregnant. Due in November. We won’t be finding out the sex of the baby beforehand. (There, I think I’ve covered the most Frequently Asked Questions.)

The long-term implications will of course unfold over time, but in the near-term, this has meant many more doctor visits than I was making previously, a lot of which has been (surprisingly) covered by my very-bottom-tier Obamacare insurance. I’ve had to shell some amount out-of-pocket, but it’s been fairly low amounts. I assume the bill for the delivery will quite large, but I’ve got several months and a Health Savings Account (HSA) to help with that.

The other effect is that we’ve started looking for a bigger apartment to rent. Running the New York Times Buy vs. Rent calculator (as I always do when the question of moving comes up) on some properties in our area that would fit our needs, it comes out that if we can “rent a similar home for less than $1614/month, then renting is better.” There are some 2-bedroom condos and townhouses in our area for that rate, so as usual, we’re leaning strongly toward continuing to rent. But for this round of rental hunting, time is on our side. We don’t need a bigger place until the baby is about 6 months old or so (it would be hard to feed a kid at a high chair in our current kitchen/dining room area), so we’ve got a full year to find a place and move. Plus, our current lease is now month-to-month, so we have the flexibility to jump on a place if it’s a great deal, and pass on anything that isn’t.

The bad news? Paying for a bigger place will probably knock out the extra $194/month that I’ll be freeing up when I pay off my car in July. As far as we can tell, that will go straight into the rent on the next place. So we’ll be able to pocket that money for a few months, and then it’ll be rolled into the new higher rent of a bigger place when, well, we find a bigger place.

Poll!

The poll for how I should divvy up my car payment money (once the car is paid off in July) is still open, though because of the above-mentioned larger apartment search, it seems less relevant now. But just for fun, here it is again:

And that’s all she wrote! We really need to get our super-patriotic decorations up on the Holiday Tree before Memorial Day, but as we haven’t done it yet, I haven’t got any photos to share with you. Next month!

Also, if you’d like to see how I stack up against other personal finance bloggers, be sure to check out The Ultimate List of Blogger Net Worths over on Rockstar Finance!

Check Your Credit Score and Credit Report Today, for Free!

Updated as of April 2016

April is one of the months that I have designated to check my credit report. Since you’re allowed (by law) a free credit report annually from each of the 3 credit reporting agencies, that gives you an opportunity to check one report every four months. Here’s the schedule I recommend:

  • April (because everyone’s thinking about money anyways because of the tax deadline)
  • August (four months after April)
  • December (another four months later, and also the end of the year, another convenient time)

So consider this your reminder for April to pull your credit report from one of the three agencies this month! You’ll need to assign one credit reporting agency to these months, to make it work, since you’re only allowed to pull each report once a year. So do something like this:

  • April – Experian
  • August – TransUnion
  • December – Equifax

Remember, despite what TV commercials starring singing characters might tell you, there’s only one authorized source for getting your federally-mandated free annual credit reports: AnnualCreditReport.com. You can verify this fact at the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

Getting Your Credit Report, 100% Free

Information You’ll Need to Have Handy

When pulling one of your 3 credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com, you’ll be asked a short series of questions to prove your identity (so that, in theory, no one else can pull your reports).

You’ll need to know (or have handy to type in):

  • Your full name
  • Your Social Security Number
  • Your current address
  • Any addresses you’ve lived at in the last two years

Once you hand over this info, you’ll be given the opportunity to request your report from any of the 3 credit rating agencies:

  • Experian
  • TransUnion
  • Equifax

If this is your first time pulling your report, it doesn’t really matter which one you pull. For simplicity’s sake, I recommend pulling Experian, as it always seems to be at the top of the list, so it will be easier to remember that it’s the one you pulled if you forget. Now’s the time to establish your April/August/December calendar for pulling each of these.

Once you select a credit reporting agency to pull from, you will be asked a series of multiple-choice questions about your own credit history (or other things that might appear on your report, such as previous addresses and phone numbers, etc. etc.) to further prove your identity. Again, this is information you should already know or keep handy.

You may also be prompted to buy some “up-sell” products, like your credit score. Ignore everything they offer here – even if you do want to buy your credit score, they’re not likely to offer you the best of their best deals at this point. Do your research on the cheapest ways to get the score you want (see below) first.

Then, you should get access to your report! You should print a copy of both the receipt page (which you’ll get even though you didn’t pay anything) and your credit report itself. If you’re using Google Chrome or have a PDF printer installed (highly recommended!), you can print to PDF and save part of a tree – as long as your hard drive is secure and you do regular secure backups, of course. This is sensitive information that an identity thief would love to get their hands on!

What am I Looking for When I Look at my Credit Report?

Two things!

#1 – Errors

It’s a pain in the behind, but read your entire report and look for anything that’s inaccurate. You can dispute inaccuracies with the credit reporting agency to get them removed. Inaccuracies can hurt your credit score, prevent you from getting a loan, job, or insurance down the line, or just plain make it hard to get your report again in the future (thanks to those multiple-choice questions!).

If you do find any errors, there should be instructions within the report itself (or back on your receipt or confirmation page) on how to dispute them. If not, do a quick Google search for “disputing errors [name of credit reporting agency that you picked].”

Even if there aren’t any errors, there could still be bad stuff…

#2 – Areas for Improvement

While you’re reading your credit report, look out for anything you could be doing to improve your report. What can you do, exactly? Well, if you familiarize yourself with the 5 components of your credit score, you can identify ways to influence those components.

Those 5 components are (in order from most influential on your score, to least):

  1. On-time payment history
  2. Debt-to-credit ratio
  3. Length of credit history
  4. Variety of credit used
  5. Recent “hard” credit inquiries

Keep these things in mind while you look over the report. Just keep in mind that in most cases, there’s nothing you can do to “fix” what’s already on your report – you can only strive to do better in the future.

For most people, most of the time, pulling your credit reports one at a time, three times a year, to check them for reports and areas to improve, is all you really need. But if you’re curious about your credit score, or if you’re going to be shopping for a big loan (like a mortgage) in the near future, you may decide that you want access to that score.

How I Get My Credit Score for Free

Before we get into how I get my credit score without forking over any cash, it’s important to establish that there are many different credit scores out there. You may actually have as many as 100 different credit scores floating out there for you. Scary thought, huh?

Most people divide credit scores into two types:

  • FICO – credit scores based on one your three reports using the Fair Isaac Corporation’s algorithm (aka the five criteria for a good score I outlined above)
  • FAKO (pronounced “Fake-O”) – anything else

A FICO score is what a lender, employer, rental authority, or insurance agent is most likely to look at when they pull your credit score, so ideally that’s the credit score you want if you’re pulling your score to find out exactly what such a person will see.

Credit Card Perks

A fairly new development over the last few years that makes me pretty happy: several credit card companies are giving their customers a free peek at one of their FICO scores. My American Express card gives me a free FICO score, as does my Pentagon Federal Credit Union account. I simply log into my existing online account and click one button, and get my true FICO score, for free!

The catches: for one thing, you need to have or get a credit card with a company that provides this as a credit card perk. If you already have any credit cards, log into your online account(s) and poke around to see if there are any “Get your free FICO score!” links in your account. If none of your credit cards offer this, you’ll need to use one of the alternatives below to get your free score.

The other catch is that this score may not update as often as you like. It looks like at least one of my free FICO scores via credit card only updates every 3 months. This is fine for just satisfying my normal curiosity, but if I were to be looking for the most up-to-date info to get a new loan in a few weeks, I’d want something more recent.

Mint

I already use Mint.com to track my transactions across all of my accounts, so it’s really convenient to have a free one-click credit score in there, too! Mint is run by the company Intuit, who I already trust with my financial information (they’re the folks who run TurboTax). The only problems with the Mint credit score are: #1) It’s a FAKO score, not a FICO score (this one based on your Equifax credit report), and #2) It only updates every few months. Still, it provides some insight into where the score is coming from (and what’s on your Equifax report), so it can be a good way to keep an eye on your Equifax data throughout the year.

WalletHub

It’s a FAKO score (your TransUnion VantageScore), but you can pull both the score and your TransUnion report daily – for free! And it’s a “soft pull” on your credit, so you’re not taking a “hard” hit to your score daily by checking (very important!). Signing up for WalletHub is quick and easy: very similar to getting your free credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com, you’ll just need to put in some information and answer a security quiz to verify your identity.

Credit Karma

You get FAKO scores (VantageScore 3.0 scores from TransUnion and Equifax), but it’s free and you can request your scores from Credit Karma as often as daily without putting a “hard” inquiry on your credit report. You also get two more FAKO scores from TransUnion: your Auto Insurance Score and your Home Insurance Score, as well as some tips for improving your score and some savings offers.

How accurate are these scores to your real TransUnion and Equifax FICO scores? Hard to say, unless you also pay for your FICO scores to compare. But, the real question is: does it really matter for your purposes?

If the only reason you want to see your credit score is to satisfy curiosity, and to keep an eye on the changes of it over time, then the VantageScore will work just fine for that. Keep any eye on your score for any drastic changes, checking it at least as often as you pull your free reports (but monthly would be even better).

Credit Sesame

Another FAKO score, Credit Sesame is based on your Experian report. It’s also free with no credit card required to sign up, and you’ll get free advice on saving money and improving your credit, too.

The catch? You can only get your score once a month- but if you’re just looking to see how your credit score is doing over time, do you really need it more often than that? No, ya don’t. This is a good addition to Credit Karma, since it diversifies your “score base” by giving you access to an Experian score vs. Credit Karma’s TransUnion-and-Equifax-based scores.

Get a Loan

This may seem counter-intuitive, but it can work! If you’re reasonably certain of your good credit score (by checking it on one of the other sources in this post, and checking your credit reports themselves), you can get your true FICO score for free while getting a loan.

How? You just ask!

When I bought my Camry in 2012, the dealership helped me apply for a loan at several different financial institutions. When the offers came back a few days later, the finance guy at the dealership showed me the credit reports and scores that had come back when the banks evaluated me. Now, I could have just jotted down those numbers quickly, but I did one better:

I asked the dealership finance guy if I could have copies of all those papers! (It was definitely one of those it never hurts to ask moments.) He walked me back to their copier on the spot, giving me hard copies of my FICO and other credit scores from multiple agencies. Score!

This will also work when applying for a Peer-to-Peer loan from either Lending Club or Prosper; Jonathan over at My Money Blog has a guide on how to interpret your score based on the information you get while applying for a loan at either of these places.

The catch here is that your credit score will be a little dinged, since you’re doing what’s called a “hard inquiry” rather than the “soft inquiry” of checking you credit score just to check it. Oh, and you’re applying for a friggin loan, which you should never do unless you have a darn good reason, like needing to replace your dying car with an affordable, reliable, used one.

FICO Score Estimator

A few quick questions about your credit history, and myFICO’s FICO Score Estimator will spit out a fairly accurate guestimate range of where your credit score is. The catch being that it is, of course, only an estimate.

Alternately, Just Bite the Bullet

If you really, truly, actually need your FICO scores because you’re taking out a big loan soon (such as a mortgage), than the best thing to do is to just pay for your FICO scores. In the grand scheme of things, the $15 or so you spend now will reap much larger benefits down the road.

You can use your FICO score to empower your search for the best loan with the lowest rate – but only if you know it! A FAKO score won’t cut it in this particular case, so it’s worth spending the cash when you are actually about to start shopping for a loan.

Remember to shop around for your FICO scores, as well! There’s no need to pay more than you have to, and considering I’ve seen ranges between $14.95 and $89.95 to get your three FICO scores, it really is worth it to do a little research. Check the websites of all three credit rating agencies, as well as myFICO, to see what they’re offering. Don’t forget to Google for coupon codes to each one!

Do you check your credit reports and credit scores as often as you should? Make a pledge to April/August/December in the comments!

Net Worth Update: March 2016

Yes, I indulged myself in a little April Fool’s Day prankery yesterday – sorry if I got anyone’s hopes up too high about my bright future in a tiny house! It would have made for a great series on the blog here, that’s for sure. But don’t worry: I actually do have a few fun blog series planned for the next few months (including the long-awaited budget wedding series that I worked on writing back when I couldn’t post anything!), so don’t you worry about that.

For now, let’s do the numbers!

Change: +$5,604 or +24.14%

March Net Worth Total: $28,820

March 2016 Net Worth GraphAwwwww yus! A recovering stock market, new higher rates for one of my freelance projects, a few unexpected pieces of work thrown my way for another project, and this ended up being a real good month. Rullllll good.

Honestly, having this be a good month was a little unexpected. I had several out of pocket expenditures that I expected to deliver a good hit (6 months of car insurance due at once, a new laptop to replace my old one that was literally 7 years old…) but my worries were for not, it seems!

In other good news: I have just 4 payments left to go on my car loan! I’ve never worried much about paying it off early (since the interest rate is only 1.99%, I’ve always had bigger fish to fry), but even just making the required minimum payment every month, that bill is about to come to an end, and then I’ll own my car outright.

As far as what to do with the $194/month once the loan is paid off, I’ve got a few ideas, so why don’t we have a vote? (Since I will likely split the money between a few different options, you can select as many options from the poll as you like!)

Feel free to ask me any questions you like in the comments below before you cast your vote! Like “how much are you currently contributing to [x]?” or “what kind of pony?” (The important questions in life, you know.)

Oh, and one last thing before we wrap this update up: a Holiday Tree Update for those of you who have become addicted to this thing (it’s our Easter Tree this month!):

Holiday Tree - Easter

Also, if you’d like to see how I stack up against other personal finance bloggers, be sure to check out The Ultimate List of Blogger Net Worths over on Rockstar Finance!

Downsizing: We’re Moving to a Tiny House!

Update: Thanks to everyone who played along, but this was another one of my classic April Fool’s day pranks! Though I love the tiny house movement (especially looking at pictures of them), moving into one isn’t actually in the cards for me at this time. But aside from “actually moving into a tiny home” the following post was about 90% true… because that’s how a good April Fool’s prank works. 😉

I am so excited to finally be able to reveal the news to you, blog readers, and all of our friends and family, that we’re moving! And we’re not just moving to a new apartment (how boring) or finally throwing our money down the drain on a single-family home or townhouse. Nope, we’re thinking small and taking only a few things with us to a brand new tiny house!

If you haven’t heard of the Tiny House Movement yet, you’re in for a treat of “real estate porn” (SFW!) as there are tons of amazing photos, videos, and even televisions shows now available for your perusal, just a Google search away! I first heard of tiny homes and the movement in regards to the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, which sells designs for adorable, functional, tiny houses, years ago – back when this blog was still in its infancy. (That means nearly 10 years ago, and we’ve all gotten 10 years older if you do the math, so just don’t.)

Tiny House Dream Home

Not our tiny house, but definitely a vision of the dream! – Photo credit:
Benjamin Chun, CC BY-SA 2.0

Living in a tiny house instantly became a dream of mine as soon as I saw photos of the Tumbleweed houses. Minimalism is something I’ve always aspired to, but fallen far, far short of. My tendencies to be a “mother hen,” take care of everything and everyone, have always led me to keep everything… just in case. I might need these garage sale stickers someday! And every shoe box ever, since we have so much stuff kept aside to put in them! And I’ll just keep this power cord long after the gadget dies, because it might power something else some day!

But now, I’m getting rid of all this extraneous stuff through force – there isn’t going to be anywhere to put it! Our new home will only fit the absolute essentials, and that’s part of the point. No longer weighed down by the piles and piles of stuff we keep in our home, we’ll be forced to focus on what matters – which will, incidentally, save us a ton of money! The total housing costs on the tiny house will be far less than the rent we pay for our current apartment (despite the fact that we’ll own the tiny house, outright, and have maintenance costs), utilities will be lower, and just not being able to buy new physical objects will seriously improve our bottom line. Not to mention all the furniture and stuff we’re selling on our way out!

How Did This Happen?

I’m going to do a series of blog posts about the whole process, but since this is the Big Announcement and all, I’ll stay out of the details for now and give you the backstory. You already know that I stumbled upon the idea of tiny homes from personal finance blogs back in the day, but how did I get from hearing about tiny homes, to packing up (some of) my stuff to move into one?

The real catalyst happened two summers ago, when my LadyBros and I (yes we call ourselves that, because we’re awesome) took a short trip into downtown Washington D.C. to visit Boneyard Studios, a tiny house community that does tours! It was the first time I ever got to see a real-live tiny house in person, and we also got a chance to talk with the owner/builders of three of the four houses. They gave really honest, frank information about the realities of building and living in a tiny house – instead of just the candy-coated blog posts I had seen before.

Boneyard Studios Tiny Houses

The Boneyard Studios tiny houses, looking roughly like they did when I visited in 2014! – Photo credit: Inhabitat CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

It was very refreshing to get the real story from real tiny house dwellers, but some of what I’d learned that day did scare me off from pursuing my tiny house dream for a while. There is a lot of reality to contend with when it comes to tiny homes – zoning laws being the biggest, but there’s also construction setbacks, weather and insulation issues, and of course, an adjustment period to living in a compact space. Facing some of the reality of a tiny home caused me to take some serious pause, and put the idea on a shelf for a few years.

Recently, however, the idea has crawled its way back into my noggin. Partly because my in-laws have started watching the TV show Tiny House Nation and discussing the idea with us whenever we visit, which has put the subject back on the table for discussion. The other reason I got back into thinking about buying a tiny house: apartment shopping. Spending some time online, looking at larger apartments with my husband (we’re in a 1-bedroom right now), we just felt so disappointed at the price of everything – even other 1-bedrooms. It was more disheartening to see the price of 2-bedroom apartments in northern Virginia than the disappointment I had felt considering the realities of a tiny house.

The hard part, of course, has been bringing my husband on board with the idea. Not that he’s stubborn, but he obviously had a lot of concerns about the idea. It may seem silly to some people, but our main hobby is playing video games (live on the internet and for charity, in my case, and for recreation in his case), and so his first question is always “where will my games and systems go?” The good news is that his favorite system, the New Nintendo 3DS handheld (yes, “New” is a part of the official name – it’s a dumb name), is about as tiny-home friendly as a video game system can be! With some culling, consolidation, and smart storage solutions in the new tiny house, the rest of his collection will be fine to come with us, so he’s pretty happy at this point.

The key? Mercilessly getting rid of anything else we don’t love to make room in the house for the things we do love. We’re preparing massive stacks of personal belongings for eBay, craigslist, and donating. (And if you’re a local friend of ours, you may have noticed some new pushiness out of us to come pick up anything you lent to us or left at our place!) I can’t wait to get it all out the door so that I can share a final tally of the money we get back from selling!

Much more information to come in the next few months! I’ll be documenting the whole process in a series of blog posts (this being the first!) that I’m calling The Tiny House Move. (Real creative, right? I’m a genius writer, I know.) Watch this space for new posts every other week or so as we make our move!

Have you considered moving to a tiny house to save money and achieve minimalist nirvana? Are you now totes jelly that I’m beating you to the punch? Or have you beaten ME to the punch and are reading from your adorable tiny house right now? Whatever your story, please leave it in the comments below!

Net Worth Update: February 2016

Happy Super Tuesday! It’s voting day for the primary elections here in Virginia, so I’ve got to fire this update off fast and then get myself to the voting booth. That’s okay though, because there’s only one major story about what happened to my net worth in February: taxes.

Change: ($548) or -2.31 %

February Net Worth: $23,216

Net Worth Graph February 2016

So about those taxes…

I always strive to do my taxes as early as possible, so that I can either A) get my refund as early as possible or B) if I owe money, know about it as soon as possible. But this year, I had some extra “incentive” to get my taxes done early: angry urgent warning letters from the Health Insurance Marketplace (Obamacare) demanding that I send in proof of my income to justify the tax subsidy I’m getting on my health insurance.

The only thing is… I’m not getting any subsidy on my health insurance. I live in a high cost-of-living area, so in order to make the rent, husband and I have to make more money than the income limit for tax subsidies for Obamacare insurance. I did call up the Marketplace helpline and explained this to the (very nice) woman who answered, but she laid it out for me: it doesn’t matter. Even though I get no subsidy, they still want proof of my income, and if they don’t get it by the March 8th deadline, my health insurance, that I’m paying 100% of the cost for, could be cut off for 30 days or more. Wait, what?!?

But pssh, whatever. I can submit my tax return as the proof they need, and as I said, I tend to do my taxes early anyway. So rather than fighting with the Marketplace, I just started harassing the financial institutions and old jobs that hadn’t sent my husband and me our paperwork on time. And got our taxes done, which always feels good.

Well, it feels goodish. Now that I’m back to being a full-time freelancer, and my husband is one too, we got slapped with a not-unexpected tax bill to the tune of more than $6,000. Oh, and a state refund from Virginia for about $1,500 (which was actually a nice surprise). Again, totally expected, but hey… there’s no way to feel good about paying a $6,000 bill. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Since the husband and I run separate sole-proprietor businesses, but file our taxes as Married Filing Jointly, our tax bill comes out of just one account – the business savings account that’s in my name. So my cash reserves got a big ol’ bump this month as hubby transferred his portion of the tax bill to me, and I’m holding it until the government takes their direct deposit in early April. Hence a bump this month in “Cash,” but also a big bump in “Other liabilities” that more than offsets it.

So really, that’s it. That’s the big story this month. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to run out and do my civic duty. Happy Super Tuesday!

I've gotten more than a fair amount of use out of this piece of 2006 San Diego Comic-Con swag.

Career Tips For Recent Grads

Once you’re out of college, all you want to do is step into the professional world and put all that you’ve learned during your academic years to good use. Good news is: that enthusiasm and motivation is going to help you a lot. But the bad news is: Things really aren’t that easy.

Give it a thought: you may have decided what you want to do, and may have planned everything around the career of your dreams, but the odds cannot always be in your favor. Given the current state of the job market, many young grads are struggling to choose a career or, if they have chosen one, the line of work they want to go into doesn’t choose them. The job market works in mysterious ways, but if you really use some handy tips to beat the odds, you can improve your chances of getting a job:

But first, decide:

First things first: if you are still unsure about what to choose as a career path, in which industry should you work, whether to find a job or to start your own small business… then figure that out, first. You need to know where you want to go before you start a journey. You need a clear direction before you start doing anything. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Based upon your studies, what kind of work would you really enjoy doing?
  • Have you ever taken part in projects that were successfully executed by you? What were your responsibilities in that project?
  • Do you think you can do something you want to do, even if it doesn’t pay you much, or pay you at all?
  • What is it that you would never want to do?

Based upon these answers, start listing down the career choices you think meet the criteria you have set for yourself. Now you have a map for where to start looking.

Don’t be Careless with the Resume:

If you have decided that you want to find a particular job then you need to prepare your resume, portfolio, or cover letter according to that. Most fresh graduates, who are stepping into the professional world for the first time, don’t invest a good amount of time and thought in preparing their resume. This is one of the most important documents and it has to be perfect, and updated with all that you’ve studied, learned, skills you possess, volunteer work you’ve done, and with anything else that can add more value to your work credibility. Don’t think your resume will ever be complete, because you will always keep on updating it.

Be Active On Social Media:

Yes, the four (or more) years in college were really stressful, and all you want to do now is explore the world, relax, and just be happy about finally getting a degree. But once the liberation fades off, you’ll realize you desperately need a job no matter what it is, because there is so much money to pay and you don’t have that. In no time you’ll have to start repaying your student loans because the interest will start adding up. So whatever it is that you’ve planned as a career has to start now.

Fortunately, social media is a great tool to put the good word about you out there. You can socialize with professionals and talk to them about your career plans- they may suggest jobs or give you advice on how to initiate your ideas. LinkedIn is the network that is commonly used by jobseekers and recruiters, so brand yourself properly there with a profile that stands out and a presence that shows your skills.

Offline Presence:

While your online presence will be extremely helpful in launching your career, you also need to have an active offline presence. Look for relevant group meet-ups, find ways to volunteer, and stay connected with your professors, your friends who are already working, and your alumni. If at first you’re offered internships or unpaid volunteer projects, take them if you can, because they can work as your first step to getting a job. You can work as an intern or a volunteer now and get to learn how the industry works, first.

Prepare for an interview:

If you get a call for an interview from the job you’ve applied for, don’t just go there blank! Learn about the company, the work they do, and how you can put your efforts to good use in making the company grow. In short, know yourself and the company before you go for an interview and at the end of the interview, don’t be afraid to ask questions from the interviewer.

Despite the urgency to find a job right after college, it’s important that you don’t apply to everything that says “hiring!” Only apply for the jobs you’re really interested in, because these will help your job search gain momentum. And building your resume around jobs that you really want will help to shape that document as you go.

Positively Patient:

If you really want to be in the career of your choice, then patience is the key. It may take a little longer than you expected, but putting in all your efforts in the right manner will eventually lead you to where you want to be. Stay positive about this process because sooner or later, you will find the job you want.

Being a fresh graduate, you might experience difficulties in finding the right job or launching your own business because of lack of experience, but you have to start at the bottom to reach the top.

Mathew Jade About the Author:

Mathew Jade is a passionate finance, heavy machinery and lifestyle blogger who loves to write about prevailing trends.

Net Worth Update: November 2015 – January 2016

New Year, new update! It’s a really exciting time here at Poorer Than You, and I can’t wait to- OMFG WHAT IS THAT GRAPH DOING?!?

Net Worth Graph January 2016 - Poorer Than You

So November was down, but by such a small amount that I can comfortably call it “flat.” And I anticipated a “down” month anyway: November has one of those pesky long holiday weekends in it (Thanksgiving), it’s a time where sickness generally strikes, and (let’s face it) Fallout 4 was released on November 10th.

Sure, you can tell me that the release of a hotly-anticipated video game is a lame reason for my income to decrease over the month… but keep in mind that gaming is my main hobby, and I do it for charity. I took several days off in November and December to play Fallout 4 in live game-a-thons and it was totally worth it, just to see $2,615 raised by the games for clean drinking water in the developing world.

December was basically flat as well, which is a feat unto itself, considering the time off for the game-a-thons and the holidays, and Christmas shopping. I always anticipate December being a “down” month, so seeing it actually tick up (even if only a little) is cause for celebration.

Until you get to January, that is.

Urgh, January. Such promise for recovery after December’s spending. But this particular January just didn’t cooperate. I lost a big chunk of cash-on-hand to the year-end quarterly estimated tax payment, for being a freelancer. That’s alright though, since it’s offset by a decrease in my tax liability, as well. But everything else about the month just sucked. The stock market took a beating, though that’s only a problem on paper. It can fall further for all I care, so long as I’m buying right now (which I am: a contribution every time I receive payment on an invoice!).  We also dropped a good chunk of change on travel expenses for a friend’s upcoming wedding across the country. (Continuing to put money into our Wedding savings account years after our own wedding doesn’t look silly at all right now, does it?)

The real problem with January is that toward the end, we got three feet of snow dumped on us over the course of 24 hours. Everything in the region shut down and, thanks to the timing, neither husband nor I were able to do any work projects while snowed in.

But hey, we made it out of the snow storm safe and sound, no worse for the wear (other than the loss of income). Obviously, we’re going to have to spend February hustling our asses off to make up for it. That’s just how it is.

Also, if you’d like to see how I stack up against other personal finance bloggers, be sure to check out The Ultimate List of Blogger Net Worths over on Rockstar Finance!


Bonus for February: For those of you following along on our “Holiday Tree” exploits, I have an update for you. Here’s the tree in all its Valentine’s Day glory:

Valentine's Day Tree - Poorer Than You

(Yeah, I missed getting a picture of it as an actual Christmas tree for you. I’m the worst. My apologies. Maybe next December!)

Net Worth Update: October 2015

I can’t get over how quickly stores can just move on from Halloween. The husband and I took a stroll over to our neighborhood grocery store earlier today, and somehow they’d managed to move out nearly all of the Halloween cereals, and replace them with Christmas ones. Personally, I’m still clinging to my glittery black-and-orange decorations around the apartment, but I can at least move on into November by closing out the books on October’s money numbers:

Change: $4,346 or +19.03%

October Net Worth: $27,184

Net Worth - Poorer Than You - October 2015

Awwwwww yussssssss! I can’t take huge amounts of credit for this month’s jump, though. I did diligently contribute 12% of my earnings to retirement accounts, and pound away as usual at my debts. But the real big hunk of that growth came from within my retirement accounts themselves. I guess the stock market recovered alright from last month’s little tumble. Of course, as someone who is currently buying stock, and not selling it, I wouldn’t actually mind if it went ahead and stayed down for a bit. I hate it when stocks aren’t on sale anymore!

Still, it does help move me along toward my goal of $38,901 by September 2016, so that’s good.

Since I don’t have much else to share this month (with the stock market doing all the work for me), I’ll just end here with a picture of my Halloween Tree (soon to be slightly redecorated into a “Thanksgiving Tree” and thereafter into an almost standard “Christmas Tree” though with more LEGO than most Christmas Trees usually have):

Halloween Tree - PoorerThanYou.com

Happy All Hallows’ Day! (The day after All Hallows’ Eve, which was Halloween!)

Also, if you’d like to see how I stack up against other personal finance bloggers, be sure to check out The Ultimate List of Blogger Net Worths over on Rockstar Finance!